Tag Archives: Refuge


John 5:1-6 says this:

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.  Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.  Here a great number of disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?'”


Of all the opening lines he could have used, Jesus uses that one?

I’ve read those verses a dozen times, but this time I realized how ridiculous it is that Jesus needs to even ask that question.  As though he needed to make sure that the man did, in fact, want to get well.

But what if the idea of being healed was something the man was uncomfortable with?  After all, he’s lived broken for years.  Being healed would mean relearning how to do everything, it would mean not having a ready answer to why he does things a certain way, it would mean that he would have to learn how to live whole.

I could very easily compare this to the people at the Mission–and I’m going to–but first, I need to make an admission:  there are certain areas of my life that, if Jesus was standing in front of me right now and he asked if I wanted them fixed, I’d hesitate to say yes.  And I’m willing to bet that you could say the same.

Why do we do that?

Why do we insist on staying stuck where we are, knowing that Jesus would change us if we just asked?

I obviously can’t speak for all of us, but I do it because it makes me feel safe.  I don’t want to trade in my insecurities and shortcomings, not having any idea what I’m going to get in return.  I like having something to hide behind, even if that something slowly and systematically tears me up.

The people that I see here are the exact same way.  So many of them can’t comprehend not being homeless because that label has become a sort of safe haven for them.

They are afraid to try to be anything else because they’re afraid of failing.

The name of the pool in the aforementioned verse is “Bethesda”.  The name comes from both the Hebrew and the Aramaic languages, and it has a double meaning.  Get ready for this…it can mean house of mercy and grace OR shame and disgrace.

So we’re given this choice.

We can choose to sit near the pool of healing, knowing that all we have to do is step in, but finding ourselves too afraid to make that move, to let go of our shame.  This shame and disgrace stems from addictions, eating disorders, an unwillingness to forgive, mental illness, a lack of self-worth, and a host of other things.  We can so easily let these things consume us and cause us to live life in hiding, too familiar with and comfortable in our shame and lack of self-worth to do anything about it.

Or! (I love that there’s another choice!)

We can recognize that the pool we’re sitting by is one of mercy and grace.  It’s one that welcomes all, despite background, financial status, or even perceived level of disgrace (because, if you’re anything like me, you find yourself believing that there are just some patterns of thought or behavior that are way worse than others).  When Jesus asks us if we want to be healed, we can say “yes, please change me!” and let him begin to reshape us and make us whole.  And it doesn’t end there…he promises to never leave a work unfinished, and I’m pretty sure that means he’ll give us the resources and community we need to learn how to live in our new skin.

So I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty neat to me.  I’m getting tired of carrying around all this baggage.

Will you join me in beginning to make this change?


you are safe here.

One of the things that is becoming more and more evident to me all the time is that the Lord works in mysterious ways to teach people important lessons.

Most recently I realized this through a crazy ball of energy disguised as a 4-year-old boy.  This kid wants to know about everyone and everything, and it is very apparent that he’s been raised in an environment that has attempted to suppress his curiosity.  After witnessing one of our interactions, his mom told me she could tell I didn’t have kids because I was so patient with her son.

One night at dinner, he and I were talking about something when he stopped mid-sentence, stood up on his chair, and asked me point-blank, “Do you love your job?”

I was taken aback, but I said yes, to which he responded with a nod and a sort of self-satisfied smirk as if he had already known how I was going to respond.

Later, he continued his interrogation with such questions as,  What color is your hair?, Am I eating a sucker?, What’s your name again?, and so on.

Before I could get overwhelmed, his mom looked up from her phone and said, “Don’t worry about responding to all of those.  He only asks questions that he already knows the answers to.”


Yesterday I was headed into my apartment when I learned that a woman had left a note on my desk.  This woman is one that I’ve mentioned before, the one with the sometimes-crazy hair and the questions about tax fraud (I still don’t know the answers).

The note, in part, said this:  “Now that Jessica has this note in her possession Please ask that they Please forward my reduced fare i.d. to the proper authorities due to the inability to have my own living environment stepped on by those that deem themselves qualified to yell and scream to people…Don’t go to the back!  Fair warning–Fare is fare.”

I’ve now read that note at least half a dozen times, and I still don’t understand what she’s asking me to do, but I recognize that she trusted me with something that she sees as valuable .

During this season of Lent, I have been spending time each day (or, more accurately, attempting to spend time each day) reading and meditating on the Psalms.  One thing that stood out to me immediately was the fact that the word “refuge” is used over and over.  It’s mentioned 19  times just in the first forty Psalms.  The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned, blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him, and so on.

It feels as though I am constantly praying that Jesus would make my heart more like his, though the specifics of that are changing regularly based on circumstances.  These past few weeks, this has meant that I’ve been more specifically praying that, through my actions, people would see that the Lord is a refuge–a safe place, that people can trust Him and trust His followers.

It is not always easy for me to give off good first impressions (those of you who know me are probably not shocked by that admission), and so I have just been praying and asking God to change that, to change a fundamental part of me, knowing that it won’t be easy but that the end results will benefit every person who I encounter.

And honestly, I’ve been discouraged.  But this week, the Lord used a 4-year-old and a woman with schizophrenia to show me that He is, in fact, slowly (and oftentimes painfully) changing me,  and that He is refining me into someone transparent and trustworthy.

I am telling you this, in part, because I think sometimes it is easy to become frustrated when our prayers aren’t answered right away, or when we try so hard to change but it doesn’t seem as though anything is happening.  In those times, know that God is working, just not always in the ways you most expect or hope for.


Last year I spent a lot of time praying that God would show me how to better empathize with people, and now I often regret that request!  Not really…but there are most certainly times when I wonder what the heck I was thinking.  Never before have I been able to fully comprehend the phrase “emotional roller coaster”.  One minute I am celebrating a new job with a family, and the next I’m trying to figure out what to say to the girl who just can’t seem to get her life together.

Then there are moments that are bittersweet. Last night a family moved into their new duplex, which was a Praise God moment for sure! But at the same time, I was so sad to see them go. In the short time that they were here, I grew so attached to their 5 little kids that I often found myself just waiting in my office for them to show up after school so that I could ask them about their day.

This cycle goes on, though. Sometime soon, another family will show up with kids who steal my heart by drawing me pictures and reminding me of the joy that can be found in the smallest things. And regardless of how long they’re here, or what their situation is, or how crazy they make me feel, I will try to love them like Jesus does. Because that’s the most important thing.

On a different note, some of you may know that one project that I’ve been working on is a little something I like to call 125. The more official name is kid’s chapel, but I prefer the simplicity that the number brings. Plus it’s the room number. Plus James 1:25 is a rockin’ verse…feel free to look it up!

Anyway, it is up and running as of October 6th, and it is going fantastically despite a lack of consistent volunteers. The kids love it (in fact, many of them show up 20 minutes before it starts and then tell their parents they never want to move out of the Mission…), they get to hear about what God wants to do in their lives, and those of us who are privileged enough to teach get to learn a lot, too! For example, before this week, I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you that Naaman was the guy who got healed from leprosy by dipping himself in some scummy water.

One of the most interesting things about 125 is that most of the kids coming have no preconceived notions about what it should be like. We could give them dinosaur coloring sheets and they’d pretty much be set for life. Which, admittedly, is tempting when I haven’t had very much time to plan for whatever reason. I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that I haven’t given into that temptation, and I don’t plan to! The fact that this is a new experience for them also means we get to tell them Bible stories for the first time, and that…they don’t always know what constitutes appropriate classroom behavior.  This often results in chaos.  Fun, frustrating chaos.  So if you’re coming up short on things to pray for, shoot up some prayers for these kids and all of us who get to work with them!

psalm 62.

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

How long will you assault a man?
Would all of you throw him down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
They fully intend to topple him
from his lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
   my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
   he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Lowborn men are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie;
if weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or take pride in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.

One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving.
Surely you will reward each person
according to what he has done.