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. 

My Story of Redemption

There are memories that get etched onto our brain or our hearts and they stay there forever. Sometimes the memories are beautiful and sometimes the memories are ugly, but regardless they remain and are a part of your story.

Then there are times when an ugly memory is made beautiful. God takes a past hurt, or difficult circumstance, and uses it to make something much more beautiful than you could ever imagine. It’s in these such moments where I see the redemptive work of God in my life up close. I don’t think I would have believed it unless I saw it myself. I’m stubborn that way.

Let me start at the beginning: the ugly memory.

Growing up, until the age of 13, I lived in a home that didn’t feel safe. My step-dad was a raging alcoholic with a temper. My mother had her own addictions to deal with and anger problems stemming from a variety of sources including being married to an abusive alcoholic. Home was a battle ground as much as I’d do my best to tippy toe around the landmines, but it was only a matter of time until one was set off. I wasn’t sure when the explosion would happen…only that it would happen.

One of my earliest memories is of me running barefoot to my next door neighbors house late at night asking them to call the police. There were many, many nights like this.

At a very young age, my grandma started taking me to Sunday school and I learned how to pray. I was confident God heard my prayers, so each night I’d pray and ask Him to keep me safe. Many nights, I’d ask Him for a new family, which He ended up giving me. A family that would keep me safe and love me unconditionally. A family that would make me their own.

Even with my new family my nightly routine didn’t change much. I’d still talk to God while I was in bed and ask Him things like, “God, how can you make anything good out of my life?” For a long time, I struggled with that question (and still do). It seemed like maybe I just had to deal with the fact that my childhood was hard but that was the past and it would remain this ugly part of my story.

Everything I knew about God told me that wasn’t how He operated though. He is a God who redeems. He takes old things and makes them new. He takes broken people and makes them whole. He takes the lonely and gives them a family.

I wanted God to bring redemption to my story. 

This past week I served at a children’s camp where 111 kids got to experience the love of Jesus in a powerful way. If that wasn’t good enough, and it would have been, it was there where I saw God’s redemption first hand.

What I didn’t tell you is that at the age of 8, I started attending this very same camp as a camper. It was at this camp that I experienced Jesus and learned about Him and honestly just fell in love with Him. I remember responding to altar calls and having my counselor pray for me. I remember feeling the love of God around me like a warm blanket. I remember hearing His voice and knowing that He was going to take care of me….even if it meant living in a place that felt like hell.

Now 23 years later, I’m standing at the very same altar. There’s a line of children in front of me who are asking for prayer. As each one comes forward I ask them what they’d like prayer for and each one confesses a need and then we pray. It’s a powerful time that’s hard to put into words, because you see the depth of their faith and it’s overwhelming and inspiring.

As I’m praying, one little girls comes up to me for prayer and when I ask her what she needs prayer for she looks at me intently and says, “I’m afraid when I’m home. My parents fight.” My heart freezes for a moment and it’s as if I’m looking into little 8-year old Holly’s eyes. I see the fear and feel it deep down in my soul. I remember it vividly.

So, I do all that I know how to do and I pray. I pray desperately as the little girl wraps her fingers around my hands tightly. My heart aches as I pray and the tears trickle down my cheeks. There is sadness, but there is also hope.

If God could bring me peace in the midst of my chaos, God can certainly do the same for this little girl.

It was there in that moment where I heard God whisper, “I brought her to you because I knew you’d understand. You would have the words she needed to hear.” My story that had looked so ugly now looks more beautiful because God was able to use it to bring hope, and Light and peace to someone else.

That is my story of redemption. 

If you’re reading this, and you feel led, please pray for this little girl. I believe one day, she’ll be the one standing at the front of an altar praying for children who are afraid and in that moment she’ll see God redeeming her story as well.

May you be reminded that God is in the redemption business– for her, for me and for you.

Why We Suffer

Why We Suffer

We live in a world that pursues pleasure. We are looking to “get rich quick”, “lose 10 pounds by Friday” and “live our best lives now”. We want to do what feels good and makes us happy and we want to do it NOW. Anything that hurts or is difficult is avoided at all costs. If there is time or commitment or cost involved we shy away thinking there has to be an easier way. This is nothing new. It’s been happening since the very beginning.

I think that’s been part of my struggle in the harder seasons. Don’t I deserve to be happy? Why can’t things be easy for once? I question and I cry and I wonder where I’ve gone wrong or why God is punishing me.

Woe is me!

I’m getting dramatic, but that’s how I feel in the midst of it all. It hurts. It’s uncomfortable. And I don’t like it. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever *like* it. In this difficulty though I believe I’ve found some clarity on why we suffer. It isn’t because God hates us and wants us to hurt. It isn’t because we are screwing up (although that can be the case). It’s because He loves us.

What?!?! I know what you’re thinking. That’s crazy talk. I must have lost my mind. No, I’m not doing drugs and I haven’t been drinking (I know you asked yourself that).

God knows that suffering has the opportunity to produce something good in our lives and because He loves us and wants the best for us He let’s us walk through it. What good could it possibly produce? I’m glad you asked!

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

It produces endurance and character and HOPE. And I need hope.

In the midst of the pain it’s hard to remember that something good can come from all of this. Recently, a friend shared with me this expert from the Streams in the Desert devotional and it was a powerful reminder to me that this process is necessary and the results are beautiful.

“Several years ago there was found in an African mine the most magnificent diamond in the world’s history. It was presented to the King of England to blaze in his crown of state. The King sent it to Amsterdam to be cut. It was put into the hands of an expert lapidary. And what do you suppose he did with it?

He took the gem of priceless value, and cut a notch in it. Then he struck it a hard blow with his instrument, and lo! the superb jewel lay in his hand cleft in twain. What recklessness! What wastefulness! What criminal carelessness!

Not so. For days and weeks that blow had been studied and planned. Drawings and models had been made of the gem. Its quality, its defects, its lines of cleavage had all been studied with minutest care. The man to whom it was committed was one of the most skillful lapidaries in the world.

Do you say that blow was a mistake? Nay. It was the climax of the lapidary’s skill. When he struck that blow, he did the one thing which would bring that gem to its most perfect shapeliness, radiance, and jewelled splendor. That blow which seemed to ruin the superb precious stone was, in fact, its perfect redemption. For, from those two halves were wrought the two magnificent gems which the skilled eye of the lapidary saw hidden in the rough, uncut stone as it came from the mine.

So, sometimes, God lets a stinging blow fall upon your life. The blood spurts. The nerves wince. The soul cries out in agony. The blow seems to you an apalling mistake. But it is not, for you are the most priceless jewel in the world to God. And He is the most skilled lapidary in the universe.

Some day you are to blaze in the diadem of the King. As you lie in His hand now He knows just how to deal with you. Not a blow will be permitted to fall upon your shrinking soul but that the love of God permits it, and works out from its depths, blessing and spiritual enrichment unseen, and unthought of by you.” (Streams in the Desert, J.H. McC.)

I believe and trust that God is taking all of these moments– the moments filled with tears and questioning and pain– and using it to do a deep work inside of me. The answer to why we suffer isn’t easy. It’s not easy to hear that suffering is for our benefit, but we can be confident that it will produce an unfathomable strength and beauty in us.

As always, if you are in need of encouragement or prayer please let me know by leaving a comment below. It would be my honor to do that for you! You aren’t alone.

His Glory: Hope for the Hurting

WORLD NEWS

The world is a place full of people who are suffering. All you need to do is listen to the radio or scroll through your Facebook newsfeed to hear about another tragedy. There’s famine, disease, terrorism, even acts of nature ripping through cities, regions and nations. Destroying families. Hurting individuals.

We (you, me, us) all go through seasons of suffering. Seasons. Plural. For some people it may feel as though you get through one and walk right into another.

We all experience it from time to time. It can include portions of our childhood. Or those painful high school years. Maybe it was after the death of a loved one. Or during the sickness of a friend. Maybe you couldn’t even pin point why things hurt so bad– all you knew is that you hurt.

You aren’t alone. That’s one of the most important truths when going through suffering. There are other people out there who feel or have felt like you do right now. We can fall into this trap that tells us no one understands, but that’s a lie. A lie to keep us alone. Even more than that though there are people out there who are for you. They care about you. They may not have been through the same exact circumstances you are walking through, but they can understand pain. They also know how to pray….and make brownies. Both of which I’ve found are helpful and necessary.

In the midst of pain it’s important to keep people around us. We’ll want to isolate and keep to ourselves. We tell ourselves its to shield others from our misery, but honestly we just want to be left alone to pout. That’s what I’ve done at least. I’ve stopped replying to text messages, stopped answering phone calls and hidden away in my room for days at a time to sulk. Those were dark times, times I could have/should have chosen to cling to community instead.

God placed us in community for a reason. We need each other when it feels like the world is closing in. We need people to speak truth to our hearts and our souls because we’ve somehow lost the words. Pain will try and silence you, but your community will be your voice.

In this most recent season I’ve had a bit of a revelation of my suffering and it’s this:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18, ESV)

There is a glory that will outshine all of this suffering. Our suffering won’t even be a distant memory, but will vanish in comparison. That’s where I’m choosing to fix my attention. Because He deserves my attention. He deserves my affection…even when I’m hurting. And when I choose to look at Him, instead of my pain, I’m reminded of all that.

I know what it feels like when I focus on my pain. It doesn’t ease the hurt, but magnifies it. It becomes the only thing I think about consuming all of my thoughts. That type of thinking sends us down a very dark pit. A pit full of despair and hopelessness.

Does it take away our current heartache? No. Will there still be suffering? Yes. I’m not wanting to belittle the pain. The pain is real. It does hurt. But there’s more for us. Something better in the midst of this or despite it all. It is the hope of His glory. (Col. 1:27)

If you need some encouragement or some words of Truth spoken to your heart, please comment and let me know. I know what it’s like to need words…and for those words to come from others. It’d be my honor and my joy to do that…and to remind you that you are not alone. 

Praying for Blue Skies

Praying for Blue Skies

I’ve been doing a lot of praying for blue skies.

Winter seems to be lingering in Upstate New York. The air has a bitter bite to it’s blow and the grey clouds mask the sun entirely. Everyone is sick of the dreariness, myself included. I’m counting down the days to a fresh pedicure and flip flop season.

The blue skies I’m praying for aren’t merely physical. 

It’s been hard to get out of bed lately. The snooze button has become my morning companion and my mental math has greatly improved. I can barely form comprehensible sentences in the morning (ask any of my previous roommates), but I can add 9-minutes to the current time in a jiffy. And I’m not just talking about hitting the snooze once or twice, but for an hour. AN HOUR.

The lack of motivation goes far beyond just getting out of bed. It has bled into every (if not all) areas of my life. Including writing. Every time I sit down to write I feel like I’ve gone dry….as if the last article I wrote would be the last article I’d ever write. It’s been as if there’s just nothing left to say. Maybe I’m not really a writer, but I’ve been living on some borrowed grace.

So, it’s had me wondering, “Can someone go through a mid-life crisis at 31?”

I was sitting at my desk typing late one night, when I looked down at my hands and noticed a spot that I had never seen before. It could have been the poor lighting, or the fact that my eyes were tired (isn’t that an old person excuse?!), but I could definitely see a spot. An age spot. I had already been noticing some grey strands trying to hide between my blonde locks. In an attempt to hide them, I decided to make a slight change in where my hair parted. No one else can see them, but I can hear them laughing maniacally and calling out, “I’ll get you my pretty!” like the Wicked Witch of the West.

At a recent family dinner, I was struck by how mature my 14-year old niece was looking. She was wearing long dangly earrings and there was a faint shimmer on her cheeks. Make-up was once used for dress-up and now she’s using it for real. Like for real. What happened to her holding me hostage on the couch to read…and then re-read…every Berenstain Bear book she owned?

Then, talking to my mom that same night, I remembered this year marks 10 years since I graduated from college. That might have been the final straw.

From my lack of motivation to the intense sadness at realizing I’m getting older to feeling like I’m always going to be in this rut– all I’m seeing right now is cloudy skies. I’ve been praying and crying and praying some more begging God for some relief. While running some errands this week, I started praying again. As I drove, there were grey clouds ahead of me and grey clouds in my rear view mirror. I was surrounded.

Passing an airport, I noticed an airplane taking off and I began remembering the different times I had flown. Each time, the same thing happened. Eventually, we’d get above the clouds and above the clouds there was sunshine. Glorious sunshine. On the ground, the clouds may have shielded the sun from me, but once above them there was nothing hindering my sight.

Here below, it may look like there’s no sun at all. Miles in every direction you may see nothing, but clouds, but I can assure you there is still a sun. It shines big and bright and warm. It’s everything you remember it to be and more.

Just keep climbing. Don’t level off at a lower altitude before you’ve broken through the clouds.

I know things are hard right now, but this is all temporary. Your current struggles are your future victories, but (as much as you want to) you can’t give up. You’ve got to hold on to Hope as a lifeline– constantly pointing your face towards the sky for the moment that the break in the clouds finally comes.

But for now, as we stare at the clouds, this is my prayer for you and me (taken from Numbers 6:24-26): The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

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. 

Something beautiful.

something beautiful

Why?

Why did he have to die? He was too young. Had so many dreams. He loved you, Jesus.

Why?

Why wasn’t my childhood safe? Why did I have to see those things? Experience those things?

Why?

Why are things so hard? Why does it feel like one bad thing after another?

Why?

You’ve undoubtedly asked the “Why” question many times yourself. You’ve experienced hardships. If you haven’t I’m assuming you’ve had some kind of major brain injury that has stunted your memory– in which case, you have experienced a hardship. You get my point. No one is exempt from life or the trials or heartbreak that come in shifts, or seasons or waves.

I’ve seen people I love, reeling in pain because of loss. I’ve seen many tears fall because of physical pain in their bodies. I’ve seen fists raised in frustration because of a financial burden that never seems like its going to go away.

I’m 30 now, and it hasn’t gotten easier to watch. I wouldn’t say I’ve come away with answers to the “why” question, either. Sorry to say. I wish I did. I’d package that answer up, and put it in a book and sell it to the masses. Reasonably priced and all. And I’d live comfortably off its sales.

A lack of answer does not mean a lack of hope, though.

I sat listening to a spoken word at a youth conference a few months ago. I was most struck by one line in particular– “A dry land can still rejoice and blossom like a rose*.” I’ve meditated on that thought many times since then. Sometimes making it a prayer to Jesus, asking Him to take the ruins and mess of my life and bring wholeness there. Other days its a declaration to myself that I can indeed STILL rejoice and that I do STILL blossom and grow. And sometimes its a reminder from my Savior that yes He does the miraculous. That He can cause a flower to bloom in a desert. That He can take me and make something beautiful.

With questions still looming, tears still streaming and a heart still broken I will confidently say with outstretched hands, “Jesus, please make something beautiful.”

And He will.

 

(* Spoken word written by Josiah Ball)