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The eerie revelation to self that isolates one in the face of an sacred community. What is revealed is a moral inferiority that makes one vulnerable to irresistible forces. As a state of feeling, shame is fearful, chaotic, holistic and humbling. -Definition of shame (Jack Katz)

Liberating hope…those two words caught my attention; my eyes drawn to the speaker.  Jesus gives us liberating hope.  Hope from shame…from the deep sense that you are unacceptable because of something done by you, to you, or in association with you.  And my heart skipped a beat.  I knew I wasn’t the only woman shifting uneasily that morning…as if the pastor could peer into my heart and see the secrets I had buried there.

And he spoke of Mary Magdalene–the woman who had been hostess to seven demons.

Imagine her life…merely a lowly woman in that ancient culture, Mary would have been shunned; avoided; a topic of discussion but never compassion.   She was despised for the burden she carried within–the inescapable filth, fear, and fiendish vulnerability.  Mary understood deep, soul-searing shame.  Unacceptable…dirty…and filled to overflowing by the chaotic, controlling influence of her own personal demons.

And Jesus did something revolutionary.

 Instead of avoiding Mary, he invited her.  Rather than casting stones, he cast out demons.  Not willing to condemn with his words, Christ offered Mary a new name–”Daughter of the King”.  And in her newfound freedom a woman was re-born…transformed–from demoniac to disciple and unlovable to beloved.

Jesus gave Mary Magdalene liberating hope–true, lasting freedom from a past that might have destroyed her.  The road to freedom was a difficult one for Mary.  Her burdens were as real as yours.  Take just one step today, Dear Friend–one step toward the healing arms of Jesus.  Yes, sometimes this path that promises healing seems more like an insurmountable mountain, but Christ paved the way to wholeness with each step He made toward Golgotha.  Our freedom is a certainty because Jesus did something revolutionary for you and me–He died that we might be fully restored.

So today…take a step in faith toward the revolutionary Jesus.  Begin your walk to freedom by declaring–in all of your doubt, fear, or cynicism–that He is able to do a transformative work in your heart…your life…your ever-after.

Prayer for Today

Dear Lord,

I feel like a Mary–carrying my own personal demons around inside of me–and they haunt me as much as they did when I was a child.  Like Mary, I didn’t ask for these burdens.  They were thrust upon me by someone who should have loved and cared for me, but instead used me for personal satisfaction in ways that left me feeling isolated and ruled by fear.

But now, Lord, I’m calling out your name.  I’m desperate for deliverance…for a liberating freedom that breaks the chains of the past.  Give me a vision of the future where I have been transformed and made whole because I choose to believe and claim the power of your word which tells me “that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns”.  (Phil. 1:6)

In the name of the revolutionary Jesus Christ,

Amen.

 Response

Was there something you read today that prompted you to think about the shame you carry?  What one step can you take on the road to healing today?

When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him ,he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.

 -Chinua Achebe

Close-up of a teenaged girl suffering from depression

He wasn’t invited…this interloper.  But some guests don’t require invitations and, like this one, quickly navigate about the room infecting everyone with their undesirable influence.  This guest…like so many memories of adult survivors of child abuse…pushes its way into the beautiful, harmonious places that were meant to be sanctified…pure…redeemed.

And suddenly, the once-cherished visions of giving something better to the ones you love seems unclear–like an aged mirror that once reflected all that was beautiful, but now only offers a blurred image of what might truly exist.

And in the suffering, you wonder...is it true?  Has God abandoned me to suffer alone?  How can a Father…the Heavenly Father…allow calamity of the mind?  Does He care about the spirit wounds doubling His child over in pain?  

Searching for a thread of hope…a reminder of His promise…a thought of what is beautiful I read words penned by Bible teacher, Paul Tripp…

Suffering will tempt you to doubt God’s goodness and kindness. Suffering will tempt you to doubt His faithfulness and love. Even though you may never speak this aloud, your theology will bring God into the court of your judgment and accuse Him of being unloving and unfaithful to His promises.   In moments of suffering, don’t run away from God in doubt. If you do, you risk missing out on the wonderful blessings of grace that He has made available. Even if those blessings are uncomfortable or even excruciatingly painful, you can run to the Father.

So…let’s run, dear friends–in our doubt, our pain, our suffering–to the One who enters by invitation only.

The Message (MSG)

Scripture for Reflection

Rev. 3: 20-21 “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!

“I’ve become the invisible woman,” she said.  The other ladies in the group nodded knowingly.  Surprised at the shared sentiment, I wondered how each of them had arrived at a place of feeling unnoticed…inconspicuous…unseen.  Had their identities been swallowed by motherhood?  Lost to unhealthy marriages?  Buried beneath daily demands and responsibilities?

The conversation prompted thoughts of Christ’s compassion and concern for those who lived unnoticed, invisible lives.  Lepers. Tax collectors.  Women.  Though each was an outcast, Christ spent the majority of his time ministering to the very people considered unworthy of his attention.

His gentle touch healed those slowly rotting away and dying for want of human contact.  His words of life transformed corrupt and greedy men into selfless givers of truth and hope.  His Creator’s heart acknowledged the value of the undervalued.

With Christ, dear friend, there is no invisibility.  Seek his healing touch.  Immerse yourself in the truth of his life-giving, transformational words.  Remember that your value and worth were ultimately expressed in his sacrifice on the cross.

Today’s Action Step: 

Embrace the truth.  Put your name where the words the world are written.

“For God so love the world that he gave his one and only son…”  John 3:16

Scripture for Reflection

“For we are God’s workmanship…”  Ephesians 2:10

Recommended Reading

Captivating Revised & Updated: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's SoulCaptivating by Stasi Eldridge

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

 

 

 

 

As Jesus crossed the threshold, he heard the subtle murmurings of the other guests.  He’s here–the Teacher.  Curious gazes followed him as he joined the others at the table.  

Simon’s home was well-appointed. A respected Pharisee, he had more wealth than most and displayed it with pride.  The table was lavishly spread with the best meats and delicacies money could buy while servants attended to the needs of those who had been invited–the educated, influential, and important.  

Why had Jesus been invited?  By this time his ministry had impacted the blind….the lame…and the deaf.  Crowds of broken, needy people trailed after him–hoping he would pause long enough to restore their aching hearts and bodies.  And the Pharisees sensed that this humble carpenter’s son had potential–the potential to strip them of prominence, prestige, and power.  Simon wanted to spend time with the impoverished babe-turned-prophet.  Were the stories true?  Could he be a prophet?  Was he a threat?

Watching Jesus carefully, Simon was considering these matters as his honored guest reclined at the table.  Suddenly, a hush fell over the room as an uninvited woman–the worst kind of woman–approached the Teacher’s feet.  Respectable people shunned her…mocked her…treated her as less than human.  Still…she stood near him–her clothing and makeup a testament to lewd living.  But, it wasn’t the woman’s appearance that drew notice today.  It was her bold humility.  Desperate sounds of regret burst from lungs that had only breathed in pain and tears flowed as freely as the contents she poured over the Master’s feet.

With nothing to dry the evidence of her sacrifice, the woman did the unthinkable.  Bowing her head in shame, the woman loosened her hair and brushed the perfume from the Teacher’s feet.  Her lavish demonstration drew gasps of disapproval from the crowd…but from Christ?  Merely the words she had yearned to hear.  “Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.” (Luke 7:50)

Neither low position nor social expectations influenced Christ’s attitude toward this woman–a portrait of His grace.  His mercy and love for those who humbly trust him stung Simon and is a reminder for us today.  Oh, that we would love like Jesus!

 

Verses for Reflection

Luke 7:38-50, 1 Samuel 16:3 Continue Reading »

She stood near the street corner not far from a Kwik-Way gas pump–a crude cardboard sign in her hands.  Please help. Money needed.  The hastily written words left no space for pretense.  The young brunette with disheveled hair and frightened eyes was hurting.

Feeling the tug of a mother’s heart, I stopped to speak with the girl-woman.  Not  much older than my teenaged son, I wondered what circumstances could have led her here…to this place…and in this condition.  Ridges of bone stood out sharply against thin, peaked skin while dirt-smudged fingers pulled self-conciously at stained, rumpled clothing.

“Here,” I said, “please take this.  I don’t have much with me, but I thought you could use some lunch.”  And I handed her a bag smelling of French fries and grilled burgers.

“I work at that church,” I pointed encouragingly.  “If you stop by later today, someone will help you.”

“Sure,” the girl-woman said.  I never saw her again.  Since then, I’ve often  wondered. How desperately in need must we be before accepting help?  

Like this dear one, I have known what it is to be poor.  I’ve experienced hunger with nothing more than a six-pack of Pepsi in the refrigerator and a few cans of green beans in the pantry…but, I really mean a poverty of spirit.

The impoverished have few resources.  They are neither powerful nor influential and must rely on others for survival.  Those who are spiritually poor realize their similar condition.

All false-hood is torn away to reveal raw, human need.  And to the woman who weeps with loneliness?  He hears your heart repeating its muffled chorus…love me, love me.  To the little boy who yearns to be like other children?  He quietly whispers….I am enough.  To the cancer-riddled mother, He promises…I know the plans I have for you; plans to give you a hope and a future.

Are you like me, dear friend?  Are you in need?  Does your impoverished soul ache for relief?  Then embrace Christ today.  Admit your need.  Accept his offer of mercy.  He extends wounded hands in promise of an eternal tomorrow overflowing with the richness of His boundless love.

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  

(Matthew 5:3) 

  

The Seed

If you dig beneath the frozen hard pack, a seed lies encased in a small earthen capsule. Impatiently, it waits for the warmth of the sun to coax it from the fragile protection of a paper-thin wrap. Stretching and arching, tender leaves burst forth–cracking the protective gauze and unfurling with slow precision to reveal the unique impressions of individuality. There is a brightness of hue…a turn of the petal…that causes me to pause.

And I know…the Master Gardener chose this one to live a blessed life. A life of joy, meaning, and fulfillment. This young shoot was meant for more than the silken prison in which it was wrapped.

And I give thanks that in the midst of the dark and despite the odds…the seed became so much more. Then, slowly, I dip near the blossom to inhale its fragrance.

SCRIPTURE FOR REFLECTION

Praise be to the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

The Balm of Gilead

The barren places..we all have them. They are the wounded, aching parts left empty; still waiting to be filled.

Was your mother critical, self-absorbed, or caught up in a drama so consuming that she overlooked your hurts? Did your father fail to fight for you–abandon you when you needed a hero? Perhaps your husband chose another or your children turned from their faith.
Invite The Lord to tend those wounds, Friend. He is “the balm of Gilead”. He offers the everlasting salve for a needy soul.

We may grieve momentary losses of relationship, yet we have gained the eternal presence of Christ. We may yearn for the tender words of a mother’s heart but the Lord exclaims, “I have loved you with an everlasting love!” We may desire the triumphant, sacrificial love of a hero and we know that the Lamb of God expelled his last breath thinking of us–you and me. He is the hero of our yesterdays, today’s, and tomorrow’s.

Take heart. Be encouraged. Your barren places will be filled for He is willing and able.

Scripture for Reflection
A bruised reed he will not break. Isaiah 42:3

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