I Don’t Know (Gray Faith Study Ch 8: Gray Answers)

“I don’t know” has become one of the most refreshing phrases to hear others say, and yet it doesn’t roll off my own tongue easily.  In fact, sometimes I have to chase it down and drag it out of my mouth kicking and screaming.

I know I don’t have all the answers but I so desperately want to fix everything- to make it better.  I NEED for there to be an answer…or I think that’s what I need.  What they need.  What you need.

At core admitting that “I don’t know” is a massive letting go of control.   Letting go of my perceived control over making someone happy, my perceived ability to make someone better, our perceived control over situations that are broken.

But trusting in God takes the “I don’t know” to another level of humility because I have to concede that He DOES KNOW.  It’s this letting go of my belief that I’m capable of even beginning to fathom the vast knowledge that spans souls and soil, breath and bread, Spirit and truth. And that’s scary.

But what’s perhaps even scarier is that God knows the answers and yet problems still exist.  The suffering still continues.  My friends’ pain isn’t getting wrapped up neatly.  My own struggles aren’t dissolving.  If God knows the answer and the problem persists then maybe we’re tempted to throw God out entirely and say we can’t believe in a God who knows and hasn’t fixed.

Or.  OR.  We chase the why.  We become absolutely convinced that even if we don’t know how to SOLVE a problem we can make it better with a “why” bandaid.  Why does someone’s pain exist? Is God teaching them something?  Did we make a mistake?  Is something amazing going to happen through the suffering?  Why?

“I don’t know” is a giant inky pool that no one wants to swim in.  We think answers are the life-raft to save us- but they’re not.  They might actually be trapping us, handicapping us, holding us hostage.

But…God is there in the inky pool holding us somehow in the not knowing.  He is a Life-raft that somehow envelops us more securely than the styrofoam answers we’re clinging to.

Photo Credit: Joy Martin

And He, Holder of the answers, Creator of the world, Sustainer of our cells and souls, perhaps wants us to trust in Him even more than in answers.

And just as He sits with us in our unanswered mess, walks with us and speaks identity over us, we can sit with others and extend to them the grace of not knowing.  We can point them to the Answer that doesn’t always resolve our problems here-and-now, neat and clean- that Spirit that surpasses all the other answers that we think we need.

Maybe that sounds like another easy answer.  But I’ve had to fight and flounder to believe it, and even now it isn’t easy.  I can honestly say now that finding God’s presence in my life has been the single thing that keeps me afloat because I’ve felt Him when nothing else made sense.

But that’s where my story is.

I know for some just getting to that place of believing in God feels like too big a step, too much faith in what you can’t see.   I don’t want to diminish that struggle or try to fix you with some platitude.

So I’ll leave you to ponder, to wonder, to seek.  But I hope that when the search for answers wearies you and you can’t even find the whys, that you might venture trusting in surprisingly steady arms in that dark sea you find yourself in.

And for those who feel like they have to have all the answers, or that God isn’t pleased if they can’t find a verse to combat any problem…may you somehow find peace and rest in the not knowing.

Here’s the FINAL Gray Faith video/Study Guide!!  (Chapter 8)


Experiment #8-
Whatever you believe has been shaped by many things. I challenge you to take away the books, the friend’s opinions that fill your head, even the things you were taught to believe as a child. When you strip away all these things, what is the bottom line of your belief- the fundamental reason you believe as you do. Sometimes this means mentally suspending what you believe momentarily to ask yourself if another way makes sense. For example, can you imagine that God doesn’t exist? Would your life be substantially changed if He didn’t? What, if any, personal experiences have you had with God that shape your belief? Even if you don’t feel like you have all the answers, imagine what living out your deepest beliefs may look like in your practical life.

Chapter 8 Study Questions:

1.What does it mean to be “comfortable being uncomfortable” when we don’t have the answers? Why is this necessary?

2. Formulas can be tools to help us grow, but how can they become negative?

3. Imagine/discuss what you believe Eden was like: a perfect relationship with God, a world before the curse. How do you see brokenness of the fall in everything humans have touched?

4. Respond to this statement: “The beauty of the world and the suffering alike tell me that we were meant for more.”

5. Have you experienced Jesus to be bigger than your circumstances? Explain.

6. Be honest with yourself/ your group, and God- what are some the “unanswered” questions in your life?

7. How can you live with questions and still actively believe in God?

Bible passages for further reading:
Romans 1:18-20 (God reveals Himself through creation); Mark 9:14-29 (Jesus heals a boy/father asks for help with unbelief); Matthew 11:1-6 (John the Baptist questions Jesus’ identity);

 

 

I’d Rather Run (Gray Faith Study Ch. 7: Gray Walk)

Ever tell your kid or your friend something really incredibly wise…and later realize you’re not applying that wisdom for yourself?

That’s how I felt this week as I finished up my “Gray Walk” video.  I recently bought a new 18 month planner and frankly I’m obsessed with it.  I love the inspirational cover.

I love the peppy quotes on the cover tab of each new month. 

I adore the little stickers it came with.But I’m also alarmingly addicted to the rapidly growing to-do items I’m filling that planner with.  Whether I’m taking the kids to the dentist or sending out important emails, I’m finding a bit too much satisfaction in checking off my boxes and making things happen.

I went on vacation last week and actually struggled with my unplanned self in a major way.  Not a pretty fight.  I’d rather run than walk, (in a purely metaphorical way, thank you very much), because running gets you there faster.

The point is I’m not terribly good at resting, especially with God.  I so want to live a meaningful life, driven by Him and His kingdom, that I often forget the greatest things I do in life aren’t measured by numbers, checks or tasks.

My most glorious moments are when God is producing something in me, in His presence, in His time.  And that requires a lot less of me and a great deal more of Him.  It’s what He’s doing in me as I wait, as He walks with me, as He weaves a story through His presence in my life.  He’s interested in shaping my heart before my planner- which might require me to lay that planner aside every now and then and just be.  Just find out who He is.  Just let Him speak His beautiful words and be silent for a minute in awe before Him.

So when you watch this video of me going on and on about walking with God…know that He is currently throwing me a life-raft out in the deep end of my own business and fruitless productivity.  (There’s one to mull over.)  So I hope it inspires, but if you’re feeling like you’re having a hard time slowing down with God to rest…you can come over and we’ll practice together.

Experiment #7:

Perhaps you’ve never talked to God and expected Him to interact with you. No matter where you are in your walk, I challenge you to try spending time with God in a new way this week. We will all experience God in different ways and atmospheres based on our personality, so begin to notice the things and places that you love, because those are the areas where you may be most likely to connect with God. Even if this feels strange, try at least one of the following this week:

Try to be more interactive with God during your Bible reading. Before you begin reading, take some time to pray that God will show you a passage or verse. You might want to keep a phone or computer near so you can look up verses if a word or phrase pops into your mind: biblegateway.com is a fantastic online resource that lets you search for key words/topics in whatever Bible version you prefer to use. Even if you don’t feel that God is impressing you with anything specific (which is OK!), ask Him to speak to you personally as you read any passage in the Bible. If you need a place to start, you might try one of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) which tell about the life of Jesus. If anything sticks out to you, write it down or pray about it.

Sometimes being aware that God is interacting with us personally simply begins with expecting Him to. Act on a nudge to give to someone, call someone, go somewhere, or do something God might be directing you to do, even if it feels silly. Don’t overthink. You may even find that God works through something that felt like a “coincidence” because God is always at work behind the scenes. Write about what happened when you took your baby step of faith this week.
Spend several minutes listening to worship music or sitting outside alone, etc. (You can use online worship from Pandora or make a playlist on Spotify if you don’t own worship music.) Focus more on listening to God and being with Him and His presence than in talking to Him. Maybe try kneeling, lifting your hands, or even dancing if you feel like it. Experimenting with our posture and the different ways we can worship helps us to step outside of a plastic relationship and routine. It might feel strange and that’s OK. Reflect on how God may meet you, speak to you, or lead you to worship.
Do something that you love- playing music, going for a walk, working out at the gym, painting or creating through art, writing, dancing, hiking, ________ (insert your own). As you do, consider that God is with you in this activity, and that He enjoys this about you because He made you to enjoy it. Reflect on how it feels to know that you can meet God anywhere- even in things that don’t feel “spiritual”.

Chapter 7 Study Questions:

1. How has “should” controlled your life or kept you from enjoying your journey? What would you let go of or do differently today if you weren’t so concerned about what you “should” do?

2. A friend once told me that God is like a good parent. As parents we don’t expect our kids to ask us about every little decision they make; we enjoy watching them create and make decisions on their own and be themselves. Does this change the way you view your relationship with God?

3. Share a time when God met you in the details of your life.

4. “I don’t know why I fight for control so much, when the end of my control is so often where I encounter the living God.” Can you relate to this statement? Explain.

5. How do we trust in God “in the middle”: after the promise but before the miracle; after the prayer but before the answer?

6. Read Psalm 139. How does this passage give you understanding of God’s view of you and the details of your life?

7. Does following God feel routine to you or has it felt like a bit of an experiment? When do you feel most alive in your interactions with God?

8. How can we learn to embrace our possible “mistakes” in our attempts to seek God? Discuss the importance of having godly friends (who don’t all think just like we do!) to challenge us along the way and keep us balanced.


If you’re enjoying the online Gray Faith study, feel free to comment or pass this along to anyone who might enjoy it.  Thanks so much for being part of the gray discussion.  🙂

 

Gray Expectations (Gray Faith Study Chapter 6)

One day I plan to write a whole book about how encountering God requires a constant surrender and reshaping of our expectations of Him.  But until then, I’ll keep it brief.  Whenever our expectations of God don’t align with the reality of who He is, we will be missing something.  We will be frustrated.  We will be running and grasping and wondering why our life isn’t going according to plan.  Our pain and suffering and unfulfilled prayers will try to tell us that our God isn’t good, didn’t show up, or doesn’t really love us.  But excruciating though it can be, surrendering even our most painful unmet expectations to God is like giving over control of the sculpting knife to the Master Artist and letting Him shape something beautiful.

I share in my book a little bit about my own type-1 diabetes and the ways God has used that to shape and alter my faith in surprisingly purposeful and pleasant ways.  (Though I wouldn’t choose it for myself!)  Even when it comes at great cost, I’m stubborn but slowly realizing I’d rather be stripped of my idols and comforts and see Him for the only thing I really need.  If He is my deepest expectation…my vision…my Hope…then I believe ultimately I have all that I need.

Check out this video to be encouraged and challenged, and then dig into the free Gray Faith study guide for chapter 6 below!

Puzzles and Expectations: Gray Faith Ch 6- “Gray Expectations”

Experiment #6- Part of experiencing the full life God wants means honestly giving Him our greatest disappointments, hurts, and fears. We have to get to a place where WHO God is outweighs the WHATS of our lives. I won’t pretend this is easy, and there isn’t a formula for getting there. But if we want to get to know someone better, sometimes asking a question is the best place to start. This week, tell God that you want to know Him better. Ask Him to show you through His Word something about Himself- part of who He is- that will meet you wherever you are at. Read the following verses and pray them for yourself this week:

Ephesians 1:17-19 “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

Chapter 6 Study Questions:

1. What does it look like to give God “an honest acknowledgement of struggle” instead of a “pretense of praise”?

2. What have been the “hard places” in your life? Have those places grown your faith or turned you away from God? Why?

3. Discuss your experience with God through prayer. Talk about your expectations, disappointments, and your level of honesty with God.

4. What does it look like to give up control and let God author your story? Is this idea scary or liberating for you?

5. Do you believe that God’s promises will keep you safe, thriving, and blessed? Use Scripture to explain why or why not.

6. How can we hold fast to God’s ultimate “good” promises when life doesn’t go as we want or expect? Can you believe in a good God when your circumstances are disappointing?

Bible passages for further reading:
Psalm 13 (David honest before God); Matthew 16:24-25 (Giving up to follow Christ); Romans 8:28 (He’s working for our good); John 16:33 (Jesus promises trouble/He overcomes);

Rethinking Evangelism (Gray Faith Ch 5: Gray Evangelism)

No matter what our cultural, ethnic, social, financial, whatever background, stories can connect us in a powerful way.  When someone has a similar story, our heart suddenly feels at home, knowing we’re not alone.  And when people have different experiences, stories are the bridge to help us understand each other better.  Your story has immense value.

And maybe “evangelism” isn’t quite so intimidating if we view it as the simple stories of our encounters with God, woven into our regular lives.  I’ll admit that most often I don’t know what to say or exactly how to say it, but maybe I need to stop looking for the perfect story and share my honest one.  Maybe you too.  Check out this week’s video below, then take some time to try the experiment or chapter 5 study questions on your own!


Experiment #5- Think about your life and the people you’ve shared your faith with. How does evangelism make you feel? If you’re like me, you may feel ashamed that you haven’t shared your faith story more often. Or, you might be someone who has shared your faith often, but you’ve struggled with whether your approach honors God. Ask God to identify one thing about how you share you faith that you can improve in. (If you’re stuck try praying about one of these: Listening better to others, being more sensitive to God’s Spirit, arguing less, having more confidence in sharing the story God’s given you, worrying less about having a “perfect” testimony, genuinely loving those you are sharing with, trusting the Spirit’s role in speaking to people, etc.) Just pick one thing. The next time you encounter someone and feel impressed to share part of your faith story, trust God to help you with that piece of evangelism He wants to grow you in.

Chapter 5 Study Questions:

1. What has influenced you to start following God, or to continue following Him?

2. Discuss the idea of conversion as a before and after experience. How can we emphasize God’s change in our lives without glossing over the reality of our ongoing struggles?

3. Do you feel confident sharing your faith outside of church? Discuss your fears or the reasons for your confidence.

4. How can the pressure to “evangelize” someone undermine the relational aspect of sharing the gospel?

6. A quote attributed to Francis of Assisi says, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Some use this to suggest our actions should be speaking the gospel louder than our words. Others have said that this quote gives the false impression that using words to share the gospel isn’t that important. What does it mean for us to combine the power of our words and actions?

7. My parents once met a man from Africa who was a missionary to America. Does this surprise you? Use this as a springboard to discuss some of the unhealthy views we in America may have regarding mission work. Then discuss some of the positives of missions, perhaps from your own experience.

8. How can examining our view of evangelism and missions help us to love the world better?
Bible passages for further reading:
1 Peter 3:15 (Share faith with gentleness and respect); 1 Peter 2:12 (Live good lives among unbelievers); James 2:15-17 (action accompanies faith); Matthew 28:19-20 (Jesus commands us to share our faith); Romans 10:11-15 (Why we bring good news); Acts 2:42-47 (True godly community attracts others)


Do you feel like sharing your story?  You’ve come to the right place because I’d love to SHARE your story on one of my “Friend Post Friday” guest blog posts.  I have a guest-poster every fourth Friday of the month, so message me if you’d like to write something for this fall or winter!

 

 

The Christian Phrase I Hate (Gray Faith Study Ch 4: Gray Sin)

Does the very phrase “gray sin” make you uncomfortable?  Each generation seems to be getting more and more fuzzy about what sin means and how we handle it.  But if we’re going to live and love in God’s kingdom, we need a give-and-take discussion about sin.  And frankly, people, we all have room to grow in how we respond.

Check out my video to find out one Christian phrase I’ve come to hate- then stick around to check out this week’s on-your-own experiment and study questions.  (To follow along with the book, download or purchase here: Gray Faith on Amazon. )

Experiment #4:  

(PART 1) Find a comfortable place to kneel down.  Read through Bible passages that declare God’s holiness and power (Revelation 4:8-11, Job 38, 1Timothy 6:15-16)  Or listen to songs like “Revelation Song” by Kari Jobe, or “The Stand” by Hillsong, “Your Great Name” by Natalie Grant.  (These are suggestions- feel free to play songs you most resonate with.)  The posture of kneeling or bowing sometimes helps us to physically acknowledge who God is. Verbally acknowledge His holiness and that you accept His Lordship in your life.  Consider your smallness and brokenness in relation to who He is.

 

(Part 2) Instead of dwelling on your smallness and brokenness to the point of guilt and despair, now consider the amazing love of the Father who made a way for you to approach His throne with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).  Relish the fact that you’re covered by Jesus’ holiness, that God has removed your sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).  Take a moment to just dwell on how great His love for us is, that covers over our worst sins.  Write any thoughts that come to you during this time.

 

Chapter 4 Study Questions:

 

  1. What did you grow up believing were the “big sins”?  Has your understanding of or reaction to these sins changed over time?

 

  1. Can you live in the tension that someone else who loves God may not follow God the same way you do?  Explain.

 

  1.  What is the difference between standing up for what we believe in and arguing with someone over belief?  

 

  1. What does it look like to confront sin in love?

 

  1.  We’re all broken- prone to fail and fall short of God’s glory.  How have honest relationships in your life have helped to break down your judgment towards others?  

 

  1.  The “discomfort of grace” means that God covers our sins, even those we aren’t aware we commit, and he covers others as well.  We’re partly right, partly wrong.  Discuss what implications this has for our moral disagreements and how we interact with others.

 

  1. How does the magnitude of God’s holiness affect the way you view sin?

 

Bible passages for further reading:

Romans 14 (Don’t judge, Disputable issues are between us and God); Matthew 18:15-17 (sin in the Church); 1 Corinthians 13:9-12 (we know in part); Philippian 1:4-11 (God continues a good work in us); Luke 7:36-47 (Those who are forgiven much, love much); Luke 17:1-4 (Causing to sin); John 8:1-11 (A Woman Caught in Adultery); Acts 2:38 (Repent from Sin and be forgiven);Luke 18:9-14 (Humility before God); Revelation 1:9-18 (A Vision of holy Jesus


Tough conversation, but if you care to join, please comment below with your thoughts on anything from your own experience with Christianity and sin, to answers to the study questions. Thanks for joining the online study!

Gray Church (Ch 3, Online Gray Faith Study)

The Church isn’t always perfect.  OK, sometimes we’re a long way from it.  Yet there’s a mystery to this group of believers that we’re called to live within.  God intends each of us to build up those around us with the gifts, love, and abilities He’s equipped us with…yet we often disagree and divide instead.  I don’t believe we’re meant to sit stagnant and ignore the areas where our church may be missing God’s heart.  But I believe we’re called to be humble catalysts of change, often right where we are.  Watch this video and check out the discussion questions below as we continue our online study together!


Gray Church Video: Three C’s for Investing in Healthy Church

Gray Faith Chapter 3 Experiment/Study Guide:

Experiment #3:
If you’re a regular church attender, and especially if you’re very active in your church, plan a time to take a week off. If you feel comfortable, try taking a week off from church altogether. Instead, carve out some time to meet with God on your own or with your family. Worship God in a stripped setting- perhaps out in nature, or a personal favorite place. Understand, this isn’t meant to drive you away from your church. Rather, stepping back gives you a chance to breathe in God without feeling the weight of a “role” to perform, and it allows you to step back from routine so you can gain fresh perspective. During this time, honestly give God your ministries, your experience and expectations within the church, your relationships with members and leaders. Ask God to show you where your heart is in line with His and where He wants to shift your heart, roles, or expectations. Write down your thoughts from this reflection.

Chapter 3 Study Questions:

1.What is the role or purpose of the church? (the local church and the global church)

2. We want our churches to be relevant and inviting to the outside world for good reason. But have you ever gotten more caught up in what church looked like than the God who is relevant regardless? What does it mean to be “seeker-friendly” in a way that doesn’t diminish God?

3. How have you experienced the brokenness of the church? How have you been a part of the brokenness of the church?

4. If you’ve never done this before, sit down and make a list of church “non-negotiables”: the doctrines and practices that you MUST agree with in order to be part of a church family. Then make a list of “secondary issues”, such as worship style, ministries or activities offered, etc.

How often do your church frustrations stem from the list of non-negotiables vs secondary issues?

5. All of us within a church family have weaknesses. What does it look like to stay together as a church and balance each other even through disagreements?

6. When you consider that some people will never enter a church building, how do you feel? What does it mean to be the church outside of the church building? Think of examples that are specific to you.

7. In what areas of ministry do you serve the church? Do you feel that you are serving in a healthy way? (Consider your time commitment, affect on family, energy spent, motivation for serving, people you may feel the need to please, etc.) Have you ever stepped back to reflect and pray about your role?

8. Discuss the cost of our lack of unity between churches, especially across cultural and denominational lines. How can we begin to bridge the gap?

Bible passages for further study:
The Book of Acts (beginning of the Church); Romans 12:3-13 (The Church as a Body); 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (The Church as a Body); Hebrews 10:23-25 (Encourage and Meet Together); 1 Corinthians 14 (Instructions for Worship/ Order)

Gray Christian Culture (Gray Faith Study, Ch 2)

You’ve heard of the show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”  I feel like this video could be called, “Are You Better Than a Pharisee?”  Of course I’m less interested in how we measure up morally, and more tuned into whether we are humble enough to apply Jesus’ words to the Pharisees to our own lives and Christian culture.  I pray we’re all drawn closer to His heart as we lay our ways before Him.  So check out the video and FREE study guide questions below, and please comment with your own thoughts on where our Christian culture is doing well or needs some God-tweaking.

STUDY GUIDE, CHAPTER 2: GRAY CHRISTIAN CULTURE

Experiment #2:
Sometimes we struggle to be constructively critical of our faith backgrounds and the Christian culture around us. To question might feel like we’re letting our parents, churches, or even God down. But Jesus Himself challenged the status quo of the faith culture of His time, and sometimes our own faith culture drifts away from God’s heart as well. Even when it comes to following Christian leaders, Paul doesn’t ask us to blindly copy- he says to first “consider the outcome of their way of life” (Hebrews 13:7). Translation: reflect before following.

Jesus says that we, His sheep, will know His voice and follow- but I think that means sometimes silencing the sounds of the other sheep in our heads. Make space this week to sit and talk with God alone, away from distractions. Ask Him to help you hear His voice, to give you discernment, and be able to distinguish His will outside of what any culture says. Allow yourself to ask whether you’ve been sometimes following people instead of God.

Chapter 2 Study Questions:

1. Do you believe the Christian culture around you has any negatives or unhealthy ideas? Why or why not?

3. We’ve had our negative moments, but Christian culture often sparks very positive movements. What should “Christian Culture” be doing/influencing and how can we help?

4. “Someone who exposes themselves to a wide variety of ideas might actually be in a healthier place than someone who views outside ideas as dangerous.” Agree or disagree? Explain.

5. What is our “Jesus Stuff” (bumper stickers, billboards, shirts, etc) saying to the world? Discuss how you have experienced/used Christian paraphernalia in a positive or negative way.

6. How does dividing the Bible into “good guys” and “bad guys” keep us from examining our own lives well? Have you, like me, ever realized that you were guilty of overlooking a problem in your own life because you didn’t immediately associate yourself with one of the Bible’s “bad guys?”

7. Discuss what it looks like to “keep ourselves from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27), while also being the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Can we protect the purity of ourselves and our families while still exposing ourselves to the world that God wants us to love?

8. What words or phrases from your Christian circle might be confusing to someone from outside your group? How do we help bridge the gap in translation?

Bible passages for further study:
James 1:27 (Don’t be Polluted by World); Matthew 5:14 (Light of the World); Romans 12:1-2 (Don’t conform to the world); 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (Test Everything); 1 John 4:1-3 (Test every Spirit); 1 corinthians 5:9-13 (Living among sin); Matthew 11:19 (Jesus was friends with sinners)


Thanks for joining!!  Tune in next time for Chapter 3: Gray Church.  To buy the “Gray Faith” book in paperback or for kindle, you can purchase online at Amazon!

Gray Faith Study- Ch 1: Gray Beginnings

The Gray Faith Online Study is finally here!! I’ve been waiting for this and I’m so excited to share these free resources with you.  Please feel free to share this material with someone, use it to lead your own study offline, or share/comment on the blog to add your voice to the conversation!  This chapter is all about digging into YOUR stories and backgrounds, and I’d love to hear whatever you feel comfortable sharing.  Check out the video to learn a bit more about the heart of the study and chapter 1.

Happy “Gray Faith-ing”!

Experiment #1:

Write a summary of your own life story- be as brief or detailed as you want.  Consider how your childhood laid the foundation for your current identity and beliefs.  Allow yourself to dwell on the emotions that arise and give yourself permission to question things that you may have been afraid to question.  There’s no right or wrong in this space; you are simply an explorer, searching through your past to find pieces of who you are today.  As you write, ask God to begin to show you where your faith might be a bit plastic or built on certain assumptions of the Christianity or faith you grew up with.  If you feel comfortable, share your story with a friend or your small group.  

 

Chapter 1 Study Questions:

1. What’s your story?  Who are the people and circumstances that most shaped your life and faith?

2. In the first section of chapter one, I talk about how “good Christianity” lied to me.  Have you experienced your own assumptions of “good Christianity”?  If so, what has made you question those assumptions?

3.Read the parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15:11-32.  Which brother do you relate to and why?

4. Whose crazy story have you watched that inspires you to step out in faith yourself?

5: What is your God-given passion beyond your means to produce or create on your own?  Whether it’s something you’re still dreaming about or you’re in the middle of living it out, I challenge you to share that dream with someone and let them pray and journey with you.

6.What does it look like to accept brokenness, doubts, and mistakes as part of our journey of faith?  Do you believe that as Christians we’ll always have room to grow?

7. Are there any beliefs that you hold in your head that you’ve struggled to experience with your heart?  What’s one small step you could take to embrace that belief physically, instead of just mentally?  

 

Bible passages for further study:

Luke 15:11-32 (The Parable of the Prodigal Son); Deuteronomy 6:1-3 (Passing Faith to our Kids); Proverbs 22:6 (Raising Children); Galations 3 (Faith vs. the Law); Matthew 9:13 (Jesus came for sinners); Luke 18:18-35 (Heart vs. Rules)

(All study material in this blog comes directly from the “Gray Faith” book.  If you’d like to purchase a copy or ebook, click HERE!)

How Many Shades of Gray Faith?

No, the answer isn’t 50.  At least I don’t think so.  It’s a gray area.

Understanding and finding more of God is a process, and we need to give ourselves permission to seek God where our answers seem to run out, where our expectations aren’t quite met, where we can simply be our honest selves.  We might gravitate towards black and white answers and easy spiritual growth- but in my experience, we’re missing so much of God in that safe and sterile Christianity.

I believe we find a lot more of God in the shades and tones of gray, at the end of our control, at the end of what we think it means to just be a “good Christian”, at the end of the simple answers we’ve believed in our head but missed in the depths of our soul.

If you’re looking to step out and meet God in the middle of real life and mess and questions this summer, I invite you to join me for an online “Gray Faith” book study this summer starting Monday June 26th!!

Here are just a few shades of gray you can expect to explore as we go through the 8 chapters of the book:

Gray Beginnings:  Are we believing the lie of “Good Christianity”?  What have we picked up from our spiritual beginnings? What have we grown up believing and how can we critically question those beliefs and spiritual routines in a healthy way?

Gray Christian Culture: What have we been raised in the church to believe?  How has our “Christian culture” shaped our view of God and others, and are we brave enough to step outside of that culture long enough to see the parts that honor God and the parts that may be keeping us from fully experiencing Him?  What are those outside our Christian culture really seeing and hearing from us?

Gray Church:  What does it mean to be part of a church or body of Christ?  How do we handle disagreements and denominations, loving each other and loving the world?  What does it mean to balance each other?  Does God have a one-size-fits-all plan for how church looks?

Gray Sin: What does it truly mean to love a broken world?  Does that look more like waving a protest sign or sincerely listening to people we may not agree with? What does it mean to acknowledge that we’re all broken and need grace?  How do we keep our hearts in check before a Holy God?

Gray Evangelism: What does it look like to “share our faith” with others?  Do we need an exciting before and after story to impact people?  What motivates us to share God with others?  How can we share physical love with people that goes hand-in-hand with our words?  Where have we gotten “evangelism” twisted?

Gray Expectations: What are some of the expectations and assumptions we’ve come to make about God?  Do we perpetually think He’s unhappy with us?  Are we frustrated with Him for not blessing us the way we thought He would when we followed Him?  Our expectations have the power to reveal our true beliefs of God- and wrestling through those expectations honestly helps us find God more intimately.

Gray Walk: What does it look like to grow and change over time with God?  Where are the places that God has been changing our views or opinions?  How do we continue to find God in each season; the waiting and the receiving, the loss and the joy, the beauty and the ashes?  Can our process with God lead us to crave His presence even in the ups and downs?

Gray Answers: At the end of the day, on this side of eternity, we simply won’t have all the answers.  What does it mean to humbly walk with others knowing we don’t have all the answers?  What does it look like to encourage friends without trying to fix their problems with the “right” answer?  How do we handle difficult questions like why God allows pain and suffering?  Can we trust that God is big enough to meet each us uniquely precisely in the gray?


The beautiful thing is, if you’re the extrovert kind of person who wants to get a group together and go through the study with friends, go for it!  I’ve done the study with friends and absolutely loved the raw, genuine conversations that came up.

But if you’re the kind of person who still feels a bit uncomfortable asking gray questions in front of others- if you’d rather just wrestle with God in the privacy of your own home wearing your sweats and a tiara (hey, I’m not judging!) then you can absolutely follow along on your own.

Either way, here’s what to do to JOIN THE ONLINE STUDY:

  1. Optional: Purchase a “Gray Faith” book (paperback or kindle version) here: Gray Faith Book (Note: you can still follow along with the study videos/questions without having a book.)
  2. “Like” my facebook author page, where I’ll be posting all my updates and videos!
  3. Check into facebook every Monday for a new video and FREE weekly Study Guide downloads on my blog!
  4. Comment on the weekly video to join the conversation, challenge others, and open up about your own process with God.  This is one of the most exciting parts for me- really getting to connect with YOU and hear your heart.
  5. Share with friends!  If you know someone who might be interested in joining, or if you find encouragement from the study, please pass the news along!

Thanks so much for checking in; I can’t wait to start this “Gray Faith” journey with you all.

Of Bear Meat Bacon and Spring

It’s been too long since I posted, but I assume you’ve all been caught up in that little thing called Spring that so distracts and inspires us that we’re prone to ask, “Facebook…hm…what’s that again?”

Anyway, between the warm weather and the dangerous coffee levels, I’m suddenly motivated to do all the things, like start writing a new book, create my dream pinterest writing nook,

deep Spring clean my house, and bake birthday and Easter treats.  

“Um…Hello Chocolate!  And you brought your friend, Peanut Butter? Please come in!”

Speaking of treats and Easter, I’ll share a completely random story with you about our family Easter ride to my in-laws’ house.  Somehow the topic of pigs and bacon came up and my seven year old daughter lamented from the back seat that, even though she loved bacon,she wished we didn’t have to kill pigs for it.  When I asked her how she would prefer to get bacon meat, she said we could kill bears for bacon.  (I think in her head bears are slightly more sinister than the pigs she has met, and are therefore better candidates for killing off.)

My six year old son quickly chimed in, “No, You have to kill the right thing!”  (Translation: Bear meat may not be a suitable bacon substitute.)

Then the three year old, not to be left out, piped up, “Bear Meat, Ew!” (Except he said it more like, beh mee, eww!)

My ever ethically sensitive daughter capped the conversation by trying to rationalize the killing of the bear; She’d invite him to help her pick berries, and if he proved to be a lazy bum slacker, she’d employ a jaguar or panther or some other wildcat to take him out.  I’m surprised sloth is so far up there on her list of unforgivable sins, given her pitiful reaction whenever I ask her to clean at home.

Anyway, where were we?  Right, Spring and doing all the things.  I’m excited to share a couple opportunities with you if you’re feeling creative and inspired yourself!

First of all, I’m running a free Non-fiction Writer’s Workshop on Saturday, May 6th, 9:30-noon, hosted at Kainos Life Ministries in East Hampton, CT.

I’ll be working through the 101 of how to explore your unique voice and audience, as well as give simple tips to improve and share your work!  You absolutely don’t need any experience- this is just an opportunity to step out and meet others with a passion to write, and hopefully grow in confidence and direction while you’re at it!  If you’re feeling adventurous, click HERE TO REGISTER and get more details! There are also several other creative workshops to sign up for if writing isn’t your thing!

Second, I have people lined up through June, but I’m still looking for more of you to share your stories as part of my Friend-Post Fridays Blog Experiment!  Every 4th Friday I’m posting a guest blog entry written by friends and family; I believe there’s something powerful in speaking our stories, and really listening to others around us.

The sky is the limit- if you missed my first Friend-Post, you can check out what my cousin shared about his experience with PTSD, but your post can be anything from your thoughts on bear-meat-bacon to potty training, to how you adopted or what your passion in life is!  If you’re interested or even have questions, send me a message and I’d love to connect with you.

And make sure you check out next week’s Friend-Post written by my own brother, Ben!  

Finally, because I’m feeling super-ambitious, I wanted to let you know about my plan to launch an online study of my book Gray Faith over summer vacation!

For 8 weeks, I’ll be posting a weekly video on my facebook page and hope you’ll post your thoughts and interact with each other as we go!  Stay tuned for the official June launch date, and if you’re interested spread the word and grab a discounted paperback or kindle version so you’re ready to start!

That’s all for now, thanks for stopping in!  And if I you got distracted somewhere in the middle of the bear story by the Springy outdoors…I completely understand.