Jesus with Skin On

Have you heard the expression, “Jesus with skin on?” There was a woman speaking to a group I was part of, who explained the analogy and it made a lot of sense.

When Jesus, who was fully man while remaining fully God, was born into this world, He literally had skin on, human flesh and blood. He knew, intimately, what it meant to be us. He understood and experienced everything we do; hunger, pain, the feel of sunshine on our faces, exhaustion, fellowship with others, belly laughs, belly pain, sadness, joy, etc.

Jesus also knew the deepest fears, sorrows, regrets, worries, and loneliness that humans experience. He created us in His image.

When I think of being created in God’s image, I think about how I am created to be like Him to my fellow sojourners, on this journey of life; to love people. To ask myself what He would do in everyday life situations.

What might that look like? Well, we see Jesus spending time with people who didn’t have it all together. They lied, cheated, were selfish, lived less than morally acceptable lives, were deeply hurt and outcasts from society. They were ill and in physical and emotional pain. They may have had mouths like sailors, drank too much and did things they regretted. They persecuted those who believed in Jesus and they rejected Him. These are those with whom Jesus spent a lot of time.

What did He do? He spoke to them and treated them as being made in His image. He healed them, fed them, listened to them, spoke truth in love, was with them when society rejected and shunned them. He didn’t tolerate the sin and pretend it didn’t exist. He called it out and forgave them. Most important of all, in my opinion, is that He saw them and their potential, and He LOVED THEM.

How might it look for us to be Jesus with skin on? Smile and acknowledge the existence of someone down on their luck, who might not be as clean as you prefer and might use words that offend you. Jesus loves them. Say hello to teens in the mall who glare and dress in ways you don’t like. Bring meals to those who are dealing with a job loss, illness or death in the family. Give someone your warm jacket or umbrella when they are stuck in the rain. Buy an extra burger combo or tacos and look for someone to bless. Listen to the one who’s hurting. Seek them out. It is ok to be with people who may not believe as you or don’t believe in anything at all. You can show them Jesus. He deeply loves them.

I have learned a lot about being Jesus with skin on from my two children, now 19 and almost 15. They have come from the little shopping center near our home, with stories of the homeless woman they talked to, who poured out her sadness over the loss of her husband. They were young teens and didn’t know exactly what to do, so they bought her whatever she wanted for lunch, listened to her and told her they hoped she would be ok. The woman cried because no one else had cared or even seen her. There is the time my daughter rushed home from 7/11, grabbed a backpack and filled it with non perishables from the pantry, water bottles, a gift card, blankets, a hat and other items she found in her room, and hurried out the door to go back and give it to a man she met who needed help.  That is Jesus with skin on.

It isn’t hard, but it does require us to look beyond the exterior picture we are seeing and find the one that Jesus loves so deeply. that He gave up His life for them, just like He did for you. My hope is that we all will find someone in our spheres to love on – to be Jesus with skin on.

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What Are You Seeking?

John 1:38a says, “Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?”

When was the last time someone asked you what you wanted, besides the barista in your favorite coffee shop? I mean really asked you and wanted to hear the answer? Close your eyes for a moment and picture Jesus, sitting across from you, looking intently into your eyes, asking (insert your name here) “__________, what are you seeking?” How would you answer Him? Would you, in a panic, try to use your arsenal of Christian-ese, to impress Him with a lofty, holy, righteous answer? Would your mind go blank, because maybe you aren’t sure what it is you are seeking? Like me, you might want to blurt out, “I’m seeking You, Lord!”, but are we really? We may deeply wish that He was always our deepest desire, but if we are completely honest, sometimes He isn’t.  He is not impressed or fooled when we answer Him with what we think He wants to hear. Jesus can handle our honesty and already knows the real, raw, nitty-gritty answer.

What are you seeking? Is it to feel safe? Wanted? Accepted? Do you want to be known and seen? Are you seeking rest, because life is hard and you are worn down? Are you seeking a soul-mate or a good friend? Healing? These are all good things to seek; human things that humans need, desire and crave. Jesus knows this and doesn’t reject us for wanting them. The thing is, Jesus use these worldly, human desires to bring to us what He knows we seek most. It’s Him. Even if you don’t know it, feel it or believe it, it has always been Him.  In Jesus, the void is filled. In Jesus, we find meaning and value, safety and rest, healing, joy and peace, a best friend and an eternal soul-mate. I think that sometimes our most powerful testimony, is that what we were seeking, we ultimately found in Jesus.

So, what is it you are seeking? What does your soul crave? Tell Him and trust Him with the desires of your heart. I truly believe that whatever it is that your heart and soul seek, above all else, will ultimately be found in Jesus. Always. He is enough.

Psalm 38:9 (HCSB)

Lord, my every desire is known to You; my sighing is not hidden from You.

Psalm 27:8 (ESV)

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV)

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Who Told You That?

This is what the Lord asked Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It comes from Genesis 3:11a, “Who told you that….?” Please read Genesis 3:1-13 for a context refresher. In The Quest, written by Beth Moore, she asks us to allow God to ask it of us, as it relates to our belief systems, how we view ourselves, our self-talk, how we view God and what we really believe about Him.

I’ll be honest, this question makes me nervous. It requires more than trivial, surface answers. It begs to be taken to that deeper level that we often label as off-limits. Sometimes that level contains things we don’t want to look at or acknowledge, let alone start sifting through and digging up. Those things we keep hidden often shape our perceptions, attitudes and beliefs, causing us to act out, make choices (positive or negative) and form relationships.

I have looked deeper into some, but not all, of my off-limits places and done painful, difficult work to heal those wounds.  Many times pain, grief and anger preceded the healing, but the reward was worth the effort. As I thought about this question, “Who told you that?”, I realized I had not actually asked it of myself and it is a game changer!

What do you truly believe about yourself (good and bad) and God? Take some time to be honest with yourself, then express those beliefs to God and answer the question “Who told you that?”

I am absolutely a work in progress here, but I will share a couple of mine.

I am an overcomer. I still falter, but I know I am an overcomer though Christ who strengthens me. It is all Him! I truly began believing this when I went through breast cancer. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had walk through. It brought fear, despair, anger, confusion and exhaustion; yet hope, peace, joy and safety. God showed Himself faithful to me and my family, so extravagant with the hope He poured into me, so generous with bringing comfort and rest through music, nature and other people. The aching loneliness I felt drew me closer to Him. He was all I had to cling to and I found that He is more than enough. Who told me that? Jesus did. In His word, by all that I knew about His character and the gentle and miraculous ways He revealed Himself to me. I chose to believe what He told me. It is a choice.

For as long as I can remember, I have carried around vague, underlying feelings that I’m not enough, I’m not seen, I’m not valuable nor am I accepted. I am less than.  I never stopped to ask myself, “Who told you that?” I now know the answer is the Enemy of my soul. The same serpent that whispered lies to Eve has been hissing lies into my ear for years. I believed them. Bad things happened to me as a child and later as a young adult.  Those events led me to firmly believe those lies and entrench them into my core belief system. Yes, it left deep wounds and pain, but that is NOT what my Father sees when He looks at me. That is not who I am. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV): “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

The Healer, Creator, Warrior, Redeemer and King, dances and sings over me. That fills me with awe, hope and joy. I am enough! I am valuable and worthy of being rejoiced over by my Father. Even as I type this, I am smiling! Who told me that? Jesus did.

What off limits place in your life does Jesus wants you to take a peek at today, with Him right by your side? I wonder when you dig a little, if you will discover who it was who told you the lies you may believe about yourself and God? Was it a family member? A friend? Was it your own self talk? An illness? Does your belief line up with the Word of God? If not, it is a lie from that same serpent that deceived Eve. Deception is always a thief. Take back what the Enemy has stolen from you! Will today will be the day you surrender that faulty belief system for the truth of God’s Word about you, your situation, His character? Trample on the head of that snake that whispers and hisses lies into your lovely head! It is written in Psalm 91:12-13 (ESV):

“For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.”

As you go about your day, challenge those faulty beliefs that you hold about yourself, your circumstances and God, by asking yourself, “who told me that?” If it isn’t Jesus and you can’t find it in His Word, then it isn’t truth.

I leave you with this scripture. I pray it soaks into your heart and accomplishes that for which it was sent. His word never returns void. You are loved.

Romans 8:37-39 (ESV):

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Where are you?

Life is filled with questions on a daily, sometimes minute by minute basis. Sometimes, for me, questions make me prickly and feisty. I don’t always like them because sometimes, the question I’m being asked forces me to think or re-think my point of view or assess my current thoughts, actions, ideas. It makes me take a hard look at where I am.

I recently started a Bible study by Beth Moore called The Quest. The very first week, Ms. Beth asked four “recalibrating questions” that have the ability to transform our walk with Jesus and to greatly increase our intimacy with Him, our prayer lives and boost our trust. They are designed as an opportunity for us to talk to Him, to be as raw and real with Jesus as we are willing to be with Him. According to Ms. Beth, “These divine questions have the potential to recalibrate and reignite a walk with God that has gotten off track, stuck in a cul-de-sac or has lost steam or our interest.” These questions are actually questions that God Himself is asking us and are found in the Old and New Testaments.

So, here is a challenge to you, if you are game, over the next four weeks:  find 5-10 minutes per day to take the question God is asking you and answer Him. You will get out of this, as much as you put in.  Journal the answers, pray it out, meditate on it; however you are lead. We are all in different seasons, so do what you can and trust that God will respond back to you, as you pour out your heart to Him. He is faithful. He loves you. Your voice in His ear is beautiful music.

I hope you will find healing, hope and intimacy with Christ, as you honestly talk Him and answer the question below. Remember, He already knows the answer. He wants intimacy with you. Not who you wish you were or dream about being; not who you compare yourself to or act like you are when others are watching you.

Question #1! Here we go!

This question comes from Genesis 3:9 (NLT) “The Lord God called to Adam, ‘where are you?’” If you need a quick context refresher, please read Genesis 3:1-9. In the Bible study, Ms. Beth asks us to switch places with Adam and let this divine question, from the very mouth of God, land on us. I firmly believe He is asking us this question over and over again. Hear Him ask you…

“Where are you, child?” Are you in a relatively good spot right now, with things humming along like a well-oiled machine, all the parts of your life working pretty well? Is your family, your job, ministry, hobbies, all moving forward at a good pace? If this is where you are, tell Him and rejoice and be thankful for that blessing! Pour out your gratitude and tell Him about all your hopes and dreams for what is to come.

“Where are you, child?” Are you in a valley that seems a bit monotonous and, dare I say, boring? Does life seem to be plugging along with the same-old/same-old things, without much excitement? He sees you in this place that appears to be a long and predictable holding pattern. Tell Him about it. Tell Him your desire for something new and exciting. Talk to Him about giving you bravery and courage for what is coming. He can give you peace and patience that you need for this season.  Remember, He is ALWAYS working on your behalf; organizing, shifting, and setting good things in motion.

“Where are you, child?” Maybe your season is one of pain, disappointment and heartache and you wonder if He is even there or even cares. Maybe it feels as if He has forgotten you, and your desperate prayers seem to float and drift, never landing at His feet. If this is you, tell Him! He reads your thoughts and knows every hurt and every wound. He can handle whatever you pour out to Him. Tell Him all of it, the raw, the ugly, the desperate; all the anger and deep disappointment. Nothing touches you that has not first been sifted through His hands of love, goodness and healing. It’s ok to turn the question around and ask God, “where are You?”

Now, go and get with your Father! May this scripture from Psalm 139 encourage you and powerfully remind you how very known and loved you are!
Psalm 139:3-5 and 17

You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable!

Heart Words

Psalm 27:8 – My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Challenges. Distractions. Life; with choices to make, priorities to set, goals to reach. Is life what makes some days hard to get through? Maybe no calamity befalls me or mine, maybe nothing life or death happens in a given day, but sometimes it does. Some days I feel a little hollow, disappointed, irritable; short changed, overlooked and misunderstood. I find myself spending time, probably too much time, pondering these hollow, worn out feelings, wondering who, what, why, when, how and where they are coming from and how to get rid of them.

So, I endeavor to “set aside” time for Jesus each day and fix this dilemma. I will read my Bible these many minutes or read X number of chapters and pray for this amount of time and then all will be well. I will start with thanksgiving, move on to confession and praying for all the needs of others, then I will pray for God to orchestrate my time and talent and use it for His good and glory.  That is the formula.  Right? There is absolutely nothing wrong with focused Bible study and structured time with God. Isn’t that what “everyone” says is the way to do it? So why is the formula not working? Why is the simmering, brewing frustration still there? Why is the discontent and irritation still bubbling and buffeting my heart and my spirit? It is a vague, foggy sense of something being off; like a miniscule rock stuck in your sock that you can’t quite find, but is so bothersome that it becomes the only thing you focus on, but never quite find.

With French Roast and some creamy foam in my favorite “ I LOVE MOM” mug, I found my spot at the patio table, with my Bible and all the necessary accompaniments at hand…and sat there. Nothing. Huh. As I sat, I noticed birds darting all over my yard, so content going about their business, exactly as God designed them to do and exactly how He created them. They sang. They squabbled. They moved on. They came back at a better time, to grab an open spot on the feeder. They didn’t sit and feel sad that they didn’t get the ideal spot on the feeder. They were creative in how they forced themselves into a space that at first glance, didn’t look possible.

This brought to mind Matthew 6:25 – “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? …But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Seek first the kingdom of God. Seek. How do I do that? My careful formula isn’t easing those feelings and isn’t filling those voids. And the formula isn’t always genuine. Ahhhh, there it is. Genuine. Real. Raw. Unscripted. These words are the exact opposite of formula, yet pierced my heart. I long for these words to be real in my relationship with Jesus. As the light breeze flipped the pages of my open Bible, Psalm 27 shows up. Specifically Psalm 27:8 – My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” My Father is asking me to come and talk to Him and my heart is leaping at the chance to do that! Nothing needs to be scripted, plotted or planned. There is not a wrong way to come before my Daddy in heaven. He said, “Come and talk with me.” That speaks of intimacy, closeness, trust and desire to be fully known. This is what I really want, deep down inside of my essence, to be known in all the goodness, ick, loveliness, confusion, humor, talent, fear, failures, victories. Wouldn’t it be lovely to just be sometimes and not need to have a constant dialogue pouring from your mouth? When my son was younger, he often told me I use too many words and it exhausts him. It was funny and still is, but wow… that is truth right there! Too many words. How lovely, peaceful and restoring to be in the presence of my Father and not have to say words? Isn’t that what the heart is all about? Not words, big solutions and hour long flowery prayers, but presence, depth and intimacy that doesn’t always need an audible voice? Deep calling to deep; deep restoring, healing and transforming deep. I think I am finding my answers as I write this out. Yes, life is going to happen and I can’t do a thing about it. The balm that I need to soothe and let go of those hollow, disappointed, irritable; short changed, overlooked and misunderstood feelings is not going to be found in a rote formula and in getting the amount of time spent doing x,y,z just perfectly. No. My Father showed me His formula this morning on the patio in my everyday life, with my dogs nosing around the flower beds and birds scolding and singing. He asked my heart to come and hang out with Him for a bit and share what’s up. So, I will and I won’t say a word.

Corporate Worship – Glimpse of Heaven

I had the privilege of attending an amazing concert over the weekend with my family, our church’s youth pastors and their wives and many others from my local church. The concert was wonderful; full of excitement, dancing and shouting; a spirit-filled energy that infused my bones and awakened a deeper intimacy with Jesus. Music has always been a strong source of life, energy and spirituality for me. Music awakens and fulfills at the same time, a deep place in my soul; through times that have been so crushing and devastating to times of such victory I can hardly stand it. Music and Jesus are deeply interconnected for me.

As I stood with the thousands of others on Saturday night, listening to praises rising to God, I was filled with awe and brought to tears at the way all of us were united for one purpose – to praise and love Jesus; to receive healing, love, acceptance and joy from our Father.  Our Father.  I love the sound of that. I was struck that at the very moment of praise; turning our focus on Him in communion with the spirit, we were united.  It didn’t matter who we were planning to vote for, the color of our skin, our past, our present or our future, our socio economic status or our dress size; all that mattered was that we love God and He loves us deeply; no shame, sin, guilt, habit or hang-up could separate us from His love. He was right there in our midst and His presence was so potent and powerful that it raised the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck.  The Creator of the universe, and of you and I, joined us Saturday night at the Concord Pavilion and lavished us with so much love. I know healing took place that night; lives were saved, hope restored, relationships healed and grace! Oh so much grace!

At one point during the concert, I turned around to look next to me and behind me and was overwhelmed at the sight of arms, hands, faces raised up to heaven; smiles, laughter, songs, tears; all directed upward to our Father. I thought, “Wow! This must be a tiny glimpse of what heaven will be like; all races, all nations, all backgrounds standing, kneeling, bowing in the presence of the Most High God. I tell you, it was one of the most beautiful sights I have seen.

Bike ride full of sensations and truth

I went on a bike ride yesterday morning. The first longer one I’ve been able to do in months, due to knee and elbow injuries. It was lovely and refreshing; full of an almost overwhelming amount of much missed sensations.

I am very much a sensation person. You know, someone acutely aware of the nuances of the wind, scents, sights, sounds or the absence of sounds. Sensations fascinate me and stir something up inside. Originally, I was going to make this a ride of new beginnings in the most physical of ways; starting off with a pre-determined number of miles as my goal, so as not to overtax my knee and elbow, which are still healing and tender in spots. That was the focus and I was going to get ‘er done. No fooling around, fanciful riding! I also decided to add in to the mix, a prayer for safety and that God would use this new beginnings ride as He saw fit; whatever that means. He did. I’m pretty sure I knew deep down that He would; when I invite Him into what I am doing, He always shows up. Always.

The morning was chock full of sensations; I mean full. There was a light to moderate, persistently cooling breeze with notes of a gently sweet flower – jasmine I think, with undertones of dew damp grass and that calming scent of the sea floating along, teasing and soothing. The light was lovely. It was fairly early, so it was a new light, just waking up from its sleep; all soft, gentle and tumbly;  pleasantly warm when it hit my bare skin. The birds were in rare form, especially some blue jays with the raucous calls they are famous for, along with the pretty little birds, finches maybe, who dart and dip all over my neighborhood, singing their hearts out to the new sun. Wind chimes played in the distance and I may have imagined the earthy smell of coffee, floating by, making me wonder who was up and what they were doing. I’m also intensely curious! Some leaves danced and twirled past on a side street, as the playful breeze flew in to stir them up and left again just as quickly. Naughty and playful!

By this time, I am on the bike path parallel to the canal, trying to take in all the blue and yellow wildflowers that dip and twist in the breeze as I fly past. I realize that I have not been paying close attention to how far I’ve gone, what my knee is feeling, who else is out and about. It has just been me, my six senses and such a feeling of joy and excitement over what sight, smell, sound,  or creature I might encounter next. As I pedal along, I am struck by how much beauty and joy I rob myself of on a daily basis when all I am focused on is the next accomplishment, the next item marked off my list (I really, really like lists!!), the next thing I think I need to do because someone else is doing it, someone else thinks it would be a good idea . I am comparing my desires, my dreams and my genetic make-up, that calls and beckons me to get outside and bask in sensations’, to someone else’s make up that does not or sends them in a different direction. I felt like I had a mini epiphany that allowed me, through sensations, to see that this is good, right, ok and to not feel guilty or less than, because I choose to do life a little differently than the next guy and to embrace that and love it and deeply nurture it, because it is the essence of me. It is the spirit of me that my God put inside me when He created me. He knew I was going to crave and need nature and sensations in a big, big way along with words, dreams , music, visions and the scent of the air more than other things, and that He delighted in making me this way. I don’t have to decide to do something a different way because someone else is doing it; I don’t have to stress because I like to exercise and nourish my body, my way. I think it was such a revelation to me, because as I was riding my blue bike, feeling sweat running down my back just to be immediately cooled off by the chilly breeze, I simply thought, “why hello, Melissa. This is me.” I could see all those parts of me and loved them. So many thoughts started pouring through my brain. I won’t go into all of them, because a lot of them make sense only to me and I think God wants some of those revelations and thoughts to be just between Him and me. But thoughts regarding weight, gifting, inclinations, my ministries, friendships, past decisions, my food choices and my thoughts around those were highlighted in a gentle, yet firm way, pointing out that they stem from what God thought of and got excited over when He decided He was ready to set me loose on this earth. Yes, I do have a lot to learn from other people, things to re-think and maybe go about in a different way, but the essence of me, my spirit, is me and it’s mine and I desire to intimately know, cherish and fiercely protect every part of it; not feel like I have to explain myself, convince others to see the essence of me or to defend it.

So, God did show up on my bike ride. Like I said, I knew He would, I just didn’t know what He would bring to the party. For me, it was something deep and shifting inside. I’m not sure I did a great job explaining and sharing it, but I’m ok with that, too, because a lot of it was just for me. Maybe you will get a little nugget or tidbit for yourself. That is my hope. That through this convoluted and a bit random blog post, a little treasure will hop off the page that God put here just for you.