Before you call her dirty…remember that she’s Mine…

 

 

Every homeless woman was once a little girl. I imagine her as dirty and disgruntled as she is right now, but I doubt she was that way. What if she loved the color pink, and ballet, and twirled while holding onto her daddy’s finger? What if she was bruised and broken, wondering why her daddy hurt her? I may never know what her past looked like, but when I see a homeless woman, I must not forget that she was once a little girl.

As I speak to her I wonder what it must be like to feel so unwanted?

I ask her, “Can you stay with your sister?”

“No,” she replies.

“Well maybe you can stay with your cousin?”

“They don’t want me,” she replies.

“Well have you applied for housing?”

“I have, but I don’t meet the qualifications,” she replies.

No doubts the woman may have burned some bridges. But haven’t we all? And what does it matter?

Burned bridges are in the past, and I want them to give her another chance.

Maybe even more what I want is for her to give herself another chance.

Poverty has a way of putting blinder glasses on. All you cn see is the moment in front of you, because all that really matters is that you get your children that next meal and that you find a safe place to sleep that night. Dreams of going to school so that you could have a higher income, or considering looking for a different job just seem out of the question.

At times I look at her, and I am ashamed to admit that I think things like “dirty” or “broken” or “too far gone”.

I look at her addiction, or her behavior patterns, or her history and I see all of the black marks. I see everything that she has stacked up against her. I become jaded.

How on earth will I ever begin to help her?

I back away because I feel helpless. The prideful part of me would rather not even try than try and fail.

So I decide that the titles she has given herself – failure, shameful , and dirty -will be ones I accept for her as well.

Rather than pushing her to move forward so that she may make the needed changes or taking the time to teach her, I resign myself to the conclusions she has already made. That she is a failure.

Then Jesus looks me square in the eyes and says, “Don’t you call my princess dirty.”

“Don’t call her a failure. She has hit on some hard times, but haven’t you? Just because I saved you from poverty doesn’t mean you couldn’t be in her shoes in an instant!”

“Help her find restoration in ME – that is your job.”

And isn’t that all of our jobs? Be it at a homeless shelter, in our very own neighborhood,  or even with a family member or friend…

Whoever it is that God has placed in our lives, let us not be another person who merely accepts the negative label they have already placed upon themselves. Rather, let us be the person who comes along and dares to share God’s Word which illuminates the dark places.  The places she is afraid to go, so that she may heal…and move forward.  Let’s not call her dirty…let’s help her to see that broken at the foot of the cross is beautiful.

Five men can’t…but One can…

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10

Five husbands. Five margaritas. Five college degrees. Five whirls around the same mountain. Really it could have been five of anything.

The Samaritan woman in John 4 had five husbands, a current boyfriend, and yet she longed for something more. She approached the well, unsatisfied, bearing a thirst that seemed unquenchable .

She hoped the right man would come along and give her security. Maybe just one of them would make her feel loved, worthy, and beautiful when she felt ugly, shameful, and afraid.

Five of them. Five of them didn’t cut it. And who was this new man who beckoned her attention?

He “claimed” to have water that would never leave her thirsty again. She might have thought, “ya, what’s so special about you that five other men haven’t been able to offer?”

But this was no ordinary man – it was God meets manJesus.

Jesus tells her that if she would have asked – if she would have turned to God to find her value – He would have given her a drink.

If we would ask….

We can wander around looking this way, and that, for our satisfaction – but God just wants us to ask.

His cup never runs dry.

With Him we will never be thirsty again. We may not look flooded in the eyes of the world, but when we have Jesus our hearts become saturated with a grace that is unmatched by anything man, or even five men, can offer.

Let’s make an effort to ask…will you let Him be your everything?

And He shut their mouths…

Certain death. That is what he faced. Death was not only likely, it seemed inevitable.

Certain, that is, in human terms – but Daniel was safe. Daniel chapter 6 tells us that God literally shut the mouths of hungry lions. Talk about amazing grace…

Are you in the lion’s den? Difficult circumstances can seem as if they will devour us. But we can survive anything if we refuse to disrobe our faith in Jesus.

The laws of the land said Daniel had to stop worshiping God, or he would be put to death. Daniel knew better. God was his everything. He refused to drop his passion for God. Nothing could make him take off his God, not even threats of death.

Dear sister, no matter what, don’t dare take off your Jesus. Even when in turmoil, when it seems as if He has disappeared – do not take off your faith. Don’t let anything keep you from bowing to Jesus – not even hungry lion-like curcumstances.

The lion’s den is to be faced with truth. When you step in armed with faith, the Lord will save you – and even if He doesn’t – He is still to be praised.

Daniel didn’t know if he would live or die. It didn’t matter. He would not be shaken. His faith in God was made stronger by persecution. He wanted to honor God, and if that meant death by lions, it would be so. Either way, God would have the glory.

But Daniel lived.

He walked out of the den in tact and with God’s glory in his hands. Bestowed upon him were rich rewards from an earthly king – but even more from the King of kings.

Daniel teaches us to take risks for our faith in Christ. To trust Him even when death seems impossible to escape.

Nothing is impossible to God. And regardless of the outcome – He will be praised.

Scandalous decisions…

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” Daniel 1:8 NIV

Daniel repeatedly made scandalous decisions for the Lord. Decisions based upon Biblical principles. However, principles that in a foreign land could have – and did – land him in a great deal of trouble! But Daniel was not afraid. He trusted God and God was always faithful to rescue him.

Daniel 1:8 tells us that he chose not to “defile” himself. Have you ever had to make such a choice? A choice that went against all cultural norms? A choice that seemed, looked, and may have even felt awkward – but you knew it was the right thing to do?

Maybe you decided not go with friends to the bar after work. Maybe you had to set boundaries with that “friendly” co-worker.  You made a choice not to defile yourself.

Maybe, on the other hand, you gave in to temptation and now you wish you could go back in time and make it all go away.

I have been there. We all have been there. We make right choices and we make wrong choices. God is faithful to love us either way, but he protects us from the pits when we follow Him.

Defiling yourself is rarely something anyone sets out to do. It starts with just a small compromise – a small step that may even seem harmless. In your soul you know something is wrong. But…you choose to do it anyways. The thing about those small steps is that they usually lead to a few more small steps and before you know it you find yourself miles away from where you ever wanted to be. Stuck in a pit of sin and unable to see the way out. This is how Satan lures us in. It is not fair. Satan plays dirty. But in order to avoid ending up in this place we must be cognizant of the potential small steps that surround us every day.

If we make scandalous decisions for God we can often avoid the scandals of the world.

I wonder what choice you could make today based off of your “scandalous” love for Jesus? How can you choose Him, and His faithfulness, over the world?

What’s in a name?… (choosing joy regardless of position)

“Four young men from Judah—Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—were among those selected. The head of the palace staff gave them Babylonian names: Daniel was named Belteshazzar, Hananiah was named Shadrach, Mishael was named Meshach, Azariah was named Abednego.” Daniel 1:6-7 MSG

Daniel is a powerful name. It means “God is my judge”. However, early in his life, Daniel was taken in Babylonian captivity and his name was changed to Belteshazzar. Some commentaries state this name is likened to the meaning “keeper of the secrets” and also some relation to the Babylonian God “Bel”. Most scholars agree that Daniel’s name was changed so that he might grow to worship the gods of Babylon over the one true God, but Daniel never did. He faithfully served God up to the end – no matter what his name was.

Daniel did not choose to be a servant of king Nebuchadnezzar. He was taken from his home and taught Babylonian ways. I doubt it was ever in Daniels plans as a young boy to serve a king who worshiped gods other than his own. Some could see what happened to Daniel as tragic. Although he proved to be a great prophet empowered by God to interpret the kings dreams, he was not appointed positions because it was what he wanted. How difficult it could have been for Daniel to glean happiness from a life destined to serve a king who called him by another name? A king who did not worship the Lord? I wonder if Daniel ever felt disheartened? God was faithful to bless Daniel, but he for certain lived a life of service.

Sometimes we get frustrated when we are called to serve someone who does not outright worship the Lord. Maybe our workplace is not based on Christian values. Maybe our co-workers take the name of the Lord in vain. Maybe it is our husband who is a non-believer and yet God calls us to stay committed to our marriage anyways. Perhaps others do not see us as the princess that God has designed us to be. They see us as just another number. They do not call us by the names God has given us: beautiful, redeemed, saved, perfect in His sight.

It can be difficult to live in the ordinariness of life when we know we are destined for extraordinary things in heaven.

How do you find joy in life when you feel disheartened in you current position?

You do exactly as Daniel did. You make choices. Daniel chose not to defile himself by the pagan foods he was offered from the king. He set appropriate boundaries, but he did not refuse to serve in the capacity God had put him in. We must recognize that regardless of the position we are in, we are right where God wants us, and we choose to worship the Lord always.

We choose to lead by example, love those around us, find joy in His presence, and be a display of his splendor – so that others might see the love of the Lord.

It’s difficult to be a Christian surrounded by non beleivers, but Daniel did it-and witnessing his strength in the Lord-we can draw our own. He chose to worship God and because he did, the king and others witnessed His power. It was never Daniels job to give king Nebuchadnezzar faith. Only God can do that. It was simply his job to be obedient, and he did his job well.

King Nebuchadnezzar fluctuated back and forth from worshiping God to idols. But Daniel was faithful regardless. He chose to have joy in the positions God appointed him to, and for that he was and will continue to be richly blessed.

My heart shattered life…

“Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.” Psalm 51:16-17 MSG

I’ve lived in Amarillo, TX all my life. The majority of that time was spent on one side of town. I never noticed the homeless shelter on the north side. Not until I began working there. At first I was afraid. A man dug in the trash can and I strolled by with my fancy coffee. A woman yelled her schizophrenic babble at me from across the street. I hung my head in shame and pretended not to see or hear her.

Nearly two years have passed since I began working with the homeless. With time, fear has turned to empathy. They aren’t that different than me. Maybe they lost a job, or suffer from a disability, and are no longer able to work. Maybe they struggle with mental illness. Maybe they experienced homelessness from childhood and are fearful of functioning in any other environment. The reasons a person becomes homeless are as numerous as the individuals themselves. They all have their own reasons for being there, and often I find that in reality, I am only one step away from being in their shoes.

You would think the most painful part about being homeless would be hunger, or the chill of the concrete on a cold winter night. Perhaps it would be the tiredness of their legs as they push a grocery cart containing their entire life belongings. That’s what I would think, but I was wrong. Every homeless person I have met says the most painful part of being homeless is being ignored. People walk by them and turn their face. They act as if they don’t hear them.

We think they don’t care, but they notice and it hurts.

The homeless are often heart shattered lives that we choose to ignore.

I wonder if you have ever felt that way? That your heart shattered life goes unnoticed?

It seems that no one cares about what is going on with you. Even if they did care, they couldn’t do anything about it.

I don’t know that there is any more isolating illness than depression. The very situation of being depressed can render you paralyzed. Ashamed to reach out. Afraid to tell others what it going on. Depression often exists in complete and total isolation.

Psalm 51:17 tells us that heart shattered lives – ready for love – don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

But what if your heart is not ready for love? I’m going to take a risk here and say that a heart not ready for love, is not yet completely shattered. It is a heart hardened against the Lord and His grace. Hardened in a way that not man can soften. Only the Lord can soften a heart, but He will not do so forcefully.

Depression has a way of hardening our hearts. Because the hurt runs so deep, it is difficult to keep it open and vulnerable to be hurt more. And even though we know the Lord is not out to hurt and wound us, when we feel alone and afraid, it can seem as if He is hurting us simply by not choosing to release us from our internal turmoil.

It is difficult to let a heart shatter when you are uncertain if the pieces will ever be picked up. Not knowing if they will ever be brought back together again is terrifying. On more than one occasion I have had friends afraid to cry because once they let that first tear drop, they don’t think the tears will ever stop. If they soften their heart enough for the Lord to come in, will He do what He promises? Is there really a love that can come in and fill the voids and gaps left by days, years, or even months of brokenness?

When a heart shatters on the floor we can attempt to pick up the pieces. We can attempt to hide it from God. We can attempt to escape from His love. But we cannot escape God’s notice. The fear that God will leave our hearts shattered forever is simply not true. This kind of heart, a heart that seeks the Lord, and allows itself to be broken by Him cannot even fancy an escape from God. He will be there in our pain when we allow ourselves to shatter and choose to seek Him. This is a promise of His word. It is not conditional on our actions or our ability to perform. It simply is grace.

The masks that we wear in attempt to hide do not please Him. The most flawless performance of perfection does not impress Him.

Shattering – now that impresses Him. If you ever questioned if He loves you, all you really have to ask yourself is can you shatter? If you can shatter at His feet, then you are loved.

Don’t leave me alone!!!

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17

It was downright painful. Lying in the sunshine on my back porch. I was alone. On purpose. I tried so hard to overcome the panic feeling I had when sitting by myself. I wanted to check my phone, or talk to my friend, or go to work…anything that would keep my mind busy. But a busy mind was trapping me in bondage. As long as I refused to accept my feelings, I would be unable to experience peace. I had to learn to be still. To stop seeking 24 hour validation from others, and simply seek the Lord.

That very day I felt the Lord’s presence in my pain. Somehow the warmth of the sun on my face let me know I wasn’t alone. It gave me the courage to push past my panic attack and allow myself to feel the pangs of abandonment fear.

I wasn’t abandoned as a child. My parents weren’t mean to me. I had friends growing up. And yet I feared abandonment. And really don’t we all on some level?

We don’t want to be the outcast. The one who is left alone. It doesn’t take some significant childhood trauma to activate fear of abandonment. It can happen to anyone.

We are designed to live in community. Experiencing community is good! However, we are not designed to be dependent on community for our self worth. Our self worth can only be actualized in our identity as sons and daughters of the King.

And yet we seek validation everywhere else. We become afraid of the silence because we might actually experience intimacy with God. This can be a terrifying thought unless we realize who He is and why He sent His spirit.

His spirit is designed to be our comforter. He wants to be with us! To love us. If we constantly seek comfort from others we can rob ourselves of experiencing the one true source of comfort – The Holy Spirit.

I am no longer afraid to be alone. I don’t panic. I know the Spirit will show up because He always does. And He longs to do the same for you. Will you take the first step? Take a chance on solitude with the Lord.

Chapter 20 and a giveaway!!!!

This is my daughter’s room. Needless to say, I welcomed Chapter 20 of “I Used to Be So Organized- Organizing Children’s Rooms and Treasures”.

Lauren comes by it naturally. I remember my room looking much the same. It didn’t matter how many times my mom came in and cleaned it…the mess returned. It’s the same story with Lauren. I go in once every few weeks and clean up only to see it back in its messy state a few days later. And that’s when it happens – I become what Lysa Terkeurst would call “Unglued”.

Gum on the floor, papers littering the bed, toys on the ground jabbing into my feet, clothes shoved in a corner…I completely lose it. I ask her why she can’t keep it clean. I demand that she try harder. I lecture her about the proper care of her clothing. Then I walk back to my room, notice my closet, and realize what a hypocrite I am.

I am just as messy, my mess just manifests in different ways. She comes by it naturally. Part of me wants to “reform” her…but God prompts me to let her be exactly who she is.

She is creative, and with creative often comes a bit messy. I wouldn’t have her any other way. I can put the tips from Chapter 20 into practice, hoping that the next time I step into her room I will not be greeted with a Lego stabbing me in the foot. I want to teach her ways to manage her clutter so that she experiences less stress. But yelling at her, exploding, and becoming angry does not accomplish that.

Yes…clearly, I am in need of our next Online Bible Study – Unglued. And perhaps you are too? I have read a bit of “Unglued” by Lysa Terkeurst and it is phenomenal. I don’t just say that so you will buy the book – I say it because it is true.

As much as I have improved over the years when it comes to having a handle on my emotions – when it comes to how I treat those I love most – I still find my attitude at times to be unmanageable and unacceptable. What a gift we have had studying “I Used to Be So Organized”. I hope our hearts and minds are a bit more clutter free. But dear sister, let me encourage you to never stop growing. Please pray about joining the Unglued study that begins September 23rd. I say pray about it because I want you to take this commitment seriously. If you decide you would like to sign up you may do so at www.melissataylor.org .

This is going to be an amazing study, and one I hope you will join us for. I am giving away a copy of “Unglued” today. To enter to win all you need to do is leave a comment below. Just share whatever is on your heart today. I would love to hear from you! You have until August 9th at midnight to enter and I will announce the winner.

Finally, I want to leave you with Psalm 20: 1-5. It has been an absolute privilege to get to know you all throughout this study…

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
    and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart
    and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
    and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

 

Princesses in the dark…

 

Christian people don’t get depressed right? That is what I thought. So I stuffed my depression down, hoping no one would notice.It actually worked. People didn’t notice. But I did. I knew what I felt inside, and it wasn’t pleasant. I was a princess in the dark.

I have a feeling there are many princesses in the dark, afraid to let anyone know. Depression by it’s very nature can paralyze us. We think things will never get better, so why even try? If you are depressed, please seek help. Counseling (particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) combined with an anti-depressant medication is the most effective treatment. But what about the spiritual aspects of depression? We may never feel more separated from our Creator than when we are in the grips of depression.

1 Peter 2:9 tells us, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Depression tells you that you are alone – unwanted – an outcast. It is a disease that lies…

But dear sister, God’s word speaks truth. You are wanted. You are His. You BELOLNG to Him. Feelings of loneliness are just that – feelings. Feelings that hurt for sure – but they are not truth. You are part of a holy nation. You are one of many children. God chose to save you. The moment you enter into a relationship with Him, you are never alone again.

Depression wants to steal your joy – to leave you feeling isolated. You do not live in solitary confinement. Chains can and will be broken. Please choose to reach up and reach out.

His light is the only light that can shatter the dark. In fact, He CALLS you out of darkness into the light. It is your CALLING to move towards the light. A princess is not meant to sit in the dark.

Do you hear Him? Even if the negative thoughts are shrieking – His Word can speak louder. We must choose to place our focus on His truth. He calls us towards His light. Nothing is greater than Him – not even depression.

His purpose for you is to declare His praises, His excelencies. It doesn’t matter what you do, or what you have done. Life is about who you are. You are His – a chosen princess. Choose to be a princess stepping towards the light.

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