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.

Everything is a choice

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Sometimes – we think we have control.

That somehow we can control our future and our present. Believing that  the choices we make right now determine our future. Right? I hear it all the time, “everything is a choice.” We choose our happiness, we choose to love and be loved. We choose.  I’ve told many people myself that same thing. But here I am, pondering it a bit deeper for a moment.

Straight from pop psychology and self help books – you grab ahold that you do have the power to choose and you walk forward ready to conquer the world. With dreams intact you look to scale mountains and climb up to heights you dream about. You stand ready and are excited for what’s in store. You choose to move on. But ask yourself just this one question.

Is everything  a choice?

Ask the person in a hospital bed fighting for their life from a car accident not their fault. Ask the person abused and neglected in their family unit constantly living in fear. Ask the person who lost their job and hence their home due to cutbacks at work. Over and over again things happen beyond our control in our society and in our own lives.

When it seems that all your choices have shriveled up. When the cards are stacked against you and the circumstances handed down your way don’t play out like a royal flush. The hope you once saw before you now appears like a glimmer of reality.

What do you do when you think you have no choice?

Is it really your fault that you’re lying in that hospital bed? Is it really your fault that you are victimized in your own home? Is it really your fault you lost your job? Think. Isn’t that what we are saying when we imply that “everything is a choice?”

This type of logic promotes avenues of doubt, self blame and insecurity to fester and grow. Surely we don’t mean to say that the victim is at fault. Whether you were victimized by a family member, a friend or someone you don’t even know. No matter the circumstance or the situation – accident, abuse, neglect. You are a victim – and….

You are so much more than your choices.

Often a victim looks and sees themselves through the eyes of their circumstances. How did I get myself into this hospital bed? What did I do to deserve to have this person abuse me so? Why was it me who was cut from my job and not someone else? We question ourselves and our circumstances fighting a battle to not allow ourselves to be defined by them.

I am not measured for my worth by what’s happened to me. Oh no. I am so much more than the situations around me right now – and so my friend, are you. Yes – YOU.

I don’t know the situations you face. I don’t know your story. I just know mine. I have nothing to offer you, no cure, no quick fix, no lie that its going to be easy. But there is one thing I can share that is so true that you just might find a bit of hope, a tiny nugget of light in dark moments of doubt.

Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. (John 14:6)

He is the answer. He is the hope. He is the reason I can share with you this very moment. He will show you the path to peace in your doubt. He will guide you along the way to find hope. He is the only one who can calm you, heal you, and bring you deep and lasting hope.

We are people created for love, for oneness and for community. We crave relationships, intimacy and depth to how we live. We want more. We strive for more. We yearn for more. Yet we want peace. So consider this, the path we walk, the choices we make along the way, have a great impact of those we love.

We do have choices, but not everything is a choice.

It’s time to no longer live as a victim. Learning to balance our lives and find the ways we can choose life, love, forgiveness and I’d add, God so we can find peace. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He promises us to guide us, but we must let Him.

Consider making that your very next choice.

Jesus.

 

 

Freedom

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The 4th of July has just passed us by. It’s a time in the United States where we often set aside our political beliefs, our arguments and celebrate the freedom that we all share. It’s a novel idea really – focusing on that which we have in common rather than that which we don’t.

Flags wave in the breeze and we salute the sacrifices of so many to pay the price for this freedom. We honor families, friends, neighbors with BBQ’s and a feast to delight our palates. Parade’s march, parties gather and fireworks light up the sky,  reminding us – we have much to be thankful for. Freedom

Is it free?

I’d be hard pressed to tell you that we possess freedom here in this country without acknowledging the many who died to wrestle us from the tyranny of the government we wanted freedom from. It would be very unwise to suggest we have kept this freedom without recognizing the sacrifices of so many who have gone before us. In countless wars and in peace time, lives were forever changed-freedom is by no means, free.

Lately, I’ve been listening to some lessons on freedom at my local church. Freedom in a spiritual sense. Freedom from laws, from rules, from expectations that I have tended to impose upon myself for most of my life.  This too gives me pause, for freedom is surely not free, even spiritually.

“So stand strong for our freedom! The Anointed One freed us so we wouldn’t spend one more day under the yoke of slavery, trapped under the law.” (Galatians 5:1)

The freedom we have in Jesus Christ has freed us so that we wouldn’t spend even one more day under the yoke of law! We are free from the  law and it’s burdens. Free from the traditions and moral obligations we impose on one another. In Christ, we are free. Free!

Our freedom was paid with a hefty price, just like the many soldiers before us who paved the way for the freedom in which we now stand on this soil. Jesus Christ paid one price, for all, for eternity for our souls. Nothing more was needed. Done.

As Jesus hung on the cross He cried out, “It is finished! In that moment, His head fell; and He gave up the spirit.” (John 19:30)

You see, as much as we’d like to, or try to – we can’t can’t earn love.  We strive to earn and redeem it ourselves. We wrestle to earn our salvation. My goodness we do anything we can to earn what we think we need for salvation – because surely nothing is free!

Is it?

 “For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift,  pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Why do we work so hard to gather something that God freely gave? Why do we refuse the gift of God and instead sacrifice our soul? Why do we think we have to have it all figured out before we can love.

Just love.

“Love comes straight from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and truly knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Because of this, the love of God is a reality among us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we could find true life through Him. This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins. ” (1John 4:7-10)

God is love. He is. Love. He loved you so much, loved me so much, that He sent His Son Jesus to hang upon that cross and suffer. When He cried out it is finished, it was once for all mankind. There is nothing, just nothing you can do to earn your salvation.

Stop trying.

Love. Just love! Receive it.  Open your heart and believe it. Welcome Jesus in – unfurl your own heart, let His banner over you be secure. Rest in His love. For in doing so, you become love and let His light shine and freedom ring within you.

You.

You are free. Embrace your freedom, stand firm and don’t let yourselves be yoked again. It’s time to celebrate!

 

Listening as you wait

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I sat by the water’s edge – and listened.

Closing my eyes I could hear the water lap upon the shore. Oh.  It’s a beautiful sound! The tide was gently coming in and with each passing wave came a deeper sense of purpose and truth. It’s as if each wave washed new insight and peace to my soul, the longer I was still, the clearer it became.

In the quiet, you hear.

Often we think the more ways we love and serve, the more counsel we have or the greater sense of purpose we reach for in life defines and sharpens our listening ears. Somehow we think we can find peace in moments with others that bring us joy and security.

Simply put – no.

The moment I let others define who I am and define for me what brings me joy, brings me contentment and offer solitude for my soul – well, that’s the very moment I sacrificed it. My soul that is. I am the only one who can chart the course of my life. I am the only one who can determine the direction I head. It’s a choice I have, it’s a choice you have.

Choose – I must.

See, you are in control. You don’t have control, but you are in control. You choose how to spend your time, where to focus your energies and in what way you will live each day. Only you can choose that. I encourage you today, to not wait for the tide to change, but rather become the voice that chooses the path for you. God gave you a voice and a vision, listen to your heart and let it speak.  Choose.

Jesus often made choices that others probably thought absurd.  He spent evenings on the mountain in prayer. In fact, “as often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. (Luke 5:16)” In fact, one account said, “the next morning, Jesus sneaks away. He finds a place away from the crowds…. (Luke 4:42)

How often do we sneak away to be with Jesus? How about finding a place away from the crowds – are you intentional in that? When was the last time you got up in the middle of the night to pray?  Climbed a mountain to commune with God?

These are not hard questions.

How we use our time, how we move in our lives and what we choose in those moments to take the next step forward effects us. We have choices, free will, to choose each day how to spend our time.  The thing is – it might not feel like we have choices. Sometimes life throws us curve balls, we have circumstances that obliterate our perception of what is before us, we get confused, stuck, trapped – bound by indecision.

Choose – we must.

There is calm assurance in routine and repetition. We repeat patterns that have been engraved upon our hearts and our minds through the years. We slip them on like comforting notions without a thought to where they might bring us. Blindly sometimes we accessorize our life weighed down with the shame and neglect of the past. Carrying it around like victims and focusing our attention and focus there, rather than on the choice we can make to move beyond it all.

Climb up whatever mountain you need to so you can commune with God. Sneak away to out of the way places to find your own moments of solitude and strength. Whatever ways speak to your soul. Listen.

In the quiet, you hear.

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.

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.

The Veil Is Torn

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Sometimes we don’t see clearly. Do we?

We live our lives in an understanding of who we think we are. We tell ourselves we’re products of our environment, dependent upon the circumstances in which we live.  Our life as a child growing up created this framework in which we now engage and view the world. We are caught in this reality of a brokeness. No matter what you experienced in your home –  neglect, financial instability, additive behavior, abuse – difficult, oh so difficult life situations – whatever life threw our way, we feel like victims. Victims. We all have our own story don’t we?  Often there are things we have experienced that we wouldn’t wish on anyone, yet here we are. Hiding behind the curtain that shrouds our vision, our thinking – our very being. We’ve swallowed the lies.

I am not good enough.

I am not worth it. I am not lovable. I got what I deserved. Can you hear it? The doubt, the fear – the desperate need to be loved. It’s cries out from our deepest longings. We see glimmers of light shining as the curtain sways. We grab its edge, gently move it so we can peer out – yet all we see is skewed, distorted – untrue.  We have this veil covering our eyes, our minds – our very hearts. We just can’t see ourselves for who we are – or for whom we can become.

We move within our lives in ways which reflects what we believe. I think I am not good enough, so I act like I am not good enough. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. I won’t eat right or control my tongue and certainly not cut back on my internet use – I can justify these as ways that serve me – however do they not enslave me? I can’t speak for you – you will have to name the ways in which you do this to yourself. I am asking when did taking care of ourselves become a sinful thing to do?  Choices I now make reinforce this thought pattern in my mind. I say to myself, “I’m not going to take care of myself, no one cares anyway.”  If I think I don’t deserve to be loved I will allow myself to be treated as unlovable. Those in our hearts we long for to treat us differently, will choose to continue to treat us as we believe about ourselves.

It’s time.

It’s time to confront the lies we live in, the thoughts we combat, the ways in which we doubt. Sometimes the doubts keep us in that valley while we are eager for the mountaintop. We yearn for acceptance, we work hard to gain love,  we serve in a multitude of ways and we just get busy. These can be dark times and we keep ourselves enslaved by believing the lies. That veil covering keeps us from understanding who we are, and whose we are.

We must take off the veil – and see.

“But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last. At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces.” Matthew 27:50-53

The very moment Jesus Christ died upon the cross at Calvary, God moved. Immediately! Scripture says that the Temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. There wasn’t one jagged edge left to rip apart, it was completely torn in two – separated and a new way was born. In death life sprang forth. God ushered in a new way for us to be intimate with Him. In former times only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy of Holies but once a year. Now Yaweh has torn away the dividing wall and brought us, you, me – into our true identity.  He invites us to be one with Him in the most sacred place. We are His.

His.

Because we are His it’s time to embrace who we really are let Him mold our true identity. To live not as victims but as victorious. Rip away the curtain you are hiding behind, tear off the veil shrouding your sense of vision, let the Light shine deep into your soul. Because of Jesus Christ we can be intimate with the Father, we can have sweet, deep, intimate fellowship with Him. Your vision of the world can change my friend. But first, let Him change you.

It’s long past time.

 

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?

In the most unlikely place

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I was sitting in a courthouse of all places –  a courthouse.

The place were laws are made, upheld and enforced. Peering into the reality that what I was about to face -well – it’s wasn’t going to be pretty. I owed a debt. Not a large debt, but one that had gone unpaid. Questions surfaced and attacked my sense of reality – just how had this debt accumulated that I was unaware of?  Why hadn’t this been handled earlier? I had always been a responsible person. Exactly how did I get here?

Perhaps that story is for another day, for what came from this experience is so much richer than how I got here. This story needs to be told, why else would I admit such hard things?

My arrival on the courthouse steps wasn’t this scene from Law & Order or anything significant. When I walked in, not one person recognized me or was there to fight on my behalf. I walked in – alone. As I opened the doors to the crowded courtroom I could hear the judge as he read off the names of people waiting in the gallery for their turn to speak and be heard.  When my case was called, I somehow needed to find my feet and rise up to stand. All eyes from that sea of faces were upon me, gulp, yes me. I knew in that moment, I was no longer alone. I was a part of this plethora of people who hurt, who are broken and have fallen and just might need a new contract on life.

Make no mistake I was there to take ownership and  be responsible for the things that transpired. Yet somehow I realized this debt that accumulated over time, had brought doubt and shame to my own sense of who I am as a person. Who had I become that I let a small amount of money determine  my sense of self and purpose? This is what I truly had to face – not the debt.

Myself.

As the judge dismissed us, more waiting began outside in the lobby of the courthouse. The benches filled up with souls awaiting their turn to speak their story, to tell their tale – and to be heard. I sat among them and as I looked out at the morning sun, I smiled at the beauty of another day, even the hard ones. The benches filled and chatter ensued. Yet I stay enclosed in my thoughts, sitting on my bench all alone, just me. Until.

Until she sat down.

We both looked more alike than the rest of the crowd, our clothes were a bit cleaner, our hair a bit neater and our conversation much quieter. I don’t remember how it happened, but somehow we talked, sharing our stories with one another. I found this such a gift to prepare myself to speak to the lawyer when it was my turn. As our stories unfolded I found our lives intersected in so many ways, our dreams similar and our hopes just as dashed. At one point she leans over to me quietly and says, “you know, you should really talk to the free legal team here, they have really helped me.” As I awaited justice, judgement and punishment, I heard the first whisper of mercy.

Mercy.

I thought for a moment, could this be? My questions were answered as quickly as I posed them to myself. The free legal team was searching me out, they called my name. We met and discussed my case. In fact, I didn’t have to discuss much at all. I walked in alone to the courtroom but now I had someone to defend me, someone who heard my story. Next thing I know I am filling out paperwork and they meet with the judge.

Case dismissed.

Just like that. The wheels of justice turned and once set in motion, they blew right past me. Not only was my case dismissed, it will now be expunged from my record. My name, my good name, is back intact.  My years of hard work and reliability, of consistent payment of debts, restored.   Erased. Redeemed. Forgiven. Like it never even happened.

Mercy.

Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone when it is within one’s power to punish. This is what I experienced today, awe inspiring mercy. It was within the courts rights to hold me to this debt, yet I was freed. I can’t ever express what this has done for me. Not for my bottom line financially, but for my spirit. I tasted mercy and forgiveness and now I am  called to offer the same. Freely I have received and freely I must give.

Parable of unmerciful servant.

“At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Mercy.

I was now walking within this very parable, in God’s story for my own life. Like the man forgiven of his debts, I too had been forgiven. Okay, so I didn’t owe 10,000 bags of gold, but I had a debt, one I couldn’t pay. What would I do? Would I return home from the courthouse, renewed with hope, and show mercy? Or would I be like the unmerciful servant who demands from others more then he himself could give? Could I truly grasp the gift of mercy God had bestowed upon me? I. Couldn’t. Breathe. I needed to stop and take it all in –  and weep.

This wasn’t about money, oh no. It was about me.

About me loving, trusting and believing in God  – and receiving mercy. The most precious gift of all, compassion touching my heart in places that laid bare before Him. Places I didn’t even know existed, but He did.  Remember, I had let money define and determine my value. Money is a currency – but not one of the heart. There is no price tag on our value, no balance sheet that can hold all our debts. No. We are valuable because of His love. We are valuable because of His mercy. We are valuable because we are His.

His.

I don’t know what debts you owe. . What situation you have in your life that might throw you into your debtors court. This I do know, it’s humiliating. But if I had never walked up those courthouse steps, I wouldn’t have been able to experience the incredible mercy of the Living God. YWHW. Perhaps your debt isn’t financial – but you feel it. There is forgiveness that needs to be offered, hope that needs to be restored and hearts to love and encourage to turn to Him.

Just take one step. Let mercy win.

 New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986 

 

I Am Accepted

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Today, I go deep. It’s time to really share.

I started this blog for a specific purpose, to discuss and process through my lens of life the daily journey of what it is like to live with life threatening health issues, chronic pain and the doubts and fears that can arise from such a struggle.

This is no small feat and nothing that will change in one blog post, or with a new day upon me. It’s a true struggle as you wrestle in your life to regain control and find a new normal and just live, once again.

There’s no wisdom present, no answers quickly given, just raw, honest truth. Since I am a person of faith, I use that filter to sift through my thoughts, the fears and the journey. I am glad you are here to walk with me. So, where do we start?

The hardest place.

The most difficult thing to face living with health problems is probably not too much different than what I suspect others face in their own circumstances.  The hardest thing to deal with is quite frankly, the person staring back at you in the mirror –  me. No, not the weight you need to lose or the wrinkles that continue to emerge on your face.  It’s what’s going on inside your mind, inside my mind. These unexpected circumstances add daily challenges to everyday life. You just can’t live in denial – you must face the facts, whatever they are, including the weight to lose. But, what if the answer didn’t lie in the scale, or in the food, but in your head?

In our thoughts.

The only experience I have is my own, and it’s that voice in which I speak. I am a survivor. I have survived 3 pulmonary embolisms and 5 DVT’s. (blood clots) While I am eternally grateful for the blessings of a new day, I still had to accept that my life would not and could not be the same again. There is a very high probability that I will have another clot someday and when I do, I may not survive this time. I don’t say this to be dramatic, no. I say it because statistically speaking, it’s true.  So, how I choose to live from this moment forward drives me. Each day I awake with a fervent desire to live life to the fullest and be walking in truth. So in the morning when I see myself in that mirror I can have peace knowing I am being who I was created to be.

I want to live an authentic life.

I am in the process right now about rediscovering what this means.  I’ve spent way too much time trying to prove myself or find worth in what I did, rather than in the person I already am. There is nothing like the harsh reality of the short time span we all have on this earth to reawaken the deepest truths and fears within us. Life is short, and frankly, I want to live it.

Once I began to finally accept my limitations imposed upon me by all the clots and the damage they did to my lungs and my legs – it was time to reexamine how I was currently living. With more challenges looming ahead, this is what I learned. You have to realign your thinking, change the expectations you place upon yourself and let go of your life as you once lived it.  Sometimes this is a drastic elimination of commitments, a temporary setback or  you can chose to keep on living the way you had all along and eventually, it will catch up to you. Been there, done that!

To some of you reading this may seem like nothing new at all, it’s how you approach life. But for a co-dependent, fear filled woman who allowed others to chart her way through life and masked it all under the guise of Christianity and servanthood – these continual, consistent health problems were my wake up call and my greatest blessing.

You see, I based my identity on what I did, how I measured up, what others thought of me. I have battled it my entire life, but none so much as when I was living in circles of a faith community which for me and in my interpretation, reinforced my dysfunction. This is not to say the faith is dysfunctional, no, just the interpreter. I was the problem. I lived the life of a victim, and I lived it well.

Life circumstances being what they were, it’s how I coped.

So, this health crisis I’ve undergone, it’s been totally worth it. The constant doctor visits, lab work, medical tests and years of ongoing medical care. Worth each and every penny. Not because I can afford it, no, but because I can’t afford to continue to function and live my live the way I had been living. It took this crisis in my body to bring me to a crisis in my heart. It challenged me to seek Jesus on a deeper level and in doing so, I not only found Him, but I found me.

“Just ask and it will be given to you; seek after it and you will find. Continue to knock and the door will be opened for you.  All who ask receive. Those who seek, find what they seek. And he who knocks, will have the door opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

For over 30 years I’ve been knocking on the door, continuing to knock, for the opening that Jesus says will come. I am sure He’s been opening doors for me before and I have been just too blind to see it.  Some doors I remember seeing clearly and I cowered in fear to walk through them. Others, I sprang forth and lept through!

What are your doors?

Maybe you can’t even find the doorknob, never mind the door. Perhaps you are searching for the key to unlock it yourself. Jesus say to continue to knock. Can you hear Him? Don’t give up! Find a way to form that fist and pound if you have to. Keep on knocking, use all the strength you can muster and gently knock.

Trust Him.

When the time is right, He will usher you. The Risen One Himself will reach out with Hands of glory to embrace you. When He does it won’t matter if you have your physical health, or your emotional health – all He concerns Himself with is your spiritual self. Jesus accepts you.

My first door has been learning to accept myself. If Jesus could accept me, why couldn’t I?

Finding myself, my true self, not the one I presented to the world has been a hard journey so far. It’s like digging for treasure. Sometimes you dig and dig and hit something and you think it’s a chest full of gold, but really it’s just another boulder in the way to the real treasure lying somewhere. Hand Him the shovel, let Him dig, watch Him sweat. He already has the map to my heart anyway, invite Him to chisel away and just let go.

Allow Him to chip off the fears, the insecurities, the doubts about who you are. Invite Him to recreate and renew your heart and accept with gratitude who you are and who He is. He is God. I am not.

I am accepted – and I am finding my way in Him.

If you are struggling with a current health crisis, know this, you aren’t alone. If you are wrestling to accept who you were created to be, know this, you can find a way. There is hope, HOPE.

Just stand at the door – knock.