Building a life of faith is challenging! As we grow through different stages of life, our understanding of God changes and evolves as well. Sometimes, we get to a place where we cannot reconcile what we know about God with our current context. This is hard. It can leave us bereft. I've been there. In this episode, I share a time in my life when I was lost, and how I found my way back.Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/melissaebken)
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Have you ever been lost? Have you ever felt like that God was no longer available to you that you were. So. Lost that you had done something that you were someone or you were in some way. Cast out and neglected. And in a position where God no longer communicated with you or where you no longer had that stability found in your faith. You no longer had that connection that you so longed for, that may be you once had. If you can identify with that. Then you will enjoy today's episode. I've been there too. I was completely and totally lost and this is a story of my comeback Seminary was an interesting experience. I went to seminary when I was 28. I had a career in biology. And I had been called to this new adventure in life. So kind of kicking and screaming a little bit against my will because I already had a plan carved out. I headed out to seminary. I quickly learned that this was the path that God had for me. And this was the path where I would find my future and where I would find wholeness and meaning and purpose and satisfaction. But seminary is an interesting experience. When I was in basic training and advanced individual training with the army, part of that experience was that they tear you down physically and mentally so that they can rebuild you into the person who does and thinks what they want you to do and think. Seminary was similar. But this was different in that they tore you down spiritually so that they could build you back up again. But when your spirit. Is in shambles when your spirit. Built upon everything that you have known and experienced in your life is now laying tattered at your feet. It is a difficult. Difficult thing to endure. And it's a difficult process to put it back together. But that's where I found myself. I was in this place and it was in the middle of winter. It was right after Christmas. I want to say, or right before Christmas, but the days were very dark. And the line was minimal. And in the midst of that, I found myself lost. And by last, I mean, lost. God had always seemed very near and available and close to me. But now. That connection wasn't there. And inside. I felt like I had let God down somehow. That I had blown this opportunity. To be a pastor. That I had taken what God had put before me and I had just ruined it. How could God want this broken person to be in a position to lead others? I felt like I had wasted, not only that opportunity, but the faith. Trust of everyone who had been working to get me there. And to get me through. I was not in a good place. So. I was in Lexington, Kentucky, and there are a lot of beautiful places in Lexington, Kentucky. So I went to these places. To try to rekindle that connection. There are beautiful cathedrals there. There are beautiful houses of worship. There are stalwarts synagogues. And there are places in the landscape that are breathtaking. I went to every single one of these places. In search of God in search of that connection that was broken. Within me. Although at the time, I didn't realize it was broken within me. I thought it was broken outside of me that somehow there was a line that went from me to God and somehow in the span of that distance, that connection. I had been severed, it was broken and I didn't know how to fix it. So I went off trying to find where God was hanging out. So that I can repair this and rekindle that connection and that relationship that had meant so much to me throughout my entire life. In fact, it had meant so much to me, that relationship that I had based everything that I was doing now. On that relationship. I had walked away from a career that I enjoyed. I had walked away from a life that I had carved out. I was going in debt. All based on this relationship. And now that relationship was broken and that connection was severed into say I was lost. Is an understatement. It was right after Christmas, literally the day after Christmas. And I was enrolled in this course, that was a travel course. We were going to. Asia minor. What is now. In modern times what we call Turkey. We were going to the Western part of Asia minor or modern day Turkey. And we were going to visit the places that the apostle Paul visited in his second missionary journey. The tour was going to begin with. The seven churches mentioned in revelation, we went to all of those churches. Then we're going to go north up to Istanbul. What was once Constantinople? The seat, the Capitol, the Eastern Orthodox tradition was in established in Constantinople. And then we're going to go across the land bridge into Greece. And we're going to go down that Eastern. Shore of Greece and visit all of the churches, fill a pie, Thessalonica, Berea, all of those places where Paul went. And established faithful congregations. We're going to go down to Athens. And then we're going to go west. Over to Corinth. All of this lay before me. So I did have some hope in, in the darkness that surely. I would find the connection I was looking for in this journey. This was holy ground that I would be walking on. It was sacred space. It was where people had found that connection in the risen Christ, where they had first heard about that. And where. The church had begun and had grown and the gospel had spread. I knew this was where I was going to regain and recover my faith. I was going to come home full of spirit and motivation and inspiration. Ready to get to the work that God had called me to do. So we started out on this trip. And the experience of being an Asia minor, modern day Turkey. Was a great and profound experience. This was the first time that I found myself in a nation that wasn't a Christian based nation. It was a Muslim based nation. And they tend to be more in the liberal side of Muslim community and thinking, and. It was so powerful. In these little communities that we visited there would be. A place of worship, there would be a mosque and part of a mosque is a minaret. And from that minaret, that tower that sticks up. There would be throughout the day calls to prayer. And having our day formed by those calls to prayer, even though it didn't come from our tradition, it was a powerful reminder and it was a calling. To be mindful to have your eyes and your heart and your soul centered and focused on praying and connecting. But at the same time for me, it was just a harsh reminder. Of what I was missing. It was great. Uh, visiting these places, it was so much fun and it was. It intellectually inspirational to see the, the ruins of what were once. Great cities. It was an experience like no other. And we got up to his tin bowl. What used to be Constantinople? And this city is magnificent. Magnificent. Constantine emperor in the fourth century. The three hundreds, the early three hundreds. Established so much of what was still standing. In old Istanbul, Constantinople. The aqueduct. It could, again, commissioned by Constantine. The emperor was still standing. The RGS Sophia or what translates as the holy spirit temple mosque. Church. Was still standing. These were erected in the three hundreds. Visiting these places was visiting history. It was touching all of those things of the past. When you went into these places, there were artwork. Layers of artwork that told the story of the people that had been there had lived there, had died there. This was a preliterate time. So things were communicated through art. There were paintings on the wall that depicted the stories of faith. And then as different forces came through, they painted over those with, with Muslim artwork. And then as the crusaders came through, they painted their artwork on top of that and they stamped crosses and all of the concrete. And then the Ottomans came back again through there and repainted over everything with their traditions and their beliefs. It was standing in living history and art in this place. And it was magnificent. But I didn't find what I was looking for. I was still missing that vital connection. To God, to holy, to divine. I stood there in that place in thought, if not here, then where will I find? And rekindle that faith. I was still so lost. We headed across the black sea. We headed across the Bosphorus river. That extends from the black sea. We didn't cross the black sea. We crossed the bus for us and ended into, ended up in Greece and we visited. Philippa we visited Thessalonica and Berea. We visited these places where Paul encountered fascinating people and grew the faith. On the shores of Phillipi on the outskirts of town, where he met Lydia, the woman merchant who dealt in. In textiles who sold purple cloth. We visited this pot. Where they encountered the faith together. We visited the places where revelation happened to so many people. Where the faith. Grew like wildfire. We visited Berea. Where Paulin counted so many people. Who used their minds and their thoughts to really think into theologically position themselves in the faith. We visited Thessalonica. A place where Paul wrote so many letters. We visited all of these places. But now I began to see. God's great plan. We were headed to Athens. Athens is the seat of Greek orthodoxy. It's the middle of it. It's in the heart of Greece. And I tell you, there is. Greece is full of spirit. Uh, grease is full. Of sacred places. And I am in Greece. I am reminded of Barbara Brown Taylor's quote, when she says that it's a wonder, we can walk anywhere without knocking our shins on altars. She said that to describe how ever present God is and how we encounter holy and sacred in so many places that it's a wonder, we don't stumble because of all of those places that we traveled through. And in Greece, it is so thick. With divinity. So I began to see, okay, I get you now, God, this is where it's going to happen. Not only are we in this place that is so thick with history and divinity, but we are going to be here on the day of epiphany. January 6th, the day of epiphany, we are in Athens, Greece. We are in the cathedral, in the center of this city. On this day of epiphany this day, that literally marks. When people have the light bulb moment and understand who the baby born in Bethlehem, who he is and what he means and what he will become. That day, that holy day, separate, celebrated by so many people. In the center. Of the sacred. All right. God you are so cool. I get it now. So we go into this. Sanctuary. There are icons. Everywhere the eyes look. I can smell the incense. I can hear the incantations. I can feel the stones beneath my feet that are worn soft from so many pilgrims wandering. In the same place. I know. This is where it will be. Only wasn't. It wasn't. I went. Through that sanctuary. Knowing, I would find an rekindle, that connection that had brought me so far and so much in life. And on this holy day and in this holy place. It's still didn't happen. I was crushed. We visited other places in Athens, we visited the Parthenon. We visited Mars hill, that place where Paul stood and dressed all of the people in the unknown. Oh, God, that was represented and documented there. I stood in the very place that Paul stood and spoke words of hope and faith and resurrection. And I didn't. Find it. We went to Corinth to that great city. And we're Paul worked miracles in bringing people to the faith. And nothing. Now. I did truly and genuinely enjoy and appreciate every moment of this trip. But I went on this trip looking for something specific. I went on this trip looking to restore that connection with God. That meant so much to me, that I had based not only my life, but my future on, and I was going home empty. It did not happen. So I didn't have a plan now. I was going to finish out that semester. And then reevaluate. I got back home. And it was going through the motions and a month or so later. You know, you get to that day in February, each year when the cold breaks just a little bit, and you get teased with that. A little bit of warmth for a few days that tells you that spring is on the horizon. Well, we were in the midst of that. It was that few days where the sun was going to come out and remind us that winter wouldn't last forever. And it was evening and I was out on the back porch and I was just standing there and looking up to the sky and it was so clear that night and the stars were shining so brightly. There were twinkling. And I just looked up into the night sky and said, thanks. And I felt, thanks. I felt. So small in the vastness. And the beauty of that creation in this space, the universe, it was. Unfolded in front of me. I just felt gratitude for being a part of it. And friends that's when it happened. That's when that fire within me was rekindled and relive it. And I felt God speaking to me and saying, Melissa, I have always been with you. Why did you go to all of these other places to search me out? When you only had to stop. And look within where I have always been. And then I heard God say, My grace is sufficient. Those moments changed. Everything. As I go through life now, I like everyone else have moments of those mountain, top experiences when God is so real and so near and so powerful and everything is so clear. And I have experiences in the valley where grief can overwhelm. And the unknown Kim threatened. But I never have that. Feeling of being so lost that I cannot be found any longer. Because I have learned. That God lives within. Do you want to find the holy, do you want to find that spark? Do you want to find. That moment of transcendence that lifts you beyond the current circumstances and shows you that there is so much more to this life. And to this world, into this existence. Turn within. Look within. Some people meditate. Some people use centering prayer. It doesn't matter what tool you use. Just spend time learning about yourself and what makes you tick. Learn about your personality. I learn about your past experience, but go within yourself. And you will uncover layer after layer, not only of yourself. But of source of creator. Of divine, inspiration and hope. That is within each of us. And that is the message of Christian faith. That God. Creator source. Is incarnational. The fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem is a message that God put skin on. God took on skin and bones, and that God is within us friends. We are made of Stardust. We are made of. The things that make up the entire universe and God is. Full in everything the earth is full of God. The sky, the air we breathe. All of that is full of divinity of holy, of hope of life. Of possibility. Take in a deep breath, you are breathing in. Source you are breathing in God. You are breathing in light and life and love. Look within yourself. I look upon all this world that was created. You, my friends were fearfully and wonderfully made. And if you feel lost, Just take a moment. And find a way to be thankful. Find those moments of gratitude. Find those moments within yourself. And you will discover the holy you will discover purpose. You will discover this light. That is so powerful. This love that is so consuming. That you all know that wherever there is despair. There will be hope wherever there is sadness. There will be joy in wherever there is death. There will be. Uh, resurrection. You are made. Of Holi don't ever forget that.