Begin Again

Let begin, again.

Let’s start the conversation and move forward. We certainly won’t be picking up where we left off, time stands still for no one. Walking in the everdayness of our lives, we celebrate who we are in this stage of life and move forward – today.

This reprise was not something I expected being away from writing for so long. I have come to accept there are seasons in life – coming in waves as circumstances ebb and flow in and out of what you expect life to be and how it truly is. Grappling with what once was, what you hoped for and what’s before you now is a daily dance.

Often we have been told life is what you make of it. You can reach the “American Dream” if you work hard pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. “Work Hard, Play Hard.” Anthems that are meant to inspire us and bring hope can actually have the opposite effect. What once inspired can run through your mind taunting you for where you are now – your lack of success, your lack of achieving your goals and the daily fight you face as you strive to move on. How did I get here? How did this happen? Words designed to encourage and inspire become the medium for self destruction and shame.

The dream you chased turned into a false sense of reality revealing that the American Dream is not all it’s crafted to be. The relationships you make, the organizations you join, the community that surrounds you may not be the place where you truly belong. Upon this realization your life spins out of control. All you took for granted or crafted into your daily life has been turned upside down – everything that was, is no more. Like any other transition, unrealized hopes and dreams can bring an onslaught of emotional pain to wade through. Navigating the deep waters of accepting who you regardless if anyone else stands by your side.

It’s not like you got where you are right now in life without making choices. Of course you made choices, and with good intentions too. But we don’t all have the same life story. Choices are hard. They are carved out of living through social and cultural experiences: broken families, abuse, trauma, pain, physical disease, financial ruin and difficult times. Standing alone facing a different world than you once felt comfortable in is terrifying.

Life is beyond your control. Unexpected things happen that you can’t reign in. Becoming self aware and moving into wholeness is not something for the faint hearted. It’s hard work. It’s purposeful. It’s intentional. Learning to breathe through adversity and begin again is more than a choice – it’s a gift to yourself.

Breathe.

In John chapter 8:3-11 this story unfolds:

 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group  and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus was in the village and Scripture says the teachers of the Law were looking to trap Jesus by His teaching and His words. They brought this woman caught in adultery to Jesus, encircling her they threatened to stone her. In that moment of accusation they looked to Jesus for his authority and teaching on how to handle this woman – “Now what do you say?”

Breathe.

In that moment you can feel the tension. The woman terrified for her life, the mob of men angry and taunting Jesus to twist His teaching and use it against Him. So what does he do?

“… Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.”

What?

He paused.  All eyes were on Him.  He spoke, His words transformational.

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 

Breathe.

With that one sentence Jesus taught us what we all need to hear. Mercy triumphs law. Jesus knows what the law says about adultery, yet this woman laid bare before Him mattered more. There was more to her than what others saw in her. She was not a result of her choices or circumstances. She mattered. When justice was sought, mercy reigned.

If there is anything you can take away from this amazing story of Jesus Christ is that you matter. That love is much more transformational than religion and its laws. That knowing a person and their life circumstances and what they go through is part of their story. All the men and the teachers in this story could only see the outside of her but Jesus knew her heart. He knew her story, her choices, her circumstances and even why she does what she does. Have you ever stopped to think about that? 

Jesus knows.

No matter what is going on in your life right now, Jesus knows. Perhaps it’s not going the way you want it to be or something unexpected came your way. You lost your job. Your diagnosis is terminal. Your depression battles you deeply.

Whatever it is and however it looks in your life – Jesus knows.

I know the upside down, turned around unexpected life. No matter what choice you made today, remember that tomorrow is another day. At any moment you can choose to follow the one who brings hope to the darkness in your life, and mine.

Jesus waits for you, and for me, to sit at His feet and look into our eyes and say

 “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

Say it with me, ” No one sir.”

No One! What looked to be an ordinary day of stoning according to the Law become a day of mercy and grace in the heart of a woman saved by love and the ministry of Jesus Christ. I am that woman – you can be too.

Breathe.

Allow yourself to sit at the feet of Jesus, hear His words of healing as He whispers to you. 

Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Remember those choices I talked about, this is the only one that matters. 

Choose Jesus.

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.