Tag Archives: acceptance

Ezekiel 10-12; Psalm 83; John 4

I recently got results from a DNA ancestry/health test I took. I was unprepared for the depth of feelings I’d feel as I looked at the results and saw a profile of my ancestry–such a gasp of wonder and joy, a glimpse into a past. It was really exciting, and more than that, I felt a connection and belonging to a greater history. There were fun findings–that I’m likely to drink more caffeine than average (true) and that I am likely to be more afraid of heights than others (also true). And it fell short in a couple of places suggesting that I don’t have a widow’s peak (I do), and that I’m likely to dislike cilantro (I buy it weekly–love!).

Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. They talk, and he tells her things about herself she already knew–things about her choices and past. It’s stuff the people in her life might know, that she might even be known for, but that a stranger wouldn’t know. Instead of feeling shame or embarrassment or apathy, she has a kind of wonder, and perhaps relief.

39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” (John 4:39, NLT, emphasis added)

She comes to the well every day to fill a very real need (and perhaps much of her life was spent trying to fill a need for acceptance, provision, love, belonging, purpose, fulfillment), and he promises her an everlasting satisfaction. Living water.

I think of my ancestors and I want to know more–their names, their stories, and what they were searching for. What were they leaving, and what were they pursuing that moved a lineage from place to place, and finally here to my doorstep in the woods?

Father God, you will stop at nothing. No distance. No desperation. You already know I love cilantro and coffee. You know the depth of my weaknesses. You know my struggles and my strengths. You know every thought I’ve ever had, every word I’ve ever spoken, and every feeling I’ve ever felt (even the ones I try to keep from myself)–and you don’t flinch. You don’t turn away. You meet me in the place of my need, and I feel like you’re telling me, ‘You can keep coming back to (this place) looking for (understanding, satisfaction, answers, fulfillment, love), but even if it meets your need today, you’ll be back here again tomorrow. I can meet that need once and for all time so that you don’t need to keep returning to (a place) that can’t (heal you).” Lord, I believe you because … you know everything about me, you keep your promises, you are able.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 28-29; Mark 11

I don’t know a lot about Leah–just these few things: older sister, no sparkle in her eyes (and later, she is an unexpected bride, child bearer, and her words lament). Leah, didn’t you see you were part of a plan?

I think about Leah and wonder what happened in all the years that stole her sparkle. Her words groan, “Notice me.” “Hear me.”

She doesn’t see how she fits–mother of nations. She doesn’t even know.

***

I imagine Jacob, young, with a head full of hope and promise, setting out. He has a dream:

13 At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”

16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” Genesis 28:13-16, NLT.

Jacob knew there was a plan and he was a part of it. His father sent him off with a blessing. And knowing he was part of a plan (or maybe it was just love!) makes the years and waiting fly by.

18 Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”

19 “Agreed!” Laban replied. “I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.” 20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days. Genesis 28:18-20, NLT.

***

Did Leah always feel unloved?

Her pursuit to be noticed, accepted, and loved leads her to praise.

***

The reality of broken relationships, love or friendship disregarded and unreturned–they wound. There are situations I can’t fix, or don’t know how to fix, and if I focus my thoughts there, it drains.

Father, I want to focus on your presence and your plan–that whatever the role it is you give me is a piece you selected just for me. Let me praise you for your love, and let me walk this path knowing that you are with me. You are father, you are friend. You are in this place.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Genesis, Old Testament

Exodus 9-13; Matthew 18:1-20

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” Exodus 10:1-2

In the Exodus story, Moses repeatedly shares that God purposely hardened the heart of Pharaoh and his servants. Pharaoh would not listen to the decree of God to ‘Let My people go’. God didn’t want the liberation of the Israelites to become an event that was quickly forgotten. He wanted to demonstrate His glory and His power in a memorable way so that all would ‘know that I am Lord’. God dealt with the Egyptians harshly and without mercy; forgiveness did not enter into the picture.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

In Matthew, Jesus describes how to maneuver in situations of offense and sin. If I go to the offender and he listens, than I have gained a brother. But if his heart is hardened, Jesus said to let the wrongdoer be to me as a gentile and a tax collector.

What does that really mean in the context of New Covenant?

I have observed that a very common Christian assessment of that verse is that when someone doesn’t listen to the church, that they should be excommunicated, cut off and shunned by that group.

I’ve been in the situation where I was treated this way by a community that I had grown very close to. The situation was complicated, and though I know that my heart was right before God, I was still cast aside. I felt rejected by trusted friends, abandoned by people I had shown my vulnerabilities. Being discarded hurt then, and the wounds it left still hurt now at times; it began my search to better understand what Jesus intended.

…If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love. Matthew 18:17 (MSG)

I love the way The Message describes the way I should treat someone who isn’t ready to own up to their failings. The version doesn’t say reject, cast-off, snub. It says to start over, to confront and offer God’s forgiving love. The Bible exhorts me to forgive, nearly 500 times if necessary, and in the same way I would hope to be forgiven. God’s Word encourages me to love my enemies, to bless and pray for my persecutors. His Word reminds me of the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross for me while I was still a sinner and His constant mercy when I inevitably make mistakes as a believer.

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. Matthew 18:11 (NKJV)

Though many versions omit this verse, it still holds true that Christ’s goal is to save the lost. He yearns for redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. He wants to rebuild honor, reestablish relationship, and reinstate original positioning, with Him and with others. He does that daily by offering His body and His blood. He seeks out the lost, whether they have never seen the Good Shepherd or have simply strayed away from the flock and offers forgiveness, ushering them into the fold.

While walking the earth, Jesus treated gentiles (unclean, polytheistic ‘heathens’), tax collectors, prostitutes and every other kind of sinner with mercy and grace. Though He didn’t condone their behaviors, He spent time with them. He demonstrated love and acceptance; and that witness was what opened eyes to sin and lead to change of heart, to repentance.

I can only believe that God asks me to do the same – to offer love, compassion, mercy, and forbearance – as He extends to me.

Yesappa, Thank You for Your forgiveness, Your grace, and Your mercy. Thank You for seeking me out when I am lost. Thank You for accepting me no matter what. Keep my heart soft, repentant before You at all times. Help me be a pipeline for Your love forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (written in Sholavandan)

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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Filed under 66 Books, ESV Through the Bible in a Year, Exodus, Matthew, New Testament, Old Testament

1 Samuel 21, 22; 1 Corinthians 3; Ezekiel 1; Psalm 37

When Brene Brown spoke of love and belonging, I was undone. (Not a belonging about fitting in and being like others, but of being accepted for who you are.) She said without one of these (love, belonging), there is suffering.

David forms an army. These men weren’t perfect specimens. Not with words like distressed, debtors and discontent. God uses the broken for his kingdom.

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him. 1 Samuel 22:1-2 NIV.

I didn’t fit in former circles. No, I didn’t even belong. No amount of striving would change that. Suffering felt an awful lot like depression. Perhaps God saw as distressed, discontent. No matter. I didn’t have to be perfect. I was perfect for him.

I did the same things still back then: cookie baking, card sending, garden gifting. There was no new result in that field, but there was newness in my heart. Instead of striving for the approval of man, I chose to serve the Lord. That was life before the move, and in the two years of life after I am still cookie baking, card sending, and garden gifting to honor my Lord. I don’t expect to fit, not when I live counter-culture. Two years here, I press on.

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

7 Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.
For those who are evil will be destroyed,
    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
    though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land
    and enjoy peace and prosperity. Psalm 37 NIV

Two years.

Over the weekend a woman who lives nearby walked down my driveway for the first time, sat across from me at the table and was vulnerable. Because of the cookies. Asked for prayer. She called me kind. Jesus sat at the table with us, and I wanted to elbow him and say, “Do you hear this?! You used the cookies! God, you are awesome!”

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 NIV

God, you are faithful. You are mighty. You are good. You were all those things before. And you are all those things today. Thank you for taking this offering and doing more with it than I ever could. It’s all you–for you and about you. Thank you for bringing us here. And for calling me yours.

Courtney (66books365)

Love Came Down

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Judges 20; Acts 24; Jeremiah 34; Luke 3

When all the people were being baptized by John, Jesus also was baptized. While Jesus was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit came down on him in the form of a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “You are my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with you.” Luke 3:21-22 (NCV)

There were so many topics bouncing around my head while I was reading today’s passages. I was having a hard time even focusing, because of the depth of the subjects (Israel against the Benjamites, prophecies of Judah falling into the hands of Babylon, Paul in Jail…) and, because my kids wouldn’t settle down long enough for me to read or write a complete sentence.

And, then I read Luke 3:22, “You are my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with You.”

These words coming directly from the mouth of God Himself; a Father’s love poured out over His Son. Pure acceptance, not for anything He did, but simply for who He was, is, and is to come.

Jesus was still a ‘nobody’ to the world. He hadn’t turned water into wine. He hadn’t healed anyone, hadn’t cast out demons, hadn’t raised anyone from the dead. He hadn’t walked on water or calmed storms. He hadn’t challenged the sensibilities of the priest or changed the hearts of sinners. He hadn’t died, hadn’t been buried, hadn’t risen from the dead.

I think about when I watch my own daughters. I consider who they are. I study the beauty that they carry, both inside and out. I reflect on the short time that I have had to get to know them, their personalities, their quirks, their identities. I ponder in my heart their possibilities and what the future may hold for them.

They are my daughters, whom I love. And, I am well pleased with them. They are ‘nobodies’ to the world; they have ‘done’ nothing. And, yet, I am overwhelmed at the immensity of how much love I have for them, the pleasure they bring to my heart and soul.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the amount of love I have for my girls, is only a tiny fraction of the amount of love that God has for them…and, the amount of love that God has for me.

He didn’t just say those words to Jesus. He said them to me, to my daughters, to everyone…ALL of His children. It doesn’t matter if I am ‘known’ or ‘unknown’, if I have done ‘something’ or done nothing at all but live life. It doesn’t matter if have a pure heart and clean hands or if I am walking in sin.

It doesn’t matter because He loves me with an everlasting love. He sees me for the diamond that I am, even if I am covered in muck. He sees my potential. He sees my future and He knows the plan is good.

Yesappa, Thank You for Your acceptance and Your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan, India)

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Exodus 33; John 12; Proverbs 9; Ephesians 2

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:8-10.

When I actually sit still long enough and let the meaning of these verses wash over me, I am almost knocked over…like a toddler standing in an ocean of waves that are far more powerful than she can fathom.

Every thought, word, act, every motivation lies bare before Jesus. The entire story of my life, past and future, is seen by God.  Nothing is hidden…including that knot of fear and shame that sits in my chest because I know I fall short in the eyes of men and God.  But Jesus does something so amazing; he pours out his grace and forgiveness on the darkest and most wounded places of my heart and calls me by name. Gone are my accusers; gone is my shame.  I didn’t have work, grovel or claw to get to this place. I just had to simply call his name; he heard me and came.  My heart is his.

Mary knew whose presence she was in. She knew who wholly loved her. She wasn’t distracted by the dinner, guests or conventions of the day.  What she did wasn’t a rash act. She intentionally chose the expensive perfume and was fully aware that respectable women didn’t let their hair down in public. Her reputation and finances were literally at the feet of Jesus.

Lord, I long for my heart to be like Mary’s.  I don’t want to be distracted or fearful.  I want to trust you and love you with all that I am. I don’t want fear of what others might think get in the way of loving you.  Thank you that I am your workmanship; may your will be done.

Kathy

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