Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Out of Sorts ~ Sarah's Synchroblog


Sarah Bessey describes herself as mum of 4 tinies and a writer, speaker, and recovering know-it-all.  When a post bearing her name comes up in my reader, I'm there.  She's that thought-provoking, challenging, inspiring.  I'm a fan.

And though our theology might differ here and there, it matters not.  Because yes, there's room for non-essential differences in the Body of Christ ... but only if we agree that Jesus Christ is Lord and that the pathway to heaven is straight through His incredibly merciful sacrificial death and resurrection.

And the recovering know-it-all piece?  

Well, let's just say that I could hang my hat on that peg, too.  I'm sure that she and I must be distant cousins, somehow related to the infamous Doubting Thomas, himself a passionate follower of Christ.

If you've lived any length of time, you begin to discover that even the most devoted, mature believers don't have all the answers.  And that if we're honest, most of us wrestle with a number of perplexing questions that swirl right in the midst of the magnificent sacredness of our faith.  

The truth is that if we've gleaned any bit of wisdom along the way, that same wisdom whispers that no one here on earth has arrived yet in any way, shape, or form.  And the still small voice reassures us that as we fervently follow His lead, we'll keep on learning, growing, evolving, becoming more like Christ 'til we reach our heavenly destination and meet Him face to face.

To celebrate the launch of her new book Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, Sarah's opening the doors wide to what looks to be an energetic, enlightening synchroblog.  We're all invited to come to the gathering, carrying our own personally unique faith-walk as we fill in the blanks of this soul-searching prompt:

I used to think __________ and now I think __________.


Honestly, my 'I used to think' comes from the strong, conservative, evangelical upbringing I was privileged to enjoy.  I make no apologies for this gift of sacred grace.  I am filled with gratitude for the faith that my fathers and mothers in generations past have modeled for me and their steadfast prayers that have paved my pathway.

Much of my 'and now I think' comes from 60 years of hard won life lessons.  An almost 40 year introvert / extrovert marriage that birthed two incredibly wise daughters, their godly men, and seven grandchildren who've captured my heart, one who went home to be with Jesus just two months ago.  A soul-stretching graduate school experience in my 40s.  A horrific nightmare of peri-menopausal anxiety and depression that almost finished me off in my early 50s.  Thirteen years of journeying with hundreds of beloved counseling clients on their courageous trek toward hope and healing.

And years of serving in the trenches of church leadership, a mixture of delightfully rewarding work laced with frustrating and disheartening experiences with people that didn't quite know what to do with a woman in ministry.

4 random observations ...

*

I used to think that every Christian should have a disciplined quiet time at the beginning of the day.  Said quiet time should involve extensive Bible reading and praying through an around-the-world prayer list.  Missing daily devotions kicked off inner guilt trips, but usually not a Spirit led conviction that led to a meaningful change of heart.

And now I think that a morning time with God is an important invitation to say yes to, but I'm not less of a Christian if I fall off the wagon.  Thankfully, God is delighted to meet up with me any time of day or night ... and I dare say, just might prefer a sacred dialogue that's unceasing and not confined to a set time period before the sun goes up.

*

I used to think that if someone in church authority asked you to serve in some capacity it was a call from on high and you were obliged to say yes, even though your heart was screaming no.

And now I think not.  Yes, there are seasons of embracing a wide variety of ministry opportunities, there are gifts and callings which we are invited to explore, and there's a time to jump right into the party with both feet.  And, for a variety of reasons, most very personal, there are other seasons where sitting on the sidelines or devoting ourselves to quiet prayer are the best decisions we could make.

*

I used to think that if I was doing something I thought was important for Christ, then everyone else should embrace that same passion, too ... or they somehow had missed the boat.

And now I think your unique giftedness will, most likely, be different than mine.  And that when we pool all the bounty of our differing abilities together, the church becomes alive and vibrant, growing and expanding and honoring Christ.  It just doesn't get any better than that.

*

I used to think a women's place in the church was confined to the nursery, the kitchen, the Women's Missionary Society, or leading Pioneer Girls on Tuesday afternoons.

And now I think that Ruth Haley Barton said it all when she wrote, 'I rest in the fact that people - even those who try to limit the ways in which women serve God - cannot ultimately prevent God from accomplishing His will in and through my life.  If He has given me spiritual gifts to use in service to others, He will give me opportunities to use them.

Too often I have looked to people to recognize my gifts and give me the opportunity to use them, as if they have ultimate control.  But God does not waste His gifts or His calling.  As I am engaged in the process of becoming the kind of person God can use, He will place me where I can be of greatest use to Him.'

{Read more of my post Stop Waiting Around.}


You can read the first 4 chapters of Out of Sorts FREE right here!

So ... how has the practice of your faith morphed and changed over time?  






*  Connecting with Anita  .  Kelly  .  Holley  .  Lyli  .  Suzie 

80 comments:

  1. I'm glad to say that though I'm far from perfect, I have improved in the past years. I am more open-minded and mature as far as I could say. I'm still a work in progress though.

    This sounds like a great book for sorting things out as we grow in faith.

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    1. Far from perfect? Oh yeah, ain't that the truth, Lux. I'm grateful to be your sister-work-in-progress. Let's all keep encouraging each other on this faith-walk ...

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  2. I used to think "I would never" was a good thing to say. I now think "that was a stupid thing to say."
    I used to think "Life is a bunch of rules." I now think "Grace is the way to go."
    I used to think "If you were a real Christian you would do..." I now think "Salvation is not about do at all; it is about what He has done."

    I have more to say Linda but I think you get my drift (and I hope it was what you wanted). It was a good exercise.

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    1. I always appreciate your pastor's heart, Bill. And I'm with you on getting rid of that 'I would never' line. It's only by God's grace that we've been protected from making even more boneheaded stupid choices along the way ...

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  3. I'm with you Linda, thankful for the hard won life-lessons and for a living faith, not one mired so deep in tradition it's no longer useful. I celebrate my heritage but, more, I rejoice in the Jesus Christ and the life he gives. That life is not stagnant, but breathing and growing. I loved Sarah's book. It helped me understand why I have often felt out-of-sorts myself.

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    1. I like that, Debby ... celebrating your heritage but even more so, rejoicing in the growing life that Jesus gives!

      Sarah's book is in my Amazon cart along with a bunch of Christmas gifts! I've gotta finish up my shopping trip!

      ;-}

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  4. I love this Debbie! I also have a solid conservative evangelical upbringing, and I am so thankful for it (which I shared about on my synchropost) :) But I am totally with you on the "morning devotions" thing. It's one of those good ideas that can bring so much life to us, that somehow became this hard-and-fast rule and spiritual thermometer causing so much unnecessary guilt! :)

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    1. I'm glad you're here. The emphasis on morning devotions seemed to take a subtle twist over time ... instead of being a life-giving stream, a connection to our Savior, it morphed into a yet one more task to check off our to-do lists.

      Christ is worthy of so much more than this! I so want to embrace nurturing this sacred relationship instead of focusing on the to-do list mentality.

      Thanks for joining us today!

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  5. "And that when we pool all the bounty of our differing abilities together, the church becomes alive and vibrant, growing and expanding and honoring Christ." Oh yes! I'm slowly learning what it looks like when this happens, and it is beautiful!

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    1. I'm in ... I'm staying ...

      I'm not quite sure what that looks like in this new season, but that's ok. God knows and He's got a lovely way of making our paths clear ... in His time.

      Thanks for being here today, Rea. Truly.

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  6. Thank you for sharing a deeper look into who you are. Your bravery in giving us some intimate details just causes me to like you more. I love the idea of reflecting by using "I used to think, and now I think" as our framework. I used to be a believer who didn't really believe and now I know with certainty that Christ is my Lord and Savior. Sarah Bessey sounds like the real deal. Thank you for sharing this today.

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    1. Your emphasis on bravery in recent days, Mary, has spoken truth into my life. I'll continue to take what I'm learning from you as I move ahead into the unknown, yet not-at-all scary.

      I'm kinda getting excited about what He has for me to be, to do. Even though I don't have the vaguest idea what that looks like.

      It's a good place for me to be in. I feel at peace. He's smiling down on me. I know that for sure.

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    2. I understand the feeling of peace for what God has in store. I also have no idea what this will look like and find I am impatient in the waiting. Thank goodness God is the keeper of the plan so I don't make a mess of it before it is even revealed.

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    3. I hear ya, Mary! As we lean into Him and really crave His will, He'll guard and guide us in / around / through any messes that come up ...

      ;-}

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  7. Hi Linda! Oh my, you can't imagine what a sanctimonious PIA I was. Grrr. I'm sure even I wouldn't have liked me much back then. But as Sarah says, it's all a transformation journey, and I have to be as patient with me as God Himself is with me too.

    I enjoyed reading your reflection on your attitude about spiritual gifts. I was skeptical of others gifts, and I wonder if that was because I was jealous. Probably. But now, I do see that we are all gifted with the grace that makes us wonderfully made. And different! Vive la difference!!
    Blessings,
    Ceil

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    1. Imagine how boring it would be if we were all {yawn} the same!

      The Master Designer surely knew what He was doing when He designed us, gifted us, and invited us into His family!

      I'm so grateful ...

      ;-}

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  8. Hi Linda, I enjoyed reading your thoughts in response to Sarah's synchroblog prompt. My background sounds similar to yours and my faith has emerged in much the same way. I get so excited to read my Bible with my cup of coffee morning now. Not out of obligation. It's my time with Jesus! A good post!

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    1. It's so good to meet another sister in Christ, Traci! It somehow gives me a warm sense of place when people identify with my background and upbringing. I praise God for the deep rich foundation those early years have given me.

      I look forward to visiting with you soon!

      Blessings ... and many thanks for joining us here today!

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  9. "And though our theology might differ here and there, it matters not. Because yes, there's room for non-essential differences in the Body of Christ ... but only if we agree that Jesus Christ is Lord and that the pathway to heaven is straight through His incredibly merciful sacrificial death and resurrection."

    It is so sad that as Christians we tend to waste so much time arguing about our differences, rather than rejoice in what unites us.

    God bless.

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    1. I doubt that when we stand humbly before God that He will ask us where we went to church or what denomination we embraced ...

      Praise God for His Son, Jesus Christ who unites us in His love! I thank you for being here, Victor. I so appreciate what you bring to the table ...

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  10. Looks like an interesting read. I am going to check it out.

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    1. I'd love to hear what you think, Kara!

      ;-}

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  11. I loved reading this, Linda. It's amazing how God transforms us more and more into His image. I used to be steeped in legalism, but now I know what freedom in the Spirit is.

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    1. Amen to that transformation process ... a lifetime one for sure, isn't it, Trudy!

      So grateful you're here today ...

      ;-}

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    2. Linda, I found out through comments on someone else's blog that you recently lost your dad and your grandchild. I'm so sorry for your loss. It must be so hard. May God give you strength and peace for each day!

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    3. How kind of you to make your way back here to share such thoughtful words. Your graciousness has touched my heart today, Trudy, and I thank you ...

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  12. Oh, gosh, Linda, what a large box you're opened for me - and it includes some things upon which I might not prefer to dwell.

    But I suppose the most important one is this - I used to think that God had destined me for greatthings, in my late academic career, in my writing of fiction, and in my avocations.

    Being terminally ill at far too early a point in life never came into it; accidental death, perhaps, but not THIS.

    And yet, while I don't believe God has visited this fell process upon me (I think it rather an unfortunate artifact of a creation in which free will is vital for us to make the choices that lead to Him), I do believe that He is helping me make the best of it, both in continuing to work in hope, and in illuminating a way to reach out to others who may feel the despair I so lately felt, and which I have found to be misplaced.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2015/11/your-dying-spouse-78-till-death.htm

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    1. I see Him using your story and your wisdom to impact people right and left. Continuing to work in hope is a beautiful way to put it, Andrew. Please know that your work is not in vain ... and not til you reach heaven's shores will you begin to discover how God used your story to bring others closer to Him.

      Man ... what a legacy you're leaving!

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  13. Linda, your words have me thinking in a way that is taxing my brain ... all in good ways. : ) I think my used to be would be best described in what works for me will work for all. I now realize God creates us uniquely, individually, and connects with us each differently.

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    1. Crystal ... I like the way you put that whole 'what works for me will work for all.' And aren't we thankful that because God has made us each so unique, that the way He connects with us will, most likely, flow in that same vein ...

      So grateful you're here, friend!

      ;-}

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  14. I love your acknowledgement about there being "room" for true, deep, connection despite theological differences! And thanks for sharing four different "I used to believes" with us. Praying peace and unexpected joys for you and all yours during this season.

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    1. Thanks for that prayer for our family during this season, Lisa.

      There has been sorrow upon sorrow this year with the death of my dad, and 2 months later, the death of our little grandson. We so need a peace that surpasses grief and shines a sacred light on the holiday season ...

      I appreciate your thoughtfulness ...

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  15. That, my friend, is a very good question. One that will take some serious thought and self-introspection. It's interesting, several things I've been reading this week have been directing me to some self time. I think my agenda is set for the weekend :) thanks for sharing Sarah's book!

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    1. June ... absolutely!

      This was one of those harder posts to write. I don't know if I ever wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote again as much as I've done with this piece. There was so much to consider ... and I walked away better understanding myself and the changes that have evolved through living my faith out over these decades, especially during the difficult times.

      Nothing like seeing something in black and white that's come from your own heart and finding that all the pieces finally fit together.

      Feel free to let me know what you discover as you muse on this difficult question. I'd be fascinated ...

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  16. I love the wisdom you offer here, Linda, what a gift your experiences are to people in the church. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Hi Devi ... don't you love when God redeems the stuff our lives are crafted from? I'm so grateful!

      ;-}

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  17. Oooh, I like this a lot! I like Sarah's passion and intensity behind her words. I still don't know what to make of a lot of what she preaches, but I'm sorting it out with the man upstairs. What you said about other people recognizing your gifts and asking you to use them as if they have ultimate control is where I'm at right now. I'm realizing I have gifts and I don't have to wait for anyone. If God tells me to go then I should go. It's been so freeing.

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    1. You make a great point, Alecia, in our need to sort out what we're reading and hearing, to see how it aligns with God's Word, to see how it might / might not be integrated into our own theology. The bottom line? Always the Bible.

      Always!

      And yes, I so agree with you about the freedom. Ruth's words spoke deeply to me at a time when I couldn't understand why others' roadblocks kept going up in the path I knew God had called me to walk. It was amazing what opened up for me after I turned away from my expectations of others, and focused more on listening to what He wanted.

      So very good ...

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  18. YES. Theology changes so much as we look harder at the world and as things change in our own lives. There is nothing wrong with seeing a new interpretation of a verse you know by heart. As you quoted - nothing can take away what God wants for our lives, no word of men can stop women who set the world on fire for God.

    Loved this post. I love how these linkup posts are all resonating so strongly with me one way or another - so many "me toos" I think to myself while reading. After posting my own for the linkup, I decided to try and visit as many of the linked blogs as possible. It's a serious undertaking! But I'm finding so many wonderful blogs as i do.

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    1. Hey Katie ... thanks for coming by! Yes, it was fun to visit some of the writers in the link-up ... seeing many commonalities in our words, smiling as I spied another kindred spirit or a sister with a similar story.

      This is blogging at its best, isn't it?

      I'm glad you found your way here ...

      ;-}

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  19. I love your thoughts on quiet time with the Lord. This has been something I really resonate with. I used to think the same thing, but in seasons with a newborn, and now a one-year-old, I find Jesus whispering to my heart throughout the day, not just in the morning (which sometimes feels too crazy to actually sit down and have a devotional time.) Love this post.

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    1. Don't you love how He whispers deep, steady, and sweet? And this grace is something we can teach our little ones even as they're hanging all over us ...

      Jesus loves the little children. The big ones, too!

      Thanks for sharing with us here ...

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  20. Awesome post, Linda! I have so many "used to thinks" that I could write you an entire book here (LOL), but a lot of my "now I thinks" or "now I knows" rather came through me simply seeking THE LORD intimately, experiencing HIM, and getting to know HIM for myself. That completely changed my perspective about life in every aspect. ... Anyways, so great to visit with you today, Love! GOD bless you! :-)

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    1. Yes and amen, Tai! One of the meaningful things the Holy Spirit does is guide us into all truth. As we get to know God more intimately, as we lean into Him more desperately, our faith and discernment is enlivened and strengthened!

      I'm so grateful He doesn't leave us the way He found us ...

      Sabbath blessings, friend!

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  21. I love this look into your spiritual life, Linda! It seems as if you have evolved quite beautifully, my friend. I've just recently learned of Sarah Bessey. Thanks so much for the link to 4 free chapters of her book! I'll definitely check that out. I guess my biggest fill in the blanks for this thought provoking question are: I used to think (for most of my lifetime) the Bible was a book of fairy tales and now I think it is absolute truth :).

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    1. Well, you said it all, Candace ... the Bible is absolute truth. Praise God that He reveals that powerful reality to us ...

      And He keeps on growing us, changing us as we delve deep into those sacred pages.

      I hope this weekend does you good, friend ...

      ;-}

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  22. Linda, I've loved reading your wise reflection inspired by reading Sarah's book. Life has a way of making us feel out of sorts, and faith practices tend to do so too. It can take years and a willingness to embrace the new before we see how far we have come and what a wonderful journey it actually is. As I've grown older, I've learnt to be less defined in my thinking and to make more room for the mystery and the not knowing. Living into the answers to come, while accepting there will always be some unanswered questions. Thank you for sharing your insights. I'm blessed to have visited from the synchroblog link up. :)

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    1. Hey Joy ... I so agree with what you said about making more room for the mystery and the not knowing. That's faith isn't it ... the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. It's just impossible to bring the holy down to our human level. And how grateful I am that we can't!

      Thanks for bringing your wisdom to the table this weekend! It's been such a profitable discussion and I'm glad you're part of it!

      Blessings ...

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  23. what an inspiring post! I am SO sorry to hear about the loss of one of your precious grandchildren...oh so sad...

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    1. Thank you, Jandi, for your kind words. Grief and loss certainly leaves their imprint on our faith ... and that's been oh so true for me this year.

      I so appreciate you being here ...

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  24. I could write a book on life lessons I have learned and the change in my concretes which resulted. Love your before and after's, Friend. Look how others are responding to your words---you are speaking truth and most of us are seeking truth!
    Blessings, Friend!

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    1. You're so right, Lulu. We're all seeking truth here. We find it in His Word, by His Spirit, through the words of those who are seeking Him. He promises to be found if we seek Him with all our hearts ... and I can only trust that's happening here.

      Grateful for the pivotal part you play in this community, faithful friend ...

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  25. These are incredible questions to ask ourselves, Linda. I love the premise of this book of Sarah's. There's so much we discover about who God had matured us to be when we stop to consider these things as you have. By the way, I LOVE that photo. The colors just smacked me up side the head with "twitterpation!" ha! Love ya, girlfriend!

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    1. 'Twitterpation!' Cute, girlfriend!

      Creation speaks His majesty in glorious shades, doesn't it ...

      ;-}

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    1. Well, thanks for taking the time to say 'hi!'

      I love that ...

      ;-}

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  27. What a thought-provoking post, Linda. I loved reading your insights, the comments and your responses ... such a great discussion! I especially appreciated how you encapsulated 60 years of life lessons in one succinct paragraph ... that's some great writing, right there! Your "four random observations" reminded me of this post I wrote awhile back:
    http://www.loisflowers.com/what-would-you-tell-your-10-years-younger-self/
    I have a feeling I will be chewing on your words for awhile ...
    Blessings, friend!

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    1. You're so right, Lois ... this has been a great discussion and I appreciate everyone that's pulled up a chair and brought their bounty to the table.

      And yes, there was something very powerful and enlightening in hammering out those few paragraphs. Seeing those life lessons laid out in black and white kind of hit home for me.

      I'll be checking out your post, friend ...

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  28. I love this post, and my know it all hook is hanging right beside yours -- possible along with a "bossy girl" hook.
    I always profit from reading your words. Blessings!

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    1. Ah, yes, the 'bossy girl' hook ... our attempts to control everything and everybody in hopes that we'll not have to experience more pain.

      ;-{

      Oh yeah, been there, done that.

      And am so glad you're here today, Michele ...

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  29. Thank you for sharing with such transparency and honesty. I was able to resonate with quite a few of your "then and now's" :-)

    When I think of my views of things as a new believer, it was exactly what I needed at the time to develop the spiritual disciplines. Experience, wisdom and grace, lots of grace, have changed some of those views as I've grown older.

    The Lord redeems everything in our lives as we seek to serve Him with all our hearts, souls and minds.

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    1. Oh I'm so glad I'm not the only one! Always so good to find another kindred spirit who's lived out some of the same challenges and learned similar lessons ...

      And don't you love how those spiritual disciplines have morphed into gracious invitations? God is so good!

      Thanks for joining the conversation today, Karen ... God's blessings to you!

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  30. This was really interesting to read, Linda. Thanks for posting this. I'm still pondering my "before"'s and "after"s. :)

    Jennifer Dougan
    www.jenniferdougan.com

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    1. I'm glad you're here, Jennifer! I'm still pondering my befores and afters, too!

      ;-}

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  31. Love, this Linda. I'm so thankful our theologies change over time :)

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    1. I love that the core truths of who Jesus Christ is stay firm and solid and strong ... even if the peripheral stuff shifts around a bit ...

      'Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today, and forever' - Hebrews 13:8.

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  32. So very thought-provoking Linda! Thank you for the honest reflections and sharing lessons you've learned. This gets my brain going -and my heart to. There are a lot of used to's and now's....

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    1. Hi Bethany ... isn't it so amazing how God's linked our brains and hearts? I love when they work in tandem together to draw us closer to His truths!

      ;-}

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  33. If writing is the season God has you in right now, you sure do a super job at it. Your writing is unique and catchy and encouraging and over the top. I love the way you write. It really grabs me.

    {via email}

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    1. Your words affirm where I'm finding myself right about now. Yep, this is what God has for me in this season. Each day it becomes clearer to me that this is His desire.

      There's no place I'd rather be than right in the middle of His best ...

      ;-}

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  34. What a deeply thought provoking post Linda. I appreciate you sharing with us some of the ways in which you've. When I get some free time I plan to ponder on the topic longer.

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    1. Yeah, the mysteries of our faith and how we live them out call for lots of pondering. My husband's favorite verse is Luke 2:19 --> 'Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.'

      Love this invitation to lean into all that God reveals to us ... and worship Him in the process.

      Good to see you again, friend ...

      ;-}

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  35. Linda,

    Oh, my, I could relate to much in your post, especially how each of us connects with God is different and even for a person, it will vary in different seasons. I appreciate your honest words of wisdom, my friend :-)

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    1. I love that you're here, Dolly. Always!

      You bring such gentle grace to the table ...

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  36. I used to think I had all the answers. Now I think I haven't been listening to the right questions! Which is just a nother way of saying I struggle with pride but God is teaching me closet legalism is still legalism and I need to value people over rule-keeping and grace over perceived human goodness.

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    1. Listening to the right questions. Yes, Anita, yes. And valuing relationships over rules. Amen once more.

      I like where you're going with this. I want to go there, too ...

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  37. I've always felt like we didn't need to add guilt to out baggage too. So when I'm trying my best - not following the right rules should be the test. Great post with a lot of pondering information !!!!

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    1. Guilt's a lousy taskmaster, for sure. And oh so different from the persistent gentle conviction of the Spirit ...

      So glad to hear that there was food to ponder, Rebecca. I so appreciate your kind words ...

      Blessings.

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  38. Wow, Linda, this was incredibly powerful! I loved it and learned something here, too. Thank you for this!

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    1. And thank you for including me on your list of favorites, Sarah. You made my Thanksgiving all the more richer by your generosity!

      ;-}

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'I want the people in my life to know that when they come to me, with whatever is on their mind or heart, they will be heard. I am dedicated to hearing the hearts of those around me.'
~ Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Linda