Look a Little Closer (My Redeemer Lives 3:1)

It’s easy to feel unseen in this world.

I think this feeling contributes to at least 60% of our mental health issues. That’s me making a wild guess, but think on a few things and let them ruminate. Look closer with me, if you will…

Think of those moments that people feel invisible as children: in a classroom, in a family, lying in bed at night, on a playground.

Think of the time spent as a teenager or a young adult searching and praying for a friendship that holds unwavering acceptance.

Think of the mental energy we expend on any given day, wishing we were just a little bit smarter, a little bit more put together, a little bit more thoughtful…a little bit more.

This world can be a harsh landscape, even in the best of childhoods, given the best privileges, and treated with the utmost grace.

Now think of all the people who do not have that.

Every time I encounter Mary Magdalene in Scripture, she appears to me as one of the least of these —  lacking support, lacking friendship, lacking resources, lacking truth, carrying the weight of her baggage around her neck like an albatross. Invisible to the world around her.

Let’s look closer.

First read the resurrection account from Mark 16:9-11 Look for any details you can find about Mary. What healing had Christ brought into her life? What struggle may still have been there?

[[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

Not one, not two, not three, but seven demons. I want to lift the pain of that from her, but praise the Lord I don’t need to. Jesus did. He healed. He sent every last one of those demons in her life away, far away, gone. He saw her. He looked closer at her struggle and granted healing and restoration from years of torment and struggle. That’s Who Jesus is. That is what He does for each of us. Whatever pain of the past, whatever pressing struggles of the present, He sees and heals through His Word and His touch—not invisible touch, but very real touch. Think about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This is the same real present healing offered to us, that Jesus offered to Mary besieged by her own demons.

Now look at another account from Luke 8:1-3 for me:

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them] out of their means.

Look closer.

What continued healing did Christ offer in this passage?

Was Mary alone? Far from it.

Also, some women…

Christ brings healing in a million ways into our lives, and this week, as we study resurrection, we are going to look closer at some of them.

Healing and restoration describe a far broader concept than we might see at first glance. We all need some healing and restoration— healing for relationships, healing in our hearts, healing for our health, healing for a more secure identity, restoration where there was discord, restoration to trust in whatever God is doing in our lives, restoration to walk in truth and love this day, and the next, and the next.

For the final passage today, look closer at John 20:11-18. In this awesome resurrection account, we see Mary look closer, angels looking closer in Mary’s need, and Jesus’s challenge and fulfillment of really, truly seeing.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Jesus heals in His resurrection, once and for all. He turns death, real and metaphorical, onto its head. It holds no power. Mary, and each of us just like her, is healed by the power of Christ’s sacrifice and the new life He gives in the resurrection. He also offers a challenge. Not a heavy law, you-better-get-it-together challenge, but more an offering –

Look closer.

“Do not cling to me…but go…”

Jesus tells Mary to go and tell, yes, but doesn’t that include looking closer? Looking into the lives of their community of disciples and all those around them and saying, “He is doing something else! He is healing! He is restoring!”?

We can miss so much when we look down or look in, only at our own frustrations, annoyances, or struggles. Christ continues healing by giving us community to walk this life together. He gives brothers and sisters to share the Resurrection Joy with, and a world to proclaim it to.

He looked closer at you. He sees you. Even while you weep, as Mary wept, in the midst of it, He reveals an empty tomb and Hope through His Word and through people to bring that Word to us. Look closer — where has He healed you?

Also today, let Him look closer through you. Watch Him see, heal, and restore. Be the Word bearer, share Hope and Life today. He sees you. He sees us. Look closer – know that you are seen.

You can download this Scripture card and one for every day of the week at PureJoyCreative.com.

Don’t forget this week’s Bible margin to help you reflect as you study.

Join the discussion by sharing your thoughts and insights in the comments, here and on social media.

Catch the week three video here:

20 Questions with Jesus

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Afraid, Alarmed, Amazed – All Those Resurrection Emotions (My Redeemer Lives 2:1)

Emotions are often my best friends and my dirty rotten enemies, all within the same day.

I struggle with ups and downs, sideways movements, and hostage-like situations with glad, sad, mad, and just plain blah.

I was also once congratulated by a nurse during childbirth for my “amazing sense of self-control.” Probably my favorite compliment to date…ever.

So, which person am I? A happy one? A frustrated one? A self-controlled one?

I’m encouraged to know that it doesn’t work like that. I’m not defined by my output, my responses, or my reactions on any given day. If I’m honest, that’s one of my greatest fears — that people will see me, my family will see me, as the woman who lost it while cooking dinner, the woman who exudes joy but cries quietly in the bathroom when she gets a moment, the angry mom from last Tuesday.

Fear and failure are hulking realities in our lives. They cast a shadow on our days and our emotions often top the list of where we think we don’t measure up.

2 Timothy 1:7 is often quoted to aid our Christian walk-

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

When I hear this, my first thoughts are

“Get it under control, Heidi.”

Any time you share this as a meme or share across the table with a friend struggling with emotions, I would venture a bet that this is the message they hear,

“Get it under control.”

But God gives verses in context and that context is always the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Even our emotions are best understood in this context.

So let’s see today what power and message the resurrection has for all those emotions.

Read Mark 16:1-6 to discover more:

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.

“Do not be alarmed.”

This assumes obvious and vagrant emotions on the part of the women showing up at the tomb – shock, surprise, maybe fear, a mixture.

The Greek word for alarmed in Mark 16:6 is ekthambeisthe, from the root ekthambeó. It’s more closely related to awe and wonder than fear alone. Finding Jesus gone was a shock for these women. Finding an angel, a messenger of God in all his glory, still more shocking. I love that the Helps Word Studies at biblehub.com refers to the Greek text translation as being “out of one’s senses” because of what they saw, what they experienced, the shock of the reality of God’s intervention.

The parallel in Matthew 28:5-10 does directly reference fear though.

Matthew 28:5-

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.

The Greek here is phobeisthe from phobeó — withdraw in fear, flee, avoid —but also includes reverence. The words are different and have a different emphasis from the writers. But I think it’s safe to say that what the women experienced at the resurrection was a mixture of emotions

in reference to who they were based on what God can do, who God is.

When we recognize ourselves in relation to God, the power of God, God’s control, God’s perfection, when that’s what we hear on its own with no resurrection context in 2 Timothy 1:7, we will feel completely an utterly

insignificant.

Lost in a world of emotions and their hold on our spirits.

But the context of the resurrection overarching all we know and experience of God changes everything.

He does not define us by moments, by responses, by the angry mom on Tuesday versus the joyful woman in worship.

Jesus’ death and resurrection tells us that He sees us as significant.

His response does not change based on what we feel at the moment — shock, awe, sadness, joy, wonder, anger, fear.

The message of the angel to the women was not just “do not,” but also see who He is –

“He has risen; he is not here.”

Do not be alarmed, do not be afraid, there is no need. I think we read it wrong and out of context. God always reaches out, never pushes away, when Jesus stands as the intermediary. He sees our fear, our frustration, our astonishment and says, “Don’t separate yourself from me. Come in for a closer look.”

The resurrection invites us in for a closer look.

Read 2 Timothy 1:6-7, again-

 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

The knowledge of the resurrection, resurrection reality in our lives, fans into flame the gift — Christ in our hearts, the Spirit firing up in our souls.

It’s a gift. When we feel overwhelmed, out of our senses with emotions, we can go in for a closer look at God in His Word, be encouraged, be refreshed, and begin to sort it all out in a safe space at His feet.

Prepare to be astonished, amazed, a little afraid, but always significant, no matter the emotion — in His resurrection. What hope do you hear in Jesus reaching out to you in the midst of emotions? What promise does the resurrection hold no matter your state of mind?

You can download this Scripture card and one for every day of the week at PureJoyCreative.com.

Don’t forget this week’s Bible margin to help you reflect as you study.

 

*Greek study references at biblehub.com –

http://biblehub.com/greek/1568.htm

http://biblehub.com/greek/5399.htm

 

Join the discussion by sharing your thoughts and insights in the comments, here and on social media.

 

Catch the week two video here:

Feminine UpRising

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Chamomile Tea and Hugs – Practical Tools for Anxiety

Anxiety has been a life long companion for me.

It pops up when I least expect it and it loves to needle at all my deepest insecurities…

I’m not faithful enough to hand it over to God.

I’m not smart enough to stop thinking like that.

I’m not enough…ever…to overcome this issue.

It’s one of the reasons I become so exacerbated when I hear someone quote flippant Bible verses to others about anxiety, or when someone shares a meme that tells me Do Not Be Afraid is found in the Bible 365 times.

I wish it was helpful. I really do. But it never has been for me. It feeds into the not enough aspects that anxiety wields like a sword, but don’t fit with the message of Truth and Love that I see from Jesus when He’s speaking in Scripture.

So, I do what any theologian-therapist-anxiety-prone person does…

I opened the Word to make sense of it all.

Lord, I don’t get it. I don’t understand anxiety and I don’t understand where in the world you are in all of this. Who are You? What is Your message here? Give me true Law and true Gospel and take out all the stuff I want to see, for what you are actually saying. In Jesus, in Him who rescues, Him who delivers, Him who Saves, I pray. Amen.

You know what I found?

Chamomile tea and hugs from a friend go a lot further than advice on how I should overcome it.

Jesus didn’t intend for me to struggle with this alone. He gives me people, connection, and care. When I share my burden, even when I can’t quite put it into words, God does miraculous things. It is still uncomfortable and sometimes I just have to sit in it. But, wow, the inexpressible becomes somehow alive with legs and arms and words. I can externalize what was pent up inside. I can rest because God sends people. God sends the Body.

Even better…

Jesus is that friend.

Some things I just have to sit with on my own. But…not really. Because when He says,

Come to me.

I know He’s for real. He sits in the discomfort with me. His Spirit resides in me, that Helper, that Counselor.

It still feels uncomfortable, but not alone is so much better than not enough.

In today’s podcast we address some of the very Scriptures I struggled to understand, as well as find some practical tools for anxiety and the Spritiual Care of anxiety.

PS – This podcast and blog are not a replacement for local mental health care resources. Please seek out and utilize counselors, psychiatrists, and other professional mental health providers in your local area.

PPS – Did you know that chamomile tea daily has been shown in at least one study to reduce the symptoms of generalized anxiety? See the study link here. So, bringing it to visit a friend is a good idea. Now, if only I liked the flavor… 😉