Stand your ground

 

Don’t ever try to tell me that spiritual warfare doesn’t exist.

I know better.

I’ve experienced it. I’ve battled it. I’ve the bruises, and the battle scars to prove it.

This has been a rough few weeks in ministry, in our family life.  And the enemy has taken full advantage of the exhaustion, the weakness, the illness, the fear, the frustration, using all of it to wear down our defenses.

We have been tested, tried, found lacking. Our faith has been stretched. Our confidence has been cracked.

We have been dealt blow after blow by the devil.  And he is a tricky one. He is, after all, the father of lies. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He is going after our joy, our faith, our family.

Twisted words, half-truths, complete lies, veiled allegations, and angry outbursts have all left us wounded, angry, disappointed, disillusioned.  We are left here, shell-shocked, bleeding and weeping, as we question the why, the point of it all.  We question the desert we have found ourselves in, the dry, cracked thirst of our souls, parched and needing to step back into the streams of His grace and mercy.

But….and there is always a but in these situations…. I am so thankful that I serve a God who has overcome. A God who has defeated death, triumphed over the grave, and crushed the serpent under his heel. I may fail in my trials, but I know He doesn’t leave me or abandon me, even in the darkest of places. Though my soul may not know peace in this moment, His peace resides within me. I know I can find rest when I take upon yoke, his rhythm of grace.

Ephesians 6: 10-17

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

Hope floats

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  Mark 5: 24-34 (NIV)

She was unclean. According to Jewish law, she, along with everything she touched and sat upon, was unclean.  Everyone who touched her was unclean. She tainted everything, according to the law of her people, because of her blood.

For twelve years she sought healing, sought relief. For twelve years, she sought help from the doctors, and spent all she had. She sought freedom from her symptoms, from her pain, from her shame.
She shouldn’t have been in the crowd. According to the law, she was to be separated from others. She was living a life sheltered from the world around her, ostracized from her community, her friends, even her family.  With her medical issues, she was alone and lonely.
And desperate. 
Mark tells us she had spent all she had. She had given everything in hopes of being cured. She had put all of her hopes into the ways of this world. And the world and it’s cures had failed her.
But here comes this man, this healer, this Jesus.
Even living on the fringes of society, she has heard the stories. Great stories of healing. Stories of blind seeing, mute speaking, lame walking, the dead rising.
Hope stirs once again inside of her.  If floats up through the disappointment, through the hurt, through the shame, and it makes her breath catch.  Could he help? Could he free her?
But can she risk it?  Does she dare go out? Would people recognize her, shame her?
Her desperation resonates with me. I have been wrung out, exhausted, weary. I have known desperation. I have known the longing for healing.  I have reached out to Jesus in my heartache. I have reached out, when the only thing I had left was a sliver of hope that, in His goodness, He would heal. When I have had nothing left in the world to put my hope and trust in, I put my hope and trust in Him.
This woman goes out. She blends into the throngs of people as they crush around Jesus. Perhaps she stays low, so she won’t be recognized. Perhaps it is the weight of her shame that bends her low. Perhaps it is the pain in her belly that keeps her low to the ground.  We don’t know why she reaches for the hem of his garment.  But she believes that if she only touches his cloak, she will be healed.
She reaches for him.  Brushes her fingers against the fabric.

4.2.3

And then she feels it.
Health.  Both Mark and Luke tell us that it happens immediately.  Freedom.
And she feels His eyes search the crowd.
“Who touched me?”
He knew.  Fully God, fully man, He knew who reached out to Him.  He knew her condition, her desperation, her shame, her longings.
She fell at His feet.  Can you imagine the fear, the trembling? She had broken the law. She had made him unclean. She had risked everything she had left and put her hope in this Man.  She admitted it was her.  She bared her soul.  With a trembling voice, she claimed her faith that His power would heal her. She testified to the hope that stirred in her.
Those in the crowd who knew her muttered. They cast hard stares. They judged, condemned.
But what does Jesus do?
He calls her Daughter.
He includes her into his family with a gentle word. He frees her. He gives her peace.  There is no condemnation, no shame, no judgement.  Only healing. And love.
This is one of those stories of healing that pierces my soul.  I know her desperation. I understand her misery.  I have struggled for decades with illness, though not one anyone sees.  The darkness in my mind has overcome me at points in life.  Depression has threatened to beat me down, hold me in it’s dark tentacles, drown me.
The only thing that has kept me out of the depths is the hope I find in Jesus.  The only thing that has kept me alive when the darkness overwhelms is the glimmer of light that He brings.
Even when it seems as though I was abandoned, alone, drowning in the ocean of anxiety and fear and despair,  my soul reached out.
 I have reached for the hem of His garment. 
The beautiful thing about grace and mercy is that you find it in unlikely ways.  In the times I have felt the least lovable, the most dejected, when I have heaped condemnation and shame upon myself, that is when I have been struck with the love and mercy of my Savior.
In the most broken places of my soul, that is where hope continually rises to the top, in a place where I am held and loved.
And healing begins there.
image from womeninthebible.net

A new year, a new goal

Resolutions_list

 image from Wikimedia Commons

Well, here we are.

Seven days, just one week, into the new year, and resolutions have already been broken. Busted. Thrown out the window.

Exercise more? Well, I wrote up a plan for exercise. Does that count?

Lose weight? Okay, I did start my second round of Whole30, and haven’t cheated yet, so hopefully that will happen.

Pray more? Um, failed.

Read the Bible daily?  So, yeah, maybe I need to adjust that goal to once a week and then, HEY! I’ve done it!

Part of my problem with resolutions has been that they are not specific. More? More than what? Once a week? Once a month? Once a year?

They are also very me-centered.  I thought about what I wanted, what I think I need, and what I need to do.  I didn’t ask for guidance from God, and I decided on my “wish-list” of goals.

And that, my friends, is where I went wrong.

There is nothing inherently wrong with setting resolutions, with putting goals out there. It is a good thing to make plans in order to succeed in things of this world. If I hadn’t followed a very specific plan of training, I never would have been able to complete a marathon. Without a plan, I never would have been able to read the Bible completely in one year.

But, let me tell you, when I did those things, I prayed about them. Hard. I prayed for strength, for endurance, for a will that was not my own in order to complete the task and accomplish the feat.

The dear husband, who is in his first year of shepherding a small church, challenged our congregation last Sunday to set apart time to meet with God and ask Him about our new year, to seek God’s guidance and will for our lives. To ask God to bless our plans, or show us new ones, if ours did not line up with His.

And so, I did that. No, not immediately that Sunday afternoon.  And not in one time of quiet and rest. No, my time with God was a bit messy, and broken into different times, some at home, some at work. (This is where it is a blessing to be a massage therapist. Unless I have a chatty client, there is peace and quiet….and it is fabulous!)

I listened. I waited.

And I heard. 

No, not a deep voice, calling from the heavens. No, God didn’t sound like Morgan Freeman. (Well, maybe He does. Mr. Freeman does have. quite. the. voice.)   Instead, a deep impression into my soul, a firm desire implanted, a peace that overcame me.  There was clarity given to me for the journey.

It was also…challenging. Because I was asked to step out, even further, in faith. To risk. To share.  And that desire that was felt, deep in my bones? I know it wasn’t of me, because it was for things that I don’t feel equipped for, or talented in, or capable of.  The stirring of my heart to speak to groups, to preach, to teach….yep, totally out of my comfort zone and wheelhouse.

Dear husband and I have talked about creating a way to teach others what we were taught of healing prayer. We see a deep need for healing in this place.  We are surrounded by the walking wounded, broken by the world, hurt by others, by their community, by their families, by their own choices in life. Both of us want to help equip others to pray, to love, and to lead the hurting to Jesus, to lay their burdens down and take up His yoke. We have felt confirmation of this desire, and I know the nudging I feel is from God.  I still don’t know what it will look like, how it will shape up, but I know that this comes not just from our own desiring.

I also know that God is stirring me to write more.

My goal for this year is to write a blog post once per week. 52 posts.

It sounds impossible to me. After all, the total I’ve published is 46, and that is in the course of 2 1/2 years.  (It is so nice that WordPress keeps all those stats for me, isn’t it?)

In order to meet this, I am going to have to lay aside my fears, my insecurities, my perfectionist tendencies.  They may not all be polished and pretty. They may even have a few spelling or grammar errors (gasp!).  But they will be prayed over, and prayerfully given, with a hope that someone is given hope, shown mercy, met Jesus, through each and every one.

My intention is to really dive into what healing is, and what it means for us in today’s world.  There will be scripture, there will be stories of my own journey, and there will be questions….and probably few answers. I can’t say that every single post will be deep, theological, or wonderful, but I can say that it will be authentic.

So, will you journey with me over the next 52 weeks? Will those who know me hold me accountable to this?

Will you too ask God’s guidance for your plans and goals for 2016 and see where He takes you?