The Broken Road

This morning it rained over our fresh snow. I heard its soft pattering on the roof and watched the grass begin to peek out from the snow. It was an ugly mess.

I went to church this evening. The pastor talked about the guilty, wounded, and troubled heart. I know that I suffer from all of those feelings. And I sin–oh yes, I sin. Everyday, I make mistakes and wreck relationships and try to pick up the pieces again. I put off prayer because I don’t want to confront my maker with the same old problems. I don’t feel worthy of His love.

But isn’t that the reason for Christmas? Isn’t that how we know Jesus? If we were pure, there would be no use for a Saviour. But our sinful nature needs a Saving Grace. Life’s broken road is the path that leads us to the greatest Christmas gift of all.

Sometimes, its hard to accept ourselves because of sin. Sometimes, its difficult to just move on. Sometimes, we don’t even know where to begin. But the beauty is that we don’t have to do it on our own. As Psalm 147 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

We have Jesus. It’s remarkably easy to pass Him by, especially with the hub-bub of the holidays. But without Him we would be nothing. Without Him, our sin would stain us forevermore and there wouldn’t be any second chances. He is the reason for Christmas, joy, and life.

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With whatever trial you’re facing today, remember the joy that Jesus offers!

G Is For Grace

High school is behind me now, but I haven’t stopped learning, it would seem. Today, I spent a good chunk of time cleaning and organizing an overflowing box of schoolwork. You see, I’m not the most organized person in the world. Okay, I’m an absolute failure at organizing my stuff…especially papers. I kind of like to just relax and forget about things when I don’t particularly need them anymore. So, throughout the last two years, everything that I don’t really need anymore has gone into the school box. Consequently, the last few days have been spent sifting through Spanish homework, student aide lessons, English notes, and lots of Biology.

It was an interesting task, to say the least. I can’t say that I enjoyed it, but it did bring back old memories, good, bad, and unflattering alike.

My Biology brought the most thought, in the end. Oh, the Spanish I enjoyed looking through and made me dream about taking university Spanish classes next year. My teaching notes reminded me of the class I helped in and the future I may have in education. And of course, English brought a smile or two. But in of all that, I learned the most from the subject I know the least about… Biology.

Not to be a downer or anything, but I’m terrible at Science, Math, and anything technical. I’m extremely creative, as my project based Lit 12 class proved. I can write to save my life. I picked up Spanish pretty easily and was even able to teach it. But if you give me something technical like a fractions sheet or a chemistry lab, I’d rather get my eye brows plucked.

As I organized and slightly reviewed my notes on Meiosis and Mitosis, plant cells, and the urinary system, an aspect of myself that I’m not so proud of, unfolded before me. I am afraid of failure. In fact, I am so scared of missing the mark, that I run, hide, scream or do whatever is needed so that I don’t have to deal with my failure. But as a Christian, that is not the attitude that I am supposed to have towards Biology, school work, or my sins. Because Jesus is enough for my failures and I need to trust and let Him carry my load when I can’t.

But the truth is, I didn’t do that with Bio 12 and I don’t do that with most of my life. In my course, I received some A’s, lots of B’s, and a few C’s. And some of my marks were really, really bad. Actually, in addition to some super low C’s, I failed my first test by 3 %. Yup, I actually, officially failed. But really, my Biology scores are no different than my regular life as a human. God doesn’t grade us on our attitude, but I can garuntee we’d all fail more than one test if he did. 

Throughout my organizing, I found a lot of unopened envelopes. Like I said, I’m afraid of missing the mark and I literally run away from it. Since I was home schooled, my teacher sent my marked work through the mail and I had the choice to open it or leave it untouched. So, because I knew I wouldn’t be getting top scores all the time, I left a lot of them unopened, at least to me. My mom could open them if she wanted, but several times I wouldn’t touch my Bio marks. I was ashamed, just like I am of my sins. I didn’t want to look back at my failures because it showed me that I was unworthy, messed up, and fallen.

But isn’t it funny how that’s just not how God would look at failure? He forgives and loves us, despite our brokeness. And not only that, but He gives us second chance after second chance. God does not give up no matter how badly we miss the mark. And He wants to show us once again what is right. He encourages us to keep going and tells us to overcome our sins. When I went through my Biology marks, I found the envelope with the bad test mark. But because I’d wanted to run and hide and forget about my failure, I had missed the lesson. My teacher had sent that test back to me so that I could learn from my mistakes, but I had let my shame overtake me. God doesn’t want us to run from Him because of guilt.

The last envelope I opened surprised me. I knew before that I’d failed the first test and that my marks weren’t the best. I was aware of my failures. But this last envelope had not been opened by anyone–even my mom. It contained something different. I gasped when I saw that I had received % 100 for this Biology assignment! I was thrilled and I wished so badly that I hadn’t let my shame overtake me when it first arrived in the mail.

If we got report cards in heaven, we would all get 100 %, too. Even though we would have messed up and failed. Although we would deserve much less. Seriously, if God marked us on perfection we’d all get zeroes and my Biology marks would look good. But He doesn’t mark is on perfection — He accepts us with grace. And that is why the G on the report would be for grace and not good because of the grace that God has truly given us through His son.

If you’re hiding in shame and guilt today, please stop. If you think that God can’t love you because of past mistakes, that isn’t true. God always, always accepts and loves us for who we are… broken, messed up, but oh, so precious in His sight.

Your Faith Has Saved You

They called her a ‘sinful’ woman. She was a prostitute, perhaps. The Bible doesn’t specify about her except for the fact that she was undoubtably and undeniably sinful. For that reason, she probably kept away from ‘righteous’ folk as much as she possibly could.

But then she heard that Jesus was in town! Jesus! He was the son of God. Well, some people said that he was. The woman wasn’t quite sure if she believed that or not. But the woman did know that he was a good prophet, a kind man who healed people. She wondered, is there room enough in his heart to heal a harlot like me?

When a woman who had lived a sinful life in the town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume…

Luke 7:37

In a way, I can be just like that woman. The word ‘sinful’ could serve as a description for each and every one of us. And I know for a fact that I am very sinful. I may not be a prostitute in the literal sense of the word, but haven’t we all been some kind of prostitute? I know I have forgotten God and prostituted myself to idols time and time again. I’ve been a prostitute to constant sin. I feel like it feeds me though it really just eats away at my soul. In many ways, I am just like that sinful woman.

But Jesus always saves. I know that from Sunday School and the Bible. I know I can always find my way back to Him, despite my sins. I think about it and realize that he probably has enough room in his heart to forgive me once again.

But when the sinful woman entered the room, she realized that not only was Jesus enough — He was more. He loved her, despite her many sins. Somehow, he cared for her more than anyone had ever cared before. Even though the righteous disliked her, this man, who was more righteous than all of them put together, was her friend. And the woman was overwhelmed. She did not think of herself anymore or even of impressing him with the perfume. Instead, she knelt down before him and began to cry. She wet his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed him, and poured the perfume on his feet as a final touch. She loved Him and He loved her. She was so unworthy, but somehow, He was worthy enough.

and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured perfume on them.

Luke 7:37-38

So many times, I’ve gone to church or just opened my Bible, with thoughts like this woman. Maybe He can save me again. And then I enter into his presence. Suddenly, all my fears, worries, and even failures melt away in an instant. It’s only Him and me. He is beautiful and I am ugly in my sin. But as I kneel before in worship, He wipes those sins away. Jesus refines me and makes me beautiful again.

But the ‘righteous’ men did not like the woman. They looked down on her and thought Jesus to be false for His kind treatment of her. To them, she was sinful, dirty, and not meant to be loved.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him, and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.’

Luke 7:39 

Sometimes, I feel bombarded on every side by people who hate me. I am judged by sinners just like me. Yet somehow I am ‘more sinful’ to them. I am caught in a snare because to them I am not worth enough.

But it didn’t matter to Jesus for he was more righteous than the pharisees’ self-righteousness. He was worthier than all of the woman’s unworthiness. Jesus had the power to stand above righteousness and fill the ‘sinful’ woman with worth.

Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you. Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?

Luke 7:40-42

And Jesus forgives me just like he forgave that woman. His righteousness and worthiness makes up for my lacking. He fills me with all that I need, including His unfailing love.

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much.

Luke 7:47

So Jesus forgave the woman. Even though she was sinful, He loved her without holding back. And He loves me like that, too. Jesus dismisses my failings and replaces my fears with his amazing love. He turns to me, as he turned to that woman and tells me my sins are forgiven because my faith has saved me.

It’s interesting that Jesus told the woman that her faith had saved her. The Pharisees in the Bible and lots of “churchy people” now like to make up extra rules and judge people for what they don’t do. But the truth is that we are all sinners who are going to mess up. And that is why nothing but the blood of Jesus can save us when we put our faith in Him.

Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you;go in peace’

Luke 7:50

Remember that He didn’t say your purity or good works has saved you. We could never do or be enough for that. It’s not our righteousness, money we give to the poor, or the way that we dress ourselves. We would never be worthy if it were based on those things. It’s not how many days we go without sinning because the truth is that we all sin every single day. Instead, it is the grace of God that becomes ours when we put our faith in Him.

Have you put your faith in Jesus? Remember, it’s never to late. You may be sinful, but we’re all sinful. And Jesus accepts us just the way we are — broken and dirty. He makes us whole and clean through his blood. So come to His feet now and he will say, “My child, your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Forrest Of Lies

Sometimes I walk with a head that hangs in shame through a forrest of people who hate me. It’s a difficult road, full of thorns and twigs. And it’s dark in the forrest — so dark that I can’t find my way out. The forrest of lies consumes me until I want to cry.

In the forrest, I’m never good enough. I’m ugly, stupid, and not likable. No one wants to be my friend in the forrest of lies. Because who would want to stand next to a failure like me?

I’m bad and wrong in the forrest. I’m too ambitious for a female. In the forrest, they denounce what I want to do with my life and who I would like to be. I’m utterly wrong in the forrest. I can’t be successful there. My dreams of university and a career are scoffed at. I’m told that I need a man to do anything worth with my life. A man and a lot of kids. I am worth nothing in the forrest of lies.

I am sinful beyond compare there. My clothes are immodest even though I try so hard. Certain things I do and ways I act are just plain terrible. My actions in the past are unforgivable. I’m not good enough for grace in the forrest even though grace was made just for me. I’m never pure in the forrest of lies.

The forrest is demeaning, rude, and shallow. I do not like to live there and I will not let myself stay there any longer. It’s full of ridiculous expectations that I could never meet. Perfectionists without an ounce of grace pound my heart to pieces. And that is why I call it the forrest of lies.

But at the end of the forrest, there is a garden. It’s a perfect, beautiful place. I go there to be uplifted and refreshed. And in the garden, there is a gardener who calls me by name. Although He is perfect, the gardener doesn’t mind that I am not. For He has enough grace to share the beauty of his flowers with me. So I’ll leave this forrest of lies behind and go to the garden. Are you coming with me?

Fresh Start

This week, I came to terms with my ugly self and the terrible desires of my heart. I learned that I’m not as good at forgiveness as I thought. I realized that I have a lot more to learn about love before I could ever say I’ve fulfilled my calling. In it all, I came to see that sometimes I need to erase the past and start fresh.

There is this hurt that I have. I’m not going to say exactly what it was or who hurt me, but it was very painful. Over a year ago, I struggled with this incident and thought that I had become free. After all, I could laugh about the person and the hurt that he had caused. I seriously thought that I had forgiven him. But then I realized that even though I could laugh, the hurt was still eating at my current relationships, the way I view myself and that person, and what I think of certain people because I hadn’t really ended it and started fresh.

Recently, God has been convicting me that I am not loving enough. I hold grudges and refuse to allow people the privilage of a fresh start in my heart. The worst thing is that I rarely recognize this flaw at all.

The other day, I was extremely mad. I got angry at a lot of people who had nothing to do with the situation as well as the person who hurt me. None of it was necessary though. Nothing new had transpired. I was only drowning in the anger of an unforgiving heart. I hadn’t truly ended what I needed to end.

God calls us to a life of love. The two greatest commandments are to love Him and to love others. If we do these two things, we are fulfilling the rest of the law. Forgiveness is a part of that love. Starting fresh is part of that, too. The world tells us that revenge is satisfying, but God tells us that vengeance is His. Our hearts tell us that we should hate, but God calls us to live a life of love. He pulls us away from all bitterness, brawling, anger, and slander, as much as our humanity tells us to give in. God desires that we overcome evil with good, instead of repaying evil with evil. If we truly want to love God and love others, we need to give second chances and start fresh everyday.

But anger is still alive and well. I have no solution to erase it completely. The only healthy thing to do with anger is to accept it. That’s what I did. I wrote a letter and told that person how mad I was at him. But then, I destroyed it and started fresh with a letter of love.

I’ll be the last person to tell you that all of this was easy. On the contrary, true love is a battlefield, real forgiveness is like forgetting a grudge from a war, and sincere friendship can be a constant torture of the two. It was hard to forgive. It’s almost impossible to erase the past and start from the beginning.

But with God, anything is possible. He makes all things good. Yes, friendship is difficult, but it is also wonderful. Love is hard, but we reap the greatest rewards through true love. Forgiving someone is like fighting a war, but just like a real battle, there is freedom when you finish. And because of Christ, starting fresh is an option.

Today, I’m going back to square one and starting fresh. It definitely isn’t easy, but I’ve never felt better. Forgiveness is freedom. Love is beauty. Friendship is peace. I’ve overcome evil with good and it is amazing.

Free Like The Wind

Last weekend, I walked home from a conference. The sun was out and shining at last and the sky was beautiful. The wind was out that day, too. It brushed my long hair out-of-place and the loose, black shirt I was wearing flew behind me. And suddenly, I felt free.

I stopped at the park and settled on one of the swings. I rocked back and forth and the wind whipped my hair off my back. I closed my eyes and breathed it all in…the stillness, wind, and sun. I realized that everything that had held me down didn’t matter. I didn’t have to care about what other people thought. The mistakes I’d made had been forgiven. There was no condemnation. I was free.

For months, I’ve felt like a prisoner. I’ve been locked in by the stress and worries of life. The sorrow sweeps me up into a flurry of despair and I feel like I can never be happy. The gossip, the looks, and what I know people would say if they knew, traps me in fear. I’ve felt condemned and have yearned for freedom time and time again.

That day at the park, I felt like I had it for once. I’d had a better-than-normal week. There were difficulties, of course, but I’d gotten through them. I had overcome some fear I’d hidden inside. And that day I’d learned, that I really, truly could be free because there is no condemnation when you have Jesus.

The wind continued to blow and the sun shone brightly. The rocks crunched under my feet as I slowed the swing down. I picked up my Bible and read the passage that had set me free that morning again.

This verse wasn’t just written for me! You can have this freedom, too. Jesus bought you at a price. He paid for your sins. If you are in Him, there is no condemnation for you, no matter what you do. He has freed you.

Tea & Jesus

If you know me well, then you’ll also know that I LOVE tea! I drink it in the mornings before breakfast and for a break in the afternoon. Sometimes, I’ll even have another cup later if I’m offered one. I cannot resist tea. I drink it for comfort and pleasure. I love it, but on Wednesday I gave it up.

As you can probably guess, I gave it up for lent.

It is now day three and I am madly wishing for some tea. Really, you do not know how badly I want to fill the kettle with some water and set my tea cup out. I’ve woken up with a sore, dry throat every morning since Ash Wednesday, which I longed to cure with tea. In the afternoons, I missed my tea break in the middle of grueling studies. Today, I needed comforting, but I could not resolve myself with a simple cup. It was hard. A sacrifice, to be sure.

I know I’ve said this already, but faith has been harder than normal in these past few months. I’ve run and hid from God. I’ve gotten really mad, too. In it all, I realize how much I really need Him. No matter how hard I try, I can’t do it on my own.

So now, I bring my sacrifice to the altar. I know that the price for my sins has been paid already. I know that He loves me enough without all this fuss. Yet I need this and I’m giving up something that I want to follow Him. Maybe tea isn’t that deep. Perhaps there is more that I could give. But I think that somehow, this may be a journey of faith.

 A journey to find Jesus again. A journey partway home. A journey in which I learn to give more of my heart to the One who created it.

I have 37 days left! God, please be my pleasure and comfort in these days of lent and always.

But I Still Need You

God, I’m sorry. Really sorry.

You know just what my words are going to be, but I’ll say them anyway. It’s embarrassing, yet I need to share it now. Just like the pastor said, “the first step to making God your first love is confession.” So, confession time has come and I am on my knees.

Sometimes, I think that I don’t need you. I don’t say it like that. No, I’m much too subtle. But they say that actions speak louder than words and my actions are definitely like that. I say it in the way that I read part of my alloted scriptures in the morning, arrive half-awake to church one morning, and fall asleep before I pray at night. It’s clear in how I worry and stress over little things and try to fix them on my own. I reject you in the way that I treat others and the idols that I make in my life. I’ve disowned you. I’ve let you fall from the center. And I am so, so sorry, God.

It’s funny how I can go through life, days and weeks at a time, and try to do it on my own and feel like everything is going so well. But there is always some trouble along the way. I always seem to prick my finger or scab my knee. No matter how hard I try or how much I seem to succeed by myself, at the end of the day, I still need You.

In the dark of night, it comes back to me, whether I try to make it or not. When I forget to pray and think of other things instead, I feel a need for someone or something. And there, lying in bed, almost asleep, dreaming away, I realize that it is You that I need. It is You that I desire. I call for you to rescue my heart once more and I fall asleep in your arms. Oh, how I still need You.

But I need you in the morning and throughout the day and in everything as well. I need you in the good times and the bad. I need you at Spanish class and youth group and in my Biology test. No matter who I meet or what I do, I’ll always need your arms to shelter me.

So once more, I’m back at square one. I’m trying faith and love again. Take my life, take my pride, and have my heart. I’m going to try and I’m going to fail, but at least I know that I still need you.