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
In the book of Exodus we read about Moses and his great deliverance of the Israelites. After the Israelites left Egypt they wandered around in the wilderness for forty years waiting on God to lead them to the promised land. While they were in the wilderness, the Israelites started to complain about how Moses saved them. They were slaves back in Egypt but compared to just wandering around in the desert with no food, the slave life in Egypt was looking pretty good! We read in Exodus chapter 16 that the Israelites started grumbling and complained to Moses, “We had meat in Egypt but then you had to go and lead us out so that we could starve out here in the desert!”
Of course, there was no food in the desert. How were they to survive? Why would God lead them out of Egypt only to bring them to a desert? Don’t we feel like we’re in the wilderness sometimes? We feel like God leads us somewhere only to abandon us. I know this feeling quite well.
Media- you’re everywhere. You’re so loud that it’s deafening.
You’re deafening our ears to hear truth,
blinding our eyes to see direction,
yet somehow amplifying our mouths to speak opinion…
to speak our views or judgements we’ve formed from you, Media,
with our deafened ears and our blinded eyes.
We have become like overly pompous horses.
We appear grand, strong, powerful, galavanting the great wild world,
yet with bridle and bit in mouth, our stance is directed by someone else.
By something else.
It’s you, Media.
What is truth anymore?
We’ve taken this guiding light and altered it to fit our perception of reality.
But that’s not truth.
We seem to have lost what truth is.
We no longer seek it earnestly, instead we settle for being led by uncertainty.
What happened to education? Where have all of the books gone?
We no longer thumb through pages of factual information,
rather settle for a comment feed without any rationalization.
Where do our convictions lie? I can’t seem to find them.
What was once an internal voice of logical process
is now a methodical scroll thumbed thoughtless.
Our hearts seem to be led by self-righteousness, no longer led by love.
Our words led by “likes,” as if that were ever enough.
We are affirmed by our “friends” and motivated by a “follow,”
all of which returns void when what we post is hard to swallow.
So we settle in for hate and slander, all done through our words.
So gratified in our voice, finally being heard.
But what have we accomplished? What’s been made better?
We still live in a virtual world, filled with friends who are fair-weathered.
We have to put down our devices and stand up with our back bones.
Get out of this world’s vices and find our way back home.
Because home is where we left it, where we lost all of our hope.
Where we chose our own knowledge, our own truth, when He warned us, “No, don’t!”
Now we’ve let the enemy in, and he’s running all amok.
And we’re all just looking for hope again, with no such luck.
We’re crying out to leaders; we’re giving them the blame.
But they’ll never be able to hear our cries, because our hope has a name.
Jesus is our hope, the way, the truth, the life.
Watch as He’s running after us, His forever, eternal bride.
So Media, I’m using you now, to accomplish some good.
To remind a hopeless people, that their pain is understood.
I’m unplugging the deafened ears and removing bridle and bit.
To no longer be guided by the world and constantly listening to it.
For my hope, He has a name, and His father suffered great loss.
They both know our feelings of pain, for their pain involved a cross.
And right now ours does too, a crossroads of sorts.
Do we buy into this Hope? Or stand idle with abhor.
If we want to go to battle in this never ending strife,
We must make sure we are standing behind lines worthy of our lives.
The fight we choose will be costly, no matter which side.
So we must be sure we choose wisely and set aside our pride.
I have chosen to seek the Truth, while He may still be found.
I want to have eyes that see and ears that hear, when the trumpet sounds.
If curiosity has sparked, a twinkling in your eyes,
ask me all your questions but tell me no more lies.
This Truth for you is free, for the price has far been paid.
So rest assured you weary heart, do not be dismayed.
For what Hope did for me, He’s also done for you.
And where Media, you confuse us, our Hope, you will speak Truth.
Our Savior will come through.
Taking hold of that Hope,
Absorbed in my bible study, it took a few minutes for the sound to register and make me aware of my surroundings again - the unmistakable sound of our dog pawing at the back door to go out. As I got up and start walking in that direction, her anticipation was so over-whelming that she was literally dancing and jumping about. I opened the door and she bounded out as fast as she could, directly to the three palm trees that stand close enough to each other that the squirrels bound back and forth in their branches from tree to tree. You see, she loves to chase the squirrels in her yard. She has not caught one yet, praise God, but she has come very close. Finding them and then chasing them is the highlight of her days.
As I stood at the door watching her, I could not help but chuckle at the fact that because she was so focused on the trees where she has had “success” in finding them before, she completely missed the 5 squirrels that were on the ground. A couple no more than fifteen feet from where she sat staring up into the tree branches.
Then it occurred to me, by prompting of the Holy Spirit I am sure, that often times I run through my life like that. So hyper-focused on a person, a place or a situation that has brought “success” before that I miss all of the blessings my Jesus has placed around me now. I am so consumed with the path that I have set out on or turned back to that I neglect to see the favor God has for me out in plain sight if only I would change my focus.
Makes me think of horses in parades that have blinders on. Those blinders are for protection; protection for the horse, rider, and audience. Sometimes the horse cannot handle that much chaos, distraction and activity without it causing anxiety and panic.
But the blinders I tend to wear are not protecting me at all. Quite frankly, they do just the opposite. They keep me focused on my own chaos, distraction and activity that it causes anxiety and panic for me.
If I take the blinders off, I am able to see and therefore receive all of the gifts God has for me in this world - my squirrels, as it were. Gifts such as a Godly husband that loves me deeply. Gifts of healthy children that call me mom. Gifts of loving parents and sisters, and in-laws who call me their own. Brothers and sisters in Christ that speak truth into my spirit and a church that I call home.
There's also the beauty of His creation that He made just for me! He even puts flowers on “weeds” so when I, with my black-thumb, kill off all of the “good” plants in my yard it still looks pretty. His blessings and gifts and bounty goes on and on and on.
Please Lord, help me to look up from my path, take the blinders off and receive all that you have for me. Help me to stay focused on You as You direct my path. I pray that it will become my daily posture to come, on my knees, to You to calm the chaos, distraction and activity that so often causes anxiety and panic. I want to see, receive and enjoy all that you have for me daily so I can be all you designed me to be. It is in the mighty, loving name of Jesus that I pray. Amen
Special thanks to Laura Crain for sharing with us!
–branches dreamstime.com,blinders blogspot.com/blinkers,blessings linkedin.com/pulse/countless-blessings-ray-w
This past Thursday, I left home to take supper to a friend who had just had a baby. Not more than five minutes after I left my house, my husband called to tell me that there had been a terrible car accident in our front yard. I quickly delivered the food and headed back home. When I turned onto my road, there were flashing lights everywhere. Fire trucks, ambulances, and patrol cars blocked the road. Two of my neighbors pulled up at the same time I did, and the three of us ran toward my house.
A fireman met us and informed us that a car had run off the road and hit a tree in my yard. Though he could not give us any further information, we knew that the person driving the car had not survived the crash.
We all stood there, stunned, watching the responders work and trying to piece together what had happened. After several hours, the responders began to leave one by one until all that was left was a highway patrolman and the car. I stood beside the patrolman as he waited for the wrecker. The wrecker came, got the car, and then they left, too. All was quite again, like it normally is. Nothing was left but pieces of metal, glass, and small parts. Only the ground and the tree bore the evidence of what had just happened; everyone else had gone back to wherever it was they were supposed to be. But, I just could not seem to bring myself to walk away.
It felt wrong to go back to normal. It was almost like the frenzy of activity was the correct response to a life lost and the cleared, calm scene was in some way dishonoring. As I stood there looking at the tree, I wrestled with the fact that in one moment there had been life and in the very next moment it was gone. Just gone, like a vapor. Then from out of the blue, a verse from Psalms came to my mind and I found myself saying out loud, “Lord, please teach me to number my days.”
Over and over, I have found myself walking out to the tree and thinking about the man who was in the car and about his family. I keep thinking about Psalms 90:12, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I wasn’t really sure why God brought that to my mind the first time and why it came to my mind every time I looked at the tree. What does it mean to number our days and how do we gain a heart of wisdom by learning to number them?
Today, out by the tree, this is what I came up with.
When we number our days, we recognize that life is short, shorter than we too often are even aware. We recognize the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death. We don’t do this to fall into despair or to become fearful because Jesus took away the sting of death. Instead, recognizing the brevity of life propels us to make every day count for His glory. It makes us more thoughtful, more intentional about where we choose to invest our time, efforts, money, and attention.
A heart full of wisdom is not focused on the here and now, but rather it sets its sights on eternity. When we gain a heart of wisdom, “We learn to make choices through which God can establish the work of our hands, producing something valuable to those that follow us and honoring to God.”
I am attaching a short video by Francis Chan. It’s really short and so worth watching.
Please keep the family in your prayers this week.
 Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (867). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (867). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
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
The last few weeks have been very difficult for my friend, Grace. She and her family found out that her dad was in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. They brought him home to care for him. Tonight he went home to be with Jesus.
When she first learned that her dad had cancer, there was shock, confusion, fear, and lots of questions, some with no definitive answers. There was heartbreak and sadness.
But then God reached down and began showing her his hand. She became clearly aware of His attention, even His attention to the small things. The more aware of His attentiveness, the calmer she became, the stronger she became. It has been truly amazing to watch.
What do you do when the pain is so deep or the fear is completely overwhelming?
Do you shut down?
Do you pray?
What if the prayer isn’t answered quickly and the circumstance that you find yourself in drags on?
What if the answer is “No”?
And when you pray, do you pray out of fear or trust? Do you pray that the circumstance changes or do you pray that you change?
Certainly, we should ask God to intervene - Jesus did. Three times He ask His Father to change the circumstances. Three times He asked that He not have to walk the path that was before Him.
But then, He surrendered His will to the will of His Father.
We find the account in Luke. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.”
Jesus didn’t want to walk the path before Him. He was in agony as He pleaded with His Father in the garden that night. But even more than wanting to be released from the fearful road ahead, He wanted to obey. He wanted His Father to be glorified more than He wanted to be spared the pain before Him.
Luke goes on to say that after Jesus surrender there in the garden, an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him.
When we pray, with a surrendered heart, God will do no less for us. We will be strengthened. We will receive courage for the road ahead. There is tremendous power in prayer that seeks God’s will and His glory. A greater work in our lives is done, not when the circumstance changes, but when we are changed.
Have a blessed week,
“No dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” -Philippians 3:13
Edisto Beach is a place that our family loves dearly. We have built thin peaked drip castles by the hundreds, combed the beach for shark’s teeth until the back of our necks cramped, and had crabs enthusiastically grab onto stinky chicken necks time and time again just before their captor quickly scooped them up. One of the funniest snapshots of my mind is a time when we were going to an inlet to dig clams and seine for fish and shrimp. We were all doing our thing when my youngest son let out a scream that would curl your toes! I honestly had never heard anything like it!
This is something I shared in my Heart Talks group and I thought some of you that aren't in the group might need this too…
I want to share about "process". I'm watching my daughter go through this season so it's fresh on my mind and huge in my heart. There might be a few of you who have no idea about it or some of you might be like me and just need a reminder… because you’re there too.
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