The Disreputables

“Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?”

Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭9:10-13‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Jesus surrounded himself with ‘disreputable characters’. Disreputable: not considered to be respectable in character or appearance. As “professional christians” we often try to explain that these characters were far better than the disreputable characters of our day. In turn we distance ourselves from anyone who may give us “a bad name.” I adore how very opposite Jesus lived. His life was in direct contrast to what the religious believed made them “religious.”

Do we care too much how people make us look? Or do we actually care about people? Jesus gives a pretty spot on response when being judged for the company he kept. “I’m after mercy, not religion. I’m here to invite the outsiders, not coddle insiders.” Are we here for religion or mercy?

May we surround ourselves with the disreputables, the outsiders. May we seek after mercy. May we seek after Jesus!

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Trash to Treasure…

We’ve all heard the saying:

“One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure.”

This pretty much defines my style of shopping. I love a good thrift store! Actually, I even love a bad thrift store; with piles, & isles, & that smell that you only find in a thrift store. I also love garage sales, estate sales, & have been known to stop for abandoned furniture on the side of the road.

My husband begs me to spend my money in a “real store” but I often feel sick about price tags & find myself escaping back to my favorite resale store looking for treasures. I’m one of those weirdos I guess, I celebrate over a vintage bag, a like new dress, & 1970’s furniture!

Not long ago on my way home from the doctor, I stopped at the Goodwill in San Antonio. Looking through the purses, I spotted it! An Australian leather, cross body purse, perfectly worn in. I snatched it up for a whopping $6!

I can’t help but think how silly it is that a thrifting find can bring me joy. And I can’t believe how often I find items of real value discarded & sold greatly under priced.

You know what though… We do this everyday. We overlook & discredit the value in ourselves & others. We fail to attribute the value the Lord placed on people (including ourselves). We look on the outside; all we see are our mistakes, our shortcomings, our flaws. We focus on all the ways we don’t measure up. We may not say it out loud, but we think it. “I’m not going to call so & so, they wouldn’t want to get coffee with me. Man, I’m so fat. I can’t apply for that position, they wouldn’t want me. I could never wear that hairstyle with my ugly face.” And on the list goes… We diminish our value based on how we feel about ourselves.

But Jesus, throughout the New Testament gives us examples about how He feels about us. Jesus, the only son of God, sees you, sees me, sees everyone as valuable. And not because of anything we’ve done; in fact, He loves us despite all the ways we’ve screwed up.

Mark 5:25-34 is one of those stories. I love it from the message translation because it is just so easy to visualize that day.

“A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years—a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before—had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, “If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well.” The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.

At the same moment, Jesus felt energy discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?” His disciples said, “What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you’re asking, ‘Who touched me?’ Dozens have touched you!” But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.

Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭5:25-34‬ ‭MSG‬‬

It starts with a woman & let’s just get real right here, she was on her period for 12 years straight! That is a nightmare! I mean I had a hysterectomy last summer &  I do not miss that, not one little bit. And in that day, a bleeding woman was a throw away. She would have been forced to live outside the city with the others who were sick. Jews would have been forbidden near her unless they wanted to be considered unclean too. She’d tried all the pills, creams, shots, patches, drinks, etc… Nothing worked & now she had NO money left. She heard about Jesus, heard he was healing the sick. She thought if I just touch his robe, I will be healed.

So she put herself out there, she not only went into the city, she went into a huge crowd. I love the way many commentators say she touched the hem of his garment. Doesn’t that paint a beautiful picture of determination & humility. She didn’t need a big scene. She crawled into the crowd hoping to go undetected & reaches out to touch his robe. And boom! She knows she’s healed! But oppsies, Jesus knows too. He could have kept walking, she still would have been healed; but he turns & starts looking for her. The disciples think he’s lost it “Um… Jesus of course someone touched you. News flash, we are surrounded here.” Jesus explains this is different & she knows she has to step out of the crowd. She’s so afraid she’s shaking as she tells Jesus what she’s done.

Have you ever been that afraid? Right before having my oldest, they took me back for my spinal epidural before the c-section. I was so nervous, my whole body trembled uncontrollably. The nurse just held me & assured me all would be fine, I just couldn’t get my body to believe that.

So picture her in the street surrounded by people who have walked away from her for 12 years. She’s probably wearing the blood covered robe of her years of sickness, she’s trembling, she’s afraid. The people who’ve judged her looking on. But she was willing to go there for a chance at being healed.

How does Jesus respond? Like only Jesus can, he eases her heart with his words. He calls her daughter! It doesn’t matter how many people are special to my mom & dad; only me & my sister get the honor of being their daughter. Of all the kids I love & have taught, only Mckenzie gets the title of my daughter.  That is a special word, a word of honor. He names her as a part of his family. Her faith in him & in his ability to heal her was what gained his attention & praise!

So what can we learn?

We can learn there are things in our life that often leave us feeling ashamed & left out. Sometimes the shame is because of choices we’ve made which we regret, or it can be we are ashamed of the choices others made who were supposed to love & protect us. We can feel ashamed or less than because of life situations we had zero control over.

This issue of shame cannot be healed by anything money can buy. We must go to the Lord. We must reach out in faith knowing that Jesus alone has the ability to heal our brokenness. And the greatest part of this story is that Jesus persues us! He sees us! In our dirty, stinky, bloody mess, He sees us.  He gives us a title with honor. He calls us DAUGHTER! And we are able to walk away healed & new! Don’t you know she lived confidently after her encounter with Jesus! I am encouraging you to go & live the same!

Also, see people as Jesus did. Put yourself in his place. The disciples were distracted by the large crowd & didn’t see the woman at all. She was desperate & in need & yet they didn’t notice her. Look for those who are searching & respond to them with gentleness like Christ. This world is broken, but are you too distracted to notice? Just like I noticed & redeemed that leather purse from a thrift store pile, the Lord wants to use you to redeem those who are searching.

Stop seeing yourself & others as broken, dirty, useless, old, ready to be discarded trash, but instead see yourself as the treasure the Lord has created you to be!

 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…

Jeremiah 29:11 has long been a verse I’ve said to myself & others when facing difficult circumstances or decisions.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In fact yesterday while journaling, this was the verse. In our current state of waiting & after a series of closed doors, the verse made me mad. I found myself struggling to see how the Lord’s current plans were for good.

Then I felt a nudge, an urging to actually figure out why Jeremiah wrote this verse. The Lord prompted me to understand it deeper & not just as a “feel good” verse.

And so I dug deeper… I took time studying & discovered Jeremiah was a prophet sent at one of the most difficult times for Israel. He was the one to let them know judgement was coming because they had broken their covenant & were worshipping Baal, a false god. He was tasked with foretelling their destruction. And destruction in fact came from Babylon. Many Israelites found themselves displaced & taken as slaves into the foreign land.

Verse 11 from chapter 29 was actually written to the Israelites displaced after the destruction of Jerusalem. He wrote this not in a “hey guys, you are getting out of this soon” type of way. It was a reminder Yahweh had promised to keep his covenant with them even after their wandering & the punishment for their worship of a false god. It was in no way a promise to remove suffering or pain. The ‘you’ used is a plural form of you. It was in reference to the whole nation of Israel & ultimately to all who would believe in Jesus. Jesus is, in fact, the future & the hope they were promised. We actually live in the fulfillment of this promise. We are not promised a life free from pain, or suffering, or confusion. We are not promised a perfect job, a perfect spouse, perfect children, lots of money, & things. That isn’t the definition of prosper in this verse. The way we prosper is through the salvation provided on the cross. He who knew no sin, actually became sin on our behalf. But he didn’t just die, he rose & conquered sin & death. RIGHT THERE!!!! This alone is the plan the Father had. This is how we have a future & a hope!!!

So despite confusion, despite uncertainty, despite hurts, despite disease, despite struggle, I will rejoice because of Jesus! Because He alone has provided me the opportunity of relationship with God the Father. He is my prosperity, He is my hope, He is my future!

 

Veruca Salt and me…

I hated Veruca Salt from the original Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory movie 1971. She was a brat & her song in the room of geese who laid golden chocolate eggs still makes me cringe. “Don’t care how, I want it now!”  So selfish & focused only on what she wanted. She didn’t care about what Mr. Wonka had to say about the geese which were his, she just knew she wanted what she wanted & what she wanted was a goose (along with a bean feast & the world & the braids in her hair & so much more). However, her selfish tantrum didn’t really end well for her, she got nothing & worse than that, she remained a selfish, rotten girl.

I am unfortunately more like Veruca than I want to admit. It’s never fun to hear no, wait, or not now. I want what I want, when I want it… sounds a whole lot like “don’t care how, I want it now!” Well dang it all to heck, I’d more likely be cast as the bratty girl, wanting my daddy to waste his hard earned peanut shelling money on my every selfish whim.

The Lord has been asking me to wait for a while now (not really very long considering the Israelites wondered the desert for 40 years & waited 400 to hear from God before Jesus entered the scene). It’s maybe been like 40 days of waiting. 40 days of asking Him for direction. In that time I’m realizing how often I present my will to the Lord & then expect Him to go with it. “I want a party with rooms full of laughter, 10,000 tons of ice cream & if I don’t get the things I am after, I’m going to scream!” Hey God I know you know what’s best for me & my family but I’m gonna just write up what I think you should do & then it’d be great if you’d just sign on the dotted line right here. Ok? He hasn’t been signing… I know He’s teaching me patience & faith & trust. He loves me more than I can imagine, He has laid out a plan for my life as only he can see, He wants to open up His blessings & give me more than some silly goose, he wants to give me the whole chocolate factory.

Take Courage by Bethel has been a song I’ve put on repeat. It says:

“Slow down, take time
Breath in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
He’ll reveal all to come

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting”

At times we want things because they make sense to us. We want what makes us comfortable & what we believe we can succeed at. We don’t want to say goodbye to habits, or patterns, or people who we have grown accustomed to. We don’t want to go into a newness because what if we fail. But I’m learning (in these short 40 days) to hold all things loosely, to trust the One who created me & knows me & loves me so desperately he was willing to become the sacrifice to make a way for me to know God even while I was a selfish little brat. I’m learning not to beg for the goose who lays golden chocolate eggs because he wants to give me more. I can’t see more than what’s right in front of me, but he sees it all.

“Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:9, 12

So instead of asking the Lord to sign on the dotted line of what I can understand, I’m asking Him to reveal His thoughts & His plan for me. His will for our family is better, His plan for our family is better, His love for our family is better, He is better! So Lord, I surrender my will to Yours. I step aside as I’m asking You to lead the way. I have determined I won’t demand You fit into my box, or work on my timeline, or buy me a goose. I’m Yours Lord!

Hold please…

I kind of really hate it when I call my doctor, or order pizza, or call my insurance & I hear “hold please”. I don’t want to hold. I want an answer to my question now, I want to put in my request now, I want to make my appointment now. I don’t like to wait. I sit there listening to the cheesy music on the other end of the line & just get frustrated; frustrated because I’ve got things to do, places to go, people to see. Why can’t they just hurry up already?

We (the Isbill crew) are currently in a “hold please” moment… We know our time at Oakwood is up. Honestly Brent & I have wrestled with our next steps in life off & on for a few years now. We love, no we adore working with teenagers! They have always been our passion. In fact, I started working with teenage girls in 1998 after I graduated from high school. Teenagers are the best really! Young & adventurous, not afraid to try new things for the Lord, rarely do they say “we’ve never done that before,” & they love people without reservation. When Brent was called to work with youth, I was pumped because I was called to them too. But here we are in 2017, and we’re asking the Lord “hey there God, do you want us with teenagers?” and before we can ask “hold please” *cue cheesy elevator music…

What does this mean? Why is this music taking so long? Don’t you know we have things to do Lord, places to go, people to see? still the music plays… And so we hold. We hold trusting the Lord has the answers to our questions, the Lord understands our passions, the Lord knows how our hearts desire to please Him with our steps.

My dad said it best when he prayed for us, he said “Lord, we are excited because You know what is coming even though we don’t right now & it’s going to be awesome!” So cue that cheesy music, because yes I will hold.

“So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:22-25‬

Hold please…

I kind of really hate it when I call my doctor, or order pizza, or call my insurance & I hear “hold please”. I don’t want to hold. I want an answer to my question now, I want to put in my request now, I want to make my appointment now. I don’t like to wait. I sit there listening to the cheesy music on the other end of the line & just get frustrated; frustrated because I’ve got things to do, places to go, people to see. Why can’t they just hurry up already?

We (the Isbill crew) are currently in a “hold please” moment… We know our time at Oakwood is up. Honestly Brent & I have wrestled with our next steps in life off & on for a few years now. We love, no we adore working with teenagers! They have always been our passion. In fact, I started working with teenage girls in 1998 after I graduated from high school. Teenagers are the best really! Young & adventurous, not afraid to try new things for the Lord, rarely do they say “we’ve never done that before,” & they love people without reservation. When Brent was called to work with youth, I was pumped because I was called to them too. But here we are in 2017, and we’re asking the Lord “hey there God, do you want us with teenagers?” and before we can ask “hold please” *cue cheesy elevator music…

What does this mean? Why is this music taking so long? Don’t you know we have things to do Lord, places to go, people to see? still the music plays… And so we hold. We hold trusting the Lord has the answers to our questions, the Lord understands our passions, the Lord knows how our hearts desire to please Him with our steps.

My dad said it best when he prayed for us, he said “Lord, we are excited because You know what is coming even though we don’t right now & it’s going to be awesome!” So cue that cheesy music, because yes I will hold.

“So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:22-25‬

Identity

I struggle to see my value at times. I struggle to understand why God made me the way he did. I get caught up in a cycle of performance based value system. I am valuable because I do this or that really well. People say I am good at this or that (insert strength here), therefore I have value. So what happens when you physically can’t do anything well? What happens when you’re so exhausted & your body hurts that you aren’t a good wife, mommy, teacher, athlete, etc… This past year, 2016, was difficult because those measures of value slowly began to fall away. My health had become something I was proud of in 2015. I had worked hard, despite MS, to become the healthiest & strongest I had ever been. And though I didn’t want to admit it, my disease was taking a new toll on me, along with other health issues creeping in. My endometriosis was becoming unbearable & had to be addressed. I found myself saying no to more & more ministry opportunities with my husband. Not going on youth trips, not connecting with students, therefore feeling as though I was a disappointment to him. I was exhausted day by day, with little energy to devote to my own children. Realizing I was missing time that was slipping away as I was falling asleep for their young lives. I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror & honestly didn’t really like much about myself at all. My sense of worth was failing because my identity was rapped up in a false view of self. I listened to lies that since I could no longer perform to a level others could notice, therefore I was worthless. The Lord has been ferociously pursuing me in this valley. Providing me with friends along the way to speak truth in times they didn’t even know I needed it. Songs would play & I would get lost in the words as if they were written just for me. Little nuggets of scripture would find me, despite my desire to keep truth at an arms length. The Lord loves me, he made me just the way I am, in spite of my sin & my wandering & my questions & my doubts, he adores me! He gave me this body, these strengths & these weaknesses. He knows my thoughts (good & bad), he knows my heart (good & bad, and he extends a love I can not comprehend. I am learning to love myself based on his love for me. I am allowing his love for me to reshape my identity. I have value not based on what others see or don’t see, not even based on what I see in myself. Instead my value is found in who Christ says I am! What an amazing freedom to know I don’t have to work to earn this love! In fact, there’s not one thing I could ever do that would merit this love freely given. I am loved & I have value!

“GOD ’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”
‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:22-24‬ ‭MSG‬‬