Hang On

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It began to spin and at first it was fun.

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

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

Who doesn’t love a merry-go-round?

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

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

Have you been there?

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

Tiring, isn’t it?

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

What happened?

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

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

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

Forgiven.

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

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

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

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

That was enough.

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

You sins are forgiven.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get UP.

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

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

Ouch.

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

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

Believe.

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

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

Get up, dear one.

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

The Begging Place

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So what do you do when you have nothing left?

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

Beg.

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

“Help.”

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

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

Surrender.

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

Surrender.

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

It is a choice you know.

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

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

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

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

He. Reigns.

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

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

He is hope.

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

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

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

“Help.”

 

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

Freedom

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The 4th of July has just passed us by. It’s a time in the United States where we often set aside our political beliefs, our arguments and celebrate the freedom that we all share. It’s a novel idea really – focusing on that which we have in common rather than that which we don’t.

Flags wave in the breeze and we salute the sacrifices of so many to pay the price for this freedom. We honor families, friends, neighbors with BBQ’s and a feast to delight our palates. Parade’s march, parties gather and fireworks light up the sky,  reminding us – we have much to be thankful for. Freedom

Is it free?

I’d be hard pressed to tell you that we possess freedom here in this country without acknowledging the many who died to wrestle us from the tyranny of the government we wanted freedom from. It would be very unwise to suggest we have kept this freedom without recognizing the sacrifices of so many who have gone before us. In countless wars and in peace time, lives were forever changed-freedom is by no means, free.

Lately, I’ve been listening to some lessons on freedom at my local church. Freedom in a spiritual sense. Freedom from laws, from rules, from expectations that I have tended to impose upon myself for most of my life.  This too gives me pause, for freedom is surely not free, even spiritually.

“So stand strong for our freedom! The Anointed One freed us so we wouldn’t spend one more day under the yoke of slavery, trapped under the law.” (Galatians 5:1)

The freedom we have in Jesus Christ has freed us so that we wouldn’t spend even one more day under the yoke of law! We are free from the  law and it’s burdens. Free from the traditions and moral obligations we impose on one another. In Christ, we are free. Free!

Our freedom was paid with a hefty price, just like the many soldiers before us who paved the way for the freedom in which we now stand on this soil. Jesus Christ paid one price, for all, for eternity for our souls. Nothing more was needed. Done.

As Jesus hung on the cross He cried out, “It is finished! In that moment, His head fell; and He gave up the spirit.” (John 19:30)

You see, as much as we’d like to, or try to – we can’t can’t earn love.  We strive to earn and redeem it ourselves. We wrestle to earn our salvation. My goodness we do anything we can to earn what we think we need for salvation – because surely nothing is free!

Is it?

 “For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift,  pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Why do we work so hard to gather something that God freely gave? Why do we refuse the gift of God and instead sacrifice our soul? Why do we think we have to have it all figured out before we can love.

Just love.

“Love comes straight from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and truly knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Because of this, the love of God is a reality among us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we could find true life through Him. This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins. ” (1John 4:7-10)

God is love. He is. Love. He loved you so much, loved me so much, that He sent His Son Jesus to hang upon that cross and suffer. When He cried out it is finished, it was once for all mankind. There is nothing, just nothing you can do to earn your salvation.

Stop trying.

Love. Just love! Receive it.  Open your heart and believe it. Welcome Jesus in – unfurl your own heart, let His banner over you be secure. Rest in His love. For in doing so, you become love and let His light shine and freedom ring within you.

You.

You are free. Embrace your freedom, stand firm and don’t let yourselves be yoked again. It’s time to celebrate!

 

Darkness Closes In

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“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).” Mark 15:33-34

Forsaken.

The very last words of Jesus Christ as he hung upon the cross were words that cry out with despair and abandonment. God’s only Son calls out to His Father seeking comfort and oneness. In the deepest and darkest place of Jesus’s life, where was God?

Why have you forsaken me?

Jesus had lived his life on this earth in communion with His Father. They shared a close bond and an ongoing growing relationship. With constant sharing in prayer, intimacy was woven between them – deep communion grew. They were intimate. Jesus was so one with the Father, that being about His kingdom was His passion and ministry.

Even as a young boy Jesus was most comfortable in His Father’s House.

“…. the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.  After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  Luke 2:43b-49

As Jesus began His ministry, He went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist. “And a voice from heaven said, “…… This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17  God loved His Son, He was pleased with Him. Before even one item on the “to do” list was accomplished in the ministry of Jesus, God proclaims His love for Him.

His love!

Jesus spent time building His relationship with God. He communicated with Him through prayer. Jesus sought out the Father to rely upon, to entrust Himself to and to strengthen his faith. He prayed early in the morning, late at night, alone and for hours on end. Jesus was a man of prayer and this is how their relationship was built – with words.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35

“…..Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 6:12

 ….. he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone.” Matthew 14:22-23

Jesus prayed. The man who became our mediator knows what it feels like to need space, to feel desperate and to have to plead our case. For he pled His own.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If Jesus Christ can ask this question, surely we can. When we can’t find our footing as we reach out to the Father. When we can’t find the peace which God provides. When we ask, “where are you Father?” When the darkness closes in.

Ask.

Wait for His reply. Yes, just wait. I know it’s hard. It’s brutal even. Yet God’s timing is the most precious and sacred time of all. Our Savior could have called 10,000 angels to relieve His pain. He could have removed Himself from the cross and ended His suffering. But He endured. He remained faithful. He agonized. He hurt. He stayed.

Have you ever wondered what were those early believers were thinking? The Teacher who performed miracles, who talked about a kingdom to come. Now what? Those followers who walked with Jesus, who heard His teaching, who witnessed the miracles.  Where are they now?

Darkness has come.

Their Teacher? Dead. Their Kingdom. A dream.  Their hopes and their faith rocked to it’s very core – as they scattered – just like Jesus predicted. (Matt 26:31)  They denied, betrayed and refused to admit their loyalty to Jesus. They hid in an upper room and mourned the one they loved in private. The communion they shared with Jesus, gone. They mourned Him, oh how they mourned Him!

What happens to you when darkness closes in?

Do you hide in your own upper room? Fill your time with distractions and consider that time sacred? Do you live in denial and refuse to confront the sin in your life? Do you betray your first love Jesus by seeking out other ways to fill yourself? Are we like the early Christians who spend time with the Holy Lord but don’t recognize His signs and wonders? Do we trust Him? Commune with Him? Wait upon Him?

Just wait.

For His perfect, sacred, holy time. All the disciples had believed in, seemed lost. All hope appeared gone. They felt forsaken, abandoned, alone. Like Jesus on the cross asking God why He abandoned Him, so too I suspect, are the disciples wondering why Jesus did the exact same thing. Have you ever asked Him such a question….where are you LORD?

Spend time with Jesus cultivating communion. Learn about Him and know His heart so you can recognize Him when He arises from that tomb in your soul. Do not look with your eyes alone, but with your heart. Have faith. Believe.

For the darkness does not win, it closes in, but never snuffs out the light.

The Veil Is Torn

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Sometimes we don’t see clearly. Do we?

We live our lives in an understanding of who we think we are. We tell ourselves we’re products of our environment, dependent upon the circumstances in which we live.  Our life as a child growing up created this framework in which we now engage and view the world. We are caught in this reality of a brokeness. No matter what you experienced in your home –  neglect, financial instability, additive behavior, abuse – difficult, oh so difficult life situations – whatever life threw our way, we feel like victims. Victims. We all have our own story don’t we?  Often there are things we have experienced that we wouldn’t wish on anyone, yet here we are. Hiding behind the curtain that shrouds our vision, our thinking – our very being. We’ve swallowed the lies.

I am not good enough.

I am not worth it. I am not lovable. I got what I deserved. Can you hear it? The doubt, the fear – the desperate need to be loved. It’s cries out from our deepest longings. We see glimmers of light shining as the curtain sways. We grab its edge, gently move it so we can peer out – yet all we see is skewed, distorted – untrue.  We have this veil covering our eyes, our minds – our very hearts. We just can’t see ourselves for who we are – or for whom we can become.

We move within our lives in ways which reflects what we believe. I think I am not good enough, so I act like I am not good enough. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. I won’t eat right or control my tongue and certainly not cut back on my internet use – I can justify these as ways that serve me – however do they not enslave me? I can’t speak for you – you will have to name the ways in which you do this to yourself. I am asking when did taking care of ourselves become a sinful thing to do?  Choices I now make reinforce this thought pattern in my mind. I say to myself, “I’m not going to take care of myself, no one cares anyway.”  If I think I don’t deserve to be loved I will allow myself to be treated as unlovable. Those in our hearts we long for to treat us differently, will choose to continue to treat us as we believe about ourselves.

It’s time.

It’s time to confront the lies we live in, the thoughts we combat, the ways in which we doubt. Sometimes the doubts keep us in that valley while we are eager for the mountaintop. We yearn for acceptance, we work hard to gain love,  we serve in a multitude of ways and we just get busy. These can be dark times and we keep ourselves enslaved by believing the lies. That veil covering keeps us from understanding who we are, and whose we are.

We must take off the veil – and see.

“But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last. At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces.” Matthew 27:50-53

The very moment Jesus Christ died upon the cross at Calvary, God moved. Immediately! Scripture says that the Temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom. There wasn’t one jagged edge left to rip apart, it was completely torn in two – separated and a new way was born. In death life sprang forth. God ushered in a new way for us to be intimate with Him. In former times only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy of Holies but once a year. Now Yaweh has torn away the dividing wall and brought us, you, me – into our true identity.  He invites us to be one with Him in the most sacred place. We are His.

His.

Because we are His it’s time to embrace who we really are let Him mold our true identity. To live not as victims but as victorious. Rip away the curtain you are hiding behind, tear off the veil shrouding your sense of vision, let the Light shine deep into your soul. Because of Jesus Christ we can be intimate with the Father, we can have sweet, deep, intimate fellowship with Him. Your vision of the world can change my friend. But first, let Him change you.

It’s long past time.

 

Out Of The Shadows

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I can’t seem to find my way.

I see the light, it’s inviting me to step up, out and go onward.  And yet, my feet, they just can’t grab ahold. I take a step, the rocks they shift and scatter as my weight bears down on them. My foot, it slips. Sometimes I fall. I try to move, just move – my feet, yet when my feet fail me, what do I do? I could just sit there, gazing up and thinking how beautiful that light is. But, no! I stretch out my hands to grab ahold and feel for the rock under my grip. Maybe between my arms and legs I pull myself up and can climb out – and be free.

So why am I still here?

Sitting in my cavern of doubt, this place I know so well – questions rise to the surface faster than any sense of peace. I look up and see the light shining and I want to go to it, climb out and sit it’s in warmth. I want – the light. The warmth it brings, the comfort I find, the hope of being able to see in the darkness. That’s the thing about light, it shines like a beacon. Calling us to it’s presence.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” It is just that simple. Jesus is the light. He is the source of warmth, of comfort and of the hope that I seek. He is the every glowing, nonstop energy source we can cling to, we can hold onto, yes – we can trust. Trust.  As you sit in your own cavern surrounded by doubt and fears, you have a choice. You do! Take one more step- just one. Who cares if you are standing on the rubble of a battered life, of broken promises and shattered dreams?

Jesus does.

Are you grieving? Then grieve my friend. Feel the pressure of the rocks under your feet. Let the wounds they inflict bleed. As you reach for another cleft in the rock looking to climb out – know this. Remaining in that cavern may be the place that you need to be. The step you want to take to climb out, in fact may be the one you need to take to step out of the shadows you are hiding in and place yourself into the beam of His presence.

Step my friend, into the light.

His light. You may be wrestling to climb out when He is inviting you to sit with Him. The light Jesus can shine, it can move into every crevice in that cavern, every place of darkness can be aflame with His truth. But first you must step out of the shadows of the doubt and into it. Let it cast it’s beam right into your personal pit of pain and insecurity. He’s there, with you, now. No matter what you face, no matter how much you feel overcome or are discouraged. His light shines forth.

Its an invitation!

He is the light of the world. That word light in Matthew 5:16 means, “the light by which true life is gained.” Jesus is proclaiming that He is the way in which true life is gained. LIFE. Oh, Jesus is the way. It reminds me of this verse in John 14:6 when Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He is calling out like a lighthouse beam on the oceans shore – shouting out His Majesty that He is the Savior of the world, and through Him you can have eternal life. It’s a ray of hope revealing the goodness and the mercy of God’s favor, His delight. His love can reach us into the darkened places of our hearts, reveal our doubts and is present in moments of weakness.

Can you see Him shining through?

Sometimes you might have to be in the process and grieve. Feel the pain – endure suffering. Your dreams you had, they may not be what has played out before you. You may find the walls of your cavern scribbled with words of despair and loneliness. You might be keeping yourself cloaked in regrets of the past. You may be blinded by fears of the future and of the unknown. Whatever your situation is, regardless of the circumstances – it doesn’t matter – we all have our own caverns and pits -our places where we are more comfortable in the shadows than in the light.

I encourage, my friend, His light can shine through that hole in your heart, my heart, and cast a beam of hope. Don’t get comfortable in the darkness, place yourself in His care. Trust Him. Let Him shine into your heart. Invite hope to rise.

Maybe the way out isn’t up, but through.

Follow the Light.

In the most unlikely place

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I was sitting in a courthouse of all places –  a courthouse.

The place were laws are made, upheld and enforced. Peering into the reality that what I was about to face -well – it’s wasn’t going to be pretty. I owed a debt. Not a large debt, but one that had gone unpaid. Questions surfaced and attacked my sense of reality – just how had this debt accumulated that I was unaware of?  Why hadn’t this been handled earlier? I had always been a responsible person. Exactly how did I get here?

Perhaps that story is for another day, for what came from this experience is so much richer than how I got here. This story needs to be told, why else would I admit such hard things?

My arrival on the courthouse steps wasn’t this scene from Law & Order or anything significant. When I walked in, not one person recognized me or was there to fight on my behalf. I walked in – alone. As I opened the doors to the crowded courtroom I could hear the judge as he read off the names of people waiting in the gallery for their turn to speak and be heard.  When my case was called, I somehow needed to find my feet and rise up to stand. All eyes from that sea of faces were upon me, gulp, yes me. I knew in that moment, I was no longer alone. I was a part of this plethora of people who hurt, who are broken and have fallen and just might need a new contract on life.

Make no mistake I was there to take ownership and  be responsible for the things that transpired. Yet somehow I realized this debt that accumulated over time, had brought doubt and shame to my own sense of who I am as a person. Who had I become that I let a small amount of money determine  my sense of self and purpose? This is what I truly had to face – not the debt.

Myself.

As the judge dismissed us, more waiting began outside in the lobby of the courthouse. The benches filled up with souls awaiting their turn to speak their story, to tell their tale – and to be heard. I sat among them and as I looked out at the morning sun, I smiled at the beauty of another day, even the hard ones. The benches filled and chatter ensued. Yet I stay enclosed in my thoughts, sitting on my bench all alone, just me. Until.

Until she sat down.

We both looked more alike than the rest of the crowd, our clothes were a bit cleaner, our hair a bit neater and our conversation much quieter. I don’t remember how it happened, but somehow we talked, sharing our stories with one another. I found this such a gift to prepare myself to speak to the lawyer when it was my turn. As our stories unfolded I found our lives intersected in so many ways, our dreams similar and our hopes just as dashed. At one point she leans over to me quietly and says, “you know, you should really talk to the free legal team here, they have really helped me.” As I awaited justice, judgement and punishment, I heard the first whisper of mercy.

Mercy.

I thought for a moment, could this be? My questions were answered as quickly as I posed them to myself. The free legal team was searching me out, they called my name. We met and discussed my case. In fact, I didn’t have to discuss much at all. I walked in alone to the courtroom but now I had someone to defend me, someone who heard my story. Next thing I know I am filling out paperwork and they meet with the judge.

Case dismissed.

Just like that. The wheels of justice turned and once set in motion, they blew right past me. Not only was my case dismissed, it will now be expunged from my record. My name, my good name, is back intact.  My years of hard work and reliability, of consistent payment of debts, restored.   Erased. Redeemed. Forgiven. Like it never even happened.

Mercy.

Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone when it is within one’s power to punish. This is what I experienced today, awe inspiring mercy. It was within the courts rights to hold me to this debt, yet I was freed. I can’t ever express what this has done for me. Not for my bottom line financially, but for my spirit. I tasted mercy and forgiveness and now I am  called to offer the same. Freely I have received and freely I must give.

Parable of unmerciful servant.

“At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Mercy.

I was now walking within this very parable, in God’s story for my own life. Like the man forgiven of his debts, I too had been forgiven. Okay, so I didn’t owe 10,000 bags of gold, but I had a debt, one I couldn’t pay. What would I do? Would I return home from the courthouse, renewed with hope, and show mercy? Or would I be like the unmerciful servant who demands from others more then he himself could give? Could I truly grasp the gift of mercy God had bestowed upon me? I. Couldn’t. Breathe. I needed to stop and take it all in –  and weep.

This wasn’t about money, oh no. It was about me.

About me loving, trusting and believing in God  – and receiving mercy. The most precious gift of all, compassion touching my heart in places that laid bare before Him. Places I didn’t even know existed, but He did.  Remember, I had let money define and determine my value. Money is a currency – but not one of the heart. There is no price tag on our value, no balance sheet that can hold all our debts. No. We are valuable because of His love. We are valuable because of His mercy. We are valuable because we are His.

His.

I don’t know what debts you owe. . What situation you have in your life that might throw you into your debtors court. This I do know, it’s humiliating. But if I had never walked up those courthouse steps, I wouldn’t have been able to experience the incredible mercy of the Living God. YWHW. Perhaps your debt isn’t financial – but you feel it. There is forgiveness that needs to be offered, hope that needs to be restored and hearts to love and encourage to turn to Him.

Just take one step. Let mercy win.

 New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986