Author Archives: Eileen

It can hurt before it heals

The other morning I read through John 6 again. John is probably one of my favorite books in the Bible.

I think one of the reasons my heart is often drawn to read John is because Jesus, the Great I AM, in several different places through this particular book, reminds us of who He is. It’s hard truth that made his listeners squirm or even walk away.

When we try to rationalize the path we are on or the choices we make Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father accept through Me.”

When we are tempted to have anything in life other than Jesus feed us or try to satisfy our deepest joys or sustain the longings in our heart and soul, Jesus says: “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.”

When we mistakenly follow the crowd down the wrong path Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

When we are tempted to lose hope because all we can see is the seemingly endless valley of pain or despair, Jesus says “I am the resurrected life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”

John is full of hard, uncomfortable truth.

Yet, truth will often hurt before it heals. I can say this because there have been seasons in my own life when taking hold of His hand and trusting Him as we walked through pain and hard truth together, hurt like hell. But, He has always, always, always been faithful. The dawn breaks and my eyes can see the sunrise again.

Jesus and Peter

This morning as I drove into the office I started thinking about Peter and how he is such a great reminder for us as to how easily we can take our eyes off of God’s faithfulness and focus too much on our circumstances. As I drove along I thought about the well-known account of how Peter once walked on water with Jesus.

Jesus, I’ve walked on water with You too!

Yet, still, just like Peter, there are times in my life when I easily forget this truth. I take my eyes off the One who calls me out upon the water and look at the impossible circumstances crashing all around me and, just like Peter…I sink. And, just like Peter, I need rescuing…again. Sigh.

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Shortly after arriving to work, we came together as a staff for our weekly time of worship and reflection. Can you guess what the topic of the short devotional time was centered around? Peter. It was the other well-known account I love so much. Even after Peter’s multiple denials of knowing Christ on the night Jesus was arrested, the resurrected Jesus still comes to Peter, cooks him breakfast and simply asks him…do you love Me?  (John 21)

As I thought more about this beautiful exchange between Jesus and Peter, a few more of my favorite Peter memories came to mind.

I thought about a morning several years ago when I was driving home from the grocery store and came across a Lost sheep.

I thought about a Third Day song that played at a pivotal moment in my life during my early days of sobriety called “Can’t Take the Pain” It was at that moment, as I listened to the lyrics of this song that the depth of His love suddenly hit me. He not only went to the cross to endure the pain and the shame of my sins…He also willingly took the blame…a sinless man raised his hand and stepped in front of the firing squad…for me.

No, I didn’t see this one comin’
It suddenly snuck up on me
I can’t say you didn’t tell me so
I can’t say you didn’t warn me

Well I can’t take the pain,
Knowing that I left you
And I can’t bare the shame 
Of knowing I was wrong

But I’ll take the blame for everything that I’ve done
But I can’t take the pain of leaving you alone
leaving you alone

I was there when they accused you
But I guess I was too afraid
Not just once, and not just twice
But three times I denied your name

Well I can’t take the pain,
Knowing that I left you
And I can’t bare the shame 
Of knowing I was wrong

But I’ll take the blame for everything that I’ve done
But I can’t take the pain of leaving you alone
leaving you alone

I never thought I’d get
Even a second chance
But you’ve given that, and so much more
And then for every time I ever did deny,
You asked me if I love you
You know I do, Lord

So I’m off to follow in your steps
It won’t be easy, it’s safe to say
Only two roads I can walk on down
The one less traveled is the one you paved

But I can’t take the pain,
Knowing that I left you
And I can’t bare the shame 
Of knowing I was wrong
But I’ll take the blame for everything that I’ve done
But I can’t take the pain of leaving you alone
leaving you alone

Lord, you took the pain
Even though I left you
And you took the shame, and you made it all your own
Why’d you take the blame for everything that I’ve done?
Lord, you took the pain, you and you alone

You and you alone.”

Where are You staying?

“Again the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!”

The two disciples heard him say this and followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and noticed them following Him, He asked them, “What are you looking for?”

They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are You staying?” “Come and you’ll see,” He replied. So they went and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day. It was about 10 in the morning. John 1 35-39

I was reading this passage this morning and the portion that stood out to me was the disciples question to Jesus when he asked them what they were looking for. Their response is interesting to me. The most pressing question on their hearts was “Where are You staying?” I’m naturally a nosey person (just ask my husband and son) so I think my first question would have been “Hey, Jesus, where are You going?!?”

I also think it’s human nature to be more curious about where someone is going rather than where they are staying especially when you see them on the move and you are following behind them. Yet, it appears the disciples cared more deeply about being with Jesus wherever he was instead finding out what his future trip itinerary looked like. It’s like their hearts just craved to be wherever He was and that was enough for them. At that moment, they didn’t need Him to turn the page. Their question gives me a glimpse into the posture of their hearts: Jesus, wherever Your resting place is, that’s where we want to be too. Where You are leading and where You are going isn’t something we need to know right now. Being with You and spending time with You is what matters most at this moment.  

Lord, let that be our heart’s posture too.

Where my Soul is at Home

I discover God’s greatness in weakness.

I discover His love in all the lacks laid bare.

The weight of His Glory finds me there.

It brings me to my knees in awe, then lifts me up in arms of grace.

It whispers to my weary soul.

I AM. enough.

My soul aches for this place.

This is the home it seeks.

I see it in the shepherd boy singing songs to his sheep on a starry night.

I see it in my sweet Savior’s “no crib for a bed” birth.

I see it in the father who cries out “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

I see it in Peter the Rock after fear had won and his faith had crumbled and he responds to Jesus’ repeated question “Peter, do you love me?” You know I do, Lord!

I see it in the prostitute who knelt down in overwhelming gratitude, washing her Savior’s feet with her own tears and drying them with her hair.

I see it in Paul’s humble and honest “I am a wretched man…who will rescue me!” admission.

I see it in a Sunday greeter serving others through her widowed tears of grief.

Oh Lord, it’s these broken blemish filled places where I can see Your son rise!

I can’t find it in procedures. I can’t see it in the polished to perfection shine.

I find it here.

Here in the midst of pain.

Here in the midst of holes.

Here in the midst of wrong turns, unanswered questions, and delays.

Here I am, Lord… speak…Your servant is listening.

One Word 2019

As I raced through the month of December the thought of picking another One Word for 2019 finally drifted into my heart last week. I had not even given the idea any thought at all. I’ve chosen a word, or maybe it’s more accurate to say that a word has chosen me for the last 7 or 8 years. Honestly, I didn’t even know if I was going to do the one word thing again this year. Usually by this time my heart is eager… but this year has been different. My soul is weary.

Earlier this week, as I sat quietly on the couch looking at the Christmas tree lights, my word showed up as my soul cried out for direction: I need to embrace this, Lord. This life. This moment. This everything!

Embrace.

Lord, that’s Your word for me.

Yesterday during my quiet time as I meditated more on that word, the Lord guided me to the book of Jeremiah. Since I’ve always had a hard time understanding and grasping all that Jeremiah writes about, I decided to read Jeremiah 31 in the Message translation. These words resonated with my tired soul.

“Set up signposts to mark your trip home. Get a good map. Study the road conditions. The road out is the road back. Come back, dear virgin Israel, come back to your hometowns. How long will you flit here and there, indecisive? How long before you make up your fickle mind? God will create a new thing in this land: A transformed woman will embrace the transforming God!” Jer 31:21-22 Message

“God will create a new thing in this land: A transformed woman will embrace the transforming God!” For some reason, those words spoke to me. I won’t pretend to understand them fully. I don’t. But I do know that, in this chapter, Jeremiah is continuing to encourage captives and ensuring them that God would restore them and their children to their own land. He is reminding them to remember God’s faithfulness and that their joy would be restored once again. Lord, I desperately need to embrace that message too.

Yesterday morning, as I meditated on those words, I cried out to the Lord for revelation and direction. Lord, reveal more of Yourself to me today; my soul needs it.

The revelation came in the form of a coworker who walked into my office yesterday afternoon asking me if I’d ever read the book “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership.” by Ruth Haley Barton. I told him I had not. He went on to describe the book and, as he spoke, I knew that God was answering my prayer from earlier in the morning.

Here are some words from the recommended book that I read this morning: “…it is important for us to embrace spiritual transformation as a process that is a full mystery. It is a phenomenon that is outside the range of what human beings can accomplish on their own. It can only be grasped and experienced through divine intervention. God is the one who initiates and guides the process and brings it to fruition.” – Ruth Haley Barton

I then went back and read Jeremiah 31 and then these verses from Psalm 84.

“And how blessed all those in whom you live,
whose lives become roads you travel;
They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,
discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!
God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and
at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!”  Psalm 84:5-7 Message

I then had song lyrics come to mind from Audrey Assad, For Love of You. I couldn’t quite remember how they went so I googled the lyrics. As I did, I stumbled upon another song by the same artist I had never heard before called Drawn To You. I listened to it and realized that my soul tends to live in this state of tension. I know God is faithful. I’ve seen His greatness in my life. I’ve watched Him make something out of nothing, over and over. I’ve watched my Redeemer, redeem. Yet, today, my soul struggles to embrace this Truth. I walk through a valley and all I can do is cling to His sweet hand, remain in His presence, and trust His always guiding Light.

My song on the mountain top:

“You are the highway I travel ‘Cause I watched You carve streets of gold from the sand and gravel I gave You brokenness, You gave me innocence And now this road leads to glory”  For Love of You, Audrey Assad

My song through the valley:

“All my devotion is like sinking sand
I’ve nothing to cling to but Your sweet hand
No clear emotions keeping me safe at night
Only Your presence, like a candle light” Drawn to You, Audrey Assad

So this year, I seek to embrace both. The mountain top moments as well as the lonesome valleys. I embrace His sustaining grace.  I embrace His work of transformation and sometimes painful sanctification, I embrace His faithfulness yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Embraces from Emmanuel

I was reminded this morning of some of the accounts in Scripture where we witness the glory of the Lord. I love how each time folks encounter His greatness we, the reader, can recognize the smallness or the imperfect-ness of the scene.

Jesus comes along and fills a need. Jesus comes along and bridges the gap. He becomes food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, and light for our dark worlds. He becomes the shepherd for lost sheep, a firm Rock for shaky ground, and a Father to the fatherless. He becomes the way home, the truth we are desperately seeking, and the air that fills our lungs.

We see Him meeting people in the middle of their messy lives or complicated situations and becoming the answer. No one is required to get their act together first. No one is required to polish up their appearances or surroundings first.

He breaks through facades and gets right to the heart of the matter… and the heart of the matter is simply this…Jesus, Emmanuel, wants nothing more than to make His home right smack dab in the middle of all of our messy and unpolished lives. In that “going to Walmart in sweatpants and no makeup” part of our lives. In that “one room in the house where we hide all the mess when guests come over” part of our lives. He embraces us and accepts us right there.

He makes a beeline to our lacks and responds with love and grace. He enters our dysfunctional and broken lives and offers armloads of mercy. He shows up in our sea of hurt and offers us a beauty and a hope far beyond what our eyes can see and our minds can fully comprehend.

Thank you, Jesus.

Prepare Him Room

I read a devotional this morning on the topic of joy and it brought me to tears.  It’s funny to me how a devotional on joy can bring a person to tears. Yet, so often in life it’s beauty that breaks my heart open just as frequently as sorrow. 

“What is joy? Joy can never be induced, cranked up or made to happen. It’s something that has to find us precisely within our ordinary, duty-bound, burdened, full-of-worries, and pressured lives…And as CS Lewis puts it, it has to surprise you. You can’t find joy, it has to find you…Joy is always the by-product of something else… Joy will come to us if we set about actively trying to create it for others.”  Ronald Rolheiser

Joy, it can find us in the most painful, heart-wrenching times of our lives. Joy, it’s more powerful than the dark. Joy, it pursues us and suddenly reminds us of this profound beauty that is constantly present but our hearts and souls easily and frequently lose sight of it. 

Joy, it’s that SONlight that breaks through the darkness and warms us, calms us, and fills us at just the perfect time. Joy it’s the thousand little ways our Creator gives us glimpses of His glory and it makes our heart ache because that glimpse is more beautiful than words could ever describe. Joy, it’s suddenly being reminded that life is about this holy moment we are living right now and, yet, simultaneously infinitely bigger than this holy moment we are living right now. 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ” Romans 15:13

“As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.“I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. John 15:9-12


Rest for the Weary

Jesus moves towards chaos and pain 

He is a safe place to ask questions, to seek answers, to doubt 

He invites the broken to come

He doesn’t avoid hard conversations

He doesn’t offer sugar coated replies

Yet He meets His children where they are 

And loves them as they are

He is an open door for the rejected, the outcast, the scorned 

He paints sunrise pictures of His redeeming love 

He shows us snapshots of life abundant…right here, right now! 

He is drink to the thirsty. He is food for the hungry.

All are invited. Come taste. Come see.  

He teaches us that hope has breath

hope is alive

hope bore our pain

and now it waits with arms stretched wide

for the weary world to open tired eyes

to see the sunrise

to gaze upon its beauty

to breathe in grace

to wrap up in the warmth of peace…and rest

Counting Joy

I thought about something this Thanksgiving morning; I’ve been sober for almost as long as I had my mom in my life. My mom passed away when I was 18.

I took my last drink Thanksgiving Day 17 years ago. Wow.

I still remember back when I turned 36 years old and it dawned on me that I had reached the age where I had lived life without my mom for as long as I had lived life with her. I’m not sure why these milestones interest me so much, but they do. It’s crazy to think how on some days the passage of time feels like a blink and on other days it feels like an eternity.

I guess this may not be how a typical Thanksgiving post is supposed to kick off.  I’m pretty sure  it’s considered bad etiquette to mention death in the first sentence. Oh well. 🙂 It’s just hard for me to “count my blessings” without including all the ways the Lord has and continues to redeem the painful chapters in my life too. They count for something. I think of how James said it.

“Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

As I look back over my life, more often than not, it’s been the seasons when my hands were empty when I’ve learned to understand and appreciate the beauty of a Savior who can hold us  and carry us in all things and through all things.  This is a strange kind of beauty that, unfortunately, I think we only truly recognize through trials and suffering.  These chapters have taught me more about thanks-giving than any of the easy or pain free ones. At least, this has been my experience.

I’m thankful for the losses that have taught me how to cling to my Rock.
I’m thankful for the addiction that taught me I wasn’t strong enough to save myself.
I’m thankful for the mistakes and wrong turns that taught me God’s grace never runs dry.
I’m thankful for the friends and family who love me right where I am.
I’m thankful for my husband and my son…undeserved gifts in my life.
I’m thankful for sobriety and sweet freedom.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Take some time today and count your blessings.

 

Surprise Visits from Mom

My week kicked off at the annual staff retreat for work. Each year, our multi-campus staff will get away for a couple of days to reconnect together as a team. We have opportunities and space to learn, to encourage, to challenge, and to just be.

Prior to one of our times of personal reflection and prayer, we read these couple of verses together as a team.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 Point out anything in me that offends you,
 and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139: 23-24

As I sat down to journal some thoughts, one of the songs my mom wrote immediately came to mind. I jotted down the words again and silently sung the words as I did.

Search Me, Oh Lord 

Search me, oh Lord, look within
Make me aware of my sin
Take out myself and then put love in
Search me oh Lord

Take whatever’s wrong in me and make it right
Oh Lord let me live in your light
Just take whatever’s wrong in me and make it right
Oh Lord let me live in your light

Lead me, oh Lord, now I pray
Closer to You everyday
I never intended to lose my way
Lead me, oh Lord

Take whatever’s wrong in me and make it right
Oh Lord let me live in your light
Just take whatever’s wrong in me and make it right
Oh Lord let me live in your light

I love how the journey I am on today will still include moments with my mom.  Every so often, the beauty my mom left behind will show up and sing truth-filled messages over my heart and mind. I wish I could have her here with me but “seeing her,” once again, sitting on our sofa playing her guitar, and joyfully sharing a new creation with me, is definitely the next best thing this side of heaven.  Even after 27 years of separation, these moments are gifts that I get to unwrap and embrace again.

Having songs sneak into our heads is a good reminder of something else too. I am reminded of the importance of being willing to transform our thoughts and to make them obedient to what Christ desires for us. We need to be willing to be willing. We need to honestly listen to the music playing in our heads and hearts and ask the Lord…is this tune in step with Your will for me or do You wish to fill my life with a more beautiful melody today?

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)

He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:3 NLT)