Regrets are real

GUilt

The guilt assails me. Shooting off like stealth missles in the dark are the thoughts of regret that drag down my soul. There is no need for your judgement upon me, I serve up plenty of my own.

That’s one place I continue to be well fed – self condemnation.

Wait, you say that’s not the life of a believer? Well then, welcome to my world. I believe in God, in Jesus Christ and who He is and what He has done — oh how I believe. Yet….. I doubt! I bring down enough judgement upon my soul for who I am and what I have or have not done  that you don’t need to share your critical thoughts.

I’ve got it covered.

Welcome to my head. Those inner thoughts that fight to control my mind. It’s a daily battle to overcome this negativity which keeps me buried in regret and the pain of the past. And here’s the thing, often in Christian circles it’s at this point we opt to quote a Scripture or impose a happy thought and think this will heal away the pain. With one quick word of encouragement all is well with our souls, our lives and our places in life. Pointing our minds into safer and certainly more calmer battle grounds. Isn’t that where hope is found?

No.

No. No. No. Hope is not found is memory verses or inspirational thoughts. Not in blog posts, Facebook status updates or tweets in cyberspace. Sure, they are wonderful ways we can be encouraged. Moments that uplift our hearts and help carry us along. But they are just that – ways we are encouraged. To find true wholeness and combat the deep pain in our hearts, you need more than a temporary fix. Sometimes even as Christians, we forget that. No, sometimes as a Christian, I forget that.

You see, I love people! I just do. I love being with them, listening to them and hearing their hearts. Yet sometimes the words that come from my heart wound more than they heal. I might intend for them to encourage as I share Scripture or offer a prayer. But honestly, am I offering up my heart? Am I sacrificing myself, my time, my focus – so my life becomes less about me and more about who is hurting? Am I willing to walk with this person, through hard times, through good times? Am I willing – to love?

Love has the power to push the guilt and wipe it clear off the memory of our hearts. Over time doses of love  gently open our hearts and help put into perspective our hurts and regrets.  There is something very powerful about regret,  it cries out to haunt you as you remember times long ago.

We simply can’t live in the past.

Life is full of changes, of transitions, of situations where we choose how we will respond. How will we cope and handle the things life has dealt us? This is not a time for deeper theology or relationships with one another – but rather a time for relationship with the Creator of intimacy Himself- Jesus Christ.

He who can heal our pain. He who hears our guilt. He who knows all our anxious thoughts. He who wants to carry the regrets we can’t seem to let go of. He who was calls out to us for a relationship. Not a quick quote to hang on a plaque on the wall to motivate us onward. But a real, deep, scary and intimate relationship.

Scary?

Sure. That’s the thing about relationships – they’re sometimes messy and dirty, sometimes loud and wild, sometimes broken and tender. Perhaps you have been in a relationship that’s broken, battered, worn, full of mistrust. Jesus still calls to you and loves you. Yes, loves you. YOU. Don’t let the reality of the relationship you currently live in define the hope of the relationship found in Jesus.

Friends, it’s time to minister to one another with authenticity and freedom. Walk with one another in dark times and in peace. It’s time to love. We all have enough self condemnation to stop us from moving the direction God is calling us to. Your choice, my choice, is to trust and take His Hand – and love.

For what speaks love more than holding a friend as they cry and loving them in their darkest hour. Cleaning hearts in the true walk of a Christian life. Cooking a meal, cleaning a bathroom, running an errand, watching the children. These are all expressions of love, but listening to the ache of a longing heart and accepting that heart.

That’s love.

Love’s power can replace unhealthy thoughts and patterns, planting hope and a future. And love can empower us to minister to one another – showering grace into our hearts, lives and homes. Exposing that guilt for what it is and letting it be washed away.

No matter what regrets grip your heart. What guilt shackles you down. You aren’t alone. With just one word you can cry out to the one who desires the relationship that matters most in your life.

Walk with Him.

“Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.” 2Cor 5:17

Contemporary English Version 
Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Trusting yourself to God

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Trust.

Life is measured by moments of trust.

The smallest of words can grab your entire heart  – t.r.u.s.t. When times get tough, questions rise up and fears overcome you. When you shout out “WHY?” and are buried in waves of grief threatening to consume you.

Then what?

Either you trust someone or you don’t – it’s just that simple. We open our hearts and lives to others and let them join with us. It could be our spouse, our family, our close friends, our significant other. You know whom you love and whom you long for. Whomever it is in your life that you allow access to deep and intimate places in your heart – it’s them!

Are you confident in times of unrelenting trial that they will stand with you?  Do you know without a doubt that they will be for you? Can you find the comfort you need in the arms of those you love?

Do you truly trust them?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”

Scripture tells us to trust in the Lord will all your heart. That means there is nothing I should be holding back from Him.  I may not be aware of what that could be in the moments of weakness, but when the Light comes, He reveals it clearly.

For years I have been hung up on this verse of Scripture, getting snagged  about not leaning on my own understanding. Funny thing is, all the time I was trying not to do that – it’s exactly what I ended up doing!

My trust in God comes when I give my whole heart to Him, even the painful stuff. My trust in God comes when I submit my ways to Him. Just let it all go to Him and trust Him to speak as He makes the paths straight. Those paths might be straightened by the Lord – yet if I am standing back in worry about the right road to take, that’s far from trusting Him, isn’t it?

I trust myself much more than I trust God.

I don’t know what this might look like in your life, but I do know what it looks like in mine. If trust has been broken in a relationship I tend to look to my own measurements of how to rebuild that trust and what it might look like. I contemplate decisions but hold off on making them.  Playing the victim much longer than I should, wallowing in my pain than in the victory that comes in trusting God. Rebuilding and restoring relationships takes great courage and effort.

God must be at the center.

We all have people in our lives we love. Some of those we love, we yearn for them to love us in return.  Broken families and relationships scatter the globe and cross into the pathways of our lives in raw and emotional ways. We ache for love and find ourselves doing things we might not have otherwise done in our quest to be filled.

We can pretend we have it all together – but see my hand raised over here. I admit right now – I don’t. Sometimes I don’t even know what trust looks like – but oh how I yearn for it in the broken places. To stop trusting myself and freely dropping all the pretenses and let God just take it.  Submitting my ways to Him and trusting Him to make the paths clear and giving me the light to see my steps.

Just  one.

I like how the Proverbs 3:5-7 is written in The Message:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.

Trust. Don’t try to figure out everything.

Listen. He will keep you on track.

Of all the relationships that might be broken in  your life – God wants to be at the very center of them – in  my heart, and in yours -guiding our ways and our minds to Him.

So, reach out – hang on.

Trust.

 

 New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986 

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

Sit

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We sit.

Isn’t that what benches are for? We find them in parks, on busy street corners and in places where you are encouraged to take a moment and sit. Taking in the beauty that’s around you – in the people that walk by and in the vistas laid out before you. Places which speak to you and take your breath away, a sunset, a waterfall – a mountainside oasis.

Sometimes we are perched beside the ocean, and witness the storm rolling in – we recognize the darkened sky, we feel the wind whip up and we see the rain along the horizon. There we are, present and watching as the approaching storm tumbles in and we continue to  sit – and wait.

Wait?

I don’t know about you, but I sure have a few storms in my life. Storms I expected to head on out to sea, blow over,  move on and dwindle off into a small rain cloud rather than an ongoing monsoon. But here they are, dodging me, not letting me go and becoming a source of constant pain. Why would I want to wait for that? Seems to me I’d want to run!

Yet, here I am.

I know the signs. Like when I sit on that bench and see the rain clouds moving in, I sense a storm brewing.  So too, I witness the relational dynamics that toggle my horizon askew as I see a storm rising within.  The question is – am I ready?

Am I ready to face the storm?

Am I ready to fight the battle? Am I ready to stand firm and undergo whatever the storm clouds bring? Am I ready to be still and ride out the storm?  Perhaps your storm doesn’t come with pouring rain and thunder, but with subtle words and inaction. Maybe it’s not the beating rain upon your back but the constant subtle drip of an unsatisfied life. Regardless of what’s on your horizon, and what you see, there is one truth that anchors your soul.

Jesus knows.

He knows what you struggle with, knows where you fall and how you do. He knows how tired you can be, how worn out you can become and loves you anyway.  No matter how you have acted. No matter what you have done. No matter what you will do. Jesus loves you. YOU. Yes, you.

So sit with Him.

See those storm clouds coming and call out in the only way you know how. Holler to Him. Cry out to Him. Whisper to Him. In whatever way you speak – speak. Just go to Him. Him. Jesus Christ who offers hope in a darkened world. Jesus Christ who promises to love you even as the storm blows.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

Sometimes as we sit – we see.

The longer I sit in a storm the clearer my vision can become – eventually. Rather than wishing for the storm to pass we need to keep company with Jesus. He asks me to get away with Him and in doing so I will recover my life. Getting away with Jesus is as simple, and as difficult – as being still with Him and waiting on His timing.

Waiting might be what we are called to do. As we sit by the sea andsee the storm rage on, it can call us to drink in the creation that affirms one thing – our Creator. We are not alone in our storm. We are invited to sit with Him and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. So grab a bench, a chair, any perch will do.

And sit.

 

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

Surrender

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You stand there, feet firmly planted and you lift your feeble hands up. When you choose to lay it all on the line, exposing every single part of who you are – you find yourself risking to lose – well, everything!

You remember every broken promise, every shattered dream and you find yourself so worn out that you can’t even cry out for help anymore. When you can’t find the words to name the pain that casts shadows over the depths of your heart.

That’s when you know – it’s time – well it’s probably way past time.

To surrender.

Surrender, it sounds so defeating doesn’t it? We want to raise a white flag and make it all stop, just stop. Maybe throw in the towel and give up. Perhaps we just choose to wallow in the doubts of who we are and beat ourselves up for failure once again. Know this, that’s not surrender, that’s shame.

Let’s call how we see it.

Shame grips our hearts in fear and tries to get us to believe lies about ourselves. Shame does not free us, – oh no – it shackles us! Binding us with insecurities we don’t need nor even think upon. Shame sucks the joy out of our lives and it’s time to put an end to it.

Surrender, true surrender, frees us. It doesn’t come easy and there is definitely  a price to be paid. We often want to skip that part, miss that payment due and just gain our reward – rest. R.E.S.T. Moving on so quickly in our search for peace, we often aren’t willing to take that long hard look in the mirror – and reflect, remember and release it and place it at God’s feet, in full surrender.

Somehow we wear the self condemnation like a warm blanket and think this will bring comfort to us. There are words etched upon our hearts and minds we’ve repeated over and over to ourselves in the past. “I am not worth it. I don’t deserve to be loved.” Whatever your doubt, whatever your fear  – it’s time to call it like you see it.

Lies.

You don’t believe me, fine. Don’t listen to me, listen to Jesus.

“Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

 “No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” John 8:1-11

Oh there is so much in this story Jesus told – for now, let’s just focus on this – surrender.

This woman was caught in the act of adultery. Here she is dragged into the temple and is placed before Jesus. How do you think she might have been feeling? Shameful. The Law said to stone her for her sin. This woman was an adulteress and rather than shove her deeper into her own shame about her choices – Jesus encourages her give it all up. Not just the sex my friends, or the sin, but the shame too.

He lovingly looks at her and poses this simple question. “Does no one condemn you?” Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter. He looks around as the dust has settled from the stones gathered at His feet and clearly sees no one. Jesus looked into her heart in this very hard place and proclaimed, “Neither do I.”

Wait. What?

Neither do you condemn me? I am ….. free? This question whispered  from her battered past and her life of shame. “Teacher, you don’t condemn me?”  I wonder what was going through her mind and heart as she was prepared for the stoning – the shame and self condemnation must have been overwhelming. She had prepared for the worst and now she is free. Free. FREE.

Jesus says “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” It’s not a get out of jail free card, He did tell her to sin no more. But that wasn’t His point. It wasn’t to tell her to stop having sex, he could have just stoned her if that was his concern. No. The concern was her heart and her mind – her self imposed prison of shame. He wanted her to see it, experience it, feel it and embrace this fact.

Freedom comes in letting go.

He asks her to surrender and let go of the shame that binds her in continual bondage. Today, I encourage you with His words, with His truths and with His love.

Open the doorway to your heart and the riches of your mind. Drink of the cup of mercy and grace. Pour it down straight and hard. Let this truth settle within you. Look into your own mirror, stare long at your own reflection and let the Spirit speak. Listen.

Unclench your fists, open your heart and let the love of Christ dwell deeply inside you. Find the shame that binds you. Jesus has the key to those shackles, let Him use it. Unlock His love and rest in Him. Entrust yourself to the One who can heal you. Release your shame, reclaim your true sense of self and worth – in Him.

Don’t let those doubts rise up, nor fears can grab ahold. Oh no. Not today. For today we trust His words and His example. Today we believe – for it’s in believing we can offer our hearts back to him in full surrender.  Let go. Be.

Leave your life of sin and surrender yourself to Jesus.

Today.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message. Bible Gateway. Web

Holy Mess

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I confess – I am a mess.

This unbridled, totally chaotic – mess. If you walked into my home right now, you’d see it. If you sat down and talked with me, you’d hear it. If you heard the constant stories of my life, you’d know it. Just a total mess. Often I think about Jesus and the words He would say to me as I strive to find balance in my life. When the storms rise up and I can’t see clearly, I wonder – what would my Lord say?

Consider this story:

The boat was in the water, some distance from land, buffeted and pushed around by waves and wind. Deep in the night, when He had concluded His prayers, Jesus walked out on the water to His disciples in their boat. The disciples saw a figure moving toward them and were terrified.

Disciple: It’s a ghost!

Another Disciple: A ghost? What will we do?

Jesus:  Be still. It is I. You have nothing to fear.

Peter:  Lord, if it is really You, then command me to meet You on the water.

Jesus: Indeed, come.

Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water and began walking toward Jesus.  But when he remembered how strong the wind was, his courage caught in his throat and he began to sink.

Peter: Master, save me!

 Immediately Jesus reached for Peter and caught him.

Jesus: O you of little faith. Why did you doubt and dance back and forth between following Me and heeding fear?

Then Jesus and Peter climbed in the boat together, and the wind became still.” Matthew 14:24-32

Sometimes in my mess, the clutter and chaos call to me. They become my own storm in life. The waves crash, the wind whips in my face and the sights and sounds overwhelm me. I hear Jesus’s voice calling me to come out to Him as He stands smack in the middle of my own storm. Often I cry out loudly to Him, “Is that you Lord Jesus?” My vision gets clouded as I ask and question in this mess of mine. Perhaps it’s not really to understand if it’s Jesus out there, but if it’s me still safely in the boat.

Hear him?

Jesus:  Be still. It is I. You have nothing to fear.”

Nothing. To. Fear. Ha! If I believed that, would my life be such a mess? He’s calling me to come out to Him in the middle of all the storms in my life and I balk at Him. I don’t jump out of the boat. At first I don’t even say, “Is it you Lord?” I just stay focused on the mess. Maybe if I straighten this here, or fix this over here and perhaps change right here. Oh. All these ways I try to manipulate my circumstances to bring me peace. That’s what I tell myself.

I find sometimes my mess is so familiar, so comfortable and personal that it’s easier and less challenging to be different. To chart a new course. To expect a different response. To challenge a long held belief.  Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.” We can live our lives passively and just go with the flow. Whatever thoughts or feelings come our way, let them overtake us. The storms that surge upon the shores in our hearts, just let them wash over us. My friends, that leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.

I think I am misshapen and twisted enough.

Which road would Jesus choose? The one of least resistance? Just look out from that boat you are in, past the swells of water and the battering rain and see Him walking on that water. O what little faith I have. He beckons me, He beckons you. Come! Can you hear the voice of Jesus calling you? It might be a loud voice piercing your ears or a quiet whisper that won’t let you go.

Do you listen? Do you heed His call? Will you obey Him? Even if it’s water you are called to walk upon, will you trust Him? When it makes no sense that you will stay upright. When your logic tells you it won’t turn out well. Will you walk out to Him anyway?

It’s not my own will, or anything I will ever do that would allow me to walk upon water, or rise above the mess of my life. Oh no. It is the power of God, and only the power of the Almighty God which allows such a miracle to happen.

Our God loves us so much that He emptied Himself into His Son Jesus Christ and we partake in this wonderful, bountiful mystery of grace and love – when we take the first step. It’s a daily moment by moment transformation and participation in the divine nature of our Holy God.

“Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamophosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.” 2Cor 3:18

So go ahead.

Move.  Walk. Run. Crawl – do whatever you have to. Just go. Don’t look back at the boat. Don’t look at those waves. Ignore the rain that blinds your vision. Focus on Jesus and take a step – just one.

These holy messes that are our lives. They are the very places that the Creator of the Universe and the lover of our souls can inhabit, renew, rebuild, recreate and resurrect life. We must let Him. Our lives are about transformation, going from the mess and muck of sin and strife to the ever increasing glory of being His child and finding hope that resides in Jesus the Christ.

That is why my life is a HOLY mess.

For it is set apart by the One who walks on water and calms the storm. As soon as I call to Him, He is immediately there. As soon as He steps into my boat, into my life, the storms raging quiets. It’s not that the messiness is over. No. He often beckons me to come to Him in the darkest part of the storm. It’s the truth we are no longer alone in it.

It is Him and I have nothing to fear.

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

Do you thirst?

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Being alone.

That’s where she flees to.  Where it’s quiet and all the noise in her head is drowned out by the stillness of space. She has to get outside from the everyday moments where people talk and cast glances her way. Remove herself and run.

Some might call it discipline, others self preservation – yet maybe it’s just plain fear. A feeling of no longer being able to control the expectations and thoughts of what others think – and just trust who she is – and be. This is a daily ritual that she’s come to embrace in her routine. She runs, or rather, walks….

“In a small Samaritan town known as Sychar, Jesus and His entourage stopped to rest at the historic well that Jacob gave his son Joseph. It was about noon when Jesus found a spot to sit close to the well while the disciples ventured off to find provisions. From His vantage, He watched as a Samaritan woman approached to draw some water. Unexpectedly He spoke to her.

Jesus: Would you draw water, and give Me a drink?

Woman:  I cannot believe that You, a Jew, would associate with me, a Samaritan woman; much less ask me to give You a drink.” John 4:5-9

Just like that – He spoke to her.

She escaped to the well in the middle in the day. The hottest and most difficult time to attend to this chore was the time she chose to go. Why not go earlier in the cool of the morning? Why not find comfort in community as she tends to the daily task of drawing water? Perhaps there was no community and no comfort for her? There was no place for her to find rest.

In a culture when women had no voice, no place to call there own, no value – the first thing Jesus did with her was invite her into community with Him. He didn’t just ask her for water. No.

Jesus had a conversation with her.

“Jesus: You don’t know the gift of God or who is asking you for a drink of this water from Jacob’s well. Because if you did, you would have asked Him for something greater; and He would have given you the living water.

Woman: Sir, You sit by this deep well a thirsty man without a bucket in sight. Where does this living water come from? Are You claiming superiority to our father Jacob who labored long and hard to dig and maintain this well so that he could share clean water with his sons, grandchildren, and cattle?

Jesus:  Drink this water, and your thirst is quenched only for a moment. You must return to this well again and again. I offer water that will become a wellspring within you that gives life throughout eternity. You will never be thirsty again.

Woman: Please, Sir, give me some of this water, so I’ll never be thirsty and never again have to make the trip to this well.

Jesus: Then bring your husband to Me.

Woman: I do not have a husband.

Jesus: Technically you are telling the truth. But you have had five husbands and are currently living with a man you are not married to. ” John 4: 10 – 18

Just like that. Jesus looked her straight in the eye and spoke honest words, hard words but transparent ones. He saw the woman for who she was, all her imperfections all her sins, all her scars. He reveals this to her in the most gracious way by asking her to bring her husband to Him. Of all the things the Messiah could have said to her in those moments about Living Water, all the lessons about its life giving flow. Rather than teach, he reached. Reached into the depths of that Samaritan woman’s heart and uncovered her greatest shame, her darkest place and invited her to step out and speak. Use her voice

Jesus didn’t reject her or neglect her. He loved her. Her. Not the woman she could be, or would become or could have been,  but who she was now. Now, in that moment, He loved her so much that he chose to commune with her in the very depths of who she was, and hold her close. He loved her by the choices he made.

He did have a choice.

He could have adhered to the culture of the day. He could have remained at the well and let her go about her business. Ignored speaking to her or seeing her for who she was, just plain ignoring her as a person. Yet Jesus was counter culture, rebellious and willing to go against the social and cultural norms of the day to welcome this women into His heart. He went straight to the heart of the matter in their conversation – her heart. By exposing the ugliness that’s inside, it made room for the Living Water to well up her soul. But here’s the thing, He didn’t leave her there to remain in the ugliness, He invited her to drink. Drink long and deep of Living Water that comes from Jesus Christ

How often have our lives been this way? We get busy with our days and our circumstances that we just choose to go about them like any other routine and miss the opportunity to drink from the Living Water? This woman at the well, she didn’t recoil from the secrets Jesus exposed, rather, she struggled to understand what He was saying, how He was living, what He was doing in that moment – with her. Any encounter with Jesus can bring us to our knees in wondering who we are and what we are about. The very fact Jesus loved her, talked to her, engaged with her drew her into the Light of His Presence and the joy of knowing the Messiah. It was in her deepest shame and weakness, and looking them straight in the eye that she recognized Jesus Christ as the Messiah who was to come.

Upon meeting Jesus, we see that this encounter changed this woman’s life.

This woman who went to the well mid-day, who had chosen this time of day and hour to remain quiet and alone, keeping herself from community. This women, she returned from the well so full that she faced the thing she feared the most and spoke to those who rejected her, the community. She says in John 4:29, “ I met a stranger who knew everything about me. Come and see for yourselves; can He be the Anointed One?” She faced her shame and her fears and spoke right up. She left Jesus questioning – Can this be? Could it be? Is it true?

Don’t ever think your voice doesn’t matter.

With just one question, she engages the whole community to hear about the Messiah. Scripture says, “Meanwhile, because one woman shared with her neighbors how Jesus exposed her past and present, the village of Sychar was transformed—many Samaritans heard and believed.” John 4:39

Because this women, who was often alone and rejected  – heard the call of Jesus and responded to His love. She shared this hope with others and an entire village was transformed due to the faith of just one voice questioning His truth. She let Jesus expose her past and her present, she allowed Him in and in doing so He invited her to drink from that Living Water.

Are you thirsty? Bring your questions, saddle on the shame, let’s find the Living Water.

Drink.

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

Darkness Closes In

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“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).” Mark 15:33-34

Forsaken.

The very last words of Jesus Christ as he hung upon the cross were words that cry out with despair and abandonment. God’s only Son calls out to His Father seeking comfort and oneness. In the deepest and darkest place of Jesus’s life, where was God?

Why have you forsaken me?

Jesus had lived his life on this earth in communion with His Father. They shared a close bond and an ongoing growing relationship. With constant sharing in prayer, intimacy was woven between them – deep communion grew. They were intimate. Jesus was so one with the Father, that being about His kingdom was His passion and ministry.

Even as a young boy Jesus was most comfortable in His Father’s House.

“…. the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.  After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  Luke 2:43b-49

As Jesus began His ministry, He went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. “And a voice from heaven said, “…… This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17  God loved His Son, He was pleased with Him. Before even one item on the “to do” list was accomplished in the ministry of Jesus, God proclaims His love for Him.

His love!

Jesus spent time building His relationship with God. He communicated with Him through prayer. Jesus sought out the Father to rely upon, to entrust Himself to and to strengthen his faith. He prayed early in the morning, late at night, alone and for hours on end. Jesus was a man of prayer and this is how their relationship was built – with words.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35

“…..Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 6:12

 ….. he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone.” Matthew 14:22-23

Jesus prayed. The man who became our mediator knows what it feels like to need space, to feel desperate and to have to plead our case. For he pled His own.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If Jesus Christ can ask this question, surely we can. When we can’t find our footing as we reach out to the Father. When we can’t find the peace which God provides. When we ask, “where are you Father?” When the darkness closes in.

Ask.

Wait for His reply. Yes, just wait. I know it’s hard. It’s brutal even. Yet God’s timing is the most precious and sacred time of all. Our Savior could have called 10,000 angels to relieve His pain. He could have removed Himself from the cross and ended His suffering. But He endured. He remained faithful. He agonized. He hurt. He stayed.

Have you ever wondered what were those early believers were thinking? The Teacher who performed miracles, who talked about a kingdom to come. Now what? Those followers who walked with Jesus, who heard His teaching, who witnessed the miracles.  Where are they now?

Darkness has come.

Their Teacher? Dead. Their Kingdom. A dream.  Their hopes and their faith rocked to it’s very core – as they scattered – just like Jesus predicted. (Matt 26:31)  They denied, betrayed and refused to admit their loyalty to Jesus. They hid in an upper room and mourned the one they loved in private. The communion they shared with Jesus, gone. They mourned Him, oh how they mourned Him!

What happens to you when darkness closes in?

Do you hide in your own upper room? Fill your time with distractions and consider that time sacred? Do you live in denial and refuse to confront the sin in your life? Do you betray your first love Jesus by seeking out other ways to fill yourself? Are we like the early Christians who spend time with the Holy Lord but don’t recognize His signs and wonders? Do we trust Him? Commune with Him? Wait upon Him?

Just wait.

For His perfect, sacred, holy time. All the disciples had believed in, seemed lost. All hope appeared gone. They felt forsaken, abandoned, alone. Like Jesus on the cross asking God why He abandoned Him, so too I suspect, are the disciples wondering why Jesus did the exact same thing. Have you ever asked Him such a question….where are you LORD?

Spend time with Jesus cultivating communion. Learn about Him and know His heart so you can recognize Him when He arises from that tomb in your soul. Do not look with your eyes alone, but with your heart. Have faith. Believe.

For the darkness does not win, it closes in, but never snuffs out the light.

Out Of The Shadows

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I can’t seem to find my way.

I see the light, it’s inviting me to step up, out and go onward.  And yet, my feet, they just can’t grab ahold. I take a step, the rocks they shift and scatter as my weight bears down on them. My foot, it slips. Sometimes I fall. I try to move, just move – my feet, yet when my feet fail me, what do I do? I could just sit there, gazing up and thinking how beautiful that light is. But, no! I stretch out my hands to grab ahold and feel for the rock under my grip. Maybe between my arms and legs I pull myself up and can climb out – and be free.

So why am I still here?

Sitting in my cavern of doubt, this place I know so well – questions rise to the surface faster than any sense of peace. I look up and see the light shining and I want to go to it, climb out and sit it’s in warmth. I want – the light. The warmth it brings, the comfort I find, the hope of being able to see in the darkness. That’s the thing about light, it shines like a beacon. Calling us to it’s presence.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” It is just that simple. Jesus is the light. He is the source of warmth, of comfort and of the hope that I seek. He is the every glowing, nonstop energy source we can cling to, we can hold onto, yes – we can trust. Trust.  As you sit in your own cavern surrounded by doubt and fears, you have a choice. You do! Take one more step- just one. Who cares if you are standing on the rubble of a battered life, of broken promises and shattered dreams?

Jesus does.

Are you grieving? Then grieve my friend. Feel the pressure of the rocks under your feet. Let the wounds they inflict bleed. As you reach for another cleft in the rock looking to climb out – know this. Remaining in that cavern may be the place that you need to be. The step you want to take to climb out, in fact may be the one you need to take to step out of the shadows you are hiding in and place yourself into the beam of His presence.

Step my friend, into the light.

His light. You may be wrestling to climb out when He is inviting you to sit with Him. The light Jesus can shine, it can move into every crevice in that cavern, every place of darkness can be aflame with His truth. But first you must step out of the shadows of the doubt and into it. Let it cast it’s beam right into your personal pit of pain and insecurity. He’s there, with you, now. No matter what you face, no matter how much you feel overcome or are discouraged. His light shines forth.

Its an invitation!

He is the light of the world. That word light in Matthew 5:16 means, “the light by which true life is gained.” Jesus is proclaiming that He is the way in which true life is gained. LIFE. Oh, Jesus is the way. It reminds me of this verse in John 14:6 when Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is calling out like a lighthouse beam on the oceans shore – shouting out His Majesty that He is the Savior of the world, and through Him you can have eternal life. It’s a ray of hope revealing the goodness and the mercy of God’s favor, His delight. His love can reach us into the darkened places of our hearts, reveal our doubts and is present in moments of weakness.

Can you see Him shining through?

Sometimes you might have to be in the process and grieve. Feel the pain – endure suffering. Your dreams you had, they may not be what has played out before you. You may find the walls of your cavern scribbled with words of despair and loneliness. You might be keeping yourself cloaked in regrets of the past. You may be blinded by fears of the future and of the unknown. Whatever your situation is, regardless of the circumstances – it doesn’t matter – we all have our own caverns and pits -our places where we are more comfortable in the shadows than in the light.

I encourage, my friend, His light can shine through that hole in your heart, my heart, and cast a beam of hope. Don’t get comfortable in the darkness, place yourself in His care. Trust Him. Let Him shine into your heart. Invite hope to rise.

Maybe the way out isn’t up, but through.

Follow the Light.

Alone

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Alone.

Sometimes can’t you just feel it? Those moments when you fight off the crushing weight around you. You sit among those you love the most, care about deeply and find yourself – invisible. Lost among your thoughts, your concerns and your worries. There are things you want to do, yearn to break free from and promise to make anew. Yet, here you are, again.

You have a choice, you know.

We sit inside these old worn walls with wounded souls and look out the window and think, today might be the day. We see the crumbling paint, the broken windows and the well worn pews that are our comfort zones. And we sit.

Perhaps the battle scars of life have gotten in the way, you can’t think, you can’t move, you can’t see. You’ve been hurt one too many times, you’ve lost hope – you watch the paint crumble and you feel the pew harden as you sink further into loneliness.

You sit.

Sometimes, being alone is our own doing – we choose to sit. We choose to wait. We choose to see the brokenness that’s inside our hearts. We examine the walls we have crafted to find their foundation. We move in our pew to examine our comfort zones. We choose to be alone, and think, with Him.

You see, being alone does not have to be a fear filled thing. You are not invisible. Being alone with God is a sacred invitation, a place to hear Him speak – to you. He calls your name and invites you closer to Him. He may challenge you to move from that comfort zone in your pew. He may want you to tear out that foundation holding up that wall. He may encourage you to sit with Him, so when the time is ready, you can stand.

In His time.

His time. Yes. His. I’ve been in those moments where I stood up too soon -only to have it come crashing down. For me, it’s beyond time I rested in my Master’s arms and let Him work. He was once a carpenter you know. All He asked of me in this divine conversation, was to wait and trust Him. Trust.

How do I know He’s there?

See the light shining through the window? It’s evidence of His care. Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12).  Even as we wait, there is hope. The light, His light, permeates the darkness – illuminating places of hope and moments of grace. “It thrives in the depths of darkness, blazes through murky bottoms. It cannot and will not be quenched.” John 1:5 (The Voice) The light of Jesus Christ thrives to dive into the depths of darkness in your heart. He want to chart through those murky waters and fill you with Living Water. He cannot and will not be quenched. Hope is your treasure when Jesus is your King!

Why are you sitting?

Standing on the Word

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The waves of doubt come crashing in, surrounding me and encasing me in fear. Yes, fear. That thing we dread and we pretend doesn’t happen to us – the uncertainty we can battle each and every moment. Yearning to answer the question – do we really believe? No, let’s get real.

Do I really believe?

Jesus, the Eternal One, the Most High God, my Savior – do I believe, in You? Not just your words, your story, the parables, the miracles and the victory. But YOU. If you asked me to share a Scripture, I could probably quote it. If you asked me to serve on a committee, I may just be able to lead it. But if you asked me to trust you – I would doubt. Oh, I would doubt.

Doubt your love, doubt your care – doubt the truth that you are really there. I look for signs scattered about, of your love and your compassion. It’s like a treasure I seek, a yearning to be filled – that shall never satisfy me.

Ah.

The water rises higher, I gasp to get my breath but I sense the truth you want to eradicate from the depths of my being. You see – it’s me. Me. I am the one who sinks into doubt. No. One. But. Me. No pointing fingers for the reasons for my doubt, only the realization that fear starts – with me.

Will my soul ever be comforted? My heart cease it’s taunting? I crave intimacy I can only find – in You. I have searched for it in relationships – with family and friends, expected it from people who just couldn’t give it, desired it in ways I regret. Yet, with each failed hope and lost opportunity – the waters rose and waves began to lap at my very soul. Experiences became etched together like a tapestry in my mind. My lack of faith kept me still. Not a stillness as in being still with God, oh no. Still – in not knowing what to do – where to turn or how to go. That stillness that immobilizes you, is fear.

My doubt was drowning out His voice.

“Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” – Isaiah 41:10

It’s Him I need to fill me.

To complete me. To hold me steady. To keep a firm grip on me. It’s Jesus. Him. He wants to redirect the waves and let them gently drift over me. He can allow them to rise, and to fall – cascading and flowing, yet never drowning. You see these waves, they redirect our focus. Sometimes we get overwhelmed by their pull and fight the undercurrent. Other times we are crushed to the ground as the waves pound our backs. As we tread water to survive, we look for places to rest our feet.

On His Word.

Trust. I must trust. I must engulf myself with His presence, His love, His Spirit and His truth. To trust you more Jesus, I need to love me – less. I need to let go of my fear, my doubt and the voices which assail me. That tapestry in my mind may be unwoven, yet it does not have to suffocate me.

Do not panic. Do. Not. Panic. Do not.

I’m with you.

It’s time, He’s calling me and perhaps He’s calling you too. To trust Him and only Him. To let go. Let. Go. GO.  Knowing that He will help. He will give strength. He will hold me and hold you steady. Steady. Not tossed back and forth like the waves. Steady. Firm. Constant.

Stand on the Word and it will lift you above the water. Gasp for breath as you need to. Dive into the waters when you slip. When you are ready, let Him guide you back up to stand with Him. Right back on His Word and into a deeper relationship with Him.

Keep your eyes above the waves. and focus.

On Him.