Sighs too deep for words

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Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ~Rom 8: 26-27 (NRSV)

Have you ever found yourself in a place where words just seem too insignificant for what you are feeling?

When I know I should pray, but the words won’t come when I want to cry out to God but all that surfaces is this welling up from inside of me, I am confident that God even knows these prayers. The comfort I receive in my darkest hours is knowing that even though I may not know how to pray, the Spirit- God’s Spirit will pray for me. In my weakness; God himself prays for me.

On the days when fear raises its ugly head when life doesn’t go the way I planned when I think I am alone in my struggles, I take a deep *sigh* and I am reminded that God’s Spirit is deep within me sighing too. Saying what I can’t. In my sigh, I lift up my eyes and say “You know my heart, God. You know when I lie down and when I get up. You know that I don’t have strength for this day.” My hands are not lifted because I give up. My hands are lifted because I surrender to the One who knows all my tomorrows and has my best interest in mind.

Romans 8:24-25 says, “We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.” Because of my hope, I looked upward. My hope saves me. I hope for what isn’t right now. I hope for the possibilities of what might be. Against all hope I wait patiently… and when I can’t hope anymore the Spirit prays for me.

When I am weak I am strong because it is God’s strength that works in me (2 Cor. 12:10). When I don’t have the strength or enough hope to lift up a prayer His Spirit prays my prayer.

So I sigh again Lord. Every breath I breathe is from You. Your breath flows through me. You sustain me. You shield me. You love me like no one else can. I know You hold me in Your hands. My hope is in You. Amen. 

Checking off my list

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I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it’s sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. ~Romans 7:15-20 (CEB)

Jesus doesn’t have a list for me to check off. He is looking to have a relationship with me. To have a relationship with Jesus I have to move beyond practicing the act of religion into a reality of really experiencing him.

I deal with so many expectations of what life should be and I find I do the same with religion. Religion taught me to think about “what would Jesus do”. A relationship requires me to trust Jesus to do what he would do through me. Expectation in any area is dangerous but when I apply expectations to Jesus it keeps me from knowing who he truly is.

Jesus calls to us. He wants to bridge the gap between perceived control to a holy trust, between how things used to be and how they can be. Jesus wants me to know that he accepts me as I am and not just how I should be.

No matter how much I want to do the right thing, I can’t. No matter how hard I try to do good it seems I consistently miss the mark. The desire to do good is inside of me. On my own I am nothing. With Christ working in me I can be more than I am. With Christ I can do more than just try hard.

Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.” The world teaches us to “try hard”. It falsely promises that if we only try hard we will be successful, but only through Christ’s transforming powers can I be more than I am. God’s promise is that I can do anything if He is my strength (Phil. 3:14).

Checking things off the list is “self” reliance, trying harder doesn’t create love. From the beginning of time God’s love existed. I don’t have to earn what is already mine. Jesus didn’t come into the world to create more bondage. He came to remind me of a love that has always been mine. Jesus doesn’t want me to be trapped in the try-hard life, he wants me to experience the freedom of letting him work through me.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your son into the world to set me free from the try-hard life. Thank You for the reminders that I am not to “do good” on my own but that I am to let Christ work through me to achieve Your will. Continually renew and transform me so that I may discern Your will for my life. Amen.

 

 

 

Trying to be

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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. ~Gal. 5:22-25 (CEB)

Faith does not always come easy. Sometimes it comes after a long road of holding on to the “I can do it myself”, after a last-ditch effort at “self” control. Often faith doesn’t come until we have tried everything else. Am I trying to be who Jesus wants me to be or do I trust Jesus to be who he is in and through me?

Only Jesus can be Jesus. And he wants me to have faith to let him be himself through me. Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit.” A few years ago there was a catchphrase, WWJD, “what would Jesus do?” Without relying on the Spirit to work through me this quickly becomes about my performance. But if through my faith, his spirit lives in me then I will see fruit of the spirit begin to show through me. We will know we are living by the Spirit when we see “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control.” (Gal 5:22-23)

Receiving faith does not happen automatically in the life of a believer. To live by faith I have to get rid of the “try hard life” and experience the truth of what it means to let his spirit flow through me. I need to let the peace of Christ rule my heart. By opening my hands to let Jesus work through me I am able to watch with hopeful expectation letting peace do peace-like work.

Heavenly Father, I want to do your will. I try so hard yet it seems that I am always falling short of what I think should happen. Help me to let go and let You work through me. Through me let Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control shine. Amen.

 

Come away with me

10152116692432285The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things… When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.~ Mark 6:30-34,53-56 (NRSV)

Sometimes I forget how important those quiet moments away with Jesus really are. Jesus knows that His disciples are grieving, confused, tired, worried, scared…and His comfort to them is to “Come away with Me….”

Life can be so chaotic. In my busy-ness I begin to worry and fret. I’m tired… sometimes I am so spiritually exhausted – physically, emotionally, and spiritually, so bone-weary. At times I feel pulled in so many directions. The more tired I get the less clear I am able to think which induces more tiredness and soon I am spiraling out of control. What do I need most at this time? Rest and quiet!

A quiet place and rest? Well, where I am in life a quiet place away just seems like a wishful thought. When I do find those quiet, restful moments, they are often laced with the guilt of all that I should be doing. If I don’t take the time to rest I quickly find myself back in the place where I begin to rely on my own strength and willpower. If I don’t take time with God I forget quickly where my real source of power and strength lie.

What I need most is the presence of God. Before I reach the point of exhaustion I need to carve out space to let God speak directly to my heart. Food and rest revive my body but they are just not enough to revive my spirit. Jesus didn’t just tell his disciples to go away to a quiet place, but he called them to be with him. Getting away wasn’t enough. Resting and being alone wouldn’t rekindle their spirit for service. Only the presence of the Lord can renew, restore, revitalize, reinvigorate and re-establish my spirit.

No matter how much I may long to, I cannot stay in this quiet place. There is work to be done. The disciples and Jesus didn’t stay away. A time of rest and rejuvenation is important but there is still work to be done. Examples of Moses and Elijah getting away to the mountain for time with God show us how beneficial it was to go up to the mountain and spend time with Him but there always came the time to come back down from the mountain and continue on in the work they were called to do. Time with God is meant to give me the strength to go about my work, it is not meant to be a permanent hiding place.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for quiet moments and mountaintop experiences that remind me who I am and Whose I am. I thank you for renewal, restoration, revitalization and reestablishing Your spirit within me. Amen.

Living hurts

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The Lord God’s spirit is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn, to provide for Zion’s mourners, to give them a crown in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, a mantle of praise in place of discouragement. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, planted by the Lord to glorify himself. They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities, places deserted in generations past. ~ Isaiah 61:1-4 (CEB)

Let’s face it, living hurts. No matter how carefully we try to move through this life, even the most careful person WILL GET HURT. If you think you are the only person who has ever been hurt look carefully in the eyes of the people you meet and you can see that there under the surface they hurt too. Oh, the pain that has been inflicted on them may be from a different source or go by a different name but everyone has experienced hurt.

We don’t have to stay in our pain. God wants to move us to a new place. He has a promise of a better life for each one of us. Henri J. M. Nouwen in his book, Bread for the Journey says this, “Nobody escapes being wounded.  We all are wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.   The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’  When our wounds cease to be a source of shame and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.

Jesus is God’s wounded healer: through his wounds, we are healed.  Jesus’ suffering and death brought joy and life.  His humiliation brought glory; his rejection brought a community of love.  As followers of Jesus, we can also allow our wounds to bring healing to others.”

Now it is not our first instinct to go out sharing our hurts with other people. Our first instinct when we have been hurt is to hide what has happened. Our initial smiles despite the pain become a permanent mask instead of a temporary shield to get us through the moment. Before we know it we stop searching for understanding, our pain becomes a prison and we are bound and chained to what we do not want to be. It is what we” know” and so we hold onto those chains as tightly as they hold onto us.

“The beautiful thing is we don’t have to stay in our chains, we don’t have to live behind masks and we don’t have to pretend to be strong. We can have real life. “We have a God who knows what it is to sacrifice. Christ became weak and vulnerable, releasing his right to be strong. He was exposed, releasing his right to hide. He was disrespected, releasing his right to a good reputation. He forgave, releasing the right to take offense. He was rejected, humbled, and emptied. He gave up his life in order to give it to you.

When you let go of those things you have let define you all your life, you will not be left with nothing. The story of redemption and healing is that Jesus came to exchange my not-good-enough with his better-than-I-ever-could-imagine. He came to trade my life for his, my weakness for his strength, my ashes for his beauty.” (Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. Freeman)

Being defined by my hurts is not really living. Taking down my mask and finding my definition though Christ gives me a freedom to be me. When it is safe to be me I am able to lift my head up and look into the eyes around me and I find that I am not as alone as I once thought.

Heavenly Father, Thank You for sending Christ into the world so that through his sacrifice I can find peace and joy. Thank you for making it safe to be me, for bringing me out of the darkness and into Your light of Truth. Amen.