Author Archives: Lorraine Reep

The Benefit of the Doubt

Standard
The Benefit of the Doubt

Good intentions. There is a proverb that says the road to hell is paved with them.

I’m not so sure of that, but I’m quite sure that as humans we tend to moralize and justify our actions to ourselves. Phrases like “She meant well” or “He had good intentions” don’t always line up with our behavior.

I love words and the walls of my house often display all manner of proverbs and verses to encourage and remind. However, I cringe when I see the sign that declares “Follow your heart” and that sentiment will never adorn my home. It matters not how many lovely images are attached, the message is frightening because I know this truth all too well:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

The New Living Translation translates the second half of that verse like this: “Who really knows how bad it is?” Honestly, the brief glimpses into the darkness of my heart leave me desperate for the transformative work of the Word of God, by the Spirit of God and the GRACE of God.

Is it any wonder our interactions with one another are at best awkward and at worst misunderstood and hurtful even among friends and family members? Social media has only fanned the fire with moment by moment updates.

What if we agreed to choose kindness? What if we delay our reaction by putting our phones down or choosing to recall the things we KNOW to be true about our relationships?

The easiest and best gift you can offer this week is the benefit of the doubt.

“To give someone the benefit of the doubt is to default to the belief that their intentions are honest and not assume malice when there is uncertainty or doubt surrounding the circumstances.” [i]

It’s not easy; I know that. But I have so much invested; there is much value in relationship and until there is a pattern of behavior, a body of work that proves ill intent, I’m going to avoid following my hurting heart and choose to believe the best about these precious souls.

Letting it go,

lorraine

[i] Urbandictionary.com

Dance With Me?

Standard
Dance With Me?

For months, I’ve taken a sabbatical from writing. Words, impactful words anyway, come from the vulnerable places of the heart. The deepest places in my heart are exposed by the truth of Scripture and that’s where the words flow. It’s been a dry season, but I’ve never doubted God’s faithfulness.

Thankfully, words have begun to come again. If someone reads them and finds encouragement it is only because the God of the valley of dry bones has breathed life into them. Perhaps this piece was not meant for me alone, but if it was, He is still a very kind Father.

“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 real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”
Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

Recently, my husband held me close as we glided around a dance floor at a wedding reception. Neither of us is a great dancer, but I know this much well: only one of us can lead. I rested my head on his shoulder, closed my eyes and simply moved with his body. He led us around the dance floor, gently and tenderly holding me. I never looked up, preferring to rest in his arms and trust his lead. It was easy and comforting and I felt so very loved by this man who has been dancing with me for over forty-six years.

A few days later I was reading the passage above from Matthew and I remembered that dance. Jesus whispered “Just lean into me; allow me to lead. I will show you the unforced way of grace living.” He is so gracious, friends, this Jesus who has also been dancing with me for the same forty-six plus years.

There is no heavy yoke, pulling me in a direction when I walk with Him. He promised “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Rest. Our bodies need it and our souls crave it. I hope you got to take a great vacation this summer, but by the time the suitcases were unpacked, the laundry was finished and fridge was restocked you may have already grown weary.

Perhaps you crave rest as you look forward to this next season.

Dance with Him. His steps are sure. Trust his lead, my friend. He will take you to a place of true rest.

Trusting His lead,

lorraine

Jesus Loves Martha, Too…And a Book Giveaway!

Standard
Jesus Loves Martha, Too…And a Book Giveaway!

My sister is named Martha. She always says that my parents made a mistake when naming us; she insists that I am the Martha of the family. It’s true that I am more like Martha than Mary, as evidenced by my resentment toward Jesus when I first read this account in the book of Luke. As a first-born daughter in a large family and a young wife and mother, I owned his words like a cloak of criticism:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42 NIV, The Holy Bible

My thoughts were far from holy as I thought of how I might respond “in real life” given the same encounter.

“Well, that’s special, Jesus, but who do you think is going to whip up some food for these people you brought with you if I take a seat with Mary?”

OR

“These dishes don’t do themselves, you know.”

OR

“So, we are rewarding laziness? I can’t be a fan girl and make sure everyone eats, too.”

In my immaturity, I read the words of Jesus as a rebuke. I am a woman who gets things done. I check them off my detailed list (most likely a spreadsheet) and focus on the task at hand. I am often the one who takes the bull by the horns to come up with a plan and then execute it. I love to entertain and host people in my home. The words stung and yet I felt like I was at my God-given best when serving and meeting the needs of others by doing all the things.

I struggled for years with the notion that my propensity to get things done was from lack of spiritual maturity or simply a flaw in my design. While I’ve embraced the grace of God, I still struggled with this passage. I wrestled with the tension between those two perspectives until I read Made Like Martha.

In the pages of Katie Reid’s first book I found encouragement and reassurance that my bent toward “doing” is in my DNA; God, the perfect designer, made no mistake when he created this doer. I also recognized the natural weaknesses in my “Martha” design, especially the tendency to strive for perfection and approval through “doing”. I asked myself honest questions like “What am I doing that HE hasn’t asked to do?”

The biggest affirmation for me is that the worship I offer up as I serve and work are just as acceptable as Mary’s. I also came to grips with my bent toward finding fault with the Mary types in my life, content to sit at Jesus’ feet when there is so much to be done. Once I was confident in my position I could freely acknowledge and be grateful for hers!

I’m thankful that Katie put these words to a page and I love the book so much that I want to give you a copy! It’s easy to enter the contest. Just navigate over here to Katie’s Facebook writer page and like it. Comment on this post and let me know you did and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win Made Like Martha. Be sure to comment by July 11th. I’ll use Rafflecopter to select a winner on Thursday, July 12th. I hope you win!

lorraine

Note: I received a free copy of Made Like Martha from the publisher in exchange for my honest review of the book. My opinion is mine alone and was not coerced or influenced by the publisher.

 

It’s Not Fine!

Standard
It’s Not Fine!

I was out running an errand at lunch when I heard a text alert. The message was brief. “I’m praying for you all. Everything’s going to be fine.”

My chest tightened and I had a moment right there in the greeting card aisle at Hobby Lobby even as hymns played on the store background music. “Easy for you to say!” I angrily spewed under my breath.

The text was in response to a group message recently sent by a member of my family. Her daughter’s cancer had been in remission – but it’s active again. The news shared is sobering. Her health is deteriorating rapidly. She’s not fine and there is no assurance that she’s going to be fine.

Fine means in good health and feeling well. As much as that is our prayer and hope for her, today she is struggling with serious medical issues. That response appears to minimize the gravity of her condition and the normal maternal response to it.

The people closest to her are faced constantly with the reality of her current condition, regardless of their hope for complete healing and wellness.

I quickly sent a private text to this dear momma, assuring her that people mean well but say dumb things.

Perhaps I reacted so passionately out of empathy. I’ve recently been told the same about another situation that is far from “fine”. It is gut-wrenching, frightful, and agonizing. The tentacles of it have infiltrated and lodged themselves deep into the lives of real people, people who still get out of bed every morning, wake the children, make the coffee and make a living to pay the bills and feed a family while this “situation” hangs over their heads like a storm cloud about to erupt.

The texter likely intended to convey positive thoughts or a message of faith in a few words. I’ve resolved to assume the best about people’s intentions and extend grace. To that end, my message today is intended to suggest thoughtful and compassionate responses to such hard things taking place in others’ lives.

There is an excellent Biblical example in Job’s friends. Though they eventually failed miserably, they got the three things I mentioned (mostly) right. Check out these points from Job: 2:11-13 (ESV)

  • They came to him when he was suffering. “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place…they made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.”
  • They empathized with him.“..they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven.”
  • They spent time with him.“And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights…”

Thankfully, today’s social norms don’t include tearing of clothing or scattering of dust! Your presence will be a blessing.
Show up. As soon as possible, set aside a few minutes to speak by phone or in person. Ask appropriate questions and demonstrate genuine concern. Let your friend know you are engaged and available to them. Encourage them to endure; remind them that God sees their pain. Keep showing up – this will require intention, but isn’t your friend worth it?

Follow up. Even if it means putting an item on your calendar for a couple of weeks away, send a card, call or text. Remind them that you have not forgotten and are still praying.

If you’ve read the full book of Job, you know that his friends didn’t remain silent for long. In fact, they droned on and on under the assumption that Job’s suffering was the result of sin in his life. Get this if you don’t get anything else: like Job’s friends, we may know a lot about the Bible but we don’t know the mind or heart of God. Leave it alone.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (ESV)

By His grace alone,

lorraine

Things Can’t Get Worse, Right….?

Standard
Things Can’t Get Worse, Right….?

I remember it well. The days leading up to and following the new year everyone was on Facebook proclaiming that this one just had to be better than last. I recall thinking “Maybe you’d better buckle up, because things can always get worse” but refraining from typing the words because I’m an adult. With a brain. And some common sense. Well, most of the time.

Then the unthinkable happened. 2018 roared in like a lion on steroids with a ravenous appetite for my family. Perhaps there is a similar lion in your world; I’m sort of busy over here manipulating a chair and whip while nursing bloody wounds where hearts are supposed to beat with joy and anticipation, but I see you there. This is for you, friend.

  • Well-meaning people are going to ask questions like “Are you okay?” when they know full well you can’t possibly be okay. The only correct answer is the honest one. If you are not okay, let it be known. If they care, an arm will slip around your shoulder and they will stick around without judgment for the tears and whatever else leaks out of you. If they don’t, they’ll find a quick excuse to walk away but they’ll know the truth…and so will you.
  • You might be mad. Did you know that’s okay? I have it on the authority of King David that God can handle our anger, so trust me on this one. He isn’t creating our difficulties, but He is aware of them and we can vent to the one who knows it all and loves unconditionally.
  • Get ready to be amazed. There are two extremes and you will experience both. There are going to people who won’t be willing to join you in your misery. When I say that I’m not referring to some pity party, rather the reality that is your present circumstance. In the words of the icy Disney princess, let them go. Or in the words of Taylor Swift, shake them off. Either way…be done with them. They aren’t worth your limited energy. But you are also going to be blown away by the people who see you and respond with the purest of love. These are not the “Go, keep warm and be well fed” church crowd that James warns of; they are the ones who show up with whatever you need, usually before you know you need it. You might not even know them yet, but they love Jesus and you.
  • Step away from social media. In the middle of your hard season you don’t need to be constantly exposed to everyone else’s highlight reels. Do ask your friends to share their greatest joys with you personally – send those cute photos and funny memes right to your phone or inbox.
  • Continue doing the things you love with the people you love as much as possible. Live even when it feels like you might die.

If you have a friend who is in this place right now, may I suggest some things you can do for them?

  • Stay in touch. Ask “How are you?” and be willing to hear an honest answer. Listen – with compassion and intention.
  • Ask what they need; make sure they know you sincerely want to help.
  • Pursue time together. Ask them to come for dinner/family game night/coffee. Insist, even if it means taking the food to their house and handling prep, serving and cleanup.
  • Share your joy. They not only can handle it, they need it.
  • Refrain from giving too much advice or opinion, especially if they have a team of professionals.
  • Pray for them and listen to God’s prompts for ways to help. Make it your goal to be their biggest encourager.

Trouble rushes in like a tidal wave of disgusting, powerful water and sweeps away normal. If you are barely keeping your head above water, keep treading. If the flood has subsided and you are faced with the muddy aftermath, keep trusting.

Hope and confidence in God is our lifeline; this is the verse that I return to again and again. I pray it encourages your heart as well.

Because of the Lord’s great love for us we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:22-26

Waiting in hope,

lorraine

Clutching My Pearls

Standard
Clutching My Pearls

I tend to view every glass half full and look for the bright side of most situations. If I can’t find a bright side, I will take a steel wool pad to it and try to scrub enough gunk off to find a shiny spot. I’m more prone to working it out than clutching my pearls.

But recently I’ve had my pearls in a death grip.

A family situation popped up and in a matter of minutes we were reeling in shock and moving toward terror. It was the sort of thing that comes out of nowhere, with absolutely no warning.

My first instinct was to act. I doubled down on steel wool, intending to make a bee line right into the heart of the matter, but the answer was “Not yet”. Eventually I was able to let go of my pearls and do some scrubbing. I couldn’t change a thing, only hold some space for my loves to process and deal with the “what if” and the “what now”.

Life demands that we keep putting one foot in front of the other, and they have and we have, but I became keenly aware of my death grip on those pearls. One hand was reaching toward God but the other was firmly attached to my fear.

For weeks, I have feared the worst and trembled at the thought of the potential damage. I’ve yelled at God and asked him how dare he allow it. And in case you’re wondering, he’s okay with that. He can handle my anger, frustration and grief. If you aren’t convinced, check out David’s rant.

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?[1]

He listened. I’m sure of that, but I wasn’t hearing much from him. Crickets. And there were accusations from a dark place: “He’s forgotten you and your loves. He’s turned away – you are on your own and this is hopeless. This will not end well. You’d better start working on Plan B.”

The accusations are convincing in a vacuum. Sitting in the quiet, sorrowful and scared, you will hear and begin to believe the lies.

Where do we find courage to move forward when the ground is shaking under our feet and the future is uncertain and scary?

When you walk with Jesus, there is no Plan B. Faith is like that. It’s either all in or all out. You can’t just sprinkle a little faith over a situation. I have a great analogy that involves a litter box and a sick cat, but let’s just go with we either allow him to replace our unbelief with absolute faith in him or we wallow around in doubt because it’s familiar. The latter stinks.

One of my favorite Bible stories is of David defeating Goliath, that giant who terrified and taunted the Israelite army. David, a mere boy, saw past the Philistine’s threats and insults against the power and promise of God. David didn’t have confidence in his abilities or in the armor his brothers tried to drape over his slight frame. David’s confidence was in God and he put every bit of his trust in him.

The massive Goliath taunted and threatened the young boy, but David stepped forward in confidence that God had prepared him for this. Those long nights protecting and defending the sheep were his classroom and he was ready for what could be his final exam. He was fearless because he remembered God’s faithfulness.

I loosened the grip on my pearls. Really, God? You’ve got this? Because from here it doesn’t seem like you do and I’m terrified.

It’s okay, baby girl. I know you are afraid. When you gaze at a world that wants to destroy you or the ones you love, you will always be afraid. Look at my face. I’m right here.

Fear always has its roots in unbelief. Only God, when we remember his faithfulness, can make us brave. And until we are brave, we can’t hold space for hope for others. We have to choose to believe him.

I don’t know how this will work out, but I know this much for sure. God sees my family. He sees every one of us, from the oldest to the youngest. He is alive and he is pressing into every situation even when it feels like he’s looked away. He has not turned his head; he is right in the middle of all of it.

Let go of those pearls, He says. I’m going to show you a better way than steel wool and pearl clutching.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.[2]

Wait for the Lord; then you will have courage and hold space for hope, for yourself and for the battle weary all around you.

His promises are true, friends, even when all we can see is a loud-mouth giant; when the noise of his threats and taunts wants to discourage and defeat.

Wait for the Lord.

Waiting in hope,

lorraine

Please share your stories of waiting and seeing God come through in the comments!

Lorraine at Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Psalm 13: 1-2 ESV

[2] Psalm 27:13-14 ESV

Merry Broken Christmas

Standard
Merry Broken Christmas

We were driving into town for our granddaughter’s ballet recital when the call came. Less than three weeks until Christmas and his mother had suddenly died. His life is in pieces as he navigates toward some sort of new normal.

Just yesterday I exchanged texts with a friend. An affair has fractured her child’s marriage; her family is broken.

A young father we know is facing certain death unless he gets a heart transplant. This dear couple and their children are hanging onto a thread of hope this holiday season. His heart is literally broken.

I watched her grow up; she and my daughter were friends. Tomorrow she faces her first Christmas without her son, tragically killed in an accident. Her grief is palpable. Her world is shattered.

Maybe as you read this, you are overcome by your own broken places.

We lament. Of all times, why do these things have to happen at Christmas?

Tonight I stood next to my husband as we celebrated Christmas eve with our church family and I reflected on that first Christmas.

Mary and Joseph found a stall in the stable behind a local inn. We don’t know the details; maybe a midwife was summoned to assist with the birth. But when Jesus was born, he was wrapped in rags and laid in a borrowed manger. There was no room for him in the inn.

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:6-7

As I thought about his meager beginning, I had a sort of epiphany. Fast forward about thirty-three years to the first Easter. After a brutal series of events, Jesus body was bruised and beaten (but not broken!). His garments had been gambled away by the soldiers. He hung naked on a wooden cross.

They laid his body in a borrowed tomb, and later he was wrapped in linen grave clothes that were not his own.

“Going to Pilate, he (Joseph) asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.” Luke 23:52-53

It was because of our brokenness that Jesus came.

He isn’t put off by our mess; he stepped from heaven into a filthy stable and was laid in a feeding trough for animals. The place was not fit for people and certainly not a king.

He specializes in brokenness; in fact, he will come and sit with us in the middle of it. Emmanuel. God with us.

Life has taught me that perfect days and good times can be risky and dangerous. When we achieve our notion of perfection, we don’t recognize our need for him.

But in the brokenness, we see it.

I am sorry if you are walking through a season of brokenness this Christmas. I’ve been there; my heart aches for you.

More, Jesus sees you. He came for you and this season of pain. Invite him in and know that he is fine with the mess.

I have to confess; this Christmas, I want to be broken enough to see my need for Jesus.

I want to be the stable, not the inn.

Merry Christmas, even if  it’s broken…

lorraine

What Do You Want?

Standard

What do you want_2

When standing at a crossroad of decision, do you ask yourself what you want?

Of course there are lots of factors to consider, but knowing what you want is a key component to making the right choice.

This week I revisited a familiar passage in the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus, along with a large contingent of followers, was passing through Jericho. It had been a long day of teaching as they plodded along dusty paths and cobblestone streets. As they were leaving the crowded city, a voice called out to Jesus.

Bartimaeus, blind since birth, sat near the edge of the city. Daily, he assumed his position, begging for alms from the passers by.

On this day, he heard that Jesus was nearby and began shouting for him. “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The crowd chided him to hush.

But Jesus heard. “Call him.”

His next words were spoken directly to Bartimaeus.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

For you. Not for the world, not for your neighbor, not for the terminally ill leper sitting next to you…you.

Most likely, Bartimaues was hungry. He may have longed for a good home or a hot meal. His belongings were meager. His needs were many.

Bartimaeus spoke from the depths of his soul. He knew precisely what he would ask of the Rabbi.

“I want to see.”

That blind beggar knew that every other desire and need hinged on his deepest longing. He wanted his sight.

There is a stirring in my soul. The question begs an answer, this question that Jesus is still asking us as we cry out to him.

“What do you want me to do for you?”

Unlike Bartimaeus, we waffle in indecision. We struggle with answers to life’s constant questions because we haven’t decided what we want.

When I’m faced with a decision or even a choice, I often go to Jesus in prayer, looking for answers. I ask and ask what I should do and he answers.

What do YOU want?

Consider an example. You’ve been asked to serve on a committee. It’s a worthwhile cause and you like the people involved. The experience gained would be great for your personal development. So far, the answer sounds like a simple “yes”.

Because you have learned to value of being thoughtful and prayerful in your answers, you go to Jesus.

Perhaps his reply to you will be the same as to Bartimaues.

“What do you want?”

This is where it can get sticky, because like Bartimaeus, you have needs and desires that will distract you from what you want.

They are all good things, but suppose a deep desire of your heart is to build more intimacy with your mate?

Perhaps you long for some slow, measured time with your children during the golden hour of each evening.

How will this “yes” impact those?

Jesus didn’t tell Bartimaeus what he needed. He asked him what he wanted. Don’t let good things distract you from the best.

“Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37:4 NIV

 

Delighted by his grace,

lorraine

Friends, this is such a milestone…my one hundredth post! Talk about getting what your heart wants….God has been so good to me in this writing journey. Thanks to each of you who has encouraged and followed as I pen stories of his grace all around. I love you each!

The Important Thing

Standard
The Important Thing

What is important? I find myself examining my life with deeper scrutiny and that question begs an answer. Time is running out. While I would love to have decades more of health and life, I realize there is no assurance of tomorrow.

Last week, my granddaughter read “The Important Book” by Margaret Wise Brown. Little Miss P wrote a short response to the book. It was thought provoking; I loved her choice of subjects and the important thing about each.

img_4855

Although I am familiar with some of Brown’s work…I’ve read “Goodnight Moon” many times to my grandchildren…I had not read this one.

I ordered The Important Book from the library. (I hope you can also order online and have books delivered to your doorstep…it’s the most fun ever to find a book resting against the door, just waiting for me to arrive home!).

Today as I passed by the door, I noticed the telltale envelope. It’s always an adventure since I typically forget which titles I’ve requested as soon as I close the browser on my laptop.

It was a quick read. One after another I read the important thing about a spoon, rain, snow and others. The last important thing gave me pause.

The important thing about you is that you are you.
It is true that you were a baby and you grew,
and now you are a child and you will grow,
into a man, or into a woman.

But the important thing about you is that you are you.[i]

Earlier I had read these words from the book of Ephesians:

“You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world… God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God… For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Ephesians 2:2,8,10 NLT

As I read Brown’s words, written fifty years ago, I was inspired to write from my perspective; a woman seasoned by years of life and inspired by the Word of God and his grace in my life.

I am bombarded with messages every day; if I’m not careful, the noise is constant, relentless. Social media, television, radio, podcasts…there are so many voices and each of them is challenging, accusing, taunting or teaching and I am overwhelmed.

I cannot possibly do it all, know it all, absorb and retain it all. I try to filter it by relevance and importance and my brain hurts but the ache in my chest is even greater.

But I return to what He has said. The most important thing about me; the one thing I need to remember, to make my focus.

The important thing about me is that God saved me.
It is true that I used to live in sin, and
I am his masterpiece,
a new creature in Christ and
I will do good things that he planned for me.

But the important thing about me is that God saved me.

 

His by grace alone,

lorraine

[i] The Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown, Copyright 1949

Grace for the Guilty Girl

Standard
Grace for the Guilty Girl

My friend recently revealed a picture of Jesus that hangs in her home; a picture that she stole from the YMCA. She might not have been so forthcoming, but the picture held great significance to her first book and to her journey into grace.

There are no pictures of Jesus hanging in my home. When I met my husband and we began visiting some of his relatives, it was odd to see Jesus’ portrait on the wall along with all the family photos. I assumed it was a “southern protestant” thing.

I grew up in a Catholic home. There was at least one crucifix in every room. When we went to mass, there was a huge cross behind the altar. Jesus hung there quite gracefully despite the nails and the crown of thorns that pierced his skin.

I had a hard time reconciling all of these icons to a living Savior. At times I felt like a kid who just wanted to meet the “real” Santa Claus.

I met real Jesus in 1972. At seventeen years old I finally saw Jesus in the Gospel of John. Real Jesus. The Word. There was no way I could turn anywhere but toward him with everything I had.

As I look back at my relationship with him, I must admit that it took time for me to sort out all the influences of various representations of Jesus. When my sweet friend shared her book, Stolen Jesus with me, I followed her journey to discovering real Jesus and found myself nodding my head, laughing at her crazy stories and crying when the truth hit close to home.

Like Jami, I experienced the tension of reconciling actual life to the expectations of various religious practices and people. And like Jami, I thought it was Jesus making the demands. Every week I would listen to a sermon telling me what my life should look like. I tried so hard to keep the rules.

  • I felt guilty when I worked full time. Good moms, Godly Moms, stayed at home and raised their babies. But I knew in my gut that my babies needed health insurance.
  • I “prayed hard” for people with beer in their fridge while I struggled to reconcile how it was not sinful to overeat.
  • I dragged my children to church every time the doors opened while secretly resenting the stress of constantly running and the sacrifices our family was making.

I was a steaming cauldron of Catholic guilt and protestant legalism. Always compliant, I just wanted to please everyone, especially God. Despite my relationship with Jesus, I constantly doubted and mostly denied his grace.

When I began to follow Jami’s blog, I recognized a familiar pattern. We fail to keep all the rules; it’s impossible. Our faith wavers; we doubt. We beat ourselves up, give up and promise we will start new tomorrow or better yet, next week. When anything bad happened, I assumed it was God punishing us.

  • Car broke down? We didn’t tithe last week because the baby needed medicine. God strikes!
  • Owe taxes this year? I knew we should have given more to missions instead of taking a week of vacation. God strikes again!

If I had a picture of Jesus in my house those days, I would have turned his face toward the wall to escape his tender, yet disappointed gaze. I was on a performance track that was wearing me out and proving over and again that I just couldn’t measure up.

The truth of the Bible finally brought me to this realization:

There is nothing more to be done. I cannot add nor subtract anything from the truth that in Jesus I am righteous and God is good. My righteousness is in Him alone.

“Under the new covenant I am righteous. The work is completed. I am obedient to callings on my life not out of terror but out of love that seeps from me, because God is good.”[1]

I am so thankful that Jami has written this book, sharing her journey with so much candor and wit. I readily admit that I’m biased. She’s a generous person who has lifted my chin again and again. She was the first “for real” writer to notice me and I am forever grateful.

Aside from all of that, I would still recommend her book to you. While the subject matter is serious, she weaves humor and story into every chapter. I pray that if you relate to these words, you will read to the very end:

“For years I had professed an adoration for Jesus Christ, but in my poor state on that night, I knew it was more habit than relationship, more culture than worship and more clan than companionship.”[2]

Follow Jami to Jesus, friend. You’ll find grace and peace in his presence.

By his grace alone,

lorraine

Purchase your copy of Stolen Jesus from any of the following online retailers:

Book

Order your copy here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Jami Amerine, Stolen Jesus, Harvest House Publishers

[2] Jami Amerine, Stolen Jesus, Harvest House Publishers