she was desperate for healing

In the book of Matthew we get a whopping two lines about a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years  and she basically sneaks up behind Jesus to touch His cloak, saying to herself that she knew she would be healed if she could just touch that darn cloak!

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Matthew 9:20-21
If you do your homework, you will find that this was a HUGE no-no in this day and time.  Leviticus Chapter 15 tells us that she was considered to be ceremonially unclean because she had been bleeding.  This would be like our kids smelling up the bathroom and then coming to the dinner table without washing their hands – but times 100!  It was shocking!  It was outrageous!  It was despicable!

 

Not only that, but in Mark 5:26 we find out that she had literally sold all she had to go to physicians to be healed and yet she was still bleeding.  And not only did she not get better, she actually grew worse. She was DESPERATE, y’all.  Desperate. For. Healing.

 

I’ve been there.  I’ve been to see this doctor and that doctor and rearranged some savings to try this therapy or that therapy.  I wasn’t a societal outcast like this woman though.  I wonder what would be our modern-day equivalent — maybe someone with AIDs or herpes?  A cancer patient who tries chemo but only gets worse and starts to lose control of their bodily functions?

 

If we keep reading in Mark 5:26, we see that she even came up behind Him, like she was scared of Him or ashamed for Him to see her.

 

Then she does it.
She touches his garment.
Now it’s time to flee!

 

But instead, at that very instant He knows and she knows that something has changed. Some kind of exchange has happened.

 

Can you imagine?  Think of your absolute worst day.  You don’t want anyone to see you, but you’re desperate for healing.  You hear that Jesus is coming and you think to yourself “this is my chance, if only I can TOUCH HIS CLOTHES I know that He can heal me!”  So you sneak up behind him, crouching down because you don’t want anyone to see you.  You reach out and you do it.  You actually touch his garment!  And then you know — you can feel it.  YOU ARE HEALED!  But then… the unspeakable happens.  He knows too.  He knows that you touched Him AND He knows that He healed you.  Your cover is blown.

 

Luke 8:45: “WHO TOUCHED ME?,” Jesus asked.
Awwwww man!  Seriously?!?!  This isn’t a drive-thru healing?

 

After each of the disciples all say “not it”, and Peter tries to tell Jesus he is nuts because they are in a CROWD and of course people are touching Him…. she does it.  She finds the courage to tell Him it was her, and she literally does it in front of God and country.

 

Is your heart beating fast?  Mine is.

 

Jesus then assures her that it wasn’t even her touch that healed her.  There was no magic there.  Her faith is what healed her.

 

And so Jesus says in Luke 8:48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
This woman went from unclean and outcast to trembling before Christ to declare her actions in-front of a CROWD of strangers. And then she was healed.  And not only that, but He told her to “go in peace.”

 

What He did for her right then and there, He did for ALL of us when He was on that cross.  While we might not experience drastic and immediate healing physically like she did, we most certainly can experience spiritual healing.  I do.  Every time I call on His name.  And on some days, that is my entire prayer.  “Jesus.”

alittleTOOMUCH

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often times I feel like I have too much going on in my life — too many hurts, too many stressors, too many things on my list that need to get done, too many errands to run, too many people to call, too many emails to respond to — it all feels like too much.  

And then your typical Christian would tell you to pick up your bible and read God’s Word, or go to church, or a typical Catholic would tell you to pray through the rosary.  And for crying out loud, don’t let anyone see that you’re struggling because — you’re a Christian and you’re supposed to have it all together!  Slap a Christian fish on the back of your car and make us look good!

Really?
Because if that’s the case, then maybe this “Christian” gig isn’t for me.
I NEVER have it all together!

We hear people say things like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” – but I disagree with that.  I think LIFE will give us a ton more than we can handle, and God is just waiting waiting waiting for us to run to Him and say “Take this!!!! ALL of this!  Calm me down, God because I’m about to completely FREAK OUT over here!”  I don’t believe that God is sitting in the heavens like someone who is getting cream poured into his coffee just waiting to say “woah” when it’s just the right amount.

I think it’s our responsibility to notice when it’s too much for us – and then do something about it.  You know what your too much feels like. Maybe you’re feeling it right now and you’re “escaping” from your too much by scrolling through Twitter or Facebook.  You’re going to the wrong place – I know because I do it too.  (but feel free to finish reading before you close your browser tab!)

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

The Bible overwhelms me – I don’t know where to start on my own.  So instead I go to some of my favorite Christian blogs or read my favorite devotional, or even read another chapter in a book that is helping me grow through some of my personal issues.  (see a list of my favorite resources at the bottom of this post)  When one of those resources touches on a passage in scripture that hits me right between the eyes, THEN I go to my bible and I dig deeper.  I read the footnotes.  I read the correlating passages that are written in the margins.  And then I close my eyes and pray.  

My prayers aren’t going to sound like your prayers.
My faith isn’t going to move and breathe like your faith.

My learning isn’t going to mirror your learning.

In the passage from Matthew listed above, Jesus talks about His yoke being easy.  I learned from Jen Hatmaker at the #reckless2013 conference that “yoke” is a term that means “specific ways or methods.”  The religious leaders were all bent out of shape about praying this way or that way, don’t hang out with the sinful people, do this, don’t do that. When disciples of rabbi’s literally followed and mirrored the rabbi, the specific things that rabbi did were called his yoke.  Hello!!!!  TOO MUCH!  It’s like trying to learn a complicated line dance for someone with no rhythm… it’s just too much.

Jesus says, “my yoke is easy” — oh thank God… literally.
“…and my burden is light” — good because I have enough burdens already!

The bottom line is that it’s your responsibility to go to God.  He is there waiting for you.  The way you go to God doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s way, or sound like everyone else’s sounds.  And following Jesus isn’t complicated. No training is required, you can just jump right in.  Following Jesus isn’t too much, it’s the RELIEF from the too much that you have everywhere else in your life.

And for the record, a Christian fish on the back of the car tells me that person knows he is a sinner and that he isn’t perfect. He knows he has to RUN to Jesus because that’s where the burden is light and I’m totally down with that way of thinking.  

Give me all your burdens… um, GO FISH!
Go Fish or Go Home!
I once saw an ichthys bumper sticker THIS BIG!

… I know …. too much.

Ann’s favorite resources:

  1. Devotionals:
    1. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
    2. UpWords by Max Lucado
    3. Verse of the Day at biblegateway.com
  2. Blogs:
    1. P31 Ministries
    2. Jen Hatmaker
    3. God Dots by Anne Watson
    4. Chronic Illness & Pain
  3. Books:
    1. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
    2. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
    3. Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado
    4. The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg
    5. The Book of God by Walter Wangerin

chunkin’ my flashlight like I chunked punkins’

In the past 7 years, the hardest Christian concept for me to grasp has been understanding how to give God the glory and remain humble.

I’m a do-er by nature.  I don’t sit still very well.  I’m also very transparent; I don’t have much to hide.  And the things I “hide” from people are just things that would gross them out or things I know not everyone can appreciate.

I thought being humble meant I could never talk about the cool things happening all around me and in me! I learned a hard lesson in separating the definitions of bragging and letting God have the glory… uh multiple times actually.  I think it’s perfectly biblical to help others.  And I also think it’s completely against biblical teaching to let your good deeds shine for all to see.  I think that’s bragging.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  – Matthew 5:16

“Um Ann, you just contradicted yourself.”
“Actually, no.  I didn’t.”
(pretend conversation between you and me, in case you were wondering)

Jesus says to let our LIGHT shine so that they may see our good deeds – the good deeds that are meant to glorify God, not ourselves.  I have come to understand that when Jesus is IN me, I am the light of the world.  When I am not representing Jesus and glorifying God (AKA bragging), I am like one of those cheap little flashlights that you have to smack on the side to fire up the puny little light bulb.   I admit it, sometimes I need a good smack on the side of the head.

I tried on humility like you try on 15 pairs of jeans before you find the ones that fit right.  Each time I failed and I could feel myself wanting to brag.  The desire to brag never went away.  But this weekend was different.

Our church hosts an incredibly cool fall picnic each year called Punkin’ Chunkin’, and I had the pleasure of co-leading it for the second year in a row.   The event was to be held on Sunday afternoon.  Now, if you’ve ever planned a party you know that the planning and purchasing starts months in advance.  Hosting a church picnic is no different.  The set-up we did on Sunday was like putting the last few pieces into a puzzle… it was almost complete.

And then it started to mist.  And rained.  And misted.  And it was super cloudy outside.

I couldn’t stop praying, in fact I think I might have been begging in there at some point.  “God, this picnic is for your people to celebrate all you have done, PLEASE take the rain away!  I don’t need sun or anything drastic, just no more moisture!  Please bless our efforts to spend this kingdom money wisely, bless our time spent planning so that your children can embrace joy and community for three hours today! Let people see a great example of a healthy and non-judgmental Christian community here on the land you have given to us!

One of the families that was helping us set up in the rain had a precious 7 year old girl and her prayer was this, “God, please stop the rain.”  I saw her resting her elbows on a pumpkin, praying for God to stop that rain.  And you know what?  He did.  Not a drop fell on us at our event.

So in the end, when people were congratulating us on a job well done guess what happened?  I knew it wasn’t all me, or all my co-leader, or all the volunteers… I completely felt 100% secure giving God the credit.  Through Him we had multitudes of people wanting to serve.  Through Him we had joy and safety and blessings.  It was for Him, and through Him, that the picnic was a successful event.

And yes, I let my light shine for all to see.
No, I did not let my good deed shine for all to see.

And in reference to the C.S. Lewis quote above, I was able to accept the compliments and the thanks from people for a job well done because it was indeed a lot of hard work and planning.  However, I was very quick to make sure that my thanks led to God getting the spotlight.

And guess what?
It wasn’t hard.
Because my heart is finally in the right place.
And my cheap flashlight is in the trash where it belongs.

 

knocking helmets with your spouse

Kids have no trouble understanding the idea of being on the same team in sports.  In fact, adults can grasp that idea pretty solidly as well.  So why is it that when we get married and have kids that BOOM, husband and wife are no longer on the same team?

5 But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. 6 But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. 7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”  Mark 10:5-9

I have to hand it to my mom, she didn’t hover when our son was little and we were trying to figure out bedtime routines, healthy boundaries and so on.  She really didn’t.  My dad is the advice giving member of the family – even when it’s unsolicited. My husband’s parents were much the same.  His dad was the unsolicited advice giver — usually loud and in public… awesome — and his mom only gave advice when we asked her for it.  Even still, up until about 5 years ago my husband and I tried to stick with the way things worked when we were kids. 

Here’s the problem with that — he grew up in a teeny tiny town, lived out in the country, didn’t go to church, always had hunting rifles around him, and he was an only child.  I grew up in the city, going to private schools, and attending Catholic church with my parents, and had two older sisters.  Dare I say we were parenting in opposite directions?  Sure, we had the appearance of being on the same team, but really we were sabotaging each other’s efforts.

My sister and her husband have a very simple saying when things get heated at their house regarding parenting … they take a deep breath and say:

“same team”

Here are 4 simple steps to ensure you and your spouse both understand you’re on the same team, and act like you’re on the same team!

  1. Create a simple statement like “same team” that you can say to each other when things get heated.  This statement is intended to take the emotion out of your decision making as parents.  You both want to do what’s best for your kiddo.  Period.  This is like a huge TIME OUT being called on the field.
  2. Watch your tone. If you say “same team” like a teenager who swears she knows it all, I don’t think your spouse is going to take that as a time out as much as he will a body check.  Put your helmet on if you plan to talk ugly to your spouse because it’s about to get sporty up in your house! Or even better, remember that having an attitude in confrontation tells your spouse you don’t want to resolve anything, but you want to fight and show you’re right.  And that makes this all about you, and not about your kid.  (FLAG ON THE PLAY!)
  3. Be prepared to walk away.  If an agreement can’t be made on how to discipline your child, take a break.  Each of you make a list of three ALTERNATIVE disciplinary actions that have yet to be discussed.  Then when the time is right, come back together and talk like grown ups about a solution.
  4. Stop sabotaging your spouse’s efforts. Don’t go undo everything your spouse has just done.  After he grounds your daughter, don’t go to her room and say, “I really don’t agree with daddy, and I say you are NOT grounded.”  BAD IDEA.  Now your spouse knows you don’t have his back, and your daughter sees an avenue to get between you to get what she wants, anytime she wants it.  Kids NEED a unified front.  And you do too or this parenting gig is going to swallow you whole.

So whose team are you on?
Your own?
Or your spouse’s?

Leave your old ways, leave your childhood behind (cuz it’s sooo yesterday).
Become ONE with your spouse.

making the call to “that” friend

Why do we do that thing where we make an issue bigger than it really is?  Often times it isn’t even an issue but we don’t take the time to clarify someone else’s words and we go from harmless words floating in the air to panicking because there is an air raid and you’re being singled out.  You’re the only one taking shells!  RUN! HIDE!  GET IN YOUR FOX HOLE!

Or…
What if you just called your friend and asked for clarification.

GASP!

No Ann, you can’t possibly mean to face the issue head on could you?
Why yes, that’s exactly what I mean.  Hold on, let me finish rinsing the sand out of my teeth so I can share with you what I learned yesterday.

I’ve made this mistake too many times to count.  I had a conversation with a friend and walked away a little injured, then my mind went ahead and dropped the atomic bomb and made me think that friend didn’t care about me at all.  If I had a dollar for every friendship I have single-handedly ruined this way, I would quickly give it all away so no one would see how awful I have been.

Earlier this year I decided to change this way of catostrophasizing, but yesterday was my first real attempt at picking myself up from my face-plant in sand and setting my feet on the instructions that Jesus gave us.

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.  Matthew 5:21

Since I gave up sacrificing animals for Lent (a bad, and probably inappropriate Catholic joke), I tend to think this looks more like when I am praying for peace, asking for God’s forgiveness, and asking for help to be obedient in His will — except that I am trying to step over the dead friendship I have created to get to God’s blessing.

You pretty much have to address the friends with whom you must reconcile. FIRST.

So I did.

I called “that” friend.  The one who said something to me early in the day and it messed with me all day long.  I said, “hey you know when you said this and that?  It hurt me and made me feel yucky.”

She was SO grateful that I called because as it turns out, she had only shared a teeny tiny snippet of the full story.  As I listened, I used my hazmat suit and gloves to clean up the chemical warfare carnage that I had created in my mind.

At the end of the call I felt SO much better.
And I also had more work do to… yup, more sand.

As it turns out, when you allow that atomic bomb to be built and to detonate in your mind, you create a World War II recreation in your own family by throwing up all over the people you love the most… and the cat would like for me to share this with you:

identity hidden to protect the innocent
identity hidden to protect the innocent

I had to go home and apologize to my husband for letting my chemical mess burn him, and I had to ask for his forgiveness.  He happens to be a pretty amazing guy who understood, forgave, and got the yard blower out to help clean up my sandy mess.

cape-less and content

What is “sand in my teeth” you ask?

It means that I have only set one foot on the rock of Jesus’ teachings found in the New Testament pages of the bible.  When I am put to the test I sink in the sand because both feet are not planted on the Rock.  The end result? I face-plant in the sand and it gets in my teeth.  A most unpleasant sensation surely to cause staring from others and self-evaluation in a mirror.

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”  Matthew 7:24-27

The rock:

“…let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
Matthew 5:16

The sand:
Letting my good deeds shine for all to see, so that everyone will praise me while I stand on a hilltop with my cape heroically flapping behind me.

downloadable photo from www.hdwpapers.com/
downloadable photo from http://www.hdwpapers.com/

I got massive sand in my teeth and it took years to pick out every last grain.  I had good intentions, I really did.  But my pride was more interested in winning the race and taking the gold medal.  My humility was lagging somewhere behind, it didn’t even medal. Imagine that.

Tragedy was striking left and right around me and I am a fixer, it’s what I do.  I truly believe it’s how God made me to be.  I am an encourager and a connector.  I encourage people in their times of trouble and I am able to connect people to make things happen.  But I couldn’t see that these were gifts given to me in order to bring people closer to God.  Maybe I couldn’t see that because my head was down while I ironed my cape.

I took the credit for the things I did or said or prayed.
I didn’t give God the glory.

I let all my good deeds shine on Facebook and in conversations with others.
So that I could backstroke through the bliss of the compliments.

I snapped out of it only after someone pointed out that I was reveling in the back-patting a little too much.  Then of course because God’s threads of instruction are weaved throughout our lives, I heard Matthew 7:24-27 at church.  And then I felt it…  The gritty, dry, choking sand was all up in my face.  It was in my eyes, up my nose, and worst of all…. it was in my teeth.  I realized once again that I only took HALF of the scripture to heart – oh yes people, I let my good deeds shine for all to see but I skipped out on the second half of the scripture.  And dang it if I didn’t LOVE wearing that SuperMe cape!

My prayer:
God, I totally screwed up.  I took the glory that was meant to be yours.  I used the gifts you have given me for my own personal gain.  Please forgive me and help me take the steps to change my selfish behavior!  Humble me, Lord.

The result:
It took me several years but now when I use my gifts to help someone I have zero desire to pat myself on the back. I am using God’s tools, they are His.  He gets the glory.  He gets the praise.  When someone praises me I say, “I’m just the messenger for God’s love; give Him the glory!  I’m not the hero, He is.”

And as it turns out, neither of us need capes.

Have you struggled with patting yourself on the back? Are you wearing your cape right now?