Would I Follow?

I am currently reading the book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.  This book is Nabeel Qureshi’s personal account of his life as he went from a devout upbringing in the Muslim faith to find that Jesus Christ was indeed his personal savior.  Throughout the book, the author talks of how simple it often was to shut down any Christian that tried to talk to him about faith in Christ.  The reason it was so simple: the  Christians had only a head knowledge of the “whys” of their own beliefs.  They could not back up the normal rhetoric that is given to prove their beliefs.

I have been struck by many parts of this book.  Most of all, I have to face that many of us cannot defend the faith we say that we have.  Nabeel studied the Bible to be able to  refute the usual comments.  It wasn’t until he met someone who was willing and able to give him facts that Nabeel began to truly “hear” the message.  On the flip side, Nabeel also had to come to terms with the fact that much of what he knew of his Muslim beliefs were based on what he had been told.  Studying the Qur’an and other documents as he defended his childhood religion was very unsettling for him.    Even though he have read the entire Qur’an by the time he was 5 years old, he didn’t know or understand much of the basics of his faith.

Nabeel Qureshi’s decision to follow Christ was not an easy choice.  It took years to get to that decision.  He had to weigh giving up EVERYTHING in order to follow the Christ of the Bible.  This decision caused immense pain for both of his parents.  In “Christianity Today”, he made this spoke about the effect his conversion had on his family:

“A few days later, the two people I loved most in this world were shattered by my betrayal. To this day my family is broken by the decision I made, and it is excruciating every time I see the cost I had to pay.
But Jesus is the God of reversal and redemption. He redeemed sinners to life by his death, and he redeemed a symbol of execution by repurposing it for salvation. He redeemed my suffering by making me rely upon him for my every moment, bending my heart toward him. It was there in my pain that I knew him intimately. He reached me through investigations, dreams, and visions, and called me to prayer in my suffering. It was there that I found Jesus. To follow him is worth giving up everything.”

I have to ask myself, “Would I do this?”  I’ve lived a pretty easy life.  Sure there have been bumps along the way, some of them very big bumps.  When my first husband died, I struggled with my faith.  I reviewed all that I said that I believed.  And, I concluded that my faith in God was correct and real.  But, I was never required to give up everything:  my family, my core beliefs, the familiar.  Would I do that?  Could I defend my beliefs to another in a logical and cohesive manner?  Would I be able to give details and truth?  I wish I could give a resounding YES, but I’m not sure.

My family and I have been watching the Leah Remini show on Scientology.  I often sit in astonishment at what people are willing to do and to give up for their beliefs in this “religion”.  While reading Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, I have a different understanding of the Scientology followers:  they too risk everything for their beliefs.  The difference?  Nabeel Qureshi’s Muslim upbringing did acknowledge parts of the Bible and recognize some of the same people as Christianity (although differently), he had a basis to build upon when confronted for Christianity.  He was willing to debate and discuss to prove his point.  Scientology doesn’t allow any questions.  There is no debate.  It’s all or nothing.  As we have listened to people who have left Scientology, it is so sad to see that most have still not found salvation in Jesus.  How do we as Christians help to fill the void?  How do we take steps in this tender and painful area of trust for people’s of any faith that are hurt and searching?  Do we really care?  Do we really want to step out?

Again, I’m not sure.  It’s more  convenient to throw a tract or book at someone than to interact with  them in any depth.  It’s emotionally safer to invite someone to church than to sit down and have coffee and talk over  and over again.  It’s easier to only communicate about God when you need something by asking  for “a little prayer for _____”  instead of getting involved with God on a daily basis with His people.  It’s less intimidating to just mind my own business and let someone else do the hands on stuff.

I’m challenged.  I’m struggling.

For you see, standing up for one’s beliefs to those in your closest circle of family and friends can be hard, especially if they don’t agree.  It takes balance to lovingly rebuke those who claim to be Christian and  do not live as such.  It takes a measured patience to be ridiculed as “old-fashioned” and “out of touch” when you have lived and may actually have a basis for this “old-fashioned” and “out of touch” advise.  The easiest road may not be the best choice and momentary laughter does not mean a lifetime of joy.

Nabeel Qureshi passed away after a year-long battle with stomach cancer on September 16, 2017 at the age of 34.   His parents were helping to care for him during his illness.  I am so fortunate to have his story from which to learn.  He has touched and continues to touch many lives with his stand for Christ.

Would you follow?

 

 

I Have a Plan for You

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. ”   Jeremiah 29:11 MSG

This verse is often quoted when things are difficult or confusing.  It’s a comforting verse.  I’ve quoted it many times and have held tightly to it during rough periods of my life.  Today, I read the entire chapter.  It’s either the first time I’ve read the whole thing or the first time I’ve paid attention to it.  Either way, my eyes were opened.

This verse is in the middle of God sending a message to His children.  The children of Israel had been taken into captivity in Babylon.    Their only desire: to go home.  There were prophets that were assuring them they would be going home soon.  But, God had a different message:

“This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, to all the exiles I’ve taken from Jerusalem to Babylon:   “Build houses and make yourselves at home.  Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country.  Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away.  Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.  Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.

” Yes. Believe it or not, this is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God: “Don’t let all those so-called preachers and know-it-alls who are all over the place there take you in with their lies. Don’t pay any attention to the fantasies they keep coming up with to please you. They’re a bunch of liars preaching lies—and claiming I sent them! I never sent them, believe me.” God’s Decree!

This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”   Jeremiah 29:4-11 MSG

God did promise to gather all of His children together and to bring them home.  After 70 years had passed in Babylon, that is.  I don’t think that was what the people wanted to hear.  God was telling them to make their homes there in Babylon.  They were to live their lives to the fullest.  In Babylon.  And, (I think this would be the hardest part for me), they were to PRAY for Babylon to do well!  Really!?!  They’ve carried me and my family away into captivity, and I’m supposed to pray for good things for them?

I don’t know about you, but when I pray for God to do something, I really want it done now.  Next week might work.  A month from now would be pushing things.  I’ve never requested or expected to wait 70 years.  Wow.  This changes the way I look at “plans to give you the future you hope for”. 

How many times have I kicked and complained with my lot in life?  How many times have I cried out to God and questioned His decisions?  How many times have I accused God of not listening or caring?  Truthfully, more than I would like to admit.

I’m currently living within some parameters that I don’t like.  There are rules and consequences that many times seem to take over my every moment.  My life is not always mine to do with as I please.  This will be my life for the foreseeable future.  When I read these scriptures, I knew God was reminding me to wait on Him.  I can live my life, captive to circumstances out of my control.  I can live fully and trust Him.  He doesn’t promise to remove the issues as I would prefer.  But, He does assure me that “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”   

The next few verses are actually when the comfort arrives:

 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.  When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.  Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”  Jeremiah 29:12-14a MSG

This doesn’t say, “Call out to me and I’ll give what you want.”  He does promise that I can always find Him.  He will always listen.  I will not be disappointed even in circumstances or trials that I just don’t like at all.  I need to make finding God my priority, not escaping from my “captors”.

So, I will always be glad that God has a plan for me.  But, my new goal is to this:

SERIOUSLY seek God and put Him above every circumstance in my life. 

Are you struggling with your own “70 year captivity”?

 

 

 

 

If

If Band-Aids and kisses could fix all of your hurts and wounds , I would keep an endless supply.

If I had the power, I would flatten all the hills, grind up the rocks and fill in all the ruts that litter your landscape in life.

Given the chance, I would fill your life with rainbows and butterflies and all the beautiful things in this world.

But, band aids aren’t meant to repair anything. And, kisses are temporary. It’s the scars from battling life that give us courage.

It’s from the mountaintop that the view is the best. It’s from the glorious heights that we can see what we have accomplished and begin to see what is ahead. Conquering the rocks and ruts builds strength and endurance and prepares us for the long journeys to come. 

Even the most beautiful things can become ordinary. It’s in life’s struggles that we learn to appreciate the gifts we see everyday.

So I’ll watch as you climb the next mountain and negotiate the obstacles in your way. I’ll pray for guidance, peace and healing when things seem too hard. I’ll be there when you need a shoulder or a helping hand. And when those moments of beauty come, breathe deeply, laugh long and hard, and live life fully and completely.

The brightest rainbow may be just over the next mountain.

Today

There are things I miss:

Your smile and your laugh.

Falling into your arms for a reassuring embrace when things aren’t going that well.

Knowing that there’s always someone on my side, even if I’m wrong.

Feeling beautiful and loved just because you say so.

Unplanned date nights, just because.

Snuggling on the sofa watching television with you thee to tell me what I missed when I fall asleep.

Late night talks and dreaming and planning and wondering what tomorrow will bring.

I have become accustomed to missing all of theses things on most days. But not today.

Today my heart hurts and my tears flow freely. And the ache feels fresh and new.

I will count my blessings. I will look to tomorrow and dream of what is to come.

But today, there are things that I miss.

Excited?

A few weeks ago while rehearsing as part of the praise team at my church, I surveyed the other members and realized I could be the mother of EVERY person on stage. We were singing “young” music and to say that I felt really old and out of place in that moment is an understatement. No one made me feel that way. This was just me. As much as I love music and I love singing, I’m beginning to question my proper place in the music of my church. Actually, I’m questioning my place in a lot of areas.

When I was younger, the fall signaled a fresh and exciting new start. I looked forward to the first day of school with new experiences and new things to learn. As long as my kids were in school, I had the same excitement. I miss that excitement. I miss being excited. About anything.

I’ve had the chance to listen and read about opportunities that friends have and will undertake. Honestly, I envy the direction they have right now. I envy the excitement they feel. I long to be excited about what I’m doing at church or at work or anywhere. I guess I’m having a mid-life crisis of sorts.

I realize that not everything that is important is exciting. And, I can’t base my life on the excitement level. A lot of what is necessary can be humdrum and monotonous and still fulfilling. But, I don’t want to get stuck in the “I’ve always done it” loop either. So, the new school year is my signal to take a step back and review my commitments. This is the time I need to question where my time and efforts should be directed.

What needs to change?
Where does God want me serve?
Do I need to step back from some areas?

I’m waiting for even the tiniest bit of anticipation or excitement about serving to return.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. (Psalms 51:12 NLT)

In Between

Featured Five Minute Friday:
Here’s the deal. Five Minute Friday. You go find the little prompt at the wonderful Lisa-Jo’s blog, set the time and write for five minutes, and then just stop. Where you are, no edits, just publish raw words.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

OK, are you ready? Please give us your best five minutes on the word:::

In Between

GO

Most of my life I’ve been a mom. I was either “mothering” friends and classmates, or later in life my own kids. By the end of 2013, both kids will be on their own. I’m at that strange place of still being a “mom” but needing to stand back and not “mother” so much.

So the question arises, Now What? Where do I go from here? For the first time in almost 25 years, I will have no one that directly depends upon me. I can make choices. I am free. And it scares me a bit not to be anchored. Vaguely reminiscent of that time between high school and college or college and my first job, I’m caught in between holding on to the familiar and excitement for the future. What’s out there in the world for a middle-aged widow lady? Am I a butterfly ready to fly from the cocoon? Will my fear of flying cripple me? I’m looking to what God has to show me for my future. It could be that I’m right where I need to be. And, that would be fine. Or, there could be a great adventure in my future. That would be exciting.

Maybe, there’s a bit of both!! Here we go!