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
Pain in this life is a given.
It is unavoidable.
It will happen.
It is a foolish endeavor to attempt to avoid it touching our lives. Seasons of pain come and go. Sometimes the season is short but sometimes those seasons seem endless. Sometimes the pain is of our own doing, a consequence of a rebellious spirit. Other times, we are blindsided by life and we find ourselves in the crosshairs of a fallen world.
What do we do when we find ourselves in a season of unrelenting pain and hardship? If pain is inevitable, then there must be some kind of help out there for the afflicted, some Divine provision for a hurting soul.
Maybe we need to change our understanding of pain and it’s purpose in our lives. Sometimes it just helps to know something has purpose.
What would happen if we saw pain as a tool? Then recognizing how that tool is used in our lives would be hugely significant.
Let me explain.
If pain is a tool, then we need to recognize whose hands hold the tool.
If the tool finds its way into the hands of the enemy, we can be sure that it will be used to cripple us, maybe even destroy us. We know the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy. John 10:10
But, if the tool finds itself in the hands of a loving Father, then we can be assured that the tool will be used to chisel and shape us into something beautiful. We could then claim Romans 8:28 with absolute certainty. We could know beyond any shadow of a doubt that, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Armed with that assurance, we could stand up under the weight of any pain.
We don’t often have a choice as to whether pain enters our lives or not, but when it does, we do get to choose whose hands will hold the tool.
Choose your carpenter wisely.
Have a great week,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
Yesterday was a first of an upcoming year of firsts. In January, my mom went home – to her real home. So this was my first Mother’s Day without a mom, without my Mama. I really wanted to just move on past the day and pretend that it wasn’t Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way so I just kinda muddled through the day.
I was so blessed to have precious friends send sweet texts throughout the day. One even made the most amazing cake to let me know that she was thinking about me. I was blessed to have most of my children with me but, and I hate to admit this, I just wasn’t feeling overly grateful for the blessings that were around me.
This morning a sweet friend said, “You made it through your first ‘first’. You did it.” She knows what she’s talking about because she has walked this same road. She knows that there will be many “firsts” this year. As I left her house to head home, I started thinking about how much I don’t want to just make it through the next year of “firsts”.
As I drove, I began to become so aware of my ungrateful heart. God had so lovingly surrounded me with loving friends and family and I had just neglected to recognize it. But then He brought a precious memory to my mind. I want to share it with all of you, especially any of you who, like me, have a year of “firsts” ahead.
Back in January, early on a Monday morning, my Dad called to let me know that he thought Mama had just had a stroke and she was in the ambulance on her way to the hospital. We had made several trips to the hospital over the last few months. Her health had been declining and her body was worn out. I remember that my only prayer on the way to the hospital was just that God would be merciful and that her suffering would not escalate even more.
When we got to the hospital, she was on a respirator and was heavily sedated. We were told that she had had a catastrophic brain bleed. After a few more tests and much prayer, the decision was made to remove the respirator. That night, her family surrounded her as she took her last breath.
One by one, family left the room until the only two left were my son, Dalton, and me. His eyes were swollen and red and I knew his heart was crushed. I didn’t want to leave him in the room by himself so I just stood there, watching him out of the corner of my eye. My own heart was so heavy as the finality of what had happened sank in.
But as we stood there in that dark, cold room the most amazing thing happened. All of a sudden, Dalton’s eyes grew wide and his whole face lit up. “Mama, just think what she’s seeing right now…can you imagine what she’s seeing right now!” It was as if God had cracked the door to heaven just enough to allow us a tiny glimpse of what the real reality was. The whole room seemed to light up.
His words washed over me like a river of healing water as I was reminded that the empty shell lying in the hospital bed was nothing more than just that, a shell. But my Mama, well, she was face to face with her Savior. No more pain. She was free. And maybe, she was even dancing.
The reality of what death is for those of us who belong to Christ had escaped me for just a moment. But my son’s words reminded me that the truth is, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)
Who was I to want anything else for her?
So, as I drove home today, I realized that I, again, had lost sight of the truth. I confessed my ungratefulness to my Father and asked that He renew a right spirit in me. I told Him that for the rest of my year of “firsts” without my Mama, I was going to celebrate her year of “firsts” with Him. I was going to just imagine what she was seeing and how she looked now that she was fully healed.
I also had to smile because I’m pretty sure she is rearranging all the furniture in the Mansion and telling the angels what to do.
Have a great week!
This past Thursday, bushwalkers in Australia found a sheep who had not been sheered for a very long time. Realizing that the sheep was in danger, they notified the RSPCA who rescued the sheep and brought in an expert sheerer to help out. When the fleece was removed, it weighed almost 90 pounds.
According to the rescuers, before Chris, the sheep, was sheered, he was very nervous and would not look at the humans trying to help him. When they would try to approach him, he would turn his head away from them. He also had difficulty walking and getting up. But after the heavy fleece was removed, he became a different sheep. He began approaching his rescuers to be petted by them.
I thought it was interesting that we tend to respond in similar fashion when we are weighed down with burdens and guilt. We tend to hide, avoid others even the ones who want to help, we struggle in our walk with Christ.
Chris, the sheep's story is similar to another sheep named Shrek who was also found and rescued a year or so ago. There was an awesome devotion written about Shrek that we want to share with all of you. It is a great reminder for all of us.
This is Shrek the sheep. He became famous several years ago when he was found after hiding out in caves for six years. Of course, during this time his fleece grew without anyone there to shorn (shave) it. When he was finally found and shaved, his fleece weighed an amazing sixty pounds. Most sheep have a fleece weighing just under ten pounds, with the exception usually reaching fifteen pounds, maximum. For six years, Shrek carried six times the regular weight of his fleece. Simply because he was away from his shepherd.
This reminds me of John 10 when Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd, and His followers are His sheep. Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think Shrek is much like a person who knows Jesus Christ but has wandered. If we avoid Christ’s constant refining of our character, we’re going to accumulate extra weight in this world—a weight we don’t have to bear.
When Shrek was found, a professional sheep shearer took care of Shrek’s fleece in twenty-eight minutes. Shrek’s sixty pound fleece was finally removed. All it took was coming home to his shepherd.
I believe Christ can lift the burdens we carry, if only we stop hiding. He can shave off our ‘fleece’—that is, our self-imposed burdens brought about by wandering from our Good Shepherd.
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Source: Tumblr - IBibleVerses
This is an awesome music video by Shane and Shane with an excerpt from John Piper's message, "The Glory of God in the Sight of Eternity." It encourages us to not lose heart in the face of suffering and it reminds us that our suffering is never meaningless. If you could use some encouragement, listen and be renewed.
“For a child will be born for us…He will be named…everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Christmas has always held very special memories for me. When I was growing up, I remember going to bed on Christmas Eve not able to sleep. When I went to bed, our Christmas tree was decorated with not a gift under it. I would be in bed with my eyes shut, listening for the sounds that stories promised…reindeer paws! I would always drift off for a little while, but I could not wait to wake up my mom and dad and see what Santa had left us under the tree! Every Christmas…my mom and dad were there. One Christmas, I remember getting a Simon game, a Merlin, a bunch of records/albums, a typewriter…pure joy as a child! Not one single memory of a Christmas that my dad was not there. My dad was not a perfect dad, but he was there. As I have grown up, I am not sure my children can think of a Christmas that my dad has not been there. He has always shown up with gifts in his hands and a lot of jokes. He would only stay a few hours and he was ready to go home…but he was there.
This Christmas is my first Christmas without my dad. He passed away last January and this has been my year of “firsts” that everyone has told me about. As I have tried to get through the season with joy, I have had a lead stone on my heart and a lump in my throat knowing my dad will not be there.
This morning, I was reminded that I have consolation. I have a Father in Heaven that is always there. Thousands of years ago, God knew that I would need a reminder in my time of hurt. Through a prophet named, Isaiah, God leaned down and gave me refreshing joy! “For a child will be born for us,” (for Stacey) “He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” My Father in heaven never intended for my earthly father to be there every Christmas. His Son would fill that place. His Son would be born in a very uncomfortable stable, in very uncomfortable circumstances for people like me to have stability and comfort in His love for us! My Father in heaven never intended for my joy to rest in the comfort of what has always been. My Father in heaven intends for my comfort to be in Him alone. He sent His Son to encompass all of my “emptiness” and “loneliness”! He sent His Son to be my Prince of Peace when change in inevitable! He sent His Son to be my joy in my sorrow!
“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This Christmas, I will look to the Son on Christmas morning and be filled with peace!
Yesterday, I was led to share something about my past that I didn’t want to share, especially because it was in front of someone whose approval is very important to me. For the rest of the day, my heart was heavy. I found myself struggling with why sharing this particular part of my story was causing so much hurt in my heart. I have shared parts of my story many times before, and though it has never been easy, I've never experienced emotions quite like this.
I found a quiet space to just sit still before my Father, and I asked for help. As I sat there, the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, gently shed light on what was happening.
A good bit of my story revolves around things that happened in my life before I came to a saving knowledge of my Lord and Savior. But, this particular part of my story happened after Jesus saved me from my wicked and sinful self.
Before Christ, I sinned against a God I didn’t know, but now, when I sin, I sin against a Father I do know, and that makes the sin all the more grievous to me. I thought about the disciple, Peter. What incredible heartbreak Peter felt when he looked into Jesus’s eyes as he realized in full whom he had sinned against. I was feeling that heartache.
I want to make sure you understand that my struggle was not with whether or not I had been forgiven. When we repent of our sins, God takes them and throws them as far as the east is from the west, and He remembers them no more. I believe that with all my heart, so I knew that there was no place for condemnation.
So why the broken heart?
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about a thorn in his flesh. No one knows with certainty what that thorn was, but Paul explained that it had a purpose:
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (verses 7-12)
I found myself agreeing with Paul. I will be glad for my thorns. The pain reminds me of who I am apart from Christ and let me tell you…that keeps me in a humble place. It reminds me that His grace is precious and all I need. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to be strong on my own; that when I am at my weakest, He does His most powerful and amazing work.
I found myself gladly embracing my broken heart. In fact, I always want my heart to be broken when I am called to revisit those dark places because on the heels of the heartache is the sweet reminder that I am a cherished child of the Most High God. I always want to be amazed that He would saved one as wretched as me because when that reality sinks deep into the inner most parts of my heart, I find myself loving Him more and more.
Who is like our God?
Have you ever had times in your life when it felt like you just couldn’t go on? Maybe you weren’t considering suicide (or maybe you were), but life had dealt you a hard blow. I think we all have been there or pretty close to it, at one point or another. So, what do you do? How do you manage to get out of bed each day in the midst of stress, turmoil, and pain? Well, I am glad you asked.
It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since Chris died. It seems like not long ago, I was in the ER waiting for them to tell me that they’d have to fly him out for further evaluation, or maybe even surgery. I knew he had taken a pretty bad lick to the head. I called to him at the scene of the accident and he didn’t answer. So, ok doctor, let me have the news. Which hospital are you going to fly him to? What’s broken? What type of surgery will he need?
“...Excuse me? Did I just hear you say…he didn’t make it? Do you mean to tell me that I have a three-year-old son and a five-month-old baby girl who are now fatherless?
Instead of which trauma hospital, I was being asked which funeral home.
I can still see the image of that car rolling towards us, even ten years later. There was no place to go, we were on a bridge. We just watched and waited for her to hit. How could I even be angry with her? Her two year old died at the scene.
It is so hard to move forward when you feel like you can’t go on. I prayed. I cried, and then I did it all over again. Life seems unfair at times we; all have our share of ups and downs. But God did not intend for us to remain in those down times. He will catch us by the hand through His spirit, and we will feel His strength in our times of weakness. We will never know how strong He is, and how weak we are, if we never ask Him to hold us, to carry us through.
The question is often asked why God allows bad things to happen. I don’t know that I have the answer either. I too believe that He has the power to speak or wave His hand and things will be or not be. All I know is that when they happen, during those times of stress, trouble, and pain is when I learned so much about my God. I don’t want to go through things just to know His power, but when I do go through them, I learn more of Him.
He will give us the strength, the will, the ability to move forward. We can go on; we can make it through this, make it through that. I don’t know your battle, but I know who will give you victory over every spirit of hopelessness and depression that comes along with it. God can, and He will. Although He knows, talk to Him. Tell Him all about it. You don’t have to have any fancy words to get your point across. He may detect a little anger or anxiety in your voice, in your heart; but it’s ok. Just keep the line of communication open. Let God know what you are feeling and ask for His help to keep going. Before you know it, you will have made it through a lot of yesterdays. The tomorrow that you thought you couldn’t make it through, will become yesterday. Our God remains the same today, tomorrow, and forevermore. He can get you through it. Ask Him to help you. Speed up when you can, and slow down when you have to, but don’t stop. Keep moving forward.
I know you’ve heard the quote, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Of course, we understand that we shouldn’t allow the hurtful words of others to harm us, to define us, or to shape us. Of course we shouldn’t. But what we know we shouldn’t allow and what we are actually capable of not allowing are two different things.
Not long ago, an incredible woman shared with me the way in which she saw herself. The woman she saw herself to be and the woman that I saw were two totally different people. As we talked, she told me about some very hurtful words that were often spoken to her as a child. Sadly, those cruel words have followed her into adulthood. She believes them.
“And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28
Sooner or later even the most happy-go-lucky, optimistic, joyful person gets beat up by life. During those times it feels like we’ve fallen into raging rapids. One thing happens, then another, then another, we’re bouncing off of rocks, getting our foot caught in back currents and when we come up for air, we can’t believe where we landed! How could we have possibly drifted so far and ended up here? We’re hurt, we’re angry, we feel sorry for ourselves, and we truly grieve the quiet mountaintop life we were seemingly in such a short time ago.
Let’s consider this…what if Romans 8:28 was God’s life raft speeding by to yank us out of the water? What if it worked not just some of the time but ALL of the time… if we truly believed God actually does work ALL things together for our good when we truly love him and trust him to do so? What if?
Would knowing that with certainty cause us to be stronger, to hand over our burdens sooner and without question, would it lift our spirits and attitudes while we were still being swept away down the rapids? I have to believe it would.
In The Promise, Robert J. Morgan writes “Romans 8:28 is all-inclusive, all-powerful, and always available… It can touch any hurt, and redeem any problem… It isn’t a mere platitude but a divine promise...He (God) turns problems inside out, transforming bad things to blessings and converting trials into triumphs. He alone knows how to bring Easters out of Good Fridays.”
If we think about it that way, how can we hesitate to put it in his hands? I mean, think about it; the total physical end of life for Jesus became the beginning of life for us in just a few days time! God designed that historical and life altering outcome but he also designed the quilt of our lives before we were even in the womb! He knows the final outcome of every hurt and every betrayal and he promises to use it for our good! What better hands could we possibly be in!
Only God holds every tear we cry in the palm of his hands and turns them to pearls.
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