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Where Was God at Sandy Hook Elementary?

The devastating tragedy of last Friday’s shootings in Newtown, Connecticut is still being felt around the world. The senseless murder of 20 young schoolchildren and 8 adults is impossible to wrap our minds around. Details from the story are still becoming clear, but none of these details help us to understand what happened.

Childrenin Karachi, Pakistan hold a vigil in support for Newtown, Conn.

Children in Karachi, Pakistan hold a vigil in support for Newtown, Conn.

It is at dark times like these when people ask “Where was God?”. If He is all-powerful, loving, and gracious, how could He let something like this happen to innocent people?

These are difficult questions. While I’m not a pastor or a spiritual leader of any kind, I do have a relationship with God. And this relationship has shown me several things in my own life that I would like to share. These are just personal feelings, but I hope they can help.

1. Satan is real and is hard at work. Most people seem to write off Satan and hell as something you may or may not have to deal with after your life is over. I don’t think people truly acknowledge that Satan is real and is moving in this world every day, turning good people into bad people and attacking them in their weakest moments. The Bible even warns us of this, telling us that Satan is a lion looking to devour us at any moment:

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

2. People have free will. This is one of the most beautiful things about God’s creation: he gave us free will. He wants us to enter into a loving relationship with Him, but he wants it to be authentic love. And how can you have authentic love if you are forced to love Him? You can’t. And you aren’t forced, because you were given free will to enter that loving relationship. The dark side of that free will, however, means that people are also free to choose to act against God, and those actions can affect a lot of people in a horrible way. Christian author John Eldredge talks about free will as it relates to hell in his book Epic:

“Hell was created not for mankind, but for Satan and his angels…. Hell is not God’s intention for mankind. But remember–he gave us free will. He gave us a choice.” – John Eldredge

3. God was and is still there. I know this may be hard to believe, but God was still very much present at Sandy Hook last Friday. He was there when first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig heroically hid her students in the bathroom and barricaded them in there to protect them from harm, all the while telling them that she loved them. God was there when Victoria Soto, another first grade teacher, hid her students in cabinets and told the gunman that they were in gym. She saved every single one of her student’s lives, but lost her own when the gunman shot her. And God is with the 27 victims right now. They are in a better, safer place than this world could ever be. They are at home with their Father and basking in the glow of His love.

These are a few of my personal thoughts. I’m sure you have several of your own and I’d welcome you to share them in the comments or by reaching out to me on Twitter. I’ll leave you with a video I recently saw of Mike Huckabee speaking about this tragedy. He discusses how we question where God is after we repeatedly ask Him to leave us alone. It is well worth 3 minutes of your time to take a peek:

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Letting Go(d)

Stifler and Jim Drinking

“Letting go” on a Friday

Whew, Friday. Let the weekend begin! Letting go! The title of this post relates to tossing back copious amounts of beer and letting go of all inhibitions!!!

Just kidding.

That wouldn’t be very good for my fitness goals or my productivity on Monday morning. Also, it isn’t what has been working on my mind and heart lately. This month, this week, right now, I’m struggling with something I’ve always struggled with: letting go. I like control; I like to imagine that I have it all figured out, and I like to plan/scheme/organize my life. But every day something I never expected happens and my plan changes. And I get upset because now I have to re-plan or re-schedule and re-think my approach. This happens all the time to me, including this week and today. Do you have similar experiences with your life plans? Does it add stress to your day? What’s the deal?

It turns out, I can’t control everything. In fact, I do a pretty poor job of controlling anything. And I just stress myself out worrying about how to plan for my future. Or even just planning for what I’m doing after work!

Letting Go

Today, I’ve felt God working on me with this. And this isn’t a new development: He has been talking to me my whole life about letting go of all of these worries and stresses and leaving them up to Him. The thing is, I push Him off and ignore Him because I’m too busy planning my own path. Dumb, right? If I was going to ascend Mt. Everest and a local Sherpa with years of experience came to me with a proven climbing plan and offered to carry all of my equipment, I should shout “HELL YES” shouldn’t I? But instead I shoo him away because I’m Googling “beginner hiking techniques”. Smart.

The point is: I need to let go of this stuff. It weighs on me and it brings me down if I think about it too much. God is in control, and that is a truly reassuring thought if you let it sink in. No matter how hard you plan, or how much you try, God created all of this and it will end up how He wants it to. I need to do a better job of laying my problems, worries, and goals at His feet and saying “Take them. Do with them and with me what You will.” I’m sure it would free up my mind and my soul if I did this on a daily basis.

This is freeing, but it is also a scary thought if you’re like me. I don’t like the idea of letting go. But I am confident that anything I could have planned for my life is laughable when compared to what God has in store for me. He keeps telling me this, and I’m finally going to do something about it. I’m going to completely lean on Him and trust in Him to lead me where it is best for me. Scary…sure, but I found some proof that it may put my mind at ease:

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.” (Matthew 6:25-29, NLT)

All of my worries can’t add a single moment to my life. So why waste my time worrying? God has me covered, and His plan is awesome.

Now, I’m not going to stop planning everything. I’m not going to throw on sweats, lay in a pile of Fritos, and stop going to work because “God will provide”. That’s irresponsible. But I will stop acting like my plan is the end-all-be-all of my day. I am going to admit when I don’t have the answers and I’m going to ask God to guide me. I am going to let go of my vice grip on my life’s goals and simply trust in His will. (I wrote about trust a bit right here.) I hope this leads to a more stress-free, worry-free daily life. And a happier end goal than I could ever imagine.

Are there certain things in your life that you are holding onto? Are there areas where you push God away? For me, it’s planning for my future. But it could be anything, and I’m curious to know what it is for you.

Does God Actually Talk To You?

Happy Friday everyone! As I begin this journey towards becoming healthier in my body, mind, and spirit, I want to share part of my day that really helps me to slow down and see the big picture.

I work 40 hours a week in a sales/business environment. I work in a gray cubicle surrounded by slightly less-gray walls. We don’t even have  a window nearby, so a small glass side door provides my only evidence of day or night, rain or shine. (I like my job, but I’m considering bringing a sledgehammer to knock a gaping hole in the wall next to me. A guy needs fresh air.) This all leads to minimal distraction and ultimate focus on work, which is good to an extent. But it can also make it seem like my job is all I have going on in my life, so if it is a bad day at the office or I have a stressful meeting, my whole day blowsup like a marshmallow in a microwave.

happy healthy holy marshmallow stress

The stress is building…

That used to happen a lot more than it does now. Thankfully, I learned a little trick that helps me to keep a nice balance in my day and focus on the things that are truly important: health, relationships, and my faith. It allows me to take a deep breath and relax. The secret? Time with God.

I’m not talking about talking through the Lord’s Prayer like a drone. Or reading a paragraph of the Bible so I can feel good about myself. I’m talking about talking. And listening.

I take 20-30 minutes right after work and I pray. I thank God for the good things going on in my life, and I get really honest with Him about the struggles I’m having. I also ask Him what He would like to say to me. This is a relationship, after all. How many successful relationships do you know that include one person talking 100% of the time for 22 years, and the other person just sitting and listening without ever responding? God doesn’t want that either. You need good communication in any relationship, and we can have that with God too.

happy healthy holy misunderstood comic

Learning to communicate is important!

He will actually speak to us if we ask Him to. Not like in the movies when the “wind” magically blows the leaves to spell out the exact words you were searching for. He will speak real words. The trick is getting in that quiet place and listening for them. After I ask for His thoughts, I also ask Him to quiet my heart, my mind, and get rid of distractions. This really helps clear my mind of all the needless daily junk that is rattling around in there. God quiets that, puts it in its place, and speaks right to me. This is amazing!

Think about it. You are spending time with the person who created you! He knows everything about you and He loves you more than you can ever imagine. And you are getting one-on-one time with this person, just you and Him. You can bring up any topic, any question, any worries, and He will talk with you. That is truly a miracle, and it can be yours whenever you want it. Don’t just skim over that. That is powerful.

After the prayer, I usually ask God to reveal Himself to me in the Bible. I’m no Bible scholar and I don’t always understand how to apply the teaching of the Bible to my life, but God certainly does. I try to read  4 chapters of the Bible each weekday. The reading takes me about 15 minutes, but if you read 3 or 4 chapters you are bound to see something jump out at you.

You will find there are people in that book that are just like you, just generations earlier. They had the same struggles and the same problems and God talked to them in their daily lives. You can read about it! They were regular sinners and broken people just like we are. Why would He talk with them and not with us? He is eagerly waiting to talk with you. And it will absolutely change your day around if you let Him.

So there is my trick. Talk with God for a half hour each day. Go some place quiet where you can be alone, whether that is your bedroom, your porch, under a tree in a park, or wherever. You will be surprised how it can improve your day and your attitude.

And this afternoon I’ll be praying for him to create a window next to my cubicle…

The video below is from author John Eldredge. He wrote a book entitled Walking With God, and this book is what changed the way I pray. I started listening for God and talking with Him thanks to John’s work. I’m certainly not trying to sell books, but if you’re interested it is well worth the read. Leave a comment or tweet me and I’ll send you my copy.

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