How Jesus Changed My Friendships

Last time we met at Belong I spoke about overcoming weird times in friendship. Vulnerably, I shared some humbling ways the Lord needed to teach me about being a good friend.  I trust I’m not the only who’s ever thought they were a bad friend.   While on my quest to find the perfect friend, Jesus broke through with such strength and light.   What I was most surprised by was how making Jesus my perfect friend would affect all my other friendships!  Some of the problems that plagued my friendship attitudes were brought out into the light as Jesus gently guided me into a deeper relationship with Him.

How Jesus changed my friendships

Enough

Enough – No matter what they do, does it seem like it’s never enough?  They weren’t warm enough, they weren’t open enough, giving enough, friendly enough, concerned enough or happy-to-see-you enough.  It could be that you have been coming to your friends to satisfy a part of you that only Jesus can. When we expect our friends to be our enough they will always be such a disappointment to us.  But when you come to Jesus and open your heart to let Him fill you full of His love, He is more than enough.

John 4:14 …whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Have you also experienced a “never enough” time in your friendships?
Are you ready to expect more out of Jesus?

Selfless

Selfless – When you consider making someone your friend, do you weigh in your mind how much you can get from them vs. how much you will give to them? We may do this very subtly and not even notice it.  And in these times it can be considered a completely normal thought process.  This world is always telling us to put ourselves first… get what you can…It’s all about you… and build yourself a fan club that knows it’s all about you…
When you allow Jesus to become the most influential person in your life, He turns this whole mindset upside down.  He tells us that the last will be first and the first will last. Jesus takes our friendships from “What can I get” to “What can I give you”.  You will be amazed at the transformation of your friendships when you understand that it’s not all about you.  Whenever I experienced a friend who was moody or cold, I always thought that it was definitely something that I did or said.  It would cause me to withdrawal a little bit from them at a time when they needed my friendship most.  My self-centered mindset kept me from being the friend they needed. Jesus helps us understand that “It ain’t about you!”

 2 Corinthians 5:15  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

In what ways have you seen a self-centered attitude at work in your friendships?
What will you do to conquer selfishness in your friendships?

Deeper

Deeper – Are wondering why your friendships seem shallow and unsatisfying.  You could be surrounded by friends, but you still feel very lonely and unsatisfied.  There are many barriers that keep us from having a deep bond with people.  Mostly it is because we want to protect ourselves.  To go deeper means to open yourself up. To be vulnerable.  Allow others to see the real you can be scary. What if they reject me?! Or see me as incompetent?!  What if they confirm my suspicion that I am as weird as I think I am and they go running the opposite direction!  It can be scary to open up to friends especially if you’ve had a rough experience with it in the past.

Being open and vulnerable with Jesus is not an option. He really won’t have it any other way.   Even when we try to hide parts of ourselves from him he has a way of drawing us out, like only He can.  You need to understand that while people are capable of letting us down when we make ourselves vulnerable, Jesus will not. He is the safest Person you could ever take emotional risks with.   Something amazing happens when we are real and trusting with Jesus. He sends us out into the world armed with such confidence and security.  We go into our friendships with genuine love, knowing that we are ALREADY accepted and it completely transforms the relationship.  Now I can easily show my vulnerabilities with friends because I know that even when a friend denies me the acceptance I would hope for, I am not destroyed. I am firmly planted on the Rock of Salvation far from the fickle sand of the human heart and safe from the pit of self-pity.

Like the woman who anointed Jesus at Bethany. Read Mark 14:3-9. She vulnerably made a public display of affection toward her savior by pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. The onlookers rebuked her harshly. But she did not cower at their comments or hesitate at their heckling.  Her Jesus spoke up for her saying, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me…and it will be told in memory of her wherever the gospel is preached.”

think with me

So what if your relationship with Jesus seems shallow and unsatisfying?  Happens to me all the time.  Mostly because I ignore Him, don’t make time for him and then withdrawal from Him because I feel bad.  It’s so sad.  But I have never regretted coming to Him and acknowledging the awkwardness of being out of touch.  It can feel forced at first, to come to Him when it’s been a while.  But the feelings are all self-induced.  Jesus welcomes me and never condemns me.  Like a good friend, he simply wants to pick up where we left off.  The sooner I get over myself and my failures, the sooner He can pour into my spirit again.  I pick up my dusty bible and hold it close.  I open my hymnal to my favorite verses.  I confess. I cry. I read His words. I hear his love for me.  And he makes me new.  He makes me strong, firm and secure.

Why do you pull away when He reaches out? Why do you recoil? Because if you believe that Jesus died on the cross then you believe that the shame you feel is the reason He died. He accepts you, all your mess. He is perfect so you don’t have to be. Life apart from Him is no life at all.

What is keeping you from coming closer to Jesus?
What will you do today to open yourself to Him?

This is a great time to find a friend who can answer your questions about Jesus.

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El Roi – the God who sees

It is a desert time for the Invisible Woman.  A lonely struggle.  Her eyes scan the horizon for a sign that it will be over soon but there is only dry sand and she is left to walk it out alone in the vast emptiness.  It’s such hard work and maybe it would seem easier if she had a companion. For heaven’s sake don’t you dare sit down and give up for God is El Roi (el, ro-ee): The God Who Sees

This reminds me of a desert time for a young woman, Hagar.  Her desperate story is told in Genesis 16:1-15. It almost ended very badly for her… but The Lord saw her.

Sarah and Abraham were never able to conceive. They are well past their prime and even so God had promised them a child, their very own – from them. As time went on they began to doubt the promise and took matters into their own hands.  Sarah had a young Egyptian maidservant, Hagar.  Sarah suggested that Abraham conceive a child with Hagar. And it was so. (Now ladies, of course you and I can obviously see that this would be a bad idea. Often our desperation can lead us to do the most regrettable things.) Soon Sarah experiences the full force of her regret as jealousy sets in and these two women begin to despise one another.  Hagar flaunted her pregnancy and Sarah made life difficult for Hagar.  It got bad.  Sarah complained to Abraham but he was not much help. “Do with her whatever you think best. (Genesis 16:6)”  he said, essentially –she’s your problem (I have a feeling this will not turn out well for Hagar).  Her poor actions had inclined Sarah’s severe treatment. Women can be so cruel to each other. I can just see them getting their digs in, preying upon the insecurities of the other. Us ladies know how to get her where it hurts. These women made life miserable for each other. I’m sure the rest of the house was miserable too. It gets so bad that Hagar’s fight turned to flight and she runs, choosing the scorching heat of the desert over the unbearable conflict. She cries as she walks. Her heart is crushed. Her mind is anxious. Her hormones have her wound up and she just keeps putting as much distance as possible between her and the pain. All she can see is her pain.

But she is not as alone as she feels…

Next we read, “…the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the dessert…”  Genesis 16:7

“Hagar, servant of Sarah, where have you come from, and where are you going?…Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” Genesis 16:8-9

Go back?! Submit?! An impossible task for a young woman whose pride has led her out here with only a burned bridge behind her. But God reassures her.  He acknowledges her child and her misery and He lifts her downcast face to rise and see the future that awaits her. Her and her son.  She has been seen. (Genesis 16:10-12) God saw her broken heart and saw her future.

With this divine assurance, she stands. And turns toward home. Eyes focused. She walks with purpose.  God has spoken to her. Her son will live and grow to be a man.  A steady peace and calm covers this reckless girl. Her anxious mind that was once so narrowly focused on her present injustice has now been given a view from a much higher place.  And just there, on the horizon, she sees that this troubling time will pass. Confident that she has not and never will escape God’s watchfulness, she knows she’ll be alright.  This is all the assurance she needs to overcome all of her trials.

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “ You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13)

El Roi – The God Who Sees

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

According to Psalm 34:18, where is God when we are hurting?

We are so vulnerable when we go through desert times.  Without support God can seem so far off; so detached from our pain and loneliness.  Invisible woman, you need to know that God does see you. In fact, according to Psalm 34:18 He pays special attention to those who are hurting.

think with me

Did you ever consider that this season in the desert was designed by God to prompt you to come to Him? That possibly He has something special for you if only you would go to Him for comfort instead of another source? (In my lonely times God sees me not by a well in the desert, but when Netflix stops my show to ask if I’m still watching. Sadly I am. What a wonderful distraction from the burdens of life and alone-ness, insert eye-roll here.) Where does God see you?

If you’ve been hurt from being left out and unnoticed has there been a temptation to not even try to connect with others again? Has self-preservation become your only comfort? Don’t linger too long in the shadows. It’s time to come out into the light.

pray with me

El Roi, I believe that you see me.  I believe that you see what is ahead of me and that you will use what is behind me.  Lord, You are invisible and go unnoticed by so many of Your creation yet you do not give up on us.  You are so patient with us.  Your watchfulness has been my strength and comfort through every trial. I am never alone. You have our attention now, Lord. Forgive us for ignoring You as we feel sorry for ourselves. Here and now we lay down our pride and we turn humbly to You, seeking Your comfort and council. Amen.


Juicy Gossip

“Let’s do lunch today. I’ve got to tell you what so and so did…”

“Well that’s not what I heard…”

These statements here represent small examples of a gossip trap. There is also the delightful magazine headlines at the grocery checkout. Why do I love to read silly headlines about celebrities?! As damaging as gossip is, it still sells. It’s juicy and delicious and people want it. Says so in the bible…

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts –Proverbs 26:22

Our Elmwood ladies gathered on August 3rd to bring the topic of Gossip into the light of God’s word.   Here’s a recap…

1) Gossip reveals a desire for Power and Influence

There is a certain amount of satisfaction that we get when we know something that few people know. How wonderful it feels to be included. To be important enough to know. It’s hard to keep that to ourselves. We want all our friends to know just how important we are. “Let me tell you how it all went down. Step right up and get the facts here… or at least what my friend told me.”

We like to be the informant of people’s life events, some of which are private. At the heart of this mess of gossip is a prideful arrogance and desperate need of importance.   I confess to feeling the rush of being part of the gossip. Being “in the know” feels good. I have felt like one of the cool girls in an inner circle of social knowledge. I have also been consumed by these experiences too. If you were ever wondering where you can find drama’s address, it’s here on Gossip St.   Who knows what, who said what exactly and how did it get twisted. Whose feelings are hurt and who is the jerk. At this age I can still feel left out if I wasn’t invited or told or included but many times I see that all I missed out on was a lot of drama and nonsense. This is real ladies and I pray that you and me can recognize this tendency in our relationships and commit to start finding our ego strength in the God who made us uniquely important for His own special purposes.

2) Gossip is Divisive

A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends. –Proverbs 16:28 

I’ve witnessed families and friendships torn apart by someone spreading negative ideas and information about a person. Pitting siblings against one another. Driving wedges between spouses. Creating dissention in the ranks at the workplace and planting seeds of doubt. It comes to us naturally. We get mad and we want to vent. We want to draw others to us and away from the offender. Have you ever been offended by someone, had a misunderstanding of sorts? Then in a socially weak moment just rant on about what that person did, forever singeing this negative information in the minds of your hearers. Never mind that you got over it a week later. The gossip lives on. Like trying to put feathers back on a plucked chicken on a windy day, so you will never be able to fix the far reaches of damaging words. I like to think that most people are very smart and will say to themselves, “You know, that does sound pretty bad. But despite this unfortunate news, I’m not going to let it jade my opinions about the other.” But many are not. It is here that we would all be better off to just speak openly with the person we have an issue with, not talk to everybody else about them.

Answer this: Do you think a person would be more upset if you came to speak to them about the problem directly or if they found out that you spoke to everybody else about it?

So what can we do?

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. –Proverbs 11:13

When a friend comes to you with damaging news about someone. Take it as they are looking for advice on how to handle it. Or that they just need to take a load off. Then let it stop with you. Say that you will pray about this. Handle it vertically with God. Not horizontally by telling more people about it.

Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. –Proverbs 26:20

I have been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books to my kids. Laura quotes her mothers wisdom…“Least said soonest mended”. A testament to Proverbs 26:20.

Even truthful words can be damaging so choose wisely where and when you use them. Here’s another great Caroline Ingalls quote.

Caroline Ingalls

So we watch what we say and to whom.

We encourage our kids to think the best of one another. We use our words to unite, not cause division. As women, sisters, mothers, grandmothers and aunts we have such an incredible influence. We are in such a prime situation to bring our families together. Yet many times we do the opposite. We don’t think the best about others, we assume the worst. Without addressing the issue directly we assume they meant to hurt. Women ALL OF US struggle with this issue so much. It is here in this dark underworld of gossip that we need to be women who shine the light of understanding. Who walk away from that juicy morsel knowing that it is laced with heartache.

Lets take Hebrews 10:24 to heart today…”And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Lets love one another they way our Savior does. Let’s do our best to put others in the best light.

Assignment: When is the last time you gave a grown woman a compliment. A sincere complement. Do this. Tell her what you notice about her and how great it is. Watch her. She may look down bashfully. That’s only because it’s been a while since someone noticed her. She may brighten…and the whole room will brighten with her!

Eleanor Rosevelt

God bless you ladies! I will see you tomorrow night (Mon. the 24th) at Alicia’s house!  Well talk about difficulties following our husband’s leadership.


Neither Do I Condemn You

Read John 8:1-11

Walking away from God is surely not without consequence. After reading about this woman caught in adultery I thought about sheep. How stupid they are to wonder away from the care of the shepherd. They do not last long on out on their own. Maybe when you read about this woman you thought the same thing, “How stupid.”

Like the sheep from Luke 15 that we read about on Tuesday, I went astray. I went out searching for something that I thought my Shepherd was withholding from me. Have you ever been stubborn like that? “If you won’t give it to me then I will just get I myself.” After Jeff and I were married we struggled to get it together spiritually. I tried so hard to reach out to Jeff but he was cold and distant. Since we weren’t going to church my “well” was beginning to run dry. Soon I had wondered so far from the Lord that I contemplated having an affair as an escape from my lonely marriage. I even read the book The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. You may have seen the movie. The whole story starts with these two adult kids going through their mother’s things after she had passed away. They stumble upon a journal and are shocked to learn that their mother had a passionate weeklong affair when they were school kids. The whole message of the book was that if you are so unhappy it’s ok to betray your husband. Keep it a secret. No one finds out. No one gets hurt. And I really fell for it. I believed that I could have this affair and it would be as a precious jewel that would I stash away in my jewelry box. Only I know it’s there and I can go and look at it whenever I wanted. The memories would be a hidden treasure that I would secretly cherish. It would be my companion on lonely days. So off I went. Even now I imagine my Shepherd watching me from afar, His wondering sheep. The reality of the affair was not at all like the fairy tale I kept trying to make happen. It was awkward. So many lies. Not satisfying. I knew I had made a huge mistake. I ended the two month long affair and I was so scared and lost and all alone. My heart bleated for The Shepherd. He found me. And I was ashamed to find that He never took His eyes off me. My repentant heart grieved over betraying my husband’s trust and I agreed with God that I was so wrong. I did not feel worthy of His help. It was my mess. But it is impossible to stand in such strong waves of grace and mercy. I felt so stupid and also very aware. It was like I could see clearly now. I thought back to the book I read and I was furious with the lie it was propagating.   There was no precious jewel of memories to treasure in my heart. Only a deep stabbing pain every time I looked in my husband’s eyes. How could Francesca live with her husband while harboring such a secret? I’m guessing she didn’t live much. There is no life apart from Christ and we will never feel free if we are held hostage by such damaging secrets. Jeff was not perfect but his love was true. We struggled to meet eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart but it was pure and right. He would look in my eyes and tell me he loved me. “Not if you knew what I did”, my heart whispered. It was time to take the power away from this secret shame. We know that the truth will set us free and I would not spend the rest of my years living a lie with my husband, though I feared he wouldn’t be my husband much longer.

How do you find the courage and confidence to confess such a scandalous betrayal?

This is where the confidence comes from. When you live as a tortured prisoner and you see a way to escape, you take it. Even if it means you lose your right arm in the process. I might lose my husband, but at least I would be free. Free ladies! That was my courage and my confidence! I refused to let the shame rule over me. Not when Jesus stands bearing scars on behalf of my freedom! And oh the tears of relief. There is nothing like it.

I did confess to Jeff and his parents. And to my family. He moved out for 5 months. Possibly friends thought I must be a wreck as I lived alone awaiting my fate. Quite the opposite. It was before I confessed that I was a wreck and lived with a dark cloud hanging over me. But now my heart was free and alive. I was no longer a prisoner. Do you know how good that freedom feels? It sustained me when Jeff left and it steadied me as he contemplated keeping me as his wife. I knew that no matter what, I would not be destroyed. I was reminded how precious my marriage is. On the verge of losing it forever I was making a commitment to cherish it always and not mistreat it.

How is our marriage now? Stronger. And carefully protected like the precious jewel it is.

This week we have spent time talking about when we have ignored God. And this is what we have learned…

From the Woman at the Well learn that only Jesus satisfies.

From the Lost Sheep we learn how compassionate He is and how dependant we are.

From Peter we learn that no matter how we have walked away from Jesus that He still has a place for us.

And finally from The Woman Caught in Adultery we learn that when our sin threatens to separate us from the love of God, Jesus does not condemn us.

Thank you friends so much for letting me invade your inbox this week! Praying for you all to respond to God when He reaches out for you. We’ll be in touch again before we meet on the 20th.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. – Galatians 5:1

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. –John 10:10

And the peace of god, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:7


There Is Still A Place For You

I almost went to bed without posting about our Thursday Devotional –There Is Still A Place For You. So glad I stayed up! This one’s my favorite…

Let’s call our John 21 scene, Peter’s Restoration.

John 21 opens after Risen Jesus had sent his disciples to Galilee to wait for Him there. I wonder if Peter got impatient waiting for Jesus to show up. Maybe he thought, “I walked out on Jesus. I deserve to be a fisher of fish, not a fisher of men” So he took his friends and went fishing. The men are tired, hungry and defeated after an unsuccessful night of fishing. And this is when Jesus reveals himself to the men. I wonder what Jesus saw in Peter as he stared at the men from the shore. Well from what I read it seems Jesus was thinking, “I need this guy. But he feels unworthy of this calling.” In the gray early dawn the fishermen see a man on the shore who told them to try again on the other side of the net. You can just hear Peter muttering under his breath, “Hey buddy, ya don’t think we tried that!?” Which is fine but that’s no ordinary man on the shore. So he let down the net anyway and …“When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:7) Immediately they knew it was Jesus. Peter jumps out of the boat to swim to shore. He cares nothing of the catch. This all seems so familiar and now Peter knows that Jesus hasn’t abandoned him.

This whole scene is very reminiscent of Luke 5:1-11, when Jesus first called Peter to be his disciple. We’ll call this scene Peter’s Calling and read that here below.

Then we will compare Peter’s Calling with Peter’s Restoration. Never underestimate God’s ability to set a scene. He is clearly showing off in this circumstance!

Luke 5:1-11 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret (sea of Galilee), the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

In both instances Jesus requests that the men throw their nets for a catch against their professional judgment.

In both instances there is a miraculous catch! Though I’m not sure what to make of the issue of nets breaking in Peter’s calling in Luke 5 and the opposite as noted in John 21:11 with no torn nets even with such a heavy catch.   Perhaps the nets reflect 1)the brokenness (“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”) that we see in Peter’s calling and 2)Peter being “held together” by Jesus as he is restored. Hmmm. A girl can wonder.

Back to John 21:15. Take note that Jesus calls Peter by his pre-disciple name, Simon son of John. Not Peter, the Rock. Peter would have noticed this. Maybe the nets didn’t break but Peter’s heart was going to as Jesus initiates a necessary conversation with him…

“…by the third time Jesus asks whether he loves him, Peter is hurt, that is, deeply grieved (elypethe). Jesus’ asking three times recalls the three denials, and Peter’s pride is cut to the quick. Here we see the Great Physician performing painful but necessary surgery. The light is shining in the darkness of Peter’s heart, bringing life, the repentance that enables one to experience the Lord’s love and salvation. Without such brokenness we are full of self and unable to hear and receive the guidance of the Chief Shepherd.” Quoted from commentary resources on Bible Gate.com. Retrieved May 31, 2012, from http://www.biblegateway.come/ resources/ivp-nt/Jesus-Forms-Peter-as-Leader-as-Disciple.

The mission is clear in both scenes. Jesus wants Peter to leave fishing behind and be a part of the ministry. There are so many similarities with Peter’s call and Peter’s restoration. Jesus really is taking Peter back to the beginning!

If only we could see what the Lord was doing when our lives take us to what seems to be familiar old ground. To a place we’ve been to before and thought we had mastered and moved on from. What is that old familiar ground for you? I guess mine would be “getting over myself” so that I can truly follow Jesus. I think that’s why I enjoy reading about Peter so much. Jesus needed Peter to not allow his past mistake keep him from the work that Jesus had for Him.

Ok I couldn’t resist. While writing this post I had these words rattling around in my head. Can you guess where they are from?…I am waiting for you, Vizzini! You told me to go back to the beginning… so I have. This is where I am, and this is where I will stay. I will not be moved!When the job went wrong you went back to the beginning. Well, this is where we got the job, so this is the beginning. And I am staying till Vizzini comes.”

Please click this link to watch 2 minutes of Inigo Montoya “going back to the beginning” You know, from the movie The Princess Bride. Ladies the sooner you learn this the better… I am fluent in movie quotes. (I’m hoping you can forgive me for lumping Inigo and Peter in the same blog post!)

I’ll post later today about our Friday devotional. Feel free to chime in on whatever God is showing you!


Finder of Lost Sheep

Especially for all my Elmwood friends!

I do not take it lightly that you have taken me into your fold! Hope to spend many more evenings being real with you. Did you ladies go home feeling as full as I did last night? Not from Alicia’s delicious Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting but full in your heart? Did you walk in your house feeling like you had something to give your family? I did and it was awesome. Just knowing that you guys are reading the same scriptures as me pushes me closer to Him. You encourage me! I need this kind of accountability.

So…today was the Lost Sheep of Luke 15:1-7. Did you love reading Jesus’ words?

Do you have some thoughts you want to share?

Right now I want to zero in on verse 7. I’ll write it here in the, uh hem, New Living Translation… (if you checked your email you’ll know why that’s funny.)

Luke 15:7 NLT – In the same way there is more joy in heaven over on lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Jesus always preferred the company of “sinners”; people who weren’t trying to impress Him.   I think that is still true for us today. I always feel a more intimate connection with Jesus when I recognize that I don’t have to impress Him. I think He can tell when I’m “church’n’ things up”.   You know, showing off my good side and not acknowledging the dirty parts of my life that He wants to tend to.  It’s hard to be vulnerable and real. But if there was ever a safe place to be vulnerable and honest, it is at the feet of Jesus. Remember how I wanted to pull away from Jesus…recoil from Him. I think we do that because we aren’t sure if we can trust Him.   We don’t think He will like what He sees and that maybe He’s just gonna shame us. Re-read Luke 15:5-7 and tell me if you think that Jesus would shame you.

For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. –John 3:17

It is because of Jesus, our Savior that we can stand before God, The Judge. We need cling to Him!

I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me, for I have not forgotten your commands. Psalm 119:176 NLT

Here are some fun facts about sheep to ponder… remember now, we are the sheep! Have fun, bless you all! Email or share your thoughts in the comment section.

Sheep are actually quite relationally intelligent. In studies, sheep can visually recognize up to fifty individual sheep by photo. They also have strong emotions and frail hearts: sheep feel pain over the pain of other sheep in their flock.  In fact, when one of its sheep-friends is in distress, a sheep can literally kill itself with worry because it can’t do anything to help.  All it can do is to cry out for its Shepherd to come rescue its friend.

Sheep are Defenseless, Directionless, and in all ways Dependent.

No other animal is so dependent on someone else to take care of it.  Its wool, for instance, has to be sheared regularly, or it becomes matted and overgrown, and debris accumulates in it.  As a result, the sheep can become overheated and top-heavy; and when a sheep gets top-heavy, it easily lose its balance and falls over—a position from which it is unable to escape on its own.  Once a sheep is on its back, it is stuck there until someone finds and rights it, until it starves to death, or until a predator puts it out of its misery.

All sorts of things can cause suffering for a sheep. Flies will gather on its face and can drive the sheep insane.  In an effort to relieve itself of the constant annoyance, a sheep will hit its head against tree stumps or fence posts, sometimes causing its own death.  To prevent this, the shepherd will smooth oil around the sheep’s eyes, nose, mouth and ears to repel the tiny Death Files.

Parasites will burrow into the folds of skin beneath the sheep’s wool, lay eggs and cause infection.  The shepherd must investigate every inch of his sheep’s’ bodies, and will pay that same tender, meticulous attention to each one.

Sheep are also prone to overeating, over-drinking, and slothfulness.  The shepherd carefully weeds dangerous plants from the pastures to which he leads them, and often wakes them early in the morning when dew is on the grass so that they can hydrate and eat all at once.  He takes individual walks with those he notices have been inactive.

In their dependence, sheep are also directionless. [1 Peter 2:25] They seek a leader to follow, even if it’s just another directionless sheep.  (In Turkey in 2005, 1,500 sheep followed one wayward sheep off the edge of a cliff while their shepherds were having a lunch break!) Sheep also get overwhelmed and paralyzed when given too many options to choose from while traveling to new pastures, or when the path seems scary.  The shepherd knows to show them clearly which opening to go through and which steps to take.

Sheep are dependent on a shepherd for defense as well [John 10:12].  They have neither defensive nor offensive weapons; they don’t even have front teeth. Sheep are prone to heart attacks if terrified, and can become too scared even to bleat.  Should the sound of a predator be heard, the eyes of all the sheep will flash to their shepherd. [Exodus 14:13-14]  They know they are helpless without him.

Quoted from This Is Church. Gospel Stories & Ideas. College Style. Retrieved November 5, 2012, from http://www.thisischurch.net/bible-reflection/sheepology-101/


When You’ve Ignored God

As you all know we moved out here last fall and we are still trying to get to know people…making friends. I was blessed to cross paths with my new friend, Alicia. She has the most hospitable heart! The first time we met I told her about Lost Without Him. Then she told me about a women’s fellowship that she started with some ladies in town. She loved to make a meal for them and just have a ladies night with no kids. But she wanted to give them more than that. Not just food for their bodies but food for their soul. I suggested that maybe I could come to her gatherings and introduce a topic centered on some biblical issue applicable to marriage, mothering and life. She loved it! So we set the dates and began to plan.

We just had our first gathering last night. Our topic was titled When You’ve Ignored God. I shared vulnerably from my own Christian experience the struggle to keep God a priority in my life. That awkward feeling of opening your bible after months or years of neglect.  How strange our words feel as we bow to pray for the first time in ages.  We look at our dusty bibles.  With heavy hearts burdened with more than we were meant to carry, we say, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll be better. Tomorrow I’ll open my bible.”  What if we didn’t wait till tomorrow? What if we just reached out to Him now?

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. -2 Corinthians 6:2

We bring him our neediness, doubts, weakness and poverty.  We come hungry for what only He can give.  After we have tried to find it in so many other places, we return. Like the prodigal son we come back empty. Nothing to offer but a flickering torch.  And as the scriptures show…there is no shame in your returning.

Why did I stop praying?

Why did I stop opening my bible?

It most likely happened very subtly. Some overindulging in mindless entertainment here…a miss-placed priority there. Before you realize it, it’s been a while since you thought about God. A spiritual laziness sets in.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” –Hebrews 4:7

I missed God so much. I really had to fight back my hesitation to just put Him on the shelf again. Many doubting thoughts and shameful accusations kept me from showing my face to God. Like the desperate father in Mark 9:22 says to Jesus “…if you can do anything…help us.”

Jesus answers him, “If you can? Everything is possible to Him who believes.”

The man exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

And that was the cry of my heart…help me overcome my unbelief!

At that point I asked myself a really important question.

“Bri, do you believe that Jesus died on the cross?”

(How silly, of course I believe Jesus died on the cross.)

“Then why do you pull away when he reaches out? Why do you recoil? Why are you hiding? Because if you believe that Jesus died on the cross then you believe that…

– the shame you feel is the reason he died.

            – He accepts you. All of your mess.

            – He is perfect so you don’t have to be.

            – life apart from Him is no life at all.

(Oh ya, that last one? Ya, I believe that one. I’ve experienced how empty my full life feels when I leave Jesus out.)

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” -Ezekiel 36:26-27

So I began to read my bible. And it did feel awkward to open my bible and pray when it had been so long. Like seeing someone that you have brushed off for a long time and you just don’t even know what to ask them about. It felt a little forced. But the more I read my bible the more we had to talk about in prayer. The more I prayed the closer I felt to him. I no longer felt so far away; far away from my husband or distant to my kids. I began to initiate life again, not just react to it.

One thing I have to guard against everyday is thinking too much of myself and too little of God. Everyday I need to “get over myself” so I can truly follow Jesus. Because when I look to him…Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never coved with shame. Psalm 34:5

What ever it is that has kept you from seeking God, you can always return. We don’t need to clean our selves up before we approach Him.

He washes our feet,

He covers our faults,

He forgives our wrongs.

This is why He came. He didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people alive. And I can certainly attest to feeling dead inside. We bring him our neediness, doubts, weakness and poverty. We come hungry for what only He can give. After we have tried to find it in so many other places soon He tracks us down and carries us home. And there is no shame in your returning.

(I prepared a 4-day devotional for all the ladies who came to our dessert night last night so I’ll be chiming in on those this week. A little more traffic than usual 🙂