Monthly Archives: January 2015

Which Side of the Lake Do You Live On?

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In Luke chapter 8, Jesus does some pretty awesome stuff. I’ve read this passage countless times but the Holy Spirit preached it to me from a different angle this morning.

The story of Jesus healing the man possessed by “Legion,” or a multitude of demons, has always intrigued me. I’m a psychology nerd, so how this man goes from Naked-As-A-Jaybird Crazy to Fully-Clothed-and-Calm-Sane is pretty astounding.

After walking all over Galilee teaching and announcing the coming of the Kingdom of God, Jesus and the disciples take a boat trip to the Gerasene country to continue their message. This is the boat ride where Jesus sleeps through a storm while the disciples freak out.

Jesus famously tells the winds to “quiet down” and asks the disciples to get a grip. (That’s my interpretation. Jesus actually asked them, “Where is your faith?”) (vs. 22-25)

They are awed by Him and His wind-calming ability. Little did they know, Jesus was about to take it to a whole ‘nother level.

Once they arrive on the other side of the lake they are immediately met by Legion. Before the man can say “boo”, Jesus is already commanding the demons to leave him. Jesus knew exactly who this guy was and every demon that was tormenting him.

Jesus knows exactly who you are and the demons you’re wrestling, too.

The demons knew who Jesus was, as well, and they were terrified. “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of God Most High? Please, I beg you, oh, don’t torment me!” (vs. 28)

They begin to beg Jesus not to send them to “the Bottomless Pit,” and ask instead for Him to allow them to enter a nearby herd of pigs. (vs. 31-32)

Demons asked Jesus to have mercy on them and He did.

How wonderful do you have to be to grant mercy to demons?! I struggle to grant mercy to my husband for leaving the seat up, much less a herd of demons. Seriously, who does that?

Only Jesus does that and like the disciples, I am awestruck. His compassion and mercy—I want more. Not just to cover my own shortcomings, I want more to give away.

Jesus heard the request of demons.

If Jesus will hear and grant the request of good-for-nothing-low-life demons, I can have full confidence He will hear the request of His beloved-called-for-a-purpose children.

Just be careful what you ask for. After the demons entered the pigs, the entire herd rushed down the mountains side, fell over a cliff and drown in the lake. (vs. 33)

This shocked and completely terrified the herdsmen. Their entire herd—their livelihood—just drowned before their eyes. This livestock provided for their families. What Jesus just did was not exciting for them; it was devastating.

So of course, they high-tail it back to town and tell everyone what just happened. Not that the crazy man was healed, but that all their pigs just died. (vs. 34)

A crowd returns with them to check out the action and they find the demon-possessed man “sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, clothed and sane! And the whole crowd was badly frightened.” (vs. 35)

Amazing. These people knew who the demon-possessed man was. Like, they actually knew his first name. They knew his family. They knew he lived in the cemetery and never wore clothes. In fact, they were probably scared of the dude because, Hello! He was a crazy, naked guy who lived in a cemetery!

And yet, they see him sane and dressed and they were afraid. My mind…I can’t…process…this.

“Then those who had seen it happen told how the [man] had been healed. And everyone begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone…” (vs. 37a)

Fear makes you ask for stupid things.

The demons were afraid and begged Jesus to send them into pigs who would drown them. Now the people were afraid and begged Him for something even stupider. (Incorrect grammar makes my point stronger, okay?)

Wouldn’t you think they would be excited, thanking Jesus for saving this man and ridding their community of evil?

The Message translation explains this best, I think.

“Later, a great many people…asked Jesus to leave—too much change, too fast, and they were scared.” (vs. 37)

Okay, ouch. I guess I’ve been where these people are…more than once. I am a creature of habit and I do not enjoy change.

Sometimes I ask God for stupid things because I think I know what’s best.  Sometimes I’d rather live with the crazy-naked-cemetery dude than face the change Jesus brings.

So once again, Jesus shows mercy to the poor, stupid souls around him and honors their request. Rather than force himself on them, “He returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake.” (vs. 37b)

Because Jesus is a gentleman.

The only sane one in the bunch was the formerly-crazy man. Being totally in his right mind, the man begged Jesus to take him along.

But Jesus knew this guy now had an irrefutable testimony, a story only his life could tell. (vs. 38-39) The people were afraid of Jesus, but they just might listen to The Crazy Guy.

“On the other side of the lake the crowds received [Jesus] with open arms, for they had been waiting for Him.” (vs. 40)

There are two sides to every lake.

On one side of the lake, Jesus was met by The Town Nut and all his demons. On the other side, He was met by an eager, expectant crowd-full of needs.

On one side of the lake, Jesus was a bother who stirred up trouble and ruined farms. On the other side, He was a miracle-worker, welcomed with “open arms.”

One side asked Him to leave; the other asked Him to stay.

Which side do you live on?

Honestly, I have a home on both shores. Some days I welcome Jesus and fully embrace all the change He brings. Surrender comes natural and my soul is all “where He leads me I will follow.”

But then there are days I’m a pig farmer with a different address.

I’m controlling and planned and change is not an option because Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That. I’ve got things to do and places to be, so Jesus just needs to get on board.

I forget I was once The Town Nut miraculously saved by grace and I have a story to tell.

Chapter 8 ends on the welcoming side of the lake and the things Jesus did for them are UH-MAZING; a sick woman is healed by simply touching His robe (vs.43-44) and a dead 12-year-old girl is brought back to life. (vs. 54-55)

Both sides of the lake were visited by Jesus. Both sides witnessed miracles. Both were blessed.

One side felt harmed; the other, healed.  It was the people’s choice as to what they received.

Which side of the lake will I choose to live on today?

Jesus, thank You for knowing I have a home on both sides of the lake and for visiting me regardless of where I am. Help me receive You with open arms today. I want to feel healed by what You’re doing, not harmed. On the days I’m living like a pig farmer, remind me I was once The Town Nut and help me share my story of You.  Thank You for Your awesome forgiveness and mercy and compassion toward me; I so desperately need it. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.  

Jessie

I Have a Dream, Too

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I Have a Dream, Too

028“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.'” ~ Jeremiah 29:11 (TLB)

For about a year now I’ve been walking with a dear friend through one of the hardest seasons of her life.  Watching her wrestle emotions and take hold of stronger faith is both painful and encouraging at the same time.

But the other day she said something that made me stop.  “My life is SO NOT what I had envisioned.”

It’s hard not to think ahead, to not envision what life will look like, isn’t it? As little girls, we dream of our wedding day.  The Dress, the Guy.  Our babies’ faces.  The porch we’ll rock on when we’re older.

For most of us, we look forward to a Happy Ending.  We have hope of a full life with family and friends, growing old with our lovers and watching our grand-kids play.

I see myself in my warm, cozy home, nestled by the fire with a good book, finally enjoying some much-earned down time.  Happily-Retired-Golden-Years Living.

But what if that’s not actually what my life will look like?  What if there are other plans for me, a different backdrop to that scene?  How will my heart do with that?

As I think about it, over the last few years I’ve come to know more and more people whose lives aren’t lining up with their Dream.

…Women who suddenly found themselves widows.  And young widows, at that.

…Retirement-age couples who’ve yet to retire–and probably won’t in this lifetime.

…Friends and family who never married.

…Couples whose dreams of a family haven’t come true.

I’ve watched people who thought they had Arrived enter the lobby to find themselves greeted by an ugly trio–Heartbreak, Grief and Loss.

What is it about the human condition that we automatically envision a happy ending?  Why do we feel like there’s some unspoken guarantee that All’s Well That Ends Well?

God has not once promised us a happy ending to this life.  What He has promised us is His presence and victory over the grave.

As one song puts it, “He never promised that the cross would not get heavy and the hill would not be hard to climb. He never offered victories without fighting but He said help would always come in time…Our Lord will show up and He will take you through the fire again.”

Just because I love Jesus doesn’t mean I will not face hardship.

Just because I’ve already had my fair share of life-struggles doesn’t mean I won’t be handed more.

Just because I have faith that He will make all things new doesn’t mean I won’t have to deal with the same old crap in the here and now.

I may sound like a Negative Nancy, but that’s not my goal.  I just want to keep my head about me.  These are the ugly, no-makeup truths that I really don’t want to look at but yet, I stare them in the face every day.

There’s something intriguing about the not-so-happy-ending, isn’t there?  There must be or else Gone With The Wind would’ve been a flop.

In reality, the lives we remember, honor–celebrate–are the ones who saw the most heartache.  Those are the lives with a story to tell, with a scene worth watching and learning from.

Last night I had the rare privilege of watching one such life on screen.  The American Sniper, Chris Kyle, didn’t live a life of leisure or ease.  He was a fighter.  A hero.  A Legend.  And I highly doubt anyone would have envisioned the way his life would end.

As a matter of fact, today we remember the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He was a godly, honorable man but one who undoubtedly walked a difficult path.

When he was assassinated at age 39, autopsy notes say he had “the heart of a 60 year old.”  Yet had he chosen a safer route, our country would be a very different place.

During his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, King stated, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.  This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

…Truth will have the final word in reality.

If I want to live in Reality, I have to tell myself the truth or else I’ll harbor unrealistic expectations–of myself, others, and God.  I’ll constantly strive to Arrive only to find Disappointment waiting to drive me home.

I must have faith that while things may not turn out like I dreamed, God’s plan is better than my dream.

And though the twists and turns surprise me, they do not surprise Him.  He’s already there before me, waiting to carry me through.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:8

THIS is The Truth I must remember on the days I feel like a failure or the days I feel I’ve been failed.

There IS Something More for me, but it may not look like I think it should.

I need His Truth and strength and unconditional love to find the victory, to help me live this fragile, fleeting day without envisioning anything beyond it.

After all, tomorrow is another day.

Let’s pray.

My life may not play out like I think it should, but Heavenly Father, I trust You with it.  I trust you to do what is right according to Your perfect will, knowing Your plans for me are for good.  Give me the strength to trust You more.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

“You do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  ~ James 4:1 (NIV)

“I will be your God through all your lifetime, yes, even when your hair is white with age.  I made you and I will care for you.  I will carry you along and be your Savior.” ~ Isaiah 46:4 (TLB)

The Little Things

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The Little Things

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“Jesus said, ‘He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much…'” ~ Luke 16:10 (NASB)

“Make it BIG, Momma!” my two-and-a-half year old shouts.

He LOVES balloons and regularly asks me to blow one up for him.  As the balloon stretches, so does his smile.  “Make it BIGGER!”

I like to do things big.  Never half-way, always full-out, I firmly believe anything worth doing is worth doing well.  I’m a classic First-Born, Type-A, Overachiever.

The Hostess in me LOVES birthday parties, holiday get-togethers and church events.  Just ask Stevie-P or Momma; they usually get roped-in to helping me.

Hospitality has long been one of my Spiritual Gifts, but sometimes I take it to extremes.  It’s like a giant teddy bear on Valentine’s Day; the bigger I make it the more obvious my love.

But God is showing me it’s The Little Things that are the biggest to Him.

…A note of encouragement and a $2 bill.

…Caring for stray animals on a cold night.

…Hand-me-downs.

…A hot shower.

…Balloons for a 2 year old—or a 68 year old.

Nothing big.  Nothing planned.  Just little things that happen to happen.

I’ve been challenged by books and blogs urging me to Do Life Big.  Go the extra mile.  Look for The Need and take bold steps to meet it.  And I’ve taken that to heart.  The Lord has even helped me do some of those things and I am thankful.

But I’m realizing, sometimes on my quest to obey and do The Big, I miss the impact of The Little.

I get so busy planning and executing The Big, I forget The Little Things matter just as much, maybe even more, because The Little Things happen every day.

My availability for The Little is just as important as my commitment to The Big.

That same little boy is also ecstatic when I wash his Ninja Turtle jammies.  Pulling them from a warm heap he smiles, “D’you wash ‘dese for me?!  Yay!!! T’anks, Momma!”

The way I respond to The Little tells more about my heart than the way I host The Big.

I don’t always have to Do Life Big in order to be doing life big,  It’s The Little Things that prepare my heart for The Big.

God is Big and He is in everything.  The way I love my people, care for animals or open my home and plans, He uses all these Little Things in Big ways.

In fact, He rejoices in them, even more than a two-year-old with a balloon and clean jammies.

“Do not despise this small beginning, for the eyes of The Lord rejoice to see the work begin…” ~ Zechariah 4:10 (TLB)

Take a minute and think about some of the things you do every day, even routine tasks.  What Little Things are you overlooking the Big impact of?

xoxo,

Jessie

Just Obey

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Just Obey

Winter has arrived and not just outside. I can feel it on the inside, too.

All those good Fall feelings have waned, like I told you they would, leaving my head dreary and my heart chilly. Another 30-something birthday and the speedy passage of another year has brought out the cold pessimist in me.

Have you ever felt passionate about something—really passionate?—and then suddenly, without warning, the fire goes out?

That’s how I’ve felt lately toward this blog.

To be blunt, I’ve wanted to quit. How or why on earth The Lord led me to start writing, I’ll never understand. When He first revealed this task I seriously questioned His sanity.

Why would anyone care what I have to say? What do I really have to say, anyway?

These are the questions I asked of Him when I first began, and a year and a half later I’m asking them again.

His consistent answer?

Just obey and leave the details to Me.

Sure, that sounds easy enough, but I am a Details Person. My husband absolutely hates going to meetings without me because he knows I will quiz him for Every Last Detail; so much so that he videoed the last one he attended.

I am Rory Gilmore. I like to have A Reason. A Plan. A Goal. I need a projected outcome, a course to plot and follow. (Momma and Lorelai don’t. They’re great Pant-Seat Pilots.)

I find comfort in seeing where my steps are taking me; the possible success all my efforts might end in.

Learning to “just obey” has been hard.  Correction. It IS hard. Especially when it isn’t convenient or things don’t make sense or turn out the way you expected.

For example, I originally named this blog “Not My Own” because I thought other girls would join me in writing.

Obviously, that hasn’t happened yet.

Like when I’m driving and suddenly realize I can’t recall anything about the last 10 miles, I have come-to without a clue as to how I’ve gotten here.

I’ve forgotten my current life motto: Just Go With It. I’ve forgotten that I don’t have the answers to my own questions, much less anyone else’s. I’ve forgotten I’m just supposed to be Real with y’all, to just sit down and write about Life.

Last night, God reminded me again.

Just obey and leave the details to me.

He’s had to tell me this many times over my life…

Like when I moved away for college even though it was terrifying and heart-wrenching to leave Home.

Or the time I took a job working with inner-city teens. How God used a 5-foot tall WHITE-white girl to reach 17-year-old gang members and self-proclaimed thugs, I still don’t know. I had no reference for that.

Or the time He sent that same girl, who hasn’t an athletic bone in her body, halfway around the world to conduct a sports camp to reach Polish kids for Christ.

I could go on, but the point is the same. Though I question my usefulness, God does not. He can use anyone—anyone—who is yielded to Him to do anything He desires.

Even a mess like me.

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You see, I’ve been called to triple-whammy ministry. I am a blogger, a worship leader, and a youth pastor’s wife; three very public and highly criticized areas of service.

Thus, critical comments and self-doubt often invade the stereo in my head and put themselves on Repeat All, leaving me feeling inadequate and useless.

Me. The same girl God has saved and spoken to and used countless times before feels useless and dried up. Seriously, stick a fork in me because I think I’m done.

I’ve not for a moment doubted God’s abilities, I’ve just doubted mine.

But how? How do you go from knowing you clearly heard The Voice of God and felt The Power of His Spirit within you, to wondering if you’re wasting your breath?

I do not have an answer for that but I do know I’m not the only one who’s felt that way.

Elijah was a confident guy. He had to be; he was the only prophet of The Lord left in Israel. (1 Kings 18:22)

Elijah was so sure of God and His ability to use him, he challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a shoot-out at the Mount Carmel corral. With a simple prayer, he called down fire from heaven and watched God supernaturally devour an altar. In a flash God proved His sovereignty, as well as His ability to use Elijah.

But just a few verses later we find Elijah fearful, begging God to let him die.

“’I’ve had enough,’ he told The Lord. ‘Take away my life. I’ve got to die sometime, and it might as well be now.’” ~ 1 Kings 19:4b

I’ve been there, just this past year even. I’ve known beyond a doubt that God used me to speak to someone, to serve someone or to help someone in need, and then turned around and doubted my ability to be used.

I worry whether my testimony is “good enough” or if I’m “writing in the spirit”; whether or not people will read it or if it will matter to anyone. I’ve forgotten why I started in the first place.

To be obedient.

That’s it. That’s why I do it. That’s the reason I should do anything, really.

I don’t write or sing because I think much of myself; I do it because I think much of God and what He can do through me. I know He can use an imperfect mess like me to bring Him glory and that He, in fact, prefers The Messy over The Polished.

I am not here to be The Model of Perfection; that was Jesus’ job.  I am commanded to love God and my neighbor.  (Matt. 22:36-40)

No matter how eloquent or comical or moving, my words or songs are worth nothing unless God gives the dictation (1 Cor. 13:1).

I want to be an ambassador, a messenger for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Though I realize the messenger is often shot, I am willing if it will show Him my love.

Jesus said, “If you love Me, obey Me,” ~ John 14:15

That’s why I’m writing tonight. Maybe you can relate to some of this rambling and maybe you can’t. Maybe you think I’m too dramatic or whiney.

Honestly, it really doesn’t matter. My obedience isn’t about you; it’s about Him.

I need to remember that.

All I know for certain is I’m supposed to share my story with you, be Real about the struggles I face every day, and let God do with it what He may.

Like a good comedian will tell you, the best jokes are the ones you don’t make up. The funniest stuff is Real because people can relate to it.

We identify with each other’s realness and mess because it makes us feel normal and safe to be Real in return.

Vulnerability begets vulnerability. That’s the purpose of this blog.

Tonight, this is where I am. These are the thoughts I’m wrestling.

Maybe you, too, need to remember to just obey and trust God with the outcome?  Maybe it’s a ministry opportunity you’re scared to take on? Maybe you need to be real with someone? Pour out your heart or share your testimony?

Sometimes God asks us to do things that just don’t make sense. Actually, He’s famous for that.

Whatever God is prompting you to do, just go with it. Put your faith where your mouth is and jump.

Just obey and leave the details to Me.

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