Jesus Is Our Daily Bread

If you’ve grown up in the church you’ve been reciting the Lord’s Prayer ever since you memorized it in early morning Sunday School where you enjoyed Bible stories on flannel-graph boards. The Lord’s Prayer was given to us by Jesus as an example of how we should pray. We tend to take the red letters statements pretty seriously in the Bible. In a way it’s become a seemingly common prayer that can be heard in movies, found on wall hangings and even used as inspiration for works of art.

The simplicity of the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t take away from the depth or power behind it. Like I said, Jesus prayed it so it’s not some wimpy prayer meant to be recited haphazardly without a thought. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I’ve done more times than not and have spent most of my life skimming over it like it was NBD.

A few Sundays ago, I had the opportunity to lead communion at my church, which means I spent days preparing. And by preparing, I mean seizing every opportunity to pray (in the car, in the shower, in bed, etc.) because nobody wants to be the person to mess up communion. In my prayers, I’d ask God to give me some kind of encouraging word for His people. Something that would be fresh and not the usual Sunday morning pep rally speech.

And for days, Jesus said nothing.

It was a bit nerve wracking, to say the least, and I worried that maybe I’d get up there Sunday and just do the normal communion spiel. I’d heard it about a thousand times up to this point so I could wing it if I needed to but really hoped that wouldn’t be the case.

When I walked into church that Sunday, I was resigned that maybe God wasn’t going to speak to me about communion. As worship began, it became very clear that God was speaking. It wasn’t in my timing, which He has a tendency of doing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. So there, in this personal moment with me and Jesus He said, “I am your daily bread.”

There’s so much to that statement.

Jesus. That beautiful name. The name above every name. The name that will bring every person to their knees in worship. There’s power in His name. There’s no other name like it and no other name that holds such authority.

Is. This one small word reminds us that Jesus is….now….currently…presently….at this very moment our daily bread. That is comforting in the midst of your struggle or need. Jesus isn’t some past help. He is here when I need Him.

Our. As much as Jesus is here for me He’s here for you, too. He’s mine, He’s yours, He’s ours. Christianity was never meant to be lived singularly. We were made for community and it’s only fitting that communion would be done in the midst of that community. It is available for us all as a Body of believers. Jesus’ bread or rather His body, which the bread represents, was broken and used to make us whole.

Daily. Not our bread for just Sundays. Or holidays. Or when we feel like it. He’s meant to be partaken of each and every day. The fact is we need Him daily, but we so foolishly think we can pass on that daily bread. “I got this,” we try and convince ourselves. In my independence, and mostly my stupidity, I thought that it showed strength to try and do things on my own. The fact remains that I need Him. Not just daily, but moment by moment. In the highs of life and certainly in the lows.He wants us coming to Him to supply our needs for that day. In doing so, we will see and know His faithfulness because He’ll always provide.

Bread. This bread is the bread of life. No Wonder Bread here, but bread that sustains us and gives us all we need as we face our day. We can try and satisfy our needs with other things (or people, or hobbies or jobs or money), but nothing and no one can satisfy like Him. Everything else is just counterfeit.

One of the things I love about communion at my church is the way the children respond to it. There’s a lady at my church who makes fresh unleavened bread each time and the kids love it. When they come forward with their parents they grab not just one piece, but two or three. They smile as they do it and I can’t help but smile back. If only we could keep that kind of child’s heart with things– such joy and hopeful expectation.

So, today and every day may you be reminded that Jesus is your daily supply of all you need. 

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Get up!

Get Up!

The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.

Proverbs 24:16 (NLT)

I’m not perfect. I doubt that’s a shocking revelation for you to hear, especially if you know me at all.

I love Jesus, a lot, but I mess up. Actually, I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where I think to myself, “Way to go! You did great today!” Most times, I’ll be in bed at night replaying events from the day where I fell short. I’ll remember an attitude I had with someone. Or the way I yelled at the idiot on the highway for not merging fast enough. Or for calling the person on the highway who didn’t merge fast enough an idiot.

And those things just compose the things I did wrong before 10AM.

I’m not here to showcase my long list of failures. I could, but that’s not the point. The point is that it happens AND I’m not alone. Ya, I’m looking at you.

Maybe you don’t suffer from acute road rage or give anyone attitude, but I’m sure there are things you struggle with.

Maybe you judged that girl in the grocery store for wearing leggings as pants.

Or you lied and told your kid there is a Santa Claus (sorry, kids).

Or you stole wifi from your neighbor.

Or you tried to convince me that it wasn’t really stealing when you used your neighbors wifi. 😉

We can all be more relaxed now that we admitted that we fall (or have fallen) at times. As a Christian, that is SUPER encouraging.

What?!?!

YES. It is super encouraging for me to know that I’m not the only one who falls down. That’s what stopped me in my tracks today when I heard Proverbs 24:16, even when I’ve heard this same verse 100 times before. There was this beautiful realization that godly people, righteous people, lovers of Jesus….FALL DOWN. There doesn’t need to be any shame in admitting that fact because I am not alone.

I’m not celebrating my imperfections, but I’m also not letting the realization that I have them keep me bound. There’s freedom in confession.

That’s not the whole story, though. There’s even better news. I can get up.

As a child of God, I have the power to get up. Circumstances, difficulties and hardships will come my way, and they may even trip me up, but they won’t keep me down.

Or in the words of the great Rocky Balboa, “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean, and nasty place an’ no matter how tough you think you are, it’ll always beat you if you let it. It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward.

Life….or our own stupid actions…can hit us hard, but the important part is that we get up. If you’re struggling, get up. You aren’t powerless, but have the most powerful Source within you. Don’t stay on the ground wallowing and complaining about how defeated you feel, but allow the power of God (the strength of God) to move through you and pick you up.

Dust yourself off and keep going.

But first, GET UP.

Patient in Pain

Patient in Pain

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12 (NIV)

For those of you who may not know, I am an Administrator at a church. One of my weekly tasks is to change the words on the church sign. It’s not as glorious or exciting as the Pinterest results may suggest. It’s actually one of my least favorite tasks, which is ironic considering I’m a writer. Shouldn’t I enjoy getting the opportunity to write a weekly message for the entire neighborhood to see?

No. Not one bit.

It’s a lot of pressure. I get all of 90 characters to convey a thought. That’s an entire 50 characters less than Twitter. And, unlike Twitter, I can’t use internet shorthand. Although, sometimes I can get away with negating some punctuation by reworking the verse. I don’t think God minds me taking the liberty, either. If I remember correctly, from my painful year studying Greek, there wasn’t any punctuation in the original text, anyway.

Even without the use of punctuation, I still need to have a complete thought. Or that’s what I attempt to do. Maybe this is the wrong approach to have– maybe I should want those passing by to have questions. That seems like some kind of weird marketing scam though, and I can’t bring myself to manipulate people into walking into church.

I keep the hell and brimstone verses off the sign, too. I’m not sure we should be using fear as an evangelistic tool, but maybe that’s just me.

Honestly, each week, I want to convey love, hope and peace to people. I figure they get enough bad news each day that maybe the Church should be a place they find something different. People are weary, broken down, tired and scared, but Jesus isn’t wearisome. It was Jesus after all who said,  “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt.11:30)

Most weeks, I have no idea what to put on the sign. Sometimes I’ll text my best friend to see if there’s something she’s been meditating on. Sometimes I use a verse from the previous Sunday’s sermon. Other times, I use Google. How’s that for spiritual? If it makes it any better, before I hit “enter” I exhale a simple prayer, “Seriously, God. Can you help me out?”

This week, my search led me to Romans 12:12. A nice short verse that would fit on the sign without too much finagling. Score! As I prepared the large plastic letters, I read and reread the verse over and over again.

Paul is one sneaky dude.

Sandwhiched in between being “joyful in hope” and “faithful in prayer” he lays down a landmine.

PATIENT IN AFFLICTION.

Or as the New King James version so eloquently puts it “patient in tribulation,” neither wording taking away the sting that this guy is telling me to be patient when life hurts. I don’t want to be patient in the pain, I want to speed up and get the hell through it. Right? Or is that only me?

I can rejoice in hope, no problem. Hope is worth celebrating. And being faithful in prayer, that’s not too bad, either. I may not hold hour long prayer vigils in my bedroom, but I try and capture moments throughout my day to pray– like when I’m in the car driving, or laying in bed, or talking with a friend on the phone.

It’s a whole other story to ask me to be patient in affliction. It’s uncomfortable. Painful even. If anything, in those times, I am my least patient self. I’ll be crying out to God, “PLEASSSSSSE, get me out of this already!” with fists pounding my pillows in a tantrum-like state. God listens, but seemingly does nothing letting me carry on like a child.

As I prepared the sign, I thought of numerous friends who were in the middle of a season of affliction. How it seemed like all they were experiencing was pain and, as much as I prayed, things hadn’t seemed to change. So, I did the only thing I knew to do, and I prayed some more. This time, I asked that God would give my dear friends patience– that in the trials, in the desert– that they would be able to stand strong and be unmoved.

The most logical question, the one I’ve asked God repetitively, would be: “Why doesn’t God just take the affliction away?”

I don’t have some pretty bow, to put on top of the answer, for that question.

I heard a story once about a grandmother explaining to her granddaughter the effects of boiling water on two objects. First, she took an egg and put it in a pot of boiling water. After a few minutes, she took it out and it had become hardened. Again, she took boiling water and added it to a tea bag. Within moments, there was a lovely aromatic smell coming from the cup and the water had changed color. It was no longer water but tea.

Everyone is going to face their own form of boiling water– a friend dying unexpectedly, the loss of a job, difficult family members, illness, etc. I know you’ve got your own story, like I have mine. It is in those seasons of difficulty and pain that we can choose to become hardened by the hurts, or we can give off a sweet fragrance despite it all.

It’s not easy. I don’t think God ever intended for us to have an easy life, everything points to the contrary, but He did intend for us to trust Him. At the end of the day, that’s all that patience really is– the realization that no matter what is going on around us that we can trust Him to come through for us. 

Give it a shot. Start praying for patience when life is hard. Ya, I know what “they” say…to never pray for patience. But “they” are wrong, take it from me. You may just be surprised what happens and how you’re changed through that one simple act of obedience.

Lessons from the Queen

The

A few years ago, I was a crumpled pile on the floor of a church at a youth conference.

I was one of the chaperones that weekend, and I could easily blame my lack of sleep for all the emotions, but there was something much deeper going on in my heart. In those moments, on my knees, I was asking God a lot of “Why?” questions. The same questions I had asked Him numerous times before and would continue to ask Him numerous times after.

As I wept, someone came to me and prayed for me. I don’t remember the specifics of the prayer, but I do recall that she was praying that, like Queen Esther, I would see the experiences of my life as preparation for the amazing things that would come. There was a sense of hope in her words…there was something more for me than tears and grief.

But that’s how Esther’s story began– with her own set of trials and obstacles. Esther was an orphan and had been taken care of by her cousin, Mordecai. Esther was not only an orphan, but a Jew, during a season when the Jews were being targeted for persecution.

At this same time, King Xerxes was in search of a new queen. He had just banished his wife for her refusal to come when he had summoned her and now needed a replacement. His men went on a  search for the most beautiful virgins to bring to the king. Esther was chosen (as in– she didn’t have a choice) to be one of the candidates.

Esther, pulled from her home, now must go through a rigorous 6-month beauty regiment in order to prepare her for her meeting with King Xerxes. She is soaked, shaved, perfumed, primped, primed, lathered, moisturized and plucked for MONTHS. As much as I’d love some pampering, this sounds like a bit too much maintenance for me, but the king wants what the king wants.

We’ll get to more of her story in a few minutes, but now back to me.

I find myself in a very similar place to where I was a few years ago. Actually, that’s exactly what has me so discouraged. I feel like I’m in the same exact place as I was then. With a birthday coming up this month and many unmaterialized dreams, it seems like I am getting no where. Yet again, I find myself broken, but God continues to speak to me while reaffirming these truths to my heart using Esther.

Preparation is not wasted time.

I imagine in those months of preparation, Esther wondered if all of the work was worth it. There were after all numerous women going through similar treatments and the king would only select one to be queen. How many times did she think, “What are the chances he’d pick me?”

My season of preparation has been long and as time continues to tick away it becomes easier and easier to wonder if all of my hard work will actually pay off in the end.

While God is working on you– cleansing, purifying, sanding, stretching and repairing–take comfort that all of that preparation is not wasted time. There is purpose in this season. You may not see it now, and Lord knows it sure doesn’t feel like “real” progress, but rest assured it is necessary.

You’d never go into battle without being trained and outfitted as a soldier, and the same goes for whatever it is that God has called you specifically to do. There are lessons to be learned, muscles to be strengthened and hurts to be healed.

If you don’t do it, someone else will.

Let me share a little more from Esther’s life. After all the treatments and her meeting with King Xerxes, we are told the king loved her more than any other woman and made her queen. Her preparation hadn’t been in vain!

Although, it seemed like things were going well for Esther, it was not going well for the Jewish people. King Xerxes had signed a decree that said all the Jews needed to be destroyed. The king still unaware that his new wife, Esther, was a Jew as well.

Mordecai is obviously distraught. Wouldn’t you be?! He tells Esther she must convince Xerxes to withdraw this death sentence, but she knows if she approaches the king without his bidding she would be killed! Things aren’t looking good– and Mordecai responds to Esther’s fear with this:

“If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.”

I can’t get that phrase out of my head– maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.

Fear keeps trying to muzzle me: just stay silent– don’t cause any waves.

But then I hear that voice say, “This is YOUR time. Speak.” There’s risk involved. I’ve received backlash for articles. People telling me I’ve lost all biblical morals while others still are convinced I’m on the wide road to hell. All I know is I’m doing my best to be obedient to the call of God on my life and keep a humble heart while doing it.

Go to the King.

In the end, Esther did go before the king and she ends up saving her people. Her actions required not only courage, but intimacy. If she didn’t have favor and relationship with Xerxes, she wouldn’t have had a chance.

Be bold in your requests to the King. We have found favor with God because of Jesus. We don’t have to tip-toe to the throne, but can approach with confidence. You don’t have to be afraid that He will somehow be offended or will want to strike you down like some worthless peon. You’ve got royal status, friends.

Intimacy is key. If I didn’t have a living, interactive relationship with God there’s no way I’d continue on this path. It is through His urging, encouragement and prodding that I keep speaking. I can tell you though, if I wasn’t convinced it was His leading I would have abandoned this ship long ago. I would have etched out a much easier, more pleasant path.

Esther made a choice to be obedient. In her obedience, she was a conduit of salvation and a reflector of the glory of God. May that be our testimony as well– that we would allow God to use us in this season and for this time.

Allow God to prepare you. Let Him use you. And because He has prepared you and because He has called you– you can do what you were called to do BOLDY.

 

 

 

When God Uses You to Answer Your Own Prayers

Prayer

I was sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops, drinking one of my favorite drinks and enjoying conversation with one of my favorite people. We laughed at the fact that I was momentarily distracted by a bearded man who walked in the door. We laughed at inside jokes and movie quotes. We laughed at the bodybuilder sized patron who left hurriedly when the lights went out momentarily.

Conversation would volley from serious to hilarious in a moments time, which made the more difficult confessions easier to admit.

My friend was….is….hurting.

I saw it in his eyes. The familiar, all too familiar, look of pain.

He’d share. I’d listen.

I’d share. He’d listen.

It happened like this for a few hours, until it felt like all that could be said had been said. Before we parted ways, I suggested I pray for him. A tad bit out of my comfort zone, we sat on a bench outside the coffee shop and we prayed.

The prayer I prayed was nothing earth shaking. Just a simple kid, praying a simple prayer, for someone she loved. 

God, speak to his heart. Remind him of Your Truth. Lavish him with Your love….

As I prayed, I heard the Lord say, “Speak to him.”

After a few moments, my prayer was concluded, a hug was exchanged and we got into our cars and left. In the quiet of my car, I continued praying for my friend and God continued pestering me.

Speak, Holly, speak.

“God, YOU need to encourage his heart.”

     “I will.”

“You’ve got to remind Him of Your Truth.”

     “I will.”

“You’ve got to love on him like crazy.”

     “I will.”

My heart seemed to lighten a bit.

“I’m going to use you to do that.”

….

“But God wouldn’t it be so much more effective if you parted the clouds and shouted from the Heavens.”

And from there, God continued to remind me how time and time again He used people to speak on His behalf. Not “all together” type people, either. Not just the pastors of churches. Or revival evangelists. Or Bible school professors. Just willing imperfect people. 

Just a few days earlier, I had experienced it myself. I was sitting at a table with nine girls in a crowded Cafeteria where I had served that week as their counselor. We’d be leaving camp in a few short hours, so we were doing the best to savor our last moments together. As we got ready to go finish packing, one of my girls got on top of our table and called everyone to attention.

I’m pretty sure I’m gonna get fired for this one, I thought. The entire camp silenced and turned their gazes towards her.

In the following moments, she began to tell the camp how they (my cabin of girls) had decided that I was THE BEST COUNSELOR. They’d made me a book full of encouraging Scriptures and notes and presented it to me there. The room filled with clapping and cheering and hugging and at that moment, my heart could barely grasp the love I had just been lavished. 

photo (1)

God had used a cabin full of teen girls to share His amazing love for me. It made an imprint on my heart that will never disappear.

Speak, Holly, speak.

One year ago, God spoke the same message to my heart. It was then that the Common Queen Blog was started. I knew that there were things God wanted to share with people and that He wanted to use me to do it. I wasn’t sure if anyone would read it or get anything from it, I just knew I needed to speak…or write as the case may be. It was a burning that had been in my heart for years, but because of fears, insecurities, and endless excuses I had chosen to dismiss it.

That was, of course, until last year. I didn’t (and don’t) feel qualified, or “good enough” or any of that business, but I’m willing to let God speak through me.

And He has.

Not only here on the blog, but in a cabin full of giggling girls and a coffee shop with a friend. 

He’s asking me to speak– to speak love, Truth and encouragement to so many hearts in need of it. He’s asking me to be the answer to my own prayers. 

I’m speaking, Jesus. I’m speaking.

Cliches, Platitudes & Useless Advice

CPUA

Let’s pretend for a moment that you were having a hard time.

Not that YOU would ever have a hard time, but humor me anyway.

Maybe you received a test result from a doctor that you weren’t expecting. Maybe you’ve been searching for a job for months with nothing to show for it. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Maybe your spouse decided they didn’t love you anymore. Maybe your favorite shirt shrunk in the dryer. Or maybe your favorite TV show has been cancelled.

Sure, there’s some extremes there, but each one is legitimate in its own right. I promise I will do my best not to judge you and your struggle, and I’m begging you to return the favor. It’s a very prideful person that would decipher  who is “allowed” to be hurting/struggling and who isn’t. I think we could all admit we don’t fully understand another person’s struggles simply because we haven’t lived that person’s life.

Now that we’ve got that groundwork laid, I think it’s important to share some advice with you.

Stop giving advice. (See what I did there?)

Stop with the cliches.

Stop with the cute sayings with floral backgrounds you found on Pinterest. (Things will be OK in the end. If they’re not OK, it’s not the end…This one makes me with it were the end!)

Stop with the “Christianese” answers. (God will never give you more than you can handle– wrong.)

Or the “You should read this book”. (It’ll just get added to the stack)

Keep reading, I promise I’ll clear some things up.

I’ve given you my “NOT-TO-DO” list, but you may be wondering: So what DO you want people to do, Holly?!?

I’m glad you asked!

Listen.

Love.

And if they’re into that kind of thing give them a hug. 🙂 Maybe they’d prefer a high-five, or an awkward side hug, or an arm squeeze.

Listening seems pretty straight forward, but I fear it may need some clarifying. It doesn’t mean listening with one ear and doing a mental “Google search” for some trite response. I’ve done that before, I’ll admit it. I’ll be listening to a friend who is telling me how how they’re hurting and my brain will pick up on a key word/theme and then I start thinking of every book, Scripture verse, or Snapple fact I’ve read that could possibly relate to the situation.

Just listen. Hand them a tissue if they start to tear up. Look them in the eyes. Really listen.

Now for the love part. This part is a little bit more tricky because each person is different and receives love in different ways. If they’ve told you about a physical pain, instead of just saying “I’ll be praying for you!” actually pray for them. Ya, like right there. I don’t care that it’s the ice cream aisle at the grocery store. If they’ve told you they’re struggling financially, send them a gift card in the mail or hand them a 20 spot. If they’re lonely, call them up a few days later and ask them if they’d like to get a coffee.

Or, simply tell them you love them and you care.

As I’ve said before, and I’ll say it again and again, as Christians we don’t have to have ALL the answers. Yes, God, Jesus the Bible and all the Sunday School answers are easy to spew out, as a cover-up when a simple “I don’t know” would be more honest.

I don’t know why you aren’t married yet.

I don’t know why you have cancer.

I don’t know why that person said that hurtful thing.

Also, and maybe this is just a personality thing, but sometimes just hearing someone say they love me brings some comfort. I’m a “words of affirmation” girl, with “Gifts of Chocolate” as a close second. 😉

And if during the week, there’s a Bible verse that you think would give them hope, by all means share it with them. I’m not saying *all* advice/encouragement is useless. Just the thoughtless kind.

Don’t give out dimes by the dozen when a person needs a treasure to hold onto.

 

From the Wreckage

Wreckage

While in the Drive-Thru of my local McD’s I noticed a sign in the window that read: “We will be closed March 15-May 15 due to renovations. Sorry for the inconvenience.” It IS an inconvenience, McDonald’s. Do you expect me to make my own breakfast? Gosh.

It’s been closed a few weeks now, and I drove by it on my way to the grocery store…to get food to make my own breakfast when I noticed something startling. Apparently, when they used the word “renovation” they should have used the words demolish, overhaul, REBUILD. All of those would have been more appropriate than renovate, which makes us think of new paint colors on the wall and an updated Ronald statue in the entrance. Instead, there were some piles of rubble, a few full dumpsters and that was it. Nothing remained of the old building. Nothing.

I’m a simple kid and I keep a simple kind of faith. I pray simple prayers and say simple things like “Jesus, do what you want with my life. I am yours.” That simple, dangerous statement Jesus has taken very seriously much to my surprise.

As I mentioned is my previous post Jesus is interested in doing an overhaul– not just a surface cleaning of my heart. But from where I stand, all I can see, is wreckage. “I asked for this.” I mumble to myself as I look around at the debris…the brokenness. I see Jesus running the bulldozer. His yellow hard hat standing out in a sea of grey. He smiles and gives me a thumbs up. I muster a slight smile as a tear stumbles down my cheek.

Everything is shattered.

Nothing has gone untouched.

I’m often told by those who love me, and who also love Jesus, that this is a GOOD place to be. I’ve taken their word for it because nothing feels GOOD about this. It hurts. And sometimes, I’m very angry about all of it. My prayer life has been more like a steady stream of comment cards in Jesus’ suggestion box. I tell Him how I’d like things done. The timeline I’d like them done in. Oh, and don’t forget the chocolate. He softly reminds me He didn’t ask for my suggestions and He doesn’t need my help. He has sent the chocolate though.

So, what do I do? I go back to the basics. God loves me. God is good. God’s grace is sufficient. God is made perfect in my weakness. God is my provider. God is my healer. God hasn’t abandoned me. Each Truth just enough to swallow in one bite.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from Brothers McClurg’s song “You shine through”, which has been an encouragement to my soul:

You shine brighter when we’re broken

With our hearts stretched out upon the floor

In our weakness and our failures,

Your light shines beauty to this world

From our broken hearts, we’re crying out

Through the cracks in all of us,

Through the fractures and through the dust,

You shine through, You shine through

In the darkness, you’re the dawn,

Blazing like the morning sun,

You shine through, You shine through.

Jesus, from the wreckage I ask that your glory would shine bright, that your love would flow free and your grace would be in abundance.