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.”

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.

chronic pain is a broken record

Chronic pain feels like a broken record.  You know what’s coming.  But after the umpteenth time you’ve had to take a deep breath in hopes of relieving a muscle spasm … you’re so over it.

I ask God to relieve the pain in my wrists so I can walk through the grocery store with my hands on the cart instead of steering with my forearms.  I ask God to relieve the muscle spasms in my toes that make me walk funny.  I ask God to help me sit up straight and smile, even while the tears are stinging my eyes.  It hurts to sit up straight… but by the grace of God it doesn’t hurt to smile.

You might say, “Great verse, but it doesn’t answer my questions about why God isn’t answering my prayers!”

Are you sure?  I think it just might be answering one of my questions.  WHY ME?  Why am I going through this?  Why is this happening to me?  Why won’t you take my pain away like Jesus healed person after person after person?  I can’t work like I used to, serve like I used to, or DO like I used to!

I believe in this scripture, God is telling me He might not be taking away my pain for a reason.  He is growing my character.  He is growing me as His child, not as a mom or a wife or a friend or even as a ministry leader … He is focused on growing Ann.

It’s my job right now to shush-it, and listen.
It’s my job right now to read scripture.
To learn.  To pray.  To seek.
Because it’s already starting to happen.

He is already starting to use me.  He comforts me in ways I don’t even notice and I use those very things to comfort others.

I am sharing with those who are hurting.  He just might be expecting the same from you.  Maybe He is asking you to be brave, to be strong and courageous, to be faithful no matter what.  Maybe He is asking you to set aside the ways you used to do things and reinvent the wheel – maybe just maybe you were on a path that suited your needs but not His needs.

That’s what I believe for myself.
He is training me up in the way that HE wants me to go.

You better believe I’m not going to stop praying for God to take my pain, if it is His will.  One of my friends prayed for my salvation for SEVEN years, ya’ll.  SEVEN!  She was relentless.  And that’s how I want to be.  Not in a nagging sort of way, but in a way where I know that He is faithful and He loves me – and even if He doesn’t take my pain away, He always gives me SOMETHING.

A kiss on the forehead from my husband.
A text from that makes me laugh.
Encouragement that a choice I made or insight I shared actually made a difference.

After you pray, stop expecting instant answers – like instant oatmeal, it never quite turns out like you thought it would. God can see your entire future and for whatever reason, maybe it isn’t in your best interest to have a microwaved answer.

I was a brat last night

 I got more sand in my teeth last night.

22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.  Matthew 5:22

Ok, I didn’t call my son an “idiot” and I didn’t curse him but good golly miss molly did I have attitude with him.

Photo from: http://www.gamepressure.com/
Photo from: http://www.gamepressure.com/

We were playing a cool Lego Wii game based on the Indiana Jones movies.

Have you ever heard kids play video games together, specifically the ones where they have to WORK TOGETHER?!?!  It sounds like this…

Me: “Woah – nice shot!”
My boy: “Where do we go now? Let’s look over here. What’s this green ball?”
Me: “Wait!  When you go that way it pulls me off the screen!”
My boy: “I know, so just come this way so we can see what this is over here.” (said in a “duh” tone of voice)
Bratty me: “NO – I don’t WANT to go over there.  There’s nothing over there! UGH, forget it – I’m not playing this anymore with you!”

(for the record, you have to push that green ball off the top of that dome to get to the next level — apparently every 10 year old boy knows this and moms do not… just go with the flow, ladies and let the boys lead you)

I don’t know what it is about playing these games with my son that makes me revert into a bratty 9 year old girl, but sadly it happens.  I am more patient than I used to be, but y’all, I have a controlling nature that is brutally mean to my child when he makes judgement calls with which I disagree.

Was I angry? Yes.
Annoyed? Yes.
Did I walk away? Yes.
Did I walk away before opening my mouth? Uh … do I have to answer that?

I think I called my son “annoying” or something similar; because I’m a grown up and I know how to handle my anger properly.  I know, I have issues.

So again last night I went to bed picking sand out of my teeth and I still have some grit in there today.  I didn’t keep my feet squarely planted on the rock of Christ that is found in His instruction, and down I went … face first into the sand.   Another shot at playing the game his way will ensue today – but not before I pray and then apologize to him.

Maybe you have anger issues with your kids, especially when they are in that obnoxious wonderful stage of learning how to assert themselves because they have good ideas that are worth listening to.  Maybe you need some prayer too before you open your mouth and fill it with sand.  Let’s pray this together:

Lord, thank you for not punishing me the way I SHOULD be punished for speaking to my child in ugly ways, using ugly words.  I don’t know why I think those words won’t hurt him, but it’s obvious that they do.  I strongly dislike the way it feels to know I have caused him hurt.  Create a strong desire in me to let him lead on things that will not matter in 2 years — or in 2 minutes for that matter.  I want to create confidence in him and I want him to know I have his back, even if I am disappointed by his actions. Remind me that my words stemming from anger don’t just hurt him, but they also cause tension in my relationship with You.  Forgive me, Lord, and give me another opportunity to shower my child with grace.  AMEN.

I think I’m going to need some dental floss for this mouthful of sand.  Hopefully apologizing to my child wholeheartedly will be the rinse-aid I’m needing.

Do you struggle with keeping ugly words in your mouth when your kids are pushing your buttons?

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?

move.

Have you ever sat with your bible on your lap, but you feel completely overwhelmed by the hundred of pages and you don’t know where to start?
I have.

Have you ever wondered if God even hears you, or if He is too busy to listen to you cries?
I have.

Here’s the thing about being stuck in your pain or suffering – the very last things you want to do is move, pray, read scripture, call a friend, get out and let fresh air hit you in the face – but often times, one of those things is exactly what you need.

photo courtesy of http://www.b2beck.com/
photo courtesy of http://www.b2beck.com/

I am suffering and in pain.
    Rescue me, O God, by your saving power.
Psalm 69:29

When we are riddled with pain, we hole-up somewhere in our homes waiting for the rescue ship to come.  We just wait.  But really what we need to do is move to the edge of the water (ships don’t typically have ports at your nightstand table).  Move.

We let the hundred of pages of the bible overwhelm us so we close the book and set it aside.  But God’s Word and His promised won’t seep into us through osmosis.  You need to find a starting point — try the Psalms, or start in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in the New Testament.  Read it out loud, and don’t read in bed.  Move.

One of the problems we have with our views of God is that we view Him as a human being – with two ears.  God is bigger and badder than your favorite hero from The Avengers, and He doesn’t look or function anything like we do.  He is all-present and all-knowing, and all-hearing.  But He won’t ever hear your prayers if you never utter them.  Move.

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3 tells us there is a time for everything — perhaps it’s time for you to take a step, go meet your ship.  Speak your mind to God, it doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty.  Flood your mind with God’s promises found in His Word, and watch your worries and self-defeating thoughts wash away.

He’s ready to embrace you.
Move.