Does “Jesus” Offend You?

Does “Jesus” Offend You?

A friend recently told me that I appeared too “religious” in my blog posts and writings and suggested that I tone down my references to Jesus.

I was left speechless for several moments and eventually asked, “Why?”

She said that many perceived the word Jesus as offensive and it made them uncomfortable. If I wanted to reach more people I should refrain from using it as much– so others would feel more open to what I had to share.

Her comment stirred up memories and emotions within me of when I first came to believe in God– Jesus.

My neighbor, a Christian lady, had asked me to start running. I accepted her offer, and while we ran, she did most of the talking. As a first-time runner, I found it slightly difficult to breathe and run at the same time which made carrying on a conversation near impossible. Since she had a captive audience with me, she took the opportunity to share her love of God and what He meant in her life.

I had been raised in the church but never thought God loved me. I felt that He was unattainable and elusive. But my morning runs with Gina opened a door for me to believe it was possible that God loved me and desired a relationship.

I wanted what my neighbor had–peace, joy, happiness, love. She told me if I prayed and asked God to come into my life and fill my heart He would.

And I trusted her.

So one day, I went into the bathroom (the only place I could be alone at the time) with my dusted-off bible and prayed, “God, please come into my heart. Gina said you loved me, and I want to believe her. Please show me the way. But if it’s okay, I want to leave Jesus out of this. He’s too radical, and I don’t want people to think I’m a ‘Jesus freak.’”

I laugh at those words now. God probably laughed too and thought, Okay Amy, but just wait– one day you’ll call Him Friend.

And today Jesus is my Friend but most importantly He’s my Savior.

I can relate to those who think Jesus is too radical because He is– radical about me, about you, about every living person.

He came so we could have full access to the living God. How awesome is that?

Everything Jesus did was considered extreme and crazy. He said He was God, which intimidated many people– including me at one time.

God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all-in-one but at the same time– different. Now if that’s not confusing and mystifying, I don’t know what is.

But the more I delved into God’s Word, the more He opened my eyes to the love of Jesus and the more real He became.

It took time but finally got “IT” and although the name Jesus may offend some people, He’s my lifeline now.

I pray that through my actions and words, others will experience Jesus just as I once did with my neighbor.

It’s not about shoving doctrine down a someone’s throat or standing on a street corner with a shaved head, and a rose–it’s about being a conduit for God’s love and leading them into a relationship with Him.

And if people quit reading, or move on, because of the name Jesus then that’s okay. They learned what they needed and hopefully when ready they’ll return.

We are called to plant seeds love. It’s God’s job to water.

God has the power to change a person’s heart– He did with mine.

I thank Jesus every day for not being offended by my “offensive” behavior. And I pray that compassion and tolerance will overflow all those who feel insulted by His name and that one day the eyes of their hearts will be opened!

In the loving name of Jesus,

Amen.

 

Resolve to Save a Life

Resolve to Save a Life

Beth Crosby, writer and dialysis patient, wrote the article linked below about me as a living kidney donor.

Beth’s blog http://www.dialysisgal.com chronicles her journey through weekly dialysis. It’s dedicated to those who are facing dialysis now or in the future and the ones who love and care for someone in kidney failure. Information there is based on her experience and the questions she has asked, conversations she has overheard and articles she’s read. Her blog is devoted to education and sharing things she’s learned the hard way or wish she had known earlier.

I hope you enjoy the article. Thank you, Beth!

Resolve to Save a Life

An Unexpected Lesson on Grace

An Unexpected Lesson on Grace

Have you ever felt justified in your harsh actions or words because of the perceived unforgivable behavior of another? I recently experienced this and let me tell you, God used it to circumcise my heart and brought me to my knees.

After pressing the end button on my phone, my heart exploded as raw emotions welled up in my throat and filthy, hateful words spilled from my lips, “How could they…don’t they know… this isn’t fair… I don’t deserve to be treated like this…!” And the accusations (and the bleeping) rambled on and on and on.

The more I ranted the more worked up I became and the more self-righteous and justified I felt.

Then a brilliant woman, softly whispered, “Amy, you post things on Facebook all the time about love, forgiveness, and grace. Don’t you think you should walk the talk and extend that same grace and forgiveness to this person?”

Ouch! Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but exactly what I needed to hear. Deflated, I knew she was right.

As I opened my Bible to Romans chapter 2, I silently prayed, “God let me hear Your voice. How do you want me to handle this situation?”

And in case you didn’t you know or have forgotten, God doesn’t mince words. The first verse read, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” – Romans 2:1

As a little girl, my mother warned, when you point the finger at someone you have three more pointing back at you. Meaning as we judge someone else, we hold ourselves to a higher standard because essentially we’re saying we’ve never committed that offense and never will. And Lord, help us if we do because His judgments are based on truths.

But thank God for His grace, patience and kindness that He so lovingly grant us.

God doesn’t care about our outward appearances. It’s the state of our hearts that interests Him. It’s easy to love someone when they’re lovable. But when they’re ugly, and you extend love and grace instead of hate, God blesses us.

“Not seeking the approval of men, but seeking the approval of God, walking after God in Spirit. It isn’t the life in the flesh that man sees that is important, it is the life in the Spirit that God sees which is important–my heart and the position of my heart before God.” – Chuck Smith, Pastor, Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa

As 2015 draws to a close and a new year brims on the horizon, I’m declaring God’s blessing on this situation, and I’m trusting Him to work it out for the best.

I admit I am flawed and sometimes my first impulses are not always so admirable. But by the grace of my Heavenly Father, I am blessed and capable of loving everyone– even the unlovable. So as Jesus humbly demonstrated, I will practice mercy and forgiveness, starting with myself.

Happy New Year and may God bless you with unexpected blessings and abundance in 2016!

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Mary, did you know? Did you know that saying yes would change my life forever?

Mary, did you know? Did you know that saying yes would change my life forever?

While I prayed and meditated on the meaning of Christmas, a vision of Mary appeared to me as described in the Gospel of Luke. The sweetness of the picture slipped over me and tears trailed down my cheeks.

As the sun gradually dissipated the morning mist, Mary walked towards town. A bird trilled a sweet melody, and its music covered her like a warm blanket. She giggled ecstatically as her heart burst with love for the precious creatures God had made.

Then the Angel Gabriel appeared before her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Her heart fluttered upward at the sight of him, and she wondered what type of greeting it was that he offered her.

But the angel smiled at her and continued, “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”

Can you image the scene? Can you see Mary’s face? The fear pulsating through her body as  she immediately thought, “who me”?

Doubts poured into her mind as she wondered, whom am I that God would want to use me? I am just a simple woman. What can I do? I’m not wealthy or hold a high position– heck I’m not even married!

Mary replied, “How can this be since I am a virgin?”

But Gabriel assured her that absolutely everything was possible with God.

To confirm it he told her that Elizabeth, her relative, was pregnant even though she was well past the age of childbirth. If God could give a child to her than Mary, a virgin, wouldn’t possibly pose a problem.

Then Mary’s unbelievable response, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be as you have said.”

The faith demonstrated by her words were remarkable. She dared to believe what she heard and placed her faith in Him.

God asked for Mary’s willing participation to allow this Christmas miracle to come to pass. Imagine what would’ve happened if she had said no because of fear or unwillingness to be obedient to His calling?

God, however, knew Mary’s heart and that she wouldn’t say no, which is why she had found favor with Him. Her destiny was to become the mother of Jesus– to raise him, to love him, to educate him and then to eventually let him go– the Savior of the world.

Can you imagine?

He called Mary to be the mother of Jesus and asked her to believe in the impossible. What an awesome and amazing assignment.

And think about it, because she dared to believe, we’re now blessed to experience the love of God within us every moment of every day.

Her words, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be as you have said,” changed the lives of future generations and will continue until the day Jesus comes back.

What is God asking you to believe today? What does He want to do through you that could possibly change the world, if only you dared to believe like Mary?

Think about it and tell God, “I am your servant. May it be as you have said.” Then wait with exuberant expectation at the miracles He will perform all because you willingly dared to believe and said YES!

 

 

It’s a Super Power

It’s a Super Power

“When you watch someone you love almost die and then come back to life it gives you a new perspective. Dad’s illness and recovery made me want to help others who are hurting or suffering. It made me pursue an education to become a nurse. I appreciate my family more but most of all it showed me the power of being an organ donor. The crazy thing is we can all do it…it’s literally like a super power!” – Mallory Ensley

Although that day seemed like a lifetime ago, the memory falls over Mallory like a soft blanket. She can still recall the hint of pine in the air and the almost sweet fragrance from the rain the day before. They had finally reached the mountains peak, and the sky above was bright blue and clear.

With the exhilaration of a child, she exclaimed, “Daddy, we made it.”

That was a good day– although she was only seven, Mallory would remember it forever. Her dad, strong, healthy and vibrant, taught her courage and bravery, and how to reach for the impossible and overcome the mountains in her life.

Not long after that day he became sick. Vomiting after meals and with high blood pressure, he would lay awake most nights restless and weak. Mallory worried and didn’t understand why he couldn’t play anymore.

In 2001, shortly after turning eleven, her dad, was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. The diagnosis explained his failing health, but the impending fear of losing him caused her to withdraw. She developed severe anxiety and depression and went through a period of denial pretending it wasn’t as bad as the doctors had determined.

In her senior year of high school, the disease progressed into End Stage Renal Failure (ESRF) and immediately her father began dialysis. Faced with the knowledge that he could die Mallory didn’t know how to process her feelings and began acting out in severe teenage defiance.

“I saw my Dad’s illness as abandonment and as a result, I didn’t trust people. I didn’t want to lose the people I loved,” says Mallory. “I resented my mom but also felt guilty about my dad.”

Ironically, it was the strength of her sister that helped pull Mallory through the darkness of her dad’s disease. “We have a special bond now because of Dad’s illness. When times got tough, and no one else would understand, we had each other.” They embraced lyrics from a song by a band, Hole– “live through this with me, and I’ll swear that I’ll die for you.”

As time passed, her dad got worse. In 2011, he lost nearly 100-pounds and was at the point of death. Dialysis wasn’t working, and he had become a ghost of the man she once remembered.

Mentally, she prepared herself for his death– accepting that he would never walk her down the aisle on her wedding day or hold his future grandchild in his arms. Those thoughts were no longer hers to dream.

Then she heard that a stranger was a perfect match for her father and wanted to donate him a kidney. Mallory could hardly believe it, and, to be honest, was afraid to, after all, that her family–her father had been through.

As the day of the transplant approached, fear and apprehension filled Mallory as she worried about her father’s body rejecting the new kidney. Or worse if the donor would change her mind or regret her decision?

All her fears were proven unfounded when Mallory saw her dad the day after the surgery sitting up, laughing and eating a cheeseburger.

He was alive!

Instantaneously, he looked like he did before getting sick– his cheeks flushed pink with a devilish twinkle in his eyes.

Today, Mallory is a more grateful person who believes in the power of prayer and has a new outlook on life.

Her father is well and loves to travel with her mother to the mountains and the beach– a life that wasn’t possible a few years ago.

Recently, Mallory married her best friend and with her father by her side; she walked down the aisle to her new life. The newlyweds are expecting their first child. The baby is due on July 6, 2016– five years to the day of the transplant surgery that not only saved her father’s life but hers, as well.

And Mallory dares to dream, again!