Jesus is way better…

“The journey between knowing sometimes intellectually and allowing it to transform our lives is 1,000 miles” Dr Jason Esposito

“The journey between knowing sometimes intellectually and allowing it to transform our lives is 1,000 miles”

“Jesus is better than our most painful experience”   Dr. Jason Esposito, Deeper Life Conference, Crown College, 2019.

 This morning, Dr Esposito described his early education years, how inadequate he was as a student, how he was made fun of for his coke bottle glasses, his absent-alcoholic father, how people told him he’d never amount to anything.

He graduated at the bottom of his class and was barely accepted to college in academic probation. In his freshman year, he was invited to. Bible study by a friend, and he felt the Holy Spirit drawing him to go “all in” for Jesus.

He began to read Romans 12 every single day, and read it daily for a whole year. Over the course of the year, being very intentional to meditate on scripture, God began to transform the way he saw himself into the way God sees him… he began to see his scars not as marks that defined his failures, but as marks that showed him what God can do with him, not only in spite of who he is, but because of who he is.

He talked about the “grooves” we form in our brains with our thought patterns, both positive and negative… the deeper the grooves, the harder to change them… which is why addictions are so difficult to break.. He talked about it being essential to intentionally “Re-groove” our brain… by focusing on Gods word and allowing it to transform our spiritual mind.

Jesus wants to use us because of our hurts, and our painful experiences become our ministry when we allow God to transform us.

It occurs to me that Gods timing is always perfect.

As he took the stage this morning, Dr Esposito mentioned that God had switched up the message he had planned overnight. He said it was literally the first time that had happened to him in nearly 20 years of ministry. He told the tech crew to ignore the PowerPoint slide he had put together because God had a different message.

Having just lived one heck of a personal storm, I am still in the process of standing to my feet, dusting myself off and looking at my battle scars. Coincidentally, God has arranged for me to visit my son during their Deeper Life conference and God redirected the speakers message to one that speaks directly to me.

My God is truly amazing. He is so amazing that He is the ruler of the universe and cares so much about me that He would bring a message to my ears that I absolutely needed to hear.

I wanted to share it with you all while it was fresh. There may be others who are emerging from a cocoon after a direct hit, or perhaps still in the middle of the storm. I want you to know that God’s got you… even if you don’t see or feel it now… Allow God to transform your mind by intentional focus on His word.

I am truly blessed, my friends, and want you all to be blessed, too!

I heart you all!

SB

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Therapy with Jesus

The other day,  I mentioned that I was going to have a therapy session with Jesus, which I did on Saturday. At first, I sat in the peacefulness of my studio.  I absolutely LOVE to be alone, and almost never have the chance to, but I met a new instructor at our studio on Saturday, and after she left, I stayed.  I find the studio to be peaceful, so I sat quietly in my favorite wing-back chair in the lobby, just preparing my mind for the experience. 

It occurred to me after a few minutes that my best prayer time is while playing the piano, and there I was in my music studio, with multiple pianos to choose from.

I sat down at the bench in the studio I use most often and just began to play and pray. I played and prayed for hours, visualizing walking alongside Jesus, talking about every hurt I’ve ever had. I visualized Jesus listening patiently walking beside me, allowing me to pour out my spirit to Him, neither judging nor chastising me for anything I shared with Him.  I systematically relived every time my heart had been broken, every time I had failed, every time I had sinned (well, in truth, probably not EVERY time, but at least the biggies…).  I literally played for hours – just played – beautiful runs and arpeggios, mostly in minor keys, fingers meandering over the black and white keys, flowing gently and sometimes not gently, as the waves of the ocean greeting the sand. 

Hours flew by quickly, and with every note, every chord, my burden lightened as Jesus began to lift the burdens weighing me down.  I simply let the grace of Jesus wash over me, washing away my anxiety, washing away my pain, visualizing it leaving, visualizing me getting up off the ground, dusting myself off, and getting ready for the next battle. 

My therapy session with Jesus was like no other therapy session I could have had.  

I am grateful for those wonderfully empathetic therapists, who chose a profession out of caring deeply for other people.  The older I get, the more importance I place on holistic health, including that of our mind and soul. I believe in breaking down walls of stigma that used to exist (and probably still do) for people who regularly seek therapy.  But spending a therapy session with Jesus was probably just the thing that I needed to renew my spirit. 

restores my soul.jpg

I’m looking forward to my next therapy session with Jesus.  

Blessings, SB

 

In the Garden…

After an incredibly difficult month – quite honestly, one of the most difficult of my entire life – I had a “therapy” session with my mom….

and just a quick aside – there may be some people who get frustrated with their moms, can I just say that, as a mom and a daughter, there is no stronger human love than the bond of a mother..

My mother has displayed incredible strength in her life.  She has faced some ridiculously difficult situations, from losing my brother in a fire when he was three to losing my dad to cancer when I was eight. Though she’d been battered, she never once faltered (at least outwardly).

Last Saturday night, in the middle of a crisis moment, she came a long side me and shared with me some of her darkest moments, after losing my brother and dad, where she just bowed before God and sat in silence while she visualized herself walking in a garden with Jesus, and talking through all of her hurts and pains, and He simply stayed with her, allowing her to pour her heart out to Him.

Mom said she didn’t know how long she sat in that “therapy” session with Jesus, but she was able to release ALL of her hurts to Him, and He brought her peace.

Years later, she and I took a trip to Paris and visited Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.  I fell in love with it.  I know it sounds strange, but it was such a peaceful place!  Anyone I know traveling to Paris, I always recommend they go there.   She didn’t tell me at the time, but last Saturday she shared that when she saw the garden paths in the cemetery, she recognized it as the place she visualized walking with Jesus as He healed her hurts!

Today, I am doing that.  I am sitting in the lobby of the studio I moved into in June – the studio that my business partner says brings him peace.   I am going on a journey into the deepest, darkest, recesses of my mind and soul, asking Jesus to come along with me, and sharing all of my life’s hurts and brokenness with him today, starting with the very earliest memories of the pain of losing my daddy.

 

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Be blessed today, my friends,

SB

Joe

I recently took a new position with the company I’ve worked for years and have moved back into a building I worked in years ago, into the office vacated by a friend of mine.  Every afternoon around 3 pm, the housekeeping man comes to empty my garbage.  Joe, who is in his eighties, has worked there for years, too, and everyone knows and loves him.  I hadn’t seen him for a long time, while I was working in a different area of the business, but have seen him faithfully for the past several weeks right around 3 pm.

Last week, when he entered my office to reach for the garbage can, he seemed a little sad. I asked him if he was alright, and he shared with me that his wife of 60+ years  had recently passed away.  He broke down in tears and I told him how sorry I was. He said he was sorry he cried, and I assured him it was perfectly ok – it is ok to have good and bad days.  I asked him the secret to his 60+ year marriage and he sat down in my chair to tell me that the years just flew by – he had married his best friend.  We had a few moments together and I assured him that I’d be praying for him as he grieved.

He told me his wife’s birthday was coming up, as well as their anniversary, and I knew those would be hard days.  Then he told me he had family coming in from all over the country to celebrate with him and remember her.  He was excited about the party they would have – 150 guests – mostly family, gathering around him to support him in his and their time of loss.

Today when he came in, I told him I thought he might be taking the day off to get ready for the party.  He chuckled and said he needed to come to work to get some peace and quiet, since family started coming in a few days ago.  He smiled and shared that he and his grand-kids lit paper lanterns the other night, in memory of his wife. He talked about the food they were preparing, and the fact that he’s passed recipes down to his son to pass on to his kids.  He said he hoped he hadn’t bored me.  I assured him he had not.

I will be thinking about Joe and his family this weekend as they mourn their loss and celebrate a wildly successful marriage to a wonderful woman who has blessed me vicariously through her husband.  I am thrilled that he has the support of so many family members who love him dearly.

May we all be as blessed,

SB

Wednesday What If….

A pastor friend of mine posts a “Wednesday what if” on his Facebook page every week – typically a question meant to stir vigorous debate… he always ends his post with “be kind”.  Most times, people are respectful as they share their opinions, but sometimes it gets ugly, even among Christians.  (Who’d have thunk?)

A couple Wednesday’s ago, his question was centered around using music in church that was written/composed by someone who later renounced their faith or had some other moral failure.  The examples he used were Horatio Spafford’s beloved hymn, “It is Well”, and Michael Grungor’s “Beautiful Things”.     Spafford apparently started an end-time cult toward the end of his life, and Grungor renounced his faith in Jesus Christ after he and his wife experienced turmoil in their life. 

People shared their strong opinions on both sides of the fence, but my favorite response was this:   “we should only use the songs given to us by God in the Psalms”.

I literally laughed out loud when I read it because, of course, the Psalms were written by King David, who lived a holy and blameless life….   not. 

If there’s a character of the bible that I love more than Peter, it’s David. He certainly made a mess of things in his life, but God still calls him a man after His own heart.  If the account of King David and the Psalms that he wrote do nothing else, they should give us all hope that, even when we mess up, God still loves us.  The Psalms are full of the anguish that David felt when he faced struggles in life.

As you all know, this past month has been one of a brutal spiritual battle for me. I’ve known with my head that God is with me…. that I belong to Him and that nobody or no thing can ever snatch me away from Him…  but that doesn’t mean everything will always be great. In fact, the Bible is clear that “in this world there will be trouble”.   Sometimes that trouble we bring on ourselves by choices and decisions we make; and sometimes that trouble is brought on by things outside of our control.  

I have agonized over my faith in the past couple of weeks, in my very darkest of dark when I felt as though God wasn’t hearing me, or worse, not responding because I had done something wrong.  I have felt guilty when my faith wasn’t stronger, but cried out to God in complete and utter exhaustion when I finally realized the entire situation was WAY bigger than I could handle on my own… in fact, I couldn’t handle ANY of it on my own, and had to surrender everything I am to God. 

I feel as though I’ve had a glimpse into David’s anguish…   and a am very comforted by the book of Psalms… comforted to know that even men after God’s own heart struggled with some of the same things I struggle with…  and felt the anguish that I feel when we’re waiting for God to answer prayer.

By the way, my opinion on the matter of the songs from people who’ve messed up in life…  if God inspired their writing in the first place, He can still use it for His glory, perhaps even to bring the lost sheep back to the fold. God is still in the miracle business..

Be blessed today, my friends,

SB 

Bridge notes…. losing the battle

Some days are just tough. Yesterday was one of them. In the middle of this storm season I’m in, there are days when my head is above the water… and days I feel as though I’m 6 feet under the water. Yesterday was a “beneath the water” day…

I literally could not focus on anything, but was consumed by grief over a situation with another Christian who has been incredibly ugly – mutual friends (pastoral friends) offered to mediate in Christ, though seem to have a bent toward the other side already, leaving me feeling somewhat betrayed. 

Satan knows just where to hit me when I’m weak – for me, it’s depression and despair – and I could not shake myself out of it.   I reached out to a core group of friends with a desperate text saying simply, “I’m losing the battle today”.

Almost immediately, they all responded in love that they were praying for me and that God has my back.  It wasn’t instantaneous, but within about an hour, I felt a peace come over me that allowed me to focus my attention where it needed to be focused to get my work done. 

It is imperative to have people you can reach out to during a storm who will give you encouragement.  There are times when you can be the encourager, and times when you need the encouragement.   Pastor’s sermon on Sunday was about the fact that we are not here on Earth to do life alone – we have been placed here to be a bridge for one another. 

… in that moment, when all we can focus on is writing a note before taking the bridge…  we need people who can stand in the gap…    

you need those people

I need those people

you can be that people

I can be that people

be blessed today, my friends,

the struggle is real – don’t go it alone

SB

Affirmation…Lionart

For the past twelve years, I’ve had this idea in my head to open what I called a “coffee shop”. The idea originated during a time I mentored a young band of musicians rom my church. I’d always felt it was an idea planted by God but it sat dormant for years, peaking out only every once in a while to be tweaked. It evolved from coffee shop to coffee house to studio for music and art lessons. I shared this idea with only a few close friends that I knew wouldn’t think I was crazy. One of them was my dear friend, Lu..

A couple of years ago, I found a building that I thought would have been perfect for both coffee shop and studio. I sent a text to my friend, Lu, and asked if he thought I was crazy. He responded with a text that said, “you are a lion chaser” and suggested I read a book by Mark Batterson called In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.

I read it and fell in love with Mark’s writing, and have since read every book he’s ever published. He talks a lot about chasing God sized dreams and allowing God to show His power by working miracles like only He can do.

Several months ago, I stumbled on a Painting of a lion on the Facebook market place and I thought it would be perfect for my studio someday. I contacted the seller only to find out someone else had purchased it. I started searching for others and, although I did find some, none ever really struck me the same way.

On a Sunday In June, as we were packing up our vans to head out on our NYC missions trip, a good friend from church (who is also an artist), was taking to a man from our church who owns a printing company. He had a tube with him and showed it to Art. They talked for a few minutes and Art went in to the church since the service was about to begin. Seconds later, he came back outside and walked up to me and said, “I felt prompted by God to come and show this to you. I’m not sure why”

He unrolled the scroll and it was a magnificent print of a lion that he had painted years before. Immediately my eyes welled up with tears and I told him about my experience with In a Pit. His eyes welled up with tears and he told me his love for Mark Batterson’s work as well. We talked about my studio idea (as I had shared it with him in bits and pieces over the years).

Last night, he came to my studio Grand Opening early to bring this gift that he made for me. With Godbumps and tears in his eyes, he told me he he felt the Holy Spirit tell him that this studio is of God, that he himself has been praying for something similar since the 1980’s… and that all those years ago, God placed on his heart to start a company called “Lionart”.

I shared with my dear friend, Art, some of the spiritual battle I’ve been facing since closing on the studio, and he stood there and prayed over me, and the studio, and all the wonderful work that God is about to do.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much that and all of the other affirmations I’ve received this week have meant to me. During a week when my faith has been tested like never before, God is faithful to keep giving me chances to believe His hand is still on me, and He will not abandon.

My God shall supply all my needs. I am in the process of getting back up after being knocked to the ground. God is with me. His Name will prevail

Be blessed today, my friends

SB