Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Good (Grief) Friday

April 14, 2017

Good Friday. It’s here, and it makes us uncomfortable.

Why do I say that? Because everywhere I turn I read, & have even sent texts today that proclaim, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’!”

In the words of Jesus in the meal He had with His disciples in the Upper Room, I don’t see a “rush to get to Sunday’. Instead, I see an explanation of what was to come & the commanded words “do this in remembrance of me”. upper room

I sit with those words. I let the reality of death set in. I hear the whips of the strips of reeds bruise His flesh, and strips of leather with embedded shards of glass break open His flesh. I cry tears of grief and sadness, and I dare to stay in the place of grief, and remembrance for a while.

With the recent unexpected and sudden loss of my father, this particular Easter season carries more pain. It was our favorite holiday to celebrate together. I feel the urge and desire to want to rush through to Sunday. I want the Resurrection, and I want it NOW! But there’s silence that shrouds the air on Saturday just as the grave clothes remained on the body of our Jesus.

I just watched The Passion of the Christ. I’ve only seen it once before, and it was in the theater on opening week-end thirteen years ago! I swore I would never see it again. I told myself I didn’t need to see that again. I didn’t need to hear those sounds again. And I didn’t need to go “there” again…to that place of death.

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But don’t I? Don’t you? Don’t WE?

Our rush to get to Sunday echoes our current state as a society of how we tend to hurry through grief. We don’t “feel all the feels” because it’s just too painful. We hurry the process when even in death Himself, Jesus didn’t. We talk about the events of Friday afternoon (Crucifixion), and Sunday (Resurrection), but we leave Friday night, and all day Saturday in the realm of declared unimportance. But the truth is “unimportance” translates to numbness, denial, anger…and all the feelings about grief we don’t want to experience. We tell ourselves we don’t have time to deal with those feelings in the moment, and that we’ll come back later to feel them….but we never do.

And besides, why deal with grief and the pain of the silence of “Saturday” when it’s all about heaven (Sunday), right?

Well, I would say wrong. It’s all about God. He is the “maker of heaven and earth.”

And He, too, is the Designer of the process. And that process involves grief, silence, and sitting in those dark places that leave us wondering: What’s going to happen next? What do we do with ourselves now? Where is our hope? Do we really have any faith left? Why is God so silent…does He not care?

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In the midst of our pain & suffering, God meets us there. Both of my parents died on a Friday night, and a month ago when I lost my dad I asked God to reframe Fridays for me. He showed me that they both entered His eternal Shabbat (Sabbath) rest on a holy day. Even now as I type these words, I realize that’s what Jesus did, too. He paved the way for us to enjoy that rest forever. What a gift!

So, yes, I recognize the goodness of Friday every week, as well as this one called Good Friday which precedes Resurrection Day (Easter). It truly is the hope of heaven that sustains every believer in Jesus as we make it from Friday to Sunday. I just hope the grief of Saturday….the time in between…isn’t lost in celebration, but that it’s remembered with integrity.

It’s Good Friday, and Sunday’s comin’…..but so is Saturday.

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Good Gifts

January 10, 2016

This morning I decided to go to church in my pajamas. But don’t worry! While my flannel pj’s ARE cute, I didn’t show up at a church building in them. No, instead, I stayed in bed and live streamed the service on my lap top. It was such a gift to enjoy the best of both worlds: Sabbath rest AND getting to hear the message about the PERSON of the Holy Spirit.

While I really enjoyed the whole message, and could probably write a blog post about several points made by Pastor Robert Morris, the one thing in particular he mentioned that got my attention was about how he asks God for a birthday gift every year.

I sat up and thought, “NO WAY! I thought I was the only one that did that!”

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Nearly four years ago now, my grandmother moved to heaven. I had a really special bond with my “Mamaw” as I was born on her 50th birthday. My first birthday without her was so painful. I missed her very much. I found myself on the floor beside my bed, that first year without her, crying and asking the Lord how that day could ever be special again. He said, “Leigh-Taylor, this day IS special. In fact, I have a birthday gift for you. Can I give it to you now?”

I choked back my sobs. God had a birthday gift for me??

“Sure, Lord…what is it?!?” I responded.

“Open your Bible,” He said.

And so I did. My Bible opened to Psalm 37 and immediately my eyes went to verses 5 & 6. It reads: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him, and he will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

What I didn’t mention before is that I was in a situation at the time where a major wrong was committed against me. While I had the support of many people around me, I felt like I needed affirmation from the Lord that He was my Defender, and that I could trust Him for true justice. On my birthday, this couldn’t have been a sweeter gift! Shortly after this promise was given to me, the Lord proved my case, and I was able to close that painful chapter in my life.

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Sea of Galilee

 

Well, my birthday this year was extra special. I got to spend it in ISRAEL! I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t wait to spend time with God. I was staying in a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee. I laughed and told God, “Hurry up! Make the sun rise!” *smile* It was the second time in my life I heard God laugh…and it was good. I found a quiet spot on a VERY LOW bench along the shore of the Galilee, and watched the sky lighten up over time while I listened quietly to praise and worship music.

At one point, I got up and made my way over to the water. There was a broken down “pier” of sorts. I decided to sit on the end of it. The mock pier was just high enough out of the water to where my pants wouldn’t get soaked from sitting on it, but I was basically sitting on a pallet in the water!

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Birthday Gift #1

I said to God, “Ok, what do You have for me this year? What’s my gift going to be?” I was so eager and expectant. I only waited a couple minutes before I heard, “Look down, and pick up that shell.” So, I looked down, reached my hand between the wooden slats of the pallet, and picked up a shell that had a plain brown outer covering but a beautiful inner lining that was revealed when I turned it over.

At that moment the Lord spoke again, and said, “Leigh-Taylor, today is going to be a day of gifts for you!”

My heart was full of joy, anticipation, and expectancy after hearing those words. I realized after a few minutes that my face hurt from smiling!

And it was true. It really was a day of GIFTS! I got a beautiful shell, was sung to by my traveling group, went to Beit She’an & saw incredible views of various mountain ranges, got baptized in the Jordan River where a rainbow appeared along with five white doves, and went into Jerusalem & saw the city for the first time!

All those things are gifts in and of themselves, but God always multiplies His gifts. There were treasure troves at each of those places, and nuggets of wisdom that He spoke to me along the way.

While I love the connection that Pastor Robert and I have made to asking the Lord for a birthday gift on our earthly birthdays, I know there are people out there who think or feel God may have a gift for them, but He doesn’t have one for me. I want to tell you that’s a lie! He DOES have a gift for you. It starts with Jesus, the ULTIMATE gift, and if you ask Him today for a gift and wait patiently before Him, I believe wholeheartedly there’s a unique special gift from God just for you!

So ask Him today. He’s the ultimate gift giver. And He always gives GOOD GIFTS!

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Peace! Be Still.

May 8, 2015

Anxious. That was the state of my body, soul, and spirit.

My heart raced, my mind wondered, and tears couldn’t even flow (they were probably too nervous to even try and leave the tear ducts)!

In the span of two weeks, needs were brought to my attention that were “too much”. My heart hurt hearing the emergent needs of some of my friends, and my heart of mercy wanted to fix it. But that’s exactly what I couldn’t do, AND it’s exactly what I shouldn’t try and do. Mercy is a beautiful gift. It’s Holy Spirit given and anointed. However, it’s easy to cross the line into pride when we start thinking we’re the ones that can rescue.

We can’t. It’s that simple.

ONLY GOD CAN.

Sunday morning I woke up, and immediately wanted to go back to sleep.

I just wanted to make the aches in my body go away. I wanted the racing in my mind to go away. I wanted the rapid heartbeats to slow down.

redjournalI grabbed my journal along with two pens, one red and one black. It was time to have a serious conversation with the Lord. I needed Him to tell me what this was all about and how we were gonna fix this thing!

I sat on my porch for THREE HOURS! I had my Bible, journal with pens, my phone to play praise music….all the things I could possibly need in order to hear God clearly.

So I thought.

I read through John 6. My personal miracle story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 led into the next miracle of Jesus walking on water. I’ve read that story numerous times, but it was God’s Word that read my heart on the porch that day.

I had asked Jesus, “How can I take You at Your word? I thought I could really say to this mountain, ‘MOVE’, but the mountain hasn’t moved, Lord. I feel like my world is falling apart and I can’t see You. How do I know You’re really there?”  And in the red letters, the next line I read was, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

When the disciples had the storm swirling around them, they didn’t recognize Jesus at first either. Yet when they did, they took Him into their boat, and IMMEDIATELY they were taken to the shore where they were heading (another piece of the miracle).

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However, even in my journaling the anxious feelings didn’t flee. Even with Jesus saying, “It is I; do not be afraid” my heart and mind continued on their race to nowhere.

I looked at my phone. It was time to go to church. Ugh. All I wanted to do was crawl back in bed.

I only went to church that night because I am helping out a church plant, and I know what a big deal it is for a church planter to receive a text that says, “I’m sorry…I’m not going to make it.” It’s devastating, and I didn’t want to be a part of that.

So, I begged God for a word the entire walk up to the door of the meeting hall.

When the worship team started leading us, I felt a shift in my spirit. Every single song brought tears, and I didn’t know why until we started singing You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music. Ah, I get it Lord… Words like “You call me out beyond the shore into the waves….” echoed in my spirit.

Fear was the root cause of my anxiety, and God started peeling those layers back one at a time.

castyouranxietyThen the pastor started preaching. My skin was covered in chill bumps, and my heart convulsed within me. There were SENTENCES the pastor said straight out of my journal. He had no idea I had been dealing with anxiety. But God did. And He gave Pastor Jeff the words to speak straight to my heart to reaffirm to me that He heard me during our time on the porch. He was there all along.

And what I love about how God works is that He goes the extra mile. While that part of the story is amazing enough, it doesn’t stop there. I went to another church plant’s life group this past Wednesday night. Guess what we talked about?  Yep, you guessed it. The miracle story from John 6:16-24. Jesus walks on the water….

Ok, God, I get it. You’re real. You care. You love me. AND You want me to “epiripto”  (“hurl violently”) my cares on you because You care for me.

When Jesus speaks, the storm has to listen. You won’t be overcome, and He will deliver you to the shoreline. Sometimes there’s a process involved, but He’s saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.” You and I can ask Him to get into the boat with us. Who better to invite than the very One who calms the sea with His voice!

So, today no matter what you’re going through, if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ speak these words to your storm: “Peace! Be still.” The wind and waves must listen.

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Finding Jesus in a Parking Lot

May 6, 2015

Burdened.

Too much.

Overwhelmed.

How could I be feeling like this? I had just attended a three day women’s event at my church where I listened to the “best of the best” bring incredible insights from the Word of God, and gifted musicians who brought us into the presence of the Lord where we experienced “on earth as it is in heaven.”

But what did I have to show for it besides a bruised heart to go with my slumped shoulders?

Stress had manifested itself physically, and was matching externally what was hemorrhaging internally. I had reached my limit, but didn’t know that’s what the numbness and tingling was from. The electrical pain I was feeling started deep in my soul, and radiated out into my very finger tips.

I was shutting down.

abide2I had missed two weeks of observing the Sabbath. Twenty four hours a week consecrated to God. Holy. I had been absent from abiding with my Father. John 15:5 in the Amplified Bible says, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.

I had done just that. I had cut off from vital union with the Vine. Jesus. And I had become a “shriveled up grape” crippled under the pressure of my own weight along with seemingly “noble things for the kingdom” (unending prayer requests from friends, service projects for hurting warriors, and even this three day women’s event).

When I got home and tried to take a nap, adrenaline continued to course through my veins. I couldn’t settle my spirit. I knew I needed Sabbath rest, and I needed to do something that would feed my soul. I decided to get crafty and make a prayer notebook, and get organized! Yes, that’s something that makes me happy. Hobby Lobby and The Container Store each have pieces of my heart. And those pieces can be found in the aisles with Mod Podge, designer scrapbook paper, and well…anything with glitter.

So, I hopped into my car, and prayed the whole two minute trip to Hobby Lobby. I turned off my car, and proceeded to pray out loud, telling God how overwhelmed I was, etc. Then my prayers took a different turn. I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to me areas in which I needed to repent.parkinglot

That led to me having church in my Mazda! That led to an encounter with the Lord that I had missed during an incredible conference. That led to me being reaffirmed in knowing that NOTHING can fill me like Almighty God, and NO ONE else can touch my heart like He does.

One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 9:6 and if often quoted at Christmas time. It says, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Yes, the government shall be upon HIS shoulders. That’s why His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30). He is the only One with shoulders big enough to carry the world (and so much more). When we start thinking WE can do the same, we’ve stepped over the line into pride. A righteous burden can become an unrighteous burden if we’re not careful.

I may have gone to church for three days in a row, but it took me parking my car and sitting still to find Jesus.

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Two years…

April 6, 2015

Nearly two years ago, my world was rocked. Shaken. Turned upside down.

I got a call on April 12, 2013 that forever changed my life. My brother called to tell me my mom had died in a house fire. I had to get him to repeat it two or three times because I couldn’t comprehend what was being said.

Mom died???

Traumatic is the only word that fits here.

The whiplash effect of that reality led to delayed grieving. At first, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t “move past it” more quickly. Three months after my mom moved to heaven, I couldn’t understand why it still hurt so badly, why I still couldn’t sleep at night, and why I’d still burst into tears at random moments.

I had never lost anyone that close to me.

Two years later, I’ve learned more than I’ve cared to about grief. However, one of the greatest redeeming aspects has been how the Lord has used me to love on and encourage others who are grieving.

There’s comfort in knowing someone else has “been there”….and in many cases I’ve been the one to listen because, well….I’ve “been there”.

This past week-end, I went to my home town of Tyler, Texas. I hadn’t been back since my mom passed away. I had this urge deep down in my soul to go.

I had a vision in my mind of reading Psalm 23 in the grass where her body was last placed by fire fighters. Since she was cremated, I don’t have a grave site to visit, and for some reason this just made sense to me. On Wednesday before Easter, the Lord also gave me the idea to take communion in there, too.

I was on a mission…and I was going to complete it.

So, I headed out to Tyler on Saturday morning, and met my brother at mom’s town home. I didn’t know what to expect, but upon seeing it I was flooded with peace. It actually made things better to see life all around…to see azaleas in bloom, grass growing in the yard, and trees well past budding their leaves.

momstownhomeYes, the blue sky and all the green “life” around it brought a source of joy and strength. There were some structural changes with the remodel of the town home. It was the only one on the street that didn’t have a covered porch. You could tell on the exterior brick wall that one used to be there. A faint line told a story, but most people wouldn’t notice.

sittingingrassIt was good to see that all the glass blown out by the windows had been either cleaned up or buried in the soil. There were no more clumps of ashes…only newly planted monkey grass and blooming flowers declaring LIFE over the lot. Yes, this was a much more pleasant scene than the last time I was there.

I quickly found “the spot” in the grass that I had been drawn to in my mind. I had this desire, this need really, to sit where my mom’s body had been placed. I guess at one point in my life, we had been joined together with blood and tissue, so the fact I was craving that kind of “nearness” shouldn’t be too surprising.

I felt like I went from being 37 years old to 37 WEEKS in utero in that moment. I just wanted my mom.

After settling down, I was able to read Psalm 23 with my brother, and then we got ready to take communion. I had brought a loaf of bread, a small bottle of grape juice, and in true East Texas fashion, red solo cup shot glasses from which to drink the juice! It’s all I could find at the store, and didn’t want to buy a huge sleeve of little paper Dixie cups!

Just as we were getting ready to take communion, the front door opened. A man and his dog came outside, and the look on the man’s face and tone in his voice confirmed what I knew in my heart: We should have asked for permission first.

I had decided as we were walking up to the town home, that it would be awkward to ask permission beforehand. I told my brother that “we could just do our thing and leave.”  Well, apparently we took a little too long, and “awkward” may have been our better option. Oops.

The man showed us NO MERCY even after my brother explained why we were there. He asked how long we’d be there, then proceeded to walk his dog down the street. About three minutes later, he walked out the front door again and asked why we were still there. I explained we were just about to take communion so we could leave, but he started yelling about how he had told us to get our stuff together and get off his lawn (*let’s just say I left out a few colorful words here*). My brother and I said in unison, “You never said that.” He told us he thought we “should have gotten his nice hint…” Oops again.

His wife came outside and asked if we were drinking on their yard. I had my Welches grape juice bottle and held it up as I explained we were just drinking JUICE and taking communion. Although, I’m sure the little red solo cup shot glasses were a little suspicious. Should’ve gone with the Dixie cups. My bad…yet again!

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The guy started yelling again and my brother stood up at that point and yelled, “Do you not have ANY compassion for another human being?!?!” I stood there with my mouth open for a couple of minutes, and then offered my apologies for not getting permission first. I explained, through tears, that it was going to be awkward either way and they agreed.

And then there was a total shift. I think heaven came down and intervened because they both started apologizing to us profusely. Turns out they had just woken up and there had been a shooting behind their house last week. So, I’m sure it was alarming for them to walk out and find strangers having a Kumbaya moment on the front yard (although, my brother and I had to be a little less alarming than some gun wielding crazy person. I’m just thinkin’)! They offered us water, and told us we could come back every year and sit on the yard and remember our mom! Ha! It actually added some comic relief.

The couple told us to take our time, and they wouldn’t bother us again. So, we finished having our “moment”.

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Before heading off to lunch, I stood there in the grass one last time, and took a picture of my feet in the place that last held my mom’s body on earth. And just like I can rejoice because “He is RISEN,” I can rejoice in knowing that my mom is in a place of eternal joy with the very One who defeated sin and death. This picture reminds me that sin has lost it’s power, and death has lost it’s sting!

It makes me smile, and long for my home in Heaven.

Hallelujah! What hope we have in Jesus!