When Church Hurts

I know most of my readers are church folks.  And anyone who’s been a part of a church for very long knows that eventually hurtful things happen in a place that is assumed safe and caring.  Why?  Because everyone in the church is flawed, broken and in need of the same transformation as you and me.

As a pastor’s wife of 40 years I have experienced what one man calls both “the beauty and the brokenness of the church.”  Sometimes the brokenness comes for the unexpected reason that we Christians too often and too quickly think we get things “right.”

You can read more of my story here.

It’s an honest story.  A sad story.  But a story where I hope you’ll see redemption and hope.

Because my story, like yours, includes God.

I would love to hear your feedback on this one.

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Talking Bird Feathers

Yesterday I just had to see the ocean. It’s been so cold in Florida (no jokes, northern friends, it’s been down into the 30’s and 40’s!) that I just needed to be reminded that in a couple of months I’ll be photographing little people on the beach again.

As Benny and I strolled down the beach I started noticing bird feathers and realized I should collect some for a science project two of my grandchildren are doing. While homeschooling some of them for their moms over the past few weeks, I learned some stuff about bird feathers, like when a feather is lost on one wing, a feather on the other wing in just about the same spot is also lost to keep the bird balanced.

This process of feather molting is a fascinating one! Here are some cool facts provided by Cornell University researchers:

  • Birds mature through seasons of molting.
  • One of the reasons for molting is when feathers get damaged beyond repair.
  • Molting frequently occurs during less stressful seasons of a bird’s life, like before migrating or after nesting.
  • Feathers are lost and new ones grow in a progression that protects the bird’s ability to fly. That’s why when a feather is lost on one wing, a commensurate feather on the other wing is also lost.

As I walked on the beach yesterday I thought this familiar passage from Matthew chapter 30:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (vs 29-31).

Think about it: If God so exquisitely cares for birds by making sure their wings stay balanced to fly by causing feathers to fall off in perfect order; protects them from danger by insuring that damaged feathers fall at just the right time to allow healthy ones to grow; uses “down” times in their lives to grow new feathers because of the work their little bodies exert to grow new feathers; and uses loss to insure that they mature…well…then how much more does He meticulously take care of those who are created in His very image?

You and I are worth more than birds to God. But from them we see how tenderly He cares for us.

Are you experiencing loss right now? Loss of reputation. Grief through the death of someone you love. Job or income loss. Brokenness and conflict in a treasured friendship. Lost hopes and dreams. Death of a long held dream. Recognition of personal limitations and weaknesses that leave you wondering who you are?

Life is a series of losses and gains; soaring joys and crushing disappointments; hopes and struggles; laughter and tears; cherished memories and sinking reminders. As Christ-imitators we are called to follow the One who grieved over the death of a friend but then rejoiced at his resurrection into a life characterized by both ecstatic joy and piercing suffering.

The feathers I collected on the beach yesterday reminded me that He who governs their every loss governs mine, too, because I’m worth way more than they are to the Savior who took my place on the cross to earn me a place in heaven where there will be no more loss.

Spiritual molting is to mature and help me fly, not to ground and render me ineffective. Honestly, there have been times in my life when loss seems to far outweigh growth. Know what I mean? In fact, the recent months have been one of those seasons. How wonderful to see God at work molting and protecting and preparing and loving me through losses scattered with new growth that reminds me I can still fly.

It’s good to know He keeps us balanced…even when it seems our wings are awfully bare.

Thank You Letter to You, Mommy

Dear Mommy,

I’m thinking of you today because of what I wrote about yesterday. When I was surrounded by loving children praying for me, tears weren’t the only things streaming. If someone could have done a live stream of my thoughts during those moments, you would have been there right in the middle of them.

In those moments I was thanking God for you.

I know your days are long with little ones slobbering, tugging, spitting up and crawling on you. You can’t talk on the phone, eat, pee or check your email without someone asking you if bees have eyelids or tattling on a sibling. You count the minutes till nap time, but moments after you settle down exhausted for a catnap (because someone had nightmares or wet the bed or threw up last night) you get that weird feeling that you’re being watched and open your eyes to find a little face just inches from your own. And when Daddy finally comes home after you’ve been eager for adult company, one of you pushes a button in the other that sparks a conflict that makes tears pop into your own eyes, but you just can’t go there until stomachs are full and baths are over. By then you’re just too tired to get into it with your husband so you retreat to folding laundry that is now too wrinkled…so back in the dryer it goes because you certainly don’t have time to iron anything except those infrequent special-occasion clothes.

And if you’re a single mom there’s a whole bunch of unique challenges that those of us with husbands only experience when they’re out of town on business for a few days (how much does our whining bother you…really?).

But then the next day your little one wakes up with those sweet I-love-Mommy eyes and your heart melts like it does most mornings and you know you were made for this.

Yeah, right

Yeah, right

You were. You were made to wipe bottoms, address heart issues rather than the quicker option of wanting them to just obey!, and coverup nicks and crayon marks on your dining room table with tablecloths because you either can’t afford to replace it yet or can’t bear to refinish it. You were made to endure restless nights because a baby needs to be fed, a toddler fell out of bed again or God knows your sleep patterns need preparation for the teen years when they won’t start talking till 11 PM and you’re still awake praying after the conversation ends.

And you were made to get up most Sunday mornings to search for missing shoes and hope you won’t be late again and get ready to miss some of the worship at church because someone wet their pants or freaked out because you forgot the Cheerios.

Why? Because a hurting grandmother who raises her hand for prayer needs them.

But mostly she needs you.

She needs you to keep going when you wonder if your efforts are producing anything good. When you and your husband haven’t had a night out in weeks or months because, unlike that friend or two (that you’re jealous of, if you’re honest) you don’t have family nearby to help regularly with babysitting (and when did babysitters start charging more than they make working part time at the mall anyway???). When you feel your needs are going unmet because everyone else’s needs are more important.

Here’s my burden for you, young mother. You don’t know how much your church needs you. They need you to persevere — and ask for support and help when you can’t — because the simple act of getting there Sunday after Sunday unless God has plans otherwise means they’ll be there when it suddenly hits them: this isn’t just Mom or Dad’s church, this is my church. My church to help usher or greet newcomers. My church to serve in children’s ministry; help set up chairs; arrange cookies on a platter even though an adult could do it quicker; and, yes, notice an old lady raising her hands for prayer.

madamememoire.com

madamememoire.com

What you do day in and day out, week after week, year after year behind the closed doors of your home; while grocery shopping with cranky kids; during “family devotions” when no one is paying attention to the story because they want to play with your phone and you want to give up; and on Sundays when everything in you wants pull the covers over your head and pretend it’s not really morning already, is making an investment not just into the future but also into the present. When they see you stopping to pray for a passing ambulance or happen upon you reading the Bible during nap time because morning devotions just don’t get done much or remind them that you understand why it’s hard to be kind to their sibling because you aren’t kind sometimes, too — well, you’re doing your part to “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Ps 78:4).

I know it doesn’t feel like that but it’s true. “Telling” your kids things isn’t just about the words that come out of your mouth but also the message your life speaks to them every day as you lay down your life for them again and again.

Keep it up. You and your church will enjoy the fruit someday, I promise.

And so might a teary grandmother whose life will be touched because day after day you do what’s hard — including finding that missing shoe on Sunday morning because it’s where you and they need to be.

Love,

Been There

P.S. This post is especially dedicated to Jaime.  I love and respect you so much….and in a year or two Caroline will join your other four to pray for Granma.

They Prayed for Me

It started like any other Sunday morning. Well, except for having three Little People to get ready to get out the door, but that’s for another post.

During worship this week there was an opportunity for those who were feeling a special need for prayer to raise our hands so those around us could gather to pray. As I lifted my hand in response, I felt my pre-teen granddaughter’s arm slide around my waist. Then one by one little ones started gathering: Bekah, Lydia, Jimmy, Wyatt, JJ, Elsie, Annie, Brianna, Joey.

I love them.

A friend captured this pic.  I’m grateful.

The tears that had been brimming during the current song we were singing spilled over into stream after stream down my face. As one tear after another fell onto little Elsie’s hair I heard a couple of sniffles. The tears of some of Redeemer Church’s youngest reminded me that I was loved by 6 and 8 and 11-year-olds who felt compassion for Granma/Mrs Phillips because she needed prayer. I felt understood. Hopeful. Humbled. Snuggled. Noticed. Whether they actually prayed for me or just wanted to hug me, God’s love for me was on display in a way I hope to never forget.

I’ve learned to gently ask myself, “Why am I crying?” because the answer isn’t usually what I think. I thought I needed prayer because I’ve been feeling weary — but God knew I needed something else; something I didn’t even know would be so helpful.

I needed to know that the brokenness and struggles through which I have walked have a purpose beyond myself. Since before I had children I’ve longed to be one of those who would “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Ps 78:4). Aging is teaching me that telling younger generations “the glorious deeds of the LORD” isn’t just recounting the story of how God healed me from infertility; rehearsing the miracle of His provision to our former church that Sunday morning in the 80’s when a one-time offering of nearly $400K from a group of singles and young families found old and young dancing and singing for joy; or sharing about a high school revival that saw dozens of tail-end-of-the-hippie movement teens saved in a matter of months, including their now Dad, Papa, friend and/or pastor.

Recounting God’s faithfulness and power also means seeing this old lady raise her hand on Sunday to ask for prayer because she’s been going through some tough times and has learned that God is faithful to help, comfort and bring hope to the struggling day after sometimes dark, exhausting day.

Sunday morning reminded me that help doesn’t always come in expected ways. Help came not from the articulate prayers of seasoned saints or a comforting word of encouragement from someone operating in the gift of prophecy. Rather, I was helped by the caring hands of children who noticed a lady they love silently saying, “I need help.” With childlike faith they came and with outstretched hands they touched and comforted me. Their compassion was a demonstration of the love of God and evidence that the next generation is also reaching to Him; the One whose might and power is gloriously made known to a crying lady on a Sunday morning in a little church meeting in a middle school in Orlando.

Actually, that day was like any other Sunday morning. God showed up and met with His people — including little ones who will someday take their place as pillars in His church here or elsewhere. Oh, I hope to be there to cry through worship they lead and take notes during messages they preach and snuggle with babies they’ve birthed…and likely have them surround a more wrinkled, littler old lady they look down to who raises her hand for prayer again. But if I’m not here I will be among the cloud of witnesses cheering them on and worshiping at the feet of the Savior they now serve.

Lord, please give me the strength to tell them about Your power and glory and might — both with testimonies of miraculous things You’ve done in the past and by showing them that I get scared and weary and need help just like them.

Redeemer Church was planted to bring hope. This pastor’s wife and grandmother and teacher of some awesome kids in children’s ministry sure is hopeful for a generation who is willing to put down their stuffed animals or stop whispering to their buddy to come and pray for a needy grandmother.

Thank you, Lord, for loving me through the least of these.

Going Through Tough Times…Together

In recent months I’ve become aware of numerous marriages going through hard times. Perhaps my eyes and ears have been more attentive because Benny and I have been walking through some challenges ourselves. If you or someone you know is feeling alone in their marital struggles I pray this honest and gripping song by Steven Curtis Chapman, a man whose songs have ministered to me for many years, will bring comfort and hope.

Blessings!

Sheree

The Assignment

I was in my 20’s when I got my first pair of glasses. I didn’t think I needed them but my eyes had never been checked and someone talked me into going to the eye doctor for some problems I was having with nighttime glare. I left the office with a prescription that landed me with glasses. I can still remember walking outside that day and realizing trees had individual leaves on them!

Recently I was in a conversation with a longtime (and long distance) friend who suggested I needed a different kind of vision correction.

Expert pinned on noticeboard

“Sheree, I have an assignment that I think we really help you.” I had just admitted I was pretty discouraged about some things going on in my life and in the lives of some folks I love.

My ears perked up. I’ve always liked assignments, especially those with an attached goal. Like when my third grade teacher assigned a reading program that would result in completing a stack of books by years end with the promise of a shiny red ribbon. Reading was one of my favorite things to do so quickly made my list, devoured the books well before the deadline and couldn’t wait to get that ribbon.

My friend’s assignment is one I have also enjoyed working on. It’s taken some hard work at times. Other times, though, it’s felt nearly effortless. Some days the assignment has been on my mind all day, while other days I fall into bed at night only to realize I haven’t given it a single thought. But I can honestly say that after a couple of months I’m starting to experience the fruit of keeping this project in mind.

And here’s the assignment she gave me: Become an expert at seeing God at work. 

Her words have rolled around in my mind again and again.

  • When a friend expressed her battles with discouragement over a difficult relationship I was able to point to several clear evidences of God’s grace in her life and the life of her friend. As tears fell we both marveled at how easy it is to lose sight of Him when times are tough.
  • When my daughter recently shared some wearying encounters with one of her children I was able to empathize with her maternal frustrations but also remind her of some key areas in which God has been at work in my grandchild. She agreed and we realized how important it is to lift one another’s gaze to God’s activity, especially when it seems our labors are in vain.
  • As I recently poured out my heart and complaints to God (yes, we can do that…the Psalmists surely did!) about some common struggles married couples walk through, including Benny and me, I experienced a fresh awareness of the importance of thanking God for some specific things in my marriage that are clear examples of His work.
  • During a challenging week when a several weighty pressures were bearing down on me I felt hopeless for needed changes in my heart. Yet God gently reminded me of an area in my life that used to be a substantial weakness but that He has turned into a Christ-empowered strength. I was reminded that His work in the past is a pledge that He will keep strengthening me to become more like Him — even in the very area about which I was feeling hopeless.

The amazing thing about these experiences was that I didn’t have to stop and put my “God’s at work even and especially during hard times” glasses on. It was as if God had given me spiritual laser surgery and I didn’t even realize what was happening until the clarity had already come. How amazing!

Becoming an expert at seeing God at work doesn’t diminish the hardships or pretend everything is okay. It also doesn’t deny that I live in a broken, fallen world with fellow weak and needy and sinful people. Rather, it puts the darkness of hardship and weakness against a backdrop of the radiant work of God’s Spirit in our lives that says, “Yes, you are weak, tired and battling hopelessness. Things are hard. People around you are hurting and you realize your help is just not enough because they need Me. But I am near. I am good. And I am busy in ways you see and in other ways you cannot yet see. Trust Me. Allow Me to open your eyes to glimpse My power on display. I am working and My work always produces fruit.”

I’m still not an expert. But something precious is happening my heart…and with my eyesight. I still get weary. I still battle discouragement. I still wish I could be more helpful in the lives of those I know are struggling. I still squint to see more clearly at times because all I can see are areas that seem to lack any activity of the Spirit of God.  But my eyesight is improving and I’m seeing more clearly that God is busy doing His marvelous work of helping His children grow and change and become more like Him.

I’ve never been an expert at anything. Hmm…in fact, I’ve never really wanted to or had the time or money to.  But becoming an expert at God’s work in the lives of those in whom He has promised to be busy is something I’d love to accomplish. 

And today my friend and I will talk again to see how I’m doing.

He is in the Rain

I’m sitting in my comfy chair in my room watching rain fall lazily onto my back yard. In Florida you never know how long the rain will last, but it’s typically not long at all. A light rain can turn into a deluge within minutes and then sunshine soon returns. In fact, in can be raining on my side of the street and not in my neighbor’s yard just feet away!

Moving to Florida brought new meaning to “scattered showers.” In the DC area where I spent most of my life, rain coming usually meant you were in it for the day…or week. Scattered showers typically still meant long periods of clouds and rain as far as the eye could see. Florida is different. Yesterday I was driving in the bright sunshine and suddenly I drove into pelting rain that lasted for only a matter of seconds. I’ve lived here for over 13 years and this still catches me by surprise.

In the short time it’s taken me to type these words the rain has stopped. Oh well. I missed the opportunity to set some plants out….

Aren’t our lives a little like the weather?

Sometimes gloom comes on suddenly and we’re surprised by wind and pelting rain. What just happened? Perhaps it was a phone call that left us reeling from a poor health diagnosis about us or someone we love. Or maybe a sudden job loss, exposure of sexual sin with a young adult child or weighty conflict with someone close leaves us feeling discouraged or despairing. The suddenness of the downpour only adds to the disorientation of the information we just received. Bad news falls hard on the unsuspecting heart.

Other times we see storm clouds gathering and have time to prepare for the deluge.

Growing marital strife warns that things between us and our spouse are becoming more serious. An x-ray reveals that haunting suspicions over time about strange symptoms have a cause. The “gut feeling” we’ve had that something just wasn’t right with one of our kids makes sense when we happen upon their recent online activity. But even seeing storms on the way don’t make them easier because watching dark clouds building can bring foreboding anxieties about what’s coming.

And then there are those times when the sun is out and life is pretty much going well. When sudden rain falls it’s easy to just smile and enjoy it. Florida living introduced me to the whimsy experience of driving when the sun is brightly shining and shimmers of dancing droplets play on my car windshield for a minute or two. It’s easier to handle unexpected challenges in our lives when they come when all is otherwise well.

dpshots.com

dpshots.com

Is it raining in your life? If so, has it been dark and gloomy for a long time, leaving you weary and fighting for hope? Or are you worried that circumstances or relationships are brewing to bring trials that test your faith? Perhaps your life is pretty pleasant right now as spurts of challenges come and go in your otherwise happy days of relative sunshine?

However the rain is falling for you, I want you to know I’m there. Over the past year or so I’ve experienced all three of those scenarios. Sometimes I feel the darkness closing in and wonder if the sun will shine again. Other days I’m able to see the clouds gathering ahead and am able grab onto my spiritual umbrella. And then there are days when my heart is light and the Son is shining brightly while I deal with the normal challenges of every day life.

The good thing about rain is that it never lasts forever. It comes…and goes. It has a purpose. For me, the rain that been falling has been softening my heart to know and love God more. When it’s dark I can tell myself, “It won’t be dark forever. The sun is right there behind the clouds. Lord, help me to endure.” As my heart softens I sense His nearness and know that He is planting tender seeds in my heart that require both rain and sun. Believe me, this is something that I have to remind myself regularly. Otherwise I easily fall into hopelessness and believing the lie that it will never be sunny again.

God measures the rain in our lives. Even when it seems flood waters are rising and we fear we might be swept away, He governs each drop that falls. If we’re swept away, it will be into His outstretched, safe arms.

Is your heart dry and hard? Then pray for rain.

Are you being pelted by a painful deluge? Then pray for strength.

Do you see clouds gathering? Then pray for God to prepare your heart to endure with faith.

Is the sun shining? Then pray for gratitude.

And always remember, He is in the rain.

vimeo.com

vimeo.com

Who’s With You in the Mess?

Yesterday I talked about how much I hate being sad. Several women contacted me to say they were grateful that what is often the silent trial of sadness was brought into the light. They, too, are sad about unplanned singleness, relational challenges, distance from family, martial strife or ongoing struggles with weight.

It made me wonder why we’re sometimes afraid to admit we’re sad.

Is is because we will be perceived as ungrateful? Whiny? Discontent? Do we fear others will quickly point out all the things and people in our lives for which we should be thankful? Does being sad mean we are automatically ungrateful or discontent?

In short, is sadness always rooted in sin in our hearts? If not, why do we and others often rush to “fix” the sadness with reminders of God’s blessings?

I’ll be honest.  I often want to “fix” others sadness because I don’t want to face their sadness either!  Recently one of my grandchildren was crying because she had lost a treasured toy. Her sadness threw me into high gear to help her find it! When we couldn’t locate the toy I pulled her onto my lap and attempted to talk her through the disappointment and assure her it would turn up soon. No amount of words helped. She wanted that toy in her little hands…now. After a few minutes of sitting in Granma’s lap she settled down and ran off to play.

When we hurt, others don’t know what to do. They want to fix our hurt or disappointment or sense of loss by helping us to see our sin, seeking to align our thinking with biblical truth or ask us what they can do to make things better.  But sometimes we just need to be held and told that God is with us. Human “fixes” don’t really deal with the pain when what we really need is His comforting presence.

A friend and I were talking last week and I was expressing to her my craving for relief from the sadness in my life.

“What would bring you relief, Sheree?” she asked.

footage.shutterstock.com

footage.shutterstock.com

I paused. The thoughts running through my mind all surrounded a change in my circumstances: better communication between Benny and me; fewer interruptions during the day from my mother-in-law; appreciation and understanding from an in-law with whom I had a recent conflict; etc. When I shared these things with her she listened patiently but even as I talked my words seemed hallow. There was something missing. I knew comfort and hope wouldn’t really be found by God fixing my circumstances but by doing something wonderful in my heart.

My wise and caring friend empathized with my struggles but then lovingly reminded me that the relief I sought wouldn’t be genuinely found by God dealing with the stuff on the list I had just shared with her. While this would be wonderful on one hand, deeper peace would come in enjoying His help and strength in the midst of my challenging circumstances. Because the Christian life is one of various trails and difficulties  (which are, in fact, promised because of our fallen lives and world) I needed to know that the Bible also promises that Someone is with me all the way.

“Sheree, what we all need to understand is that true relief is found in God walking with us through the messes of our broken and flawed lives. That’s why Jesus came into this dark and needy world: to bring His presence here.” She went on to communicate that the temporary relief from Him fixing the current circumstances would tempt me to find my hope in man, not Him.

Over the past week her words have meandered through my thoughts, bringing me hope. I’m a fixer. I find peace in order. I don’t do well in the midst of a mess (unless it’s created by my adorable grandchildren!). My good friend helped me to see that I was looking for relief in all the wrong places.

The source of your and my relief is God Himself. Not God plus an attentive husband or obedient kids or understanding in-laws or more money or less weight or living near family or fewer interruptions in our full days. Those things may happen or they may not. But what is always true no matter what messes we find ourselves in which bring sadness or pain is this: God is with us. He is faithful, good and loving — even when hardships expose our anger, resentment, self-pity, distrust of Him or ungratefulness.

God is with us in the mess and that’s where relief can truly be found.

And here’s another comforting reminder: not only is He with us but He is patient with our wrestlings. He is at work, moving us toward hope that His past faithfulness to carry us through dark times in the past is a pledge of His present and future grace to bring us through yet again.

Cleaning up the mess might seem like the best thing that could happen in our lives right now. But another mess is just down the road because we live in a fallen world with fellow sinners; a world that is literally groaning for Jesus to return and make all things new (Romans 8:22). Our own groanings for relief can be turned to humble cries to God to help us see and experience Him in the mess.

My sadness is still coming and going. But gratefully I am more aware of God’s comforting presence in the midst of it. He is opening my eyes to see that fixing the mess is far less important than experiencing His strength, tender love and comforting guidance in the mess. He is using His word and a dear friend to counsel me and I am finding growing peace even though my circumstances aren’t changing.

There is hope.

Borrowed Trouble

Aside

She stood shaking on the side of the pool. At age ten, she desperately wanted to learn to dive. But each time she tried she ended up looking like a pretzel falling into the water. Head pointing down but feet curled up in a cannon ball-like pose, poor Jaime just couldn’t do it.

It didn’t matter how many times her dad and I tried to coerce her or how often we gently put her into the right position. She just couldn’t overcome the fear of letting herself fall into the water without the reflex to protect herself. Poor thing. She couldn’t even explain what she was afraid of!

Summer after summer she tried again. And again. Suddenly it happened. In her early 20’s she dove into the pool. Her shocked family clapped and cheered. She acted like she’d been doing it for years.

Sometimes we don’t know why we’re unable to do something. We’re afraid of something — and don’t know what it is. Self-protective reflexes kick in: defenses; withholding honest information about what we’re going through; fear of being hurt (again); unconfessed sin; anxious thoughts about being misunderstood.

The puritans used to call it “borrowing trouble.”

Jaime watched person after person dive into the pool without cracking their head open on the bottom of the pool or drowning. Time and time again she played Marco Polo without being able to get into the pool quickly like her siblings and friends. She felt uncoordinated — even though she tore it up on the basketball court. There was something, though, that made her fearful of thrusting herself head first into the pool. Something irrational but nevertheless real.

I’ve been borrowing trouble recently. And trouble isn’t worth borrowing. The Bible says today has “enough troubles of its own” — so why borrow more from the future? Why reach into an unknown future, whether days or weeks or years ahead, and borrow things that may not even happen? And even if the trouble we think may come does in fact happen, tomorrow’s grace and help can’t be borrowed either. Today has it’s own trouble and grace.

What Jaime didn’t know was that one day she would get the courage to go head first into the water. Once she did it, the anxiety would be replaced with joy…and she can now assure her kids that there is really nothing to fear.

Are you facing something or someone that is tempting you to be afraid? Do you find yourself borrowing trouble from an unknown, uncertain future? Is there a refreshing pool of water in front of you that you can’t enjoy because you’re afraid to dive in?

No worries. No amount of coercing from yourself or others is going to help you. The only thing that will help is your decision to just go for it and trust God to let you experience the joy that courage brings.

More on that next time.

Really Good News

The following is an adaptation of a message preached by Benny Phillips called “Hope for the Bruised and Exhausted”, preached from Isaiah 42:1-4. It was first printed on the Redeemer Church of Lake Nona blog. 

In the lands around Palestine reeds grow in abundance, particularly along the edges of the Jordan River. They have fragile, hollow stems and are easily knocked over by the wind, rough waters or animals that come to the water’s edge to drink. Once a reed is broken, it can’t be fixed. Whereas other plants may repair themselves, reeds cannot.

099Like reeds, people can become bruised, hurt, knocked over, easily. We can be knocked over by life, broken relationships, disease and sickness, by the thoughtlessness and carelessness of other people. There are many people that are bruised, broken, and hurting, all around us, living next door, shopping where we shop, playing where we play.

Jesus came to have an impact, not on reeds but on people. He did not come to break a person who was already bruised or knock down a person who was already bent low with the difficulties of life. Unlike a reed, which cannot be fixed, Jesusis able to bind up our broken lives. He gives us new strength, and applies healing salve to our damaged lives. He came softly and gently to mend the broken reeds of the world.

Jesus did this throughout his ministry. The leper of Matthew chapter 8 was a bruised reed. He was diseased, cast off by society, shunned by everyone, destined to a slow and terrible death. But Jesus came and touched him and his life was forever changed!

The demon-possessed man in that same chapter of Matthew 8 was also a bruised reed. He was living among the tombstones, naked, tormented, cast out by society. But Jesus came and touched him and his life was forever changed!

The woman caught in adultery was a bruised reed. She was about to be cast away by society, stoned for her sin, and they would have been justified in their stoning according to the laws of their day. But Jesus came and touched her and her life was forever changed!

The woman with the flow of blood was a bruised reed. She was in pain, weak, weary, an outcast from society. She thought she would touch Jesus, but instead, Jesus touched her in a way that she never dared hope. Like the others, her was forever changed!

I have been a bruised reed, angry and bitter, hurting and depressed until Jesus came and touched me and my life has been forever changed. Jesus is the answer for the bruised reeds in our world. He is the answer for those who are bruised, broken, hurting, cast aside by society.

Jesus changes lives. Has he healed you?