Written by: Tanya Glanzman
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” (John 8:4-5)
As I read through God’s Word, I cannot imagine a moment when anyone could have felt more vulnerable than this woman right here. The teachers of religious law and the Pharisee brought a woman who had been caught in the very midst of her sin. She had no defense and no defender. She was guilty. They knew it, she knew it and Jesus knew it.
They threw her down before Jesus and in front of the crowd he was teaching. I’ve heard it taught that she was most likely naked…at best scantily clad. Everything she would want hidden was now publicly exposed. Can you close your eyes and see her? Embarrassed, ashamed, afraid. Crying, perhaps trying to cover herself, wondering if this would be her last living act? Any shred of dignity she had possibly previously held onto stripped from her viciously and violently...no mercy to be found. Bracing perhaps for the death the law clearly stated she deserved.
Jesus didn’t argue with them. In His wisdom He instead invited the one who had never sinned to throw the first stone. The Bible tells us that each of the accusers walked away, starting with the oldest. I find it interesting that the oldest were the first to walk away…perhaps their years offered a level of clarity and insight the younger had not yet attained. After the accusers had walked away, Jesus stood up in the middle of the crowd and asked the woman a question “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she replied.
In response he said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Vulnerability and struggle have been synonyms in my world. For far too long I stayed hidden in plain sight. I shared with the world what I wanted them to see. I presented a facade of vulnerability by sharing struggles from my past, but current struggles…not so much.
I was afraid to be vulnerable because it had been at my most vulnerable that I had been so deeply wounded. Somewhere along the way I made an inner vow that I would keep myself safe by never risking abandonment or rejection by being completely exposed…naked if you will…again. I was not willing to risk being fully known.
Here’s the problem. Until you are loved at your most vulnerable, naked and sacred places… you do not truly know love. Love you must work to get is love you must work to keep. But to be loved when you are your most unlovely? To be completely seen, known and loved in the very midst of your sin? The cost of this type of love is vulnerability. When you are at a place of having absolutely nothing to offer and you are still loved…that is to know love in its fullness.
Like this woman in John, there was a time in my own life where what was hidden became exposed. Embarrassed, ashamed and afraid I stood before my accusers, the crowd and Jesus.
In His love, and by His love working through others it was this very vulnerability that set me free.
And He said to me, “Neither do condemn you, Go and sin no more.”
He then surrounded me with a group of women who embraced me at my most vulnerable place and loved me fully and deeply with the love of Christ. They were women that were both pretty and wise.
I pray for you today that you will find the courage to be vulnerable so that you too can know the fullness of love. It’s worth it. I promise.
Written by: Olivia Caldwell
Vulnerability is so powerful.
When we are vulnerable before the Lover of our Souls, even though He already knows and He is perfect and holy, there is this beautiful and miraculous exchange. We come limping under the weight of our burden, with all our lack and our wounds and holy and righteous as He is, He is compassionate towards us. He moves towards us. He lifts our burdens, He gives plenty where we had lack, strength where we are weak and healing where we are wounded.
Alexandria has already written so beautifully about this vulnerability before God (http://www.prettyandwise.com/blog/vulnerability) and I pray that you know this vulnerability well. I pray that you have come near when you were tempted to run away and I pray that you have encountered His grace like never before.
I also pray that you have known or will know this type of vulnerability in your relationships.
It is one thing to be vulnerable with the One who will never leave you or forsake you, who has loved you with an everlasting love and who has given His life for you. And even that can be difficult for us to wrap our heads around. Even then it can be a challenge to lay aside our hardened, put-together exterior to reveal an interior that feels so exposed out in the open after being so shielded and guarded for so long.
It is another thing altogether to trust imperfect people in this way.
This is going to sound weird, but I just have this picture in my mind of a cicada.
...Okay, if you're still here, bless you! Bear with me now.
Cicadas live underground for years and years, from 2-17 years. They attach to tree roots and suck tree sap; they live and feed off of the roots of trees. Then after a time of dormancy, this underground life, they emerge aboveground. They climb the trunk of their tree and they shed their skin.
I have witnessed a cicada emerging from its exoskeleton. It was amazing to me that the outside of these creatures was so hard. We would find their shells outside all over the place, brown and tough and well-preserved, clinging to various outdoors surfaces. But when the cicada emerged, I was surprised to see a bright green insect, its underbelly soft and exposed as it stretched its body out.
My kids and I watched this particular cicada for a ridiculously long time one night. We couldn't leave, though, because we felt this need to guard it. This creature had spent so long cocooned, safe and secure underground, wrapped tight in the earth, attached to the root, covered by a tough shell. And then to come out into the world and to literally hang wide open with all sorts of danger around.. it is really a sight to behold.
My sister, it is a sight to behold when we risk this same kind of exposure within the body of Christ. There are many, many of us who have essentially been underground. We have this same protective shell and to be vulnerable means to risk real harm or even death.
You have been sustained by the vine. Even now you may be clinging to the vine that has kept you all these years, nails digging into a strong and sturdy trunk. Will He fail you now?
What if I told you that it is He who actually has a hold on you? It is the Lord Himself who stands guard over you as you shed your protective shell and step towards this intimacy with His people.
He has created you for this intimacy and community with His body. We need one another! And He has such a beautiful purpose for us as we live life together in the way He designed. There are amazing things that He will do through the baring of our souls to one another, through confession and repentance and prayer with our brothers and sisters.
Indeed we open ourselves up to potential harm. Many of us may have even been wounded in the past by the very people we trusted to love us well. Beloved, this cannot stop you from trying again. Let the Lord dress your wounds and let Him lead you into this beautiful unity.
It is a wonder that the Lord will use us, imperfect as we are. It is a wonder that He will use others to do the work of His hands: to lift burdens, to speak life and Truth, to build up and to encourage. There is a very real healing that happens within a people who love the Lord and strive to love people as they have been loved.
It feels so much safer and easier to remain hidden and unseen, but the truth is that there is true safety within the fold. It feels safer and easier to bundle up within an exoskeleton of sorts, but there is a beauty and freedom unmatched that awaits you just outside of that exterior.
If you are reading this, it may just be time for you, dear one, to take a step toward vulnerability. Hold tight to Jesus. Pray for Him to show you the people He has for you. He will help you and He will keep you. He will make you brave. He will be your shield and your bulwark.
There are treasures and riches that await you. Step out and into freedom that you have not yet known. Stand in awe as you are seen and known and truly loved, in spite of all your reservations, fears and failures and flaws.
Take heart, beloved daughter of God. Take heart.
Written by: Alexandria Brown
We hear that word in sermons, in preaching snippets on insta, and we speak about it with our innermost circle, but are we really living a life as transparent as we talk about?
Being vulnerable is scary. Being vulnerable is unknown. Unknown for how we respond with our defenses down and unknown for how people around us will react. What if they knew... what would they say... what would they do...
Being vulnerable is not something that we will typically fall into. Being vulnerable is something that takes continual conscious effort, strength and bravery.
When we chose to be vulnerable we are opening ourselves up to exposure, good and bad. We are showing our weaknesses, our pain, our sorrow, our hurts, our struggles our joys our loves and desires. When we become vulnerable before God or man we are saying here I am truly, no facade, no stained glass window.
I believe that is one of the most powerful places to start and yet so many times we do this as a last resort. Let me explain. How many times have you gone through a circumstance in life, in your marriage, children, finances, or maybe in your relationship with God, where you try to fix it on your own. You have the “tools” and the “know how” and still you try and try and try again to only have things get worse instead of better.
For most of us, people looking in from the outside would have no idea about these inward struggles. We continue on with our everyday lives as if nothing was wrong as if it was just another Tuesday. I wonder just how many hours days and years would I have saved if instead of trying to “fix” I would have just been vulnerable. If I had just been vulnerable with God, who knows every hair on my head, and vulnerable with the people around me. How much heartache and pain I could have been saved from had I reached out to the one who counts the stars first.
The truth is that when I am in my most vulnerable state that’s when I am less likely to be in charge and when I surrender my control that is when God can do His work and He can do so much more than I ever could. He supplies every need and every good thing.
In my weakness He is made strong.
How come we only truly believe that when we are at our weakest?
When we water down our testimony we water down our God. Unless people know where we started they are not going to know how far we have come. That isn’t to say that we need to shout every bad thing that we have done or thought from the mountain tops. BUT, the only perfect person God ever used was Jesus, the rest of us have fallen time and time again.
The rest of us still have a constant walk of redemption to be on. The rest of us still deal with things like un-forgiveness, doubt, hurt, pain, joy, passion, love. The rest of us still have things in our lives that we need to overcome. The rest of us still live a life filled with the good, the bad and the ugly.
We all have had different experiences with being vulnerable throughout our lives. Sometimes it was well received by those we loved and trusted and sometimes that same vulnerability was doubted, ridiculed and judged. But the truth is that Jesus became vulnerable for us when He came down and died and rose again, and I have to believe that I can trust Him with my own exposure.
The reality is that vulnerability is not the end of the story, but the beginning. Are we willing to allow God into our weakest moments regardless of what others might think, do or say? Do we trust Him enough to say, “Here I am Lord, help me” first? Are we ready and willing to lay ourselves, our pride our status down to allow God to do the true healing work He longs to do in our lives?
I said before and I will say many more times, when we water down our testimony we water down our God. When we are fake with our struggles we are not only robbing ourselves of the truth that God has for us, we are robbing our neighbor who is dealing with this same struggle and is too ashamed to ask for help. We leave not just ourselves in this vicious cycle, we leave our neighbor in it as well.
We were told that in this world there will be trials, but take heart I have overcome the world. Let’s make a stand right now sis to lean into the one who has overcome and live from a place that we can be known truly known. A place where we can be truly loved.
Be brave. Be bold. Be courageous. And know that the King of kings knows and loves you right where you are, and He loves you too much for you to stay there. Trust Him.
Written by: Gay Idle
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the LORD…” Acts 3:19
The setting of these words spoken by Peter in Acts comes just after the healing of a lame man who had been that way from birth…over 40 years. A man who was now walking, leaping, and praising God! A crowd had gathered at Soloman’s Colonnade in awe of what had happened. Peter addressed the crowd, saying in effect, “Why are you so amazed? Why are you looking at us as if we were the ones who made this man walk by our own power or godliness? NO. This man was healed by the power of Jesus” the very one they had rejected as their Messiah. Peter calls for them to repent of their sins, even and especially their corporate sin of Jesus’ crucifixion.
Peter was talking to Jews, God's chosen people who had strayed so far from God's heart that they did not recognize Him when He came in the flesh as Jesus Christ, God incarnate. It was time to return to the Father's heart. Because if they had, oh, what joy! But so many missed it.
In a way, they were like prodigals, living a life they had crafted—a life of strict rule-keeping, judgment, and looking down on those who were not like them. They burdened God's people with a heavy yoke, one that no one could bear, not even themselves. And it grieved the Father's heart.
Repent—turn to God. 'Repent' comes from the Greek word 'metanoeō.' It's more than just saying you're sorry; it involves a profound change. It means acknowledging that your way is wrong, and God's way is right. Thayer's lexicon defines 'metanoeō' as 'to change one's mind, i.e., to repent... to change one's mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins.' Peter was calling them to repentance, an inside-out change of heart and mind, so that their sins could be wiped out, blotted out, and no longer inscribed on God's ledger.
In Luke Chapter 15, we witness a scene where "all the tax collectors and sinners were drawing near to listen" to Jesus. However, the Pharisees and scribes complained that Jesus "welcomes sinners and eats with them." They were so intent on keeping their own rules and traditional prejudices that they missed their heavenly Father’s heart, even as He spoke directly to them.
In response, Jesus tells them three parables…one right after the other. In the first two parables (verses 1-10), the owner goes out to look for something that was lost. He goes looking for that which was lost. And when it is found there is great rejoicing. Jesus underscores the idea that there is great rejoicing when that which was lost is found.
In the case of the lost sheep, Jesus explains that “...there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need repentance.” Whoa! I’m pretty sure that was a direct hit on the conscience of the Pharisees and scribes…they got the hint.
In the case of the lost coin, Jesus adds that “there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” You see…the Father went after them and they turned to Him and received Jesus as their savior. Again, one sinner who repents. This seems to me to imply an intimate connection between the repentant sinner and the heart of the Father.
Moving on to the third parable, known as The Parable of the Lost Son or the Prodigal Son. We discover that the Father is not going out to search for His lost son; the son isn’t lost.
The son decided to take his inheritance early, skipped town, and squandered it on a life of extravagance and reckless living. He pursued his own path to live life on his own terms, but it didn’t work out as he expected. He found himself destitute, out in a field with pigs, even contemplating eating the pig’s scraps. For a Jewish man, living with pigs and finding their food appetizing was the lowest point. Humiliating. He was broken and ready to go back, willing to grovel like a servant at his father’s feet, understanding that he didn’t even deserve a seat at his father’s table.
I find it interesting that the father does not actively go after the son who chose to walk his own path, but he is watching and waiting. We know this because the text tells us that while the son was still a long way from home, his father saw him and was overwhelmed with compassion. He ran to his son and welcomed him with open arms and joyful kisses. He put his own best robe on his son, placed a ring on his finger, and sandals on his feet. It was time to kill the fatted calf and celebrate!
There’s another son in this parable, the older son, who understandably feels upset that his younger brother, the one who took off, shows back up and is now treated like he is all that and a bag of chips. He, in contrast, had faithfully adhered to his father's rules, never straying and wasting his inheritance. Where was his reward? His sense of entitlement to recognition and reward is palpable. Sounds a bit like the Pharisees, don’t you think?
Before we pass too harsh a judgment on the Pharisees, let’s revisit another scene from scripture. Let’s go back to the beginning, to the Garden of Eden. Why? Perhaps to make the case that, at some point, we all become prodigals.
You see Adam and Eve had it pretty good in the beginning. They had a beautiful garden and walked with God in the cool of the evening. There was no sin, nothing like weeds to make their job of cultivating the garden more difficult. Their labor was pure joy. No predators lurked, ready to devour them. They had named the animals and held dominion over the entire earth. Created in God’s image, they were fellow regents with their heavenly Father, living and reigning over His Kingdom. And it was all good!
But then, Satan enters the scene, and Adam and Eve, swayed by his lies, decide to follow their own path. I don't believe this was necessarily a deliberate act of defiance against God's wishes, but rather an attempt to become more like God. After all, God had ordained them as His image bearers, but they wanted to do it their way. So, instead of choosing to listen to God and do it His way, they listened to the enemy of their souls. Perhaps they thought this was a better way? Well, it wasn’t God’s way. But isn’t that often how it goes? Sometimes we doubt God’s way and trust that little voice in our heads, and it changes everything.
Ever since that fateful day, God has been calling His beloved children back to his arms and back into His good favor. Not so that we can straighten ourselves out and earn that favor. No, it’s so that He can drape us in His own robe of righteousness, covering the sin of our rebellion. When we kneel humbly at His feet He places that Robe on us and raises us up. He returns to us the ring of His authority, the authority we have in Christ Jesus, as well as the promise that restores our identity as His beloved. He brings us shoes, signifying that we are no longer slaves but children of God, reaping all the benefits bestowed upon us by our good good Father.
There is a profound change that takes place in us when we choose His ways over our ways and turn from our sins to embrace His love. Our sins are blotted out, and refreshing moments flow from the LORD. He takes delight in His sons and daughters when we turn to Him and return to His loving presence.
I crave more of those times of refreshing! How about you?
Written By: Lyndsay Terry
Then Jesus said, “Once there was a father with two sons. 12The younger son came to his father and said, ‘Father, don’t you think it’s time to give me my share of your estate?’ So the father went ahead and distributed between the two sons their inheritance. 13Shortly afterward, the younger son packed up all his belongings and traveled off to see the world. He journeyed to a far-off land where he soon wasted all he was given in a binge of extravagant and reckless living.
14“With everything spent and nothing left, he grew hungry, because there was a severe famine in that land.15So he begged a farmer in that country to hire him. The farmer hired him and sent him out to feed the pigs.16The son was so famished, he was willing even to eat the slop given to the pigs, because no one would feed him a thing.
17“Humiliated, the son finally realized what he was doing, and he thought, ‘There are many workers at my father’s house who have all the food they want with plenty to spare. They lack nothing. Why am I here dying of hunger, feeding these pigs and eating their slop? 18I want to go back home to my father’s house, and I’ll say to him, “Father, I was wrong. I have sinned against you.19I’ll never again be worthy to be called your son. Please, Father, just treat me like one of your employees.” ’
20“So the young son set off for home. From a long distance away, his father saw him coming, dressed as a beggar, and great compassion swelled up in his heart for his son who was returning home. The father raced out to meet him, swept him up in his arms, hugged him dearly, and kissed him over and over with tender love.
21“Then the son said, ‘Father, I was wrong. I have sinned against you. I could never deserve to be called your son. Just let me be—’
“The father interrupted and said, ‘Son, you’re home now!’
22“Turning to his servants, the father said, ‘Quick, bring me the best robe, my very own robe, and I will place it on his shoulders. Bring the ring, the seal of sonship, and I will put it on his finger. And bring out the best shoes you can find for my son. 23Let’s prepare a great feast and celebrate. 24For my beloved son was once dead, but now he’s alive! Once he was lost, but now he is found!’ And everyone celebrated with overflowing joy.
25“Now, the older son was out working in the field when his brother returned, and as he approached the house, he heard the music of celebration and dancing.26He called over one of the servants and asked, ‘What’s going on?’
27“The servant replied, ‘It’s your younger brother. He’s returned home and your father is throwing a party to celebrate his homecoming.’
28“The older son became angry and refused to go in and celebrate. So his father came out and pleaded with him, ‘Come and enjoy the feast with us!’
29“The son said, ‘Father, listen! How many years have I worked like a slave for you, performing every duty you’ve asked as a faithful son? And I’ve never once disobeyed you. But you’ve never thrown a party for me because of my faithfulness. Never once have you even given me a goat that I could feast on and celebrate with my friends as this son of yours is doing now. 30Look at him! He comes back after wasting your wealth on prostitutes and reckless living, and here you are throwing a great feast to celebrate—for him!’
31“The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me by my side. Everything I have is yours to enjoy. 32It’s only right to rejoice and celebrate like this, because your brother was once dead and gone, but now he is alive and back with us again. He was lost, but now he is found!’ ”
Before he was prodigal, he was a son asking for his inheritance, which is the same thing as asking for his Father’s very life; it was making a statement that the son did not care if his father was dead or alive. He wanted what was promised to him after his father died. And his father gave it to him! Stop right there, I know you see what I see in this story. This is not a story representative of someone who has lived a reckless life and then came to Jesus for the first time. This is a story of someone who knows Jesus, who is already living in the Father’s house and under his protection and blessing, and who then takes the gift offered to him, Jesus’ life, only to walk away and squander it. Someone who spends all that grace like it means nothing. As if that grace cost nothing. Sit on that for a minute. Let that ruminate in your heart and mind. For some of us, that may be a little hard to do. Spending too much time thinking about this feels too heavy for some of our hearts. When you are ready, let’s hop right back into this story.
Once the son went away, spent the inheritance, and then was left with nothing, he went to work hoping to earn a living, but ended up serving pigs. He was so hungry that he was longing to eat even the slop the pigs were eating. Push pause again. Let’s pick this apart here, too.
When we took the inheritance God offered to us through Jesus, the gift of grace, went away and spent it on a life of sin until we had nothing left, we went to work hoping to just find a way to make it without having to own up to our own failures hoping to do so without having to face the facts: we have completely forsaken our Father in Heaven and treated his gift of grace as something cheap.
In scripture and Jewish culture, swine are a representation of filthiness and not keeping the commandments. Pigs look a lot like sin in scripture. Let that sink in for a moment. This son spent his entire inheritance (the gift of grace through Jesus) and instead of owning his own failings, he went to work trying to earn that inheritance back, but ended up serving swine. He ended up serving sin, working for sin, trying to earn grace again. He was so hungry that the slop the swine were feasting on even looked good. When you get low, you will settle for almost anything that fills you up for even a moment. You know it’s going to hurt you in the end, but you need, for even just a moment, to not feel that pang of hunger in the pit of your stomach. So you’ll sleep with him again, you’ll go to that bar one more time, you’ll purge, you’ll cut, you’ll sleep, you’ll binge, you’ll avoid, you’ll (insert issue here). You’ll settle for the slop that sin feeds on. That is, until you’ve finally had enough.
The son devises a plan to go home to his Father with his tail between his legs because he knows how horrible he’s been. He took his Father for all he was worth and then treated his inheritance like it meant nothing, as if it cost nothing. He would go home, show his Father that he has realized how great a sin he has committed, and then submit himself to indentured servitude to pay for his sins, while alleviating some of his suffering.
We are the same. We are this son. When we walk away from God, using grace as a license to keep sinning, to do whatever we want, we come crawling back into His throne room on our hands and knees. We quietly knock on the door, peak in, and then, with our face buried in our own hands, we tell Him we know how horrible we are. How terrible and sinful and ugly we are. We know we do not deserve to be taken back, we do not deserve to be called Son or Daughter, but we promise that we will serve Him. Just please, oh please Lord, take us back.
Then comes the most beautiful picture of grace, family, honor, and pure, supernatural, selfless love - his father sees him from the road, that implies he was waiting for him to return. He was not inside the house, he was not out in the vineyard, he was not taking a nap; he was watching the road for his son’s return. He runs out to meet him, he does not walk, his arms are not across his chest, he is not waiting for him to come crawling back; he runs out to him and throws his arms around his neck. When scripture says he kissed his son, the language gives us a picture that he just kept kissing him again and again and again. There is nothing cordial and “proper” about this. This is unbridled passion and love for his child on full display. His child who took his life, his child who treated his inheritance like it meant nothing, as if it cost nothing. His child who was hiding in shame because he had done terrible things. This child. This is the child that moved him. This child moved him. The father said, “You were dead, but now you are alive!” The son may not have realized the full gravity of his decision and the life he had chosen to live, but the Father knew what his son was doing, he knew that he was dead in sin, but just his return to his Father brought him back to life. It wasn’t righting his wrongs, fixing his mistakes, beginning to serve his father. It isn’t go back to church, reading your bible more, curse less, quit smoking, any of those things. It was returning to the presence of his father that brought him back to life. Wow. The wonder of what can happen in His presence!
His father brought him the family ring to wear again, new robes, shoes for his tired feet and then he threw a party. He threw a PARTY. For a son who had done terrible things and he didn’t even make up for those things yet. He just showed up back at home and apologized and they were already throwing a PARTY for him!
Are you the prodigal son? Or are you the son who never left? If you are the prodigal, how has God celebrated your return? How has he restored you to the family name - child of God? Take some time before you continue on to write down the answer to those questions. Remind yourself of His goodness and thank Him. Tell Him what it means to have experienced his grace and mercy. He is a good God. Take some time to shower Him with your praises.
If you are the son who has stayed, do you ever struggle with the prodigals around you? If you do, talk to the Lord about it now. Share with him everything you think and feel about that, but then, if you want true peace, ask Him to replace your feelings and thoughts about it with His feelings and thoughts. Choose to think like Him. Choose to carry His heart. Choose peace.
If you don’t struggle with prodigals around you, ask the Lord if you are making the most of the resources he has available to you. The father, in this story, tells his faithful son that everything he has belongs to him also. What are you in need of that you have not asked your heavenly Father for yet?
Written By: Olivia caldwell
There's this image that I just keep seeing in my mind.
I see a daughter.
Sometimes she is indifferent; calm, collected and unfazed on the surface. Other times she is perceptibly angry, her face hardened and resentful.
She is always pushing away.
She will not allow herself to be loved.
She does not believe she is worthy of love. The hardness of her exterior would lead you to believe that love is the last thing she desires; it may surprise even her to know that love is the thing she needs.
The sin and brokenness of the world have marked her and she carries her own sin and grief and anguish and regret. Shame overwhelms her and spills out of her, leaving a trail in her wake.
She leaves, withdrawing as often as possible, content to be alone and away from everyone and everything. She lives isolated, not caring about the distance or circumstance she finds herself in. Her thoughts can be too loud here, the memories in her mind too sharp and the wounds too raw, but this is her lot.
This is where she belongs. This is where she will stay.
It happens one day so quickly that she cannot breathe. This life that she has resigned herself to, this life that she has intentionally crafted, comes crashing down as it comes into collision with Love.
She doesn't know how it is happening or why it is happening, but her guard collapses and her hardness is like a dam ravaged by gushing waves as tears pour forth.
The shame that has lied to her and consumed her and imprisoned her is utterly destroyed as she hears the Truth:
“I love you.
I have always loved you.”
This daughter was blind, always running and pushing away. Now she sees and she cannot help but come forth.
This daughter believed that she could never be loved. Now she weeps with awe and wonder at the depth of love for her soul.
This daughter could not imagine she was worthy. Now she knows the One who is Worthy who paid the highest price for her life to be saved.
She is wrecked by amazing grace. She is humbled by Love that loves first. She cannot believe that she is worth so much to someone so Great.
She stood far off, but Mercy ran her way.
She cannot fathom being brought in, but here she sits, wearing a ring and a robe, at a table prepared for her.
This is what her Father longed for, what He desired to give her and what He rejoices now to lavish on her.
She is His beloved.
Daughter, I don't know where this finds you today, but if you are like this prodigal daughter, come forth, beloved one. You are greatly loved. If you have a prodigal of your own, rest in the strong love of your Father. Keep this picture in your mind and do not stop believing: He is pursuing always and even now.
If this has been you, let this pour over you all over again, beloved. What kindness that drew you in. How immediate was your transformation. Remember how utterly lost you were. Stand speechless all over again as you see the King running to you from far off as if it were just yesterday.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
Written by: Angie Reese
A beautiful Christian sister of mine and I taught Bible class together for a while in the Richmond area. We were tasked with teaching middle schoolers, which is not for the faint of heart. She was so amazing and wanted to teach them a verse from the Bible that would make them better people. Something impactful. Something true to all Christians. What she came up with was amazing. She selected a section of verses from Philippians chapter 2.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is ours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (verses 3-7)
When I think about authenticity, I think about this verse. Putting ourselves second and looking to the interests of others. Even Jesus, who has the right to sit beside God on the throne, took on the form of a servant. Wow!
Another verse that comes to mind is Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
These verses put some serious responsibility on us as Christians. “As it depends on us” suggests that we are in control of the situation and ourselves. When we are authentically seeking Christ, shouldn’t these two verses speak to us differently?
Authenticity is about staying true to yourself and your values. These two verses are asking us to do just that. Being so authentic that we can put others before us in ways that the world thinks is ridiculous, but that God puts value in.
My oldest daughter, of whom I have shared so much about over the years, has decided many things over the last two years that I disagree with. She is old enough that even as her mother I have to allow her to make those mistakes separate from myself. Is it possible to disagree with someone on such a basic level and still love them? Still talk to them? Still be a part of their lives? These verses tell me yes. I think of her first. I keep the peace because it does depend on me. I tell her I love her and disagree with her life choices. I have to stay authentic to my own self and belief in God and His will. I have to stay strong and speak truth into her life and wisdom into her life.
Being an authentic Christian is not for the faint of heart - like teaching middle schoolers. But at the end of that study with those middle schoolers we saw a change in them. They memorized the verses, even framed them! They really took them to heart and allowed God and His authentic word to enter in their lives. I pray that the same thing eventually happens with my daughter as well. When we stay true to God’s will, he will bless our efforts. It won’t always look perfect, of course, but the reward He promises is pretty amazing.
Father, help me to be authentic to my belief in you and your word. Help us as mothers and grandmothers, aunts, and sisters to set an example of peace and love. Let us put others before ourselves in a way that shows you and your love. Be with our children as they walk through the confusion of life and allow them to remain true to themselves and you. Amen.
Guest Writer: Monique Urton
I have written this over and over countless times. Truth is when I was asked to write this, I was just starting a season of figuring out who I was. I was asked months ago, and as I have gone through several different rough drafts, I wasn’t sure any of those were where God was leading me to write. My first instinct was to look at other articles to see how other people wrote them so I could get an idea of how I needed mine to be. I do not see myself as a writer, so I was intimidated at first. I do write poetry, but I feel like that is a completely different ballgame. I found it to be ironic in a sense that I was comparing other articles to how I should write mine about AUTHENTICITY. How can I truly be authentic if I am not confident in the words that God gave me to write?
The definition of Authentic as stated in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:
1 a: worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact
paints an authentic picture of our society
2: not false or imitation : REAL, ACTUAL
an authentic cockney accent
3: true to one's own personality, spirit, or character
I believe authenticity is being who God created us to be in His full image. To not pretend to be something we are not. This means, we have to accept every part of who we are, flaws and all. The things we see to be a hindrance, may be the one thing that brings glory to God. In the same sense, the things we think we can do might not at all be what we were called to do. You cannot work yourself into being something you are not. You cannot change who you are no matter how hard you work at it. It is not our works, but His purpose.
2 Timothy 1:9 “He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”
I was blessed with many talents, not bragging, I feel like it is the one thing that holds me back from being authentic. I started to throw big birthday parties every year since my oldest was one. I would get compliments on how good of a mother I was. After all, the handmade cake, banners and favors really show how good of a mother I am. It made me feel good, especially because that was my main goal, to be the best mother, to make sure I was nothing like my own mother. I started to earn my identity from that, though unintentional. But that isn’t who I am, nor who God called me to be. I was indeed not a good mother based on my talents. I am a good mother because I am imperfect and show my kids that no matter how many times I fall, I will always turn to God and He will never leave me. I say sorry often, and try to show them how to repent and to do better. We are not our talents, we are not our works, though we are called to do good works, our relationship with God comes first. How can we know who we are if we do not know who God is? How do we know who God is and who He says we are if we do not spend time with Him?
Find out who you are, take time to truly know who He is. I feel most authentic, when I am completely surrendering to what He is calling me to. When I am completely weak, but show up and realize that He can use me when I feel completely useless. He calls us to know Him, to have relationship with Him.
Jeremiah 9:24 “But the one who boasts, boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.
I wouldn’t fully be authentic if I didn’t add a poem, because I love writing poetry, and I feel that is where I can fully express myself in the best way with the least amount of words.
you have created me to be
more than I can ever see
Whether I’m on the mountain or in the valley, you never leave
you have called me out of the deepest pits
Even in the times where I didn’t want to exist
Gave me purpose
showed me what my worth is
I tried to do good works to please you
But I learned that my value is more than what I can do
It’s who I am, because of who you made me to be
The light that shows up when the darkness flees
We are not measured by how many times we fall,
but rather how we stand through it all
I count it joy to be faced with trials
Though I wish it didn’t last for miles and miles
Joy isn’t based on my circumstances
it’s based on where my faith is
Stand guard and keep a lookout
Sometimes it’s best to whisper when we want to shout
Letting go of who I thought I was
It’s amazing what surrendering does
I am loved
On the highest mountain
Like a fountain
You call on me
How will I answer if I don’t know who I can be
The best version of who you say I am
Sitting still like Daniel in the lion’s den
I am learning that letting go isn’t giving up,
It’s stepping aside so Jesus can fill my cup
So I encourage you to sit still and allow God to speak to you. I have to shut the World out when I listen too much to who people tell me I am, and not who God says I am.
Guest Writer: Laura Terry
Authenticity. I’m hearing this word a lot these days. When you read it, what comes to mind? Usually, the intended meaning is to be genuine, honest, forthright, and true-to-yourself –unapologetically so. These are suitable uses for the word and do encompass a partial view of what authenticity means. However, I think there is a bigger, more meaningful definition of the word that is missing in how it’s used today.
To be authentic means to be something original to a place and/or made by a creator. For example, the Louvre in Paris contains the painting Mona Lisa, an authentic work of art by Leonardo da Vinci. People have reproduced it, been inspired by it, and taken their photograph with it, but there is only one authentic Mona Lisa. Similarly, my grandfather has an authentic helmet issued by the US Army during the Korean War. He could take it on Antiques Roadshow and valuers would classify it as authentic because it was actually made during and for the War. Both the helmet and the painting are authentic because of where they came from and who made them.
Similarly, our most complete form of authenticity comes from God, our creator. To be truly authentic, we must not only be true to ourselves, but more so be true to who God created us to be. The Mona Lisa is only authentic because it was made by Da Vinci. It cannot be authentic separate from the one who created it. We cannot be truly authentic separate from God. Our completeness and wholeness and trueness come when Christ is in us and we are living our lives, not true to ourselves and how we want to, but true to God and how he made us to live.
Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Here Paul is saying that once we receive the Holy Spirit, it is no longer us living in our own will and being true to ourselves, but us living out God’s will by Christ’s example and being true to His Spirit residing in us.
Paul is such a great biblical example of authenticity. Before his conversion on the road to Damascus, he (called by his Hebrew name, Saul, at that time) was living quite true to himself and his own beliefs, and unashamedly so. He was persecuting Christians without remorse, and in fact believing he was right to do so. He was living out our current societal definition of authenticity. However, we do not see him actually living a full authentic life until after his conversion when he receives Christ as his Savior and begins his mission to live out God’s will in his life. Only then does Paul (now using a Gentile name in the mission field) say in Ephesians 5, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”
This, I believe, is biblical authenticity: To live in the example of Christ, who often stated where he came from and Who he came from; to have our souls filled with the Holy Spirit and to unashamedly show this to the world; and, to be living in the will of God, our maker, who has purposed our lives from the very beginning, and who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Sisters, hear me say that I know this can be hard. We can feel comfy and cozy at home with Jesus, but stepping into the world feels dangerous and judgmental and full of temptation to stray from our authentic life in Christ. The worldly view of authenticity, to just be yourself—any “self” is fine—without apology, is much easier. But it isn’t fuller. It is only as true as the length of your earthly life. But, sis, we were made for more by the One who loves us more—much, much more.
God, my Maker and Creator, help me to live an authentic life. Not one that relies on my own thoughts, feelings, and ideas, but one that desires to be in line with Your will and the intentions You set out for my life. In following You, let me feel the wholeness of Your goodness for my life and satisfaction in Your purpose over me. You are so good and in Christ, your son, my Savior, I find the perfect example of authenticity. Amen.
Sis, here's to living our fullest, authentic life! Love, Laura
written by: Alexandria Brown
Authenticity. I feel like that word, authenticity, has been so used and abused in both good and bad ways. It has become such that when we hear it said that it’s meaning has been diminished and/or tainted. We hear you must be your authentic self, true to your heart. Meanwhile the Bible tells us that, the heart is wicked above all else.
I was curious with all of what we are experiencing nowadays so I looked up the definition of what authentic means. The original definitions says things like:
Genuine, truthful, honest, undisputed origin, being actually and exactly what is claimed.
Then, I was shocked to find the “new meaning of authentic” that it can be believed or accepted.
All throughout Psalms, Proverbs, and most of the Bible we see how important it is to live a life, not just righteous on the outside, but on the inside as well. We see over and over that God looks at the heart. He knows our plans and intentions as well as our actions. Over and over again Jesus calls out the Pharisees for their outward actions not being authentic, genuine, real.
I have to admit sometimes my outward actions are not a great testament to what is going on on the inside. Sometimes my life does not accurately reflect what is going on around me and in me. Sometimes, I push and I pull and I do and do and do and I choose not to come into His presence.
Sometimes, I am unwilling to let go of control. Sometimes...
Let me tell you about and interaction I had with my daughter a couple weeks ago.
My daughter is on our worship team rotation about every 6 weeks. My children are young and do not drive (thank God, I’ve seen them on the power wheels and ATVs) which means that when mom and dad have to be at the church early for practice or service prep they have to come as well. Sometimes they help set things up and other times they get personal time with phones or games or friends during practices before service. They know that as soon as preservice starts that they need to put things away and that it is God’s time now. Our focus, our attention is on Him and what He wants to do. (They really are amazing to watch.)
This particular Sunday my child missed a good chunk of one of the services because “she didn’t feel like it.” At the end of service she asked if I would put her on next batch of scheduling for worship. My response to her was simple. If you can’t worship off of stage, you won’t worship on stage. This is one of our core beliefs for our team and it was not a punishment rather a simple reminder which she understood.
As the day went on, turns out this reminder was not only for her. Over the next week or so I felt the Lord reminding me over and over again of that simple statement. If you don’t worship off of stage, you won’t worship on stage. Don’t get me wrong, I had been praying and doing my duties, going through the motions. AND I knew that that was no longer enough. I had not been going to God with the struggles and hurdles that I had been experiencing. He already knew them, but I was not allowing Him the opportunity to move in those areas. I had it. I could do it. I was in control.
I was wrong.
I was coming to God with a “fake it till you make it” type of attitude. I know the scriptures. I know that God already knows. That nothing surprises Him. That He wants to be involved. He wants me to give Him my burdens and cares. And still I was not authentically worshiping Him the way He hoped I would. Our worship, our love for God is not a to do list. It’s not when things are only good or only bad. It is constant. It is growing. God doesn’t want me to wait until I have it all figured out. I think that in order for me to truly be authentically me I need to first and foremost be my genuine self with God. He is safe. He already knows everything anyways. I can trust Him and so can you.
Happy, sad, mad, or glad - He wants you! Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Let that become who you are not just in public but in the quiet place where you wait on the Lord. I promise you He will come.
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