Monthly Archives: July 2014

Jump!

DSC00770By Judy Villanueva

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the evidence of things unseen. (Hebrews 1:11)

Looking up I could see them peeking over the edge of the cliff  to the cool waters below.  Quickly, they would move back and “shake it off,” trying to muster the courage to jump!  It was a long way down and it would be a breathless free fall!  They knew it was deep enough, but could they step off the surety of the ground beneath their feet?  Back and forth they’d go, telling themselves they could do it. Just do it!   Jump!  Whenever we go to the lake we stop at a particular cove surrounded by the most irresistible cliffs, and every time, a handful of our nieces and nephews, kids and friends hop out of the boat and climb to the top!  I watch their struggle from below and, if I am honest, bribe them to come down with cookies!  But once they’ve gotten to the top and look over, the promise of flight seems to capture their imaginations, and soon, the struggle at the top evaporates into an exhilarating, tummy-turning leap of faith!

Jump!  Whether it’s out of an airplane, off a cliff or into a decision, it seems to go hand in hand with faith that acts with resolve to trust God.  It may involve relocating or staying put, proposing or breaking up, taking this job or that one, saying yes or saying no.

To be sure, it always includes a moment of truth where we choose to go forward into places unknown, believing that God isn’t just with us, but also remains sovereign over every inch of our lives!

In other words, faith is the assurance that God is always perfectly good, perfectly wise, and perfectly able to cover, use, and work through our imperfect decisions.  Faith in God is the sturdiest launch pad for jumping!

Are you peeking over a precipice and considering a leap of faith?  Walking to the edge and looking over is a really good idea as it gives us good information about heights and depths.  It also stirs hope and shapes vision for the jump!  Isn’t it good to know that we are allowed to use our heads as we prepare for leaps of faith?  And then — it’s all about trusting that God jumps with us!  His faithfulness is the water that surrounds us as we pierce the surface and are swallowed up in its depths.  If we’ll relax, the water will lift us up and into new breaths of life!   Peek over the edges with God and measure your heartbeat!  If God says jump, then, with all the courage you can muster, run for the edge and fly!

“Father, running off of steep cliffs and into murky waters is not my strong suit.  But, one thing I know from observing one flight to the water after another is that a leap with You is the ride of a lifetime!  Help me to trust that You jump with me wherever you call me to jump!  Thank You that You are, always and forever, faithful!  Amen.”

What about you?

Is God calling you to jump?  Is there a decision pending that requires a “free-fall” and faith in God to be there for you?

Have you looked over the edge and evaluated, with God and others, the depths and heights involved?

Is God your place of rest and assurance?  Is He your steady ground and sturdy launch pad?

Our decisions don’t have to be perfect,  just submitted and surrendered.  God is faithful.

Worship:

“Find Me Faithful”  by Tommy Walker

“Faithful”  by Chris Tomlin

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Straightened!

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By Judy Villanueva

Luke 13:1-16

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

“What are you afraid of?”  I asked my husband.  He turned and looked at me with the most curious expression, almost as though he didn’t understand the question.  “Well…nothing really,”  he responded.  “Nothing?  You are not afraid of anything?” I queried.  I have struggled with fear for as long as I can remember and God was helping me understand that I was living under the constraint of it…as though it was normal!  It felt like God was taking me by the hand and walking me into the light of understanding my condition.  Not all at once, but gently, as I could handle the reality of my crippled state.  And, as it became clearer and clearer that I was living “bent over” and unable to straighten, a desire arose in my heart…for freedom!

Sadly, we get used to being “bent over” and walk about the planet unaware that staring at the ground is not what we were made for!

Whether it is fear that pushes us downward or something else, God sees our condition and cares.  He absolutely and always remembers that the sons and daughters of Abraham were created for freedom. Jesus saw the crippled woman in synagogue and healed her!  As naturally as taking the next breath, He simply spoke the will of God over her, “Woman, you are set free.”  She then felt the hands of God touch her and immediately straightened up to praise Him!

Dare we look with Jesus at where and how we are bent?  It is easier to pretend that we are fine or, hide our “bent” parts so that no one will see our brokenness.   We are embarrassed and ashamed but God is not!  He keeps seeing who He made us to be and cherishes every bit of us…always!   What is curious to me about this healing encounter is that there is no mention of the crippled woman asking for healing.  It blesses me to read that

after eighteen years of being stooped over she got up from wherever she was and walked crooked to synagogue!  She showed up—bent—and, Jesus saw her!

She had not given up and little did she know that on that day she would leave upright…freed to look up and out, abled to straighten and praise God!  Oh blessed breath of God, come see and set us free!

“Jesus, that you saw this woman reminds me afresh of who you are!  A Healer, an Advocate, and a Straighten-upper:)   Thank you that you never get lost in what you are doing and forget that we need You so!   Come and touch me and anyone reading this in need of healing today.  Amen.”

What about you?

 Have you gotten use to being “bent over”?  Do the things that bind you feel normal?

How do you feel about being helped to see, with Jesus, where you are “bent over”?

Can you trust Jesus to take you by the hand to freedom?

Do you show up, even crooked, to healing places where Jesus teaches?

God is the One who lifts up, straightens and breaths freedom!  Please don’t settle for  a life “bent over”.  He came that we might have life to the full!  (John 10:10)

Worship:

 

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Presence

DSC_1010By Judy Villanueva

In your presence there is fullness of joy.   (Psalm 16:11)

You have searched me God and know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. (Psalm 139:1-2)

Yesterday, my little grandson came over. As he sat at the table eating his lunch, I moved about the kitchen tidying up, all the while hearing his little voice chattering on about this and that. When at last I sat down across the table from him he said, “Nana! I need to talk to you!” “Yes, Sweetie, I’m listening,” I said, realizing that he was asking for my full attention. He leaned forward. I leaned forward. His little blue eyes burrowed in on mine from across the table and he started to tell me about whatever precious thing was on his mind. As he spoke I could see that he was not going to break eye contact, for fear that he would lose my attention. I knew that, at that moment, I must not be anywhere but right smack-dab in front of him, listening, nodding, and holding his gaze. After a little while, he seemed satisfied and was ready to take a few more bites of his sandwich and move on to his dump trucks and dinosaurs.

A mentor and dear friend once told me that listening is a divine activity. That when we listen well there is a kind of presence experienced that is healing and deeply satisfying. Can you remember the last time you were with someone who listened to you well? Who  was fully present and alert, leaning forward and attending to your thoughts, words and feelings? There is value and honor imparted through this kind of presence. It instills worth.

The human soul to wants to be explored, discovered, and intimately known.  And, when we are, even a little bit, it changes us.

In and through the presence of people,  who  listen to us deeply, we feel the Father’s attention.   It becomes a sacred place where we experience being known and loved.   It reminds us that we matter.

Being present is one of the most beautiful gifts we can offer another person.  It isn’t always easy to lay down our need to be heard and focus on another’s story, but as  we listen and give ourselves to care about our friend we touch the heart of God.  We become co-laborers in the most beautiful work of the universe!  Our loving attention and willingness to listen brings God near and in His presence the soul is quieted.   When we are listened to deeply, when we notice that we are noticed, and as we hold the gaze of one who holds ours,  we experience a divine blessing…one that satisfies and frees us to take another bite of our sandwich and move on to our dump trucks and dinosaurs.

“Father, thank you that you are always listening to my heart.  You know my thoughts from afar and understand me.  Help me remember that when I listen to another it brings You near.   And, help me to notice all the ways You notice me today!  Amen.”

What about You?

When was the last time you were listened to deeply?  How did it make you feel?

What gets in the way of being attentive to another?  (Tasks, cellphones, other tech gadgets?)

Where do you go when you need attention?

Are you becoming a divine listener?

Worship

“Where You Are”  by Tommy Walker

“Sweet Presence of Jesus”  by Tommy Walker

 

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