Recently, I found myself exhausted as I traveled to up north to prepare for a retreat I was leading that weekend. The night prior had been a rough one; filled with way to many sleep interruptions by one dog needing to go outside a couple of times and another falling off the bed, and still another whimpering as she turned from arthritis. Each of these situations woke me up to a degree where I found it difficult to return to the slumber of deep and restful sleep.
I was driving through the last town before my destination and had planned to stop for a bathroom break and to pick up the items needed for dinner. The plan was that I was going to arrive at our cabin early, get the participants journal books individually prepared, pray over our weekend and facility as well as have dinner prepared because the participants were all traveling together and would arrive about 6:30pm. I was in for a late night and was hoping I would get there early enough for a nap after my sleep deprived night.
I went into the store and decided to grab the items I needed and then head to the restroom on the way out. I was so tired and had to go to the bathroom pretty badly, so I rushed through the store collecting the items on my list. I went and found the shortest line of the checkouts and proceeded to wait my turn. As I was waiting I overheard the young woman at the check-out telling some people in front of me about something she was dealing with. I couldn’t quite hear what it was, but it sounded like her dog had died the night before.
About that time I realized I had forgotten to put a few needed items on my list for dinner...shoot, I was going to have to go back into the store and get them. There was no way around it.
I paid for the items I already had on the conveyor belt and told her I had to go back for a few items I forgot. I paid for the items I had and proceeded back to the aisles for my missing ones. A couple more times around the store and I headed back to the checkout lines. I searched once again for the shortest line and found that I was back with the same young woman. As I started placing my new items on the counter, I remembered her feeling so sad. I immediately felt a nudge to pray for her and just as quickly said to myself, “Lord, I am way too tired to pray for this girl. I have to go to the bathroom so bad and I have to hurry so I can rest. I am not praying for her; don’t make me!”
Well, as it became my turn, she took my items, added them up on the register and collected my money. All the while, I continued to let God know, I was too tired, too much in a hurry to go to the bathroom and too busy to pray for her. After making my payment, I grabbed my purse and reached for my receipt from her hands, looking up to tell her to have a great day when I looked into her eyes.
Oh. My. Gosh. She looked as if she were going to cry right then, right there.
I was screaming in my head...”Lord I am exhausted!”
I looked behind me in line. There was no one there. I turned and saw her puffy bottom lip jutting up and out from the upper one.
“Lord, I need to pee!”
I looked behind me again...still no one in line. I heard myself asking God, “Are you kidding me?”
I looked at her face again and she looked as if she were about to begin crying at any moment.
I asked her if she were okay.
She leaned over and whispered, “My car got repossessed last night and I have no idea what I am going to do.”
My heart sank. It wasn’t her dog. Although that would have been horrible too, but this was about life. I remembered when I was a single mom with a ‘going-no-where’ job and lost so much while many times I had no idea of what I was going to do next.
I turned again to see how many people were behind me, waiting for me to move on so they could check out.
NO ONE was there. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I turned back to her and leaned in closer to her and said, “Can I pray for you?”
Her response was one of total amazement. “Oh my gosh, would you???”
At this point I was finally able to start laughing inside. I was laughing at me and it was probably in response to God laughing at me. That is what it felt like. I grabbed her hands and leaned toward her as I prayed for this precious soul. When we were done, I looked to see how many people were waiting for me to leave. NONE. God provided us all the time we needed! I did see the other workers and a lady that looked like a supervisor watching us as I walked to the restroom.
Okay Lord, I don’t want to lose any in the harvest. Especially this precious young and very hungry soul.
Then this morning I read John 12:20-26NLT
“Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.”“Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus. Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.”
And as I read verse 25, for the first time ever, I heard that it was referring to the previous verse about the plentiful harvest of new lives. I immediately was taken back to my Friday morning escapade of trying to tell God I wasn’t going to pray for someone because I was tired, had to go to the bathroom, and in a hurry.
“Those who love their life, will lose it...they will lose the harvest. If I had just done what I wanted, I would have lost the opportunity to minister and to show the love of Jesus to that precious girl. Only God knows just what that meant to her.
This morning I am experiencing what it meant to God and what it meant to me.
Thank you Jesus, for creating the space and time and allowing me to pray for her. Thank you for not allowing me to be so selfish that I would walk away from someone who was so obviously hurting. Thank you for loving me so much that you keep after me, keep forgiving me, and keep loving me. I lift her up to you again and ask you to provide for her needs and bring more workers to her who will lovingly lift her up to you and show her how much you love her!
Some days I feel as though I have blinders on and can only see
the chaos that lives in front of me.
Other days, I see you peering over it all...
back at me and I am reminded of your presence.
I try to focus on the Light of Christ and to remain within your Glory,
And yet, the distractions come.
I realize that seeing the light of Christ is dependent on that which we are focused. If I hold up my hand in front of my face and look at it, everything behind and around it becomes blurry...out of focus. My hand is what is in focus and what I see well. The more focused I am on my hand, the more I cannot see what is around and behind it.
Similarly, this is what happens with the pains and wounding we carry around with us in this world. We live our lives focused on these pains and wounds and the presence of Jesus becomes blurry and out of focus. We may catch a glimpse of it now and then, but we miss the heart and life of it. And oh how bad it would be if we were looking at darkness and actually thought it to be of light?
Imagine, what our world could look like if these wounds were healed...what our focus would be on. Those things we are missing now, could become clear and fresh before us. The light of this world would burn brightly again.
"Where your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!" Matthew 6:21-23
How would you respond if you had someone come up to you and told you, “I want you to know something is coming up and I want you to be prepared for it. Don’t try to figure out what it is, or who it is about, just know something is coming and be prepared.”
Would it matter to you who is telling you that information? Would it be different, based on the thought of different people saying that to you…say your husband, your children/grandchildren, boss, co-worker? Sit with those for a couple of minutes and see how it would be different if your husband came and said that to you versus your children. Would your mind more likely jump to the negative if it were one or the other, or either? What about if it were your boss or a co-worker? How would that be different from your husband or child?
Do your thoughts go to thinking Ohhh, they are planning a surprise for me, with some people, but to oh my gosh, what is going on, with others?
What if it was God who was telling you to be ready?
Would that be different than any of those already considered? When you stop and consider God being the one telling you, “I want you to know something is coming up and I want you to be prepared for it. Don’t try to figure out what it is, or who it is about, just know something is coming and be prepared.” Does it change the way you feel?
Perhaps you felt relieved thinking it was coming from God, or like me, perhaps you felt dread. Stop and sit for a few minutes with that and consider why you feel that way and what that means about your trust level of God and WHO God is for you?
I found myself feeling exactly that way and had to sit with it for quite a while…I’m still not done. However, through this time and talking with my Spiritual Director, I have come to realize even though I see God as amazing, loving, gentle and so tender … I tend to attribute those behaviors to Jesus. I realized I still see God, the Father as the authoritarian, the discipliner, the punisher, the one that takes you through the trouble.
I will admit that when I considered my kids telling me this…well, I was a little worried with that one too. However, not at the same level as when thinking it was from God. I think my kids have access to a place in my heart that is very deep…not sure about why that is different. I do know God will continue to reveal more on this to me as He is ready.
For now, I just want to spend time with God, the Father…Papa. I don’t want this to be a trust issue, which tells me it probably is. The one thing I know to do to overcome that is to spend time together. I want to learn more about the various elements of God the Father; to know Him more personally, to experience His love and friendship, along with His gentleness and tenderness. I can do this in so many ways; my personal time with the Lord, my time with a Spiritual Director, as well as corporate time with fellow believers.
Where do you go and what do you do, to know Him more personally?
As I was driving I starting noticing how the environment looked a little different with my sunglasses on. The sky was darker, the desert surrounding me was somewhat muted. Everything was tinted by the glasses I wore. I started thinking about how some glasses we wear are darker than others so the sun might be tempered by that. The blue sky might be shaded down somewhat, the green trees, the desert blooms. Some glasses are dark, some are lighter, some more brown, some with a blue tint, some are colorful with rose or rainbow colors. Whatever it is that we see as we go through our day is filtered through the glasses we wear.
I started noticing that this is similar to how we see things as we journey through our life. As we walk through life, our eyes or ‘glasses’ can get darker or dirty through sin, hurt, disappointments and brokenness. That distorts all that surrounds us. We all are seeing creation in a distorted fashion. It has become tinted in a way that was never meant to be. Matthew 6:22-23NIV says “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Our hearts desire is to get to the place where our glasses are clear and we no longer are looking at things around us through any kind of a tint. We finally see what God created. We see what God sees.
That is true in each other as well. We need to get to a place where we see in others what God created in them and what He sees in them. However, before we can ever do that we must first get to that place in ourselves. We must come to the place where we see what God created in us; we see the image of God in ourselves. This means the more we see the image of God in us, the more others will notice that as well. When that happens, we pretty naturally start noticing more Christ-likeness in others. We start to see the image of God. I think partly because that is what we are looking for, but partly too, because that is what we are filled with.
Through Spiritual Direction, we are able to go deep and begin to remove the layers of sin, hurt, disappointments and brokenness. We work with God and He begins to remove the layers of scales that have been tinting our view. With each layer that is removed, we are able to see more clearly the works of Jesus, the life of Jesus. In ourselves and in others.
Have you ever thought about the cost of being called to walk with Jesus? We know the cost Jesus gave to give us an opportunity to be called, but what about those he called to walk with him in the days he walked the earth? This morning I was considering what they gave up or what their lives were like when they chose Him.
In Matthew 4, we learn how Peter, Andrew, James and John all walked away from their lives. They dropped their nets as they were fishing and walked away from their boats and their father and their jobs, to follow Jesus. Or in the book of Acts where we read about the story of Saul (Paul) and how on the road to Damascus as he was hunting those who were followers of Jesus, he actually met Jesus Himself...never to be the same again. I'm guessing he lost all his friends and his standing in the community. There are many stories of the conversions of souls in those days and all they gave up.
Matthew notes the call to following Jesus in chapter 8 of his book. "When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” “Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”” Matthew 8:18-22 NIV
In Matthew 8, Jesus goes on to explain to the 12 disciples he is sending out, just how much they will be giving up and what they might experience in some places. He tells them to "Be on your guard" and that they will be disciplined by the authorities on His account. He tells them that even their families and friends will turn against them and they will be hated by everyone.
I remember always searching for some meaning in my life, for something deeper. I grew up knowing about God and how He wanted you to follow His rules and if you didn't, watch out. However, I had never met Jesus before. I always knew there was something more, something I was missing. I searched in "all the wrong places" for that 'thing' for so long.
Then a friend invited me to come to his church and to attend a class they were having where you could ask all your questions about Jesus. I was so overwhelmingly blessed by having the senior Pastor and his wife as my table leaders. I remember getting each question answered and having fewer and fewer questions blocking the way. When I started the class, I was living with a man who was separate, but married to someone else. Someone I thought was going to divorce his wife and we would live happily ever after. I remember even thinking this relationship must be from God because I was so happy. I was living deep in sin.
I will never forget sitting in that church one day and during worship, my heart broke. Jesus came and camped out. He made his home in my heart. He spoke to me, to my heart, to my deepest longing. I had searched for so long, and finally found it! I started crying and couldn't stop. After church, the pastor told me he noticed I had been crying and wondered what that was about.
In the class I had been attending, we had been discussing an upcoming baptism the church was going to be having. I had never been baptized and had always wanted to be. However, I was never able to find a 'home' in a church where that could happen. I didn't even know why I wanted it. It was something deep inside that longed for it. Now I could tell you why, but then. . .I only knew it was something I had to do!
I told the pastor, through tears, that I wanted so badly to be baptized. He was pleased and wondered why that presented a problem for me. I will never forget telling him, that I couldn't because I was living with a married man. I looked at him, feeling so broken and so very sad, and asked what I should do? In all his wisdom, the pastor didn't try to tell me what to do. He instead asked me a question. He asked, "What do you think Jesus would tell you?" (That was Spiritual Direction and he didn't even know it!)
Oh my flaming heart broke. . .right there, right then. I believe I even lost my breath. I knew what Jesus would tell me to do . . .
I knew what I had to do.
If I wanted to be baptized and live a life with Jesus, I had to turn away from all that I knew was wrong, from the sin I was living in, and walk differently. Right then, I saw how I was living and that it was not from God. Right then, the scales were removed from my eyes and I could see clearly. Right then, I had to decide.
I went to the home I had been staying in, packed up all of my things, told the man I was living with goodbye and moved back to my home. I chose Jesus!
At the time, it seemed radical, like I was giving up everything. However, I was willing to do it to have that relationship with Jesus. Now, as I look back, I gave up everything that was wrong to have a life filled with those things that bring life, love, fulfillment, peace, happiness, etc. I gave up nothing good, for everything good. Nonetheless, at that time it was a genuine struggle. I lost friends, because I changed so much. I no longer dressed like them, or talked like them, watched the shows they watched, partied like they did or partook in the fun they did. Even my family thought I was 'overdoing it'. I spent 3 months mourning this huge loss that I gave up, still knowing it was the right thing to do.
That was the cost of my call to start following Jesus.
I am certainly not comparing my cost to the Disciples or to even those who live in countries where they are not allowed to openly, publicly worship or talk about Jesus and their relationship with Him. I am just noticing that we all pay a price to follow the call.
Even with that, there is no comparison to what I have gained from that decision. I will say that most of what I have received wasn't seen for awhile. The beautiful thing is that I am still receiving newfound gifts all because I chose Jesus. I continue to choose Jesus. I finally found what I had been searching for my entire life. I had someone that loved me, even when I was living smack in the middle of sin. I believe this is what Jesus meant in Matthew 16:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Matthew 16:24-26 NASB
Looking back, it wasn't costly to me at all.
I never thought much about the interior work that was being done in each of the disciples throughout the time they walked with Jesus. However, I have recently noticed my attention to be on their individual work and growth and how Jesus met them where they were. As we read through the Gospels, you can see a tremendous change that takes place in their hearts as well as others around them. Through their stories, we are blessed with a peek at the transformations that took place, and by the time the Holy Spirit arrived on the scene in the upper room, they were completely different than they were when they were fishing or caught on the road to Damascus or wherever they were first found.
These little snippets of transformation that were shared with us have been influencing our lives ever since. They walked with Jesus and had first-hand knowledge and support in realizing their brokenness and receiving healing, love and interior freedom. Jesus used stories as well as modeling to show them how to love themselves, how to receive being loved and how to love the broken, lost, and imprisoned. He addressed their inmost broken places as well as their pride and prejudices.
There are many various scriptures throughout the gospels describing how Jesus walked with the disciples and taught them. Especially touching to me are the times he would take those closest to him into deeper places of learning. Sometimes, we are shown how worldly the disciples were in their thinking and beliefs and there were times when Jesus became frustrated with their lack of learning. There were times when they were completely humbled before their Lord as in John 13 when he washed the disciples’ feet. They were indignant that He would wash their feet and yet, Jesus was teaching something very different.
Take a moment to sit and consider what that would be like, what would it look like to have Jesus come and kneel before you and look deeply into your eyes. What would you be feeling as he began to remove your shoes? Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, kneeling down in front of you wanting to wash your feet? Would His touch cause embarrassment? Pride? Excitement? One thing I am certain, He touched something deep within each one of them. We know it touched Peter deeply and how the Lord addressed his response:
“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,“ said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet by my hands and my head as well”” John 13:6-9NIV
Another example of the depth of the work that was taking place on that night was when Jesus told them all that one of them sitting at the table would soon betray him. Was their response to look around at the others? Trying to guess which one it was? We don’t know for certain. I have heard this preached many times and the way it usually is presented is how they were all indignant with the thought of Jesus thinking THEY would betray him…like they were so prideful about it…’Surely it is not I!’ However, I suggest to you another thought on their response.
Consider the depth of the work that had been done between these men and their Lord over the previous 3 years together. They walked and talked and witnessed incredible things over that time. They didn’t do all this interior work through the spirit, they did it directly with the Almighty Jesus. They did this work in His presence. He was their Spiritual Director, in the flesh. They were deeply moved and deeply changed. My thought as I sat and pondered this was perhaps they were truly looking inward, considering if it could be them:
“When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me-one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”” Mark 14:17-19 NIV
I am finding this depth of interior exploration by sitting with Jesus and allowing Him space to remove the layers of brokenness. This has happened for me in Spiritual Direction, with the Lord and my Spiritual Director, through the Spirit. Oh how glorious it would have been…and will be…to have Direction with my Lord Jesus Christ in the Flesh!