Questions: Invitation or Intrusion

IMG_1485I remember so well how much I disliked sitting in a classroom with the anticipation of the teacher asking me a question. I tried to almost make myself disappear so I would not be seen or called upon to answer. Later, as a teacher, I realized how typical that could be as well as how futile it can be if the teacher is an observant one.

There has been an occasional time as an adult sitting in a class or workshop that I felt similar feelings. I grew up often feeling inadequate and feared that answering a question would confirm that not only to me but also to everyone else in the room.

Those feelings are not so unusual, but I think how we respond to questions tends to reveal a bit more about us than we might wish.

A question can be viewed as an intrusion when we see it as interrupting whatever we are doing or thinking about. It can jar us out of our own little world back into the world of others. Often, we do not like that nor want that.

If we have young children (or really children of almost any age living at home), we experience this on a regular basis. For the youngest children, questions can seem to be almost endless and yet are essential as they seek to learn names of things, how they work, what they are for, and of course, why that is the way it is. As children get older, they seem to be looking for answers so they don’t have to think through where they left their homework, what happened to that favorite red sweater, or what you asked them to do five minutes ago.

A question can also be viewed as an intrusion when we feel it exposes something in us that we prefer to remain hidden.

In considering this subject of how we view questions, let me suggest that a question can also be an invitation to share who we are, what we think or know. Even when we fear it, most of us desire to be known, if we also are accepted and loved. That is the key…love and acceptance for who we are, where we are, and how we are. When we experience it, that allows us to grow, heal, and gain clarity in who we are and what we want to be or do.

Wise questions can also convey to us that someone cares about us and wants to develop a closer relationship with us. If we are honest, we need to recognize that everyone wants and needs to know they matter.

Asking good questions is really a gift and skill. When we do so, it can make a great deal of difference in our relationships.

No one was more gifted than Jesus in this. Absolutely no one. He seemed to be able to ask a question that was both an intrusion and an invitation at the same time. Listen to some of the examples we see in the gospels:

  • “Why are you timid, you men of little faith?” Or in a modern translation “Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?”
  • “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?”
  • “Which is easier, to say, your sins are forgiven, or to say, rise and walk?”
  • “But to what shall I compare this generation?”
  • “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
  • “Who do you say that I am?”
  • “What do you wish me to do for you?”
  • “Who touched my garments?”
  • “Do you love me?”

As I read these examples and many more, I see how each one intruded into the thinking and lives of the one or ones asked. His questions were often piercing and direct.

But I also see something else, his questions reveal His desire to be known, for us to see and understand the truth about Him as well as ourselves. He was inviting us to know Him and showing that He clearly knew us while yet loving us.

That reality speaks volumes to me about the relationship He desires to have with me, with us. It also speaks of the significance of the invitation. Those same questions reach out to us from His Word because He was and is speaking them to us as well.

Will we hide or will we accept His invitation?

One of Our Heart’s Potent Enemies

IMG_1450If you listen carefully, you will daily hear about loss, disappointment, rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and other things, which tear at the fibers of our being and weigh down our hearts until we feel we can no longer bear it.

There are many arrows sent to halt our forward movement toward the path we are called to follow. They come from many sources, many directions. The enemy’s purpose has less to do with killing us perhaps and more to do with dissuading us from moving ahead, to take our eyes off the goal, weaken our resolve, and cloud our understanding.

As a result, we can be caught in the web of the enemy’s designs much like a spider ensnares a living meal to enjoy at its leisure.

Many of the things sent to assault our hearts that I have listed are things we would likely all recognize and acknowledge we have faced at least once in our lives. An insidious enemy that may be far more dangerous lurks about in the atmosphere, however, one we are often slower to recognize, and one we seem less skilled at fighting.

The enemy?


Indifference nibbles at the edges of our hearts steadily creating the belief that no one cares about us, feels concern for us, or views us as important. If this simmers long enough, we begin to believe that perhaps the Lord is indifferent to us as well because our desires have been thwarted, our suffering has not been relieved, or the darkness has not lifted.

Elie Wiesel said, “Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies.”

“To be treated with indifference is the greatest tragedy a human soul can suffer.” Tonny K. Brown

A tragic result of the wounds we experience over time is when we deliberately choose to be and act indifferently toward others in an effort to protect our hearts from further pain.

Indifference becomes something we accept as a part of our lives without paying attention to the nibbling that produces a slowly simmering anger birthing resentment and corroding our awareness of how far we have slipped away from the truth.

We have forgotten (if we ever knew) that the enemy of our hearts, Satan himself, knows we are indeed precious, important, and valuable. He knows we were created with a purpose, a calling, and a divine destiny.

If he can deceive us so that we believe we are uncared for by a friend, a family member, or anyone else, he shrouds the truth of who we are from us. The results pull us farther off course.

We start to rely on ourselves alone because it feels too risky to trust the Lord or anyone else again. We do not even rightly discern love and care when it is shown to us.

The world has been pulled over our eyes.

We have forgotten there is an unseen world we live in the midst of and we are caught up in a great battle, a battle for our hearts and minds.

We cannot afford to indulge in indifference.

We must not forget whose we are and why the enemy of our souls is intent on trying to cause us to forget.

 We are the beloved of God. He deemed us worthy of sending Himself as His Son to demonstrate how precious and loved we were and are. Despite our condition, He chose to sacrifice Himself for us.

He calls us His children.

He calls us his bride.

He has chosen us again and again.

He never stops loving us.

How great a love could we ever know? Even if no one else loves us, He does. He does. Even when we are messed up, He looks at us with love, mercy, and grace.

The truth is

  • God loves me more than I can imagine

(Romans 8:39)

  • God forgives me, no matter what my sin if I return to Him

(I John 1:9)

  • When I do not give up and attempt to do His will, He provides

(Phil. 4:13)

  • If I seem to fail, He gives me another opportunity

(Psalm 37:24)

  • God never wants me to give up or forget who He is

(Joshua 1; 5,7,9)

  • If I give up on myself, it will make it harder for me to see His love

(Psalm 105:10-12)

Stand guard against indifference within yourself. Help others to do the same.

In that way, we defend our hearts against the arrows of the enemy and we stand.

Parts or Whole

IMG_1480When I was growing up, I don’t recall hearing much talk about integrity. What I DO recall is the clear evidence of it in the lives of my parents, teachers, and those we fellowshipped with at church. People did what they promised without fanfare or a need for acclaim. Their words, values, and behavior matched. My teacher behaved the same way in the classroom, in the grocery store, or at the football game.

Back then, being honest, having strong moral principles, and moral uprightness was taught, modeled, and expected from a very young age.

I often look wistfully to that time and undoubtedly idealize it.

Now it is more common to speak of the lack of such scruples and integrity. It has gone beyond failures in this character trait in places like Hollywood to failures in every area of our lives, from the coach or teacher to the school board member. From the councilman or mayor to the judge or magistrate, from the halls of Congress to the White House, and from the youth director to the pastor, we daily read stories unheard of fifty years ago.

What has happened?

Perhaps all this busyness we all talk about has a byproduct that we don’t immediately recognize that makes it easier for integrity to be compromised.

In our busyness, we tend to compartmentalize our lives in order to tackle one thing at a time in the hope of avoiding being overwhelmed. There is the Church Department, the Work Department, the Friend Department, and the Home Department to name just a few possibilities.

Life is complex and lived at a fast rate of speed so we hope that compartmentalizing will help us. The skill is often taught as a way of coping, as a way to try to help us be present in whatever place or role we are to be in at any given time.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem comes when we start to behave differently in different roles or departments, to have different motives or values. Little by little we can be tempted to become several people instead of one person. We are one way in one place and one way in another.

We are no longer integrated and we no longer have integrity.

Maybe the shift in us only happens in one setting or one department, but over time all the parts and pieces that had fit together to form a whole, a solid foundation, begin to erode. It might be in just that one setting or area, but unless it is addressed other parts start to be affected as well. Those around us often don’t notice it because they are doing the same thing as we are.

What we are most commonly missing in this mix is accountability.

If we are honest, most of us cringe at accountability because it exposes our flaws, our mistakes, and our sins. We fear being exposed, not unlike Adam and Eve. Discovery that we are not what we say or seem often results in a frantic effort to find fig leaves.

Little by little we have left behind accountability to a core set of biblical values and principles. We have avoided community at deeper levels. We have put off time in His Word, the ultimate foundational standard for our motives, words, and behaviors.

Sadly, our dullness has caused us to not remain aware that the Lord sees all of the parts of us and knew we would fall prey to these challenges. He planned for it and became our accountability at the cross. He offers grace, mercy, comfort, and love in the hope we will run to Him when we fail instead of hide from Him and anyone else who would seek to help us.

Our pride gets in the way because we feel like we are supposed to know the answers or be able to figure out the next step or issue. Yet Proverbs 15:22 says:

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Jesus was always and forever accountable to His Father and He was perfect.

If He did so, should we not also value accountability as a key to integrity?

No Room

IMG_1315Almost every day I hear someone talk about how overwhelmed they feel about the demands of their days or weeks. It doesn’t seem to be determined by season of life much of the time. Perhaps it relates to the pace of life for many of us. Many of us only feel comfortable about taking it easy or slowing the pace if we are on vacation. Sadly, many of us are so busy that when vacation comes, we need to sleep a great deal of the time for the first few days of the week away.

I recall a vacation my husband and I took to Alberta, Canada, a few years ago. The weeks prior to the trip had been chocked full of demands of every kind. The first night we arrived at our hotel, I slept for eleven hours. The next night was not quite as long, but still more than eight hours.

A friend told me recently that she seems to sleep soundly and well when she is away from home and still enjoy naps while there. At home, that is not the case.

I read articles in magazines and in posts about this sort of thing along with steps to simplify our lives. I hear interviews on television about it and I even get mail from nutritional supplement manufacturers reminding me. The issue seems to have reached pandemic proportions.

One might think that we are on a treadmill that someone has gradually set to increase speed until we are running at a pace we cannot sustain.

I can plead guilty of falling prey to this. For a long time I rationalized it was acceptable because of things that needed to be done or because it was for a good cause or for ministry. If I looked on my calendar and if there were any blank spots, it seemed to be okay to add something else.

Little by little, week-by-week it added up. Life became too full and so many “necessary” things were woven into it that I could not sort out how I had allowed myself to get into such a tangled quagmire.

As I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw the first signs of it. They showed up when my quiet times with the Lord got shortchanged because I had one too many things (good things) in my day. I was already getting up early enough and was often exhausted much of the time so getting up earlier to accommodate keeping my quiet time as it had been did not fit. So my quiet time became shorter and then even got skipped some days.

That didn’t mean He stopped loving me. It didn’t mean He did not provide grace and help to get through each day. It DID signal to me that my life was too full. The very thing that made life richer and better was the grounding of that time with Him. Church was fine. Bible study groups were wonderful as well, but the real nutrients that nourished my heart, mind, and spirit were those precious one-on-one times with Him.

I could probably give you a list of how to escape the trap of the busy lifestyle you may find yourself in. I could remind you of the potential consequences of continuing to live life without margin. You may even have read books on the subject and tried to reset your time margins and boundaries only to discover the creep of relentless additions to your calendar.

As I was rereading the gospel story of the birth of Christ this week, I sensed the Lord giving me a glimpse of the issue from what very well might be His perspective.

You and I know the story well. Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem for the birth of the Savior of the world. What do they discover? There is no room in the inn, no place suitable for a royal birth to occur. The inn is already full to overflowing, but the innkeeper offers his stable.

There it was, a glimpse of something I had missed about this story.

My life (perhaps your life) can become too full as well so there is no room for Him.

He can be relegated to the stable of our lives, to the leftover time, energy, place or the clutter of the stable. Lists work for a short time for most of us and “no” still needs lots of practice, but this glimpse captures my attention.

We can forget our relationship with Him is His priority! He died to make it possible.

Are we much like the innkeeper in Bethlehem with no room for the Savior?

Something Is Missing

PICT0318We have just had several of those drop dead gorgeous days we get to experience in October. The mornings have been frosty, inviting me to snuggle under the covers just a few minutes longer. And as the morning has moved forward, the sun has warmed the air just enough. The bluest of skies dotted with a few wispy white clouds coaxes me outside.

The leaves are not yet at their peak of color, but are starting to give hints of deeper orange and red to create anticipation in the midst of the yellows, browns, and pale orange hues. These are the days that slip by too quickly and I want to push back the darkness each night to savor just a few more hours of this grand display.

Too soon these days will bring rain and wind. In the blink of an eye the leaves will be stripped from their branches and the long season of barren looking trees will begin. I know that. So savoring each day before this happens becomes a desire.

Too often our desires meet disappointment, disillusionment, or a dull sense of discontent. As a result, we might choose to deaden those desires that spring from somewhere deep inside us or we search for a way to soothe them causing us to chase what John Eldredge calls “less wild lovers”. These other things that we choose can ultimately lead us into habits and addictions fueling more disappointment and despair.

Somehow we want more than life as usual. Life as usual doesn’t satisfy this nameless longing fueling our desire.

Perhaps it is that “divine discontent” that Chesterton speaks of in Orthodoxy, that sense that “we have come to the wrong star….We come from somewhere else. We have lost our way.”

C.S. Lewis speaks of our “lifelong nostalgia” to be reunited with our Creator.

In Into Abba’s Arms, Sandra Wilson wrote, “our souls harbor a deep, nameless knowing we were created for something far better, something unmistakably solid and enduring…ancient echoes of Eden.”

Could it be that on beautiful (nearly perfect) days like this in October, we get a momentary glimpse of that kind of beauty we were made to enjoy all the time?

But it isn’t so much the beauty that can satisfy our desire. The beauty points us to the true desire, the One who created the beauty, the One who whispers to us that we were made for something different, something more, something better than even this gloriously beautiful October day can give.

Perhaps that ache in the deepest part of us, that longing and desire in us, is a reminder that He has left as a candle flame to guide us back to Him, to help us find our way back home with Him.

Beauty somehow deepens the tug on our hearts even as other days of despair does. In both cases, we get a sense that something is missing. What we do with that longing and desire will make all the difference!

The longing and desire that we do not name might send us scurrying down side trails so we buy a new dress or other trinket we do not need. We indulge in a fictional romance novel. We drink an extra glass of wine or try to soothe it with a decadent chocolate treat. For the moment, these might mute the desire, but too soon the desire becomes louder again.

The better choice sends us looking for the One who created the desire. We find evidences of Him in heartfelt worship. We see Him in his story, The Word. Those point us to the better path, the true path.

Then when I sit in my favorite red leather chair and I reflect on Him just a few moments longer and let my words to Him pour out on the pages of my journal, I get just a little closer. It gives me a sense of being suspended between the earth and what will be one day a far more fulfilling closeness when nothing can obscure my vision of Him.

It is then that I see clearly what is lost, what is missing. It is what we lost in Eden.

But the desire He left planted within our hearts reminds us of the hope we have of a reunion with Him when every desire will once more be satisfied. Then we will truly be home where we were always created to live.