My Cross

Mark 8:34-37  (NLT)

34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul?

We all have crosses to bear.   Some more visible than others.  Some are hidden.   The visible ones allow our daily struggles to be out in the open where there is acknowledgement, accountability and support.   The secret ones can become a lonely self-directed part of our life. Whether our cross is in plain sight or carefully hidden, we have a choice to make daily (hourly, minute by minute) – are we taking up our cross and following Him?

As I contemplated these verses this week, I asked my husband, “What is my cross?  You know me better than most people, and if you had to use one word to describe my cross what would it be?”

FEAR

Maybe we hide the secrets so well, we can’t even see the effects from them anymore.  Fear?  It’s not that I am afraid in general.  I am quite the risk taker.  Yet, when anything gets near, around, or about the cross I bear, I become very timid.  My heart races and the world pauses and I hear all of the reasons “this is a bad idea!” in my head.

~is it just me?~

Fear holds us back.

Follow me.  It sounds simple until you read the part about taking up your cross and turning from your selfish ways.  I walk willingly and in the open after my Lord in the easy stuff, but to surrender my cross daily to Him – what does that even look like?   I asked Him.

Ask and you will receive.

On Wednesday, I was sitting at my desk and felt the Lord impress something on my heart.  It moved me to tears, because I have avoided and willingly deleted every reminder about this future event.  I AM afraid.  Those words came easy.  I am AFRAID.  “God, taking that step is big.  I am afraid.  I don’t want to go.  I am scared….. but, I’m willing.”  I asked two friends to pray by sending this text:

I’m feeling the Lord impress on my heart to go.  Trust me when I tell you I don’t want to go and it is not free by any means.  I don’t want to disobey.  I want to be obedient, but what if I am wrong?  Prayer and wisdom appreciated.  It makes my heart pound and my eyes well up to type this.  I am so afraid.

At prayer meeting that night, our pastor shared these verses:

2 Timothy 1:6-9 (ESV)

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.

I went up to him afterwards and said those three verses you shared tonight helped me tremendously with a prayer request I and others had prayed for me this afternoon.   He said the Lord had just laid those verses on his heart at 4:30pm.  I sent the text at 3:38pm.

More happened later that night to confirm that I should go.  When I finally signed up on Friday, I was still afraid but no longer in charge.  I surrendered my fear and pride, and trusted Him by pushing purchase.  By trusting and obeying Him, I no longer have to worry about what is ahead.  I just need to let him guide each step, and follow.

One step at a time. 

I need to take each step knowing He is with me and He understands.  My cross connects me to the very heart of Jesus.  How can I not share and praise Him for what He has done for me?  Yes, my cross caused suffering and there are still lingering lifelong effects, but My Savior is with me and He understands.  He endured all Sin and all Shame and felt abandoned and alone as he died on that cross.  He did that for me.  He did that for you.

We all have a cross, and we have to pick up that cross daily, and put aside our self for His kingdom work.  He is going to use it for His glory.  We just have to be willing.  Listen, trust and obey.  Step by baby step, I am experiencing the joy in obedience. I am choosing to follow Him without worrying about future seasons. He’s letting me bloom right where I am, and He’s not finished with me yet.

IMG_1372

Let Him use you and your cross for His Glory.  Follow Him.  Don’t worry about future seasons.  Just bloom right where you are today.

~Linking up with Faith Barista and the writing prompt is Your Cross~

Stay

God, teach me the lessons for living so I can stay the course.  (Psalm 119:33-40 MSG)

Lord, I am weary.  I ache.  This journey is too much.  I don’t think I can keep going.

God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”  (Exodus 33:14 MSG)

 What does the end of this journey look like?  I just wish I knew what will happen…can you just give me an idea?

Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.  (James 5:10-11 MSG)

I trust you Lord.  I’ve seen you show up for me in mighty ways.  I have felt your comfort, your shield and your love.  Please help me to be faithful.  Help me to hear you and to be obedient.  Help me to stay the course.

Just make sure you stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don’t forget anything of what you’ve seen. Don’t let your heart wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren.   (Deuteronomy 4:9 MSG)

Yes, Lord!  Help me to stay alert and to stay vigilant.  Help me to follow you and to have my heart beat to your rhythm, and my feet walk in your stride. Let my mouth shape your words, my ears hear your whispers and my eyes see your goodness.  Let my journey make a difference.  Let it matter.  Use it for your kingdom and for your glory.

~~~~~~~

Friend, are you weary?  Do you feel like giving up?  Is your journey too much?  Don’t give up!

Stay the course.

Stay alert.

Stay vigilant.

Stay with God.

IMG_8927

I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth.   Stay with God!  Take heart. Don’t quit.  I’ll say it again:  Stay with God.  Psalm 27:13-14 (MSG)

Stay with God.

~Linking up with Faith Barista and the writing prompt is Stay.~

Remember

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write an account of this victory, so that it will be remembered.  Tell Joshua that I will completely destroy the Amalekites.”  Moses built an altar and named it, “ The Lord Is my Banner.”  (Exodus 17:14-15 GNT) 

 Jehovah-Nissi ~ The Lord is My Banner 

IMG_8749

Remember.

I never wanted to remember.  I worked incredibly hard to forget, to pretend it was not real.  But, it was real and I did remember and one day I finally said it. Out Loud.

Seconds were clicking loud in the clock of my brain as the alarms went off that classified information had been spilled.  Sirens were anticipated.  Instead, I hear soft sentences …. I missed many of the words, and could not in that moment even understand much of what was being said, but I did hear this in slow motion as her lips formed each word like art, “you are not alone.”

I remember those four words changing everything for me, because all I could ever remember is being alone.  Being different.  Being afraid.

You are not alone.

I remember thinking that meant others are like me.  I thought maybe I would find a group of people who would share the same story, the same fears, and maybe they would understand me.

You are not alone.

I remember realizing I was never alone.  He was with me then, even then.

I am not alone.

On Tuesday, I read this passage: (click on link below to see the full text)

Defining “Neighbor”

29 Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”

30-32 Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

33-35 “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’ 36 “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”

37 “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.  Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

When I read that story this week, what struck me is the example Jesus gave to help define “neighbor”.   The story was about a man being attacked, violated, robbed and left naked and bruised.  The Priest avoided.  The other religious man avoided.  But not the Samaritan.  The despised and rejected Samaritan saw this man hurting and “his heart went out to him” because he understood.  He didn’t go to the wounded, naked man and say, “I’m going to pray for you” or “here is some money – I hope it will help”.   He did even more.

He showed Mercy.

He went straight to the wounds.  He helped with the cleansing of those wounds and he helped to bandage those wounds.  He lifted him when he was too weak and helped to carry him, and helped him to be comfortable.  He let him know He was not alone.  He made him feel safe.

It was not free and it was not easy.  The thought of cleaning out wounds and letting infection ooze out is not for the weak, but when you are wounded first aid is critical.  He used his time, his energy, his resources, and his money to help this wounded man.  

He was a neighbor.

I remember those who have been neighbors to me.  I remember the way Jesus equipped them to meet me along the road just when I needed another stitch or more gauze.  When the blood was seeping through and the stench was overbearing, they sat and listened.  They showed me mercy, and they made me feel safe.   I remember God using them to confirm everything he was pressing on my heart.  I remember thanking God that I am not alone…I have neighbors.

They are my neighbors.

Journey Pink is my written account of this victory.  It’s my altar in time to remember this journey (of a Princess In Need of a King).  It’s my own banner that says “I need you Jesus – You are my banner!”.   You are my refuge.

I want to remember, because when there are aches, soreness, and tears from the wounds I will know… that I know… that I know that I am LOVED.  I  am not alone.  He is with me and he cares for me.    I remember the songs, the verses, the neighbors, and all of the many ways God has shown me His mercy, love, grace and tenderness.  I remember him giving me the strong desire to be a neighbor, to say to someone else, “You are not alone.”

I remember the first time I said those four words:  You are not alone.

Neighbors helping neighbors… mercy finding mercy.

Remembering always, we are not alone.

You are not alone.