“I’ve been here before, and I know the way out.”

There’s a story I heard of a man who fell in a hole and could not find his way out. A doctor came to see him, wrote a prescription, tossed it in the hole and moved on. A preacher came to see him, wrote a prayer, tossed it in the hole, and moved on. A friend came to see him and jumped in the hole. The guy says “What are you doing? Now we’re both stuck.” The friend says, “I’ve been here before, and I know the way out.” Author Unknown

I was reading through some of the captions and comments on “Humans of New York”, one of my favorite things on Facebook. One photo was about a woman who had struggled with depression and one of the comments was this quote.

I’ve been depressed. I think sadly, sometimes, that’s part of life. Something didn’t go the way you expected. Whether this is a death, a diagnosis, a betrayal, a job loss, or endless other situations it can be easy like the man in the quote to “fall in a hole”.

Society tries to tell you what will fix you. Therapy, medication, religion, and friends are just some of the things hinted at in this quote. Ultimately you will find that all of these things fall short because Jesus is the only one who can climb into that hole with you and say “I’ve been here before, and I know the way out.”

Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and rose again. He endured all so there is nothing that He doesn’t know the way out of.

Be of good cheer today knowing there is no depth He cannot reach to pull you out.

Hump Day

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I’ve been finding two of my co-workers challenging the past month. It seems whenever they make jokes, I am the subject and it is with a judgmental, condescending tone. I am fully aware that this could be a “guy” thing. I work with all men. However, my patience, to be honest is thin. It is in times like this that I am forced to remember what God thinks of me. That God sees my heart. That God knows my motivations and my heart and I know I am doing the right things. I have not brought this behavior on myself. I am not deserving of condescending words or mockery or anything of the sort. There are times in life where you reflect and with being honest with yourself come to realize you are at fault, but I can honestly say I’ve reflected and I know it isn’t me in this situation.

Sometimes it seems like when you are at your best, thriving, in my case at work, that the Enemy uses other people to try to make you question yourself. Luckily over the past several years I’ve gotten better at recognizing his voice and how he can make situations or people throw darts your way. Luckily over the past few years through the grace and love of God, I’ve learned to value myself more and more importantly see what God thinks and feels for me in a way I’ve never before. I love this quote because it reminds me that no matter what my limitations are, in feeling attacked, or teased, or annoyed with what is happening, I can rest in knowing my God has none. He is limitless. He is above all things. And I am grateful to be His child. In so many situations I have been exhausted, unable to make things change, have been anxious, or drained and in these moments I’ve been able to see God be God. To fill in the gap.

I just want to encourage you that no matter what hump you face on this Wednesday, this “hump day” God is always on the other side. He will get you through anything. Trust me. There were times and situations that threatened to destroy me, that I saw no solution to, that I was even at times mad at God for giving me or allowing. And in each scenario He has proven Himself faithful. He has lovingly even given me praise in my jobs, in my leadership roles, in my life despite all the times I yelled at Him or felt abandoned by Him.

Granted there are still areas I wished were different but they don’t seem as dire in the wake of all the answers He’s already given me.

Be of good cheer.

Karrueche Tran

“Dear God, Please keep me strong. To keep me strong, keep my head up and to put my best foot forward and to love regardless of whatever situation I go through. You know always love and be kind. To stay strong and keep the faith.” – Karrueche Tran

I don’t follow much in Hollywood and the Entertainment Industry when it comes to celebrity gossip. I work in a field where I so see a lot of headlines, but I don’t catch everything that’s out there or follow everything that’s out there.

Someone on my Facebook page posted an article about this girl Karrueche Tran and since she usually posts good articles I clicked on it. Long story short Karrueche Tran dated the singer Chris Brown who after some time, cheated on her. Through the power of the internet I was able to see that she did an interview and it inspired me to post today.

I don’t know much of anything about Karrueche Tran which I think is a good thing because I can be objective. I feel bad for this girl. I feel bad because I can relate. In my past I dated a guy who totally destroyed my trust through his use of drugs and other women while we were together. You suffer sometimes silently as a result. And sometimes you break down publicly whether it’s at work or school or grocery shopping. It’s truly sad in her case to have to go through something so painful with everyone in America watching you crumble. It’s even worse when social media enables people to heckle you in the midst of your suffering.

I hope this is a reminder to us all that we are not all that different from celebrities. It’s easy to thumb through a tabloid in line at the airport or laugh at snarky Tweets while watching our favorite show. But I think all of this has eroded our humanity. This isn’t all entertainment. This is still real people and their real problems in their real lives. I hope by extending grace in all aspects of social media–that it will no longer be acceptable to harshly judge and mock people from the comfort of our personal computers and cell phones. Proverbs 12 tells us that our words have the power to build up and the power to destroy. I don’t want to ever fall into the trap of destroying someone else with my judgmental words because it’s “funny”. I encourage you to build up someone you see is being torn down, even if it’s a celebrity you see being bullied on social media.

So as silly as this is. I wanted to make a comment on this especially after reading people’s horrible comments under the YouTube videos and seeing particular comments highlighted during the video that were extracted from Twitter.

Dear Karrueche,

I saw your interview online and I was proud to hear that you are owning your mistakes and being honest with yourself and your own brokenness. You said it many times and you are correct. We are human. I think after my own relationship’s demise years ago I began a new journey with God. I didn’t realize that through my Father’s own inadequacy in my life and bullying from peers growing up that I had very low self-esteem. I don’t say this to belittle your feelings but to merely acknowledge that I’ve been there too. When you are finally given attention and believe that you have found love you are willing to endure anything to keep it. As a romantic myself you can get lost in the fiction of it all. I love Jane Austen and Shakespeare and it seems so poetic to have such pain when you’re in love because it seems to validate that your love is real. That your love is passionate. That your love is unique. I would be lying to myself if I were to tell you that I am completely over it. There are still days even years later that it fills me with sadness. There are even more shameful days where I miss that relationship. It is important to remember whether you are at your best or at your worst when reflecting on your past that God loves you not only infinitely more than a man could, but loves you more than you even love yourself. In the times where I mourn my past relationship I am quickly reminded that I love myself less. Meaning, I don’t love myself completely yet. I am still healing. I am still in a small way, saying that my past hurt wasn’t bad enough and I could reunite with my ex. I tell myself that it is still a love worth missing. The greatness of God is that He will always listen to my cries and my prayers but His will for my life will be done. Not in a a controlling way, but in a gracious way. If my past relationship is full of pain and feelings of unworthiness He is not going to give me what I ask. As a healthy loving dad would, He desires more.

The Bible says it best in Matthew 7:9-11 NLT ““You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

You see? In essence we have settled for snakes and God wants to give us a fish. We have settled for tainted love when God wants to give us His true love and because of His true love He wants to give us a man who is worthy of His daughter. I pray that you continue to go to church and realize how much God loves you. I pray that you continue to heal. I pray that you will always be loving and kind. I pray that you guard your heart from those who would bring it harm. I pray that you will be strong and keep the faith. Last but not least I pray that you will (if you haven’t already) surrendered your life and all of your hopes and ambitions to Christ. I can honestly say that I regret nothing in my past. Over the course of the past few years I’ve felt happy and loved by God as I wait for His many blessings to unfold. I declare Isaiah 62 MSG over your life from this day onward as not only a verse you can hold to but a hope and a promise from God:

You’ll be a stunning crown in the palm of God’s hand, a jeweled gold cup held high in the hand of your God. 4 No more will anyone call you Rejected, and your country will no more be called Ruined. You’ll be called Hephzibah (My Delight), and your land Beulah (Married), Because God delights in you.

Love,

Jessica

Thursday Inspiration 1.29.15

Isaiah 61:1-7 [ Announce Freedom to All Captives ] The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because Godanointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace— a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies— and to comfort all who mourn, To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness” planted by God to display his glory. They’ll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage. They’ll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new. You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks and foreigners to work your fields, But you’ll have the title “Priests of God,” honored as ministers of our God. You’ll feast on the bounty of nations, you’ll bask in their glory. Because you got a double dose of trouble and more than your share of contempt, Your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever.

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Thursday Inspiration 1.8.15

From Zephaniah 3 MSG:

So sing, Daughter Zion!
    Raise the rafters, Israel!
Daughter Jerusalem,
    be happy! celebrate!
God has reversed his judgments against you
    and sent your enemies off chasing their tails.
From now on, God is Israel’s king,
    in charge at the center.
There’s nothing to fear from evil
    ever again!

It’s always good to remember we are allowed to be joyful. This doesn’t mean everything has to go right or our lives have to always be on the up-and-up. Simply remembering that God “has reversed his judgments against you” is enough. Salvation has saved us from evil. It has no hold on us. While we may stumble, God still has the last word over us and that word is grace. His grace is sufficient.

Here are a few things we learn about God in this passage:

1. Yet God remains righteous in her midst,
    untouched by the evil.
He stays at it, day after day, meting out justice.
    At evening he’s still at it, strong as ever.
But evil men and women, without conscience
    and without shame, persist in evil.

2. He will always turn things around:

“In the end I will turn things around for the people.
    I’ll give them a language undistorted, unpolluted,
Words to address God in worship…..All my scattered, exiled people
    will come home with offerings for worship.
You’ll no longer have to be ashamed
    of all those acts of rebellion.”

3. God is the only one in charge:

God is Israel’s king,
    in charge at the center.
There’s nothing to fear from evil
    ever again!

4. God is present with you, strong, happy to have you, sings over you

Your God is present among you,
    a strong Warrior there to save you.
Happy to have you back, he’ll calm you with his love
    and delight you with his songs.

5. God will take away your sorrow:

“The accumulated sorrows of your exile
    will dissipate.
I, your God, will get rid of them for you.
    You’ve carried those burdens long enough.
At the same time, I’ll get rid of all those
    who’ve made your life miserable.

Is this not a reason to rejoice?

Found on the-worship-project.tumblr.com

Tuesday Inspiration 12.30.14

As 2014 winds down people do one of two things. They either mourn what they didn’t accomplish in the past year or strive for better in the coming year without being grateful for the small things they already have. We have all been guilty of one or both of these things. Regardless of which side you find yourself on, it is important to be thankful no matter what and to nourish what you already have. Two verses that stick out to me are:

1 Peter 5:6 MSG “Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you”

Ephesians 5:20 MSG “Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.”

Those two verses remind me that God cares for me. He sent Christ to die for me. Because of all this–I should be living freely. I shouldn’t allow the things of the world to weigh me down. If God is careful with me, I do not need to worry. This simple verse is a great reminder and a good “workout” to build your spiritual body and make sure you are strong. Also, I need to have a singing soul. I am allowed to be grateful for small things; i.e. a sunny day, my warm feet in a new pair of socks, a pretty flower, anything. God is in all things and should be praised for all things whether big or small. By nourishing what we already see and have we satisfy our hunger for more. By being grateful we do not need to be jealous or strive for more. We are content no matter what but expectant that God, being who He is, will provide more when the time comes.

Found on 3rdavenue.tumblr.com

Wednesday Inspiration 12.17.14

I found myself a little discouraged the other day after a conversation with a friend. Long story short my friend confirmed in somewhat of an indirect way that someone I already suspected wasn’t a fan of me in fact doesn’t like me. Now I know we’re not always going to be someone’s cup of tea, and I don’t expect to please everyone. Sometimes without meaning to, you just rub people the wrong way. I remember Robert Ferguson saying something a few weeks ago about how Kane, one of our pastors, rubs him the wrong way because Kane is so much more jovial than him. So as you can see, that’s kind of silly, right? It’s not like Kane said something mean to Robert, or did anything serious to offend him. Sometimes people just don’t gravitate to you, and that’s okay. We all have different personalities and interests and sometimes they clash.

But it still didn’t sit well with me for some reason. I don’t need this person to be my friend, or come to my birthday, or invite me places but I guess because I’m so touchy-feely and all, I always want to make things better and to try to include everyone.

If I’m totally honest I’ve often found myself being very…judgmental about how I believe Christians should be. These aren’t bad things but mainly things like: “I don’t understand why they are excluding him/her”, “I don’t understand why this person is so stand-offish”, “I don’t understand why that person looks down on that other person”, “I don’t understand why that person is always giving me the evil eye” etc. In other words, sometimes my idealism or whatever it is, is a bit…unrealistic. I know Christian or not we are all still human and we’re not always going to get it right. But I also want people to strive to be better. If we are set apart from the world and what the world does and thinks, then we should be acting and speaking and thinking differently. We’re not perfecting this any time soon but we should be actively learning how to do this. Not following our “feelings” all the time and instead using the Bible and God’s word and voice to show us what the best course of action is.

I randomly Googled today at work and found an article that talked about this. One of my favorite quotes was:

Part of the problem is that we misunderstand the word love. The kind of love that we need in order to love people we don’t like is agape love, God’s kind of love. Now, agape love is not a feeling. Though we may experience nice feelings as a result of agape love, it does not depend on how we feel or how others feel about us. We can express agape love whether the feelings are present or absent, whether they are good or bad. This kind of love is not a feeling.

[Source: http://bit.ly/1wZIuPB]

I like that.

When I was younger I felt like a lot of people didn’t like me and for many years this made me unhappy with myself because I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I think we all go through this at one time or another. Part of this had to do with events that occurred while I was growing up and being bullied and whatever else, but as I matured I learned that whether people liked me or not, I’m going to make a conscious effort to be good to them anyway. Trust me, I’m no saint. This isn’t a post about how fantastic I am. I’m truly not. Being good to people is sometimes accomplished through gritted teeth. It gets easier in some ways over the years and harder in some ways but ultimately I wanted to follow that old saying “Treat people the way you want to be treated” or as the Bible declares “Love your neighbor as yourself”. I want my actions to be in pursuit of what was right, no matter what the situation was/is or how someone was/is treating me.

All of this to say that, I think it’s okay for people not to like me. But I think if you’re a Christian you don’t have to like someone to love them. The article put it clearly by saying:

“agape love says, “I love you in spite of…”, in spite of the things about you that I may not like. We don’t have to feel guilty about not liking everyone. It’s okay! But we are commanded to love others”.

I think this is really important and something that is near to my heart. I never want my feelings about someone to ever have a negative effect on them or their relationship with God and Christianity as a whole. I’m not the end all be all, but I want to do my part to speak life and kindness into the people I work with, volunteer with, or come into contact with in any way. And sometimes it’s just as simple as deciding to still smile, hug, or talk to people whether they are a fan of you or not.

Father thank you that no matter what people might like or dislike about me that Your love and affection for me is constant. I pray for anyone reading this, who might have felt as I so often did in the past that I wasn’t liked. Help them to realize that the opinions of man are lower than the opinion of God. Heal their broken hearts and help tear down any walls around their hearts that prevent them from connecting to people. I also pray for those who struggle with certain people. We’re only human and it’s not always easy to get along. But I also know that you enable us to love because you first loved us..and you didn’t wait to see if Jesus “liked” us first before calling Him to love us first. I pray that as a community of believers that we make the tough decisions even when our flesh or comfort tells us to avoid what or who we do not like. Remind us daily what Jesus said in Matthew 22 which is to: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them. Amen.

Photo Credit: GeniusQuotes.net

Monday Inspiration 12.15.14

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I think this is actually a great way to live. Let’s stop comparing our situations with other people’s. Ladies, let’s stop envying that girl’s legs or good looks and appreciate your own. Men, let’s stop comparing your career to the careers of your buddies. We need to be focusing on our own mental health, our own self-esteem, and our own unique callings instead of wishing we were someone or somewhere else.

I like the advice found in 1 Corinthians 7 (MSG) which says:

29-31 I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple—in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.

In other words live freely and uncomplicated. Keep it simple. Don’t allow what people or the world tells you is important affect you. This world is temporary. Let’s focus on things that actually matter like becoming all that God has created you personally to be.

In Ephesians 2:10 MSG it says:

7-10 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

In other words there isn’t greener grass. God planted us all in His garden through acceptance of His Son and the grass is already green there. We all have favor.

Be content today to fertilize your own grass, to plant the seeds God has given you for your own field. You don’t need to envy anyone else’s.

Photo Credit: Boho-weddings.com

Thursday Inspiration 12.11.14

Isaiah 55:8-11 (MSG)

“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They’ll do the work I sent them to do,
they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.

I’m not much for gardening. Any time I’ve had house plants or flowers they have died. Maybe it’s just bad luck but I’m glad that when God gardens within our lives He doesn’t have my “brown” thumb. I have been saving this verse in my drafts for quite some time and today felt like the right day. I don’t feel like I’m currently being pruned and if I am I am not painfully aware of it as I have been in the past. But I still think His point of view on the situation of pruning and gardening is beautiful and encouraging whether you are going through a season of pruning or flourishing.

God reminds is in Isaiah as usual that our ways are not His ways. Our thoughts are lower than His thoughts. In other words–Father knows best. I absolutely LOVE the imagery and comparison the Message Bible draws when comparing the rain to God’s words. The rain will not stop until the ground is saturated, until it is done being dry and thirsty, until what needs to grow has grown. How cool is that when we think of God’s word? God is the creator–He has spoken all creation into being. He has spoken light into darkness in Genesis and has orchestrated all humanity. This same God wants His words to go out to you and to return with life and they will never return void. Even His words are subject to His will. It’s not like He says things without intention and without thinking. It’s not like He speaks something into being and regrets it. No, God’s words will do the work He sent them to do just like the rain. And what does the rain do? It does “their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry”. When you think about this in a more practical way God’s words will make dead things come to life in your world, in your heart, in your situation. His words want to make things blossom. One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of blossom is in the intransitive form of the verb meaning:

a :  to come into one’s own :  develop <a blossoming talent>

b :  to become evident

c :  to make an appearance

So God wants His words to become evident, to make an appearance/to come to fruition/to be tangible. His words help the farmers to plant seeds kind of like how Christians plant seeds and lead people to be curious about God, about their own value in the world, and about their neediness for the Savior as well as the needs around them. So God is arming us Christians with seeds and also feeding those who are hungry–who haven’t found Him, He is also sending out His word and His farmers to feed them. To meet them in their need. I love that!

I also really enjoyed reading this quote online:

 Excerpt from Heaven is in this House . Written by Bobbie Houston

Imagine a place so irresistible that people can’t wait to get there. Imagine a place so functional that no one ever wants to leave. Imagine a place where the atmosphere causes humanity to flourish. Imagine a place designed for no other reason than to connect you with a world beyond your wildest dreams. Such a place exists and has existed within the heart of God since before all time. It’s the church.

How beautiful. Don’t you want to be in this place? You don’t want to leave, no one wants to leave. More and more people hear about this place and they can’t wait to get there because they know the atmosphere is so alive and blossoming that you can’t help but flourish and help others to flourish. This is the Church. Not just the building, but the network of Christians. The local and the global church. The family of Christ.

I hope two things for you today:

1. That no matter your season: pruning or flourishing that you know God’s word for you will not return void. If the God who spoke you into being and knows you by name says it–it will come to be no matter the timeline.

2. If you are in a Church that you see it as more than just something you attend on a Sunday or at mid-week gatherings. That you never underestimate the power in community and the support and encouragement that it brings. If you haven’t found a church that you like, that you prioritize that search and get planted somewhere. If God is planting seeds and helping things grow but you have no roots–you’re going to miss the harvest.

I love what God is doing and am exicted for what He has yet to do not only in my life but in yours as well. His words will always result in action. God Bless.

Photo Credit: Found on thornandsparrow.com

Wednesday Inspiration 12.10.14

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Tonight I had my company holiday party. People brought their small children, wives, etc and it felt more like family than work. I’m truly endlessly joyfully grateful for this job. So many times I felt discouraged and depressed at my last job. I felt beaten down and often felt like my very worth was in question. I was torn down verbally each and every day. I felt abused literally at work. It was pure torture. Words cannot express this. I felt like I was truly at my wits end. Like I couldn’t endure smother day. I needed out. And weeks and months and years would pass. And you know what?, this job is proof that God is faithful. He brings the best. He knows what is ultimately for our good and the very greatest has yet to come. I find myself smiling as I write this. Smiling as I lay in bed getting ready to fall asleep. Trust me when I say that God is faithful. I’ve seen the darkness and I’m finally experiencing the light. You’re not even ready for the Ephesians 3:20 miracle that He’s sending your way. Praise God!

Photo Credit:
http://tumblr.hannahrosebeasley.com