There is compassion in the pain

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The story of Lazarus is really striking a cord with me this morning. The story is written below.

“Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” 12 The disciples then said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” 16 Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”

17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus *said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.

30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus *said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.””

I think there is so much here to uncover. One, this really happened, and that alone is beautiful, but most of all I see the tenderness of Jesus so much in this story. I’m going to try to unpack all that I feel the Lord saying in this.

When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick and was going to die, he stayed where he was for two days. He didn’t immediately move to interfere with the sickness. He didn’t come to the rescue like they thought he would. He stayed where he was for two more days.

When I read that my mind takes me to Martha and Mary’s house. Martha is worried and Mary is probably assuring her that Jesus will be here at any moment. He loves them after all. He would never let Lazarus die. “I trust him” I can hear Mary say and she does, she trusts Jesus because she’s seen him heal before.

When Jesus finally enters their town, Bethany, Lazarus has been buried in his tomb for four days. Four.

Martha and Mary hear that Jesus is in town, Martha goes to him, Mary does not. “But Mary remained seated in the house”

This is when I start to get emotional. From previous stories we know Mary loves Jesus. We know her passion for him. The fact that Mary doesn’t run to Jesus immediately signals something wrong.

I can feel the disappointment that Mary is simmering in. I’ve felt that same disappointment. She was confident that Jesus would come and Lazarus would not die. When he didn’t come I think she began questioning if he really loved them. If he loved her he would have came, right? If he loved them Lazarus would be alive and this pain and disappointment wouldn’t be in the pit of her stomach. Surely Jesus didn’t want her to bury her only brother. Why didn’t he come? Where was he when she cried out for him?

Martha tells Jesus what Mary emphasizes later. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus talks to her about resurrection and life and believing in Him. Martha responds almost robotically. Yeah, Lord, I KNOW BUT……

Martha tells Mary that Jesus is asking for her, I can hear him ask it; Where is my Mary? Please, have her come to me. I think Jesus knows she’s hurt, I think he knows she’s disappointed.

When Mary hears that Jesus asks for her she runs to him. I love that. Sometimes in pain and disappointment and fear we just want Him to call us near. We want to trust that he sees us even if we are mad at him.

When Mary sees Jesus, she falls at his feet and cries “if you would have been here Lazarus would still be alive.”

How many times have we cried this out to God? WHERE WERE YOU? if you were here this wouldn’t have happened.

Jesus saw Mary and all the people caring for them crying and he was moved with compassion. Let’s remember that Jesus didn’t wait because he didn’t care. He waited because it was going to bring glory to God. Lazarus’s death was going to be a time where people saw God for who he was.

In the midst of Jesus knowing what was going to happen he cries. They take him to the tomb and he weeps.

Even when we don’t see his plan, even when we distrust him he comes close and is compassionate towards us. He enters into our pain even with his knowledge of what is to come for us.

While he’s crying the people that were with Mary and Martha say “couldn’t he have saved him? Why is he crying, if he opened the eyes of a blind man he could have saved Lazarus”

In times of despair there are voices around us ready to agree with our fear. If God was good why did he let this happen to you? If he was really God he would have stopped it.

All the while He’s choosing to feel your pain and weep next to you.

All this goes down and he tells Martha to open the tomb. Open it to your dead brother. Open the wound that feels too painful to see. He wants us to trust him with our pain because he’s about to do something incredible.

They open the tomb, and Jesus prays thanking God that he has heard him. He says

“I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.”

He cried out with a loud voice “ LAZARUS COME OUT” and he did. He came out with linen strips bound around his feet and his face wrapped in cloth. He came out. He was ALIVE.

I believe sometimes God waits to respond to our crisis because he has something beautiful waiting afterwards. I believe that this life is not about us and what God can do for us, it’s about what we can do for Him. When he allows hard things to happen to us, it’s never because he doesn’t love us, it’s because he knows that he will be glorified, that people will hear your story and they will believe in him. He’s using you so that others may have hope.

When I read this story I see his grace all around. I see how gentle he is even when we accuse him of being absent. He looks at us with compassion and asks to see the tomb.

What has died in your life that you blame God for? What have you lost that he’s waiting to make beautiful, that he’s waiting to show you the miracle, and the purpose of the pain. Let’s invite him into the tomb friends, let’s let him unbind us and set us free.

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The Glory of Simple

“Do few things, but do them well. Simple joys are Holy.”
-St Francis of Assisi

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I’m beginning to see the glory of simple. The beauty of small gestures and whispered encouragement. The behind-the-scenes instead of center stage. To love without a microphone, to love without recognition. To do the simple acts of each season without looking to the next.

I become too emerged in the spotlight. I look over to see if I am being noticed, if I can become seen. I glance across to the girl who has an adoring audience and I become angry and jealous. I want applause and compliments, and published works. I want more than I have, more than I am called to right now.

Do trees or vines or plants produce fruit every season? No. There is a time for production, a time for harvest, and a time for rest. I will not always be producing the amount of fruit I believe I need to be.

What will happen if I begin to listen to the Lord and say,
“What you have given is enough?” What If I can believe in daily bread instead of planning to stock my food pantry for month?

This season I am in is about being faithful in the simple things he is asking of me right now. He is asking me to write what I see and am inspired by and not worry about who will or will not read it. He is asking me to continue showing hospitality to anyone who enters my home and to love my husband. Nothing more, nothing less. However, my over achieving tendencies continue to burst into overdrive.
“God, I can do more. I can always do more! See me?”

I need to learn how to rest in simple acts of holiness, embrace the season of behind-the-scenes love, obey what I have been given, and love God through these things instead of striving to achieve recognition.

I continue to feel the Lord say, “Look at me. Just at me. Don’t look anywhere else.” This is what I imagine Jesus saying to Peter as he began to walk on water in Matthew. He begins by looking only at Jesus, but as soon as he looks away he falls. Every time I look away from Jesus, I start to see the people around me and compare what they are doing to what I am doing. That is when I fall. Although I fall, He always picks me up.
“Oh you of little faith! Don’t you trust the love I have for you?”

When I look away I feel the overwhelming tidal wave of earning, striving and making my own way, but when I look at him, oh when I look at him, I remember. I remember who He is. I remember his voice, the way he takes care of me, and the way he calls me worthy, important, enough.

Simple joys are holy. I want to embrace the simple and embrace the holy. To do only what he is asking of me right now in this season, and not worry about what’s coming or what was. I want to find joy in the life of daily bread desiring to be full on this day alone.

No more striving, comparing or coveting someone else’s season. This season is mine, I am His and nothing can replace the things he is giving me right now.

Give it all away

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My current job is a ministry job. I work at a homeless shelter that believes that Jesus is Lord and when he changes hearts, he changes lives. I work at this job 8:30am until 5:00pm Monday through Friday. My husband and I also lead a married small group every Monday where we provide dinner. We volunteer at church a couple Sunday’s a month. We continue keeping in contact with friends near and far, and my dad spends almost every other weekend in our 750 square foot apartment. This is a lot of people and a lot of time. I am telling you all of this because I am an introvert; I refuel by being alone. Most of the time I can wiggle in one or two nights of rest. I can choose to say no to things most of the time. I tell myself I should say no because I already do “too much.” Though, I’m starting to wonder if this is more a selfish attitude than an attitude of Christ.

The implementation of boundaries is being preached on more and more. Saying no to something that may make you too tired or too busy is often encouraged. Let me first say there is a balance, and I do believe we need to take care of ourselves and our mental health. I’m not promoting burn out, but I am promoting being interruptible.

I am a very selfish person. I almost always choose myself. It requires the Holy Spirit to make me want to think about other people. I’ve picked up the idea of boundaries, used it and abused it. I have built walls around myself so that I don’t have to give too much, I can give just enough without being hurt. I can love Jesus and love my neighbor, but only when it is comfortable for me and when I am not too tired or when it is convenient.

Four years ago I was doing overseas missions. I was gone for about a year. Every day I was spent. I was pushed to my breaking point. I was asked to give more than I had. More time, more energy, more food, more money, more passion, more prayer, more praise, more effort, more everything. Every day I would go to bed exhausted because every ounce of me was being given. That time in my life was where I felt more alive and the closest to God. I was living and breathing the scriptures. I couldn’t do anything before first being filled with the Spirit. That’s what I think I’m missing, and maybe you’re missing it too. I’m not filling myself up. I’m not allowing God to “pour me out like a drink offering” (Phil 2:17). I will allow just enough to be poured out, but don’t pour out too much, Lord! I need to save some for myself, I need to take care of me, no one else will, right?

I’ve picked up expectations and boundaries like luggage, carrying them around with me, never letting anyone forget that these are mine. You cannot touch these.

Jesus asks for more.

He asks for me to lose my life to find it. (Matt 16:25) To love others so much that I forget about myself. He asks me to seek first his kingdom, not my own. (Matt 6:33)

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6)

Jesus lived his whole life submitted to what his Father wanted. He was interrupted time after time.

I’m reminded of the story of the woman who touches the hem of Jesus’s robe in Luke chapter 8. He is walking with his disciples through a large crowd and so many people are grabbing him, including his disciples. This woman who has been bleeding for twelve years reaches out and touches the hem of his cloak and is immediately healed. Jesus, in the midst of this chaos asks “who touched me?” The story continues with a conversation with the woman. I urge you to read it on your own, but, what I want to highlight is how Jesus stops. He stops in the midst of a crowd that the scripture says is “crushing him.” He allows himself to be interrupted. He allows himself to be given to this woman. I don’t do that often enough.

I want to live my life in submission to what the Lord has in store for me, for his family. I want to be able to come home from work and still be available to be taken from. I want to say yes to someone who is in need and desires my time instead of pushing them away because I’m tired or because I need my “alone time” first. It is all an excuse. Jesus promises to be living water. We have access to that water any time we want, just as he promised the woman at the well. (John 4:14)

I believe when we are giving ourselves and serving others, Jesus is going to provide for us. He is going to fill us because he is the well that never runs dry.

That’s what it was like while I was doing missions. Living to the fullest, and pouring it all out to be filled again. I want to know I am living at my full capacity, loving with no agenda and serving without expectation. To give all I have of myself. To love so boldly it is impossible for me to keep any for myself. None of what I have is mine. It’s all his. All my gifts, all my talents, all of myself. He’s asking me to give it all away, and that is what I am going to do.

When you think you hear, and you pretend to know what you’re doing.

My previous blog was about how I believed that staying here at home was better than going to Ireland.
I prayed fervently over that decision and I honestly still didn’t really know what the Lord was saying to me.
I eventually made the decision based on what I believed about each place and where I needed to be in this season of my life.
I was scared of making the wrong decision, but to be honest since the decision was made I haven’t really given it a second thought.  I went on living my life here fully engaged with the life flowing around me and the people loving next to me.
Of course, Ireland, being a pure love of mine was thought of often.  My friends there and the life being spread all over that place.  But the decision I made to stay seemed to really be the only real option, after awhile.

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I recently talked to my friend from Northern Ireland and asked him how everything in Encounter was going.
///Encounter being the main reason I would have gone to Ireland.////
He told me after this year they will no longer be taking anyone other than the staff of the church into the program.
So anyone outside of Ireland that applied was told they were not able to Join the Encounter program.
My heart stopped in that moment and I began to worship my God.
The verse about hearing and knowing your shepherds voice kept replaying over and over again in my head;

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But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
John 10:2-5

 

If I would have continued pursuing the idea of going to Ireland and joining the Encounter program, it wouldn’t have worked out.  I would have had to stay home in the long run anyways.
It’s actually hilarious how surprised I was that I made the right decision and Jesus actually was deeply rooted in that decision.
He knew exactly where I needed to be and who I needed to be with.

In the moments where I think I hear the Lord’s voice and I have to pretend to know what i’m doing I’m just going to remember that I know the character of my God.  I know his footsteps and where he wants me to go in the long run.
I know that he works everything for good. 

I am not alone in the decisions I make and I will not be left out to dry.
My God is good, and my heart is filled.

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One of the perks of staying was this man choosing to pursue me and love me like Jesus does.