Monday, February 22, 2016

The Miracle of Tears

A single tear rolled down her cheek. A few more splashed out of her beautiful eyes and began to furrow into a steady stream down her young face. The next time I glanced her direction, she was full out weeping ––in silence.

It was beautiful and hard, but a young woman gave herself permission to release the pain she had long suppressed.

Praise God.

The woman who sat next to her quietly patted the girls back, occasionally handing her a new tissue, as if she understood the work of releasing the tears. The need for it, without interruption and without someone trying to fix a thing.

Her tears told a story of unspeakable pain and honest regret. Like a voiceless lament releasing the agony of her soul.

Tears are wordless truth-tellers of the deeper places.

It's an interesting fact that in our world, only humans can cry.

An article, written over two decades ago, stated that biochemist William Frey spent 15 years, as head of a research team, studying ––tears.

Think about that. Every day. Go to work. Study tears.

It's always interesting to me when science can devote that kind of time to a single aspect of the human body and not completely unearth the depths of its mysteries. We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made.

In the beginning of his study, it was believed that the tear duct was leftover from evolution and no longer necessary. What was revealed is that the tear production organs, as well as the tears themselves, are extremely complex and important. It's more than a happy coincidence that science confirmed, each teardrop is a miracle on many levels.

They found that tears are some of the most antibacterial and antiviral agents known. These beads of moisture make it possible for us to see by keeping our eyes hydrated and protected, but there is more.

William Frey found that stress-induced tears actually remove toxic ‘substances’ from the body and there is a long list of them. His research found that crying removes toxins that normally build up during emotional stress. Plus, his studies uncovered that suppressing tears actually increases stress levels and, therefore, toxins.

Isn't our natural inclination to fight back the tears?

Don't we all try to be strong and brave because we've been taught that real men and big girls don't cry?

What if tears are the oil that lubricates small hinges to swing open the gate of healing and faith?

Luke unfolds a story that is perhaps my very favorite. The host was an important man. Jesus was his invited guest. And there was an unnamed woman. All we know of her is that she had lived a sinful life.   She had begun to weep. Perhaps her tears made furrows in the dust that covered His feet.  She could not have planned to be such a crying mess. Thank goodness she just let herself be undone and it is recorded for our benefit. Her tears began to cleanse the shame from her soul as well as the dust from His feet. She came weeping and repentant. And Jesus made it known that she was going to walk away a new woman.

What if another broken seeker allows the first tear to become a path beyond what has held them down for too long? What if a single tear could be the beginning of some real healing?

2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us that the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There's no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

In this world, we are all too well-acquainted and surrounded by sorrow and grief. And tears could be the cleansing agents of grace we need in all of it.

In my own life, I can see how  ––even though reluctantly––  tears have been part of the paving material on the path of my own deep restoration.

It was through angry, frightened tears that I took my first steps as a single mom.

Through a veil of erupting tears in the dark of another long night, I first cried out to God to meet me where I was and change me from the inside out.

Tears of anger softened the hard ground of my heart. Eventually, tears watered the seeds of faith and swung open the gate to freedom and peace.

Even today, rogue tears turn into an unexpected act of worship that fall like pearls doing a deeper cleansing in my messy soul.

Don't listen to the world that says to numb the pain, keep the stiff upper lip, so you can't feel anything. Tears can be a healing gift.

In her book, A Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman says to, "pay attention to what makes you cry." She points out,  "....our tears are tiny messengers, secret keepers of the most vulnerable kind, sent to deliver a most important message – Here is where your heart beats strong. Here is a hint to your design. Here is a gift from your inner life, sent to remind you those things that make you come alive.Where there are tears there is more than pain…there in lies the places that will speak to your deepest brokenness and passion."

I've put this to the test and repeatedly my tears have told me much about who I am. The things that break my heart are often the things that break God's heart.  

Women who need to know the love of Jesus send me into unplanned emotional tears. I've been that girl who tried to be tough. I've been that woman who wasn't invited. And I've been the one who entertained lies in her head too long.

But now my passion runs deep for others to know the One who wept.

Watching the young woman weep was uncomfortable. I wanted to help make it all better. Often, I'm not good at knowing when to speak and when to be silent.

But maybe.

Maybe that day her tears were a quiet unbinding of the things that have kept her restrained.

And maybe the weeping was a part of the releasing what she has known, so she could step into what God longs to give her.

I wonder, what makes you cry?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Your True Identity

Walking in the mall, standing in grocery stores and sitting in coffee shops ––you have told me your stories.

How the enemy came early to rob you of innocence, value, and purpose.

You have taught me that identities are often given more than found. And this through tragic events, neglect, and loveless-ness. By words spoken over you, of you and behind your back.

Somewhere the lie was bought that self-worth comes from what size clothes you wear, if your husband kept his promise or if you are the top sales person driving a big SUV.

And if that isn't enough to make you enough, there are the children and maybe grandchildren who are athletic and beautiful and the eternal fountain of to-do's to keep the noise and shuffle going.

Women. All blinged-out trying to be bullet-proof.

Certainly I recognize we are kindred sister spirits…. I’ve done all that too.

For those who figured out early on they could never perform enough, there are drugs, alcohol, and sex to numb the throbbing pain.

And some of you cut. You break the skin over and over and over and over again. So maybe when the blood drips down ––just maybe–– the soul pain will flow out too?

Your pain goes so, so deep. I don't understand it all, but in some ways I get it.

The enemy doesn't want you to understand what your true identity is. And we've all been losing the daily battles in our minds and hearts, but Jesus has won the war.

In the Bible....before God laid out rules to live by ––He told us who we were. 

He recorded for all of time and eternity that humans are made in Gods image. 

Dear women, we are His image bearers.

Image means representative likeness.

Of course there has to be bad news.

And this is the truth. Sin entered the world when Eve failed to believe what God said and bought the lie that God was holding out on her.

Truly the apple didn't fall far from the tree when it comes to women following the first example.

We try to hide our shame under the latest fashions and disguise our insecurities under make-up and masks. Too often we clamor for more when God says that less in more than enough.

We strain to see who we really are in the reflection in the mirror, when we can only find our true selves by looking to the One who made us.

He says you are His masterpiece.

He says that because of Jesus you are enough.

He says that there is a new song and a new name for each of us who believe.

But we need Jesus and we need to shed the names we allow to dance in our heads.

We have a real enemy. He hates God and hates all who are bearing the light of His image. He has a special hate for women. The ones who can bring forth new life. And because the fact is, women are the crowning jewel of Gods creation.

Do you need some good news?

The work is done. You can stop performing and start embracing the beauty of your enough-ness.

The battle is won. No more hiding in the shame, behind the masks, trying to control and being controlled by every dark thing that steals life.

That is what the cross is all about.


He paid it all.

When He shed His spilled out to cover all sin ––if we simply believe.

And because of that, you are enough. We are all enough.

Even when the mirror seems to tell us otherwise.

When we believe this and live this, we reflect glory. Like warm light as it rises above the shadows of a dark horizon and explodes over the treetops. We do this when we live out the things of the Spirit,

Moment by moment and day by day.

If we starve the things we do in the flesh ––the things of the flesh life will starve out and die.

If we will feed the spirit ––the spirit life will grow.

May we let Jesus define our worth.

May we read His Word and allow it to teach us. It's the instruction manual for unlocking the puzzling, complex reality of who we are and what His purposes for us are.

Friends, let us each release the identities we've had handed to us and the ones we've held onto for too long so that we can receive our true identity.

We have to let go of one to receive the other.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Extravagant Love

It's happening. The pink and red title-wave of heart-shaped candies, balloons, and bouquets of blossoms fill the retail stores waiting to be given away ––all in the name of love.

This is one week when people are not obsessed with selfies but are more likely to take pictures of beautifully plated food, stemware filled with wine with a beaming couple enjoying the holiday set aside to display your love for another.

When I was single, navigating life in the face of loss, being a mom of little loves, working to pay the bills, do the laundry and scoop the snow off the sidewalk, Valentine's Day was at the top of my list of terrible, horrible, awful, bad days.

I dreaded it. I avoided it. I was glad when I could fall into bed at the end it.

It was probably the worse holiday for increasing the awareness of my aloneness.

Or that's how I thought. Really.... who is ever alone when you have small children?

Unfortunately, I placed too much weight of who I was and how loved I felt...... in my single status.

That was before I knew anything about the real Love.

This is when people showed up and loved on me in the mess.

If love is a verb ––and it is–– then these people were the action that showed Jesus to me. They didn't love me without truth and they didn't give me the truth without love, but with their lives, they lived something different.

It drew me to Jesus.

Thank goodness for those people who preached the gospel to me with acts of love and the way they lived ––more than words.

They understood that Love was intended to be given away not gathered up like a dozen roses on display.

Those years? I wish that I would have shifted the focus off myself and onto those around me. I think I would have moved through the grief process faster. What I know is that it was a thousand acts of love that introduced me to the Lord.

I know of a woman who was sinking under the load of loneliness and whose life was about to take another turn for the very worse. She could not see how her life could ever be different. Other women had been loving extravagantly on her.

Honestly, this precious soul didn't even know how to respond to true Love.

Until Friday.

That's when she looked at my friend and wailed, "I just want what you have!"

It was the Holy Spirit who opened her eyes to the truth but it was His people living out many acts of love that opened her heart.

And all of Heaven rejoiced that people lived the kind of life that displays Christ.

I'm still amazed at how God works.

There are so many people who need to see a love that is real.

This morning the names of people who could use some love started forming in my head.

People who probably won't be receiving a single phone call or box of candy or even a stuffed bear with a big ugly nose. We hauled one of those oversized things to the second-hand store not too long ago that had been a gift of endearment to one of our children. Nothing says love like fake fur and polyfill.

Perhaps these men and women who came to mind, aren't like I was. Maybe it doesn't bother them to be alone.

Maybe they know how loved they are and that God sees every tear and hears every prayer.

But maybe not.

They might need someone –– like me–– to tell them that I care.

It could be that I'm the one God is wanting to use to make one person feel seen and heard and loved.

And what does that look like?

Love is patient, kind, & does not envy.

Love doesn't boast & isn't arrogant.

Love isn't rude. 

Love does not insist on its own way.

Love isn't irritable, or resentful.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.

Love rejoices with the truth. 

Love bears all things.

Love believes all things.

Love hopes all things.

Love endures all things.

Love never ends. 

Trust steadily in God, 
hope unswervingly, 
love extravagantly. 
And the best of the three is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Can I encourage you to go back and read those lines slowly? Please don't let the familiarity of them cause you to miss the gift of them?

The Gospel never stops being a miracle.

That season of aloneness has given me better eyes to see those who might need a visit, a card or maybe just a cupcake with extra frosting and sprinkles.

It doesn't take much to display the kind of love that can change someone's day or as I just shared ––an entire life trajectory.

Let us love on our own people well, but let's love on a few others that will be glad we showed up.

Love is eternal, not just a single day on the calendar to live.

This week, who can you extend a little kindness to?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Space For Rest

The cold reality has set in, that I am already behind in a brand new year.

January slipped by in the leftovers of holiday hustle, the uninvited companions of cold and flu. Self-imposed quarantine and time alone with a few books and no energy.

I think it was a gift.

It forced me to rest. To reflect. To dream a little. To curl up in a chair with a handstitched quilt, herbal tea and be still.

It was uninvited time to quiet my heart and hear Gods' voice.

The book, Fervent, by Priscilla Shirer, has been my companion since November. Yes, this may be one of the slowest continual reads I've done. I began reading it after I went to the movie, War room, which I believe every person needs to see at least twice.

Fervent isn't a book you just read from front to back and say, "Well, that was sweet."

The book has revolutionized how I think about problems and people and of course ––prayer.

It has opened my eyes to the reality of the battle in areas of my life and the lives of those I love. I find that I'm not only approaching prayer differently, I'm approaching my life differently.

One subject that pierced my heart was the issue of keeping a margin of rest.

Every day there are lists that need things checked off.  Well, that's what makes me feel like progress is being made.

Over the years, I've heard many discussions about the Sabbath and a day of rest. If you haven't had to endure those kinds of conversations, here is the short story.

Long ago, God appointed a day of rest called the Sabbath. The word means, to cease, to rest. It conjures up images of the old man, in the Old Testament, who lugged stone tabloids around the desert right? That word, Sabbath, seems obsolete in our modern, fast-paced, instant everything kind of world.

There is much written and with that, much debate, on what day is the right day or if we are still obligated to observe that commandment at all.

This is what I know. Busyness is a mask for things that creep in to be more important than my relationship with God. It's as if  I think that the world will not carry on well if I don't keep up my portion of spinning plates.

To be honest, I didn't see myself as having a problem with taking time to rest.

However, when I read the part in her book about, "....margin keeps you from marginalizing God......" well I knew I had some work to do.

So, Sunday, I prayed that I would be intentional about resting and drawing near to God.

I had the best kind of day and felt a deep kind of refreshment I haven't felt in a long time. It was that feeling you have after spending hours with a trusted friend who really gets you.

Perhaps it was a coincidence, but I think it was a gift for simply taking a small step of obedience.

Priscilla quotes a friend in her book, "God doesn't want something from us, He wants something for us."

Our value isn't what we do, it's who we are. Taking time to rest is intended to have built-in time to be with the One who loves us just as we are. And rest, whatever day of the week we can embrace it, gives us the energy to do all the other days.

My first trial day of intentional rest, where I just asked the Lord to show me how to spend the time, looked nothing like I would have thought. There were moments of clarity in muddy thoughts that had been a problem weighing on me for weeks.

In the afternoon, a gift was given to me. Something I've never told a single person I've wanted for my office. (Screaming still!) And as I got ready for bed there was a message full of words, that I believe God chose to give me at that moment to remind me of  His intimate love for me.

Monday morning, nothing had changed on the list of to-do's or the crazy life, except my attitude of gratefulness to God for it.

And you know how I was feeling behind already in 2016?

That may have been the truth if my life were about producing and doing. But after time with the Lord, I realize how that kind of thinking, is not His kind of thinking. His mercies are new every morning.

I'll be making intentional space for rest this week too.

I can't promise you'll have the same kind of experience that I had, but I hope you will fight to make space for rest.

I would love to hear about how you do that.

© Rhonda Quaney