Walking Closely With Jesus — Guest Blogger

Grace quote from Max Luccado

Walking Closely with Jesus

By Jo Massaro

Years ago, I asked a life-changing question, “How could a woman who had an abortion, multiple marriages and a traumatic brain injury, have a relationship with Jesus?”

This forced me to face the hurts, habits, and pain  hidden away and never dealt with. I wore a smile, but covered the heartbreak hidden in the darkest places.

My longing to be someone else reminds me of a song from the movie, Mulan. Like me, she struggled to find herself.

I was 23 with three children when I became pregnant again. My husband didn’t want another child, so I decided to have an abortion. The sun was out on the day of my procedure, but I felt scared and so alone.

Nine months later, an accident occurred and my son, Jason, died the day before his second birthday.  I was certain that God had punished me for what I’d done nearly a year before. Depression and thoughts of suicide became my friends. When a child dies, the life you once led, no longer exists. Even though we had two daughters, this void became unbearable. My husband used alcohol and drugs to dull his pain. After two more children, we were broken beyond repair.

This led to our divorce.

Five years later I married again and within a year I faced another divorce. I wanted to commit suicide.

Picture of an icebergMy brokenness was like an iceberg. Others see the top but ninety percent of my pain lay below the surface–abandonment, isolation, fear, trauma, loss, disappointments, depression and co-dependency. This was what I felt from the time I was a child that carried into my adulthood. I was searching for love in the wrong places.

My life was one of sin, lies, deception and isolation.

I knew Jesus existed, but didn’t realize who He really was nor how to experience and live in the grace He offered.

I met and married my third husband, and he brought me to his church. When the pastor asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus,  I raised my hand. I didn’t understand all that happened, but I knew Jesus made me feel loved and accepted, and I wanted more of Him.

A few years later, I was involved in a car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury, (TBI). I lost the ability to read, drive, function as a wife and mother; my vision was affected and my thinking felt foggy. My husband told me every morning I’d say, “Just one more day, Jesus,” but I don’t remember this.

One day while I listened to the audio Bible, words from Scripture gripped me:

“When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up through the crowd behind Him and touched his cloak. For she kept saying, ‘If I could only touch His clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she sensed in her body that she was healed of her affliction” (Mark 5:27-29, NIV).

I realized that if Jesus healed this woman, He could heal me. Believing this with all my heart, I began to pray.

Over the years, God has healed me and today my life is full of God’s grace and peace and praise for all God has done.

God created me with a plan and purpose and stayed with me throughout my pain and heartache. I walk today in love and with a husband of 26 years.

My deeply rooted relationship with Jesus reminds me of two beautiful rivers located in Manaus, Brazil. Each are unique as in the deep darkness (blackwater) of the Rio Negro and the pale sandy (whitewater) of the Rio Solimoes.

These bodies of water run side by side for six miles before they become one. In those six miles, the light of the Rio Solimoes slowly begins to engulf the darkness of the Rio Negro. Darkness now becomes light.

Similarly, Jesus works below the surface and brings light into deep, dark places as only he can. But it takes time after Woman staring out at the sea with text pulled from the post. the two meet for change to occur.

In God’s loving hands, I was transformed and washed clean by the blood of the lamb .

This mirrors our walk with Jesus . When we accept Him as Savior, He takes the old and dirty parts of our lives and gently brings us into a new life with Him.

I’ve asked the Lord to draw deeper into my relationship with Him and conform me to His image. I know we say and hear this all the time, but I was determined to allow Jesus to do surgery on my heart and dissect that which was dead and lifeless and bring healing and wholeness in its place.

I’m grateful for the love and contentment I have in Jesus.

Let’s talk about this! How  has God healed you or brought you to deeper freedom? What are some ways you’re living in that freedom?

Meet Jo Massaro!

 

Jo Massaro's author photoJo is founder and curator of Yahweh Sisterhood Book Club that meets the first Thursday of each month. You not only read the book but get to meet the author either in person or through Facebook.

As a speaker, Jo brings humor, energy, authenticity, faith, and strength she found in the Word of God. She describes her journey through her darkest times and how God brought her to a relationship with the Light of the World.

She offers themed messages to your group, and works with your team to customize a topic you have selected. She speaks before small or large groups, churches, or wherever God leads her.

For further information on the book club visit:

www.yahwehsisterhoodbookclub.com

Contact Jo at:  jomassarospeaker@gmail.com

 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

 

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For When We Feel too Busy to Rest

Image of woman on bench with quote pulled from post

When our daughter was young and I spent hours each week in school pickup lines, I often felt I had plenty of time to rest. To pray and seek Jesus. But then she grew older, I grew busier, and year by year, it felt increasingly harder to slow down and prioritize my relationship with Jesus.

I’ve since discovered, however, when my schedule overwhelms me and I don’t have a moment to spare, that’s when I most need to hit pause.

That’s when I most need to regularly connect with Jesus. In the midst of a particularly busy period, my guest’s post today really resonated.

For When We Think We’re Too Busy to Rest

By Dr. Michelle Bengston

Life was getting busy—too busy. Maybe you’ve been there: when you were always looking forward to the next event, no longer content in the moment.

No sooner had I sent my next book manuscript to the publisher, when I began to ponder my next project. Everyone else seemed to ask me that as well, “What will you work on next?”

I habitually pushed forward, without taking enough time to relish and celebrate the victories along the way.

During a women’s retreat the following weekend, no less than a dozen women confirmed the direction I sensed God was leading me: into a season of rest.

REST? Why would I want to do that ? I had things to write and talks to give. God knows my personality: I’d rather have three urgent projects going with barn-burning deadlines than be told to rest.

But God always knows best.

In the month after that retreat when I felt like He was leading me into a season of rest, I fulfilled my speaking commitments and visited my college son. Upon returning home, my doctor called to tell me what no one likes nor wants to hear: “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have cancer.”

Surgery was scheduled and treatment began. The physical toll was great, but God had prepared me for this time by clearing my calendar.

We become so consumed with accomplishing tasks, that we forget God can do more during times of rest than in our most “productive times.”

I used to think rest was a luxury. Now I realize it is crucial for warfare.

Rest has its benefits:

1. In rest, God provides safety.

“But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster” (1 Kings 5:4 ESV).

2. Rest allows our bodies to heal. God desires healing for us.

3. Rest allows God the opportunity to teach us His ways, and as He teaches us, we learn to rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).

4. We were created in God’s image, and when we rest, we align ourselves with the very nature of God.

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV).

5. Rest is a gift from God. We can rest in His presence.

“And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14 ESV).

Taking time to rest requires trust in the One who commanded us to do so.

Jesus never hurried, and he modeled for us a lifestyle that included rest. If it was good enough for Jesus, shouldn’t it be so for us also?

Let’s talk about this!

What makes rest a challenge for you? What benefits have you seen from following God’s command to rest? Share your thoughts, insights, and stories with us in the questions below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Get to know Michelle!

Author headshot: Michelle BengtsonDr. Michelle Bengtson (Ph.D., Nova Southeastern University) is an international speaker, and the author of the bestselling, award winning “Hope Prevails: Insights From A Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the newly released companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.” She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years, and is now in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. This doctor knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address her patients’ issues, both for those who suffer and the ones who care for them.

Using sound practical tools, she affirms worth and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of thirty years have two teenage sons and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her  site: DrMichelleBengtson.com

For more hope, stay connected with her at:

Website, her Blog, and on Facebook

Hope Prevails:

Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression

As a board-certified neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson believed she was prescribing the most effective treatments for her clients who struggled with depression. But when she experienced debilitating depression herself, she found that the treatments she had recommended weren’t helping her the way she expected. She was determined to find out what was missing.

With the deep compassion of someone who has been there, Dr. Bengtson blends her training and that vital missing piece she discovered to offer you a hope grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps you understand what depression is, how it affects you spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, depression cannot do. The result is an approach that offers not just the management of symptoms but the hope of true release.

Order Hope Prevails HERE.

Before you go, I have more fun news! For those of you working through the Becoming His Princess study, you can now watch the video segment for week one HERE. We should have week two’s video segment available by the 23rd.

If you didn’t grab your free copy yet, you can do so HERE or purchase a print copy for $5 HERE.

Another Great Author: Linda Windsor

I enjoy reading almost as much as I enjoy writing, and with so many wonderful authors pumping out one great story after another, my passion for great words will be fueled for quite some time. Reading Linda Windsor’s novel, Healer, is like stepping into another world, a world of romance, courage, uncertainty and yet, unyielding faith.

Intrigued by this Arhurian Scottland novel, the first in the Brides of Alba trilogy, I shot Linda an email loaded with questions. Her responses amazed me, and made me love her story even more. Thanks, Linda, for being so real with us. Ah, transparency. I love it!

Me: Brenna Gowry lives during a very tumultuous time and is forced to deal with horrors that most of couldn’t even imagine at a very young age. Where does she derive her strength?

Linda: The beauty of Brenna is that she has been raised in isolation from all that. Until she was forced into hiding, she was educated by the Sisters of Avalon, who like Brenna, are descended from Britain’s first century apostolic lineage. Her life has been saturated by Scripture and those who live it, including her nurse. Brenna is well aware that horrible things happen, things she cannot change, like the loss of her family.

But her hope and faith is in the now and future…what can be through God’s love. She believes God has a plan, even the darkest of her hours. She sees the best in people instead of the worst. What they can be. This is what draws the embittered hero to her and moves him to want to protect this innocent. However, he soon sees that Brenna’s faith and God are stronger and more effective than his sword.

Me: What do you most admire about Brenna?

Linda: I’ve never had a heroine who was quite so grounded in her faith, although she is no saccharine character. Brenna struggles with her temper, with her will versus God’s. Her pragmatic approach of reining in her feelings to work or pray a problem through is the result of learning that feelings are not reliable, but the Word is. Feelings are of this world and will change. The Word will not. So she faces internal conflict with this time and again. I can relate to this conflict of faith over feelings from having been through the pits of chemical depression, another type of isolation, but isolation nonetheless.

The one time she does take the matter of her loneliness into her own hands instead of waiting on the Lord, she makes a muck of things. When I do the same, I make a muck of me. But I’m a slower learner than Brenna <g>.

Me: What motivated you to write this story?

Linda: I have always been fascinated with the Dark Ages and early Christianity. What did the early Christians have or do that tamed the barbarians when Roman swords could not? Yes, I know it’s God’s love and the Word, but how did they spread it so effectively? History is full of what the church has done wrong in the past, but what did it do right? Having written a trilogy set this same era in Ireland (The Fires of Gleannmara—MAIRE, RIONA, and DEIRDRE), my research gave me many answers.

These enabled me to reach my daughter who was stalked and assaulted in college, turned against God in anger, and became involved in Wicca, or white witchcraft. Her return to her faith turned my interest into a passion to reach out to other New Age believers (New Age being old age at the core) and to educate Christians to be effective witnesses, rather than drive nonbelievers away with judgmental attitudes born of fear and misunderstanding.

Me: What is the main message or truth you hoped to convey?

The information garnered from my research opened the lines of discussion with my daughter and New Age believers, enabling me to witness effectively for Christ. She wouldn’t hear it from the Bible. Man could have made the Scripture up in her skewed view. But tidbits from history and the traditions (from more than one culture or nation) of the very scholars, or druids, so revered by New Age aficionados? Yes, she’d hear that.

It didn’t bring about an overnight change. She took the information in and like seeds of faith, God watered them over a period of years. On Mother’s Day a few years later, my daughter accepted Christ back into her life. Why? The church wasn’t perfect, but He was. The church made mistakes, but so did she. She learned to keep her eyes on Jesus, not the church per se. In Him, there will never be disappointment. Faith in man is faith on sand.

As Christians, we must be educated in our own church history and the beliefs of others. We must learn, not respond to nonbelievers with hearsay. That is another reason I have a Bibliography in the back of HEALER. I hope to post a short list of things I learned that helped me reach my daughter on my website at www.LindaWindsor.com. All these are woven into my historical novels, that they might teach as well as entertain with page-turning plots. At least that’s my hope.

Lastly, if you have a loved one who is lost, embittered, and does not know Jesus, do not grow faint with fear. God hears your prayers for them. He has a plan for them, tailored to them. It may not unfold the way we expect it to, but it will come to pass in His perfect time. Our hope for our loved ones are placed on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. He will not fail us…or them.

Me: What part of Brenna’s personality do you most relate to and why?

Linda: I understand her loneliness from isolation. A clan war didn’t isolate me, but chemical/biological depression did for several years. The way that Brenna deals with her trials is reflective of the many lessons God has taught me during my dark times.

Key to this is that feelings are temporal and not always trustworthy. God’s promises and assurances are. Focus on His Word when you feel darkness closing in and believe. Know you are not alone. He is there, even though you can’t feel His presence. And know that you’re in good company besides. Some of his favorite people had depression.

And I will add this. Accept help. There is no more shame in taking medication for chemical depression than there is in taking insulin for diabetes. Both are the results of poor body chemistry function.