In the Quiet

gb-retreat-1-of-1

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

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 1.25.20 PM

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.

 

Walk With Me

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 5.29.41 PM

I just don’t have the strength anymore.

The strength to be what you need. The strength to be what you expect. The strength to be what you want. I am not God, stop expecting me to be. So I guess I should ask myself, why do I keep pretending that I am? Pretending that I have it all together. Pretending that this day will be different. Pretending that life will really get better.

This is life, and it’s mine. Full of messy days, discouraging moments, depressing times when I can’t even think straight. Trying to form thoughts and move ahead – I stumble over the broken nature of our life. Don’t believe me? Well, I am telling you now, because it’s true.  Life is hard right now, so hard.

Am I the only one?

We all have our own stories and moments of strength, of weakness and of sorrow. I am having difficulty just finding my bearings for the day. I grasp for hope in the ways I know how. Reaching out with disciplines which calm my soul. Yet it seems a whole day can move onward and try as I do to move along with it – I fail. Oh, how I fail.

Stuck in moments of broken dreams, of cradled hopes that disappeared and grief that won’t pry it’s way out of my heart. I am reminded daily of what was and what will never be found again. I mourn. As I do, I can’t find my feet under me to plant them firmly on the ground. I can’t focus my thoughts to wade through the mess. I can’t make a move, to take even one step.

I am so, stuck.

It’s time to stop pretending. It’s time the expectations end. It’s time my friends, for love. Not love like you might know it or have experienced it. Oh no, this love is defined and found in one place and one place alone – with a relationship with God. For the love that comes from God is not like anything you have ever experienced. It’s not full of expectations. It’s not laden with pleasing others. Nor requiring demands. Simply put, love.

God is love. Scripture affirms this. (1 John 4:8) Scattering and gathering these seeds of love within hearts is a high calling. They take root in hurting hearts, in fear filled lives and in places which need affirmation. Love is more than words which express your thoughts. Love is a way of life that permeates decisions and circumstances. Love is, is. It’s active, it’s alive, it’s flowing through people. We become loves ambassador as we walk with others, and as you dear friend, walk with me.

God loves you and desires for you to know Him. Resting in the assurance that His love is enough we can walk through our days, or stay stuck in them, with complete confidence that His love is more than enough to cover our cares. If you mourn like I do, then mourn – trusting that during those dark times, His Presence is never far from you. Trust yourself to be in the places that He has drawn you to, those places that have uncovered themselves in your life. Walking quietly in His way. God loves you. Period.

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist.” Acts 17:27-28 NLT

God’s purpose was for us to come into relationship with Him. Even if we have to grope around for Him as we search Him out, He is found by us. He promises not to be far from any one of us. What a grand thought!  How often does God feel far away and distant?  How often do you find yourself wondering where God is? Be honest with yourself. He promises that He is not far off. For in Him we live and more and have our very being!

You are loved, do you feel it? Some of you might say no – that’s okay, I get it. I know this place, the walls are wells worn with thoughts that remind me that I am not good enough. But today, in these moments as we sit together, I encourage you – and me – don’t allow your circumstances to define your worth. Even if you are so stuck you can’t move, that doesn’t mean you are beyond the reach of God Himself. Believe.

You are loved, do you see it? Do you find comfort in relationships that God has provided to you? Do you sense His presence in the comings and goings of your days? Witnessing His love stamped upon your moments together. Sometimes we deny His presence in the beauty of each day. As we strive for the new, the bold and perhaps the immediate (in our instant culture of today), we miss out on the richness that consistent care and presence  brings to our daily lives.

You are loved. Again and again God reminds us that He is love. Scripture affirms it. Relationships renew it. Our hearts convict us. You are loved – so loved! Today, I encourage you, as I encourage myself. No matter how stuck you may be, how hard it might be or how unclear the days ahead seem. God is love and His love for you reaches into every place of your heart. Listen for the quietness. Hear Him speak. Trust in His Presence that promises to remain with you. God is love and he loves you.

He is enough, even when you don’t think you are.

Who Can You Trust?

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 5.29.41 PM

Isn’t this the question for all ages?

Who can you trust? This tender belief that the person, the situation you find yourself in, the emotions you are feeling, the circumstances – whatever it may be – that it can be reliable, dependable – true. Trust is the bedrock of any relationship – with spouses, with parents, with siblings,  friends and those you love. Relationships grow and are built with trust, without it, we crumble.

Yes, crumble.

Like tiny pieces of rock, pebbles which grind into your feet. Like rocks you stumble over, tripping along the way to your destination. Like huge boulders you try to carry, throwing them on your shoulder acting like you can handle it all. These rocks of many shapes and sizes all crumble in some ways. Perhaps it’s a large gouge taken out of that rock or a crushed pebble under the weight of your boot. Whatever it may be, there is tiny tender evidence of what a lack of trust can do as it becomes dust under your feet. Crumbling trust that scatters the ash of the rubble into your life.

Rather than the bedrock that trust provides, erecting strong ledges to plant your feet upon. You see insecurity, you find hopelessness, you become distrustful and once down that road, it’s very hard to turn yourself around. Life becomes a burden.

You know what I mean?

You can shake your head in agreement or scoff at my probing, it’s okay. Trust is like that. Once it’s broken, it’s incredibly hard to fix again. We can spend a life time trying to rebuild and access the damage this lack of trust has meted out upon our life. Then within brief moments you can find yourself starting it in the face again. The question reverberates within you, “who can I trust?”

Jesus.

Yes, Jesus. In John chapter 14, the context shows that Jesus has finished the Last Supper with his disciples. Reclining at the table, they surround him and are left trying to comprehend His claims. He had washed their feet and asked them to do the same (John 13:1-17). He predicated his betrayal by Judas Iscariot  (John 13:18-30). He prophesied that Peter  would deny Him (John 13:31-38). It’s at this very moment that He chooses to say these words to his beloved disciples, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.(John 14:1)”

You see, those disciples began to feel the impact of his words, ponder the painful thoughts of living without Jesus on this earth. Questioning who would deny him, “will it be me?” Casting their doubts and insecurities freely on the table before the Lord. He affirms them, “don’t get lost in despair.”

Have you been there?

Lost in despair and clamoring for hope? Wondering when the pain will end? Questioning how the story unfolds? Angry at life for how it’s transpired? The time, gone. The energy, sapped. The trust, broken.

Jesus says, “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.” Jesus says believe God. Believe what He says. Believe He knows what is best. Believe that he loves you. Believe. Even moreso  He goes on to say, “believe in God, and keep on believing in me.”

Remember now, He is talking to the disciples who had been with Him in His ministry from the beginning. He encourages them to keep on believing, keep on trusting. A belief in God means a belief in His Son Jesus too. Jesus looks at his brothers and implores them to keep on believing, don’t get lost in despair.

Believing is trusting.

I admit I can get lost in despair. I wander around like it’s some well worn coat that I slip on. It’s comfortable, it’s predictable and frankly it’s mistrustful. Every moment I look at my circumstances clamoring for peace, I am believing in myself to fix it. Trusting in what I know and what I experience to be true. That’s not what Jesus calls me to do. He wants me to trust Him. Yes, Him.

I have a distrusting heart. There are pieces of it that won’t trust one word of what Jesus says. Or honestly, what you say. I am full of doubt and there is no bedrock here, no place to position myself to stand firm. Finding a ledge somewhere to grab ahold of to keep me standing is a mystery. I have searched, oh have I! I trip over those rocks along the way, I grind pebbles into the soles of my feet and I continue to carry that boulder of burden on my back – weighing me down.

That is my confession – I am not good at trusting, I lack the faith to believe.

Just ask those closest to me, my spouse, my family – dear friends. I will let you in, I will trust you but there comes a time when my wall I erected years ago stops you in your tracks. Don’t try to pound on the wall, I won’t answer. Don’t try to climb it, I will probably knock you down, Don’t try to take off the bricks aligned high in the sky, as I will start building the wall in other places. Just don’t try.

Hard truth, but real honesty. I don’t trust Jesus well. Oh I have in different ways and in various places, but in this place – the darkest of all, the wall is there – end of discussion. Harsh, yes. Raw, totally. More than you wanted to know, probably. Yet, I think of these words. “Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me.”

Keep on believing in Jesus.

In your doubt, ache to believe. In your sadness and despair, reach out the One who can fill you. In your pain, let Jesus heal you. He does this as you keep on believing. No matter what your mind tells you. No matter what your experiences continue to tell you. No matter the thoughts that drift in. Find that bedrock and belief in God, anchor yourself to it and keep on believing in Jesus.

If you have a wall erected like a citadel, admit the truth and let Jesus in. He’s the King anyway, let Him be in your heart, in your mind and in your own citadel. Circle up around His throne and keep on believing.

Trust the only one who is trustworthy.

Jesus.

New Day – New Year!

Best-Water-Year-2015-Wallpaper-Laptop

Happy New Year!

There is something almost refreshing about the start of a New Year. Like a freshly cleaned blackboard (remember those?), a new white board or smart board – everything is new and ready to be written upon. It’s fresh, it has possibilities which are as endless as our minds allow.

Like pages in a new bound book, are the days of the year to write moments of grace, mercy and truth deep into your life. Often, I buy a journal at the start of a new year. I use it to craft out goals, hopes, dreams, desires for the upcoming year. Then as the days pass and the everydayness of the year settles in, I can pull out the journal and reflect on my thoughts and hopes for the year as I am walking in it. It helps bring perspective and balance to my life.

Balance.

That’s the thing about ringing in a New Year- finding balance. We start out with lofty goals and desires. We perhaps face fears and uncertainties about ourselves and our lives that we desire to face. Puling out your own “journal” and thoughts of your goals for the year to find, here you are in the same place as before.

The same place.

You know, there is nothing wrong with being in the same place. Especially if it brings you comfort, allows you to grow and fills you with strength for each new day. But whom among you are the same place that you just no longer want to be in anymore? I am speaking to you. It’s that same place that aches from deep in your soul.

You know the one? Well, I do.

Here’s my word of encouragement in the New Year. Well, not mine – God’s. “…. that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!(2Cor 5:17)” This is not some quick fix, but a deep truth. New life begins with God.

Not with resolutions, or hopes – God. For it is God Himself who makes the person new. Not our own choices, but the author of life Himself. If you are in Christ, the old has truly passed away – so let it go and pass away. Stop holding onto it. Oh wait, I was talking to me!

What you did or didn’t do in 2014, what I did or didn’t do in 2014 – well it stays in 2014 and the hearts of those whom either I blessed or I wounded. Today’s not a day to talk fluff or make light of things. New Years Day can be a day of new life. So, just for today, I encourage you.

Reflect, repent and receive the blessing of new life.

Reflect about who you are, repent of any self indulgent ways and receive the gift of new life in Christ. New life that makes every day new, every moment new and marks each day like that of a new year.

New.

Let God write upon your heart like the pages of a new book and receive the gift of renewal. Find strength in moments and find hope in forgiveness. Let go of all the years past pain and living freely. Move forward. Be free. Find balance.

New life begins with God – trust  Him

 

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

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 9.12.59 AM

“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.

Intimacy cries out

Sorrow crushing image.001

She sits alone, wondering – how? How did I get here? Breathing in deeply, she bows her head – yearning for arms to envelop and wrap her up, bringing comfort to her heart that only tender moments can bring.

Nothing.

Not a word of encouragement or a plead of hope rise up within her. This is not the place of positive self talk, or deliberate choices that spur on action, listing what I need “to do.” Oh no, this is the place to just be – as you feel the insecurities and doubt swirling within you. Let them come.

Don’t deny the reality of your life, your choices – your experiences. Often it seems we want to run from the troubles that pound against our hearts, avoiding even thinking about what’s right in front of you.  Sometimes we don’t want to not face feelings of despair, sadness or abandonment. When you are knee deep in these feelings, denial is not a healthy strategy. Let them come.

Embrace who you are and how you feel in the moment.

Probably the most simple and most difficult thing is – to be. To stop looking for answers. To stop doubting the direction you are pointed in. To stop lamenting what could have been. To stop, just stop. I don’t mean stop having the feelings, we can’t contralto that. But we can control how we manage them.

When I am in this place and these feelings come, the desire to be held and comforted cries out from deep within me. Oh, how I need encouragement. Not just laughter, or fellowship, or companionship – but encouragement – deep, trusting, sharing souls walking together.

Think I am alone?

“Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

 When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.” Matthew 26:36-38

Think again.

Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God was crushed in His Spirit. He  was in agonizing sorrow. He was human – and He didn’t want to be alone in that place. He wanted His closest friends to keep watch and stay awake with Him. To just be in the moments of His deepest pain.

Jesus knew that being alone was not the ideal. It’s wiser to have the encouragement and strength of a trusted friend or friends. Not the whole crowd mind you, but a few sacred soldiers by your side. Jesus had 12 disciples and He could have invited them all into the Garden, but He didn’t. He invited 3 of His closest friends to be a source of strength in the time of His greatest, darkest, most vulnerable need.

Jesus wanted intimacy.

He craved their companionship, for why else would He have invited them into the Garden with Him? This wasn’t a moment of weakness to be easily dismissed. He was overcome with anguish. Jesus did not ignore the depths of the soul and what He needed.  He knew what lay before Him and understood His vulnerability. Our Savior was looking for compassion and comfort from His most trusted friends. He desired strength wrought from the intimacy of deep fellowship. Jesus was self – aware and had no shame in making decisions He needed to have His needs met.

Not judgement telling you to get over it. Not a lack of affirmation in who you are. Not an inconsistency in showing love based on how you act or don’t act. No. Jesus wanted unconditional love and He asked for it in the middle of the night. I suspect if we are truly honest with ourselves, and each other – we might find that we ask for the same type of love in the most difficult times. It may not be at 2 a.m., but it could be in the middle of an important business meeting, or a family get together. I don’t know – you fill in the blank. Ask yourself what is most important to you and then consider – are you willing to give it up? To sacrifice?

That’s what Jesus was asking His dear friends.

“Stay awake with me, keep watch.” Sacrifice yourself – your time, your energy, your focus on what you think is most important in your life. In this moment, love me. Follow me. Give to me. Hold onto me. Love. That’s what Jesus was asking. To love. To give. To sacrifice. To embody the very love that Jesus had been showing and giving to them all along.

He asked for their hearts.

So when your body seems weak, when you can’t stay awake, when your mind wanders and you can’t focus. Know that it’s not the body those you love need or desire, it’s your heart. When you are called to give beyond what you can normally handle or hope to provide. Know this – it’s your heart, you’re beautiful heart that intimacy craves. I  encourage you –  love.

You’re body may be willing but the flesh is so weak.

I submit to you that love is greater than what we do. We see. We hear. We think. Love is. Love moves. Love feels. Love compels. Love comforts. So, the next time you find yourself weary of hearing the same old stories from your friends. The struggles that they battle against. Or you want to tell them what to do, or how to handle it. I encourage you.

Choose love.

Choose to be open. Choose to sacrifice. Choose to give. Choose to comfort. Be tender. Be kind. Be merciful. Be! Give love. Give grace. Give patience. Humble yourself like Jesus humbled Himself in that Garden. For once He invited them into that place with Him, He made the most difficult decision of His very life. He chose to sacrifice it. He choose love. Love.

Now, I encourage you to be Jesus and do the same.

No matter what agony is tearing apart your soul. No matter what fears lie ahead of you. No matter what struggles you currently face. Jesus is The Way. For He’s seen it all, experienced it all and empowers us to be love. So, invite your closest friends in, let them see your fears and allow the mercy of God to permeate your entire being.

Jesus was serious about His intimate friends. Once they fell asleep, He pleaded with them to stay awake. He wanted them by His side. Don’t you want the same? Don’t you want others to comfort you? Wouldn’t you like to be held? Could you allow others into your deep and  most darkest of places? Can’t they sprinkle a seasoning of their sacrificial heart into your current struggles?

I ask you – do you really want to be alone?

Jesus didn’t want to be alone. He pleaded to not be so at this time in His life.  He is our example, shouldn’t we consider to learn from Him? Open your hearts my friends. If Jesus needed trusted friends, who are we to think we don’t? Not just good friends, but intimate, trusted friends.

Crack open the door of your heart and let the Light of Jesus shine in, bringing you an awareness of who you are. What you need in hard places. Whom you can truly trust. Follow Jesus. Let the Spirit guide you and teach you and be Jesus.

When you sit all alone and wonder how you got there, consider the choices you have made, the circumstances of your life and be like the greatest Teacher of all time, Jesus the Christ. Be Jesus. Be willing to examine yourself and invite others into the hard places. The difficult times. Become a searching soul whose greatest desire is to be like Him, Jesus.

Be intimate and imitate our Savior. Love dear ones.

Love.

Hang On

horses-ride-carousel-mood-hd-wallpaper

It began to spin and at first it was fun.

The constant movement, flowing up and down – feeling alive as the   music played on. The wind whipping through your hair and you looked out from your perch. You were moving!

There is often much joy in the things of our childhood. Memories of simpler times when the everydayness of life falls away and you find yourself being present. This moment happens to be on a noble steed, painted awash with color as music blares from the speakers.

Who doesn’t love a merry-go-round?

Round and round you go. Maybe it’s not your first time on one? You know the drill.  Pick your horse, quickly choosing your color and scoot yourself on before they begin their dance. Up, down, all around you go. Of course there’s the choice of the bench that doesn’t glide up and down, but who would want that? Boring.

No matter what town you show up in, which carnival you choose,  you are bound to find one. A merry-go-round. Who thought up that name anyways? A “merry” go round! Like going round and round is always merry. I dare say I might get a bit nauseous at times.  Regardless of  how fast or how slow you go, the direction is still the same, round and round and round and ROUND.

Have you been there?

Living life that hasn’t changed trajectory? Spinning in circles that don’t slow down. Relationship struggles. Health concerns. Financial burdens. Round and round you spin. Like a circus ride that never ends. It appears that no matter what you say, what you do, how you act – the ride keeps on going. Circular. Unending. Constant.

Tiring, isn’t it?

What began as joy filled and an exciting time – turned into a monotonous one. This ride is not merry, oh – far from it! As you spin faster and faster, perhaps you might be trying to gauge the moment you can jump off. Saying enough, you’re done – tempting, isn’t it?

What happened?

There’s the question that begs an answer. What happened? How did you get here? And let’s be real, how can you stop this nonstop course that spins around until you’re dizzy and can’t find your feet to stand. I’ve been contemplating this question for some time, sitting at the feet of Jesus. Asking Him for an answer – this is all I have.

 Some days later when Jesus came back to Capernaum, people heard that Jesus was back in town and many gathered at the house where He was staying. Soon the crowd overflowed from the house into the streets, and still more people pressed forward to hear Jesus teaching the message of God’s kingdom. Four men tried to bring a crippled friend to Him;  but since the crowd prevented their carrying him close enough to get Jesus’ attention, they climbed up onto the roof, opened a hole in it, and lowered the paralyzed man on his mat down to Jesus. Jesus recognized the faith of these men.

Jesus: Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:1-5)

Forgiven.

There is my moment of truth. Your moment of truth.  Sins being forgiven. I am that man on the mat – unable to move and dependent on others faith to pick me up, climb up on a roof and lower me down!

I think about the agony of not being able to walk and living on that mat. Being dependent on so many for each and every moment in life. Bringing me food, helping me cleanse myself, everyday activities we take for granted. Life echos the sounds of the merry-go-rounds  music – the day in and day out activities spinning fast. Round and round.

Sometimes you want to just step off as you are thrust around, take a breather and gain some perspective. Switch to a different horse and see the view from there. Perhaps you ask questions like the paralytic. Can I get up and walk myself to the bathroom? Can I stand and feed myself? Can I enjoy the pleasures and the joys of this life?

You see that man on the mat could have remained that way. We don’t know how, or why – but he ended up at the feet of Jesus. Maybe he begged others to carry him there. Perhaps he had heard countless stories of the Christ and wanted see if it was true. Could this man from Galilee help or even heal him? Somehow his nuggets of faith helped him to see where he needed to go and inspired others to get him there. He knew he needed Jesus.

That was enough.

There he was in the middle of a crowd and he became the center of their attention. All eyes were on him – and on Jesus. The wonderful thing is Jesus knew exactly what the man needed. The paralytic man probably went there thinking he needed to walk again, to get off that mat – his own merry go round eager for relief. The words Jesus spoke didn’t even touch those thoughts and needs of the heart – oh no, our Savior went deeper.

You sins are forgiven.

He truly could have healed that man and have him stand up and walk immediately. He could have used that moment to teach others about who he was and His power. But our God, what does He do? He loved. In that moment, he spoke to that man greatest need – his sins. His spiritual well being was so much more important than his physical.

The mans expectations may have been shattered in what was taking place. I can see the quizzical expression on his face now – what do you mean my sins are forgiven? Jesus drives home His deep love and envelopes this paralytic man in His love. He hears him and he heals him.

“Some scribes were sitting in the crowd, and they didn’t like what they were hearing.

Scribes: What does this Jesus think He is doing? This kind of talk is blasphemy, an offense against the Most High! Only God can forgive sins.

 At once Jesus realized what they were thinking. He turned to them.

Jesus: Why do My words trouble you so? Think about this: is it easier to tell this paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to tell him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk”?  Still, I want to show you that the Son of Man has been given the authority on earth to forgive sins. (to the paralytic)  Get up, pick up your mat, and go home.

The man rose to his feet, immediately rolled up his mat, and walked out into the streets. Everyone in the crowd was amazed. All they could do was shake their heads, thank God for this miracle, and say to each other, “We’ve never seen anything like that!” (Mark 2:6-12)

If not already engulfed in confusion, the paralytic man watches as Jesus, the man he has such faith in, not only forgives his sins – but now commands him to “get up, pick up your mat and go home.” Just like that. Get up. Pick Up. Go home.

Get UP.

Look at where you have been all your life. Stuck on that mat. Frozen to that place where you can’t get away from. And now  – this man you believe in, have heard of,  is telling you to get up.  Have you ever looked squarely into the eye of your difficult situation and thought – get up! Hear Him now – move.

The Scriptures say the “man rose to his feet, immediately rolled up his mat, and walked out into the streets. Everyone in the crowd was amazed.” He rose to his feet. He got up. He moved. Faith takes action dear friends. What would have happened if he spent his entire life on the mat and refused to believe and get up? Living his life as chained to that mat when he was already free? Round and round and round.

Ouch.

Jesus already freed him from his paralysis, he was healed. Yet he needed to believe it to receive it. Claiming the words of Jesus which breathed life into his soul and his body. His sins were forgiven and he was healed! Healed.

Try to imagine not being able to walk all your life and then in one moment, you can! All you have dreamed about – what you could do, things you would  see, ready and waiting for you to explore. But first, you have to believe. Not doubt, believe.

Believe.

And I feel the horse buck and the merry go round ease up just a bit. It can slow down, you can dismount and have some control. So go ahead and pick a new horse. Grab that bench seat and ease in slow. Let the changes wash over you slowly as the view changes and you hear Him speak through the music.

No matter what is keeping you chained to your mat today. Regardless  of whatever horse you rode in on. You do have a choice to stop the music. To end the ride. To pick up your mat – filled with your burdens and care and see that Jesus already has released you.

Get up, dear one.

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

Everything is a choice

alone-beach-walls-833540

Sometimes – we think we have control.

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

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

Is everything  a choice?

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

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

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

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

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

You are so much more than your choices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider making that your very next choice.

Jesus.

 

 

Listening as you wait

Ocean_Rocks_Stones_Clouds_Landscape_sky_beaches_reflection_ocean_sea_sunset_sunrise_1920x1200

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.