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Whisper Jesus

A dark cloud hovers over me. The darkness feels like it is always there, its goal to engulf me. Sometimes I run from it, but it chases me. Moments of light peak in and I know that light is always outside this veil of darkness. I find it maddening and wonder why the darkness works incessantly to take me out.

My hope remains, though sometimes it is dim and faint, always trusting in what can’t be seen. My soul aches as I wonder why and then my mind reminds me that it does matter why. The attacks are real and my weapon is Jesus. My mouth whispers His name over and over. He hasn’t left. He’s in the dark with me. His light overcomes the dark. But, yet He allows this attack, this seemingly never ending pain. He allows this beat down, so I take it.

When pain comes, we want it to stop. But maybe pain is really the gift, teaching us how to be desperate for Him. My lips beg Him to move, literally begging for His provision. My stack of stones go to the sky, that’s how much His faithfulness has covered us. My shame and sadness grieve my unbelief. Why does my faith waiver? My eyes have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. If only’s trap me. If only my heart would hope over anxiety. Somewhere in there, I think it does.

There is no where to go that I can escape from His presence. He remains mighty to save. He holds my tears in a bottle. He told me this world would hurt. Somehow I get through the nightmares and the mind races. Annoyance at a new level, but I fight with songs in my head and the meditation of scripture. The battle is real, I’m tired and don’t want to keep on. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, the greatest name I know.

The Bible says the joy of the Lord is my strength. Sometimes I don’t understand how that works, but I seek it anyway, trusting I will find it. My soul finds rest in God alone, so I look for Him all the day long. He is always there for the next step, so I take it. One after the other, I walk gingerly. The steps hurt, but it is better to move forward than to go backwards or sit down.

The “woe is me” has got to go. How is that helpful? The pain is here to ignite my passion. Somehow pain keeps my flame burning. And that’s why I want to run from the darkness, from the attacks of evil that chase me and lurk all around me. The darkness repulses me. Every bit of me is weak, but somehow God keeps breathing life into me, speaking truth into my heart and telling me to keep pressing on.

Attacks are real and our battles are not against flesh and blood. Oppression is heavy and chases me in the guise of a dark cloud. But, pain has purpose and over that darkness is a banner. And the banner over me is love. When we love God and are called for His purposes, He will turn everything to good. Even in the dark, I promise you it’s true. Hold on to Jesus

Into the deep water

Calling is a deep knowing of where God has chosen each of us to plant our lives for His glory. We long to know our callings because we find our life purpose in that knowing. Many people struggle for years sorting through the stack of what they wanted for their life versus what God wants. Even confused, after realizing our life path was designed to be planned by God and not us. But, the moment we experience the place God has for us, a calm and crazy stirs in us.

A deep peace comes in knowing, “this is the way, walk.” We aren’t floundering anymore. We are out of the stagnant pond. We are moving and that moving has purpose. We are existing for something more than us.

In the “yes, let’s go for it” we don’t often acknowledge or realize the pain, challenge and difficulty that awaits our obedience. The call will impact friendships, fiscal use, hobbies, and time investment. A realization of calling is a squashing of our selfishness. It’s not about us anymore. It is for Him, from Him and about Him.

Sometimes the days seem long and the hours hurt. Lack of control is a powerful catalyst to fuel our brokenness. Our hearts know that we know that we know, this is the way. But, some days the way looks scary and thorny and unappealing and we realize we must walk a path we would never choose on our own.

Perhaps the day we wander into the briers is the day we really embrace the crazy, the day we say, “ok, Your way,” instead of the wide circle we could take to avoid the mess. Then in the middle of that jungle, we come alive, alive in a way we have never tasted life before. Why? Because we only have one way out and that’s to follow. We can’t see the end, but we know we can trust the One who leads us.

The feeling of depending on Christ and the realization that if He doesn’t help us, we are totally screwed, breathes this magnificent life into our souls. We are willing to face tears, uncertainty, trials and challenge because we get more of Him and He’s promised it all has purpose and that we can trust Him.

Somehow in a calling, we insanely trust Him. Insanely. When the numbers are negative and people hate us and no strength is left, the pursuit remains sure. He girds us up. His light is enough. His faithfulness is our shield. His love is our hope.

We wake up and find ourselves crazy in love, in love with Jesus. We can’t get enough. His Word is our food. His creation is amazing. His people are our people. His presence is our comfort. His Spirit is our guide. We’ve realized we can’t escape Him. He’s more than a love affair. We can’t stop talking about His greatness and goodness and mercy and loving kindness. Our fragile is accepted. Our sins are forgiven. Our path is perfect.

He’s not offended if we have a bad day. He chills there with us, waiting on us as He teaches us how to wait on Him. He listens to our rants and our grumbling and He doesn’t hold our humanness against us. He refines us a little more today than He did yesterday. He knows the heat we can take, more than we know it ourselves. He’s got us and He is leading us, cherishing us and ministering to us. We are consumers to His never ending grace.

Oh and the calling, it’s a series of amazing. Amazing grace to His story. We see Him in all of it and we wonder why we fight surrender. The surrender is actually where the freedom lies. We aren’t held captive, we are set free. The Bible comes alive to us. “This I know, that God is for me.” (Ps 56:9)

We begin noticing Him in the toilet paper and the peppermint mocha creamer. We delight in the almost thrown away burgers and the dinner party that ran late. We cherish the unexpected visitor and the late night listening. We can’t believe how He tells us what to pay and where to give. We know His voice. We wait for God alone. He is intimately involved in every detail of our lives. Our home is His. Our work is His. Our kids are His. Our transport is His. Our time is His. Our money is His. Our life is His.

Thank you Father for the calling on our lives. The race is hard, but the victory is clear. We will not quit. We continue forward by Your power and Your strength.

2 Corinthians 4:1 “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.”

Good Morning

Waking up in the morning can be scary, not knowing if the feeling that hits me will be anticipation or dread.

You are right, it’s good to be alive. another day with the people we love. More time to feel the thump in the chest and know this day is a gift. Kids have this incredible education and the learning is limitless. Our fridge and pantry have food from the heavenly storehouse. Clothing and shoes are available for the wear. If a shower is needed, the water runs hot and clean.

My spirit longs for the Spirit of God to move. Either this morning I believe it or i don’t. When my faith is weak, my pain is debilitating. When my faith is strong, my joy is unending.

Seems simple, this life of trust. Every day before we have lived His faithfulness. Why would today be different? Why would I fear? Why would “what ifs” cloud my mind and take me down wasted rabbit trails?

Thus far the Lord has helped us. We could stack stones of remembrance to the heavens. The faithfulness of God is too much to explain. He has never abandoned us or forsaken us. seriously, His track record is perfect. Mine is the one that is messy.

Doubt and fear are two of the greatest enemies to faith. They hover. They like to keep their dark clouds right over our heads, making the Light more difficult to see. sometimes we acknowledge them for who they are, look up and deny their power. Other times the sneaky deceivers get us. We believe for moments, hours or days the enemy lies. We succumb. It’s kind of like eating that big piece of chocolate cake when we are full. We know better, but we do it anyway.

And then guilt and shame show up. They are the backup enforcers to our doubt and fear. That team works pretty well together against our very souls. I don’t know about you, but I can buy the lie. All of a sudden I am worthless, broken and defeated. i can’t go on. I become convinced I am a failure with my weak faith and my wobbly trust. Why would God care about me anymore? Put me on the bench. I am done.

This beat down could last a few minutes or all day. Maybe longer. The wallow in the pit. The climb under the covers, I can’t go on, yuck. Tears want to come, but they have come so much they are used up or pushed back. What’s the point. Get over it. Receive the realization that you are a loser, you’ve got no faith, you are all used up, you’ve got nothing to contribute.

Then truth shows up, sometimes it feels like it busts through the door. The Bible says “the truth sets you free” and that’s the best description for what happens. It’s not some badger, correction or discipline conference. heck, by this time i am down, reprimanded and convicted enough. Maybe it’s better to call it a grace conference.

Chill. I am the Holy One of Israel. I am your Savior. I am King of kings and Lord of lords. I am your strength. I am your song. I am your hiding place.

“For I, The Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'” – Isaiah 41:12

“You are my hiding place and my shield, I hope in your word.” – Psalm 119:114

As the grace and mercy of God covers us, from the truth of who He is, our spirits calm and that peace that surpasses all understanding shows up. Peace overtakes that cloud of doubt and fear. Peace covers us. Love covers us. Hope covers us.

So my mind goes to why? Why do some mornings greet me with expectation while others welcome me with despair? It doesn’t make sense the inconsistency in my life. It irritates my perfection and grieves my soul. When I know Christ, why am i wishy washy. It’s maddening and sorrowful.

But maybe it’s actually a gift. A time to cherish, deeply cherish, the good mornings. An urgency of my need to be desperate for Jesus every morning. Maybe it’s the reminder of an intense spiritual battle that wars against us. The enemy would be so delighted for any of us (or all of us) to give up. Maybe it’s to remind me the sweetness of prayer and fellowship with Jesus and constantly spending time with Him throughout the day. Maybe it’s a tap on my shoulder to remember to hide the Word, the truth, in my heart. Or maybe it’s to be relatable to the world around me. Life is no tea party and my brokenness relates to the brokenness of those around me. Maybe it is a deep secret reminder to hold on to the love of Jesus.

Why anxiety may say good morning today and peace welcomes me to a new day tomorrow remains a mystery. But whatever God wants to teach me in the extremes of joy and pain, I want to learn. He has all these amazing promises for His children. No matter how weak my faith is, I am trusting it to be as big as the tiniest mustard seed.

Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “For truly I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

So, every night, I go to sleep with hope. Hoping for how the next day will be. Reflecting on today’s goodness. (there is always goodness somewhere in there, every day, if we look hard enough.) Trusting God will wake me up with peace, or take me through the darkness to where peace is beyond understanding. He’s guarding my heart and my mind. He’s my Protector. He fights for me.

“The hope of the righteous brings joy.” – Proverbs 10:28

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” – Psalm 130:5-6

A Rescue Mission

Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell. – CT Studd

My husband and I prayed we would live in a way that we were willing to be within a yard of hell, helping people see Jesus and be rescued by Him.  If we want people to find Jesus, it seems we have to meet them in their mess and walk with them in their brokenness. We were willing to surrender our home to be that ‘rescue shop’ if God would so use it. We were naive to think it would be easy.
Most likely, our experiences are no where close to being “within a yard of hell,” but the pain, deception and sorrow has made it feel close. Over the years, God has allowed us to see the ugly of sin, up close and personal. The fight against evil, darkness, lies, sin, self, and the world is all around us. Everyday we have a choice – will we engage, will we retreat or will be spectators?? Spectatorship being possible the worst option of all, knowing but without action.

When we were kids our respective churches taught us this song:

I may never march in the infantry
Ride in the cavalry
Shoot the artillery
I may never fly o’er the enemy
But I’m in the Lord’s army!
Yes Sir!

I’m in the Lord’s army!
Yes sir!
I’m in the Lord’s army!
Yes sir!

Maybe you have laughed and sang along with this song too, marching and pretending to ride a horse or shoot a gun or fly. The spiritual battle seemed light hearted and safe. The Lord’s army was cool. The song may have subconsciously taught me that nothing hard was going to come and He was never going to need me to march, ride, shoot or fly for His army. I don’t think I ever thought I would have to get close to the enemy. As a follower of Christ, I had enlisted and did not know the half of what faith in Jesus was going to do to my world.

Meeting Jesus when you are five years old gives you awesome child-like faith, which He wants us to have, but the hard part is not understanding ‘the hard part.’  Singing a song that is fun with motions and silliness is a whole different world than the reality of a battle.

Joel 2:11- “The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty is the army that obeys his command.”

2 Timothy 2:3-4 – “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”

What does it mean to be a good soldier? We never thought about it. We lived without acknowledging the battle. We were not targets because we weren’t a threat.

A soldier is aware of the enemy and anticipates the enemy. A soldier’s mission is to protect, defend and serve. A soldier is committed; trained on the tactics of charge and retreat. A soldier believes he can and will defeat the enemy. A soldier trusts the commanding officer, follows the commanding officer, and respects the commanding officer.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”

Matthew 10:16 – “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

1 Timothy 6:12 – “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

A soldier “gets in the trenches” because they will sneak close to the enemy camp to protect, defend and rescue their fellow comrades or the civilians caught in the cross fire.

When we meet Jesus, we become a soldier. We enlist. We commit to always be in His army.  Our comrades are our brothers and sisters in Christ and the civilians are those who have not met Jesus yet. Some of us grow into knowing we are in a spiritual battle, with the privilege and duty of a soldier, while others of us understand from the beginning. God had to grow me into the seriousness of “running a rescue shop,” of being invested in an army, and the intensity required to train and suffer as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

We first become a threat when we understand. We become a target when we engage in sharing Christ and loving people.  Our name is added to the enemy hit list when our marching looks like we are in formation behind Jesus.

Our prayers were zealous, without understanding of what it would mean for our lives. We prayed to have the passion and obedience to “run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” Get ready, if you are thinking of opening one.  Running a ‘rescue shop’ has kicked our tails.

Time is not ours anymore.  A rescue shop doesn’t have hours, it never closes. Phones are scripture and prayer sending devices. Resources are for shared consumption. Prayer is vital and our strongest weapon. Transport is for seeking out the lost and delivering help. Food is meant to feed. Money is for the mission. A life of service and faith in what you cannot see.

The real of a battle happens when you find yourself searching for someone in the middle of the night, dragging someone out of a bar, bailing another out of jail, crying with the broken-hearted, sharing scripture and depending on Jesus. The ‘rescue shop’ is open and you stay awake even though you are exhausted, dig into the Word with desperation and sit in the bathroom floor wondering how else can we love? The shop is open when you find yourself standing in the rain, with lightning and thunder all around you, listening to someone scream.

The ‘rescue shop’ is a complete operation of love and grace, run for Jesus, by His strength and for His glory.  The ears hear cursing and the eyes see tears.  Drunks sober on your couch and confession is safe.  God lets your heart ache, feeling the pain of sin.  Prayers fight for marriages, emotional distress and truth. The place is not despair, but hope, a “take the way out” safe haven. A ‘rescue shop’ serves coffee, a warm shower and acceptance.

Sometimes, people don’t want to be rescued. They reject Jesus right in your face. You take them to His cross and You explain love, but love is too scary or the sin too addictive and deceiving. The rescue can only happen if a person receives the offer.  No one can be forced to take grace. God may even have the ‘rescue shop’ heap the grace, but the person misses that the kindness of the Lord is to bring them to repentance. The ‘rescue shop’ workers have to keep loving anyway, working undercover for Jesus. Our love is an overflow of the love Jesus has heaped on us. All we can do is love, no matter how angry, offended or used we feel. No matter how much sleep we miss or tears we cry, love bears more and more. Love waits.

Love is Jesus and we remember it cost Him everything.  We have committed to be a good soldier and fight. May it be said of us, followers of Jesus, “they fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith.”

We cannot grow weary. We cannot give up. We cannot stop loving. For the Lord says… “I will open rivers, I will make the wilderness a pool of water, I will produce in the wilderness, I will set growth in the desert, that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” – Isaiah 41:17-20

Our ‘rescue shop’ is open, full of mistakes and grace, and it feels pretty close to hell. Is yours open?

Do not lose heart

Ugh, my spirit feels crushed.

Do you ever feel like you don’t measure up? I don’t measure up. Apart from Christ, I am worth nothing. I’ve been reminded of this more than ever. Even told as much – to my face – from others.

Lately I have felt unwanted and not liked by several people. It feels yuck to know people don’t prefer me, understand me or value me.

Have you ever felt hurt by relationships?

From our wounds, the easy is to speak bad about others that speak bad about you. From our pain, the easy is to lash out in anger, to spew ugly words and be mean back. The easy is self-protection, shutting down, building walls and guarding our hearts. The easy is passive aggressive, smart remarks, woe is me and manipulation.

The easy is what my flesh wants.

God reminds me of 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and the endurance He expects from me. He does not want me to lose heart. He doesn’t want you to lose heart either.

This ministry to which I am called is from His mercy. This ministry is what He has birthed in me. He has done the work, He is only asking me to stay the course. He is reminding me “do not lose heart.”

Even when you hear from others or interpret for yourself as idiot, incompetent, worthless, and failure.

Keep renouncing disgraceful and underhanded ways. Don’t receive that negativity.

Continue to refuse to tamper with God’s word. Hold fast to truth and commend yourself in the sight of God. What the world thinks or does doesn’t matter. What matters is obedience to God.

Stay obedient in the face of adversity, ridicule and questioning. If people can’t see Jesus in us, it is only hidden from them because they don’t know Him. So give grace, piles of it. The god of the world blinds unbelievers. They can’t see the light of the gospel of the spectacular glory of Christ. They can’t see that He is the very picture of God.

What we proclaim is not us, but Jesus Christ as Lord. We exists as servants for the sake of Jesus. Our crazy is about Him and for His glory.

God said, “Let light shine out of darkness.” The light is in us, in our hearts and it gives light. God’s light in us shows we know the glory of God because of Jesus Christ. We have a hope that can’t be denied. We are shining.

The light is a treasure. Our treasure is Jesus. And we carry this treasure around in a jar of clay. Jars of clay are easily broken. Jars of clay leak. Jars of clay are not always beautiful. Jars of clay can be for common use.

When we have our treasure in a clay jar, it becomes obvious to everyone that the surpassing power in us belongs to God and not us. We still struggle.

We are afflicted in every way, but we aren’t crushed. I may feel like my soul is crushed, but it’s only afflicted.

We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We may feel the symptoms of despair, but we carry around a treasure so we cannot despair. We are hauling around life.

We are persecuted, but not forsaken. No matter what anyone says against us or to us, no matter what hateful action is done to us or what neglect we feel, our Jesus does not forsake us. He’s with us. He is our treasure.

We are struck down, but not destroyed. Our hearts ache, we find ourselves in the fetal position, we mourn and grieve, we feel beat on and abandoned, but nothing destroys us.

In our jars we are carrying around the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus is apparent in us. Every day we live we are dying to ourselves for the sake of Jesus, so the life of Jesus can be lived out through our very human flesh. Isn’t it insanely beautiful that our daily dying that is working in us is giving the life of Jesus to others?!

Faith. God give me more. If I believe you, then I will speak and be a useful vessel for Your glory. My heart believes Jesus died for me, Jesus has forgiven me of my sins, Jesus loves me and one day I will be raised to be with Him. I can’t wait for that day.

My aching, my hurt, my sadness, my inadequacies are for the sake of Jesus. All of it for Jesus… the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. My pain counts. My joy counts. My prayers. My heaviness. My weariness. My brokenness. My battles. My laughter. My tears.

The more grace that can be extended the more thanksgiving will increase. As grace goes forth to more and more people, I will praise Jesus more, thank Him more, celebrate Him more. The grace giving is for His glory.

So, here we are, reminded we must not, can not, utterly refuse to lose heart. Our flesh is slowly dying every day. The grey hair, aching joints, sleepless nights are evidence of our aging. We look in the mirror and realize this aging, or dying, is legit.

Wait. With every day of dying, I realize I’m living more.  My inner self is renewing day to day. Every day, I am looking a bit more like Jesus. Maybe it’s tiny and the world cannot see it, but Jesus can see. He sees my heart is softer, more malleable, more open to His work. He sees my letting go and my brokenness and He is seeing a little of the Jesus He is ever so slowly transplanting into me. He is perfecting me. He is making me more alive every day. My body is dying, but I’ve never felt more alive in Jesus.

The feeling of rejection, neglect, criticism and abuse is temporary. Our darkest wounds are light and momentary afflictions. The glory He is preparing for us is beyond any and all comparison. Hallelujah this world is not my home and so I can strain and squint my eyes and get a glimpse of what is coming.

We make a choice to look past what we can see, to the things we can’t see and we run to the unseen because we know that we know that we know that it is infinitely better.

What we cannot see is what will last forever and the forever is what I am living for. So, we must let loose the things that want to entangle and break our spirit, and hold on to what is true. We must remember and come feast in His word and learn over and over again that we live under the mercy of God. Because of Jesus and the treasure we have, the dying is teaching us how to live. In our grace and faith living, eternity beckons us home.

so blessed

you are so blessed. so blessed to have a job that paid you six figures last year. so blessed to be a character in a movie. so blessed to go to disney. so blessed to take your kids to a pool to go swimming. so blessed with a house that has more than ten rooms. so blessed to vacation. so blessed to drive a brand new car. so blessed that your looking younger instead of older. so blessed to rest. so blessed with a new house. so blessed to get that new flowing top that looks amazing with those pants. so blessed to redecorate your house. so blessed to workout. so blessed to have everything.

in the last week, a variety of my friends defined being “so blessed” with pictures and those supporting comments. look at any social media site, and mostly we will celebrate the blessings of stuff, indulgence, selfishness, money, whatever God gave to make life easier. but is that blessed? maybe we are using the wrong word.

finding myself curious, i looked up the word blessed, in the dictionary, to find some of these definitions: made holy, consecrated, those who live with God, having a sacred nature, connected with God, very pleasant, welcome or appreciated, held in reverence, honored in worship, worthy of adoration, reverence or worship, divinely or supremely favored, blissfully happy or contented, thankfulness, to protect from evil, worthy of worship, revered, bringing contentment, etc.

synonyms of blessed are exalted, hallowed, glorified, magnified, beauty, adored, divine, redeemed, resurrected, rewarded, saved, among the Angels, holy, delightful, pleasing, satisfying, grateful, gratifying, etc.

Jesus teaches us what blessed is in Matthew 5….

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you,persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

if blessed is more me time, more stuff, more money, then how does that leave the rest of the world? what are the stats now? maybe 80% of the world live on close to nothing or a little more or a little less. are we saying the majority of the world isn’t blessed? am i not blessed if i don’t have cable, my kids don’t attend private school, my car’s engine light is on and we eat expired food? does it mean ‘not blessed’ to make little money, struggle with anxiety and be a harvester of free fun.

surely, my perceived worldly lack does not define me as “not blessed.”

Jesus teaches us the better way…

Blessed are those who are poor in spirit.  We are blessed if we know our absolute need for Jesus. We are blessed when we admit our deep spiritual poverty and our complete inadequacy to do this life without Jesus. We find our completeness in Jesus and the Kingdom of heaven is ours!

we still owe money for our house. my jeans have holes in the knees. the car has just enough fuel. some of the excess is gone. but, oh how blessed we are because He is enough. we know our need for Him and we are a big broken mess without Him. we are not in control and we need Him to light our way. we survive and in that we thrive. we are blessed.

Blessed are those who mourn. We are blessed to face hardship, loss, despair, pain and tears. We are promised trouble and reminded Jesus overcame the world. Our sorrow brings us close to Jesus, teaching us to share in His sufferings. And He meets us and we are comforted. Blessed is knowing comfort.

a friend needs a job, another’s work computer crashed, my friend’s mom needs food, a friend’s daughter is pregnant out of wedlock, bedbugs have invaded multiple apartments and friends have lost everything, a little girl got raped, our missionary friends battle for visa renewals, another friend’s dad has weeks to live, a little boy is so sick and awaits surgery, a mom sleeps in a chair at the hospital, a new friend feels lost and without purpose, another’s AC unit is on the blink, someone i know committed suicide, other missionaries will visit soon for a respite, another friend is recently divorced, a friend battles with health, another fights for life after a horrible car accident, my friend’s grandson is in trouble, my friend’s checks keep bouncing because they never have enough, another kid has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia, a lady i know needs a car and a place to sleep, a boy is running a fever and another battles nightmares. the sorrow around me goes on and on and on. and then the brokenness of our sin – the addictions, lying, back biting, anger, worry, fear, hostility, bitterness, self-seeking mess. we are filled with sorrow. this list is a drop in the ocean to the pain this world knows. every person i know battles something every day. we are all acquainted with trouble. we are blessed when we mourn, for we will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, the quiet, the gentle, the easily imposed upon, the submissive. The meek are those that do not want to fight with people, a calm person, strength under control. Meekness lays down our own way for the sake of obedience to Jesus.

my first thought of a meek man is a former Bible teacher. he prepared the lessons and presented from a place of humility. he confronted the truth boldly, but with love. when he jumbled his words or felt as if his response was not understanding or from his flesh, he called, or stood before the group, and apologized for his humanity. he was always strength under control, facing difficulty with prayer and reliance on Jesus. he willing sacrificed for the sake of obedience. his life teaches meekness and he will inherit the earth.

What about those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. They are the saints of God that want Him more than they want anything. Of course they are blessed. The satisfaction of experiencing the effects of righteousness is greater than any material possession or indulgence.

what irony that the world knows and loves mother teresa, but many would not dare emulate her way of life. most of us do not want to live in calcutta, to live without possessions, to eat what the poor eat, to experience poverty, to touch diseased people. but we want her hunger and thirst for righteous and her satisfaction in Jesus?

Blessed are we when we want to be right with God, when we hunger to be with him, when we thirst to look like him, when our lives begin to mimic Jesus. Now that is blessed and we are satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, when we forgive quickly, when it’s our glory to overlook an offense, to be kind, tender hearted, compassionate and generous. Often the merciful put aside themselves, their feelings, their agendas, to bend to the needs of others. Mercy looks like Jesus as He gave us the most mercy when He died for us to forgive us of our sin. Mercy is not because we deserve it, but a gift of love and tenderness.

blessed are we when we are merciful, because we will then receive mercy. when we forgive, we will be forgiven. when we give compassion, we will receive compassion. when we put ourselves aside, we will receive grace and more. mercy is letting the customer pay late and then receiving mercy from the vendor you in turn owe. mercy is forgiving the child for the spilled milk as we received the forgiveness of God when we yell our children. mercy is grace on steroids, grace overflowing, grace undeserving. oh, that is blessed.

Now consider the pure in heart. What does that mean? A pure heart is a complete vulnerability and exposure to who we are, here’s our brokenness, our failures, our dependence. We know our weaknesses so we are not hateful, judgmental or bitter. We long to please God, more than anything, to come clean before Him. We are aware of our sin, we are repentant of our sin and willing to confess our sins trusting Him to purify us and heal us from unrighteousness. The pure in heart give up their lives to truly find abundant life. Blessed are the pure in heart because they will see God.

And the peacemakers. They are always the truth tellers, knowing how to speak with love. Peacemakers bring unity and delight into the hearts of the shattered. Peacemakers see the path to the reconciliation and can lead others to its safety. Blessed are the peacemakers because they are sons of God.

remember the two mama’s fighting over the baby and the judge was a peacemaker, a solution finder. he told them to cut the baby in half and the real mom said, “let her have the baby.” the peacemaker knew how to get to the truth and to bring peace to a chaotic situation. then, the real mother was awarded her baby.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Martyrs of the faith, the child who is left out or taunted for believing in Jesus, the family who is laughed at for following the way of Jesus. The kingdom of heaven is for the persecuted.

Blessed are the ones who receive criticism, condemnation, insult, or attack. The reward is great in heaven for those who suffer from the false accusations of others. Blessed are you when people speak behind your back, when they mock your obedience to Christ, and when they speak evil against you.

we are saying “so blessed” for things that bring ease, temporary comfort, status, position, power, influence, entertainment and distraction. all so temporary, used up, fleeting, deteriorating, and spent.

But Jesus is saying …
Blessed is poor in spirit.
Blessed is mourning.
Blessed is meekness.
Blessed is a hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Blessed is pure in heart.
Blessed is peacemaker.
Blessed is persecution.
Blessed is insult.

And here’s what is ours …
The Kingdom of Heaven
Comfort
Inheritors of the earth
Filled with righteousness
Mercy
You will see God
You are called children of God
The Kingdom of Heaven (must be really good because mentioned twice)
Great is your reward in heaven!

Let’s learn the way of Jesus and become blessed.

Sufficiency in Christ

Why do some of us see the world so differently than many Christ followers we love and respect? My heart feels so weird, alien, set aside, different, and often lonely. God has impressed this deep longing in me to look like His Son, Jesus. Jesus’ love for me convinces me that there is no other feasible option. If Jesus is my Lord and Savior, how can I not surrender to daily follow?

Please do not misunderstand, I am not trying to say the hundreds around me are not wanting to follow Jesus. What I don’t understand is why do I see the world, and our purpose in it, so differently from so many? And why am I called to live so differently than those around me? Looking different than people who do not know Jesus makes sense to me. But why do Christ followers look so different from one another?

Some would argue, “you have the gift of poverty” or “the gift of serving.” Maybe those are gifts and maybe I have them, but I believe Jesus called us to a lifestyle of dying. To know Jesus, we surrender. To grow in Jesus, we live in a constant posture of “not our will, but His.” His word seems no nonsense to me, explaining the life He had planned for all of us as His followers. The Bible is our instruction book so isn’t this straight forward? Do what it says.

Yes, I agree, I am not good, I am not better than you. But Jesus is good and 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 explains, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

So we have this full, amazing, sufficient life in us through the Spirit of God. We can live like Jesus because our competence is from Him and not us. Apart from Jesus, none of us are good enough. Apart from Christ, we will not choose the right way. Apart from Christ, we will wander and we will fail.

We settle. We blame our cultures and justify everything. Many decisions are even haphazard, made on a whim, without prayer and without consideration. Our kids deserve this and that. We have to spend the money because of our tax bracket. We work hard. We need downtime because of everything else we committed to this week. We had to eat out four times this week because there was no time to cook. We saw the lady, sitting on the bench crying, but we had to be some where.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

– 2 Timothy 3:16-17

As children of God, we are called to read His Word and do what it says. Why is that interpreted as so radical or unusual? Why does a striving after God look so different from the masses that say they follow Him too? My mind can not wrap itself around this phenomenon. So many questions and no real answers.

Why is waste so common among believers, but my heart is so passionate against it? Sometimes it feels like people mock simplicity, terming it as “hippy” or “green living.” Get your to-go box. Haha. Don’t throw away that half eaten piece of chicken. Call it whatever, but how is it honoring to God to be so flippant with resources. I remember how convicted we were about cable. We never watched television, but we had been paying a monthly fee to have it for years. Why? What a waste of God’s resources. These are not our resources, but rather an entrustment to us from God.

What about our over-commitments and our jammed up schedules? Did we share Jesus this week? Were we around hundreds of people at school events, extra activities and social gatherings, but we were “too tired” to notice anyone around us? Did we talk about nothing and never truly listen? What is the point of all that?

Did we listen to another Jesus lover share how they experienced Christ this week? What about us? Did we share our own lessons with someone else? If not, why? What is the point of complaining about the weather, our limited resources or how busy we are? Static. Pointless noise. God stories are everywhere, but we have stopped noticing. Complacent. A wasted life. Oh, how I don’t want that life.

Someone once told me that contentment without godliness is very dangerous, often creating character traits of apathy, selfishness and laziness.

The Bible says:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. – 1 Timothy 6:6-7

Life is temporary. Why is that such a prevalent focus in my mind, but others do not seem to think about it? I feel so odd. And how can I even talk about it? As far as I know I am not “dying” of a terminal disease and I am not yet an old lady, so it seems like my words will go unnoticed.

But yet, I feel the effects of “dying” everyday. Every day dying feels easier and harder, all at the same time. Jesus has giving me this good exceptional life, but it feels like I cannot talk about it to the majority of the people I know. How messed up is that? Again, I do not understand why our interpretations are so different. If I talk out loud, I feel misunderstood or “they” interpret me as critical or fanatical.

My life is full of miracles. I catch myself holding my breath, but why? My God is gracious and ever-present.

What if every person who takes the time to go to church on Sunday lived differently the other six days? Or used the time they would sit in church to live like Jesus for two or three hours? Can you imagine what would happen in the world if all church attendees were sold out to Jesus for an entire week? What about a year of people trusting Jesus and living a life of “dying to self” and living out what the scriptures say? Now dream about a lifestyle of an army living only for Jesus and not for themselves? Oh how the Kingdom would advance! Oh how different we would all look!

What if all those people asked questions and really listened? Oh amazing. God would be lifted higher and higher. We would know His faithfulness and His love more and more. Our decisions would be different. Our desires aligned with His desires. Our time, money and stuff would not be “ours” anymore.

Please Jesus, help all of us (the ones who go around talking about how we have surrendered our lives to follow you) to be different, alien, strange, not earthly; more like YOU. Please teach all of us to live your word in 1 John 2:15-17…..

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Will we say yes?

We hear sermons, we read scripture verses, songs play on our radios and iPods. We read books, educational, motivating and true life. We watch movies and listen to testimonies. Our hearts feel conviction, inspiration, and love. We want to take action, to change, to be better. But, we lack discipline. Or action. Or obedience. Maybe the lack is faith, courage, love? Maybe we even fear what would happen if we started doing what Jesus says. What will it cost? Will we lose friends? How will our time be affected?

Could our goals be too overzealous that they paralyze us? Or too vague that they never mobilize us? How will we have time for memorizing the book of James when we cannot learn one verse? We feel shame because our children haven’t learned the books of the Bible. We want to pray for hours, but our minds wander or we don’t have time. We keep meaning to practice hospitality, but its been six months and we still haven’t invited anyone for dinner. The cashier at the grocery, she always looks so sad, but we haven’t had time to ask her any questions or write her an encouraging note. Someone invites us to a game night, but we are tired so we decline again. We want to teach our kids how to give, but we never make a plan. Our friend’s marriage is shattered and we look her in the face, tell her we will pray, but we never do it.

What is stopping us from living moment to moment with Jesus? Why do we keep signing up for more Bible studies when we have never practiced what we learned at the last one? How do we say our hearts are broken for the lost, but we do not meet them where they are? We say we love others, but we are still making decisions based on ourselves. We say we want God to “mess us up in a good way,” but we set up “safeguards” to self-protect.

How do we abandon everything for the sake of the Gospel?

A simple YES.

We stop saying no, and we say yes.

The other day I was spending time with Jesus and He showed me something so profound, but simple. To obey Jesus is to simply say yes to the next opportunity He puts in front of me. Not to try to figure it out, to create some perfect moment, or to think of how to say something in some eloquent way.  Be me and say yes.

When do I miss God? When I make decisions through the filter of “what I want” and forget, dismiss or ignore the direction of what God wants. We like no. No is an insulator, a protector, the great escape. No gets us out of hard.

Sometimes, we need to say no to run from temptations, distractions and time wasters. But, that is the no we often, ironically, say yes to. We are asked to watch a compromising movie and we say yes. We laugh at the inappropriate joke. We say yes to negativity, insults and gossip. We eat too much food and three desserts. We judge others. We drink too much alcohol. We say yes to social media and no to sleep. We say yes to more work and no to time reading His word. Our no’s and yes’s are backwards.

Jesus is showing me, to be used by Him is not difficult. He will give us the opportunities. Our part in the equation is YES.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” – 1 Corinthians 1:20

Every day we will have the opportunity to say yes. Some of the yes’s may be more challenging than others, but they will be a variety pack of hard and easy. If we take the risk, we will see God work. We will know Him more. He will grow us up to be more like Him. We will learn how to love. He will show us every step. We will be fully equipped.

Hug that friend. YES.

Invite that friend to dinner. Play games. Laugh. Listen. YES.

Another person comes to mind in the shower. Pray for them. Send them a Facebook message that you love them. Encourage. YES.

Go for a walk. Talk. YES.

Loan your car to that family that needs one. Share a car with your spouse so the other family has a lifted burden. YES.

Cook, cook some more. Give all that food away. YES.

A friend had surgery. Another friend’s grandmother just died. A friend has a new foster baby. A friend works two jobs. Another is battling anxiety. Stop by and pray. Take a frozen meal. YES.

Share this scripture with that person right now. Text sent. YES.

Listen. Ask questions. Listen some more. YES.

Give away clothes, furniture, money. YES.

Go mow their grass, rake their leaves, clean their toilets. YES.

Don’t send the phone call to voicemail. Answer it. YES.

A family is struggling to pay their mortgage payment or their car payment. They are short on money. A crazy thought comes to mind that you should pay it for them this month. YES.

Most of the scenarios are not complicated. The yes is usually relational, time investing moments, where we put action behind what we say we believe. We could write a list of hundreds, hundreds from the ones we ignored, we were too busy to deal with and the ones we (let’s be honest) did not want to do. But, that sounds depressing. So, instead, we can choose the option to start a lifestyle of YES scenarios and watch what God does with our, not much effort, (or all out effort) simplicity of YES.

780,000 minutes

We were given 18 months. Around 540 days. Almost 13,000 hours. The time was our opportunity to love this one person in our life well. Now silence answers the other end of the phone. Gone. We may never see him again.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.” – Colossians 1:27-29

We have the very hope in us that our friend is refusing to cling to, to trust. He testified he had this hope of glory, that Christ lived in him. I don’t know what he would say right now.

But I know my God, He does not leave or forsake us. He’s steady when we are chaotic. He’s faithful. He’s true. His nature does not change because we change.

Lost and wandering. That phrase I hate that humanity uses, “I need to find myself.”

We are commanded to proclaim Jesus. And the truth is we don’t need to find ourselves, we need to find Jesus.

Flesh wants. Flesh lies and flesh says “we deserve this or that.” Flesh is never satisfied. Flesh indulges, but never gets enough. Everything is temporary. Flesh wants a numb for the pain and succumbs to whatever will give the high, buzz, adrenaline rush, “what about me” momentary fix.

Me. Focus on me. No one else matters. Me kills and destroys. The destruction is fast or may be a slow fade. But me will die with no joy, no hope and no purpose.

What a lie to believe anything else but Jesus will satisfy us. Nothing will ever satisfy us. Not philosophy, traditions, sex, alcohol, shopping, food, drugs, people, cigs, entertainment, money, coffee, nothing. Oh, it may feel good for a temporary pleasure, but it will never be enough. We will only want more and more and at the end of the more, there will always be emptiness.

For Christ I want to toil, not with my energy, but His, that He powerfully works in me.

Did our friend hear our warnings or our teachings? Did he know all we wanted was to present him mature in Christ? We never wanted his talents, his time, his money, his resources. We wanted him to give that goodness to Jesus, as an act of worship, as a life of maturity.

We want for him freedom. We will always be a slave to something, to sin or to Christ. We have this hope of glory and we know it is worthy of surrender; worth the life of a servant.

Did we articulate the warnings in a way he could understand? Did he hear the teaching in the meals we shared, the laughter, the moments we screamed at each other in the pouring rain?  Did he notice our tears? Did our life give him any hope or did we present Jesus as so dismal that it wasn’t appealing? Could he not feel joy or see abundant life? Did our words and our lives not match?

We may not have another day with our friend, or even five minutes. Our ears may not hear his voice and our phones may never ding a text from him again. Our eyes may never see his beautiful smile or our arms wrap around his skinny self to hug him one more time. Our hearts may always ache because our boy has wandered and he is lost. But we will never forget the time God gave us and we entrust him safely into our Father’s grasp. Maybe we will never again be close in proximity or heart, but God will. He’ll be there, in the nasty, foul, train wreck moments and in the shame, guilt and fear. He won’t leave. He will be in the dark places and He will wait silently on the child He adores. He will keep knocking, but He won’t be a pest. Jesus will never force Himself. He will wait and He will woo. He will keep loving even if He is continually rejected. He will sit there, in all that pain, but He won’t force a rescue. He will always give that choice, accept Me or reject Me.

This I know, many more will cross our path and it is worth the toil. We will keep striving with His energy. Ours is used up. His energy will give us the power to keep going. We will love from Jesus. We will listen, pray, and share from Jesus’ power in us. Grace and more grace, that’s what we will give because we have experienced a life of grace upon grace, the hope of glory! CHRIST.

Because He Loves Us

Dear sisters,

I miss you. I miss hearing what God is doing in your life, your hunger for the Gospel and your crazy obedience to Jesus. I don’t see you anymore, and being so, I don’t know how you are. How is your heart? How is your obedience?

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” – Philippians 1:27

How do we do that? How are we spending our days, our months and our years? Do our lives have this manner that is worthy of Jesus? Do we live with the power of His presence in us and His love flowing out of us?

Only. This one thing. If we don’t do anything else, is our way of life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

We can have a great reputation of being alive, when we are dead inside. Are we remembering to fan into flame the gift of God that is in us?

As one body of Christ, with many different functions, as individual members, we belong one to another. Our gifts differ according to the grace given to us and Romans 12:6 says, “let us use them.” Prophecy, serving, exhortation, giving, leading with zeal and acts of mercy are different gifts that belong to each of us.

But, we hold back. We forget the other members need us as much as we need them. We fail to contribute. Maybe it is apathy, inadequacy, fear, failure, time or some other excuse. Our holding back creates disconnections and disappointment from our disobedience of belonging to one another. Our contributions are used as growth for the body of Christ because we are one in Christ. How can we profess our faith in Jesus and not live as one with one another?

Jesus wants to change our hearts. To change our focus. We have been concerned about the wrong things. We have lost time to encourage one another and care for one another in the name of Jesus. We are missing the fullness of the treasure Jesus prayed for us. When we do not live as one, we miss experiencing how Jesus is one with the Father.

If we love Jesus, don’t we want all of it?! How can we live in a mediocre way? Why are we not starving for Him and sharing His goodness every single day? Why would we waste any moments?

Romans 12 shares marks of a true Christian:
• let love be genuine
• hate evil
• cling to what is good
• love one another with brotherly affection
• outdo one another in showing honor
• don’t be lazy in zeal
• be fervent in Spirit
• serve the Lord
• rejoice in hope
• be patient in affliction
• be constant in prayer
• contribute to the needs of the saints
• seek to show hospitality
• bless those who persecute you
• bless and do not curse
• rejoice with those who rejoice
• weep with those who weep
• live in harmony with one another
• don’t be haughty and associate with lowly
• never be wise in your own sight
• repay no one evil for evil
• give thought to what is honorable in the sight of all
• as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people
• never avenge yourselves, leave it to God’s wrath
• if your enemy is in need, care for him
• overcome evil with good

Sisters, this is the life I want to share with you, the place where we belong to one another and we are one in Jesus as His body. Hold me to His standards and help me live a life that demonstrates the marks of a true follower of Christ. I don’t know how to do it and I need His help through you.

Can we make time for one another? Can we trust one another so deeply that when we hear from Jesus, we can share with one another, even at the risk of wounding, because we believe that wounds from a friend can be trusted? Can we risk contributing our gifts because we believe God wants us to grow from one another? Can we push each other to love Jesus so much that we are comfortable being different from the world? Can we stop caring about things that don’t matter for eternity and expose our blind spots to one another for the things we are caring about that do not matter?

How do I explain? I want to be crazy for Jesus with you. I long to lay down my life with you and for you. I want you to know that you belong to me and I belong to you. I want to share Jesus,with people, with you. I want us to grow together, walk through the refiners fire together, suffer and endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus beside one another.  I want to serve with you. I want to learn everything you are learning from Jesus and I want to tell you what I’m learning. I want to sacrifice and obey together. We can be more effective together. We can hold up each other’s arms when we are weak. We can spur each other on when we want to quit. We can speak truth, in love, to one another. We can pray together. We can see God do miracles because we believe together. We can grow our faith, hope and endurance together.

Our future may be one more day or 50 more years and I want to journey it with you. I want to turn grey with you. I want to give my life away with you. I want us to care for one another. I want to see more people come to know Jesus. I want us to baptize people. I want to see us look less and less like this world. I want us to look more like Jesus tomorrow than we do today. I want Him to use us completely so that when we go we’ve given everything for the sake of His name. I want you to challenge me to live more simply every day. I want you to push me to pray without ceasing and hide the Word of God in my heart. I want you to expose my yuck and push me behind Christ when I try to get in front of Him. And if ever I start to walk away from Jesus, for the cares of this world, I want you to tackle me to the ground and wake me up.

I love you sisters. God has more for us. Let’s go for it. He has called us. He has chosen us. He has a purpose for our lives. He has given us gifts from His grace. Please, let’s keep running.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.”
– 1 Corinthians 16:23-24