The Accident

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The doctor came to check on Grant as he made his post-op rounds. “Wiggle your fingers. Wiggle your toes. Move this. Move that.” The doctor was carefully checking his feeling and movements. He was 2 days out from his first spinal surgery and 1 day out from his 2nd. The doctor looked at us and asked if we had any questions. I began to ask a list of questions, but for Grant there was only one question that was pressing on his mind. “Doctor, will I be able to play football?” Football. The love of his life. Grant is the 3rd generation Resler man with aspirations to play beyond high school. His dad a lineman for the Sooners and Pop also played at the college level. A joy to watch him on the field as we all could see the natural talent and abilities that he carried. Three generations of men, bonding around the sport they all love deeply. Watching game film. Discussing plays. A deep connection being forged through their shared passion.

“Doctor, will I be able to play football?” “No! No contact sports. Son, you have a severe spinal injury and you are lucky to be alive, 1 mm away from being a quadriplegic. You have a life and future.” The words seemed to fade into the background as the tangible layers of grief filled the room. I’m not sure that any of us actually heard the rest of what the doctor said in that moment. Deep sobs came from my son’s bed. Jeff and I on each side of him, just sat with him and wept. In an instant, I watched my son’s heart break. His dreams were crushed in an instant. We could not in that moment grasp the reality of the miracle we were experiencing. The grief was so real. It truly is possible to hold deep gratefulness and grief at the same time. Experiencing the miracle of Grant’s life was also held simultaneously with grieving some real dreams. Athletics will look different for Grant. For a boy that has only been drawn to contact sports (because no contact sports are just not exciting enough for him :), this creates a new paradigm. New definitions. New dreams.

In the weeks since we left the hospital, I have watched the miracle unfold. His football coach (a believer), has spent hours at our house pouring into Grant. I have heard deep conversations, processing and prayers. I have heard words of truth speaking into identity, sowing seeds into the fertile soil of Grant’s heart. These truths that most don’t wrestle with quite this young, but we all wrestle with. When what you may have sought your identity in is stripped away, where does that leave you? I am watching my son find his true identity in Christ. I am watching him embrace deep purpose and meaning through this tragedy. He even said to me a few weeks ago as he prepared to share his story at FCA, “Mom, I really don’t even see it as a tragedy. I see it as new opportunities. God’s ways are different from my ways. He has different plans for me.” I watched him talk with confidence and hopeful anticipation of the plans God has for him. Though he doesn’t see or know, he trusts. I’m watching it unfold in him as he wrestles out his story.

Preparing to share his testimony at FCA, he went in his room. He put on his head phones and asked God to speak to him about what He would have him share with his peers. Over and over he heard God speak, “I am the God of miracles.” I watched him embrace the miracle. The miracle of 1mm. The miracle of being alive. “Mom, God is a God of miracles! I am a miracle! God has a purpose for my life. I thought my main purpose was to play football, but it really is so much more than that!” These truths that take many a lifetime to grasp, he is beginning to grab a hold of at 15 years old. What a true gift. In the grief, the loss, the letting go, new life is opening up before him. A joy to watch him step into the purpose and plans God has for him. We are grateful.

Posted in brokenness, faith, grief, healing, Identity, prayer, significance, surrender | 8 Comments

Lavish Love

The uproar of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead proved to be the last straw. Those wanting to kill Jesus rallied with fierce determination. The religious leaders were in Jerusalem a few miles away plotting his downfall. Jesus was reclining at the table, at the home of Simon the leper, with his disciples. No doubt, the atmosphere was somber. Days earlier Jesus explained what lay ahead for him, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” (Mark 10:33-35)

 The disciples didn’t quite get it, baffled by what he was saying. Instead of truly hearing him, they jockeyed around about who would sit next to him in the kingdom of heaven. As the atmosphere was shrouded in heaviness, Jesus’ betrayer sat just a few feet away while his disciples were aloof to the intense weight he was carrying. Jesus was on the precipice of the darkest hours in all of history and he was facing it seemingly alone.

Mary (of Bethany) entered the room of men carrying with her an alabaster jar filled with expensive ointment, ointment that would have been worth a year’s wages. Mary had matured as a disciple. Crisis tested her faith as she wrestled through deep pain, mourning and disappointment. What she learned in the classroom was tested in the trials of life. She grappled questions of his goodness, his faithfulness and even his love. She struggled with HIM. Ultimately, she came to the place of believing God in the midst of her crisis. Her suffering deepened her understanding of Jesus, strengthening her trust in him.

She knew exactly what she was doing when she walked in the room that night. She understood what no one else seemed to understand. She saw what no one else seemed to see. Jesus was not alone in his darkest moment. Mary, his disciple, was walking alongside him, preparing him, encouraging him and strengthening his heart.

She would prepare him for the brutal road that lay ahead, preparing his body for burial. Mary broke the jar and poured its’ contents on Jesus, anointing his body. The fragrance filled the room, gaining the attention of the other guests. She let down her hair and began to gently wipe Jesus’ feet, covered in perfume.

As the room likely began to fidget, Judas brought accusations against Mary’s actions, questioning her stewardship of the expensive perfume. Mary knew the one worthy to be lavished with her sacrificial praise, pouring out her love and worship from the deepest places in her heart.

“The deep theology Mary learned from Jesus had been pounded into her heart in the darkest hour of her life, when her brother lay dying and there was still no sign of Jesus. She had seen him in a new light through that excruciating disappointment. What she learned changed everything, including her. Jesus was no longer just a miracle worker to Mary. She now knew that he was Lord of life and of death, that he was, in fact, God in the flesh. He had shown her that he would not be governed by her expectations and opinions. She had wrestled with his character and learned that no matter what happened, how dark things looked, or how depressed she felt, the soundest and safest course of action was to trust him.”[1]

She trusted him. She trusted His word and listened to the gospel he proclaimed. Mary’s actions that night came from her deep understanding of all that Jesus had taught her. Of all the disciples, she was the only one in that moment that truly understood his mission. By anointing his body for burial, Mary was the first of his disciples to proclaim the gospel- that Jesus had indeed come “to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

As Jesus defended Mary, he said, “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:13)

Scripture references: John 12:1-7, Matthew 26:6-13

 

[1] Carolyn Custis James

Posted in crucifixion, faith, gospel, holy week, Jesus, Jesus and women, Mary of Bethany, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Invitation

This blog was originally published on the Fellowship Women’s Blog site, http://womeninministry.tumblr.com.  I wanted to repost it here.

Sitting in my counseling office, years of life written on her face. Weary. Broken. Torn. The light gone from her eyes, dark, desperate, defeated. Tears spilling down her cheeks, screaming of the emptiness, feeling so alone.

Years of life and circumstance each etching a mark. As I listened to her story unfold, subtle lies of “I’m not enough…not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not successful enough, not smart enough…NOT. ENOUGH” seemed to seep out like a slow leak.

Driven to prove she was enough, she threw herself into success, relationships, a career, grasping anything and everything she thought would give her significance and worth. Every broken relationship left her feeling lost, empty, rejected. In her pain, she threw herself passionately into her career, forging her way up the ladder. Success after success, yet even still, she couldn’t shake the subtle drip. She was not enough.

She lost herself in endless activity, relationships and eventually a family of her own. Nothing could fill the void. When her own success wasn’t enough, maybe her husband and children would be. Year after year she searched for meaning and value, something that would tell her she mattered; she was enough. The deep pain and longing threw her deeper and deeper into endless activities and constant busyness. On the outside, she had it all together, while on the inside she was wasting away.

It takes a lot of energy to keep up appearances. The slow, subtle leak eventually left her dry, empty. Wounds of the past guarded intently had been left unhealed. Hurt, pain and betrayals created the need for walls; each experience added its own layer of bricks. Over the years the walls became fortified for her own protection. She could not risk being hurt again. So she sat before me isolated and alone. Her heart closed off from the very things she needed the most. She didn’t even know the walls were there, created for her own survival. They became her prison. Behind the walls, she had forgotten who she was; the woman God created her to be. The life she was designed to live.

As I sat looking into her eyes, I was overcome with God’s deep love for her, calling her out, breaking the chains, opening the prison. He was inviting her on a journey to experience His freedom and healing, beauty for ashes. He was offering her life, the fullness of all He designed for her.

Reflect and Respond:

In what ways do you relate to the experience of this woman?

How have you tried to protect or comfort yourself?

Read Isaiah 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

Ask God to show you any wounds He wants to heal. Where is He inviting you to experience His freedom, comfort and protection? Ask Him to show you.

Tune into His voice. Allow Him to speak to you.

 

Note: This story is not based on a specific case, rather common themes I encounter in counseling and ministering to women.

Posted in brokenness, core lies, Freedom, healing, Identity, life patterns, seeking God, significance, truth, wounds | Leave a comment

Blurred Lines

My sleep was so restless last night. Tossing and turning and even in my dreams, I felt the inner turmoil that was gripping me. How can this be happening? How can people do this? A sense of justice and vindication gripping my gut. Can they get away with this? I feel sick to my stomach. How do I wrestle with this reality? How do I walk with integrity, yet call out the hypocrisy? I feel like I was with my friend as she was sexually exploited and raped and I watched the whole thing happen, a witness to the violation. What do I do with that?

I have walked with my close friend the last 4 years as God poured out an amazing story into her heart. A story of His love and restoration. A story of being Salvaged. Faithful to what God was giving her, she wrote. One story turned into two which then turned into three. She was faithful to write all that He gave and to pursue every opportunity to steward the message that He had entrusted to her. During this time, she also lost her job. Her husband lost his. It has been a time of walking through poverty and famine, yet she has been faithful to the call. She has walked through every door and pursued every means of getting these books into the hands of teen girls.

God began downloading a bigger vision. Not just books, but a movie, and a video series accompanied by devotionals to be used with teen girls in youth ministry addressing relevant cultural issues these girls are facing. A large Christian publishing house caught wind of what my friend was doing and started dialoguing with her last spring about partnering with her. This was a time of great celebration in a road that has been very long and hard. After a series of “web conferences” discussing in detail the project and submitting specific material to them, she received a generic email that her project had been dropped.

Yesterday, I was shocked to see big name promotional ads on social media that looked strikingly similar to my friend’s; it even used the same name. I clicked on it only to realize it was not her book they were promoting. It was someone else’s using her ideas even under the same name. Looking further, I discovered it was the same Christian publisher that she had been meeting with. The two authors had received a copy of her book two years ago at a large ministry conference. All of this was in the works as the publisher was meeting with my friend asking her to submit her ideas, never telling her about the other project.

This leaves me with some serious questions. Where are our Christian ethics? Where is the integrity in the field of Christian publishing as well as writing? How can you take someone else’s ideas and repackage them as your own for the sake of big sales? My friend is not a big fish. She is a small fish that God has entrusted with big things. Ultimately, I know and trust God is her vindicator, yet I have real questions to our role as believers when we see such blatant violations of integrity in the body. Using someone else for your own selfish gain? This should not be so. We are called to more than this. I expect more than this. God is not fooled.

I woke up this morning with the picture of Jesus in the temple turning tables in his anger. The Priests had taken what was holy and turned it into profit. Jesus said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13).

We have created this “Christian Celebrity” culture that is nothing more than idolatry. We have made ministries, speakers, writers and teachers idols “in the name of Jesus.” In the publishing realm, we are told, “you need to make a name for yourself. Create a platform of recognition, so that we can guarantee sales.” Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are used regularly to create followers, to add to credibility. An amazing tool when used with the right motives. But many times I fear we are doing nothing more than creating a modern day Tower of Babel. We use social media to build up our own names so that we can “further the name of Jesus.” That, in and of itself, is hypocrisy. He doesn’t need any name to make His Name known to the ends of the earth.

So, how does Jesus see these issues of integrity when ideas are stolen and repackaged in His Name? As the question consumes me, this is how Jesus responded to the same kind of breakdown in integrity.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:25-28).

Often the lines get blurred, things become confused, less clear, and vision becomes obscured. Things may outwardly “appear” righteous and for the purpose of ministry, yet be concealing inward greed, hypocrisy and lawlessness. Let’s hold one another to a higher standard. We have been entrusted with a great mission, to make the Name of Christ known in the entire world. It will only happen as the Spirit of Christ fills us with his love and attributes and pours out of us to a lost and hurting world. Let’s hold our Lord in the highest regard and walk in integrity in all that we do.

Posted in Hypocrisy, Idolatry, Integrity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ROADBLOCK!

For months, I was seeking the Lord, spending time with Him, praying, doing everything I knew to do only to find myself continually hitting a roadblock.   I felt like in every attempt to connect with Him, I was hitting a concrete wall.  I tried everything I knew.  I couldn’t figure out what was blocking me.  Where did He go?  Why could I not get through?  As much as I tried, I couldn’t get over it; I couldn’t go around it; I couldn’t crawl under it.  It was just there, blocking my way!

Finally on a Thursday morning in June (last year), I had a breakthrough.  I broke through the roadblock!  I hit a place that I was at the end of my rope.  I told God, “that’s it, whatever it takes, I surrender!  I need you more than anything in my life.  The one thing I desire above all things is to enjoy sweet fellowship with you.  Above everything, I want your presence in my life.”  I sat in my quiet time crying my eyes out.  I truly hit a place of willing surrender that required laying down more than I ever have had to let go before.   I was so desperate that I was willing to do whatever He asked.  I was willing to let go of everything I was holding onto if it was what was blocking me from Him.

I still couldn’t quite put my finger on what was actually the “roadblock,” I just knew that I was ready to see it and move it out of the way!  I had been sitting in Isaiah 40 for several weeks, but that morning as I read it, God opened my eyes to something I had not seen.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
 and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:1-5)

Over the prior weeks I had been praying for God to make a way in my wilderness.  Asking Him to meet me in my desert place and make a highway for Himself.  I had been desperately asking Him to raise up the low places and make the mountains and hills in my life low, that I would walk on even ground.  I had been begging for him to prepare the way, that I might enter His presence.  That His Glory would be revealed.  This particular morning however, the Lord spoke to me, “Comfort, comfort my daughter.  Speak tenderly to her, that her warfare is ended and her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all of her sin.”   I looked at my study notes on verses 1-2 and read this, “Though their unbelief has brought them low, God still identifies with his people.  Speak tenderly….God aims to win their hearts back to Jerusalem- In Babylonian exile, they are far from Jerusalem, but God dignifies them with their true identity and assures them that he understands their sufferings.”

At that moment, I broke.  I saw right then that my roadblock was unbelief.  I believed God for other people.  I believed Him in certain areas of my life, but I had one big area that was gripped in unbelief.   I sat and wept.  I put on my i-pod and went for a long walk.  I walked for a better part of 2 hours, just me and the Lord.  It was a time of broken repentance.  I wept and cried out before him, confessing my unbelief.  That moment, I surrendered before Him those things that I was trying to do on my own.  I asked him to remove the roadblock of unbelief, completely confessing it before him.  Though my unbelief had brought me to a very low place, I felt his comfort and compassion.  He spoke tenderly to me and he pardoned my iniquity.  He ushered me into His presence, like water in the desert.  There is nothing that satisfies the dryness of my soul or the aching of my heart, but the abundant love of my Savior.  I am so grateful that He loves me in the midst of my sin, even when I can’t see it.  That he is persistent in drawing me to Him.   There is nothing in this life that compares to knowing Him and abiding in His presence.   That morning, I opened up my hands and surrendered everything to God.  I made the choice to trust Him and believe Him with everything.  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Faith requires that we believe Him in circumstances that we can’t always see Him at work.

Oh Lord, I will put my hope in you with full assurance.  I will trust you with what I cannot see.  I believe you.  Please help my unbelief.

Posted in confession, repentance, surrender, unbelief | Leave a comment

Freedom….. is it REALLY FREEDOM?

I wrote this post about 4 years ago before the last presidential election as I was preparing for a women’s prayer time that I was leading. God began to speak these truths deeply to my heart. He brought it back to my mind this morning so I thought I would repost it today…

I have to confess, I have been overcome with discouragement in how to pray for our country in our present state and the LORD began to open my eyes to several things.

We live in a country that stands for freedom and I am so grateful for it!! But the thought occurred to me “What happens when Freedom is no longer freedom?” Stay with me here…. As I began to pray for our country, I began to see a “Free” nation of captives. We have become a people taken captive by the very freedoms we profess. Let me give you a few examples so you get where I’m going with this:

I lead in women’s ministry and I talk to women all the time. I see their struggles. I see my own struggles. I am talking about the secret inner pain of believers and unbelievers alike.

Let’s take for example the “freedom of choice.” This is a big issue on both sides of the aisle. Some are for it and some are against it. What is so often ignored is the captivity that follows the choice. Yes, women have been given the “Right to Choose.” But who is there for the woman in the years that follow her abortion as she sits alone in darkness? Who is there as she wrestles with the shame, the guilt, and the pain that follow her “choice.” Yes, she was free to choose, but what has that choice brought for her?….. Freedom? I don’t think so. It has brought nothing more than captivity. The chains that bind are not physical chains they are spiritual. They are not visible to the eye. For many women, no one ever sees the chains. They suffer in silence for years. They are in heart wrenching spiritual captivity! Captivity of spirit and soul all under the name of “freedom.” We have lost sight of the bigger picture because we are so busy demanding our “freedoms!”

What about our Freedom of Speech or Expression? Isn’t that what those that defend pornography claim? They have the freedom to express themselves…. We do live in a “free” country after all. I can’t even begin to count the number of families I know personally that have experienced the consequence pornography brings. CAPTIVITY! So many families are bound up as a result of pornography in their homes. Marriages destroyed. Children broken. The guilt and shame that follow are more than we can bear. The destruction is monumental. Many Christian and non-Christian homes alike have fallen apart because of pornography. The road to rebuilding trust for those that choose to reconcile is long. We have the freedom, but we find ourselves in captivity!

What about the financial captivity many are finding themselves in due to our current financial crisis? Have we trusted in our own wealth? Have we trusted in money instead of God? We cannot serve two masters. We must choose. Have we trusted in the expertise of those on Wall Street? Certainly we need money to live in our world, but when it becomes our focus instead of God it can only lead us one place. You guessed it….. captivity!

Freedom that leads to captivity! Freedom is NOT really freedom when the very freedom we profess leads us into captivity. Many of the very freedoms we demand are the very things that lock the chains! When we push our freedom outside of the parameters ordained by God, it is no longer freedom, it is captivity! Freedom does NOT come from demanding our “rights!” True freedom comes from laying them down. Freedom truly comes through the SURRENDER of our rights. Surrender to Jesus Christ.

Jesus said in Luke 4:18
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me 
to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners 
and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.”
This is a fulfillment of the prophecy spoken by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 61.

You see, Christ Jesus came to set the captives free. Only there will we ever experience true freedom and liberty!

I am reminded that no government on this earth can provide us with true freedom. The only freedom that will ever last does not come through constitutions, bills, and laws. Freedom does not come by demanding our rights. It does not come through elected officials. It doesn’t come through the Congress, the Senate or even the President or Supreme Court. It doesn’t come through a political party or Kings or Queens.
True freedom only comes through total Surrender to Jesus! He has freed us that we might serve Him in this earth!

Psalm 116:16
O LORD, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains.

Romans 6:18
“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

God has an agenda on this earth and it is one of Freedom! Freedom for the captives! I have been a captive set free from the chains of darkness! I am here as a testimony of his great love, mercy and compassion. My life’s purpose is that others may know the Freedom that only Christ can give. I am truly his servant. There is no greater privilege than to be a servant of the King of Kings and LORD of lords! I am so thankful to truly be FREE!

Posted in Captivity, Country, Freedom, prayer | Leave a comment

I Adore You!

3rd blog post in a series on Lord’s Prayer

 Jesus told the disciples, “Pray then like this:  ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’”     Matthew 6:9

What’s in a name?  Our name designates who we are; it’s what we are called and how others know us.  Our name distinguishes us from others.

What is in the name of the LORD our God? Do you know Him by name?  “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.”  Psalm 9:10  “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.”  Psalm 148:13

Our Father in heaven, HOLY is your name.  Your name is above every name.  You are God Most High and I will praise you!  I will worship you!  I adore you!

You are El Shaddai, The All- Sufficient One;  El Elyon, The Most High God;  El Olam; The Everlasting God;  Elohim, Creator;  Adonai, Lord, Master;  Qanna, Jealous;  Jehovah-Nissi, The LORD My Banner;  Yahweh, LORD (Jehovah);   Jehovah-raah,  The LORD My Shepherd;  Jehovah- Jireh, The LORD will Provide;  Jehovah-Rapha, The LORD My Healer; Jehovah-Shalom, The LORD is Peace;  Jehovah-Shammah, The LORD is There;  Jehovah-Sabaoth, The LORD of Hosts;  Jehovah Tsidkenu, The LORD our Righteousness;                   Jehovah Mekoddishkem,  The LORD Who Sanctifies You

I AM THAT I AM

                                                                        

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Phillippians 2:9-11

Let my prayer be a prayer of worship.  I worship God because I adore Him, I love Him. We worship a God whose name is above every name!  He is completely worthy of our worship and adoration.  Jesus instructs us, “Pray then like this:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”                                                 

Posted in Adoration, prayer, The Lord's Prayer, The Name of God, Worship | Leave a comment