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.

Weeping Isn’t Weakness

d2278391983000372506fe14410f2b22Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)

When was the last time you wept? Why?

When was the last time you had a season of weeping? What was your reaction to it?

How do you respond to others’ weeping?

In today’s verse, we often focus on the second part more than the first. We want to know joy comes in the morning, that weeping is limited. But it holds a firm place in the seasons of our lives. We notice the joy in the morning more because it is a change from the weeping of the night. Perhaps we appreciate the joy more because of the difference between it and weeping through the night. The joy of the morning seems to be the hopeful part, but the hope is tied between the two.

Weeping can create a path to joy. Sure, we can have joy without weeping. We can have joy simply because God is who He is. But there is still a time and place for weeping. Sometimes it is because we are grieving or hurt or angry or confused or heartbroken at the injustice of the world. The night of weeping might last much longer than we want. And it might come and go, like the pattern of the night and day.

A season of weeping doesn’t mean weeping is constant, then it is done, as if we can turn it off and on like a water hydrant. Weeping reveals a wound that needs some healing, and healing often takes time. Weeping isn’t a weakness. It is an important part of life. Whether we weep inwardly or outwardly, it shows a vulnerability that only God can cover and bind, because only He truly understands. Even our own reasons are often guesses based only on the pieces of the puzzle we understand. We are too close to see it all. God is too close not to.

Sit in the dark in silence for at least three minutes today or tonight. You might have to find a closet or lock the bathroom door or wait until kids go to bed. What do you notice in the darkness and in the silence? What can you experience under those conditions that the light and noise drown out? How can you appreciate the darkness more?

When We Don’t Like Our Friends

right-or-wrongLook, my eyes have seen all this; my ears have heard and understood it.
Everything you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you.
Yet I prefer to speak to the Almighty and argue my case before God.
But you coat the truth with lies; you are all worthless doctors.
If only you would shut up and let that be your wisdom! (Job 13:1-5)

Sometimes our friends say things we don’t like. (Sometimes other people do, too, but it’s easier to dismiss people we’re not close to.) We value friendship, but we don’t always like the truth that comes with it. Sometimes, our friends are flat out wrong or their motivation to “help” us is misguided. But sometimes, they give us a dose of truth, and while it might be intended to be loving, it feels anything but.

We lash out. We defend ourselves. We attack the very ones we feel attacked by, no matter what their intentions were in the first place.

When we don’t like what friends say, we sometimes turn on them. But is there a hint of truth in what they’re saying? What damage will we do to the friendship with our lashing out, and is it worth the cost? Do we play the blame game and walk away, claiming with friends like these, who needs enemies? Do we put on the coat of self-righteousness, claiming our perspective is the truthful one, as if only one of us can have truth on our side?

What if we took a deep breath and maybe even a time out before we responded?

The next verse in Job says, “Hear now my argument, and listen to my defense.” (Job 13:6) Isn’t that the main issue? We want to be listened to, heard. We want to be able to express ourselves in real ways. It’s difficult, because it makes us vulnerable, but vulnerability is a small price to pay compared to being unknown and misunderstood.

When we don’t like what our friends have to say, we can respond with humility and trust that God knows us well, just as He knows our friends well–better than we can possibly know each other. We can trust Him. After all, it’s not as much about the verdict of who is right and who is wrong; it’s trusting God to be right and knowing we can be right together when we seek and follow Him well…together.

God Pricks Our Hearts

God pricks our hearts, making them beat a little harder with compassion, conviction, or justice. But when we harden our hearts, we don’t feel the prick as easily.

We want to protect ourselves. We don’t want people to hurt us. We toughen up. And sometimes, that makes us less sensitive to God. We take pride in not be too sensitive with others, and in the process, we desensitize ourselves to Him.

Of course, He can be adamant and firm enough to still get through to us, but we miss out something. We miss out on our vulnerability to Him and His way. He miss out on sensitivity.

It takes humility, and it involves risks, but I believe it is worth it.

I want Him to prompt me, and I want to respond well. I want Him to prick my heart to feel what matters most to Him.

What about you?

Dealing with a Surprise Attack

imagesHave you ever received a surprise slap during a conversation? That experience when you feel a judgment, accusation, or confrontation comes out of nowhere?

Sometimes, you know it’s coming. It’s been brewing for awhile, waiting for just the right time and situation to spew forth. You can brace yourself for it. But when it catches you by surprise, it’s difficult to receive. Instead of responding, you might react…by lashing out, justifying yourself, or shutting down.

How can you prepare ahead of time for something you don’t know is coming? How can you remain sensitive to the possibilities of the relationships around you without taking everything personally? How can you take on a new perspective, one that takes you into consideration (after all, you’ll have quite a time completely ignoring your own perspective) but also widens the scope?

Sometimes, when people attack, accuse, or judge you, it’s not as much about you as you might think. Sometimes, they’re struggling through their own stuff, and you’re available at the time. Something you do or say reminds them of what most irritates them about someone else, or themselves. Perhaps you’re a safe sounding board, and even though you wish they’d take a less aggressive approach, they need to process out loud without a lot of interference. They might be questioning some things on their own, but they’re not quite ready to get personal with their questions. In fact, for the time being, they might have built up walls of protection to resist any personal reflection, because it’s just too daunting to face. It’s easier to examine and interrogate someone else’s life than their own.

You might never know the exact reason for the slap, and in the moment, it might not help a lot anyway, unless you’re willing to quietly use it as a motivation to stay engaged and be compassionate. Confronting the reason when emotions are already high will likely make the situation worse. Besides, your assessment of the situation might be wrong.

The bottom line is, someone is taking jabs at you, and you want to jab right bag and accuse, attack, and judge. So…do you? Should you?

Take a deep breath. Ask yourself, “Is there some truth in what she’s saying to me?” Pause before you get defensive. Maybe God wants you to learn something about yourself that you would prefer not to face, especially from “that person.”

Ask yourself, “How can I honor God in my response?” If you’re able to calmly assess that it really isn’t about you, why take offense to it? Why not help the person process? Give her respect. Ask her questions to help her clarify what she’s thinking. Let her express herself, while responding in a kind way (kind, not as in becoming a doormat for people to walk on, but as in honestly engaging in caring conversation).

Sometimes, people seem to wrestle with themselves and others when they’re actually wrestling with God. What seems personal is…but it’s more about a personal relationship with God than something between you and the other person. Of course, God uses relationships to grow us, so pay attention. Do it His way, and you’ll grow toward Him and honor Him. How you respond is about your relationship with Him. Let Him determine what you need to take as personal. He’s not surprised by the slap. He saw it coming…and He also saw how you’d handle it and use it to trust Him.

Pay attention to God along the way. Then, when you’re faced with a surprise, you’ll be as prepared as He intends you to be. You have what you need…or rather, WHO you need. Trust Him through the situation. Honor Him with your response.

Lesson from Nature: The Twist of Life and Death

©PurePurpose.org
©PurePurpose.org

Sometimes, the twists we create with others’ lives can be catastrophic. We end up squeezing the life out of each other, because we just don’t have enough life to give. Our unhealthy boundaries aren’t so much about the closeness of the relationship but about what we do with that relationship.

Other times, the closeness creates a beauty that would never have been possible on our own. We give each other strength, support, and nourishment. We’re vulnerable, because we have exposed ourselves to others. We invite them into our lives in ways that cannot be fully revoked. We give a piece of ourselves that we can never completely recover. That’s frightening. It can turn out badly.

But it can also be beautiful.

God intends for us to rely on and commit to each other. Most of all, He invites us to rely on and commit to Him. He gives us a piece of Himself. He became vulnerable first, when He gave His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us, taking all the junk of our lives into the pit of death, then overcoming that death, leaving it behind. It seems like a twisted way to get to us, but it’s the way He chose.

Because God loves us. He loves you.

Loving Him isn’t easy. It requires vulnerability and humility. It requires twisting your life with His so intricately that you no longer know where One stops and the other starts. But He’s worth it. And He knows you’re worth it, too.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16-17)

The Power of Vulnerability

Today’s guest post is from Cassandra Smith, founder and author of Letters to God.

letterstogodHumility. Openness. Transparency.

These are all beautiful words when we are receiving them but painfully difficult to divulge at times. And yet, I believe a mutual exchange of these very things are what build meaning. What does this mean for us as women, friends, leaders, and mothers? As women, I believe we seek emotional connectivity with the men in our lives at the expense of nurturing additional relationships with appropriate vulnerability. While I believe this is healthy for a marriage, I do not believe this is our only relationship in which vulnerability is needed.

I know that as a single woman, I often am too quickly willing to bare myself emotionally, hoping this will create a bond between me and my hoped for man. As a youth worker, I see many young girls following in this trend to look for meaning in a boy. I have not always led the charge for emotional purity, and I too often have ended up sharing these mistakes to those I lead. Young girls are easily caught up in social media overload of emotion and openness in ways which are not honoring to themselves. Yet, I scarcely blame them. Few have been taught propriety and emotional modesty.

But this post is not to condemn or point a finger at women. Rather, I share these moments because I believe we are all seeking something God intended for us – nakedness. Before sin destroyed perfection, we were naked and unashamed. There was freedom in complete openness, honesty, humility and transparency. In Christ, the curse has been broken, and I believe that he is gently ushering us back into that openness. While my natural tendency is to want to seek that with a man, I believe it is important for us to practice this vulnerability with our sisters first. I believe our girl friendships is the face-to-face place we can share and relate on how we are learning vulnerability before God. This is the most important thing. We must learn how to open up our spirits and souls before God as he leads us as the ultimate Man, Warrior, Father, Healer, Helper, Counselor, Teacher, Provider, and Redeemer.

As we share such things with one another on a peer level, we can also pass this onto the younger generation who is seeking guidance and direction on how to relate with one another. Not only can we pass on maturity and relationship skills, but I believe that we can promote hope and provoke healing in each others’ lives. We start to see that vulnerability and openness heals not only our hearts but the hearts of our daughters, friends, and younger sisters.

Youth face extreme challenge at a desperately young age. How we reach out to them? How we enter into their trials and brokenness? How we offer them hope is only going to come from humility, openness, and vulnerability. No longer are cliché sermons and a long list of to do’s and to don’ts going to be a guidance force amidst the young. The world desperately needs strong women, willing to be open and vulnerable with a young generation, to lead them out of a place of brokenness and heartache.

So this is my challenge to you:

  1. Vulnerably come before the Lord. Let him bring you into openness before him.
  2. Seek humble and open relationships with women to spur one another onto growth and relational maturity
  3. Enter into the lives of youth with openness and vulnerability. With open ears to listen, engage with those who need a big sister, mom, or mentor.

We all lose when we hide. There is too much at stake to stay hidden. “…they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?”’ Genesis 3:8b-9NIV

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