The Pursuit

f64c4ac5c778d0defb9840823fbf0db6Just then, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years approached from behind and touched the tassel on His robe, for she said to herself, “If I can just touch His robe, I’ll be made well!” But Jesus turned and saw her. “Have courage, daughter,” He said. “Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22)

A women who was vulnerable, weak, and devastated from a chronic health condition pursued Jesus with strength and faith. She trusted Him and leaned forward toward Him. She reached with everything she had.

I think of her often as I pursue God. No matter how I feel, do I pursue Him with a similar strength and faith? Do I stretch with everything I have to reach Him?

Jesus responds to the woman with power and sensitivity. He encourages her.

He knows our pursuit and our faith, which encourages me. I can’t physically reach out and touch Him, but I can reach Him. And He responds with power and sensitivity. Every single time.

The Healing Season

il_340x270-761747324_qjmzLord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me. (Psalm 30:2)

How have you defined healing when you feel you or someone else missed out on healing?

How have you defined healing when you’ve experienced it (yourself or someone else)?

How might your expectations of healing affect the healing itself?

Healing can be instantaneous but it is more often a season. Even when we see Jesus healing someone in the New Testament, we must recognize that the healing process involves more than a one-time act. In many cases, people had been seeking healing for years. People had been crying out to God or trying a myriad of remedies. People had struggled with pain, isolation, and loss. All of those details are part of the healing process, too, not to mention the adjustment that happens after the moment of healing. Sure, people celebrate, but their lives are changed. Their relationships change. Their routines change. Their faith changes.

Do we pursue healing? Perhaps the better question is, “Do we pursue healing well?” Does our pursuit involve preparation—not just for a preconceived notion or timeframe for healing but for whatever God wants to do through our growth and struggle? Are we well prepared to handle whatever will happen? Do we have strict guidelines of what outcomes will be good or bad, or do we trust God to rework, define, and infuse purpose into the process? Do we claim “God heard my prayers” only when we get what we want?

Healing is not equivalent to having everything turn out the way we want. Healing involves God working in our lives to mend as He knows gives us an opportunity to grow closer to Him. Healing involves His purposing of all things according to His ways while working in the messy world that’s, for now, full of pain, consequences, and sin. If we want to see healing as He sees it, we have to set ourselves and our assumptions and desires aside. We may not get everything we want, but if we want Him more than anything, we’ll get what He wants and knows is best, which is better than anything we could dream up.

Reach out and encourage someone who needs physical, spiritual, or emotional healing today. Refrain from trying to give them all the answers or advice. Refuse to give isolated verses or sayings that are either pulled out of context or might end up making the person feel as if they have done something wrong or have too little faith. It happens often even with our best intentions. Instead, simply encourage with love. If you know a small gift or act of service the person would appreciate, add that as encouragement as well.

Retracing Your Steps

Then the Lord said to him, “Go and return by the way you came…” (1 Kings 19:15)

sander-zelhem-green-passageSometimes we need to retrace our steps. Sometimes what is behind becomes what is forward. Our past is often woven into our future, not just in memory, but in learning something new, changing our perspective, healing, correcting. We don’t return to the past because we need to camp there, feel sorry for ourselves, or try to recreate a season or situation we loved. We repurpose the journey. We open our eyes to the possibilities. We let God guide us to new experiences in some old places. He extends the invitation because He knows our futures the best. He knows what we need ahead, and sometimes that means returning the way we came, not in our stubbornness or selfishness but in humble obedience to Him.

A Friend’s Encouragement is Irreplaceable

ShanSignCollageI cancelled my annual writing retreat because my dad died. I missed being with my writing friends in our rented Branson home, but I obviously needed to be with my family. After several weeks, I started thinking about the missed retreat and, primarily, looming writing goals and the need to get away and reflect, heal, and grieve. I contacted a friend who lives several states away, and she and her husband graciously opened up their home. It was a win-win. By weekday, I’d have the house to myself (and an adorable dog) to finish Pure Submission. By evening and weekend, I’d get to hang out with two amazing friends.

On the kitchen counter was a framed sign with a simple sentence starter: “I love you because…” along with a dry-erase marker. A couple days into my trip, I walked into the kitchen when everyone had gone to work, and I saw a personalized note of encouragement. A couple days later, I erased my friend’s encouraging note and wrote a note for her; the following day, she erased part of my message and finished it with her own encouragement. She continued to write notes of encouragement to me.

They were priceless. They motivated me, gave me a sense of focus and determination, made me comfortable, and assured me I could continue writing…and healing.

Never underestimate the impact your simple words of encouragement can have on someone. Both my friend and I would probably agree that we each get the best deal in our friendship. We both feel we receive more than we give. The truth is we both give what we can with generous hearts and loving kindness. And that nearly always results in irreplaceable encouragement.

Try to give some today.

What Do You Want More Than Anything?

Help me want the Healer more than the healing.
Help me want the Savior more than the saving.
Help me want the Giver more than the giving.
Help me want you Jesus more than anything.

There are a lot of things we want. Healing for loved ones. Rescue for hurting people. Gifts to be able to use for God’s glory. All things with good intent, but how often do we want to result more than we want a relationship with God? Are we willing to give up the outcome we expect to be best for the relationship that will be better?

I’ve listened many times to Natalie Grant’s More Than Anything, and it has become an ongoing prayer for me. I don’t want to confuse what I want with Who I want. I don’t want to put the benefits that God can give me ahead of the relationship He gives me. He gives me Himself, not just blessings, grace, mercy, forgiveness, provision, understanding, and so on.

I want to to know the One who knows all more than receiving a specific answer. I want to know the Provider more than a specific provision. I want to know the One who created me and gives purpose to my life more than I can explain creation and purpose. None of those benefits are bad things. In fact, they are very good things. They flow out of who God is. As I know Him better, all those benefits come in His doses and timing. But receiving them isn’t my goal.

Knowing Him is.

More than anything.

A Lot of Poop

During the mowing season, I clean up the dog poop in the backyard every week, because that’s part of my mowing preparation. When there’s snow on the ground, I obviously let it go. But we had an odd couple months when it was cool enough to deter the grass from growing but warm enough to be outside. That means that one day, I was outside playing with the dog and realized how much poop littered the back of the yard.

I picked up a month’s worth of poop. The bag just kept getting heavier and heavier. I bent over every few steps as I carefully stepped around the yard. It took a lot longer than usual, and it was a lot more messy and disgusting than usual.

Our dog doesn’t like it either. In fact, she gave me the first clue that cleanup was overdue. She tends to do her business in the same general area, but she doesn’t like the smell, so as she litters one area, she moves onto another. And she won’t follow me around while I’m cleaning up. It’s too dirty of a job for her. Plus, if I throw a toy anywhere close to a poop pile, she just leaves it. As much as she loves playing, she hates the smell of poop even more.

I don’t blame her.

As I walked around the yard, I thought about the importance of picking up the poop on a regular basis, so it doesn’t become a daunting, smelly task. Not unlike the stench of junk in our lives. When we ignore our problems, bad choices, and sin, we often just move to another area to avoid them as much as we can. We don’t like the smell and mess we create, yet we’re not willing to just clean up and enjoy the space again.

Call it what you want: repentance, confession, healing, growth, patterns. Take time on a regular basis for it. It will make your life a lot less smelly and disgusting. It might seem overwhelming right now, but start somewhere. If it doesn’t seem too overwhelming, don’t wait until it does.

Without intentional, regular attention and effort, your spiritual life will stink.