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The Question

Three years. Three years they had to walk alongside him, to laugh with him, to eat with him, to learn from him and be changed by him. The disciples of Jesus had three years of close contact with the God who created them, healed them and ministered to them and with them. They had a front row seat to his miracles and the unworldly grace and mercy he showed to those that came near.

I can’t call myself a disciple, as they were, in my own walk with Jesus. Yet my own relationship with him began over thirty years ago. I’ve had over thirty years – over thirty years’ time spent talking with him in prayer, feeling his words speak directly into my heart through his Word, being transformed by his unbelievable grace, mercy and healing. I’ve learned even in the most desperate pain-filled hours that He is with me, holding me up, helping me walk on, and much to my amazement even giving me joy in the midst of pain.

Yesterday I was reading John 6. Jesus is talking to the people he’d just fed the day before, when he miraculously turned five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food to feed over five thousand, with enough left over to fill twelve large baskets. Late that day, the disciples leave by boat for Capernaum, across the Sea of Galilee. Overnight, Jesus leaves the shore crossing the sea by foot. A storm hits in the middle of the night and Jesus appears to the disciples who’re already afraid, but even more upon seeing him. He tells them not to be afraid. “It’s me,” he says and enters the boat. The next day the people realize Jesus is no longer with them. They know he didn’t leave with the disciples and they immediately board boats to seek after him in Capernaum. There they confront him, asking when he’d arrived. His response to them is profound.

“You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.

Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”
John 6:26-27 (The Message)

I was struck by his words and saddened, because my own inattention to him was glaringly obvious to me. I had to ask myself a painfully difficult question and be honest about my answer. Am I seeking him for what he can give me or do I seek to know him, just to know him? My heart was pricked by the fact that like those people he spoke with in John 6, I’ve not always just sought him and him alone, but often for the help or healing he can bring.

Why? I have no excuse. In all honesty, I think it boils down to fear and getting caught up in the difficulties of each day. Yet I already know that when I seek him alone, fear melts away. Eleven years ago, my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was two weeks after my first child was born, my mom’s first grandson. With her diagnosis, there was much fear and pain. Questions asking why were eventually put aside and the initial grief over the diagnosis was replaced with the knowledge that God himself was walking this road with us. He hadn’t abandoned my mom and would continue to be there for her and for us, her family. Prayers were and continue to be offered up on her behalf. It’s a natural thing to pray for help and healing. In fact, we’re commanded to bring our cares to God, because he cares like no other.

The other day I received news that this disease I hate has begun to progress even more in my mom. This disease that has ravaged her brain and is stealing away her precious memories piece by piece is taking even more of her, of who she is, threatening to steal away even her dignity. Deep down I know it can’t, because dignity is something that is God-given and simply is. Yet, the disease is there.

With this news, I have a choice to make – a choice to panic, to become embittered or to simply go to the one who cares, who’s proven time and time again to be the only real choice. Yet along with seeking his help, I also know that too often I come to him just asking for healing and help with whatever situation’s on the horizon. I’ve experienced God’s presence and its’ perfect, sublime simplicity that covers over any and every storm. And yet, I come to him in this state. He’s given me peace “that passes understanding” and I trade it for panicked pleas for help.

When I remember his perfect, sustaining peace at moments like this, my only desire is to know him. Because apart from desiring more of him and knowing him, there is no peace. I’ve learned this the hard way. He really is enough. My choice is to know him more today. Whatever situation you find yourself in today, if you find yourself outside of that perfect peace, come to him and seek him alone. If it’s peace you’re seeking, Jesus really is the only way.

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My Son

“Bye, mom. I love you,” my son smiled as he turned and quietly walked down the hall. Read more

My Sofia

“I believe that life is given us so that we may grow in love, and I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the color and fragrance of a flower.”

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”

– Helen Keller

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

Swallowing Rejection

Rejection. An unwelcome part of life on planet earth. I haven’t met a person yet who isn’t affected by the rejection they face. Wounds run deep from some rejections, others maybe just a surface scratch. Either way, we’re all marred by rejection. Some of our most vivid memories come from those we received as children. Memories of being the only one not chosen for the team; left out of a birthday party; ignored or snubbed by a friend, or worse still by the one who’s supposed to help build your impressionable spirit – a parent.

As a parent, I’m deeply aware of the rejections my children face and will face. I can still remember the ache in my heart the first time my oldest came to me, “Mom, he hit me.” Silence. “I thought he was my friend.” I knew this was a momentary clash and their friendship would sustain the hurt. It has. They’re still friends. Nevertheless, the sting was still real.

One way or another, rejections follow us into adulthood where we face even more each day – on the job; from a spouse; or waiting in line at the store with other busy people rushing through their day. It happens to everyone. It happens to you. It happens to me.

In one of the books I’m reading for Lent I was surprised to read in the very first entry the author talking about this very thing – rejection. Henri Nouwen is refreshingly honest about the impact of the rejections he faces each day and his desire to not let them define him. I don’t know why I found his words so moving. Perhaps it’s his willingness to open his life up to scrutiny in hopes that someone will see themself and commit alongside him to let go of these rejections, making way for a divine healing of sorts.

Nouwen writes, “I have slowly become aware of what my Lenten practice might be. It might be the development of some type of ‘holy indifference’ toward the many small rejections I am subject to, and a growing attachment to the Lord and his passion. I am constantly surprised at how hard it is for me to deal with the little rejections people inflict on each other day by day…This atmosphere often leaves me with a feeling of being rejected and left alone. When I swallow these rejections, I get quickly depressed and lonely; then I am in danger of becoming resentful…But maybe all of this is the other side of a deep mystery, the mystery that we have no lasting place on this earth and that only God loves us the way we desire to be loved.” (Lent and Easter – Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen)

If you’re facing rejection today, rather than swallowing it, why not give it up to the only one who is big enough to swallow it without resentment – Jesus. Even though he experienced the ultimate rejection, he never rejects us. Only he can take it upon himself and all while loving each of us perfectly, as we were created to be loved.

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him.”
1 Peter 2:4

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Living the Half Life

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

As a follower of Christ, I seek to deepen my relationship with him – most times. Sadly, I don’t live this out at all times. Lent provides an opportunity to look inward to expose those dark areas that have taken up residence in my heart. Like exposing an open wound, this is a painful process, but not one that’s in vain. Jesus talked to his disciples about cutting away what wasn’t fruitful on the vine. Not for the sake of cutting, but that the vine would ultimately bear much greater fruit.

Yesterday, I took cutters to the misshapen hydrangea tree in my front yard. The tree badly needed pruning. Although it’d grown in stature since first planted, it was uneven and vastly overgrown. Pruning the branches, at least three feet off of some of them, was painful for me. Those branches had yielded full and fragrant blooms last summer. Although I knew it had to be done, the question of whether or not it would bloom fully again this year made me hesitant.

God, however, is never hesitant to prune out the areas of our lives holding us back from bearing the fruit he created us to bear. He knows the process is painful for us. Thankfully, in His infinite wisdom He also knows all that we can be, even if we haven’t a clue. And so, he prunes. We, unlike, my hydrangea tree, have a choice to make. As we go through a season of pruning, we can stop in our pain and refuse to go any further, never to experience the life God intended for us to live.

Or we can choose to let go of whatever darkness is hindering our relationship with God. He doesn’t expect us to do it alone, but with his help and in his strength. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 Jesus goes so far as to say that without him, we can do nothing. We simply cannot be fruitful apart from him.

As the spring sunshine warms my hydrangea tree, shining its rays on the newly sharp cut edges, the tree will burst forth with buds that will grow into emerald leaves. The pain of the cutting will disappear into a multitude of sweet fragrant blooms. Like the sun’s light, God’s light shines healing rays of truth into the hidden areas of our hearts that are most in need of healing and growth. We were made to live fully in the light of God’s love and truth, free and abundantly fruitful. Anything less is living the half life.

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