As The Storm Closes In…

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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.

Intimacy cries out

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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

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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.

I am not who you think

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I am a survivor.

Many things have happened in my life which shaped and molded who I am. How I see the world, approach it and engage with it. It’s a fact that circumstances and life experiences shape you. Yet,  how you respond, how you react – is all a choice. It may not feel like a choice when your emotions get ahold of you.  When sorrow and grief grip your soul – it doest feel like a choice does it?

I’m here to confess my own immaturity and lack of trust. My own fear strained life that nips at my heels. The harder I seem to run from it, the quicker it tends to ensnare me.  I mean really, who wants to admit they can’t do it all?

Oh wait, that’d be me.

You see, I am a fighter – it’s how I became a survivor. I rarely take “no” for an answer. I figure out a way. I press on. I rearrange my goals and chart a new course.

Survivors look to take the next step, scurry to climb the next knoll and take the next valley. It’s a fear filled reaction to the current situation – or to that which haunts you. Grief, shame, fear – feelings of insecurity and uncertainty can plague you.  These are not feelings which empower and encourage you.

They entrap you.

I am the first to tell you it’s true – for I’ve been entrapped for years. Bound to the thoughts of what others think of me. Enslaved to the fears that gripped my soul protesting that I am not good enough. Caught in the crossfire of my deep lack of faith in who I truly am and who I was created to be.

Our identity and self concept can get twisted at such a young age, defining who we think we are based on the circumstances we find ourselves in. Our family units, our relationships and our experiences define and shape us. This is a psychological and sociological fact. Yet is it a spiritual fact?

Who am I?

The most basic question we find plaguing our souls. Countless books, sermons, blog posts beg to answer this question. Who am I? It’s the ageless and timeless question of humanity looking to uncover our soul. Maybe we are asking an uncertain question.  Perhaps we should be asking who I am not.

I am not unworthy.

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out, you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made!” Psalm 139:13-14

I am not a product of my past.

“Therefore, if anyone is united with the Anointed One, that person is a new creation. The old life is gone—and see—a new life has begun!” 2 Cor 5:17

I am not living under law.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

You seeRather than being consumed by what I think, it’s beyond time I entrusted the deepest parts of me to the only One who can help redefine my spirit.

God.

Because of who God is, I can then be worthy. Because of who God is I no longer have to be enslaved to my past. Because of who God is I am now under grace. Grace.

There is this thing about grace in my life. I might offer it to others. Share it with those in need. Profess it to the multitudes. Yet deny it to my own very soul. Rather than give myself grace, I heap upon my shoulders more than I can bare. Repeating the pattern that’s I’ve been running from all my life. I am truly my own worst enemy!

Sigh.

I am sitting here right along with you and confessing this truth. Not because of anything I am able to. Oh no. Frankly it’s because it’s who I am not.

I am not going to deny my sinful side. I am not going to refuse to confess the darkness inside. I am not going it allow it to control my heart.

I am not who you think I am.

And that’s okay -because I am His. I will never live up to the expectations that others place upon me, nor the ones I place upon myself. I am just whom God desires me to be – a woman seeking Him and embracing His presence.

His.

So no matter what you might be facing today. What fear is enslaving you. What hope has been dashed from your soul. Rather than being consumed with who you are, grab ahold of who you are not. Flip your thoughts around. Do whatever you must. Feel the breaking shame on your back and expose it to the light of Jesus in His word.

“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.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

You are loved – that my friends, is always enough.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scripture taken from:

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

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002.

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

 

Everything is a choice

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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.

 

 

Letting go

 

Letting Go

I have nothing left. Not an ounce within me.

Seems that all strength and fortitude that’s kept me going has sapped me dry. I stand on the edge of a new change in my life and I can’t begin to even see the horizon, never mind the pebbles at my feet.

It takes all my effort to stand.

I just returned from saying goodbye to both of my children, who are now young adults – embracing their own lives. It’s the true test of letting go in my life. My family can attest that I am not very good at this. I hover like a helicopter parent at times looking to observe and reflect on things heard or said. Analyzing and overanalyzing things already in the past. Letting go means I truly had to do just that – let go.

I had to believe. I had to rely on the ground I had laid. I had to let go of what I had hoped to accomplish and accept the gift of the moment. It was time for me to truly trust – someone.

Rather than myself.

It’s at this point that I could quote a few scriptures and tell you that trusting God and believing Him is the essence of your faith, of my faith – verses like Proverbs 3:5-7 come to mind.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.”  (The Message)

But it’s not that type of blog post today. I’m not here to tell you what to do. In fact, I can’t even begin to think what I will do next. Who am I to suggest to you where you are headed? Who am I to think I have any wisdom to share? I am just a fellow traveller and sojourner. Nothing more.

See my hand raised over here? It’s me admitting that I try to figure it all out. I find one more thing to do. One more way to try to control. One more way to keep myself so busy.  In doing so, I am not still enough to hear His voice. Oh how I want to hear God’s voice! I seek Him. I study, I pray, I meditate. I, I, I. See – it’s all about me.

Enough.

It’s time I look in the mirror. It’s time I face the truth. As long as my life is about me. As long as I focus on what I want to do. As long as the center of my world is me. Will I ever be able to let go?

I am tired of the judgmental spirit that has lurked in my heart. I am convicted the moment I think I have it all figured out and impose that on others, it’s judgement. It doesn’t appear that way at first does it? We think our knowledge and wisdom comes to us through life experiences and it’s our responsibility to teach those around us so that they can learn.  But is it?

Our responsibility is to love.

“The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

 “No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” (John 8:3-11, The Message)

Jesus loved.

He came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10). He came to open the eyes of the blind (Lk 4:18). He came to offer forgiveness for people’s sins (Lk 7:48). He came – to love. He could have judged that woman caught in adultery. He could have abided by the law of Moses and stoned her. He could have condemned her- but he chose love.

Love.

When you let go, it’s not about the training you did as a parent, or the mistakes along the way – or even the accomplishments your son or daughter has now or in the future. No. It seems to me to be about boundaries. It’s not my life to share their stories, or to judge them  and tell them what to do. It’s their life now.

Entrust them to God.

Yes, trust. Give them over to Him. Whether your empty nesting like me, or just put them on the school bus for the first time. God has this. Don’t try to figure it all out. Live in moments where faith becomes real and love is alive, embrace it and live in grace. Be a father, a mother,  a sister, a brother – a child of grace. Trust that God has a greater plan than you can ever imagine.

Believe.

 

 

 

Regrets are real

GUilt

The guilt assails me. Shooting off like stealth missles in the dark are the thoughts of regret that drag down my soul. There is no need for your judgement upon me, I serve up plenty of my own.

That’s one place I continue to be well fed – self condemnation.

Wait, you say that’s not the life of a believer? Well then, welcome to my world. I believe in God, in Jesus Christ and who He is and what He has done — oh how I believe. Yet….. I doubt! I bring down enough judgement upon my soul for who I am and what I have or have not done  that you don’t need to share your critical thoughts.

I’ve got it covered.

Welcome to my head. Those inner thoughts that fight to control my mind. It’s a daily battle to overcome this negativity which keeps me buried in regret and the pain of the past. And here’s the thing, often in Christian circles it’s at this point we opt to quote a Scripture or impose a happy thought and think this will heal away the pain. With one quick word of encouragement all is well with our souls, our lives and our places in life. Pointing our minds into safer and certainly more calmer battle grounds. Isn’t that where hope is found?

No.

No. No. No. Hope is not found is memory verses or inspirational thoughts. Not in blog posts, Facebook status updates or tweets in cyberspace. Sure, they are wonderful ways we can be encouraged. Moments that uplift our hearts and help carry us along. But they are just that – ways we are encouraged. To find true wholeness and combat the deep pain in our hearts, you need more than a temporary fix. Sometimes even as Christians, we forget that. No, sometimes as a Christian, I forget that.

You see, I love people! I just do. I love being with them, listening to them and hearing their hearts. Yet sometimes the words that come from my heart wound more than they heal. I might intend for them to encourage as I share Scripture or offer a prayer. But honestly, am I offering up my heart? Am I sacrificing myself, my time, my focus – so my life becomes less about me and more about who is hurting? Am I willing to walk with this person, through hard times, through good times? Am I willing – to love?

Love has the power to push the guilt and wipe it clear off the memory of our hearts. Over time doses of love  gently open our hearts and help put into perspective our hurts and regrets.  There is something very powerful about regret,  it cries out to haunt you as you remember times long ago.

We simply can’t live in the past.

Life is full of changes, of transitions, of situations where we choose how we will respond. How will we cope and handle the things life has dealt us? This is not a time for deeper theology or relationships with one another – but rather a time for relationship with the Creator of intimacy Himself- Jesus Christ.

He who can heal our pain. He who hears our guilt. He who knows all our anxious thoughts. He who wants to carry the regrets we can’t seem to let go of. He who was calls out to us for a relationship. Not a quick quote to hang on a plaque on the wall to motivate us onward. But a real, deep, scary and intimate relationship.

Scary?

Sure. That’s the thing about relationships – they’re sometimes messy and dirty, sometimes loud and wild, sometimes broken and tender. Perhaps you have been in a relationship that’s broken, battered, worn, full of mistrust. Jesus still calls to you and loves you. Yes, loves you. YOU. Don’t let the reality of the relationship you currently live in define the hope of the relationship found in Jesus.

Friends, it’s time to minister to one another with authenticity and freedom. Walk with one another in dark times and in peace. It’s time to love. We all have enough self condemnation to stop us from moving the direction God is calling us to. Your choice, my choice, is to trust and take His Hand – and love.

For what speaks love more than holding a friend as they cry and loving them in their darkest hour. Cleaning hearts in the true walk of a Christian life. Cooking a meal, cleaning a bathroom, running an errand, watching the children. These are all expressions of love, but listening to the ache of a longing heart and accepting that heart.

That’s love.

Love’s power can replace unhealthy thoughts and patterns, planting hope and a future. And love can empower us to minister to one another – showering grace into our hearts, lives and homes. Exposing that guilt for what it is and letting it be washed away.

No matter what regrets grip your heart. What guilt shackles you down. You aren’t alone. With just one word you can cry out to the one who desires the relationship that matters most in your life.

Walk with Him.

“Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.” 2Cor 5:17

Contemporary English Version 
Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

My Performance

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Confession time.

I’ve spent most of my life measuring out ways in which I can find my place into God’s graces. I’ve sought Him out for relief, for hope, for answers, for direction – for so many things. But there is nothing, just nothing, I can ever do, to place one more note on the scale in His score. No matter how hard I try, or what I do, my place in the symphony of saints is secure. Because I am His.

His.

Sometimes, if you are like me, you might fall into this trap. We strive to perform. We search to find moments where we will be good “enough”, strong “enough” or faithful “enough”. We search and scour our thinking, contemplating “if we only had ______” that note might finally land on the page of the Great Composer.
Enough.

Until I accept He is enough, I will lie to myself into thinking that God’s majestic symphony will somehow exclude me. God conducts a marvelous tune and I must yield to Him and dance along. Sometimes I shout out in a chorus of praise and song and sometimes I just close my eyes and listen to the music He’s orchestrating.

God’s love is not dependent on my performance.

Or yours.

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 

 

God is… love

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God is love.

It’s just that simple – and that complicated.

Love. It is this deep need we have within ourselves. We desire to be loved. We yearn for it. We seek it out and perhaps get a bit desperate sometimes. We search for it, looking all over, as it we lost it somehow. Love – we fall into it, out of it, we give it, receive it, refuse to offer it sometimes and can even give way too much of it.

Love. God is love.

When I think of God, I don’t think of an emotional being, not at all. I think of a spiritual, transformational, powerful, all knowing and ever present being.  I rarely think or contemplate this nature of God, yet the Bible tells us that God is love. One of the shortest verses in Scripture is packed with such profound truth.

He is love and because He is love, we too, can love. God is the author of love Himself. The provider of strength to those seeking it. The giver of hope when you can’t seem to find the way to express it. God is love and it’s His love that can mold us into being love to others. His love works in us and through us.

The greatest story ever told, is the story of love itself.

God loves you, yes YOU –  so very much that He choose to send His very own son, Jesus, to bring us back into relationship with Him. God chose to love us, even when we did nothing to receive that love. God chose to love us  even when we didn’t deserve it. It’s this amazing picture of selfless, sacrificial and devotional love.

God chose to send His son. God chose to sacrifice Him. God chose for Him to be resurrected. God chose to send His Spirit. God chose this plan for your salvation. God chose. God chose. God chose.

Love my friends, it’s not just a emotional feeling or response – it’s a choice. Sometimes we just don’t feel loved. When we don’t feel it, it’s so much harder to choose love, isn’t it?

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:16-19)

God not only loves us, but wants us to grasp how wide, how long, how high and how deep is the love of Christ! This love is so huge! It’s so hard for our finite minds to grasp and yet He calls us to it, Paul said it’s his prayer. The Spirit of the Living God can strengthen your inner being. You can be filled to the measure of the fullness of God. How amazing this love is!

God is love.

Why do we complicate something so beautiful?

Chose Him.