Saturday, October 20, 2001

That prayer thing again

[Name accidentally deleted] a while back challenged me to keep a prayer journal to see if I really got answers to my prayers, his point being that God doesn't exist. I went home and dug out an old prayer journal. It has one page of notes, with prayer requests dating from March, 1997 to January, 1998.

The first thing that jumped out at me is how many people I don't know anymore. About half the list is people I no longer have contact with. Jodie, Alisa, Joe,'s hard to evaluate a prayer request when you don't know the person you were praying for anymore. ;)

I do know one thing. Since I've been praying the last several weeks - getting serious about prayer for the first time - I've felt different. And isn't that what prayer is really about - changing us? We don't always get what we want. Sometimes God says "no" when we really want a "yes." Sometimes the answer comes in a form we didn't imagine. Sometimes people's free will will push God away and not make an answer possible.

But it's changing me, and I think that's the point. We can't change God, but through prayer, we can allow Him to change us. I'm tasting something beautiful for the first time. I won't give that up.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

Muslims are NOT the enemy!

Isn't this just what Satan would like us to believe? "Muslims and their evil Quran preach hate about you Christians." Have any of us read the Quran? Taken the time to understand it? Then how can we pass such an arrogant, sweeping judgement about millions of people?

If we think they are the enemy, perhaps we should step back, challenge our own assumptions, and risk learning something new. Here are some resources on Islam from (similar to Delphi for anyone who doesn't know). main Islam forum page a basic intro. to Islam the Islam resource page on September's attacks another article on beliefs an article from the guide about violence against Muslims after Sept. 11 the forum, for asking questions and talking about Islam

Thursday, July 19, 2001

My last two weeks

Ok, it all started about 3 weeks ago. I mentioned in an e-mail to the group about the letter to God my counselor told me to write. It was a very angry letter. I said things I knew I shouldn't say, but she told me to speak my mind, and I did!
Less that a week later I was at taize. After I had come back from praying at the cross, I returned to my seat on the floor (I prefer to sit on the floor at taize), and felt an overwhelming urge to bow before Him. So I did. Right there where I sat. He didn't speak. I hardly said anything except to tell Him that my heart was not completely right with Him, so how could He be asking me to bow before Him?

And then I laid down just as an unfamiliar chant began. I don't remember how it went, only that it had to do with God's presence and gaze enfolding us. I almost felt like I was lying in His hand. I could have stayed there all night, just as I could have stayed bowed before Him all night. It was one of those magic moments when time touches eternity, and you are refreshed, with a renewed belief in His love for you, and a renewed hope that even the darkest night will end. It is one of those moments when I can believe that He is GOOD.

Fast forward to yesterday. I was talking to Theotwelve on IM when I realized something. I've known it forever, but at that moment I really KNEW it for the first time. In all the hell I've been through the past 18 months (and counting), He is trying to accomplish something good. He is trying to set me free! I can see how bound I have been by fear and circumstances. Through the Zoloft He is helping me to deal with the fear, though I know I will never be well without counseling and His active Presence. I can finally see some bonds being loosed...slowly, but it is happening.

I am beginning to understand now that He didn't want to hurt me as He did, but there was no other way to get my attention (a fact I will freely attest to), and that His ultimate purpose was good. I couldn't see that at the time, but I see it now. I would never go back to the way things were before He wounded me. I've come too far and am just glimpsing light and freedom on this side I never dreamed possible. (And I've barely started down this long path!) I am coming to understand--to really KNOW--what God means when He says He will hurt His people, and then promises to bind their wounds up. What a glorious vision!

And, for the icing on the cake, my counseling session today. I told my counselor about how I had written the angry letter to God and then less than a week later had God touch me at taize. I was thinking that He touched me IN SPITE of what I had written. My counselor thought their was a correlation between the two events, and I realized that what she was saying was that He touched me BECAUSE of what I'd written! Wow! What a vision of God! A God who loves me so much that when I lash out in anger, He reaches back in love (come to think of it, this is par for the course with Him).

Anyway, I wanted to share all that. It's been quite a ride here. I have also worked through a lot of my intellectual questions with Lee Strobel's "The Case For Faith." And also the communion question--don't know if I told the e-mail group about that or not. Theotwelve was a big help and I shared our IM conversation with my pastor who told me Ted was right in what he said. So I guess I will take communion next time I have the chance.

Monday, June 18, 2001

A Letter to God

June 18, 2001
Revised: June 21, 2001
Chicago, IL

How do I trust? Isn’t that what it all boils down to—trusting Who I cannot see, cannot touch, cannot feel? I don’t want to grow, dammit! I want to go back to The Way Things Were Before. Before You changed, and tried to change me.

But I know You have not changed. You have revealed something of Yourself I have not seen before, something terrifying, frightening, unsettling. It is something of the heart of a Father, something I have long avoided. It is the part of You that wishes me to become mature, the part of You that is answering my oft repeated prayer, "Make me into the woman You want me to be." Indeed, we need to be careful what we ask You for!

I have not forgotten who I am and Whom I belong to, but in the darkness I have lost sight of Your goodness. I admit to not being sure who You are anymore, or what I can expect from this unique relationship.

Who are You that You would inflict this upon me, or even "merely" allow it? Who are You to put the creation You claim to love through this hell called life, then say "no" to healing when it is so pleadingly asked for? What good are you anyway? But I have only questions. No answers. No peace.

Yet sometimes I can almost believe You are good. There have been so many moments over the past 10 days when You have given me more than I could have hoped for or believed. Working on the Trail, meeting Michael, if only for a couple of hours, even just spending a quiet Sabbath afternoon reading with my feet up, sipping a drink and listening to the breeze rustling in the trees. At moments like that I taste something of Your goodness, something of eternity, and I almost believe.

That is what it all comes down to, isn’t it? Eternity, heaven, the glory that makes earthly suffering pale in significance? It is our hope, our only real hope.

So Father, I don’t know who You are anymore, and I have more questions than answers. I don’t trust Your heart or Your character. Above all, I don’t really understand anything anymore. Truly when I had all the answers figured out, the questions changed.

God, only You can tame this anger within me, an anger toward You, an undercurrent all along. I pray You will overcome this in my life. I know that I am in Your hands. Since I don’t trust You, that terrifies me.

I could go on, but I would only have more questions, and You don’t seem to interested in providing answers. But I suppose that’s the point: if You gave me what I asked for—healing, answers, a personal appearance—I would have no need of faith, and somehow, in some way I can’t understand, faith means that much to You. Faith, and maturity, but we already covered that.

Other than shrieking at You in anger, rambling, incoherent, this is really all I have to say. I pray that You will hold on tight to me through this wilderness, until I come out the other side into the light of a new day.

Sunday, April 22, 2001

poem: Sojourner of the Shadows

Sojourner of the Shadows
I'm a sojourner in the Valley of Baca,
The trees close in, I lose my Guide.
The darkness falls, and wolves, they threaten.
You promised to stay at my side.

But You forsook me and You left me,
And anger wells up within.
So I wanted to trust You and make this work,
But I can't, so I do this worst sin.

I loved You but I've lost you,
You, Creator of earth and sky.
The pain falls soft upon my shoulders,
And I only want to die.

But You hate me so I live on,
In a world bereft of Light.
Betrayed, I stand in the shadows,
And fear the approaching night.

Tuesday, April 03, 2001

Letter to the Editor

A letter to the editor of the Sabbath Recorder, the official magazine for my denomination. They did not publish it.

Dear Editor,

This letter has been a long time in coming. This issue has been niggling at my mind for a while, and I just can’t keep silent any longer. People may disagree with me—I may even be way off—but I have to go out on a limb and speak up.

I hear a lot of talk about the Sabbath in this magazine and at my church. This is not a bad thing. We need to wrestle with and define how this issue effects us individually and as a Sabbath keeping community. What I see is some double-mindedness when it comes to how the Sabbath is kept. I can’t speak for how widespread a problem this may be, but I suspect the problem may go beyond my church.
People go out to eat between the Sabbath hours, every week. People also shop for the evening meal Sabbath afternoon. This specifically violates the commandment to give your slaves and servants rest that day, along with yourself. After all, aren’t restaurant workers who serve us acting in the capacity of our servants? Aren’t grocery store checkers the same? Isn’t that what God gave us Friday for—to prepare for the Sabbath?

I understand the problems people encounter that keep us from keeping the Sabbath wholly holy. I understand that we have children, appointments, second jobs, and other things that eat away at the edges of the Sabbath and keep us busy long after dark Friday evening, with no time to prepare meals and so forth for the following day. But how can we expect God to bless us if we are hypocrites, saying one thing about the holiness of the Sabbath, and doing another?

He can’t. He won’t. I’ve asked myself over and over since joining this church what makes our denomination so small, and the Adventists so large. And I’ve come to this conclusion: one reason they are blessed with growth when we are not is because what they say about the Sabbath, they do.

Not only that, but they set a good example for their children. What kind of an example are we setting? I had one young adult, raised in the church, tell me that while she believed in the Sabbath concept, she wasn’t convinced that Saturday was the day. In other words, why couldn’t any day suffice? Another lady in my church had our double standard thrown back in her face by one of her little kids. When told she couldn’t go to the mall on Saturday, the child responded that we eat out, so what’s the difference? Folks, we are going to lose our children to the world!

I write this in all sincerity, as one struggling sinner to another. I love this church, and I believe in what we teach. But I fear that our lack of growth may be due, in part, to two factors totally within our control: One, that we are not serious in our Sabbath keeping practices. This turns prospective new members off, leading them to other churches that practice what they preach. Two, we may be losing our own young people, our most precious asset. It could all be turned around with a little extra planning the rest of the week so that our Sabbaths can truly be Sabbaths.
We need to educate ourselves and our children on this issue, and call ourselves back to holiness. Then God will bless us and we will grow.

In Christ,
Victoria Shephard