Ten Years Ago …

Sally and I got married.

Honestly, I’m as shocked as anyone that we made it. Yet through God’s provision, and through a continuing testimony of love and forgiveness, here we are.

I know that we also wouldn’t have made it without the love and support of our friends and family. And for that, we thank you.

[And it’s also Maunday Thursday]

Suffering and the What, Why and Who Questions

Guest Blog by Sally Broaddus*

So I’ve listened to 7 sermons in the past 3 days, (that is not listing the two I heard on Sunday either – so 9 sermons in the past 4 days, but 7 on a certain topic). It’s been a bit much to hear, but actually exactly what I needed to hear and talked about exactly where I am in my life. So it was a good thing, however so very not normal for me to do.

Last month I finally got plugged into a prayer group… now hold up, I personally don’t get all fired up about prayer groups and I don’t think they always help… there is so much fakeness and BS that you have to deal with and just saying “Trust God” and that “God never gives you more than you can handle” and “if you pray everything will be all better.” Nah I don’t buy it…. I need more.

But I took a chance and showed up to the prayer group. (by the way I found it by doing a Google search on random topics, the flyer popped up, ( http://www.yourchurch.com/mediafiles/river-of-hope-prayer-group.pdf) so I found it on my own, I wasn’t directed there by anyone, nor did I look under the church website) and I was glad I went…. Truthfully I was at my wits end and was just ready to not care about anything anymore…. Basically I was tired of life and all the crap I’ve had to deal with this past year.. so anyways, I stumbled across the flyer and wasn’t too excited about it but said I’d give it a shot.

The prayer group was very helpful….. I was actually around people that understood my pain and anger and knew how to help me, encourage me, pray for me, and pray with me.

One of the ladies there, tried to encourage me to attend their church and I declined saying even though I am currently looking for a good church for me and my family, I have my reasons of never going to be able to attend their church, and then I asked to make sure I was still going to be able to attend their once a month prayer meeting and they said it was fine. She then pointed me to a sermon series that happened last January – February (2009) and I said I’d think about checking it out…. Deep down I was thinking “Sure, this sermon series is going to do any good, like it’s going to answer any of my questions, and it’s going to right any wrongs that were done to me.”

So I listened to the first sermon on Monday…. and then kept going until I heard the 7th and last one in the series today.

They did answer a lot… I have been stuck on the “What” and “Why” questions, and trust me I have a whole ton of those questions.

Here are just a few of them:

Why did this take place in my life? What did I do to deserve all this? What did I do wrong? Why is it too much for others to handle? Why can’t some admit their fault and give me some closure? Why does it feel like I was pushed out and I lost my church? Why do I lose and they win? Why am I supposed to be the better person? Why do I have to feel all this pain? Why am I reminded daily about it? (little things bring back memories) Why did both me and my husband lose our jobs at the same time? Why is life so hard sometimes? Why do you keep piling more and more on my shoulders? How come you don’t hear me say enough already, I’ve had enough, it’s too much for me to handle?

The sermons I listened to told me, told me that “Why” and “What” questions in the midst of suffering are normal, (it is a common human experience, everyone has suffering of some sort, we live in a sinful and fallen world and people are not perfect) so questions are normal, but they are not satisfying. Even if I got a real answer. We have to learn to let go of the “What” and “Why” questions. The Real question is Who…. Who is in control of my life? Who can I trust? Who will in the end resolve everything and restore everything? (oh course the answer is God)

While going through suffering or trials we don’t need glib, petty, and harsh words. Friends tend to say the wrong things. Sometimes those that suffer need to be free to Lament, a lament is how people feel with deep and honest emotions, and it’s about being honest with what’s going on deep in your soul. (the Bible is filled with laments – just look at Psalms) Many people confuse the cry of pain with the cry of rebellion. (there are times that we will yell to God “Why are you doing this to me”) Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is listen to them, comfort them. Don’t think your friend will always be in their lament, they may get angry at God but they get through it. Don’t be a miserable comforter and a worthless physician to them.

Suffering is not fun, it’s not easy. God uses our suffering for our own good. So we can be more Christ like. Suffering is so our faith can be refined. Do we care about God? Everything happening in our life is there to help form us and make us more Christ-like. There is a story behind our story, we can’t always see the end, that there can be some good that comes from this. That all takes times to see, we will get to the end.

Even when our suffering is not a direct result of our sins, our suffering gives evidence that how sinful we are. It exposes our self-centeredness, our pride is exposed. It doesn’t take much before our sinful side comes out.

If we get cut off in traffic though we did nothing wrong (were driving the speed limit) we got cut off and what happens, and how do we react, we get angry, or for some even more happens. Our sinful side is exposed, how quickly it can come out. We were barely even wronged. Yet there it is.

To wrap this up , the question is not “Why is this happening to me?”, but rather “Can I trust the hand of God? Can I trust that I will be pulled through this?” We need to Submit, Rest, and Trust in God rather than Complain, Contend, and Exalt ourselves above God.

As hard as this is to do, I must pray “God I don’t know what you are doing in my life, but I choose to trust you, you have my best interests in mind.”

PS: Here are the sermons I listened to – All about Job:

*My wife has her own blog over on Xanga (dude, seriously, Xanga? That’s sooo 2003, high school girl). I have her permission to cross post her blog post over here (I resisted the urge to edit her use of ellipses which she knows drives me nuts).

Church Shopping Part I

In response to my vagabond spirituality blog, I was asked what I was looking for as my family “church shops”. I thought I’d let my wife respond (her FIRST guest blog!). I’ll probably have a few comments to add tomorrow:

What I Want in a Church
by Sally Broaddus

A poster at our boys’ school reads “Good Teaching is Loving and Listening, Sharing and Supporting – it is being passionately human. That is the point at which a good teacher begins.” I want my pastor to begin with this too.

I am looking for a small – medium size church, however one large enough to already have a good children’s program in place. I want the kids program to reach my boys, so my boys are excited to be going to church and the kids program. I do not want to feel like I am dragging my boys to church. Nor do I want to be forced to help the children’s ministry once a month since children’s ministry is not my gift area. I would rather be used in a better way that uses my gifts.

I am looking for a diverse church. I don’t want to look out into the crowd and see a cookie cutter people, where everyone looks alike, dresses alike, and talks alike. Ideally I want to look out into the crowd and not see one dominant race but more of a mix of races, and a diversity of economical status (not all wealthy, not all poor – but rather a healthy mix).

I am looking for a church that teaches community and really lives it out. I am looking for a church with a community to be in, one that you are real with. I hate the fakeness of many churches: “How are you?” “fine” and “how are you” “fine”. Great we are all fine, but that is not how life is. I want people there to pray for me when I am down, to call me out when I am wrong, to be happy for me when things are going great, and to cry with me when they are not.

I want the church small enough that if I disappear for several weeks, the pastor or the elders notice and they call out of concern or wanting to check in with me. As opposed to guilting me as to with an unspoken “what was more important than church?” attitude. I want people to be real with me, actually care about me as a person.

I am looking for a pastor that can reach me while he is preaching to me, so I can learn from him. Not one that talks over my head, but more one that talks about problems or issues that I deal with on a daily basis. One that teaches me how to live and how to be a better person, but also one that is not so topical that we don’t open the bible. I also want a preacher that is reachable, I don’t want an idol of a pastor. I want one that I can talk to me from time to time.

I want a church that doesn’t treat their pastor as an idol, meaning I want them to be able to have good fill-in pastors or speakers and when they fill in, it doesn’t mean half the church disappears since the pastor is not going to be there.

I want a church that is friendly but not too friendly. (friendly = I feel welcome and would be missed if I wasn’t there. Too friendly = makes it feel cult-like, sometime creepy, and mostly just plain fake).

I want the church to remind you about the offering, maybe even pass a plate, but not make a huge production about it (meaning not listing in the bulletin about the highest givers nor make us walk up front and put it in the plate so all can see).

I want the church to have some focus on mission work, not limiting it to overseas but teach about being missional right here in your neighborhood and city. I want the church to not just talk about it but actually reach out and make a difference in our neighborhood and city.