Thursday, November 19, 2015

God knows my name.



Do you ever think about your name--what it means, where it came from, if it really matters? What if you go by a different name than you started this life with? Did someone have to send God a memo so He wouldn't accidentally call you Gertrude when you've vehemently denounced that name and warned everyone to please refer to you as Trudy? ;)

But seriously, though. Sometimes I wonder because I was actually born with a different name than the one I now use. Well, they're spelled differently anyway. So God does know how to spell it, right? And my middle name is different--much better, by the way.

This morning while reading about the Resurrection of Jesus, I fell in love with this story about Mary and I realized just how deeply He knows our names:

I love Mary Magdalene. She isn't the most popular, the best all around, the most valuable player, the beauty pageant winner. She has dealt with shame, demons, and quite possibly with being the butt of others' jokes. But there's a particular passage in scripture that defies all these societal claims and labels that have been placed on her, and it's one of my favorites.

It's early, still dark outside--Sunday morning. Mary's heart has been broken--her Lord, her Rabbi, her friend has been ruthlessly slain. With her heart raw and in shreds, she carries the burial spices in the black of the morning--the sun still hiding behind the hills--expecting to add them to Jesus's tomb. Because that's what you do for the dead.

And Jesus was dead.

No angels had shown up and carried Jesus off the cross. It seemed that nothing extraordinary, nothing miraculous would happen after all. Not for Mary, anyway. When someone murders you, you truly die. The miracle did not come. Death had not been defeated, the odds had not been defied. All that was left was a cold grave with the most precious person she had ever known--the one who had loved her despite her flaws--laid inside. 

But the next few minutes will change Mary's life forever, no doubt. Mary finds the tomb stone rolled away, so she runs to fetch Peter and the other disciples to investigate what has happened to Jesus's body. 

He's been stolen! Who would do something so cruel?

And so scripture says she stands outside the tomb in shock and filled to the brim with grief. A new grief, one that cannot believe someone could add such insult to an already unimaginable injury.

"But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them, 'They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.' Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?' Supposing him to be a gardener, she said to him, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away'" (John 20:11-15 ESV).

Wow, so much to take in here. Mary is not looking for a miracle; she is looking for the dead. Maybe she doesn't even believe in miracles anymore. Her heart has been broken and she is empty. She just wants to get Jesus's dead body back so she can tend to it. Is that too much to ask?

But Jesus has saved His greatest miracle just for her!

"Jesus said to her, 'Mary.' She turned and said to him in Aramaic, 'Rabboni!' (which means Teacher)" (John 20:16 ESV).

Did you see that? Mary turned from the tomb and looked Jesus in the face and she didn't know Him. She thought He was the gardener, and begged this man to tell her where her Lord had been taken.

Her grief was so palpable, so overwhelming, that she could not even see the truth in front of her!

But there is one moment when she finally recognizes Him: 

When He says her name.

Oh, the beauty wrapped up in this one word: Mary! Jesus knows her name and says it in such a way that she also knows Him. I wish I could hear this exchange, to see the love on His face as His lips form the sound of her name! And what I wouldn't give to see her eyes widen and light up as she hears her name with such tone that no one else has ever used. I wonder if it sounded like singing.

Honestly, Mary seems to be a common name in scripture; the writers of the gospels differentiate her by adding Magdalene to her name, which also tells us where she's from. But Jesus didn't need to add that; He didn't need help distinguishing which Mary she was. And how extraordinary, how unique her name must have sounded when Jesus said it!

Mary. That's all Jesus had to say. He knew her in depth, He knew her heart like no one else, and He could prove it just by saying her name.

And you know what? Jesus knows your name, too. And if you let Him, He can call you in a way that no one else is capable. If you let Him into the deepest hurts, the darkest truths of your heart, He can call you by name and make it sound like a brand new identity. He can put joy and hope and purpose right inside your bruised heart if only you'll let Him. He can replace your sorrow, your disappointment with the greatest miracle you've ever witnessed.

And in turn, we can say His NAME and mean it in a way some can only marvel at. Jesus was "Rabboni"--Teacher to Mary.

I want Him to be Teacher to me, and I want Him to say my name like that. 

Don't you?

 Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, November 16, 2015

At a Distance

This morning I noticed something I hadn't before while reading the account of Jesus's arrest and trial before his crucifixion.

It's one subtle little line, but it whispered to my heart with tremendous weight.

"Peter followed at a distance" (Luke 22:54).

I can just imagine this scene in my mind, the tension disrupting the velvety night, how Peter must have trembled and his heart must have hammered in fear-stricken anticipation. They were dragging Jesus away, and Peter must have been rewinding the events of the past week in his mind, meticulously searching for Jesus's specific words of warning about this very moment. Had he misunderstood Jesus? Was this really the way it would all end? Surely Jesus could not be overtaken! How would he get out of the officials' grasp?

Peter showed his fierce love for his Master and his hot temper before; but this time was different--more final. There were no more rehearsals or lectures; this was the big production and the final examination. Time had run out, and Peter was panicking.

I read and re-read that statement: "Peter followed at a distance" again and again. Could Peter have not followed at all? Could he have run off and hidden himself away, shutting out the reality of what was happening to his friend? Maybe in body, but I don't believe he could have in spirit. Because when you love someone so fiercely and your very purpose is wrapped in something--someone--you must follow. You must see what is to come, what is next.

Even if all you can muster is to follow at a distance.

I don't know what would have been done to Peter had he followed more closely. Maybe they would have arrested Peter as well. I'm guessing that was his fear. I do know that he had followed close enough that Jesus could later turn and look at Peter.

That just chills me. I cannot imagine the despair I would feel in Peter's position at that moment of gaping open exposure. He could not hide, and he had spent every denial afforded him by Jesus's own prophetic words. There was nothing left but to stand in the nakedness of the truth--he had denied his Lord, his friend.

And it had begun with him following at a distance.

I wonder if Peter had somehow had the courage, the boldness to follow on the heels of Jesus instead of at a distance, if he somehow would have mustered the courage to stand with Jesus? I wonder if he had not allowed himself to be deterred by fear, if Peter would have turned other hearts toward Jesus in those hours rather than calling curses down on himself?

Of course we know that this happened to fulfill Jesus's words that Peter would indeed deny Jesus three times. But what about us?

What if we had the courage to follow on the heels of Jesus rather than at a distance? What if I allowed His teaching, His leading to be enough authority for me to follow closely and obey fully?

What if I wasn't afraid of what would happen to me if I followed my Savior a little more closely?

Like Peter, I know I must follow because Jesus is who He said He is. I must follow because He has seized my heart and I am drawn to Him. Because I know the truth and cannot deny it.

But how closely will I follow? That, I get to decide. And so do you. How intimately do we want to see Jesus's works, His miracles, His plans? My heart screams that I want to experience them right on His heels! But my fear warns me to shrink back, to allow some distance for safety...just in case. Scripture says that even if I do follow at a distance, His grace is sufficient for that. He will look on me with love even if I am tangled in my fear and can only stumble along behind. Because He understands us and He loves us in our afflictions.

But how will He look on me if I break the heavy shackles of fear that slow me down, if I shake them off and run to catch up to His side?

Jesus, may we follow you fiercely, may we drop the heavy blanket of fear that weighs us down and run with the freedom and weightlessness that will propel us forward closer to your side. So we can hear your words up close, even your sighs and your gentle whispers.

May we follow on His heels and not at a distance.
Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, November 2, 2015

If You Ask Me To


There's this Canaanite woman in the gospels and she is my favorite. Seriously, we could be BFF's.

Why? Because the woman just doesn't give up. I like that. Plus, she is catty. (I learned about being catty from my precious grandma, thank you very much!)

I imagine that she's spent her whole life living under the suffocating stigma that she is less than, a curse, and unworthy. But on this particular day, she is determined to change her legacy.

For starters, Jesus was trying to keep his presence a secret at the particular house into which he entered. Nice try. For some reason, people flock to brilliance; have you ever noticed that? I love how Mark puts it: "He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret" (Mark 7:24 NIV).

So Miss Canaanite (which essentially means Miss Cursed, mind you) decides she will bombard Jesus with her current emergency of a demon possessed daughter.

Okay, can we pause and appreciate the tenacity and desperation of this momma for a moment? I mean, Lord bless her, can you blame the woman? We've all had that moment where we'd do anything to make the crazy in our child stop, right? (Don't shake your head, you know you have. Remember that day in Target on the Disney Princess aisle? Yeah, that's what I thought.) Anyway...

I love how Jesus acts like He doesn't hear her. Isn't that cute? I think He could totally hear her; He just wanted to see how desperate and committed to this she really was. I also think Jesus appreciates wit, don't you? You remember those lists we used to make for our potential boyfriend or spouse? We'd write down all the things we hoped our future mate would have. I've had one of those stored in my head about God for years, and a sense of humor ranks among the top for me.

_____________________________________________

THE GOD I WORSHIP MUST HAVE'S...
1. Must be powerful
2. Must have sense of humor
3. Must be capable of calming my high-strung butt down

_____________________________________________

See what I mean? This Canaanite woman no doubt had a list like mine.

Because I'm no biblical scholar and I think I'd butcher this, here is a brilliant explanation of this exchange in terms of society's political and religious atmosphere at that time from Dr. Allen Ross in "An Exposition of the Gospel of Matthew":

Jesus wanted the disciples and the woman to understand fully that His ministry in the brief time He had on earth was very focused. He was the Son of David, the Messiah. That fact did not admit this Canaanite woman to the benefits of the covenant made with the Jews. The kingdom had to be fully offered to them first, in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the kingdom. (The passage is like John 4:22 where it was recognized that “salvation is from the Jews.”) So all the woman could do is ask for mercy, general mercy as a non-Israelite.

So basically, she was asking for something that didn't have her name tag on it.

And you know, I love how Jesus has the ability to make a new name tag right on the spot, don't you? He is the Son of God, which gives Him power and authority to do His Father's will...and we now understand that His Father's will is that all would hear and be saved--even the Canaanites or the pagans (Matthew 18:14; 2 Peter 3:9). I sorta think Jesus knew that at this moment; He was just prodding the Canaanite woman to press into Him and ask for it, to truly want what He could offer.

Anyway, when Jesus gives her an excuse of why He maybe can't help her, her cattiness comes out with claws. She essentially takes her political and societal labels and maneuvers them into a loophole where Jesus has to help her.

"'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table'' (Matthew 15:27 NIV).

See what she just did there? She is saying that she knows full well what her place in society is (under the Jews that is), but she is desperate enough that she'll take home a doggy bag. She doesn't even expect to order from the menu; she'll settle for the true diners' left overs.

She knows that even a smidge of His grace will do the trick.

See why I like her so much? She isn't high maintenance. She just needs a little.

And so Jesus does just that. I imagine His smile and His white flag admission: "All right, all right. Good one," as He chuckles to Himself.

I have a feeling she was one of Jesus' favorites, too.

You know what this woman teaches me? She teaches me that it's okay to bombard Jesus! He can hear, and He is capable of taking on whatever burden I'm hauling around. He has the power to grant whatever it is that we need, no matter if it seems like something completely out of our reach or not! If what you need is out of reach and has someone else's name tag on it, Jesus can add yours and He can hand it to you.

But you must ask Him to. He wants you to ask Him to. He wants you to confess that He is actually powerful enough to rescue you, to save you, to heal you, to carry you through the dark hours of your life--whatever that hour looks like.

If you ask me to, I will.
Peace of Christ to you,

Friday, October 30, 2015

He Heals, and He Also Confirms

Y'all know I'm a Baptist girl, right?

Well, I am. Sort of.

I never understood the Holy Spirit; maybe I was afraid of Him? I'm not sure, but after spending a secluded weekend retreat with God recently, the Lord finally helped me grasp some understanding of that part of His person. He poured fresh revelation in me, and now I get it. He's so good to reveal Himself if you earnestly seek His wisdom and knowledge. Scripture says that if a son asks for a loaf of bread, the father does not give him a stone (Matthew 7:9).

Our Father is the same way; He gives what He knows we need. So if we ask for what we truly need, He is sure to grant it.

Well, I needed some Holy Spirit, y'all.

I needed some healing from anxieties, from subtle fears that were controlling me. I knew they were controlling me, but honestly? They were comfortable. They were my security blanket. I am not convinced that I knew how to function without them. They were second nature for me.

We have an enemy who loves to convince us of these lies. As long as he can keep us bogged down by something--anything--well, what can God do through us? Not much. And that's where I had pulled up a nice comfy chair. But because of His great love for His children, He won't leave us there...if only we'll trust Him to give us a better seat, He will.

After the pivotal moment where I knew God had begun His healing work in me, I thought of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. I wondered at what point she knew she had been healed; was it instantly or did she realize the full extent of it later that day? Then, of course, today her story was included in my daily reading plan!

"'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" (Mark 5:29 NIV). The ESV words it this way: "And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease."

Nothing non-Baptist happened to me while I prayed and asked Jesus to heal my issue of fear, and I honestly think that caused me to doubt a bit. I mean, I was done with this stupid fear--I was desperate enough to leave behind its bondage that I was ready for something crazy to happen to me!

I didn't fall on the floor or do back flips, but you know what did happen?

I felt in my body that I was freed from my suffering.

It was subtle; it was gentle, tender. He is gentle and tender with us because we are His daughters, His sons. He cares for us as we care for our children, just so much more deeply.

I walked away knowing He had healed me, from deep within. Incredible warmth had melted something cold from the depths of my chest and permeated through the rest of my form. It caused me to breathe deeper than before, cleansing breaths that brought rejuvenation and fresh energy.

As I went on my way in the days that followed, I experienced brief moments of doubt that I truly was healed (and I believe healing is also a journey we must traverse alongside Christ, so I was not expecting to literally never fear anything again). But each time I brought my experience back to the Lord and asked Him what He had done, He confirmed it.

He confirmed that He was indeed healing me.

And guess how He responded to the woman who touched His garment? He gently whispered, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering" (Mark 5:34 NIV).

He confirmed her healing, too.

I don't know about you, but I'm a doubter. Without His confirmation, I might have convinced myself completely that He had not done a work in me. I'm so thankful that He not only heals, but He also confirms. He doesn't just care about the first encounter with Him; He wants you to stay in close touch with Him. He wants to continually heal you, to continually remind you of the work He is doing in your life!
Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I Love mom



 photo photo 41_zpsxc2d3or3.jpg



This is the white board in our dining room, and I'm finding myself hard pressed to adequately express what happened in my heart when I saw the words written on it. I had been gone for three days to a true retreat where I was reintroduced to my Savior. Yes, I knew Him before, but now? Now, I know Him in a completely renewed, fresh way!

So why did these words touch my heart so deeply? I mean, my kids tell me they love me all the time. And I know they mean it. But let me back up and invite you to see these words as I now see them.

I showed up for the weekend retreat a little bit broken, insecure, and unsure of my WHY, of my WORTH. But I let my guard down little by little and allowed our Father to rewrite my story and insert His footnotes throughout:

Oh, Cara--yes, I made her fearfully and wonderfully! She doesn't believe it yet, but she will soon. She'll believe soon that her birth WASN'T an accident after all--I meant for her to be here all along!

Ah, that one? Yes, she has purpose! She wasn't ready to hear it all at once, so I'm depositing love notes one by one into her soul as she'll receive them. Wait for it, she'll sing one day.


Mostly unbeknownst to me, I had been walking around believing a razor sharp lie from my enemy:

You are not a good mom. You are not doing enough. You are not qualified to shepherd their hearts. Who are you to think you can teach them? You're a fraud.


Of course my God knew these haunting voices as I timidly walked into this weekend, and I can imagine Him jumping up and down because He knew what He was about to show me, the truth that He was about to unveil my eyes to see!

I slowly began opening up to the women who surrounded me, all of us carrying our own burdens, yet desperate inside for the permission to lay them down. We spent time listening and observing one another, and then we were asked to speak the strengths we saw in one another. I could see so much strength and wisdom in the other women, but I feared that no one would see anything in me. I feared they would be scrambling to make something up, something that would sound like they had given it a lot of thought: Here's a little something to make you feel better, an ice cream cone.

But God had another idea. The first thing these women spoke into my heart was, have you guessed it?

"I can just tell what an incredible mom you are."

Me? Really?

And in that moment, a tiny crack quietly ran through the dam that held my heart hostage and began to split the heavy burden I had stuffed so deep inside. I listened as these women spoke blessing over me, revealing that the way in which I described and spoke about my children immediately shouted to them that I adore my children.

And that was healing in itself, but Jesus knew there was a deeper wound He needed access to.

"And I can tell that they adore you!" they went on.

They adore you, Cara. Did you hear that? It's true.

And so when I came home after my heavenly daddy filled my cup up and then kept pouring more in even though I assured Him that I had plenty to drink, I walked into the kitchen to see this on the board.

WHOOSH.

And that was the last crack the dam holding my heart in bondage needed. The wall came down and I saw it. I saw the truth in its beauty. And the truth had been there all along! I just couldn't see it!

See, this note was written by my daughter who is dyslexic and has an incredibly hard time spelling and keeping her letters straight.

EVERY LETTER IS PERFECT. PERFECT!

If you can understand how rare that is, then you will surely see the beautiful miracle in this moment! It is not an accident that she just happened to perfectly write this message to me. Of course, I would have loved it all the same had her m's been backwards as usual, but they were perfect!!

Oh, the way our daddy loves us is immense, y'all. He knows every crack, every imperfection in our hearts, and He reaches in and restores those areas in ways only He can do. He can find those secret broken places that no one else even knows exist. He erases the lies Satan so desperately wants us to believe.

You are a good mom. Look at your daughter's heart spilled out for you! 

And I love you even more than this. Rest in that today.



Peace of Christ to you,

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Joy of Riding With Your Hair Dancing in the Wind

There was no way of knowing this morning as I scrambled out of bed to make a warm cup of coffee that it would be one of those days that I won't forget for quite some time. The day's worries already began to suffocate me by 9:30, and by the time I got back home with my two older kids after dropping the youngest off at preschool, I was near a breakdown. I had no good reason, other than a general feeling of being overwhelmed.

I had a long list of school work to dive into with the kids, but as I sat trying to prepare my head for the day's long to do list, I heard a faint whisper: "Rest. Rest and be present with your children."

But there was so much to do, so many new words to teach Kate, math problems Keagan needed to repeat. So I reasoned that this was the voice of irresponsibility and continued to stress about the tasks ahead because for some reason my "Mom" reserves were already spent for the week. Even though it was only Wednesday.

"Rest."

I let it soak in this time. Okay, I thought...maybe I should.

And so school work was postponed and the back door flung open wide. We filed outside and I had no idea what the Lord would so graciously let me see in just a few minutes.

Keagan and Kate were entertaining themselves outside in the back yard while I switched a load of laundry and suddenly they bolted in the house yelling, "MOM! MOM!" Scared someone had fallen off some great height or been cut wide open, I ran toward the back door to see what the emergency was. Keagan and Kate both jumped up and down with huge, glassy eyes and their mouths wide open. "Kate rode a bike!" Keagan shouted.  Her dad tried to teach her how to ride with two wheels last night, and I didn't think this would happen for a long time. So I had to come witness this miracle!

And that's when I got a video of Kate riding a two wheel bike all by herself! And it was because her big brother had taken time to patiently coach her through it--to hold the bike steady as she got her footing and began pedaling, then give her a push to propel her along. He cheered her on so sweetly and excitedly as she bravely powered on!

Sometimes I wonder if they like each other. And then God gives me a glimpse like this of their deep love for one another. It warmed my heart so much. A lump of sheer joy rose in my throat and my heart danced in my chest.

And to think: it almost didn't happen. Had I not listened to the gentle whisper to "Rest and be present with my children," Kate would not have conquered one of her greatest fears right before my eyes today. He didn't tell me why He wanted me to rest, but I'm so glad I trusted that He had something wonderful planned.

Of course then we had to move the party to the front to ride in the street! There, Kate gained even more confidence and before the afternoon ended, we went for a considerable trip through our neighborhood where she rode the whole time! As I sat watching her ride later that afternoon, I thanked the Lord for His gentle coaxing and the way His burden is light, where we keep wanting to make it heavy. I also thought of how He is leading her on a journey out of fear, toward trust and faith.

He is leading me on the same journey.

She looked so beautiful whizzing back and forth up and down the street, singing random songs and grinning each time she passed me. She was so proud of her accomplishment--not in a prideful sense, but just in a healthy character growth sort of way. I watched her and tears stung my eyes, but not sad tears. The Lord had lent me this moment--this day--to remind me of a few precious truths.

--Sometimes we need to lay down our weapons of "to do lists" and tasks in order to take in a moment that will either be gone too quickly or that we otherwise wouldn't experience at all.

--Sometimes the smallest accomplishments end up making the biggest impact on our lives.

--Our children are not a distraction from important work; rather, they are the most important work. (Pretty sure that's a C. S. Lewis quote.)

I'm so thankful for His patience with me and that He as my Father takes the time for invest in me, to pay attention to me, to be present with me.

As the daylight slowly melted away, Kate squeaked out every possible second to practice her newfound ability. She spilled over a curb while I wasn't watching and when I ran toward her, worried she'd be terrified and give up on all her hard work, she quickly yelled, "I'm ok, Mom! I just fell over but I'm ok!" She looked into my eyes and said, "Jesus helped me find my strength today to get over my fear."

He sure did.

I pray He gives you the strength to get over your fear. I sure do understand what a rough road that is, but as I assured Kate, the crashes are few and far between while the joy of riding with your hair dancing in the wind is deep and wide.





Peace of Christ to you,