The other morning I woke up, sat down, prayed that God would show me something in His word and then asked that He would tell me what to do with it... here it is.
I’m currently reading the book of John chapter 4, where John recalls Jesus declaring His Messiahship to the woman at the well. He begins describing this metaphor for living water and never thirsting again, but in this passage she just wasn't following Him. Jesus was trying to speak to her spiritual needs and when that didn’t work, He kind of called her out.
Now, I don’t want to make Jesus sound rude or insensitive, but He knows us, right? Sometimes (often times) we need to be told straight up, how things are in our lives. I am a real person and I need to be talked to in the same way. Too much fluff and flowers and you can lose my very direct, straight forward mind.
This woman at the well had been with several men and Jesus brought it up to her. She was at the well at a time when no one else was, due to what I imagine was great shame and shunning by her community. But Jesus met her there AND acknowledged her.
After talking with Jesus, the woman was so moved by her encounter with Him, the one who knew all of her sins and still offered her an eternal “well of life." He showed up and her shame left. Scripture says that she left her waterpot at the well and went straight to the townspeople in the city to tell them of her experience with this man called Jesus!
I have read this story before and I've heard this story told in sermons several times, but when I read it the other morning, it seemed different in some way.
The shameful woman at the well was no longer the focus in my mind.
Her sin was no longer the focus of this story for me.
It was her going immediately to the townspeople and telling them about her encounter with Jesus.
Here is this woman, who wouldn't even collect water at a well when others did, leaving her waterpot, and going to the townspeople to declare boldly about her meeting with this man who "told (her) all things that (she) ever did!"
For a woman with her reputation, bringing up past sin wouldn't normally be an encouraging thing (I mean, who would enjoy that?)...but it wasn't about her sin. It was that this man, Jesus, knew her sin and STILL HE MET WITH HER. Still He acknowledged her. Still He offered her what He knew she needed most.
When we encounter the LOVE of Jesus...the grace filled, forgiving LOVE of Jesus, we are compelled! We run! We share it! WE LOSE OUR SHAME.
Shame that keeps us hidden away, disconnected from loved ones, drowning our feelings of worthlessness or self pity in anything and everything. Sometimes it's substances and sometimes it's other relationships. Sometimes it's actions, things we do, and other times it's things we buy or partake in. But guess what? Typically those things create more shame or only a temporary haze to keep our shame just out of view for a little while. None of those things take it away though.
But here, in just a moment... it was gone. And as a result, she reached out to others who were then so moved by her words, her testimony, that they left the city and went to find Jesus.
How often do we let fear of others or influence of others keep us from sharing what God has done in our lives or better yet, BROUGHT US THROUGH? We've all done things, said things, experienced things that we are not proud of. That's called sin.
My name is Ashley, and I am a sinner. I sin. Every day. Major bummer.
Ok, now that that's out of the way, guess what?....
There is forgiveness for that, BUT....and it's a big one...there is also an undeniable influence in that! When we turn our shame into a testimony of what God has done, that brings Him GLORY! And glory is evidence of Him; it's showing the world that my God is real, and here's how...
"But I don't want to share this horrible thing with others!" ...no one is making you, but if you have come out of it, whatever situation "it" is or was, there is a story to tell. Maybe your ending was better than you could've imagined, or maybe it was worse than anything you've ever experienced...either way, don't let the shame keep you at the well by yourself.
Maybe you're there, at the well, pulling up your bucket and you don't even see Jesus anywhere, so how could you possibly hear from Him?
Ask Him to meet you at the well. Sitting by yourself with nothing but your shame, looking for something, anything, that will fill the longing you have. the thirst. the hunger.
He will meet you. But you've gotta be at the well...that place of humility where you know no one else is gonna show up and sit with you. It's gonna be hard. But if we don't all go there at some point, our shame will keep us so far from the one who takes away our sin. The one who breathes life and love back into us again.
I think that's why God gave me these words. Too many people I know are walking through tough things right now, but not sharing it with anyone because of their shame. Because of their concern with other people's perception of them or their situation.
Maybe you know someone who is walking through something right now. And man, it looks bad. It's covered in filth and what looks like a long road and so you've just checked out. You've left them in the middle of their shame, all for a little less "ick" and a lot more comfort on your end. I get it. I've been there before too. But maybe try and revisit that person or situation. Maybe it's only in prayer, but maybe it's also in person. There's nothing that says "I'm here for you" like a warm, living, breathing, body knocking on your door.
So I want to challenge you. I want you to think about your life, or maybe it's someone else's life that comes to mind, and I want you to pray and ask God to help you. Maybe helping you looks like bringing you to a place of humility, so that you can make your way to the well. Or maybe helping you looks like the Holy Spirit giving you courage and grace to step back into someone's life who could really use a friend...and if you have a box of donuts and a movie, those wouldn't hurt to carry on you either.
Sometimes we need those too.
With love & laughter,
1st Photo by Qang Jaka on Unsplash
2nd Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash
3rd Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash
Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.
The Message puts John 15:12-13 this way, "Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends."
This, so far, is my favorite picture from Becca’s wedding last Saturday, really, for a couple of reasons.
One, it’s just typical of how our family rolls. We don’t just bustle a wedding gown, that would be too easy, and boring. Nope, we turn it into a, for lack of a better word, fiasco.
The dress had multiple layers that had to be bustled before Becca entered the reception. Knowing this, my daughter in law, Sarah Kathryn, and I practiced our bustling several times. We had it down pat. We were ready, or so we thought.
Well, when time came to bustle, we could not for the life of us find all the buttons and loops that we needed to find. It was hot, we were sweating, and gnats were flying up our noses. We had layers of wedding gown over our heads, which of course made things even hotter. Then to make things even more frustrating, we had irritating husbands trying to rush us. It was about to get ugly, fast.
I have a friend, we’ll call her Tracy…mainly, because that's her name, and she gave me permission to share this story.
Tracy’s job between now and June 6 is to get me in "mother of the bride" shape. This is no small task, mind you. I really can’t think of anything I dislike more than exercise, except maybe surgery without anesthesia. Though I haven’t tried that, I’m pretty sure it would beat out exercise for my least favorite thing.
Anyway, the other day, as I pulled into her driveway and parked, Julie, another friend was headed to her car.
“She’s in A MOOD,” Julie informed me.
I felt a panicky feeling begin to rise up in me. What does ‘in a mood’ mean, exactly?
“She almost killed me,” Julie continued as she climbed into her car.
“Well that’s just great,” I thought to myself. Julie is in much better shape than me, so I knew I was sunk. There was no way I could survive if my friend who runs for fun almost died.
As I headed to the front door, my mind began messing with me. When I reached the front door, which is a big, heavy door, I realized that the doorknob was higher than the normal knob and it was gia-normous too… which made me feel intimidated and small - like Alice in Wonderland.
When I opened the door she was standing there, smiling.
“Are you in a mood? Because Julie said you were…” I started.
“What? No,” she assured me as she waved me off with her hand and headed for the stairs. AND I followed her.
As we made our way down the stairs to the basement she said, “You’re really not going to like me after today.”
Well, there it was!
And the hot flashes started.
I am in that delightful stage of life where my internal thermostat is struggling. There are a few things that set the hot flashes off. One would be heat, which is problematic because I live in the south and I own a blow dryer. And the other is anxiety, which I was in the full throws of.
Now listen, I have known Tracy for all of my adult life. I have never picked up on any “sinisterismness”. She has always been friendly and kindhearted. I have never been afraid of her…until now.
For the next hour, she made me do things I would never do left to myself. She wanted me to strengthen my core. “I don’t think I have one,” I told her.
She would say things like, “I know this is hard…you only have 50 more.” Evil I tell you, just evil. And she smiled the entire time.
She corrected my incorrect posture, showed me how to do certain things, and explained how each exercise was beneficial to me even though I was convinced each one was going to kill me.
She told me to do things that in my mind were just too stinking hard and then wouldn’t let me not do them.
Just a little side note: exercise also brings on hot flashes.
At one point, she opened the door to let some cool air in. My mind screamed, “RUN”, but the rest of me said, “It is just so not going to happen.”
To Tracy’s credit, she was very encouraging. She would say things like, “Good job”, and “I know you can do this.”
When I got in my car to drive home, I had two thoughts.
1. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
2. “Where is my ibuprofen?”
As I drove home another thought occurred to me. Just as I need Tracy to come along side me with my physical conditioning, I also need friends to come along beside me with my spiritual conditioning. I need to put myself under strong Godly instruction. I need to seek out those wiser than me and learn from them. I need to surround myself with friends who are also in training. The Bible calls those kinds of relationships iron sharpening iron relationships.
I had asked Tracy for help, and she was doing exactly what I had asked her to do, and she did it well. Truthfully, if it weren’t for her presence, I would not have finished. Okay, while I’m being honest here, I would have cheated on counting the reps, too. It’s true. Sad, but true.
As much as we desire to follow Christ, the truth is, there are times when we face things that just seem too hard. There are times when we just want to do what we have to do to get by, or we just flat out want to quit.
We need sisters standing beside us encouraging us. But we also need them standing beside us lovingly pointing out when our spiritual posture is not correct or when we have become lax in our training and conditioning. Not so we feel beat up, but so we become stronger and healthier in our spiritual walk.
I am blessed to have such sisters.
If you don’t, let me encourage you to consider finding some for yourself. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Seek out a wise Godly woman.
2. Ask her to help you – just like I asked Tracy.
3. Give her full permission to speak truth into your life – even if it is hard or it hurts.
4. Trust her, listen to her, follow her guidance.
5. Meet with her on a consistent, regular basis.
6. Let her see your weaknesses and struggles. Drop the mask.
You will be amazed at the transformation.
Have a great week!
Sometimes the intent of another is not to wound us but rather to prevent us from hurting ourselves. In Proverbs 27:5-6, King Solomon, known for his wisdom, wrote, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”(NIV) The New American reads, “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”
So what does that mean? It means that maybe our thinking is all wrong. We think that a true friend is one who always says nice things to us, and tells us how wonderful we are, and of course, always takes our side when we are, in our opinion, being treated unjustly. But the writer of Proverbs says, “Nope!”
My daughter just finished her first semester of college, and yes, we have all survived! Praise God! Survival has come through many hours of prayer, reading Scripture, and lots of free therapy from friends and family. By the way, thank you all for not charging! I can now look back on that first day of college with a little perspective, not through the fear and tears I had at the beginning. I remember getting ready to leave for school on that fateful morning and my daughter asked me how she looked. I was prepared to tell her that her hair looked great, her clothes matched (not always a given in our household), and that she looked very “college-worthy”. My sweet daughter had another adjective in mind; she wanted to know if she looked approachable?
“Approachable?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m wearing my Young Life shirt and do you think people will know about YL and want to approach me?”
I know this is something that we have all shared about before but I have really been pondering this lately. Dickie Jones, our Sunday school teacher, has taught a few lessons on this topic for the last couple of weeks and it got me to thinking. I do think we should share our stories with each other, sometimes our failures are much easier to share because who wants to sound “braggy” with our successes? As a body of believers, we should be there to build up each other in failures and also celebrate our victories. How will we know what’s going on if we don’t “post it”, “pin it”, or “pass it on”? It’s all about making connections just as Jesus did when He shared His stories and parables. So, if we are to be like Jesus… it’s all about our relationships and making connections with other people. The Lord has blessed each of us with a story to tell; He gives us all different experiences to share. Then when we go out, like the disciples, we try to make our connections. We glean something from each story that is shared and then we pass that on to someone else. All of this to build our Christ community and to be His hands, feet, and voice to everyone we meet.
We recently had a few friends over for the holidays. The house was decorated and my husband wanted to cook so we invited a few people over for dinner. Everything was very last minute, nothing really planned. Most of the guests who came were called the day of the dinner party. We used paper everything - please don’t tell my mom! I didn’t even have a dessert ready; we just ate the delicious treats that our guests graciously brought. Truth be known, I did not even vacuum or sweep the floors (gasp!) and guess what, despite the lack of planning or cleaning we had a great time. We enjoyed visiting and fellowshipping with our friends and not one of them minded the unswept floors or the last minute invitations, or if they did they were too sweet to say anything. I love my friends!
Last week, Billy Graham had a new message, “The Cross”, on TV. During the advertisements of the program, we, as believers, were encouraged to invite our neighbors and non-believers to watch this together. I thought that was a really great idea for “everyone else”. I was actually thinking this as I was walking my dog Ellie in our neighborhood. I thought, “Lord I really hope ‘other people’ will do that. It would be awesome!” I was actually quite proud of myself for remembering to pray for that ministry.
As Ellie and I were walking, I told the Lord that I would pray for my neighbors even though they wouldn’t be coming to my house - you know it would be weird inviting people I didn’t know very well. I also reminded the Lord that I had never really talked to a particular neighbor; in fact, I didn’t even remember her name. But as a person of Godly character I would pray for her too.
The Women’s ministry at Alice Drive Baptist Church sponsored their annual Ladies’ Night Out this past Tuesday night. As usual it was a great event. The wonderful men of the church patiently served over 700 women a great meal. No matter how much we harassed them about needing ice or drinks, they kept their cool. Very impressive bunch!
There were tons of amazing door prizes and Judi Gatson from WIS TV encouraged all of us. She shared a recent tough, heartbreaking journey she had traveled on. She had us crying one minute and laughing the next. We were reminded of how amazingly perfect God’s timing always is, even when we don’t see it that way at the time. We were also reminded of how faithful He always is and how perfectly He cares for His children.
Years ago a group of life group leaders attended a conference at Litchfield beach. During a lunch break, I was outside looking out over the ocean. It was a cool day and the sky was a bright blue. There wasn’t a cloud in sight. As I stood there taking in the beauty, Ken Lewis walked up beside me and looked in the direction that I was looking. He grinned and asked me, “Do you know who made that?”
“Yep,” I remember responding, “my Father did.”
He didn’t skip a beat, “Mine, too!” He enthusiastically responded back.
As we stood there side by side, I was overwhelmed by the fact that because of God’s grace in my life and because of His grace in Ken’s life, we shared the same Father. I was standing beside my brother and we were looking at our Father’s handiwork.
I don’t know if Ken remembers that day or not, but I know for me, I felt like God knitted our hearts together in a special way.
Galatians 3:26-29 took on a deeper meaning:
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were
baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew
nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ
Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs
according to the promise."
Years passed. Ken became Coach Ken to two of my boys. Not only did he coach them in the game of basketball; he coached them in their walk with Christ. He loved them well. He treated them as his own.
For years we have prayed for each other’s families.
When God began tugging on my heart to build a website, Ken would not let me push it aside. He coached me, with incredible patience I might add. He came alongside Carolyn, Grace, Lisa, and myself and made this website a reality.
He continues to tolerate our mistakes, our submitting things in the wrong format and at the wrong time, and he endures many late night freak-outs because the computer won’t do what we want it to. If he has said, “Hit the refresh button once, he has said it a thousand times!”
This Tuesday, Ken, Liz, and their children leave for Atlanta. Selfishly, I’m not happy about this turn of events. On the other hand, I am so excited to see what God has in store for them. When all is said and done, I want God’s absolute best for the brother that He blessed me with those many years ago.
When I read Philemon 1:4-9, I think about Ken and Liz.
“I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.”
So let me just say, “We love you, Ken. We will miss you so much, but we know this isn’t goodbye. After all, we still know your phone number!
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