Category Archives: brokenness

Betrayal

Betrayal.

It’s a terrible sting, a wounding not easily salved. Betrayal cuts more profoundly than disappointment because betrayal is rooted in motive. Betrayal is planned deception. Betrayal is attached to the heart. Whereas I am often disappointed by someone’s actions towards me, I am grief-stricken when I am betrayed by someone I trusted, someone I thought was my friend.

And so it is. Almost.

Accordingly, this morning (as a result of the better part of a night), I’ve thought a lot about the betrayal Jesus experienced. It’s easy to find in Scripture. At so many levels and at many points along his earthly tenure, Jesus experienced betrayal from those who surrounded him, but none more so than that from his disciple, Judas.

Jesus’ responses to his betrayer are staggering and are a comforting guide for those of us who are struggling to move beyond the pain of deception’s dagger. Ponder with me Christ’s reactions to his betrayer:

Jesus reached for his feet.

“… so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:4-5 NIV)

During that last meal around the table with his closest friends, Jesus did something unexpected. He took off his outer garment, knelt low to the ground, and washed his disciples’ feet. All of them. Surely, his servant-posture brought some level of grief to both Judas and Jesus; the painful exchange grips my heart even now. Jesus touched and tenderly cleansed the feet of the one who would soon betray him – a final gesture of kinship between the betrayer and the Betrayed.

Final gestures of kinship are often present in our personal betrayals. The foot washing—the kneeling and the reaching—is way of extending a loving good-bye in the face of deep disloyalty. It serves a purpose for both parties involved. Never underestimate the worthiness of a gentle foot-washing. Washing and being washed roots deeply into the heart of humanity.

Wash feet. Live on.

Jesus released him to the night.

“As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. ‘What you are about to do, do quickly,’ Jesus told him …” (John 13:27, NIV).

Jesus could have stopped Judas from running away into the night. Instead, Jesus released him to the night’s reckless wandering. Jesus gave Judas permission to “leave the table.”

Not everyone wants to stay at the table, friends. There are times in our lives when we, too, need to release our betrayers to the night’s reckless abandon. In keeping them at the table, in a place where they have long-planned to leave, we delay the painful outcome. Scratching at an oozing wound simply prolongs the healing.

Let go. Live on.

Jesus received his kiss.

Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus replied, ‘Friend, do what you came for.’” (Matthew 26:48-50)

Do what you came for. The Betrayed looked at the betrayer and, once again, gave his consent (perhaps even the push he needed) to seal the deal. No longer would the betrayal be kept secret; instead, a signal was given to all present that, in fact, the trust that had once existed between Jesus and Judas, had been forever broken. The end was near; the cross was close. Soon, within a day’s time, it would “be finished.”

There comes a “finishing time” (praise God!) to all the betrayals we’ll know, a moment when the acceleration of the end is clearly seen and evident to all. In receiving the kiss from our betrayers, we can know that the end of it is near. It’s not that we don’t from time to time, feel the sting of that moment all over again, it simply and profoundly means that we are no longer strangled by it … pinned down and defeated because of it. All betrayals lose their grip on us when the cross is finally high and lifted up for the entire world to see.

The betrayer’s kiss cues the cross’s arrival.

Hang on. Jesus did. And because he did, we can live on.

And now, this…

If today you are in a season of betrayal, if you or someone you love has felt the sting of deception from someone you forever trusted, then I encourage you to lean into your Savior’s story. He has so much to share with you, so many ways he wants to love you through your pain. I can’t help but think that one of the many reasons Jesus was able to reach, release, and receive his betrayal was because he knew that, somewhere down the road, you would need the witness of his story—his strength, his pain, his hope. If that’s you, then by the very good and tender grace of God, know this—

Betrayal is not the end of your story. Jesus is. And He will never, not ever, betray the love that he has for you.

As always, and most tenderly in this season of pain, peace for the journey,

Something

One glance in her direction, and I knew that she was carrying a terrible ache in her heart.

Maybe it was the way her head was lowered, covered up by the golden locks that frame her face.

Maybe it was the way she flicked her husband’s hand away from the back of her neck as he tenderly tried to comfort her.

Maybe it was because I knew some of her story.

Maybe it was because God needed me to notice.

Regardless of the reason for my knowing, it was clear to me what she was so desperately trying to hide . . .

Her grief. Her loss. Her something.

“Everybody has something. Your something might not be my something, but at some point in your life, you’ve had a something. Maybe not a big something, but something large enough to rock your inner equilibrium and force your outward response. It’s not particularly important what your something is. What is important is what you do with your something. Somethings come and go; what will endure, however, is the memory of how you handled yours.” (from Beyond the Scars, p. 13)

I think she is handling her something as best she knows how. Somethings don’t come with a survival manual, and the last thing she needed in those moments was another “how to” on how to handle her grief loaded on top of the already burgeoning responsibility of carrying it. Instead, what she needed was for God to notice her and to do his noticing through one of his children, through the unexpected hands of a servant who isn’t normally included in her inner circle but who was willing to momentarily charge in to deliver a message of hope.

And so I entered in and interrupted her grief to give to her what God had given me moments earlier. To wrap her up in my arms, cradle her pain, and strengthen her with heaven’s declaration.

“This is not the end of the story.”

In that sacred pause between us, I knew that she believed me . . . believed God, and I felt the burning of a great love inside of me for a woman I barely know. I am grateful for those flames because they remind me, even as they reminded her, that I am alive and that . . .

“This is not the end of the story.”

Not for her. Not for me. Not for you either.

I don’t where you are in this season of life. I don’t know the suffering somethings that have walked these many miles by your side. But I do know what it is to lower my head in sorrow, to wet my lap with bitter tears, and to flick tender caresses away from my neck. And I know what it feels like to feel alone, to feel so buried beneath my grief that I didn’t even know that I needed God to notice me. When all I could see, all I could hear, all I could absorb was the terribleness of my something.

Like a death march to a bottomless grave.

Maybe today you’re marching in similar stride. I don’t know how long it will last, friend. I wouldn’t dare try to talk you out of your grief. Grief walks its own timetable, and I’m not in charge of the clock. There’s a seasonal work taking place in your soul, and it can only be accomplished by your willingness to walk it through. Piece by piece, step by step, until one morning you wake up and you feel the warmth of something stronger, a peace that surprises you and that reminds you . . .

“This is not the end of the story.”

That day is coming, and it isn’t very far from now. Our God has taken notice of your pain; your something matters to him. It matters to me as well. Rest easy in the arms of Jesus, friend. There are more lines to your story, and our very good God is working on a way to make them all count for the kingdom . . . even when you can’t feel past the pain.

Especially then.

I love you dearly.

If you or someone you know is walking through a suffering something right now, I have a resource that will serve as a gentle companion to you and to them while moving through the pain. It was written with you in mind; it is released to you in love. Click here for more details.

Also, my friend, Laura Boggess, is hosting a give-away of the book at her website. Click here to learn more.

 

 

 

Search and Work

“But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; … There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.” –Deut. 12:5,7

~~~~~

To that place I must go, to that task I must apply my hand.

These words have been my portion this year, the great search of my heart and the great work of my hands. Great, because all search and duty rooted in God and in the advancement of his kingdom are great undertakings. Worthy pilgrimages. Excellent yearnings.

If I’m honest, the now, almost four months of search and work in 2014 have felt anything but great. The search seems to have yielded little; my work the same. This has been an odd year of spiritual shaping. The soil of my heart has been disrupted by distractions, a few of them welcomed as friends but most of them shunned as intruders.

Family commotion. Ministry complications. Writing dilemmas. Homeschooling stressors. Medical concerns. The list is full and, consequently, so is my heart . . . full of so very much. It’s tough to process some days, difficult to discern the next steps God would have me to take in each situation.

Where would I be without Jesus? Where would I turn if not to his Word? How would live if not for his sustaining grace that carries me from strength to strength?

Strength to strength. Yes, I see it in my mind’s eye and, by faith, I’m holding on to it in my heart. These have been valley days, times of grunting it out in between mountaintops. I know this; I’m not surprised by this, and, oddly enough, I’m learning to be OK with it – this seemingly endless wandering from peak to peak. This is how God is building my faith muscles, and while it’s not a new teaching strategy for him, it feels raw, new, and every now and again, great to me.

Why great? Because there is strength in movement and because there is great peace in relinquishing one’s heart and feet to the valley floor after years of trying to walk the tightrope suspended between two mountains. For so long, I’ve prayed about that place I must go, and that work I must do. It doesn’t seem as if I will ever reach that place of understanding and rest. What does seem to reach me, instead, is the ever-present search and work of the present.

This present. Commotion. Complications. Dilemmas. Stressors. Concerns. This is the valley floor, and this, too, is the place of God’s dwelling. To search for him here and to work for him here, well, this is something great, someone great to take hold of in the valley. Steady as we go, we walk these next steps together. I will not tumble to my death; instead, I’ll be held tightly through to the finish line.

To that place I must go. To that task I must apply my hand.

That that? Jesus Christ – the search and work of my present and my forever. By his grace and for his glory, I am sustained. I am blessed. And I am . . .  

Kept in peace.

the unspoken blessing

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today …” –Hebrews 3:13

I saw it in their eyes last evening … a familiar pain. It’s one I’ve felt before. It always touches a nerve whenever I speak on it, especially those nerves deeply embedded in the heart and firmly rooted in remembrance. In sharing a bit of my own story, I quickly discerned that my strong emotion stirred up emotion in the ladies who’d gathered for our weekly Bible study. And instead of studying the Bible, we studied the God of Bible who comes alongside us in our woundedness, who dries our tears, and who speaks words of healing into those places where words have often gone undeclared.

Oh the ache of the unspoken blessing! Who of us hasn’t longed for a few words of eternal encouragement from an uncooperative candidate? It seems it would be easy to impart words of strength to those we love. Why then, do we so often keep them to ourselves? I think this is one of the resulting side-effects of never having received the blessings due us. The words we long to receive can often be the very words we refuse to give.

What tragedy … to forsake the blessing of others because we feel under-blessed. We are not under-blessed. We are the children of God, the over-blessed, the lavishly loved, and the richly endowed kids of the kingdom. When we live there, in God’s house of affirmation, the overflow of his love to us more easily overflows through us. Blessing others becomes our default rather than our reluctance.

Not so long ago, I wrote a few words about our words of blessing. Maybe you’ve read them; maybe you’re reading them for the first time. They seem an apt fit with today’s rumination, and so I release them to you again for your consideration:

“Our words mean a great deal to others and to us as well. Words released as flowers are words that carry us through our seasons of deepest darkness. They brighten our spirits. They lighten our loads. They keep us from lesser feelings—lesser attitudes—that, if not guarded, could quickly morph into lesser behaviors. Anger, bitterness, selfishness, waywardness, faithlessness, fear, pity, envy, and blame, are all possible, lesser products of the heart when words of kindness and encouragement aren’t extended as healing replacements.

Rarely is our neglect intentional; mostly we don’t think about our words as being an investment into the heart of another. But sometimes we forsake the “giving of flowers,” keeping our words to ourselves because it’s hard to speak them. The emotional toll that honest words require can be exhausting, raw, and exposing, thus the reason so many important conversations never take place between two hearts. Instead, we sometimes choose our silence because the contrast is too much of an honest look into our flawed and fragile hearts. Self-preservation over personal revelation becomes the order of the day. When that happens, hearts remain as they were—unchanged, unmoved, and uncolored by the witness of a flower or two given in the name of love.

Whatever our reasons for keeping our silence, we must understand that some lives will come to an earthly close without the blessed benedictions due them. Words of blessing are reserved for a funeral, when in reality, so many of them should have been spoken in advance. Words spoken at a funeral, flowers given then? Well, they’re likely to be forgotten, to decay over time, buried alongside the casket. But words of encouragement spoken into a heart before a heart moves home to heaven? Those are eternal words that never die. They blossom as a witness to generous grace and serve as a lasting memorial to the human spirit and to the God who puts eternity into the hearts of all humankind.”    (F. Elaine Olsen, on “Sending Flowers to the Living” from Beyond Cancer’s Scars , p. 124-125).

Maybe today you feel the ache of an unspoken blessing in your heart. Maybe today, you’re refusing someone else the privilege of hearing the words due them. Wherever you are in this story, my prayer is that you will allow the Father to move in to that place of woundedness and to restore to you what is rightfully yours. You are the apple of your Father’s eyes, and his love for you is without reserve or condition.

Live in his encouragement today and then, out of that overflow, live to encourage someone else. As always …

Peace for the journey,

If you’d like to secure a copy of Beyond The Scars or Peace for the Journey, click here to learn more. I greatly appreciate your support as I walk through this transition in my writing ministry.

the road-walking Jesus

“So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him.” {Mark 5:24}
I think about both of them today—two needy souls approaching Jesus from different angles some 2000 years ago. I imagine that day was in keeping with most of the days of Christ’s earthly tenure. Days of…
crowds;
forward movement;
teaching;
healing;
praying;
touching;
loving.
Days of doing what Jesus did best—unearthing the treasures of heaven, revealing the heart and hands of the Divine. Those who knew him and loved him followed him closely, kept his words within earshot and his flesh within arm’s reach. Others—those who knew him less—followed closely as well… their motives in keeping with their needs. Some physical; some spiritual; some just trying to make sense of the rumors that preceded his arrival. Regardless of their reasons for following after Jesus, wherever he went he drew a crowd.
That day would be no different. Fresh off a detour to Gerasa and a showdown with demons, Christ stepped ashore to find a crowd awaiting his arrival. A synagogue ruler named Jarius approached Jesus with a frontal advance, fell at Christ’s feet and earnestly pleaded with him for the life of his young daughter. An unidentified woman approached Jesus from behind, earnestly hoping that a stretch of her arm through tangled robes might grant her a temporary grasping of his hem and, therefore, a permanent healing of her flesh.
Both of them candidates for healing. Both of them operating with a measure of faith. Both of them knowing that proximity to Christ’s presence was the optimum course of action to procure a sought after victory. There would be no sideline watching that day… no curiosity mingling on the outskirts of a moving grace. Instead, they would urgently press into that grace… into Jesus from different angles, believing that with him would come the answer to their need—their pain and their suffering.
I am moved by their simple, yet resolute understanding of who Jesus was; not an understanding birthed from years of scholarly tutorial or religious instruction or thousands of years of hindsight, but rather understanding birthed from personal experience. From hearing and seeing firsthand the generous dispensation of his miraculous grace and then, further, believing that such charity was intended for them at a personal level. They didn’t underestimate Christ’s sacred intentions; instead, they had enough faith to believe that they were, each one, his intention—the reason behind his walking along their road that day. And so, they approached his majesty and his mystery amidst the chaotic pageantry and secured the longed for victory that would forever change the trajectory of their lives.
Proximity to Christ’s presence is the precursor to change, friends. Whether it be a healing of the heart, the mind, or the flesh, taking hold of Jesus in your midst will secure for you his undivided attention and active willingness to undertake you cause. To place upon himself the burdens of your heart and then to mediate his grace and mercy into every angle, nook and cranny, twist and turn of your plight. When it comes to a personal need for healing, a sideline faith laced with tentative curiosity and rumored possibility holds no curative power; instead, it keeps hope and expectation lingering at the edge of what Christ came to do… comes to do…
to free us from that which entraps us—body, soul, and spirit.
We don’t get to choose the blueprint or course of action for how that freeing will occur, but we do get to choose our participation in the matter. When we approach Jesus Christ with our needs, whether it be from the front, back, or from a side-to-side angle, he never fails to get involved. God isn’t reluctant in offering his grace and tender mercy into our situations. He won’t ever force his grace upon us… make us choose him, prefer him, rely on him when our wills are tethered otherwise. But when we do ask Christ for a moment or two of his consideration—his divine intervention into our need—we can be certain of his willingness to act on our behalf.
We are what he came to do—the reason behind his walking his daily grace some 2000 years ago. The reason he left us his personal diary of sorts… a forever record of remembrance so that we might find ourselves somewhere within the story. So that we might live and record our own stories of faith, so that they might serve as a lasting memorial to the transformational power and generosity of our road-walking Jesus.
Today, if you have a need, then you have a Jesus who’s headed your way. Word is… he’s in town. Word is… the crowds are pressing in. Word is… he’s got room for one more. Won’t you join me on the road to behold the Lamb of God and then to take hold of all of that for which he has taken hold of each one of us? I’ve got just enough faith to take me there. Just enough faith to keep me there until I’ve seen his face, felt the transfer of his power, and heard his voice speaking over me…
Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace, and be freed from your suffering. {Mark 5:34}
Indeed, blessed peace for the moment. Blessed peace for my journey. Even so, dear Jesus, I come needy to your feet this day. May your peace be my portion and your healing my freedom song. Amen. So be it.
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