Love All the People.

MILLENNIALS.

They’re the worrrrrrrst, am I right?

(I actually disagree, but that’s a whole different blog post.)

Millennials are most known by the rest of society for how they are running the morals and values and beliefs held commonly by former generations to the underground.

But, there’s one thing this generation seemingly ‘gets’ and truly wants to be known for:

How we LOVE—

LOVE and understanding.

LOVE and acceptance.

LOVE and belonging.

LOVE and embrace.

LOVE and diversity.

LOVE and new ways of thinking.

LOVE and no exceptions…

that is

…unless you don’t love me back.

Then, it’s pretty much just HATE.


 At the end of the day, we all just want to be known and understood and then loved in return for being ourselves.  It’s when we’re not fully known and understood that we can feel less than loved or valued.

When love is communicated to us without first getting a sense of being understood, we may find ourselves questioning the motives or genuineness of the ‘lover.’

In efforts to fix the world of all its injustices and problems, us Millennials took it upon ourselves to perpetuate a simple yet powerful mantra of “LOVE” and acceptance within every realm we carry influence…

Surely if we just adopt a blanket covering of love for all walks of life, for everyone and everything, surely that’ll solve a multitude of issues…

The problem with this plan is that love without understanding, love without being fully known first, can often lead to more problems.

Worse yet, we often find ourselves being unwilling to love, or even unwilling to try to understand or know others, without first being understood, known, and loved.

But if this is true, then how can we be expected to understand everyone just so that we can love them–especially if we don’t feel completely loved ourselves at first?


Theorists and philosophers have argued that altruism–the idea of completely selfless service–is actually a myth.  They would assert that we as human beings serve others  knowing there will be a warm, fuzzy, pat-yourself-on-the-back feeling afterwards, and so we are motivated to do good and serve others with this expectation of good feelings in mind.

The New Testament uses two different words for love: phileo and agape.

Phileo is what love looks like among friends or two parties where both are beneficiaries.  (Think Philadelphia: the city of brotherly love.)  Phileo says, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours,” or “You treat me kindly and I’ll do the same.”

Agape is what love looks like when it is unconditional and not based on performance or even when it is unrequited or not returned.  Agape says, “No matter what, even if __________ happens, I will love you with an fierce, continuous love that just keeps on coming like a fire hydrant that can never be shut off.

“WITHOUT GOD we can only love with a selfish love–one that cannot be given if it is not received and returned.  However, agape loves regardless of the response.  This agape is the love Jesus shed when He forgave from the cross.”

John Bevere, “The Bait of Satan”


Stand where you may on this idea of agape, selfless love and where it comes from, but all this made me realize I have something real to confess to the world:

AS MUCH as I want to proudly tell the world how I’ve lived a life of love and acceptance–how even when I fell short of loving or accepting I always had the sincerest of intentions–I have to confess that I have often loved with a selfish love.

  • “SURELY if I learn how to love them better–maybe with an understanding of their love language or MBTI personality or what kind of baked goodies they like–they will learn to love me back.”
  • “SURELY if  I am known for my big, naturally loving heart, then others will just come to love me naturally.”
  • “SURELY if I love them, and love them well, they WILL love me well in return.”

This confession feels really gross to admit.

I don’t want people to know I have ever loved with hopeful intentions of being loved in return.  Worse than that, there’s a prideful part of me that doesn’t want people to know how badly I wanted to be loved by them.

And, for those who I unsuccessfully loved, for those who I tried to love with all I could give but they refused to love me back, well, what am I even supposed do with them?

13096357_10154901667673345_605713972082275566_n


In “A Personality Conflict with the Creator”,  I talked about a recent Come-to-Jesus meeting where I had to face all my unforgiveness issues with a handful of folks from my past.  As I prayed for a new heart and strength to forgive and let go of these old hurts, God actually spoke this word:

LOVE ALL THE PEOPLE.” –GOD

Instead of “Love all the people who you want to love you back,” or

“Love all the people who are most like you and who ‘get’ you,” or

“Love all the people who you know love you,”

GOD was commanding I Love. All. The. People. Period. End of Discussion.

…What this looks like “on the reg” is, again, probably a whole different blog post.

But, as a takeaway, I do know now that loving ALL the people requires more than just a desire to be loved in return.  Loving all the people can sometimes mean we are not guaranteed any love back, even with our best efforts and intentions.  

I think that’s where God intends for us to love others with the continuous, overflowing love and unconditional grace He supplies us, because He knows our love is finite and can run dry if not replenished or returned.

Millennials.

Xers.

Boomers and Shakers.

Love All the People, yes.  But, be sure to Love with a Love supply that won’t leave you dry or wanting more in return.

Love All the People with a Love supply that does not require certain conditions because it was given to you freely and without condition.

Love All the People because GOD Loves you with more Love than you could possibly ever give to All the People.

Diary of a Broke Down Jesus Girl, Part 2

(If you haven’t read Part 1 of this blog post, you might want to click here first. That is, unless you’re the type who just cares about the end of a good story.)

As Kate began to read from her iPhone all of Psalm 46, the tears uncontrollably poured out from my eyes.

1 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.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46:1-11 NIV

Kate then asked if she could pray with me.  Her words were sweet and spoke to the heart of a Broke Down Jesus Girl.  But, the part of her prayer that struck me the most was when she said, “I thank You, God, that You are so proud of Valerie.”

“Wait, what?  Did you just say God is PROUD of ME?!  There’s no way…I mean, maybe He was proud of me when I was a devoted teen for Christ who went to Acquire the Fire events and listened to Skillet and DC Talk even though I couldn’t understand most of what they were singing.  Maybe He was proud of me when I went to UF and finally found a group of Christians to love and serve and grow with in Gainesville.  Maybe He was proud of me when I trusted Him to guide me and provide for me after I moved here to Texas from Florida.  But not now.  Certainly not right now.”

Once Kate finished praying over me and returned to the “new mommy row,” I found myself unable to control the waterfall that flowed from my eyes. “Great, now I’ll be working on pair #4 of contacts…”

As the worship time ended, I managed to clean up my face enough to not feel entirely soaked from my encounter with Kate and God.

The pastor’s wife, who I recognized from my first visits to the church, made her way to the stage to speak in honor of Mother’s Day.  (If this church is the church of pretty Christians, then Ashley is more than worthy to be the queen of them.)  With shiny golden hair, a gorgeous complexion, a teeny-tiny petite figure, and a pair of big, beautiful eyes and smile to match, there is no way one would guess that Ashley is the wife of a full-time pastor and mother of three small children.

Ashley shared her recent story of an ended pregnancy, complete with the ugly, vulnerable details of her journey to trusting the Lord to be enough in her time of grief.  She spoke of the transfer that took place inside of her during this time: the more things that died within her, the more Jesus could replace the death with His life. 

With all the garbage I’ve been believing, with all the hurt and pain I’ve experienced lately, and with all the bad choices I’ve carried, I think I’d be up for a trade like that.  Death for Life.  Death of my inner life for His Glorious Life.  My busted tires and smoking engine and broke down ’98 Toyota Camry for His brand new Ferrari.

“…There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
    God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.”

As I remember how this Broke Down Jesus Girl got to where I am, I realize how much I do not deserve the help of a Perfect God who cares enough to get me rolling again, who offers me a Ferrari in trade for my broken down Camry, who offers me the life of His Son.  I mean, I don’t deserve a Ferrari.  (I’m a passive driver as is.)  I deserve to stay in the highway ditch.  I don’t have the self-respect it takes to drive such a car, and here He’s offering me the keys!

So how does a Broke Down Jesus Girl get back on her feet?

I think it starts with making the trade-up. It starts with taking the keys to a Ferrari even though you wrecked the ’98 Camry.  It starts with accepting Grace undeserved so that you can get back on the road again.

I’m going back to Antioch Community Church this weekend, by the way.  I’m hoping to re-meet Presley or Kate or even meet a new friend.  I’m still very afraid and feel unworthy of a stranger’s kindness or care.  I’m still hurting over recent events.  I’m still not sure how God could offer me so much of His Grace and yet proudly claim me as His daughter.

But alas, “decision precedes emotion.”  And I’m going to decide to not be a “broke down” Jesus Girl anymore…

Diary of a Broke Down Jesus Girl, Part 1

If life is really a highway (an ode to Tom Cochrane), I imagine myself broke down on the side of the road right about now…

I imagine my ’98 Toyota Camry parked in a highway ditch with busted tired and smoke coming up from the engine, and I imagine that I am unable to flag down any help from those driving by because I’m just not worth their time.  Even if I stuck out my exposed leg like some silly and sultry cartoon character, the current state of my soul is too messy to draw anyone’s attention or care.

(Good grief, McKee.  Lay off the morbid pills, will ya?)


 

Here’s the breakdown of my soul lately:

  • Ended relationships.  “Ouch!”
  • Distressing work/school schedules.  “Ouch!”
  • Loneliness for my family and friends in Florida.  “Ouch!”
  • Poor Decisions and Regret.  “Ouch!”
  • Rejection and Disrespect.  “Ouch!”
  • Anger and Bitterness and Unforgiveness brewing in my heart.  “Ouch!”

Prior to this past week, I hadn’t really cried for almost a couple months. (Not normal or healthy for me.)  Instead, my soul just kept voicing one word over and over, a word I remember my Aunt Melba taught me as a young girl to say out loud whenever I got hurt to make me feel better.  “OUCH!”

But, this past week was a whole different story…  I literally went through three pairs of contacts because I had choked back tears so many times.  I cycled through sadness to outrage to shame with little variation of emotions in between.  I was hardly functional and not at all attractive or inspiring in this state of mind.

Forget a sense of pride or dignity.  Broke Down Jesus Girl on the side of the road  —  that’s where I am at these days. 

Why am I so broken down by sins and hurts if I’m a Jesus Girl, you ask?  Well, figuratively speaking, it’s like I’ve not recognized that my “spiritual vehicle” needed an oil change until it began to break down other parts of me.  I’ve avoided God’s word during this time and I’ve yet to decide on a church community to serve as my accountability and source of counsel.

By the way, if you’re looking for a church in the Bryan-College Station area, I’m the girl to ask.  Lord knows I’ve attended at least six or seven different churches since I moved to Aggieland last August.  I’ve been to churches made entirely up of college students, churches with a rich blend of diversity in age and ethnicities, churches with nothing but white folks, churches that have concert-style worship services, churches that are led to worship by a single guitarist, churches that meet in school buildings, churches that meet in multiple buildings, churches that preach prosperity gospel like there’s no tomorrow, churches that preach the Bible page-by-page, paragraph by paragraph, churches that number in the thousands, and churches that have less than 100 people to boast.

(I’d like to think I’m a connoisseur of churches because I’m the daughter of a pastor/church-planter, but really I’m probably just a Broke Down Jesus Girl disguised as a bad church critic.)

So, in honor of my mother’s request to “please find a church and get plugged in,” I returned on Mother’s Day (by myself of course) to the first church I visited when I moved here.  Upon finding my seat in the back of the auditorium and on the edge of a row where I wouldn’t have to be asked to move or sit by more than one stranger, I was confronted by a girl who had also come by herself and decided to sit on my row of solitude.  Presley, a young twenty-something with long, brown hair, distinctively almond-shaped green eyes, and a petite figure, introduced herself and quietly sat down a chair away from me.  After “sizing-up” Presley’s pretty features compared to my own ugliness and then scanning the room for who else had arrived to worship, I was reminded of a reason why I had not stuck with this church in the first place.

“These Christians are just too pretty.”

Beautiful faces and people were everywhere I turned.  Young, bright-eyed college students dancing and moving to the worship music with no cares of who saw or judged them filled the room.  A few lovely families, most likely mothers of these precious, God-loving college freshman who came to visit their babies’ church on Mother’s Day, were scattered around the room as well.  Even the row across from me was made up of three gorgeous young couples, each toting and doting on their own beautiful baby.

This particular row of new mommies made my heart ache the most.  Lately, I’ve struggled (yet again) with my purpose in Aggieland, my recent singleness and reality-check that I’m probably no where close to getting married or starting a family any time soon, my loneliness for godly friends who can relate to my struggles, and my sense of self-worth and joy.

I envied these young mothers and their beautiful glow.  I envied their lives with their husbands and babies and happiness.  I envied their friendship with one another and that they can share in their struggles because they are all in a similar place in life.

As the worship began and the lights went dim, I found myself slightly distracted.  Distracted by all the pretty Christians.  Distracted by my own soul’s ugliness and current aches.  Distracted by my recent mistakes in relationships.  Distracted by how dead and sad and broken down I felt inside, all the while mouthing lyrics to worship songs I knew by heart but couldn’t feel.

“There’s no way I would fit in here. I am not pretty enough to hang with this crowd.  No one would accept me.  I am too weird, too different, too sad, too serious to make friends here.  I bet I’m practically unnoticeable at this church other than to dear, sweet, beautiful Presley.  And that’s just because she wanted to sit in my row.”

I found my eyes once again wondering to the direction of the three beautiful young mothers and their families.  I watched as the mother in the middle of the row handed off her baby to her husband and then proceeded to make her way to the center aisle between us.  Before I could even realize what she was doing, Kate was inches from my face with her phone in one hand and her other hand on my shoulder.  She said God had prompted her to come to me and share a passage of scripture.

(To Be Continued.)

When You are Empty as a Drum, Let Him Play You

People keep telling me I overthink too much. (I always want to argue that they’re not thinking enough.) But, at this point, I have to wonder if having too many thoughts is what’s keeping me from so many things right now.

At this moment, I find that my soul is quite overwhelmed with thoughts and worries, things that have yet to be done and things I continue to push to another day’s to-do list because daylight runs out too quickly.

All the while, my spirit remains quite underwhelmed, underwhelmed from the absence of friends and loved ones who I once relied upon to speak my true self-worth over me, underwhelmed from a sudden loss of a serious, 7-month relationship in my life, underwhelmed from misplacing my sense of joy during this past semester, and underwhelmed from starving my spirit of the only truth that can satisfy. Excuses, excuses. I know how I ended up here–but that doesn’t matter right now.

I feel hollow and empty like a drum. Every time someone or something beats on me lately I just echo back with rumbles of inaudible noise, stemming from inner aches and pains that I can’t yet diagnose.

This is the end of my second semester in Texas, my second semester in graduate school pursuing a degree I’m not sure I need yet for a purpose I feel I have no clue about. This is also technically my fourth year in college. (And I can now understand why most people stop at four years of schooling! Holy Smokes.) At now 23 years of age, I wonder if I’m just getting rusty and tired of ‘playing school,’ if I’m just exhausted from trying to keep up with the demands of college assignments as the natural demands of growing older and wanting more out of life (like being a wife and mom, dadgummit) grow stronger. With this exhaustion at the end of the semester comes the usual slumps of depression doused with lack of sleep, poor diet, and little attention to anything outside of the present deadlines.

But, something tells me these things don’t completely explain my emptiness right now.

Unfortunately, I feel too empty of strength and truth to figure out my real problems. Maybe you’ve been there too. It’s like falling into the bottom of a deep, deep well, and with the darkness around and no strength to climb the walls you have no way out. Or, it’s like starving yourself  to the point of near-death, and you find you’re beyond the point of just being able to feed yourself to get your body back to a healthy state.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

I’m the obsessive type who can listen to a song I love 100 times in a row before I grow tired of hearing it. And then, I not only know the song for the rest of eternity, but I never want to hear it again… (Again, the curses of being obsessive.)

But alas, there’s a song right now that no matter how many times I listen to it I still can’t seem to lock the words in my heart, mostly because they’re just too powerful to comprehend. My favorite parts of the song go like this:

“My heart a storm, clouds raging deep within
The Prince of peace came bursting through the wind
The violent sky held its breath
And in Your light I found rest

Tearing through the night
Riding on the storm
Staring down the fight
My eyes found Yours
Shining like the sun
Striding through my fear
The Prince of peace
Met me there…

Hope like the sun, light piercing through the dark
The Prince of peace came and broke into my heart
The violent cross, the empty grave
And in Your light I found grace…

Your love surrounds me
When my thoughts wage war
When night screams terror
There Your voice will roar
Come death or shadow
God I know Your light will meet me there

When fear comes knocking
There You’ll be my guard
When day breeds trouble
There You’ll hold my heart
Come storm or battle
God I know Your peace will meet me there”

Here’s the quick answer to where I think I’m going with this: I know being in a place like this is no easy fix. Empty is a state that takes more than one “fill” of Jesus to go away. And I think He knows that.

In fact, I think He knows I’m more drum-like right now than I am harmonica-ish or guitar-ness. I’m as empty as a drum, and He still wants to play me. The Prince of Peace wants to come to my rescue and do what I’m incapable of doing myself. He wants to create music with my life even while I feel mute. Even while nothing is working out. Even when I still don’t have a clue what I’m actually doing here. He wants to play the drum that is my empty soul and show me that He’s the Great Musician who can do the impossible.

So, I think I’m going to let Him do what He wants. I’m asking the Prince of Peace to play me, empty and broken, since I don’t know what else to ask for right now. He is good and faithful to come when I call, even if my call right sounds more like the hollow beats of a lowly drum.

If Jameis could teach me a lesson about Jesus, it’s this one.

It felt like a kick in the gut. Better yet, it felt like being kicked repeatedly while on the ground. That’s what New Years Day 2015 felt like for every FSU fan. I can’t deny feeling sick to my stomach for a few days. Even a full day in Chokoloskee fishing the saltwater flats couldn’t shake my blues after such a loss. I stayed away from social media, knowing the merciless comments would drive me to feel hatred in my heart for any ‘friends’ who reveled in the defeat.

But, beyond the agonizing second half that seemed to never end, beyond the images that still play in my head of Florida State players fumbling and falling ridiculously and repeatedly, beyond the nasty words that flew from everyone’s lips post game about the team I was taught to stand behind was another kind of pain. A pain that ached inside me but remained nameless until tonight. The pain spoke out the words that had tortured me since watching the playoff game: “Why did they have to lose like that?”

It’s no secret that the entire world wanted FSU to lose that game. The media did a tremendous job painting evil all over a team who happened to win games when others did not, led by a quarterback forever cursed by the spotlight on his own legacy of mistakes (Lord have mercy, Media–Please talk about anyone else already! The SEC leads in player arrests but you won’t hear me ever cursing their players.) The truth is everyone got to watch FSU’s one unforgivable crappy game in the playoffs. Oregon’s one crappy game came in October against Arizona. Ohio State’s dud was in September against Virginia Tech. The Infamous Alabama? Ole Miss in October. But the ugly truth is that FSU’s crappy game also came with a swift roundhouse kick to the face from the rest of the world. 

Jameis’ perfect college career had to end with an embarrassing performance. FSU’s perfect season had to end with a horribly played game. Undeniably some of the nation’s best players had to play their worst game on the national stage. Why did it have to be this way?

Although I’ve never played ball in a championship game, I have stood toe-to-toe with what I thought was my destiny and fallen flat on my face. I’ve practiced hard for something I wanted more than anything else in that moment, but when my moment came I couldn’t give my very best. And that felt  worse than losing in the first place. I don’t think I would have minded losing in those moments if I could have said I gave my very best shot.

In these times, I remember always asking the Lord why did it have to end that way–if it was His will for me to lose, why couldn’t he have allowed me to lose having done my best work and with nothing left to give. 

Meanwhile, about 2,000 years ago, a man died for your sins, my sins, and a guy named Jameis’ sins. He didn’t just die though. He died a slow and painful death on a cross after having felt the pain of being whipped and beaten, the embarrassment of being stripped of his clothes and mocked by all who could see him. To put it in perspective, his death was the death that trumps all deaths. A kick while he was already down. Did I mention the man was blameless, without sin, and perfect?

My faith tells me that a flawless sacrifice was required so that I might be saved from my own flaws and come to know the God who calls for nothing less than His righteous standards. But did that sacrifice have to be so brutal? Couldn’t God have just taken Jesus to some babbling brook and put him to sleep right then and there? Why did Christ have to experience a horrible death when his death alone was what was needed?

The answer that came to me tonight: Pride.

Although Christ was sinless and pure in his actions, God allowed him to die the most humble of deaths as a picture of what its like to be completely rung dry of any drop of pride that comes from performance. As good of a life Jesus lived, Jesus died a death that matched it. No one could say he got away from this life feeling like the righteous Son of God. With every sin of the world on his shoulders, Christ was crucified as though he himself had committed the worst of sins. You can’t feel proud of that, even if you know you’re unfairly accused.

In the moments when I thought I was robbed of my best shot at something I wanted, I was really being blessed with the unseen blessing of being robbed of my pride. God knows the shoots that grow from the root of pride, and he abhors pride for keeping us from trusting in Him completely. I hated that I had to experience defeat in what felt like the worst way, but I do know that the humility that came from those defeats developed my character more than a “quality loss” would have. Furthermore, that humility led me to trust God to carry me out of those dark moments. I honestly don’t think that I would have turned to the Lord in the same if I had thought I had done my best job and still have lost.

To make the comparison, it’s like when I won “First Runner-Up” in the county pageant. I never look back and think, “Man, I was 1st-loser that day!” Instead, I felt proud for losing to the best. No humility was felt from not winning the pageant when I could say I performed to the best of my abilities.

So on the third day of 2015, God finally gave me an answer to the question I’ve asked him for years now. Even after He showed me why my life couldn’t go as I had hoped it would, I still wrestled with why I had to live with the memories of my worst efforts when I could have at least given my best and still lived with the same results. Alas, I think I finally understand why He allowed me to fall in front of everyone instead of fly like I could have.

Pride does not come from winning. Pride comes from self sufficiency and performance. I cannot move or take another breath without God. I can’t type another letter without Him allowing it. My best efforts and worst efforts flow from His hands, and I can’t stop turning in need to Him.

I think it was safe to say that Jameis Winston wasn’t the world’s humblest man before January 1, 2015. Might he have struggled with pride? That’s between him and Jesus. I don’t know that God was teaching the entire FSU football team a humility lesson by allowing them to lose like they did, but I wouldn’t put it past God to use a game like that to teach me one. 

World’s Worst Christian.

World’s Worst Christian. 

That’s the title I get. It was unanimously agreed upon by a panel of two judges.

Awarded for the following demerits:

1. Having received a plethora of opportunities to exert faith, the currency of heaven, and having capitalized on few of them.

2. Relying on one’s own strength to thrive, even though personal survival is not possible without His saying so.

3. Received full access to His Word, but very little tucked away in one’s own cerebrum.

4. Given unending, unconditional grace, and yet one is slow to repent.

5. Is so convinced of one’s own inability to change, grow, or hear from Him that one’s lack of faith breathes life into the lies.

The judging panel, consisting of myself and he who fell, found the title to be most deserved.

Yet, in spite of the verdict, a third vote was cast, a vote that broke the weight of the judges’ decision completely.

“if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Somehow, deserving the title as the World’s Worst Christian made no difference at all in the final say.

It would seem that living up to the title only increases His rebuke of such a claim, as though there was never any proof to begin with.

I think I forgot that I cannot keep Him from loving me. I do not have the final say, and no matter what I do, I never will.

I may be the World’s Worst Christian, but He does not regard me as such. Rather, I am a portion of Himself, made righteous by His shed blood and not my own actions. Through the ultimate love vindication, my demerits are forgiven and my slate is wiped clean.

Too Good To Be True? Yes, it is. And it is.

“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Numbers 23:19

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” Deuteronomy 7:9

The man who stooped

Splattered in mud. Stench unbearable. Flies hovering like vultures preparing to land. Feet sinking more and more into the layer of brown earth. Smell identified as feces soaked deeply into clothing. Head lowered in shame, eyes burning with tears that wash over the face.  Feet sinking, sinking deeper below. Knees locked, then released as the body gives itself up to the pit. In slow motion, it falls backward.

Suddenly, a hand. Reached out and large with obvious strength. It grabs the arm of the body and jerks it to its feet just as the body’s back hits the bottom of the pit.

The body is thrusted forward into an embrace of a man, stooped. Large arms thrown around the body, squeezing it tightly. The lowered man’s large hands wipe across the back of the body, brushing off the dirt and feces, bleaching the stains away with contact. The man pulls away from the embrace with his captive long  enough to examine the rest of the body, small in stature and comparison. Smiling, he inhales deeply through his nostrils. With focused lips, he blows on the face of the body. Air from his lungs rushes over the body like the winds from a storm. Mud is lifted in clumps off the body. Remnants deeper in the clothing fibers are blown away completely. Even the feet of the body are made clean from the force of His breath.

It was then that the feet told the body it was no longer sinking. Lifted high, above the pit, yet securely standing in the arms of the stooped man. “How could this be?” the body thought to itself. “I was sinking? I was done?”

Still holding onto the arms of the body, the man who stooped leans forward and kisses the face of the body once reeking of filth. Now, he is the one with tears in his eyes. Moved, the man pulls the body into himself once again, squeezing tighter this time.

The body, once in despair and then perplexed, became indignant. “I was sinking! I was done!” it roared, wiggling in the arms of the man who stooped, hoping to break free.

Upon hearing the body, the man let go. Standing up from his stooped position, the man stood much taller than his prize. The hand that had saved the body was now hanging from the man’s arm at eye level with the body. A dark scar stretched across the face of the palm. It stunk of the mud that had once covered the body.

The man opened his hand towards the body for the body to grab hold of. Disgusted by the smell of what had once engulfed his senses, the body refused it. After all, it was now clean! Why hold onto the hand that had wiped away the filth?

And so, the body turned. Away from the man who stooped to rescue it. Away from the reminder of its former pit. The body marched away in the opposite direction. With each step, the body recognized its own conflicting thoughts. Once, the body was surrendered to its pit, the muddy chains pulling it down justified by the body’s guilt and shame. And the body was delighted to have reason to loathe itself. Yet, the body no longer had its pit to fall into; no longer was there fecal matter matted into its skin and hair. No flies to keep it company, no more reason to hate itself.

Why didn’t the body just grab hold of the hand that had wiped all that away? Because the hand was a reminder of the pit! The body’s pit! Now made clean, the body was willing to walk away from the pit on its own. To hold onto the hand that had once saved it would mean being reminded of the pit, of the fact that once the body needed saving. The body was now too proud to reclaim its pit, where it once relished in self-pity.

It was then that the feet told the body it was sinking. Looking down, the body saw the pit that had once imprisoned it. The familiar stench greeted the body’s nose as mud and feces  crept between the body’s toes once again. Warm and rotten, the bottom of the pit began to reclaim its former prisoner.

But something was different. The pit was working its way up the legs of the body much more quickly than it had before. Sinking deeper and faster, the body realized that it no longer had a choice to surrender to the pit; the pit was taking more of the body than the body had say to give. Self-hatred and fury, despair and hopelessness, a whirlwind of emotions swept over the body all at once, clouding its thoughts and darkening where there was once light to see.

Quickly, the body turned its head from side to side, scanning for the man who stooped before to save it. But it was too late. The darkness had hid him from view.

By this time the earth had pulled the body down until only its knees were visible above the surface of the pit. The organic mixture had become hot and steaming, bubbling up, alive. The body could feel the pit swallowing it, working away at its skin with the pit’s hot juices.

At this moment the body realized how much it no longer wanted to be in the pit. Even the worst of the body’s crimes could not justify the realities of the pit. The body longed for the brief moments when it was free and clean, saved and in the arms of the man who stooped.

With pride abandoned, the body opened its mouth with lifted arms in desperation. As air entered its lungs to release a cry for help, along with any remaining faith that there was hope for salvation, a massive hand suddenly clenched hold of the body’s outreached arms, light bursting forth with it.

Yanked up and forward, the body was set free from the depths of the pit and forced again into the embrace of the man who stooped. In familiar position, the man was again lowered to grab hold of the body he had saved twice.

The man proceeded to wipe down the legs of the body where the mud had seeped upwards. His hands were still scarred and dark; however, the body noticed they did not stink like they had after the body was rescued the first time. The body wondered how this could be.

After finishing his work, the man rose from his stooped position and stood before the body he had rescued. His height cast a shadow that swept across the body. Overwhelmed, the body fell to its knees, letting the man’s shadow hide the body from its savior.

And still, a third time, the man who stooped stooped once more, this time to extend an open hand in front of the body, which was now trembling. The body looked up to see the hand that had saved it, scarred and dirty with the filth that was not from his own doing but rather once covered the body. The body recognized the smell of the pit on the hand, and began to cry at the thought of its former prison.

And then a miraculous thing happened. The dark scar on the hand of the man who stooped began to absorb the mud stretched across its palm right before the body’s eyes. Soon, the stench was gone, and so was the last remains of the pit’s hold on the body.

“I was sinking…I was done…” the body whispered. And the body met the eyes of the man who stooped for it, eyes filled with life and light. The man smiled at the body, his beloved.

“No longer will you sink. You are certainly not done, for I have stooped just for you. You are mine, not the pit’s. And should you sink once more, my grace is sufficient. My heart is forever yearning for your embrace, forever listening for your cries, forever fighting for your freedom.”

And with that, the body took hold of the hand that had wiped itself clean. Empowered by the love from the man, the body stood up from its knelt position and proceeded to walk, hand-in-hand, led by the man who stooped just for it.

Unfaithful Hearts & The God Who Stays with Us

“Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater.”

“The one thing I hate is a liar.”

“I don’t care how pretty/handsome you are if you’re not loyal or honest.”

“We are never, ever ever getting back together.”

—–

I’m currently hooked on this TV show about a teenage girl dealing with the awkwardness of life and growing up. The acting is bad, the plot is sometimes predictable, but the girl’s life is somehow completely relatable to even the inmost places of my soul (even though half of everything that happens to her has never occurred in my own life).

Anyways, in the most recent episode, Homegirl just broke up with her boyfriend, Hottie Pants, after cheating on him with another guy, Mr. Temptation. We’ve seen this coming for a few weeks now–the chemistry between Homegirl and Mr. Temptation developing, the emotional confusion in Homegirl’s heart as she realizes her dissatisfaction with Hottie Pants and complete satisfaction with Mr. Temptation, and then the lying…  which led to the sneaking around…

Cue video summary.

Cue pull of heart strings.

Cue tissues.

Cue…

Wait a minute.

Why am I still sympathizing and empathizing with Homegirl? What she is doing is clearly wrong, right?? How did this happen? This show isn’t so well written that it can suck me in like this.

Truthfully, my past experiences do provide me with the ability to relate to her position in some way or another. These experiences are yet being formed into a new segment of my testimony, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing to post on here one day.

But, regarding the general problem here, the general problem being that we feel for this girl somehow and not sure why. If you’re reading this and have at some point in life identified yourself as a cheater, a liar, or a heartbreaker, then why you feel this way makes more sense. But what about those who haven’t seen themselves in this way and yet still find themselves reaching for tissues?

Or, perhaps I’m assuming too much. Perhaps you’re reaching for stones to throw because you yourself identify with being Hottie Pants in a relationship. Maybe you weren’t Hottie Pants but still find yourself seeing the black-and-white in this situation. Or, maybe you were Mr. Temptation at one point for someone else.

The likelihood that you are or have been in one of these positions at some point is high in a culture where divorce and adultery is rampant, one-night-stands walk hand-in-hand with intoxication and broken people, and temptation seems to beckon us at the places we feel most vulnerable and tender. Thus, we have shows and movies where the unfaithful heart is somehow justified, leaving us to somehow feel justified as well.

—–

In the last episode of the show, Homegirl meets Hottie Pants in his car after he discovers that she has been cheating on him. She is in turmoil as she doesn’t know yet what she will say or even what the outcome of their conversation will be. She slowly slides into the passenger seat, watching as he keeps his eyes looking straight ahead.

“It meant nothing,” she says, tears falling in shame.

While still looking ahead and not meeting her eyes, Hottie Pants tells her he can forgive her with time.

“I understand,” she says, accepting this as a sentence of judgment for her sins.

He turns to her, finally, and “So lets, uh, try to get back to where we were.”

Pausing, she smiles sadly and shakes her head as hope lost flows from her eyes. “We can’t,” she replies softly.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I can’t. I can’t go back.”

With a trembling countenance and tears in his eyes, he asks her, “Are you breaking up with me?”

To her reply, “No. We are breaking up with each other because… this must have happened for a reason.

And, I can’t look at you and wonder if when you look at me, you still see the same girl you fell in love with before this happened.”

Homegirl leaves him in tears as she stammers over and over how sorry she is. Hottie Pants begins to sob, sinking his face into the wheel of his vehicle.

—–

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it.”

Jeremiah 17 : 9

“Yet, I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”

Revelation 2 : 4-5

“If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.”

2 Timothy 2 : 13

—–

I keep imagining myself as Homegirl in the vehicle, and God is Hottie Pants. I keep imagining myself telling Him how I have cheated on Him and trying to justify it with reasons such as “It meant nothing,” “I didn’t mean to hurt You,” or “I was just stupid.”

I imagine God sitting in the driver’s seat. Except, instead of not looking at me, His eyes won’t leave me. Though they are filled with tears, they are locked into mine. And, instead of telling me that forgiveness will come with time, He offers it to me then, complete and whole. Yet, He still has tears in his eyes and shares the broken appearance that Hottie Pants had.

He wipes the tears from His eyes to say,

“You see, the reason why we can go back to how we were before is because I previously died for this. I died for you. And I don’t see you any differently.

You’re still my girl. You’re still mine, wonderfully made and made perfect by My blood.

But I cry because You forgot me. You rejected me to instead love other idols.

It hurt. I am jealous for your love.

I will always seek it, always want it and accept it from you. You should know that I will never leave you, no matter what you have done or will do.

But, you should also know how much it grieves Me when your heart is turned even the slightest from Me.”

Instead of leaving in tears, I am able to stay, secure in His unconditional love and forgiveness. Instead of doubting how He sees me, I let His words re-write my identity. No longer am I the cheater, the liar, the heartbreaker.

I am His Bride, redeemed and freed, purified and made clean, holy and righteous, forever and always. 

“Prone to wonder, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord. Take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above.”

When Mike Patz Says Your Name.

Mike Patz said my name this morning. Better yet, somehow, Mike Patz knew my name. 

Mike Patz is the head pastor of Greenhouse Church, the church I attend and serve at here in Gainesville, Fla. With several campus locations, service times, and ministries that expand over every imaginable need, Greenhouse literally impacts thousands of Gainesville residents every week.

images-61

Part of what hooked me about Greenhouse, formerly known as First Assembly, was the apparent spiritual leadership in the leaders of the church. From micro-church leaders to ministry directors and from parking lot volunteers to administrators and logistics guys, it is clear that the Lord guides the steps of every invested leader in the church. The mission of the church is simple yet radical: to help make ordinary people become passionate followers of Jesus Christ.  The vision of the church crowns three areas of focus  for its members: worship, community, and commission. Check them out to see what I mean here.

To see and understand the width and depth of Greenhouse’s ministries would be like measuring the power behind a freight train going full speed. And Pastor Mike Patz, well, he’s the one leading the Greenhouse freight train straight to Jesus.

Anyways, back to this morning.

Today was my first morning serving at Greenhouse in the children’s ministry, also known as “Sprouts.” (cute, right?)

I was paired with a young woman who shall remain nameless to protect the Body of Christ. We were assigned the 2 year olds for the 9 am service. Three toddlers were brought to us, making odd dynamics for two adults working together in a nursery setting. Once again, to protect the Body, all I will share about our experience together was that it was less than pleasant and made me doubt my commitment to serve at Giant GreenHouse Church. 

31tpq6EqXGL._AA160_

We took the children outside on the church’s playground at the beginning of the service. About the time I was pushing a boy down a “roller coaster” ramp made for a ridable truck (Hasbro is blowing my mind these days),  I saw out of the corner of my eye Pastor Mike walking out of Auditorium B and making his way towards Auditorium A. 

“Hey, Valerie,” he said, waving as he strutted down the sidewalk beside the playground fence.

I replied to him with a hollow “Hi,” not because I realized who he was or even that we had never actually met, but because I had resorted to my “meek and weak” persona for the morning as a result of my poor interactions with my partner. 

“How’s it going?” he asked, seemingly eagerly interested in our woman-powered roller coaster system. 

My partner, thankfully, responded with some kind of normal affirmative answer. I certainly could not have strung actual  words together in the moment and have still sounded like I was safe to be around small children.

Mike Patz laughed, genuinely, at her response and said something about wanting to ride the roller coaster also.

Let me go back to our first interaction. Mike Patz, pastor of Greenhouse Church, author and preacher of sermons that rock so many people on a given Sunday, said my name. The significance doesn’t lie so much in the fact that he said it. There’s deeper significance than that. Upon reflection of what happened, the significance hit hard and deep. Why would I care at all that Mike Patz said my name? Because he knew it, and we have never met. I repeat: Never. Met.

Cutting to the chase, I grew up in a town where everyone has a legitimate reason to know my name, my background and family. In my hometown church, everyone knows me as the daughter of Pastor Cary McKee and Fran McKee. Even still, I’m pretty confident that even if I wasn’t the head pastor’s daughter, Cary McKee would somehow learn of me in our church where I served in several different places.

But at Greenhouse? Seriously, there have been several Sundays when I came and left Greenhouse Church without ever having talked to more than one or two people, usually members of my micro-church who probably felt obligated to speak to me. When  ever hospitality workers have attempted to connect with me, the shallowness of their approaches always left me feeling lonelier than ever, but I would often assume the blame anyways because of my own personal awkwardness.

A college student attending Greenhouse during the most populated service time and at the most populated campus. A participant of a college micro-church who goes every week and serves in whatever big or small ways needed. A member of the newest cohort of Leadership Pipeline. And now, a volunteer in Sprouts and behind the welcome desk. That’s all that I could possibly be from the perspective of a leader at Greenhouse. And yet, the leader of leaders, Pastor Mike, knew my name.

At Greenhouse, I’ve heard people speak about Mike Patz the way others might talk about a politician or president of a major university. Important. Famous. Fearfully respected. Known well but not known beyond the stories told behind the pulpit.

So, the question remains: how did Pastor Mike know my name?

After a long afternoon of pondering and surmising, here’s my best guesses:

1. God revealed my name to him on the spot for a specific reason. As far fetched as this may sound–for God to reveal three syllables to Pastor Mike Patz just so he could greet me–if this is true, I think I know why God did. And I’ll share that towards the end of this post.

2. Pastor Mike may have had to sign off on some kind of paperwork for me to serve in the children’s ministry and somehow figured out that I was who my paperwork said I was. However, this seems less realistic than #1 as there were several new volunteers in Sprouts today and I can’t imagine him memorizing each name and profile.  I digress.

3. I was introduced to Pastor Mike without my knowledge by someone like my amazing micro-church pastor, Eric, or someone else who would have access to “the king’s ear.” Once again, this still seems difficult to imagine.

4. I hallucinated the whole thing, and if I were to go to Pastor Mike right now, he wouldn’t know me from Adam. Literally, I could be an “Adam” to him.  This speculation could be true. While our little class was still on the playground, Pastor Mike returned to Building B with a couple in tow. I took the liberty to double check the face, voice and wardrobe of this “Mike” compared to the one who said my name minutes before. Same Mike Patz.

Once again, I truly could have hallucinated his voice or even misheard him, but for some reason I doubt that I would have confused my name with the names of the other individuals there or even with terms that would have described our little group.

I’m all out of guesses. And frankly, after I exhausted myself of ideas to explain the unexplainable, I finally heard the real question that had been tugging on my heart since the incident.

Although I am curious how Mike Patz learned my name, I think I really want to know what made Mike Patz knowing my name more significant in my mind than the fact that Holy God, Yahweh, Creator and Redeemer of my life, knows my name. And, furthermore, why am I so inclined to seek my own significance in a large church that I have “bought into” rather than serve in my part of the whole Body of Christ through the local church where God places me?

Someone probably told Mike Patz my name. But he probably doesn’t know much more than that. No one has to tell God my name or anything else about me. The angels don’t update God on my heartaches or frustrations, nor do they remind him what three syllables match up with my face. God knows me, by name, as His child, and that is where my true significance lies. 

Yet, here I am, currently struggling to compete in the “Super Christian Olympics,” where the most spiritual gifts, hours of devoted service, memorized scripture and accomplishment of other spiritual sacraments wins the gold medal. In the small circle of Christians I know from Greenhouse, I find myself losing in the unspoken competitions of spirituality. Perhaps I feel this way because I am in the midst of an unsettling season where I am not hearing direction from the Lord about my future in Gainesville. Perhaps I am super-sensitive to other Christians’ remarks about their walks with the Lord, leaving me unable to hear the humility in their words. Regardless, as I find myself becoming more and more persuaded to give more, do more, and be seen more in the church to keep up with my counterparts, I am overwhelmed with how easy it is to lose yourself in the name of a church.

In my Facebook feed today, I saw a post made by a woman from back home asking if there is “any church out there that is truly kind, not judgemental and will take you as you are?” Immediately, several women I did not even know commented on her post and promised love and acceptance from my father’s church. As moved as I was to read this kind of assurance from strangers about my home church, I was equally as disturbed to read the poster’s responding comment, which explained that she had a bad experience with my church’s nursery. Since I’ve read this, over 20 different comments have been made promoting multiple churches in my hometown with promises of great preaching, good ministries, welcoming attitudes and other church selling points.   Without making a comment to defend my church or anyone else’s, I am pressed with the notion that perhaps many Christians are guilty of “us versus them” attitudes tied to church names and pledges of our allegiance.

This brings me back to the question of my significance  at Greenhouse Church of Gainesville, Fla.

I graduate with my bachelor’s degree in May 2014. I don’t know where I will be a year from now. I might be in graduate school here at UF, or I might not be. I’m still praying about it all, and as I alluded to before, the not-knowing is yet a spiritual fog in my walk with the Lord. Still, for this season, I attend Greenhouse Church. I am a part of a micro-church and I am starting to serve the church in a couple of ways.

I even drag a couple of my friends to church and micro-church. Their lack of enthusiasm about Greenhouse discourages me, but perhaps my discouragement proves my guilt as another Christian seeking significance and satisfaction from a church and not from the God we worship.  So, for now, I will continue to attend, give and serve the Lord at Greenhouse Church, which happens to be a very large, very popular church. I will continue to fight against the urge to compare my spirituality, or lack thereof, with my fellow Christians. I might be recognized by Pastor Mike Patz again, or I may not. All of this however will be secondary, and by secondary meaning nearly last, in value compared to knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Philippians 3:8

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ

All of these questions of significance and value of church names, both of leaders and actual churches, don’t hold any weight in comparison to the weight of knowing my Lord and Savior.  And even heavier than that, my Lord and Savior knows ME by name.

Maybe God just wanted to remind me of that today. Maybe that’s why Pastor Mike Patz said my name this morning. Maybe I just needed a heavy reminder that even better than Mike Patz of Greenhouse Church knowing my name is the fact that I AM knows my name. Maybe the Lord knew I needed some encouragement and perspective from beyond my church because of the discouragement I was feeling regarding my relationships at church.

Whatever His purposes, I wouldn’t put it past God.

Read Pastor Mike’s blog if you want to “meet” this guy I’ve been chatting about.  Read the Bible if you want to learn more about the God who already knows you. Read my blog posts if you want to kill 5 hours of your time. Peace out.

Publix Flowers, Bar Options, and the Woman Surviving on Well Water

My PUBLIX Endorsement: Publix Super Markets, Inc. may be the second happiest place on earth, next to DisneyWorld. They’re just awesome. I went on an industry tour inside their distribution center in Jacksonville, Fla., and I was amazed by the high quality they demand, and deliver, through their services. 

Not to mention they gave our group flowers. Who doesn’t appreciate a beautiful bouquet of flowers? Even The Single Guy in the crowd can find a good-looking girl or mother to give them to. 

Anyways, this post isn’t about how awesome Publix is or that every man should become acquainted with their floral section of the store (although both statements are true). 

This post is about how I managed to leave my flowers over night in my car, let them roll around in the back seat with who knows what else, become semi-smushed and wimpy looking, and then finally remember to take them out of my car to be placed in a water-filled vase so that they can actually carry out their purpose in life: to bring beauty to our lives. 

At this point, I had little hope that these poor, wilted flowers would ever perk up, even with access to water. I cut the flowers’ stem ends so that they would properly fit the vase I had, which also made me doubt their chances of looking any better than what they did. (Although I took horticultural classes in high school, I spent more time studying plant varieties than actually getting my hands in the dirt. This theme seems to follow me in other areas of my life, like relationships.)

In case you were wondering, the picture you saw in this post is in fact the same flowers I’ve been describing after one day of sitting in water. How did the miraculous recovery come about, you ask? It was simple: water.

Water turned my bouquet from over-dyed, sad-looking weeds into vibrant, alive-looking flower blossoms. Call me crazy, but I think God is showing me that it could be that simple to make me blossom again too.

Water. Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. I feel like that is the story of our lives, sometimes. The entire world is offering us liquid for our souls, something to quench the thirst, and wet our throats gone dry from screaming and crying for anything that will just satisfy the innate aching we keep feeling and cannot shake.

The other night, some family members came into town and were gracious enough to invite me to dinner with their friends. After arriving early to the restaurant, I sat down at the bar to wait for them, unsure of how many in our dinner party to expect for seating purposes.

DISCLAIMER: The following does not impose any particular beliefs about the consumption of alcohol and Christianity. Please separate what I am saying from what you may believe or think I believe. 

As a twenty-year-old college student raised in a home where alcohol of any kind was not consumed, it was a strange feeling to sit at the bar of this restaurant. I had dressed up beyond my usual T-shirt and jeans for the night, and so I imagine I probably did not look my age. Thus, I do not blame the female bartender for placing a drink menu in front of me and pitching to me the day’s drink specials and selections. I smiled and told her thank you, but chose not to embarrass her by telling her my age or that I was not interested. Instead, I asked for a glass of water and waited for my relatives to come.

It would have been very easy for me to have ordered a drink from that menu. Even once my relatives arrived, I would not have been questioned about the appropriateness of me drinking at dinner as they don’t know my age, nor would they have thought twice about paying for it. But, beyond the legal and physical implications that ordering a glass of wine would have meant for me, I knew that nothing but a glass of pure water would truly provide my body with what it was really craving. I knew that refilling my glass of water would be easy. I knew that as my thirst quencher, water would continue to do the job with every sip I took.

It’s the middle of the day. The sand is fiery hot on the bare feet of Samaritan citizens. The town of Sychar looks deserted except for a few brave souls wandering the streets. A woman, known by the townspeople for the many divorces she had endured, makes her way to Jacob’s well to fill her bucket with a day’s worth of relief from her parched tongue and heart. She treads lightly and quickly to the well, keeping her eyes directed forward and hoping that no one would draw attention to her. Upon reaching her destination, a pang of fear struck her as she saw a man sitting at the well. As always, she channeled her fear into the strength of her walls she had built around her heart, remembering the pain that people, that men especially, had caused her. She recognized this man to be a Jew.

A Jew! Why was a Jew here, in this crazy, small town of Samaria, at this time of day? The woman was annoyed that this Jew was here during the one time of the day when she could be alone, be away from the stares and the whispers and the reminders of her past. All she wanted was some peace and quiet and a bucket of water to satisfy her thirst so that she could brace herself for the next day ahead. The woman was just trying to get by. That was the story for all of her life it seemed. Just trying to give her life something to live off of, something to fuel her and give her a reason to wake up. Lately, the well’s supply of water was her motivation.  Sure, in years past she felt like she had more to live for. She had beauty that everyone marveled at. She blossomed when she was around people. She loved life, and life seemed to love her. But now…now too much had been done. When she went to the well for her daily water fill, she would gaze at her reflection in the water and no longer see who she once was, the vibrant flower of Sychar. Instead, she saw a woman hated and pitied, scorned and forgotten except by the men who used and abused her. Five different men had divorced the woman; five different men had publicly told the town ,”She is unworthy, unlovable, unclean, and unfitting as a wife.” The only reason why she was living with the man she was with now was to avoid begging from the townspeople who mocked her, to keep what little remaining pride she had left. Thriving was no longer an option; surviving was the goal, and the well gave her another day. The Jew interrupted her thoughts with a question, “Will you give me a drink?”

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know;we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

John 4:9-26, NIV

The point I want to make with this scripture is that the living water Jesus offers is the kind that not only fills us, but fulfills what we long for. I believe the Samaritan woman was just trying to get by, living off of daily well visits she needed not just for the water supply, but for some relief from her haunting past and hurts. Many times, we turn to the “liquid” sources offered by the world to satisfy our souls’ thirsts; these sources can include alcohol, drugs, shopping, shallow relationships, wealth, or achievement.

My flowers needed fresh water. Nothing else would make them perk up like filling that vase with water from the sink. But, in a few days, even that water will have to be poured out and replaced with new. Like the flowers, we are offered a source of liquid that will revive us without question or doubt. We are offered a constant supply of this water. This living water is the Spirit of Jesus Christ living inside of us. Jesus says that if we drink it, we will never become thirsty again.

However, He doesn’t actually say here that it’s “one sip and done.” I think most of my life I’ve read this scripture and assumed that somehow if we just had “one sip of Jesus,” (like how one kiss revived Sleeping Beauty) we would never become thirsty; we would be healed, fixed, made happy and whole. Yet, there are many days when I don’t feel healed, fixed, made happy whole. There are days when I just feel plain dry. What’s the deal with this living water that won’t make me thirsty again?

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The Samaritan woman was used to having to work for her relief, for her thirst-quenching water. She was used to going back to the source everyday. I think she would understand what Jesus meant by this statement better than I did initially. I believe Jesus was explaining that the living water He offers, the Spirit living inside of us, is all-filling and all-fulfilling. You’re not left thirsty after drinking it. You’re even given a supply of it to have with you at all times. No more searches for the source. No more daily quests just to satisfy for a short period of time.  The well is inside of you, and its spring bubbles up with water that leaves no part of your soul untouched. But we have to drink it. We have to choose to drink it daily. Its waters welcome us, invite us to take and drink and be filled and fulfilled. But as crazy as it sounds, it is possible for us to walk around carrying the well of living water supplying the liquid source we need, and we still choose not to drink of it. Instead, we allow ourselves to grow dry and weary and wimpy like my pitiful flowers before I brought them inside. We end up thirsty again and look to other sources of liquid from the world.

Call me out if you don’t agree, but in this scripture I can hear Jesus saying:

“Look, if you will let my Spirit live in you and drink of it daily instead of seeking these other sources to fill you, my living water will keep replenishing itself in you as you drink of it. You’ll never be in need of another source because I will supply you with everything you will ever need. You just have to trust me here.”

Lord, if this is really true, if this is really all it takes to revive my soul and satisfy my thirsts, accept my trust in You here. Let me take a big, GIANT gulp of your living water, and then welcome me again tomorrow when I need more of you. Help me blossom with your radiance and glory beaming through me like vibrant colors of flower petals in full bloom. I ask this not for my own personal beauty, but to showcase the ever-replenishing source of hope, truth, joy and love that I drink from daily to live. Thank you for making blossoming easy. And thank you for Publix. Amen.