Gambling at the Cross

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing.’ And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.’ (Luke 23:34) As Jesus was hanging on the cross, those who put him there were gambling for his clothes. If this wasn’t in the bible, I’d have a hard time believing it. I recall the scene in “The Passion of the Christ,” when brutalized, disfigured, bleeding, naked Jesus hung on the cross. I had to look away from that scene; but these soldiers were AT the scene, able to gamble in front of it. What kind of savages?!? Who could be distracted from the Son of God dying as a guiltless sacrifice for the human-family so they could have abundant (John 10:10) and eternal (John 3:16) life? Actually? Our propensity for distraction happens all the time. Maybe I’m not rolling dice like Roman soldiers, but I’m missing Jesus around me because I’m too distracted by something in front me. He was in the sunrise this morning. I missed Him because I was too distracted by passing every slow car in front of me. Jesus was at church last weekend, in the presence of his people making music, greeting guests, restocking paper towels, preaching a message, and rocking babies. I missed Him because I was too distracted by the proverbial “very-busy-week” I could see ahead of me. Jesus was in my bible app on my phone last night, but I was too distracted by my Facebook app to meet Him there. These days, we aren’t distracted like gambling soldiers at a cross, but we’re still distracted. And it is still a gamble. Not for the clothes of Jesus but for the love, hope, peace of Jesus.  There is and always will be a rush of His love coming in from all angles around you. The question I’m wrestling with lately is, “what is distracting me from Jesus, the One who has never been too distracted for me?”

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Labor-Day Storms

I had no idea a tropical storm was hitting our area. I woke up with plans, but when I saw the local news, I had to change plans. [enter obvious blog-post] Weather storms can take us by surprise and change our plans. So can life-storms.  As I type this, I can count on twenty phalanges people who are in a life-storm that took them by surprise and changed their plans. The bible says, “He [Jesus] replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and waves, and it was completely calm.” (Matthew 8:26). One time, when Raul and I were dating, we went out on a boat. We were (according to my Midwestern eyewitness account) in the middle of nowhere when a storm struck with blankets of pelting rain, thunder, lighting, even a tornado (aka, “water-spout”). I was FREAKING OUT. Raul wasn’t. He was calm. I’m not gonna draw conclusions between Raul and Jesus, but I will say that in our storm, Raul was a lot more like Jesus than I was, but that’s another post. Moving on… It rubs me the wrong way when I hear, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” First, I have yet to find that in the bible. Second, there have been storms in my life where God did give me more than I could handle.  In the aforementioned verse, I bet those disciples ON the boat, IN the storm, were thinking this is more than we can handle! How do we know? The immediate digression of their faith and the escalation of their fear (v26, “little faith,” “so afraid”). I think the disciples couldn’t handle the storm terrorizing them much like I couldn’t handle the storms that have terrorized me. But they and I were WITH Someone who could. Some of you are going through storms that are more than you can handle. And if Jesus isn’t your captain, I don’t know how you’re doing it. There are 3 life-storms I can name that were so beyond what I could handle, so beyond what anyone could do, that Jesus was all I had. He wasn’t my last option, but He was my only option. Those 3 storms had a fierce, blind-sighting strike…they also had a slow, fading away. I haven’t forgotten those 3 storms, but I’m also no longer in them. As I recall those 3 storms, I know, that I know, that I know, there was only ONE who got me through them. I hope you know Him. I hope He is the captain of your ship, the mast on your deck, the lighthouse of your life, and the anchor for your rescue.  If He is, you will get through this storm. Don’t give up. This too shall pass. <3

 

 

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Dear Mentally-Well,

Dear Mentally-Well,
Let me start by writing that for any of us with mental illness, we are thankful for you! We struggle with something you have together, and YOU inspire us to stay at it! And I believe in a Soveriegm God who makes the world go ’round with BOTH.  As far as being like us,  I wish I had a Dr. Seuss book that could explain in rhyme and cartoons what it’s like. Because, to the contrary, it’s complicated! For me, it’s a mind that lives in two poles. Imagine living between the North Pole or the South Pole, and never being able to have a stop in between. Furthermore, never knowing when, or for how long, you’ll be at one pole or the other.  One could surmise this would be impossible! But that’s where I’d jump up and down, testifying: “but with God, all things are possible!” God is my equator in my polarizing mind. God is the hope at the end of my rope. God is my anchor. God is the cushion where my erratic thoughts land. God is in my mind, in unexplainable drifts, where no sane person would want to go. God holds my mind in the palm of His hand, lest it be too fragile for my body to hold. A few years ago, I got an unexpected gift from an unexpected person. She said that I was [of all things] on her MIND! It was an ornament with the word “Hope” on it. How did she know to give that key-word on a gift on the day she did? Like I said earlier, God knows our world needs both of us: those who struggle in their minds, and those who give HOPE when we do. The world truly is a harmonic place when we can get along and be who God made us to be.
Love, us

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Are You Bleeding
On The Inside?

This morning I woke up thinking about a message I’ve done on the bible story about the bleeding woman, (Luke 8/Mark 5/Matt. 9). The bible teaches that she had a (constant) bleed for twelve years. Ladies, that’s having a ‘period’ for about 4,380 days. She tried finding cures, but after spending all she had, she only got worse. Long story short, Jesus came to town and she was like “if I could just touch the fringe of his robe I could be healed!” What faith! She didn’t need an exclusive appointment with Him. She didn’t need to jockey for his attention or pity with her embellished drama. She didn’t need to post it on her Facebook page. She didn’t hold out until God “gave her a sign.” She had enough faith to know that a “fringe” of Jesus was enough.  And if you know the story, you know it was.  Maybe we aren’t bleeding like this woman on the outside. But are any of us bleeding on the inside? Which begs another question: what are we gonna do about it now? today? Is it time to take a faith-step and grasp just a “fringe” of Jesus? And today, what’s that look like? Maybe it’s making ONE Christian counseling appointment. Maybe it’s going to church more than ONCE a month. Maybe it’s inviting Jesus into your bleeding heart, in the first place. Maybe it’s reading one chapter in the Psalms one time a day. Jesus shed ALL of his blood on the cross so we don’t have to bleed ALL of our life. There is healing to our inner wounds; and faith is the initial step to get there. To start to stop the bleed…and hear Jesus say, like the woman heard Him say: your faith’s made you WELL. Go in peace.❤️

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Is Your Mind
Your Master?

I apologize in advance for the lack of professionalism with this post. But I wanna do a brain-dump!  I’m going to empty my mind of things that pertain to your mind. Buckle your seatbelt ‘cause this ‘bout to be a purge of crazy proportions.
Your mind may have a mind of its own, but your mind is NOT its owner. It was bought at a HIGH Price: “for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body,” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Your HEAD is part of your BODY so your HEAD belongs to God, not to itself! And sometimes, you gotta put your mind in its place and TELL it that!
Your mind is not your master if Jesus is your Savior: “For we are God’s MASTERpiece.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Your mind CAN weather a thousand storms IF Jesus is the anchor of your soul! Read Jonah 2!!!!
If the TRUTH sets you FREE (and your mind is part of you), then tell your mind the TRUTH. Don’t let falsities, exaggerations, suspicions, assumptions, lies or any of the sort take up real estate in your head. I have literally learned the awkward-art of setting those free. When I have a bad-thought on repeat, I will take my hand up to my head, catch it in my hand, and throw it out my car window! Then replace that now-vacant real-estate with a truth.
What truth? Things like: “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” “If God is for me who can be against me?” “I am more than a conqueror in Christ.” “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!” “Who the Son sets free, is free indeed!”
Lastly, I’m not an expert, doctor, certified-anything. I’m a regular joe-schmo who has battled my mind my whole life. BUT….
Just because we have battles in our minds, does NOT mean we have to lose to them! The battle has already been won on the cross! The victory is already yours!
I hope this brain-dump encourages someone today.

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Tears on Perry Street

In 1984, I received my first journal from my grandma. Imagine my intrigue opening it 30 years later! An entry on April 22, 1985, read: “I didn’t make cheerleading. It makes me mad because the reason I didn’t make it was because I missed to much school…I’m not trying out again…It’s going to be hard to go to school tomorrow. But I can do it. I feel sordove depressed I guess.” WOW!!!! Inside the crazy mind of little Heather! I know it’s cliché, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  That day at school, Mrs. Ware (the art teacher and cheerleading coach) called an after-school meeting. The girls who made the team and didn’t make it were present. When my name wasn’t read, I held tears in so tight my eyes were like Hoover Dams trying to hold back flooding Colorado Rivers. Somehow I held it together for the bus ride home to my Perry Street bus stop in Haskins, Ohio. When I stepped off the bus, the dams were lifted and floods came out of my eyes. I remember walking and crying as I made my way down our street, toward our house. I could see my mom in the distance. I remember this detail because she didn’t normally do this.  Maybe mom-intuition had signaled her that this day she needed to be at the front of the driveway instead of inside the house. Right now someone may be thinking, “Wow, Heather, is it normal to recall such detail of a tiny middle-school rejection?”  To which I would say, “Is anything I do normal?” LOL! Actually, I like to think God allows me to remember the details–not to drown in my demise—rather, encourage someone else. I have the choice (we all do) to look back and be bitter or be better. Recalling the day I got rejected from cheerleading could make me bitter. OR, recalling that day could make me better because there was a parent waiting in the driveway to accept their rejected girl and receive her real tears. Closing thoughts to anyone who’s been rejected: a rejection doesn’t make you a reject. And when it passes through God’s hands, it CAN make you better not bitter. Closing thoughts to receivers of rejected loved ones: rejection can leave a hole, that real acceptance can fill. Be there for them! I hope this post encourages both of you, today!

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Losers & Finders

Three days ago, I drove up to Wisconsin from my parent’s home in Crystal Lake, Illinois for my niece’s birthday. That night, when I was getting ready for bed, I noticed my engagement ring and wedding band were missing…again. [See prior post /losing-my-diamond-ring/]  I prayed and worried and prayed through the night–rendering a sleepless night. The next morning, we went full-throttle into “Operation Ring” mode, deploying my seven family members and myself. Retracing steps, borrowing a metal detector, scouring gravel drive ways and parking lots, and filing “missing ring” reports. Later that day, after giving up my search (and hope) my brother Jamie suggested we drive back up to Wisconsin (an hour away) to my niece’s party location. I assured Jamie that would be a waste of time and gas, because that wasn’t the last place I had my rings. To which he replied, “Why not, though? We aren’t doing anything now.” So we went. But the wind of hope was knocked out of my sails when we got to the park’s parking lot and it was packed like sardines with cars and people. Wouldn’t you know…it was the park’s official, “Hot Dog Festival.”  Even if we DID find my rings where we parked yesterday, the car that was there now, was certainly the new owner of them. I was defeated, but Jamie wasn’t done. We pulled alongside the space, got out, looked down, and there they were. Right where I had (unknowingly) left them. A sunbeam was casting light off the diamond solitaire.  Like God was using His universal, laser pointer-finger to direct my eyes from His seat in Heaven, to my squatted stance on the gravel lot. Jamie and I jumped up and down! And in true demonstrative “Heather,” I proceeded to twirl with my hands raised as high as my joints would let me and screamed, “THANK YOU JESUS!!!!!”  Jeremiah 29:14 says, “‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.” This verse optimizes the drama of my lost rings. We sure are [non-literal] losers, aren’t we? We lose our way, our possessions, our faith, hope, joy. We lose insignificant things like keys, all the way up to losing our child in a store [see another prior post /when-i-left-andy-2/] And I haven’t put my rings in my lap while applying hand lotion, and forgetting they were there as I jumped out of the car, once… I’ve now done it TWICE!  But my God is a Finding God. He is my: I-know-where-it-is-I-know-where-she-needs-to-be God!  I don’t want to declare to you that it’s my job to lose, cuz it sucks! But I do want to declare that God has promised He WILL be found by you.  If you are lost, I hope you call for Him. You don’t have to find your way to Him. He will come to you. Because out of His always-finding-never-losing love, He’s known right where you were all along. Just like my rings.

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Even At My Worst
He is My Best

Chapter One of Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” reads, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. “ Pretty sure I had to read that in school; sadly I just had to Google its source. One thing I testify is times change, but Jesus is unchanging. During best times (i.e. birthday, wedding day, graduation day, boys’ birthdays) and worst times (i.e. job-termination day, psych ward stay, Feb 14, 2018, Sept 11, 2001) Jesus was there all day, every day. Even in my worst-case scenario, Jesus had my best interest in mind. Even at my worst, Jesus is at his best. Jesus was, is and will be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. My life ebbs and flows, He is a constant conduit. My seasons change, but He is the Season-Changer! Maybe Jesus didn’t prevent the worst day, but Jesus didn’t abandon me in it. The hours move, but Jesus is unmoved. He is ALL IN when I invited Him in, and he doesn’t reduce. He doesn’t deteriorate. He doesn’t age. He doesn’t expire. He doesn’t transfer, transform, switch, rotate, trend in, or fade out. He is everything and everyone I’ve ever needed at any time. People have come and gone. Opportunities have risen and fallen. Health has decreased and increased. Locations have relocated. My position or title has dropped, flourished, maintained, downgraded, but Jesus-CEO has stayed in charge and on His throne. I can’t always count on people, can’t count on myself, can’t count on the weather, and can’t count the number of hairs on my head. But I can count on Jesus. There is not one day in the worst or best of times I witnessed His exit. Has He been silent? Oh yes. But Jesus has never been absent. In the best of times and worst of times, Jesus has been my dependable, reliable, faithful friend, Father, counselor, boss, confidant and Hope. And I Hope He is yours too.

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Mad At What’s In Them
Not At Them

In Acts 16, the bible says, “She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.’ This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And instantly it left her.” It can be easy to get mad at people who exasperate us with their demons, literally and figuratively. In the above account, a girl was wearing out the Apostle Paul with hers. Day after day, depleting his energy, time, patience and focus. I did some research on this text, and (for a simpleton’s sake like me) it broke down like this: The Greek word used for ‘exasperated’ is ‘grieved’ (διαπονηθεὶς). Basically, it’s ‘angry’ and ‘sad.’ Paul was sad at the condition of the girl, and mad at the ongoing, outward display of the evil that possessed her. To be simple: Paul wasn’t mad at her, Paul was mad at what was IN her. And Paul loved her enough to help get it OUT. I get to do life with wonderfully-broken people who have demons of their own (addiction, rebellion, criminal behavior, suicidal thoughts). My heart leaps at chances to help them (and many times, in turn, they’ve made me a better person!) This passage of Paul’s encounter with this girl encourages me to help in 3 ways: 1. that my ”διαπονηθεὶς” be anger mixed WITH sadness/compassion and not just anger, alone. 2. that I do what I can, when I can to help and not assume someone else will. 3. that like Paul, I occasionally see the proverbial demons flee, the brand new person rise up and we both do a praise dance at God’s faithfulness!

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The Past: Refine You
or Define You

We all have a past. Some of us have unimaginable pasts. Some of us have pasts without major incident. But we all have one. In the past, it’s where we were; in this present, it’s where we are; in the future it’s where we’re headed. But what I’ve seen more times than not—is our past is what makes us or breaks us. In short, does my past define me or does my past refine me? Over the years, I’ve trolled the bible looking for good verses to encourage me about my past. One of my favs is Galatians 6:15, “It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.” And where “circumcised” is, we can fill in anything from our former life. For example, “whether we have been addicted or not,” “whether we have been mistreated or not,” “whether we have been rejected, neglected, defected or not.” Whatever was part of your past, with Jesus, doesn’t define you because with him you are a new creation in your present. You are refined by Jesus in your heart, not defined by circumstances in your past. I could keep going with the verses. But if you are struggling with feeling defined by your past, maybe do a bible word search on “new creation,” “born again,” “freedom,” and let God’s timeless, irrefutable truths and promises speak to your heart. Just because you had a bad chapter doesn’t mean your story has a bad ending. I hope this encourages someone today.

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