What I Gather About… The Walk to Golgotha

The road is dusty.  My gaze is fixed on him.  His eyes pierce through the layers and see my soul.  We walk.  The pace is slow.  The crowds line the road.  I know his load is heavy, but I focus on his eyes.

“Why are you showing me this, Jesus?  You know I appreciate the load you carried for me.  Do I need to appreciate it more?  Is that what this journey is about?”

I see the sweat on his brow, the anguish of the cross he does not deserve to carry.  His gaze never leaves me. We walk.

“Jesus, you know I will walk with you.  I know the price to follow is high.  I have counted that cost and here I am.  So why are you showing me this?”

And then I hear it. In all my time as a follower, I had never thought of the sounds he endured on that walk.  At first the sounds were in the background.  As my ears were opened, the voices were magnified.

Slander.  Accusations.  Hate.  Lies.  Rage.  Mocking.

Looking into the face of love, the origin of love, I am overwhelmed by the sounds.  He doesn’t deserve it.  “He is innocent!” I want to scream.  I want to silence the shouts, the screams, the laughter.  His piercing eyes tell me he feels the pain inflicted by those cries.  Yes, he is God, but he is also man and his heart breaks.

“Jesus, why am I hearing this?  What are you trying to tell me?”

When you walk with me…. when you take up your cross and follow me… you will hear what we are hearing now.  It is part of the cost of walking this road to Golgotha. 

The truth of his words penetrate into the deepest, darkest places of my heart.  Those places that are too tender to touch and so are buried in a dark corner.  Those wounds inflicted by sharp words that cut me to the core, making me question my worth and my purpose.  Those lies that I struggle not to believe about myself.  Those wounds that caught me so off guard, coming at times from my people.

But these people I hear now, on this road, these people taking aim and firing words of accusation at love himself… they are his people.  They are his family, his town.  They are the ones he talked with in the synagogue.  The ones who heard him explain the kingdom on that mountain.  They go back generations, with heritage, history, in covenant together.  The very same ones…. these are the ones I hear, even now.

We walk.  My tears blur the view of my savior’s face, but I know his gaze hasn’t left me.  I thought I had counted the cost.  Now I count again.  Is it worth it?  Accusations and lies hurt.  But if I don’t ever hear them…. am I following?  Am I on that path with my savior, walking to the crucifixion of my own flesh?

And in that moment I know, as I knew before.  No cost is too high.  If walking with him means enduring the vile sounds of the crowds, I must endure.  I must endure, for there is no walk I would rather be on than this one.  There is no company I would rather keep than my present company.  There are no eyes I would rather focus on during this journey.  There is no gaze I would rather have on me.  And so, with a heavy cross on my back, I follow him.  I follow to my death and therefore to my life.

*Disclaimer:  the previous is a conversation based on something that I saw and felt in prayer one day when I was really struggling.  I have added details for the sake of telling a story, which I hope will strengthen and encourage someone.  I am in no way saying that God and I had this word-for-word conversation.  I would also like to emphasize that I believe in spiritual authority and accountability.  The “voices” in this story are not the voices of spiritual leadership in my life.

What I Gather About Layers, Life and Spring

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It should be expected, where I live.  First day of spring and all I see is grey, all I feel is cold.  But something about this season is different.  I need the sun.  I need to feel warmth on my skin and the sun on my face.  I need to smell the grass mixed with dew when I wake.  I need to breathe warmth into my lungs and know life is on the way.

I ask, “Why the cold?”

I want all of the layers peeled back.  I need to see what’s left there, underneath the layers, after this long, dark and ever-so-cold winter.  The winter of ice and snow and storms that made me want to hibernate, head buried in a warm blanket and never come out.  Is there heat left in me?  Is the fire out?  Is there still flesh under these layers?  Am I calloused beyond recognition?

Are my protective layers ready to be shed?  Will I survive without them?

Dear God, tell me you have been doing something underneath it all.  Am I a frozen wasteland, too damaged by environment and the elements to see a resurrection of sorts?

Then the thought enters my mind… could it be?  Have those elements… that ice, that snow that felt so bitterly cold against my flesh and bone… so cold I thought I’d never survive it…. have those very same elements become my water supply underneath the surface?  Have those cold waters melted into this soil of my heart, of my life?

I can’t escape the hope, the feeling in my gut that under all the layers…. as I peel them back, slowly but deliberately, I will find something fertile, something green.  I expect tender spouts, starter plants of a new variety.

All things new?  That sounds familiar.  Something beautiful?   I have heard that somewhere.

Yes, I expect life and growth and green.  I suspect seed has taken root and sprouted, ready to grow and thrive, with help from the spring rain, sun and warmth… with help from the giver of life.

After all, this is the season of hope and anticipation.

People thought all hope had been lost, didn’t they?  In that cold, dark season of the grave, when the sky darkened and lovers of you wept for loss and death and darkness.

Yet something stirred, something green and new.  Something that looked, sounded and even smelled of life surfacing once again… and the world was never the same.

I Gather a Prayer for Claire

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My dear friend Tasha recently gave birth to a perfect baby girl.  When I say perfect, I’m not exaggerating.  We joke that the Mexican blood in her gives her the most gorgeous complexion that my pasty babies never had a chance of achieving.  I was blessed to be at the hospital during the majority of Tasha’s labor and during the delivery.  She didn’t seem thrilled with my suggestion of being IN the delivery room (how dare she?), so I excitedly waited… and waited…. and waited in the waiting room.  I passed much of the time with Tasha’s Mexican grandmother, who also happens to be a spiritual inspiration.  We passed the time talking in both English and Spanish, discussing everything from her family to Cuba to God and the church.  Mostly, though, she prayed.  I could hear her nearly constant prayers for Tasha, her whispers of “Jesus” throughout the labor and delivery.  It was beautiful to witness.  I felt like I was on holy ground in that waiting room.

In the early morning hours, God led me to a scripture in Psalms.

The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. (Psalms 118:27)

That is how I felt during those early morning hours.  Even though I wasn’t in the room, I felt like God’s light was shining on us in that hospital.  I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the joyous miracle of life.  The occasion reminded me that joy truly does come in the morning, even after a long, dark night.  Claire was born.  She is perfect and I will always think of her as a light sent by God.

So, instead of showering her with blankets or clothes or bottles, I choose now to shower her with my love and with a prayer of blessing.  This prayer is for you, Claire.

Dear little Claire (or OB as I like to call you),

Your entrance into this world came like a blazing ray of light into what had been a dark time for some.  You truly are a gift of God.  You  bring light and life and joy to your family and everyone who surrounds you. This is my prayer for you.

May the light of God’s face shine upon you. (Psalms 4:6)

May the Lord alone light your lamp and light up any darkness that comes your way. (Psalms 18:28)

May the Lord be your light and salvation, coming to your rescue in every way. (Psalms 27:1)

May you ever walk before God in the light of life. (Psalms 56:13)

May his word be the lamp unto your feet and the light unto your path. (Psalms 119:105)

When you fall, may you quickly arise, having the Lord as your light. (Micah 7:8)

May you be a light to this world, a city set on a hill, hidden to none. (Matthew 5:14)

When others look at your light, may they always see the glory of your Father. (Matthew 5:16)

May you be wholly bright. (Luke 11:36)

May you help many others turn from darkness to light. (Acts 26:18)

May your light be a guide to the spiritually blind. (Romans 2:19)

May you never be unequally yoked with darkness. (2 Corinthians 6:14)

May you walk in the light, having fellowship with believers, bring cleansed from all sin. (I John 1:7)

May you always love your brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom. (I John 2:10)

And finally, dear Claire, …May you be blameless and innocent, a child of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as a light in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ we may be proud that we did not run in vain or labor in vain… (Philippians 2:15-16)

Lots of love,

Rachael

 

 

What I Gather About Understanding God

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Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words (Daniel 10:12)

Each week we open our home for a gathering of friends sharing food and participating in Bible study.  This past week as we discussed the book of Daniel, we began to contemplate what it was about Daniel that made him the one chosen by God for such an extraordinary purpose.  I was led to Daniel 10:12 and was elated to find an answer to our question, although inevitably one question leads to more questions when studying God’s word.  Could it be that Daniel’s desire to understand the things of God, combined with his posture of humility were the elements that attracted God to Daniel?  (see my friend Mindy’s beautiful post about humility here)

Since this discussion on Thursday, God has been reminding me of some lessons He spoke to my heart several years back.  While I in no way believe that we can ever understand the depth, magnitude and complexities of God, I do believe that He is searching for people who desire to understand Him more.  I believe He wants to reveal Himself to us in profound, life-altering ways.  He has mercifully done this for me time after time.

In my early twenties I was dealing with some residual grief due to the loss of my father at 16.  I remember one day praying, or rather casting blame on God for taking my dad away from me too soon.  From somewhere deep within, I heard words along these lines….

How will you know Me as comforter if you do not grieve?

Woah.  I put that on the back-burner, not sure I could handle the implication of that statement.  As I walked on this journey a little longer with God, I found Him asking me similar questions.

How will you know Me as Provider if you never have to trust?

How will you know Me as Peace-speaker if you never face turmoil?

Then came the big one.

Would you know Me as Father the way you do if your earthly father still lived?

As far back as I remember I have said the prayer….. “God, I want to know You.”  I have whispered it in the dead of the night.  I have cried it out through sobs of broken-ness. I have shouted it in desperation.  I have sung it out with all that is within me.  I have declared it with joyful expectation.

Could it be that all along God has heard my prayer and has responded by revealing Himself through trials?  Could it be that I must be willing to endure, endure, endure before I will ever truly begin to grasp the greatness of God?  To truly understand Him as healer, must I face sickness?  Sure, I may believe He can heal.  I may have faith and know that is an aspect of His character.  But isn’t it revealed to me in a deeper way when He heals me or someone close to me?  To understand Him as Savior, don’t I need salvation?  To understand Him as Light, I surely must face darkness.

Looking at my life in this light lessens the fear of the unknown.  It gives purpose to the pain.  For what better reward is there than knowing Him more?  Can any of us ever be a Daniel without seeking to understand?  Can I ever fulfill my purpose in His kingdom if I don’t have a posture of humility, ready and willing to endure what comes my way…. knowing it may lead me even a little closer to Jesus?  God, I want to know You.  I want to know You as healer, deliverer, provider, savior, strength, light, comforter, guide, peace-speaker, FATHER… even if that desire takes me on a road of tests and trials.  Perhaps that road will be the very path that leads me to becoming an instrument like Daniel, through which Your glory is revealed to the nations.  Even if it doesn’t, knowing You a little more is enough reason to walk that road.

What about you?  Has there been a time in your life God has revealed Himself in a powerful way as a result of difficulty?  Would you trade that experience?  In what other ways do you seek to understand God?  As always I would love to get a conversation started with you!

What I Gather About Feeling Too Much

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Once there was a day I felt too much.  On that day, I told a trusted friend, “Sometimes I wish I didn’t feel so much.”  The next morning, I saw a link to my favorite blogger’s new blog post.  Her link to it read “If you’ve ever wished you didn’t “feel” things so much, I wrote this for you (and me):”

I’m not going to lie.  I stared at it for a while.  I didn’t read it right away.  I even sent a text to my friend, telling her I was a little afraid to read it.  Why was I surprised?  The God who has the hairs of my head numbered had surely heard the lament of my heart.  He surely knew the depth of my grief at the death of Namuda.  Why should I not expect a direct response from Him, comforting me, answering me, showing me He cared?  This is the same Jesus who spoke the promise and blessing, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  (How I wish I had been on the mountain that day….)

I took a deep breath and accepted the response for what it was: a gift from God.  I read it with an open mind and heart, weeping at the depth of His love for me.  His willingness to show up in that moment, like a knight on a white horse in the moment of my distress, will be a gift I carry with me to my grave and beyond.

If you have ever wished you didn’t feel so much, please take the few moments to read this beautiful blog, sent to me from my loving Savior via one of His loving servants.

http://sarahbessey.com/in-which-we-numb-the-light/

Now I am trying to feel the full range of human emotion.  God at times asks me to carry a heavy load for starving children, for Cubans in despair, for the fatherless and for those who hurt.  I carry it gladly, knowing it keeps me on the kingdom path and closer to my Father’s heart.  Yet, I am learning to embrace the joy that my Savior also offers in the laughter of my Isabel, the strength of my Ava, the passion of my Jimmie, the weekly gathering of friends in my home, the beauty of creation….

Do you ever wish you didn’t feel so much?  Do you find  yourself attempting to numb pain instead of feeling it?  How do you find joy in your everyday life?  Has God ever been your comforter in a profound way?  As always, I would love to hear from you.