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.

I am Judas

footcare

Today is Maundy Thursday.

If you aren’t familiar with Maundy Thursday, it is the day that is internationally recognized in which Jesus Christ had the Last Supper. Many people have heard of Jesus. His story is often shared on the celebration of Easter. Let’s celebrate together.

The Last Supper was the last meal Jesus ate before He was crucified by Pontius Pilate. It begin like any ordinary Passover meal that a Jew would celebrate, but rather than be confined to remnants of remembering how God passed over the Jews while trapped in Egypt (Exodus 12:1-28), Jesus become the Passover Lamb himself. Maundy Thursday is where the story begins to unfold.

If you aren’t familiar with this story, let me share a bit of it now.

“It was almost time for the Jewish Passover festival. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go back to the Father. Jesus had always loved the people in the world who were his. Now was the time he showed them his love the most.

Jesus and his followers were at the evening meal. The devil had already persuaded Judas Iscariot to hand Jesus over to his enemies. (Judas was the son of Simon.)  The Father had given Jesus power over everything. Jesus knew this. He also knew that he had come from God. And he knew that he was going back to God. So while they were eating, Jesus stood up and took off his robe. He got a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a bowl and began to wash the followers’ feet. He dried their feet with the towel that was wrapped around his waist.

 He came to Simon Peter. But Peter said to him, “Lord, you should not wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “You don’t know what I am doing now. But later you will understand.”

Peter said, “No! You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “If I don’t wash your feet, you are not one of my people.”

Simon Peter said, “Lord, after you wash my feet, wash my hands and my head too!”

Jesus said, “After a person has a bath, his whole body is clean. He needs only to wash his feet. And you are clean, but not all of you.” Jesus knew who would hand him over to his enemies. That is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

 When Jesus finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and went back to the table. He asked, “Do you understand what I did for you? You call me ‘Teacher.’ And you call me ‘Lord.’ And this is right, because that is what I am.  I am your Lord and Teacher. But I washed your feet. So you also should wash each other’s feet.  I did this as an example for you. So you should serve each other just as I served you. Believe me, servants are not greater than their master. Those who are sent to do something are not greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, great blessings will be yours if you do them.

 “I am not talking about all of you. I know the people I have chosen. But what the Scriptures say must happen: ‘The man who shared my food has turned against me.’ I am telling you this now before it happens. Then when it happens, you will believe that I Am. I assure you, whoever accepts the person I send also accepts me. And whoever accepts me also accepts the one who sent me.”

 After Jesus said these things, he felt very troubled. He said openly, “Believe me when I say that one of you will hand me over to my enemies.”

His followers all looked at each other. They did not understand who Jesus was talking about. One of the followers was next to Jesus and was leaning close to him. This was the one Jesus loved very much. Simon Peter made signs to this follower to ask Jesus who he was talking about.

That follower leaned closer to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?”

 Jesus answered him, “I will dip this bread into the dish. The man I give it to is the one.” So Jesus took a piece of bread, dipped it, and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.  When Judas took the bread, Satan entered him. Jesus said to Judas, “What you will do—do it quickly!”  No one at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas. Since Judas was the one in charge of the money, some of them thought that Jesus meant for him to go and buy some things they needed for the feast. Or they thought that Jesus wanted him to go give something to the poor.

Judas ate the bread Jesus gave him. Then he immediately went out. It was night.

When Judas was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the time for the Son of Man to receive his glory. And God will receive glory through him. If God receives glory through him, he will give glory to the Son through himself. And that will happen very soon.”

Jesus said, “My children, I will be with you only a short time more. You will look for me, but I tell you now what I told the Jewish leaders: Where I am going you cannot come.

 “I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other just as I loved you.  All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” (John 13:1-35)

What wonderful imagery of the telling the story of Jesus’s final hours with those He loved. They were sharing the Passover meal together. While they were eating Jesus got up and began to wash their feet. Picture this if you can – 12 men gathered around a table, reclining, sharing a celebratory meal together. Laugher. Joy. Passion. Jesus stops eating, gets up, wraps a towel around his waist and begins to wash their feet.

Wait, this isn’t the customary Passover meal!

In those moments Jesus became a servant and washed the dirtiest part of the human body. In ancient times wearing sandals was customary and the feet of those who entered a home were to be cleaned. Feet were extremely dirty. Yet here is Jesus choosing to pick up the towel and do the cleaning Himself – not just of one man, but to each and every one of the men who followed Him. Did you hear that? Jesus washed the feet of every single person there, including the one who was about to betray Him.

Jesus then goes on to teach, instructing His disciples to love and serve one another. Washing one another’s feet was a symbol of self sacrifice, service and love. Upon stressing the need to love one another, Jesus then shared that one of the twelve men with them now would betray Him. 

Love. Betray.

Oh, how interconnected they are.

As Jesus says this murmurs fly up within the crowd, “is it I?” and “Surely not me Lord!” But Jesus holds nothing back and says that it is he who eats this bread that Jesus dips into the bowl – reaching out with bread in his hand – he gives it to his long time companion and follower, Judas. 

Oh Judas.

Judas, the man Jesus had just washed His feet, the man Jesus instructed to love and serve one another – Judas leaves this Passover Meal to betray Jesus to the Pharisees. On this Maundy Thursday, take pause and remember – is Judas in you?

Many people could be sitting, professing to know Jesus and yet are far from Him in their lives. Perhaps you yourself have come to believe in Jesus and know His story but couldn’t find the faith or gather the trust to give yourself fully to Him. I don’t know your story. Yet, just like Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him before it happened. So too Jesus knows you, and, He knows me. Jesus Christ knows the hearts of people.

Only Jesus.

Not you, not me – no one can stand in judgement of what’s going on in your life right now – or what is going on in your heart – or even what is going on in the world right now. Only Jesus knows the hearts of men,  and it’s to Him you talk to about it. Because even if  you may have betrayed Him in some way in your life, He still loves you. He’s still get up from the table to wash your feet. He would still do it even knowing you may fail.

Why?

Because Jesus’ love is bigger and greater than anything on this earth. It’s beyond what we know or experience. It doesn’t reflect the heart of how we love as humans. All you have to do is look at our news or social media and see how much we have to learn to love like Jesus. The love that Jesus expressed in the washing of the feet, reflects the heart of God and it is deeper, wider, and higher than anything you can know (Ephesians 3:17-19)    Only Jesus knowing Judas who was about to turn him in to the authorities to be crucified to die – only Jesus has the immeasurable grace that we all need.

Maundy Thursday was the beginning of revealing that love to mankind.

I pause and wonder, when we are confronted with people who betray us in our own lives, what do we do? In our relationships? In our families? In our homes? In our communities? When we hear people’s stories. When we read their social media status’. What do we do? What’s our gut impulse? Are we like Jesus? Do we offer to wash their feet? Do we listen rather than defend? Do we hear people’s hearts and offer love in spite of whatever you think you see.

These aren’t questions you need to answer for me. I know that Jesus who knew Judas’ heart also knows yours. Bring yourself before Him. Experience the Easter story in a personal way. Allow the good news of His love to sink in. Listen to your own heart, search it and see what is needs. Accept the free flowing forgiveness, mercy and grace that Easter represents. No matter who you are we all need more of this in our lives.

Because here’s the truth – I am a Judas.

I have walked away, scorned and willfully betrayed Jesus on many occasions. I am free to say that because I know it’s true. I don’t offer it in shame or despair. I speak from a heart full of freedom. There is no shame in the Maundy Thursday! It’s the beginning of an amazing story of God’s love poured out through Jesus Christ. Friends, even in our betrayal, our feet can get clean.

Take your sandals off.

SaveSave

Listen Up

 

The-Woman-At-The-Well

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.

 

Confessions Of A Wayward Spirit

Wayward, yep, that’s me.

If you could sum me up with one word, it’s wayward. Synonyms for wayward are willful, headstrong, stubborn. Okay – that’s enough. Ouch. I don’t really want to sit and consider this truth recently revealed to me. It is too uncomfortable and too raw for me to see clearly right now. But there it is, just the same.

Don’t even try to tell me you don’t see it in me. Don’t try to talk me out of it. I know it’s true. The conviction of this truth was spoken by someone I trust and it’s rocked me to core. They didn’t quite say it like this, but man, God did. He hit me across the head and said, “Shelly, what are you doing?”

I have disguised this reality of who I am with acts of selfless service or moments of deep pain shared with intimate friends. My safety stayed in the story of who I am, but it also kept others at bay – at arms length. I don’t think I was trying to be manipulative or intending to lead others astray, but one’s heart does determine the actions that we choose, doesn’t it? Justify, wrestle and debate all you want – but there it is.

"But the bad things people say with their mouth come from the way they think. And that’s what can make people wrong. All these bad things begin in the mind: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual sins, stealing, lying, and insulting people. These are the things that make people wrong. Eating without washing their hands will never make people unacceptable to God." Matthew 15:18-20 (ERV)

It’s not what we do that determines our acceptance to God, it’s what we think. What we meditate on. How we handle situations. The ways in which we really love one another. I can’t say it any other way, I need help.

I need help to love when my mind tells me not to. I need help to forgive when my heart tells me no. I need help to trust in the plan of God, rather than relying upon myself. My wayward, stubborn, forceful self.

I’ve tried for most of my life to control the pain that lies deeply in the recess of my heart and mind. I have done lots of inner work to grow. I have become more and more vulnerable and transparent about life. I yearn for intimacy and because I do, I am wayward. I lust, I long, I linger on thoughts that get in the way of my faithfulness to God.

I have found freedom but I haven’t found forgiveness.

I am still trying to earn my way. Working to change my thoughts. Change my behavior. Change my life. Change, change, change. I, I, I. Ugh! There’s my wayward self striving so hard to fix things that were never mine to fix in the first place. Rather than accepting the powerful truth to let go and have God handle the situation, I hold tightly with these hands so bound they choke my spirit.

God is the only one who knows someone else’s heart. It doesn’t matter what I see, my perception is skewed. God is the only one who can work in all things to bring about healing and hope. Not any new idea or thought I have. God is the one one who loves me more than I love myself. Yeah, love myself.

I see through my own brokenness – don’t you?

Do you find it difficult to love when you hurt so? Do you consider blaming others rather than looking in the mirror to your soul?  Do you think you can handle it all yourself and that you don’t need anyone?

Don’t believe that lie – not for one minute. I need you, and friends, you need me. We are a people who need. Who want. Who long. Who desire. It’s the human condition. The question is, are you a kindred wayward soul like me, or are you a faithful and faith filled overcomer?

I admit there are times I am a faith filled overcomer. But not today, not tomorrow and not in the future. Not while I keep lying to myself. Self deception is the worst of all. We believe things about ourselves that are not true. Then we act upon them, digging ourselves deeper in layers of fear. Before we know it, we fool ourselves and life an unauthentic, unproductive and joyless life.

It ends, today.

Right now I admit, for all to see, read and hear, that I am a wayward, stubborn and self serving soul. My life has been upside down for so long, I don’t even recognize  the right way up very often. I admit, I need help. My heart is so full of pain and insecurity, it’s difficult for me to hear positive, loving and kind words. I have turned from the rejection I fear will come – and try to nip it in the bud.

Self condemnation is a terrible place to live.

Don’t live there my friends – I know it well. It’s a lonely place to be. Give flight to your words and let them come. Speak the truth of where you are at. Confess whatever you might need to and walk this journey with me.

Let’s move into the direction of God’s love. Let’s ask Him to change our hearts and our minds. I don’t know how He will, but certainly know He can. He’s done it for me before, it’s time this wayward woman asked Him again.

Join me?

"Your word is like a lamp that guides my steps, a light that shows the path I should take." Psalm 119:105

 

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.

 

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.

As The Storm Closes In…

nature_landscapes_winter_snow_snowing_snowflake_snowfall_roads_trees_forest_storm_blizzard_white_seasons_tunnel_1920x1200

How long will it last – the storm that is?

The weatherman says it will be the largest blizzard in over one hundred years to hit New England. A place where snow is a plenty and each flake is as welcome as the sands that scatter the shoreline. It is part of our culture and who we are. Storms come, we hunker down – press in and watch with scattered enthusiasm as the snow falls and witness anew the beauty of creation which casts it’s shadows among us on frigid winter days.

Whether it is a Nor’easter, a blizzard or just plain ‘ol snow granting us a few inches – we find ourselves like a child filled with wonder for a moment as we gaze at the white washed blanket that has settled over our landscape. It sure is pretty, isn’t it?  We pull ourselves away from the dreamlike state and remind ourselves of the reality that storms bring. Shoveling, losing power for hours on end and being house bound to remain safe on the roads we most often travel.

Just like life.

When faced with our own personal, individual storms. We have a choice in how we handle them – how we face them. Do we gaze upon our lives in reflection with realistic eyes of the work that lies ahead or do we remain in a  dreamlike state, unmoving – accepting the snow even as it falls?

Along with any storm or trial in our life, there comes a point where we can no longer deny the reality of how much snow will be dumped upon us. We have little control over the storms that come our way, but we do have control over how we respond to them. One lesson I needed to learn oh so long ago.

Sometimes, I just wander around in the storm. Overcome by the beauty as I walk about. Gazing at the places where the fresh snow lights up and glitters all around me. Digging perhaps into new places and finding new adventures along the way. Yet, often when you shake that tree limb as you climb on up – snow just pummels you down.

You just don’t always expect what comes your way.

How long will you wander about in your storm? At what point do you admit that you may need to bundle up, chart a new course as you walk about. I suggest, the only way to handle a storm is to get through them. There might be white outs as the wind howls and throws things to distract you as we walk. Sometimes we must settle in, hunker down and keep on walking.

Don’t believe me, that’s okay, you don’t need to. Let’s follow the example of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew chapter 14, we find some stories of storms and trials in the life of Jesus and his disciples. It began with the beheading of John the Baptist.  Matthew 14:13 says, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” Why would Jesus remove himself in private to find a solitary place? Could He perhaps be upset with this news? Jesus recognized His need to be alone and allowed himself the grace to find such a place for Him. This is how He chose to handle this personal storm – alone with His Father.

Yet, what does Scripture tell us? Verse 13b-14 says, “…. the crowds followed him on foot …. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Do you see? Jesus hears the sad news of the beheading of the man who baptized him and helped start His ministry. In grief, I suppose, he left privately in a boat to be alone. Yet as He landed on the shore, a crowd of people gathered. They sought Jesus out and He had compassion on them.

Compassion.

How many times when faced with your own moments of pain and strife, does compassion well up within you? Do you find yourself able to pull away and be alone with God to bring strength and comfort to you? In what ways do you seek to soothe your soul? Could I learn from Jesus who tried to carve out time for Himself with God? 

Are you looking for healing? This crowd gathered and waiting for Jesus was seeking just that – healing. Jesus went on to perform a miracle here and feeds the people, 5000 men – along with the women and children too. This my friends, is a lot of people. Many travelled to seek healing in their own storms of life. Whatever their situation upon the mountainside that day, Jesus met them there. He took care of their needs and loved them right where they were.

Right there.

With a compassionate heart, He set aside His own needs and gave. Although Jesus craved intimacy and oneness in the midst of His personal storm, He remained true to who He was, and gave love. I have to ask myself, would I do the same thing? When I am caught in my whitewashed way, do I deeply love from my heart? Am I seeking to calm the storm of my own life, rather than loves others in their’s?

The story continues in Matthew chapter 14 as Jesus continues to teach about compassion and love during storms. Even His disciples who had walked with Him needed teaching, just like me.

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:22-31

Jesus walked on water – absolutely amazing.

I’ve seen the waves pounding the disciples boat. Felt the spray on my face as the water sprinkled through the sky. Heard the winds howl bemoaning their course. What a storm, one for the record books! Envision Jesus walking, Peter focusing, Jesus reaching. In those quick moments, Jesus saves, saves. No matter what storm is going on in your life, Jesus….He’s got this!

Storms often cause us to focus on the waves, the tossing, turning of the boats. Drawing our attention away from that which centers us and casts us adrift, setting our minds to those things which may incite fear in us. Reminding us of past failures, hidden mistakes and defeat. Do not listen!

As the storm bears down, where is your focus ?

Are you making time to get away and be alone? Are you loving yourself, and others, right where they are at? Do you have your bearings set for a course straight on through that momentary storm?

Gather up moments my friends, seek out peace, focus on the good and no matter what interruptions comes your way – make the time for oneness with God.

Through the storm.