Which stage are you?


Helping-hands

About 6 months ago, we learned of a very close family member diagnosed with cancer. Not just any cancer, but a rare form of incurable cancer, stage 4. After a recent hospital stay and surgical procedures – the rays of hope dwindled as we learned that there is no surgery nor even one clinical trial that is available to try to help with this disease as it advances. In essence, we wait, we watch, we strive to comfort – and we grieve.

Oh, we grieve.

The life we have lived, the moments we missed, the time we cannot reclaim. We deeply grieve and we learn. What a process this is! You cannot force someone to deal with their own mortality. Whether they accept their fate or not, it effects all in the family unit. The ripples of denial of the current reality leak out – crushing  hopes and dreams of reconciliation and forgiveness.

How do we  face a prognosis you aren’t allowed to discuss? In what ways do you deal with loss in an environment that says over and over again, “this is not happening.” I’m sorry, so sorry, but it is happening. It’s happening all around us as we all grapple to cope with the days ahead. The cancer keeps moving along whether we accept it or not, changing lives and generations to come with how we choose to handle our final days.

We die, as we have lived.

Not facing the reality that stares us in the face. Refusing to admit the days to come, avoiding any discussion of what lies ahead. Denial has deep, deep roots entrenched in familial relationships that will forever be touched by it’s tentacles. In denial, we move through life, often feeling alone, desiring deep relationships but not knowing how to have one. Afraid to ask questions, for when we do, it rocks the boat and puts the truth out there for all to see. It’s a hard way to live, and evenmoreso, a terrifying way to die.

I remember heading back and forth to the hospital, over and over again. Problems needing hospitalization and care. Getting you settled in and pray with you, over you – trusting God in His provision for you.  You’d heal from that setback, but the disease continued to raise havoc in your body. Accepting the truth or not, here we are.

I don’t want to see you go. I don’t look forward to that day. No. NO. Not at all. I do however, yearn to be able to talk about what’s happening, to be able to walk together and forward in this journey. We don’t need to walk alone, we really don’t.

So, why are we?

Refusing to accept our terminal illness touches all those effected by this disease. When denial continues to be the way we handle difficulties then it’s highly likely we will walk alone. Be alone, grieve alone and perhaps die, alone. Alone. Oh my heart just aches, who wants to be alone? Ever.

How will we choose to live our days? If we think we have many years ahead of us or even a few weeks remaining – how will we choose to live it? We all have 24 hours in a day and every single day we choose how we will spend the precious time we will never get back. The harder we fight against the truth, the less we get to live in it.

Live.

Yes, live! Even in our dying, we are still living. Even in our moments of fear and great loss, we live. In moments of deep pain and hard realities, ripping at the core of who we are, we continue to live. Regardless of the stage of life we are living, or the stage that cancer has advanced to. We have choices. We can live out our days towards eternity, growing, healing, hoping and deeply present in love. We can!

We must choose.

Today I offer you no solution, no quick answer to this eternal question. I humbly point to Jesus Christ and offer His live as the way to live. Emulating His love, His grace, His mercy and His patience with one another, as we grieve, as we mourn and as we live. Jesus did not live in denial. He did not hide behind misunderstanding about what was going in the world or in the lives of those He loved. Jesus was present – He was authentic. He was real. He loved. I remember when Jesus’s close friend Larazus  died.

“Mary approached Jesus, saw Him, and fell at His feet.

Lord, if only You had been here, my brother would still be alive.

When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.

Where have you laid his body?

Come and see, Lord.

As they walked, Jesus wept; and everyone noticed how much Jesus must have loved Lazarus. ” John 11:32-36

Even Jesus, the One who raised Himself from the dead, mourned and cried at the death of someone He loved. Just like we too, mourn the loss of those we love as well. Jesus loved, loves and continues to love by His Presence in our present moments, even those filled with grief and denial.

We all will die – but how will we live?

I encourage you today, if you are living in denial, face it. If you are filled with remorse over time lost together, make time. If you are grieving the loss of relationships and yearn for something more, reach for it. It’s not the time to lose hope, but rather to gain hope.

No matter what stage of life you are in, or stage of cancer you face. Whatever  serious disease you battle. No matter the prognosis. Regardless of the difficulties. Free yourself from denial and learn to live.

For we die, as we have lived.

As The Storm Closes In…

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How long will it last – the storm that is?

The weatherman says it will be the largest blizzard in over one hundred years to hit New England. A place where snow is a plenty and each flake is as welcome as the sands that scatter the shoreline. It is part of our culture and who we are. Storms come, we hunker down – press in and watch with scattered enthusiasm as the snow falls and witness anew the beauty of creation which casts it’s shadows among us on frigid winter days.

Whether it is a Nor’easter, a blizzard or just plain ‘ol snow granting us a few inches – we find ourselves like a child filled with wonder for a moment as we gaze at the white washed blanket that has settled over our landscape. It sure is pretty, isn’t it?  We pull ourselves away from the dreamlike state and remind ourselves of the reality that storms bring. Shoveling, losing power for hours on end and being house bound to remain safe on the roads we most often travel.

Just like life.

When faced with our own personal, individual storms. We have a choice in how we handle them – how we face them. Do we gaze upon our lives in reflection with realistic eyes of the work that lies ahead or do we remain in a  dreamlike state, unmoving – accepting the snow even as it falls?

Along with any storm or trial in our life, there comes a point where we can no longer deny the reality of how much snow will be dumped upon us. We have little control over the storms that come our way, but we do have control over how we respond to them. One lesson I needed to learn oh so long ago.

Sometimes, I just wander around in the storm. Overcome by the beauty as I walk about. Gazing at the places where the fresh snow lights up and glitters all around me. Digging perhaps into new places and finding new adventures along the way. Yet, often when you shake that tree limb as you climb on up – snow just pummels you down.

You just don’t always expect what comes your way.

How long will you wander about in your storm? At what point do you admit that you may need to bundle up, chart a new course as you walk about. I suggest, the only way to handle a storm is to get through them. There might be white outs as the wind howls and throws things to distract you as we walk. Sometimes we must settle in, hunker down and keep on walking.

Don’t believe me, that’s okay, you don’t need to. Let’s follow the example of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew chapter 14, we find some stories of storms and trials in the life of Jesus and his disciples. It began with the beheading of John the Baptist.  Matthew 14:13 says, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” Why would Jesus remove himself in private to find a solitary place? Could He perhaps be upset with this news? Jesus recognized His need to be alone and allowed himself the grace to find such a place for Him. This is how He chose to handle this personal storm – alone with His Father.

Yet, what does Scripture tell us? Verse 13b-14 says, “…. the crowds followed him on foot …. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Do you see? Jesus hears the sad news of the beheading of the man who baptized him and helped start His ministry. In grief, I suppose, he left privately in a boat to be alone. Yet as He landed on the shore, a crowd of people gathered. They sought Jesus out and He had compassion on them.

Compassion.

How many times when faced with your own moments of pain and strife, does compassion well up within you? Do you find yourself able to pull away and be alone with God to bring strength and comfort to you? In what ways do you seek to soothe your soul? Could I learn from Jesus who tried to carve out time for Himself with God? 

Are you looking for healing? This crowd gathered and waiting for Jesus was seeking just that – healing. Jesus went on to perform a miracle here and feeds the people, 5000 men – along with the women and children too. This my friends, is a lot of people. Many travelled to seek healing in their own storms of life. Whatever their situation upon the mountainside that day, Jesus met them there. He took care of their needs and loved them right where they were.

Right there.

With a compassionate heart, He set aside His own needs and gave. Although Jesus craved intimacy and oneness in the midst of His personal storm, He remained true to who He was, and gave love. I have to ask myself, would I do the same thing? When I am caught in my whitewashed way, do I deeply love from my heart? Am I seeking to calm the storm of my own life, rather than loves others in their’s?

The story continues in Matthew chapter 14 as Jesus continues to teach about compassion and love during storms. Even His disciples who had walked with Him needed teaching, just like me.

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:22-31

Jesus walked on water – absolutely amazing.

I’ve seen the waves pounding the disciples boat. Felt the spray on my face as the water sprinkled through the sky. Heard the winds howl bemoaning their course. What a storm, one for the record books! Envision Jesus walking, Peter focusing, Jesus reaching. In those quick moments, Jesus saves, saves. No matter what storm is going on in your life, Jesus….He’s got this!

Storms often cause us to focus on the waves, the tossing, turning of the boats. Drawing our attention away from that which centers us and casts us adrift, setting our minds to those things which may incite fear in us. Reminding us of past failures, hidden mistakes and defeat. Do not listen!

As the storm bears down, where is your focus ?

Are you making time to get away and be alone? Are you loving yourself, and others, right where they are at? Do you have your bearings set for a course straight on through that momentary storm?

Gather up moments my friends, seek out peace, focus on the good and no matter what interruptions comes your way – make the time for oneness with God.

Through the storm.

Who Can You Trust?

 

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Isn’t this the question for all ages?

Who can you trust? This tender belief that the person, the situation you find yourself in, the emotions you are feeling, the circumstances – whatever it may be – that it can be reliable, dependable – true. Trust is the bedrock of any relationship – with spouses, with parents, with siblings,  friends and those you love. Relationships grow and are built with trust, without it, we crumble.

Yes, crumble.

Like tiny pieces of rock, pebbles which grind into your feet. Like rocks you stumble over, tripping along the way to your destination. Like huge boulders you try to carry, throwing them on your shoulder acting like you can handle it all. These rocks of many shapes and sizes all crumble in some ways. Perhaps it’s a large gouge taken out of that rock or a crushed pebble under the weight of your boot. Whatever it may be, there is tiny tender evidence of what a lack of trust can do as it becomes dust under your feet. Crumbling trust that scatters the ash of the rubble into your life.

Rather than the bedrock that trust provides, erecting strong ledges to plant your feet upon. You see insecurity, you find hopelessness, you become distrustful and once down that road, it’s very hard to turn yourself around. Life becomes a burden.

You know what I mean?

You can shake your head in agreement or scoff at my probing, it’s okay. Trust is like that. Once it’s broken, it’s incredibly hard to fix again. We can spend a life time trying to rebuild and access the damage this lack of trust has meted out upon our life. Then within brief moments you can find yourself starting it in the face again. The question reverberates within you, “who can I trust?”

Jesus.

Yes, Jesus. In John chapter 14, the context shows that Jesus has finished the Last Supper with his disciples. Reclining at the table, they surround him and are left trying to comprehend His claims. He had washed their feet and asked them to do the same (John 13:1-17). He predicated his betrayal by Judas Iscariot  (John 13:18-30). He prophesied that Peter  would deny Him (John 13:31-38). It’s at this very moment that He chooses to say these words to his beloved disciples, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.(John 14:1)”

You see, those disciples began to feel the impact of his words, ponder the painful thoughts of living without Jesus on this earth. Questioning who would deny him, “will it be me?” Casting their doubts and insecurities freely on the table before the Lord. He affirms them, “don’t get lost in despair.”

Have you been there?

Lost in despair and clamoring for hope? Wondering when the pain will end? Questioning how the story unfolds? Angry at life for how it’s transpired? The time, gone. The energy, sapped. The trust, broken.

Jesus says, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.” Jesus says believe God. Believe what He says. Believe He knows what is best. Believe that he loves you. Believe. Even moreso  He goes on to say, “believe in God, and keep on believing in me.”

Remember now, He is talking to the disciples who had been with Him in His ministry from the beginning. He encourages them to keep on believing, keep on trusting. A belief in God means a belief in His Son Jesus too. Jesus looks at his brothers and implores them to keep on believing, don’t get lost in despair.

Believing is trusting.

I admit I can get lost in despair. I wander around like it’s some well worn coat that I slip on. It’s comfortable, it’s predictable and frankly it’s mistrustful. Every moment I look at my circumstances clamoring for peace, I am believing in myself to fix it. Trusting in what I know and what I experience to be true. That’s not what Jesus calls me to do. He wants me to trust Him. Yes, Him.

I have a distrusting heart. There are pieces of it that won’t trust one word of what Jesus says. Or honestly, what you say. I am full of doubt and there is no bedrock here, no place to position myself to stand firm. Finding a ledge somewhere to grab ahold of to keep me standing is a mystery. I have searched, oh have I! I trip over those rocks along the way, I grind pebbles into the soles of my feet and I continue to carry that boulder of burden on my back – weighing me down.

That is my confession – I am not good at trusting, I lack the faith to believe.

Just ask those closest to me, my spouse, my family – dear friends. I will let you in, I will trust you but there comes a time when my wall I erected years ago stops you in your tracks. Don’t try to pound on the wall, I won’t answer. Don’t try to climb it, I will probably knock you down, Don’t try to take off the bricks aligned high in the sky, as I will start building the wall in other places. Just don’t try.

Hard truth, but real honesty. I don’t trust Jesus well. Oh I have in different ways and in various places, but in this place – the darkest of all, the wall is there – end of discussion. Harsh, yes. Raw, totally. More than you wanted to know, probably. Yet, I think of these words. “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.”

Keep on believing in Jesus.

In your doubt, ache to believe. In your sadness and despair, reach out the One who can fill you. In your pain, let Jesus heal you. He does this as you keep on believing. No matter what your mind tells you. No matter what your experiences continue to tell you. No matter the thoughts that drift in. Find that bedrock and belief in God, anchor yourself to it and keep on believing in Jesus.

If you have a wall erected like a citadel, admit the truth and let Jesus in. He’s the King anyway, let Him be in your heart, in your mind and in your own citadel. Circle up around His throne and keep on believing.

Trust the only one who is trustworthy.

Jesus.

The first week ~ 2015

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Well it’s the start of a new year. 2015 has come upon us and we are past the night of resolutions and promise making. Now is the real test of who we are and who we want to become. Will we make the deliberate choice to follow through on our decisions and honor ourselves by being discipled and devoted to the resolutions and goals we set forth?

Will we be the people we want to become?

This is the first year I haven’t made any specific resolution , but rather I made a grounding firm decision to continue the journey I have been engaged in these past few months. I am a woman of faith and any of my resolutions are embedded with a spiritual focus. This year – I chose to be. Yes, just be.

Not an idling, carefree, lack of purpose type of being. No. Moreso a passionate understanding of who I am and was created to be. Living authentically from that place. Engaging in activities which grow who I am and deepen my sense of worth so that I no longer live under the guise of pleasing others – I am looking to just be.

Be free.

Perhaps you’ve made resolutions to lose weight, eat healthier or focus on something specific physically. All wonderful resolutions. Yet, if  we tend to focus on just one part of who we are, we become unbalanced. So I ask you, dear friends. Do you want to be balanced? Do you want unity in purpose? Do you want freedom to be who you are no matter what the occasion or circumstance? There is a place for you, to walk in this freedom.

With Jesus.

Okay breathe, yes I just said Jesus. You see, with Jesus this is a deep awareness of who you are in light of who He says you are. You can immerse yourself in affirmations and truth of how much you are loved, how much you are worth and believe what He did to save your very soul. His love is powerful, mighty and able to redefine who you think you are. Who you have experienced life to be to this very moment. Jesus, well – he’s a transformer!

Not that robotic movie making, life saving creature. No. This transformation is not something that’s temporary like our resolutions often are. This is deep transformation into who you were created to be and learning to embrace yourself is what Jesus wants for you. Living freely from this place – with no fear.

No fear.

That’s the beauty of making resolutions in spite of who you think you are. We are free to make them and trust God to help us be faithful and devoted. I find  often that we are our deepest critic and the hardest person to please. Let go this year and just be. Find your center and allow yourself to love, yes, love you. How will you ever love Jesus if you don’t learn to love yourself?

“Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Love is most important, the greatest of all of Jesus’s teaching, it sums everything He taught, and the teachings from the Law and the Prophets hangs upon this premise. Love. Love. LOVE. Loving others comes in direct proportion in how you love yourself, Scripture says so. So I ask again, ” How will you ever love Jesus if you don’t learn to love yourself?” or  how will you love your neighbor, your spouse, your parents, your children…. if you don’t love yourself? It starts with you and how you view and love yourself.

So, love you.

In this new year of resolutions and promises, I encourage you this very first week to love yourself. Love in the way you desire and want given to you. Learn to love if you must, relearn and untangle all you have been taught. Resolve to love those who have hurt you, abandoned you, shamed you. Whatever your story is – love from that place.

With love springs forth many devoted thoughts and resolutions. Don’t worry about the end result. Just be in the present. Love yourself. Let God’s love empower you, disarm you and break through the shield of denial you’ve placed around your heart. Be in the moments of life. Be who you were created to be. Let your light shine from that most sacred place.

It’s the first week of 2015,  let’s really live in it!

Be.

 

New Day – New Year!

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Happy New Year!

There is something almost refreshing about the start of a New Year. Like a freshly cleaned blackboard (remember those?), a new white board or smart board – everything is new and ready to be written upon. It’s fresh, it has possibilities which are as endless as our minds allow.

Like pages in a new bound book, are the days of the year to write moments of grace, mercy and truth deep into your life. Often, I buy a journal at the start of a new year. I use it to craft out goals, hopes, dreams, desires for the upcoming year. Then as the days pass and the everydayness of the year settles in, I can pull out the journal and reflect on my thoughts and hopes for the year as I am walking in it. It helps bring perspective and balance to my life.

Balance.

That’s the thing about ringing in a New Year- finding balance. We start out with lofty goals and desires. We perhaps face fears and uncertainties about ourselves and our lives that we desire to face. Puling out your own “journal” and thoughts of your goals for the year to find, here you are in the same place as before.

The same place.

You know, there is nothing wrong with being in the same place. Especially if it brings you comfort, allows you to grow and fills you with strength for each new day. But whom among you are the same place that you just no longer want to be in anymore? I am speaking to you. It’s that same place that aches from deep in your soul.

You know the one? Well, I do.

Here’s my word of encouragement in the New Year. Well, not mine – God’s. “…. that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!(2Cor 5:17)” This is not some quick fix, but a deep truth. New life begins with God.

Not with resolutions, or hopes – God. For it is God Himself who makes the person new. Not our own choices, but the author of life Himself. If you are in Christ, the old has truly passed away – so let it go and pass away. Stop holding onto it. Oh wait, I was talking to me!

What you did or didn’t do in 2014, what I did or didn’t do in 2014 – well it stays in 2014 and the hearts of those whom either I blessed or I wounded. Today’s not a day to talk fluff or make light of things. New Years Day can be a day of new life. So, just for today, I encourage you.

Reflect, repent and receive the blessing of new life.

Reflect about who you are, repent of any self indulgent ways and receive the gift of new life in Christ. New life that makes every day new, every moment new and marks each day like that of a new year.

New.

Let God write upon your heart like the pages of a new book and receive the gift of renewal. Find strength in moments and find hope in forgiveness. Let go of all the years past pain and living freely. Move forward. Be free. Find balance.

New life begins with God – trust  Him

 

It’s the most depressing time of the year….

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“It’s the most wonderful depressing time of the year….”

When the song comes on,  I do sing of the wonders of this season – and yet – this is the raw truth. It is the most depressing time of year. In this season that is filled with joy and celebration, with love and thanksgiving as families gather together. It is an undeniable fact, and research concludes, that this is the most discouraging time of the year.

Where is your heart today?

Are you filled with gratitude as your family begins to gather? Are you happy about the time you will share together? Do you feel hopeful as you face another holiday season together? Do you have joy? Do you have peace? Are you emboldened with patience to accept whatever your holiday season holds for you? Frankly – are you ready for these moments you are blessed with?

Where is your heart today?

It’s getting so close to that time when your family with  gather,  gifts will be shared and presents are opened. Things you had hoped for may already be sitting under your tree. Ways you desired to bless others with time spent together is coming into focus. Whatever it may be, it’s the week of Christmas and the holiday season, and I will share with you where my heart is today.

Oh, it hurts….

It aches for those who battle pain – whose bodies are hard and stiff and struggle to make it through the days spent shopping, wrapping, cooking and preparing for the holiday. My heart grieves for those who have lost loved ones and spend this season full of anguish and pain as they are separate from those whom they love and miss so. My heart aches for those whose illnesses and disease makes the Christmas season so much more precious than another holiday, as it very well could be their last. There are so many hurting people in this world who need so much more than present wrapped under a tree.

My heart hurts.

So many people face Christmas living in broken relationships, facing painful memories, and shattered by dashed hopes of what a family is. How soon we forget as we revel in the joy of our family and the love that we have been given, we forget those who don’t have the same opportunities. We forget.

There are so many children, adults, elderly people – people – who are lonely, depressed, discouraged and feeling hopeless who ache, yes ache for love. Who long to be in a home where their needs are met. Who crave to be surrounded by their family experiencing love in new, healthy way.  Who yearn for love they may have never known.  Revealing deep, dark wounds of their hearts that long for tenderness, affection and love.  Lives that are crushed with pain that no gift, no present can soothe their soul. Whose greatest gift this year you cannot wrap and put under a tree.

The gift of unconditional love.

Love that has no strings attached. Love that bears all things. Love that believes all things. Love that hopes, trusts and perseveres. Just love my friends – what is a more precious gift than that? When at the end of the day, no matter what you have done or haven’t done, said or haven’t said – you are loved for who you are – who you are.

In life, we tend to look at other people and their circumstances based on what we know and what we experience, often comparing how we would handle a situation and use this as a framework to place upon others.  It’s human nature and I know I fall prey to it. Yet, today in light of the most depressing time of the year, I beg you and encourage you. Stand back, let go of your judgement and begin to feel with others, empathizing with them and truly love them.

Love them.

Christmas is centered on the fact of the birth of Jesus the Christ. That is the reason for the season. Not just a catchy phrase, but the reality that we celebrate and remember a man born in manger in the village of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. There are many people who believe in this man as not just a man, but the Savior of the world. I am one of them. Because I have this faith, I offer this to you now.

If you don’t know how to love, let Jesus guide you. If you yearn for love, let Jesus give it to you. If you are wounded and need healing, let Jesus heal you. Jesus is the answer. It sounds so cliche, I know. Like some quick fix that we have a problem and rattle off some mantra and find that Jesus is the way out of all our problems. This is not the Jesus I know – He doesn’t offer false hope. He is hope and He wants a relationship with me, with you. Yes, you.

He will show how to love unconditionally. He will teach you if you don’t know how.  No one else can do this, although some might try. I hear friends and family talk about how your focus in your life is everything. That by shifting your gaze from your emptiness, from your pain, from the sadness that plagues your soul –  if would just think differently, choose differently, act differently – you will be different. Like some formula we place before us, negating the fact that our Creator Himself designed us with these tendencies, placed us in these families and relationships. Is not pain part of God’s plan for us?

Yes, pain.

Don’t run from it. Don’t pretend it’s not there. Don’t let the pain veil   the truth that you are loved. I know depression. There is no shame in who you are. Rather than making pat assurances that all will be okay – allow the frailty of your heart to be tender and to feel. To love, and be loved, in very difficult, sad and depressed places. Open your hurting, depressed, sad heart.

One thing about Christmas that saps joy from the season is the lack of empathy I see and experience. We celebrate with those we love while neglecting the needy, the poor and those who need Jesus the most. We give, we offer prayer, we place change in the red bucket as we walk into the stores to buy things. All the while, the emptiness I hear in the human heart cries out. I make no pretensions today – I don’t follow a name and claim it Jesus. There are no quick fixes in life. It’s time we accept that who we are is by His grand design and plan for us. Let’s no longer believe that depression is something we think our way out of.  Loving Jesus reveals itself first in loving and accepting ourselves – and being who He created us to be.

Depression is real.

This is the most depressing time of year. No matter what gift you  do receive, or don’t receive, this year. In your broken heart of loved ones lost. In the hard truth of disease ridden bodies. In the reality of this annual celebration being your last. There is no greater time to know Jesus, than now.

He knows you. He knows your pain. He knows your fears. Your loneliness. Your lack of love. Your insecurities. Your final days. He knows – and He wants you to know Him. Just Him. A mere babe that came to earth to love. Let Him love you today. Let Him ease your heart. Let Him soothe your soul.

Come see the new born King.

“This is how you will recognize him: You will find an infant wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

See the babe with new eyes today. In this season which may seem so dark,  allow Him to show you the majesty of His story. Come and invite Him into your life and seek Him like the wise men of old.  Look up in quiet moments, under a star lit sky, and find the infant wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger.

Let Him change your world.

Intimacy cries out

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She sits alone, wondering – how? How did I get here? Breathing in deeply, she bows her head – yearning for arms to envelop and wrap her up, bringing comfort to her heart that only tender moments can bring.

Nothing.

Not a word of encouragement or a plead of hope rise up within her. This is not the place of positive self talk, or deliberate choices that spur on action, listing what I need “to do.” Oh no, this is the place to just be – as you feel the insecurities and doubt swirling within you. Let them come.

Don’t deny the reality of your life, your choices – your experiences. Often it seems we want to run from the troubles that pound against our hearts, avoiding even thinking about what’s right in front of you.  Sometimes we don’t want to not face feelings of despair, sadness or abandonment. When you are knee deep in these feelings, denial is not a healthy strategy. Let them come.

Embrace who you are and how you feel in the moment.

Probably the most simple and most difficult thing is – to be. To stop looking for answers. To stop doubting the direction you are pointed in. To stop lamenting what could have been. To stop, just stop. I don’t mean stop having the feelings, we can’t contralto that. But we can control how we manage them.

When I am in this place and these feelings come, the desire to be held and comforted cries out from deep within me. Oh, how I need encouragement. Not just laughter, or fellowship, or companionship – but encouragement – deep, trusting, sharing souls walking together.

Think I am alone?

“Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.” Matthew 26:36-38

Think again.

Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God was crushed in His Spirit. He  was in agonizing sorrow. He was human – and He didn’t want to be alone in that place. He wanted His closest friends to keep watch and stay awake with Him. To just be in the moments of His deepest pain.

Jesus knew that being alone was not the ideal. It’s wiser to have the encouragement and strength of a trusted friend or friends. Not the whole crowd mind you, but a few sacred soldiers by your side. Jesus had 12 disciples and He could have invited them all into the Garden, but He didn’t. He invited 3 of His closest friends to be a source of strength in the time of His greatest, darkest, most vulnerable need.

Jesus wanted intimacy.

He craved their companionship, for why else would He have invited them into the Garden with Him? This wasn’t a moment of weakness to be easily dismissed. He was overcome with anguish. Jesus did not ignore the depths of the soul and what He needed.  He knew what lay before Him and understood His vulnerability. Our Savior was looking for compassion and comfort from His most trusted friends. He desired strength wrought from the intimacy of deep fellowship. Jesus was self – aware and had no shame in making decisions He needed to have His needs met.

Not judgement telling you to get over it. Not a lack of affirmation in who you are. Not an inconsistency in showing love based on how you act or don’t act. No. Jesus wanted unconditional love and He asked for it in the middle of the night. I suspect if we are truly honest with ourselves, and each other – we might find that we ask for the same type of love in the most difficult times. It may not be at 2 a.m., but it could be in the middle of an important business meeting, or a family get together. I don’t know – you fill in the blank. Ask yourself what is most important to you and then consider – are you willing to give it up? To sacrifice?

That’s what Jesus was asking His dear friends.

“Stay awake with me, keep watch.” Sacrifice yourself – your time, your energy, your focus on what you think is most important in your life. In this moment, love me. Follow me. Give to me. Hold onto me. Love. That’s what Jesus was asking. To love. To give. To sacrifice. To embody the very love that Jesus had been showing and giving to them all along.

He asked for their hearts.

So when your body seems weak, when you can’t stay awake, when your mind wanders and you can’t focus. Know that it’s not the body those you love need or desire, it’s your heart. When you are called to give beyond what you can normally handle or hope to provide. Know this – it’s your heart, you’re beautiful heart that intimacy craves. I  encourage you –  love.

You’re body may be willing but the flesh is so weak.

I submit to you that love is greater than what we do. We see. We hear. We think. Love is. Love moves. Love feels. Love compels. Love comforts. So, the next time you find yourself weary of hearing the same old stories from your friends. The struggles that they battle against. Or you want to tell them what to do, or how to handle it. I encourage you.

Choose love.

Choose to be open. Choose to sacrifice. Choose to give. Choose to comfort. Be tender. Be kind. Be merciful. Be! Give love. Give grace. Give patience. Humble yourself like Jesus humbled Himself in that Garden. For once He invited them into that place with Him, He made the most difficult decision of His very life. He chose to sacrifice it. He choose love. Love.

Now, I encourage you to be Jesus and do the same.

No matter what agony is tearing apart your soul. No matter what fears lie ahead of you. No matter what struggles you currently face. Jesus is The Way. For He’s seen it all, experienced it all and empowers us to be love. So, invite your closest friends in, let them see your fears and allow the mercy of God to permeate your entire being.

Jesus was serious about His intimate friends. Once they fell asleep, He pleaded with them to stay awake. He wanted them by His side. Don’t you want the same? Don’t you want others to comfort you? Wouldn’t you like to be held? Could you allow others into your deep and  most darkest of places? Can’t they sprinkle a seasoning of their sacrificial heart into your current struggles?

I ask you – do you really want to be alone?

Jesus didn’t want to be alone. He pleaded to not be so at this time in His life.  He is our example, shouldn’t we consider to learn from Him? Open your hearts my friends. If Jesus needed trusted friends, who are we to think we don’t? Not just good friends, but intimate, trusted friends.

Crack open the door of your heart and let the Light of Jesus shine in, bringing you an awareness of who you are. What you need in hard places. Whom you can truly trust. Follow Jesus. Let the Spirit guide you and teach you and be Jesus.

When you sit all alone and wonder how you got there, consider the choices you have made, the circumstances of your life and be like the greatest Teacher of all time, Jesus the Christ. Be Jesus. Be willing to examine yourself and invite others into the hard places. The difficult times. Become a searching soul whose greatest desire is to be like Him, Jesus.

Be intimate and imitate our Savior. Love dear ones.

Love.

Hang On

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It began to spin and at first it was fun.

The constant movement, flowing up and down – feeling alive as the   music played on. The wind whipping through your hair and you looked out from your perch. You were moving!

There is often much joy in the things of our childhood. Memories of simpler times when the everydayness of life falls away and you find yourself being present. This moment happens to be on a noble steed, painted awash with color as music blares from the speakers.

Who doesn’t love a merry-go-round?

Round and round you go. Maybe it’s not your first time on one? You know the drill.  Pick your horse, quickly choosing your color and scoot yourself on before they begin their dance. Up, down, all around you go. Of course there’s the choice of the bench that doesn’t glide up and down, but who would want that? Boring.

No matter what town you show up in, which carnival you choose,  you are bound to find one. A merry-go-round. Who thought up that name anyways? A “merry” go round! Like going round and round is always merry. I dare say I might get a bit nauseous at times.  Regardless of  how fast or how slow you go, the direction is still the same, round and round and round and ROUND.

Have you been there?

Living life that hasn’t changed trajectory? Spinning in circles that don’t slow down. Relationship struggles. Health concerns. Financial burdens. Round and round you spin. Like a circus ride that never ends. It appears that no matter what you say, what you do, how you act – the ride keeps on going. Circular. Unending. Constant.

Tiring, isn’t it?

What began as joy filled and an exciting time – turned into a monotonous one. This ride is not merry, oh – far from it! As you spin faster and faster, perhaps you might be trying to gauge the moment you can jump off. Saying enough, you’re done – tempting, isn’t it?

What happened?

There’s the question that begs an answer. What happened? How did you get here? And let’s be real, how can you stop this nonstop course that spins around until you’re dizzy and can’t find your feet to stand. I’ve been contemplating this question for some time, sitting at the feet of Jesus. Asking Him for an answer – this is all I have.

 Some days later when Jesus came back to Capernaum, people heard that Jesus was back in town and many gathered at the house where He was staying. Soon the crowd overflowed from the house into the streets, and still more people pressed forward to hear Jesus teaching the message of God’s kingdom. Four men tried to bring a crippled friend to Him;  but since the crowd prevented their carrying him close enough to get Jesus’ attention, they climbed up onto the roof, opened a hole in it, and lowered the paralyzed man on his mat down to Jesus. Jesus recognized the faith of these men.

Jesus: Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:1-5)

Forgiven.

There is my moment of truth. Your moment of truth.  Sins being forgiven. I am that man on the mat – unable to move and dependent on others faith to pick me up, climb up on a roof and lower me down!

I think about the agony of not being able to walk and living on that mat. Being dependent on so many for each and every moment in life. Bringing me food, helping me cleanse myself, everyday activities we take for granted. Life echos the sounds of the merry-go-rounds  music – the day in and day out activities spinning fast. Round and round.

Sometimes you want to just step off as you are thrust around, take a breather and gain some perspective. Switch to a different horse and see the view from there. Perhaps you ask questions like the paralytic. Can I get up and walk myself to the bathroom? Can I stand and feed myself? Can I enjoy the pleasures and the joys of this life?

You see that man on the mat could have remained that way. We don’t know how, or why – but he ended up at the feet of Jesus. Maybe he begged others to carry him there. Perhaps he had heard countless stories of the Christ and wanted see if it was true. Could this man from Galilee help or even heal him? Somehow his nuggets of faith helped him to see where he needed to go and inspired others to get him there. He knew he needed Jesus.

That was enough.

There he was in the middle of a crowd and he became the center of their attention. All eyes were on him – and on Jesus. The wonderful thing is Jesus knew exactly what the man needed. The paralytic man probably went there thinking he needed to walk again, to get off that mat – his own merry go round eager for relief. The words Jesus spoke didn’t even touch those thoughts and needs of the heart – oh no, our Savior went deeper.

You sins are forgiven.

He truly could have healed that man and have him stand up and walk immediately. He could have used that moment to teach others about who he was and His power. But our God, what does He do? He loved. In that moment, he spoke to that man greatest need – his sins. His spiritual well being was so much more important than his physical.

The mans expectations may have been shattered in what was taking place. I can see the quizzical expression on his face now – what do you mean my sins are forgiven? Jesus drives home His deep love and envelopes this paralytic man in His love. He hears him and he heals him.

“Some scribes were sitting in the crowd, and they didn’t like what they were hearing.

Scribes: What does this Jesus think He is doing? This kind of talk is blasphemy, an offense against the Most High! Only God can forgive sins.

 At once Jesus realized what they were thinking. He turned to them.

Jesus: Why do My words trouble you so? Think about this: is it easier to tell this paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to tell him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk”?  Still, I want to show you that the Son of Man has been given the authority on earth to forgive sins. (to the paralytic)  Get up, pick up your mat, and go home.

The man rose to his feet, immediately rolled up his mat, and walked out into the streets. Everyone in the crowd was amazed. All they could do was shake their heads, thank God for this miracle, and say to each other, “We’ve never seen anything like that!” (Mark 2:6-12)

If not already engulfed in confusion, the paralytic man watches as Jesus, the man he has such faith in, not only forgives his sins – but now commands him to “get up, pick up your mat and go home.” Just like that. Get up. Pick Up. Go home.

Get UP.

Look at where you have been all your life. Stuck on that mat. Frozen to that place where you can’t get away from. And now  – this man you believe in, have heard of,  is telling you to get up.  Have you ever looked squarely into the eye of your difficult situation and thought – get up! Hear Him now – move.

The Scriptures say the “man rose to his feet, immediately rolled up his mat, and walked out into the streets. Everyone in the crowd was amazed.” He rose to his feet. He got up. He moved. Faith takes action dear friends. What would have happened if he spent his entire life on the mat and refused to believe and get up? Living his life as chained to that mat when he was already free? Round and round and round.

Ouch.

Jesus already freed him from his paralysis, he was healed. Yet he needed to believe it to receive it. Claiming the words of Jesus which breathed life into his soul and his body. His sins were forgiven and he was healed! Healed.

Try to imagine not being able to walk all your life and then in one moment, you can! All you have dreamed about – what you could do, things you would  see, ready and waiting for you to explore. But first, you have to believe. Not doubt, believe.

Believe.

And I feel the horse buck and the merry go round ease up just a bit. It can slow down, you can dismount and have some control. So go ahead and pick a new horse. Grab that bench seat and ease in slow. Let the changes wash over you slowly as the view changes and you hear Him speak through the music.

No matter what is keeping you chained to your mat today. Regardless  of whatever horse you rode in on. You do have a choice to stop the music. To end the ride. To pick up your mat – filled with your burdens and care and see that Jesus already has released you.

Get up, dear one.

Scripture taken from The Voice™. Copyright © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Begging Place

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So what do you do when you have nothing left?

I thought I had been here before. In this place of quiet surrender as I empty myself before His throne, pleading for help and deliverance. Yet, here I stand, no – here I lay myself down at His feet, and beg.

Beg.

Pleading with cries that cannot form into words.  With moans that catch in your throat as you ask for His help. With a heart that so heavy -I beg. I plead. I cry out. Asking for His mercy, for His grace – for His deliverance.

“Help.”

That is all I  whisper out, like what else can I do – but ask for help? I am not use to feeling alone, being isolated or dependent on others. Oh, I’ve had my fair share of being in need through the years. Physical problems which kept me still. Emotional uncertainties that can arise in times of strife. Spiritual stretching that brings me beyond what I am use to.

Like you, I’ve had times of trial and doubt – questioning all that I have known as true. Yet suffer as I have been in this season of my life – it leaves me speechless so that the only word I can say, or the only thought that comes to mind is this.

Surrender.

In the midst of the storm, in the whirlwind that’s blown in all around you. You barely have time to breathe in a breath and another wave attacks. It’s like you are caught in the midst of the hurricane, the waves licking at your boat. The waves reach up like hands wanting to capsize you and carry you off to sea. They taunt you to just climb overboard yourself. Spare yourself the grief. Why bother anyway? You know where the boat is heading anyways don’t you? Straight into the storm, so let’s just cut to the chase and save it some time.

Surrender.

Smell the salt air, hear the surf crash as the waves threaten to overtake you. What are you going to do? Do you grab a bucket and start to bail water as fast as you can? You could try. Or do you step up on that bow and surrender to defeat?

It is a choice you know.

When I talk about surrender I don’t mean giving in, or giving up, I mean letting go. Trusting. Trusting that He who knows all about your storm won’t desert you. He will walk right across those waves right to your arms – and carry you. This storm, your storm, can pass right on by. It will pass. Believe. But don’t believe me, believe God.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity” Jeremiah 29:11-13

Sometimes our storms are our captivity. We’ve been enslaved in behaviors that have chartered our whole life with pain and bondage. We could get washed away into the storms power but God says when we seek with all our heart we are found by Him.

See, the Creator who allows this storm in your life, in my life,  is right there in the center of it. He is present. He is able. He is  righteous. He’s powerful. He’s real. He reigns.

He. Reigns.

Did you know that right in the center of a hurricane, there is total peace. Calm. It’s a scientific fact. The further you move away from the center, that eye, the waves erupt from the depths of the sea and rock your boat. Rock your world –  your life. You could be standing on the edge of that boat right now teetering on whether to jump overboard or throw up the sails to catch wind – to capsize you.

I encourage you – stand firm. In fact, I dare say – head right back to the center of that storm. Move that rudder, steer it firm.  Don’t run from the storm, the problems which bring strife. Don’t wish them away or deny their reality. If need be, allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the weight upon your soul. Oh, it will happen. There will be times in life that you will be discouraged, dismayed and losing hope. But God – our God. Your God. My God.

He is hope.

So surrender. Not to the feelings of unworthiness that threaten your worth. Not to the negativity of life that slowly saps your dreams. No! I say surrender and lay at the feet of Jesus. Bask in the glory of His presence within you and on the throne in that storm.

Throw your fears, your anxieties, your doubts into that sea and turn around. Head right back to that center. Seek the Lord with all your heart. Go after Him with such passion – use that energy you use to keep the fear at bay and focus it on Christ.

And hear Him say. “Peace, be still.” Let the waves cease, the pounding of your heart subside. Breathe. Jesus is alive and with you. Call. Pray. Seek. He will listen. So go ahead, whisper it.

“Help.”

 

Scripture taken from: The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan House, 1984.

I am not who you think

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I am a survivor.

Many things have happened in my life which shaped and molded who I am. How I see the world, approach it and engage with it. It’s a fact that circumstances and life experiences shape you. Yet,  how you respond, how you react – is all a choice. It may not feel like a choice when your emotions get ahold of you.  When sorrow and grief grip your soul – it doest feel like a choice does it?

I’m here to confess my own immaturity and lack of trust. My own fear strained life that nips at my heels. The harder I seem to run from it, the quicker it tends to ensnare me.  I mean really, who wants to admit they can’t do it all?

Oh wait, that’d be me.

You see, I am a fighter – it’s how I became a survivor. I rarely take “no” for an answer. I figure out a way. I press on. I rearrange my goals and chart a new course.

Survivors look to take the next step, scurry to climb the next knoll and take the next valley. It’s a fear filled reaction to the current situation – or to that which haunts you. Grief, shame, fear – feelings of insecurity and uncertainty can plague you.  These are not feelings which empower and encourage you.

They entrap you.

I am the first to tell you it’s true – for I’ve been entrapped for years. Bound to the thoughts of what others think of me. Enslaved to the fears that gripped my soul protesting that I am not good enough. Caught in the crossfire of my deep lack of faith in who I truly am and who I was created to be.

Our identity and self concept can get twisted at such a young age, defining who we think we are based on the circumstances we find ourselves in. Our family units, our relationships and our experiences define and shape us. This is a psychological and sociological fact. Yet is it a spiritual fact?

Who am I?

The most basic question we find plaguing our souls. Countless books, sermons, blog posts beg to answer this question. Who am I? It’s the ageless and timeless question of humanity looking to uncover our soul. Maybe we are asking an uncertain question.  Perhaps we should be asking who I am not.

I am not unworthy.

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out, you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made!” Psalm 139:13-14

I am not a product of my past.

“Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone—and see—a new life has begun!” 2 Cor 5:17

I am not living under law.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

You seeRather than being consumed by what I think, it’s beyond time I entrusted the deepest parts of me to the only One who can help redefine my spirit.

God.

Because of who God is, I can then be worthy. Because of who God is I no longer have to be enslaved to my past. Because of who God is I am now under grace. Grace.

There is this thing about grace in my life. I might offer it to others. Share it with those in need. Profess it to the multitudes. Yet deny it to my own very soul. Rather than give myself grace, I heap upon my shoulders more than I can bare. Repeating the pattern that’s I’ve been running from all my life. I am truly my own worst enemy!

Sigh.

I am sitting here right along with you and confessing this truth. Not because of anything I am able to. Oh no. Frankly it’s because it’s who I am not.

I am not going to deny my sinful side. I am not going to refuse to confess the darkness inside. I am not going it allow it to control my heart.

I am not who you think I am.

And that’s okay -because I am His. I will never live up to the expectations that others place upon me, nor the ones I place upon myself. I am just whom God desires me to be – a woman seeking Him and embracing His presence.

His.

So no matter what you might be facing today. What fear is enslaving you. What hope has been dashed from your soul. Rather than being consumed with who you are, grab ahold of who you are not. Flip your thoughts around. Do whatever you must. Feel the breaking shame on your back and expose it to the light of Jesus in His word.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

You are loved – that my friends, is always enough.

 

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Scripture taken from:

The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan House, 1984.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002.

Scripture taken from The Voice™. Copyright © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.