Monday, December 20, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
I got to get away this weekend. It was wonderful, it was refreshing... it was exactly what I needed. I think the best part of my weekend, as God would have it, came from something completely unexpected.
I went to Knoxville and spent some time with my sister, which is always comforting, but this time it was a little different. She's graduated from college and gotten a new job since I last visited her, and I got to spend some time with her at work.
Steph is a social worker. She works at a transitional home for women who have just gotten out of incarceration and have both substance abuse and mental health issues. They're all convicted felons. They're all frowned upon by society. And they're all loved so well by my sister.
I always knew Steph had a heart for people that was far beyond what most people are capable of, but when I saw her this weekend with those women, something came alive in my heart—something that made me want to be a better lover.
She told me stories about some of them, the things they've been through and the labels they have to wear for the rest of their lives. Abuse... Rape... Addiction... can you imagine the loneliness? Sure, they did it to themselves. But they've paid a price, and now they're trying to earn another chance. But they wear these labels... Addict. Criminal. Sex offender. How do you get past that?
All this got me thinking of the difference between mercy and grace. Mercy was given to us when Jesus died and we were acquitted of all our sins. But grace is the freedom we get to live in as a result of that. Andrew Farley says in his book The Naked Gospel, "Grace is the system that the Holy Spirit uses to counsel and teach us on a daily basis."
See, these women have been given mercy. Mercy was given when they were released from prison, and they were admitted into this program. Grace is given to them daily when Steph grabs them by the hand and says, "you're worth something to this world."
I saw Jesus in my sister this weekend like I've never seen in another person before. Literally loving the people in the world that, by the world's standards, are not deserving of anyone's love. And even when they relapse, or they lie or try to cheat their way out of something, she loves them. She wants them to succeed. That's the way God looks at us.
When we were leaving the house on Saturday after dropping off all of Steph's clients, one of them turned around and said, "Stephanie, I wish me and my sister could be like you and your sister."
My heart broke. I literally had to leave before I broke into tears right there. I've always loved my sisters, but it was in that moment that I realized how lucky I am. What a gift to know that someone looks at you and your sister and thinks, "I want to be like them."
Since I was a little kid I looked up to Steph. Always wanted to be with her, always wanted to be like her... and for the most part, she let me. She let me tag along, and she let me be a bit of a copy cat. As we got older, she was careful about being a good role model. Of all the things Steph has done that I've looked up to her for, this weekend trumps them all by far.
To see my sister answer a calling to love the very least of God's people... I'll never forget what it was like to watch her this weekend. She is truly an amazing, inspiring woman of God. I'm blessed to be able to call her my big sister.
Friday, September 10, 2010
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, a]" style="line-height: 0.5em; ">[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5 Aliens will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
7 Instead of their shame
my people will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
they will rejoice in their inheritance;
and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,
and everlasting joy will be theirs.
8 "For I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and iniquity.
In my faithfulness I will reward them
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the LORD has blessed."
10 I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Best decision I made all summer. What a breath of fresh air! We surprised my sweet friend Ellie and spent the afternoon with her just talking and hanging out at camp. There is no place that I feel more at home and in the presence of God than at Windy Gap. It's the place where I fell in love with Jesus. It was just really sweet to be able to be in that place with two people who are so encouraging and influential in my life, and just recap my summer and talk about all that God has been doing. It was exactly what I needed... so good for my soul!
As I drove back to Tennessee through the Appalachian mountains, I began to pray... and I was just overwhelmed with emotion. God has poured out so many sweet blessings on my life this summer. I can feel him preparing me for something big, so much that I lie awake at night just dreaming about it. I'm restless in a really fun kind of way... it's almost like I feel like God is constantly speaking to me and I just have to keep listening! Last night I think I only slept an hour... I was up, just talking to Jesus. And it was so incredible! Today he was just so present at Windy Gap. I'm so thankful for the people I've gotten to meet in that place, for the encounters I've had with Jesus there, and for the comfort of his presence that I feel every time I get to be there.
And as Ellie would say, "I think the new earth will have a sippin' parlor like the one at Windy Gap" ... topped the entire day off with a Cheerwine slush and some sweet, encouraging conversation. And as I fed my sweet tooth, my soul was fed as well. Thank you, Jesus, for days like today. My heart is so full!
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
It just so happens that the chapter I'm currently on in "the Blue Book" is titled "Resurrection"... just in time for Easter. Coincidence? I think not. Thanks God.
The last few days have been rough. I ended a two year relationship because I felt like that relationship was no longer pointing me towards Jesus. It was just as heartbreaking to me as it was him, but I know that the Lord's hand is in it, and we will both be alright.
My childhood best friend had a baby yesterday, 4 days before the 3 year anniversary of her dad's death. It's been emotional... a strange balance of celebrating new life while still mourning the loss of a father and friend.
And in the midst of all this, it's given the message of Easter some sweet significance. Yesterday I was reading in John, chapter 20... 11-18. This is when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb. After reading this yesterday, Mary's pain was so real to me. The thing I love about the Blue Book is that it also gives you some "outside reading" excerpts to relate and connect with the scripture you're reading. Yesterday's was awesome. Here's what it said...
The silence was deafening that early morning as she stood, gripped by a love that would not release her. Everyone else was gone back to their homes and their families.
"How could they forget so quickly?" she thought as she stood in the first light of dawn, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Did they not feel it too... the love? If they did, how could they leave?"
Her heart would not allow her to go, so she stayed--as near to him as she knew how. Was she waiting, was she hoping, or was she simply doing the only thing she could--to be near the place he was last near? She would rather be near him than anyone or anything. So she stayed and cried, longing to hear her name from his lips once more.
And then suddenly the voice... it startled her. Looking through the tears she could not see who it was.
"Have you seen him?" she asked. "Do you know where he is?"
It wasn't until he uttered her name that she recognized his voice, and at its sweet sound everything in her was raised to life again. It was Easter, you see... and he had risen. And because of that, so had she.
I love that. It truly paints a picture of Mary's love for Jesus, and her pain in losing him. If you've ever lost someone close to you, you know what that feels like. I remember when my friend Shea's dad died, me, Shea, and our friend Ashlee went down to his hangar where he kept his airplane. We sat there among all of his stuff, just being near where he had last been near, and we talked about him... sometimes laughing, sometimes crying. And I love how the story above says, "or was she simply doing the only thing she could--to be near the place where he was last near. She would rather be near him than anyone or anything." I can relate.
And the most significant part of that is the second sentence. She would rather be near him than anyone or anything. She longed to be where Jesus was. I think about the places where I long to be to feel God's presence. Worshiping with my church family. Sitting in the sun in the mountains of North Carolina, where I first fell in love with Jesus. At home with my sisters and my parents. We all have places where we feel most near Jesus, and we long to be there. Right now I'm in a place where I want so badly to be near Him, because my heart hurts, and it's too much for me to deal with alone.
But the next part is better. Jesus says one word... "Mary." And as Jim Branch writes in his version of the story, the sweet sound of his voice raised her back to life again. I think about those moments I've had... when I've been in darkness, and God does something to say, "Sara"... and I'm raised to life again. The last words of Jim's story say, "he had risen... and because of that, so had she."
There's pain in loss. Whether it be a breakup, a death, or whatever. Jesus felt it. Mary felt it. We all go through seasons of feeling it... but we are all risen to life, eternal life, all because Jesus felt the greatest pain of all time. He felt all the pain of the world, past, present and future, in one moment on the cross. I can't imagine.
All this being said, I found encouragement in this story, because I know that although I'm in pain right now, God is faithful. That doesn't mean that I am miraculously healed of all the heartache, but it means that as long as I continue to draw near to him, there will be a moment when I hear him say my name, and I'm risen to life again.
In the meantime, I am so incredibly blessed with people in my life who point me towards the Lord... to encourage me and lift me up in prayer. They are the tangible love of Christ in my every day life. To those people... thank you. You will never know how much you mean to me.