If Terrorists Were Blond

I wonder.

Alexander Ludwig of “Vikings”

If the guys who flew the planes into the Twin Towers were Scandinavian, would I feel differently about travel bans?

Would I be offended if the TSA took a second look at my passport because I have blonde hair and blue eyes?

If a few radical European Christians were beheading infidels, would the ACLU still bring charges of religious discrimination against the ban?

Let’s face it, President Trump had no idea things would go this far when he threw his hat into the ring.

Then, he woke up in the White House, one morning, and started reading documents the rest of us don’t get to see. Basically, he freaked out when he saw the list of credible threats made against the United States and announced, “Not on my watch.”

The threats may not have been new to our country, but they were definitely new to our president. This is new territory for all of us.

Last Saturday, the Dutch government ruffled all sorts of feathers when they denied Turkey’s foreign minister his request to hold a public rally in the Netherlands.

The Turkish President vented to a crowd in Istanbul by accusing the Dutch leaders of being nervous and cowardly. “They are Nazi remnants, they are fascists,” he said, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The Dutch Prime Minister said he understood the Turkish leader’s anger but called his remarks “crazy” and “way out of line.”

The next day, in response to the incident, I heard a woman interviewed on NPR call the Dutch Prime Minister a “white supremacist.” Where have we heard that before?

It isn’t easy being a leader in a democracy, especially these days. And it’s even harder being an immigrant. How do you keep a people safe without harming other’s rights?

Name-calling isn’t working out so well. Nor is pointing out the obvious problems, like some Michael Moore documentary.

Yeah, we all see the problems, but where are the solutions?

Several European countries who looked down their noses at the United States, (What’s new?) decided to take the high road and open their borders to refugees. And while that may have been the right thing to do, it hasn’t come without serious consequences.

Germany allowed migrant workers and asylum seekers to pour over their borders. This provided some relief, but it came with a new set of problems for both the Germans and the foreigners.

For one thing, security issues have become a major concern. This was highlighted by the Christmas Market attack in Berlin last December that left 12 dead and 56 injured.

And refugees feel the strain too. Most of them are heartbroken, homesick, and longing for peace. Young men are of particular concern as they feel displaced and frustrated.

The fact is, we may not agree with every move our leaders make. But it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand their struggle to balance sympathy with security.

A little grace might help and a mantra based on the idiom we learned as kids: Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. This enlightened quote is thought to have originated with the Native Americans. But in 1895, a poem called Judge Softly by Mary T. Lathrap actually replaced shoes with moccasins, which is how I learned it.

I’m not sure if that version offends Native Americans, mainly because I’m not a Native American. Nor am I an African American, a Hispanic, or a Muslim.

I’m also not a Scandinavian refugee trying to navigate tight borders as I flee persecution.

But I do know that when we embrace empathy from all angles, as the proverb suggests, we become a little less of the problem and more of the solution. Regardless of our hair color.

 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel

 

 

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Not Your Mama’s Church

Recently, my mom and I attended the 90th anniversary of the church we grew up in. She wasn’t the oldest person asked to stand, but she was the oldest person to attend the church, dating back to 1939.

The building has changed and expanded. The organ has been replaced by a rock band.

Looking around, I felt a little like I do when I drive past my old high school which is now encased in new concrete. I hardly recognize it, but I know it’s in there somewhere.

The church has definitely had its share of painful metamorphoses. As the old saying goes, church would be perfect if it weren’t for the people.

Still, as the room filled to overflowing, representing more cultures and languages than I’d ever seen as a kid, I knew it was alive. Changed as it had, it was standing on really healthy ground.

Driving home the next day, I thought about how quickly life changes, for the good or the bad of it. Interestingly, NPR was interviewing podcasters Toby Morrell of Bad Christian and Mike McHargue of The Liturgists. Their podcasts highlight how the church, like any living organism, continues to change.

Both men were brought up in the church and came to a place in life where they felt the need to explore the middle space between skepticism and faith. Consequently, they created podcasts that attract millions of people who’ve fallen through the cracks and find “church too dogmatic and atheism too dismissive.”

A study released in 2015 by the Pew Research Center shows that millennials have been leaving Catholic and mainline Protestant churches in droves since at least 2007. But it also revealed that most of them, along with absentee Boomers, have not lost their belief in God.

Matt Carter, Toby Morrell, and Joey Svendsen at Bad Christian Podcast.

McHargue will tell you he enjoyed his upbringing. But as he grew and started facing the challenges of life-specifically his parent’s divorce after 30 years of marriage-he started looking to the Bible for answers in the way he’d been taught to read it. His faith fell apart.

Morrell grew up in a church so conservative that it split from other Southern Baptist churches because they were considered too liberal. He said Christianity never fully represented him, and he always felt like an outsider. That was until he read about the heroes of the Bible who did some really bad things. The Sunday school teachers had obviously kept those details under wraps.

The two podcasts are wildly successful, but they’re not without their detractors. Morrell’s language is raw and brutally honest as he speaks about sex. McHargue talks candidly about LGBTQ issues, science, and evolution.

However, they welcome the criticism they receive and say that one of their own critiques of the church is that you “can’t” critique it. Respecting people’s minds and encouraging their questions is what leads to vitality.

Indeed.

There are 7 billion people on the planet, and God isn’t threatened by them growing at their own pace. But these are tough topics, particularly for church leaders who are entrusted with insight and want to get it right.

And while McHargue and Morrell see a place for podcasts in this age of technology, they don’t minimize the importance of connection. Like the early days of the church, they remain committed to organizing gatherings where groups of people can trade notes, find community, and maybe even discover a church that will love them as they are. They’re definitely out there.

In fact, the guys aren’t looking to tear churches down but simply make them aware of their need to speak to everyone. McHargue sees the future as including both the institutional church as well as what he refers to as the church in exile.

“Wherever people gather together around a table, God can be present,” McHargue says. That’s where you find healthy ground.

Listen to the NPR interview here. 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

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Maybe Our Worst is Our Best

This is the time of year I start looking forward to spring and the thick scent of lilacs. They hold a mystical power over grown kids like me and make us 10 again.

Every spring we played outside wrapped in their fragrance…not that it mattered. The only thing we cared about were the streetlights reminding us to go home a little later each day.

Sometimes lilacs bring me back to the sixth grade. It’s the evening of my big brother’s pre-prom party. My dad’s newly renovated basement was perfect, and on the night of the dance, it smelled of fresh cedar and candles.

I was allowed to hang around just long enough to see the couples arrive looking like royalty. The girls in their long dresses and each boy in a tux. The basement came alive with noise and music.

After the party, my parents went to work on the dishes stacked on the counter and in the sink. I can still see my dad standing in the kitchen with a dishtowel in one hand and a plate in the other.

He looked up and noticed a black cloud spreading quickly across the ceiling. His eyes traced its source to the basement door that opened to billows of black smoke. He slammed it shut and yelled for us to get out.

As I shoved our collie out the side door, I heard my mom calling for the fire department and momentarily forgetting our address. I circled around to the front porch and yelled to my sister through the screen door. She was upstairs drying her hair and wouldn’t have paid any attention to me if she hadn’t heard the commotion coming from the kitchen.

My dog and I stood for a moment in the darkness on our freshly mowed lawn. The quiet fragrance gave no indication of the chaos inside. Then, the silence broke, and the faint sound of sirens came from every direction. Within minutes our street was lined with emergency vehicles and crowds of people who appeared from nowhere.

On their way to the prom, my brother and his friends had decided to stop at the 7-11. Another friend pulled up beside them, looked over at my brother and said, “Your house is on fire.”

Eventually, the fire was put out, and we were told it was caused by a low burning candle placed on a bookcase in the basement. The candle had been blown out but not before kindling the dry wood above it. Once ignited, the secret flames quickly climbed up the heating duct that led to my sister’s bed.

It was a scary event, and the damage to our house was extensive, particularly to my dad’s beautiful new basement. It was gone.

But like any kid, the seriousness of the situation was lost on me. All I knew was that we were forced to live in a hotel for months, and I finally got the swimming pool I’d always wanted. An indoor one, at that.

My sixth-grade popularity rating soared.

I learned some valuable lessons about the paradoxes of life, too, on that warm spring evening. I saw friends and strangers alike gather around us and offer their homes and their beds.

It’s the kind of thing we hear about every night on the news, if we’re listening. Our worst situations provide our best opportunities to shine.

A lesson the lilacs won’t let me forget.

 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

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Compulsive Thoughts

Do you control your thoughts or do your thoughts control you?

Actually, the brain is pretty fascinating. The same creative power that can enable us to run a company, raise a family, or invent the next big thing, can also steer us off a cliff.

The brain is a control center telling our bodies what to do. It’s also an organ and can get sick like any other body part.

Neuroscientists talk about chemical synapses and neurotransmitters amongst themselves. But for the rest of us, they divide our minds into two parts.

The conscious mind is where we think and make our decisions. The unconscious mind is where we don’t need to think. We forget we have a digestive tract until it reminds us it’s there.

It sounds simple, but the mind is really a mystery. Why do we wrestle with our thoughts? Philosophers, theologians, and psychologists all contribute important insights to that question.

Sharon Begley is a science journalist for the Wall Street Journal. In her new book, Can’t. Just. Stop., Begley looks at compulsive behavior and makes a distinction between an addiction and a compulsion.

An addiction is a behavior that typically begins with a “joyous” outcome. It’s something we want to repeat. A compulsion, on the other hand, has its roots in anxiety. It’s a behavior we repeat in order to drain our anxious feelings.

Recently, while speaking at a women’s conference on the empowerment of self-control, I shared my own experiences with compulsive behavior. Thirteen years of panic attacks taught me more about anxiety disorders than I ever wanted to learn

For years, I lived with a pulmonary system that was fueling adrenalin and anxiety into my system. I thought my anxious tendencies were a personal weakness and something I was bringing on myself.

Then, one day, while walking through a K-Mart in South Carolina, I found a little paperback by Dr. Claire Weekes. In the 1960’s, Dr. Weekes was a game-changer in the field of anxiety disorders. Her insights into brain function helped me hang on for 13 years until I was finally diagnosed and treated with heart medication.

I love to share her story about a pediatric nurse who was struggling with some disturbing thoughts. The more she tried to “not” think about them, the more compulsive they became.

She was carrying a baby past a window, one night, when she suddenly thought, What if I threw this baby out the window? She was so horrified by the thought, it began to torment her.

Dr. Weekes reassured the woman about the harmlessness of random thoughts. People have them all the time and rarely pay any attention. The nurse, however, had been working late hours and was vulnerable through fatigue and fear. So, the troubling thought stuck.

The doctor instructed the woman to simply let the thought come and go without giving it any more attention than it deserved. In time, through rest and diversion, it would lose its punch. And it did.

Overcoming a compulsion begins by recognizing its source. Only then can we begin to harness our brain power and tap into the self-control we need, especially when we’re drawn to the cliff.

 

 

 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

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The Secret to Happiness

Valentine’s Day seems like a good time to talk about relationships. And not just about the obvious stuff, like sending flowers, cooking gourmet, or stringing the perfect words together.

In 1938, the Grant Study, the longest study of human development, began following the lives of Harvard University men. In the 1970’s, it merged with a similar study that had begun in the 1940s but focused on less privileged young men from inner city Boston tenements.

Researchers periodically assessed the physical and emotional well-being of the study’s participants. This helped them determine the impact of social status and upbringing on personal happiness.

Robert Waldinger at TED

Robert Waldinger, a Harvard psychiatrist, took over the study in 2003 and shared his findings in a TED Talk he gave in 2015. So far, it’s gotten 13 million views.

Waldinger’s takeaway was clear: Those who maintain strong relationships, and not just romantic ones, are healthier and happier, regardless of their background or income. Relationships tend to buffer us from the “slings and arrows” of growing old.

On the other hand, brain function and overall health tends to deteriorate faster in those who isolate themselves, particularly by mid-life.

The results of the 75-year-old study indicate that a good life is more than wealth, fame, and career success. Turns out money really can’t buy happiness, though who among us wouldn’t like to try?

Waldinger’s findings include a caveat as well, one that speaks loudly to this generation. Casual relationships, such as those sustained only through social media, don’t provide the same outcome.

As I read Waldinger’s report, I realized that for some people, relationships are easier said than done. This is especially true for those who are relationally challenged, such as the extreme introvert or even the broken hearted whose pain prefers solitude.

Several years ago, I proved this theory when I found myself in the thick of depression. Reaching out to other people and fighting the complete preoccupation with self isn’t easy when you’re sad. But I knew I’d need to force myself to take the first step if I wanted to recover.

So, one day, I peeled myself off the couch and clicked onto our church website to see the list of service opportunities. Trust me, nothing sounded worse.

Still in my sweats, I remember the day I crept in the back door of the church and began stocking the shelves of the food pantry. It was easy. I didn’t have to think or speak to anyone.

Dry goods on the left. Perishables on the right.

As I drove home that day, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. I could probably do it again next week. So I did. And little by little the tiny steps I took became a giant leap forward.

Without even trying, I had joined a group and made new friends. And the thing I learned about getting connected by volunteering or joining a club is that most people want to make a friend. I also learned that when it comes to relationships and our happiness, one step can change everything.

We weren’t meant to live alone, so get out there. Take that first step and get connected. According to the research, it’s worth the effort.

 

 

 

 

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A Political Weigh-In

As the political wrangling continues, it becomes more difficult to resist the urge to comment about online posts. Particularly posts from those whose dietary habits are extreme. Whether they gorge themselves on liberal propaganda or conservative, they regurgitate the same unpleasant aftertaste.

Most of us can see merit in both sides of any partisan argument and find it difficult to squeeze our size 10 sensibilities into size 2 ideologies. Not without political muffin-tops, anyway.

The divisions between the parties are mind-boggling. I’ll read posts and then check out the facts and think, “Wow, did they even listen to the interview they’re referencing?”

For years, I’ve heard conservative people criticize the media for being biased and liberal. Frankly, I’ve often found the arguments weak, but this election has been enlightening.

I’ve watched World News Tonight on ABC for years. Both Diane Sawyer and David Muir have had me reaching for a hanky with their Person of the Week. But as the presidential campaign began to heat up, I found it fascinating to watch the highly-evolved, open-minded Muir try to stay neutral. It wasn’t easy, even for this seasoned journalist.

No one would argue Trump has been clumsy and even caustic in his delivery. He’s avoided political correctness to a fault. But anyone paying attention would realize this is exactly what got him elected.

I forced myself to sit through Trump’s inaugural address. When he finished, FOX News pointed out his desire to “unite our country and create solutions” to problems we all see. MSNBC pointed out how “divisive and negative” Trump sounded.

Did they hear the same speech?

Unfortunately, this kind of polarized rhetoric is routine. Obama wanted to reform healthcare, so he was accused of being against the middle class. Trump doesn’t feel people who oppose abortion should have to pay for it, so he is accused of being against women and their reproductive health.

Really?

And it’s not just the media. Some of our political leaders need to be called out for stirring up even more trouble and division than there already is.

There were plenty of people unhappy when President Obama was elected. Disappointment happens every four years. But I didn’t see any of them staying home from school because the election results gave them a tummy ache.

I had hoped the election of our first African American president would lead to more racial harmony, which is not to say that uniting the country to one party is doable or desirable. As I’ve said before, the sound of two parties disagreeing should be music to our ears. It’s the wheels of democracy in motion.

But how can we walk the fine line between democracy and discrimination?

Should the owner of a restaurant be forced to make it a smoke-free zone when cigar chewers are the clientele he’s looking to attract? Should a conservative owner of a bakery be forced to make a gay couple’s wedding cake?

Why is this so difficult? Couldn’t non-smokers dine somewhere else? Couldn’t the gay couple find another bakery?

Time will tell, as it always does, whether or not this new administration can succeed. But in the meantime, what I really think we need is the ability to listen more and speak less, as the New Testament points out, at least until all the facts are in. We could use a healthy dose of grace to respect each other’s differences too, whether they’re PC or not.

And let’s face it, we’d all benefit from an intense weight-loss program. Something designed to help squeeze our full-figured opinions into an attractive one-size-fits-all label called, American.

 

 

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A Crisis of Faith

Kate Bowler-My new BFF

I have a brand new BFF. And though we’ve never met, I can tell you the moment our hands clasped.

Kate Bowler, a 35-year old wife, mother, and professor at Duke Divinity School, was diagnosed with critical cancer. Her article “Death, the Prosperity Gospel, and Me” first appeared in the New York Times last year, and after reading it I knew we were kindred spirits.

Ironically, she’d just completed a book entitled Blessed where she examines the connection between suffering and faith. As an author who has written about the topic of doubt myself, I’ve done my share of homework in this area as well.

I grew up in an evangelical home where love reigned supreme and where all my needs were met. I’ve never been abused, discriminated against, or lived as a refugee.

My parents were never fans of the prosperity doctrine or any other “Holy Ghost” movement. But as a student of history, I’ve seen how over the last 100 years this “health and wealth” doctrine has seeped into mainstream thinking, both secular and religious.

There is a huge disconnect between the God of the Bible and a culture that has shanghaied the message of Christ. We’re no longer made in the image of God. We’ve made God into our image. He is there to meet our every need, and we decide what those needs look like.

Bowler says, “The prosperity gospel popularized a Christian explanation for why some people make it and some do not. They revolutionized prayer as an instrument for getting God always to say “yes.” Follow these rules, and God will reward you, heal you, restore you.”

And the illusion of control is held onto until the very end, Bowler explains. “If a believer gets sick and dies, shame compounds the grief. Those who are loved and lost are just that — those who have lost the test of faith.”

This is the recipe for disillusionment.

People need a framework or a language they can use to make sense of suffering. Even before Kate Bowler was given her devastating diagnosis, as a Biblical scholar, she knew we’re never promised perfection this side of eternity. And while walking with God offers a kind of healing nothing can match, these frail frames are hardly God’s complete plan.

The Apostle Paul said it this way. “Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:13).

I can’t “defend” God for His actions, but more to the point, He’s never asked me to. Nor has He explained why bad things happen to good people and why we’re able to mess things up the way we do. But He has shown me what grace looks like time and time again. He has offered a framework this skeptic could never conjure up on her own.

When asked how her prayer life has changed in the last months, Kate Bowler said, “Prayer has become radical dependence on the assumption that God will be there no matter what. It’s just been a radical revelation of His presence.”

The words of my new friend make sense to me. Because not only can adversity be extremely clarifying, sometimes it’s impossible to see God clearly any other way.

 

Check our Kate Bowler’s article in the New York Times.

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

 

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My Money Blog

I may just be the single most unqualified person to talk about money.

When I was first asked to expand my speaking to include more corporate events, I thought, “What do I know of 401k plans and stock options?” Isn’t that what the corporate world is all about?

I quickly realized it wasn’t finances they wanted me to talk about. Good thing. I was never particularly good with money, and not because I spend too much. I don’t crave purses with labels or fine jewelry. It’s just that I’ve been known to be careless and leave paychecks unsigned for weeks or misplace twenty dollar bills.

Once, on vacation, I mislaid a hundred dollar bill. My husband looked at me and asked, “Who does that?” I said, “The one who told you she shouldn’t carry cash.”

I found it a couple days later stuffed in my favorite copy of Seventeenth Summer. It was written in 1942 and is my summertime staple. I knew money wasn’t high on my priority list when I was almost as excited to have found my book.

This disinterest in money, though, is hardly a badge of honor. It’s not because I’m so “spiritually minded’ or above appreciating nice things. I think it’s because I’ve never gone hungry or scrambled to make a house payment. I’ve had the luxury of working in non-profit while my husband has been the breadwinner.

However, when the bubble burst in 2007, the value of money became more real to me. Adversity is a great teacher. I had pulled back on speaking in order to write, so there was no income coming in there. We had two kids in college, and my husband worked in the building industry. Let the fun begin!

We survived, but I began to see money and finances in a new light.

Interestingly, in the New Testament, Jesus talks about money more than heaven and hell combined. He warns about it controlling us and instructs us to invest it in the lives of others. He’s actually been labeled a socialist more than once, particularly in a culture where the term socialism has become convoluted. These days we tend to equate it to a social conscience rather than images of the Gulag and Stalin.

Helping others is good. Jesus was all about that. But even he knew someone has to earn enough money to help those who can’t help themselves.

My eyes may have glazed over during my college Econ classes, but I did learn this much. At its worst, capitalism abuses the poor. But at its best, it promotes the kind of competition that makes economies grow. It’s what sustains those altruistic values.

John Maxwell is the Big Kahuna of corporate speaking. He’s also a bit of a role model for me because while he never worked a day in the corporate world, he’s become one of the world’s top corporate speakers. He began his career as a pastor, a leader, and a teacher. Then, one day, recognizing the power of time-tested principles, he dropped the “chapter and verse” and successfully brought those same principles to the world of business.

In my own way, I’m following his lead. As a leader and teacher with years of experience, I also believe in the timeless values of integrity, passion, and hard work. The corporate world is about much more than money, as important as that is. It’s about what goes on in our lives outside of our 9 to 5. It’s about relationships, transition, and perspective. It’s about what we bring to the table each day as we strive for the almighty dollar.

Look at me getting all fiscal. I may just have something to say about money after all.

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

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Those Crazy Resolutions

How are those New Year’s resolutions coming? I heard someone describe them as a “to-do list” for the first week of January.

It’s discouraging when we tell ourselves things are going to change and they don’t.

One solution, of course, is to stop telling ourselves things will change. But since nothing worthwhile gets done without setting the bar a little higher than that, maybe we should consider another approach.

Our search for contentment is universal. We’re wired to pursue things that will bring us pleasure, and one way or another, those needs will get met. What separates us from the animals, though, especially full-figured ones like my Bloodhound, is our ability to make the healthier choice.

Figuring out why we struggle with discontentment is important too. And it’s different for everyone, beginning with our genepool. Some of us are just born more content than others.

When my son was little, I’d stick him in a stroller, hand him a cracker, and we’d spend hours walking through the mall. He’d amuse himself happily with the mirror in the fitting room while I tried on a growing pile of sun dresses.

But when my daughter came along, she wouldn’t stay in the stroller if her life depended on it…which it usually did by the end of our outing. I never knew why, and I’m not sure she did either, but like all discontented people, she just wanted out. Anyplace seemed better than where she was.

We didn’t see the mall for two years.

When my niece was pregnant for the first time, she did everything by the book. She watched her diet, exercised, avoided chemicals and stress. Nevertheless, her beautiful newborn spent what felt like the entire first year of her life crying.

There were theories–an underdeveloped digestive system, sensitivity to hot and cold, a full moon. But no one ever really knew why.

Then, just as things quieted down, my niece announced she was pregnant again. We all held our breath. But this time she said she’d be doing things differently. She’d let her hair down a bit and enjoy a juicy cheeseburger, some peanut M&M’S, and maybe even a glass of wine when the doctor said it was safe.

And call it a coincidence, but when that little guy came out, he was smiling–confirming the old adage… “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

The point is, we can’t choose the propensities we’re born with or even the environments we grow up in. It’s what we do with these things that matters.

Long before the term “holistic” was trending on-line, the Apostle Paul spoke about the mind, body, spirit connection. Who knew he was a trend-setter?

He recognized the crazy-busy manic nature of life, even back then. So, in order to elevate our thinking, he referred to our lives as “a spiritual act of worship.”

This sounds clever, but it’s hard to feel spiritual when we’re chasing kids, paying bills, and lowering our cholesterol. It’s hard to feel “elevated” when we’re scrubbing toilets or sitting in rush-hour traffic.

But Paul seems to indicate that if we make the effort to set aside a few moments to think beyond the immediate demands of life, things can change. We will be “transformed by the renewing of our minds,” as he puts it in Romans 12.

Tapping into a Power Source bigger than our own is actually how we take things to the next level. It’s how we begin to see real change in our lives. It’s how we make those crazy resolutions stick.

 

 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

 

 

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Happy New Year, Earthlings

As you toasted the New Year, was your champagne glass half full or half empty?

Mine was mostly full.

OK, so it had grape juice in it, but that’s because I never developed a taste for anything harder…though it’s hardly for lack of trying. My wine drinking friends have made sure I’ve sampled the best. It’s just that by now they’ve pretty much given up on me as my shallow palate can’t seem to get past the stuff in the box.

But I think a new year is worth toasting. I like the idea of a clean slate. A new beginning.

I’m excited about finishing up a new manuscript and expanding my speaking to include more corporate events. But I also realize that the topic of my first book will continue to follow me around because it really struck a chord with people struggling with doubt.

Writing Permission to Doubt forced me to question why I believe the things I do too, which I think can be a very healthy exercise. I found myself letting go of some things and holding more tightly to others.

I learned that people believe the things they do for lots of reasons. I also discovered I possess an enormous amount of empathy…almost to a fault.

I genuinely care about other people’s opinions and how they got there. But empathy can get exhausting. Closemindedness requires much less brain power.

I loved researching atheists for the book, such as scientists Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins. Dawkins accuses believers of believing things because they were brought up to believe them. And I can see his point.

(Of course I can.)

But growing up in a Christian home had the reverse effect on me when I started asking questions. It seemed extremely narrow minded to think I should “just happen” to be born into a home with an edge on the truth.

Then I heard John Lennox. The brilliant Oxford Professor of Mathematics said, “Not everyone is exposed to the same high quality math programs, but that doesn’t make the laws of calculus any less true.”

Lennox recently responded to something physicist and fellow Cambridge graduate Stephen Hawking said. Hawking stated that perhaps the universe came from nothing. He calls it “spontaneous creation” and says that because of the “law of gravity” the world can create itself.

Lennox pointed out the contradictory nature of this statement since laws typically require a lawgiver. But since the time of Aristotle, the universe was believed to have existed forever. Then, in the 1960’s, scientists proved that, indeed, the universe did have a beginning.

Lennox said the leading members of the British scientific community wanted to keep the new information under wraps…lest the religious community gain too much leverage and get all preachy.

I do appreciate different opinions, and it fascinates me how brilliant scientists can interpret evidence so differently. Dawkins doesn’t believe in God, yet he thinks it’s possible our universe could have originated from some early extraterrestrial civilization. Highly advanced technologically, maybe they planted seeds that became life as we know it.

Really?

If that’s possible, then what prompts such a passionate unbelief in God? Is it intellectual? Is it emotional? Is it spiritual?

Maybe we did evolve from some alien life form. I do bear a striking resemblance to ET when I wake up in the morning. But if that’s true, then why am I still waiting for some “connection” like the one I have with the One who spoke to the woman at the well?

Like so many of us, she was thirsty. She was beaten down by a lifetime of bad breaks and bad choices. Yet there were no words of condemnation from Jesus. Just the promise of a cup that can be made completely full.

“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again” (John 4:14).  

 

 

Look for Permission to Doubt. Published by Kregel.

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