I'm days away from my feet touching the land Jesus walked. This morning I woke up with a profound sense of gratitude. I was remembering myself at eighteen. Fresh out of high school, beat up by life, and desperate to be known. I wandered for a while. Yet, even in my wandering, Jesus was so very faithful. Twenty years later, I find myself thinking about what I would want eighteen year old me to know. I would tell her that the shattered pieces of her life are not lost. Jesus keeps them in the palm of His hand. I would tell her that Jesus believes in her and she is more bold and risk taking than she thinks.
I am amazed at the way my tapestry continues to be woven by His hand. He is so careful, so attentive. He is gentle with the frayed threads, and never discards a single one. I am someone that came to him with all those frayed threads, all those shattered pieces, and didn't even know what to ask for. The only thing I knew to ask for was rest. I was tired, and my soul wanted rest. A fragile yes was all I had, and it was all He needed.
It occurred to me this morning, that me and Jesus, we've got a lot history now. He has turned my heart into a home for Himself. It is solid, sturdy, and built by His own hands. There are pictures hanging on the walls of our favorite moments together. Sometimes we stop and remember.
"That was a good one, huh?" He'll ask with a grin.
"Yeah... it was." I'll smile and nod.
Jesus has become my friend. My best friend. He is all the other things I talk about, too. Healer, Deliverer, Redeemer... but the most intimate, most treasured title He carries is friend. He has stayed with me. Nothing has deterred him from being faithful to me. Nothing has annoyed or angered him about me. When I wander, He sits inside that sturdy home of His and waits for me to return. I always do, and He is always eager to hear about the journey that took me away, but then brought me back. He isn't put off by my sin or flaws and he isn't scared of them. He just listens, tells me what is true, then wraps me in warmth and safety.
My best friend has invited me to come and see the place he called home before I became His home. He wants me to walk the ancient roads he walked. He wants me feel the breeze coming off the sea he walked on. He wants me to smell the blossoms in the garden where he wept. He wants to share with me a place that is special to Him, as I've shared what is special to me over the years.
I am full of expectation even though I don't know what to expect. I can't begin to know what this adventure will entail. I can't begin to know what my best friend wants to show me or tell me. I am simply going out of faithful obedience. I am learning that is all I have to give Him.
I imagine this adventure will be another picture we hang on the wall of my heart, the house where He lives. We'll stop and look at it years from now, and He'll say what he often does.
"That was a good one, huh?"
"Yeah... that was a good one."
We all need a friend who will stay with us, through thick and thin. A friend who will hold us when we're weak, cheer when we succeed and listen when we cry. We all need a friend who will nudge us into adventure and challenge us to walk through the valleys. We all need a trustworthy friend.
What a friend I've found.
Closer than a brother.
It would break my heart, to ever lose each other.
Jesus, friend forever.
Paul gives some clear instruction to Timothy. Be sober minded and endure suffering. This is not the fluffy stuff. It is the mature, gritty, stake in the dirt stuff that demands more of us. I love grace. Grace is what snatched me from the pit of despair. Grace taught me freedom. Grace showed me that perfection is not required, only surrender is. What I discover, though, as I walk further with Jesus, is that grace is not sloppy like some would have me believe. It allows me to stumble, but it calls me to rise up and keep going. It is the hand constantly there, ready to catch me when I stumble. The belief that grace is a free pass to follow the whims of culture just doesn't fit with the Jesus I have come to know.
Sober minded as it is used in 2 Timothy (and one of Peter's letters) is defined, "free of intoxicating influence." Paul says to Timothy, "Be free of intoxicating influence and endure suffering, do the work of evangelism and fulfill your ministry."
Free of intoxicating influence. There are the obvious things like drugs and alcohol but the Spirit of God inside of me says its more than that.
Money can be intoxicating
Sex can be intoxicating
Fame can be intoxicating
Mobs can be intoxicating
Careers can be intoxicating
Fact is, there is not shortage of ways to be under an intoxicating influence in today's world. This brings me back to grace for I find I cannot discuss this sober minded vigilance Paul describes without also examining grace. Grace, in all its precious, majestic and astounding beauty is not something I can put in my own little box and carry around to meet my whims. On the contrary, this astounding measure of grace I've been afforded compels me to set myself apart from everything.
The intoxicating influences of this world abound and without the unmerited favor of God (grace defined) I would be at a loss as to how to overcome any of it. It is all alluring, soothing, exhilarating... no, I don't trust anything in me to withstand such things. I find I must look to grace.
There is nothing free about grace. I live daily with the vivid picture of what this measure of grace cost. It is coated in innocent blood and tears of deep heart rending. It bears scars in its hands and feet. Indeed, there is nothing free about it. It was purchased on my behalf.
And it compels me to be set apart.
The world is getting darker, friends. The scriptures are not mysterious about the reality that as this age comes to an end, darkness will increase. It could be easy to think that the only darkness we will face are the evils of murder and mayhem. I think it will be not only those things. Paul says in the last days (we are in them by the way) many will be lovers of self...
an intoxicating influence, indeed.
This warning Paul gives Timothy echoes to me in 2023. I am certain if I were to ask Paul what I should do in this moment, with all that is swirling around me he would say the same thing.
Be sober minded and endure suffering.
I haven't suffered for this gospel. I will not pretend that I have. But, I have been easily drawn to the intoxicating influences of this world. Intoxicated by entertainment, self promotion, the need for approval...I have faced these in my life and I know just how intoxicating they are. So I know I must lean on grace. I know that this grace I've been freely given came from a cup of suffering and even though I have not tasted that same cup I must live in a willingness too. I must put myself in the position to receive whatever may come, and to stand firm and soberly in it. Grace gives me the freedom to be honest. I openly admit my weakness and inability to follow through on my own. I am, after all, only human.
I think sober minded endurance carves out more places in our soul for God to fill. This standing firm and enduring is the blacksmith that thrusts us into the fire of refining. I have faced some fires. I have been refined, but I am not arrogant enough to think there is not a need for more refining. Standing against the flow of this world's intoxication is part of that refining. And grace will be the arm that holds me secure as I stand.
Grace to you, friend. I pray you are sober minded in all your ways. I pray you will yourself to stand against the flow of culture. All of us must be ready for the fire to refine us. It will come unexpected, it will test us and ultimately, if we let it, change us.
Let the hard come, and let us be ready to endure.
"Be sober minded and endure suffering, do the work of evangelism, and fulfill your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:5
God is not slow. This is something we might all nod our heads at or mumble an amen too, but I wonder if it is easier to say we believe this than it is to actually believe it. The story of God in scripture proves that God is not slow.
After 430 years, God delivers Israel from captivity in a stunning and quick display of power.
After 500 years of silence, Heaven resounds with the cry of a baby, come to save mankind.
After days of waiting, the day of Pentecost brings the Holy Spirit.
I am sure the people waiting wondered if God had forgotten them. I am more prone to believe that I have somehow missed God when I am waiting. Maybe he isn't slow, but maybe I am. At the very root of this fear is the old, worn out voice of religion. It may be old and worn out but it still delivers condemnation with precision.
"God is waiting on you to get it together."
"God is waiting on you to become a better person."
"God is waiting on you to have more faith."
I do know God is patient. Will he delay a plan because my heart needs tending? I think so. I can't give you deep theological reasons why I think it, nor can I quote a scripture that backs this up. I only know my journey with Jesus. I have recently lived through a season of God's patience. I needed time to heal, rest, be restored, cry tears that would nurture the soil of my heart. I know that God made time for me to do just that. He has never launched me forward without shoring up the tender places first.
Nothing forces you to face off with a religious mindset like a season of waiting. For me, past experiences try to interpret current situations. That religious voice loves to capitalize on scars.
"Other people will ruin God's plan for you."
When I see it written out I realize how preposterous it sounds. Who is mighty enough to thwart God's plan for me? The lies we hear and believe are never rationale. They invoke panic, fear and mistrust. And before we know it, we are sure that this waiting is a punishment. So, what is true in all this jumble of lies and experiences and fear?
God is never slow.
This is the cling too truth that must guide faith and trust. God is grand. He is mighty. He is able. And He is not delayed. Not even when I am delayed. It is a mystery, indeed, how the two can coexist, but this is the God I have found. He can be right on time, even when I am slow. It is true that sin interrupts His plan for me. It is true that I can be stubborn and go my own way. Free will is, after all, at work in our relationship. But, even in my stumbling, I have an assurance from my God.
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him' though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand. Psalm 37:23-24
Either those words are true or they are not. If they are true, then I can always come back to him, cling to him, and allow him to make my steps firm. I cannot lose if I hold tight to this. My God is not slow. He keeps a steady hand on me and keeps me from falling.
The waiting is not punishment, it is preparation.
I am sure your story has its own kind of waiting. I am sure you have wrestled much like me, and questioned what you have done wrong, why things are not moving like you thought or the way you thought. Rest, friend, in this truth from our good Papa. He is not slow, but He is patient. He is working out a good plan in your life. It is a plan that, if you let it, will bring His glory to the Earth. What could He be preparing? What glorious story is unfolding? We can wait with great expectation because we have a confident hope and assurance that stands the test of time.
Our God will not fail.
Sometimes, we might find ourselves standing inside of a prison cell, with the door wide open.
That would be where I have been for a while now. I've been standing in a prison cell, seeing the bars around me, and not even noticing the door standing open. There are a lot of reasons for this, more than I can share in one blog post. Past trauma, old thought patterns, new situations that feel familiar and signal the need to shield myself.
Jesus has been drawing me out into the open for years, now. Thirteen years, to be exact. When I first came out into the sun, it was blinding. So many years in hiding caused me to stumble and shield my eyes from this new dawn. I think I've spent thirteen years learning how to live in the light. Darkness was comfortable for a long time, and living in the light required a whole new me.
Shattered pieces of my life had to be picked up by those nail scarred hands and put together in a way that didn't erase the past, but refined it and turned it beautiful. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at once. Life suddenly was in technicolor. I went from being convinced that I didn't have much to offer, to a discovery of treasure. I spent those early years learning how to live in the freedom of these discoveries. And there came a point I realized I wanted to share this treasure with others. I wanted others to know that if they grabbed hold of the hem of Jesus' garment, they would find healing. I was building upon the things God put in my heart, and going where he called me to go. And I thought I knew what was ahead. I thought I understood. And then my life went topsy turvy.
Loss comes in many forms, and that means grief comes in many forms. The death of everything I thought was lasting left me so broken and confused. The loss was palpable. I had not felt this kind of loss before. Not in such a rush. I had grieved many things over the years of coming into the light, but this felt like a storm with waves that swallowed up everything and left me water logged and choking for air.
Grief is a strange companion, but a reliable one. It won't be ignored, it won't be pacified. When it wants attention, it will have it. Grief also leaves a soul as weak as can be. There is no mustering up strength to fight it. One must simply sit in it, and let it speak.
Our first year of life in Utah was marked by survival. Heck, the whole world went into survival. There was no processing anything. There was just getting up, going through the motions, and going to bed. Tears would come in the dark, when I knew everyone was asleep and didn't need me. Tears that felt like they had come from a cavern inside of me. I blinked and a year had passed. Year two brought a little more light, but still was met with pain, tears, surviving, and learning how to walk again. Year three brought a shift. Some opportunities, some next steps. Light glimmering through the forest.
Maybe it would be okay. Maybe it could even be better than before.
I put one wobbly foot in front of the other. I tried new things, allowed hope's warmth to take root. Still, a hesitancy permeated my steps. So much hope deferred. So much disappointment. Would it be wise to hope again?
This brings me to that prison cell, with the door wide open. The Lord revealed this prison cell to me, but it wasn't until recently that I realized why I was staying in an open prison.
I was hesitant to step out. The hurt and grief were so heavy from those last two years that I could only just barely see past it. I knew in my mind that it was time to be free, but those hurt places in my soul whispered not to try. Just in case it could hurt again. I've never battled depression, not even in my darkest moments, but I battled it last year. I felt crazy at times, alone at times, angry at times, helpless at times, and hopeless at times. I prayed. I cried. I journaled. I lamented.
I thought in all that I was missing Jesus, but I see now He was beside me in all of it. I was clinging to him in my wandering.
When we live so long one way, it takes more than a day to learn a new way to live. Hesitant became a protective measure I could deploy in uncertain waters. If I didn't say it, I couldn't be accused. If I didn't do it, I couldn't be attacked. If I stayed in my box, I wouldn't be cut down for trying to step out.
This has been my Crossroads lately. Choose to stay in that cell, because I'm hesitant to step out, or throw all hesitancy to the wind and run out, wild and free. I took a step towards wild and free. Jesus asked me to take an adventure with him across the ocean to His homeland. I said yes, even though I felt hesitant. I know there is more to come because faith will require it.
Another way I'm stepping out of that cell is coming back to where this all began for me thirteen years ago. I sat down one day, and wrote my thoughts out and shared them with others. I spent years doing that, once a week. Life's twists and turns pulled me away from that (and writing novels!) Last year I found myself questioning this writing gift more than I ever have. I wondered if I was dried up, had used all my words. I still have that lingering fear, but I have learned one of the best ways to dispel that fear.
So, I'll be here, writing down the things I need too. Finding Jesus in my everyday. Maybe you'll join me, and maybe you'll find him too.
Maybe together we'll abandon hesitancy and run wild and free.
If you've ever been crushed in spirit, then you know that it is the most lonely, desolate place a soul can be. God knew this, and so he spoke directly to it. He told us what he will do when we are broken and crushed.
He comes close.
Psalm 34:18 is the verse I live by, because I have lived it. I have known the closeness of Jesus in the place of crushing.
Today, there are many who are crushed in spirit. Two days ago, they were not but today, they are. It feels overwhelming even to the outsider looking on because trauma is, by definition, the result of a painful experience that leaves one feeling helpless or terrified.
We can feel helpless in the face of crisis after crisis. We may even be at the place King David found himself many times when he said "How long, O Lord must I soak my bed in tears?"
(Psalm 6) It is normal to feel this way. It is part of the human experience, and Jesus himself experienced it. He was crushed. He was broken. He wept and lamented so intensely that his sweat turned to drops of blood.
How amazing to think that before He even went to the Cross, Jesus shed drops of blood over you and me. He shed drops of blood because of His deep sorrow and lament for what had to happen. In that moment, the entirety of the world's crushing rested on him, and He bore it through deep anguish.
Do not let the enemy convince you that Christ is far removed from our pain. He knows our pain even better than we do.
Today, it is good and right to lament. It is holy to shed tears, just as Jesus often did. It is good to cry out and ask for mercy, and an end to suffering. It is okay to express our overwhelming helplessness and anger to God. By doing so, we prove in whom we've placed our trust.
Not in politics.
Not in presidents.
Not in people.
We cry out to God, because He alone can save us. Lament is not a lack of faith, but a sign of it.
Only one has the power to heal a broken heart and crushed spirit. Only one has the power to restore all things. Only one conquered the grave so that hope can live forever.
Today, we lament, because we must.
May the tears and heart cries be like a river flowing to the throne of God. May we cling tightly to the one assurance we have; Jesus. He is interceding on our behalf. That means he hears our cries. He sees every tear, and He remembers the crushing. And He is with us in it.
Lazarus was dead. And Jesus waited. Four days, to be exact. That is past sort of dead to all the way, tomb closed up dead. Past the point of “God’s got a plan” to, “Well this must be God’s plan.”
I’ve been there. Trying desperately to rationalize why I’m here, where God is, why he didn’t do it the way that seemed right…
Jesus waited on purpose. That struck me as I read this story for the hundredth time. First because He understood His power. He knew that He wasn’t limited by “number of days someone has been dead.” He wasn’t worried. But this wasn’t the only reason he waited. He said it plainly to the disciples in John 11:14
“Lazarus is dead. And for your sake, I”m glad I wasn’t there, because now you have another opportunity to see who I am so that you will learn to trust in me.”
Oh. OH. Could it be that this story is about trust more than it is about the power on display? The power is extraordinary, there is no denying that. But power does not always bring about the fruit of trust.
If it did, hundreds would have stood at the foot of the cross in mourning.
Jesus knew what He was going to do. I don’t believe He was ever surprised by His assignment. He knew Lazarus was going to live. He said as much. It’s the trust part that I’m meditating on today. Jesus said it plainly that He was glad it was taking so long, because it would just reinforce WHO He was and hopefully deepen the trust His disciples had in Him.
How often do I get frustrated because the answer seems delayed? Too often. I wish I always immediately thought to trust Jesus first. But, I find that more often I am just like the disciples, trying to explain to Jesus why this is a terrible idea, or why He seems to be unaware of the circumstances. The reality is that He is delaying often, simply to show me how much I can trust Him. That’s something to think about.
Delay is not denial.
More often, delay is God waiting so that we will know who He is, and trust Him. Now, sometimes there is flat out denial because God is doing something different than we expect or want, but even denial is for our good, if we are devoted to Jesus.
So what do we do during a delay?
We set our eyes on Jesus. We ask, “What are you like?” and we let that season of waiting be about discovering more of Him. Asking questions is a beautiful way to engage with Jesus. He loves our questions. He isn’t afraid of our doubt, and He wants to hear our lamenting.
If you find yourself in what appears to be a delay of provision, just remember that you cannot possibly want your good more than God. He is far more invested in your future than even you. He staked his son’s life on it. In the delay, Jesus is saying to us what he said to the disciples when they faced the death of Lazarus.
“Now you have an opportunity to see who I am so that you will learn to trust me.”
The story of Mary anointing Jesus' feet the week of his death is famous. She used a very expensive oil to anoint Him. Not only did she pour this oil out on Jesus' feet, she wiped his feet with her tears and her hair. This woman interrupts a meal attended by prominent men, religious men. She inserts herself into the moment, and does what no one has ever seen before.
When I discovered how much that oil was worth, I had to ask myself how I would have responded to this moment of adoration. I so much want to put myself at His feet. I want to declare that there is no way I would have been an observer, no way I would have chastised her.
But $50,000 is a lot of money. That's right. The oil she poured out on the feet of Jesus is estimated to be worth $50,000 by today's standards. That is not just expensive perfume. That is enough cost to leave everyone in the room staring in stunned silence, and even angry at her.
Think of how much food you could buy for the poor.
Think of how many coats you cold buy for the cold arms.
Think how many shoes you could buy for barren feet.
I want to say that I would be more than willing to pour out $50,000 on the feet of Jesus, but something inside of me wonders, as if it knows my weakness and frailty. Would I do so, or would I look for my lesser oil, the one not so costly? Would I rationalize my choice to give him the lesser oil because, "I could do a lot of good with that money."
Jesus is everything to me. He has marked my life in a way I could never have imagined. I try at times, to imagine who I would be had He not intersected me in my shame years ago. He healed the shattered places, and made me whole. He is everything. Yet, I wonder. Would I pour out my most costly oil on his feet? And what is my most costly oil?
Forgiveness can be costly. Humility, courage...these things can feel so costly at times that I would rather not pour them out. I would rather hold them back, find a better place or time to pour them out.
Jesus honored this woman. He said we would talk about her for generations to come. He knew what it meant for her to pour out that oil. He knew the cost of her oil, and He treasured it.
Maybe, if I remember that Jesus knows the cost of my oil, I'll find the courage to pour it out for Him. He knows the tears and pain that I walk to get to forgiveness. He knows the trembling of humility and the obedience in it. He knows I am not a risk taker by nature and that when I choose the road of courage, I am pouring out all of me at his feet.
Maybe one day it will be a $50,000 bottle of oil I pour out for Him, or maybe it will always be the choices I make to follow His way of love that are as precious to Him as a thousand bottles of oil.
What oil can you pour out on Jesus' feet? He knows what it will cost you to do so. He'll honor your sacrifice of worship, and He'll tell your story in the halls of Heaven.
And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
For all the years before I encountered the fullness of Jesus, I walked to the beat of a very clear and loud lie.
You're not as valuable as the next person.
Maybe this stems from the moment I chose to follow Jesus as a little girl. There were two of us in Sunday School class that day, watching the story of Jesus play out on green felt boards. And both of us raised our hands when the teacher asked if we wanted salvation. I prayed the prayer, and I knew, in my five year old little heart, that Jesus had come inside and made me different.
That night, when people were giving testimonies of the good things God was doing (anyone else grow up with Sunday night testimony time?!) that teacher gave thanks for the other little girl who had chosen to follow Jesus...but she didn't mention me. To be fair, I was the pastor's granddaughter, so she probably thought I had already prayed that prayer a hundred times. I don't think she had intentions of leaving me out. Nevertheless, I vividly remember the imprint that moment left on my soul.
You're not as valuable as the next person.
When I encountered Jesus some twelve years ago, this was the belief He immediately began to unravel inside of me. He said things like, "I see you, I've always known you, I choose you..." None of those things had played over and over in my heart for all those years before. Abuse, religion, deep pain and brokenness seemed to confirm the lie that I really wasn't as valuable as the next person. When Jesus began showing me his constant presence in my journey, how He had never once turned away, how He had been following close behind me, picking up the pieces of my heart and holding them until I was ready to sit with Him, and heal...
That Jesus was unraveling the lie inside of me, and I found I had no argument to make against the deep compassion in His voice. All these years later, I still find myself circling back to that lie, and finding cracks where it wants to seep in and diminish my identity. It doesn't come in neon letters, screaming. It is subtle. It finds wounds, and speaks through them.
For a long time, religion was the very comfortable adornment I tried adding to myself to make me valuable. Maybe if I just knew more, maybe if I just looked better, maybe if I just obeyed perfectly. Surely these were the answers to my broken heart's need to be known. It's been over a decade now of me pursuing the way of grace, free of religion, but those familiar thoughts come creeping in as soon as I hear that lie....
You're not as valuable as the next person.
Value. What even determines the value of something? Everything in this world is losing it's value, because it's decaying under the weight of a broken world. Money's value is circumstantial. What I own is only as valuable as culture tells me. Even priceless treasures from history are only as valuable as we, the people, make them. I find it very easy to apply this principle to my own value. It's easy to believe my value is circumstantial, based on culture's perception, only as treasured as the people say...
Yet, Jesus. All I see in His three years of work on this earth is constant encounters with the ones who circumstance deemed of less value. I see him encounter the ones people said were not treasured, and call them to His side. When I look to Jesus, I see value taking on a different definition.
I see it becoming who He is in me, not who I am to everyone else.
In Jesus, what was once decaying now begins to increase. I find myself lately, pounding the floor with my fists, and telling Jesus that I am done with the lies. I'm ready to walk in the value of being His. What might that look like, to fully step into the place where man's opinion is of no consequence? I know I'm close to that place of wild abandonment. I see how far I've come, steps I've taken in the last year, and I know that I am so very close...
I see this image often of me, standing on the edge of a cliff, looking over into the beautiful valley below. I know instinctively that I'm standing on the ground where people would approve, and if I jump, I'm jumping into the wildness of being found in Jesus alone. Jesus is there, next to me. He isn't rushing me, He isn't insisting that I jump...but He has said He will jump with me, that we will do it together. I think I'm about done holding back and hesitating. I feel it in my bones, that I'm just about ready to jump off that cliff, with Jesus.
I think maybe many of us are ready to jump. I sense it in conversation with other Jesus lovers. I feel it in my soul...a desire to abandon the plans and precepts of man, for the wild, bold, passionate love of Jesus alone. I'm ready friend. Are you?
Make me as wild as you, Jesus, so consumed with love that I only know how to live in that place of abandonment to you, because I know it now, deep in my bones.
I'm as valuable as the next person, and nothing can change that.
Not a person alive can escape the reality of appetite. The word most often turns our minds towards food, a good starting point for understanding the complexity of the word.
Our family has been on a wild healthy journey for years. Allergies, and auto-immune have led me down paths of nutrition that I never would have explored otherwise. That journey has taught me a few things, and one of those things stands out to me right now.
Appetite can change.
When we began the journey to a different lifestyle of eating, there were things I introduced to my family that none of us had ever tried before. What is a chia seed, what is plant based milk, and for the love someone tell me what I'm supposed to do with tofu? I remember being overwhelmed at first. I could not fathom a life that didn't include cheese, one of my favorite things to eat. Over time, though, I did find a new rhythm. I found what worked, what was definitely out, and what would be the new staples in our pantry. And you know what surprised me in that journey?
How much my cravings changed.
Where once I would crave a bowl of ice cream, or casserole smothered in cheese (hey...I'm southern) I found those things just didn't appeal to me. When I would eat ice cream, I would get the worst head ache. When I ate anything cheesy, the cheese just tasted like rubber. Many of the things I had eaten before, I had lost my appetite for.
Jesus seemed to understand this simple concept of appetites, as well. In fact, He discusses it with a woman, in the heat of the day, drawing water from a well.
"Can I have a drink?" He asks, having encountered her in the heat of the day, alone at the well just outside her village.
With sarcasm she responds, "Ha! You must be really thirsty if you, a Jew, are asking me, a woman, for a drink."
Jesus isn't ruffled by her bitter sarcasm. He gets it. She's lost her appetite for life. She's been rejected, broken, abused.
"If you knew who I was, and the gift God wants to give you, you would ask me for a drink, and I'd give you living water." Jesus replies, calmly.
She looks him up and down, her face betraying her thoughts that he must be a crazy Jew. "Sir, you don't even have a bucket for water, so where exactly are you going to get this living water? "
Jesus is not deterred. "As long as you continue to drink from this well, you'll always be thirsty. But anyone who drinks from the living water I offer will never thirst again."
Never thirst again.
Jesus sees to the heart of the matter. This woman has lived her life unsatisfied. She comes to this well, in the heat of the day because of her shame, because this world, this life has left her completely empty.
"Well, by all means, give me some of this water, Sir. I could surely use it." She stops her back breaking work of hoisting her water bucket, perches it on the edge of the well, and stares fully into the face of this very odd man.
"Okay. Go call your husband, and come back with him," Jesus replies gently.
She looks away. Down into the deep darkness of the well, that mirrors the condition of her soul. "I'm not married." This man is making her uncomfortable. What does he want from her?
"True. But you have been married five times." Jesus says the words so calmly, so plainly.
"Oh great, you're a prophet. Well, Prophet, where exactly am I supposed to worship? Because my people can't seem to agree with your people." She is clearly agitated.
"The time has come, where anyone who wants to worship, will be free to do so, no matter where they live. Because worship will now be about the heart, no matter where you live." Jesus is standing now, and walks a bit closer to the woman.
"This is all confusing. You are confusing. All I know is someday the Messiah will come and maybe then I'll find some answers." She reaches out to hoist her heavy bucket of water onto her shoulder when he whispers words that seem to echo deep in the cavern of her soul.
"You don't have to wait any longer. I am He."
The woman's life is changed from that day. The first to hear the news, that the Messiah had come. The first evangelist for Jesus. And maybe, just maybe, the first to grasp the truth that at last, at long last, her appetite for peace, love, hope...at last it was all being fulfilled.
The woman Jesus met was bitter, calloused by life. The world's cravings had left her hollowed, empty. But the woman who rushed back to her village to tell everyone about Jesus was a woman who had found a craving worth satisfying.
A woman who, finally, had found the food of life.
Appetite is everything, I say. What I crave, I pursue. The good news is that what I crave can be changed. Just like I changed my eating habit all those years ago, and lost my taste for cheese, the same can happen in my spirit. In a moment, I can encounter King Jesus, who showers my soul with living water, so that my thirst is finally quenched, my appetite finally satisfied.
The odd part of following Jesus is that, though we are satisfied with Him, we continue to crave more of him. He's the only craving I've found, that both satisfies and makes me hungry for more all at once.
What are you craving, friend? Are you like the woman at the well, tired and worn from chasing appetites that have left you hollowed and starved? The hope here is that appetites can change. Cravings can change.
And the truth here, is that as long as you crave and pursue the appetites of this world, you will always be left empty. Like the woman at the well. Shame will find you in that empty place, and tell you you are defeated. Isolation will be your companion in that dark place, where you feed those cravings. Jesus is your only hope for satisfaction. He's the only craving that will nourish your soul.
Jesus, be the craving of my soul. Be the food of my life, the water that quenches my thirst. Let me, like the woman at the well, abandon my water jar, and run into the highways and byways to let others know that I've found it. At long last, I've found the water that quenches my thirst, and the food that satisfies my life.
"All at once, the woman dropped her water jar and ran off to her village and told everyone, “Come and meet a man at the well who told me everything I’ve ever done! He could be the Anointed One we’ve been waiting for.” Hearing this, the people came streaming out of the village to go see Jesus.
I think we all like to have a plan. I felt the tug of this recently, when we went back to what was home for ten years. I knew the question would come up of what we have been up to, and how our ministry is going. I will be honest, friends. I was tempted to focus on the things that might somehow validate where we are, eight months into this new season, because if I'm very transparent, I had a whole different vision for where we would be eight months in. The issue was not with those who care about us and asked the normal questions that come from seeing someone after an extended separation. The issue was with my own heart and that demon of performance that Jesus RID me of years ago, but still comes whispering lies every so often.
After the first attempt to answer these predicted questions with a list of what is “in the works” I felt the conviction of God’s Spirit and heard his whisper…
“You don’t need to justify to others what I have called you to.”
I felt that. Big time. How many years of my life were spent working hard to justify myself before man? How many years were spent trying to make my words and deeds fit into someone else’s box?
I did an about face after that moment of conversation with my Papa. I repented for my wrong thinking and answering. Then, for the rest of our trip, I answered with the truth.
The truth is, Jesus had much different plans for how we would begin this new season. That's why the idea of being obsessed with plans is so comical, really. How much can we plan, and control? Not a whole lot, as 2020 is teaching us all. And then add to that, how often we think we know what we need only to find out that Jesus knew a WHOLE lot better than we did what we needed. And yet, we plan and plot. What we planned to do was jump in to the next assignment right away. What we planned to do was dive head first into all the things. What Jesus planned was for deep, extended and healing rest.
Did you know that when Jesus calls you to an extended season of slow down and rest you will be forced to wrestle with your identity?
You will come face to face with JESUS and have to determine if He is enough. Is he enough if you have no title, no plan, no massive mapped out vision? Is he enough if the culmination of your ministry in that season is that you meet your neighbor and have them over for dinner or quietly serve in a community where no one knows your name?
These are the questions that rise up, and that we must answer when all that is left is Jesus.
I have boldly prayed for years now, “Jesus, purify my heart,” and I will tell you, that is a no joke kind of prayer. Because if I pray it, I can bet on Him to come through with the exact circumstances that will reveal the deepest, most hidden place inside of me. He has done SO MUCH good work in my heart. I cannot even write in words all He has done over the years. And yet, there is never a moment that I don’t need to pray that prayer again, because I am always in need of a deeper cleansing, a deeper revelation of truth.
So, how did I start answering that question of “How is it going in Utah?” after my moment with my Papa? With total honesty. It’s been hard and beautiful all at once, because I have peace in the deep place that all Jesus wants from our family is to do the next right thing, even though I might not know today what that will be tomorrow. It’s not going how I thought it would, or even at times how I think it should, but it is going exactly as Jesus wants.
Don’t get me wrong, now, friends. We are eager to run, to plan, to do wild things for Jesus. That hasn’t changed in this season. And this hasn’t been a season of abandoning those dreams. It’s a season of pause. A season of reset, refining, and reordering.
Maybe what we thought we needed before this season isn’t what we need at all for Jesus to be made famous. Maybe we can just show up, like little children on Christmas morning waiting for Mom and Dad to put our presents at our feet.
This is who He is, friends! He is a God of rest. He is a God of relationship. He is a God that is willing to put a pause on any plan if our hearts are broken and tired and needing rest.
He cares more about the condition of my soul more than the condition of my plans.
I look back at month two of this season and I breathe a sigh of relief. Are you kidding me? The last thing we needed then was to plunge head first into a new assignment. The last thing we needed was a new to do list. I can’t even imagine where we would be today if we had followed THAT plan. Oh, to trust Jesus who knows so much better than I do what my soul needs.
I’m pretty sure if you are reading this, you can identify on some level with this struggle. I mean, didn’t we all just go through a season where everything was stripped down to the minimum? Didn’t we all just emerge from a season where ALL of our plans were completely wiped out and reordered?
Now, if you are reading this and cringing a bit because you are a planner, I totally get it, friend. Your planning self is revolting. “But...wait...I think I need some kind of plan, don’t I?” I won’t try to answer that for you, friend. I can’t answer it for you. That’s between you and Jesus and what He is speaking to you. I can only share where He has brought me in this eight month journey, and it is this right here...
My lack of plan has left me staring at Jesus with childlike wonder.
Perhaps this is the better way. Perhaps I was never meant to be such a grown up, but always a little girl who twirls and dances with her Papa and then waits for Him to surprise her with beautiful Christmas morning gifts. Maybe when I’m busy planning, I miss the gift of dancing with HIm, and seeing the gifts He is freely giving.
I’m convinced that Heaven is a Christmas morning kind of place. If that’s so, then I want to be the child rushing to the tree early in the morning because I just couldn’t sleep and I HAVE to open those gifts. And I already know what the Heaven Christmas gift is.
Jesus. The gift is Jesus, friend. Our plans, our blueprints, our maps, they are all fine, but they aren’t the goal. They aren’t the end result. They aren’t the childlike wonder that we are created to live in.
Jesus is the plan. Jesus is the blueprint. Jesus is the only map I need to follow. If I choose him over my well laid plans, then the pressure is off for me to perform. My eyes are on Jesus. Will I need this lesson again on plans and trust and childlike wonder? Most likely. But that’s okay. Because I know His heart for me. I know Him, and He is enough.
Eyes on Jesus, friend. Let’s make that our plan.