By Donna Jackson on August 3, 2020
Hurting people live all around us in need of someone to give them a little relief from their situation. Maybe you are the one in need. Maybe you are the one able to offer relief. My guess is we’re all a little of both right now.
I once heard Lauren Daigle say that her song How Can It Be? was based on the story of Jesus’ forgiveness of the adulterous woman found in John 8. So, several years ago, as part of my message to women struggling with addiction, I carefully spliced together Lauren’s lyric video with a scene from the movie Son of God. I wanted those ladies to know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. After all, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John3:17)
All of us (especially me) need to remember that nothing should hinder us from sharing Jesus’ constant love with others. Times like these naturally allow stressed, frustrated, and hurting hearts to pay closer attention to messages of hope, comfort, and love.
As you watch the video, I’ll let you decide if you feel more like:
- the woman ashamed of what she’d done,
- the rock holders who thought they knew more than anyone else, or
- Jesus, who compassionately drew the attention of the self-righteous away from her, who mercifully loved her, and who gently reminded her to “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, thought, or said, God still loves you. “[He] proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Please watch the video below, and let it linger a bit. All of us could use this kind of touch right now.
By Donna Jackson on July 28, 2020
Not so secretly, thin streams of sweat slid down the back of the weary traveler. Light brown clouds billowed up from underneath his sandals as they slapped the chalky dirt. He was thankful for this new friend he had met in the town square who agreed to take him in for the night. Never had he been this tired. Hunger had come and gone a few miles back, but now he felt thirsty enough to drink a river.
Didymus felt sorry for the traveler when he spotted him sitting with his head propped in his hands. He didn’t hesitate to invite him home so he could wash up, eat a good meal, and get some rest before heading out again the next day.
As dinner lingered in their bellies, they sat back from the table to enjoy their wine and simply talk for a while. “How did you get the name Didymus?” the refreshed traveler asked.
Didymus smiled and slowly raised his eyes toward the ceiling as if recalling a fond memory. “Didymus means twin. I have a twin brother who looks exactly like me. Growing up no one could tell us apart so they called us both Didymus. I guess the name stuck with me, but now my brother is called Thomas. He doesn’t live here anymore. He became a disciple of Jesus the Messiah a few years back, and has gone to tell other people about Him. Do you know about Jesus?”
“Oh yes! I know Jesus is the Son of God who rose from the dead. He is my Lord and my Savior! I tell others about Him as often as I can.”
The two talked about their faith and all they knew about Jesus for quite a while. However, the stranger’s fascination with Didymus being a twin got the best of him. He absentmindedly reached across the table for a grape and popped it in his mouth as he pondered the idea of having a brother exactly like him. “So … since you look alike, does that mean you act and think alike?”
Didymus threw his head back and laughed so loud that it startled the sheep outside in the pen. “No! We are nothing alike! Never have been. Probably never will be. We used to butt heads like two young rams. Just know that I rarely think about things long enough to get upset. I take most people and circumstances at face value. Thinking that way helps me get things done so much faster than Thomas. He thinks about e-v-er-y-thing. He’s all about understanding the process. I’m all about finishing it. He focuses on why and all I want to know is when!”
The traveler asked, “You said you used to butt heads. What about now? Does he still frustrate you?”
Didymus threw a good-natured jab, “You think about things too, don’t you?”
“Maybe I do,” he countered. “But I guess I never really thought about thinking about things before.”
Both of them laughed and Didymus continued, “Thomas doesn’t either. It’s just the way he was made. It took us getting older to realize how valuable we are to each other. It’s our differences that make us both better.”
Didymus’ tone grew more serious, “Thomas used to travel around with his friend Matthew. The two of them once stopped here for a night. Matthew shared some things about my brother that I didn’t know. Now I understand him so much more than I did when we were younger.”
“So what did he tell you – if you don’t mind me asking?” probed the curious traveler.
“Matthew talked mostly about Thomas’ bravery. I never thought of Thomas as brave, but the story Matthew told changed my thinking. You see, after Jesus’ friend Lazarus became deathly ill, Jesus wanted to go to him even though it would put him great danger. The other disciples tried to stop Him, but it was my brother Thomas who stood up and said, ‘Let’s go too so we may die with him.’ Unquestionably, Thomas is brave and extremely loyal to those he loves. I wasn’t at all surprised when Matthew told me how unafraid he is when it comes to asking questions. Thomas has always asked questions! As Jesus tried to explain His death, He told His disciples, ‘I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.’ Most of them didn’t understand what He was talking about, but it was good ol’ Thomas who fearlessly asked, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?’ Thomas talked to Jesus like any other friend. I admire that about him. I really hate that after showing the amount of bravery Thomas had shown that he got stuck with a nickname that could have done him in.”
“A nickname?” the traveler repeated. “What nickname?”
Didymus explained, “Matthew revealed that after Jesus died Thomas became depressed. He did all the things depressed people do. He isolated himself, stopped reading the Scriptures, stopped singing, stayed inside, didn’t eat right, and doubted. He not only doubted who he’d become through his friendship with Jesus, but he also doubted Jesus’ resurrection power and His love for him. Jesus was gone, and Thomas felt abandoned and rejected. Since he was home alone, he missed getting to see Jesus in all His resurrection glory when He came to visit the disciples. After that encounter, they realized Thomas had been absent, so they ran to tell him that Jesus was alive and had come to see them. Thomas, at his lowest point, spoke words that revealed exactly how he felt, ones that have hung on him ever since. He said, ‘If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe.’ So, what’s the nickname that got pasted onto him? Doubting Thomas.”
By now the traveler had hung on every word out of Didymus’ mouth. “I can’t believe after all Thomas had done and was willing to do that he became known for the doubt he felt at his lowest moment. I feel so bad for him.”
“Don’t feel bad. Even after hearing the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, it took a week for Thomas to get his emotions under control, but he did! He finally understood that he needed to do the things he didn’t feel like doing so he could eventually want to do them again. He went back to the Scriptures, sang a new song, admitted his negative emotions, turned his thoughts toward all the promises Jesus had fulfilled, rejoiced over His resurrection, and reconnected with his friends. That’s when Jesus showed up again and let Thomas put his finger into the nail prints and his hand in His side. Matthew told me it was at that moment when Thomas realized that his season of doubt would never cause him to feel shame. Rather, it would be the scar that testifies to the resurrection power that now lives inside of him! His life has been transformed!”
With a mighty fist pump, the traveler shouted at a sheep-startling volume, “A – men!”
This story is a fictional account (based on Scripture) of a conversation that could have taken place. Depression is not fictional. If you or someone you know has a hard time climbing out of it, please seek Christian counseling. Allow a counselor to teach you how to turn tender wounds into healed scars so that you can sing a new song of praise to our God. Your example of bravery will help many others put their trust in the Lord! (Psalm 40:3)
“As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”John 15:9-11, CSB, emphasis mine
By Donna Jackson on July 21, 2020
It was the 70’s. Top musical artists included Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, James Taylor, Carole King, and The Eagles. John, Paul, George, and Ringo had split up by then to pursue separate careers. (If you don’t know those four names, please don’t tell me.)
My friend and I sang along with all of those artists on a daily basis. However, on this particular Saturday at a church youth rally, we sat mesmerized by an acappella singing group – think Pentatonix. The handsome lead singer caught our attention, but the song they sang captivated our hearts. Maybe we had sung it at church. Maybe I had heard it before. Without a doubt, I’d never heard it quite like that. Something about that song stayed with me forever.
A few years later, our new youth minister shaped and molded all of us teenagers into a rag tag little singing group that had way too much fun traveling around and performing for other churches. I call us rag tag because I was in it. I can’t sing a single note on pitch, but I do love to sing! Every time we performed this song, the audience became as captivated by the song as we had been at the youth rally.
Yesterday morning, this same soft, prayerful song played in my ears as I walked the trail by the lake. After hearing the first two words, I traveled back in time to that youth rally and smiled right out loud. 🙂 This particular version was a medley by Selah. The soft prayer had been coupled with another song, one with a fervent, up-tempo melody.
I couldn’t help but compare the two contrasting beats with the way our lives sometimes roll. Though we all come into this world wired a bit differently, we all begin as helpless little babies who must travel through our own mountains and valleys. We maneuver the twists and turns that come our way. Like the runners I encountered on the trail, we begin full of hope and energy. However, if we lose our focus, our upturned smiles gradually straight-line. Our pace slows as our temperature grows. Our trek becomes sweaty work.
That’s when we cry out, “Precious Lord, take my hand. Lead me on. Help me stand. I am tired. I am weak. I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to your light. Take my hand, Precious Lord, and lead me home. When my way grows drear, Precious Lord, linger near. When my life is almost gone, hear my cry, hear my call, hold my hand lest I fall. Take my hand, Precious Lord, lead me home.”
Could that be your prayer right now? Have you hit the wall and run out of hope and energy? I once tried to motivate myself. I thought if I could just work a little harder, do a little more, and fake it ‘til I make it I might find a peaceful place for my soul to rest and take a well-deserved break.
It didn’t work.
When I met Jesus face-to-face, took His hand, and allowed Him to love me just like I was, I found my rest. His love lingers no matter what. His love motivates, protects, and will ultimately lead us home.
I finally turned up the tempo of my heart’s song and learned that just a closer walker with Jesus had been what I needed all along. He heard my plea and kept me from all harm. I know I will be satisfied as long as I continue to walk with Him. Then when my feeble life is over, time for me here on this earth will be no more. He’ll guide me gently, safely home to His kingdom shore – on His timetable, and not mine.
If you feel like giving up, don’t. Just take a closer walk with Jesus. Get to know Him better by reading the New Testament. Talk to Him like you would a friend. Close relationships form out of a slow and intentional process. Read through the New Testament as many times as it takes to become best friends with Jesus – and then, keep reading some more. Read all of it! (Here’s a link to the plan I use every morning: https://www.churchofthehighlands.com/bible)
I feel sure you and I want nothing more than to finish strong. We want the crescendo and the piano trill at the end. We’re getting closer every day, so make today a good day!
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be!
“I will bless the Lord who counsels me — even at night when my thoughts trouble me. I always let the Lord guide me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices; my body also rests securely.”Psalm 16:7-9, CSB
Please don’t skip the song. You just might be singing it the rest of the day – or forever.
By Donna Jackson on July 14, 2020
Her fingers softly caressed the edges of the smooth white box. Long before her mother passed it down to her it, it belonged to her grandmother. It was the most precious possession she owned. She filled it with perfumed oil valued over a year’s worth of wages. She knew in her heart she had no better gift to give. If her mother had known this man or seen Him raise her son Lazarus from the grave, Mary felt sure she would do the same thing.
Laughter from the other room blew away her sweet thoughts. Lazarus was alive! It was a time of celebration! Simon had invited many of his friends over for dinner so they could see for themselves that Lazarus was indeed still alive and still well. Many of them simply wanted to rub elbows with Jesus, the man who brought their friend out of the grave.
As the wine lowered, the laughter rose. Mary knew it was the perfect time to enter this relaxed gathering of men. She lifted the box from the table and gently kissed the top of it. She couldn’t help but smile as she thought of the time she’d spent sitting at Jesus’ feet. She had listened intently as He explained His mission to her. She wanted to memorize every word. Perhaps more than anyone, she understood some of what was about to happen to this friend she’d grown to love with all her heart. Best of all, she knew Jesus loved her more than anyone else ever had. His love inspired her to not only love Him, but to also love the people He loved – and that was everyone!
Mary closed her eyes as she remembered sitting grief-stricken and heartbroken on her most horrible day. Grief-stricken because Lazarus died. Heartbroken because her friend Jesus didn’t come as quickly as she had hoped. She felt a bit embarrassed as she remembered how rejected she felt. That is, until Martha ran to tell her that Jesus had come and was asking for her. For her! She really did matter to Him after all! Yes, this Friend deserved the best she had to give because He was about to give His all so that everyone who believes in Him could live forever.
The small box sat cupped in her hands like a baby bird that had fallen out of the nest. As she entered the room, the laughter stopped. It wasn’t customary for a woman to enter a room full of men. Jesus, however, smiled. The other men stared. Jesus enjoyed being Mary’s friend, and He was glad to see her. She loved how He always accepted her.
Without saying a word, she knelt down in front of Him. Slowly, she reached into her apron and pulled out a small dull knife. The tremble in her hands surprised her. She so wanted Jesus to understand how special this moment was to her. Carefully, she used the knife to break the seal of wax securing the lid, lifted it off, and laid it aside. The aroma escaped, signifying the freedom Mary felt in the presence of her Messiah. The lilting fragrance became Mary’s sacrifice of praise. Jesus leaned His head back, closed His eyes, and smiled as the fragrance curled around His nostrils. She poured the fragrance onto His feet and then lifted her hands behind her head. With a slight beckoning, her long dark hair fell past her shoulders as she leaned forward. Ever so gently, she wiped up the perfume from His feet with her hair. That scent would linger in the air for months, but the memory etched itself into her heart forever.
The male bystanders felt indignant and spoke harshly to her for “wasting” her expensive perfume. Yet, she offered no lip service. She simply offered some valuable and fragrant praise. And Jesus came to her rescue once again.
How valuable is your praise? Do you express it bravely? Can you do it humbly?
In his commentary on this story in Mark 14, David Guzik says, “The disciples longed for fame and influence, but this woman found an enduring memorial. She found it not by longing for a position, but simply by loving Jesus and serving Him.”
We love Jesus best when we love the people He loves. They may not look, act, or believe like us, but if we love Him like we say we do, then we become the perfumed oil that fills their lives with the fragrance of Christ.
Many of you have poured the precious oil of praise into your own boxes. It’s cost you a great deal. You’ve had to throw out old habits and desires so that God could replace them with better ones. You’ve had to grab hold of some qualities you lacked so you could give off a more pleasant aroma. You’ve learned to offer your own unique sacrifice of praise.
I heard the song Alabaster Box yesterday, and I haven’t been able to get part of the lyrics out of my mind nor the tune out of my ears. I can relate to these words, and I believe you will too.
You weren’t there the night He found me.
You did not feel what I felt when He wrapped His love all around me,
and you don’t know the cost of the oil in my Alabaster box.
I can’t forget the way life used to be.
I was a prisoner to the sin that had me bound, and I spent my days,
poured my life without measure, into a little treasure box I thought I found
until the day when Jesus came to me,
and healed my soul with the wonder of His touch.
So now I’m giving back to Him all the praise He’s worthy of.Alabaster Box by CeCe Winans
I’ve been forgiven, and that’s why I love Him so much.
You don’t know the cost of my oil, nor do I know the cost of yours. But, I do know the extravagant love, the infinite mercy, and the profound grace of the One who does. And I know He renews our reasons for praise by coming to our rescue over and over again.
Fill your box with the most magnificent praise you can muster. Lay it at the feet of Jesus. Crack it open, and fill the air with unforgettable fragrance.
“For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life.” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)
By Donna Jackson on July 7, 2020
Can you invent words worthy enough to describe your feelings after that first magical kiss from your true love?
Can vowels and consonants be strung together to craft words sweet enough to explain the love in a mother’s heart when she holds her baby for the first time?
What sentences could you form to describe to a blind man a brilliant sunrise or the ocean’s majesty?
Could you use your hands to successfully sign for a deaf child the sound of crickets chirping in the summertime?
I’ve tried to describe the change within me over the last two years, but there are no words. I’ve found comfort in knowing that even Peter and Paul struggled with that. When Peter wrote of the joy he’d found in Jesus, he used the words “inexpressible and glorious”. (1 Peter 1:8, CSB) Paul referred to God’s grace as “His indescribable gift”. (2 Corinthians 9:15, CSB)
Some things just have to be experienced!
Tenille Townes’ song The Most Beautiful Things provides commentary on that thought. She softly sings, “Why do we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss, dream? Maybe the most beautiful things in this life are felt and never seen.” (You can listen to the song at the end.)
It’s true, we shouldn’t run on our feelings. But, it sure is good to feel what we’re running on. If you’ve put your faith in Jesus, you have complete access to a mighty dose of Holy Spirit power.
The list in Galatians 5:20 characterizing people who are running on the Spirit does not begin arbitrarily. Paul had already boldly proclaimed in verse 6, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” When we truly feel loved by God, we can then go on to experience and express joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Love inspires all of these.
Since mankind is made in the image of God, everyone has the ability to perform a loving act every now and then. However, an entire life infused by love can be neither witnessed nor enjoyed until we accept and receive all the love God has for us.
Are you certain of God’s love for you? You’ve most likely heard John 3:16 since you were a toddler, but do you intentionally take note of the many small, sweet acts of loving kindness God performs just for you? Do you truly believe He always has your best interest at heart? Does it overwhelm you that even while your sins are still warm, Jesus lovingly whispers, “I still love you, but this is not good for you?” His love may cause you and me to feel convicted, but it never condemns.
Our lives are like a vapor that’s here today and gone tomorrow. (James 4:14) It would be extremely sad to never experience the love God has for us. His kind of love springs from the Spirit’s power, not our own, and then spills over into the lives of others. As a result, love fills us with inexpressible joy, which in turn gives us indescribable peace.
I tried for years to perform acts of love without understanding or believing in the love God has for me. It took some grandchildren for me to begin to understand the depth of God’s faithful love. There was (and is) nothing, absolutely NOTHING, they could ever do that would make me stop loving them. (The same is true for God’s love for you.) When they misbehave, I definitely convict them, but never condemn. I only want what’s best for them. I want them to revel in and celebrate God’s love. Only then can they realize that it’s His love, their friendship with Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit empowering them to love others.
Maybe it’s time we slow down, and close our eyes to pray, cry, kiss, and dream for a while. Maybe the most beautiful things in this life really are felt and never seen – and totally indescribable!
“No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”1 John 4:12-13, CSB
By Donna Jackson on June 30, 2020
He looked to be around four years old. Wisps of reddish blonde hair stuck out from underneath his light blue baseball cap. Busy hands shoveled sand into buckets and scooped chips out of a bag. Dark blue swim trunks extended from his waist to just past his knees – well … most of the time.
Happy Tuesday, everyone. I missed you last week. It’s good to be back!
By Donna Jackson on June 16, 2020
Next week, Ron and I will celebrate 41 years of marriage. Time flies when you’re having fun! But, whenever one or both of our lives turns less than festive, days drag ever-so-slowly. Thankfully, our speedy days far outnumber the slow ones.
If you’ve been married a while and still have a smile on your face, then you understand all it takes to thrive. Even with a long-lasting friendship you realize how intentional both of you must be for the relationship to endure.
No other statement sums up all the Laws of Relationships better than the Golden Rule. You most likely learned it in elementary school: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12)
Did you know Jesus holds the prize for first stating this in its positive form? Before Jesus’ version hit the disciples’ ears, they had only heard the negative form: “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else.” (Rabbi Hillel, a.d.20)
I believe Jesus intended for His version to constructively penetrate our hearts so we can go above and beyond merely doing no harm. He wants His children to live in love and unity whether we are married, siblings, friends, neighbors, co-workers, or members of the same church. Love demonstrated through unity powerfully lights up any dark place. True oneness causes those who don’t know Jesus to shake their heads in amazement, and that’s the first step to them wanting what we have. However, make no mistake. Unity is costly!
For Ron and I to become one, it took more than a ceremony. Sure, we made the promises, lit the candle, and sealed it all with a kiss, but it’s taken so much more! It’s taken surrender, compromise, listening, loving, forgiving, and even some trial-and-error to move us closer to complete oneness.
It takes consistent and intentional communication to move any two people or groups closer together. It takes liberal amounts of time sitting across the table to find out the other person’s likes and dislikes, hurts and joys, and all the stories that have made them who they are.
Most of us truly want to follow the Golden Rule, but we don’t know how to do that effectively unless we get some feedback. Here’s the rub: the way I want to be treated may not be the way you want me to treat you, and vice-versa. Learning how to love others and teaching them how to love us takes patience, time, and communication. Positive and even corrective feedback teaches us how to love others successfully. When we boil it all down and look in the bottom of that golden rule pot, we see one thing that’s most needed to accomplish our goal of doing unto others – RESPECT. When we respect one another’s differences and pay attention to what both parties need we give unity our best shot.
In today’s climate, unity seems elusive. It seems unattainable. Perhaps you’re like me and wonder how you can possibly make a difference. The answer may be a simple one that’s slow and painstaking. That’s the nature of unity. Each one of us can choose to become more intentional about getting to know more people. Ron and I have made the choice to be more deliberate with inviting old and new friends over for a meal. I like to cook, and he likes to talk, so we make a good team. This might be a good day for you to decide on your one way to more effectively love the people in your life. It’s the little things that make the strongest impact.
“Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice.”(Romans 15:5-6, CSB; emphasis mine)
I’m happy to say that next Tuesday, the 23rd, is our actual anniversary. So, we’re taking the week off! See you again on the 30th! Happy Tuesday!
By Donna Jackson on June 9, 2020
I eagerly began a flowerbed rejuvenation process at the farm early Saturday morning hoping to beat the heat. However, since I don’t work nearly as fast as I used to, sweat soaked through my t-shirt well into the afternoon.
I would have finished much sooner had I been content with attacking flowerbeds like the men in my family. They happily use the weed-eater to “get rid” of the weeds. Afterwards, they throw on some mulch, and “Voila!” it’s on to the next project.
Me? I want to yank out every stinking weed by its hairy root and dare it to pop up again. Only when every blade of grass and pesky weed has been removed am I content to plant a few new flowers and lay down a fresh layer of sweet-smelling mulch.
If you contrasted my finished flowerbeds with those of my menfolk you wouldn’t notice any difference at all – for a few days. That’s when all those roots left in the ground would sprout new weeds that would quickly overtake the whole bed again. Yet, root-yanking allows only a few stragglers to shove their scrawny heads above the mulch.
Saturday, as sweat dripped off the end of my nose, I thought about how those flowerbeds illustrate two opposing attitudes toward life. (There’s a lot of thinking time when you’re pulling weeds.)
On one hand, we may let people, circumstances, or our own desires get the best of us. Negative emotions like disappointment, resentment, and unforgiveness may unfortunately bury long, gnarly roots we can’t muster the willingness, courage, or the energy to jerk out. Some of them have been there so long that our pride sees them as what’s held us together rather than what’s been choking us all along.
On the other hand, our souls can grow healthier and remain consistently peaceful when we choose to pull the weeds of difficult relationships, unsettling circumstances, and/or haughty spirits. Clean hearts give God space to plant a supernatural love for others that takes our eyes off of ourselves and places them squarely on the needs of others. It even allows us to love them the way they need to be loved, rather than trying to express love in ways that only make sense to us.
What’s your longest, gnarliest root? Have you given it any thought? No doubt, all of the conflict in our world right now has uncovered a few of your not-so-healthy roots. I know they have mine. Hopefully, you’re tugging on a few of those now. Pay attention when you repetitively get an “uneasy feeling” about someone or a particular circumstance. It might be the Spirit trying to help you identify a trouble spot. Be patient with yourself and everyone else. It’s quite a process! Don’t give up.
I decided after emptying bag after bag of mulch on Saturday that mulch is a whole lot like love; it covers a multitude of sins! Sure, they both make things look prettier on the outside, but they also provide many internal benefits. Both are essential to surviving a drought. Both keep the good roots cool when things heat up. They help break up the hard clumps, provide nutrients, and hold onto the moisture from the heavens. Most of all, both make it easier to spot any weeds that pop up so they can be pulled quickly. Our gardens need mulch, but we need love more.
I don’t know how much Peter knew about mulch, but I do know he knew what it felt like to have his weeds pulled. He understood the importance of getting rid of the weeds in his life so he could get on with loving the people around him and glorifying the One who had shown him great love.
“The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”1 Peter 4:7-11, CSB
By Donna Jackson on June 2, 2020
It made me laugh every time, even though I’d witnessed it over and over. The towheaded two-year-old leaned forward, bent his elbows, and clenched his fists as he imitated a world-class sprinter. With steely eyes fixed on his Papa Ron, a mischievous smile stretched across his face threatening to swallow it whole. Those eyes spoke the only question on the child’s one-track mind, “Well … are you going to chase me or not?”
Naturally, my fun-loving man always jumped straight up to signal the chase was on. Through the living room, past the front door, across the dining room, into the kitchen, and back around again they’d run with giggles and high-pitched screams bouncing off the walls. Round and round until Papa gave out. This familiar game always ended with the squirmy little guy getting swooped up and smothered in kisses.
Eventually, the little boy accumulated two brothers and a sister who never had to be taught how to play this game. It’s as if the need of feeling worthy enough to be pursued comes prewired into all of our brains. I feel sure one day our newest granddaughter will also want to play the same game.
Having someone give chase when your emotions make you feel like running away helps you realize how much you really do matter. Knowing your life matters lays a firm foundation for healing. However, if you repetitively struggle with fear, shame, discouragement, or any other negative emotion, you may never outgrow this game until someone faster finally laces up their running shoes and runs long enough to catch you.
I apologize for my thoughts being a bit jumbled today, but that seems to be the condition of my heart right now. On one hand, I’ve been encouraged by people coming to Jesus, Christians drawing closer than ever to Him, and the responses of many churches toward those who are hurting. However, if you watch any news at all, I’m sure you’ve become as discouraged as me by the evil running rampant in our streets, on our TV’s, and throughout social media. These are not unprecedented times (just read the Old Testament), but they are unprecedented to us.
Our lives have been turned upside-down in the last three months, and our hearts are overwhelmed as we all wonder what we could possibly do to make a difference. Like you, I’ve prayed much about that, and I believe God’s response to my heart was, “Go after those in your circle of influence who are on the verge of giving up, and let them know they matter.” God may provide you with a different response, but I cringe at the thought of overlooking the people who are dearest to me.
After my talk with God, I went to the Scriptures looking for an example of giving chase. It didn’t take me long to find a man who feared for his life so much that he denied knowing Jesus, not once, but three times. Fear caused Peter to lie to save his own hide. (John 22:54-62) After telling that third lie, shame completely overwhelmed him as the eyes of Jesus met his. (Luke 22:61) Then, after the crucifixion, Peter became so discouraged that he ran back home, giving up all hope for a better life, and went back to fishing. (John 21:3)
How did Jesus respond to his hurting friend? He didn’t expect Peter to overcome all those negative emotions on his own. First, he made sure that the women visiting the tomb after Jesus’ resurrection were instructed to go and tell the disciples, and specifically Peter, that Jesus was alive! (Mark 16:7)
Jesus never thought, “Oh, Peter will hear I came back to life, and he’ll come looking for me.” No, Jesus went after him. He found him on the beach where he was fishing and even cooked him breakfast! Now, that’s my kind of friend. (John 21)
Look around your life. Who needs to know they matter? Who needs you to make the first move? Who needs someone to simply grab hold of them and listen to their heart for a pair of unhurried minutes or even hours? Don’t be afraid to get close enough to make a difference. Believe me, it takes less time, energy, and emotion to meet a problem head on than to have it linger for years and fester.
Prepare yourself for the run by staying read up, prayed up, and worshipped up. God’s words given to Moses are still true for all Spirit-filled believers, “Now go! I will help you speak and I will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:12)
If you happen to be the person running, take a glance behind you. Do you see a Jesus-follower back there? Let them catch you. Even though Jesus is always with you, you need Jesus with some skin on. You need to be swooped up and smothered with love. You matter enough to be chased and caught so you can heal and then do some chasing of your own.
Let’s help our souls (our mind, will, and emotions) heal. Only then, will we become a healthy army of hard-fighting soldiers who confidently march arm-in-arm into every battle against Satan, knowing the war has already been won!
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’”Luke 15:4-6, The Message
By Donna Jackson on May 24, 2020
Occasionally, a friend of mine reminds me of a quote from the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life. As the senior angel spells out the George Baily assignment that could win Clarence his wings, Clarence asks, “Is he sick?” To which the angel wisely answers, “No, worse. He’s discouraged.”
Satan wields discouragement like a mighty sword that can stab us in the heart without much warning. Relationships frustrate us to tears. Circumstances overwhelm our days. Finances crumble into dust. Our health suffers. We feel like a frenzied hamster on a wheel going nowhere. Discouragement often pushes us to make poor decisions. We either give up and run, or we fight angrily. Neither provide the cure we need.
Everyone I’ve talked to lately has confessed to having “that day” during this time of quarantine. You know. That day when you say, “I’ve had enough of this! I’m tired of this game!”
So, how do you deal with your discouragement? Maybe we could all take a few lessons from the not-yet-king David.
By the time we get to 1 Samuel 27-30, God had already chosen David to be the next king of Israel. He had slayed lions and bears, killed Goliath, been anointed by Samuel, played the harp for King Saul, been befriended by Saul’s son Jonathan, become a mighty warrior, made Saul extremely jealous, been chased relentlessly by him, and extended grace to that same ornery king multiple times.
Yet, the day finally came when David moaned, “I’ve had enough! I’m tired of this game!” Actually, he said to himself, “One of these days I’ll be swept away by Saul. There is nothing better for me than to escape immediately to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me everywhere in Israel, and I’ll escape from him.” What we say to ourselves contains tremendous power!
So … David ran.
David’s weariness in trusting God moved him to make all the wrong moves. Knowing Saul would not chase him into Philistine territory, David sought and found the favor of the Philistine king Achish who gave him the town of Ziklag. David and his family, along with 600 of his men and their families, lived in Ziklag for 16 months. He and his small army spent their days raiding enemy territories of Israel, killing all the people, and plundering their possessions. However, David underhandedly convinced the king that all the plunder he collected had come from raids on his own Israelite people in southern Judah. David made sure his warriors killed all the inhabitants in every town they raided so his lie would not be exposed. Though he wasn’t discouraged enough to fight against his own people quite yet, he still fought for profit and honor rather than God’s glory.
Has discouragement ever caused you to stop trusting God’s strength and timing? Has it led you a few times to your own Ziklag?
David’s discouragement soon turned bitter, and bitterness unchecked eventually goes looking for a fight. So, David and his men joined the Philistines who were marching toward a battle with the very Israelites he would one day rule . By this time Achish had full confidence in David’s loyalty, but the other Philistine kings saw him as a spy and voted for him to march back to Ziklag immediately. David trudged back home even more bitter and discouraged.
It often takes a gut-wrenching and devastating event to grab our attention and inject some faithfulness and trust back into our exhausted hearts. When David and his men returned to Ziklag they discovered the town had been burned to the ground by the Amalekites who had taken captive all of their wives and children. The mighty warriors wept bitterly over their losses and talked of stoning David. His soul lay splattered on the rock-hard floor of a deep, slippery pit. He could fall no further.
That’s when it happened. “David strengthened himself in the Lord.” (1 Samuel 30:6, ESV)
The rest of chapter 30 unfurls four things David did to strengthen himself. As I read, I realized these were the same things I had done when my soul hit rock bottom. The Holy Spirit led me to this story to remind me of these things so I could resist becoming discouraged again. I’m pretty sure He thinks they will help you too.
So, how did David strengthen himself?
1) He remembered God’s love.
Not only had God demonstrated His love profoundly by delivering him from the lion, the bear, Goliath, and Saul, but He also proved His faithful love in an understated way. Rejection by the Philistine kings seemed devastating at the time. However, that rejection sent him back home quickly so his family could be rescued. If he had waited for the battle to be over things could have been much worse. This time rejection proved to be a good thing.
Has this pandemic caused some totally unexpected, yet surprisingly positive outcomes for you and your family? Has it given you time to develop richer connections with those who mean the most to you? Have you experienced God’s love in a more personal and real way? Thank God for His love, and live loved.
2) He remembered his promise and calling.
David knew he would be king! God said so. So, why did he ever believe Saul would succeed in killing him? Eventually, David stood tall against his enemies knowing that God was on his side.
You are a child of the king! Jesus said so. So, why would you ever believe Satan could succeed in defeating you? Stand tall, and thank God for keeping His promises!
3) He partnered with God to get the victory.
God told David that he would be victorious against the Amalekites, but David didn’t just sit back and wait for it to happen. He led his army straight toward the fight and fought all night and throughout the next day.
If you follow Jesus you have already won the war against Satan, but he still revels in battling God’s people. When we don’t engage in the holy battle for our own mind, will, and emotions we can become discouraged and taint our testimony. Let God encourage you by providing the help you need. Thank Him for His partnership.
4) He reversed his negative self-talk.
When David found strength in the Lord he stopped all of the “woe is me” self-talk. Instead, he went to the priest and asked the Lord what he should do.
You may have wise words for others. You may be able to be objective when counseling a friend. You might even discern things others miss. But when you become discouraged, you are your own worst counselor. Trust me on that one. Ask God to remind you who you are in Christ. He knows you better than you do. He will provide everything you need to get your joy back. Thank God for allowing you to see how fearfully and wonderfully made you really are.
“David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken; he also rescued his two wives. Nothing of theirs was missing from the youngest to the oldest, including the sons and daughters, and all the plunder the Amalekites had taken. David got everything back.”1 Samuel 30:18-19, CSB
You can too!
By Donna Jackson on May 19, 2020
A pandemic provides the perfect time to climb out of your own wagon.
The waves slapped the beach in perfect rhythm as the clouds did their best to scoot across the early morning sky. The rising sun tinted the horizon with a smear of pink that would make Monet smile and run to find a canvas.
I sat sipping coffee on the fifth floor condo balcony, no longer paying attention to the occasional slamming of the gate below. Instead, my mind fixated on an old memory of a much younger me relaxing next to my Pawpaw in a similar scene. Even these many decades later, I can hear the overwhelming emotion in his voice upon surveying the vastness of the ocean. He faintly whispered, “Just think! God made all of this!”
Perhaps it was that very moment that led me to grow up believing Jesus lived at the beach. Even though He has since convinced me that He lives inside my heart, there’s still a very tender piece of me that wants to believe He loves His time at the beach as much as I do.
Suddenly, the gate slammed louder than usual, and I snapped back to real time. I looked down to see two women lumbering down the boardwalk wagging an overloaded wagon. The chairs, tents, coolers, and who knows what else swayed back and forth perilously. So naturally, I watched, silently hoping for a live edition of America’s Funniest Videos while “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” played in my ears. (Don’t judge me. We’re all a little conflicted at times. 🙂 )
They made it to the end of the boardwalk, and even transitioned successfully from decking to sand. The older woman unwrapped the younger woman’s towel from her neck and draped it across her own as a signal that youth had won the job of driving their load across the deep sand.
Her blonde ponytail rocked back and forth in opposition to the teetering cargo. Every trudge engraved deep ruts in the sand as I imagined the burn in her weary thigh muscles. About halfway to their destination, a couple walked up behind the pair. Without saying a word, the man bent down, put his hand to the back of the load, and pushed. The young woman’s step became quicker. She stood a bit taller. I wondered if she thought she’d suddenly gotten stronger or somehow managed to stumble upon a smoother path. Finally, the curious worker bee turned around to check her cargo only to see a man providing the strength she lacked. She flashed a humongous smile his way, aptly conveying her joy at having some hefty help.
If you think my mind began connecting this scene with how Jesus provides the push we need to get going, you would most likely be in the majority and very perceptive; but you might miss a more powerful connection.
My thoughts, instead, jumped immediately to the cargo.
I think it might be safe to say that we’ve all had our wagons overloaded at times. Maybe religious rules once towered and teetered in yours. Or perhaps there were doubts about your abilities. Or difficult people. Or job-related stress. Or sickness. Or grief. Or negative emotions. Or maybe, just maybe, your wagon got loaded with too much of you. It’s hard to see, much less acknowledge, a helping hand when your cargo gets stacked too high.
Like the blind man Jesus healed in John 9, the lady pulling the wagon through the sand never asked for help. Yet, both of them stepped a little quicker and stood a little taller when they partnered with their helper to get rid of their burdens.
When we let our stacks get so high that they tower and teeter, I feel sure Satan laughs. He does not want us to turn our eyes upon Jesus for even a second. We can easily become too proud to let go of anything. We tell our family and friends, “I’ve got this!” and we honestly think we do until it all comes crashing to the ground. We get so used to pulling a heavy wagon we feel guilty when we aren’t straining. If we ever do take the time to turn and look, we see nothing but cargo, so we lean forward and tug harder.
I realized I needed to let go of a few things when:
- It became hard for me to ask for or accept help
- My mind and body stayed revved or sick
- Sleep ran the other way
- Family and friends were worried about me
- My schedule left no margin for down time
- I rarely had fun
Cargo cleaning takes prayer, time, and an abundance of soul searching. It takes sitting quietly enough to hear what the Spirit wants us to get rid of. We need some mighty hefty help to get us out of our own wagons.
These days, I don’t ask Jesus to push me. I ask Him to help me keep my load light enough to see the people around me. Who knows? Honest to goodness joy might even become evident to Him and everyone else whenever we feel light enough to flash our humongous smiles their way. Someday, while still on this earth, let’s take the time to relax together as Jesus-loving friends. Let’s sit with one another long enough to whisper in unison and amazement, “Just think! God made all of this!”
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – JesusMatthew 11:28-30
By Donna Jackson on May 12, 2020
Above all, put on love, which is the
perfect bond of unity.
Colossians 3:14, CSB
Sharp nails used to secure the shingles on the young man’s roof reluctantly released their grip in the furious storm. Shingles flew haphazardly across many neighborhoods, leaving the home exposed to the elements.
After the howling winds ended, the trees stood straight again, and the sun poked through the clouds. The young man eagerly gathered His tools needed for the repair and climbed the ladder to meet His Father on the roof. This new roof would be much better than the old one – strong enough to weather any storm!
The Son always enjoyed time with his Father. He’d spent His life watching him work. He studied His ways, listened to His advice, and tried to do things exactly as He did them. Pretty soon everyone who knew them commented on how much they favored. It warmed the Son’s heart to have His Father oversee the repairs.
Reaching the rooftop, the Son couldn’t help but smile as He peered over the top of the ladder and saw His Dad lost in the moment – again. The older man’s grandchildren and their friends had captured His full attention as He watched them play together in the backyard. The Son knew better than to interrupt this kind of moment, so He sat down quietly next to His Dad, propped back on both hands, and crossed His legs. The younger version of the Father understood this might take a while, but He was in no hurry.
“Tell me about these kids, Son,” the Father said without taking His eyes off the children.
The Son began, “They are all from different neighborhoods, backgrounds, and schools, but they seem drawn to my kids. All of them met a while back at the city playground and eventually, one by one, they found their way to my house. They’ve been here every day since the storm. They find comfort here where they can forget about its effects.”
Father nodded slowly. While still staring at the scene below, He sighed, “I see. Tell me more.”
“Dad, do you see that boy in the blue shirt down there? That’s Billy. His dad lost his job due to the storm, and has been too depressed to spend time with Billy. He craves attention from anyone who will give it.
The sweet little redheaded girl is Susie. She lives with her mom and they’ve had a rough time adjusting to life after her daddy died. She cracks jokes and makes all the other kids laugh, but I believe it’s all a coverup.
Oh, and that little fella standing there against the fence? His name is Johnny. He doesn’t say much until he gets to know you. His dad yells at Johnny and his mom all the time and neither of them can do enough to make him happy. He’s a perfectionist who rarely seems satisfied with anyone. Johnny comes here where he can be accepted just like he is and get away from the madness at home.”
The Father’s eyes finally shifted away from the kids and looked admiringly into the eyes of His Son. “It seems like you’ve spent a great deal of time getting to know these children. You know each of them by name.”
“I do, and some of them even know my name,” He replied with a boyish grin.
Father laughed and exclaimed, “Well, there’s one thing I know for sure! I could pick your kids out of any crowd. They look like you, talk like you, and have the same love for people that you have. You’ve put a light in them that is unmistakable. You have taught them well, my Son. Well done!”
The Son knew this was a moment to savor, so he closed His eyes and humbly said, “Thank you, Dad. You know I learned everything I know from You. I want all of these children, not just mine, to know You like I do. I want them to enjoy the time it takes to not only get to You, but to also enjoy getting to know each other. They all feel safe with me, and I’m hoping they will bring their friends and family here to meet me. Nothing would thrill my soul more than for my house to be filled with children who were all different, but of the same heart and mind. Do you ever think that will happen, Dad?”
“Well, Son, storms have a way of bringing out the best in some folks and the worst in others. Some find buried courage by lighting a candle in the dark. Others get buried in fear by refusing to even search for a candle. I’m afraid it will always be that way. It’s up to Your kids to lead their friends to Your peace. And You and I both know love leads best! But, right now we’d better get this roof on. I feel the wind picking up.”
“The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind — just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they’ll be as unified and together as we are—I in them and you in me.”John 17:21-23, The Message
By Donna Jackson on May 5, 2020
“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory,
and his disciples believed in him.”
Weddings naturally draw friends and family from far and near for great times of celebration. This particular wedding offered no exception.
Six hefty water-filled jars sat stone-faced as they witnessed the most festive of all Jewish customs. However, as the celebration continued, the water levels within these six weighty containers diminished, causing the jars to feel greatly ignored.
Many faithful Jews used the jars’ purified water to perform countless hand washings and other rituals. Yet, the close friends who chose to serve the family during this wedding celebration became distracted with tasks other than replenishing the water. Before long, the six stone jars realized their emptiness as well as their inability to do anything about it. Secretly, they wondered if they might ever experience a refilling of water, or better yet, a filling of the wine that seemed to make hearts glad. Their work of water storing had been supremely important for centuries, but was there more? Could there be something even better?
The jars first noted the servant’s raised eyebrows after listening to a whispered behind-the-hand message from a concerned woman. The soft whispers numbered too few to decipher at first. However, the solemn secret quietly blew into ear after ear, one servant at a time. The unfolding situation caused complete panic in the frazzled servants trying their best to do everything exactly right.
The woman who first whispered the secret had arrived at the wedding celebration with her Son and a few of His friends. The Son, enveloped by a sweet, unfamiliar aroma, now stood next to the stone-faced jars. Simply having Him near, warmed the jars from the inside out. That’s when they overheard the sad secret.
No more wine!
The jars had been around long enough to know how embarrassing this would be for such a fine family. An absence of wine created an absence of joy! And joy stands out as the hallmark emotion whenever a Groom takes His bride!
“Fill the jars with water,” the Son told the servants. Realizing they could find no better solution on their own, the overachieving servants not only replenished the water, but also filled the jars to the brim. The six hefty stone jars felt completely renewed as the liquid reached the brim. They realized there was something different about this water – something very different! It began to fill the air with a sweet aroma.
The Son spoke up again, “Now draw some out and take it to the headwaiter.” Again, the servants, not knowing anything else to do, did as they were told. The headwaiter tasted it. Eyebrows flew up again! He wondered out loud why the very best wine had been saved for last.
The stone jars wondered if they’d heard correctly. Did he say, “Wine?” They expected a refilling of the same ritualistic water they had grown accustomed to. However, they never expected to be filled to the brim with the best wine ever! Not just one of them, but all six jars had been filled! More than enough for a celebration! More than they ever imagined!
The wine deposited its rich color on the inside of the jars as a permanent reminder of the celebration. From that day forward, no matter what anyone else tried to fill them with, they would remain confident that they had been changed from the inside out. They had done nothing to accomplish it on their own. It was the Son who had performed the miracle inside them. They resolved to stand together as a living testimony to the joy experienced when empty vessels, filled by the Son, become intent on releasing the sweet fragrance He provides.
“[Jesus] came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”John 10:10, The Message
“Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” – JesusLuke 6:38, The Message
By Donna Jackson on April 28, 2020
Perhaps, the rare coolness of a gentle breeze combined with the mingled scents of lilies and lemons triggered her memory. Maybe, it was something Adam innocently said or the faint sound of rustling leaves behind her. Either way, Eve’s memory of that day played among the “If Onlys” in her mind as it had a million times before.
If only she’d been content with Paradise and never turned her attention toward the rustling in the leaves. If only she’d bravely walked away from that tree. If only Adam had done his job. If only she hadn’t wanted more. If only she hadn’t been allowed to choose.
If only. If only. If only.
Maybe you play that game sometimes too. Your heart wrestles between all the things you wish you hadn’t said or done and all the things you wish hadn’t been done or said to you. You haphazardly bounce from being angry with yourself to trying to justify your anger toward that other person. It’s exhausting!
May I tell you a secret? Yes, you’ve made mistakes, but it’s okay. God can use your mistakes. No, that thing done to you was not okay, but it can make you better. Those angry words spoken about you or to your face hurt, but God can filter out the untrue and give you the courage to examine what’s left. Ultimately, it’s all okay, if you trust God to use all of it.
When memories get triggered, linger there only long enough to examine the truth that’s left after God’s filtering. I guarantee you, you’ll find love mixed with that truth. There is no losing with God. We either win or learn – and the more we get to know Him through His loving words and faithful actions, the more we get to do both.
“The sensible person’s wisdom is to consider his way.” (Proverbs 14:8) Not everyone wants to sensibly consider his or her own way. It’s much more appealing to scrutinize the life of someone else, to find fault with others’ thinking, and to criticize their judgements. However, as Christians we have faith that God’s Word will light the path for our feet.
“The Lord’s lamp sheds light on a person’s life, searching the innermost parts.” (Proverbs 20:27) That’s often a scary thing, isn’t it? Realizing God knows every single personal thought we have and hears every ungodly word we speak humbles us. We realize we are no different from Adam and Eve. They downgraded their desires to those that longed for control of their own lives instead of trusting God’s love for them, and so do we.
Unfortunately, I occasionally find myself wanting more of me and not so much of God. I stand in the middle of that old hymn None of Self and All of Thee. That song follows a progression all Christians experience. We begin our lives the way the ancient serpent Satan wants us to remain – all of self and none of God. When the world throws a few punches, we decide we might get by with some of self and some of God. After falling to the ground with a mighty thud, we look up and decide we need less of self and more of God. If we stay on this track, we begin to see life differently. We see how things work out when under God’s control. We become less interested in our own way, and more interested in God’s plan. We even muster the courage to pray like David: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Our desire is to move closer and closer to our ultimate goal of “None of Self and All of God”. It is a progression for sure, but if given the chance, others will see this is the desire of our hearts. When your hurtful memories get triggered, let them witness you becoming a conqueror by turning your If Onlys into praise! We’ll all meet victoriously under the Tree of Life soon where there will be no If Onlys!
“Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)
By Donna Jackson on April 26, 2020
What fun I had writing for Lean into Jesus Ministries this week! I thought you might like to click on the picture below, and take a look. Happy Sunday! Hope you have a wonderful week, and remember … the wonderful thing about you is you’re the only one!!
By Donna Jackson on April 21, 2020
If these unprecedented days find you or someone you love anxious, depressed, or discouraged, take a few minutes to listen to today’s message. Remember, you are loved, and you matter.
By Donna Jackson on April 14, 2020
One cool, crisp morning, five putty knives sat buried beneath separate piles of forgotten and neglected objects. Each one peeked through the massive clutter to witness the frantic tossing of this thing and that. Their ears tuned in carefully to hear the woman’s words of frustration, “For heaven’s sake, I just used it last year! Where on earth … I know there has to be something around here I can use to repair this hole in my wall!”
Ah ha! The putty knives jumped to attention in hopes of finally being rescued from their feelings of uselessness. Sadly, those knives had seen this scene play out before with their hammer and screwdriver friends. The woman had a history of making do with things she could find quickly and easily. Dimes from her pocket had often turned a screw or two. Stones, and even the heel of a boot, had hammered in a few nails. After her short, unsuccessful search, the putty knives’ hopes of being rediscovered ran cold. Each one wondered what it might take to feel a warm hand wrap around them so they could once more enjoy being held.
Then it happened.
The woman and her husband finally had enough of the disorder. Every cardboard box, tool, and thingamajig landed in the driveway. They tossed out broken things and sorted useful ones. Every piece of anything received careful scrutiny. Items worth keeping acquired their own space inside newly-purchased cabinets. The frustrated couple filled drawers to overflowing with screwdrivers and hammers they didn’t realize they owned, and they wondered why it had taken them so long to sort through the mess. They had so much more than they ever realized!
As for those FIVE almost identical putty knives? Their hearts filled with hopeful anticipation as they nestled together on their nice clean shelf. All of the once-neglected, but now rediscovered tools could finally be put to good use immediately.
On another cool, crisp morning, Christians lay buried beneath the world’s pile of fear, insecurity, and loneliness. Each peeked through the clutter of disease and despair to witness the frantic tossing aside of purpose, perseverance, and peace. The world had a long history of making do with things it could find quickly and easily. It used power, prestige, and possessions as comforters. Itchy ears all-too-quickly tuned in to Satan’s slithering words of discouragement, “God doesn’t really care about you. You don’t have the courage nor the strength to make it through this! Where are all your friends now?”
The discouraged Christians soon realized their passion had turned cold, and their lights had dimmed. Sadly, they had allowed the world’s wisdom to replace godly wisdom. They trusted in things they could see and hold rather than in the One who’d made all things, the One who held those things together, and the One who had the power to redeem every evil thing for their ultimate good. Christians wondered what it might take to feel God’s hand wrap around them and once again feel the joy of being held and used for something constructive.
Then it happened.
They remembered Resurrection Day! Because Jesus walked out of His grave, they had walked out of theirs. They realized it was time to place their hand back into His!
Eagerly, each Christian started the inventory process in his own heart. Piles of sadness, anxiety, depression, self-centeredness, pride, and fear got tossed out. Underneath it all, they discovered forgotten strengths, neglected values, and relationships that had been ignored. They breathed more freely and found unique ways to be together. They made room in their renovated hearts for more love, more joy, and more peace. Exceedingly, abundantly more! With every additional measure of goodness, they felt their hope-filled passion rising to an all-time high.
The Christians decided then and there to no longer listen to the words of the world. Instead, they would listen daily to the words that came directly from God. With the Spirit’s help, they would become intentional about keeping their hearts in the right place, and they would center their lives once again around Jesus instead of themselves. More than anything, they enjoyed feeling the warmth of God’s hands as He wrapped love, tenderness, and compassion around their hearts. His hands had always held them, but they hadn’t taken the time to sit still long enough to feel them.
Now, with rejuvenated hearts, they all became putty in the Master’s hand!
“[Jesus] included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!
All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.”2 Corinthians 5:15-20, The Message
By Donna Jackson on April 5, 2020
Take your heart along as you take this virtual walk with Charlene Miller. You’ll want to open it wide to receive all the blessings that await you at every milepost of the journey. There’s no better time than this Easter week, during this unprecedented time, to surrender every beat of it to Jesus – YOUR risen Savior.
If you have spent time around young children, you have felt the delight of a small hand slipping into yours, urgently tugging you to quickly “come and see!” You may have stared at a school of tadpoles in shallow water, cheered on a colorful caterpillar inching its way up a twig, or inspected a cool Lego fort. For the moment, you shared the child’s amazement. A child’s impression of the world is filled with awe and anticipation. Unfortunately, time often steals wonder. But some things will always cause us to gasp with amazement, things we must seek to experience. Things we must not miss.
With childlike joy, I would love to slip my hand into yours and urgently tug you toward Jesus. I want you to “come and see” the Messiah. I want you to comprehend that he is Creator (John 1:3). I want you to experience the miracle of his birth as he took on the flesh of humanity when born to a virgin in Bethlehem (Luke 2). Let’s rush to see him heal the sick (Matthew 12:15) and raise the dead (John 11:43-44). We must even go to the gruesome cross (John 19) and witness his great sacrifice that opened heaven to us. We will not want to linger there, but rush to marvel at the empty tomb (Matthew 28) and celebrate his resurrection. Shall we walk with him on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32) and even share breakfast with him by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21)? Joining the disciples for his ascension into heaven (Luke 24:50) is a must. Oh yes, you will find your lost wonder when you “come and see” Jesus!
Please don’t pull your hand from mine yet; there is much more to come! Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, an eternal home. He will come again to take us to live with him there (John 14:3). In Revelation Chapter 22, verses 7, 8, & 20, He promises He is coming soon. He invites you to come: “The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Revelation 22:17). Much more is ahead; you must not miss it!
Hold tightly to my hand a little longer. Do you see Him? It’s Jesus, calling you to “come and see” your new home (John 14:2). Slip your hand into His, and marvel at His gentle strength. Over there is the river of life – bright as crystal, just as John saw it. Did you notice the tree of life (Revelation 22)? It’s beyond the gates of pearl! Walk barefoot with Him on streets of gold. Reach out and touch the beautiful walls of jasper (Revelation 22:1-5). Prepare to be seated at the wedding feast (Luke 13:29). Wonderful indeed.
Jesus. He is lifting His hand to wipe away your tears (Revelation 21:4).
He is more than awesome, more than amazing. He is King of kings, Lord of lords – Jesus.
1 Corinthians 2:9 “… No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
This is Easter week, a sacred and holy time of remembrance. We recall the suffering and death of the innocent for the guilty. We celebrate the victory of our resurrected and living Savior, victory that He shares with those who believe in Him and trust Him as Lord. Victory that we can’t buy or earn. Victory received through His sacrifice for our sin.
Jesus has conquered death, sin, and the grave. His tomb is empty because he doesn’t need it – he is not dead. He lives and he invites us to join him in heaven forever. There is nothing that can begin to compare to the experience of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. What wonder, awe, and amazement! I pray that you will “come and see!”
Lean into Jesus Ministries
By Donna Jackson on March 31, 2020
Lord, as the whole world grows weary, help us become more aware of Your love by drawing us closer and closer to You. Give us a confident hope in Your mercy and forgiveness. We are sorry for letting things of this world take Your place. Help us KNOW we are loved and forgiven. Please heal our land. We need a fresh outpouring of Your grace and Spirit to transform us into gushing fountains of joy. May that joy spill over into every relationship with both family and friends. Help us replace selfish expectations with faithful hope, empowering us to place the needs of others ahead of our own. Give us new desires and soft hearts that bring honor to You. May we long to revel in Your presence EVERY day from this day forward. We love you, God! Thank you for loving us. It’s not to us, but to YOUR name that we give all glory and praise forever and ever. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen!
The old farmer dutifully flung the hefty sack full of EXPECTATION seeds over his shoulder. Intent on producing a bumper crop, he proudly marched toward his vast and newly-plowed field. Gnarly fingers grasped the neck of the sack in one hand, while the other held all of his old well-worn and familiar tools.
The ad for EXPECTATION seed in the store’s catalog had jumped off the page as though offering a handshake to friendly buyers. Seed never came with a guarantee, yet there was something strikingly different about this particular variety. Though it grabbed the farmer’s attention, he understood his seed choice must be made carefully. Memories of past EXPECTATION purchases still lingered in the corner of his mind. Several times before, he made his selection too hastily. He had also been known to plant too soon, resulting in his crop of EXPECTATION growing into a field of disappointment.
This time would be different!
The farmer used every tool at his disposal to plant each seed by hand. He didn’t want to make the same mistakes he’d made before. He poked hole after hole into the soil, dropped in each seed one by one, and carefully covered every one with fresh dirt. A light rain blessed his diligence, and soon, the largest field he’d planted in a very long time began to sprout.
Excitement about the possibilities of a valuable crop overwhelmed him. Eagerly, he scattered more and more fertilizer, thinking more of anything was always better. However, more manure only made for yellow leaves. Realizing his mistake, he cut back on the nutrients so as not to harm the plants any further. He prayed for gentle rains and protection from pests that liked to devour tender seedlings. The old farmer even prayed for wisdom in making better choices for his valuable crop. He knew that without help from above his field of EXPECTATION would never produce what he intended.
The rains did come. Gently, at first, but the gentleness didn’t last long enough. Booming cracks of thunder and flashes of blinding light announced the arrival of torrential rain. The farmer woke from a fretful sleep to the fury raging outside his window. This was not the kind of rain he had prayed for! This would only destroy his field of EXPECTATION. What good could ever come from a rain like this? How could he possibly recover from this kind of loss?
As always, the sun came up the next morning. The old farmer, now feeling much older than his years, went out to survey the damage. Just as he feared, all EXPECTATION had been lost. He couldn’t believe it! He grieved his loss, and his pain became unbearable. He realized that once again things had gotten out of control, and he could do nothing to fix them. His prayers for increase seemed as trampled as his crop. He shook an angry fist at God, “How could you let this happen? I thought You were on my side! You could have stopped this!”
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and the weary man’s disposition turned sour. Sleep ran in the opposite direction. Not even a good meal brought comfort. Though he refused to answer, depression kept knocking persistently at his door.
Finally, he humbled himself and did the only thing he knew to do. He cried out to God, asking forgiveness for putting his trust in his crop of EXPECTATION instead of the One who had stood with him through every storm – the One who had turned every evil thing thrown his way into something for his ultimate good. He fervently prayed, not only that his fields would be blessed with better seed, but also that his bitter heart would be once-and-forever changed.
With head bowed low, he raised a hand to wipe away the many tears now falling into his lap. Then … ever so quietly, he heard a still, small voice whisper, “Don’t wipe away your tears, look through them, and you’ll see things more clearly.” Slowly, he raised his head and noticed split rays of sunlight shining on the floor in front of him. Dust particles danced in the spotlights. He stood up and walked over to the window so he could feel the light on his face. He closed his eyes, lifted his chin, and took in all the blessings of the Light.
When he opened his tear-filled eyes, he couldn’t believe what he saw before him. His once muddy, rutted, and thought-to-be-destroyed field now exploded with glorious color! The storm had uprooted every single sprout of EXPECTATION, and in their places, seeds of HOPE had been lovingly planted. They had been nourished by the remains of EXPECTATION, germinated through the soil of FAITH, and given time to grow. The old farmer, now feeling much younger than his years, slowly realized that his seeds of EXPECTATION had been planted by his hand, with his skill, his knowledge, and in his own power.
But HOPE? HOPE was a much better seed. Planted by LOVE Himself. And HOPE does not disappoint!
The farmer finally got it! His selfish pride had planted seeds of EXPECTATION that eventually withered. However, the relentless, unconditional LOVE of God that had always protected his heart though every swirling storm, replaced those inferior seeds with ones of HOPE. This HOPE produced a glorious field flowering with FAITH and LOVE.
The faithful farmer scampered through his new field gathering flowers of many colors. He placed them into jars of clay to share with his friends and family. He couldn’t wait for them to hear how all of his dead EXPECTATIONS had given rise to a living HOPE.
With EXPECTATION gone, “these three remain: faith, hope, and love – but the greatest of these is LOVE!” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
By Donna Jackson on March 23, 2020
All my stats here on Perfection Road indicate the most popular topics are Friendship and Depression/Anxiety. My friend Kim agreed to write today’s blog, so I threw out those topics as possible choices. I hoped she would choose friendship because she is truly an expert in that area. She didn’t let me down.
Why not act on Kim’s words today by skipping the text messages, and calling a friend or two? Just hearing one another’s voices during this time of social distancing will make you both feel better. Happy Tuesday!
You’ve Got a Friend
Do you recall Carol King’s song “You’ve Got a Friend”? Let me spark your memory.
“When you’re down and troubled and you need some loving care, and nothing, nothing is going right. Close your eyes and think of me, and soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest night. You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running to see you again.”
The lyrics spark this question: Which friend could you call at 3 am, confident she would gladly respond to your request for help? Who could you rouse out of bed, knowing her eyes were asleep, but her heart was wide awake?
Maybe it’s the friend who knows how you take your coffee or could order for you in at a restaurant? Perhaps, it’s the one who’s seen your ugly cry, the one you can drop-in on, or the one who drops everything when you’re in a desperate situation and need to talk through things?
Do you have a friend like that? Better still, and more importantly, are you that kind of friend? Do you have deep, authentic relationships? If you’ve been afraid to venture into the arena of closer friendships, you may want to consider these suggestions:
1) Be willing to open your heart and invite the person to look around and see the real you.
It takes practice, trial and error, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes to become authentic. But please remember, authenticity only works with safe people we trust. By learning to be real we resist striving to become someone we’re not. When a person thinks we are perfect, it’s awfully hard to develop a deep relationship. Casual friends are good, but if you want more intimate relationships, open your heart for exploratory surgery. Vulnerability creates connection.
2) Work at understanding and accepting the other person
Being understood is one of our deepest needs. We don’t need to know we’re right as much as we need to know someone understands how we feel or what our “reality” is. When we feel a certain way, we need to know that others validate our experience. We want them to understand how it is for us. They want that from us as well.
Much of the time, talking through things doesn’t solve the issue or change the circumstances, but it does help to get things out in the open. Powerful healing happens in our minds when we know someone listened.
3) Work at being honest with each other
What a gift to have someone who will be honest with you. I came across the following questions by two psychologists, Henry Cloud and John Townsend. These questions can help create healthier friendships. Call a friend, and try swapping answers to these:
- What do you see in my life that encourages you?
- What do you see in my life you would caution me about?
- What else would you like to say?
You may be hesitant to ask or answer these questions, but they help you know where the relationship stands? They make you better! Work at being upfront and honest with each other.
4) Make time for your friends
Would you agree that we make time for what’s important? There are twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week. If you want to develop healthy relationships, you have to spend some of that time.
I pray that God is most important in your life, and your spiritual well-being testifies to your relationship with Him. It takes time and desire to not only nurture our relationship with Him, but also the other relationships in our lives.
My family time is devoted to deepening my relationships with my husband, parents, children, and grandchildren – and that takes lots of time. However, time building deeper relationships with friends must fit into our calendars.
For me, thoughts and feelings are best exchanged when sitting across the table from a friend, being fully engaged, eyes connected, ears attuned, and hearts wide open. I am learning I don’t have to have all the answers or know exactly what to say. I’m there to share as well as listen. I don’t need to quote scripture, give advice, judge, or condemn. We’re all in this together.
In today’s economy, giving someone your time is worth more than money can buy. Time is valuable, and we are all spread thin in a million ways.
I’ve been on the receiving end of friends giving their precious time – more times than I can count. I’ll never forget we were in the process of moving and were running out of time to get our old house cleaned out and moved into the new house. A dear friend dropped what she was doing and came to help clean my nasty house. She probably didn’t have the time, but she came anyway. Another time I was out of town and learned my younger brother had just passed away. By the time I arrived at home that brisk, southern football Saturday, our house was filled with friends to comfort us. It didn’t matter that their favorite collegiate team was playing on TV.
Only time can create a friend who always seems to know when things aren’t right, who knows what to say, knows when to be quiet, and who shows up at just the right time. It takes time for a friend to see your ugly cry, to know when you aren’t telling the truth, to know when you’re being prideful, to call you on it, and still love you anyway. A friend like that challenges me, more than I challenge myself, to become more of who God planned me to be.
Encouragement We All Need
During a very hard time, a friend sent me a song by Sidewalk Prophets that summarizes what I’ve tried to say:
“Three in the morning and I’m still awake, so I picked up a pen and a page. And I started writing just what I’d say if we were face to face.
I’d tell you just what you mean to me, tell you these simple truths:
Be strong in the Lord and never give up hope,
You’re going to do great things. I already know.
God’s got His hand on you so, don’t live life in fear.
Forgive and forget, but don’t forget why you’re here,
Take your time and pray. These are the words I would say.”
True friendship is sacred and important. It happens as we drop to a deeper level and cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect and thinking we have the ability to control what other people think of us. We must overcome the fear of them leaving if they see the depths of who we really are. Genuine friendship risks love. If we can control it, manage it and manufacture it, then it’s not genuine. But if it’s real love, expressed through genuine friendship, it’s still a little scary around the edges, but nothing else compares with it.
We can learn to be a better friend by learning from our best friend Jesus. He paid the ultimate sacrifice, demonstrating genuine love by dying to self so that we might live. We may not have to die for one another, but we must die to ourselves as we practice sacrificial love by making time, listening, encouraging, and being there for others. When we grasp that life is not about us, we can embrace the love we’ve been shown, and expect nothing in return! That’s when we can graciously answer that 3 am call when it comes, day or night, with a wide-awake heart and eyes that see.
John 15:12-13 “This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.”
In Case You Want to Listen
By Donna Jackson on March 16, 2020
I admit my husband has often good-naturedly exclaimed, “I’m married to a fifth-grader!” To some, that might seem like a put-down; to me, after teaching fifth-graders for so many years, it’s the highest of compliments.
I love children of all ages! In some ways, I still enjoy acting like one. (If you’ve experienced personal examples of that, try to resist commenting in the box below. 🙂 ) Yes, I love them all, but when ten-year-old fifth-graders jump into my quiver, they hit the sweet spot on my heart, and I am most blessed. I LOVE that age, and I love a full quiver! (“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Psalm 127:4-5)
Fifth Grade Goodness
Ten-year-old kids know how to tell a good joke, and they understand yours. They eagerly teeter on the edge of abstract thinking. Their young wheels whirl whenever a new idea gets pitched their way. They usually comply with your request after hearing the reasons why they need to do something. Most likely, you would enjoy hearing them reason things out, and they would definitely delight in knowing you truly listened. Fifth-graders crave affirmation and encouragement as they talk through their beliefs and feelings.
Most all of them possess a keen sense of justice, so you’d better not step across their line or the line of their best friend. They’ve been known to duke it out over such things.
I believe when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt they resembled a bunch of fifth-graders. After recognizing Moses as their deliverer, they hurriedly gathered their belongings and trekked out of captivity. The dusty footprints still lingering in the hardened riverbed dissolved when God caused the waters to fall back into place, completely submerging the Egyptian army. The Israelites had listened. They obeyed. They felt affirmed and encouraged. They were free.
If only they had remained as fifth-graders! As their journey continued, they turned into grumbling teenagers who griped about their living conditions, the folks in charge, and the limited menu. So, like any good father, God removed His hand of blessing and protection from his rebellious teenagers and let them suffer the consequences of their own choices. Psalm 78:11 explains why, “They forgot what he had done, the wondrous works he had shown them.”
Eventually, God covered His people once again with faithful love and a whole lot of mercy. He chose His servant David to shepherd them with a pure heart, and guide them with his skillful hands. (Psalm 78:70-72) As a result, the Israelites passed down all they and their forefathers had seen and heard. They told their children the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His might, and the wondrous works He had performed. (Psalm 78:4) They remembered all they had forgotten.
Becoming a Fifth-grader
If you don’t think like a fifth-grader anymore, rest assured, it’s a good way to think. Jesus even said, “Unless you change and become as a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” He wants us childlike, without becoming childish. So, lay aside your worries over viruses and toilet paper for a few minutes, and take a mental trip back through your life. Mark the places where you’ve seen God do incredible things. Write them down. (What else are you going to do while we’re all needing to be socially distant?) What prayers has God answered with the results you wanted? Which ones are you glad He denied? Has anyone been healed? Has anyone been saved? Has God ever turned what Satan meant for your harm into something exceedingly, abundantly more than you could have ever imagined? Think on those things for a while, and become childlike in your faith again. Feel the wonder. Trust in knowing He will do it again.
Once you’ve remembered all you may have forgotten, share the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord! You and your friends/family would no doubt enjoy swapping stories. What better way to keep those wheels whirling! Share your beliefs and feelings. Listen. Affirm. Encourage. You might even want to explain why you do what you do or why you need what you need. Effective communication keeps us from crossing lines we can’t clearly see. (Read that last sentence one more time!)
Above all, teach those under your influence well so that future generations – children yet to be born – might know your reasons for trusting God. Rise and tell them so they might put their confidence in Him. Remind them of all His wonderful works so they will want to keep His commands. (Psalm 78:6-7) Your own faith will grow in the telling.
Become a fifth-grader again, trust your Father, and watch Him work all of our days into something excellent and praiseworthy!
By Donna Jackson on March 10, 2020
This summer will tuck 10 years worth of writing under my belt here on Perfection Road. Yesterday, in hopes of landing on a notch of inspiration, I traveled back through some old blog mileposts. Unfortunately however, when I lowered my bucket into the word well, I came up empty. So, today, I’ve decided to repost one I found from March 6, 2012. I hope you can celebrate with me in how far we’ve both traveled in eight years.
As a side note, since 2018, March seems to have unfriended me. Do you have dates, pictures, smells, or songs that trigger memories you’d rather not remember? I’m confident that a few more years worth of happy days will diminish the startling memories that accompany flipping the calendar to the third month.
Thankfully, I’ve finally surrendered to God’s process, and still revel in His rescue. I’m learning to trust His strength and not mine. He reminds me of His love by proving it big and small ways every day. I’ve crawled out of my shell, and I am no longer a pretender. I am a contender!
Though the winds still swirl occasionally, I’m choosing to stand my ground. With your prayers blowing over me throughout the rest of the month, I’ll be empowered to keep that new song in my mouth and my feet planted firmly on the Rock. I’ll be praying for you too! Thank you for loving me!
Happy Tuesday! Here’s the post from 2012:
Friday blew into existence upon a mighty wind. I probably should have stayed home, but my back was telling me I needed to walk. I waited for the rain to end, but that wind stood me straight up providing more exercise than I intended.
As I got to the end of our farm’s road and turned around, I noticed all the horses grazing on the hill when suddenly a mighty gust of wind threatened to blow us all away. It startled the horses and they galloped at full speed down the hill to the pond. The pond was the one place in the pasture where they were shielded from the wind. It was instinctive for them. I watched them as I continued walking, trying to keep my eyes open in the strong wind. As it swirled all around, they remained peaceful. After the oldest horse began to drink from the pond, they all drank.
When life’s winds startle you, what do you do? Do you brace yourself, stand tall, and use your own strength to push back? Do you crawl into your shell and quiver in fear? Maybe you just pretend everything’s okay and try to act like there is no wind. I’ve done all of these, but I’ve learned I just get worn out, become more fearful, and grow weary of pretending. Staying connected to God through His word and prayer is the best insurance when heavy winds blow. When God’s word becomes so familiar that pieces of it come to mind at just the right time, our souls remain calm. We can instinctively know from experience that,
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. – Psalm 46:1-3, NIV
There are times when we need back-up from others grazing on the same Word. When we come out of our shell, shake our pride, and voice our fears, we obtain a mighty army of prayer warriors who gladly stand in the gap for us. They hold us up in prayer when we are too broken to even know the words to pray. The Spirit works through them to offer the tangible comfort we need. Occasionally, we all need a wind-blown leader who will show us how to drink peacefully from the sheltered pond. Other times, we need to be that leader. That’s just how God’s family works because,
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT
Today, do you need to find shelter or be the shelter? Either way, drink from God’s word and find strength.
By Donna Jackson on March 3, 2020
When your heart’s desires center around doing something significant with your life, how will you know when you’ve succeeded?
How significant is significant enough?
For the last two years, I have watched my man care for his elderly parents. He would not consider his acts of loving kindness to be world-changing. However, the love he’s demonstrated and the frustration he has endured have not only taught me a great deal about how to love others, but they also remind me how blessed I am to have him love me and our family with the same steadfastness.
Yesterday, we kept Callie, our six-month-old granddaughter, who was running a fever and feeling pretty lousy. Ron walked the floor with her for a bit while her tiny hand wrapped around his man-sized finger. Later, he confessed that tender moment reminded him of another one with his dad. Just a week or so before his dad went to be with Jesus, he had asked Ron to hold his hand. The roles reversed. Ron had become his source of strength.
Ron went on to say that having Callie wrap her fingers around his was “sort of a circle-of-life kind of thing.” Then, after a moment of quiet hesitation, he softly added, “That’s the way it is with Jesus. We always have Him to hold onto.”
Some of us will humbly and courageously do great things for God in big, bold, public arenas. Most of us will not. But, I’ve come to realize that it’s those thousands of small victories that add up to a few great ones. Perhaps our greatest victories are not newsworthy, but never doubt they are profound.
Truly meaningful platforms rise out of the ashes of charred lives that have been resurrected. I write about my ashes to remind myself how far the love of God traveled to reach me. I write about the grace that washed those ashes away so that my grandchildren will one day realize that it can and will do the same for them. I write about my new life in the Spirit so that you and anyone who takes the time to read my words will comprehend the joy and peace that can be found.
So, how significant is significant enough?
If you still have parents living, live in such a way that you will have no regrets.
If you have a spouse, love him or her with all your heart, and let them know it.
If you have children (or grandchildren), sit with them, read to them, speak life to them, listen to them, and most of all, let them see you loving God and people (especially their other parent).
Spend time with your friends. Listen to their stories, and tell them yours. Become the kind of friend you would like to have.
Nothing else you accomplish will create a life of such profound significance and success. These things will linger for generations to come! It’s sort of a circle-of-life kind of thing. Whenever you feel like giving up and letting go, remember, Jesus is always glad to be your source of strength. You always have Him to hold onto.
“For this is what the Lord says – the Creator of the heavens, the God who formed the earth and made it, the one who established it … he says, ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other. I will be the same until your old age, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will bear and rescue you.’”Isaiah 45:18; 46:4
Praise God for the rescue!
By Donna Jackson on February 25, 2020
What if you’d been Eve? Would you have given in to Satan’s temptation? After all, she lived in Paradise with every possible need being met. Her husband was the best-looking guy on the planet, and she didn’t have to worry about her wardrobe or having a bad hair day because, as far as Adam was concerned, Eve was perfect just the way she was.
I have no idea how much time ticked between Adam’s rib being transformed into a woman and the snake slithering up to her in the garden. What I do know is that there would have been fewer ticks of the clock if I had been in Eve’s skin. (I’m simply basing that on how easily I’ve allowed Satan to trick me, tempt me, and throw me off course.)
There in the garden you and I became cursed with wanting things our own way and making our own decisions rather than continuing to be cared for by the One who longs to take us to all the best places. The desires hardwired deep within each of us mutated in just a matter of breaths. Our desire for an intimate friendship with our Creator got replaced by a longing for more. More control. More possessions. More pleasure.
Thankfully, Jesus reversed the curse of Satan and became the model for loving God and loving people. His life demonstrated a life of reversal.
Eugene Peterson in his Message translation places some of Jesus’ most profound teachings into one broad category. He calls them The Great Reversals. Maybe you remember these:
- Want to find your life? Lose it for Jesus. (Matthew 10:39; 16:25)
- Want to be first? Be last. (Matthew 19:30; 20:16)
- Want to become great? Be a servant. (Matthew 20:26-27)
- Want to be exalted? Be humble. (Matthew 23:12)
I’ve come to appreciate the term Great Reversals since I’m seeing how I’ve done things backwards most of my life. Instead of dancing freely in the grace of Jesus, I tried to pay my own way to the dance. Instead of allowing God the privilege of determining desires for me that glorify Him and bless others, I selfishly created my own. Rather than doing things for people out of my love for them, I realized I mostly just craved a little affirmation and encouragement. Change is hard and slow. Even though it’s a sluggish process, I recently decided that every crumb of frustration that leads me back into the lap of Jesus is totally worth it.
I can honestly say that by going back and taking a hard look at where I’ve been, the mistakes I’ve made, the events that marked my life, and learning how to recognize the triggers that take me back there have reversed the curse Satan spoke over me.
Please let me speak frankly with you for just a second. If you have something painful in your past (or happening in your present) don’t be afraid to talk about it. Be courageous. Find a counselor if you need one or a trusted friend who will listen. Jesus listens really well! For me, just talking things through is the best medicine. Yes, sometimes reliving hurtful things makes us feel worse for a while, but the detox eventually reaps great benefits! If nothing else, those who love you will learn more about you and discover ways to love you better. When you feel well-loved, you learn how to love others well. By the way, loving well is code for serving. 🙂
Take a few lessons from Jesus this week, and go for a drive in reverse.
“Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever want to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served – and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”Matthew 20:26-28, The Message
By Donna Jackson on February 24, 2020
It would thrill my soul for you to show a little love to my friends at Lean into Jesus Ministries by reading the follow-up to last week’s Perfection Road post.
Visit their website by clicking on the picture below and check out “Big Rocks, Little Rocks, Good Rocks, Bad Rocks” and let me know your thoughts. The more you share, the more we all grow! Thank you for traveling with me! Happy Monday! See you back here tomorrow morning. 🙂
By Donna Jackson on February 17, 2020
The hot rabbit trail of emotion I was trampling grew gnarly when my daily Bible reading led me to Psalm 28. Verse three suddenly reared up in front of me like a mama Grizzly bear on her hind legs:
“Do not drag me away with the wicked, with the evildoers, who speak in friendly ways with their neighbors while malice is in their hearts.”Psalm 28:3, CSB
My heart had recently been hurt. But sadly, real change is a slow process. I knew if I responded the way I always had, I would get what I’d always gotten. More importantly, I also knew if I continued to give what I’d often given, then my friend would receive the hurt she’d often received from me. And that was NOT what I wanted.
Even knowing all that, I still protectively responded to my hurt with my claws exposed. I now realize that the old bitter root of rejection I thought I’d yanked from my heart had once again triggered my insecurity. I tried to fake kindness and ignore the hurt, but instead I spoke in a less-than-kind way to my friend because she had unknowingly pulled that trigger. I harbored no malice mind you, but I didn’t respond very sweetly either.
After soaking in Psalm 28 for a while, I decided to do something new in hopes of a better outcome. I sat back and breathed for quite a long while and then replayed everything that had gone wrong between us. But this time, instead of merely ruminating and beating myself up (or wanting to beat someone else up), I asked God to show me my part in the mess and how to correct my mistakes. It’s funny how He always seems so eager to do that! Must be love!
Not coincidentally, my Monday morning group’s topic was “Being Content in Relationships”. (Yeah! That’s what I thought too!) One word kept popping up – EXPECTATIONS. I’ve learned to pay attention when something keeps pestering me, so I Googled the word and came across this quote, “Expectation is the mother of all frustration.” I totally agreed!
I continued on by reading an article describing how unmet expectations can create a great chasm in any kind of relationship. For example, you expect a friend to show up, and she doesn’t. Or you expect your children to clean their rooms before you get home, and they don’t. Or maybe you expect your husband to have the car washed and gassed up before your trip, and well … you get the idea. Great expectations can be a bear!
I clamped tightly to the term ‘unmet expectations’ thinking it hit the bear on the head. My great expectations in this friendship were not being met, and that was the problem. I’m convinced God let me buy into that lie and completely own it before the Spirit led me to the next article centered around the exact same quote!
The second article suggested that it wasn’t unmet expectations that were the culprits in relationships, but rather unrealistic ones. It even went as far as to say that unmet expectations are often self-centered. I bristled mightily at that thought, but I knew God led me on this rabbit trail to teach me how to become a better friend. He knows that’s been my heart’s desire all along. He also knows I’ve made my relationships all about me for way too long.
Now, I’m understanding that the best approach to overcoming relational conflict hinges on at least three things:
- getting a handle on what’s real by talking through your expectations with the other person,
- truly forgiving any harm that’s already been done, and then
- adjusting your expectations accordingly.
My friend and I have only known each other for a few short years, but I already know the difficult part for me will be adjusting my expectations, and she will struggle with talking it through. Our friendship may linger, but it will not flourish until we’re both willing to do the hard things. Neither of us will enjoy this process, but I’m trusting God to use our time and effort to produce something exceedingly, abundantly more than either of us has asked for or imagined. After all, we are both daughters of a King who loves His family well!
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”Romans 12:16-18, CSB
By Donna Jackson on February 11, 2020
Members of our church youth group, armed with brooms, mops, and buckets, descended on the new minister’s house intent on a little last-minute cleaning and a whole lot of shenanigans. Philip Black and his family were on their way to their new house and we needed to get busy.
We weren’t sure what to expect from this new guy, but as soon as that gigantic smile of his burst through the door we were all swept away by his clever wit and genuine love for people. Philip remained our preacher throughout my teen years and became good friends with my dad.
Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the state, another man led a small tribe with the same type of genuine spirit. With not nearly as many words, Berlun Jackson’s work ethic, honesty, and friendliness drew others to him and spilled over into members of his tribe.
While I sat listening and learning from Philip, my husband Ron sat at the feet of his dad, absorbing all of his good qualities. Ron and I met in Auburn in September of 1978. Knowing I played racquetball, he said he’d always wanted to learn how to play. (What a pick-up line!) Of course, I offered to teach him a thing or two, and I haven’t stopped doing that for over 40 years! 🙂 After his first kiss, I was all in, and I think he must have been too. We got engaged in October and married in June just eight months later. Every month since then, I’ve appreciated the time his father spent teaching Ron to be a man.
Ron also learned from his dad how to scare the living daylights out of me. I remember riding with the senior Jackson in his truck one day. Neither of us talked much, so it had gotten really quiet. I’m sure my mind was off in Never-Never Land somewhere when all of a sudden he screamed and slapped the truck seat as hard as he could. I screamed louder and tried to push my thumping heart out of my throat and back down into my chest. He laughed and laughed. It took hours for my heart to get back into rhythm.
Let’s just say, Ron learned everything exceptionally well from his dad!
This past Sunday, both Philip, the man who married us, and Berlun, the man who helped sustain us, were eulogized. Philip in Montgomery, Berlun in Guntersville. In his later years, Philip moved to Guntersville to live near his brother. It was heartwarming to see the obituary for these two precious men appear side-by-side in the local newspaper.
Both men fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith, and left a legacy of love.
Each man played a significant role in the book written by God long ago that continues to be played out in the chapters of our love story.
Since this is Valentines week, let me go on record as saying God has a love story for you as well. He hand-picked you to be part of His tribe. Jesus has already armed Himself with a Sword, a robe, and a crown to prepare the way toward a new home for you. He can’t wait to see your gigantic smile burst through heaven’s door because of your great love for Him!
Yes, there will be days He will need to get your attention. He may slap the seat you’re sitting on to get your heart in the right place, but He only does it because He loves you and wants to see you smile again. Appreciate Him taking the time.
Sit at His feet.
Fight the good fight.
Keep the faith.
Finish the race.
Leave a legacy of love.
And then, after we see Jesus … we’ll go side-by-side to find Philip and Berlun. I think you’ll love them too.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also.”John 14:2-3
By Donna Jackson on February 3, 2020
It’s funny how our subconscious minds work. Events that come around at regular intervals, or even spontaneously, sometimes threaten to become triggers for negative emotions we thought were long gone. It might be a birthday, the anniversary of an unpleasant event, seeing someone unexpectedly, or maybe even seeing a loved one go through an all-too-familiar difficult situation.
Through a recent conversation with my daughter, I was reminded of how childhood trauma often manifests itself later in life. It’s not uncommon for a person traumatized as a child to unintentionally, but purposefully, test the ones they love and respect. They push their limits or back away from a loved one just to see if they care enough to come after them. In essence, they paint a billboard declaring their most intrinsic need is simply to know they matter.
I understand the fear that accompanies this kind of insecurity. I’m not proud to say it, but I’ve unknowingly administered those same kinds of tests over the years in more than a few relationships. Some folks chose to come after me. Some didn’t. But what matters most is that Jesus came after me! And that’s all I really need to feel secure.
I stand firmly convinced that everything the devil planned for evil in my life and yours, God continues to use for good! That truth finally lies deep within the marrow of my bones! Even today, maybe as you’re reading this, I’m trusting the Spirit to blow Satan’s tsunami sent in 2018 right back into his face – and I can’t wait to ride on top of that wave!
It may take you some time to recognize your own insecurities. It will no doubt take you even longer to come to grips with the reasons for them. In the meantime, look around for those being swept off their feet by insecurity’s surge. Go after them, even if they take a bite out of you. (Don’t forget! As God’s child, you wear some pretty powerful armor!) Hold up their hands in the foamy fray until victory is won. Reassure them of your love until you think you’ve gone completely overboard. Help them understand they really do matter. There may come a day when you need them to return the favor. Let them!
My prayer for you and me is that whenever tragic or recurring life events trigger a thunderous tsunami of insecurity, we will remember Paul’s words to the Romans:
“All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!”Romans 8:14-15
Never fear, God is always willing to hold us close. So, let’s hoist our sails courageously, watch them swell with fresh air from His breath, then breathe deeply, and wave good-bye to insecurity.
By Donna Jackson on January 27, 2020
Whenever my friend and I travel together she’s in charge of playing the music from my phone. As she scrolls through my playlists, she likes to give me a hard time not only about how many there are, but also how varied. Indeed, I do love music, and my tastes teeter totter from Beethoven to Foreigner, Toby Mac to Selah, James Taylor to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Crowder to Hillsong. Whenever my downloaded songs play randomly they resemble Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get!
Yesterday morning I chose one of my favorite Christian playlists to keep me company on the road. Two songs that I happily sing along with, when I’m sure no one’s listening, rang out back-to-back. However, I’ve never noticed the connection between them until yesterday.
The first one reminded me of who God is. He’s a “way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper, Light in the darkness.” God never failed to make a way for me when I lost my way. I’ve often witnessed Him doing the impossible. He has never left me, forsaken me, condemned me, or been unloving, unfaithful, or untrue. Things always seem to look better in the light of His day, the light of His love, and in the light of His Word. He mends lives and turns them around. He powerfully works for me even when I don’t see it. That is why I worship Him!
Then, on the heels of that song came one that testifies to what each of us can become after we fully realize exactly who God is. Each of us can hold our head up and boldly declare, “I am a mountain mover, water walker, more than just an overcomer because I’ve been set free. I am a gospel preacher, heart on fire, freedom-singing testifier because I’ve been redeemed. I AM A BELIEVER!”
I’ve been in “the hands of the Healer and the arms of the Savior” more times than I can count. In fact, that’s where I long to stay. I am fully aware of my need for new mercies every morning. I know “the grace of Jesus makes me who I am.” But here is the part I don’t want you to miss; this is not your home. You don’t walk alone – no matter what comes your way. You can have peace through the trouble. You can have joy through the struggle, and place your hope in a brighter day!
Since you’re reading this, you most likely believe that Jesus is who He says He is and that He can do all He says He can do. But do you really believe He will do it for you? I sure hope so, because He is more than able and way more than willing to prove His love! Just keep your eyes and heart open.
If you are struggling or stressed today, spend some time worshipping. If you’re having a great day, spend some time worshipping. Nothing speaks louder to those who don’t know Jesus than someone who’s been with Him through worship.
Here’s a little something to get you going:
Happy Tuesday, Freedom-singing testifier!
By Donna Jackson on January 20, 2020
A very dear friend in our Monday morning Bible study group made some comments yesterday that turned me inside out in a productive way. My friend and I are very different – polar opposites in every way except in our love for the Lord. We often laugh about how we can be such good friends and yet be so very different. I guess opposites really do attract.
The topic of the morning focused on Philippians 4 and being content with our circumstances. Members of the group began by discussing the positives and negatives in our lives. However, like most good, in-depth discussions, ours slid this way and that as we tried our best to stay on topic.
Everyone joined in as we began to discuss the differences between joyful and broken-hearted people. My friend represented the joyful side while I took the side of the broken-hearted (not necessarily negative, just broken-hearted). Even though I facilitated our discussion, she became the teacher. She spoke of gratitude as being her motivation as she interacts with others throughout the day. She truly walks her talk. Though she has had her heart broken and gone through trials, she keeps most of them to herself and focuses on Jesus. It’s the joy of the Lord that’s become her strength. It’s that kind of joy I believe I’ve finally found.
The conversation rocked on until my heart felt that old familiar sting of conviction. I used to proudly resist that feeling. Now I welcome it because I know something wonderful always waits for me on the other end of that stinger.
We soon discovered our biggest sticking point. It drew a little good-natured venom from each of us. I hesitantly confessed that sometimes the people who always seem to have a smile on their face, no matter what’s going on, get on my last nerve. (That’s not good to admit, I know, but it’s true.) To me, it often appears they are sweeping their hurtful things under the rug and not dealing with their pain. I’ve done that and dealt with the infection it caused in my soul. I’d rather not watch the people I love go through that when it could all be prevented. So, with the best of intentions, I’ve tried to pull things out of friends entirely too soon, and that’s so not fair!
That confession encouraged my friend to admit that she perceives a judgmental attitude from some people. One that causes her to feel as though they are judging her as being two-faced or counterfeit, and that makes her very angry. While we’ve never experienced that kind of tug-of-war between us, we’ve both battled other people on similar ground.
That led to more questions in my mind as I travel my new path of peace and joy. How do we give God all the credit for our triumphs if we don’t talk about our tragedies? Do we want the tragedy or the triumph to define us? What do we want others to see when they look at us?
Here are a few of my take-aways from our group discussion. Try a few of them on for size and see if they work for you. If not, toss them out.
- Be willing to share your stories with someone who might benefit most from hearing them.
- Remember, good things are usually born out of pain, but nobody likes to hear about that same pain over and over and over. Amen?
- Mentally return to your hurtful moments to meet Jesus there. Take note of every second you saw Him working in you or through someone else. Whether you realized it or not at the time, He was there!
- Praise God for all He has done, is doing, and will do!
- Focus on the people God has placed right in front of you. Find new ways to love and support them.
- Thank the people who love you well.
- Let people love you.
- Spend time with those who are in the healing process – even if you think they are judging you. Chances are they aren’t judging you, they’re trying to find out how to get what you have. Sometimes they squeeze you just to see what you have inside.
- Encourage everyone as often as possible by speaking life!
- Give everyone the benefit of the doubt until all doubt has been erased.
- Take it easy on friends who can’t or won’t open up. Your job is to simply love them.
- Spend time praising Jesus.
- Spend time thanking Jesus.
- Spend time singing to Jesus.
- Love God, love others!
“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”Philippians 4:4-7, The Message
By Donna Jackson on January 13, 2020
Have you noticed the people of the world are lost? Because they live in the dark, they act and react like lost people. So, why do their actions surprise us?
Consider some of the societal problems we have now – abortion, a divisive government, racism, homelessness, pornography, poverty, abuse, homosexuality, sex trafficking, drug/alcohol addiction, depression, and suicide. If merely reading that list overwhelms you, put ONE face on the ONE problem that most deeply pricks your heart. Could that ONE face benefit from your prayers? Your loving kindness? Your resources? Your time? Your friendship? Could you help just ONE struggling person?
Most times, when I feel overwhelmed by a variety of situations, I do nothing. That’s not good. Seeing too much hurt all at once causes me to feel useless. I guess that’s why I’ve limited my news intake. I tend to spoon everyone’s hurt into my heart and let it sit there until it sours my attitude. Overwhelming hurt has the potential to choke our spirits, but most of us ably chew up smaller bite-size pieces when we need to. I’ve decided to stop using the overwhelmed feeling as an excuse and start doing something to make a difference!
It’s taken some time, but I’m finally learning it takes hefty doses of courage to be vulnerable enough to meaningfully connect with others. It also takes time to build a trusting relationship, and it takes accepting the love of God to give us the desire to even want to be an encouragement to others.
My grandmother spoke wisely when she said, “We always find the time to do the things we really want to do.”
Oh God, change the desires of our hearts into what You desire for us! Help us want to step into the lives of the hurting long enough to shine a light on the path that leads straight to You. Forgive us for thinking our time can be better spent on projects rather than people. Help us see what You see. Overwhelm us with Your strength.
Take a moment to imagine the change you might experience if every Christian in your life covered you in a heap of loving kindness – no matter what you’ve done.
What if they regularly reminded you of the drenching grace Jesus longs to pour over all of us – no matter what any of us have done?
Just think how you might go deeper with God if you were motivated by Christian friends who mustered the courage to share the tender details of their friendship with the Holy Spirit – no matter what they’ve done. “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you. Do also the same for them. Matthew 7:12, CSB
Love has covered a multitude of YOUR sins; it can do the same for others.
“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.”1 Peter 4:8, CSB
Grace has taught YOU to live a godly life; it can do the same for others.
“For the grace of God has appeared to bring salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”Titus 2:11-12, NIV
Friendship with the Holy Spirit comforted YOU, taught YOU, and helped lead YOU out of darkness; it can do the same for others.
“[Jesus said] I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you.”John 14:16-17, CSB
None of us are made to do everything, but we all have someONE who needs what we have. Let the Message’s paraphrase of Paul’s words to the Romans cause you to look around your life for that ONE face who needs some Sonshine.
“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next.”Romans 15:1-4, The Message
I’m convinced we contain the power to create a huge dent in most of our world’s problems. We can make a huge difference by replacing all the criticism with one simple question:
I am so looking forward to what God will do next! What about you?
By Donna Jackson on January 7, 2020
I’m with you today in person (sort of) to kick off a brand new year! I hope you feel as excited as I am about all the possibilities and opportunities that lay before you. I know God has wonderful things planned for you!
I’ve prayed for over a year now and finally harnessed some courage to reclaim something I thought Satan had stolen. I believe God finally has me where I need to be in order to bring Him more glory and praise. I’m not where I want to be, but I am so thankful I’m not where I used to be! His patience with me constantly reassures me of His faithful love. I hope the same is true for you.
Please listen to these six and a half minutes and, if you feel so inclined, I’d love for you to stand in prayer with me. Let’s turn the tables and keep Satan running scared this year! I’d also be honored if you shared this post in whatever manner you’d like. Please know how very much you matter to me, and how important your prayers are! Have a wonderful week, and …
By Donna Jackson on December 31, 2019
My friend Kim and I walked into the familiar room of about 25 ladies eagerly seeking freedom from drugs and alcohol. They had assembled for our once-a-month Bible study, one that always jolts our hearts with joy. Newcomers eyed us timidly. Old-timers smiled and greeted us warmly.
Whenever we stand in front of a group, it’s their eyes that let us know when we’ve struck a nerve.
As we talked about reasons to praise God, several eyes throughout the room frequently filled with emotion, threatening to spill over. The Holy Spirit moved heart by heart throughout the room. I prayed silently, but mightily, for Him to take over like only He can.
He never disappoints.
Since I became convicted last year about making sure that we never leave those women without laying out the gospel and emphasizing their need for Jesus, I did my best to do that. We offered them the opportunity to come to us for prayer when we concluded. It could be any kind of prayer – one of surrender or one for a very specific need.
Needless to say, we had the honor of praying for several women that night for many reasons. I’m always humbled by the things these women have endured.
One young lady had been writing all during our time together as a way of processing what she was hearing. She brought what she’d written and read it to me. I asked her if I could take a picture of it so that I could share it with you today. Her smile nearly swallowed her face as she replied, “Oh, yes! Please!” Here is a portion of what she and the Spirit penned together:
“No matter what I’ve been through or where I’ve been, look at how God worked from then to now. Look at my life now! God works in good ways. If He brought me out of those situations, He can bring me out of this one. God got me right where He wants me. I could have been dead or in prison, but that wasn’t a part of God’s plans. I always cried when times got hard and things got rough, but asking and praying for help was the best thing I could have ever done. Be specific about what you ask God for. This was my way out. This is the help God knew I needed because I can’t do it on my own. My story and my problems can help somebody else, just like somebody else’s problems and stories are helping me now.”
Wow! Her words filled my eyes with emotion. She gets it. She knows that her circumstances have made her stronger and she knows now exactly where her help comes from. She understands her purpose in life is to help others by sharing all God’s done for her.
I’m sharing this with you to remind you how powerful your stories can be. Nothing frustrates me more than someone who loves God, but doesn’t want to share any specifics about what He’s done for them. I hope you know we are ALL hot messes. We ALL need God to cool us off and straighten things out. I need to learn from your mess and you need to learn from mine. Only then, can we celebrate all He does for us. Only then, can we douse our hot pride with some cool humility.
After praying with our new writing friend, a woman with streams of tears running down her cheeks walked up to me. I had watched her eyes throughout the night. They were troubled and teary. A solemn expression slid down her face about as far as it could slide without falling into her lap. When she walked up to me we exchanged a warm hug as she whispered in my ear, “I’m ready!” I loved hearing her say, she was finally ready to let God have control of her life.
No doubt the Spirit had been working on her for a while, but He blessed me by allowing me to witness her most significant moment of surrender. What an encourager He is!
As we left, Kim and I talked with our new sister once more. We watched her eyes. She wore a new expression of peace that was unmistakably Spirit-sent! Her eyes sparkled with pure joy. If God can do that so quickly on her outside, just imagine what He did on her inside!
I’m praying that the Spirit in this new year will teach each of us to feel more deeply, share more freely, and watch the eyes of others more closely. Please join me in believing that our 2020 eyes will be filled with an indescribable, inexpressible, and glorious joy!
Next week I’ll be sharing my new word for the year. I hope you’ll have yours ready to share. 2020 will be a monumental year – no matter what!
Happy New Year!
By Donna Jackson on December 23, 2019
By now stockings are hung by the chimney with care, chestnuts are sizzling on an open fire, and halls display a bounty of holly … somewhere in the world!
Merry Christmas Eve!
Today, I want to share a ministry with you as a gift from my heart. For five years now I’ve been blessed by Lean into Jesus Ministries. Every year this group of ladies, representing somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 different churches, organizes a ladies’ conference in the small town of Guntersville, Alabama – one that rivals any big city event. The conference this year “Willing” will be held on February 1st and will include times of great worship, testimonies, food, and fellowship.
I was honored last week to write their weekly blog. I’d like to share that with you today as a means of encouragement for those whose grief is triggered by the holiday season. I also want to encourage you ladies to take a look at their website and consider registering for the upcoming conference. Tickets are available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/willing-womens-conference-tickets-67930009487
Sunday morning, as I headed out for church, I grabbed a scarf and flung it around my neck. The mingle of black and brown I’d once received from my mother as a Christmas gift circled my smile as I remembered our Christmas shopping days. We always found something to laugh about – usually my driving or missing sense of direction. We’d play our music and dance in our car seats along the way. Neither of us could really dance worth a flip, but we simply could not keep still when listening to music.
Arriving at church Sunday, Ron and I made our way to our seats and got ready for worship. I almost laughed when I heard the first two notes. I knew that song! “You Are Life” by Hillsong was one Mama and I listened to quite often on our joyrides. Singing it Sunday reminded me of one of my most favorite memories.
Shortly after my mother went to be with Jesus, we sang that song at church. Since closing my eyes while singing helps me visualize who I’m singing to, it was easy for my mind’s eye to suddenly and clearly imagine Mama holding both of Jesus’ hands in hers, swaying back and forth. I could hear her singing, “I’m living in the light of my Savior, dancing in the arms of Forever. I’m singing like I’m walking on water. You are life alive in me.” What a glorious and comforting picture the Spirit painted for me!
I recently had a friend ask me if it made me sad to hear others talk about doing things with their mothers now that mine is spending Christmas with Jesus. I said, “Absolutely not!” How could I ever be sad that she’s dancing with Jesus? Sure, I miss her, but I know her struggles are over, and I’ll see her again one day. We’ll both laugh, and sing, and dance together in the arms of Forever.
If you have friends whose loved ones have recently passed, don’t be afraid to bring them up in conversation. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know it does my heart good to hear another’s sweet memories of the ones I still hold dear.
Can you imagine how Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have felt when she heard Jesus had been resurrected? Then picture, if you will, the moment Mary left this world and entered into Paradise. The Word she had lovingly taught to speak called her name. The Way who had held her finger as He learned to walk now ran to her. The Joy of the World flashed the smile He surely inherited from her. She was finally dancing in the arms of Forever… again!
I can now joyfully declare that I’m dancing with Jesus most every day. I often feel like I’m walking on water. However, when my time comes, I want to dance with my mother again. The only tears we’ll shed will be from laughing like a bunch of schoolgirls. As much as I long to see her again, I CANNOT WAIT even more to literally dance in the arms of Forever. To sing with Jesus while we are walking on the River of Life. To be fully alive and perfected – forever!
Remember the good.
Forget the bad.
Look forward to tomorrow.
And have a very Merry Christmas!
“Then he showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s main street. The tree of life was on each side of the river, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations, and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more; people will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will give them light, and they will reign forever and ever.”Revelation 22:1-6
By Donna Jackson on December 17, 2019
This time next week we will be smack dab in the middle of the giving and receiving of gifts. Some of those gifts will paint wide grins on happy faces, while others will … well … you know.
Like most of you, as a kid I couldn’t wait to tear into my presents. Ribbons and wrapping sailed through the air followed by tissue paper, bows, and box lids. I couldn’t wait to see what was inside. The anticipation was almost as good as the actual unwrapping.
Now that I’m all grown up (so to speak) the focus of my anticipation has been redirected. I can hardly wait to see the paper fly soon after my grandchildren receive their gifts. I know I will be overwhelmed by pure joy once again.
All of this anticipation has caused me to wonder whether or not God had a hard time containing His excitement before giving His gift to the world. After all, that page in your Bible separating the Old and New Testaments represents four hundred years! That’s a long time to wait for an unwrapping.
God certainly knew we needed His gift. Surely, He understood there were some who knew enough to want it. Yet, even though His gift met a need and fulfilled a desire, God gave us Jesus out of pure love.
If my grandchildren took my gifts and threw them in the trash without even opening them, I’d be devastated by their disregard. On the other hand, if after opening them they believed my gifts were neither needed nor wanted, I’d be sad. But worst of all, if after opening them and realizing their value, they handed them back to me feeling they hadn’t earned them, we’d have to have a talk.
I’m fairly certain that many of you reading this have opened God’s gift and received Jesus. You want Him more than anything. You understand exactly how much you need Him. I knew those things too, even as a teenager. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally understood just how much God loves me and wants the very best for me. I don’t have to earn His love. It’s already mine. Is that hard for you to believe too?
My grandchildren do not have nearly enough money to repay me for the gifts I’ve purchased for them. Neither are any of us able to repay God for the gift of Jesus. All I want from my five young ones at Christmastime are giant smiles, humongous hugs, and spontaneous thank-you’s. I’m eager to witness a display of joy and affection that prove they know without a doubt that my love for them is real, genuine, and free of charge. When they grasp that kind of unconditional love, they will be able to more clearly recognize and accept God’s love for them. Only then can they begin to appreciate Jesus’ grace and celebrate their intimate friendship with the Holy Spirit. It’s God’s love, the grace of Jesus, and the fellowship with the Holy Spirit that create a bond that will always help them stay on a path that is good for them.
Even when my grand kiddos are less than grand with me, they know I love them too much to let them slide very far. The same is true with God. He loves us too much to overlook our mistakes. He will do whatever it takes to keep us on a path that is good for us – one that keeps us near Him. Once we experience His presence, we never want to leave. We want everyone we love to experience Him too.
With that in mind, sometime this week, let’s all stop for a just a pair of minutes and give the gift that may seem a bit over-the-top nowadays. Let’s give our time to someone in need of a few giant smiles, humongous hugs, and spontaneous thank-you’s. Then, be ready to do what may be even more difficult – let somebody love you!
I’m pretty sure the Great Gift-Giver would enjoy watching that kind of gift exchange.
“God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now, and is whetting our appetites for the glorious day when our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, appears. He offered himself as a sacrifice to free us from a dark, rebellious life into this good, pure life, making us a people he can be proud of, energetic in goodness.”Titus 2:11-14, The Message
By Donna Jackson on December 10, 2019
Since December naturally funnels our thoughts toward Jesus, I’ve kept my eyes open this week for a fresh approach to writing about His birth. Yesterday, my eyes landed once again on a treasure I received from our church on Mother’s Day. A frameable print of Luke 1:45 perches on a ledge above my bathroom sink. My mind recites those gold embossed words every morning, and I smile as I remember God’s faithfulness as a promise keeper.
“BLESSED IS SHE WHO HAS BELIEVED THAT THE LORD WOULD FULFILL HIS PROMISES TO HER.”Luke 1:45
After re-reading those now-memorized words, I realized Luke 1 just might hold the inspiration for today’s blog. With the Word in my lap, I asked the Spirit to show me something I may have previously overlooked – something new to me.
Carve out a few minutes today so you can go back and read Luke 1 again for yourself. There you’ll run headlong into the angel Gabriel. But, fear not! His words will soon funnel your thoughts toward the miraculous, and you will be inspired to harness your childlike faith. Let me explain.
As Luke’s account of Jesus’ life begins, Gabriel first speaks to Zechariah, the priest sent into the temple’s inner sanctuary to offer the once-a-year atonement sacrifice. We’re told that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are righteous followers of God and are also “well along in years” – far beyond childbearing age. Gabriel meets Zechariah in the innermost part of the temple where only chosen priests are allowed to enter. He proclaims that Zechariah and Elizabeth will soon have the son they’ve prayed for (John the Baptist) who will prepare the way for the Lord. Then, verse 18 reads, “‘How can I know this?’ Zechariah asked the angel. ‘For I am well along in years.’”
Gabriel doesn’t seem to appreciate this lack of faith on Zechariah’s part. After all, Zechariah is a man of God who’s been trained in the Old Law forward, backward, and sideways. He knows the rules and played the game well for a very long time. Gabriel then announces that Zechariah will be silent, unable to speak until the baby is born because he did not believe the angel’s words.
Now, let’s fast-forward a few months and take a look at a sweet, young girl living in Nazareth. Gabriel appears to her, calls her by name, and announces a similar prophecy for Mary. She is to have a son who will be great and called the Son of the Most High. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. Then, verse 34 reads, “Mary asked the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?’”
As I stepped into the story of Luke 1 and looked intently at what was happening, I noticed something I’d never paid attention to before. These verses contained two very similar angelic prophecies followed by two very similar human questions. However, the questions were answered with two extremely different responses. To Mary, Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (v.35)
So why was Zechariah struck mute and declared a doubter, while Mary, the woman defined as favored, received an exciting promise?
I sat back and thought about Zechariah and Mary for a while. I soon began to realize that the most striking difference in their lives was their age!
Mary was young and innocent. She had not lived long enough to benefit from seeing the mighty hand of God at work in her life over and over and over. I feel sure she had a deep and abiding love for God, but at this point her faith was young and just beginning to blossom. She had few hooks on which to hang her faith.
On the other hand, Zechariah’s years should have given him hundreds of opportunities to witness the wonders of God. Surely, he must have benefitted time after time from God’s righteous right hand. Certainly, God must have sent an army of friends to his rescue many times throughout his long life.
You may be reading this and thinking that your young faith resembles Mary’s. Please remember, even a tiny mustard seed, when cared for properly, soon grows mightily. “Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) There is great value in a childlike faith. “[Jesus] called a child and had him stand among them. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child – this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:2-4)
Maybe you’re reading this knowing your faith most resembles that of Zechariah. You’ve thought for years that you’ve followed the rules and played the game well, but when your faith gets tested with more than you can handle, all you find is doubt. When you hear a promise from God, you ask yourself, “How can I know this?”
That’s when you sit back and remember. Remember all the times you’ve seen God do the impossible. Remember the people He’s put in front of you at just the right time. Remember the blessings He’s showered on you, as well as the heart-wrenching tests that helped increase your faith.
Then, remember an old priest named Zechariah who entered into God’s process obediently and helped raise a trailblazer for Jesus. Don’t forget to remember a sweet, young girl named Mary who had no idea how God would do what He promised, but entered into His process obediently anyway and gave birth to the Savior of the world.
It’s December. It’s time to remember.
By Donna Jackson on December 2, 2019
Last week, the seeds planted by my mother and two grandmothers that had lain dormant for the past two years thankfully sprouted and took root again inside me. The joy over my most favorite holiday returned, transforming my Thanksgiving preparations into pure delight. Like many of you, I asked all my peeps for their food requests, made my grocery list, shopped till I dropped, decided what could be made ahead and what would be last-minute dishes. Then I donned my apron, and enjoyed days of chopping, slicing, simmering, and stirring. I remembered some of my grandmothers’ tricks as I went along, adding a dash of this and a sprinkle of that. It felt good to be connected to them like that again. I’m praying my grandchildren will store away those kinds of memories to conjure up later on.
Sometime during this Thanksgiving Day process, my quiet time took me to 2 Peter 1, and naturally my wheels started churning up thoughts, words, and lessons – some for you, but more for me. I began to notice that Peter’s words made a great recipe for “MORE”. Doesn’t God’s love seem like a plateful of Thanksgiving goodness, always leaving us wanting just a little bit more? The more love we have, the more we’ll be able to share love with others.
Peter began his second letter by handing us God’s menu. On it, we see that the Master Chef included every possible delicacy free of charge. “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3, CSB, emphasis mine)
It’s as if Jesus beckons us to God’s buffet and then waits to see how we will respond. Will we heap our plates high, having complete confidence in the quality of His meal, or will we lack faith in who He made us to be and only dip out a few measly crumbs? God planned for our meal to begin with substantial faith and end with a deliciously, decadent amount of love.
So, how do we expand our simple faith into this kind of belt-loosening love? It’s a process that’s not merely survived, but one in which we THRIVE! Peter spells it out perfectly. We set our plate of FAITH on the table. Then, because we crave more, God helps us to methodically spoon out helping after helping of the following dishes:
GOODNESS. As the Holy Spirit stirs inside us, our desire to make good moral decisions gets folded into our already-existing faith. His power at work in us allows others to taste and see God’s goodness expressed through us.
KNOWLEDGE. The more we get to know God, the more understanding and wisdom we will digest. The wiser we become, the more effective we’ll be in sharing God’s goodness. Experiencing God’s love, the grace of Jesus, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will quickly turn our sour religion into sweet relationship.
SELF-CONTROL. A deeper friendship with God and an acceptance of His grace motivates us to say ‘no’ to our own selfish desires. We trust the Spirit to help us see the consequences of putting our own desires first. This helps us avoid the things that are bad for us.
ENDURANCE. Just when we’re beginning to thrive in God’s process, Satan dispenses discouragement to shove us out of line. When we’ve had more than we can take, God helps us purge all that’s been making us sick, so that we can receive His hefty dollop of “everything good”. The joy of the Lord becomes our strength that helps us endure!
GODLINESS. Realizing where our help comes from allows us to become more like Jesus. Godliness forms when we realize life is not all about us. We were made to praise God and give Him the very best reviews. As our faith gets richer, it becomes the spice of life that releases the fragrance of Christ.
BROTHERLY AFFECTION. Realizing that the world doesn’t revolve around us, allows us to see others through God’s eyes. Brotherly affection can take many forms. It might come through a phone call, a text, flowers, an unexpected meal, a short note, a long letter, errands run, babysitting, listening, or just giving your time. In a nutshell, brotherly affection is anything that makes someone else’s day better, all because the giver wants to, not because they think they should. (We can usually tell the difference, right?)
LOVE. When we pile our faith high with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, and brotherly affection, all the world sees is love – God’s love!
Thanksgiving isn’t the only day we give thanks. It’s a special day of remembrance that grows sweeter every year. In the same way, Peter’s process of enriching our faith isn’t a one-time thing. It’s like enjoying your favorite meal again and again. Every morsel creates a more glorious and inexpressible joy because we’re drawn that much closer to Love.
May the seeds we plant today sprout and take root in those coming behind us. May our children’s children be filled to overflowing by the gracious goodness of Jesus.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”1 Peter 2:8-9, CSB
By Donna Jackson on November 26, 2019
Every Monday morning for the last thirteen weeks, our small group trekked through the Freedom curriculum written by Church of the Highlands’ leaders. All eleven of us representing six different churches removed layer after layer of what the enemy had spent years binding tightly around us. We ripped through our pride, fear, rejection, unforgiveness, hurtful words, abuse, impurity, shame, depression, and anger. Our heart’s desire was to unlock every blessing God purposed for us long ago so that we, in turn, can be a blessing to others.
I’ve been through this curriculum once as a participant and twice as a leader. Every. Single. Time. I’ve shed layer after layer of the enemy’s chains. My first time ripped away my legalism so that my transformation process could begin. This third time around has been by far the most transformational. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a Christian or how unaffected by Satan you think you are, I promise God has more in store for you!
This past weekend, some of my friends from our Freedom Small Group and I attended the Freedom Conference held at the end of every semester. I had the enormous honor of praying with a number of ladies after the teaching on each topic. Throughout the conference I must have prayed with thirty or more women. After listening to a few of their requests, I noticed a trend. So many of them realized for the first time just how bound they had been by the lies of the enemy. They unknowingly believed him when he said they were unlovable, ugly, incompetent, self-sufficient, or had gotten what they deserved by those who hurt them. Many recognized for the first time how easily offended and resistant to criticism they were. Countless women confessed that when specific topics were introduced, they didn’t believe they had an issue with them until the behaviors associated with those topics were spelled out. They learned that none of us can change what we don’t see. Let me say that again. We can’t change what we don’t see.
It seemed as though one could almost see the loads of oppression rising up from the crowd and feel them being blown away by the Spirit. That’s the freedom I want for you – and for everyone I love! If you’re sitting in defeat, you can stand tall in victory. If you feel depressed, your soul can be revived. If you know rejection, oh please know that in Jesus you are accepted. If you lie down in shame every night, wake up knowing you are a child of God whose sins have been cast as far as the east is from the west. If you proudly believe you don’t need any amount of freedom, please know what a lie that is! There is always more!
This Thanksgiving, be thankful for who God made you to be. BE who God made you to be. Pursue freedom like never before by actively engaging in these four things:
- RECOGNIZE what needs changing. Look deep within, and throw out the lies of Satan. He wants to keep you held captive so that the loved ones sitting around your table this week will never be motivated to seek freedom.
- REPENT of believing the enemy’s lies, and learn who God says you are. After all, you are His special possession created to do remarkable things!
- REBUKE Satan out loud. Let him know you’re on to him, and tell him to scram. Resist the devil, and he will flee!
- REFILL your now-emptied-out soul with more of the Holy Spirit. A Christian walking in freedom with the Spirit causes others to wonder what makes them so happy. Freedom is a magnet that draws others to Jesus. What better reason to pursue it?
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”Romans 15:13, CSB
“For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.”Galatians 5:1, CSB
I can’t help but share this song with you just one more time. Have the happiest of Thanksgivings! I love you all! Thank you for loving me!
By Donna Jackson on November 19, 2019
My head knew what I wanted to write today. I even had the outline done. But then, I noticed yet another person somewhere in the world had clicked on a blog posted on May 24, 2016. This wasn’t the first time it had been recently viewed, so I decided to revisit it myself to investigate the sudden interest in such an old post.
Please know that God’s timing makes me laugh so very much. (Most of the time. 🙂 ) I discovered that at the time the 2016 blog was written, my husband and I had just returned from a Freedom Conference held twice a year by our church. THIS COMING WEEKEND I’ll be serving at the very same conference that inspired my thoughts for that post!
Since I don’t believe in coincidences, I’m guessing God wants you to read at least one specific paragraph in this letter of apology for a very specific reason. I don’t know which paragraph will affect you, but I’m guessing one of them will grab your heart. You and the Spirit can work all that out together when you’ve finished reading. (He and I just had a nice long talk!)
Maybe you’ve been hurt by a Christian and need to forgive them, or maybe you are the one who did the hurting. Either way, perhaps this letter of apology will help you get on with your repentance and forgiveness.
A LETTER OF APOLOGY FROM
THE CHRISTIAN WHO HURT YOU
I represent the Christian in your life who shunned, slandered, ridiculed, betrayed, or misled you.
I did not love you like I should have. Because of my own hurt, pride, insecurity, and the rejection I felt from those who should have loved me, I attempted to put you down so I could feel better about myself. For that I am truly sorry.
When you asked me for financial help, I thought you were unwilling to help yourself and only wanted my money. I am so sorry.
When you desperately needed a friend just to talk to, I turned my back because I worried about what other people would think if we were seen together. I am deeply sorry.
I’m sorry I didn’t take the time to see how alike we really are. God loves us both, and Jesus died for each of us. You, however, have been much more honest about your anger issues, abuse, addictions, and deceptions than I have. What I failed to realize was that I needed you, perhaps even more, than you needed me. I’m so sorry for not seeing that sooner. Please forgive me.
When you worshipped God in a way different from me, I criticized you and questioned your sincerity and ability to understand God’s Word. I thought you just wanted to do your own thing or put on a show. I didn’t see that I was the one putting on the show. Forgive me for doubting your love for God.
When you spoke of the ways God had shown up in your life, I thought you were just making up fanciful stories. Since my heart was not open, my eyes could not see all the many miracles God had performed in my own life, so how could I possibly think He had done any in yours?
When you asked me about my relationship with the Lord I am so sorry that I merely shared my Christian to-do list rather than sharing all God has done for me. I am sorry I didn’t communicate the gospel message clearly to you. I know now that the gospel isn’t a bunch of do’s and don’ts; it’s simply that Jesus died to pay for my sins, and by believing, trusting, and loving Him I can live forever. I am so sorry I taught you that the Christian life was more about doing right than being right.
I let the worries of this life rot my portion of the Holy Spirit’s fruit. I served you out of the fear of hell rather than my love for God and my thankfulness for all He’s done for me. Please forgive me.
When you asked me to give the reason for my hope, insecurity revealed my uncertainty about getting into heaven. I’m sorry you could not see any confidence in my salvation. I regret you couldn’t see a brightly shining joy from the Lord because of my many clouds of doubt. Now that I have whole-heartedly accepted God’s grace, I am free to live life to the fullest and want you to do that too. I hope you see a difference in me.
When I acted like I knew the Scriptures better than you, making you feel unworthy and unacceptable to God, I was wrong.
Please forgive me when I only encouraged you to come to church every week and failed to help you see that life with Christ is so much more than just going to church. Forgive me for insisting you should get involved in church activities without helping you strengthen your relationship with God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
I am sorry I had not experienced being in the presence of God enough to describe how powerful and encouraging that kind of intimacy with God really is. Yes, I read my Bible and prayed – but those were just things I knew I should do. Seeing Scripture through grace-filled eyes paints an entirely different picture of God. Now I can’t wait to meet with Him and talk to Him every morning! I look forward to hearing what the Spirit says to my heart! He places the right people in my heart at just the right time. When I listen, I get to love on people who need it most that day. I am so very sorry I failed to listen when He prompted me to give you an encouraging word, help with a simple task, or to just sit and listen.
I can’t undo all the hurt I’ve caused you, but I do want to love you more and let you see firsthand the freedom I’ve found in Jesus. We are His special possessions, created to do good things motivated by love. We don’t have to do them; we get to! He knows that by refreshing others, we will be refreshed. He’s proven He wants good for us – not harm.
Let’s start over. Let’s be friends who encourage, motivate, strengthen, and fellowship each other. Let’s put aside our need to impress one another or prove ourselves. Let’s refuse to get tangled up in the rules of religion so we can run free, splashing and playing together in God’s grace. I want to know you – the real you. You need to know me – the real me. I repent of every hurtful thing I’ve done, and I ask for your forgiveness.
Now, if you like, take my hand. There’s a man named Jesus just ahead of us who’s calling us by name, smiling, and singing a wonderfully sweet song.
The Christian Who Hurt You
If the Spirit is prompting you to contact someone right now, don’t be afraid to do it. God’s timing is a wonderful thing. Trust Him!
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”Romans 15:5-6
By Donna Jackson on November 12, 2019
Slow your mind for a moment, and imagine the questions Lazarus must have fielded after his resurrection. (John 11)
- What was dying like?
- After you took that first breath, were you surprised you were bound?
- How many people did it take to set you free?
- How did you feel when you looked again into the eyes of Jesus and your sisters?
What a process Lazarus went through! Sickness had taken its toll. We don’t know if it was something he ate, something he contracted, or something lying dormant that suddenly decided to go on a rampage. Most likely, he was unconscious before his last exhale. Soon afterward, he had some time in the tomb. Time to wake up. Time to hear Jesus call his name. Time to hop out of the tomb. And time to be totally and completely undone.
UNDONE FOR A PLAN
Jesus’ friendship with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha was no accident. He is much too intentional for such things. All their days were planned before a single one came to be. (Psalm 139:16)
I hope you’re resting in knowing God has your life planned as well! He’s already chosen specific people to cross your path tomorrow. He sees the state you are in this very minute, and He knows what lies ahead. Through Jesus and His Spirit, He wants to form a friendship with you. Yes, a real, honest-to-goodness friendship. Through that friendship you will learn to trust Him to take you to all the best places. You cannot go where He doesn’t already know you’re headed. Every route, whether scenic or dreary, is planned and well-intended. He’ll hold your hand along the way – especially in the dark places. You might not be able to see where you’re going, but He sees!
UNDONE FOR POWER
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus slowly and intentionally prepared Lazarus for his death and resurrection. Only great power can chart the course of a resurrection! Jesus may not have spelled out the reason for every step they took, but I feel sure every interaction helped fill Lazarus with powerful love and courage. These qualities empowered him to share his testimony when the big day arrived. Just imagine the scoffers. The religious. The haters. The friends who doubted. It takes great power to overcome unbelief!
To us, sometimes our journey may feel like a wild goose chase or a cruise straight to hell, but Jesus has the power to turn every path into something good. Our friendship with Him continually prepares us for a powerful testimony – one that hopefully excites others enough to book their own trip. Since He doesn’t want anyone to miss out, He is slow in taking us to heaven so that more and more people will have the opportunity to climb aboard His ship on the Last Day. (1 Peter 3:9)
UNDONE FOR A PURPOSE
It was Lazarus’ death and resurrection that created the final load of angst in the jealous, religious crowd which ultimately sent Jesus to the cross. Not every path either of them traveled was enjoyable, but thankfully, every path led to having our sin bill paid in full.
Not all of your paths will be enjoyable either. Some will break your heart, while others will threaten your peace and security, but every path has a purpose. Every path can lead to your freedom! When you exchange your own highlighted map for the one Jesus marked for you, He will call your name, command you to step out of the darkness, and He will set you free. Then, you can experience the joy of setting someone else free!
Go ahead, and step into the process of being totally and completely undone. Realize the things you need to change. If you’re not sure, ask a good friend to tell you, and then don’t give them a hard time for telling you. Return to your dark place if you need to. Talk to a counselor if you’re still scared of that dark. Listen for the voice of Jesus through His Word. When He calls you out of something, know it’s for your own good. Let your friends and family get close enough to love the grave clothes off of you.
Freedom finders feel fabulous! I know, because He set me free!
“So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”John 8:36, CSB
By Donna Jackson on November 2, 2019
Being accused of something you didn’t do, think, or say stinks.
Math was never my best subject in school, especially algebra. I think the reason I developed such a bad attitude toward the mix of letters and numbers was because of my seventh-grade algebra teacher. She wreaked of cigarette smoke, wore a constant scowl, and was the grouchiest woman I’d ever met. She was the kind of teacher I hoped I would never become. We became petrified and bug-eyed whenever she looked our way. So, let’s just say she enhanced our prayer lives.
One morning before handing back our graded test papers, she ominously called another girl and me up to her desk – in front of everyone. I didn’t even know she knew my name. It was always my plan to keep quiet and remain invisible. I knew I’d not done well on the test, but did she have to make a scene? She peered over her glasses and immediately accused us of cheating. That was totally unexpected! Then, as fast as a Fourth of July bottle rocket, righteous indignation replaced my fear and trembling. Suddenly, I wasn’t so timid because I knew she was wrong! I had not cheated. She smugly asked for me to show her how I got my answer. When I did, she angrily snapped, “That’s NOT how you do that!” My pent-up frustration unleashed a disrespectful response, “And that’s the problem! I don’t know how to do any of this! But I do know one thing! I did NOT cheat!”
Not the humblest of reactions, but I gained some empathy from her after that. She stopped by my desk more often to see if I understood what I was doing. I still don’t know a lick about algebra, but I learned a huge lesson that day. In this world there will be people who just don’t understand what you’ve been through, what you’re going through, or how much all of that changes you.
Maybe you can relate. Perhaps you’ve successfully recovered from an addiction of some kind, overcome some emotional upheaval, or had a spiritual awakening. But despite all of that, your friends still respond to you based on who you once were rather than who you are now. It’s frustrating, I know. So, let me offer you a solution that’s helping me. It’s not an easy one, but it’s a good one: Keep shining, and be patient.
Beth Moore recently said, “People who knew the old us are the most reluctant to accept the new us.” That grabbed my attention, so I kept listening. She went on to say that our life has to testify to the change we’ve experienced. Man, I hated hearing that! I wanted something instant, not another process. But, the more I moved me out of the way, the more I knew she was right. We can’t expect our friends and loved ones to accept the new us until we help them stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. Yes, we must prove ourselves. And yes, those words taste like vinegar coming out of my mouth, but they’re true.
I began looking through Scripture to see if I could find someone who went through the same thing. That’s when I remembered John, also called Mark. He is Barnabas’ cousin and a co-worker with Barnabas and Paul. (He also went on to write the gospel of Mark.) During their first missionary journey Mark traveled with them until they got to Pamphylia. There he decided to abandon the mission. We are not told what brought about Mark’s decision, but I can guess, can’t you? Discouragement, self-doubt, difficult circumstances, and maybe even fear. Whatever the reason was, it stopped him in his tracks, and Paul was not happy about it.
In Acts 15, we learn that Paul wanted Barnabas to go back with him to visit the churches they had planted to see how things were going. Barnabas wanted to also take Mark, but Paul didn’t want a quitter tagging along. He emphatically disagreed with Barnabas, causing a “sharp disagreement”.
Reading all of that makes me wonder what was going on inside of Mark’s mind. Maybe at that point he understood why Paul reacted like he did, or maybe he was still confused. Nevertheless, Barnabas took Mark with him in one direction, while Paul chose Silas to go another. This doubled their effort, as well as the outcome. What began as a problem, turned into something very good! More people saved!
I’m supposing that John Mark matured while spending time with Barnabas. His eyes opened to the things he needed to change, things he’d gotten all wrong, and more than a few things he needed to incorporate into his own life. His transformation took time. Then, once HE knew he’d been changed, old friends like Paul slowly began to see a difference.
We know that Paul did see a difference in Mark because they got back on the same team. Paul ends his letter to Philemon with these words, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings, and so do MARK, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, MY COWORKERS.” (v.23-24) However, I’m most encouraged by what Paul wrote to Timothy from prison: “Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11) Mark proved himself, but it had taken some time.
Oh, how those of us who’ve experienced significant change want others to notice and appreciate it immediately! We know that we know we are different, but others need time to see the change manifested in our behavior and the words we speak.
It took some mighty Holy Spirit power for Mark to admit he was wrong and commit to changing. The power within Barnabas allowed him to live up to his name “Son of Encouragement”, so that he could slowly, gently, and effectively lead Mark back into his calling. And finally, Paul counted on the Spirit to help him accept and receive Mark back into the group.
How is the Holy Spirit working in you? Are you the one who needs changing? Be like Mark. Do you need to encourage someone struggling to become all God created them to be? Be like Barnabas. Has someone who once disappointed you proven themselves? Be like Paul.
Maybe it’s time we all shine, and be patient!
“Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.”Galatians 6:9-10, CSB
By Donna Jackson on October 29, 2019
Do you realize you possess the power of life and death?
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21) Each of us can breathe life into a relationship, or we can sentence it to death by simply choosing hurtful words. Words spoken to us, shape us. If we’ve inhaled a flurry of positive words, we have the desire to exhale them in return. However, when we choke on negative words, we sometimes spit out venomous ones in response. Words are powerful, and whether we like to admit it or not, they can be forgiven and still remembered.
After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt’s well-known words declared outrage at the attack, and his words have lived in infamy: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
Martin Luther King advanced the idea of racial equality with four memorable words: “I have a dream!”
Neil Armstrong thought long and hard about the words he would utter as he became the first man to set foot on the moon. I sat in front of the TV, cross-legged in the floor, at my grandparents’ home waiting for that historic moment. The words he chose were few, but profound enough to be learned by every school child since. “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”
If you’re old enough, I’m sure Alan Jackson’s thought-provoking question continues to ring in your ears whenever you hear the song he wrote after September 11, 2001 – “Where were you when the world stopped turning?”
Yes, words are powerful.
Some words we speak blow away with the slightest breeze, while others stick to another’s soul like wet leaves on a windshield. It’s sometimes hard to know ahead of time which ones will fly away and which ones will stick. If we maintain a tender conscience, we feel the regret of unkind words as soon as they leave our mouths or the send button is pressed. We realize we’ve said things to get some kind, any kind of response, or we want to vent pent-up frustrations, or we’re just plain stressed to our limit. Occasionally, it’s all three. Whether we are wise or foolish with our words, every word we speak reveals the content of our hearts. (Luke 6:45)
Perhaps, we can all take some measure of comfort in knowing that none of us are capable of controlling our tongues all the time. James 3:8 reminds us that “No one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” We all mess up, and we all need forgiveness.
God spoke the earth and life into existence. Satan spoke sin and death into the world. We have the choice to either speak life or death to our family, friends, neighbors, strangers, political opponents, and fellow believers. Let’s choose life!
When hurtful words threaten your sense of worth, remember who God created you to be. Speak good things to yourself. Remember, hurt people hurt people. Keep in mind that none of us truly knows what’s going on in another person’s life. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Try seeing things from their perspective. Find new words to bless and affirm them. Be generous with your compliments. Think more about what they need rather than what you need.
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:16-18)
Today, makes the third time this week I’ve been led to discuss “words”. Do you think God might be trying to tell me something? Frankly, I’ve struggled with this post. I know my words are becoming gentler, but they still have a long way to go. It’s not so much what I say these days, but how I say it. I’m trusting the Spirit will speak more life into my heart. Thankfully, a friend of mine recently reminded me, “We live and learn until we see Jesus.” I’m counting on that!
Let’s all speak life today and see what happens!
By Donna Jackson on October 22, 2019
I hate cleaning out the refrigerator.
Next to ironing, it’s my least favorite thing to do. If you could put both of those chores in a sack, throw them off a high cliff, and let them sink into the depths of the sea I might actually enjoy housework. Maybe. 🙂
Since I despise fridge duties, I’ve observed the strategies of others in hopes of finding a way that works for me. Here’s what I discovered:
- Some people are clean freaks. They make sure to NEVER have any nearly-empty containers, germ incubators, or mold growers lurking inside their refrigerators. All items are arranged either by alphabet or size with labels facing the front. The fridge’s shelves and walls are spotless, but there’s not much in there. It’s much too clean and orderly to clutter things up with food!
- Some folks are hoarders. They wait until there is not a single inch of space left in any drawer, compartment, or shelf to put another thing. Then, and ONLY then, will they throw out ONE funky-looking thing to make room for something new.
- Then, finally, there are the clutter cleaners. They set aside a day and take EVERYTHING out of the refrigerator and place it on the counter where decisions can be made. Does it stay or does it go? Once everything is sorted out, they give the fridge a once-over and put back the things worth saving.
When it comes to our emotional well-being, we might use similar strategies to clean up our thoughts and actions. In fact, the Bible has examples of all these approaches.
- The legalistic Pharisees were the clean freaks. They wanted spotless lives – ones that shined from observing all the minute facets of the Old Law. Not only did they want their lives to appear spotless, but they also expected others to follow all their rules. When Jesus came to fulfill the Law, they had a hard time adding any of His goodness and grace into their already-ordered lives.
I’ve been that kind of religious rule follower and can testify to the bondage that keeps a legalist on a very short chain. There is complete freedom in cleaning out the boundaries we set or let others set for us. Let’s replace them with God’s boundaries of loving ourselves and others in ways that honor Him. His ways are good for us and give us joy!
- King David may have served well as king, but not as a father. He was a hoarder of emotions who begat more hoarders. David created a mountain of family chaos by overlooking many of his sons’ faults. Though David was a mighty warrior, he either lacked the gumption or ignored his responsibility in dealing with family conflict. Just a few strong reprimands could have saved the very lives of many of David’s children as well as those under his leadership. One of his most horrendous oversights affected his daughter Tamar. Amnon, Tamar’s step-brother, raped her and then tossed her aside. Though David became furious at the news, he did nothing. Meanwhile, the rage inside Tamar’s brother Absalom grew hotter and hotter until he finally had Amnon killed. Emotions that are stuffed, hoarded, and never dealt with have a way of erupting like a science fair volcano. No one with a heart for God enjoys conflict, but when emotions and hurtful actions are allowed to simmer, are ignored, or are minimized sad things happen.
- The apostle Paul was a clutter cleaner. The Galatian’s refrigerator lives had been filled with a distorted, germ-filled gospel and moldy chains of legalism. Paul went so far as to call them foolish Galatians! The letter he sent encouraged them to empty out the contents of their hearts, place them on the table, and sort through the good and the bad. With all the bad thrown out, they had plenty of room to refill their lives with all the good things they had first heard about Jesus.
My prayer is that we all tap into some supernatural courage. Let’s have those difficult conversations we’ve been avoiding. It’s never easy, but it’s always good to clear the air. Maybe it’s time to lay everything out on the table, sort through all of the emotion, discard what stinks, and find the good in one another again.
Life is short. Does your heart need cleaning?
By Donna Jackson on October 15, 2019
The thoughts of riding a roller coaster infect my whole body with heebee jeebies. I told my man a long time ago, “If you really love me, you’ll never ask me to ride a roller coaster.” For the most part, he’s complied with that request.
It’s not that I fear high places – I don’t. It’s not that I dread going extremely fast – car passengers can testify to that. It’s not even the extreme ups and downs that cause me to pause – though I do dislike losing my lunch. So, why do I fear roller coasters?
Give me a steering wheel and a gas pedal, and I think I might actually enjoy the rolling ride. Then, I could decide how high, how fast, and which curves to take. Yep! I think I would like that ride. I would like it very much.
Unfortunately, I’m tempted to approach my life’s journey much the same way. I think, “If I could just be in control, things would run so much smoother. I could climb as high as I wanted and take as many breaks as I needed along the way. I could run relationships at my speed, instead of impatiently waiting on folks to catch up or, worse, feeling like I’d been left in their dust. Sudden, but eagerly-anticipated highs and lows would not steal my breath.”
I wonder if thoughts of being in control entered Jesus’ mind when He knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane. Unlike me, He possessed control of everything. Before His trek to Gethsemane, Jesus told some Pharisees, “This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to take it up again.” John 10:17-18, CSB
Jesus knew all of history was really His story all along. He knew every twist and turn that brought Him to His moment of decision. He understood His timeline contained a very dark and painful tunnel through which God wanted Him to pass, and it was coming up fast. He was in complete control of His own life, and yet … He chose to give it up.
Jesus’ choice to surrender His life for yours and mine was made in Gethsemane. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve valued Gethsemane like I should. We look at the cross as the place of freedom and salvation, and rightfully so. However, if there had been no surrender in Gethsemane, there would have been no sacrifice. If Jesus had said, “My flesh is weak, so my spirit says, ‘no’”, there would have been no mock trial, no substitution made, no crucifixion, no utterance of “It is finished”, no death, no moment of darkness covering the earth, no earthquake, no splitting of the temple veil, no “Surely, this was the Son of God”, no burial, and no resurrection.
And you and I would be forever
separated from God.
So, do we choose to steer blindfolded, or do we give control to the One who sees what lies ahead? Can we let God handle our rate of speed as well as our highs and lows? Can we surrender our lives to Him?
Jesus modeled exactly how we initially come in contact with the blood of Jesus. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me – nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. Then an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him. Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44, CSB)
Jesus was not buried alive, and neither are we. While He died physically before He was buried, our fleshly desires to plot our own course must die before we can be buried with Christ. Only then can Godly desires come alive. So, in a serious moment of prayer to the Father we, like Jesus, choose to let our own wills die so that God can have complete control. By choosing to let God remake us, we secure our places in eternity. Baptism helps us remember that our old lives are dead, our past is buried, and we’ve been made new. Choosing to surrender our daily, moment-by-moment choices to the One who’s truly in control, helps us become more and more like Jesus.
Here’s what I’m asking myself these days: Is my foot off of the gas? Are my hands off the wheel? Have I moved out of the driver’s seat? Am I finally out of control?
Lord, help us surrender our will for Yours and give You complete control. Give us new desires that honor you. Remind us of the joy we find in you when we travel by Your directions. Search us. Test us. See if there’s anything inside our hearts that doesn’t look like Jesus, and help us get rid of it. It’s not to us, Lord, but to Your name we give all praise! In the sweet name of Jesus, Amen
By Donna Jackson on October 9, 2019
Why are so many of the ladies in drug rehab I’m blessed to know so successful? Their counseling and instruction is based on the Word of God. In many ways, the women there are much like a church family. They eat, study, pray, cry, laugh, fuss, confess, worship, and commune together. They develop deep friendships with some and get on the last nerves of others. But the one thing that impresses me most about these women is that each of them knows they have a weakness. They not only admit it, but they are also willing to do something about it. Their honesty draws me to them.
Sometimes, the women who show up for help must first be introduced to Jesus. Other times, they are already saved but need to hear more reasons for falling deeply in love with God. Once they buy in to the Spirit’s refining process, they exchange their sad eyes for bright ones; their sullen attitudes for pleasant ones; and their frowns for big, beautiful smiles.
I believe the same is true for the world we live in. Some need us to tell them who Jesus is, while others need to be reminded of His power. All need to hear about our past and present struggles and how God has been and is fighting for us. More than anything, they need us to be honest. Honesty draws people to us so that we can point them to Jesus. They need to hear that while their sins and ours are still warm, Jesus whispers, “I still love you, but this is not good for you.” God’s Spirit convicts, but it never condemns. It tells us when we’ve messed up, but then teaches us how to make things right.
There are many things I love about my church family, but two of them delight and amaze me most. First, it is not uncommon to see two or three people huddled together in the lobby, aisle, or restroom praying for each other. Struggles are readily admitted and prayed over immediately. Unashamedly. With no hesitation.
Second, our small groups encourage honesty and provide help. Whether it’s a Freedom group, book study, or one centered around a common activity, everyone’s issues and difficult days are met with practical acts of service and prayer. Honest. Open. Helpful.
Rest assured, Satan will rise up in the hearts of those who fear giving up their own wills. They will make fun of and criticize the things they don’t understand. When the church gets honest with God, themselves, and each other, Satan’s arrows of hypocrisy, judgement, shame, depression, and pretentiousness fall to the ground. That’s exactly when the bewildered world stares wide-eyed and slack-jawed at the forgiveness, unity, and love of those willing to lay aside their own agendas for the good of another – even for those who criticize and make fun. While their mouths are hung open, let’s pop something good-tasting into them. Let them taste and see the goodness of the Lord!
“Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out. Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.”James 5:13-16, The Message
By Donna Jackson on October 1, 2019
Do you like being the one with the plan?
Are you more fulfilled when you’re leading a group or heading up a project?
Or, would you rather work covertly behind the scenes?
The Bible is filled with take-charge kind of folks like Joshua, Nehemiah, Peter, and Paul. However, Scripture’s Spirit-filled writers also spilled much ink for those who quietly exhibited great faith by playing second fiddle. Barzillai met the needs of King David, Barnabas did the same for Paul, Andrew stood in Peter’s shadow, and John the Baptist made the way for Jesus.
If we were all followers, we would wander aimlessly and unproductively without a leader. On the other hand, if we were all leaders, we might spend our time expressing our opinion on how to get the job done and never accomplish a thing. Thanks be to God for making us all different, and completely dependent on each other. We were made to complement one another.
“We are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So, since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” Romans 12:4-6, The Message
I asked a humble and effective leader friend of mine if she’d rather lead a project or be content to follow. As usual, she thought it through and then gave a very wise answer. She said, “It all depends on who I’m following.” And there’s the rub. We all want leaders who exude a humble confidence that comes only from time spent in the presence of Jesus. Wise leaders make accepting the role of follower much easier. After we accept our specific roles, we must also agree to accept the responsibilities that come with them.
“Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.” Paul in Philippians 2:14-16, The Message
If you see yourself primarily as a leader (in the church or the workplace), remember that you enjoy following a follower of Jesus. Do for others what you’d like done for you. If you see yourself primarily as a follower, you are in good company with Jesus who “did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity.” (Philippians 2:6-7, CSB)
There are no unimportant parts in the body of Christ, so let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be. Whether you take the lead or follow behind, just walk beside me and know that the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love. (Galatians 5:6)
By Donna Jackson on September 17, 2019
A common thought around my house last week was, “What in the world is going on?” My family rarely gets sick, but my passing out Monday, then hurling, and finally acquiring the mother of all headaches on the heels of surgery turned the week into quite a ride – a ride to the doctor’s office on Thursday and the ER on Friday night.
It may sound strange, but I’ve never felt so blessed. My man went above and beyond the call of duty. Who knew he was such a good cook! Then, my sweet family and friends blessed me with visits, hugs, phone calls, and texts. They made sure I knew I was loved and cared for!
But I have to admit, it was my time in prayer that comforted me most. Maybe you are in need of some comfort too. Maybe your work week has already slid downhill and you need a pick-me-up. Perhaps, there is a relationship that’s taken all you have to give and then some. Maybe you’re physically or emotionally sick. Are you longing to hear just one good thing that might possibly get you through the muck? Maybe I have what you need.
When I wasn’t in Lala Land, I got to spend lots of time talking to Jesus. As I began talking with Him in my mind, random reassurances of His love emerged rapidly. They came in no particular order, but together they all confirmed the love God has for me. I thought you might like to be reminded that you are loved, cared for, and held securely by the One who has the power to change your outlook. If that’s something you need today, picture Jesus sitting with you as you read the following prayer to Him. Take your time. Read slowly, and feel the love He has for you.
I thank you, Lord, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that your hand is always on me, and that you know me so well. I know that you are for me and not against me, and that you knew all the days ordained for me before one of them came to be. You faithfully go before me and behind me. You work everything for my good. You turn my mourning into dancing and you give me a song in the night. You are my Shepherd who leads me beside still waters. You make me lie down in green pastures. You anoint my head with oil. My blessings overflow because of you. Your mercies are new every single morning. You make my path straight and my burdens easy. I will fear no evil because you are with me. I know that the power you’ve placed inside of me is greater than the power in this world. When I resist the evil one, he flees from me. I find rest in you and you alone. No one knows me like you do. You know the plans you have for me even when I don’t – and they are always for my good. Even while I was still a sinner you sent your Son to die for me, so that we could be together forever. You are my Rock and my Redeemer. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can separate me from your love – not life nor death, not angels nor rulers, nothing present and nothing to come, no powers, not life nor death, and not any created thing will EVER diminish your love for me. Because I have witnessed your hand in my life over and over, I will not be afraid. Though the storms surround me and the waters rise, your hand will keep me safe. Your love has shown me that I am a chosen part of your royal family, I am holy, and best of all, I am your special possession. I will sing your praises today, tomorrow, and throughout eternity. You have never forsaken me, not for one minute, but you have disciplined me when I needed it. I know that only true love does that. Yes, you’ve pulled me out of many pits, and you’ve given me solid ground to stand on. You’ve shown me how suffering can be used to write new songs of thanksgiving and praise. Help those songs, Lord, bring glory to your name. Let others find what I have found in you. You are my Mighty God, my Wonderful Counselor, my Everlasting Father, and my Prince of Peace. I am continuously filled with a glorious and inexpressible joy. Thank you for setting me free. And as always, Lord, it’s not to us, but to your name that we give all glory and praise forever and ever. Amen.
May God help you turn this week into your best week ever!
By Donna Jackson on September 10, 2019
I doubt you will, but just in case you search for me early on Monday mornings, you’ll find me with a random group of women I’ve come to adore. This group longs to deepen their relationship not only with each other, but more importantly with Jesus. We are a hodgepodge of ages, backgrounds, theologies, and worship styles. We sing together. Pray together. Study together. Sometimes eat together. Serve together. Cry together. And we laugh a whole lot together. I guess it would be safe to say that together we are the church.
No, we don’t all worship in the same place on Sundays, but we believe that Jesus is who He says He is, that He does what He says He will do, and that He does it for us – over and over and over. We know that it is only the blood of Jesus that has erased our sins and put us in good standing with God. It is that same blood that continually showers us with a grace that’s undeserved. Because we know this, we relentlessly love God and are constantly hoping to learn how to love those around us more compassionately. Yes, we are the church. And, if you believe, accept, and proclaim these things, you are the church too!
As members of the church, each one of us is chosen, loved, blessed, forgiven, and redeemed. We are sealed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We are guarded and protected by the cross of Jesus. We are taught by God and entrusted with His Word. We inspire each other to be joyful even in sadness, to be calm in the midst of chaos, to be patient when we can’t see an answer, to be hopeful when we’re discouraged, and to serve those who can’t return the favor. Yes, we are the church!
“This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.”Ephesians 2:19-22 The Message
Our mission is a holy mission propelled by supernatural power. There is no greater purpose. No greater calling. No greater responsibility. And no greater thrill. The mission we gladly choose to accept is to proclaim the greatness of our God! We stay watchful for His hand. Thankful for His blessings. Amazed by His providence. Astounded by His power and confounded by His creation. Shouting about His faithful love, amazing grace, and the power of His Spirit comes naturally. Our purpose does not lack importance. It is not frivolous. It is never trivial. Our purpose is to be the church Jesus died for. To love being the church that attracts others to Jesus. To become a bride fit for Jesus our groom. And, to speak well of the church that represents Christ!
And all the church said …
By Donna Jackson on September 3, 2019
On February 3rd of 2013, Dodge effectively used Paul Harvey’s tribute to the American farmer in their memorable Super Bowl commercial for the Ram truck. The poetic rhetoric captured not only the value of the farmer, but also Harvey’s inimitable style. I became mesmerized by this style and thought I’d give it a try. Valentine’s Day was just around the corner, so I decided to show some love and honor to my husband.
Before I share what I wrote, I thought you should know that if you’re reading this on Tuesday, my man has gotten up with me before the chickens to get me to a little surgery on time. (Nothing major mind you.) He will calm my nerves before they call me back, wait patiently while I sleep through the procedure, make sure I get home safely, and tuck me in for a little more sleep. He’ll bring me food, give me my medicine on time, smile, and kiss my head. Not because he has to, but because he wants to. It’s this kind of love that teaches me to express my love for God through service to others – not because I have to, but because I want to.
Whether you have a husband in your life or not, join me in paying tribute to all the men in your life. Fathers, husbands, sons, grandsons, brothers, cousins and nephews. God knows they need a few kind words of thanks.
So, God Created a Husband
God, knowing His complete plan for bringing mankind into an intimate relationship with Himself, smiled as he looked into the future and said, “I need a leader.”
So, God created a husband.
This amazing new world would need someone hard-working, strong, and not easily discouraged. There would be a need for one who was willing to work in the cold to keep his family warm, sweat when he’d rather take it easy, be courageous in the face of danger, and exhibit toughness when the road gets rocky.
So, God created a husband.
There would be ditches to dig, cars to fix, roads to pave, houses to build, and mortgages to pay. Someone would be needed to plan for the future while getting things done; dream dreams while making them come true one day at a time; strengthen relationships by simply letting his feelings show.
So, God created a husband.
Yes, there would be a need for a leader – a man who meets in executive session with his heavenly Leader every day; someone who admits his weaknesses, but doesn’t hide behind them; a man who can turn a wrench, then turn to gently kiss his baby girl; a man who places fence posts just so, but is more concerned with setting his son on the right path. There would definitely be a need for a father.
So, God created a husband.
God also knew there would come a need in the heart of a woman for someone on earth to see her as the woman she hoped to be, rather than who she is; someone who might not understand every tear, nod, wink or smile, but is willing to share them all. She would need someone to help her better understand God’s love by loving her without restraint. Her heart would want to skip a beat at the most unexpected times and long for a touch that said more than any words. God knew the heart of a woman …
So, God created a husband.
As the man stood tall and newly created, God understood that he would want to be loved and respected by a family who took pride in him. He would need reminders of how much he is admired and appreciated. But mostly, he would need daily acts of love, encouragement, and time to become all the things God intended him to be.
So, God created a wife!
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” Romans 12:9-12
By Donna Jackson on August 27, 2019
I stay amazed at the process God leads me through to write a new blog each week. Usually, I throw a couple of random thoughts into my blog pot at the end of the week and allow them to simmer over the weekend. Then on Monday, I gaze into the bottom of that pot to see what sort of concoction materializes. Sometimes, it’s all still a jumbled mess that must be sorted through and prayed over. But on days like today, it’s quite easy to see how all my thoughts can boil down to one significant topic. Let me explain.
For the last two weeks I’ve been reading the book of Job as part of our church’s One Year Bible reading plan. Considering all I’ve experienced lately, I now read Job through a different set of eyes. My focus has shifted from Job’s sufferings and his less-than-helpful friends to what I feel is really the message of the entire book: God uses the bad things that happen to good people for an eternal purpose.
Last Thursday night at a Bible study with some women in drug rehab, I was blessed to sit beside a young lady who needed to look on with me as we studied the Scriptures together. The group discussed several Bible verses, and she made a mental note of the words “so that” being circled in my Bible every time she saw them. Later, she asked me about it. I told her I began marking them so I could get a clearer picture of God’s purpose revealed throughout Scripture. I shared with her my favorite “so that” Scripture found in 2 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession SO THAT you may declare the praises of Him who brought you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
Now, fast forward to my Monday morning Bible study group. The lady leading the discussion brought up Psalm 40:1-3. This is one of my most favorite Scriptures in the whole Bible! David boldly declares, “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit; out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and hear and put their trust in God.”
Quite frankly, it’s taken Job, Peter, and David to help me make sense of the suffering of a very dear, 21-year-old friend of mine. I’d never heard of Stevens-Johnson syndrome, but I know it now! And I’m not so sure that it’s not the exact kind of suffering Job endured. With this disease, your skin blisters painfully and peels away. You become susceptible to infection and have to be treated much like a burn victim. It’s been a horrific process, but through it all, my friend and her family have remained hopeful, prayerful, and faithful. Their testimony has strengthened my faith and the faith of many. They know, and I know, that this sweet young lady is God’s special possession. I believe that God and those providing treatment hear this family’s songs as they continue to praise Him for allowing them to feel His abiding presence.
The lady who sat next to me in drug rehab will have a new song in her mouth once her feet get firmly planted on the Rock. My young suffering friend will no doubt sing the praises of the One who brought her out of her darkness into His wonderful light. And as for us Monday Morning Bible Study girls? We’ve changed our tune about pain and disappointment.
Jesus told us that “in this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) Without some lingering discomfort, our minds stay tuned to our old, comfortably familiar melodies. If we are not careful, those songs can become stale and lose their ability to minister to those looking for a better station with new call letters.
Suffering writes the lyrics to the new song God puts in our mouths. When we allow pain to push us into the arms of Jesus, we find rest in His promises. We then begin praying through the pain, and we seek help from faithful friends who help transform our caterwauling into a magnificent symphony.
God doesn’t cause the pain, but He allows it. He uses it for our good. He helps us exchange our screeching notes for ones that lilt and flow. I told my group yesterday that my 18-month-process had been a nightmare, but I would go through it all again to find what I have now – the realization of God’s reassuring love, presence and …
I don’t know what you’re going through, but maybe your song is being rewritten so that you can make an eternal difference in the life of someone else. Listen to the song God sings over you. Learn the words and the melody.
Then SING to the top of your lungs!
By Donna Jackson on August 20, 2019
Saturday, my son became a father to the precious little baby girl our family eagerly anticipated. I watched his heart melt as he cradled her in his arms. He held her close and sang to her sweetly, gently stroking her velvety cheek with his finger. He kept her warm and protected. He couldn’t keep his eyes off of her. He is known for flashing his giant smile, but this new gentle smile displays all the daddy-love in his heart. He will forever put his life on the line for her, giving her the best of his love, time, attention, and affection.
As she grows, he will be more than willing to forgive her when she does wrong. Disciplining her will break his heart, but he will do it because he wants good things for her. She will be covered with every blessing at his disposal – not because she’s earned them, but because he loves her. All he will ask in return is that she love him with the same love he has for her.
So it is with our Abba Father. God eagerly longs to have an intimate relationship with us. He eagerly anticipates our climbing into His lap so we can share our hearts with Him. In His lap we are kept warm and protected by His embrace. When we feel we can’t take another step physically or emotionally, we can lay back in His arms and listen as He sings over us. He won’t stop smiling at us because of His great love for us. We are His joy and the apple of His eye.
Jesus proved the love He has for us by paying for all of our mistakes. He put His love on the line. His blood covers our sin and makes us clean enough to want to crawl into the lap of the living God for forgiveness, mercy, and endless love.
This past Sunday, my mother would have celebrated her 80thbirthday. She would have loved to love on our new little girl, but she will eventually have all of eternity to love on all of us again. Needless to say, my emotions have been tender, but mostly I’ve been so very thankful for all the hard times that brought me to this past weekend.
Sunday morning at church we sang a song that I used to play when I’d drive my mom to her doctor visits. It’s one of my favorites. Every time I played it she would tell me how much she liked it. (I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) Singing Love on the Line by Hillsong seemed like the perfect way to celebrate my mother’s birthday and the birth of my new granddaughter.
These lyrics mean the most to me:
With all I am
In Your grace I stand
The greatest of all romance
Love of God
To the One who has rescued my soulLove on the Line by Hillsong Worship
To the One who has welcomed me home
To the One who is Savior of all
I sing forever
As you continue to grow in Christ, He will be more than willing to forgive you when you do wrong. Disciplining you will break His heart, but He will do it because He wants good things for you. You will be covered with every blessing at His disposal – not because you’ve earned them, but because He loves you. All He will ask in return is that you love Him with the same love He has for you.
By Donna Jackson on August 15, 2019
This month marks the ninth anniversary of Perfection Road. What a journey it’s been! Many of you wobbled those first baby steps right along with me, and I can’t thank you enough for the love and encouragement you’ve given me. To those of you who’ve recently become “Roadies”, thank you for taking the time to travel along. What better occasion to restate the purpose of our journey together and allow you to see a treasure I received Saturday!
First, the Purpose
A few weeks ago, I was asked the same question I’ve been asked many times, “What do you write about?” Normally, I give a pat answer about writing Christian books or I mention Perfection Road’s tagline: Filling life’s potholes with God’s perfection. However, this time my newfound joy inspired a much better answer to that question! I blurted out a very simple answer, “I write about everything Jesus has done in my life!”
Isn’t that what this life is all about, sharing the new song of joy that Jesus places in our mouths so that others will hear it and want what we’ve found? My journey differs from yours only in that we often experience similar things in a different order. We all trek through hurts that need healing, negative thinking that needs changing, grief that needs counseling, relationships that need mending, stress that needs rest, and yes, we are all addicted to something. When we share our struggles, we learn from one another. Giving God the credit for working everything out for our good grows our faith and the faith of our listeners.
I constantly see things in my life that need more than a little tweaking. I’m sure you do as well. However, for the first time in my life, I am finally convinced that God loves me no matter how many mistakes I make. I will always be His and He will always be mine. You can have that confidence too if you are willing to place His hand on your steering wheel. Nothing can separate you from His love. You can remain confident and secure in that fact from now through eternity.
In the meantime, I’m willing to allow others into my story because I realize I am not the author of my story. Thank God, He is! “His way perfect.” (Psalm 18:30) Perfection Road is one way I can give God the glory He deserves. “Not to us, Lord, but to Your name be all the glory.” (Psalm 115:1)
Of all the topics I’ve address here on the Road, none got as much response as the ones describing the depression I felt. Our world suffers from a spirit of heaviness. Just take a glance at social media or the news and you’ll see all the symptoms: criticism, anger, rage, slander, abuse, and suicide rates. It’s enough to make even the strongest of us depressed.
In the depths of my depression I found the cure – His name is Jesus. Yes, some depressed people definitely need medication to cope. All need counseling. But I will contend until my last breath that depression cannot be totally defeated without experiencing the presence of Jesus. There is no true peace without the Prince of Peace.
How we experience His presence will be different for each of us. It may take a moment of great drama or it may happen in a quiet, subtle moment.
For me, it was at the beach last summer. You can call it a dream or a vision or just something I made up. I really don’t care. All I know is that at my lowest moment I saw Jesus sitting on the beach, looking out at the ocean. I knew it was Him, so I entered into that vision. As I laid in the rented beach chair, He turned His head and smiled that great big smile of His and said, “You know I love you, right?” My eyes teared up as I answered, “Yes, but do you know how much I love you?” He just kept smiling as He walked over and sat next to me. I felt Him stroke my hair away from my eyes while I looked into His. He quietly said, “You just need to rest.”
There were a few more words we shared that are between Him and me, but there in that one moment I heard the remedy for depression. Rest. Not just physical and emotional rest, but spiritual rest.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”Matthew 11:28-30, The Message
Since that day, I have closed my eyes many times and seen the same Jesus I saw on the beach. He comforts and reassures me the second my peace is threatened. My Sunday morning worship means so much more now because I know to whom I’m singing.
I wanted to capture that special moment at the beach, so I asked my artist friend Katie Wilson to paint what I saw that day. She was the only person I knew with the talent and relationship with Jesus that could enter into that scene with me. She asked for a recording describing the scene in detail, then she did exactly what I knew she would. She asked the Holy Spirit to help her see what I saw that day. You may doubt this whole story, and that’s okay. But, can I just encourage you by saying that Katie painted EXACTLY what I saw that day – to the very last detail? That couldn’t happen without entering into His presence and asking for help.
Perfection Road exists so that the name of Jesus can be magnified. He is more than ready, willing, and able to reveal Himself to you if you give Him the chance.
“And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.”John 14:21
As Katie handed me the painting she said, “I titled it, You Know I Love You, Right?” What better title!
By Donna Jackson on August 6, 2019
Which sin do you think plagued all the kings of Israel and most of the those in Judah? It’s the same sin that filtered down to the common people of Israel. Even today, our world is overwhelmed by it. And if we’re completely honest, it continues to afflict the Lord’s church today. It’s the sin of unbelief.
Israel’s continuous unbelief caused many, including Moses, to miss the Promised Land. It eventually fractured God’s chosen people into two nations – Israel and Judah. None of Israel’s kings worshipped the One True God and only a few kings of Judah did right in the eyes of the Lord.
Asa and Hezekiah removed idols and their altars, chopped down obscene images made to worship the goddess Asherah, and then burned them all in the Kidron Valley. (1 Kings 15:13 and 2 Chronicles 33:15)
After Josiah read God’s words in the newly discovered Book of the Law, he became passionate about following all that was written. He brought everything out of the Lord’s temple that had been made to worship Baal, Asherah, and the stars of the sky and burned them in the fields of, you guessed it, the Kidron Valley. He burned the Asherah pole in the Kidron Valley, beat it to dust, and threw the dust on the graves of the common people. He also tore down altars made by Manasseh, smashed them, and threw their dust, yes, in the Kidron Valley. (2 Kings 23:4, 6, 12)
What I find so incredible is that the Kidron Valley is exactly where Jesus walked on His way to Gethsemane. All the ashy dust from Israel’s unbelief had no doubt mingled deeply within the soil of the valley. Jesus’ sandals slapped across the Upper Room, down the steps, and around Jerusalem’s wall. Making His way through the Kidron Valley, His feet became coated with that same dust of unbelief. With every step, Jesus’ garments collected the dust. As His hair tossed back and forth in the breeze, it no doubt caught dust particles that hitched a ride to Gethsemane.
Jesus wore the dusty remains of Israel’s sin all the way to the garden of surrender. He knew the sin of unbelief up-close and personal. He knew the religious crowd – the ones who washed their outsides, but did nothing about their dirty insides. He knew there were many who still refused to believe that He was who He said He was, that He could do all He said He could do, and that He could do it for them. As He fell on His face before His Father begging for pardon, bloody sweat mixed with those dusty ashes of unbelief.
It was there, in Gethsemane, where Jesus beautifully displayed His faithful love. He gave up His own will so that He could eventually be raised from the dead so you and I can have zero doubts about our all-powerful, One True God. He wants you to believe that He can do everything He claims, and He can do it for you. You only have to surrender, and let Him do it.
Jesus’ body died on the cross. Yet, His will died in a grieving, dusty, tear-drenched moment of prayerful surrender. I believe Jesus modeled that gut-wrenching prayer to teach us what is most important. God doesn’t care so much about your outsides being clean when you come to Him. He’s not concerned with your religion. He wants you to surrender, believe, and give Him your heart. When He takes control of your heart, your mind, your will, and your emotions, He’ll clean you from the inside out, and you’ll want to stay that way!
Believe, and enter into God’s rest.
“Watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.”Hebrews 3:12-14, The Message
By Donna Jackson on July 30, 2019
My daughter and I laughed out loud at the way I’d tangled my words into a knot. I half-jokingly commented, “I think these last 18 months have fried my brain cells! Here lately, I make absolutely no sense.” We laughed some more, and I attempted to untangle what I’d said.
Even though I tried to laugh it off, deep down I knew that something wasn’t exactly right. I didn’t think too much about forgetting names; that’s a common symptom of getting older. Being disoriented when trying to find my way around didn’t bother me either since I’ve always been that way. But when I began having trouble keeping my schedule straight and focusing on what I was reading? That bothered me. Even my writing takes longer than usual. Can you identify with any of this?
Like any good school teacher, I decided to do some research. In that process I found an interesting article by the Harvard Medical School that threw some light on my issue. (Now, stay with me! I know this sounds a little nerdy, but I guarantee it will comfort those of us who have been stressed and depressed or love someone who has.)
I had learned in school back in the 70’s that we are born with a fixed number of brain cells (neurons). We were taught that we should take very good care those cells because our brains don’t manufacture new ones. Today, while we still need to care for our brains, I’ve learned that brain cells can regenerate! God made each of us with a part of the brain called the hippocampus which does the following things:
- Stores long-term memories
- Aids the learning of new information
- Regulates emotions
Most interesting to me was the fact that after repeated bouts of depression, a person’s hippocampus can shrink by 10%, thus diminishing those three functions. However, thanks to our Creator, we can increase our number of neurons with some common-sense adjustments. Learning this helped me better understand the emotional roller-coaster I used to be on. I am more patient with myself now when learning new things because my neurons are regenerating. I had lost so many over the last 18 months through bouts of fear, stress, grief, and depression.
With God’s help and direction, I’ve done the hard work, and He will continue to bless my efforts. I’ve gone back through my pain and yanked out every gnarly branch by the root. I’ve been on my knees and in the Word. I’ve read the books my counselor recommended, and I’ve made difficult changes. I’ve repented of things I’ve done wrong, repaired all that I can, and am in the process of renewing relationships Satan tried to destroy. God has been so good to bless me with new friends who don’t mind me practicing my newly acquired friendship skills on them. God never gave up on me. He knew when to step in and help and when to strengthen me through a struggle. He will do the same thing for you, IF you willingly enter into His process.
Are you wondering about those common-sense adjustments that help regenerate brain cells? Here are four that have been shown to move you toward a healthier brain:
1) Sustained Aerobic Activity
Resistance training (weight lifting) and interval training (short bursts of intense exercise followed by cool-down periods) are good for other body functions, but when it comes to the brain, it’s activities like jogging, power walking, swimming, and rowing that do the trick.
2) Stress Relief
This can be any pleasurable activity that relaxes your mind and body. The research specifically mentioned frequent sex as the number one stress reliever for both men and women.
Neurobics are brain exercises that increase your focus. For example, using your non-dominant hand to perform simple tasks, having real life face-to-face conversations, and reading new information. Personally, I’m also counting on my blog-writing process to add a few new neurons. 🙂
4) Healthy Diet
This may be the simplest, but the most difficult one of all to adhere to. Here are a few things to incorporate into your diet:
Whatever your particular issue, God can and will help. He is the God of second chances … and third, and fourth, and however many it takes to transform you into the likeness of Christ. He’s even made your body with built-in second chance mechanisms so that you can better serve others quietly and rejoice loudly. Whether you’re the one struggling, or you’re trying to help someone else, take a minute and think on these words:
“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.”Romans 7:24-8:2, The Message
Enter into God’s process, and let the Spirit magnificently clear your air!
By Donna Jackson on July 23, 2019
Friday, I asked my friends on Perfection Road’s FaceBook page to write captions for pictures I recently took in the Smokey Mountains. I promised to use the one most liked as the jumping off place for today’s post. Since there were so many good ones, I decided to use them ALL in hopes of extracting a few more ounces of creativity from my fingertips. Thanks to everyone who participated. If You haven’t liked Perfection Road on FaceBook yet, I’d love to meet you there! Happy Tuesday!
Fires started carelessly by flicked matches burn just as hot as those caused by lightning strikes. Both burn. Both consume. One smolders into flame. The other bursts into a roaring inferno.
The same is true for tragedy.
Misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and unmet expectations flicked aside soon smolder into flames that scorch our most precious relationships. Even the tiniest flickers of discontent have the potential to blaze a trail of destruction that often jumps onto the lives of innocent bystanders. Then again, our hearts are often charred by the lightning strikes of sudden late-night phone calls, accidents, unwanted confessions, or doctors’ reports.
All of us surely know by now this kind of heat is common to man. And, as Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” So, where do we turn when the flames threaten?
We run to the Rock of our salvation.
We run to the Word that steadies us.
We run to Jesus.
There is no shortcut. No other remedy. Nothing but Jesus can quench the flaming arrows flung by Satan. He holds protection and healing in His hands, but we must go to Him to receive it.
Time with Jesus refreshes us enough to either search for beauty among the ashes or pilfer through the weeds before the fire begins to rage. God lovingly unveils hidden treasures that stoke new life in those who take the time to seek them out. Some of those treasures are nestled in His Word, and some reveal themselves in the form of family and friends who cling to Jesus as their fire extinguisher.
By sharing common hurts and pains we offer support to one another. We are wired to share our struggles so that we can declare the praises of the One who delivers us. When we refuse to admit our weaknesses, we short-circuit God’s design for relationships. We minimize the power of the Holy Spirit, and we turn Jesus’ sacrifice into a meaningless death.
I know you know this, but let me remind you. The blood of Jesus can lift you to the highest mountain. There, you offer humble thanks for His unfailing love. The blood of Jesus can also fill the lowest valley to quench your fiercest firestorm. It’s there, in the smoldering depths, where your trust forms.
If you know Jesus as your best friend, you already know all of this. If you know Jesus merely as the man whose sacrifice reconnected you to God, well … you’re on the right track. Keep talking to Him, and listen closer until you hear Him speak to your heart. You’re going to be amazed at the power of His friendship.
If you don’t know Jesus, let me tell you He’s quite a hoot! He’s a storyteller and a teacher. A healer and a counselor. He can calm the seas to bless you or allow yours to be stirred to make you better. He is the center of everything, and He’s in the business of transformation. He offers peace, hope, grace, and mercy. There is no one greater. No one wiser. No one so powerful. He knows you. He made you. He gave His life for you. In Him there is freedom.
If Jesus is not part of my world, I want no part of this world. He is the rock I stand upon. He is the new song in my mouth. He stands with me in the fire and washes me in His Word. Because He has come to my rescue over and over, transformed my life, given me hope for the future, and set me free, I believe in Jesus, and I love Him.
Let the world fade into smoke. Just give me Jesus!
By Donna Jackson on July 16, 2019
Do you have “dry-bone” days? You know, those days when you’ve either poured out all you have to give or you’ve had every ounce of confidence snatched from your body. When those days come for me, I stare at a blinking cursor for hours, praying for something to write about – anything at all. Those days stretch me.
On the other hand, maybe you experience those “overwhelm-your-soul” kind of days. Those days when you are so saturated by God’s goodness that you can’t find words adequate enough to express your unparalleled delight. Those days motivate me.
Today, I find myself completely engulfed by the faithful love of our God. He has convinced me now more than ever that our relationships with Him and others will never be what He intended unless we truly believe He loves us. We can’t even love ourselves until we know how much we are loved by God.
Do you hear that? God loves YOU!
You, with all your roller-coaster emotions.
You, with your unkind thoughts that turn into words.
You, with all the many faults you see when you look inside.
He is working mightily right now to arrange blessings and healing. He’s putting people in your path to help. He knows your heart and your mind, and He loves you anyway.
This past Sunday morning our church service turned emotional quickly. Our young pastor shared his feelings about it being our last Sunday in the place we’d called home for several years. He talked of all those who had come to know Jesus for the first time in that space and those who had returned to their first love. (Ron and I were in that group.) Next Sunday will find us in a brand-new space looking forward to what God will surely do.
Just after the pastor spoke, we sang a song that I’ve played at least a hundred times since. For me, it was a perfect moment. One that quietly and reverently ushered in the presence of the Spirit and reminded me that all I ever needed was Jesus. Later, that afternoon I posted these words and Scripture on my Facebook page:
Sunday is my favorite day, but I’ve never experienced one quite like today. Joyful emotion dripped off my chin as I realized NOTHING hung over me – absolutely nothing! Every hurt had been healed, every known sin had been repented of, every strained relationship mended, and I am blessed beyond all measure! Not only is God good, He is faithful to deliver healing and more than willing to refresh our spirits. Hallelujah!
If right now your heart is broken, lay it in the lap of Jesus. If you have relationships that need tending, mend the one you have with Jesus first. God will dazzle you with good people who show up at just the right time to walk beside you. If you feel completely overwhelmed with negative emotions, spend time in the Word – a lot of time! You don’t have time? Make time. Be willing to enter into a long, and sometimes grueling, healing process led by the Holy Spirit. He won’t let you be led by your feelings, but He will make sure you feel Him leading you.
After I posted my thoughts about Sunday morning, my aunt commented with one simple word, “FREEDOM!!!”
Amen to that!
My life is living proof that God can, does, and will continue to be all any of us ever need. Nothing else will do.
Please don’t skip listening to the song we sang Sunday morning. If this is not your thing, give it a try anyway. Close your eyes and enter into your own holy moment. With every line of the song remind yourself of God’s faithful love. Picture Jesus smiling at you. He has a great smile! Feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, and prepare to be overwhelmed.
Nothing else will do.
By Donna Jackson on July 8, 2019
Back during my school teaching days, the entire fifth grade class loaded the busses for field trips at the end of every year. It warmed our teacher hearts to see abstract facts and concepts suddenly spring to life before our students’ eyes.
Yet, perhaps the most important life lessons learned on these trips were those about being polite, listening to directions, following the rules, and well-representing our school. As teachers, we knew when we loaded the busses and headed back home it would be the school’s name that would stick in the minds of those who had guided us throughout the day. Because of our behavior, the name of the school would either be mocked or admired.
It’s the same with Christians. We can listen to great messages every Sunday, study scriptures in small groups, and talk about loving God and others all day long, but when we actually set foot into the real world our walk speaks loudest.
I’ve been convicted recently by the apostle John’s words, “Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and truth.” (1 John 3:18) I don’t want to say the words “I love you” unless I know I’ve somehow demonstrated that love. As a result, I’m trying to be more responsible with the phrase I once tossed around so flippantly. I want heft in my “I love you’s”. I want you to feel loved before you ever hear me say it.
Perhaps, God likes it that way too. Maybe, He feels most loved by us when He sees us laying down our lives for His other children – even the ones who make loving hard. Can we really say we love God if we don’t take the time to love His other children – especially those living in our own homes?
Year after year, our fifth-grade classes, with few exceptions, represented our school (and us) very well. In fact, we received many compliments on our student’s behavior on those field trips. Each class knew the reputation of the ones that had gone before them and decided not to be the ones to let us down.
Let’s not be the generation that drops the ball when it comes to love. We can give the world reason to sit up and take note, not only of the love we give them, but also of the love we give one another. Oh, God, help us remember it’s the sweet name of Jesus that will either be mocked or admired.
“Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.”Romans 12:9-10, The Message
By Donna Jackson on July 2, 2019
Last July, I sat across the table from a woman who had been my best friend throughout my teen years. She spent many a night at our house and even went on vacation with us. We shared clothes, cruised the highway, and baked brownies in the middle of the night. We knew each other so well that we often finished each other’s sentences.
Needless to say, my mom’s passing just three months earlier had affected her almost as much as me. So, after our time of separate grieving, we each drove halfway to meet for lunch so we could reminisce.
We laughed and cried, much like the old days. But then! Without even giving it a proper second thought, I blurted out, “I’m about to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone. Not anyone! Ever!” (Even now, I’ve only told a very small circle of people – until today!)
Her eyebrows jumped to attention as her eyes laser-locked mine. Neither of us thought there was anything the other one didn’t know. Before I knew it, I had spit out the details of an encounter with a relative that left an indelible mark on my heart.
She remembered the guy who came for a visit every now and then as being a creep. As a young child, I thought of him as simply the guy 15 years older who carried me to the store, bought me candy, and even gave me piggyback rides. He was someone I trusted to take care of me even though he was easily agitated by my childlike nonsense.
I was about 10 years old; he was around 25. He suffered from a failure to launch and was back home living with his parents. I often hung out in his room when I stayed there with his parents. On this particular day, there was no one home except him and me.
It could have been much, much worse. During my teaching days I taught a few fifth-grade girls who had been through so much more. Still, the damage caused by his unwanted advances took root in my soul. Satan smiled knowing the foul fruit that would grow from this.
I was a feisty 10-year-old, so I managed to push him off of me. By the grace of God, he stopped suddenly and seemed to come to his senses. As confusing as his actions were, it was the words he spoke that caused me the most harm. Glaring at me, he threatened, “Don’t tell your mama and daddy about this because they’ll be mad.”
As a 61-year-old woman, I now know he merely wanted to save his own perverted hide. However, what my young, and suddenly not-so-innocent mind heard was, “Don’t tell your mama and daddy about this because they’ll be mad … at you!” And so, it began.
I became a people-pleasing, rule-following, emotion-stuffing machine who never wanted to rock the boat. My parents taught me to follow God, but I became a religious rule follower who thought God would be mad at me if I didn’t get everything just right. I didn’t take criticism well, since accepting it meant I was wrong. If anyone tried to physically hold me down, I tore into them like a buzz saw. I slept for years with my hands outside the covers, ready to fight, no matter how cold I was. I became prideful and overly competitive. If I couldn’t be the best, I stopped playing. My insecure need to win the acceptance and love of others caused major friendship failures in every decade of my life. Yes, that would be five damaged friendships I’m trying to stop grieving over. I grew into a person who was whitewashed on the outside, but full of dead bones on the inside.
My reason for telling you this story is twofold:
1. If you have a secret you’ve not told, I’m praying you will find the courage to tell a family member or friend. If you feel you can’t tell someone you know, then find a Christian counselor who will guide you through the healing process. There is great freedom in shining Light in the dark places.
2. I want you to enjoy the freedom that can be yours! Satan tried his best to finish me off with whispered lies. In fact, he came very close. He’s most likely playing the same trick on you! He doesn’t want you free because he knows free people free people!
I became desperate enough to beg God for healing, and He did not let me down. The Holy Spirit has since led me step by step through the wardrobe of fear and into a Narnia-like place of wonder that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I hope all my days find me this wide-eyed at the wonder of God’s faithful love.
I remember telling my counselor friend that I just wanted to be normal. She asked me what I thought normal was. I told her that I wanted to be consistent. I knew that in order for someone to travel my life with me, they had to be willing to ride my emotional roller coaster. Most jumped off sooner or later, but I pushed a few others away because I could see how badly I was hurting them. Thankfully, I had a husband and two very exceptional friends who buckled their seatbelts and came along for the ride, no matter how wild it became.
Today, we’re all enjoying floating down my emotional lazy river. No more roller coasters! It’s time I repay my man and my friends with some calm consistency! I can’t find words expressive enough to describe how nice it is not to have anything else to sort out or work through in my mind. If my past can be laid to rest, so can yours. If my confidence can be restored, yours can as well.
I think I’ve found my normal. If you’re looking for yours, open up, and let the process begin.
“Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!”Psalm 103:1-5, NLT
By Donna Jackson on June 23, 2019
The eyes and mouth of a young wife in our small group flew open when she learned that passion can still burn brightly between a husband and wife in their sixties. I was amazed that she was so flabbergasted by that!
Since Ron began building starter homes a couple of years ago, we’ve been shocked by the number of young, unmarried couples buying houses together. It’s caused me to wonder if our generation has unknowingly contributed to their retreat from marriage. If so, I’d like to lead the charge in the opposite direction.
I’m posting a couple of days early this week because today Ron and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. For the most part, it’s been an incredible journey. However, we’ve traveled a few divergent paths that God graciously used to merge us into oneness. Like most married couples, we came from two distinct roads bringing our own bags of life. Unpacking them and refilling them with the presence of the Lord has superglued our bond. We’ve both made some major mistakes, suffered great losses, and butted heads numerous times, but we’ve gotten lots of things right too.
We started out as two young kids who had to communicate about bank accounts, household duties, toilet seats, and toothpaste tubes. We learned a smidge about parenting after getting a new puppy, and I learned you don’t jack up a car on the fender. Ron learned at what point to hand me a tissue during a chick flick. I learned to pay attention when he needed some stress relief. Then, with the birth of our daughter and son, our parenting skills rose to a whole new level. From those two amazing children, God has blessed us with 4 ½ perfect 🙂 grandchildren who still teach us way more than we teach them. Through it all, the Spirit of God has led us valiantly whenever we handed Him the wheel.
When our grandchildren (and our young friends looking for a spouse) observe our life, I want them to see two people crazy about each other after years of intentionally loving one another. I hope they notice the winking glances, the not-so-subtle touches, and the sly grins. I long for them to hear us asking politely and not barking orders. Let them hear from our lips only praise for the other. Let them see in us the same grace and love Jesus has for the church.
Oh Lord, please let all of us who’ve been married a while show the younger generations honest examples of tangible love. Let them see the locked and smiling eyes that say more than words, the proper hugs exchanged for no specific reason, and the lip-lock that puts the Hallmark channel to shame. God, remind married folks that every marriage matters when it comes to personifying the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the church. Let our young people see the blessings of marriages committed to excellence. May they long to create what we now enjoy. Amen!
Since I like to create videos for our family’s special occasions, I designed one for Ron as my way of saying thank you for loving me for 40 years. He’s helped pick up all my broken pieces and painstakingly helped God glue them back together. He helped the Light defeat the dark, and he’s kept me safe. There is no one who means more to me. He is the reason I’m still breathing. I don’t think he’ll mind me sharing his video with you. Maybe 🙂
By Donna Jackson on June 18, 2019
It had been a glorious day. To celebrate our upcoming 40th wedding anniversary, my sweet husband recently fulfilled my 20-year-old desire for a convertible. (Yes, he spoils me.) Immediately, each of my four grandchildren wanted a lunch date and a car ride. So, in true “ladies first” fashion my seven-year-old granddaughter and I cruised with the top down to our favorite lunch spot. We ran into a friend and her grandchildren which made the day perfect! Life had finally calmed down enough for me to relax and enjoy the simple blessings God had provided. A glorious day indeed!
Satan, however, hates for the victorious to live victoriously. So, he hatched an evil plot which unfolded during the darkness of the night. About 1:30 in the morning I woke my husband with my screaming until he finally shook me awake. A recurring nightmare had gotten the best of my sleep once again and forced audible fear to interrupt the still of the night. Too scared to go back to sleep I stayed awake the rest of the night.
Events surrounding my mother’s passing last year had conjured up a 50-year-old secret that should have been exposed long, long ago. (My dreams would have been so much sweeter.) I’ll share more of that with you in two weeks. But for now, just know that in order for me to share it with you, I needed to tell my daddy first. I did that last week.
Letting go of that secret not only freed me, but it also reconnected my heart to my daddy’s. So many things in my life would have gone smoother had I just told him from the start. I learned to believe the lies of the enemy: “Don’t ever rock the boat,“ “Follow all the rules,” “You need to earn the love and respect of the ones you love and respect.” Satan spent 50 years doing a number on me, but I’m not taking it anymore! God’s about to help me use what Satan meant for my harm for the saving of many other women like me. (And there’s a lot of us!)
Not only do I now know that I have an earthly father who will defend me to the end, but I have a heavenly Father who loves me no matter what I do, think, or say. I have a Spirit within me that I’ve learned to listen to who guides me to all the best places. I know that God is always for me and not against me.
Because I finally opened up about my nightmares, I’m blessed with a small army of friends who pray that I only hear Jesus singing over me at night. I admit unashamedly that in my mind I have a distinct picture of Jesus dressed in S.W.A.T. gear standing guard while I sleep. He’s more than ready, willing, and able to take out the enemy whenever he threatens my sleep.
Maybe you don’t have an earthly father who offers you a safe place to rest, but I’m here to remind you that you do have a heavenly One who never leaves you nor forsakes you. Believe Him when He says, “It’s all going to be okay. I’ve got this!”
As my granddaughter and I traveled along blowing in the wind, she raised her hands high in the air and said, “I have my hands in the air, and I just don’t care who sees me!”
Amen! Amen! And Amen!
Tell someone the something you were never supposed to tell. Feel the love your heavenly Father has for you. Pay attention to the Spirit. Listen to Jesus when He says,
By Donna Jackson on June 11, 2019
It’s funny how a small shift in perspective can change our attitudes on a dime. Problems we once thought significant suddenly pale in comparison when placed against overwhelming circumstances.
I’ve just recently come to realize that every day is a perfect day for me. Even the stinky ones have a way of teaching me new things that allow me to discover new truths about myself and the relentless love God has for me. Every day, no matter what comes, prepares me just a bit more to lean in to the lives of others.
There is no attitude God cannot change. No outlook that cannot be redirected. No hurtful actions that cannot become useful later. No hurtful words that cannot be replaced with God’s truth. The basic ingredient that helps us hold onto the idea of every day being a perfect one is our willingness to submit to His process.
When my daughter was about ten or eleven we sat in the waiting room at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham waiting to get a second opinion about a chronic bladder problem she’d had since birth. We had visited our local urologist’s office so many times that all of them knew us on a first name basis and often offered to buy our dinner when appointments stretched long. She endured procedure after procedure and medication after medication. Her doctor was convinced she would outgrow her issue (which she did), but we were impatient and wanted immediate healing, so we went looking for someone who could change our circumstances.
As we sat there in the hospital’s waiting room we witnessed a parade of baldheaded children followed by IV poles and lengths of tubes connecting them. We both sat quietly for several moments until I said, “We don’t have anything to worry about, do we?” She agreed. And in those few moments our frustration and impatience with our circumstances turned into a much calmer peace.
I have been blessed for months now to be on a track that placed snapshots of desperation into my viewfinder. I’ve seen the despair, heartache, and immeasurable grief of others. I’ve seen poverty, loneliness, and abuse. And I’ve personally encountered the only One who can overcome all of our issues. His name is Jesus. What I’ve seen Him do in my life and others, He can do for you – over, and over, and over.
Maybe you’re that good little church girl or boy who has led a charmed life. You have all you really need materially. You have a good family and enjoy your church. But way down deep you know something is a little off-center. Look around. See those who are hurting. Go to them. (They may even be sitting next to you on your pew.) Look closely into the eyes of those you love, and let them in. Even when distance has come between you and a friend, find a way to let them know you still care. They may be waiting for you to make the first move. However, if they’ve already made the first move, maybe it’s your turn now.
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. 12 I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me. 19And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.”Philippians 4:11b-13, 19-20
By Donna Jackson on June 4, 2019
Did you know it takes a whopping 1,761 degrees to melt silver? Once melted, impurities boil to the surface and get skimmed away by the silversmith who then turns up the heat to draw out more impurities. This process is repeated over and over until the silversmith can see his reflection in the silver. Only then can the silver be used for special purposes.
It’s not even August yet, but I know some of you have found yourself sweltering in fires hotter than 1,761 degrees. Some of you have lost loved ones, lost relationships, lost your health, or lost what little confidence you had. If that describes you right now, blame Satan. He’s trying with all his might to set your life on fire in order to consume your purpose and testimony. But take heart! Every part of your life that causes you to feel the heat of defeat only stokes the fire of the Holy Spirit living inside you. Greater is the fire burning within you than the fire burning around you. Or, as the apostle John said, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
Every sweat-provoking degree thrown at you by the evil flame-thrower has the potential to either consume you or ignite your fight. If you feel you’re about to be consumed by the flames, don’t give up. Fight back by changing the way you think when things heat up. While God didn’t set the wildfire, He will use it to draw out the impurities in your life. Satan will keep turning up the heat until every last doubt, insecurity, and sin rises to capture your attention. He doesn’t want your past mistakes and circumstances to be skimmed off. He wants them to pile up and sit so heavily on your heart that you’re forced to look at them and feel defeated day after day.
Fortunately, Jesus stands in every fire with us. His Holy Spirit fire burns hot from the inside out. If we trust Him, He will not only scoop up major heaps of dross floating on the surface, but He will also flick away even the smallest speck of scum. (I don’t know about you, but I like that image!)
I’m slowly learning to see every struggle as an opportunity to get rid of my junk. When I look at it that way, the fire doesn’t seem nearly so hot. In fact, when I to go to Jesus for relief, Satan’s flames are quenched by the washing of the water of the Word. (Ephesians 5:26)
I’m encouraged by what Paul said to the Corinthians, “He [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
If we think we don’t have anything that needs to be skimmed off of our lives, we may not really believe we need Jesus. Oh, we might have needed Him to save our souls once upon a time, but now we’re tempted to think our transformation is complete. Only those willing to acknowledge their impurities and choose to hold onto Him during the refining process will be used for special purposes. He’s patiently looking for His reflection in our lives.
If life hasn’t heated up where you live right now, get ready! Stuff’s about to float to the top, and after it’s scooped up and thrown out you’ll look more like Jesus as you fulfill your purpose.
Lord, You give us the good things we need while allowing the not-so-good. Thank you for turning the things Satan means for our harm into things that transform our minds. Give us Your eyes to see what You see. Give us Your heart to love like you. Give us your hands and feet to go where we’re needed and do what You would do. But, Lord, most of all, purify our hearts and give us your mind so that we reflect You. And as always, Lord, it’s not to us, but to your name that we give all praise and glory. Thank You for loving us.
In Jesus name, Amen!
By Donna Jackson on May 28, 2019
How long has it been since you’ve had one of those Romans 7 kind of days, or weeks, or months? You know, when you don’t do the things you know you should do, and you do the very things you know you shouldn’t. Yes, even the apostle Paul admitted to this frustration.
For many months, a Romans 7 attitude wrapped me up and blanketed me with chaos. I finally came to terms with the fact that I know all the right things to do, I just haven’t done them.
I recently heard a message that detailed four specific times when we make poor choices. When we become any four of these things, we need to HALT and take some time to remedy the situation in a healthy manner. Heaven help us, and those around us, when we’re all four of these at the same time.
I’ve studied, taught classes, and written about how to eat a healthy diet that provides healing, abundant energy, and a more positive outlook on life. However, as my emotions unraveled, I began to indulge in more and more comfort food. Empty calories filled my stomach, but did not properly satisfy my hunger. As my weight crept up, my self-esteem bottomed out. I’ve finally chosen to make healthier choices which has helped bring all my numbers at the doctor’s office closer to normal.
I rarely get angry at other people, but I can lather up a good angry with myself. I’ve said things to me that I would NEVER say to anyone else. I’m hard on myself, and I know it. Now that I’m learning to replace my negative self-talk with the truth I find in Scripture, I’m celebrating every small victory. I’ve also returned to clocking many miles on the walking trail which helps stave off the doldrums that roll my way.
My first inclination when my spirit droops is to withdraw from people. Thankfully, I have people around me who encourage me to engage with others when they see me hesitating. We were created for relationship with God and His other children. We were never meant to do life alone. If you begin to seek isolation, know that you need people, and whether you believe it or not, people need you. Life is so much better when it’s shared.
This is the toughest one for me. When I get tired, I almost always say things I regret later. I make poor choices in just about every area. For quite a while, sleep has run the other way. Nightmares became so prevalent that I’d wake up in a panic and then be too afraid to go back to sleep. I’m not nice when I haven’t slept. Fortunately, I gave in and tried some non-habit-forming medication my doctor prescribed, and I’m sleeping more soundly. It just doesn’t pay to work yourself into a perpetual tired.
I’m happy to say that depression is no longer my constant companion because I’ve chosen to make better choices. I still have some things to work through and some relationships to mend, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel now. And it’s not a train! 🙂
I received a card Saturday from a precious sister whom I admire greatly. She included one of my favorite verses in her sweet note:
Charles Spurgeon once said, “He that will not hear the gospel of peace, shall never know the peace of the gospel.” If you’re needing some emotional healing, run to the One who longs to feed your hungry soul, who will turn your anger into positive action, who will be with you now and forever, and the only One qualified to give you sweet rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30
By Donna Jackson on May 21, 2019
My 12-year-old grandson Camden’s greatest vocational desire these days is to become a sports journalist. He’s developed his own sports blog, so I asked him if he’d like to guest blog for me sometime. He took me up on my offer, and in true ESPN style featured a sports figure in his message about following God’s plan.
To merely say I’m proud of him would be like calling Tiger Woods an average golfer. Camden excels in writing because his teacher/mom teaches him well. He loves God because his parents have shown him how to love. More importantly, he already understands that heartbreak is inevitable for all of us, but by following God’s plan, things have a way of working out for our good – eventually. This is a message that has inspired me to remember to let God handle all my struggles. I think it might inspire you too.
Even though Camden chose to write about an Alabama quarterback, he wanted me to make sure you know he is an Auburn fan. (That made me smile.) His choice of athlete makes me even prouder because he understands that even though folks may be from another tribe, we can all be united by the love of Jesus. Please don’t forget to show him some love in the comments. Thanks for traveling with us today. (If you’re curious about his blog, you can view it at www.camdenscove.blogspot.com.)
Let God Lead
by Camden Ellis
This is the story of an incredible athlete who followed God’s plan even through the heartache. This is the story of Jalen Hurts. Despite all the pain, he let God take control. Jalen is an incredible example of someone who trusted God, and even though he went through great pain, everything turned out better than it was before.
Jalen Hurts, a 4-star quarterback prospect from Channelview, Texas, committed to Alabama and signed with the Tide as a freshman. Hurts’ future looked clear cut. He would be the starting quarterback for Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide until he left for the NFL. “As a competitor, I wanted badly to be a part of the dynasty that Coach Saban was building. I wanted to make my mark. I wanted to leave a LEGACY.” That’s what Hurts said in a letter 3 years after he committed to Alabama. Sure enough, he was named the starting quarterback for Alabama in 2016. Hurts didn’t lose a game in the regular season. And it didn’t cease when he beat Florida in the SEC Championship and Washington in the College Football Playoff. Hurts battled for a title vs Clemson in January of 2017, but lost by a last second touchdown.
Hurts used that as motivation for the 2017 season. Again, Hurts went on an 11-game win streak. But then Auburn upset the Tide in the Iron Bowl. Jalen Hurts, along with everyone on the Alabama team, believed their season was done. But when the Tigers lost to Georgia in the SEC Championship heads started to turn. When the top 4 was released a week later, Alabama was announced the 4thspot in the rankings, meaning they’d secured a spot in the Playoffs. Alabama took down Clemson and again obtained a spot in the National Championship to face Georgia. Could this be Hurts’ time to shine?
Jalen Hurts had a series of rough drives in the first half. As he trudged into the locker room down 13-0 at halftime, he knew he had to be better, but he didn’t know that he wouldn’t have a chance to. When Alabama took the field on offense, Hurts was still on the sideline. True freshman Tua Tagovailoa was the one to call the plays. Tagovailoa led the Tide back, forced overtime, and won the game with a touchdown pass. Hurts was all smiles despite the career-changing replacement. Now the world had seen Tua’s talent. Later in the offseason, rumors emerged about Hurts transferring. But God had a plan for Jalen, and Jalen had a choice of whether to allow God to take control or complain and transfer immediately.
Later in 2018, Tua was named the starting quarterback as expected. But Jalen Hurts stayed in Tuscaloosa. Coach Saban and Tua were putting up so many points by halftime of each game, Hurts got to play the rest of the game for about half of the season. Alabama went undefeated in the regular season and defeated Georgia in the SEC Championship. Tua was injured late in that game. Hurts got his shot and rushed for the eventual game-winning touchdown, keeping Alabama’s season alive. Tua recovered and beat Oklahoma before losing the National Championship to Clemson. Early in 2019, Hurts announced that he was transferring as expected. Eventually, he decided to transfer to Oklahoma where he would play as a starting quarterback. Indeed, God had a plan for Jalen, and Jalen let it follow through.
Jalen Hurts followed God’s plan though the pain. Jalen went through very tough things when he was replaced as the starting quarterback. His pride was hurt and his professional sports career was in danger. But despite that, he supported Tua and the rest of his teammates, didn’t complain about the situation, and most importantly, trusted God’s plan. And now, Jalen Hurts is the starting quarterback at Oklahoma.
Even though Jalen went through tough heartache, he trusted God’s plan for him and now, he’s in a great situation as he’s in excellent position to win the Heisman Trophy and compete for the National Championship as well as being projected as a first-round draft choice in 2020. If you follow God’s way instead of your way, it’s true you may go through very tough heartache. But ultimately, it will turn out better than before. God’s way is the best way. God knows everything there is to know, and he loves every person in the world. You see, God’s way is always the best way. His plan is the best plan. If you follow His way, it will turn out a thousand times better. Jalen Hurts is one of many people who followed God’s way despite unimaginable heartache.
Hurts said this in a letter to the world describing exactly what he went through and how it turned out great:
“It’s been almost four years, now, since the day I got the phone call that changed my life. A coach by the name of Nick Saban was on the line, wanting to ask about the chances of a Texas boy like me packing up for Tuscaloosa, and coming to play football at the University of Alabama.
I took my recruiting visit — and then never took another. It was just love at first sight between me and this program.
And it’s crazy to think about the journeys we’ve both been on since then.
As a competitor, I wanted badly to be a part of the dynasty that Coach Saban was building. I wanted to make my mark. I wanted to leave a LEGACY.
Was what happened in the 2018 National Championship Game bittersweet? Of course it was — it was a humbling experience. It was tough, man.
But I am even tougher for it. I AM BUILT FOR THIS.
I understand that God put those obstacles and challenges in my life for a reason. He wanted me to feel the pain I felt for a reason. He wanted me to understand the importance of never losing faith — and of always staying true to myself. He had NOT brought me this far just to leave me there.
“This isn’t something you’re stuck in,” I’d tell myself. “This is something you’re going through.” And one thing I can promise you is that I’m better off for having gone through it. Everything I dealt with: I’m stronger for it. I’m wiser. I’m a better man.”
“Follow the whole instruction the Lord our God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess.”
By Donna Jackson on May 14, 2019
Depression’s healing process reminds me of a scene from C. S. Lewis’ novel Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Due to his many issues, Eustace (the cousin of Narnia’s explorers, Lucy, Peter, and Edmund) morphs into a dragon, complete with layers of tough, knobby skin covered with scales. When the lion Aslan (the God figure in the story) shows up, Eustace expresses his dismay and desire to finally shed his dragon exterior. Aslan fulfills this desire.
Read how Eustace described that process to his cousin Edmund:
“Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke –‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So, I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know — if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy — oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off — just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt — and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.Then he caught hold of me — I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”
–From “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” C.S. Lewis
For emotions to truly heal, often times it takes returning to our most painful events and submitting to the Holy Spirit’s scalpel. Only then can we discover why all of our thick, knobly-looking coping mechanisms we’ve spent a lifetime forming have suddenly stopped working. Submitting to that process takes humility, courage, and a great deal of time.
I’m not sure if this is true for everyone, but for me depression was Satan’s way of throwing a wrench in my sanctification process. God wants all of us to grow and mature into becoming more like Jesus. However, Satan orders up events that attempt to snatch us off that path. He wants us to doubt God’s ability to use those events for our good. If we’re not onto his game, Satan can encourage us to believe we aren’t good enough to be members of God’s family. He tempts us to think the people we love would be much better off without us. He turns us into rule followers so we don’t see the need for a relationship with Jesus. He enjoys watching us wear busyness as a badge of honor that masks how easily tempted we are when we’re tired and sleep-deprived. He makes us believe we can do things on our own. He isolates us so he can swoop in for the kill. Without realizing it, we try adding good stuff to our lives without ever getting rid of the bad. Before we know it, we’re so bloated that even the good stuff begins to stink.
If you’re in the middle of depression right now, get help. Don’t try to cope on your own. You think you’re strong enough, but you’re not. You need people. You need people who will point you back to God and His purpose for you. You need a Christian counselor to help you go back through your pain so you can see it in a different light. You need people who will enter into your hurt, love you no matter what, and hold you up when you can’t take one more step.
Be patient and intentional through your healing process. Trust me, it doesn’t happen overnight. Along the way, celebrate your progress. Look for reasons to brag on God, and you’ll soon begin to recognize His hand even in the smallest things. He will lead you out of the pit you’re in so that others will see and fear and put their trust in the Him. (Ps. 40:3)
On the other hand, perhaps you don’t understand depression because you’ve never been through it, but you love someone who has courageously laid down their heart in front of you and confessed their weaknesses. If so, then do what my husband and friends have done. Pray. Listen. Ask questions. Encourage. Point them to helpful resources. Remind them of God’s promises. See them as someone who has just undergone open-heart surgery. They can’t run at their usual pace without having a setback or two. Like physical stitches, it takes time for emotional stitches to heal. Don’t take their offenses personally. Share your past struggles so they won’t feel like they’re the only one. Point out the progress they’re making. Join forces with other friends in their life. This is one time they need you to be in cahoots on their behalf. Be available and be patient. And don’t be afraid to offer a proper hug if that’s their thing.
Depression is spiritual warfare at its ugliest, but it doesn’t have to define anyone. All of us could use a little undressing by God. All of us have layers of coping mechanisms the Holy Spirit is more than capable of cutting away. Wouldn’t it be nice to see an ocean full of God’s tender children swimming and splashing with dragon skins of depression, doubt, fear, and anxiety lying all around? You don’t have to wait for eternity – just lie down.
See more on this topic today at www.leanintojesus.com
By Donna Jackson on May 7, 2019
Most times, sisters are born to the same parents. Sometimes, they are blended into the same family. But on special occasions, God puts two girls together as friends who grow into becoming sisters for a lifetime. Kim King is that kind of sister to me. The transformation God has done in her life has blessed my family and me in countless ways. I am honored to give you a glimpse into her heart today by having her guest blog. Show her some love by reading her story, and get ready to be blessed.
It was early afternoon and the most perfect day smack dab in the middle of April. Spring’s green grass had made its debut along with yellow wild flowers, budding flowery trees, and pink knock-out roses by the dozens. The wind was just brisk enough to boost my walk down the driveway to more than just a casual pace and cause ripples in the trio of ponds on the farm’s vast acreage. The only sounds were those of the birds chirping sweet pleasantries, the cows’ mooing hallelujahs, and the horses chomping on the grass that fed their bellies. Looking out over the mountain from atop God’s country, I could look down into the valley for miles and see the beautiful lake. Against the bluest of blue sky, the sun was shining down brightly while in the other direction the moon stood out oh so beautifully!
What brought me here was the thought that had been running through my mind for many months, “If I could only get away for a moment in time, just time away from all the noise, the busyness, the schedules, the mundane routine … the stuff.” I was thinking just me, by myself! This thought had rattled my brain so many times over the past several months, but I continued to keep it to myself. I thought it was very selfish to only think of me.
Eventually, the words starting verbally creeping out to my husband. I mentioned it way more than once. Then, I mentioned it to a dear friend. I knew I had a week of vacation on the horizon and all I could think about was getting away … for just simply a day. Before I knew it, my friend asked, “You want peace and quiet? Why don’t you go stay at the farm? Nobody will bother you there. And you can stay as long as you like.” I was all over that opportunity in a heartbeat!
I had been to the farm several times, but never by myself and not for an overnight stay. I was eager to get away, and just let me say, this is not your ordinary Old McDonald farm with a barn. The barn has living quarters for humans that a farm animal has never stepped foot in! It has a full kitchen and home entertainment center. It even has a shower, which was a relief to my less-than-over-night camping style. Hey, there was even a heated pool with a pool house! I was staying in complete comfort at the Hilton Barn Lodge. Upon my arrival, I entered through the gate. As I slowly drove the half-mile drive up toward the barn, I observed the multitude of cows to my left and gazed at the beautiful horses in the pasture to my right. At the end of the paved drive, I parked my car behind the barn. I grabbed my bags, went inside and up the stairs to my room to settle in for my overnight stay.
After scoping out my rustic, cozy room and putting my things in place, I quickly made myself at home. First things first, I made a fresh cup of hot coffee, snatched a book, and scurried straight for the wooden swing overlooking the grand countryside. After a couple of chapters in my book and the last sip of caffeine, it was time to take the first of what would be many treks up and down the windy driveway path between the green pastures of cows and horses.
As I began to traipse down the first leg, I immediately started talking to God. I asked the Spirit to point out to me why I was there, at this particular place, and in this designated time. As I walked down the first hill, I looked out over the mountains. Then I glanced at the cows that mooed as I passed them by, and then over to the horses as they leisurely ate the grass. They paid me no attention. My head was moving back and forth as if I were watching a ping-pong match. I was all in to this peaceful setting.
As I got to the foot of the first hill, I “happened” to look down and noticed a turtle stuck in the fence. I slowly went on past, but just a few steps later I came to a screeching halt. I turned around to see if I could help him out, maybe give him a little nudge. I looked around for a stick of some sort. I was sure I wasn’t going to put my foot up to give him a nudge (I’m just sayin’). I wasn’t able to find one close by. At this point, I wasn’t sure if he was alive or not. I went on my merry little way thinking I might find a stick on up the way. And low and behold I did. On my way back, I tried giving Mr. Turtle a nudge, but he didn’t budge. It was at this point, the confirmation set in. He wasn’t alive. So, I left him and continued on my walk.
For the next few minutes, all I could think about was the turtle and how if he’d had someone to give him just a slight nudge, he could have been set free. In that moment, I began to realize the Spirit was nudging me to see how I’d been stuck in a rut.
For some time now, I had been letting the things of this world dictate my actions (or lack thereof) and my attitude. Things of this life had a hold on me and were consuming me. I was not taking time to breathe, but doing what I “had to do” and there was no time left to enjoy the simple things of life. That afternoon I was able to stop and smell the roses (literally). I took notice of the leaves as the wind rustled through them and rippled the ponds as I passed. Rarely had I taken time to notice the moon in the middle of the afternoon. I pulled a dandelion or two and blew on them which brought back sweet childhood memories of days gone by. I even pulled a few of the yellow wild flowers that were growing along the fence and made a flowery bouquet. I walked and I walked and I walked. I leisurely swung in the swing and just took time to bask in the beauty of God’s creation. At dusk, I pulled up the two rocking chairs that were made available underneath the overhang of the barn. One for God and one for me. Coincidence there were two? I think not. We rocked, watched the gorgeous sunset, and talked. Did He speak to me audibly? No. He spoke to me through His beautiful sunset. I had a couple of things that had been weighing heavy on my heart for several months, and through this time away, His peaceful sunset, and the stillness of the moment, He assured me He has everything under control.
Afterward, I went upstairs with no interest at all in catching up on social media or emails. I entered my comfy cubby hole and took advantage of the quietness by just glaring into God’s Word. I had a peaceful night’s rest, woke up early, and merely sat still in His presence for a couple of hours reading over His promises. After enjoying a good ol’ cup of coffee, I was ready for a morning walk. This time, my mentality had changed. It was all about the thankfulness of the overabundance of blessings He has poured over me. In this new day, the stuck-in-a-rut mentality had given way to peace for the days to come.
During this walk, I could only thank God for how richly He’d blessed my life. How could I mope and complain about anything? It took “getting away” in a peaceful setting and being completely alone with God for me to finally open up enough to realize my stuck-in-a-rut mindset. Only then could I surrender control of my future to Him.
As I walked in the freshness of this early morning, I was reminded that His mercies are new every day, Numbers 6:24-26 immediately came to mind …
“May the Lord bless you and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.”
I thought about how God had blessed me and protected me through my friends. He allowed them to share in the blessings He had given them to bless me. They protected me through the security measures they had put in place there on the farm. And it reminded me of how He blesses me and protects me every day. God smiled on me and was gracious to me through their kindness and generosity. He continuously smiles on me and is gracious to me in every area of my life. God showed me His favor and truly gave me a peace about the upcoming changes that are on the horizon for my life.
What about you? Do you feel like you are so stuck in the middle of life’s distractions that you don’t take time to pay attention to the nudging of the Spirit in certain situations? Maybe it’s time to be still in God and climb out of your rut.
By Donna Jackson on April 30, 2019
Just last week, two friends invited me to join them on their morning walk. I love them both, so it was an easy yes. Little did I know I was about to discover an important metaphor for life.
As we walked along, I noticed that one or the other of them would suddenly stop and then scurry to catch up. They explained that they always pick up trash while they’re walking and then deposit it into the nearest trash can. It seemed to be understood that if I walked with them I’d be expected to do the same thing. I didn’t notice the trash as fast as they did. They had trained their eyes to spot it quickly, and they pounced on it like kittens on a jiggling string. One of them laughed and said, “If you’re going to walk with us, you’re going to have to pick it up too.” I shot back, “Well, I’ve got to see it before I can pick it up!” We all laughed, and I added, “You know there’s a blog in there somewhere!”
Indeed, there was! The more I think about it, the more I realize how difficult it is to get rid of our emotional trash unless we first see it. Sometimes, it takes a good friend or two or three to point out the things that litter our thoughts and actions. Our reaction to their insight can either help or hinder our healing process.
Take David for instance. It wasn’t until the prophet Nathan confronted David that he finally saw his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah as sin against the Lord. (2 Samuel 12:1-13) Once David saw the trash in his heart for what it was, he repented and threw it out. Speculate for just a moment what the rest of history might have looked like had David not acknowledged his mistakes and made them right.
And what about Naaman? (2 Kings 5:11-14) As army commander for the king of Aram, Naaman held a prestigious position. However, no glorified position could protect him from the skin disease he had contracted. After hearing that Elisha the man of God had come to Samaria, Naaman went to him for healing. Yet, when Elisha merely sent a message containing simple healing instructions rather than coming in person, Naaman got angry. Not only was Naaman offended that Elisha didn’t take time to see him face to face, but he also thought dipping seven times in the muddy Jordan River was beneath someone of his position. It took a servant unwrapping Naaman’s trashy pride to help him get a good whiff of the stink he wore. Realizing his mistake, Naaman tossed away his pride and was healed.
Jumping to the New Testament (John 18:17-27), we see what stinky trash even the great apostle Peter unknowingly possessed. Peter didn’t need a human reprimand to realize his transgression against Jesus. God used the crowing of a rooster to highlight the stench of fear causing him to deny the Lord. Later in Galatians 2, we read of Peter receiving a reprimand from Paul for being a foul-smelling hypocrite. Imagine how diluted Peter’s gospel message would have been had he not realized and accepted his need to clean up his heart and attitude.
What kind of trash are you holding onto? We all have a little scrap or two tucked away in a pocket. Some of it we created for ourselves, and some was dumped on top of us by someone else. Who will come alongside you and do their best to help you throw it away? Your spouse? A parent? A friend? A small group? Maybe a counselor? Who will you come alongside?
We are all on this journey together. Imagine walking with those who lovingly point out the trash you might not see so that you can pick it up. Imagine being able to help a friend pick up their trash so that each of you can throw yours into the nearest trash can. When we do that, we’ll all feel a whole lot lighter, and the world will smell a whole lot better.
By Donna Jackson on April 23, 2019
Before leaving for Ireland I’d been focused on Solomon’s admonition in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” It was that “guard your heart” part that struck a nerve. Whenever I feel pressure in my spirit, I know I’m supposed to let it linger until I see what God’s trying to show me. The deeper the truth He’s trying to reveal, the longer the process. Oh, how I’ve learned the hard way to embrace this grueling process I once hated! I still don’t like this kind of lingering, but I do love the end product.
Unfortunately for all of us, life occasionally hurls some pretty large stones at our hearts. Some bruise. Some cut. But every now and then, life bows up and hoists a boulder gigantic enough to break our hearts and crush our spirits into dust. Whether you’ve been on the receiving end of that blow or feel like the one who had to deliver it, you’re left with a heart barely able to squirt.
That’s where Ireland’s many castles entered into my learning process. We visited three of the most famous ones: Kilkenny, Blarney, and Bunratty. Though each displayed unique characteristics, there were still many similarities that taught me a great deal about guarding my heart.
Castle moats, though not there now, once upon a time encircled the castles to keep the enemy at a distance. It’s hard to tunnel under a castle surrounded by water! Having a moat surround a hilltop castle with its raised drawbridge gave castle-dwellers a bird’s eye view of their enemies’ formations.
Castle walls were built high enough to keep enemies out, and some we saw had walls six feet thick. When it comes to our hearts’ protective walls, Satan will use whatever catapult, flaming arrow, or battering ram he chooses to help him break through. His goal is to steal, kill, and destroy our faith.
Castles originally had long narrow windows with slanted sides so that archers could have a wider range to aim their arrows without leaving themselves exposed to the enemy. Easy to shoot, but hard to get shot! Satan’s aim is calculated, but never true. He doesn’t have what it takes to keep hitting the marks on our hearts when we narrow our window of opportunity.
As Christians, we strive to keep our walls high against Satan’s attacks by paying attention to the music, movies, substances, and bad company we choose. However, we should be just as intentional about letting down our drawbridges with one another. In the days of kings, queens, ladies, and lords, drawbridges were lowered during peaceful days for great times of feasting, dancing, and entertainment.
Perhaps, by now, you’ve joined me in being a bit confused about the “guard your heart” part of Solomon’s words. Because of your pain, you’ve been guarding your heart by resisting the faithful love of those who would like nothing better than to gain access into your heart and help you turn that hurt and fear into dust. Becoming more transparent scares the living daylights out of you. Hopefully, by now you see that guarding your heart means protecting your heart from Satan’s arsenal. Please don’t let him convince you to build a high wall of hurt or fear and miss God’s blessings.
Perhaps, like me, you may still have some emotions on the mend. There may be some relationships you have to let go for a season and pray God brings them back again when you can be a much better friend. In the meantime, I’m thankful God has worked overtime to bless me with some folks who allow me to readily drop my drawbridge. They meet me where I am and show me that I matter.
I’m sure the desire of my heart is no different from yours. I want to make a difference for the kingdom. Neither of us can do that effectively until our hearts are courageous enough to drop our defenses and allow helpful friends in to join us at our banquet tables.
Thankfully, Jesus leads the parade into my heart daily. He surrounds me with Living Water so that no weapon formed against me will stand. (Isaiah 54:7) Best of all, I know that I know that I know:
The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.(Psalm 62:2)
He will be your mighty fortress too.
Now, go pour some water into your moat, and take a friend swimming!
By Donna Jackson on April 16, 2019
This week, I’m honored to post this blog on the Lean into Jesus website. I’d love for you to click on www.leanintojesus.com to learn more about this ministry and subscribe to their weekly blogs. Getting to know the many amazing women of God who comprise this ministry blesses my soul. They will bless yours too.
The hotel reserved for us at the very end of our tour of Ireland added the final layer to our vacation cake and iced it perfectly. We felt a bit like the Clampets traipsing into such 5-star luxury. (Jethro and Ellie Mae of course! Not Jed and Granny. Just so we’re clear. 🙂 )
After a quick bite of lunch, I decided to go back to our room while Ron paid the check. Yes, I did get on the wrong elevator first, but getting lost doesn’t scare me anymore. I’ve gotten used to it. Now, I just choose to see it as an adventure.
Locating the correct elevator to take me to the right floor, I confidently pushed the button, and away I went. The 5-star elevator stopped silently without the slightest jolt. I waited for the doors to quietly open, and I waited … and waited … and waited.
Choosing to see this as an adventure, I tried to ignore that split-second thought of being trapped in an elevator and reducing to a skeleton while waiting to be rescued. My eyes scanned the digital display. Yes, I was on the right floor, but the doors wouldn’t open!
About that time, I heard a voice. It was an audible voice. I didn’t believe it was the Holy Spirit since He’s never really spoken to me quite like that. The voice timidly said, “Hello-o-o”. It was one of those sing-songy hellos people use when you’re doing something embarrassing, but haven’t realized it yet. My eyes widened as I turned completely around to see a little hotel employee with a cart standing on the other side of the doors that had opened behind me. Who knew there were two sets of doors! I’d been standing there staring at the closed doors while the way to freedom opened behind me. I smiled at the little fella, squeezed past his cart, and laughed out loud all the way to the room. When I walked in, Ron was there waiting. He knew me well enough to know that I’d gotten lost and would eventually find my way back.
After thinking about this episode, I realized what a perfect analogy it is for the way my life has been. Perhaps, it epitomizes your life too. We were born into a 5-star world created by God. Every turn continually offers wonders to behold.
Since I was born a daughter of Eve, I too had the desire to be godly, but found myself choosing religion rather than a relationship. I stepped into the box of religion hoping I could push all the right buttons to get me precisely where I wanted to go. However, no matter how hard I stared at those doors, I couldn’t escape the thought that I hadn’t done enough or been good enough to earn God’s favor. So, I decided to settle down in that religious box. I decorated it fervently with snapshots of good deeds, memorized verses, retreats, conferences, and Sunday school classes. Little did I know that with every snapshot Someone had always stood behind me whispering, “Hello-o-o”.
One day, I heard that sweet voice of Jesus and realized He didn’t want my religious outsides; he wanted to be my friend on the inside. Through a relationship with Him, good deeds and acts of kindness began to flow naturally and most often flowed to unexpected places most certainly not charted out by me! When I finally paid full attention, I realized He’d always been standing there with a cart full of blessings. I only needed to turn around and see Him!
Jesus’ words to the lukewarm Laodiceans in Revelation 3 ring true for us as well:
“See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
Sunday is Easter. We celebrate the day Jesus walked out of His tomb and proclaimed freedom for each one of us. If you already have a relationship with Jesus, let Him help you focus on invigorating your relationships with your family and friends. It’s never a bad time to take His elevator to a brand-new level.
If you don’t yet know Jesus as your very best friend, what better day than Easter to listen to His voice, turn your life around, abandon your own path, and let Him lead you to a cartful of blessings too wonderful to imagine? God knows and loves you well. He sits patiently, waiting in the room He’s prepared for you. When your heart hears Jesus quietly say “Hello-o-o”, you just might laugh out loud all the way to your room.
By Donna Jackson on March 26, 2019
More than thirty years ago, I met a young, red-faced girl in tears from the trauma she had just experienced. My heart immediately went out to her as I held her close and wiped her tears. I wasn’t so sure I knew enough to help her through the tough times, but I so looked forward to the good ones! She didn’t know it yet, but I was certain we would eventually become friends.
Many times in our relationship, I would recall the verse in Proverbs that says, “As iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another.” I knew in our case that iron on iron sometimes meant sparks flying in all directions. Occasionally, we would both get fit-pitching, foot-stomping mad, or as a friend of ours likes to say, we’d get madder than mashed cats. Since neither of us could stand being angry for very long, one of us would eventually cave, and all would be right with the world again.
I felt it was my job to tell her what to do, and then she’d give me a crash course in human relations. She taught me endurance, humility, patience, and kindness. But, most of all, she showed me how to have a rip-roaring good time. After many years, we grew closer, but it wasn’t time for real friendship quite yet.
Over the years, we laughed and cried. Worked and played. Ran and rested. Praised and mourned. Learned and taught. We’ve shared books, coffee, food, and clothes (some of us sharing more clothes than others). We’ve cooked and cleaned for each other, spent hours on the phone, visited without calling first, and we’ve even seen each other in our pajamas or less. (I know, too much information.)
Through it all, God has blessed me with a daughter who delights in Him and places her whole life in His hands. She trusts Him completely and has been blessed with the desires of her heart. I am proud to call her my friend.
I believe the point of friendship with our children commences when they meet their own red-faced, teary-eyed little ones after the trauma of birth or adoption. I know each of her little ones’ arrivals helped remind me of my mama-love ignited by God the day she was born.
Over the past few weeks, you and I have thought a great deal about the amount of time friendships require, but like my grandmother always said, “You make time for the things that mean the most to you.” I know of no one busier than my daughter Jennifer. No, not one! The way she cares for her husband, house, and friends while home-schooling her four children explodes brain shrapnel out of both of my ears. More than anyone I know, she has the right to claim her busyness as a reason for not staying connected, but she refuses.
Whether you are a parent or not, there are people right under your nose who could benefit, and benefit you, by sharing some time together. I try my best to be there for Jennifer not only because I love her, but also because I know she lovingly does the same for me.
Like all friendships, ours isn’t perfect. It can get messy at times. However, prioritizing friendship helps us develop hearts that more closely resemble the heart of Jesus. He took friendship seriously enough to lay down His life for His friends.
The closer you are to Him, the better all of your relationships become. He’s been there all along just waiting to hear from you. If you are looking for a friend, look to Jesus while it is still called today. And remember, time is short.
“I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:15b-16a)
By Donna Jackson on March 19, 2019
I’ve been praying that our fresh look at Paul and Timothy’s friendship would strengthen our desire to become better friends. Like Paul, who understood the brevity of his life on earth, we also understand that our days are numbered, and if we want to make a difference here, we have to get a move on! We need friends to help us with that.
Paul knew Timothy needed encouragement, instruction, and most of all, a friend whose motivation would help him spread the gospel message to anyone who would listen. Who in your world needs you to believe in them that powerfully? Are you willing to do the hard work of friendship?
I’ve been blessed recently with the friendship of a young woman who gave up her time to create this review of What Friends Want: Part 1 & Part 2:
Today, let’s finish studying how Paul befriended Timothy by identifying the last four of our ten traits that all friends surely want:
7. ENCOURAGEMENT TO FULFILL THEIR PURPOSE
“I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching … Exercise self-control in everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2; 5)
Whether we like it or not, people who take the time to look closely into our hearts can see things in us that escape our notice. Sometimes, it’s our strengths that are easily spotted standing tall against our life’s backdrop. Other times, our weaknesses shoot flares into the night sky for all to see. For most of us, it’s easier to see our shortcomings than to appreciate our gifts. Perhaps, one of the best things you can do for a friend is to help them discover their purpose. We all need friends who will remind us of our calling, push us to take that next big step, and encourage us when the going gets rough.
“At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that I might fully preach the word and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:16-18)
Paul had already been transparent with Timothy in his first letter when he described himself as a former blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man who was the worst of all sinners. Here in the second letter, we get a glimpse of the loneliness and rejection Paul felt when his friends deserted him. Only someone like Paul could effectively minister to a young man going through similar struggles.
Left to our own descriptions, our lives are woven with colorful and beautifully placed threads designed with great artistic flair. On one side, a beautiful face forms and gets displayed for all the world to see. The bright, twinkling eyes of our tapestry shine just above brilliant smiles with sparkling teeth. I don’t know about you, but in my 60+ years I’ve seen enough phony baloney to last me a lifetime. What I want in a friend is to see the messy, knotty threads on the backside. Only then can messy relationships get real! Our purpose in friendship is to look at the knotted threads, find the similarities, and together untangle them one by one. The friendship journey unties as many knots as possible and then revels in having them flap freely in the breeze. Friendship isn’t about creating a beautiful facade; it’s about giving us the freedom to become who God intended us to be.
“Make every effort to come to me soon … When you come, bring the cloak I left in Troas with Carpus, as well as the scrolls, especially the parchments … Make every effort to come before winter.” (2 Timothy 9; 13; 21)
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this study of friendship it’s this: We give best what we need most, and giving takes time. It really doesn’t matter what your love language is. They all take time. It takes time to be together to exchange a warm embrace or a touch of the hand. Gifts bought take time not only in the purchasing, but also in finding out the wants and needs of another. Serving takes time. Speaking, texting, or emailing words of affirmation takes time.
Paul wanted some of Timothy’s time – one of the most valuable and precious things Timothy possessed. Look at the boldface words again in the Scripture above. I’m certain Paul realized the demands placed on young Timothy, but Paul knew his time was short. He wanted to see Timothy one last time.
In this season of my life, my schedule is busy, but not hectic like it used to be. I have to keep in mind that not everyone can say that. While I enjoy big chunks of time spent with friends, I’ve come to realize that I love some of my friends best by only requiring a spoonful of their time. If a text is all they have time for, I don’t mind one of mine lingering in their phones until they have an opportunity to see it. But, believe me! It’s taken some time to reach that point. Now I see that everyone’s time is precious and every drop given should be appreciated.
10. PRAYERS AND BLESSING
“The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.” (2 Timothy 4:22)
Paul knew the very best friend Timothy could ever have was Jesus. He knew Jesus would be able to AFFIRM him with GENTLE WORDS. Even if everyone else denied friendship with Timothy, Jesus would remain LOYAL because Jesus is a friend who stays – no matter what! Having the Lord with his spirit would impart WISDOM. Timothy could have no better EXAMPLE offered to him than that of Jesus. He would REMIND Timothy of His love, ENCOURAGE HIM TO FULFILL HIS PURPOSE, and gives him confidence to become completely TRANSPARENT. TIME spent with Jesus would engulf Timothy with peace when he felt lonely and rejected. And because Paul knew these things first hand, he PRAYED for Timothy to develop a friendship with Jesus.
The sweeter our friendship with Jesus develops, the more satisfying our friendships become.
I’m praying now that you and your friends feel the presence of the Lord so strongly that you find grace to untangle your tapestry’s threads just longing to dance in the wind.
By Donna Jackson on March 12, 2019
The response last week to Part 1 of our series on friendship confirms our great need to get relationships right. When all is well, deep friendships shower us with great blessings. But, when left to run amuck, a single misstep with just one friend can create havoc in all of our relationships.
If you missed last week’s post you may want to travel back by clicking here: (What Friends Want Part 1).
We began by seeing how important AFFIRMATION can be in a friendship. Today, let’s look at five more ways the incarcerated apostle Paul modeled friendship toward a discouraged, and maybe even depressed, young pastor named Timothy.
What Friends Want
“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he diligently searched for me and found me.” (2 Timothy 1:16-17)
Not only did Paul want Timothy to see that there were still good guys like Onesiphorus left in the world, but he also gave Timothy a clear picture of just how much he wanted and needed loyal friends. Are you the kind of friend who can be counted on when your friend’s life turns sideways?
I’m sure in Paul’s weak moments he wondered if the work he’d done really mattered. Maybe he sometimes doubted his effectiveness and whether or not he was actually doing what he believed the Lord called him to do. By becoming transparent, Paul was saying to young Timothy, “I get you. I know just how you feel.” Do you find yourself wondering just how much you really matter in God’s big scheme of things? Have you ever allowed yourself to admit that to a friend?
After negative emotions stole the best I had to offer, my friends’ display of loyalty helped me recover. With the slow revealing of every messy detail, they just continued to love me more. Like Onesiphorus, they were not embarrassed by my chains of grief and depression. On the contrary, they came closer and stood beside me. They didn’t always agree with my thinking, but they stood with me. I believe that’s exactly what Onesiphorus had done for Paul – he diligently searched for him and found him. Depressed and discouraged friends need you to seek them out, listen to their hearts, and offer a hug if that’s their thing. Words are always optional. But if you must speak, speak gently.
3. GENTLE WORDS
“Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to fight about words. This is useless and leads to the ruin of those who listen. Avoid irreverent and empty speech. Reject foolish and ignorant disputes, because you know that they breed quarrels. The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.” (2 Timothy 2:14,16a,23-25a)
At one time in my life I sharpened my tongue on clever comebacks, sarcastic remarks, and cutdowns. I became pretty good at silencing most any opponent. By God’s grace, I’ve changed a great deal since then. Sarcasm is a sport I’m no longer into – until I’m hurt. Then, my old vice wants to rise up in a heartbeat. Before I realize it, or take half a second to run it through my Spirit filter, I can throw bitter words out as a slap in someone’s face.
Perhaps, there’s no richer soil for harsh words to grow than in ministry. Spiritual trailblazers often burn out when their passion is questioned or ridiculed repetitively. Paul and Timothy no doubt bore the brunt of many tongue lashings. If any two people had ever earned the right to fight back with words it was these two. However, Paul spent a good amount of ink reminding Timothy to be gentle with his words. I’m pretty sure these words still apply to us as well. Nothing good ever comes from harsh words spoken to a friend.
“But know this: Hard times will come in the last days.”(2 Timothy 3:1)
Wisdom doesn’t always come with age. I’m older than most of my friends, but the help I’ve gained from their wisdom has been priceless. Experience is the best teacher, and lessons learned the hard way can often make a person wise beyond their years.
Paul’s experiences had turned him into a wiseguy of the very best kind. He understood his path would not be easy, and that hard times would indeed come. He wanted Timothy to prepare his heart for the upheaval he would surely encounter as a church leader. Wise friends help us see what lies ahead by learning from what they’ve left behind.
5. A GOOD EXAMPLE
“But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra.”(2 Timothy 3:10)
Look at that list again! I’m asking myself, “Would I want my friends to follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance?” If they did, would I still like them?
Somehow, Paul had come to a place of humble confidence that allowed him to make that statement. But perhaps, what he was really saying to Timothy was, “Hey, Buddy, it’s the suffering that caused these outcomes!” Because the Lord had rescued Paul so many times, he slowly developed the characteristics of Christ.
Only through my sufferings did I finally appreciate what Jesus did for me. Through my grief I experienced the faithful and endless love God has for me. Only my resurrected spirit allowed me to find an inexpressible joy after experiencing great hurt, frustration, and sorrow.
6. CONSTANT REMINDERS
“Therefore, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. (2 Timothy 1:6-7) But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
Paul knew Timothy needed to be reminded of his spiritual inheritance and the power he possessed. With Timothy’s knowledge of the Scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul knew he was capable of great things. So are you, my friend!
My friends took time every day for many months to remind me who I was in Jesus. They constantly reminded me of His love for me and their love for me. God used them to rekindle my faith that had dwindled to a flicker. Do you have friends who used to burn brightly, but a tidal wave of circumstances has reduced their flame to a flicker? Maybe it’s your flame that’s been doused. Do you need some reminding? If so, let me be your friend for a moment.
When you surrender your will for God’s and step out of His way, He sends an army to rescue you because of His great love for you. That army may come in the form of friends, or it may simply be an army of reminders of His love. Pay attention. See how He cares for you. Spend time with Him. Sing to Him. Close your eyes, and listen to Him singing over you. He may show up in your dreams. He may give you a supernatural peace. But, no matter what, He WILL love you. He WILL send what you need. Cry out to Him. Out loud! He WILL listen.
If God brings back old friends, sweetens friendships you already have, or brings you new friends, take care of what He sends. You might be the one to rescue them right back!
Next week, we’ll look at the last four things that help strengthen our friendships. Until then … Happy Tuesday!
By Donna Jackson on March 5, 2019
I blew it with a friend several days ago. I know better than to speak when I’m tired, or frustrated, or heaven forbid, both! But I did it anyway. I was not kind. She knew she’d done nothing to provoke such a response, so my words pierced her heart. Finally realizing how much I hurt her, my heart hurt. Ironically, (I’m sure it was Holy Spirit timed!) a book I ordered showed up at my door that very afternoon. Words from the introduction of Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker hurled a spear into my heart that helped me determine the root of my unkindness:
“We want to matter to the people we think matter. We want the people we think matter to single us out. We want them to want to spend time with us. We want them to want to share bits of themselves with us that they don’t share with anyone else. We want them to invite us in.”
My words to my friend were over something that wouldn’t normally ruffle a feather. However, I unconsciously aimed them at something much deeper – something my friend knew nothing about. The cause of my unkindness was buried deep within the root of “I just want to matter”. Does that hit home with you?
According to Lisa-Jo, friendship issues seem to be a common theme among men and women, but especially women. She says,
“No matter how invisible you feel or how well you are known, I have yet to meet another woman who doesn’t have scars from broken friendships. In a world where we can be unfriended with the swipe of a finger, sometimes as recently as yesterday, those scars can defeat us. They can isolate us. And we can become experts at cutting people out of our lives just so we don’t have to deal with the discomfort of being their friend.”
There’s a strange sort of comfort in knowing you’re not the only one who’s ever blown it. Perhaps, you’ve failed at a few friendships, but who hasn’t? I’m still sorry for what I said to my friend, and I have apologized, but she spoke the truth when she graciously said, “Relationships are messy.” Truly, they are! But at the same time, it’s the messiness that make them so exciting.
Godly friendship pushes you to become the person God made you to be. Mistakes in friendship teach you lessons only those who gently hold your heart have the right to teach. True friendship properly hones the way you see yourself and gives you confidence to carry on. Faithful friendship teaches, comforts, protects, forgives, counsels, and stays put. Yes, I believe friendship just might be the very institution God continues to use to teach all of us how to relate to the Holy Spirit. If we let the Spirit in, He will become our very best friend! Only then, can He effectively teach us how to become better friends with each other.
I know the great lengths my friends, and especially my husband, recently went to in order to put some wind back into my deflated emotions. Those acts of Spirit-generated love created a thankfulness that lit a fire under my desire to love others without expecting anything in return.
Obviously, I don’t always get it right, but at least I’ve learned to admit my mistakes and ask for forgiveness much sooner. I’m slowly learning how to focus on small victories rather than dwelling on my mistakes. The Spirit has set me on the right path and blessed me with wise and understanding friends who love me just because they love me. That makes me love them more.
Ephesus’ young pastor Timothy understood how precious the encouragement of a good friend can be. David A. Seamands, in his book Healing for Damaged Emotions, stated, “The entire 2nd epistle to Timothy seems to be written by Paul to pull Timothy out of depression.” (Even those on fire for the Lord can let their flame get too low. Look around and see if there’s a leader in your life who could use some encouragement.)
I took some time to examine 2nd Timothy so that I could focus on friendship through the eyes of Paul. I wanted to learn what he wrote to lift Timothy out of his depression. I came up with 10 things I believe every friend wants. I can testify to their worth because these are exactly the things my friends did for me.
Just to get us started on this 3-part series on friendship, I’ll give you the first one today. Go back and read 2 Timothy, and see if you can pick out 9 more.
WHAT FRIENDS WANT
“To Timothy, my dearly loved son. I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day. Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.” (2 Tim. 1:2a, 3b-4)
It’s so easy to think compliments, yet never say them out loud. Compliments go a mighty long way in smoothing out a rough day. If Timothy was anything like us, I’m sure he tore into Paul’s letter while standing at the mailbox. Then, seeing that Paul called him his dearly loved son must have painted a smile on his face.When was the last time you told a friend just how much they mean to you? In the first few lines of his letter, Paul made sure Timothy understood how much he mattered by admitting how often he thought of him and how anxious he was to see him. Timothy had to have known he was a needed and necessary part of Paul’s life. That’s some good affirmation!
Next week, we’ll look at five more things friends want and need. If you have your own thoughts, chime in! After all, we’re all friends!
By Donna Jackson on February 26, 2019
Anxiety churns deep within the body in an unexplainable way. Rising emotional temperatures cause stomachs to bubble – not with excitement, but with angst. Tension travels through various passageways making it hard to breathe. It finds a resting place in the heart and hunkers down for a day, a week, a month, or two. One or both legs often bounce like jackhammers while hands tremble under an overwhelming blanket of dread.
When was the last time you experienced a crippling amount of anxiety? Mine was last August.
The months leading up to August had been tough. Satan had thrown down his gauntlet in February and declared war on my soul as soon as I stepped off the stage at a women’s conference. In the backstage stairwell of that venue, anxiety took my breath away – literally. I had been sick before the event, and I prayed that God would bless me with enough voice to get my message out. It squeaked out, just barely. As I stepped offstage, Satan met me with a heaping helping of anxiety. I couldn’t catch my breath. He whispered lies in my ear that set off a whirlwind of doubt that not only affected my speaking ability, but also contaminated every area of my life. He got nasty!
Then in August, a friend of mine decided to celebrate her birthday by inviting a few friends to meet her for lunch. We’d not been friends long enough for me to realize it was her birthday celebration, but what a great idea! She gave us a card telling us what we mean to her and also included a Kennedy half dollar in the envelope. By the way, she also bought our lunch. 🙂
What turned into a most meaningful day didn’t begin that way for me. My friend and her guests were impressive women of God. They each had amazing hearts that inspired me to lean in closer in hopes some of their goodness would rub off on me. I believe that old axiom; show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future. But, Satan had spent months reminding me of all my mistakes, awkward friendships, shortcomings, and insecurities. Anxiety about that lunch had me tied in so many knots that I almost called in my regrets, but my sweet husband urged me to go.
By the time I arrived at the restaurant, I was a mess. As everyone arrived one at a time, I just kept praying my anxiousness wasn’t showing. As expected, conversation was cheerful and actually relaxing. Everyone else’s ease finally put me at ease. I stopped my fidgeting and turned down Satan’s volume. I came to the table thinking I didn’t belong, but left knowing that these people really loved me. The friendship they showed me that day helped turn my anxiety around. I wasn’t completely cured that day, but my feet began stepping toward a new level of freedom that excited me.
Today, six months later, whenever I feel anxious about meeting new people, or having a hard conversation with someone, or I’m just simply insecure, I put the coin given to me that day in my pocket and take it with me. Just holding it reminds me that God loves the me He created. He loves me so much that He sent friends to love me, inspire me, and walk beside me. It also reminds me that Satan is a liar who only threatens those who threaten him. I like knowing I give Satan fits, don’t you?
Lately, a small cross given to me by my grandfather also accompanies the coin in my pocket. It reminds me that Jesus joins me at every table. His presence calms my mind and emotions so that anxiety no longer threatens me. When I am calm I can return the favor that my friends bestowed on me; I can speak words of encouragement and good cheer.
Trust God. Let go of your anxiety. You were made for so much more!
By Donna Jackson on February 19, 2019
In my life’s photo album, the word inexpressible lies pasted just above many snapshots containing emotions too strong to be described in words. A few are too hurtful to attach words, but most are inexpressibly joyful. Here are some examples you might relate to:
- Only someone who has finally gotten the job she’s spent a lifetime working toward truly understands the inexpressible feeling of sitting in her new chair in her new position for the very first time.
- Unless you are a husband and wife who’s been married for decades, it is impossible to fathom all the emotion behind years of intense moments of intimacy.
- Only another mother can fully comprehend the feeling of having her own little bundle of squirming, screaming preciousness handed to her for the very first time.
- Surely, all of us can appreciate the difficulty in describing scenes of natural beauty that take our breaths away. Magnificent glaciers. Artistic sunrises. Thundering oceans. Snow-capped mountains. Valleys of blooming wildflowers. Honey bees. Butterflies. Hummingbirds. Lions. Tigers. Bears. Oh my!
Yes, God is in the awe-inspiring business! He delights in delighting us and leaving us speechless. Take a moment to ponder those inexpressible moments and see if you can identify the common ingredient.
- It takes many years to secure that new benchmark position on which a heart’s been set.
- They don’t call childbirth labor for nothing – it culminates a 9-month process.
- Intense physical (and spiritual) intimacy in marriage comes when you’ve taken the time to learn the desires of your spouse’s … well, heart. 🙂
- And many times, it takes a lengthy expedition to experience God’s most inspiring natural wonders.
When we place all of our inexpressible moments into a pot and boil them down, we’re left with the fundamental ingredient of time. It takes time for inexpressible things to happen.
Just ask Peter.
When Jesus called him, he was no more than a mere unschooled, ordinary fisherman who became intrigued by the words, miracles, wisdom, and love of Jesus. However, as opposition against Jesus grew, Peter denied even knowing Jesus and thus failed to demonstrate His love for God. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, he failed to love others and cut off a soldier’s ear with his sword. But, when Peter finally looked into the eyes of the risen Savior, he found the forgiveness, mercy, grace, and compassion of a true and loyal friend.
Eventually, Peter became fully convicted of his own inability to be good enough to follow Jesus’ commands of loving God and others. He needed the the Holy Spirit to teach him how to love. His journey took time, but it led him straight into the lap of inexpressible joy.
Hear what Peter had to say to his fellow believers:
“Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”(1 Peter 1:8-9)
I never denied knowing Jesus verbally, but sadly my past actions proved that I only knew Him to be the most important person in the Bible. I didn’t know Him as my most important friend who actually enjoys spending time with me! It took time to form a mental picture of Him – one that I rely on to help me experience His friendship. Thankfully, God blessed me with enough time to create an intimate relationship with Jesus that can only be truly understood by those who have experienced it. Every day with Him is an adventure. Now, I can’t wait to see the new ways He chooses to leave me speechless!
It’s often said that if you want what someone else has, you need to be willing to do what they did to get it. Are you willing do what Peter did?
Are you willing to let God love you no matter what you’ve done?
Are you willing to be broken enough to let your pain out?
Are you willing to learn how to love?
Are you willing to read the love letter God sent you and cherish every word, believe every promise, accept every good thing He says about you, and believe He loves you with all His heart?
If you are willing, He is able to do immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine! Let Him fill you with inexpressible joy! Oh, what a feeling!
By Donna Jackson on February 12, 2019
Freedom for the Good Little Church Girl was conceived when an unidentifiable, yet overwhelming desire penetrated the core of how I perceived God. Have you ever had that feeling? You see other Christians living in complete peace and joy, even in the middle of their struggles, and you wonder where you took a wrong turn. For me, it took a long, hard seven years for me to retrace my steps all the way back to the beginning.
I had learned how to “do” religion. I went to church, prayed, read my Bible, and did all the things a good little church girl is supposed to do. Since learning excited me, I studied diligently. I knew the Scriptures, but it wasn’t until I began searching for that “something more” that I finally found Jesus. Through the love I found in Him, I slowly began to change my perception of God. He was no longer the taskmaster who demanded obedience out of fear. He became the God who loves me even more than I love my grandchildren. He greatly desires to hold me close, calm my fears, and reassure me of His love. This never-ending, unrelenting love caused me to fall deeply in love. Now I absolutely want to obey Him – not because I think I have to, but because I know I love Him so!
Religion can’t create your path to God – no matter how hard you try. None of us will ever get everything exactly right, but with Jesus going before and behind us, God makes our way perfect. Your acceptance of God’s love, Jesus’ grace, and your friendship with the Holy Spirit allow your joy to overflow.
I can tell you with 100% of my being that Satan does not want you to read Freedom for the Good Little Church Girl. He fought me on every front last year to keep this story from getting out. He wanted to silence me (and he almost did), but God came to my rescue. Satan wants to keep you chained to your not-enoughs, if-onlys, and I-shoulds because he knows those things keep you, and your loved ones, away from real joy. Authentic, pure joy is magnetic. Those without it want it, and those who have it have discovered its source.
Is there room in your life for a little more joy? Can you shed another layer or two of captivity? No matter your level of freedom, there is always another level to discover. That’s what makes walking with Jesus so exciting.
I’d like to share a snippet of Freedom for the Good Little Church Girl with you. If you’d like to read more, you can purchase a copy by clicking on Perfection Road’s “Store” tab. Let me assure you that this book has been a labor of love. No profit comes from book sales. Your $10 purchase does, however, allow me to give more copies away to ladies who might not be able to afford to purchase their own. Knowing we are redeemed to live in freedom puts a spring in everyone’s step. Thank you for taking the time to walk with me.
Maybe you grew up showing your love for God by striving to do all the right things. Your passionate love of learning inflates your mind and God’s word fascinates you. Your friends even labeled you the “One-Who-Has-It-All-Together”, but secretly, you know that’s a big fat lie. Rather than feeling the joy of the Lord, your anxious heart feels depleted. You find yourself constantly striving to prove your goodness.
Or perhaps, you realize you are bound by something, but have no idea what it is – much less how to escape it? When all is still and quiet you often wonder if you are experiencing all God has in mind for you. You may not know it yet, but freedom is what your heart longs for.
Then, there are a few of you who’ve already found life-changing freedom, but desperately need to relate to all those good little know-it-all church girls and boys who continue to stand heavily on your very last nerve. You know, the ones who view your passion for Jesus as an insincere display of emotion. You need insight into their world to help you understand their struggles.
I want to give each of you a peek at the inexpressible joy you will experience when you let God lift the window shades of your heart – the ones secretly lowered by unnecessary beliefs, unfortunate circumstances, or negative emotions. It could throw Light onto a freedom process that, at first glance, might seem unwarranted or perhaps too messy to consider – if not downright impossible. But freedom’s irresistible Light has the power to slowly beckon you out of your dimly lit room into the eye-squinting, toe-tapping, song-singing sunshine of real freedom in Christ.
Your journey will look different from mine. The covert emotional thugs holding you hostage may have different faces, but their motives, techniques, and determination will be the same. I am no theologian, certified counselor, or scholar, but I have earned an honorary doctorate in finding freedom. My seven-year journey led me straight into the loving lap of God, the gracious arms of Jesus, and the sweet, intimate fellowship of the Holy Spirit. If you aren’t there yet, that’s exactly what I want for you! It is possible.
Excerpt from the Introduction of Freedom for the Good Little Church Girl
“Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”
By Donna Jackson on February 5, 2019
If you’ve walked in to most any kind of store the last few weeks, you’ve no doubt been met with displays of heart-shaped candy boxes, red and white bunches of flowers, and little silhouettes of naked cherubs poised to fling an arrow. Let’s face it, lives get hectic, and it’s good to be reminded that we should take the time to find ways of expressing our love to everyone we hold dear.
Last year, I set out on a quest for two specific things: 1) to learn how to properly love people, and 2) to find the path to true joy. God has always blessed me, but most recently His blessings have exceeded far beyond anything I deserve or could have ever imagined. It took stillness and quiet to hear Jesus speak words of love to my weary and restless spirit. It took a willingness to allow God to open my eyes to the many ways He demonstrates His love day after day after day.
Thankfully, God began to reveal thousands of small, previously overlooked Valentines of love He constantly delivers through my husband, children, grandchildren, and friends. He’s taught them all how to love me incredibly well. Those acts of loving kindness have in turn created a profound thankfulness which saturated my heart with an inexpressible joy. By loving me, they’ve taught me how to love.
Jason Mraz sings a song simply called “Love Someone” which perfectly states what I’ve recently discovered on the path God’s laid out for me.
“Love is a funny thing. Whenever I give it, it comes back to me. And it’s wonderful to be giving with my whole heart as my heart receives.”
I wasn’t sure about sharing that song with you, but once I saw the video I knew that it would transcend not only husband/wife relationships, but friendships as well. When we take care of others we become blessed beyond all measure.
God has loved us incredibly well, so why not transmit that love to someone today? Buy a card, send a text, make a phone call. Better yet, sit across the table from someone you love. It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day to love someone incredibly well. Jesus does it every day!
Oh, and by the way, thank you for loving me! I love you even more!
By Donna Jackson on January 29, 2019
I’m stepping to the far side of my comfort zone today with a video blog. Don’t worry! I’ll be tapping computer keys again next week. Just thought I’d introduce myself to our new travelers. Thank you all for moseying along with me this year.
Ever wondered where the name Perfection Road came from? Well …
By Donna Jackson on January 22, 2019
Last week we visited the story of the lost son who eventually returned home to the welcoming arms of his father. The son’s heart had traveled far off to pursue selfish pleasures long before his feet ever took the first steps. Because of the son’s unwillingness to show honor and respect, his father did not chase him. However, once he returned and sin was confessed, grace opened the floodgates of mercy and great blessings. True Love doesn’t chase the sinful; it beckons them home.
Today, I’d like you to step with me into another story. One that I have wrestled with for months in hopes of shedding some light on the motives of those who, either knowingly or unknowingly, isolate themselves from Love. It’s also my hope to inspire those of you who keep the doors of your hearts bolted and locked to courageously fling them open so Love can come in to soothe your hurt.
John 11 stands tall in proclaiming the resurrection power of Jesus through the body of His friend Lazarus. We first meet Lazarus’ two sisters Mary and Martha in Luke 10. There, Martha represents the mindset of those following the Law and its compulsion for good works. Mary, on the other hand, represents the importance of a spiritual relationship with Jesus. In no uncertain terms, Jesus declares which of these is most important. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
After reading John 11 in at least 20 different versions and praying for the Holy Spirit to show me why He kept sending me back to this chapter, I finally saw it. It may merely be a woman thing. I don’t know. But, I’d like you to hear me out.
Of the three siblings in this story, Lazarus always holds the top billing in the storyline. After all, a man raised from the dead continues to raise the eyebrows of even the harshest critic. But I’d like to contend that Lazarus’ sister Mary should linger in the spotlight for a moment or two longer.
In Luke 10, Mary sat in the glowing presence of the Light of the World, hanging on every word. John makes it a point to tell us that Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary and considered them friends. But then, after Mary and Martha sent word to this dear friend saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick,” Jesus didn’t come right away. He stayed put until Lazarus had been dead four days so that the glory of God would be displayed in an undeniable way. Mary and Martha, however, were not privy to this important tidbit of explanation, and Mary soon found herself in a dark place.
The friendship between Mary and Jesus had no doubt formed through deep conversation, shared meals, and many words of affirmation for one another. Mary trusted Jesus with her heart. But there in the darkness of overwhelming grief, her trust was tested. We get a glimpse of Mary’s hurt heart when the sisters finally received word that Jesus had indeed come. Martha went out to meet Him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Hurt hearts sit.
Perhaps, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to believe that Mary might have begun to doubt the love of Jesus. Just maybe, she allowed these kinds of negative thoughts to creep into her thinking: “If He really loved me He would have come right away. Doesn’t He care?” or “After all the love I’ve shown Him, you’d think He could at least show up”, or “Why did He say He loved me if He didn’t mean it?” or just maybe Mary climbed up on her high horse and thought, “If He had been the one hurting, I would have shown up!” Hurt hearts criticize.
Oh, how these have been my thoughts at least a thousand times toward almost as many people. I really hate admitting that, but I want those of you going through a tough time to rise above the negative thoughts. You are worth the time! People really do love you, but sometimes they just don’t realize how important they are! Tell them. Ask for their help. Yes, there may be those who disappoint you, but look around your life at all the ones who show up for you. Thank them, and love them incredibly well. Above all, please know that God loves you no matter what you’ve done or haven’t done!
If you know someone going through a rough time, go to them! Help them experience the love of Jesus by telling them what they mean to Him and to you. Look into their hurt. Spend time with them. Listen. Hold them when they cry. Laugh with them when they can laugh. Just be there! By doing this, you represent the love of Jesus very well. True Love doesn’t ignore the hurting; it heals them.
As for Mary, the sweet results of her mended heart soon filled the air at Lazarus’ resurrection party. In the presence of Jesus she not only found her worth, but also a joy that was gloriously inexpressible, and gratitude that was completely uncontainable.
And so did I!
By Donna Jackson on January 15, 2019
I asked my son Jarrod’s permission to share a page out of his life’s book if I promised to protect his identity. He never hesitated in declaring, “I don’t mind you using my name!” He understands this page in his chapter on repentance was a pivotal moment not only in our relationship, but also in his spiritual development. His willingness to let me share it demonstrates the confidence he has in the grace he received.
If you have kids or have ever been one, you know the teen years naturally cause emotions to rise and fall quickly. The teetering toddler who once held a finger tightly, all too soon transforms into a teenager who secretly wants to slap that same hand as far as the east is from the west. Eventually and inevitably, tempers flare. Voices rise. Faces redden. And that’s just the mother! 🙂
However, on this particular day it was Jarrod who lost his cool. He let a man old enough to be his father get under his skin while playing golf, and he lost all control. He knew disrespect would not be tolerated by either his dad or me. He had also learned early on to confess quickly when he’d done something wrong. Being the son of a teacher who taught in his school helped him realize someone always stood ready to tattle. He also learned the hard way that things would go much better for him if he confessed before I heard it from an eager tattletale. But this time the news beat him home, and his mama was more than a little upset.
I usually let his dad handle most of his heavy discipline because heaven knows it takes one to know one. This time, however, all my pushed buttons wore Jarrod’s fingerprints. It had been a hard season of teachable moments. When I finally saw him, I pounced on him like a hungry lion on its prey. He sputtered and fumed and announced he was going to leave. (Just between you and me, my heart broke, but I stood my ground.) I told him he could leave if he wanted to, and go as far as the measly sum in his checking account would take him. Out the door he went. This was not our finest hour.
Maybe this story reminds you of a parable Jesus told in Luke 15 commonly referred to as The Prodigal Son or The Lost Son. Like Jarrod, the young man in the story left home with the blessings his father provided in order to pursue his own way. The father didn’t chase him. The father stayed, worked his fields with one eye scanning the horizon, and he waited. I know how that father felt.
To this day, I don’t know where Jarrod went or what he did, but I know what I did. I sat at the bottom of the stairs near the front door, praying, and waiting. I would still be praying and waiting if necessary, as I know some of you are with your children. I learned to trust God more that night.
The prodigal son stayed gone long enough to live a worldly lifestyle and exhaust his father’s money. Jarrod stayed away until the wee hours of the next morning.
The prodigal’s situation in Luke 15 grew dire enough for him to long for home. He realized his pride had caused his desperation, and he ached to become a lowly servant in his father’s house. He practiced the speech he only had the chance to partially give. As soon as his father spotted him in the distance, he ran to him (something honorable Jewish men didn’t do) and embraced him. The once-lost son had changed his heart, returned home, and all was forgiven.
Jarrod never said whether or not he practiced his speech before FINALLY calling home. But it was effective. He knew he’d made a huge mistake and more than anything, he wanted to be back in his mom and dad’s good graces. There were consequences for his actions, but many blessings upon his return. The hug he received when he walked through the door became an object lesson in grace. He knew his repentance had been met with forgiveness even though he didn’t deserve it.
As members of Christ’s body, perhaps each of us could work toward creating more loving and forgiving environments, so that those who’ve chased sinful lifestyles will pay attention to being supernaturally drawn toward repentance and a loving church home – one that’s been watching, waiting, and praying for them. I am not saying we should dismiss the hurt they’ve caused or ignore sin. I am saying our attitude toward them makes all the difference in their desire to return. Jesus modeled our response with the woman caught in adultery when he said, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”
Just imagine how you and I would bless the name of Jesus if we helped His church become known as a place of acceptance for those who might be practicing their homecoming speeches even now!
However, if you’re one who’s been running toward your own desires and away from True Love, just know God waits for you. He’s ready and willing to cast your sins as far as the east is from the west. There will still be consequences, but He’s ready to wrap you in a robe of righteousness, establish a loving relationship with you, and prepare you to make a difference in this world. If you still feel the need to run, run home. Just know, the longer you’ve been running, the longer the return may be. Trust God every step of the way. Forgiveness is worth it!
In Jesus’ parable, God stayed and waited for the prodigal to return. Yet, next week in the gospel of John we will meet an obedient woman who lost her sense of worth and found herself separated from Jesus. For her, Jesus came.
“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
By Donna Jackson on January 8, 2019
At Christmas, our pastor told a story that stuck with me like a bug on a sticky pad. I can’t shake it off my heart so I’m thinking I’m supposed to tell you the story.
A husband and wife began fighting so much that the wife, who battled depression and anxiety, fell into deep depression. Her negative emotions overwhelmed her so much that she finally packed a bag and left her husband and three children.
The husband sent text after text, made phone call after phone call, but she never responded. He filed a missing person’s report, but nothing. Weeks went by, so the husband hired a private investigator to look for his wife. Soon, she was found in a less-than-desirable motel on the shady side of town. Immediately, the husband and children jumped into their van, high-tailed it to the motel, and knocked on the door of her room. When she opened the door and saw her family, she gathered her belongings without saying a word, packed her bag, and got into the van. All the way home no one said a word. After they got to the house, the kids went to their room, and the confused husband spoke first, “I’ve sent you hundreds of texts and made hundreds of phone calls that you never answered. Then, when we showed up at your door, you just packed your bag, and came with us. Why did you come so easily?”
At this point in the story, I leaned in to hear her response because I knew exactly how she felt. I know that feeling of deep depression. Maybe some of you do too. Some of you may wonder if your life really matters because Satan has increased his lies from mere whispers to shouts, reminding you of all the mistakes you’ve made. His you-will-never-be-good-enough-to-make-a-difference song is on repeat in your head. You believe those you love would be much better off without all your inner turmoil ruining their days. Satan has you twisted in so many knots that you believe the most loving thing you could do would be to go away. You wonder how God could ever love someone like you.
If you feel this way, lean in, and listen closely to what I learned this past year. God does indeed love you! You are His child, the apple of His eye, and He will never leave you. He sent His Son Jesus to pay the bill for all your sins. He sent His Holy Spirit to establish a loving, intimate relationship with you – one that Satan continually attempts to destroy. Jesus wants to become your best friend who talks with you for hours over meals, laughs at your jokes, dances to your music, cries when you hurt, and shows up every single time you invite Him into the scenes of your life’s movie.
Yes, you’ve made mistakes. Who hasn’t? Both you and I have purposely done things that do not honor God. Let’s confess them, and get on with life. People have hurt you. Forgive them. And just know this: there will be people who will never forgive you, but God always will when you ask, and He’s the one that counts. If people don’t love you, that’s their loss, but remain open to love. When others make light of you, maybe it’s because they don’t understand you. Kill their ridicule with kindness. If you feel rejected, there are godly people who will walk closely beside you. Go where they are!
All this was easy to type, but so very hard to learn. As my Daddy always says, “If it was easy everybody would be doing it.” It took an entire year to get to the bottom of my life’s memories I had managed to keep boxed and stored. However, God knew it would be for my benefit to rapid-fire an abundance of challenges toward me in order to completely empty me. He knew that only then could I survive and know beyond all doubt that the joy I now feel is ALL because of Him and ABSOULUTELY NOT because of anything I had done.
We can’t truly love anyone else until we grasp how much God loves us. God is love! He proved His love to me over and over by leading me step by step through a grueling, but glorious process of transformation. He will do the same for you. Now, I have just one question I’m feeling led to ask:
The Spirit kept reminding me of two stories in the gospels that I’d like for us to step into over the next two weeks. These two stories helped me understand how to take what I’d learned through an inward examination of myself and apply it to outwardly loving the people he’s placed in my path. It helped me be able to decide whether I should stay put whenever someone I love wants to run away or whether I should go after them. I hope you’ll join me and share your thoughts as we go.
So! I guess you’d like to know how the pastor’s story ended. Right? The wife’s honest response made my eyes first sting, then puddle, and finally spill over their brims because her response would have been mine too. The woman left home feeling depressed and useless. After her husband pursued her and brought her back home, he asked, “Why did you come home so easily?”
“BECAUSE YOU CAME!”
Sweet friend, Jesus came for you too!
By Donna Jackson on January 6, 2019
I rarely deviate from my usual posting on Tuesdays. However, this year’s Lean into Jesus Ministries Women’s Conference, TRUST GOD will encourage you as you walk in faith. I’d love to see you in Guntersville, Alabama on February 2nd!
God created you. He has redeemed you; you need not fear. He calls you by name; you are HIS! He will be with you when you walk through waters. He will protect you when you walk through fire. You are precious in His eyes and honored. He loves you. You can TRUST HIM. (Isaiah 43:1-4)
Tara Boyce, Maryann Hood, Jeri Lynn Daniel, and Charlene Miller will share powerful testimonies of God’s faithfulness.
Lana Swartzlander, Kim Underwood King, Patti Smart League, Atlee Griffin, Wendy Griffin, Kristie Brothers, Shirley Chupp and Rosalie Hunt will share drama presentations of women who fully trusted in our mighty God.
First United Methodist Church Praise Team “Amplify” will lead worship. We will have special music by Tara Wilson Boyce, Elishaba Larson, Amanda Patterson, and Kristie Brothers.
Lunch catered by Rock House Catering is included in the $25 ticket price.
Simply click this link to purchase your tickets today: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/trust-god-womens-conference-tickets-48516170171
For more information about Lean Into Jesus Ministries click here: www.leanintojesus.com.
By Donna Jackson on January 1, 2019
God has done, is doing, and will continue to do wonderful things even when some of those things might not seem so wonderful. During 2019, may each of us quickly recognize the mighty hand of God, trust in His perfect timing, and thank Him even more for the way He diligently works things out for our good.
Before we race into intentional joy next Tuesday, please take a few minutes to review how far down Perfection Road we’ve traveled in 2018. (Click the link on the picture if you’d like to read the post.)
Get ready for a very Happy New Year, friends!
By Donna Jackson on December 18, 2018
Just this past week, a complete comeapart would have been the healthiest thing for me, but who wants to be that vulnerable in the middle of Wal-Mart? (If you’re not from the South, just know that a comeapart is exactly what it sounds like – every last emotion comes apart.) Who really wants to be seen blubbering over a can of Progresso Chicken Enchilada Soup? Not this girl!
This first Christmas since the loss of my mom, I knew a public display of overwhelming grief would be embarrassing and awkward. I also knew that I had to somehow process and deal with my grief. I had no idea how to reconcile those two things, so I texted my counselor friend and made an appointment. It’s been a blessing to have a counselor for a friend.
I explained my dilemma and once again she taught me something that I’d like to pass on to you – just in case grief tries to rear its ugly head during this holiday season. I’ll begin with the same question she asked me, “Have you ever heard of scheduling grief?”
In order to heal, neither you nor I can keep pushing our grief further down and postponing the healing process. However, none of us wants to become a spectacle in public places either. So instead, pick a specific day and time for your grief – one when you know you’ll be alone. Then, whenever you feel you’re about to come apart, remind yourself that you’ll return to that grief-filled moment during your scheduled appointment. That way you’re not dismissing your feelings, but rather dealing with them at a much better time and place.
When your appointment comes, pretend grief is a box on a shelf in your mind. Take down the imaginary box on your appointed day, take the lid off, and pour all of your emotional memories into the box. Cry. Wail. Use a whole box of Kleenex if you need to. When you’re done, put the lid back on the imaginary box and return it to your mind’s shelf until the next appointed time.
I’ve postponed my grief several times over the last week knowing I have a time set aside to let it all out. This technique really works. So far, all soup cans have been kept dry.
If you begin to feel overwhelmed due to the loss of a friend or family member, I hope you’ll consider implementing this process. If you’d like to share your first name in the comment box, I’ll be glad to pray for you. I would appreciate your prayers as well. In the meantime, let me remind you of the glorious day that’s on the way:
Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.
Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5, CSB)
I’ll be taking a break for a couple of weeks, but I’ll see you back here on Perfection Road on January 8th. May God bless you with love, joy, peace, and lots of happy memories! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
By Donna Jackson on December 11, 2018
Sunday holds the top spot on my list of favorite days. After a week’s worth of busy, Sunday smooths my ruffled feathers and fills me with hope for the next week. I hope it does that for you as well.
This past Sunday exceeded my greatest expectations. It wasn’t merely the worship that did the trick, though it did summon a few drops of emotion from my eyes. It wasn’t necessarily the inspiring message I heard, nor was it the oh-so-sweet sweet fellowship I’ve come to thrive on. No, it was the hearts of the children I’m blessed to serve that completely overwhelmed me.
My part of Sunday’s children’s service was to offer a short closing message and prayer, followed by some small group time with my amazing 4th and 5th grade boys. These particular assignments make Sunday extra special for me.
After watching a video lesson about being grateful with what we have during the Christmas season, I decided to reenact a scene from a movie that most of our kids are very familiar with. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, a frustrated Charlie cried out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus responded, “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about,” as he stepped centerstage into the spotlight to beautifully quote Luke 2:8-14. How wonderful it is to take the time to remember just how miraculous the birth of Jesus was!
As we moved into our prayer time together, we talked about the prophet Isaiah’s description of Jesus, the Messiah who would come to earth as a baby to grow and live among us. I reminded them that Isaiah lived hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, but still knew that He would be a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.
The children seemed to understand that at some point we all need some wise advice, someone who will protect and take care of us, someone who will always be with us and never leave us, and someone who can give us peace in our crazy lives. Many prayed to have Jesus become their own Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.
Small group time began by handing out prayer cards to my circle of boys along with these instructions, “Tell God which one of these four descriptions of Jesus you need most in your life right now, and why you need it.”
I wasn’t prepared for the depth of emotion that poured onto these cards.
One boy asked for a Wonderful Counselor because he needed a friend.
Another wanted a Mighty God because he was being bullied at school. What I read at the bottom of the card from this boy who wore the biggest smile in the room broke my heart. He wrote: Why do people bully me?
Another seemed desperate for an Everlasting Father because he never got to see his dad.
And another one wrote that he needed a Prince of Peace because it wasn’t very peaceful in his house right now.
It’s true, we feel our need for a Savior when we are children, and we never outgrow that need. Are there children in your life struggling quietly with stressful emotions? Take time to ask questions, and then listen.
I’m pretty sure some of you grownups reading this right now could also use a friend, a protector, some security, or a whole lot of peace; maybe all four. Don’t be afraid to let it show, and then intentionally lean on Jesus.
However, there may be a few of us who could be a little more like Jesus by supporting someone else through difficult days. Look around. Who needs you? By learning how to become more Christlike, we find exactly what we need.
And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:8-14, KJV, emphasis definitely mine)
By Donna Jackson on December 4, 2018
Maybe feeling the pressure to meet every single need of everyone in our lives is a “firstborn” thing. Maybe it’s a “being a woman” thing. Or, maybe it’s a “pride” thing. Perhaps, it’s all three rolled up in a giant ball of mistletoe. (I’m thinking some sons and husbands might be reading this, so you can pay me later for the insight. 🙂 )
Especially during the holidays, many of us women feel the need to be in charge, to see that everything gets done, and gets done exceptionally well when we were never called to do it all. We want dinners to go off without a hitch as presents wrapped with artistic flair lie underneath our perfectly decorated tree. On the big day, we hope to display rested eyes that twinkle with excitement and gleaming smiles that sparkle. We long to create cherished memories that etch themselves into the minds of our children and grandchildren.
Several months ago, a very wise friend gave me some great advice I’d like to pass along to you. It translates to every demanding season of life – not just Christmas. As I sat wet-eyed in her office chair, I explained the reason for my emotional drain. A long-lost relative had suddenly and unexpectedly reappeared in my life only because he needed someone, anyone, to manage his life during his long hospital stay. He nominated me while I was in the throes of also managing my mom’s doctor visits, medication, bill paying, and her general activities of life. His unrelenting demands stretched my body and emotions as thin as frog hair split four ways. Resentment took hold as he repeatedly insisted that I meet his every whim. I fully admit to you that love was not what I felt for him.
My friend listened as I poured every ounce of my frustration into her lap. Then, she did what she does so well, she understood. She had been there, seen others go there, and offered these three suggestions:
When I spent some time thinking about each of my tasks, there were very few that only I could do. I was blessed with friends and family who would have gladly pitched in if I’d only asked. However, my sense of responsibility overtook my good sense. My pride stood between me and rest.
So, please don’t think that only you can save the day or that you alone can perform a task with excellence. What expectations are you trying to meet that could just as easily be met by someone else? Don’t be too proud to ask, especially when it comes to caring for loved ones. Give the people in your life the opportunity to not have any regrets! Let them help. Let others do what they can do. Those cherished memories you hope to create are counting on you!
God sits on the throne quietly urging the Spirit to send just the right people to you at just the right time. Recognize His voice. Listen to it. Find the rest your body and emotions need. By letting go of lesser things outside your calling, God just might bless you with greater things you were actually created to do. Let go, and let God do what only He can do!
Paul knew he needed the support of his friends to do what God had called him to do. I’m sure you can relate to the discouragement he felt when he failed to locate Titus, his much-needed friend and brother in Christ.
“When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though the Lord opened a door for me, I had no rest in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. Instead, I said good-bye to them and left for Macedonia.”
(2 Corinthians 2:12-13)
Later, when he met up with Titus in Macedonia Paul gave God all the credit for the comfort that only He can provide.
When we came into Macedonia, we had no rest. Instead, we were troubled in every way: conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his arrival but also by the comfort he received from you. He told us about your deep longing, your sorrow, and your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more.”
(2 Corinthians 7:5-7)
No matter the season, the stress, the heartache, or the grief, celebrate the God whose divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)