“I’m Done!”

 

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A friend said to me, “I’m done Shannan.  The stress of politics has made me miss out on the little important things in life.  People have already made up their minds on voting.  All we can do is pray for God’s will on our country.”

I agree, we should not allow stress to cause us to miss the joys we have before us.  I truly understand the feelings of wanting to be “done,” but it’s a luxury no follower of Christ has.

God never allows us to disengage in the spiritual battles around us. He calls us to rise up in courage each day, place His full armor on, and stand against the schemes of the devil, (Eph. 6).

Is it possible that we struggle with staying in the battle because we don’t know what God has said to us, thus don’t know Him well enough to trust His heart?  This is often the case for me.  I think about Jesus in the wilderness.  Satan tempted Him with every earthly power, every glamorous thing, and with food!  It all sounds like a familiar scheme that’s being used today.  How did Jesus win this battle?  He won it with His Father’s word hidden in His heart and mind, and tied to every part of His being (Deut. 6:6-9).  Jesus could speak the real truth when the counterfeit was presented.

I can almost hear all of the frustrated “Buts” ringing throughout the cyber world now.  “But Jesus was God, I’m not!”  I get it.  I’ve uttered these words to God many times over this past year.  That statement is true, but Jesus was also encapsulated in this human body like we are and felt every fear, every sorrow, every hunger pain, and dare I say, every frustration toward us who doubt Him?  His spirit, who He is, was bound in this world by a fleshly body, bound on this side of the veil, but He assured us that we will do the same works He did, only greater than He (John 14:12).  So why are we quick to disengage?  Why do we fear?

These times of turbulence have caused many of us to face our own crisis of belief.  To many of us, it appears evil deception is winning and the church is being crushed by it.  We are living in a time of spiritual famine in our land, and the famine is the church’s fault.  We’ve either chosen to disengage in nurturing our intimate relationship with God, we’ve set our goals to obtain the things of this world more than knowing God, or we have allowed our hearts and minds to be swayed by the counterfeit.  We’ve fallen for the lie, a half truth that sounds so much like truth and feels so good to believe.  We’re failing to realize that a half truth is still a complete lie.  All of this leaves us unable to truly nurture others and leaves us with famine.

Famine – “The phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.” – Wikipedia

Times of famine are scary but it is not the time to disengage.  If we do, the mortality rate will be colossal and we won’t be untouched by the devastation.  Now is the time we must run with all diligence back to our first love.  We must turn our hearts toward Jesus and ask Him to fill us with His truth, His strength, and His ability to walk out this life in victory.  Then, we need to ask for His courage to speak out when the truth has been twisted, to care more about right than we are about being liked, and to love others more than the wealth of this world.  We cannot and must not be “done” engaging in battle.  That will be the moment many are lost.  We should not fear the battle, but fear what will happen if we refuse to take our place in it.

There are no half-truths in God, therefore a half truth will always be a complete lie.

Though it seems the battle has taken on the mask of politics, for the Christ-follower the battle is spiritual.  This is not about Republican v Democrat.  There is a battle between good and evil that has been in play since the first fall.  This is a war against everything pure and right, against Truth Himself.  What we cannot forget, is Christ already won this war, but there are precious souls who are deceived throughout the world and need God’s loving truth.  They need us not to coddle them and make them feel happy, but they need us to truly love them by sharing the hope we have in the shed blood and redeeming resurrection of Jesus – Messiah – Lamb of God – Lord of Heaven’s Armies!  This begins with us staying in the fight by filling ourselves with God’s word, and binding it to every part of our being as Christ did while He walked this earth.  We don’t do this and then hide behind closed doors, or dare I say behind the words of grace and love?  We fill ourselves with truth, so we are able to gracefully and lovingly share Him!  How else will they know?

If we focus on all that is wrong we will get overwhelmed.  It is too big for us to handle on our own, but that does not mean we get to close our eyes and pretend we’re not facing desperate times.  Only God can turn this sinking ship around.  Only He can rescue and save, but He chooses to use us as His ship on these stormy waters.  Set your compass as God being your destination.  Set your gaze on Him.  Fill yourself with His truth and trust His every word, not your ever-changing emotions.  They’re all too often the wind behind the storms.  I know the storm is raging, and if feels that our vessel is about to rip in pieces, but God said not to fear, to put on His armor, and to stand and look up!  Despite the outcome of the present battle, remember that our hope is not in this earthly vessel but in the One who is in this vessel with us.

To love, is to pursue God and share His truth.  His truth is “alive and powerful.  It is sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.  It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God.  Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable” (Heb. 4:12-13).

“All we can do is pray”

Love is never “done.”  Sometimes love cuts deep, but losing the battle cannot be an option.  The first thing Jesus did was to pray, so do not for a moment think prayer is “all we can do.”  Prayer is the first step to victory in every battle.  Prayer sets our compass on victory because it adjust our sight to Truth.  Prayer gets our eyes off of the storm and on the only One who can speak peace to it.  Our vessel, be it personal or framed in politics, does not have to sink.

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sins and heal their land.” – 2 Chr. 7:14

Have “people already made up their minds?”  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Only God knows what is happening in the heart and mind of man.  Be it an individual or the nation, the ship does not have to sink, but it always begins with an individual choosing to not be “done.”

“What is missing in human life is not the compass itself, but the willingness of drawing near to read it.” – Fr. Stephen Freeman

I guess the questions to ask are, do we really want to know the truth?  Do we really want to know God?  Do we really want others to know that we know Him?  Are we really in a time of famine, or is there a storehouse full that’s not being poured out?

~Shannan

Love is never “done.” 

“What Is Perfect?” He Asked.

 

Disclaimer: If you’re someone who’s had a promise broken, or are one who has broken your covenant promise, know that God is the great redeemer.  He is still the God who makes streams in the desert and rescues our lives from the pit, even pits we’ve dug ourselves.  You are not without hope.  You are so deeply loved, and can begin new today.  I’m believing for that fresh new stream in my valley, and I believe for you too!

%22What Is Perfect?%22 He Asked.

I was recently talking with a new friend.  We were sharing different life experiences, both funny and serious.  As I was sharing the life I had with Warren, this new friend posed a question that made me pause.  He asked, “You mentioned several times that you two were not perfect, but what is perfect?”

“What is perfect?”  That’s a great question!

Warren loved me and I loved Warren, but like many other young married couples, we had several years of struggling with that whole “and the two shall become one” concept.  That sounded so sweet when we were dating, so wonderfully intoxicating, and we were spellbound by “And They Lived Happily Ever After!”  He hugged me and I knew…  I kissed him back and from that moment on he was set on marrying me….  I know, he’s not here to validate that, but you get my point.  The Hollywood fairytale began, and it was a whirlwind from a shy “Hello” to “I DO!”  We were in pursuit of each other.

We got married on July 27th, 1996.  I think it was August 6th when the rose-color fell off the lens of those Hollywood glasses.  We had decided to drive home a day early from our honeymoon.  What we failed to do is book a hotel ahead of time for the early trip home.   We left our posh log cabin that was nestled in the beautiful hills of Pigeon Forge, TN, with the idea that “Ever After” was on our side.  We pulled off more exit ramps than I can remember.  Every sign was lit up, “No Vacancy.”  Most everything was booked out because of some big event, and that event filled multiple cities.  Warren walked in to check on one place that had a few rooms left, but he didn’t like the price.  We drove away from that clean place, that lovely accommodation with a kind staff, only to end up in some rundown pay-by-the-hour roach motel.  We dared not turn the lights off because the multi-legged creepy-crawlies love to scavenge in the dark.  It was gross!  I began to realize how different Warren and I were when he wanted to be “playful.”  My words to him, “Are you kidding me?!  Here?  Hmmm, No!”  Yep, men are from Mars all right, and no doubt he was wondering what part of Venus I came from.

So began the journey of our life together.  The first several years of our 9 1/2 year trek were filled with wonderful adventures along with lots of intense moments of fellowship.  That’s what we liked to call our heated disagreements, but only after we learned to laugh at some of our silly and selfish moments.  Like so many other couples, Warren and I had lost our pursuit for each other and began to focus more on what the other person wasn’t doing.  When you add the pressures of living with family, the unspoken insecurities with unspoken expectations, and the pressures of being ministers, you have a great recipe for a storm.  It took awhile to see it, but we also had the perfect recipe for something absolutely wonderful!

Thankfully, we had discussed many expectations for our “till death do us part” union.  Before we chose to walk down the aisle of that church and stand before God to join ourselves together in a covenant relationship, we established that our relationship with God will always trump every decision, and that the word divorce was never to be spoken in an argument.  We agreed, if we were going to do this thing called life, together, it would be for better or worse – together – committed to God and each other – COMMITTED!  Though young and naive, we made a promise to weather every storm together.

Perspective Adjustment

If he were still alive today, he would laugh right along with me at those beginning years.  He would also agree that the giddy feelings of love are fickle and not always felt.  But, if we choose to love through those moments, and choose to stay true to the commitment made, even when the mind and flesh relentlessly tempt us to wander, then the feelings of love return.  It’s only when we choose to fight for each other that we find the feelings deepen and the bond of commitment becomes so much sweeter than one can ever imagine.  Choosing to weather every storm and mountaintop experience together is the true “Happily Ever After.”

When my friend asked me, “What is perfect?” he followed it up by saying that what I had is what many others would consider perfect.  He adjusted my perspective.  Instead of being fearful of painting an unrealistic life to others, I simply needed to be real about the fact that I did have perfect – perfect for me.  I had someone who fought for me, and me for him.  I had someone who chose me over all others, even when life was hard, even when the glitter of this world seemed so tempting and the grass looked so much greener on the other side.  I had a best friend that came before all others and he had the same.  We had strength in each other when we found no strength within ourselves.  We were partners.

“What is perfect?”  He asked.  Perfect is knowing you’re loved when you’re being unlovable.  It’s commitment fulfilled.  It’s promises made, and apologies accepted when failures happen.  It’s cheering the other person on when they think they can’t.  It’s standing and fighting together when it seems the world all around is falling apart.

Yes, I had perfect, because we let Love bind our hearts together – real love – lasting love – Love Himself.

“I Will!”

Love looks a lot like Jesus to me.  He loves us when we’re lost and broken, when we’re afraid in the storm.  When our strength is failing, He is the unexplainable peace that rides on the winds when they blow hard against us, and that gentle whisper of hope – “I will never leave you.”

Warren asked to see my wedding band.  As he held it between us at eye level he said, “See how the circle is unbroken?  I will always love you and I am committed to the promise I made.  Like the unbroken circle of this gold band, I will love you.”  Those were the words Warren spoke to me just months before he died.  Just over three years later I would stand holding the wife of the man who killed Warren in my arms.  There was a whisper that road on her breathless sobs as she expressed her sorrow for her husband’s actions.  In that moment I remembered the gold ring, and our imperfect perfect love.  As I reminisced, I prayed that God would show her how loved she is by the very one who teaches us how to love – by God Himself.  I prayed that God would allow her to know her worth, even though she may never hear it from the one who put a ring on her finger.

I am grateful that my friend presented such a challenging and thought-provoking question.  Sometimes we possess the perfect that others so long to have.

Death did not steal my perfect, because I know, we knew, that perfect is the Love that is alive in us.  Jesus is big enough to overcome every storm, and His mighty love spans all eternity.  It is limitless and without end.

Are you willing to have your perspective adjusted?  Are you willing to look at what is going right instead of illuminating all that is going wrong?  This life’s journey will have its sorrows along with its joys.  We need to grieve the pain, but we should always look up and give thanks for all that is perfect in our world.

Take a deep breath in and listen for His whisper, I will never leave you.”

“I had someone who fought for me, and me for him…”   Will you fight for your promise, for your perfect for you?  You can begin today by being the “I will.”

~Shannan

Now Enjoy The Journey!

I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.”

Christmas Surrendered with Gain

Christmas Surrendered

“May it be done to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38

Mary carried Him for nine months, went through the pain of childbirth, mothered Him for thirty-three years, then surrendered Him to crucifixion.

She Surrendered…

Her public honor – to the unbelieving.

Her girlish figure – stretched and torn.

Her comfort – left home pregnant on a donkey.

Her pride – Joseph sees her for the first time as he delivers God’s Son.

She held her deeply loved promise in her arms.  Then, she was forced to surrender Him.  She was just a girl.  Just a human child, and like us, she felt her sorrow.  Mary’s surrender allowed her to hold Love, and then became our eternal gain.

Hope.  Joy.  Peace.

Jesus.  Emmanuel.  Savior of the World!

When God calls us to surrender, He never leaves us empty.  There is always an eternal purpose when we’re willing to say, “may it be done to me according to your word.”

“I’m just a girl, nothing more, but I’m willing, Be Born In Me”

~Shannan

Merry Christmas ~ 2015

Apparently I Am WAY Right!

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I’ve recently been told by a friend that I’ve been described as “One who sits way far to the right.” I don’t believe the person was talking about politically either, since I’ve never had any personal conversation with the one making the assumption about me.

Really? If that’s the worst someone can say about me, praise God! I hope I’m guilty. I am trying to live an uncompromised life, but I will be the very last person to say that I’m a success at it. So, why then does this accusation from someone I barely know trouble me?

We live in a world that’s doing its very best to cut down those who are trying to do good, or “right”, yet it elevates and honors those who are for every vile and immoral thing. My heart is troubled because even in our churches compromise is applauded and masked by a freedom speech.

I do believe!

I believe, “It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us].” The verse in Galatians 5:1 continues, “Therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed].” So what’s the yoke we’ve been freed from?

I like the way Bible Study Fellowship summed this up. They wrote, “True freedom, which God gives, is the freedom not to sin.” We’ve been set free from sin’s chains, set free so we do not have to live according to the flesh but are now yoked to Christ, able to live as He lived.

I’m not talking about living by a set of rules, as if the law will set me free. No one can earn the freedom found in Christ. We also cannot swing the pendulum so far to the other side, we’ll call it the left for the sake of this writing. Living by the law can bind me to a works based faith, which would be wrong, but we must also remember that Jesus also said that “He came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” Again, you cannot earn your freedom in Christ. It is a free gift, but as being people who have been given this free gift, should we not want to live lives that represent the Holy God we say we serve? There are guidelines we must hold fast to, so that the world around can see God and not just another image of itself.

It is belief and acceptance in Jesus being God’s own Son, and in His sacrificial death and resurrection where we obtain salvation. Christ sets us free – nothing more and nothing less than Jesus.

I know I’m free. I know that nothing I can do, or be, will pay my way into heaven. I know that I have been forgiven and I am already an heir to the Kingdom of God. It is because I know these truths that I don’t want to compromise my lifestyle – my daily walk – my life’s testimony.

Why boundaries?

What’s the harm if I choose not to do that thing that may be permissible, so that I can possibly obtain that which is God’s perfect desire for my life? Or I might choose not to do something that I know in my heart is ok because it will cause another person around me to struggle. Something may not be sin for me but could be a struggle for another person. Is it worth me proving my “freedom” over helping my brother or sister get stronger in their weakness? Certainly not!

I choose some strict boundaries in my life, not to bind me but to truly be free. Alcoholism runs on both sides of my family. I’ve buried many aunts and uncles and visited my own brother in prison because they were bound by the bottle. Knowing the addictive thread lacing throughout my family history, should I even risk it? It’s not just my family that have had struggles in this area. I know many. I stood on countless platforms in prisons, rehab centers, and churches where people were battling the “spirits”. I’ve talked with thousands of people and not one of them ever told me they dreamed about growing up to be an alcoholic, but most deeply grieve ever having taken that first drink.

One Christmas, I baked a dark chocolate chip rum cake. I had no idea that a person who struggles with alcoholism can relapse, or at least have a tremendous struggle by the smell or flavor baked into something, and someone did relapse. I don’t blame myself for the person’s regress, but I sure could have helped them by not putting the temptation in their midst. Will I make the cake again? Yes, but I won’t ever make it to take to a gathering because I don’t always know who it is that’s fighting that particular tug-of-war. Does that sound a little too “far to the right”? It probably is to some, but for me it’s about allowing God to stop a generational curse in my family and being a safe place for others. I’m ok with being my brother’s keeper when needed. It’s an honor, and I appreciate help from my peers when I’m facing a weakness.

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In a world that screams at us about not judging and being tolerant, I seem to be under a constant watchful eye, both by the world and the body of Christ. That’s all the more reason for me to do my best to live out what I say I believe. This is not a “would everyone stop picking on me” blog. Oh No! It’s a “hallelujah I must be doing something right” note. Most every day I pray for God to lead my every step, and I ask Him to never let me fall. I pray for His strength and guidance because I am well aware of my weaknesses. I cannot worry about what people think of my strong stand, but I must choose to make my life about Who people see in me.

Just to be clear, I don’t believe you will go to hell for having a drink. I’ve also faced scrutiny for the fact that I firmly believe it’s wrong for me to have a friendly coffee or dinner with a married man when his wife cannot be present, and take every precaution to never ride in a car alone with a married male friend. I’ve seen far too many innocent friendships turn into full-blown affairs and families destroyed because “We’re just friends” won a battle in a mind. Compromise usually does start out small and innocent, but can lead to massive devastation. I counsel women, asking them to put themselves in the shoes of the man’s wife. How would you feel? Even the most confident women fight insecurity, and even deep God-fearing saints can be lured into a sinful trap. I then ask the ladies to take some sincere time in prayer for their friend’s marriage, calling his wife’s name out loud to God. Knowing that marriage is a covenant commitment with God, I don’t even want to cause others to question.

Please know that I don’t write in judgment or condemnation. I fail and need grace like everyone else, but to choose to live a lifestyle of compromise is living under the world’s grace, not God’s. One of the greatest deceptions in the church body today is thinking that we can ingest the fruit of this world and still expect to produce the fruit of God’s holiness.

“It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.”  – 1 Peter 2:15-16

Life’s choices are not always a question of something being a sin or not. It could be as simple as pausing to evaluate, will this decision best represent the God I say I serve? Am I loving well in this moment? Don’t compromise who you are. Don’t swing the pendulum so far off-balance that you fear every decision. There will always be critics out there who are just looking for a reason to find fault, and often they’re trying to defer attention off of something in their own life. Love and obey God, and love people – even the critic.

How far to the “right” are you willing to be?

~Shannan

“Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble.”  Romans 14:20

“There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends.”  John 15:13

Israel, He Bids Me “Come”.

I was in awe of getting to stand in some of the most sacred places on earth.  Israel, He bids me, “Come”.

I am highly honored that God would allow me to walk on His holy hill.  Israel is a place so sacred and full of God’s promises, that thought that my heart is now His choice temple is very sobering – making me sacred and full of promise.

While on this recent journey, I got to walk the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, taste the food, touch the walls, and hug some hearts.  We walked, and walked, and then walked some more.  On Wednesday, June 4th, we climbed over 500 stairs to the top of The Mount of Olives.  It was there that God sent a man who began to share details of history with us, which was priceless.  Oh, Yeah!  I cannot forget to mention that it was on top of this great mount that I met Kojak the camel.  Do you think my neighbors would mind if I got a new pet?

Kojack

We journeyed our way back down the mountain by way of a skinny winding road that, to our surprise, led us to The Tomb of The Prophets and to the place where Jesus wept over the city.  All week we walked.  Walking allowed us to interact with the many people we came in contact with, people on the street, shop owners, restaurant servers, and even a well-studied monk who was more than willing to share his wealth of knowledge.  Walking also allowed us to burn off calories from the amazing food we were eating.  YUM!  I don’t eat fried food but I had falafel twice that week.  Hey, it was easy to devour as we kept on walking.

Falafal Eating In Jerusalem, June '2014First Bite In Jerusalem - June 2014Falafal Eating In Jerusalem #2, June '2014

 

 

 

 

 

We made stops at key locations as we mixed in to the different sects of the Old City, and then our feet carried us outside the massive stone walls to places like The Garden of Gethsemane, The Church of All Nations, The Garden Tomb, and Golgotha’s Hill.  We walked every inch of the way, with the exception of two brief cab rides and a bus back to Tel Aviv.  I have so much to share about our travels but will have to breakdown the trip location by location, or I may overwhelm you with one very long blog.  I will share more as I myself revisit the memories in my mind.

We had several delays with the airline, so we were a day late getting to Israel.  This was a little frustrating because the trip was already really short to begin with and we had a lot of research to do.  We had prayed for God to guide us and trusted Him with every part of our trip, so we adjusted our perspective and chalked the delays up as part of the adventure.

I was taken aback by the places where I was struck with deep emotion and where I was not.  I kept searching my heart to see if it was still beating at some locations, because “certainly I should feel something here!” was my thought.  Then there were moments that I was unable to move for the awe and wonder that overtook me, sometimes stealing my breath from my lungs.  Odd places caused me pause, like when I stood for the first time outside of the Old City Walls.  I was right at the corner between the Zion Gate and the Jaffa Gate.  There, for a moment, I could not breathe.  I was overwhelmed with the honor to even be allowed to stand outside the walls.  Yet God was wooing me to come inside.

Just inside the Jafa Gate - June 2014

He bids me, “Come!”

I was soon able to regain myself from the overwhelming sense of honor and breathe in the reality of where I was, so the team and I continued our way up the limestone path to enter through the Jaffa Gate.  We gathered some information and set out to find the first station, 15 in all, of The Via Dolorosa.  From where we entered the city we had to work our way backward to find station 1.

He Bids Me Come - Old City Jerusalem

We became acquainted with the holy pause.  There’s no rushing on this trip.

We had not traveled too far toward our destination when I heard English-speaking voices begin to ring out a beautiful hymn.  I looked around and found a narrow opening in the stone wall across from where we were standing that allowed me to gaze downward into a small cafe.  I cannot tell you what this tour group sang, but the harmony was so beautiful and it resonated throughout the corridor into the street market.  Their vibrating cords beautifully displayed God’s glory.  I turned back around and realized where we were standing.  We were at station 5, the place where Jesus’ physical body could no longer carry the weight of the cross.  We paused for a moment to take in the wonder that God had allowed His song to be sung, literally, as we passed by.

After much dodging and weaving our way through the narrow busy streets, we finally found station 1, where Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to death .  We could not go insides because it’s now a school, so we turned our attention across the path to station 2, The Flagellation Church.

Flagellation Church, Another Heart

I walked through the courtyard making my way to the entrance of the chapel, and I paused.  A hush fell across the place.  Quietness filled the air like a thick blanket.  It seemed that the crowd in the streets stopped their hurry and became silent.  I stood for a moment before I slowly walked in and allowed my hand to rest on the back pew.  It was here, at this spot, that I began to break.  Not only my heart but my mind and body too.  I could not see Him with my eyes, but somehow I could see Jesus at the front of the chapel on His hands and knees, bloodied from the hellish beating He’d just endured.  My heart gasped for a breath and then I whispered, “Jesus, I belong there.”  My legs became weak and I began to slide into the back pew to sit down, but at that moment Jesus looked at me and spoke words that crushed a shell I did not know still existed around my heart.  He said, “Come forward.  I did this so you can come forward.”  With His gentle words I felt my knees begin to fold as the reality washed through my veins, Jesus sees me and He did this all for me!

“That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” – Eph. 2:7

He bids me, “Come!”

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so lovingly humbled by such few words before, but hearing Jesus speak, “I DID this so YOU can COME”, caused me to melt in the substance of His love.

I cautiously stepped forward.  Half way up the aisle I sensed even more the holiness of this place.  I paused again.  With tears beginning to find their way from my heart to my eyes “Thank You” reverently escaped my lips.  “Jesus, thank You!”  In my mind’s eye I could see Him kneeling there.  There in the middle of the stone cold floor.  His body torn and bloody.  This innocent God-man, beaten with such force and hatred.  Just one lashing away from death, yet love permeated from Him.  The aroma of death and evil was dispelled by a fragrance so pure.  It seemed so unknown yet familiar.  Not since before the fall of man has this scent so overwhelmingly filled the air.  It is the scent of His presence.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked… They heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord… So he (Adam) said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.  And He (God) said, “Who told you that you were naked?”” – Gen. 3:7-10

 Sin stripped us naked, and now here Jesus is willingly exposing His back for our beating.  Just as His blood washed over His body, His blood washes away our nakedness.  Jesus, the only sinless One, steps in and wraps His robe of right-standing with God around us.

There I stood consumed by His aroma.

Seeing into His reality, I see why this perfect One, the One who could have easily escaped from this torture, stayed to endure it.  It is love that led Him here, and it is love that keeps Him bidding, “Come.”  I slid into the second row of benches and I prayed.  “Forgive me if I’m being disobedient, but Jesus the front belongs to only You.”  I sat there for a while to soak in His presence, in His sweet aroma.  I needed to feel the weight of my wrong tearing at His flesh.  I needed to feel the reality that His love lifts that weight and covers my nakedness.  I stayed until I, and my Another Heart team members absorbed the sight, the feel, the fragrance of Holiness Himself, and the humility and wonder that He says “Come”.  Once we all felt a release, we continued on in our journey, but forever changed.

We walked out from the courtyard back into the streets.  There the noise and busy rush resumed, filling our ears and eyes full of Jerusalem’s life.  We took only a few steps when a group of young boys, maybe 8-10 years old, rushed by us.  Their faces were red and their legs were in fast pursuit of another singled-out peer.  We watched in amazement as the team of boys began to punch one of their own, and the adult men stood by to watch.  Just moments before we were breathing in the sweetest fragrance of untainted Love, and now we were standing witness in the very stench of evil that beat Jesus so many years ago – while men stood by to watch.

The shame of sin no longer needs to be hinged on our hearts exposing our nakedness.  We no longer need to stand in the aroma of evil, and watch helplessly as it unleashes death on our peers.  We can choose to live consumed by the sweetness of Purity, and to be clothed in the righteousness of untainted Love.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” – John 3:16-17

“I DID, SO YOU, CAN COME”

My prayer for all who read this, is that you understand that you do not have to go to Jerusalem to experience the beautiful presence of this God-man, Jesus.  He is The Omnipresent One.  He’s everywhere at the same time and He bids you, “Come”.

Will you “Come”?

~Shannan

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” – Isaiah 61:10

Hebrews 9:11-27, Philippians 3:1-11, John 14

Chapel of The Condemnation - Third Station Via Dolorosa

 

 

 

Unaware of His Awareness

Presence

Could it be that God’s delay is His compassion to help us understand the reality that He understands our heartache?  If He answers with His promised answer too fast, we may remain unaware of His awareness of our human questioning hearts.  He understands when we cry out “My God, why have You forsaken me.”  We may feel He is absent in our seasons of pain, but our feelings do not make His presence any less existent.

So often I feel God stands too far removed to see or care about what pains me, but truth is for me like truth was for Jesus.  God never leaves.  God never forsakes.  God is always present and always unfolds His victories in our lives.

“My God!  My God!  Why have You forsaken Me”*, Jesus cried… Then morning came three days later.  The stone was rolled away and Jesus exposed the truth.  God was never removed.  God was fulfilling the promise that He had made so many years before in the Garden of Eden.

The promise.

In The Garden of Eden He said, “He (Jesus) shall bruise your head,”  (Gen. 3:15).

At The Garden Tomb, God stripped death of its sting and bridged the gap sin had created between God and man.

“Jesus from Nazareth, who has been crucified.  He has risen from the dead; He is not here.  Look, here is the place they laid Him.” – Mark 16:6

The victory!

Just as God rose Jesus from the ashes of death, God promises to raise us from ours.

“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.  In their righteousness they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His glory.” – Is. 61:3

He gives a “crown of Beauty” in place of the thorns Jesus wore.  God is fully aware, and fully engaged, and will fully redeem all that was stolen.  If we wait on Him, we’ll not just have beauty but we will wear it as a crown for all to see.  The beauty – God’s glory on display – for our good.  Amen!

Hang On!  All the unmet expectations do not surprise God.  They are a means for God to intersect our lives with His plan.

How has an unexpected event in your life allowed God to crown you with His beauty?

~Shannan

2014, Staying Faithful and Walking In New Beginnings.

His ways are perfect.  His plan is perfect.  His timing is perfect.

*(Matt. 27:46)

Are You Ready To Drop Your Fig Leaf?

“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

There is not a good deed, a job well done, a self-sacrifice, or a self-condemnation that can cover our sin.  There’s not a fig leaf fancy enough that can atone.  It is God alone.  His boundless love for us propels Him to relentlessly pursues us.  He can’t help but to call for us.  Our job, our sacrifice, is to humbly accept His offer of forgiveness and allow Him to restore all that we have forfeited.

He can & He does!

Moses murdered a man.  David had an affair, got the girl pregnant, and then had her husband killed.  King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, was an arrogant and bloodthirsty man.  He liked to watch people burn alive!  Peter walked side-by-side with Jesus, his friend, and still denied Him when things got a little scary.

BUT GOD!

God passionately pursued them all.  When a heart repents and turns from wrong, God restores.  God gives new hearts.

After 40 years of living a quiet hidden life, stripped of all titles, Moses was chosen to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.  God even allowed Moses to see His glory.  God sheltered Moses in the cleft of a rock, because our physical selves cannot handle the weight of His full majesty, but God still allowed Moses this intimate moment.  He was Moses the murderer, but now he is Moses the forgiven and the redeemed.

There were some tough consequences for David’s sins, but there was also amazing redemption.  When David repented, God continued to bless him with many victories.  David, a mighty king, was named by God with an honorary title, “a man after God’s own heart.”

God loved the wicked King Nebuchadnezzar so much that He stripped him of every earthly blessing, all his social status and his power, to get his focus on what is truth.  Through the storm of losses, God already had a plan in place for Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom to be restored.  After 7 years of eating dirt this earthly king lifted his eyes to heaven, and then his “understanding returned”.

“My reason returned to me…  Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.”  Daniel 4:36-37

Can you see now?  Do you realize that you and I are not so special that God cannot redeem us too?  It’s pure arrogance to think we’re beyond His reach.  But do you also understand just how uniquely valuable we are?

“Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?””  –Genesis 3:9

God came walking in the garden like He did every day.  God already knew the choice that Adam and Eve had made, the choice to ignore His warning, the warning any loving parent would give a child, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,”.  God tried to protect them from harm, but instead they chose to listen to the voice that led them to believe a lie.  Thinking God was holding out on them, they reached for what appeared better than what they already had, and they ate.  Their eyes were opened.  That voice did not tell a complete lie, because now they did understand more than they had before, now they knew the weight of shame.

So often we trade the whole garden for the knowledge of shame.

Shame’s voice always sounds just like the voice that reasoned us away from God in the first place – the voice of the thief.  The thief’s voice also mocks us after we concede to his tempting.  Why does he temp us?  It is his hatred for God not his want for us.  God loves us, so the thief reaches to take from God what God holds so dear – YOU!

BUT GOD!

But God already had a plan in place to free Adam, Eve, and all of us who’ve been tempted and shamed.  The very moment He comes calling, “Where are you?”  He’s ready to show us the way back to fellowship with Him.

“But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Rom. 5:8, (amp)

“Where are you?”

At one tree we picked shame up.  At another tree we can lay shame down.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” ~ Jesus

Are you ready for a new heart?  Are you ready to drop your fig leaf?

Fig Leaf

It doesn’t cover much anyway!

God already knows where you are.  Nothing is hidden from Him.  Love stands waiting for you.  Are you ready to follow the voice of truth?

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” – John 3:17

Jesus left heaven for you!

We’re not so special yet we’re so uniquely valuable.  So let’s drop our fig leafs and come home.

Are you ready yet?  Are you ready to allow God to restore all that’s been forfeited?

~ Shannan

~ A big thank you to my editor, Kimberly Wyse.  I could not be so clear without her.

Stop Being So Humbly Noble

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best… and put it on him… Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” – Luke 15:22-24

A few years back a friend came into my life who had so much potential at greatness.  He is creative in ways that make some of us jealous, but he forfeits his talent and hides behind a smokescreen of success in the business world.  As our friendship deepened, I realized he was overcome with guilt and shame over his past mistakes.  He felt paralyzed, unable to move forward with his life.  Although he was a Christian and had repented for his sin, he refused to receive the redemption Christ’s sacrifice offered him.  Sadly, he continues to wander today, refusing God’s great love and forgiveness.  He has, not God, condemned himself to a prison of loneliness, and keeps those who try to love him locked outside the stonewall he’s built around his heart.  He builds his walls with the excuse that others deserve better than who he really is, but in reality he’s buying into the lie that he’s shameful instead of redeemed.  It’s as if he has said, “Christ’s sacrifice is enough for everyone else, but not for me.”

I wonder how often we forfeit our blessings because of fear or self-condemnation?  How often do we become a martyr for self in the name of nobility, or try to pass off the good that comes our way with false humility?  “But you don’t know what I’ve done and the places I’ve been!”  We chime.  It’s true that there are consequences for our actions, but there is also redemption.

Have you been The Prodigal Son?  Don’t stay in that mindset.  The Father stands waiting to receive you and ready to bless you with all the abundance heaven has to offer.  Your gifts belong only to you.  In God’s kingdom, which is here now and tangible, there is more than enough for all of His children.

Redemption – To release from blame or debt.  To get back.  To change for the better.

Bag Over Head

Why do we run?  Why do we hide?  Are our decisions fear based or are we being a martyr for a less than noble cause?  Passing off our blessings to someone else simply because we feel unworthy is handing them less than God has for them.

There’s nothing noble or courageous about denying the good God is offering us.  No, the truth is we are just masking a darker part of our soul that’s stating that the cross is not enough – for me anyway.

Noble – Humbly accepting all that is offered and walking faithfully forward despite what lies behind.  (Shannan’s definition)

Have you trusted God and accepted His Son, Jesus?  Then why disregard any other portion of His word?

“Those who come in through me will be saved.  They will come and go freely and find good pastures.  The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life – in all its fullness. – John 10:9-10

His mercies are new every morning, so accept all He is offering you, a rich and satisfying life.”

What fears haunt you in the secret places of your mind?  What is it that you fear others will find out?  What regrets keep you running from others and from yourself?

Stop

Are you ready to stop letting the enemy lie to you and steal from you?  Then stop keeping a record of your wrongs.  Stop letting pain dictate who you are and isolate you.  I dare you to let Love swallow it up.

Love

“Love will never condemn you for being lost, but love will not let you stay there alone, even though it will never force you to come out of your hiding places… love is opposed to everything that is hurting you and keeping you from being free.” – Cross Roads, by WM. Paul Young

Stop being so humbly noble.  Living takes courage.  Are you ready?

~Shannan

I refuse to rebuild walls.  I choose to risk all again, because every step, every stumble, and every loss, leads me to greater gain – truly living.

~ Love Is Worth It ~

I Want To Be Like Mary Magdalene

I want to be like Mary Magdalene, the Mary of Magdala after she met Jesus that is.

What a great story of redemption and courage.  Mary is another example of what can take place in a life when Jesus is allowed to step in and take over.  Our past does not have to dictate our future.

When we hear the name, Mary Magdalene, we will most likely think of a demonically possessed prostitute from the ghetto.  The Biblical recount of her story does confirm that she was controlled by seven demons, but I cannot find one verse that says she was a prostitute.  I also find nothing in scripture that tells me Mary was from a poor family.  The scriptures actually lead me to think otherwise, though a deeper historical study may prove me wrong.

“Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” – Luke 8:1-3

The women that followed Jesus cared for Him and the disciples out of their own “substance” – their own property.  Whether it be actual monetary wealth, or the wealth of things, they had to already have had something in order to provide for them.

~ Physically wealthy yet emotionally poor ~

What we do know about Mary, is that the first half of her life she was controlled by seven demons.  It was when she met and accepted Jesus that she was set free from her tormentors.  She was freed from a life of shame and struggle.  She went from being an outcast to becoming one of Jesus’ disciples.  Mary never forgot what Jesus did for her.  Her life’s testimony from that time forward was filled with love for Him.

It’s ironic to me, not only did God chose a woman, this alone went against the culture in those days, but He chose a woman who had been possessed by demons to be the first one to see Jesus after He rose from the dead.  Can you imagine the thoughts that might have filtered through Mary’s mind as she made her way to the rest of those she now called her friends, and now grieved with?

Her first trip back was to tell them that she went to the grave and that it was empty.  Think about it for a moment.  This woman, who’s companions were once demons, had to go back to those who witnessed her in her moments before Jesus set her free.  They saw the evil that gripped her.  Mary was bound by the same familiar presence that just nailed Jesus to a cross and tortured Him three days earlier.

She must have wrestled with her thoughts.  “They’re going to think I’m crazy!”  “What if they think I’ve given up and allowed my past to come back and take me over again?”  “What if they think I am a phony and tricked them the way Judas tricked us all?”  “Oh but I must tell them, so they can find out what has happened to Him.”  “What else matters at this point?”

~ Now emotionally rich and full of courage ~

With her fist tightly gripping her clothing, pulling it up enough so she would not trip, Mary ran as fast as she could.  With each step gaining speed and her heart beating faster and faster, courage began to rise in Mary.  “What else matters now?  I must tell them!”, her mind resolved.  “I’ll go to Simon Peter and to John!”

Bursting through the doors, her clothes were tousled and dripping with sweat from her sprint, John and Peter looked through their own heartache to see this distraught woman trying to speak.  Mary grabbed just enough air to get the words out.  She finally squealed, “HE’S GONE!”  JESUS IS NOT THERE!”  “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”  Tears streamed down her cheeks as she collapsed at John’s feet.

~ Courage is worth it ~

They believed her!  Wasting no time, Peter and John bolted from where they were standing and ran as fast as they could to the tomb of their friend, Jesus.  Mary followed.  Once Peter and John arrived and witnessed that Jesus was truly gone, they turned and went back to their homes, but Mary stayed.

Mary stood weeping outside of the empty tomb.  She was trying to make sense of these last three days.  Every tear that poured from her eyes had too many questions to find words for.  She was exhausted in every way, but Mary found strength to look again into the hollowed out rock.  “Jesus, where are you?”  “This cannot be happening.”  “This makes no sense.”  Her mind was racing while she remembered her days spent with Him.  As her heart cried His name, “Jesus”, her eyes were opened to see.  Two angels in white were sitting in the tomb, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

~ He spoke ~

“Mary!”

Mary of Magdala Holds Onto Jesus

Mary, stayed in her place of pain long enough to see the truth and hear from heaven.  She saw the logical truth through her human eyes, but her heart knew there was more that her eyes could not see, so she stayed.  She stayed in the place where she last knew Jesus was until her answer came, until she knew her next step.

Through all of the emotions and all of the confusion, she heard His voice call her name, “Mary!”  “Teacher!”, she cried out with overwhelming joy as she clung to Him.  Jesus told her the truth of what was happening and gave her the instructions to go tell the others.

There’s so much to learn from this small glimpse into the life of Mary of Magdala.  Her journey led her from being spiritually ravaged to being made spiritually complete as she embraced the resurrected Jesus.  This brings a whole new level of hope to us all as God uncovers the dark areas of our own hearts.  If we will face our pain, ask the questions that plague our minds, and be willing to wait there for Truth to reveal Himself, we too can be completely free to run forward.  I’m sure she felt totally hopeless and alone, but Mary wasn’t left weeping at the tomb.  She was willing to wait there until the answers were revealed, and because of this she was able to set out on her next run, renewed with words of hope.  Her physical strength was restored by the words of Jesus, “go find my brothers and tell them..”  At this point I probably would have struggled to let Jesus out of my sight, but in faith, Mary leapt to her feet and ran as fast as she could to deliver the joyous news.  “HE’S ALIVE!”

Jesus is just as present and alive today as He was standing in the garden with Mary of Magdala, and He’s alive in our circumstance right now.  The question is, do we have the courage to wait in faith on Him?  If so, it is in this place where our eyes will be opened and our ears will hear Him call our name.  It is in this place where we’ll breathe in hope again and where our strength will be restored.  Our past will no longer dictate our future.  We will be more than able to run in strength and courage when He says, “Go and tell.”

Her life’s testimony from that time forward was filled with love for Him.  This is how I want to be like Mary Magdalene.

~Shannan

“Diamonds can be found in the trials of life.”

I can truly say, the night the most pain-filled storm sliced through my heart is also the night of my greatest treasure – God’s embrace!

“Love Remain’s”

The story of Mary of Magdala, John 20

Thanksgiving vr Christmas – The Battle Is On!

It’s Fight Night At The Holidays

Thanksgiving vs’ Christmas!

The lights go up and the announcer begins his speech: 

“In this corner we have the banquet table spread with every gut popping goody that’s ready to be devoured.  Thanksgiving can be intoxicating!  It’s utopia baby!

And in the other corner of this lit-up ring of food, lights, and wrapped packages, we have the True Bread of Life, known as CHRISTmas.  Don’t let his humble appearance fool you, He’s been known to be far larger and much more fulfilling when given the chance to shine.  He packs a powerful punch that will leave you breathless and in awe of the impact He delivers”…

I am amazed at how many Christians are complaining about people wanting to decorate early for Christmas.  Many have allowed themselves to become frustrated that others are pulling out the Christmas decorations before we’ve had time to celebrate Thanksgiving, but the ability to have a grateful heart on Thanksgiving is because of the true Spirit of CHRISTmas.  Maybe the world is so desperately needing hope right now that they are clinging to Christ, even if they’re not yet fully aware of why they’re finding peace in their decor.  Maybe we should pray for God to open all of our eyes to see Him for who He truly is – Hope in a dark world.  Should we not give thanks that God is answering the prayers so many of us have prayed?  Have we not asked God to move the hearts of the people toward Him?  What if someone wanted to keep their tree up all year-long because they’re just so in love with Jesus and want to celebrate Him for all He did for mankind?  Would it be wrong?  Would we, as Christians, find fault in them because of their radical reaction to someone who died for them yet lives to offer them true life?

We complain about those who do not want us to celebrate Christmas at all, yet this year I hear so many who claim to love Jesus complaining about those who want to get the birthday party started early.  What kind of mixed message are we sending?  Jesus, could You please step aside while we give thanks for all we have?

Could you imagine a Fight Night like this?

The announcer loses his poise:

…”It has been a fight to remember for sure, but what in the world is happening now?  It seems that Thanksgiving and Christmas have combined their efforts and the crowd is going wild!  The people are no longer hungry but are full, and now they are dancing with a joy that’s generating a light so bright that the stadium lights are not needed.  Others who have been sitting outside the stadium not wanting to attend this huge event are now coming in by the masses.  It’s like they’ve finally found what they’ve been searching for.  Their faces have softened and seem to say without words that this is exactly what they’ve been waiting their whole life for.  Thanksgiving is smiling and Christmas is passing out a gift to each new person who walks through the door.  This is truly a life changing moment!  Words cannot express what is happening.  More and more people are flooding the arena but it appears there is more than enough room for them all.  There’s more than enough food!  There’s more than enough gifts!  The more people who come in, the bigger the place gets!  Not one is being turned away who wants to enter.  There is more than enough room for all who will come!


I’m being told that the news of what’s happening here has gone global!  Have you heard?  Thanksgiving and Christmas have become allies, partners, they’re hand-in-hand in the ring of life!  This moment is not just “life changing” as much as it is life-giving.


OH WOW!  WOW!  I’ve never seen that in all my years of reporting Friday Night at the Fights!  Thanksgiving just walked up to Christmas, hugged Him, and thanked Him for all He’s done!  Never have two opponents compassionately embraced like this before – Just WOW!  This is not utopia, it’s absolute totality.”

Have You Heard?

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)

“Christmas just came and handed me the gift He’s been giving out.  It’s joy and His name is Jesus!”

Let’s give thanks this year on Thanksgiving because Christmas came.

~Shannan Parker

2011, Keeping It Real!

Have you joined in this great celebration?

Let our decorating be an act of worship!

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