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

The unspoken, broken.

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When words won’t come.

The searing pain that cuts so deep, bores into wounds laid bare long ago. Your tender heart is raw and exposed.. With each effort to speak the words of pain and prayer to the only One who can heal them – you find yourself – unspoken. Without a word. Without a way. Without a wandering moment of hope.

You ache to put into words the pain that torments your soul. You long to find solace in the strength of letting go. You  keep looking for the clearing up ahead – grasping for words to alleviate this pain.. For you know when you begin speaking words of truth, you often find light, you find grace, you find peace.

Time stands still.

At eternity seems to hold you as the quietness echoes in the caverns of your soul. Your broken, weary, grace starved soul. You wrestle to discern the longings that are buried there. The broken places of insecurity. The abandoned places aching to belong. The desperate cries of a wounded heart for the deepest need of all, love. Thoughts erupt from the darkness that you try to keep at bay. You find yourself asking the question that plagues a desperate soul – to speak, the unspoken, broken, “how long?”

Really, how long oh God?  How long will this pain endure? How long must I wait for your answer? How long until the days of liberation and deliverance? I know that your Mighty Hand can choose to deliver me in one breath, yet, here I am.

How long. Oh God? 

I can hear some of you whom are reading this now. “Don’t ask that question. Accept God’s provision for you. Don’t doubt the Lord. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Just pray and you will feel better. Crucify those doubts that keep you from growing.”Before you decide that I am asking a question that should not ever be asked – speaking of the unspoken, broken that lives within each of us. I’d ask you to open your Bibles to Psalm 13 and read along with me:

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.”

Friends, it is precisely our unspoken, broken that brings us into a deeper and authentic relationship with God. The Psalmist queries the LORD asking Him how long, well then, so can I and so can you. Don’t question whether you can doubt. Allow yourself to be in the moments that the LORD provides. Sit in the spaces where even the Lord is quiet. Go ahead, ask.

How long?

In your personal darkness it’s okay to ask God to look on you and answer you . Bring all your thoughts to God, every one. Your doubts, Your fears. Your insecurities. Let your heart be exposed and vulnerable. Choose to dig inside the scary places. Engage the painful waiting. Believe in the One who can save you.

Sometimes in our walks of faith and community, we see pain and struggle as weakness. We look for quick fixes. Easy answers. Familiar prayers. We celebrate victory while those who linger in darkness among us, remain on the outside. Let’s set aside the lie that we don’t suffer. Go ahead, ask – “how long?”

When I gaze upon Jesus hanging on the cross, I realize that God’s plan was never easy. Remember what the LORD did to sacrifice Himself for you. So -when the words don’t come for you, as they often don’t for me. When you find yourself weighed down by the old battles you once had victory over. When your unspoken, broken shackles your feet and you feel all hope is lost.

Look at Psalm 13 again, and know you aren’t alone.

Read that again. You are not alone. Do not fear the questions that you have within your soul. Let them out. Give them voice. Let the LORD answer them for you. Don’t give them power over you anymore. Be real, be authentic, be broken.

And speak it.

Trust in God’s unfailing love for you (Psa 13:5). Read that again, trust in God’s unfailing love for you. His love is for you. Not just me, or anyone else in your life. but you. YOU. It is God’s love that we trust in. Not how well you observe His laws, quote His Scripture or even how you might be serving others.

Gods love is His gift to you which can carry you forward. His love can lead you out. His love can empower you. His love can give you the words to speak your unspoken, broken. Don’t hide any longer my friends. Don’t let yourself be complacent anymore. It’s going to hurt, deeply, to rattle your comfort zone. It’s going to frighten to share those things you’ve been holding onto. Don’t let yourself miss out on the power of God.

You can keep on asking how long oh God – and He looks right back at you and ask, “how long, my child?” How long will you remain silent? Speak your unspoken, broken and let your God lead you to salvation.

How long?

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.

Surrender

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You stand there, feet firmly planted and you lift your feeble hands up. When you choose to lay it all on the line, exposing every single part of who you are – you find yourself risking to lose – well, everything!

You remember every broken promise, every shattered dream and you find yourself so worn out that you can’t even cry out for help anymore. When you can’t find the words to name the pain that casts shadows over the depths of your heart.

That’s when you know – it’s time – well it’s probably way past time.

To surrender.

Surrender, it sounds so defeating doesn’t it? We want to raise a white flag and make it all stop, just stop. Maybe throw in the towel and give up. Perhaps we just choose to wallow in the doubts of who we are and beat ourselves up for failure once again. Know this, that’s not surrender, that’s shame.

Let’s call how we see it.

Shame grips our hearts in fear and tries to get us to believe lies about ourselves. Shame does not free us, – oh no – it shackles us! Binding us with insecurities we don’t need nor even think upon. Shame sucks the joy out of our lives and it’s time to put an end to it.

Surrender, true surrender, frees us. It doesn’t come easy and there is definitely  a price to be paid. We often want to skip that part, miss that payment due and just gain our reward – rest. R.E.S.T. Moving on so quickly in our search for peace, we often aren’t willing to take that long hard look in the mirror – and reflect, remember and release it and place it at God’s feet, in full surrender.

Somehow we wear the self condemnation like a warm blanket and think this will bring comfort to us. There are words etched upon our hearts and minds we’ve repeated over and over to ourselves in the past. “I am not worth it. I don’t deserve to be loved.” Whatever your doubt, whatever your fear  – it’s time to call it like you see it.

Lies.

You don’t believe me, fine. Don’t listen to me, listen to Jesus.

“Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

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 8:1-11

Oh there is so much in this story Jesus told – for now, let’s just focus on this – surrender.

This woman was caught in the act of adultery. Here she is dragged into the temple and is placed before Jesus. How do you think she might have been feeling? Shameful. The Law said to stone her for her sin. This woman was an adulteress and rather than shove her deeper into her own shame about her choices – Jesus encourages her give it all up. Not just the sex my friends, or the sin, but the shame too.

He lovingly looks at her and poses this simple question. “Does no one condemn you?” Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter. He looks around as the dust has settled from the stones gathered at His feet and clearly sees no one. Jesus looked into her heart in this very hard place and proclaimed, “Neither do I.”

Wait. What?

Neither do you condemn me? I am ….. free? This question whispered  from her battered past and her life of shame. “Teacher, you don’t condemn me?”  I wonder what was going through her mind and heart as she was prepared for the stoning – the shame and self condemnation must have been overwhelming. She had prepared for the worst and now she is free. Free. FREE.

Jesus says “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” It’s not a get out of jail free card, He did tell her to sin no more. But that wasn’t His point. It wasn’t to tell her to stop having sex, he could have just stoned her if that was his concern. No. The concern was her heart and her mind – her self imposed prison of shame. He wanted her to see it, experience it, feel it and embrace this fact.

Freedom comes in letting go.

He asks her to surrender and let go of the shame that binds her in continual bondage. Today, I encourage you with His words, with His truths and with His love.

Open the doorway to your heart and the riches of your mind. Drink of the cup of mercy and grace. Pour it down straight and hard. Let this truth settle within you. Look into your own mirror, stare long at your own reflection and let the Spirit speak. Listen.

Unclench your fists, open your heart and let the love of Christ dwell deeply inside you. Find the shame that binds you. Jesus has the key to those shackles, let Him use it. Unlock His love and rest in Him. Entrust yourself to the One who can heal you. Release your shame, reclaim your true sense of self and worth – in Him.

Don’t let those doubts rise up, nor fears can grab ahold. Oh no. Not today. For today we trust His words and His example. Today we believe – for it’s in believing we can offer our hearts back to him in full surrender.  Let go. Be.

Leave your life of sin and surrender yourself to Jesus.

Today.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message. Bible Gateway. Web

The Veil Is Torn

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Sometimes we don’t see clearly. Do we?

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

I am not good enough.

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

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

It’s time.

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

We must take off the veil – and see.

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

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

His.

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

It’s long past time.

 

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 

 

Change = Life

Fall Leaf (1 of 1)

Sometimes we are meant, to stand out.

Just recently I was driving along enjoying a beautiful Fall day when down dropped this red leaf onto my rain soaked windshield. Amongst a sea of yellow, ambers and greens this small little leaf, shone. The contrast of colors is what made me stop the car and take notice, and in fact – take this photo. As the bright sun lit it up there was no mistaking the beauty of this leaf.

This dead leaf falling to the ground can bring joy.

Cast off from it’s home, from it’s perch and connection to all it knew, at just the right time and season – it let go. Releasing itself to the wind, the sun, the elements all around it. It could have fallen by the road, into the piles and piles in my yard, but for that one moment, we met. Beauty on my windshield and a gentle reminder from the Heavenly Father to my heart. Sometimes we are just meant to stand out, let go and be who we were destined to be.

How do we do that?

Being real, authentic and true to the design of our very souls and inner beings means to have an awareness of who we are. Dare I say, we must learn to love ourselves. Loving ourselves challenges us to first look.  Gazing around and seeing the beauty of the leaves is one thing, but to sit, ponder and examine the sinews of that very leaf and understand it’s process, this is work. So too, with our delicate and precious souls, minds, hearts. If we want to believe differently, feel differently, respond differently – we must stop and meditate, examine ourselves and submit to be transformed.

This is work. Hard work.

That red leaf, you see, it wasn’t always that red color. It was a green leaf just like all the others leaves on the tree. It was the same, it was no different, it just was – a leaf. But time had taken it’s toll on it, the available light cycle had changed and so it began to change it’s color and it’s luster – it transformed. So too with our hearts. They undergo change through trials, through pain, suffering and the choices we make. Some things we have no control over and we are victims of circumstance and the sin of others. Yet, it still hurts, doesn’t it?  Nevertheless, we have a choice in how we respond, how we love and how we handle the gifts bestowed upon us.

“Brothers and sisters, in light of all I have shared with you about God’s mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship.  Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” (Romans 12:1-2 The Voice)

God clearly tells us in Romans 12:1-2, that in view of His magnificent mercies, His compassion and His love that we are to offer our bodies as living and holy sacrifices. Our very bodies and lives can be offered up to the Eternal God of Heaven – um, what? Can you grasp how important becoming a living sacrifice is to our God?  Like Jesus offered Himself on the cross, so we too offer our own bodies as we walk.

How so?

Scripture says we do this with our minds – our thoughts, our fears, our hurts, our pain. Those things which we often push away, God says, ‘be still.’ Sit and ponder the sinews and depths of our hearts, our pain, our suffering. We no longer deny that it’s there – we look, we feel and we let go. The tentacles of suffering may be far reaching, and digging in these places will be painful.

Don’t let it stop you.

God asks us to be transformed from the inside out. This is not something that can be done to us, that we inflict upon our bodies  – rather it is the mercy, love and grace of God moving in our very hearts and minds – transforming how we think, feel and believe. We choose, we must choose, to love. It starts right there, in your very own heart, in mine.  Love yourself, give yourself permission to be loved and to be seen for who you really are. It’s time.

Our hearts, they are this ugly and beautiful thing. We have darkness there, let Him transform it. You don’t want it to hurt anymore? Bring it into His light. You don’t want to respond in anger anymore? Nail it to the cross.  You might need a friend to carry the light for you at times. God will provide. Walk. Trust. Let Go – and let God transform you, change you to be who you were destined to be- and live.

Like that red leaf I met one Fall day shone in the beauty of the sun. Let God meet your deepest longing in your heart and begin to transform you, change you, love you – free you. So you too, amongst a sea of people – shine.

For sometimes we were meant to stand out.