Building Community #Write28Days

Building Community can be hard when you are in the broken space, but community is another piece needed for healing.  Many things that break us, tend to isolate us.  Secrets we are told to keep from abuse.  Separation from others in domestic violence.  Relationships torn from addiction.  Shame, blame, guilt are things that keep us from having open health relationships.

Even small changes can create drastic changes in our support system.  A job change can change the people we are used to sharing life with.  As children grow up, the parents that we were often connected with over our children can grow more distance.  Parent’s illnesses, memory and death can create a separation from our normal support.  As families grow, just the business of life can make the support system we grew up with more segregated due to distance and busy schedules.

With all of the things that compete against connection, how do we build community, especially a healthy one?  As a social wBuildingcommunityorker, I immediately think of a tool called an Ecomap that I would often do with people to help the really look at their support system.  For a brief moment, grab a piece of paper and in the middle write ME.  If you want to right under your name, add the area that you need healing to come (You don’t have too, but it can be an added step to help in healing.)  Circle your name and if you added the healing area make the circle big enough to include that.

Then on the same page, start writing down the names of those that you turn to most often.  Include friends, family, coworkers, classmates writing them around the ME circle,  Be specific if you can.  Then add places you frequently spend time where there are others, like work, school, church, the gym, the bar, etc.  Add professional and community support – counselors, lawyers, probation officers, sponsors, case worker, and support groups.   Include anyone or any place that is part of your life. You can put a circle around each of these too.

If you don’t have many circles on your page.  It is okay, do not let your mind tell you that it isn’t okay.  Sometimes having too many people on the page doesn’t mean you have any better support than someone who has it filled.  If you want more supports, than make that a goal you work towards, but don not turn it into a negative right now.  You are working on your healing!

The next part can take a little more time and thought.  Don’t rush it.   You want to really think about your relationship with each of the people or groups listed in the other circles.  You can look at it generally, or if you are ready to start making changes towards healing can look at the relationship and how each of the circles supports your healing goals.  If you feel like the name in the circle is a strong support of you healing draw a solid line between the ME circle ——- and that name.    If sometimes it is a support and sometimes it is not draw a dotted line between ME – – – – – – and that other name.  If the relationship is a source of stress or lacks support for your healing draw a /\/\/\/\/\/\ line between the ME circle and the other name.

If you don’t have any solid lines between you and any of the supports you listed, are there any that are dotted that could be strengthened?  Maybe it is not a solid support because the business of life, maybe you need to be intentional in that relationship.  If you don’t feel they can be strengthened, where might you find people who could support your healing?  You may need to start with a professional counselor in your area or a support group, like Celebrate Recovery (It is not just for addicts!) to get you on the right path.  People in your area can help connect you with other health support systems because professionals are there for a short period and are not meant to be your long-term support.

The other thing to ask about the people that you have a dotted line relationship with, is are there things that you are doing that foster the change in support.  I will give an example, I have a tendency to have very strict boundaries, I am very private (Except when I am not – usually because I am meeting someone where they are trying to help), and I can tend to  drain myself with giving which causes me to retreat more that I should. In addition, I have a hard time expressing my needs in the moment.  This can certainly cause issues as others can interpret those behaviors that I don’t need or want their help, or that I don’t want a supportive relationship with them.   Another example would be a person who wants too much from a single person, where you expect all your needs (Orthe majority of them) to be met by one person.  If you see your part in why a relationship is not as strong as it could be, acknowledge your part, apologize, and work to do better. If you are not able to do this yet, talk to a counselor and start working through those behaviors so that you can learn new coping skills.

Those relationships that are a source of support or lack support need to be evaluated closely.  Some you may need to end.  Others you may need to distance yourself from until you can determine how to handle the relationship.  It may be that you need to heal before you can decide what to do in that relationship.  Still other relationships you may just need to discuss in love how you feel and seek support in learning how to rebuild that relationship in a healthy manner.  There is no right answer for those relationships.  I have had to do each of those at time through my healing process, and sometimes I have had to go back an undo wrong decisions.  I  have thought I needed to break off a relationship and what I needed was time to heal so that I could have good boundaries in my interaction with another.

You may have some relationships that you feel are neutral.  It is okay you have whatI would call acquaintances that you have relationship with but where your problems, nor thiers are really the focus of the relationhsip.  We were made for community.  We were made to need others.  Even if you are by nature more of an introvert, you still need people.  There is strength found in numbers.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.  And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

In building your community it is helpful to explore what you already have.  Cultivating what is already a support for you is a great place to start.  Then focusing on what relationships can be strengthened taking intentional action or looking at your own actions to see how you might be contributing towards the level of support you have.  At times, you may need to engage professional support through your community in building your community.  Professinals can help you explore what other resources you may have available, but may also help as you work towards evaluting the relationship you have that are stressful or completely lack support for your healing.  The goal is to build a community that helps strengthen you as you heal.

 

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This blog post is inspired by Anita Ojeda and the #Write28Days Challenge. The challenge is to write 28 days in February. For more posts on this topic go to Broken Vessel.

 

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More than a number #write28days

When you feel broken it can be helpful to know that you are not alone in your hurt. Understanding that you are not the only one who has walked the path of brokenness can offer a hope in the darkest moments.  The world is full of people who have faced things that could break the strongest person.  Some examples include:

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped in their lifetime.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.

According to the National Institute of Mental Healthan estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 7.1% of all U.S. adults.

According to National Alliance of Mental Illness:

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
  • 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year.
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34.

According to the Center for Disease Control at least 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse and/or neglect in the past year, and this is likely an underestimate.

morethananumberThose statistics are staggering, and yet still likely under reported.  You are not alone regardless of what you have walked through or are walking through.  So many times abusers, fear, or the culture we live in, rob us of the voice to share our experience and begin the healing.  Yet regardless of how many others are experiencing pain similar to you, you are more than just a number in a statistic.  

There is One who does not count you among the numbers, but instead sees you where you are.  He sees your hurt. He sees the broken space.  But He loves you.  You are precious to Him.  He thinks of you often.  He counts the very hairs on your head.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You. Psalm 139:17-18

Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered. Psalm 40:5

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

You are more than a number. You are a precious person.  No matter how broken you may feel, know that you are not alone in your hurt.  Not because others have experienced similar things, but because ... For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

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This blog post is inspired by Anita Ojeda and the #Write28Days Challenge. The challenge is to write 28 days in February. For more posts on this topic go to Broken Vessel.

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Make or Break You #Write28days

There are decisions that we make every day that help determine the space we live in. Whether we live in the broken space or decide to live in the space of healing is largely based on our decisions. There are times when the decision is made on a moment by moment basis. As we begin to make the move towards healing, those moments of staying in the broken space grow shorter and farther apart. However, if we don’t intentionally make the decision to move towards healing, the natural inclination is to stay focused on the broken space.

As much as we hate being broken, it is  the space we know.  It may hurt terribly, but it is controlled.  Even when in the moment it is not controlled, like in the instances of abuse, we have usually learned the cycle.   It is controlled in that we  know what to expect, even though it is not pleasant.  At times, because we know the cycle so well, we can even expedite the painful, just so we can get through it.

This is why so many people seem to take three steps forward and one step backwards during the healing process.  In the moment wanting to see healing is a motivation for change.  Yet every step is met with opposition, and so turning back to what is known is easier.  Until it isn’t anymore.

MakeorBreakyouMaking the decision to move towards healing can be scary.  Living whole is unknown to someone who has only known brokenness.  Whole is forgotten for someone who has lived in the broken space for too long.  Reluctance to take a step is normal.  Taken a step towards healing when the path is unseen takes courage.

If your still in a toxic relationship, making a move towards healing will be met with resistance.  You may need to proceed with precaution if  there is any concern over safety.  Even in healthy relationships, changes can be met with resistance because as one person makes a change, it forces change on others too.  Make a choice to heal anyway. 

You might decide you need to make small steps, with things you really can control. 

  • You might make a choice to look for positives and meditate on those things throughout the day when the broken space is calling your name.
  • You might make a choice to make a healthy connection with a therapist, a friend, a support group, a local church, or civic organization.
  • You might make a choice to read a book about healthy boundaries or something else that will help you in your healing process.
  • You can make a choice  to forgive and move forward.
  • You might make a choice to do something for yourself.


Only you can decide what step you want to take to begin moving towards healing.  Only you can decide to stop focusing what is wrong and looking towards where you want change to occur and focus on making those steps.  Only you can make the choice to chose courage over comfort and control.  You can choose to make  choices to make you or continue to let life break you.

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This blog post is inspired by Anita Ojeda and the #Write28Days Challenge. The challenge is to write 28 days in February. For more posts on this topic go to Broken Vessel.

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Joy in the Brokenness #write28days

Joy may seem impossible when your in the midst of your brokenness, but with God, nothing is impossible.  In fact, the Bible says:

JoyintheBrokenness

JOYINTHEBROKENNESS

My brethren, count it all JOY when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2‭-‬4NKJV

So our trials, that bring the brokenness, can be the cause or an occasion for joy.  I can immediately feel the defenses go up, “You have no idea what trial I am facing. There is no way that it will be the cause for joy.” Just because you can count it as joy, does not mean you will experience the joy it will cause in that moment. 

We have an amazing example of how to find joy in the brokenness.  The example is Christ. He was sinless, and yet suffered all that was required to be paid by us, and did it with joy.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-3

I can not prove it, but I do not believe that joy was the cross. I believe it had to have been what He knew would come, a restoration in our relationship with the Father.

Joy comes through the testing of faith, the producing of patience.  Christ’s faith was tested and His patience was perfected.  It is only when the work is perfect and complete, lacking nothing that the joy we counted on comes.  You can hold on to the truth that joy will eventually come.

Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
Everlasting joy shall be theirs. Isaiah 61:7

You might not be able to see the cause for joy in that specific circumstance of brokenness, but I will bet that if you look hard enough, you can find something else to give you joy in the moment.  If you are a follower of Christ, a Christian, the fruit of His Spirit lives in you.  The fruit of the Spirit includes joy.  It is in you, you have to choose to express it.  Scriptures are filled with causes for joy, just a few from the 150 scriptures that mention joy:

The Greek word for joy used in James 1:2 is charameaning joy or gladness.  In the James 1:2 scripture it is the cause or an occasion for joy.  However, in other verses chara also can mean the joy received from you.  If you find yourself in a time of brokenness, make a decision to do something that will bring another person joy.  Be that cause of someone else’s joy.  It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, but an intentional one.

Joy in the brokenness will not come easily, but it is possible and available in Christ.  We can hold on to the truth that Joy will come.  We can look to things in the midst of our brokenness where we can find joy.  We can also let other’s receive joy through our intentional actions.  Christ is the perfect example of joy in the brokenness.  He faced the cross knowing that the joy before Him would come, His joy was found in God’s presence, and He made an intentional decision to do something for us, regardless of our choice, that could produce joy in us.

 

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This blog post is inspired by Anita Ojeda and the #Write28Days Challenge. The challenge is to write 28 days in February. For more posts on this topic go to Broken Vessel.

 

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Broken Intent #Write28Days

Often times in our brokenness we spend so much time looking for someone to blame.  There may really be a person at the root of our pain.  As a teenager, I was raped.  The only person to blame for my brokenness in that situation was the rapist.  I had a counselor tell me that I had a part to play in the situation.  In a way, she was right, in that I should never gotten in a car alone with someone I didn’t really know.  He was known to me through friends, but as far as fault goes, that is where my responsibility ended.  There was nothing that I could have done that would have made rape my fault.  I know that he has a line of victims and now even an attempted murder charge, but I don’t know what is behind his behavior.

Many times we make an assumption about the intent of the one who we hold responsible for our in our brokenness.  We rarely have all the facts, especially when we make assumptions about the motives of another person’s behaviors.  Behaviors are factual, we can see them with our eyes.  The behaviors that hurt us are factual, and can not be changed; if we can learn factors that led to a person’s behavior we can seek to understand what led to the behavior that hurt us.

Let’s say that I am not be rude and insensitive to you.  I can lie and say I wasn’t, but we both know the behavior is factual.  Nothing can change the way I already behaved towards you.

People who knew me as a teenager would say that is who I am.  It was very characteristic of my behavior for a long period of my life.  I was spitefully  mean.  What people would not have known is that I was hurting.  I didn’t have the words to express what was going on inside of me, and the mask I wore was only taken out on those weaker than me. 

There is a saying that hurting people hurt people.  Despite knowing that, there is still a slow response to help those who are hurting so much that anyone can be their target.  Even trained professionals are more likely to back away from those with ugly behaviors, because hurting people are just difficult to be around.

Broken IntentOn the other side of healing, someone who currently knows me well, would know that something else might be going on in my life, because that is no longer me.  I  do not intentionally hurt others.  I am not rude.  I am compassionate.  I am kind.  I help, I don’t try to hurt.  Yet there are times, when old patterns come out.  There are times where my defenses are down, and hurt does come out.  It is not my intention; usually if that side of me comes out I am quick to take responsibility and apologize.

Yet, another side of my personality is frankness.  I am not someone who likes to dance around a subject and if something bothers me, I will just say it.  To some, I may seem insensitive and rude.  If someone takes my frankness to heart, the result may be a small piece of brokenness.  Because I was being myself, I am not going to think anything about the comment unless it is brought to my attention.    If I don’t know how it made another fell, I am not going to apologize because being rude and insensitive was not my intention,  I wasn’t acting from a place of hurt, but from a place of security.

This is just a small example of how we can read or misread others intentions.  We can not make an assumption on the intent of another’s behavior. When we do we compound our brokenness because our focus will grow the intention into something much bigger than it likely ever was.

However, I have learned something that is even more powerful than trying to learn the intent of someone else’s behavior.  That lesson is to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Very rarely can someone who doesn’t know me really break me.  If someone is close enough to hurt me, I have to hope that they have a heart that would not intentionally do so.

When I can pause long enough to consider that someone was not intentionally trying to hurt me, I can begin to consider what might have brought them to the point of their action.  When I give someone else the benefit of the doubt, I can stop focusing on my own hurt and open my eyes of compassion to how someone else is hurting.   I can choose to focus on the person I blame for my brokenness or I can make it my intent to give them grace in their brokenness. I can offer the same grace to another that Christ offered me.  If I can keep my focus off me long enough, the brokenness can begin to heal.

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This blog post is inspired by Anita Ojeda and the #Write28Days Challenge. The challenge is to write 28 days in February. For more posts on this topic go to Broken Vessel.
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Begin Again #Write28Days

When you’re broken, there are moments, sometimes long ones, when you feel like you can not possibly go on. That moment looks different for each of us. Some moments are a fleeting thought we can capture and move forward, knowing it is a choice to stay there. There are other times, that the moment seems it will never pass, no matter what we try. Yet for all of us, if we chose to stand and face it, the moment will pass, eventually.

For surely there is a hereafter, And your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 23:18 NKJV

Think back, for a moment, to the hardest time in your life. That time where you felt broken, shattered, even destroyed. Several times probably come to mind. Like a movie that you would rather skip all the way through. You can watch to the end holding on to the one thing that makes it worth thinking about. The broken time is now passed. You made it through. You have been pieced back together, and if you look closely, there is gold in those broken cracks.

The gold may look like a lesson you learned, something the experience taught you. The gold may look like a stronger or closer relationship, with yourself, a spouse, someone you care about, or even God. The gold may be a more positive or grateful outlook on life. It may be something you can use to help others. Whatever it is, I can say there is probably some little treasure you can now pull from the broken time in your life, even if you couldn’t see it in the moment.

Maybe you feel you are in that broken moment right now. Your marriage is headed down the drain. Your finances are insufficient and your bills and expenses are multiplying. Maybe it is your health or a family member’s health that is failing or a diagnosis that seems overwhelming. Regardless of what things look like in the moment, no matter how dark, how broken, how unsurmountable it seems, I can say with certainty; “this too will pass.” You will come out on the other side of whatever it is you’re facing right now.

I wish I could give you a timeframe. I can’t, time is a finicky thing. I wish I could give you a guaranteed plan, steps to take to get you to the other side. I can’t, even if you walked in my footsteps; what worked for me, may not work for you. All of us have different journeys.

What I can tell you, is Begin Again. You can not wait for circumstances to dictate your actions. If you wait on your circumstances to change before you do anything different, you may be waiting a very long time.

Start by beginning to change your thoughts. Your thoughts dictate your actions. So begin again to look for the positives. You may have to look far outside your circumstances to find them, but begin. You dont have to deny what your going through, just turn your focus more towards areas that are not broken.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Philippians 4:8 NKJV

As your thoughts change, you will find the energy to give you a hope for the future. You will shift your focus to start taking steps to change things that are within your control. Your actions dictate your circumstances.

Commit your works to the Lord , And your thoughts will be established.
Proverbs 16:3 NKJV

The only thing that can change a broken pot, is to start picking up the pieces and putting it back together. Gluing the pieces takes work, but it is the only way it is going to change.

Begin again by surrounding yourself with people who will encourage your growth. If you don’t have those people in your life, find them. We are blessed to live in a time where we have access through podcasts, books, videos, etc. to people that can pour into our lives in areas where we might not have a personal mentor or coach. Instead of focusing your time on your brokenness, focus it on your healing.

Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established.
Proverbs 15:22 NKJV

A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
Proverbs 1:5 NKJV

When you are at your lowest, decide to begin again. Begin focusing your thoughts on positive things. As your thoughts lift your mood, begin taking steps to bring healing by changing things within your control. As you begin again, surround yourself with people that can encourage and help in your healing.

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This blog post is inspired by Anita Ojeda and the #Write28Days Challenge. The challenge is to write 28 days in February. For more posts on this topic go to Broken Vessel.
Posted in Faith, Restoration | Tagged , ,

Broken Vessel #Write28Days

Broken, an adjective,defined as:

  1. having been fractured or damaged and no longer in one piece or in working order.
    • (of a marriage or other long-term relationship) having ended.
    • denoting a family in which the parents are divorced or separated.
    • (of an agreement or promise) not observed by one of the parties involved.
  2. (of a person) having given up all hope; despairing.
  3. having breaks or gaps in continuity.
    • (of speech or a language) spoken falteringly, as if overcome by emotion, or with many mistakes, as by a foreigner.
  4. having an uneven and rough surface.

Broken VesselWe are all broken.  We all have areas in are life that have been broken whether by negative events like abuse, neglect, divorce, sickness or death; or just the natural course of events like moving out of the family home, having a child, or children leaving home that create a separation in the normal working order of life. Regardless of what or who causes the brokenness in our life, how broken we think we are, or how broken others think we may be, there is a healing that can take place that creates an even stronger, more valuable vessel going forward.

In oriental countries, there is a practice called Kintsugi, an art of fixing broken pottery. Rather than camouflage broken ceramic pieces, the technique employs a  lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Once completed, beautiful seams of gold glint in the conspicuous cracks of ceramic wares, giving a one-of-a-kind appearance to each “repaired” piece. This method celebrates each artifact’s unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them.

In addition to serving as an form of art, Kintsugi represents prevalent philosophical ideas. Namely, seeing beauty in the flawed or imperfect. The repair method expresses regret when something is wasted, as well as the acceptance of change. Kelly Richman-Abdou on September 5, 2019

The next 28 days, I will share secrets from the Word about healing your broken vessel.  God’s Word promises He will be near, He will save, He will heal and He will bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
For some healing takes place instantly.  For others, it takes a lot more time.  There is no wrong or right answer, God knows what is needed and why He needs it to happen in the way that healing comes.  God didn’t cause the brokenness, the fallen world we live in allows bad things to happen.  However, God can use them to bring about good and to bring Him glory if you will allow His richness and strength to infuse your broken vessel.
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This will be the Landing page for the #Write28Day Challenge.  Each day I will add a link for the current writing day. Word Prompts will be used as much as I can just to go with the spirit of the challenge.  This blog is inspired by Anita Ojeda and the #Write28Days Challenge.  The challenge is to write 28 days in February.  For more information or to get involved, go to Write28Day.
Day 10: Experience
Day 11: Ponder This
Day 14: Anemoia
Day 16: Experiment
Day 18: Effective
Day 19: Endure
Day 20: Sparrow
Day 21: Numerous
Day 22: Success
Day 23: Growth
Day 24: Opinion
Day 25: Increase
Day 26: Schedule
Day 27: Relevant
Day 28: Persistent
Day 29: Leap
Posted in Faith, Restoration | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

He stayed

So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. John 11:6

I have heard many messages regarding this passage and interpretations of why when Jesus’ friend Lazarus was sick He did not rush to Lazarus to heal him. Messages that ultimately point to the miraculous resurrection and glory that it brought to God.   However, as I read those words “He stayed.” those words lept off the page. Lately, its the little words, and not the overall story that have been speaking to me in my quiet time.

Knowing the full story, it is easy to see He stayed because He loved His friends enough to let them feel the short term pain to experience the blessing He had for them. He stayed because there was something the others needed to learn. He stayed because others needed to see His plan to bring glory to the Lord. Lazarus was raised from the dead because He stayed.

Jesus knew exactly what would happen to Lazarus.

But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  John 11:4

After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”  The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”  Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep.  Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,  and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” John 11:11-15

He knew that Mary and Martha would grieve.

 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. John 11:33

He knew that the people would gather for the rituals that surround death.

I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” John 11:42 

He knew they would question why He did not act sooner.

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” John 11:37

hestayedHe knew all that would happen because while He was fully man; He was fully God.  He grieved their pain as man.  He stayed as God.

There are times in my life where I have asked “Lord, where are you?” Times I have looked back and said, like Mary and Martha, “If only you had been here.”  As I gain the perspective of reflection on those moments, I can see He stayed for my benefit. He knew what would need to transpire for me to grow. He stayed so I would not look to Him to shortcut the process. He stayed because He knew I would the need the lesson from that moment to carry me in the season of life. He knew the lessons I would need to learn that might seem painful in the moment but would carry me forward in His will for my life.

He stayed because He knew the path I would walk. He knew the people who would cross my path that I could teach. He stayed so that others could learn from me and not have to walk the path of pain or walk on it as long.

He stayed so that I would recognize His hand on my life when I cross the paths of others walking where I walked. He stayed because the only thing I can do is give Him glory. I know, “There but the grace of God go I.” I see it with every hurting person He brings across my path.  I can see that, because He stayed.

I see the miracles that have been brought about in my life because He stayed. No, I haven’t seen the dead raised back to life (although I have met a few people who have experienced that miracle), but I have seen Him resurrect dead things in my life. I have experienced reconciliation in a broken marriage, family relationships restored in perfect timing.  I have been completely broken and felt destroyed, and yet I can see He stayed with me through it all. He walked alongside of me. And those times when I wondered where He was, He stayed silent knowing how things would work out for God’s glory.

There are times, in the moment, where we are left wondering where the Lord is.  We can rest confidently that He has never left us.  He stayed.  We can trust that if He is not acting on our behalf in the moment, that He stayed quiet for God’s glory.

Posted in Faith, Growth Process, Hope | Tagged , , ,

Unopened gifts

The grand tree stands alone, perfectly decorated with little red boxes with black felt ribbons neatly tied. How the gifts are attached to the tree, I can not see, but it is a magnificent sight. I saw multiple boxes opened. Each with varying gifts. Although the boxes seemed small the gifts that poured out of them, like ribbons just kept coming. The boxes seemed to expand like a magicians hat as the gifts were shared. A small gift with immeasurable impact. The picture is burned into my mind, speaking messages still days later.

The picture of the Church. The tree representing Christ, the gifts each of His children, they are available only as they are attached to Him. So many see the small box and see it as insignificant, as if they have nothing to offer. They look at what they see and never attempt to open the gift to share what God has placed inside of it. However as they dare to open the gift, it seems to grow and grow and grow producing more and more and more than they could ever think or imagine.

pablo (3)Days later what strikes me is that a gift doesn’t reproduce until it is opened. It remains a small box pretty to look at, but not good for much else. However, it is not the Lord that opens the gift. The gift is only opened by the receiver.

How often do gifts go unused because we are afraid or unwilling to risk opening them? How often are the left unopened because we’re afraid they are too small or that they will just not be enough? Yet God will never force us to use when He has placed within us. He will not open the gift for us. He has provided gift to us, but only we can open it up to be used. Only we can decide how much to pull out of what He has placed inside. Others may recognize what is inside us. Others may encourage us to see it, to use it, and even try to pull on it, but only we can choose whatvwe do with our gifts.

I think the picture was what I needed in the moment. In came on the wings of a new gift being expressed through me, but I had shared with some friends in the same evening my frustration. I acknowledge some gifts I know are inside of me, I just don’t know how to express yet or use them to God’s fullest design. Other gifts, people recognize in me, but I am afraid of letting the gifts flow from me because it is outside of what I understand or out of my comfort zone. I was frustrated that I have walked with the Lord for the majority of my life and have never had anyone who really has “pulled out” the gifts in me.

I have only recently begun learning how to express some of the things that I have known were inside of me for years. I have safe space to learn to express those gifts, one that I wish I had all along.

As I step out in obedience, I have been encouraged. Its uncomfortable, and scary, and yet freeing and exelerating. It is humbling to know He is using me and exciting when He lets me see I didn’t miss the mark or mess it up. As I pull on what is in the gift box, I am surprised that what seems so little to begin with keeps coming and growing. What He was showing me, is not only a picture that the gifts are there, but that only I can open the gifts in my life for His use. Only I can open the unopened gifts He has given in my life.

Posted in Faith

Encountering Christ

There were six people or groups whose stories we read on the Bible who encountered Christ in the beginning of His life on earth. Those people included Mary, Joseph, the inn keeper, the shephards, Simeon and Anna and the wise men.

Despite these five stories, His life had been prophesied for centuries, and was available for all to discovet. The prophets had told of His coming and provided the information for those who were looking.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:26‭-‬38 ESV

Mary, boldly surrendered to the Word. She allowed God to use her completely, regardless of the cost that could come to her.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18‭-‬25 ESV

Joseph was the protector of the promise. He could have rejected what the angel told him and Mary would have been killed. He could have thought it all just a dream and just walked away without receiving the revelation. Yet in faith, he believed and stood with her. He protected Jesus as his own, and listened to the direction he received through dreams.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Matthew 2:13‭-‬15‭, ‬19‭-‬23 ESV

Then there was the unseen innkeeper. He didnt have room in the inn. He only gave to God what was left, the stable where he kept his own and the travelers’ animals.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:1‭-‬7 ESV

The fourth group was the shepherds. They had an amazing sign that led them to encounter Christ. The angels appeared to them. The shepherds simply obeyed. They encountered Christ and then shared all that they had seen and heard.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Luke 2:8‭-‬20 ESV

The fifth set of people was Simeon and Anna, devout persons to God. They knew the prophecies. They both recognized Him when Jesus was presented to them. They waited thier entire lives for the opportunity to see the Lord. They recognized Him even in infant form by the leading of the Spirit.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:25‭-‬38 ESV

The last group was the wise men. They were the only ones who sought Him out. It was not a short journey, they spent thier lives studying the Word along with many others, but they are the only ones who saw the signs and sought Him out. Their seeking took years. They not only sought Him, but they came bearing expensive gifts.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.
Matthew 2:1‭-‬12‭, ‬16ESV

Even today, as Christians we have the opportunity to choose how we encounter Christ. At times we may respond like Mary and submit completely. We may experience seasons where we spend our time like Joseph guarding the promises we have received. Sadly, there will be times that like the inn keeper, we only give God our left overs because we aren’t willing to make room for Him in our lives. We at times will be like Simeon and Anna, who stand with great expectations, but wait for the Lord to come to us for our encounter. If we are wise, we will continuely seek the Lord and offer our gifts continually as we seek Him.

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