Tag Archives: Jesus

The "Let Us" Verses: How Biblical Narratives Become Walking Companions


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I cannot pinpoint the exact moment, but at some mile marker along the road, I realized life is hard.
It did not resonate with my childhood expectations. I had not yet developed a full vision of the life that lay before me or an expanded worldview of the lives of others beyond my neighborhood. Despite the painful experiences that led me to my epiphany, I find blessings peeking through them.
My story is part of a bigger road map. God’s hand in my life really began long ago. Understanding that my life connects to those who came before me, those with whom I breathe the same air now and those who will come after me when I have exhaled for the last time shapes my identity.
Though we are individually created (Psalm 139:13-14), we are bound to one another. Our lives connect us. Literally.
Author Ann VosKamp refers to this joining together as “breaking into” each other. In her book, The Broken Way, she writes, “Koinonia is the breaking in, the willing participation, the fellowship of all things-and indwelling can’t help but weave its way through all the atoms of the world. The whole Earth is full of His indwelling. The broken way illumniates the whole material world, everything breaking into everything else. This is what love means: we live within each other, we inhabit each other…”
Life is hard-for everyone. Through all, times and all places. That reality doesn’t give me a free pass to shirk “breaking into” another. Actually, our own identities in this world are shaped as we live into other’s stories.The breadth of God’s character is revealed as we are illuminated by His work in each other.
We can even be broken into by those who came before us. It happens because we are all broken and we share the same Creator. Life has always been hard but hope has always been peeking through.
As I’ve navigated through various seasons, I am amazed at the different walking partners from scripture who have joined my side. 
Hannah encouraged me as I waited on God for a child. Every month of a negative pregnancy test brought grief. Does God hear my prayers? Jealousy enveloped my heart as friends announced their happy news. Don’t they understand my longing to join their “club?” I pondered why my God and my body had betrayed me.
Hannah understood me. She longed for a child; enduring public judgement along the way. Privately, she mourned. Yet, hope poked through those clouds overhead. She recognized God  held her hope and her identity .
Who would have thought Esther could relate to my circumstances? Besides the fact that she may not have actually lived, the pinnacle of her story takes place in a castle? (That alone would appear to separates us). How could being thrust into the position of a Queen compare to a calling as a stocker at Target? We were both placed by God for “such a time as this.”
There are many others who came alongside and whose steps broke into mine…Mary, Sarah, Ruth…Currently, Peter is my companion. My gaze lifts. I no longer focus on the steps left until my own designated finish line. Instead, my eyes focus on Jesus whose presence leads me to where I need to be.
The author of Hebrews exhorts us with these words of encouragement, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, LET US also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and LET US run with endurance the race that is set before us, [a]fixing our eyes on Jesus, the [b]author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 
Feel alone? Ashamed? Imperfect? Find comfort in the legacies of those with whom we are connected. Plunge yourself into the narratives of Hebrews 11.
Because of their faith, we find hope peeking through in the hard. Hope that propels us forward in such a way that we can run (not walk). Hope that motivates us to cast aside anything keeping us from reaching our destinations.
LET US run with endurance the race set before us.
With whom are you running?
 
 
 

Why Changing Our Expectations Results in Blessing Others


As I watched my youngest graduate from Junior High School, my heart was torn.  It was not for the reasons you might assume. While I felt joy in the celebration of these kids (many of whom I have known since preschool), I wrestled with the sadness coming from witnessing behaviors minutes before which have become the norm rather than the exception. And not from the kids.
My husband, my older son, my daughter and I came together to celebrate with my son.  I realize that this was Jr. High graduation and some areas of the country do not even consider that event worthy of a ceremony (I didn’t experience it and don’t feel I’m less the person for it.)  However, last night was about celebrating a milestone in a child’s life. As with most milestones, families play an integral part in the support given to reach it and desire to celebrate it together.
Finding four seats together became a daunting task. Although everyone needed a ticket, not everyone’s “party” arrived together. I understand the desire to include extended ticketed family with your group. However, when saved seats have morphed into rows, we need to ask ourselves what’s really at play here. 
We found seats:  I sat alone, my husband and daughter sat several rows back and my son sat in the back row by himself. Meanwhile, the two “saved” seats in back of me never filled. 
As I sat alone, I mourned. First, for the immediate grief of not sitting together with my family. We’ve been through a lot these past few years. My son has encountered the typical Jr. High social challenges, confronted the academic rigors that come with maturity, and dealt with many difficult situations experienced by our whole family. In many ways, we’ve been stretched to our limits for a decade. Last night, it would have been nice to be woven together in our celebration.
I also mourned the small rips into humanity I witnessed earlier in the day in my own community. Two different adults looked at me and continued to cut me off in a parking lot. “Just because you can does not mean you should” has become a well known mantra in our home. My kids have learned that this world is not “all about them.”  Sometimes, we sacrifice for the sake of someone else. It may involve a big act-maybe even their life. Yet, many times, the humility involves the routine moments of asking what can be done to make life better for someone else.  When we cannot even give up an extra minute, who have we become?
How easy it is to explain away those behaviors. We are all stressed. Some days, we wonder how the lists for our days will be accomplished within the 24 hours we are given. Our minds are constantly multitasking; hoping that fulfillment will be found in reaching our expectations. Whatever the cost. But maybe, we need to evaluate what it is we expect: out of our days and out of our lives. Who informs your identity? How does that influence your daily expectations?
Two years ago, I lamented the division in our nation through my post. http://stephaniejthompson.com/2016/11/14/the-hard-work-of-being-neighbors/  Since then, has anything really changed? The trespasses against our neighbors continue-some with loud fanfare; others in a more quiet “sin of omission” manner.
Everyday we have an opportunity to shine a collective light in the moments we have with others.
treating  waitstaff (despite your frustration)
responding to the annoying neighbor kid (who ironically is perceived as a “trespasser”)
listening to a person who holds a different political view (without unfriending them or tuning them out)
tempted to financially gain from someone else’s loss (just because you can, does it mean you should?)
driving or standing in line (Is your time really more important than someone else’s)
Our natural selves will find it difficult but our transformed selves can embrace the hard. Did we not invite Jesus in to do just that?
Paul exhorts us in this way: “…Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8)
I know we can do better. Jesus made it so.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

When God Speaks But The Fulfillment Appears Incomplete

Traditionally, the Holy week observances exhort us to reflect on events of Jesus’ last days. Moments that affirm the story of a new kingdom unfolding “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” We recognize and recount Jesus’ death and resurrection.

But what about Saturday? Why, as Christians, do we brush off that “extra” day? The Jews recognize Saturday as the Sabbath day. However; for those of us who follow Christ, the Sabbath transitioned to Sunday. Perhaps the implications of what that in-between day meant to those closest to him do not even cross our minds. We know what happened on Sunday. But I’m guessing they were left:

Reeling from the gut wrenching events witnessed the day before. Had the words uttered by Jesus as they lived under his leadership adequately prepared them for the reality of his crucifixion? How do you set aside the images captured in your mind? On what do you draw in order to move your legs forward from their state of “paralysis?”

Pondering why they felt compelled to risk everything to follow this man who claimed to be the Messiah. Certainly others had claimed the same title in the past. Yet, what were the convincing characteristics of Jesus? Peter, in his second letter, reflects on what his eyes observed.
16For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when we made known to you the power andcoming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we wereeyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice from the Majestic Glory said to Him, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”…
Hoping: that Jesus was right. “I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.” (John 15:18-20)

Believing: All the promises poured over them by Jesus including: “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” (John 15:25-27)

Can we not empathize with the disciples as they wrestled with the tension of faith in the face of dreams unfulfilled?  It points to our humanity. One that cannot grasp the unfathomable character of God.

In visiting my great nephew a few weeks ago, I was reminded of the stage of human development when the existence of objects (and people) within a baby’s sphere, only claim existence if they are seen.  Anxiety appears in the wide eyes of a five month old when the mind realizes the person in view is not the parent. Their sustainer, provider, source of life. The mouth begins to quiver, the eyebrows furrow and tears form in the pockets of the lid….until a rotation of the body points to the one whom for whom they long.

Perhaps, like an infant, our eyes and mind, and heart often find themselves disconnected. Have you ever heard the Holy Spirit speak to you a word about your future but later find your ability to see it waning? Dreams planted in your heart that seem to have failed to bear fruit?

Like the disciples, we are left wondering and seeking Jesus. Though our hearts bear evidence of an undeniable connection, our eyes fail to sense him. We haven’t rotated our view. We are looking at the place we expect him to show up. But he hasn’t moved. We’ve been consumed with waiting for Jesus to appear according to our assumptions.
If we are still, we will live into that moment of transition from quivering lips and teary eyes to abundant rejoicing at the reunion. And the reminder that our perspectives fail us. He is always here.

Where have you been expecting to see Jesus? How can you rotate your view?

Why an Empty Day Can Lead to a Full Life


As I gaze down at the square , a tinge of guilt begins to wash over me. The day on my calendar is blank. Not one pencil scribbling nor erased mark evident.
Empty.
What do I make of that? The voices surrounding me beckon my mind and my days to be full. A non-stop marathon of ingesting information, engaging in relationships, pursuing dream vacations, and thrusting myself into a plethora of activity.
I’m not sure how to stand still
To simply be. observe. listen. Give Thanks.
That echoes of Sabbath.
Of basking in the presence of my Creator
The opposing voices label the stillness as lazy, withdrawn, unmotivated
“Identity is determined by our activity”
God’s word says my identity is determined my Creator
“Be still and Know I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
The temptation to resolve the uncertainty lurking inside as I recognize an empty day is to find something; anything to prevent the reality
But I’ve been blessed with these hours of life. I long for rest. For enjoyment in simple things. Why do I want to push it away?
Jesus said he came to give us life.  I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
But his “full” is different. Ironically, the path to realizing a sacred full life demands emptiness. It means setting aside our own agendas; of which we carry without a second thought, and listen to Our Creator. We find contentment in the submission. We sense fullness as we feast on the voice of the Holy Spirit.
I will strive to find joy in the empty. For it is a Holy gift.
This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Prompt “Empty.” Come join us http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/
 
 
 

What We Have in Common With the Thief on a Cross

“I tell you the truth. Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Words uttered by a dying Jesus to a man who is actually guilty of his crime.

Who does he think he is? This man; the recipient of Jesus’ promise of joining him in His Kingdom. He is , after all, a self professed criminal. A thief; indicating a desperate desire to seek security in things of this earth. This man is one of two criminals who hung alongside Jesus. All three facing the same sentence. We know nothing else of this man’s life except this glimpse into his last moments.

The attitudes, behavior, and goods upon which these men built their lives may have given them security in life but are unable to save them in death. Both men are left to endure their own slow torturous deaths while observing the display of horror aimed at the man, who hung between them. A drama that they not only observed but one in which they actively participated. According to Matthew and Mark’s accounts, both joined the crowd in hurling insults at Jesus. For these men, there would seem to be no peace on earth and no peace in death.

An outburst comes from one of the criminals; a challenge rooted in curiosity and desperation. He wants off the cross; “If you are the Christ…”. It’s an attitude of what’s in this for me? His plea is for Jesus to do whatever it takes to end his earthly suffering. A vision focused on this world and this moment.

Instead of receiving his request, he is rebuked. But not by Jesus. By the other criminal. “Don’t you fear God? We all are receiving the same sentence. “ This man; who had previously participated in the mockery of Jesus now seems to have a change in heart. A profession that Jesus did nothing to deserve his death sentence.

In these last hours of unimaginable pain, of emotional intensity, of deafening noise, he has noticed a presence in Jesus that is not of anything he witnessed on this earth. A presence of hope in something bigger than this moment. A presence of divinity to forgive those orchestrating this earthly horror against him.

Who on Earth could do that?

No one. Except the One who originates outside of this world. The Son of God.
This man waited until the last minute to cry out his trust in Jesus. Why should Jesus welcome him into paradise? Why should he get to follow Jesus to an eternal home of delight when he lived an earthly life following sin?

He believed that Jesus was where security is found. His vision was beyond this world and this moment. In his simple understanding, he claimed it . “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answers, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The original text tells us that his cry to Jesus was not a one time plea but one that had been repeated. The same for the other criminal. He witnessed the same events and yet out of his lips poured repeated expressions of unbelief . Both at an hour of desperation; both at an hour of realization that nothing of this earth will bring hope or peace.

He who dies with the most toys, still dies.

Who does he think he is?
Who do you think you are?

The answer to both is this:  We are all sinful beings in need of a Savior.
I see myself in the face of this man.  How about you?

At whatever place in life we receive that grace extended to us through Christ, whether it be years shortly after birth or minutes before death, Jesus’ promise stands: life eternal in His Kingdom.

In the words of an old spiritual, “You may have the world, give me Jesus.”

(This piece was originally presented as a spoken meditation on one of the Seven Last Words of Christ )
 
 
 
 
 

How a “Good Thing” Can Be a Stumbling Block


Would you call your closest friend Satan?

No doubt that friends can have disagreements sometimes.  It happens.  But calling someone you consider to be your confidant, advocate and support system, the name of a  being whose only mission is to destroy seems harsh.  Especially, if the context involves your friend seemingly making known a desire that they wish for your well being.  Why on Earth would you be so angry over that interaction?

In fact, an eyewitness would most likely accuse you of overreacting.  (Do you need more sleep? Is something bothering you?)

So goes the pondering on this passage found in Matthew 16: 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Wow! Really?

Jesus invited Peter to be his friend and mentoree.  HE invited Peter into relationship. They ate together, prayed together, shared together.  They literally did life together.

I couldn’t imagine imitating Jesus in that way. And yet…we are called to do exactly that….because that’s what a disciple does….and that’s what the Holy Spirit makes possible.
I’ve learned that I need to do just what he did. And more often.  Because Jesus tuned his ears to hear the voice of his Father among the many voices calling out to him. His first priority was following the will of God.  Not his disciples. Not the crowds. Not his family.

The irony is that many of those voices represented good things:
healing
listening
friendship
Yet, none represented the BEST thing.  The BEST thing was the plan that God was laying out for him.  But Peter was not ready for what that plan entailed.  Who can blame him?  Of course he doesn’t want to hear that a death sentence awaits.  The implications of Jesus’ death are many-the most personal one being that it would leave Peter without this person who has transformed his life on Earth.

But it isn’t about Peter. And it isn’t about all the ways Jesus could fulfill people’s needs.  It’s about being in tune with the will of his Father.

Jesus’ exhortation most certainly sent a chill to Peter  But it was truth.  Peter’s plea to Jesus represented a path that was contrary to the one that Jesus knew  he was to walk. One would be afire with the Glory of God and the other would lead away.

Satan will try hard to distract us from listening to God’s voice. Some of those distractions come in the form of “good things”: other people’s expectations, the myriad of ministry opportunities luring us, the desire to do good, even relationships.

Sometimes you get a gut feeling that the path you’re on is not where God wants you treading.   It’s that inner voice that you ignore because the way you are investing your time and resources appears to be productive.

But that “peace that passes all understanding” isn’t there.

In the last year, I’ve come to realize what happens when I don’t really listen to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit. It’s so easy to dig in and be consumed by “callings” to areas that use my skills and gifts. Being drawn to people is always a temptation of mine. But when I jump in without listening; without praying,  I feel tired and frustrated.  And, in a sense, those “good” things become my “Peter.”  They are stumbling blocks.

What is God’s purpose for you right now?  What is the “BEST” way that Jesus can be seen at work in your life? What must you give up to embrace it?

Where is the safest place?

 

Sometimes life doesn’t make sense. The reality of living in a world of brokenness washes over us on a daily basis. Yet, I think we are still caught off guard by it……and sometimes the depth of that brokenness challenges us.
In November 2015,  Amanda Blackburn, wife and new mother, (her son wasn’t yet one years old and she was pregnant with their second child) was simply in the midst of her daily routines when an intruder broke into the home. Her husband of a couple of years, came home from the gym to find his beloved soulmate dying. She had been sexually assaulted and shot. Somehow, in the midst of their everyday tasks, in the refuge of their home, the life they knew was shattered.
I know this scenario is not exceptional. Sadly, the random taking of a life happens everyday, all over the world. People lose children, spouses, parents, friends unexpectedly everyday. Sometimes, the events are preventable. Sometimes they are not. Yet, because the we cannot fathom the pain endured by those affected, and because we know that we could easily find ourselves in their place one day, the gut reaction is to find reason.  We grasp for control. We tell ourselves that if we can explain the incident away, then we can remove ourselves from “that place” of vulnerability.
As I read comments to the articles on Amanda’s murder, I noticed a thread in one of the discussions. Perhaps this young vibrant couple should have done their research before relocating from South Carolina to Indianapolis? Unfortunately, sin happens everywhere. And when you are a follower of Christ, you cannot go anywhere that will assure you of safety. And that’s the rub. Jesus never made safety a prerequisite for following him.
The Blackburns knew that: which is why they moved to Indianapolis. The Blackburns left their beloved church in the south to follow God’s leading to begin a new church in Indianapolis. According to the church’s website, “Davey and Amanda Blackburn moved to Indianapolis in January of 2012 with a dream and a calling to start a life-giving church that would connect with people who normally wouldn’t connect with church. (http://resonateindianapolis.com/our-story/).” 
At a conference I attended, Rev. Raleigh Washington shared about his personal experience regarding the costs of following Christ. He and his family moved to Chicago to plant a church. The neighborhood to which they moved was one depicted by poverty and oppression. Violence, unfortunately, occurred on a daily basis. One day, his son was physically assaulted by another student as he got off the school bus. Friends of the family questioned Raleigh and his decision to move to a “dangerous” place. His response is etched in my heart and my mind. “My friends,” he said, “the most dangerous place to live is outside the will of God.”
That truth is uncomfortable. It’s no wonder Jonah jumped out of the boat. He feared going to a dangerous place. Which, by human accounts, it was. Have you researched the Ninevites? But this life isn’t about us. It’s about God and a bigger picture that involves us.
Several years ago, my husband was offered an opportunity to work in Florida. It sounded like a fantastic opportunity. He even would have traveled to the Bahamas occasionally. Our child was a toddler. What could possibly be wrong with this offer? We were ready to jump on it. But first, we committed to praying and seeking God’s blessing on this new move. And you know what? It didn’t happen. So we prayed some more. And we still didn’t sense God’s blessing. We had to acknowledge that, for us, Sarasota was a dangerous place to live. Not because of criminal activity. But because it was outside of God’s will.

Not all dangerous places look the same

So, let’s pray for the Blackburns.  Their lives have been changed forever.  Her family and friends are experiencing brokenness in its most intense Earthly form. But evil does not have the last word.  Amanda may not be here on Earth.  The expectations her husband held for how they would serve God together may have changed, but God’s revelation and purposes have not. This is the place to which they were called to live.  And because of that, it is anything but a dangerous place.

“Trust in the Lord  with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  (proverbs 3:5-6)

 
 
 

How a "Cranky Man" Opened My Eyes to Divine Interruptions


His presence in the doorway, caught me off guard.  Normally, I observed him shuffling up and down the hallway with his walker. ”  During my visits to my grandmother’s room in this assisted living facility, this elderly man and I routinely passed each other. Often, his facial expression spoke of anger and his sharp outbursts to others to “Move out of my way!” convinced me that avoidance might be best. In fact, he was known in my head as “cranky man.”
So on this particular day, I was startled when I spied him pausing in the doorway of my grandmother’s room. The door had been left open to the main hallway because my mother, sister, and I were cleaning out her room. A few hours earlier, we had laid her to rest. Her death brought an end to a deterioration of her health; culminating in a recent diagnosis of bone cancer. It was a day full of emotion, pondering and celebration. As we focused on going through the items during what was already a long day, “cranky man” wandered in to ask how things were going.  I must admit that two thoughts came into my mind upon his greeting: 1) “It’s the cranky man who tells us to be quiet” 2) “I just want to finish”.
Ironically (and I’m convinced divinely appointed), my young son came running in the room which caused the conversation to turn to the energy of a 10 year old.  Being polite, I asked our visitor where he grew up.  To my surprise, he answered, “Chicago.”  Well, of course, that drew me in. On top of that, he had been a pastor. Who knew that we shared two common elements in our stories?  For the next hour, I was engaged in conversation with this man who I merely knew as my grandma’s neighbor.
I listened as Bob (no longer the “cranky man”) shared the most amazing story of his childhood. Placed in an orphanage as an infant, he was later  adopted by a couple. His parents, both followers of Christ, added two more sons through adoption. As Bob told his story, his eyes conveyed the love he had for his father; a man whose life radiated Jesus.
Bob’s father was a physician and felt a tug to leave a potentially comfortable place in life to a small town in Illinois. The size of the town wasn’t an issue of adjustment. However, it didn’t believe in medicine! Despite the very real possibility of being ostracized from their new neighbors, moving plans proceeded. As a young boy, Bob wondered how the family would be treated. Would people befriend them?
Perhaps church would provide a place of welcome and refuge for this family of five. Boldly, they made their way to worship one Sunday. What would happen if anyone knew of his father’s occupation? Bob fearfully waited for reaction…..A man suddenly stood up; pointing at Bob’s father.  News travels fast in small towns. The rumors of a physician coming to the town had been realized. The man; recognized. A demand to leave followed.  Apparently, the perception of medicine was correlated to evil. Firmly, and bravely, this physician responded that his family was staying.
To three young boys, one had to wonder if they perceived that action as a blessing or a curse.
However, in telling me the story, his eyes lit up as he shared the courage his father showed in choosing to  stay despite the church praying for him to leave. What would give his parents the courage to make such a choice? Where are they finding peace in this tension?
What Bob so powerfully witnessed was the hand of God moving beneath the scenes. This physician brought healing to wounds of the flesh but also restoration to wounds of the soul. The knees of three young boys ached from their nightly prayer routine. Patients names were added to other list. Sometimes, the prayers lasted an hour. Despite the admonition to keep the information confidential, the manifestation of the hand of God appeared before their eyes.
The transformation that took place in that town as a result of his father’s legacy continues to reap fruit. In fact, with tears in his eyes, Bob recounted the day his father died suddenly. The entire town shut down for the funeral.
The conversation morphed into lighter substance. We laughed about his rebellious antics which resulted in being kicked out of a prominent Christian college. We agreed that we would meet up again. How could I not? I longed to be blessed more from his gleanings!
In one hour, Bob let me into his soul.
How many other times have I tuned out such an encounter? What more of God’s character and works would I know if I learned to open my eyes and my ears to the nudges of the Holy Spirit?  What blessings do we miss when we don’t tread in the places resided by the “least of these?”
I would have never imagined that the most profound moment of that day would come after my Grandma’s funeral.  God is Good.

How Running Errands With Your Child Becomes Sacred Time


We’ve all been there.  After a day or days filled with non-stop activity, or caring for family in a myriad of breathless ways, you long for a respite.

AHHHHHHH!

A dreamy illusion of a bubble bath with soft, relaxing music in the background fades. So you go for the next best thing: an excursion to the store-and maybe a little splurge on a coffee drink as a treat by yourself.  All you yearn for is a few minutes away from the beckoning voices and drama. Yes, it is an errand-but it’s a few moments of gather -your- thoughts solitude. There might even be an opportunity to sneak a peek at some article of clothing or cute piece of dinnerware that usually gets a glance as your attention is diverted by securing the items that were actually on your list.

Ahhhhhhh…….

In my life this is what really happens…. After announcing of my impending departure to the store, my teen occasionally follows me as I walk out the door. “I’m going to come along.”

What?

I try to explain that, really, I’m just going to pick up a “few things” (including that coffee drink) and I’ll be right back. My response is not met with success. However, he persists, “I don’t care. I’m bored.”

The voice in my head argues back, “I just wanted to go to the store by myself.” Yet, saying those words doesn’t feel quite right. And, despite my best efforts to escape by myself, I agree to let him tag along. When your teen son wants to tag along with his mother, that becomes a sacred moment.  In this phase of life, a few stolen moments with my son are hard to come by-especially if they are initiated by me.

My son tends to open up in the car-about everything.  His normally quiet demeanor transforms into a verbal conversationalist on all kinds of topics.  Those thoughts that have reserved space in his mind and feelings in his heart let loose.  Burdens are shared and a heart, which often pushes away helpful pieces of wisdom from his “you-don’t-know-what-it’s-like” parent, opens up to receive.

Generations of mamas who have experienced similar tensions come to mind.  Maybe the venue was different. Perhaps, they found those sacred moments in the field as they gathered crops or walking to the market.

It’s into those moments that God spoke:
” Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.”  Deut. 6:6-8 (The Message)

These sacred moments provide the opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to take the word of God-if even for a few moments-out of our mouths and into their hearts. In addition, we  model the incarnate Jesus, who often exuded the love of God by listening and asking questions. Those opportunities don’t always arise at the most convenient times in our agendas-but sometimes what we really need, we don’t always recognize.  I am thankful that the Holy Spirit gives me a nudge (sometimes it’s more like a punch.)

There is nothing wrong with taking time for yourself.  Sometimes, escaping to your oasis of choice is the absolute best thing for you and those around you.  But also remember, that God answers our prayers in ways we don’t often expect.  It may come in the form of running to the store.

Where do you find your sacred moments with your kids?

Do You Want to Be Made Well? Identifying With the Man in John 5


” Do you want to be made well?”
The question posed to the man in John 5:5-9 appears rhetorical. We do not know if he was born with a disability or his physical limitations are the result of an injury. Regardless, he is accustomed to his place near the pool of Bethesda. He has resided in that spot for 38 years!  He knows the perceptions of how he got there.  Surely his parents must have sinned greatly in order for God’s blessing to be withheld. Whispers and stares abound. He watches those whom wear the badge of “blessed” murmur as they pass his way daily.  His life appears anything but abundant; however, it has become his norm.

And then he encounters Jesus although it wasn’t intentional. Yet, Jesus approaches the man.
Who, would not embrace the offer to be healed? After all, multitudes clamored to be healed through Jesus’ mysterious yet miraculous touch.

Simple Question, Complex Implications

Three years ago, my son became sick.  Originally struggling with a chronic upset stomach, epilepsy presented suddenly. Our lives became caught up in a whirlwind of questioning, troubleshooting and despair. Thankfully, God’s mercies held us tight during that year. However, reeling out of that trauma, my son struggled with being made well. As I walked with him in that journey, I reflected on moments in my own life when I too feared “being well,” The voices spoken both audibly and echoing in our heads, appear to hold power and keep us from breaking free.

Restoration changes our perceived identity

Is it no wonder that the man in John 5 became accustomed to his socially appointed lot in life? We develop into  creatures of habit-even if the routine subtly and deceptively keeps us from being restored-fully whole in communion with God..

My son’s visit to Mayo Clinic included a visit with a psychologist who only sees adolescents with chronic illnesses. Why? Because narrowing one’s identity to fit around the illness becomes tempting. Doctors exhorted my son to not let his epilepsy define him.

Our own identities may be informed by life changing parts of our narratives, illness, injury,sinful actions committed against us or sinful areas with which we struggle. Regardless, Jesus has promised us abundant life   Healing may or may not happen here on Earth but restoration is always possible.

How would my son recognize his purpose now? What would it take for him to break through the perception that he is no longer dependent on others for basic needs? How would he establish autonomy?

Restoration Places Us Out of our Comfort Zones.

When he returned to high school for his Junior year, following the previous year of illness, I anticipated that he would welcome the fresh start. However, anxiety filled him as he began. I felt completely blindsided. Why would apprehension fill his heart? He had become accustomed to his lot. Sympathetic teachers. A force of people supporting him. Extra time at home.

As my writer friend Emily Conrad wrote in response to one of my posts, “I finally got something I’ve been longing for for years and now I find myself on the other side of a situation I had grown comfortable with. I had accepted it. And now that Jesus spoke and I’m moving on, I feel a little wobbly on these legs.” Transitioning to a posture of empowerment demands walking forward. Even if the ground feels shaky at first.

Restoration expands our view of God’s character.

Believe it or not, grasping who God is can cause one to feel a bit unsettled. Humanity has always yearned for the predictable. Comfort is found in explanation. Uncertainty sends our hearts and minds stirring. We simply find difficulty in grasping God’s words through Isaiah”
 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LordIsaiah 55:8-9
Doesn’t it seem easier in a chronic situation to adapt and accept that God is not capable of Forgiveness? Mercy? Delivery? Healing?

“Do you want to be made well?”

Jesus heals the man in a way that the man never expected. Not in the pool but simply out of Jesus’ authoritative word: “Rise. take up your pallet and walk.” Later, Jesus finds the man to complete the process of restoration. “Go and sin no more.”

Suddenly, his daily rhythm of life changed. Walking forward demands trusting our sovereign God in our new steps. Acknowledging that we can balance on one leg as we move the other in front in order to stride toward the longed for but unfamiliar horizon.

It’s possible. because of Jesus

Jesus, who desires my wholeness so much to encounter me when I wasn’t looking for restoration.
Jesus, who believes that I am so much more than what I think of myself.
Jesus.

What must you surrender to Jesus so that you might be “made well?”