November was a month that was filled with blessings (although I admit to being a wee bit exhausted at the end of it). Thanks to the prayers and generosity of many who allowed God to work through them, my Kickstarter for THE BOOK OF RUTH was more than 100% funded when it ended. Through that entire process I could feel God’s hand, working, reaching out and putting it in front of the people who needed to see it, speaking to their hearts. And for me it was definitely an exercise in trust, and the power of faith. There were many times I just had to “step back and let God”. And there were so many people who lifted me up with words of encouragement and prayers. God is good. And I want to say thank you again, to everyone who shared and supported RUTH.
You might be asking yourself if I’m feeling so blessed, why the title of today’s blog post is about bitterness. Let me explain. As often as we revel in God’s blessings in our lives, we are just as often tempted by sin. This past week, within my community of faith, I have been wrestling with a situation. I found myself being pushed out of a role that I had taken pride in. A role that I enjoyed and looked forward to doing. And I wasn’t happy about it. In fact, I was very hurt. I don’t know if the people involved even considered my feelings, I would even say that it didn’t cross their minds that I might be upset. They just did what it was that they wanted to do.
This was a situation in which, while I didn’t feel it was necessary to take a stand and try to get my way, my first instinct was to step back. To no longer participate in that particular group. As Dave puts it “to take my ball and go home.” But I also spent time and prayed about it. I asked God for help, because I wasn’t 100% convinced that my first response was the correct one. There were other people outside of the situation that needed to be considered. Maybe stepping away was the right thing, but maybe this wasn’t the right way to do it, or the right emotional mindset to be making that decision in. And thankfully I had a week in which to make that decision.
It’s very easy to assign reasons and emotions to the actions of others, but it can be much harder to look at our own motivations. I will say, however that I instantly recognized that pride was a part of the equation from my side. I took pride in doing this particular job. But maybe someone else needed to feel that pride more than I did. I have found so many places in my life to share my faith, am I so greedy as to not be able to share the spotlight? And stepping out completely also meant stepping away from those who needed someone to advocate for them.
I have continued to bring this situation and specifically my feelings about it before God this week and today this was the passage I read.
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see God. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14.
If we, as children of God, seek to live holy lives, lives that emulate the life of Christ, then I have to consider His response to every situation – to this situation. I know Christ would step aside graciously, and throw His support completely behind this peer. And I know that is what God wants for me. I can’t allow bitterness to take root in my heart and cause trouble. I think this is why pride is such a subtle and dangerous sin. But if Jesus could scorn the shame of the cross, then I can certainly give up my pride and help someone have their own chance at ministering to others and being proud.
If there is a place in your life where you have a similar situation, or are finding pride is damaging a relationship, I encourage you to bring it before God and allow his healing power to change your heart just as he changed mine.
I don’t think it would be fair to say that I have had a crisis of faith lately. I think it would be better phrased if I said that I had started questioning some of the things that I had held onto as core beliefs. “How did that happen?” you might ask. It seems almost counter-intuitive, but I have come to understand that it is much easier for your faith to be undermined from within.
A few months back I signed up to get daily emails from a Christian website. Some of the emails I really enjoyed and got something out of. Sure I still read my bible every day, but, as much as I wanted them to deepen my understanding, maybe on some level, I looked for them to be a “fast-food” means of increasing my knowledge of God. A post about Christian mystics got me really questioning the reality of the experiences I felt that I had with God. But the one that really sent me over the edge was the one that tried to explain why not all believers will be recognized by Jesus. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now I’m not saying that these posts didn’t have value. What I am saying is that they didn’t have value for me. Perhaps I wasn’t ready spiritually for their message.
But there I was, questioning God and my relationship with him, feeling uncomfortable in my heart with the things I had been reading. So I thought back to some of the books I have read that truly made me feel as if I had gained a real understanding of God; C.S. Lewis and J.I.Packer. Ultimately I ended up on Packer and and started reading his book KNOWING GOD. I wasn’t a chapter into it before I felt the rightness of the message within the book. It fed me. I hadn’t realized until that moment that I had been starving.
So what’s my point here? I am absolutely not condemning the daily devotional that I had been getting, but I had to recognize that instead of feeding ME, it was putting distance between me and God. And I am always brought back to the word Jesus uses to describe God, the word that we use to identify him withing the Trinity…God THE FATHER. I am a child of God and I think he parents us much like we parent our own children – there is a different set of rules and instructions for each of us. Ultimately it is for each of us to find our own way – and it is for no one to tell us our path is wrong if we are following it with an honest and earnest heart, bent upon knowing and loving our Lord. If God has called us to be his children, will He not also show us the way?
I know that going forward, if it isn’t bringing me to a new understanding, and is instead pushing me farther from, instead of closer to God, then that isn’t the resource for me. That doesn’t mean it isn’t for someone else, though. Perhaps Jesus tells us the the road we walk will be a difficult one because it is one that we must each forge ourselves.
It’s been a bit since I’ve blogged. Mostly this is because I have been focusing a lot of my time, and energy on promoting my newest project, THE BOOK OF RUTH, which launched on Kickstarter November 1st and wraps up November 30.
It’s definitely been an up and down month for me. It was so easy two years ago when I felt God “calling” me to do this book. I remember listening to the Matthew West song “All In”. Strange that it would be so easy to take a risk and been all in at the beginning. But then I guess at that point I haven’t really risked anything from a financial, or time point of view. Now that we are so close to the finish line. Now that I have put so much of myself into this project, I suddenly find myself doubting God’s commitment.
I’ve been reading the book of Matthew this week, specifically chapters 17 & 18. In Chapter 17: 20 Jesus heals a demon possessed boy that his disciples had failed to heal. When they ask him why they couldn’t drive out the demon he replies “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” I feel as if he’s talking to me. Because there have been times over this past week specifically that I have felt as if my faith was too small. I keep asking for help and praying to God, but I don’t even know what to pray for. I’m so conflicted.
David and I have been so blessed. Maybe the point of the blessings is to pay it forward. To put out this book without counting about the cost. But I’m human, and working in comics you don’t have a pension plan. And I want this book to be successful. I want people to see it and love it and get behind it. I want that validation. (You see why I’m struggling)
And then today I read this verse in Matthew 18:19 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” I was inclined to dismiss this and focus on other parts of that reading focusing on the children, but then it appeared again. Isaac and I were doing his daily devotions. We read Acts 10:44-48 and Acts 12:1-10. This is the conclusion of the story of Peter and Cornelius and the story of the angel of God freeing Peter from prison. And there is was, at the end of this devotion, the verse of the day – Matthew 18:19.
So today I’m putting it out to you. The people who read my blog. I’m not asking for you to pray for a successful Kickstarter. But I am asking that you pray for this book that God has called me to write. That he uses it for his plan (whatever that may be)and that he helps me to have faith (even if it’s as small as a mustard seed). I’m asking that you pray for me to have my “all-in” faith in God’s plan renewed.
Thank you to everyone who reads this and God bless.
Have you ever felt God put a calling in your heart? Did you follow through on it?
Sometimes it takes a long time for those callings to manifest themselves. For me, it has taken years. I have said before that, when I first started writing comics, I felt God put a calling in my heart to adapt The Book of Ruth into comic book form. It was one of those, “some day you are going to do this” type of things. I carried that calling in my heart for many years, before I really felt that the time was “now”.
It’s funny how when you starting answering a calling, you have this mind set, or at least I certainly did, that you are doing something for God. You know when Paul calls us to “resist the temptation to act as if we are righteous, especially by leaning on our good works”… yep!
It’s easy to start making plans and forget who, and what you are doing something for. But, if you can keep your focus on God, trusting in His plan for you and your calling, the strangest thing begins to happen; or at least for me. I came to the realization that this thing God had called me to do. This thing that I was “doing” for God…it was actually something God was doing for me.
Maybe to some of you this is nothing new, but for me this is news!!! The more I have worked on “The Book of Ruth”, the more I have poured myself into God’s plan; trusting Him, and turning it over to Him…the more I have found myself being blessed by the very thing I was supposed to be doing for God. We have it all wrong, or I certainly did. When God puts a calling in our hearts it’s because He has a blessing that He wants to share with us not because there’s something we can do for him. But the only way that He can do that is if, and when we listen to Him.
I feel grateful and blessed that our God is forgiving, and willing to overlook my arrogance. (What could I possibly do for the God who created the heavens and earth?) God stuck with me, He showed me the truth, and He brought me to the place where I am now; joyous gratitude. What calling has God put into your heart today? What blessing is he trying to share with you?
This song has really been my mantra since launching The Book of Ruth on Kickstarter and so I wanted to share it with you today.
“For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34
Several times this month I have found a passage in my readings that speaks to me and then brings me to a new understanding of some of the readings we repeat each Sunday as a part of our service and where they come from. This one today hit home particularly for me because this month I found myself lashing out at my family. Fall is always a difficult time for me as the days grow shorter. But for some reason, this year I have found myself feeling increasingly overwhelmed. Even the daily tasks of cooking and cleaning have, at times, felt like mountains to climb. And those feelings I have nurtured in my heart, feelings of anxiety, sadness, and frustration, have of course flowed out of my heart via my mouth to hurt the ones I love.
This morning as I prayed on this verse and asked for God’s help, I found myself repeating familiar words…“cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy spirit that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name, through Christ our Lord”.
This verse comes from the Collect for Purity and is a part of our Anglican service every Sunday. The entire collect goes like this; “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
I can only think that this collect was directly inspired by Jesus’ words in Matthew in recognition of the struggles we all face; to cleanse the thoughts of our hearts, so that it is the good stored inside us that comes out of our mouths, and not the evil.
I will continue to pray that my heart be cleansed so that when I am called to give an account for the words I have spoken, the good far outweighs the evil, in Jesus’ name. Amen
It has been the most bizarre, and truly wacky week in the Finch household. It feels like everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong – but not in a crisis way, more like an “I’m going to get under your skin and slowly drive you nuts” kind of way. And yet, at the same time, things have crazily been working out for us in those moments too. Here are a few examples.
Dave drives the truck to lunch with his good friend on Thursday. When they are leaving he notices that the front plate under the bumper is hanging off of the truck on one side in a “not safe to drive, might fall off half way home” kind of way. It just so happens that on that day, Dave’s friend brought along his father-in-law who Macgyver’s that thing back on with a special knot and a phone charging cord.
Dave gets home, doesn’t have a key, tries the garage key pad, the battery is dead, all the doors are locked. He thinks, hey Isaac and his babysitter said they were going for sushi, maybe they are still there…. they were. And it wasn’t the first thing they did that day.
I dropped my favorite earring down the drain with the water running full blast. I was positive it had been swept away because it was so small and light…opened the trap anyway and there it was.
Everett was extremely late for school, but when we got to the end of our street the normally crazy road we have to make a left hand turn onto was eerily quiet, and that continued the entire trip.
The list doesn’t end here, this week we have killed batteries in cars, had garage door openers not work, broken glasses, chipped plates, dropped food all over the floor – including a head of cauliflower that rolled out of a bag in the middle of the counter and exploded on the floor. Sure these things happen all the time, but for us they’ve all happened repeatedly over the last six days. I just keep saying “thank you Lord” every time something, that could have been a bigger inconvenience, becomes something we can laugh about.
This week has been a great reminder for both of us to see the small blessings everywhere in our every day lives. God is with you through the good times and the bad, even when the bad times aren’t really that bad. He sees your frustrations, and your struggles ,and he WILL help you; you just have to ask, and then you have to be willing to see him.