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

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

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

Where is your heart today?

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

Where is your heart today?

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

Oh, it hurts….

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

My heart hurts.

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

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

The gift of unconditional love.

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

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

Love them.

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

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

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

Yes, pain.

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

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

Depression is real.

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

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

Come see the new born King.

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

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

Let Him change your world.

The Begging Place

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So what do you do when you have nothing left?

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

Beg.

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

“Help.”

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

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

Surrender.

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

Surrender.

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

It is a choice you know.

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

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

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

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

He. Reigns.

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

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

He is hope.

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

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

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

“Help.”

 

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

Letting go

 

Letting Go

I have nothing left. Not an ounce within me.

Seems that all strength and fortitude that’s kept me going has sapped me dry. I stand on the edge of a new change in my life and I can’t begin to even see the horizon, never mind the pebbles at my feet.

It takes all my effort to stand.

I just returned from saying goodbye to both of my children, who are now young adults – embracing their own lives. It’s the true test of letting go in my life. My family can attest that I am not very good at this. I hover like a helicopter parent at times looking to observe and reflect on things heard or said. Analyzing and overanalyzing things already in the past. Letting go means I truly had to do just that – let go.

I had to believe. I had to rely on the ground I had laid. I had to let go of what I had hoped to accomplish and accept the gift of the moment. It was time for me to truly trust – someone.

Rather than myself.

It’s at this point that I could quote a few scriptures and tell you that trusting God and believing Him is the essence of your faith, of my faith – verses like Proverbs 3:5-7 come to mind.

“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.”  (The Message)

But it’s not that type of blog post today. I’m not here to tell you what to do. In fact, I can’t even begin to think what I will do next. Who am I to suggest to you where you are headed? Who am I to think I have any wisdom to share? I am just a fellow traveller and sojourner. Nothing more.

See my hand raised over here? It’s me admitting that I try to figure it all out. I find one more thing to do. One more way to try to control. One more way to keep myself so busy.  In doing so, I am not still enough to hear His voice. Oh how I want to hear God’s voice! I seek Him. I study, I pray, I meditate. I, I, I. See – it’s all about me.

Enough.

It’s time I look in the mirror. It’s time I face the truth. As long as my life is about me. As long as I focus on what I want to do. As long as the center of my world is me. Will I ever be able to let go?

I am tired of the judgmental spirit that has lurked in my heart. I am convicted the moment I think I have it all figured out and impose that on others, it’s judgement. It doesn’t appear that way at first does it? We think our knowledge and wisdom comes to us through life experiences and it’s our responsibility to teach those around us so that they can learn.  But is it?

Our responsibility is to love.

“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 8:3-11, The Message)

Jesus loved.

He came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10). He came to open the eyes of the blind (Lk 4:18). He came to offer forgiveness for people’s sins (Lk 7:48). He came – to love. He could have judged that woman caught in adultery. He could have abided by the law of Moses and stoned her. He could have condemned her- but he chose love.

Love.

When you let go, it’s not about the training you did as a parent, or the mistakes along the way – or even the accomplishments your son or daughter has now or in the future. No. It seems to me to be about boundaries. It’s not my life to share their stories, or to judge them  and tell them what to do. It’s their life now.

Entrust them to God.

Yes, trust. Give them over to Him. Whether your empty nesting like me, or just put them on the school bus for the first time. God has this. Don’t try to figure it all out. Live in moments where faith becomes real and love is alive, embrace it and live in grace. Be a father, a mother,  a sister, a brother – a child of grace. Trust that God has a greater plan than you can ever imagine.

Believe.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.