seek prayer always
Everyone has a story to tell. When we make the connection between these stories and God's great story, we come away with HIStory which involves each and every one of you.
Fear is a crippling feeling. It’s a devastating phenomenon. It comes on quickly and sometimes lingers for way too long. If only it lasted long enough to help you see how brave you are but left before making you feel your world is falling apart. I have experienced both in my life and have vowed to never go back to the crippling kind of fear.
I think about being sick three years ago and never being diagnosed. It was a rollercoaster ride of pain and suffering yet immense peace and life-giving scripture reading and communion and relationship with Jesus. It transformed my life and led me to become a writer and start this very blog. It was a time of painful introspection and beauty and growth. But I was happy I could say it was in the past.
As it would be in God’s mighty plan, I find myself yet again in this painful situation. But this time it’s different – very different. He has brought me back to a place I thought I would never visit again, except this time I’m not visiting with the same fear and anxiety as I did in the past. He carried me through this once before and I know He will yet again.
In my waking hours I look up to the skies and ask Him to make me strong. I read the verse that is up in my kitchen chalkboard: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It reminds me each and every time that He is making me brave. There is purpose in the struggle. There is purpose in the affliction. There is purpose in the trial. I’m going to ride high above the waves because He takes me there. And the past doesn’t have to cripple me but actually remind me of where I’ve been and Who got me out of it. It is all about Him. It is always about Him. His constant love, His constant communion, His constant provision in my life.
This time is different, very different. He has surrounded me with merciful and understanding doctors. Doctors that have diagnosed me and want to see me feel better. Healing doesn’t always come as an overnight miracle. It often comes as a million little daily miracles. Because every meal that I eat, every morning that I wake, every step that I take is a miracle from my Heavenly Father. It’s a journey that is far more worthy of my time and energy than any destination.
So when fear tries to make its way into my life, I will face it with Truth. Jesus loves me, He is with me and He is healing me. It’s a million little healings every day. He restores my soul, He feeds my fear with overflowing grace, He pours more of Himself over me and coats my aching pain with His promises. So I will sing “my spirit revived in Your story (Hillsong)."
by Damaris Avila
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ ”
I truly love reading about John the Baptist and learning from him. Above we read that John “testifies” to the Truth that Jesus was and is. He comes in proclamation of what was prophesied and its current fulfillment. This is why He cries out in such exaltation and confidence. He wants all to see the manifestation of the Son before their very eyes. I believe He is overcome with joy at the revelation that is unraveling before him. What was told to him is coming to pass and I imagine he wants to yell from the top of his lungs, “look, listen, believe.”
John humbly reiterates that though Jesus comes after him, He actually was before him. In other words, John was sent ahead of Jesus to point the people forwardly towards Jesus but also backwardly to Jesus. It is interesting how this works. Because Jesus is infinite, all directions point to Him. He is behind us and He is ahead of us.
This is so profound when we think about the trials we go through in this life. Jesus in His infinite existence both past, present and future, fills us with Himself through every difficulty in life. This symbolizes His very presence through every stage of our afflictions. He surrounds us as He surrounded John the Baptist and all the people at the time. Just when we feel like we can’t take one more step, totally depleted by our current trial, Jesus reminds us that He is right there with us. Just like He was back then with the people of Israel (both Jews and Gentiles) He is with us today. He is in your presence wherever you are at this moment: in your workplace, in your office, in your classroom, in your living room, in your bedroom, in your car - He’s all around you. All we need to do is call out His name and He will listen.
There is always a purpose in our afflictions. And I think about how John the Baptist cried out and pointed everyone to Jesus and his eternal presence. Might we do the same? In our most difficult days and through our trials might we dare to cry out and point those around us to Jesus? Maybe that is the point of it all. Psalm 23:2,4 says:
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters...
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
To testify in the midst of our trials to The One who comforts us and leads us through green pastures and quiet waters is the highest hope we can give to others and the greatest glory we can give to Jesus; hope that is within demonstrated outwardly. It is hope looking out at a 360 degree angle. Hope towards the future because of He who “is” and hope towards the past because of He who “was.”
Jesus before me,
Jesus behind me,
Jesus beside me,
Jesus within me,
Jesus all around me.
In His great love,
Broken hearts cry out today. Their pain echo in the winds and their tears fall upon us. The divide is so very palpable and real. What do we do with this pain, both those who feel it and those who see it? We have a grave responsibility to one another on both sides of this divide. Responsibility accompanied by great potential to cross over and love and embrace heartfelt feelings. Today more than ever, our compassion and love can reach new heights. No longer bound by policies and ideologies but fully surrendered and sacrificed in outstretched love. Love that is greater than any other feeling within. Love that reaches over and says I’m sorry, I understand, I see you, I hear you. Love that is unconditionally displayed and overflowing. May we rise to the occasion today and reach deep within and believe in hope that love will triumph. May we be lovers of love; “agape” love.
“It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.” – Martin Luther King
May love take us to new heights and to new relationships. Relationships that will teach us the art of listening, noticing and ultimately loving.
May our love spread like wildfire. Unstoppable, Uncontrollable, Incomparable. May they know us by our love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
-I Corinthians 13:4-8.
“He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call "good infection." Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”
– C.S. Lewis
He reached down from heaven and touched us. His love so profound He dwelt among us. He visited our temples, our homes and our cities. He walked our streets, visited our markets. He entered our world to draw us out of it. That He could reside in our hearts.
Forever live in our hearts
Forever love through our hearts
Forever light the world from our hearts
This mission He accepted. This mission He embraced. This mission He accomplished ever so personally and present.
He was present in love, in grace, in power and He bestowed upon us the greatest gift there ever was and will ever be: Himself.
“How I long for the months gone by,
for the days when God watched over me,
when his lamp shone on my head
and by his light I walked through darkness!
Oh, for the days when I was in my prime,
when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house,
when the Almighty was still with me
and my children were around me,
when my path was drenched with cream
and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.”
- Job 29:1-6
We were nearing the end of our 12-day anniversary trip through parts of Europe. We had rented a car and had ended up in Northern Spain. We were in absolute honeymoon delight visiting palaces, beaches, restaurants and friends. Our daily walks, talks and hand-holding were things I could get used to. But our precious girls, whom we missed terribly, awaited us and we became more eager to see them.
It came unexpectedly, the sudden anxiety, stomach pain and nausea. One minute I had been enjoying kisses on the beach and the next I was laying in bed in fetal position totally inconsolable. I wanted the pain and discomfort to go away. In my head I kept repeating “please, not again.” I remembered all too well the last time I had felt this sick 3 years prior and I didn’t want to go back there ever again. I scrambled to figure out what had happened and why these symptoms had overcome me so quickly.
I longed for the days just 2 weeks earlier where I was in my home cooking and playing with the girls; the simple, yet fulfilling days of taking care of my family: soccer practice, dinner, homework, bath time and giggles. I so desperately wanted to transplant myself to one of those days. I became desperately homesick and I was 5,649 miles away from home.
I traced my steps and figured out that the sandwich I had eaten earlier in the day was the likely culprit. So if it was food poisoning then it would pass in 24 hours time. I quickly realized, however, it wasn’t going to pass so quickly and I still had 3 days and 3 flights ahead of me before reaching home.
“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
- Job 30:20-22
I pleaded with The Lord. I questioned The Lord. I waited for The Lord, to no avail. The pain seemed to increase and the anxiety along with it. My visits to the bathroom increased and I was awfully weak and altogether bedridden the last day of our trip. The huge mountain that lay ahead of me at this point: 2 flights (14 hours total) taunted me. I pleaded with The Lord. I questioned Him. I waited for Him, again.
In the meantime, my husband’s sweet and tender care were all God’s blessings and love poured over me. He made every effort to nurse me back to health. He never left my side and he prayed over me and read me Psalm 91.
As I think about the last three days and the pain and anguish, what sticks out to me most now is that it served a purpose. Marriage was designed to demonstrate the relationship God has with His church/His people. It is through our husbands that He pours out His great and unconditional love for us. It is perfect, tender, unending love. Marriage is a gift that should not be taken for granted but rather nurtured and prayed over.
In the middle of the storm, I pleaded with God to take away the pain and anxiety. I begged that He who holds us in His hands would end it. He chose not to because it would serve a purpose as we see Job’s anguish did too.
But He never left me alone. He got me through every step of the way. When I could no longer mumble my prayers and could just say “Jesus, Jesus, “ He rescued me out of the prison I was in. When I felt emotionally, spiritually and physically weak, He strengthened me. And He brought me home to my precious and darling girls!
Though the process of physical healing is still not over, I know that I know that I know that He who holds us in His hands showers us with His perfect love, “agape” love even when we can not see it.
Be encouraged today oh sweet reader. Jesus is your great comforter, lover and provider. The mountain is enormous, the storm tempestuous, the struggle impossible. But remember “...’With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ “
Held by His perfect love,
“Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
Today our cities, our nation lie in ruins and our gates have been destroyed by fire. We lie in ruins and are destroyed by the very thing we should have been working so hard to keep out: indifference and hatred. It was destroyed by a wildfire of hate, racism, prejudice and lies in our hearts. As a city, as a people, we need to rebuild these gates. I look to Nehemiah’s story in the Bible to help me understand the severity of the issue and the solution.
When Nehemiah approaches the king he’s asked what he wants and he responds “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.” Nehemiah doesn’t wait for someone else to step up or talk someone else into doing it, he wants to be sent himself.
Our cities need to be rebuilt and we should be saying, “send me!” We need men and women like Nehemiah who are visionaries filled with love for their people.
It should come from a place of compassion for one another. It’s what happens when we let concern for others move from our head to our heart. It’s what happens when the heartbreak leads us to be visionaries, like Nehemiah. He mourned and fasted and prayed and He allowed God to breakthrough to lead his people in rebuilding their city. He shepherded his people to a preferable future. God gave him a vision and he would pursue that vision. This all came through honesty and confession. It’s necessary to admit the prejudices that are in our hearts in order to move forward. Maybe they’re not obvious or outspoken but even a small amount can spoil the whole. Let’s confess them and move forward in love and hope for a preferable future, a better tomorrow.
Let’s rebuild our city gates like Nehemiah and his people did. Gates that will keep all of the hatred, racism, prejudice and lies out of our hearts and lives. Gates so adorned and bound in love that no amount of hate will ever enter our cities. Let’s join forces and rebuild our communities with God’s perfect love, acceptance, equality and truth.
Let’s do this together! “So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” We belong to God and only in unity can we allow the Holy Spirit to breakthrough.
“Nehemiah, a man of action, was also a man of prayer. The predicament of the Jewish people in Jerusalem breaks his heart and propels him to pray. His own comfortable position as trusted attendant to the king, in contrast to the sorry state of the people in Jerusalem, probably intensifies his sorrow.”
May our sorrow be intensified to the point of action and heartfelt prayer.
The outrage from this story has been real and so very palpable. I’ve read letters written to “sons” and to the father of the assailant. And so I want to address Brock Turner in this letter and all those who have “taken” without remorse.
A letter to Brock Turner…
I’m certain that by now the shame and guilt has settled. The anger we have all felt towards you has certainly reached your heart and soul. While for a moment I believed you are somebody incapable of empathy and understanding, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that now that you have had time to think through your actions on your own, you have come to feel the deep sorrow and devastation that you caused on an innocent woman. I pray that you fully comprehend the consequences of your “20 minutes of action” that were indeed 20 minutes of horror and counting for Emily Doe.
So I want to meet you where you are at this very moment. In the muck that you find yourself in. I’m certain the scent is unbearable and the taste that much more repulsive. I’m certain you want to wake up from this nightmare and head back to your previous life. I’m certain you would do anything to make this a possibility. While that is not a possibility, I want to shed some light on what is more than possible; a choice you can make at this point in your life. Something only you can give after all the taking you’ve done. And that is... apologize.
It does not sound like those advising you are doing a very good job of asking of you what is required in a situation like this. So I want to plead with your conscience, with that part of you that knows you have done something irrevocable. You can not right your wrong, ever, but you can most certainly examine yourself, your heart, your actions and pray to the God who sees you and knows you and who made you and ask Him to give you a repentant heart. A heart that will understand the gravity of your actions and your subsequent actions that have continued to cause pain. Your victim will never forget that moment, that devastating violation of her body, her heart, her soul and her life. But she can begin the process of healing - something you can give back to her by saying these simple, yet profound words.
Acknowledge your wrongdoing. Accept your culpability. Dig deep within and feel the hurt and pain you have caused. And mean these simple, yet profound words.
Let Him break through your heart and soul.