Category Archives: Resources

Peace for the Broken

She lingered in the shadows, hearing a distant crowd draw near.  Her body a mere shadow of who she once was, frail from years of ailment and failed treatments.  Twelve long years had taken their toll.  What began as a simple bleed perpetuated into more than a decade of tests, treatments and tortured hope.  Every penny spent, every ounce of dignity gone, this woman bore within her veins a hopeless cause.  She had endured much at the hands of physicians trying to heal her constant hemorrhage.  Not a person in town didn’t know of her condition as illness bore witness over every ounce of her being.  For twelve years she had pursued all possible options and remedies.  But at the end of it all, she remained diseased, destitute and discouraged, worse off than ever before.  The crowd now came into her view.  Rumors of this Jesus has spread through the town.  A miracle man, a great healer, a prophet.  Some even called Him the Messiah.  As she heard their voices grow louder, this decrepit woman felt one last flicker of hope, that final spark before the flame completely went out.  Could this be the day?

This woman’s account in Mark 5:25-34 is a classic miracle story, one that had grown familiar.  But as Week Six of You Belong To The Bridegroom brought me to these verses again, I was able to see this passage with fresh eyes and a new perspective.  The Word of God IS living and active!  This was a woman who had spent over a decade in pain, isolation and shame.  At that point in history, Old Testament law still ruled in Jewish society.  Leviticus 15:9 & 25 states that any woman with bleeding was considered unclean as long as the bleeding persisted and anyone who touched her would become unclean as well.  So for twelve YEARS this woman was considered a source of defilement and shunned.  In remembering the Pharisee’s assumption that a boy was born blind because of either his or his parents sin (John 9:2), its safe to assume this woman bore the same judgement as well.  Unclean, outcast, shamed.  She had tried every remedy, spent every penny, saw every physician she could.  Yet she remained afflicted.

Matthew Henry said it well, “It is usual with people not to apply themselves to Christ till they have tried in vain all other helpers and find them, as certainly they will, physicians of no value.  And He will be found a sure refuge, even to those who make Him their last refuge.”   This precious woman found such words to be true that day.  She knew her desperate need for Jesus’ touch: “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” (Mark 5:28)  Braving the shame and mockery she would face for going out in public, let alone a crowd, she pressed through the crowd till at last she touched the back of His robe.  Instantly she was healed!

The Scriptures tell us what healed this woman as Jesus “perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth.” (vs. 30)  As I wrestled with this phrase, I went back to the original Greek roots and came to a beautiful realization.  This “power” was no superhero, ultra-zap that my mind often assumed.  In true translation, it was Christ’s virtue – the full essence of Himself – that healed the woman.  Wow!  Christ and Christ alone brought healing to a woman.  How often do we seek His hand when it is His fullness that we so desperately need?!

Jesus knew this secret act of faith by the woman.  It pleased Him, it drew His attention, it was of utmost importance to Him.  This woman who felt unworthy of His attention but desperate for His power realized she would not go unnoticed.  She approached her Healer “fearing and trembling…and fell down before Him” (vs. 33)  The woman was wholly honest, vulnerable and humble before Jesus.  The Savior of the world stopped all the commotion around Him, fixed His full attention on a woman bowed low at His feet, and gave her restoration.  True, she could have been healed of just her physical affliction that day but as many of us know to be true, the emotions that had grown so familiar would have carried on.  Even without the bleeding, would she still define herself as outcast, wretched, ashamed?  How beautiful is the love of our Savior!  “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” (vs. 34)  The woman sought mere healing; the Messiah bestowed a greater gift – peace.  He desired to remove more than her physical ailment; He desired to lift her head.

We are all this woman, battered by life’s circumstances.  Our afflictions may vary but our heart cries are all the same.  “If only I can get to Jesus.”  Beloved, His arms are ever open wide!  Cast away the shame that binds.  Press through life’s crowds and commotion to be with the only One who can set us free.  May we all find what He bestowed on the broken woman that day.  Peace.

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Withered

I’m currently going through You Belong To The Bridegroom (seriously cannot recommend this study highly enough!  Get it!!).  This week finds me in Mark 3:1-6, a passage familiar which packed a new-found punch.  In college, I traveled to India for two weeks and while there, one of my travel companions, Cara Powers George, shared an impactful message on this passage.  Today’s time in these six verses brought her words to memory as the Lord spoke fresh revelations to my heart.

The passage tells of a man with a withered hand who has a life-changing encounter with Jesus.  We know not why the man’s hand was withered.  Was it a birth defect?  A horrible accident?  The result of intentional harm?  No matter the source of his impairment, this man carried a physical reminder of weakness, inability and shame.  Every.  Day.  But rather than hiding in life’s shadows, we find him in the synagogue, the place of worship and teaching of Scriptures.  He had come to the place of religion but that day, he met the Source of Salvation.

Jesus called the man to Himself.  “Get up and come forward!”  One of disability, I wonder if the man blushed at the attention, slowly rising from the back of the room and walked timidly to the center of the synagogue.  Did he hide his hand beneath his cloak?  How often we too hide in our shame, embarrassed of the marks we carry of life’s afflictions and poor decisions.  Even in churches, we come knowing we ought be there or hoping answers will be found, yet put on a happy face, hiding the disfigurements we all carry behind smiles and cliches.

As he reached the Savior, this man heard the words, “Stretch out your hand.”  Expose your withered hand, your inability, your source of pain.  The very hand that had defined and limited the man was precisely what Jesus desired.  Bring it out from hiding into the light.  What struck me most in this passage was not just the Lord’s desire for the disfigured, but how He chose to heal him.  Verse 5 tells us that the man stretch out his hand (comma) and it was restored.  Notice the order!  The hand was restored after he exposed it to Jesus.  The man’s willingness to stretch out his hand, to trust Jesus with his greatest shame, brought forth His healing.  The Lord honored the man’s trust and obedience in restoring his hand.  How often He calls me to bring my withered parts to Him with healing in mind, yet I remain impaired by my own pride to keep it hidden.

I love how Jesus called the broken to Himself.  He was surrounded by Pharisees in this moment.  Men of discipline, knowledge and religious perfection.  Yet it was the man of withered hand, standing in the back shadows, that drew the Lord’s attention and affection.  Jesus did not ask the cause of this man’s brokenness.  In fact, He already knew it all.  But the cause was not of concern to the Lord.  Only that he would come forward and trust the messy result into His keeping.

We all have withered places: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.  We all carry scarred results of past decisions and harmful afflictions.  But try as we might, we cannot mend ourselves.  Jesus calls us all to get up out of our shame and hiding, to come forward into His presence and to stretch out our disfigurements to Him.  Jesus loves us.  He longs for us.  And it is in our vulnerable trusting that His healing takes place.

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When Hope Seems Lost

This week overflowed with struggle and heartache.  Friends in pain, a terminal baby boy born and lost, a life-saving transplant seeming just out of reach, a new diagnosis plaguing one who has suffered much already, a beloved teenage boy’s life ending suddenly.  My heart has been heavy for people I love whose anguish I cannot ease.

Then yesterday happened.

Everything in me aches for Newtown, Connecticut.  My mind still can’t grasp the devastation the families of Sandy Hook are experiencing.  20 CHILDREN murdered.  Tears flood my eyes every time I think about it.  While our family celebrated Eliana’s first Christmas musical performance at school and laughed at Evan’s entertaining antics, other families were being recklessly shattered.  I know the pain of loosing a child, seeing their end near over a long period of time.  I cannot begin to fathom the agony of having your child’s life stolen so violently, so senselessly, so brutally!  Final words left unspoken, last goodbyes and I love yous never exchanged.  Why?!  Picking up Eliana from school became a luxury yesterday.  Hearing breath fill Evan’s lungs as he slept on my shoulder – a freshly appreciated gift.  My mind cannot contain the evil in this world, my heart overwhelmed by the pain it causes.

As thoughts raged and fear loomed closer, the words of a cherished song began to play gently in my mind.  Throughout the night and into this morning, Holding Us has grown louder in my ears as the Lord reassured my aching heart.  Written by my friend Josh Via during a season of great trial and uncertainty, its words hit home like never before.  I hope every person in Newtown…in our country…can hear this song.  Written out of suffering and based completely in Truth that never fails, it is a melody of hope for hopeless times.  May its truth still your restless heart today, drawing your gaze from fear to faith in God who holds us.

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Pinning Inspiration

I find when there is a lesson, quality, memory verse, mindset or habit I’m trying to gain, I need to be reminded of my goal.  Often.  Very often.

Enter Pinterest.  This has become my go-to tool for visual reminders.   I’ve been gathering artistically displayed verses and quotes on a board titled “Points To Ponder”.  I’ll select a pin fitting my current circumstance and display the image as many places as possible.  Seeing these reminders throughout the day has really helped my growth in desired areas, memorizing verses more quickly and often restoring my mindset on frazzled days.

One great place to display such prompts is on your phone or desktop.  For example, recently I was struggling with feeling overwhelmed.  I grabbed a pin from my Pinterest board, copied the image to my phone’s wallpaper and voila!  My mind was directed towards the Lord EVERY time I used my phone.  Every call, every text brought this verse to mind.

Its a little trick that I’ve found greatly helpful.  Hopefully it will encourage you too.  Get pinning!

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The Snare Of Comparison

Comparison.  A tug and a trap.  The older I get, the more I realize how dangerous comparison to other people can be.  Amidst the craziness of life, I find myself easily tempted to hold up my experiences and surroundings with others.  And as my pastor, Jimmy Carroll, wisely says, we often compare up.  When my kids are misbehaving, my thoughts quickly go to the many friends I have whose kids seemed well-behaved.  When my house is disheveled, I remember their orderly homes.  When my walk with the Lord feels dry, I’m quickly reminded of those who seem to be intimate with Him always.  When I see someone’s strength, it often makes me ponder my weaknesses.  Compare becomes despair.

In those moments, what I fail to remember is their kids also have meltdown days.  No child is perfectly behaved all the time.  When I’m frustrated by a weakness, I neglect to recall my strengths.  When I become consumed with the gifting of another, I’m wasting opportunities to use and strengthen the giftings He has given me.  When their clean home comes to mind, I don’t remember that it was clean because company was coming over or the other times when my own has been orderly.  When I feel discouraged that my walk isn’t at the level of so-and-so’s walk, I’m not considering the dry seasons they too have experienced nor the trials that grew their walk with the Lord.

Comparison can be a shoddy lens.  While it is wise to observe characteristics and habits in those we admire to better strengthen ourselves, we must remember that we are ALL uniquely made by a loving Creator.  He gives us all a beautiful life inheritance, giftings and a future.  (Psalm 16.6, Jeremiah 29.11).  When consumed with what we lack or struggle in, we are restrained from living fully the life He has perfectly crafted for us individually and end up being poor stewards of what has already been entrusted to us.  I have wasted years resenting the successes of others in areas I desired for myself.  How kind the Lord has been to show me this error.  It was His loving design to lead me down the path I’m on.  He has given me gifts and talents for good were I to actually develop them rather than waste my energies coveting the giftings of others.  (1 Corinthians 12.7-26, 1 Timothy 1.6-7)  As I was recently reminded in Radically Obedient, “We miss the joy and freedom of radical obedience, of becoming all that God has designed us to be, when we try to be like someone else.”  The LORD defines His plans us.

So if you find yourself scoping the circumstances of others and coming up short, take heart.  Be mindful of what you are comparing yourself to and the incomplete picture it may be.  Remember that we are ALL a work in progress.  We ALL have been entrusted with amazing gifts, talents, and blessings.  Focus on what He has given you and celebrate His gifts to others.  With a heart of gratitude and humility, we can avoid the snares of comparison and live out fuller lives.  All to the glory of God.

 

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Living And Active

I recently completed Radical Obedience: The Joshua Study for the second time.  To say this study is life-changing would be a stark understatement.  This Scripture-saturated 9 week study by Aliene Thompson dramatically impacted me the first time through three years ago.  Going through it again only furthered its impact and has left me changed for the better.  Aliene has brilliantly written this study in such a way that the Word truly speaks for itself.  Nothing is conjured.  Rather, it guides the reader in learning to hear the Lord’s voice through the whole cannon of Scripture.

“The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword.  It penetrates to divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow, discerning the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  Hebrews 4.12

Radically Obedient brought this truth to new light in my life.  As I went through the Scriptures, the Lord spoke often to my heart.  He exposed root issues in my life, showed me areas I needed to confess and grow in, and gave me a deeper perspective of His magnificent grace.  I was stretched as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, Christ-follower and friend.  Though my life circumstances are far different now than my first time through this study, He worked through it to profoundly impact me today.  Fresh manna.

PLEASE!  Get this study!  Not because Aliene has written it so well (though she has) nor because Joshua is an amazing book of the Bible (though it is).  Get this study because the Word of God is its sole focus.  His Word IS living and active!  Allow it to penetrate your heart and change you for the better.  No matter your circumstances or season, there are treasures to be found within its pages.

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Bloom

Its tempting.  That persistent pull during stressful moments and amidst the chaos of motherhood.  When it seems you’re treading water just to make it through the day, yearning for bedtime to finally come for a brief respite from life’s ever-rushing flow.  It whispers in the mundane as I fold yet another load of laundry and look at the messy room that was clean just moments before.

“I can’t wait for this season to be over.”

I have found myself wrestling with this tug to look more towards tomorrow than enjoy whatever is held in today.  Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely ADORE my children!  I’m beyond grateful that I’m able to stay home to raise them in these small years.  What a blessing to have a home to keep and a full fridge of food to prepare.  All gifts.  All luxuries.  All able to wear me out more than I’d like to admit.  Motherhood has proven thus far the most refining role I’ve held yet.  Sacrifice.  Selflessness.  Patience.  So much patience.  ‘Tis not a glamorous job but oh so worthwhile.

As I’ve wrestled with this pull during today’s struggles to be more eager for tomorrow’s elusive ease, the Lord continues to bring this passage to mind.  Oh how I need it!

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for me, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3.23-24)

Whatever you do.  Whatever.  Whether folding laundry for the millionth time or cleaning another dirty diaper or putting down the book that you’d really like the chance to read to give your child a needed hug, do it ALL for the glory of God.  When tomorrow’s dreams feel like they lay on the back burner in order to accomplish the needs of today, work at today’s tasks as unto the Lord.  Rather than hoping this season will quickly pass because of my own shortcomings and impatience, I ought embrace the gift of today that He has given me.  After all, the whole of life is a sum of todays.  If I spend it all looking towards the tomorrows rather than embracing the now, I will have squandered it all.

Jim Elliot once said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  In other words, bloom where you are planted.  That is my hope, my prayer, the lesson I continue to struggle in learning.  When the tugging comes to wish away the present struggles for tomorrow, may I remember that it is the Lord Jesus whom I serve.  May I work at all before me as working unto Him, knowing if this is the season He has for me, then it is for a good purpose and I can trust Him in it.  After all, today is but a wisp, here for a moment and then gone forever.  May I be found faithful in His sight.  May I bloom where I’ve been planted.

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