When You Have to Leave the Shore

I have two major phobias:

Roaches and sharks.

Roaches – they are just creepy. They show up out of nowhere, scurry around at night, and well…they crunch when you kill them. Ew!

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And then sharks! They can show up out of nowhere too! (well, in the ocean that is), they seem to scurry around the sea, and while they don’t crunch when you kill them…they have the ability to crunch me!!!

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Now, avoiding roaches is practically impossible when you live in the south. So while I scream like a madwoman when I see one, and while I will suck one up in the vacuum long before I will squish it with my shoe, and while have been known to let my nine-year-old daughter carry dead ones to the trash so I don’t have to touch it….I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot avoid roaches.

However, sharks are a whole different story.

They are easy to avoid. No ocean….no sharks. Works for me.

However, my people love the ocean. My husband loves scuba diving, my son loves snorkeling, and my little girl loves riding waves on her boogie board. And so every summer I have to confront my phobia.

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Every summer I have to choose whether to stay on the shore, or risk life and limb by entering the water.

I want the shore. I love the shore. There are sand castles to be made, holes to be dug, sun to be soaked up.

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My ridiculously husband made this gorgeous sandcastle!

There are birds to watch, snacks to eat, and naps to take.

But inevitably a voice will call out, “Mommy, come in! Come play!”

Ugh!

I want to call back, “Mommy’s good right here! Mommy can see just fine! And while for some reason mommy doesn’t worry about you becoming shark bait, I fear that the second my toe enters the water Jaws will hone in on my scent and have me for a midday snack!!!”

But I don’t. Instead I plaster a fake smile on my face. And I force my legs to move toward the water. I let the waves lap at my feet. I take two steps into the vast unknown.

“Deeper Mommy! Come out deeper with us!”

Are my people crazy?!?! Don’t they know the dangers that lurk in four feet of water???

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OK, in fairness those fins belong to dolphins, not sharks (dolphins I love!)

 

My son dives down to claim a shell. He emerges victorious and motions me to come and see his plunder.

I take two more steps.

My daughter waits for just the right swell. She is off. She rides her wave all the way to shore and then bounds back into the deeper water. She beckons me to run with her.

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I take two more steps.

My husband stands as a lighthouse. His gaze takes in a 360 degree view as he patrols the waters for any sign of danger. His subtle wink telling me that all is well and Jaws is nowhere to be seen.

I take two more steps.

I am now in waist deep water and while the shore is still ridiculously close, in my mind I am in deep water. I’m scared. On edge. But I am deeper. I’m with my people. I’m facing my fear. And I am trusting that God’s got this whole uncomfortable situation under control.

I like the shore, but sometimes I need to go deeper. Sometimes I need to override my default fear setting. And maybe one day, one day, the deeper water won’t bother me as much. (Maybe!)


 

This weekend I will once again leave the comfort of my shore and walk out into deep water.

I have been invited to speak at a women’s brunch at a church very close to my heart. When I was first asked, I laughed! I reminded the caller that I am a writer, not a speaker. I write because it is comfortable. I can do it from home. By myself. While wearing fuzzy slippers!

But I felt God begin to call me away from the shore. I felt Him stiring my heart. Calling me to walk deeper. Towards Him.

 

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Public speaking terrifies me (ok…so maybe I have three phobias!) But not following God’s call terrifies me more. (does that one count too? Is that four???)

And so Saturday I will walk into some deep water, but I know that I will not walk alone. The One who has called me deeper will walk with me. He will stand as a firm lighthouse and a steady anchor. He will hold my hand and He will speak through me.

The shore is beautiful. But so are the deep waters. For beauty, true beauty, is found wherever God is.

(Even if a roach happens to scurry by! 😉 )

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Much love,
Jen

Come and See….

I initially wrote this several months ago, yet after a beautiful and encouraging sermon today from the same passage, I felt stirred to tweak this slightly and repost it here. May we all whisper these powerful words tonight: “Come and see….”


“Come and see, Lord” John 11:34

What beautiful, amazing, healing words! Words that I had never really paid attention to, but powerful words intended to teach us a valuable lesson about healing.

Mary and Martha were devastated. Their brother was dead. And although they had sent a message to Jesus days earlier, He hadn’t come. “If only He had come,” they lamented, “Lazarus would still be alive.”

But Jesus hadn’t come right away. Instead, He lingered, knowing full well that Lazarus would die.

When Jesus did arrive, it was to town in mourning. Before He had even fully crossed into the city gates He was met by Martha—a grieving, heartbroken Martha. The moment Martha heard Jesus was nearby she ran to Him. Yet we are told that Mary stayed home.

Can’t you just picture the scene? Martha, desperate to do something, runs to the Teacher. Her grief propels her forward. Needing answers. Needing to be heard. Mary however feels swallowed up by her grief. Unable to move. Paralyzed by sorrow.

Martha runs from the house, maybe even calling out to Mary. She understands Mary’s need to stay home, but she herself must go. She must try and understand.

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Martha gets right to the point, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”

If you had been here. Can’t you feel the heartbreak in those words?

Jesus why weren’t you here? Jesus why did you allow this to happen?

Yet, even in her grief we see the depths of Martha’s faith. Her very next words were, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Martha seems to hint at knowing that Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, yet her words and actions that follow this conversation indicate she didn’t fully understand or trust that He actually could. She’s confused, yet trusting. Convinced, yet desperate.

What does Jesus do? Does He try to explain Himself? Does He get defensive? Does He give her a spiritual platitude?

No, He lovingly points her to truth—to Himself. He reveals who He is (“I AM the resurrection and the life..”)

And then He asks her, “Do you believe this?”

Martha believes though she doesn’t fully understand.

We don’t have to fully understand God’s plan. We just have to trust that He does.

Martha runs back to Mary.

Again, can’t you just picture the scene in your mind.

“Mary, Mary! Jesus is here!” I picture Mary laying on her bed, facing away from the door, just staring at the wall. Remembering. Crying. Feeling empty, yet full of pain. She hears Martha and feels somewhat annoyed at the intrusion. Yet her ears tingle and her feet move of their own accord when Martha again speaks, “He is asking for you.”

Suddenly the weight of grief is lifted by the warmth of Love. Mary’s heart engages before her brain has a chance. She flies out the door. A desperate longing to see Jesus overtakes her.

John tells us that Mary fell at Jesus’ feet when she reached Him. She could not hide her pain from the One who knows her—the One who created her—so why even try? She cries out the same words that Martha did just moments before, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”

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Jesus looks at Mary. He sees her tear-stained cheeks. He hears her sobs. His own eyes fill with tears and then He asks, “Where have you laid him?”

Jesus knows where they have put Lazarus. He is God after all. He doesn’t need to ask, but He does. Why?

So that Mary (and the others) could invite Jesus into their pain.

Jesus wants us to invite Him into our pain.

“Come and see, Lord.” Mary and the others with her respond.

Come and see our pain.
Come and see our heartbreak.
Come and see our hurt.
Come and see our brokenness.
Come and see our fear.
Come and see…Come and see.

Oh that we would invite Jesus to come and see our hurts! We try to cover up our wounds. We try to numb our pain. We try to disguise our brokenness.

But Jesus stands beside us asking, “Where have you hidden it? Where have you placed it?”

What if we answered with, “Come and see Lord.”

Jesus had lingered those four days so that He could demonstrate God’s awesome power in raising Lazarus from the dead. But He had also lingered so that Mary, Martha, the crowd (and all of us) would learn that the key to healing is in inviting the Healer to come and see.

Jesus performed an amazing miracle that day—He brought a dead man back to life. But He did so much more!

He showed us how to live.

How to invite Him into our pain. Into our tragedies. And into our experiences so that He can speak truth, shine light, bring life, and free us from the shackles of fear and pain.

And once we invite Jesus to “Come and see” then He will do for us as He did for Martha and Mary…He will point us to the source of life. He will point us to Himself.

Real peace, real healing, real joy comes not from a lack of trials and difficulties, but from clinging to Jesus in the midst of them. Real life, real hope, real forgiveness comes from looking to the face of the One who Loves you more than any other, and trusting His good heart.

Let Jesus reveal Himself to you. Search His Word for His face, for His heart, His promises. He is there. He is waiting. He is strong enough.

Right now, right at this very moment, Jesus is waiting for you. Waiting for you to invite Him to “Come and see.” For then He can say, “Now come see Me.”

And that is where true healing will begin.

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Much love,
Jen

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*photos from freebibleimages.com

Let’s Push Pause (even for just a moment)

Pause – A temporary stop in action or speech. Briefly stopping to wait or reflect. 

I had decided not to post this week. I mean, truthfully, what could I possible say to ease the pain, stress and fear of so many? There certainly seem to be more than enough voices crying out in cyberland right now.

My plan for this week has been to hit pause. To wait. To listen. To pray. And to saturate myself with God’s word.

That was the plan, but obviously I am posting 😉 So what changed?

The need for celebration!

You see, my dad called to tell me that it was six months ago today that he had open heart surgery. A quadruple bypass to be exact, followed by a scary and long recovery.

Six months ago that I wrote this:  Daddy’s Girl and this When God Speaks to Your Heart.

Six months ago that we didn’t know if my dad would make it.

But, by God’s grace and mercy, he did and he is doing great!!

And that deserves a celebration! That deserves praise! That deserves hitting pause on the incessant noise of the news, hitting pause on my current feelings and fears, and saying “Thank You” to the One who saw us through a very dark and scary time.

That deserves me looking up from my current circumstances to the God who is full of strength and peace and goodness.

That deserves me not being afraid to add my voice to the multitudes today so I can cry out, “Lord, You are the same yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever! We need not fear because You are enough!”

So today, right at this moment, I am hitting pause on the what-ifs. I am hitting pause on the fervor. And I am choosing to reflect on who God is and what He has done.

And what if….what if…for just a moment we all hit pause on our current feelings and circumstances, took a deep breath, looked up? Looked up at the face of the One who longs to hold us, strengthen us, and use us to shine His light into a dark world?

I pray we find out!

Happy 6th month healthy heart anniversary daddy! I am SO grateful for you (and mom who so lovingly saw you through your recovery!)

And thank you LORD for the mercy you showed us-continue to show us. Mercy we surely do not deserve, but are eternally grateful for!!!

Today, I choose to pause the fervor and express my deepest gratitude and trust in The Father.

Much love,
Jen

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But Lord…..

But Lord I can’t…

But Lord it’s too hard….

But Lord, she….

But Lord, he…

But Lord this election….

But Lord……But Lord…..

How many times a week, a day, do I utter those words in my heart? I whine to God. I make excuses before God. I stomp my foot and have an all out temper-tantrum before the Holy Sovereign Lord.

Sadly, those two words tend to be my default answer to most calls God places on my life:

Write a book (aka: open yourself up to criticism and rejection)….But Lord, what if no one likes it? What if it’s no good?

Go and speak at a women’s event…. But Lord, I’m a writer, not a speaker. Public speaking terrifies me remember???

Go and vote…..But Lord, really??? Have you seen our choices?!?!

I am the queen of “but Lord,” yet this morning as I basked in the glow of an early sunrise (thank you time change!) I read something in Jeremiah that stopped the “but Lord” as it formed on my lips:

Ah, Sovereign Lord, I said,  ‘I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.’
Then the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I AM with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 1:7-8

“But Lord” is silenced by “I AM.”

But Lord I can’t write – I AM the One who puts my word in you.

But Lord I can’t speak – I AM the One who speaks through you.

But Lord I can’t voteI AM the One over all things, even wicked rulers. 

But Lord this country is too far gone – I AM the Sovereign God who is working all things together for my purposes, and nothing, nor no one, is too far gone for me to reach.

But Lord…cannot stand against the I AM. 

The future looks scary. Our calling feels overwhelming. But we, God’s children, are firmly held in the arms of the Great I AM, the One who is above all things. The One who holds all things together. And the One who is working for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose.

We can rest in the God who declares to us: “Do not be afraid, for I AM with you.”

In prayer with you for our nation and for this world,

Jen

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Tomorrow

“Mom, are you sad?” My nine year old daughter examines my face. She snuggles up closer to me in her twin bed.

“Mom, are you ok? You seem kinda sad.” My thirteen year old man-child asks as I bend to kiss his forehead and turn off his reading light.

“You ok?” My husband inquires as I trod off to bed.

I start to give each one a default, pre-programmed answer, “I’m fine, just a little tired maybe.” But I stop myself. For I am not fine. I am indeed sad. Yet, it feels deeper than sadness. My heart literally aches. Sorrow slumps my shoulders.

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?”

My heart grieves.

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I grieve for the state of our nation. I grieve for the state of the world.

I grieve for what is happening within the body of the Church.

This has been a hard week. The ugliness of politics. The divisiveness within the Church. The brokenness of sin. Tonight it feels heavier, weightier, lonelier.

I ponder. I listen. I observe. I read. I pray. I think. I write. I cry. I laugh. I worship. I praise.

The last three take work. Concentrated effort.

I want to throw the covers over my head and stay there until Jesus returns. I want to sit within a holy huddle of like minded people, stick my fingers in my ears and pretend all is well in the world. I want to put on Christmas music and bake gingerbread cookies and live in a Hallmark movie.

But that is not what I am called to do.

I am invited and encouraged to rest for a moment, but only for a moment. And while I instinctively reach for my phone to find the justification I long for in my Facebook news feed, a whispered word leads me instead to my Bible.

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Go to Truth. Reach for Truth. Hold fast to Truth. Let Truth heal, remind, renew. Let Truth guide.

I cling to well-worn pages. I carefully turn to well known words. I search. I read. I breathe.

My weary heart cries out to its Savior, “It is so hard Lord. Why is it so hard? Why do You allow this? When will it stop? What should we do?”

I lean in for an answer. I get none.

But I do get something. Something better. Something precious.

I get hope.

“Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

Hope that He is still on the throne. Hope that His Word—His Truth—never changes. Hope that His Word will endure. Hope that He is with me and He is not overwhelmed with the news of the day. Hope that He is not taken by surprise nor is His Word in need of defending.

Hope that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. No matter who is elected president or how people try to interpret His eternal Word.

Hope that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.

And hope that He is working all things together for His good purpose.

So tonight my heart hurts and my tears fall. And I will allow myself to grieve for a moment.

But tomorrow…..

Tomorrow I will rise and run to God’s Word.

Tomorrow I will cry out to the One who still holds all things together. I will ask for strength, courage, peace, wisdom and discernment. I will listen more than I talk. I will speak up for truth, love and justice. And I will smile.

Tomorrow I will stand on the eternal foundation—the holy words of the One true God and I will declare that He, as He always has been and always will be, is Lord.

Much love my fellow sojourners,
Jen

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