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

 

A New Year?

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2017.

Just like that, the clock ticks, the bell chimes and the new year slips right in. Not with loud fan fair, or much celebration – but another moment in time. Another hour, another day, another year. Just when I was sweeping up the memories, both happy and sad, of 2016 – 2017 just waltzed right in.

How did that happen?

You might be ready to be rid of 2016. Perhaps it included loss, pain and  unfulfilled dreams – for you that door can’t close fast enough on the year, can it? I know. I know that sense of closure needed to move forward and beyond what was, hoping for what’s to come. I’ve had many years where I slammed that door shut myself.

So, here we stand, on the cusp of a year not yet lived. What do you long for in this year? I know what I do. I can speak it faster than you process your own thoughts. I’ve been kicking around stones on a new path, following it, even as it’s windy roads keep me in circles sometimes. I am ready. So ready – for 2017.

How about you?

Are ready to breathe in new life into your own? Are you ready to lay aside your pain, your anxiety and sense of hopelessness? Taking a hard look at who you are and how you live your life. Knowing with strength and certainty that you are worth each moment that this year will bring you.

If there is one truth to grab ahold of as you start this new year, it’s that you are worth every moment you give to yourself. Don’t doubt it. Don’t deny it. Don’t hesitate. Love. Love yourself. As you love yourself, or perhaps learn to love yourself, love springs from within you to share with others. If it seems trite to you, don’t take my word for it.

Jesus Christ was asked once,

“Which is most important of all the commandments?”

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” (Mark 12:28b – 31  The Message)

Did you ever stop to realize that loving God means loving yourself?

Jesus asks us to love God with all our passion, prayer, intelligence and energy. Then He proceeds to instruct us to do the same to our very hearts. How often do you love yourself passionately? Really? Me neither.

It takes great effort to think about myself. I spend so much of my time thinking of others, of what needs have to be met, of what things have to be done – that somewhere along the way, I get lost. It’s not a new phenomenon, it’s a raw reality of my life. I’ve allowed myself to be loved less, and in the process, believed I am unlovable.

The greatest gift I hope to give myself in 2017, is love.

Loving myself. Accepting the desires that are within me as gifts from the Heavenly Father and live them in my daily life.  Some may profess that’s not a Christian attitude, well.. I use to believe that myself. God has had to teach me through years of suffering that loving myself is how I honor and love Him. It’s not what I do that makes me a follower of Jesus. It’s who I am, and who lives in me. God’s Spirit resides in me.

Read that again.

God’s Spirit lives in me! If you are a Christian reading this, then He lives in you too. Have I spent my time, wasting time, putting myself in a position I was never meant to be in? Am I putting down the Almighty God Himself when I reject His life within me? When I repeat long held negatively tucked deep away in my spirit. When I insist on focusing on what I do, rather than who He created me to be – I am choking the Spirit’s ability to reign fully in my heart and lead.

We must let go, and love, ourself.

So, as you kick off this New Year, I ask you to join me. Stand in the front of the mirror of your heart and listen to your soul and hear it’s cries. Listen. Don’t turn away. Don’t get busy. Be still. Get quiet. When the thoughts come of what you really love, find a way to use that passion for good, and for God. Allow the Holy Spirit to open your mind and your heart into a new direction, His. Don’t quench the Spirit of God, let Him love you. And in doing so, you love yourself.

2017, bring it on.

Endless Days

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It’s been months now.

Days after day, turning into month upon month. Incessant needs swirling all around seemingly never-ending . Moments of nonstop activity. Times of restless energy. Interrupted by deep suffering. Yes suffering. Mourning. Grieving. Hurting. Moving through the darkness of a life left with unfulfilled dreams, unspoken love and sadness – knowing they were about to leave this world as they struggled to feel loved.

Heartbreaking.

So heartbreaking to realize that people go through this life feeling unloved. Not experiencing, not knowing, not accepting love in it’s purest form. Letting it sink down deeply into the recesses of one’s heart – a precious gift from one to another. Compassion. Forgiveness. Mercy – love.

Perhaps the love you experienced in your life, or are experiencing now, is not something you want to emulate, not something you want to give or even not what you want to receive. Maybe it’s not the reality you desire … yet here you are. Yearning for love, but your understanding of it, and perhaps your lack of experience in knowing what real love is, skews your perception, effects your ability to give and certainly to receive love. It’s like reaching for something you deeply desire – to find it falls between your grasp. Hoping that the next time you reach for it, you’ll snag it with your hands. So simple, huh?

No.

Loving and being loved is learned through the social framework and family structures in which we were born, how we were raised and to this point, how we have chosen to live our lives. Some of these things we have encountered may not be a personal choice. You didn’t chose to be the son or the daughter of an alcoholic, of an addict or of an abuser. There are things in your life that you have had absolutely no control over. None. You can’t change the beliefs, the choices or the addictions that others in your life wrestled with. The insecurities, the frailities or the demons that they faced. That was not your choice -you had no say in the matter.

None.

It shaped your reality. Helped form your identity. It can haunt you for eternity. You see my friend, love is. In it’s purest nature, love fills hearts, fills minds and fills souls like nothing else can. It breeds empathy, mercy and compassion. Allowing relationships to grow, to expand and go into places that were once guarded. Love heals. Love gives. Love hopes. This pure love is not something often familiar to many of us – or part of our daily interactions with those we care for. If you grew up in an alcoholic, an addictive or an abusive home, love is not always pure. Love is interpreted by the pain of the past, often difficult to break free from and facing daily struggles to find hope. To feel loved.

God says that love never fails.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Often when I read this I find myself questioning the reality and truth in these words. If love is truly all these things, then where exactly does the love I give or experience come from? In what form or fashion do I find myself defining love and how come it’s so much more different than how God defines it?

How come, God?

I’ve been asking this question for ages. Why? Maybe you have asked it a time or two yourself?  Depending on your life circumstances and personal experiences – you could be asking it often. A daily grind of combatting the deep truth that you really are loved and you are worth loving. I have news for you, you ARE. You are loved and your are worth loving! Don’t take my word for it.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

God loves you. He loves you so very, very much. He wants a relationship with you, so that you can begin to understand His love for you through His Son, Jesus Christ. The story of His love is true, and it’s so incredibly deep. We will talk more about the divine love of God, but not today.

Let’s keep it simple.

Not long debates about what you need to do, or not do. No exegesis of the Bible and every word where love is spoken. No. Simply put – the love of God. The love that combats all doubt. The love that confronts your fears. The love that has been poured out for you so that you might walk away from the pain and the brokenness of what you know and walk into the holiness of what is true. That deep love you yearn for is real and you can grasp it within your hands. It’s real. It’s true. It’s full of hope.

You are loved. No circumstance. No situation. No person can tell that you are not worth loving. Do not give them that power. Find rest in the assurance that you are loved. Drink a small drop of living water that recognizes that you are worthy. Cling to the truth that you matter. Don’t let go of who you are – God sent His Son for you because He loves you so – don’t give up. Feeling loved begins now.

Love yourself.

 

I Had No Idea

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I had no idea.

Not a single thought, or wandering moment, when I considered the choice before me. My heart had already spoke before the words came off my lips. “Yes, yes, I will do this.” I believed in the choice before me. I knew it was right. I understood their would be sacrifice. I envisioned, I suppose, what my days might encompass Yet nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for this past year as a mother, as a wife, as a woman- who chose to be a caregiver.

I find deep joy in giving to others. It’s second nature to me. It’s who I am. I believe in good. I believe in people. I believe in loving them to the best of your ability. Offering love and compassion to someone is a gift – having the honor to do so in their final days on this earth – indescribable. Regardless of my beliefs, nothing could prepare me for the months that would follow.

I really had no idea.

This was a time when believing in what you thought was right turned your feelings and thoughts into action – you just do. I thought I had the strength, the fortitude, to march onward. Although I had no knowledge of what lay before me, I believed I would be able to withstand the pressure. But whom can prepare you for moments like these in your life?

Looking back on it now, if you had told me then what it would be like, perhaps giving me descriptions and details of what would unfold – I may have made a different choice. I probably would have wanted someone else to come in and do all the work. Because there was no way  I was going to be able to handle it all. The daily grind of medication administration, personal care giving, driving to appointments/treatment, the constant need for attention. Working 16 hour days – day after day, week after week, month after month.

Oh.

I didn’t realize at the time how much of the burden would lay at my feet. I assumed it would be a family affair – sharing responsibilities between us as we worked together. At times it was as we combined efforts to divvy up responsibilities, but that was short lived. It was my wonderful husband, whose plate was already overflowing, who worked so hard to help shoulder the burden that lay before us. This was a new journey we were walking, together. 

The exhaustion would envelope me daily as I crashed upon the bed hoping to find some reprise and rest. I pushed through days savoring gentle moments of God’s presence with me. Seeing the sunrise and witnessing the start of another day, I would snap a quick photo to remind me why I was here. That God called me to these moments. I was learning to be still – to rest – to trust. To allow the situation to unfold and know that I have absolutely no control, this had to be okay. It was beyond time for me to learn how to be. Being still in the knowledge that these moments, no matter how crazy they are, are precious gifts from the Hand of the Almighty Father.

I was walking a path filled with instances of God breathing life into long ago dead places. When His Presence becomes known. Where His fingerprints become your marking. When you are planted in peace that permeates your soul. Your purpose clear, the calm present, a gift from the throne room of heaven.. Whispering as you collapse into God’s tender embrace, you begin to feel His love, know His love, be His love. Your existence no longer becomes about what you do – but who you are – bellowing out for all the world to hear. You are there, you are here – you are. Somehow in the everydayness of caregiving, you became cared for.

I had no idea.

This journey has been so much more than a physical one. Facing your final days on this earth your focus begins to shift as you pause and reflect on what is of most importance. All that you had invested in comes crashing down. The security you put in your bank account or shored up property can’t erase the fact that death is knocking at your door. Questioning your choices in life, you ask some very hard questions. Hoping to ease your heart, your mind and your eternal soul, you search for answers where only God holds the key.

Tending to your soul is of primal important in these precious days, what a privilege to alongside you. Emotional times spring forth as we talk about the value of life. All pretense began to drop as you face the reality that death is coming – soon. Gentle times of togetherness, laughter among family and friends and the truth spoken brings calm to anxiety filled hearts.

I had no idea.

None. Nada. Zip. That the emotional journey I would embark on during this caregiving time would take such a tremendous toll on my life.  I didn’t bargain for the way your story became my own. I didn’t know that your pain would be so unbearable to witness. I didn’t plan that the days which followed your death would immobilize me so very much. Your death became a part of my own – for a part of my old self passed along with you.

My body, my mind and my spirit are all eager for rest. Not only am I physically exhausted, but emotionally and spiritually too.  I am forever changed by these days of sacrifice, that’s the wonderful thing about love – it changes you. I am hopeful for healing. I am waiting for peace to reside. I am quiet as I listen. I continue in the practices You wrote upon my heart God, each day looking to You, for You and being with You.  I know you are here and I am enough because I am Yours..

God needed to be my life source and keep me going. He was the fuel to my engine for each day. It was just my job to wake up and move. To glance out that window and remember who was in charge. Then let Him be that one. My purpose was to rest. My aim, to trust. My hope, to live. It sounds so simple now, like some quick and easy plan or mathematical equation we often use to define our spiritual selves. Like study + prayer = Peace – who believes the eternal God who created the universe and calls each of us home in His time, can be summed up in a + b = c? How finite our minds are! During these long days that stretched into months,  I didn’t have time to study. There weren’t moments for long winded prayers. I gasped for prayer like I was gulping down air. I needed oxygen to breath and I needed His Spirit to fill me. Period.

I had no idea.

Of the blessings that would flow. Of the depths to which your love would reach me. Of the truth that your ways are higher than my ways releases me from imposing my own way on others. I am free. Because of you and my relationship with you, I am free. You are more than a ticket to heaven later, you are the life giving force in my life now. Here. Today.

We serve an infinite God! He chooses to love us in intimate and personal ways. Speaking to our hearts and our minds. He brings clarity to our thoughts. He brings hope to our musings. He is more than words on a page. He is more than an answer to prayer. He is. The Almighty God is over all and wants to bring peace and build quiet places where we live, where you live, where I live – today.

My body may be weak, my emotions may vacillate but my hope is in God. Would you put your hope in Him today? His arms are large enough to hold you. His heart beats for you, empathizes with you, loves you. Yes – you. So, don’t wonder if you are good enough. Life is too short and precious to focus our energies and our vision on our weaknesses, our shortcomings and our missed opportunities. Don’t belabor the choices you have made already in your life. Seek God out, He is enough.

All this time, I had no idea.

Walk With Me

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I just don’t have the strength anymore.

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

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

Am I the only one?

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

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

I am so, stuck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The first week ~ 2015

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Well it’s the start of a new year. 2015 has come upon us and we are past the night of resolutions and promise making. Now is the real test of who we are and who we want to become. Will we make the deliberate choice to follow through on our decisions and honor ourselves by being discipled and devoted to the resolutions and goals we set forth?

Will we be the people we want to become?

This is the first year I haven’t made any specific resolution , but rather I made a grounding firm decision to continue the journey I have been engaged in these past few months. I am a woman of faith and any of my resolutions are embedded with a spiritual focus. This year – I chose to be. Yes, just be.

Not an idling, carefree, lack of purpose type of being. No. Moreso a passionate understanding of who I am and was created to be. Living authentically from that place. Engaging in activities which grow who I am and deepen my sense of worth so that I no longer live under the guise of pleasing others – I am looking to just be.

Be free.

Perhaps you’ve made resolutions to lose weight, eat healthier or focus on something specific physically. All wonderful resolutions. Yet, if  we tend to focus on just one part of who we are, we become unbalanced. So I ask you, dear friends. Do you want to be balanced? Do you want unity in purpose? Do you want freedom to be who you are no matter what the occasion or circumstance? There is a place for you, to walk in this freedom.

With Jesus.

Okay breathe, yes I just said Jesus. You see, with Jesus this is a deep awareness of who you are in light of who He says you are. You can immerse yourself in affirmations and truth of how much you are loved, how much you are worth and believe what He did to save your very soul. His love is powerful, mighty and able to redefine who you think you are. Who you have experienced life to be to this very moment. Jesus, well – he’s a transformer!

Not that robotic movie making, life saving creature. No. This transformation is not something that’s temporary like our resolutions often are. This is deep transformation into who you were created to be and learning to embrace yourself is what Jesus wants for you. Living freely from this place – with no fear.

No fear.

That’s the beauty of making resolutions in spite of who you think you are. We are free to make them and trust God to help us be faithful and devoted. I find  often that we are our deepest critic and the hardest person to please. Let go this year and just be. Find your center and allow yourself to love, yes, love you. How will you ever love Jesus if you don’t learn to love yourself?

“Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Love is most important, the greatest of all of Jesus’s teaching, it sums everything He taught, and the teachings from the Law and the Prophets hangs upon this premise. Love. Love. LOVE. Loving others comes in direct proportion in how you love yourself, Scripture says so. So I ask again, ” How will you ever love Jesus if you don’t learn to love yourself?” or  how will you love your neighbor, your spouse, your parents, your children…. if you don’t love yourself? It starts with you and how you view and love yourself.

So, love you.

In this new year of resolutions and promises, I encourage you this very first week to love yourself. Love in the way you desire and want given to you. Learn to love if you must, relearn and untangle all you have been taught. Resolve to love those who have hurt you, abandoned you, shamed you. Whatever your story is – love from that place.

With love springs forth many devoted thoughts and resolutions. Don’t worry about the end result. Just be in the present. Love yourself. Let God’s love empower you, disarm you and break through the shield of denial you’ve placed around your heart. Be in the moments of life. Be who you were created to be. Let your light shine from that most sacred place.

It’s the first week of 2015,  let’s really live in it!

Be.

 

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.

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.