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Archive for April, 2014

When my husband and I were dating, we hiked a rugged seven mile mountain trail to Phantom Lake–a remote body of water located at the peak of a glacial mountain.  Neither fond of prolonged hikes nor keen on tall ledges lacking stair rails, I relinquished any misgivings and trusted Dave to guide me to safety.

Mid-way across an intimidating scree field, my left leg tightened painfully.  Kneading the throbbing knot, I leaned against the slippery shale rock.  What was I doing?  Anything taller than a stepladder caused near panic attacks.  Now, I peered warily down the sloping earth and wondered how I could possibly catch up with my mountaineering boyfriend.

Suddenly, Dave appeared at my side.  His strength and reassurance imbued me with the will to continue–regardless of discomfort, fear, or doubt.  And when I finally cleared the mountaintop I beheld nature’s unmatched glory shimmering and winking in the glow of that day’s waning light.

The journey had been difficult.  My leg still ached and I was weary.  But, I could see God’s beauty on display.

Once again, I stand awkwardly on a precipice–anxious and alert.  But now I am hemmed in on one side by the shifting promises of an unreliable world while on the other I can feel the strong presence of the Rock–the unshakeable and steadfast One who continues to whisper, “You are secure in me.  Do not doubt, Child, because I will deliver you.”

Are you standing at the edge of a cliff, dear Friend?  Has your healing journey scratched at the hurts lying just beneath the surface and caused unwelcome discomfort?

Maybe you feel as if there is no way off the face of the mountain and you’ve been waiting for too long already.  You want to be restored now.

This is a time for your decision.  Do you remain where you are…shifting and uncertain?  Turn back toward the familiar, worn paths of unforgiveness, bitterness, or ill managed pain?

Or, do you follow Him–the one who has wept tears and blood for you–up to the mountaintop where you can see for yourself his plan for your life fully revealed, restored, and renewed?

The journey may be difficult.  You may ache and grow weary.  But, you will be His Beauty on display–as he had intended when he thought of you for the first time.

Scripture for Reflection–Psalm 18:2

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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?

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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!

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“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

 

 

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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 (more…)

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