Pressing Through To Jesus

Pressing Through To Jesus

Warning: this may be TMI (too much information) for some people. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’ve had “the issue of blood” (we all get what that means, right?) basically every day for the last 7 months. Just in case you are worrying, I’m aware of why it’s happening, but at this point it’s just something I have to deal with on a daily basis. It’s annoying, frustrating, sometimes scary and sometimes painful. This week, I was especially frustrated and let out a disgruntled sigh.

“Jesus, why is this happening to me?”

I hadn’t expected a response, but in the middle of my frustration God encouraged me. I was instantly reminded of the story of the woman with the issue of blood found in Mark 5:25-34, which I’ve read probably a hundred times. This morning though, it took on a deeper meaning– not just because I could relate to the woman on a very small scale.

The woman in Mark 5 lived with her sickness for 12 long years. She tried everything she could possibly try in order to get relief. I’m sure she even tried essential oils because a friend on Facebook told her to give it a try. I joke, but this woman was desperate. She visited doctors and tried a variety of procedures and literally spent all the money she had in order to get better. In the end, she only got worse.

Until Jesus.

A desperate woman who had tried everything else pressed through and found her way to Jesus. She knew He was her only hope. In reaching Him, in that very moment, she was healed. Instantly, I might add.

For me, singleness is my “issue”. At times, it can be frustrating, annoying, scary and painful as I try and walk through this journey with faith. I’ve tried everything and still find myself waiting for this season to be over. From dating apps to being set up by friends and waiting for that guy in small group to ask me out to coffee. There are moments I get to the end of myself and pray prayers similar to the one I shared at the beginning of this article.

“Jesus, why is this happening to me?”

His answer, “Press through these circumstances and get to me. I want you to come to me because that is where you will find wholeness.”

It is there, in the presence of Jesus, that we find healing. Healing from a break-up or healing from the heartache of not having been on a date in years. Maybe your healing isn’t connected to your relationship status– maybe it has to do with an attitude you have towards someone or that every day you wake up feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

All I know is whatever we need, can be found in the presence of Jesus. In that area where you need healing, press through to Jesus. He wants us to come to Him. He loves it when we do because it’s admitting our need for Him. And I don’t know if you need the reminder, but you do NEED Him.

My encouragement to you: Press through. Don’t let people, diagnoses, hurdles or difficulty get in your way. Get into Jesus’ presence and it’s there I know He’ll do a miracle for you!

 

 

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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. 

Love: A Costly Gift

Love- A Costly Gift

There once was a woman who was known around town as “the sinner”. I imagine that means she was a whore. Giving herself to any man in exchange for a buck or two. There were times, I wonder, if she wanted to do something else but didn’t because she’d been doing it for too long. It could be that over time she got comfortable with her title. Wore it like a badge of honor.

Sinner.

“That’s what I’ll always be.”

But then Jesus comes along. We aren’t told how the woman knows Jesus, but it’s clear she had been greatly impacted by Him. So much so, that when she heard Jesus was at Simon the Pharisees house (also a badge worn with honor) she went to Him. She was unhindered by social cues or even common courtesies, but had an undaunted desire to give lavishly to Him.

What does a sinner have to offer Jesus anyway?

First, she offered Him her tears. Those tears held the shame from all those years and all those mistakes. Tears that she had held in for so long in order to not feel were now falling freely in order to wash His feet. As they fell, they seemed to purify her as well. The toxins of her past no longer bottled up inside. In those tears was hope and joy because that is what she found in Jesus.

Her hair she used as a towel to dry His feet. This detail alone would have enraged those in attendance. Women were not allowed to have their hair down in front of anyone but their own husbands. Somehow in that moment she was not concerned about anyone’s eyes, but only those of Jesus. Her thoughts were focused on Him alone.

And as she thought about Him she kissed His feet. Those beautiful feet which brought such good news to her weary soul. How could she not kiss them?

Then, she took her jar of precious ointment and broke it. Not one drop of the contents would be saved, but all of it poured out on Jesus’ feet. The woman had taken her most costly possession and in an act of extreme adoration gave it up in worship to Jesus.

Amazing how when beautiful things are broken they can bring a sweet smelling fragrance of adoration and love.

As the woman showered Jesus with love, Simon thought to himself, “Hmphh, but she’s a sinner. Come on Jesus, you should know that.” He kept his disgust to himself as he watched her unapologetically love Jesus. Disgusted at the woman’s indecent behavior and Jesus for allowing it.

Poor, stupid Simon got caught up in his critical and judgmental thinking. Quickly pointing at someone else’s sins while forgetting he had his own.

But at least I’m not her.

Stings a bit to hear. To hear how similar Simon can sound and to know that I’m often swept up in my own pious thinking. I mean, come on, I invited Jesus over for dinner. Give me some credit.

When He came, because He’ll always come, I treated Him like a commoner. I say it’s because we’re just “that comfortable” with one another, but somehow dishonor veiled itself as familiarity. The intimate greetings we once exchanged have become the awkward side hugs between acquaintances or the cold distance between lovers sleeping back-to-back.

What was it that caused the woman to have such a zealous love? The fact that she knew she was loved and forgiven.

This is where my heart begins to ache, because I know it’s her realization of His love for her that causes her to act. Her expression of love was not meant to earn His love, but in response to His love. All the tears and all the kisses were in gratitude for what He had already given her. When you’ve seen a love like His you want to reciprocate and she did in the only way she knew how.

God, I want a love like that…again.

Not that I’ve ever lost His unconditional, unfading love, but I’ve forgotten how generous of a gift I had been given when I had been so undeserving. I, too, had been a whore freely giving myself to lesser loves. I had been the unclean woman. The sinner.

Then, there He was and in an instant His love did for me what I could have never done for myself: forgive. I need a renewed revelation of that love. To stop trying to earn it or work for it, but to catch a glimpse of it in such a way that it brings me back to my knees in awe. And in that moment not care about the tears, or the stares, but to be consumed by it allowing myself to cover Him in kisses and pour out my most costly worship at His feet.

My prayer for you is that you would catch a glimpse of the great love He has for you and that it would cause your heart to worship.

A Foundation That Withstands Questioning

A Foundation That Withstands Questioning

“It’s not tradition verses new, but about the foundation of your faith.”

The authoritative voice of the seasoned preacher declared and I scrambled to get a pen. Underneath the quote, I scribbled, “Then, God what is the foundation?”

If it’s not an old generation verse a new generation, then what is it?

If it’s not the conservatives verse the “liberals”, then what is it?

If it’s not denomination verse denomination, then what is it?

My eyes turned back to the preacher who had continued on and as if responding to me in dialogue and replied, “It’s Jesus. Jesus is our foundation.”

The past few years have been a journey full of questions and wonderment that I hadn’t anticipated. I was seeing God in unexpected places and then not feeling Him in places that I thought I should.

Up until then, I had been satisfied with the pretty picket fences I had built around my box-shaped house where I kept God. In there, He was safe, secure and controlled. If I do this, then God does that. Ignorantly, I participated in this manipulative game thinking I could force God’s hand if I just did all the right things. There I knew what to expect out of Him and that was a comforting feeling.

It looked like faith and even felt like faith.

But God isn’t tame.

He’s wild and that scares the hell out of me. Like the wind, I can’t anticipate where He’s coming from and I only know where He’s been because I’ve seen the effects of Him having been there. It seems like the only way to survive it…or Him rather…is to just go with it. But “going with the flow” leaves so many unanswered questions.

Yes, questions. My many, many questions. Questions that most of the time I’m afraid to admit to myself, let alone anyone else, because it seems “wrong” to question God. Not that I think God is insecure, that’s laughable, but because Christians can be when it comes to Him. Yet, there in my head and in my heart the questions beg me to wrestle and some days it feels like they’ve got me pinned.

Each day, I keep wrestling.

In the wrestling, some traditions (or traditional thought) that once seemed non-negotiable, now seem less important. These traditions have become, without me knowing it, idols in my life and God has begun dismantling them. My eyes have been set on them instead of Jesus, so as they fall and crumble, I have this feeling like my world is falling and crumbling around me.

Like the words from this old chorus* I begin to realize: “all the things I once held dear, built my life upon, all this world reveres and wants to own, all I once thought gain, I have counted loss, spent and worthless now, compared to this…knowing You Jesus.” For some of us, Christianity has been our world system and our pet beliefs have been our badge of honor and the things we fight for. Sadly, knowing and pursuing Jesus has taken some lesser priority or forgotten all together.

Our beliefs about Jesus should never overshadow simply knowing Him.

So, white picket fences and boxes meant to contain God may be leveled to the ground, but my Foundation remains. Jesus remains. There will be a rebuilding that takes place, but it will never look like it did before. Actually, I’m not sure what it will look like. I’m just going to continue pursuing Jesus knowing He’ll take care of me in the process.

Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:11

* All I Once Held Dear (Knowing You) by Graham Kendrick