Open Hands and Hearts . . . in Jesus

Such deep deep mercy Christ has for us. I was just so sunk in that mirey clay today, when Jesus said to me: read John 6. I cried – verses 35-40 are my life verses – and again His Promise never to let me go (MSG version), never to cast me out (most other versions) and never to lose me so reassured my heart, but somehow what spoke so deeply to my heart today was verse 21 (HCSB) – that:

at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading

I think the disciples were tired of waiting. It was late and getting dark, and so they headed to Capernaum – without Jesus. I wonder if they felt forsaken by Jesus, who had gone off alone (to get away from those who wished to crown him King and most likely to seek His Father’s face in prayer). I wonder if that’s also why they left without Him.

Perhaps their hearts were hardened in pain and distrust at waiting and Jesus not showing up “in time” (according to their human fathoming). But just look at what GRACE meets them in their weakness – even as they have gone on ahead without their Savior in their own strength and understanding, believing they had to now fend for themselves – a storm that stops them, a Savior who walks toward them on the churning sea (of accusations) and who turns that churning sea of wrath into a sea of mercy:

at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading

So, it’s not that they were headed the wrong direction, it’s that they were going about it the wrong way (method). Their human understanding told them:

– there is just NO more time to rest (hey, it’s kinda dark, you know, shouldn’t we be heading home by now, Jesus? Where are YOU?!)

– I guess now we have to travel on alone, in our own strength now, because Jesus is not back yet.

Their human thinking – most likely fed by their human and fleshly weaknesses of pride, unbelief, weariness, distrust and impatience – meant they were now traveling in their own strength, weary and discouraged, without their beloved Jesus at their side. So, what does Jesus do to show them who their Father is and what He is like? Does He let them carry on weary and discouraged in their own strength and without Him? Or does He set about to punish them for their weakness and sinful striving?

No! He – who controls the wind, let’s the sea begin to churn. He raises up a barrier – which incidentally is an alternate meaning of the Word “sufficient” from God’s Word to Paul, when he asked God to remove the thorn of Satan in his side. God refused to, saying to Paul: “my grace is sufficent for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So what if that churning sea was in fact God’s way of making sure the disciples wouldn’t get to shore alone, discouraged and weary – but with Him, encouraged and empowered by Him.

He takes away their transgression (of abandoning Him and going it alone), wiping away their fear of punishment, by meeting them in mercy. He walks toward them, stills their fear, in so doing leads them to invite Him into the boat with them. And if that wasn’t enough, He completes the journey for them (no more weary striving, thank You, Jesus!). In all of this I hear Him say to us today:

I know your hearts. I know you love me. I know just how weary and discouraged and afraid you are. And I want you to know I am not upset, disappointed in you or angry at you but FULL of compassion for you- because I have felt and feel everything you do too and more – and yet sinned not. I did what you never could – I rested in My Papa, in His timing and in His will – for you. So that now, through the Cross and My Spirit breath in you, you might walk in Me – in the Way, the Truth and the Life – as I reveal My all-sufficient grace for you and all.

Yes, as my brother Peter said: The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.

And there is my verse I prayed this morning – from a place of weariness, discouragement and pride. And look what my Jesus did – He lifted up the warm bread of His Word (Himself) for me in thanks to His Father, broke His Body on that Cross for me to feed Himself to me – filling my heart with the truth, the life and my good and perfect way to walk.

Jesus has done it for us – gone to His Papa, where He now intercedes before His Father – our Father – on our behalf for ever more. He now meets us in every place our hearts are troubled and become hardened in sin, fear and pain.

I could cry because in my discouragement today Jesus reminded me of my dream from last night. It left me so in awe. I suddenly saw how my very wrestling is in fact Christ’s intercession. My heart aches for my loved ones to know Him, and I saw this unfolding in the dream, and yet now I see that Christ’s heart in me aches not just for my loved ones to know Him, but for me to know Him too – in and through all the intercession.

In my own wrestling with unbelief, I am finding Jesus over and over standing up for me to declare His faith for me. Whenever I have wanted to throw in the towel in my discouragement, He has taken ahold of my heart and my pen – leading me to wrestle with Him, even when I haven’t felt like it. And there His Voice has arisen for me. And that’s what I saw happening in my dream- for my loved ones too.

In every prideful, self-led, weary and discouraged prayer, where like the disciples I have gone on alone, without Jesus, God has purposely permitted Satan to stir up a STORM – as Satan has accused me of not being worthy of Jesus showing up “on time” for me and my loved ones, as Satan has pointed out my past as proof of God’s need to now punish me, by deserting me. But every time that very storm of accusations has only raised up a barrier to usher me into the all-sufficient grace of my Jesus, as Jesus has come walking toward me on that churning water saying: “It is I. Don’t be afraid!”. Yes, every storm – every thorn in my side – has been sent to stop me from going it alone, weary and discouraged, believing Jesus has left me to fend for myself.

For, Jesus keeps taking what the enemy sends to hurt me, to root me ever deeper in His love and His grace. He sets Himself before me through His Word and leads me to take a hold of His hand, to invite Him into the boat with me and to let Him complete my and my loved ones’ journey, through His all-sufficient doing for us at the Cross. It is He who is leading me and my loved ones successfully across to the other side, as He makes Himself known to us and through us to one another.

Now may we all see Jesus continue to meet us in our wrestling, whatever multi-colored trials surround us today and in the days to come – just as He has promised us He will. May we see Him prove Himself in us, as He reveals His glory.

John 6: 16 – 21 (HCSB) 16 When(R) evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum.(S) Darkness had already set in, but Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 Then a high wind arose, and the sea began to churn. 19 After they had rowed about three or four miles,[c] they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they were afraid.

20 But He said to them, “It is I.[d](T) Don’t be afraid!” 21 Then they were willing to take Him on board, and at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading.

Thank You, thank You, thank You, Jesus, for Your everlasting love for us ALL:

The Gift of Babba

Today, my dear friend Bettie has given me the honor and privilege of sharing an old, now freshly updated, post of hers about her precious Ukrainian friend. A woman who knew so much trauma and heartache, but through whom God revealed His healing joy, as He made His attentive heart of love and compassion visible and palpable in Bettie’s and Patricia’s midst. Now, Bettie finds her heart deeply grieving for her dear friend’s nation and their people, as the Spirit of God is moving her to continually lift them up in prayer. May this bless you all, as you seek to cover the Ukrainian people in love and prayer also.

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Her name was Patricia, and with the sweetest Ukranian accent, she answered my simple question about her cute little dog. The day was cold with a hint of the Christmas Season upon us, so I wished her a Merry Christmas then.

It was her honest and sad answer that stopped me in my tracks as I walked my new neighborhood 15 years ago.

“Oh, no, it won’t be a Merry Christmas for me this year. My husband just died a few months ago, and there will be no celebrating for me.”

My heart went out to this sweet woman, who openly shared her heart with me, and I knew that God was calling me to listen. I had no idea how that simple act of listening would bring such deep heart blessings to me. Patricia would become a Second-Mom to me, and a “Babba” (Ukranian Grandma) to all of my kids, and I would become a listening ear that she so desperately needed. But on that cold wintery day, neither one of us knew the path that God had chosen for us.

She lived through unimaginable horrors that I could never begin to comprehend. Her Mother had died when she was only 3 years old, and little Patricia almost died herself over the trauma that was inflicted at losing her Mother to an awful cancer. But God intervened, and Patricia got up and walked after a year in bed when a traveling “Priest” prayed over her.

The Russians invaded their homeland a few years later and brought the horrors of Communism to a village of farmers. Because her father could speak several languages, the family found favor, and her father became a trusted liaison between the village and the Russians.

A few years later, the Nazis invaded and marched the entire village from Ukraine into Germany. When Patricia’s father refused to remove a picture of Jesus from their home, he almost lost his life. But once again, God intervened and gave their family safety in a land of so many horrors.

When Patricia married, she didn’t realize that her husband had fought in the underground resistance and would suffer from outbursts of violent PTSD for the rest of his life, long before Counselors were able to offer the help that is so readily available today. Life was always hard for my dear friend. And yet, she loved to laugh and keep everyone happy with her pranks. She shared a love of nature’s beauty with me and with anyone who would pause to see.

It was only as God asked me to wait with her, and to listen to her stories, that she began to unburden her heart about the deep trials in her life. And in that waiting, God began to open my heart to the beauty of listening.

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We are a people who would rather rush to the meetings, read all the books, and find our self-help issues fixed by 10am tomorrow, please. But God made us for fellowship. For relationship. For healing.

Ever since we left that first Garden, we have been a people in need of healing.

Some days as I walk this Chronic Illness path, I complain about the need for healing that began 5 years ago with my first diagnosis.

But my need for healing began at birth.

And my God is the One who waits and listens in that healing process.

It was 10 years ago that my own Mother died, and Patricia began to call me her 2nd Momma, a phrase that I gladly accepted. As her diabetes intensified, I drove her to places when she had to stop driving. I didn’t realize that God was healing my own fear of driving, as I listened to Patricia’s heartaches and watched God heal her broken heart.

In the waiting, in the listening to hard stories of brokenness, God brought my dear Sweet 2nd Momma into the place of seeing that it had been Jesus who had carried her all along.

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

Her journey of brokenness ended on Sunday, as her Dear Jesus carried her into Heaven. My heart was broken with the grief that I felt at telling her good-bye. But as I wept, a vision flowed into my heart. The halls of Heaven were ringing with laughter. The God who had carried Patricia all through her life was laughing with the Angels over the sheer joy of a heart that He had created to laugh in the midst of heartache.

Only God could bring such beauty in the waiting.

As my own path is filled with what looks like endless waiting: all of the medications have been resisted by my body. The new Rheumatologist has said that I cannot take any of the standard treatments now while my body continues to manifest multiple side effects. The daily dose of Prednisone is not healthy for me either, and so I must begin the long process of decreasing that, all while hoping that my body will not fall into endless flares. The call to rest and to wait has been spoken into my life once again.

But that call has taken on a different hue now. How can I go back to the old way of complaining about waiting?

It has become a Gift.

The Gift to wait with someone I love.

Jesus is that someone. How can I refuse?

Lord, I wait for you;
    you will answer, Lord my God. Psalm 38:15 NIV

Thank you to Ruth Campos, over at Planted by Living Waters, for writing to me and pointing me in the direction of the beautiful teaching of Dallas Holm called God’s Rests and God’s Tests. You can find the DVD by clicking here. Dallas sang this precious song at the end of the teaching.

I would love to pray with you, my dear friends. Even though I have never met so many of you, I feel such a beautiful connection as we sit together and listen to Jesus, even over these digital airwaves.

Dear Lord Jesus,

Thank You for the gift of waiting and listening that You showered upon my dear 2nd Momma, Patricia, as she sat with You during these latter years of her life. Thank You that You allowed me to be an eye-witness of Your healing love pouring over those broken places in her life. Thank You for the beautiful love that she showered upon me and my family.  Jesus, will You carry us now, those of us who are looking upon our own seasons of waiting with confusion and brokenness. We are baffled with the pain that makes no sense to our limited vision. We want to learn to press into You and wait for Your beauty to shine forth. Help us to hold onto You, to let You press us deeper into Your healing love. You are the Lord we praise.

In Your sweet name, we pray,

Amen.

I am linking with:

#TellHisStory

Bettie Gilbert tells us of her blogging journey at bettiegsraseasons.com:

as I have obeyed His urging in my heart to begin this blog, I have seen His hand upholding me in ways I could not have imagined.  These days through Chronic Illness: first with Rheumatoid Arthritis, then Fibromyalgia, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Occipital Neuralgia, and Osteoporosis, have been a struggle, to say the least.  But the kindness of fellow bloggers, and the community of believers that I’ve found here has been such an encouragement to my heart. 

Do you know what I’ve discovered about the words that God has given me here? Well, they’ve been for my own understanding and help just as much as for the sharing. But isn’t that just like Jesus? He uses the comfort that He brings our way to overflow and comfort those around us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV