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1 Thessalonians 5:9-12  (CJB)

For God has not intended that we should experience his fury, but that we should gain deliverance through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, 10 who died on our behalf so that whether we are alive or dead, we may live along with him. 

11 Therefore, encourage each other, and build each other up — just as you are doing.

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are working hard among you, those who are guiding you in the Lord and confronting you in order to help you change.

We all need a place and people to share our stories with.  Not just a place to "co-misserate" but a place to really experience being built up, learning to respect and care for each other in our differences and in our purposes, to learn, to rest and to grow.  I am thinking this week of a group of people with whom I have shared that place of learning, leading and building up as they gather to encourage, share stories and come together in faith that the Lord is using all our efforts and hearing our cries to release those bound, to stop the oppression among us and to open paths of life.  I am so glad for these groups and individuals and their stories.  I have been encouraged, sobered, and challenged especially in learning contentment and remaining steadfast in the work before me, challenged to a higher level of excellence and to get up again after major roadblocks, frustrations and losses.  This is a journey that we individually take but is made all the better through the forging of the bonds of co-laboring together in the work of our dear Lord and Savior.

It is sometimes in the moments when life has slowed down and you can get the long view - seeing what lies behind and catch a glimpse of what lies ahead - that you see and feel how you have been changed and molded by the ones walking and journeying with you. My heart, my mind, the way I relate to my family, co-workers, to clients, to others in housing ministry has been built up by each interaction, each word of encouragement, each testimony of God's faithfullness and promise of what can be done when we work together. I encourage each one of us to continually put ourselves in places where we can be guided, confronted to change, and built up.

May your eyes be open to those the Lord has set on the journey with you!  May you in turn encourage each other!  

May you be changed and challenged by the relationships that build up!

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1 Corinthians 13:7New Living Translation (NLT)

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

The other week my daughter asked me [after listening to her father and I go back and forth about how to deal with a situation] if marriage was hard.  My immediate answer was no.  I could say no because I made a decision to marry and committed to it for life.  The finality and decisiveness in that leaves no room for alternatives, a way out or complaints.  In fact the solidity and finality of that decision provide a security, peace and joy I would not otherwise know.  If she asked if we always agree, or if I have had to make compromises, sacrifices and work through obstacles well , yes, in that sense it is hard but my eyes are not moving from the horizon, being married is not optional and going back is not a choice. 

This is no different than Jesus facing the cross.  His love for us, his decision to endure out of obedience to His father and love for each one of us...his eyes fixed as he walked through suffering, hardship, opposition and what looked like failure through His death on the cross...there was no room for a way out, only a way through.  

Living from a place of decision is what makes this work easier and brings the motivation to endure.  Our family set our face 14 years ago in agreement with where Jesus lead us to love those hard to love, to share our lives with those different in so many ways, and to experience the pain of loving without being loved in return and without expectation of repayment.  We set our face and it has made the way all the more clear...full of disagreement, obstacles, sacrifices, many unknowns and many tears...yes, but not so hard that we cannot endure.  His love that never gives up and continues to say yes opens a way in every circumstance and to the hardest of hearts.

Philippians 3:12-14 New Living Translation (NLT)

Pressing toward the Goal

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

May you be moved by a love that never gives up!  May you remain hopeful!  May you endure through every circumstance! 

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Luke 10:33-34  (CJB)

33 “But a man from Shomron who was traveling came upon him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion

34 So he went up to him, put oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he set him on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.

When you are backpacing or rock climbing there are times when you cannot see the next step, you lose your way or you get hurt.  If you are part of a group there is someone to come look for you, to talk you through the next step or lend you a hand, redirect your steps or care for an injury.  Journeying through life with the purpose of helping those who are hurting, lost or stuck requires more than one person.

I have been part of several ministry teams and experienced the dichotomoy of those who handle walking into darkness by shutting off emotion, focusing on outcomes and the success of a program; and on the other side, those so emeshed in the hurt and pain that they get stuck there and it is one ongoing ministry time without a clear end goal or time to breathe.  There is a middle in all this, there is a space where we allow ourselves to be moved by compassion with a purpose and an end goal...to meet an immediate need and set up a plan and opportunity for next steps and ultimately opportunity to hear, to see and to know Jesus because, in Him is the freedom, the hope and the purpose for being drawn out of the pain and hurt.  If we individually evaluate where we are at on this spectrum and yield to Him our tendency for no emotion or all emotion we together can use these sides of our giftings and personalities to really provide hope and help and do it together.  If we are willing to make room for each other, we make room for those we are pulling up.  

Hebrews 10:23-25 (CJB)

23 Let us continue holding fast to the hope we acknowledge, without wavering; for the One who made the promise is trustworthy. 24 And let us keep paying attention to one another, in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting our own congregational meetings, as some have made a practice of doing, but, rather, encouraging each other.

And let us do this all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

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in·de·ci·sion
/ˌindəˈsiZH(ə)n/
noun
the inability to make a decision quickly.
"government indecision over the future of local taxation"
synonyms: indecisiveness, irresolution, irresoluteness, lack of resolution, hesitancy, hesitation, tentativeness; ambivalence, doubt, doubtfulness, unsureness, uncertainty; vacillation, equivocation, oscillation, wavering, teetering, fluctuation, faltering, second thoughts; delay, hanging back, waiting, shilly-shallying, dithering, stalling, temporizing, temporization; havering, humming and hawing; swithering; informaldilly-dallying, blowing hot and cold, sitting on the fence; raredubiety, incertitude, cunctation
"she was rooted to the spot, torn by indecision"

The idea of being rooted to the spot... That place of indecision is an unsettled place of uncertainty and vulnerability.   

Have you experienced the paralyzing affects of indecision...even the minute decisions like what to wear, what to eat or where to go on a day out can clamp the brakes on joy and give room to worry and fret.  Imagine then the multiplied affect when decision has been removed from your life either by choices or by circumstances and there is no longer a clear path. We can begin to experience indecsion as exploitation; others choosing for us, dictating the use of our time, our bodies and our opinions.  Yet choice is always ours, the freedom to choose is never removed or lost but so often we give it away.  Choice is the freedom we take for granted and least understand as one of our most valuable and precious gifts.

I believe we so often overlook this as a need when finding a starting point for walking with someone who has come to us for help.  The reality is that most of us and those we are called to help have no real basis for this kind of thinking and have not learned how to make decisions.   We can learn and pass on how to walk through a thought and planning process to really look at the "where have I come from and where am I going."  This can unlock so many doors in a person's life.  When I myself come to a point of decision on a matter whether weighty or inconsequential there is such joy and freedom.  When I see a young woman come to a place of decision about her next step it opens doors to relationship and the good news of life in Jesus.  Do not overlook the very basic skill of making a decision as it comes with freedom, comes with hope and it comes with a new sense of person and purpose.

 Job 22:28 (CJB)

28 what you decide to do will succeed,
and light will shine on your path;

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Isaiah 53:11-12  (CJB)

11 After this ordeal, he will see satisfaction.
By his knowing [pain and sacrifice],
my righteous servant makes many righteous;
it is for their sins that he suffers.
12 Therefore I will assign him a share with the great,
he will divide the spoil with the mighty,
for having exposed himself to death
and being counted among the sinners,
while actually bearing the sin of many
and interceding for the offenders.”

I have spent the last few years sharing about working with women facing unplanned pregnancy and how to do life together, about walking out of abuse and trauma, and the realities of sex trafficking around us and the process of learning life again.  I often share a small story of an encounter I have experienced but there are so many details that are so intimate that I cannot share.  Living and walking with women from hard places has led to many vulnerable and intimate encounters.  Hearing their story in an interview is only the beginning and often this entails sharing intimate and hard things.  If they choose to live in the program there are many unscripted moments; side by side conversations late at night, memories stirred over a meal, an unexpected trip to the ER, a late night knock on the door when plagued with nightmares, a one-on-one bible study session or process through the pain of an abortion or another painful moment, a teaching moment with their child, the long process of labor and delivery, intimate involvement in family court, wading through their reality and feeling and experiencing their pain...

These women have become part of my DNA and I have come to realize that these intimate, vunlerable moments were a priviledge to experience and they too met me in vulnerable, intimate places.  They saw me in the middle of the night, after a frustrating moment with my husband, dealing with disobedient children, following a barage of phone calls or visitors and all that is entailed in doing life in a fish bowl.  This intimate "knowing" is for more than sharing a story for a cause, it is for more than even their experiencing a life following Godly principles and rules, it is an intimate knowing that I now carry with me.  The first client to the 100+ that I know in this way...each one branded on my heart ,much I imagine, as I am on the palm of Christ.  I have this glimpse of who each of these women are and who they were made to be...I have seen and heard and walked with them through pain, anger, grief, heartache, disappointment, and everything under the sun. 

I now have this pressing need to continue to hold them out to Christ.  I can continue to lift them to Jesus not just from a nominal place focused on the sin (abortion, sex trafficking, drug addiction, abuse) but from a place of knowing intimately each one and what and who the enemy is.  This priviledge can get lost in the middle of the battles and the day to day.  It is a very real gift and honor to know another person this way.  Christ carries us to the Father and cries out on our behalf and we too are called to do so for each other... and no less for the ones who "knowing" us and "knowing" them are not walking in freedom, are not choosing to live life fully....I must continue to press in, to intercede to bring them before my God for I carry an intimate knowledge and authority that comes with love.  My heart cry is that through knowing and walking in this pain and remembering that Jesus has gone before me on this path that He is the one who can bear the sin and bring each one to life.

May you carry the intimate knowing you have of other to the cross!  May you count it a priviledge and joy to intercede! 

May you know that there is a way through these hard places!