Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Power of Really Caring

I was watching a rerun of a favourite TV show, and was reminded of the power of taking a minute to really listen to someone. Of stopping, asking, and really listening to what they have to say. That moment can change everything for someone.

This is something I've seen over and over as I've been reading through the Gospel of Mark. Jesus continually stopped to talk to people. To hear their stories. To discover their needs. To really care about them as a person.

In our busy lives it can be easy to just run on to the next thing we need to do. To just make assumptions about someone based on what we see at a glance or hear in passing. Or to decide we know best, even if we have no idea what the real story is.

But, when we take the time we need to really listen to other people, it can change everything for them and for us. It can change our entire perspective on the person. We discover things that make the person who they, that explain why they're acting a certain way.

It slows our lives down to do this. We have to be willing to be interrupted by God, even when it seems inconvenient. We have to be okay with being stopped in our plans, with having them changed.

But, it leads to a much fuller life when we do this. Both for us, and for the people we take the time to really listen to.

A life that Jesus modeled for us when He was on earth.

A life that matters beyond us.

A life that we were created for.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Inviting God into the Doubt

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."

Those are the words of a father who has brought his son to Jesus for healing.

Mark 9:14-29 records the whole story for us. The summary is that Jesus' disciples had tried to cast an impure spirit out of the boy and had been unable to. When Jesus arrives, the boy's father asks Jesus to help them, if He can. Jesus replies to the "if you can" with a reminder that everything is possible for those who believe. The father responds with, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief." Jesus heals his son.

In the middle of this story, we see a father struggling with doubt. Jesus confronts his doubt, but rather than hide or pretend, the father invites Jesus into his doubt in response. He acknowledges his belief and his doubt in one sentence, and asks Jesus for help with his doubt, with his unbelief.

Doubt is more common that we might think. Most people I've talked to have had moments of wondering,of questioning, of not being sure.

The difference has always come in how we respond to it.

Do we stuff it away and pretend it doesn't exist?

Do we beat ourselves up for it?

Or, do we do what the father in this story did, and invite Jesus into it to help us overcome it?

I think this account in Mark's Gospel provides an example of how we should handle these times. How different would our walks with God be if our response in times of doubt of unbelief was, "I believe; help me overcome my unbelief."?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Pretend Perfection No More

Rain cascaded off the edge of the umbrella forming a stream around her as it soaked the ground. She stood un-moving as she debated stepping out from under the protection. Knowing she would be drenched the moment she did so, she wondered if it was worth it to step out.

Memories of the joy of running and playing in the rain as a little child filled her mind. The times she was unafraid to get a little messy and experience the joy of not worrying what she looked like to others.

When had she become do concerned with looking right to others? With people seeing her as someone who had it all together?

The more she thought about it, the more she realized how tired she was from the work it required. Hiding anything that might be even the slightest bit messy from the world around her took a lot of work. She always had to be paying careful attention, making sure there was no crack for what was underneath to show through for even a brief moment.

Who was she really trying to impress? Was it really worth the energy and the time?

She collapsed the umbrella and let the rain our down on her. Eventually she began to walk, then run, then dance. Laughter echoing with the raindrops hitting the ground.

She'd forgotten the freedom of it until now. Worries about looking right and impressing others vanished from her mind. Cares that had been holding her back released their hold. For those moments she was free to be who she was underneath the masks she usually wore.

I wonder if we're more like this than we really want to admit. Even as I wrote it, I realized how often that struggle is mine.

But, I also know there is freedom that comes with dropping the masks and letting what's underneath be seen. There's freedom in stepping into God's cleansing rain in our lives. In letting it wash away our perfectly manicured and presented selves, to show the broken and the mess we've hidden behind it.

Because when we allow God to wash away the facade we've put up, He can reveal a masterpiece that He has built behind. Out of the broken and the mess of our lives God creates something far more beautiful than our pretend perfection ever was.

Will you step out from under the umbrella? Will you allow the rain to wash away your pretend perfection to reveal God's beautiful work?

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Journey

I had a memory show up in my Facebook feed today that reminded me that today is three years since I was heading home from my first Encounter God retreat. I was struck by the lyrics to the song that was in that post.

Free (by Jeremy Camp)
And I am free
And I am free
My sin was wrapped around me
Trying to drown me
You have set me free
And I am free
And I am free
The chains that held me tightly
Are finally lifting
You took this weight from me
Now I’m free


That was the first song that came on when I started my car to drive home from the weekend. It seemed so fitting a song then, and as I listened to it again today, it seemed even more fitting now. That first weekend was the beginning of experiencing this in my life. But, it wasn’t the end of it.


I tried to count how many times I’ve been to an Encounter God since that first time three years ago. I think it’s been nine times at this point. And every time I go, God has something planned for me – no matter what my role in the weekend has been.


Thinking back to the first time I went, I had no idea the journey I was stepping into that weekend. I couldn’t have imagined the change God would bring in my life with that weekend, and everything since then.


Probably one the biggest things God taught me that first weekend that has changed things so much since, is about trusting people. I went into that weekend carrying some big hurts from church people and had decided I wouldn’t trust church people anymore.


I very quickly discovered that wasn’t going to be possible at an Encounter God. If I was going to engage in what was happening, then I was going to have choose to trust the other two ladies I was in a group with.  Choosing to do that and how those two ladies responded was the beginning of healing those hurts from church people and changed the way I build relationships with people to this day.


But, that was only the beginning of what God wanted to do. In the three years since, God has freed me from the power of sin I thought I would always struggle with as I confessed it for the first time and broke the power it had in my life. He has freed me from patterns of worry, anxiety, and fear that limited my life in more ways than I was aware of.


Probably the biggest thing is the difference in my relationship with God. I’ve been a Christian since I was a kid. I grew up in a Christian family. I did have a personal relationship with God. But, I didn’t know the depth that it could grow to.


As I’ve walked on this journey, it’s become about more than just a few weekends a year. It’s become a part of my everyday life. An intimate relationship with God that I had no idea was possible.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Too Much of Something Meant to be Helpful?

I'm getting tired of an endless stream of articles about introverts and how they interact with people and what they need from people. And any other topic related to it, you can think of.

Don't get me wrong. I'm definitely an introvert. I identify with almost all the descriptors of introverts you could come up with. And I deeply appreciated my friends who try to understand me better by understanding these tendencies in me.

But, with the endless stream of things about it, I often wonder if it's become little more than the latest fad. The latest thing we're all interested in. And, if the abundance of stuff out there about it means we run the risk of not actually learning anything from it, because we see it so often we become immune to it.

As much as most of those descriptors of introverts describe me, they also only describe a part of me. I'm much more than an introvert. Yes, it's part of who I am, but sometimes the endless nature of these things makes me feel like if I identify as an introvert, that's the only box I fit in. 

Yes, I prefer one-on-one coffee, or a couple of friends at a time, rather than a large group.
Yes, I struggle with small talk that never moves beyond that.
Yes, being with people drains me and I need time alone to recharge.
Yes, I could go days without seeing, and even talking to, other people, without missing them.
Yes, I can be a very social person and manage a crowd well when I need to.
Yes, I might sit quietly off to the side at a party sometimes and I'm okay with that. I'm enjoying the people watching while I manage the crowd my way.

But, who I am goes far beyond that. I feel like the acknowledgement of that is something that is missing in this endless stream of stuff about being an introvert.

We miss out on who we were fully created to be by God. A person who is far beyond any one word to describe me.

And I worry that we miss out on who people really are when something about people becomes a fad and we're bombarded with it day after day after day. I don't think what we need is more information about what we need from each other or how we should interact with people who could be described a certain way. 

I think what we need is to offer grace to each other in every interaction we have. To ask questions to understand the person, rather than assuming we know what we're thinking. To seek to really get to know the people in our lives as individuals rather than just determining what box we can put them.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Our Part to Play

Once we've made our bold ask of Jesus, do we have a part to play? Do we need to continue to act on our faith? Or do we just get to sit back and wait now?

In the last post we looked at the first part of Mark 5:21-43. Today, I want to look at the rest of the passage. (You can click here to read the passage.) The continuation of the story - the results of their bold asks for healing.

The woman had to trust Jesus enough to be found out - to be exposed. She had to acknowledge it was her who touched His cloak and share her story of why. Not to be healed - that part happened the moment she touched Jesus' cloak. But, to be able to fully walk our her healing and live the new life it brought for her.

Jairus had to believe Jesus enough to believe it possible, even when it didn't seem possible for his daughter to be healed now. He received word  his daughter had died, so now he had to believe Jesus could bring her back to life, not just heal her from sickness.

In both cases, people were bold enough to ask in the first place, but then they had a part to play in walking it out. Receiving the full healing they were asking for required them to act in faith. It wasn't passive.

I wonder if this is something we often miss in our prayers for healing. We think we just ask and then sit back and wait. God may do it instantly and not require anything from us sometimes. But, what if there's more to it than that? What if God wants us to step out in obedience? What if the way we'll see the healing is to walk it out?

Both Jairus and the woman had a choice to make. They both played a part in experiencing the fullness of healing they asked Jesus for.

Jairus had to choose to continue to believe that Jesus could still heal his daughter. Even when it no longer seemed possible.

The woman was healed of her physical illness the moment she touched Jesus' cloak. She could have been satisfied with that. When Jesus stopped and asked who had touched His cloak, she could have kept quiet and just slipped away into the crowd.

She still would have gone away physically healed, but I don't think she would have experienced the social, emotional, and mental healing she experienced by coming forward and telling Jesus the whole truth of her situation. In sharing her story and allowing Jesus to speak to the shame, fear, and worthlessness she had also carried, she was freed to completely walk in her healing.

When we miss the part of the healing that requires us to walk in it, I think we miss the fullness of what it could be for us. We don't receive the complete healing God wants to give us.

What healing have you asked God for? Is He asking you to do something to begin to walk it out and experience the complete healing He wants to give?