Updated: Jul 27
Table of Contents:
“The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.” Isaiah 54:6
Lying on the cold bathroom floor with a numb rear-end, I pondered whether I should get back in bed or just sleep right there. My husband had just told me that he no longer loved me, had no passion for me and was interested in other women. The very things I thought I would NEVER hear came spilling out of his mouth. And I was sure it would kill me. My brain was flooded with too many thoughts to capture any one of them. Like rain clouds floating through my mind, the ugly truth I was able to grasp was that his promise to love me forever was shattered, and I would have to find a way to survive it.
In the morning, for a few, brief seconds after opening my eyes, the previous day didn’t exist. I was given a reprieve; I had my life back. No more pain, sadness or heartache. Then, it came roaring back like a wrecking ball plowing through an abandoned building. Ya know, Jesus, when we break bones or get a cut, we bandage it in hopes of full and complete healing. But as I sat in bed, I wondered how my heart was going to survive this. Is my life over, Lord? Am I gonna be that lady that used to be alive, but now she moves through life, but isn’t really living? It doesn’t seem likely that I’m still breathing, that I have functioning lungs after the center of my soul has been so critically injured.
Jesus, what am I going to do? How are we going to survive? How am I going to take care of us? How do I move forward? . . . maybe this has just been a bad dream and he will come home with a renewed love for me. . .
“. . .Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”. . .“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” Mark 10:48-52
Lord, my desire is for you to provide for us. I want to feel safe and secure. Jesus, I desperately want to be loved. Taken care of. Cherished.
My whole life I’ve felt a little like a black sheep. Too sensitive. Caring too much. Always looking for resolution and never letting go until there is a satisfactory one. But aren’t those good qualities to have?
I suppose when I look back on the last forty-something years of my life, I see a child, a young woman, and a mother, who depended on others to define my worth. I didn’t always get the attention I felt I needed as a young person. Marriage #1 was selfish. I desperately needed someone to love me, or so I thought. My attention landed on the first man to show me any attention. He wasn’t a bad person; but I should have talked to You about it first. I didn’t, and the price for starting this union was a whole host of problems, none of which glorified or honored You. Marriage #2 was the love of my life, or so I thought. A lifetime of experiences squeezed into a decade. A child. Illness. Career changes. A big move. So many wonderful moments and tough ones as well. My dreams of us growing old and gray together ended in failure and rejection. The sort of rejection that attacked my very femininity. Paralyzed and devastated, my world came crashing down.
Lord, I’m calling out to You, begging You for the security of love! Please help me to see something good in all this, Lord! Opening my Bible, I asked You to speak to me and You showed me Isaiah 54 and 62. This became my war cry. I can’t explain it, but when You led me to those verses, they lit something up inside my heart. That day, You reached down from heaven and touched my soul. A part of that “unseen”, spiritual realm crossed over into my “seen”, earthly realm. You wrote those words for me, didn’t You?! Your Word came alive and it rose up out of those pages and sang truth in the deepest parts of my pain-riddled soul. I realize those words were written in a specific time in history, but they couldn’t have felt more real to me than in that moment.
These were Your promises to me:
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. . . “ Isaiah 54:4-8
“Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! . . . “ Luke 12:24-26
And my absolute favorite of all:
“ . . . you will be called by a new name”. . .”You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate”. . .for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62:2-5
Thank You, Lord. I believe in who You say I am. I believe that You will take care of us. But what am I supposed to do right now? How do I translate Your Words into real action in my life?People have been telling me to get a job; that seems reasonable. I’m trained to work. But You’ve been working on my heart lately and there are SO many projects that I feel have been put there by You. Heaven-minded projects. I know I won’t be able to do both. What do I do?
I remembered those verses You showed me over and over. For years. Back then, I really didn’t understand what You were saying to me. But now it seems so clear; You're calling me to do the work, but without a reward. I should proclaim You to others and that You will provide abundantly for us. But there was one caveat. I had to decide for myself to go, and then actually follow through.
But, oh my goodness, this sounds terrifying. People will think I’m a crazy person! It seems unfathomable to do the work that You’ve told me to do, which I'm certain will consume my time like a full-time job, yet producing no income. People will call me irresponsible and naive. Those closest to me will ask why You would want this for me. No one will understand that I will be doing the work that You've called me to do, I just wouldn't get a paycheck for doing it. But the more I asked You to confirm these things, the Scriptures that You sent me became overwhelmingly consistent. Confirmation, over and over. But it still didn’t make sense. This was quite a leap for me. I’ve always been the responsible one. I’ve always been the one that prized my credit score and paid my bills on time. Yet the more I argued with You that this was ludicrous, the more You insisted that I trust You. Lord, I want to believe You are in this; I want to believe I am hearing You correctly.
“ . . . I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with lapis lazuli. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace. . . “ Isaiah 54:10-14
Lord, when I read the above Scripture, I see myself as the city. Though difficult times come my way, You will love us and shower us with peace. You will have compassion for me and rebuild me. And I will be beautiful. Rebuilt with the most precious of stones, I will sparkle with turquoise, lapis lazuli and rubies. My son will be taught by You and he will have peace. We will be made righteous. Evil will be far from us and we will fear nothing. We will be safe. O.K., Lord, I’ll try. . .
Then, a pot-hole appeared in the road . . . should’ve known.
My perfectly-painted makeup was ready for its debut, but it didn’t matter. The day ended with a black-stained face from a torrent of mascara and my child asking why I was crying. All I could muster was, “I’m ok”, knowing that this was neither true nor believable. And as I stood on the front porch of the house we bought together, because he hated his job and a move would help advance his career, raindrops invaded the remaining dry spot of my heart. Completely unaware that my work-from-home-neighbors were witnessing my moment of complete and utter humiliation, I begged him to reconsider. He did not.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful.” Jeremiah 31:3-4
OK, Lord, I’ll be patient. . . or try to anyway.
“He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me. . .” Deuteronomy 26:9-11
The following days, weeks, months, and even years, became a blur of tears. So many tears. Phone conversations with me begging for my love to return to me, questionable credit card bills, conversations with an attorney, Christian counseling, my Mom calling me every day to check on my well-being. Lord, how do I deal with this? How do I answer our son when he cries and cries. Too old to rock, yet here we are on the floor of his bedroom as I rock him in my lap. He cries for his father to return home, and I cry, for my sweet boys’ broken heart. This is not supposed to happen. This is not supposed to happen. Boys are not supposed to have to visit their dad in an apartment, when his home is minutes away. Boys are not supposed to feel like the ‘man of the house’ because their father decided he wanted another woman. Boys are not supposed to shoulder the burden of a selfish father. This is wrong.
Lord, I need You in this place. I don’t know how to move forward. I don’t know how to breathe. My heart is broken and all I can feel is concrete blocks of fear anchoring me into the ground. I can’t move. Starting over in my forties. How do I do that?
“For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:5
I still remember choking out the prayer, “Lord, help me” between gasps of air and tears streaming into my mouth. All I could do was silently ask You to ‘hold me’. And sometimes, all I could muster was a gesture from my heart to Yours, hoping You felt my pain and would rescue me. Every single time, You answered. And it was hard. And sad. And desperate. . . Yet peaceful. And full of hope. My body was incapable of taking on one more burden, but in that place of complete surrender, You held me. You quieted my sobs. You gave me sweet rest. You laid peace over my soul like a weighted blanket, comforting me. You stayed with me and You loved me. You didn’t take it all away, but You carried me through it. (Isaiah 46:4) God, thank You for Your great love. (Isaiah 54:1-3, 2 Peter 2:7-9)
Why is it that the hardest times in life are often accompanied by the most amazing blessings? I don’t think I’ve ever known that kind of pain in my entire life, including pregnancy, post-partum depression, and chronic illness. Yet, I grew closer to You during that time than I ever had. I felt simultaneously “thrown away” and “dearly loved”. (1 Peter 1:6-7, James 1:2-4, Hebrews 12:5-14)
In those days, You began to show me what it looked like to have faith in You. Real faith is not for the faint of heart; that much I will say. But You taught me to trust You. I did the things You told me to do, knowing that when it was time for a change, You would show me “when” and help me to know “what” that might look like. Feeling so unworthy of such a gift, I hoped You would show me what path to take. Some days I felt like I was doing great; others. . . not so much. But we endured, together. You were our guard, our rescuer, our refuge (Psalms 121:1-6).
I stood on Your promises that You would take all this hurt & pain and create something beautiful. . . And You did. . . (Genesis 50:20-21)
But before any of that could happen, I had some battles yet to fight. For one, money. It doesn’t grow on trees. Boy, I wish it did though. Lord, what do I do? I realize that I’ve asked You a version of this question more times than I can go back and count. But every time You’ve answered me with the same, consistent response. I’m paraphrasing here, but You basically told me to “work on all the things You had put on my heart” (this blog, a quilting ministry, a women’s art ministry, and a group of women leaders) and to “trust that You will take care of both of us, in every way, including financially”. That’s a big promise, Lord. In a world where women make their own way, assume the male AND female role in their households, prize their independence and shun anyone who tells them to accept help, “How was I supposed to get around the scary, money-obsessed world of ‘throw your hair in a ponytail girl and get it done’ world?” Yet You spoke. . .
“ . . . I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.” “The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied”. . .”May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. . .” Ruth 3:8-11, 4:9-11
Lord, I submit to Your chasing after me. I accept You, Lord, as my husband, and thank You for being my Boaz. I have no idea how this is going to work. There are obvious differences between our relationship and that of an earthly marriage, but I’ll walk this path with You. Having no idea where we’re going, You have told me too many times in too many different ways over the past few years, that You would make us secure and safe. I humbly sit at Your feet, Jesus, and trust that You will show me how to do this. Thank You, for choosing ME to play a part in building YOUR kingdom, the kingdom of God.
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. . .” Mark 6:31-38
In the above Scripture, I now believe this is not the season in my life to search for an earthly husband; I see that clearly. So many of Your princes have wandered far from You. They started out strong, capable, and noble, but many have been consumed by the “fire”, the fleshly desires of this world. This is something for our hearts to lament. But while lamenting the sad, Your Spirit is directing me to understand the value in thanking You for providing BEFORE the provision arrives.
“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.” Mark 6:41-44 (Luke 9:14-17)
It happened just like that for me too. Like a miracle multiplied by bread and fish. It didn’t happen with an explosion of money (or fish); but instead, it happened a little here and a little there, spread over time and through many people & experiences. The days slowly became more hopeful. Peace rested on my soul longer from one day to the next. I eventually started smiling. When my hope did disappear, I called out to You and You came. Every single time. You held me till I had no more tears. You helped me fall asleep when I desperately needed rest. You revived my soul. You carried me through the expectations of life. You helped me move my feet. At first, it was a shuffle. Doing laundry and paying bills. It took so much energy just to keep up with the normal obstacles of this modern life. And it was like that for a long time. But You carried me every day, even though it felt like the speed of glaciers, at times. Healing my broken heart was a miracle for sure; no one will truly know the depth of my pain, but You, Lord. Without You, I might be physically alive today, but my heart would certainly be dead.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
It’s amazing how You can take our perceived failures and turn them into joy! It still blows my mind how You do that! (Psalms 16:11)
With a new sense of authority, I acknowledge that I have miraculous power within me; not because of my greatness, but because You live IN me. It’s time to stand in the authority You’ve given me and understand that You will expect me to exercise that authority. I know that if I need You, that You will be there to help. I must pray, expecting the unexpected (like You walking on water). This will be my heart posture towards You. (Mark 6:46-52)
I may not currently see how this will turn out. I may not have all the details, but I THANK YOU, Lord. You are good and you love us. I thank you in advance for the good work you ARE NOW DOING for our good and your glory (Romans 8:28-30). Thank you, Lord, for your unfailing love and wonderful deeds in my life (Psalms 107:42-43). Your love has followed me all the days of my life, even when my eyes were far from you. Lord, I thank you for loving me with such a fervent and long-suffering kind of love! Lord, help me exalt you in the assembly of the people and praise you in the council of the elders. Lord, help me sacrifice thank offerings to you and tell of your works with songs of joy! For I know that you break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron, for you know no limits! I am honored to be called a Daughter of the Most High! May YOU, Lord, receive all the glory! Amen! and Amen!!! (Deuteronomy 26:1-3, 7-11, Leviticus 23:17)
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Psalms 107:8-9 (Psalms 107:15-16, Psalms 107:21-22, Psalms 107:31-32)
Prepare the Way
“Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.” Isaiah 62:10
It never ceases to amaze me how we, as humans, can hear from You, as if You were standing in front of our face. As if we could reach out and touch You, on the mountaintop of our faith. The wind in our hair with a swelling soundtrack in the background. And then the next day, we find our faith as fragile as a little lamb, pulled away from the flock. Just when I thought I was on the right track, living holy and trusting in You, the doubt crept in. Like a pendulum swinging back and forth, my faith waned—SO many times. A family member or a well-intentioned friend would question me. And I started to doubt whether You would take care of me, whether this was the right path. Whether the work You had for me was more important than making an income. I doubted so much. Being capable of work, and having years upon years of experience, I wasn’t too proud. But You told me not to. . . at least not right now. (Ephesians 4:14-16)
Like a yo-yo, I went up and down with this decision. And it WAS a decision. To NOT get a “regular job” and instead choose to “work for the Lord” without compensation, was a choice I had to make time-and-time again. Looking back, I see how You wanted the decision to be mine, not merely a “check off the boxes” mind-led decision, but an “all-or-nothing” heart-led, faith-journey. Transforming my heart from a Sunday-morning Christian to a Christ-follower. Christians sometimes lack action. Christ-followers, FOLLOW. To be a disciple of Yours is to move. And that is what You were calling me to. With the kind of trust that surrenders everything on the table; it cannot be faked. Because when the chips are down, our faith either stands tall or crumbles. Do we trust in You, no matter the consequence? Or fold? (Hebrews 11:6, James 1:2-8)
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:1-2
I remember having to go back so many times to my Bible to confirm that I ACTUALLY HEARD You correctly, that this is what You were actually saying to me. Once that was determined, I realized that I needed a “faith reset”. Because, ultimately, You’re good and I know what You said to me. And because I know that what You’ve told me to do is biblical. And why would I need a plan when YOU have one? The Creator of the universe.
Sometimes, the only way I continued moving forward, was by the encouragement of a dear friend of mine. She would encourage me to lean on Your promises. Along the way, You brought a couple others into my circle who supported the work You were doing in my life. But to be honest, most people responded with confused glances and stares of doubt. My assumption was that they saw me as lazy, crazy, or ignorant. Always caring too much about what others thought of me, my faith was constantly under attack. And You always offered the same basic advice through Your Word. It was always some version of “Stay the course. Have faith. Do the work I told you to do. Don’t worry; you will be provided for.” (Luke 9:12-13)
After years of letting so many others tell me how to live my life, I finally listened to You. I decided to go “all in” with Your plan and accept what You told me to do. Oddly enough, once I finally settled this “ante up” in my spirit, I had peace. So much peace.
So, I did what You told me to do. I worked. Most of the time I felt like I wasn’t getting near enough done, but I pushed forward, thanks to the Holy Spirit, the blessed friends You surrounded me with, and Your Word. The big volleys between peace and fear became more stable, favoring the peace side of things. In the past, I prioritized “making money” over things that You had placed on my heart, trusting in my own ability to earn over Your ability to provide. In this season, You allowed me to linger, to explore things previously off limits, and to learn how important the role of faith plays in our story, my story. Yet, You kept me on track. Without my micromanaged to-do lists and harsh schedules, I look back and see the beauty of that precious time where You began making me into the woman You created me to be. I’m still a work in progress, but for the first time in my life, I feel like I am FINALLY on the right path!
“. . .They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.” Haggai 1:13-15
Money did get tight. Really tight. Swallowing my pride and accepting help from others became more familiar. And as worries grew, my prayers did too. I leaned in to hear Your still small voice. Humility!?! Honestly, Lord, I’ve kind of had my plate full lately. Is a lesson in humility really necessary? . . .OK, Lord, I acknowledge that I do not have control over ANYTHING, now nor in the future. Ego in check.
Gas money came from a friend because I didn’t have enough after paying all the bills; she gave me quadruple what I asked of her. A changed tire and money to fix the old one came from a kind stranger on the road and a new friend. The cash to replace it was found in my mailbox, deposited while I was away. A large, life-sustaining check came from a friend who shared out of her overflow. It was so humbling to accept money from others. Being an independent woman, accepting a gift card here and a free lunch there, taught me that this Christian life REALLY IS a family matter. Your kids took care of my son and I, not because they felt obligated or guilted, but because they heard Your voice and You led them to action! Thank You, Jesus. Thank You so much! (Isaiah 45:18)
After three years of living on faith, I learned a lot of lessons. A family can live off less than a few dollars for much longer than one might expect. I spend unnecessarily at times, and so much of what I have could go to others in their time of need. Living without excess can actually be a source of joy, evidenced by a Christmas potluck where my son and I made a game out of grocery shopping with thirteen dollars. A lack of money presents the opportunity for creativity and fun, despite so many years of believing otherwise.
I learned that there is freedom in NOT managing my life like an unrelenting project manager, bent on meeting her yearly-projected goals. Handing my livelihood over to You was, surprisingly, a relief. And anyway, You handled it far better than I ever did.
And when You had stretched my faith further than I thought possible, I leaned in again to hear Your guidance on where we should live. We could no longer afford our home and money was running dangerously low, at least from my point of view. For the first time in 3 years, You said, “let it go”. Um, what? My son and I had managed to hang onto the house we lived in during and shortly after the divorce. And I was DETERMINED not to lose it. At almost any cost, I was set on keeping it. My heart longed for my son to be able to stay near his friends; and if I’m honest, I wanted to avoid feeling like I was losing everything, all at once. And now You’re telling me to “let it go”? We want stability, Lord. We NEED stability. We need a home. A back yard. A neighborhood. Why in the world would I willingly give this up, Lord?
“. . . Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. . .” Haggai 1:2-12
O.K. Ouch. Deep breath. Am I more consumed with my own wealth rather than enlarging Your kingdom? Am I looking for the “American dream” instead of the dream You have for me? Am I more concerned with my son having “all the things” or him having “all You have for him”? Am I trying to hang onto my marriage instead of letting go of the thing that You allowed to be taken away? . ? . ? . . .
Ew. Right then and there, in Your great provision, You laid out Your hand. And, yes, it was a full house! . . . pun intended. It’s interesting that I never heard “let it go” three years prior, or two, or even one. You are so kind to us! You walk with us while You’re changing our hearts. I wasn’t ready to let it go back then. But You knew that I would get there. . . eventually. And at the perfect moment, You told me what to do. Move on. . .
“. . .Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. . . On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”” Mark 2:14, 17
As I consider all of this, I’m struck by the fact that the Holy Spirit can convict our hearts in the exact right way at the exact right moment. What a fool I’d been. I wasn’t leaning on You. I was leaning on keeping what I thought I needed (Isaiah 40:31).
Now comes the Divine Intervention.
After years of following Your call to ‘just do the work’ and allow You to ‘be my husband’, You laid it all on my heart. And my heart, in that INSTANT, made a 180-degree turn. Right then. Right there. Miraculously. The choice was easy, when before it had been so hard. It was all suddenly so crystal clear. Sell the house. And in that moment, I chose to open up the ironclad fist that I had clinching so tightly, grasping onto a false freedom. In letting go, You were offering me real freedom. Thank You for the power of Your Spirit in that moment, Lord! (Galatians 5:1)!
The house was sold about 2 weeks later. And, to my surprise, we made enough for us to find a place to live! It was a blessing that I did not expect. With the volatile real estate market, I did not expect to receive such a generous offer on our home and an actual profit. It was like You had prepared that exact moment in time for us. Right after the house closing, the market began to sink and the financial outcome would have been significantly altered, as it would have been any time before that. I stand back in awe, Lord, of Your perfect timing. It’s astounding! We were provided for. We have a place to live that we love and food to eat, people we love and who love us, a church family, immediate family, and friends, so many friends. For the first time since college, I’m debt free. The one thing that I thought would be an enormous sacrifice, somehow, through Your infinite wisdom, became a chain-breaker, a trumpet announcing a new kind of freedom (Galatians 5:13-15).
Lord, You gave me back my voice. Not the voice that emerged from painful circumstances or life choices. Not the voice that I thought I had to use to shout. Not the voice of a victim. You gave me back the voice You created in me before I was born. I found it, after so many years of hearing the soundtrack from someone else’s life.
I stand, now, as a voice, uniquely my own, crafted to glorify You. I feel You calling me to prepare the way for You, Lord.
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. . .” Jeremiah 31:31-34
As Your people, we have become wicked. We have not kept to Your ways. We have not obeyed Your commands or honored who You’ve created us to be. We have not been ambassadors for Your kingdom, but rather stand-ins for our own. But even though we’ve failed, miserably, You are still offering forgiveness for our many sins. Thank You for Your loving and generous heart, Lord! (2 Corinthians 5:20, Isaiah 45:20)
“Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take. Return, Virgin Israel,return to your towns. How long will you wander, unfaithful Daughter Israel? The Lord will create a new thing on earth—the woman will return to the man.” Jeremiah 31:21-22
It’s time to take stock of where we are in the story of our lives, owning up to the idols that have ruled our hearts & minds. Repenting, and turning away from them. It’s time to evaluate how we got here and those choices we’ve made. It’s time to turn back to You. Fully. (Hosea 10:8). It’s time to step into the light, Your light, and to leave our wicked ways behind us. No, it’s not going to be easy. But if we put our trust in You, You’re always willing to do most of the heavy lifting, just as You’ve done in my life. We just have to make the decision to let go of the things that have consumed our time, our desires, our relationships, ourselves.
This life is so much bigger than we realize; there is so much blessing in being made in Your image. And our lives are meant to have purpose. Eternal purpose. As the body of Christ, we are living much smaller than You intended for us to live. Your vision for our lives is so much greater than OUR best version. We live like You’re small. But You’re a BIG God. Your grace is big. Your love. Your mercy. Your compassion. Your patience. Your blessings. Your sovereignty. Your power. And Your judgement too. You’re so much more than we allow You to be. The world we see from our earthly viewpoint is nothing compared to what You’ve created for us beyond this atmosphere (Job 38-41).
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:27-28
You’re preparing the way for a new kingdom. We may have had difficult times, refining times, and we may have some of those ahead of us, yet. But You are getting ready to build and plant. YOUR new kingdom. YOUR new earth. YOUR renewed people. Moving forward, there’s no room for anything else. EVERYTHING is being made new. (Isaiah 42:9).
He Suffered for Me
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.” Isaiah 9:2-3
Your kingdom IS coming. And Your Word offers us proof of this. A light has dawned. It started with You and it continues with us, the church. We stand as sinful, imperfect image-bearers, while You, our perfect example, were never guilty of any thing at any time. There is even proof of Your innocence from one ruler to another, none finding just cause to charge You with any crime. Yet, Pilate ultimately handed You over to the people, who wanted to revel in Your suffering. They wanted entertainment. Like a politician today making a decision they know is not the right one, in order to appease the masses, Pilate gave You over. And like so many people today, uninformed, uninvolved, and ultimately uninterested in the final outcomes, they shouted for Your death like so many shout today for causes they know nothing about. Because it’s popular. But this earthly kingdom is coming to an end.
Jesus Before Pilate and Herod
The lies. . .
“And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.” Luke 23:2
The truth. . .
“Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man. . .” Luke 23:4-5
Two rulers, previously at odds, became friends that day. Pilate was annoyed by repeatedly denouncing false claims of Your guilt, saying there was “no basis for these charges”. He said this three times! And Herod was excited about the possibility of seeing You perform a miracle. Both rulers agreed on Your innocence and the need to set You free. (Luke 23:12-16, Luke 23:8).
“But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. . .” Luke 23:23-25
Weak leadership, self-interest, and popularity consumed the truth.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
“. . .Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. . . “” Luke 23:27-31
You understood what they did not. You were CHOOSING to die in order to free us from the curse of sin; they mistakenly saw You as a man who was losing control of His earthly life, not the Savior of the world rescuing His children. You saw beforehand, the destruction that would come on those who chose to ignore Your warnings. Those who believed in other gods and would not obey Your commands, leading others astray. Those were the ones that would not share in Your eternal kingdom.
You even prayed for those that ridiculed, humiliated, and killed You. (Luke 23:33-34) Even the criminals knew You were different, witnessing Your sinless death alongside their guilty ones. Prisoner 1 commanded a miracle from You, in derision and likely anticipation, and Prisoner 2 rebuked his fellow inmate for his lack of respect for You. The one who truly believed, who spoke to You with an open heart, was saved. . . just like that. And was told that he would join You in paradise THAT VERY DAY (Luke 23:39-43).
Paradise is what we all long for, isn’t it? We marry to have our own slice of heaven here on earth. We bring children into the world to further embody those good things. So, why is it, that along the way, we allow the idea of paradise to be changed into something it was never meant to be? A house. A spouse. A child. A car. A career. A fortune. ? ? ?. . .
I did become angry, Lord. When things didn’t work out as I thought they should in my marriage, I became angry. When promises were not honored, I allowed anger to root so deep inside my heart that it turned into bitterness and resentment. I nursed those feelings of anger day-after-day, month-after-month, year-after-year. Just like any relationship, I played my part. Not agreeing to end our marriage was true enough, but my unrepentant anger did open the door, allowing Satan to come in and meddle in our marriage. No, it wasn’t a literal door; but it was a sin that I repeatedly allowed in my life. Instead of daily crushing the enemy’s advances through repentance and leaning into You, I allowed my marriage to become my idol. As my husband drew away from me, I became more invested in him, not You. I shut the door a few times, asking for You to forgive my sin. But I slipped back into it so easily. And when I did, the door crept back open again. Eventually, it was pushed wide open, inviting Satan to enter with his lies, deceit, hate, and division. He directed his demons to invade our lives in a more permanent manner, because I gave him permission. And they ransacked our life together. My husband turned against me the way the enemy turned me against my husband. His weaknesses became magnified until he couldn’t see me anymore. Not the real me. But the me that Satan told him that I was. The enemy’s tactic worked brilliantly.
“The Art of War” by Lucifer, the fallen angel. I really wish I’d read that novel before getting this far in life.
“. . . Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins”. . .”Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you”. . .” Psalms 25:1-2, 4-7, 11-22
Lord, please forgive me. I opened the door. The enemy was just waiting there for the opportunity to trash my life. I’m ashamed that I had such role in the melodrama of our lives. Satan took my sin and exploited it, blinding my earthly husband’s eyes to who I was. I was still me, just flawed. A sinner, just like he was. And I needed forgiveness as much as he did.
The Death of Jesus
Even the earth mourned Your death. Darkness fell in the middle of the day as You completed the work You set out to do. These verses are wretchedly sad, of course, but also baffling. The centurion would have been a high-ranking officer tasked with keeping You on the cross and not allowing anyone to free or help You in any way. In this day, that would be akin to a guard watching the death-row execution of a convicted murderer and expectantly watching him die. Yet, after seeing the prisoner’s last breath and witnessing the earth’s intense response, the centurion exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!" (Matthew 27:54) This Roman commander witnessed all that happened by this "mighty hand of God" and called You “a righteous man”. (Deuteronomy 4:34, Luke 23:47) THAT is a HUGE testimony to Your kingship and innocence! (Isaiah 9:6-7)
The overwhelming sadness of the crowd as they left the scene, the same crowd that cheered for Pilate to hand You over, insulting and berating You as they walked the distance, now mourned. Seeing Your blood, sweat and anguish, their demeanor shifted to deep sadness, displayed by “beating their breasts” after Your brutal death. (Luke 23:48)
And those that knew You, that loved You, THEY stood at a distance. Watching. I wonder why. Were they ashamed of abandoning You? In disbelief? Embarrassed to walk right up to You? Scared at what might happen to their own lives? Afraid of seeing, up close, Your open wounds and labored breathing? What deep soul-wrenching pain they must have felt, seeing You like that and knowing the part they each played. And Mary. Remembering every detail of Your life, as Your Mom, and seeing her baby die. Your death affected everyone present. From those who hated You to those who loved You. No one walked away unchanged. Not one. Even those who buried You were moved by Your death (Luke 23:50-54)
Jesus Has Risen
“. . .You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” Acts 3:13-15
The women were the ones who first arrived at Your tomb, rising early to tend to Your body. Go girls! And they were surprised to see You gone. How crazy it must have been to see two angels there! (Luke 24:1-8) What must they have looked like? I know they weren’t chubby babies with tiny wings (artistic license, Raphael?), but more like giant men towering over them, surrounded in unimaginable light.
“But they did not believe the women. . .” Luke 24:11-12
Of course the men didn’t believe the women! Good grief, Charlie Brown! But to the men’s credit, it would have sounded like a ridiculous story, that their Savior was no longer there, after seeing You die.
AFTER You were raised from the dead, You spent forty days with the disciples. That is so hard to even fathom! What did You look like? Did You look like a human? Partially see-through? Glowing? How strange it must have been to see Your life-ending injuries, yet days later seeing You clearly alive. And how strange it must have been for the disciples to know You were destined to sit next to Your Father in heaven, leaving them here on earth, yet aware that they walked with the Creator of the universe and Author of life! (Acts 1:1-5)
I suppose the ENTIRE walk with the disciples was a mixture of pure joy and terrifying unknowns, a roller coaster of emotions. Seeing You die, when You were the promised Savior to restore Israel. Mourning the death of their friend and leader. Hope temporarily lost with the reflection that they may have chosen the wrong path in life. (Luke 24:21) Then fear when seeing You alive. Amazement that You were alive! Gladness that You WERE ALWAYS who You said You were, even though they didn’t fully realize it at the time. Wonder and great sadness at Your ascent into heaven. Whew, that's a lot to process! (Isaiah 59:20-21)
“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” Acts 1:9
Your resurrection brought to the surface a clarity that seemed impossible days earlier, explaining that Your mission on earth was far greater than anyone ever conceived. Your kind of healing was one that didn’t look ANYTHING like what they thought it should have looked like. (Luke 24:44-48)
You wore sandals. You walked everywhere. You didn’t have a home. You depended on the kindness of others (& Your Father, of course). You worked as a carpenter. You talked to people that most wouldn’t even acknowledge. You washed others’ feet. And finally, You died. NONE OF THESE THINGS were expected of the Savior.
And just like the unexpected way You revealed Yourself to them, You have revealed Yourself to me in much the same way. A question I’ve asked many times is, “How is it possible to feel the most loved I’ve ever felt while simultaneously enduring the end of a beloved marriage?” How is it that I can feel this much joy when the prayer wasn’t answered the way I wanted it to be? The disciples answer this question for me, beautifully. When You are in the picture, love is possible in every circumstance. It doesn’t matter whether the disciples got the Savior they envisioned or that I got to enjoy the answered prayer in the way I’d hoped. (John 15:1-4) Similarly, the disciples could not imagine Your death as the ending to the story, much less Your resurrection, as part of Your final, redemptive plan. Just like my path seems decidedly different than I imagined. Their pain in losing You was momentary. Their joy eternal. As is mine. . .
My suffering helped me to understand Your suffering. Of course, my pain was a shadow of Yours, but it helped me relate to Your trials. My rejection reminded me of Yours. You invited me into the pain. As crazy as it sounds, You helped me through my pain by joining our suffering together & making me more like You. If I hadn’t lived it, I would have never believed it. Simply put, Your love saved my life…again. Your love & Your pain & Your suffering merged with mine and we walked through this together. There are no words I could ever craft to appropriately thank You. Lord, the words are all I can offer. THANK YOU for being with me. (1 Peter 4:12-19, Philippians 3:7-17, Luke 9:23-26)
No matter the circumstance, You are the answer to every prayer. (John 14:1-4)
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7
It’s time for us, as Your people, to stand up and live out what we preach. It’s time for us to do the hard things, the unpopular things. To do the unselfish things, for the benefit of others. As Christians, we ARE leaders, ALL of us. And You give us Your life as a perfect example to follow. Yes, I wish my marriage had continued. But it didn’t. That may be the closing of one chapter, but I’m convinced there are many more yet to be written. And I’m the better for understanding my role, accepting my sin and repenting, in order to move forward in my life. I am clean. Not perfect. But clean. With Your blood and Your sacrifice and Your love. Thank You so much, my Lord and Savior. And now, Husband.
“I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:2-3
The Early Church
“Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.” Joel 2:16
Part of any meaningful life is reflection. And as holy people, it is our responsibility to go back and assess. In my story, the glaring reality is that I did not get through this heartache alone. I wanted to, but I actually had a lot of help. In fact, friends had to pull me out of my recliner MANY times. It was safer there. But sadder. Sitting in that chair prevented me from being hurt by the world, but the focus on my own pain relegated me to a mental hamster-wheel of my mistakes and self-pity. Not the best environment for thriving. So, my loved ones repeatedly encouraged me to get out and spend time with others. And in taking the focus off myself and putting it onto others, I learned that home really is where Your loved ones are located. And that can be anywhere, including an apartment.
There is security on the other side of pain, if we put our future in Your hands and allow our brothers and sisters to walk with us.
““No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”” Mark 2:21-22
But we need to be prepared to relearn some things. It’s not about repackaging our old way of life. It’s vastly different than most people experience. Once we fully understand Your love for us and how different this faith walk is, going backwards is like trying to fit an elephant into spandex. It’s not gonna fit. The two worlds will clash. Before this great revelation of Your love, I saw the trees before me; now, I see the entire forest, including the trees. And the birds and the worms and the dirt and the flowers and the sunshine and the rain and all of it. When we understand that our lives are part of something bigger, we no longer clamor for that “thing” we’ve always been without, because we realize that we’ve always had it. IN YOU. Our eyes are open to a world far beyond our most adventurous imaginations, and our lives should look different because it can’t fit into the old one; it encapsulates the old one. New beginnings should look new. Because they are.
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. . .” Revelation 21:1-8
Your ascension was such a beginning for the disciples. At first glance, stories in the Bible sometimes fail to convey the person behind the actions. We have to look closely to see who they really were and the real things they really endured. They weren’t characters; they were people, just like us. And they weren’t perfect. In fact, some of them had some pretty big sins on their rap sheet. And they were all SO different. We think of them all melding together, but, in many cases, they were incredibly diverse. They had disagreements about how to run their ministries. They pridefully vied for the top spot in the group. They each had their own, unique life experiences, prejudices, and sin that they brought with them. Each of them saw the world differently, through the distinct lens You gave them. But they assumed a posture of obedience and ultimately walked together, preached together, ate together, and struggled together, making the most of this vagabond union YOU brought together.
This reminds me of a group of friends of mine. We love each other dearly, but sometimes we just can’t see how the other can wrap their mind around a concept so opposed to our own. We have no problem appreciating the genius in Your creation until it challenges our own views. Yet, You intentionally created this scenario in Your disciples. Many different wineskins. Expected to walk alongside one another. Each as unique and wonderful as the previous.
“When Cephas [known as Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned”. . .”The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.” Galatians 2:11-13 [emphasis added-Galatians was written by Paul]
Each of us contain a certain element(s) of Your glory; yet we sometimes fail to see Your other characteristics in our brothers and sisters. Like an artist who paints in abstract markings, unapologetically throwing emotional color and bold brushstrokes onto canvas to convey his message. Yet, another equally-talented artist feels Your Spirit move in him when painting detailed images, full of realistic colors and indistinguishable brushstrokes. Is one better than the other? Or do they merely call into awareness different elements of Your glory?
Paul had a gift of being direct and bold. This aided him in his relentless work for Your kingdom. But his friends may have seen him come across as harsh and unbending. And Peter also had strong words, in addition to being impulsive. Even though he was known as “the rock the church was built on” (Matthew 16:18-19), bringing Jews and Gentiles into unity, Peter made a lot of blunders. He became distracted & fell into the water after walking ON IT with You. (Matthew 14:28-31) Peter cut off the ear of the high priest in anger. (John 18:10) And he, unthinking, denied You as his Savior. (Matthew 26:69-75) However, he was also loyal and passionate for the faith.
Peter was incorrect in the above verses in Galatians, aiming to placate the Jews instead of being true to what You had taught him, much like the rooster incident. And Paul didn’t like this waffling and called Peter out. Paul was fearless in sharing Your Word, to the point of rebuking Peter, in order to correct the sin that had taken a foothold in his life and the lives of those following him. Yet both men had positive and negative characteristics, approaching their posts from different angles. Paul was right to correct Peter, yet he may have failed to see the desire in Peter for unity among his brethren, albeit incorrect in application. These two men had many differences to manage, but they were arguably the greatest influence in the early church.
Lord, I find it interesting that this was the example You chose to teach us Christian fellowship. It’s almost as if You decided to throw a bunch of different people together with only one thing in common. . . their love and dependence on You. And then You told them to all get along.
“. . . My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. . .” John 17:11-12, 15-19
Some of the unique characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of the disciples & apostles:
*James (the Elder-Brother of John): Wealthy. Courageous, Forgiving. (Mark 1:19-20)
*John (Brother of James) Wealthy. Action-oriented. Explosive temper. The Beloved Disciple. (Luke 9:54)
*Andrew (Brother of Peter) Introduced his brother to You. Optimistic. Content. (John 1:41)
*Bartholomew (also called Nathanael): Born of noble blood. You said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1:47)
*James (the Lesser or Younger-Brother of Jude): Fiery temperament. (Mark 15:40)
*Judas Iscariot: Disciples’ treasurer. Violent. Traitor who received 30 pieces of silver. Hanged himself. (Mark 14:10-11)
*Jude (also called Thaddeus-Brother of James the Younger): Intense. Violent. (Jude 1:10)
*Matthew (also called Levi): Hated. Likely wealthy. First apostle to write about You. Immediately left his riches to follow You. (Matthew 9:9-10)
*Philip: Unquestioning faith. Kind, but Pessimistic. (John 6:7)
*Simon the Zealot: Fanatical nationalist. Roman hatred. Devoted to the law. (Luke 6:13-16)
*Thomas: Unbelieving/needing physical proof of Your resurrection (known as ‘Doubting Thomas’). Pessimistic. Courageous. Great faith. (John 20:27)
*Apostle but not Disciple-Paul: Scholar of Scripture. Extremist. Persecutionist. Religious terrorist of Jews. Fervent Writer. Evangelist. Humble. Bold. Noble (of character). (Galatians 1:13-16, Acts 8:3, Acts 9:1-6, 8-9, 17-19)
So, we’ve got a hot-headed, impulsive leader of a group of fisherman, with a few other professions thrown in there. Two were wealthy; the rest were likely poor. They had positive qualities such as: loyalty, courage, forgiveness, optimism, contentment, honesty, selflessness, faithfulness, kindness, devotion and beloved. However, in the very same group of men we see: quick-tempered, impulsive, explosive, fiery, violent, double-crosser, self-murderer, intense, hated, pessimistic, extremist, Roman hater, and unbelieving. That’s quite a list of equally wonderful and unappealing examples of humanity all thrown together! Honestly, it’s no wonder people thought You were crazy! I think I understand now that this was the point. This band of misfits could not do this mighty work without You. Just like we can’t.
We’re all a mixture of good and bad. Hopefully, we are steadily moving away from sin and towards holiness, but nonetheless, You still call us to walk through this life together. Despite unavoidable personality differences and viewpoints, we’re Your kids and we need to find a way to work it out. Period. (Acts 1:12-14)
The disciples and their ability to work together for the purpose of furthering Your kingdom blesses us, modern-day Christians, with many lessons:
Confirm our Calling & Grow in Spiritual Maturity:
This verse has always left me feeling a little confused. But after studying it, I think I understand. We need to confirm that we belong to You. The way we do this is twofold: 1. Our calling: In order for us to be Your “chosen”, we must obey the call to turn from our sin and, in faith, accept Your call on our lives, moving forward in obedience to Your commands. 2. In order to confirm our election, we must be willing to put effort into our personal sanctification, also known as spiritual maturity, through prayer, study of Your Word, worship, and fellowship with Your people. And we must endure to the end, not merely making a one-time decision, but rather waking up every morning making the decision to follow You.
If these two things are tended to diligently, our actions that follow will prove that we belong to You. We must “believe” and then “do”; meaning, we must believe in order to confirm our calling and then do those things You’ve called us to do (our unique version of furthering Your kingdom), proving our election. Action is the evidence. And we must make this a priority, without delay. In caring for these two elements of our faith, we will be welcomed into Your kingdom of eternal glory, triumphant in our entrance. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
Humility is the opposite of pride. Acknowledging our sin helps us slay the pride lurking in our hearts. Putting others ahead of our own selfish desires keeps our focus outward. And the awareness that life passes us by far quicker than we would like, keeps our fervor intact. We must also remember that the goal is not to consider ourselves as insignificant or unimportant, but rather putting others’ eternal well-being in the forefront of our minds. We must still strive to do the best that we can in slaying sin from our lives, knowing it isn’t entirely possible this side of heaven, but doing the very best we can. (John 13:37-38)
Share You with Others:
Our testimonies. The story of how You have changed our lives by Your generous love and compassion. Unfortunately, this usually involves the above-mentioned humility, as we are usually sharing things about our lives we would rather forget. But those are the things others need to hear because they can connect our struggles with theirs. They see our frail humanity and how You can take our brokenness and make it beautiful. Our failures, in standing on our own, reveal the peace in handing control over to You. (Galatians 1:23-24)
Keep the Focus on You:
It’s about You and me. Nobody else. When the world screams for my attention, luring me into complacency in our relationship, it is You that will not disappoint. It is You who will always be there. No, You are not my personal, heavenly genie here to make all my wishes come true. But You will show me a better path, one that I never knew existed, nor realized I was longing for, opening my eyes to a reality far beyond my wildest dreams. When I’m disappointed in "perceived" unanswered prayers or a “no” that I really wanted to be a “yes”, You walk with me through each one, patiently explaining the lessons to be learned. And sometimes, the why. You’re always there. Always. (John 6:68-69)
Live Life Together, Be Generous & Praise God:
Our lives on earth prepare us for our reality in heaven. You made us to live in community, to teach & encourage one another, to joyfully spend time together, to pray together and worship You. Together. You call us to become a family. No matter our nationality, color, or any other differences. You desire us to live in unity, helping one another when life becomes challenging. We are called to embrace generosity for those of us in need and to continue spending time together, strengthening our friendships. We are called to gladness and sincerity, not merely pretending to be family, but actually sharing our lives with one another. . . the good, the bad, and the indifferent. Likewise, You call us to praise You and enjoy all that we’ve been given. This is the life You’ve called us to. Even though feelings may get hurt, passions may run high, and opinions may not match, we must persevere. Because You desire unity in Your family, on earth and in heaven. (John 15:10-17, Acts 4:32-37)
If we could live like this, we would be sought after for our joy and peace; others would see how different we are and run to ask why. We would be so fulfilled.
Obey the Things You Tell us to Do:
And lastly, we need to do what You tell us to do. You’ve given us all we need to know in Your Word, the Bible. We need to know what it says and obey Your commands. And in our personal relationship with You, we need to lean in and listen for what that looks like in the unique way You’ve created each of us. Even when the things You ask us to do seem ridiculous, silly, or impossible, as long as they are in line with Your Word, we can glorify You through it. And if we happen to make a wrong step, we trust that You will guide us back onto the path You have for us.
Just like Peter & Paul, part of Your plan is to include US in the plan. As the body of Christ, we’re all important. We all have something to offer that others don't have. I’m comforted by the wise, final words of both Peter and Paul. (2 Peter 3:3, 9, 11, 13-14, 17-18, 2 Timothy 4:2-5, 7-8, 19-22)
Confined to the glasses through which we see the world, we peer at those in our family (Your kingdom kids) and sometimes struggle to keep the family together. But we must remember that we’re doing this because of our great love for You; because You loved us first. It’s all for You, Lord. It may sound simple and unrefined, but the early church was real. They gave generously and accepted in equal measure. They struggled relationally with one another, against persecution, and with their own internal arguments. But despite the challenges, You called them to much more. And You ask the same of us. (Deuteronomy 26:16-19)
“but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” Luke 9:11
“. . .Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. . . “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-21, 23
The only way we will ever have any sort of unity on this earth is with You in the center of our individual and collective lives. Unity seems to be on everyone’s mind these days, as if You built this into our very design. And while the definition of unity seems to shift like desert sands blowing in the wind, the core of that desire is to be made as “one”.
YOU are that One. . .
The Christian definition of unity is: The state of being one; unity of worship. In christian theology, it's oneness of sentiment, affection or behavior. In faith, it's an equal belief of the same truths of God, and possession of the grace of faith in like form and degree. In spirit, it's the oneness which subsists between Christ and his saints, by which the same spirit dwells in both.
In secular academics, the definition of unity:
In mathematics, it's the abstract expression for any unit whatsoever. The number 1 is unity, when it is not applied to any particular object; but a unit, when it is so applied (described as the “one’s place”). In poetry, unity is the concept, object, or person of a story being properly carried through the artist’s vision. In drama, there are three unities; action, time, and place. In music, such a combination of parts as to constitute a whole, or a kind of symmetry of style and character. In law, the properties of a joint estate are derived from its unity, which is fourfold; unity of interest, title, time, and possession.
In the dictionary, unity is a condition of harmony; the quality or state of being made one; an entity that is a complex or systematic whole.
How would equations be solved without unity? Or poetry enjoyed without a unified story line? Or watching a movie without a clear action, time, and place working together? What would a symphony sound like without unity in composition and instruments? In defining the law, how could order be honored without unity in what “order” means? Unity is in the fabric of everything we do, from seeking restored, personal relationships to our desire for world peace. However, YOUR definition takes all of the above and magnifies it to a new level. . .a heavenly level.
[of Jesus reading Isaiah’s scroll], “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 [emphasis added]
*Proclaim good news to the poor. (Isaiah 61:1)
*Proclaim freedom for the prisoners. (Isaiah 61:1)
*Proclaim recovery of sight for the blind. (Isaiah 49:9)
*Set the oppressed free. (Isaiah 49:9)
*Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (A time of God’s grace, redemption, and deliverance; as well as a time for judgement over evil) (Isaiah 61:2)
When I think of the poor and oppressed, I immediately think of those begging for food on the street and those who cannot complete life’s basic tasks due to illness, persecution, prejudices, and sin. These are Your children too and we must take care of them, but I also know there are other kinds of “poor and oppressed”. The “poor in spirit” comes to mind. I have fit into that category many times in my life. “Poor” can define far more of us than the very limited definition we’ve embraced. So many of us are lacking in areas such as: strength, beauty, joy, peace, or comfort. Some of us feel as if we are worthless, unloved, insignificant, and unworthy. We feel as if we don’t measure up, living as some sort of degenerate, no matter what station in life we occupy. We feel tarnished, ruined, ugly, pitied, and unable to live up to our own standards, much less the standards of those imposed upon us. Some of us have been hurt so badly that we inadvertently strike out to hurt others, so they can share in our pain. (John 3:16-21)
My pain has resulted in a series of interactions where I allowed others to define my worth. And when that love wasn’t recognized, returned or received, well, who was I? When those in my place of employment didn’t value my work, was I not successful? Or when a family member chose other things over me, was I not valued? Or when a spouse outright rejected me as a lifelong partner, was I not worthy of love?
The truth is that we all need You, every one of us. I need You every second of every day. (Philippians 4:12-13) I can’t imagine going through my divorce without You. (1 Peter 5:7) Lord, please give us hearts to truly see those poor and oppressed around us. (Hebrews 4:15-16) Please help us to recognize those who are hurting and give us the courage to share You with them. (1 Peter 1:13-16) Please help us lead the broken to You so they can become who You intended them to be. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10, 1 John 5:3-5, Galatians 5:1) And so we can share eternity with them. (Romans 6:22-23)
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” 1 Peter 1:22
Unity requires action! (John 13:12-17) Lord, please help us to:
Remember the Power we Possess:
As long as You occupy our souls, we are called Your children. We possess Your power IN us. There may be some areas where we are weak, but when we lean on You, we are capable of great things. A man that rejected You three times after promising he could never do such a thing, is the man that Your church was built on. The apostle, Peter, is a witness of Your ability to change our hearts from a lack of commitment to complete surrender to You. This change results in fully committed leaders, able to move in power (& action). We just need to call on You for Your strength and Your wisdom when we are lacking, and then expect you to show up in response. (John 16:7-10, John 16:12-13, John 14:26-27)
Be Prepared to Spot the Enemy’s Interference:
Pain is a terrible thing. In an effort to protect ourselves, we close the door to the full life You have for us. We block off any perceived threat in order to guard against that pain. This leaves us alone and susceptible to the manipulation the enemy enjoys inflicting upon us. He doesn’t want us to know You (or know You better, or live the life You’ve called us to), so he comes up with ways to distract and distance us from You. Sometimes it surfaces as addictions or avoidance, arguments or stress. And sometimes, pressure to follow in another’s footsteps. The enemy tailors his approach to each of us, individually, bringing up the specific issues we have struggled with all our lives, maximizing past pain & sin to disable us in the present. (Isaiah 54:17, John 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 11:22-30)
Pray for Those Who Persecute (& those who are caught in it):
Prayerfully, we hope to never be faced with death for our faith, but those that are willing to stand as Your children, no matter what, will be rewarded for all of eternity. One thing is certain for all of us. Enduring hardship WILL be part of this journey. The stakes are high, but that doesn’t mean we should hide. Because the further we move away from You, the stronger Satan’s claws sink into our hearts and our minds. Pretty soon, we no longer question whether You are who You say You are; but instead, we outright dismiss Your existence entirely. Disdain and anger for You and Your children can bubble up to the surface. When this happens, life can get difficult. Your followers become emboldened by Your Spirit, understanding the reality of eternity and choosing to live confidently in their faith. And everyone else, whether they realize it or not, increasingly follow Satan’s lead in the confidence of this world. Just like Satan led a third of the angels to war against You in heaven, we begin to see the same outcome unfold on earth. But instead of angels, it’s humans. And instead of heaven, it’s hell. (Acts 7:59-60; 8:1, Acts 7:54-56, Acts 11:19-21)
As children of the One True God, belonging to the Trinity: Father, Son & Spirit, we are called to be bold. In fact, it is a characteristic that defines us as Yours. But we don’t have to assume responsibility for this courage; we trust that Your Spirit will give us the courage to speak the right words, the fire to act accordingly and the knowledge to know when. We must learn to trust that Your Spirit will speak through us. Our words may not be perfect, but those You have called to listen will hear & understand. (Acts 4:24-26, 29-31, Acts 2:14-21)
We’re also called to bear fruit, meaning produce good things. A life of faith is more than just believing. There needs to be an actual sacrifice of our time, talents and treasures, in order to produce those good things. Like sharing You with others and helping those that cannot help themselves. Good fruit is also found in building up the body of Christ (Your church), and by growing in our sanctification, also known as spiritual maturity. Fruit can also be described as engaging in and maintaining relationships with our fellow brothers and sisters. Fruit, really, is anything that glorifies, magnifies, or exemplifies You. (John 15:5-8)
Our Inheritance is Waiting for us in Heaven:
When times get tough, pressure mounts, and tempers flare, we must remember who we are doing these good works for and why. Our love for You & Your kingdom. Our love for one another. THESE are the things that produce OUR DESIRE to obey our Father. You tell us, directly, that any suffering we endure in obedience to Your call will be rewarded one hundred times over. That's super awesome! But being “last” while others are “first” in this overcompensating, obsessed-with-success world, can be more than a challenge. It can be outright warfare. But when we succeed in opposing popular opinion, in order to do Your will, eternity with You will be our prize! (2 Timothy 1:11-12)
I think back to my childhood, when I first came to know You, and I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for those men and women that poured truth into my life. You were their Master Tour Guide, training up my home-town brothers & sisters to be Your “hands & feet” in the world. (Romans 12:1-2, Romans 12:9-18, Ephesians 2:8-10)
You led. . .They followed.
And because of their obedience, my eternal home will be with You. Lord, I pray You bless each of those who blessed me. And I pray that You will help us ALL be Tour-Guides-in-Training, learning the terrain and guiding others through it as well, with our personal sacrifice of our time, talents, and treasures. Because eternity is a long time, far longer than the handful of years we will spend on earth. (Jeremiah 31: 8-9, 12-14)
“He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs; there he brought the hungry to live, and they founded a city where they could settle. They sowed fields and planted vineyards that yielded a fruitful harvest; he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased, and he did not let their herds diminish.” Psalms 107:35-38
Jesus With Us
“I [Jesus] have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:26 [emphasis added]
Jesus, my Lord and Savior, You have handled my heart far superior than any human being ever has. You’ve been there for me. As strange as it may sound to the average person, You have become my husband, and I can’t imagine it any other way. May You be glorified by my testimony, Lord. There is no higher purpose than to bring Your children home to You and strengthen their faith and maturity. I give this story, My Story, to You, as a Fellowship Offering, a Peace Offering. (Deuteronomy 16:9-12) Because You are good. Always. Even when we don’t understand You. Or Your ways. Or why our lives have taken the turn that they have. You are worthy of our praise! Your ways are higher than ours. Forever and always! (Isaiah 55:8-9, Psalms 107:1-9)
When I think back over the past couple years, I’m amazed at all that has happened.
I certainly wouldn’t have planned my life with so much sorrow OR sin, but I can see how You’ve taken every sadness and used it to teach me about who You are. You’ve taken my failures and used them to strengthen me. (John 16:20-22) Lord, You have filled me with inexpressible joy when NOTHING felt joyful. You have provided for my son and I in the most unexpected ways. And You helped me see and appreciate ALL that I had been given. Thank You, my good, good Father. (Isaiah 12:4-5, Psalm 103:1-4)
Lord, I pray for Your princes. I pray for the men that started out strong, but were led away by the enemy. Those who have left their families for the sparkly thing the enemy has dangled in front of them. And, Lord, I pray those that have strayed from You will return. That they will understand the full gravity of Your love for them and the depth of what that means, experiencing restoration through repentance. (Ezekiel 19:11-14)
Our Christian faith really is a lot simpler than we allow. We’re all born sinners. You love us so much that You died for us, so that we could benefit from Your perfect life as the atonement for our imperfect one. This allows us to share eternity with You; because You want us to know You. And You want us to tell others about You, so they can know You. (Matthew 28:18-20)
This adoption into Your family brings many gifts, one being an ever-expanding family of believers. Taking inventory of our gifts and skills, we can walk proud into the knowledge that we bear Your image, shining Your light out into the world. We walk in joy as Fruit-Producing-Light-Bearers, enjoying the life that springs forth from Your light! There WILL be times when we need to lean on one another. Whether it’s a financial need, a spiritual one, emotional, or physical; because this walk is not an easy one. People will disagree with us and maybe even aim their darts in our direction. No matter, we’re not likely to be successful or fulfilled without our brothers and sisters in Christ. (Hebrews 12:14-15) Standing tall TOGETHER in our faith, no matter how fearful we are or no matter the cost, is part of our duty as Your children and part of our inheritance into Your kingdom. This work belongs to us as a mark of our heavenly membership! (Luke 12:8-9, John 15:18-22, John 16:33)
And finally, Lord, You. Ending in the same place we started, I move forward in my life today knowing that You will be by my side. Because You were.
No, my marriage was not restored. But something burst forth from its ashes. Peace. (Philippians 4:7) Understanding the reality of the “unseen” world, such as pain, joy, and peace, helps me appreciate how REAL You are in the "seen" world. There is a world beyond the one we see with our eyes, and this is where Your love for me (& all Your children) resides. This “unseen”, spiritual world operates in the areas that can’t be seen, but felt. Blasting open the doors of my understanding, this truth has changed the reality I previously knew.
I know You walk with me. You may not walk [visibly] with me on earth, like the disciples experienced, but You are VERY MUCH walking with me. And for now, I accept You as my invisible Friend, always there but never seen, except through the way I live my life. Because I know that one day we will walk together in heaven, for all of eternity. And just like You spent time with the disciples (after Your resurrection), showing them how much You loved them, teaching them, and offering proof that You really were alive, You’re doing the very same thing with me RIGHT NOW! (Psalms 119:105, Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 2:6-8, Romans 13:13-14, Isaiah 30:21-22, 1 John 2:6, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
Knowing You means knowing Your Word, the Bible. There is no way to truly know You without it. And the more we read Your Word, the more we understand Your character. Words spring to life & jump off the page and into our hearts, bringing safety and security that only YOU can deliver. Because this faith walk is about WHO we BECOME in learning WHO YOU ARE. And no one can take that away from us.
Even though I’ve become somewhat of an expert in what love is NOT, it’s helped me understand, a little more clearly, what love IS. And I’m changed. Because when we have nothing left to grasp onto, there is nothing left to release. In recognizing our spiritual poverty, and relinquishing it’s power over us, we gain much more in return. Because in SURRENDERING our sin, we SECURE You, for all of eternity. (Matthew 16:24-25)
It’s taken over forty years for me to BARELY scratch the surface of what it means to walk with You. Because understanding how to walk with You means understanding (at least in part) what it means to love. And the definition of Love is You. Just like the definition of You . . . is Love.
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8
And finally, finally, finally, the search is over. I have found real love. And it's in the REAL You! (John 14:15-21)
This is how I define Love:
*It is safe. It instills courage in me. Encouraging me to embrace who You created me to be. (Psalms 139:13-14)
*It’s joyful. Investing in those things that bring me joy and light up my soul, quirks and all, glorifies You. (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10)
*It’s non-refundable. No matter how many mistakes I make, it will never be revoked. Ever. (Romans 8:38-39)
*It’s light, like a feather. When our hearts search for You above all else, our burdens become light. Because when we follow Your lead, trusting our lives into Your capable hands, You lead us with excellence. And in this process, our good Shepherd teaches us to become servant-leaders ourselves. (Proverbs 11)
*It’s accepting. Knowing there is no shame in our inability to be perfect, we learn to gladly give our best. (Psalms 51)
*It is aware. Knowing that You’ve created us with a heart to do something specific, and that our “doing” WILL change the world, we are moved to make the best use of what we have been given. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33, Colossians 3:17, 2 Timothy 2:15)
*It is generational. Knowing that the work I am doing right now will affect the future of those in my influence and their influence, and so on, makes my life feel significant. (Psalms 78:4, 102:18; 71:18, Luke 1:50)
This, in my humble opinion, is what it feels like to be loved. Not counterfeit love. Divine Love.
And finally, the verses that You gave me when I could barely speak without crying. Those “seen” words that touched my “unseen” heart, and saved me from a life without hope. Thank You Lord. My Savior. My Father. My Teacher. My Friend. My Husband. May all the glory be Yours!
“. . .They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.” Isaiah 62:11-12
“. . . you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God”. . .”As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” Isaiah 62:2-5
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated”. . .”For your Maker is your husband”. . .”The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit. . .” Isaiah 54:4-8