Listen Up

 

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Don’t talk to me.

Yes, you read that right. Don’t talk to me. When I give you my time, don’t waste it. Don’t try to tell me what I need to do. Don’t tell me what might be helpful. Don’t pretend that you want to enjoy my company.

Just stop.

Stop the long held belief that in order to love someone you have to fix their problems. Stop sharing information with others that was only meant to be shared with you. Stop showing up to the relationship like we are living in the past.

I don’t invite you into my space to have you tell me how to think. I don’t open my heart to you so that you can share it with others with no regard.  I don’t make time to see you to have you talk right over me and ignore what I have to say.

Don’t talk to me, oh no, listen.

Listen, with all that you are. Listen with as little preconceived ideas as possible. Listen, and seek, to understand. It’s a quality long lost in this instant social media, texting world. I’d rather sit with you over a cup of tea and hear your heart, while you hear mine – rather than text you all hours of the day. Slow down. Let’s not share information, let’s share conversation. Let’s unite by loving one another and hearing our stories. Not talking, but listening.

Of all the examples of Jesus life and how he interacted with people, this one I gravitate to the most. Read with me.

“… He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)

 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
 He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”

 “I have no husband,” she said.

“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”

“Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”

 “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”

 “I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
 The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.” (John 4: 4-30, The Message)

Oh, I am that woman.

The woman who hides herself away from the crowds at midday in shame. The woman who suffers in isolation and loneliness. The woman who understands that for this man to greet her, speak to her and acknowledge her presence in such way – is a voice validating who she is.

She matters.

Think I am reading too much into the text? Think again. The context reveals that this woman was so isolated that she chose to go to that well midday, in the heat of the sun, to gather water to drink. Often gathering water was done very early in the morning or very late in the daytime due to the extreme heat. Why not gather water with others? Wouldn’t having others there mean someone could help her carry the water jars back to town? Why not go at the same time as the other women gathering water?

Fear. Crowds. Damage control.

What makes sense to us on the outside, looking in, makes absolutely no sense to the one who is alone. She found solace in the midday sun, for it was there in the quiet she could avoid the talk of the crowds. The nonstop chatter of their voices as they spoke about her life and the things she had done. The whispers of gossip cloaked as righteousness, “Oh, you should pray for her.” How often we deceive ourselves into thinking that with our talking we are helping the other person and seeking their good.

Are we?

Just reread her encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus begins by asking for a cup of water. A simple request. He invites conversation by indicating his need, he’s thirsty. Can she help?  The Samaritan woman was immediately taken aback by His request. Why? Because Jesus wasn’t even supposed to acknowledge her presence. It was just the two of them at that well – she a Samaritan and He a Jew. He had every religious right to ignore her. He was obligated to. He was righteous. He had opportunity. Yet, rather than invoke his religiosity, he embraced the grace, compassion and generosity of God.

“If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

Jesus knew immediately that He had an opportunity and he harnessed it. He chose to draw upon the generosity of God as He asked this woman to draw that water for Him to drink. He was thirsty and He could have drawn some water Himself, rather He begins a conversation with a woman who had been abandoned by society, choosing instead to say to her, “I see you.”

I see you.

I see you as you hide here at this well. I am here. Let’s talk – no, you talk, I will listen.  I asked for water but what I really want is to give you living water. I didn’t really need the water. I needed you to see that you are worth listening to. I don’t care about the customs of this day, I care about you. Now. Today. Always.

Drink.

Oh, how she wanted to drink. She asks Jesus, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!” Perhaps she was only thinking physically at this point – wanting this living water that welled up so that she would never thirst again. Never taste that dry, cottony mouth we get when we are parched. Perhaps she didn’t want to travel this road ever again – never having to place herself at this well where the local woman gathered. She already felt this place of scorn and shame as an outsider. “Give it to me,” she asked, but Jesus replied, “Go call your husband and then come back.

Ah. Yeah. My husband.  “I have no husband.”

Oh. Truth. They spoke such truth to one another. Stop. You’ve heard this story a hundred times. Listen with fresh ears. They spoke such truth to one another. Total strangers, yet deeply honest with one another. Jesus went on from this moment of raw truth and spoke life into her heart. He used this moment as a turning point, saying once again. I see you. No matter one, or 5 men, whom are not your husband, I am here – with you now.

I see you.

As this woman begins to wrestle with the uncertainty of this stranger – you can almost sense her heart on her sleeve. Exposed with the truth of her deepest soul, her sins and her shame – rather than run from it, she embraces it. Let that sink in. She didn’t deny all the men she had been with, rather she accepts the truth. Ownership.She grasps the utter humanity of this moment- and speaks. Real talk.

Not cloaked in righteous indignation or proclamation. Not professed concern passively masquerading as love. Not a well intended, “I will pray for you” spoken as we move quickly back into our own life and it’s circle. Don’t be like those disciples who questioned why Jesus would be with “that kind” of woman. No. Jesus never talked to people this way. He stepped in when most of our footsteps may tread in another direction. He moved towards those in need. He comforted them. He listened. He loved.

Don’t you want that too?

To be heard. To be comforted. To have your most deepest longings accepted. Jesus had every societal, religious and moral right to ignore this woman. Culturally, that’s how it was at this time. Yet, Jesus didn’t let religious pressure, or cultural norms or even His disciples determine His path – He let God lead Him. Jesus Christ paved a new path.

Be Jesus. 

Listen to the hearts of those around us. Go to their wells. Hear what’s really going on in their life. Share their suffering. Comfort these losses. Empathize. Drink in their experiences and see life through their eyes.

Don’t talk to me.

Don’t talk to me not unless you plan on having an honest conversation. Don’t talk to me one way and speak another way behind my back. Don’t talk to me with your criticism and your judgement.

I don’t invite you into my space to have you tell me how to think. I don’t open my heart to you so that you can share it with others with no regard.  I don’t make time to see you to have you talk right over me and ignore what I have to say. Just stop.

Listen up.

 

A New Year?

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2017.

Just like that, the clock ticks, the bell chimes and the new year slips right in. Not with loud fan fair, or much celebration – but another moment in time. Another hour, another day, another year. Just when I was sweeping up the memories, both happy and sad, of 2016 – 2017 just waltzed right in.

How did that happen?

You might be ready to be rid of 2016. Perhaps it included loss, pain and  unfulfilled dreams – for you that door can’t close fast enough on the year, can it? I know. I know that sense of closure needed to move forward and beyond what was, hoping for what’s to come. I’ve had many years where I slammed that door shut myself.

So, here we stand, on the cusp of a year not yet lived. What do you long for in this year? I know what I do. I can speak it faster than you process your own thoughts. I’ve been kicking around stones on a new path, following it, even as it’s windy roads keep me in circles sometimes. I am ready. So ready – for 2017.

How about you?

Are ready to breathe in new life into your own? Are you ready to lay aside your pain, your anxiety and sense of hopelessness? Taking a hard look at who you are and how you live your life. Knowing with strength and certainty that you are worth each moment that this year will bring you.

If there is one truth to grab ahold of as you start this new year, it’s that you are worth every moment you give to yourself. Don’t doubt it. Don’t deny it. Don’t hesitate. Love. Love yourself. As you love yourself, or perhaps learn to love yourself, love springs from within you to share with others. If it seems trite to you, don’t take my word for it.

Jesus Christ was asked once,

“Which is most important of all the commandments?”

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” (Mark 12:28b – 31  The Message)

Did you ever stop to realize that loving God means loving yourself?

Jesus asks us to love God with all our passion, prayer, intelligence and energy. Then He proceeds to instruct us to do the same to our very hearts. How often do you love yourself passionately? Really? Me neither.

It takes great effort to think about myself. I spend so much of my time thinking of others, of what needs have to be met, of what things have to be done – that somewhere along the way, I get lost. It’s not a new phenomenon, it’s a raw reality of my life. I’ve allowed myself to be loved less, and in the process, believed I am unlovable.

The greatest gift I hope to give myself in 2017, is love.

Loving myself. Accepting the desires that are within me as gifts from the Heavenly Father and live them in my daily life.  Some may profess that’s not a Christian attitude, well.. I use to believe that myself. God has had to teach me through years of suffering that loving myself is how I honor and love Him. It’s not what I do that makes me a follower of Jesus. It’s who I am, and who lives in me. God’s Spirit resides in me.

Read that again.

God’s Spirit lives in me! If you are a Christian reading this, then He lives in you too. Have I spent my time, wasting time, putting myself in a position I was never meant to be in? Am I putting down the Almighty God Himself when I reject His life within me? When I repeat long held negatively tucked deep away in my spirit. When I insist on focusing on what I do, rather than who He created me to be – I am choking the Spirit’s ability to reign fully in my heart and lead.

We must let go, and love, ourself.

So, as you kick off this New Year, I ask you to join me. Stand in the front of the mirror of your heart and listen to your soul and hear it’s cries. Listen. Don’t turn away. Don’t get busy. Be still. Get quiet. When the thoughts come of what you really love, find a way to use that passion for good, and for God. Allow the Holy Spirit to open your mind and your heart into a new direction, His. Don’t quench the Spirit of God, let Him love you. And in doing so, you love yourself.

2017, bring it on.

In the Quiet

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There is a place I know that speaks directly to my heart. A plot of land that’s covered with tiny cabins in the woods. I go to this place and leave every care at the gate. Somehow I can focus, or refocus, on what’s most important to me. Even if I am surrounded by wonderful friends, I seek out solace in the quiet wherever I can find it. Why?

In the quiet, God speaks.

Have you ever found yourself in a place where the sounds of life deafen your ears? You try to balance yourself, to listen as you grab ahold of the things that you think will keep you grounded. Straining to hear the slightest whisper of hope. Relief. Freedom. Searching for answers to questions that you don’t how you to ask.

No?

Well, it’s just me then. I’ve spent the last few years living in moments I will never be able to replay or even repay. There has been much, oh so much, to be thankful for, but there has also been so much pain. The sound of silence became an echo in my heart of the quiet voice of God. He spoke, but I didn’t always listen. I found myself worn out, burned out and seeking out hard answers to the questions that tumbled around in my heart.

I have been awash in grief for some time. Maybe you have too. We grieve for many reasons in life, loss doesn’t allude itself to only one source of pain. Loved ones, pets, jobs, homes, physical disabilities and mental capacities. So much of who we are and what we do can bring us such joy and – such pain.

We need hope.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives, and to open the eyes of the blind.” Isaiah 61:1

Today, let’s be quiet, be still and meditate. Allow this verse to settle into your soul and come to know the One who spoke it, Jesus Christ. This is the good news and your good news – there is comfort and liberty when you call upon the name of Jesus.

I don’t know your story, I don’t know your pain – but Jesus does. Let Him speak. Find some quiet. Turn off the TV, the social media, the phone – walk away from whatever you are doing and bring yourself to a place of stillness. Feed your soul. Look to the One who is anointed by Almighty God to bring good news to the world, to your life and for your heart.

In the quiet, God speaks.

 

Endless Days

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It’s been months now.

Days after day, turning into month upon month. Incessant needs swirling all around seemingly never-ending . Moments of nonstop activity. Times of restless energy. Interrupted by deep suffering. Yes suffering. Mourning. Grieving. Hurting. Moving through the darkness of a life left with unfulfilled dreams, unspoken love and sadness – knowing they were about to leave this world as they struggled to feel loved.

Heartbreaking.

So heartbreaking to realize that people go through this life feeling unloved. Not experiencing, not knowing, not accepting love in it’s purest form. Letting it sink down deeply into the recesses of one’s heart – a precious gift from one to another. Compassion. Forgiveness. Mercy – love.

Perhaps the love you experienced in your life, or are experiencing now, is not something you want to emulate, not something you want to give or even not what you want to receive. Maybe it’s not the reality you desire … yet here you are. Yearning for love, but your understanding of it, and perhaps your lack of experience in knowing what real love is, skews your perception, effects your ability to give and certainly to receive love. It’s like reaching for something you deeply desire – to find it falls between your grasp. Hoping that the next time you reach for it, you’ll snag it with your hands. So simple, huh?

No.

Loving and being loved is learned through the social framework and family structures in which we were born, how we were raised and to this point, how we have chosen to live our lives. Some of these things we have encountered may not be a personal choice. You didn’t chose to be the son or the daughter of an alcoholic, of an addict or of an abuser. There are things in your life that you have had absolutely no control over. None. You can’t change the beliefs, the choices or the addictions that others in your life wrestled with. The insecurities, the frailities or the demons that they faced. That was not your choice -you had no say in the matter.

None.

It shaped your reality. Helped form your identity. It can haunt you for eternity. You see my friend, love is. In it’s purest nature, love fills hearts, fills minds and fills souls like nothing else can. It breeds empathy, mercy and compassion. Allowing relationships to grow, to expand and go into places that were once guarded. Love heals. Love gives. Love hopes. This pure love is not something often familiar to many of us – or part of our daily interactions with those we care for. If you grew up in an alcoholic, an addictive or an abusive home, love is not always pure. Love is interpreted by the pain of the past, often difficult to break free from and facing daily struggles to find hope. To feel loved.

God says that love never fails.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Often when I read this I find myself questioning the reality and truth in these words. If love is truly all these things, then where exactly does the love I give or experience come from? In what form or fashion do I find myself defining love and how come it’s so much more different than how God defines it?

How come, God?

I’ve been asking this question for ages. Why? Maybe you have asked it a time or two yourself?  Depending on your life circumstances and personal experiences – you could be asking it often. A daily grind of combatting the deep truth that you really are loved and you are worth loving. I have news for you, you ARE. You are loved and your are worth loving! Don’t take my word for it.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God loves you. He loves you so very, very much. He wants a relationship with you, so that you can begin to understand His love for you through His Son, Jesus Christ. The story of His love is true, and it’s so incredibly deep. We will talk more about the divine love of God, but not today.

Let’s keep it simple.

Not long debates about what you need to do, or not do. No exegesis of the Bible and every word where love is spoken. No. Simply put – the love of God. The love that combats all doubt. The love that confronts your fears. The love that has been poured out for you so that you might walk away from the pain and the brokenness of what you know and walk into the holiness of what is true. That deep love you yearn for is real and you can grasp it within your hands. It’s real. It’s true. It’s full of hope.

You are loved. No circumstance. No situation. No person can tell that you are not worth loving. Do not give them that power. Find rest in the assurance that you are loved. Drink a small drop of living water that recognizes that you are worthy. Cling to the truth that you matter. Don’t let go of who you are – God sent His Son for you because He loves you so – don’t give up. Feeling loved begins now.

Love yourself.

 

You fight – we wait

waiting_for_dog_by_cathleentarawhiti-d64g7uz Every single day, you fight. You fight to hold onto what was, clawing your way to what could be, regretting what should have been. You ache for days that fill themselves with family, with loved ones, with hope. You wait, oh how you wait – for relief, for a cure, for some hope.

But it doesn’t come.

Grasping at every opportunity looking to find peace, you search with all your heart. For the next medical treatment, the newest doctor, some glimmer of hope. Oh how you fight, climbing up out of the pit of pain and suffering, you search becomes desperate. Hope flew away with the wind as you heard the word, hospice.

You want positive motion, energy, life. But hospice? No, no, not hospice. That would mean giving up. That would mean no longer fighting. That would mean defeat. Right? Well, no.  The battle has been fought and fought so hard.  With each breath you have struggled to take –  you find yourself moving closer to the unknown. Staring it down, it reaches into your core forcing you to face something so unfamiliar. You fight with all your might to keep yourself together, to not let go and to maintain control.

Yes, control.

The days run along, one after another – like the ones before. Filled with appointments, expectations and responsibilities that weigh you down. You move about your life and embrace times of hope filled healing. hard work and satisfaction that comes from the toil of your hands, your mind, your strength.Yes, your strength.

Relying upon yourself you face your fear and when doing so, you often fail. It’s not the power of your words or your actions that speak. It’s not the power of your mind or body that revel you. Oh no, it’s the power of your spirit. Of the strength of who you are as a person that radiates throughout your hospital room. This strength rises high above any expectation. Your goals and your hopes are high, your desire, strong. Your will, unshakeable.

You will beat this.

Yet the words ring in your ears. Hospice, hospice, hospice. Death looms on the horizon and you hesitate to make any decision – for in doing so it may stop your light from leaving this world – peering down at your impending death. You ache to remain here in this world,  while we begin to prepare our minds and hearts for the world without you. Meditating on life with the gaping hole you will leave behind.

Oh how we want you here. Oh yes! But even moreso, we want you in peace. We need you in peace. You hold on and we ache to hold onto you. Experiencing these moments of true joy and authenticity drizzle sweet mercy upon our wounded hearts. We embrace times of grace, love and forgiveness. For maybe the first time, we live, you live.

Live!

In these moments I know it’s true, you will  live on. Hospice or no hospice. Cancer of no cancer. Life or death. You will live. You will remain. You will stretch beyond this world that you know and challenge us, challenge me. We will grow, because of you. We will love, because of you. We can find hope, because of you. We can fight, because of how you taught us to. You will always be with us and in our hearts. Loving us from afar, nudging us to take another step and reminding us that love comes in many forms. Perhaps not with the words we want to hear, but the life we want to live. Each moment with deep passion, and with you – God. Yes, God.

The time for control is over. You are preparing to leave us behind. We are embracing the total measure of your life. It’s not found in money, nor career or material things. Hardly! The peace we find, is resting in the arms of Jesus Christ and letting Him care for you. Embrace you. Love you. Yes, you.

From this life into the next.

Which stage are you?


Helping-hands

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

Oh, we grieve.

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

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

We die, as we have lived.

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

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

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

So, why are we?

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

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

Live.

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

We must choose.

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

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

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

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

Where have you laid his body?

Come and see, Lord.

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

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

We all will die – but how will we live?

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

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

For we die, as we have lived.

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.

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!

 

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?