Iscariot // Tosca Lee

Iscariot

 

So I’m not sure how many of you know this, but I love books. So much. I’m always reading at least 2 books at a time (or more like I am right now…) and read all types. I thought it would be neat to every so often post reviews of books that have deeply impacted my life, whether they be fiction or nonfiction. That way you can also find some new books to add to your reading list.

We’re starting out with a fiction book called Iscariot by Tosca Lee.

Have you ever wondered what the events of Jesus looked like through Judas’ eyes? What if we didn’t see him as the villain he’s painted to be? What if… He was human?

That’s exactly what Lee does in her book “Iscariot”.

The book was written on this question: Judas was the only disciple Jesus ever called “friend”… Why? Why call your betrayer friend? This is a question I pondered for so long, so when I found a book based on it… I had to pick it up. I had to see what her perspective was.

What I read surprised me. Lee painted a fuller picture of his life and made him real.

We have this idea that he was pure evil and barely human. That’s not the case. He was a real person with feelings just like us, which Lee expresses so well in this book. She brings him to life, gives him depth… The last thing we want. Because in making him real, she made him relatable. And no one wants to relate to Judas, the man whose name is synonymous with traitor.

This book broke my heart because you knew that Judas would betray Jesus. And you knew that Jesus. Yet, He loved him. One line shattered me was when Judas said “No, He did not need me. But I desperately needed Him.” How many times have I said this and then turned around and betrayed Him? It reminded me of so many times where I was like him. One minute saying I love Him, then the next breaking His heart.

Judas was a person. Just. Like. Us. And that’s what Lee brilliantly and heartbreakingly shows us in Iscariot. We are no better. But in the midst of the tears, a hope was found.

That even though I fail, He can still love me. Even though I sin, I hurt Him, I shatter His heart over and over and over… I am still loved by Him. I can still draw near to Him. I can still depend on Him when I’m in need. But more than that…

I can still be His friend.

Grief As A Wave

IMG_0307

Grief. This is always something I’ve never dealt with well. A year ago yesterday, my great granddad passed away just 3 weeks after I had returned to Ecuador. I was in Cuenca renewing my visa and wondering how on earth I was going to be moving in a couple days when I got the news. I didn’t expect it to hurt as much as it did. I wasn’t super close to him, but he was a constant in my life. Something that had always been there. But then one day… he just wasn’t.

Reality didn’t hit until I went home in September and when I went to his house, he wasn’t there. It was like finding out that your childhood home, the one place you always expected to be able to go back to, the one thing that was always there was suddenly erased from the map. The memories stayed, but the physical place, the town, the house,  your favorite tree, all of it was just… gone. And all you have left are the memories of what used to be.

You see, grief is like the ocean. Most days are okay. The tide is normal, the current won’t pull you away too far. But then the waves come and crash over you and confuse you to the point that you don’t know which way is up or down. The current pulls you farther out and further down and before you know it you’re drowning in a sorrow that you don’t even understand. Then when you reach the shore, when you realize that these waves have taken away that constant, that home that was always there… the memories flood over you like high tide trying to pull you back in. But then it stops. And everything goes back to normal for a while. Until the hurricane decides to come once again.

I found myself in the same place yesterday as I was a year ago. I found myself hiding in the bathroom at church crying as the waves crashed over me, as the tears flooded and I was powerless to stop them. I found myself asking the same questions I had a year ago, feeling that same pain over again as the memories came flooding back. The same emotions, the same memories, the same questions. And honestly I still struggle with the pain of regret and I know it’s a process but I wish it could speed up a little because even though it isn’t constant when the pain comes… it hits like a hurricane.

I know that God is faithful to heal. I know He’s always with me. He’s the one that guides me back to shore. And even though I question Him at times about why He did what He did, and have even gotten mad… I know that He knows best. And even if I don’t understand, I don’t need to. I just need to trust Him.

So much can change in a year. But then some things don’t change at all.

Here’s To Carrying A Notebook Everywhere

photo-2-27-17-5-57-31-pm

 

Hey, can I tell you a secret?
When I was 12, I started guitar lessons. I’ve recently discovered that most people don’t know this. I picked it up pretty quick and I enjoyed it. I quit playing at 14 when I couldn’t continue lessons. I still remember a couple chords, but I just haven’t put forth the effort to pick it up again. Meanwhile, since then, my brother has taught himself how to play four different instruments.

I used to design. A lot. Most of my designs are still sitting on my hard drive. I made MySpace backgrounds, Facebook cover photos, art pieces… I also sold a T-Shirt design to raise money for a mission trip. I still do this some, but mainly simple things.

And now the big one. I used to be a writer. I know what you’re thinking. “But you’re writing right now?!?” Yes, I am. But I used to write almost anything, all of the time. Short stories, poetry, essays, you name it. I even started trying to write a novel at one point. I remember I used to carry a notebook and pen everywhere I went, and I slept with one by my bed at night. So many times I would be sitting in a waiting room or in Wal-Mart and I would get an idea and just start writing right where I was. I wrote to cope with pain, to express myself, to understand God. I wrote my testimony into a story once because it made more sense. Writing was my release and my way of showing people what God had done for me.

Then one day, I just stopped. I can’t pinpoint when or why, but I quit using that talent. AT one point, I hadn’t written in weeks. A friend asked me what I had written recently. My response… Nothing. I was shocked and so was she. She asked why. I had no answer. I still remember what she said to me:

“Caitlin, if you stop writing, you’re gonna lose it.”

I didn’t think much of it then. But here I am on the other side and I’ve lost so much of it. About a year ago, God reminded me of her words. So what did I do? I asked God to give it back. I asked Him to give me back the ability I had to write before when I would stay up at night writing as fast as I could because the words were coming so quickly and they just flowed out of me like a river. And do you know what He did?

He laughed.

Then He said, “I won’t give it back until you start writing again. Do you really think it’s going to be that easy?”

Needless to say,  I got the point. But was the laugh necessary?? I digress. God gave me a gift for writing, yes. No one is denying that. But I quit using it. I’m the one that stopped writing. He never took the gift from me, I just let it get rusted up, and now the wheels don’t wanna move like they used to.

If you have something you’re good at, don’t be like me and have to learn the hard way to keep doing it. Whatever it may be. And if you’re like me and already have… Pick up that pen again. The paintbrush. The guitar. The camera. Whatever it is. Pick it up and start practicing. Don’t let it go forever.

So here’s to carrying a notebook everywhere in 2017. Maybe one day soon, I’ll be as great of a writer as I was at 16.

He Taught Me To Walk

IMG_0281

“But it was I that taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I had healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.” Hosea 11:3-4

I love this verse so much. Really, I love the entire book of Hosea. It’s a beautiful story of redemption. When I read this, I realized one thing: God was always there. He was constantly guiding me to where He wanted me. When I look back on my life, I can see it. Even during the times that I wasn’t looking for Him or following Him, His hand was there taking me to where I would one day meet Him. And not just knowing about Him, but really knowing Him.

One of the most important moments of my life happened on my first mission trip to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It was one night in a small Baptist church, and we had finished our program, but the Holy Spirit was moving. I don’t remember the exact day, but I remember the details. The church was white. The floors were wood. I was wearing black pants that looked like they were from the 70’s and a black and white shirt with a vest. And I remember barely being able to get up because He was so strong. That was the night God completely healed me of the depression and insecurities I had struggled with for so long. This was the night I felt like I finally met God. He was more than a story. He was real.

But before this big moment, there were many small moments.

Like the nights of almost taking my life and being interrupted. There was a day that I actually went to my guitar lesson with the intention of taking my life that same night. Until my teacher told me that my smile lit up the room. I honestly believe that that was God. Like coming to what is now my home church and feeling at home for the first time. The first night I ever felt God’s love standing in the middle of the altar area, my heart matching the spring weather; growing once again after the long cold winter. The night He promised me that He would turn the ashes of my life into the beauty I had so longed for. All the nights of praying, crying, trying to let go… Then one night on the right side of my church at the altar letting go of the identity I had placed in my past and receiving the one God had for me. The miracle approval to go on the trip. The prayer service the week before I went to Bolivia, where I told Him to do whatever it took to bring healing because I was tired of being broken. The seeking. The longing. The falling. The getting back up.

All of those little moments, all of those little steps, were leading me up to the moment that I would meet Him. Some of those moments hurt, some of them healed the wounds I had made, but all of them were necessary.

The entire time, He was there teaching me how to walk. Even when I didn’t see Him working, He was there, in the background, moving things in the right direction. Placing people into my life that He knew I would need. Protecting me. When I look back, I can see where He guided me to Him even in my darkest moments. I see the work He did. The small moments that made the big moment possible. Those little steps I took towards Him.

If we all look back, I’m sure we’ll all see the same thing. But we normally don’t recognize it, because we don’t look at the little moments. We remember the big things. Yet, those big moments are built on smaller, learning moments. Just like when a baby is learning, he starts with one step. Then two. Then before you know it, he’s running. When we look at those little steps, we’ll see where He changed our lives or guided us down a different path right when we needed. It’s beautiful.
I am so thankful that He still healed me when I didn’t know Him. I’m thankful He was patient with me, teaching me how to walk while I was still in the dark. Guiding me with His cords of kindness to where He wanted me.

Life is full of moments, big and small. Moments of learning, moments of falling and getting back up. In those moments, He is teaching us to walk. Don’t despise the little moments.

Not Enough

Dear 15-year-old self,
You have just received the call of a lifetime. Your mind is whirling, spinning with dreams and hopes of what could be or what will be. Of the places you might go, the things you might do… And who it might be with. Don’t let that distract you. Over the years, you will be rejected many many times. You’ll believe the lie for a long time that you aren’t enough. Aren’t smart enough, aren’t beautiful enough, aren’t good enough… But that is so far from the truth. Because the truth is, your calling is so much greater than them. One day a boy will tell you something that will change the way you see yourself. He’ll tell you that problem isn’t that you’re not enough, but it’s that you’re too much.
You’re too passionate, like a raging wildfire that can’t be quenched. You’re too independent, only depending on the One who saved you. You’re too kind, thinking more of others than yourself. You’re too committed, centering your life around the One who gave His just to be with you. You’re too strong, doing things and going places others would never imagine with a courage not admired in women. You’re too loving, with a love so fierce you would travel to the ends of the earth just for one person to hear the very name of Jesus. One thing he says changes your life:

Your calling is too big for me.

These words will sting at first. Do not let these words hurt. No, let them bring glory to God. Because if you’re honest with yourself, you would never do these things without Him. If He had never called you to it, you would be ordinary. But God didn’t call you to that. He called you to do big, bold, wonderful, beautiful things. The calling He gave you serves a purpose.

So be too much. Never let any man make you feel lesser for being too much. Be as passionate as the wildfire. Let it burn so hot that others are caught on fire with you. Be as kind as a summer breeze sweeping over your skin, easing life for others. Be committed to the death, because one day it may come to that point. Be strong as the lion, never letting fear keep you from where He is asking you to go. And love. Never be afraid to love people so deeply that it hurts because that is the love of Christ.

Let yourself be too much. Don’t let anyone make you feel like less than you are.
Much love, the girl that’s too much.

The Gifts of God I Don’t Have

Let’s be honest, I’ve never been good at the ‘typical gifts of God’. What am I talking about you ask? Well, if you grew up in church, there are typical abilities that everyone says are God given. Things such as singing, preaching, or playing any instrument. Oh, and talking to people. Now I’m not saying these things are bad. But I was expected to be good at one of these things. And guess what?

I’m not good at any of them. Nope. I’m still not good at them. I still can’t play an instrument or sing, preaching and talking to people are skills I’m okay at, but definitely not an expert. How am I supposed to do God any good??? I’m striking out here big time.

But then one day I read this verse in Exodus that really hit me:

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

Exodus 31:1-5

Seems simple enough, right? Just take a second to realize what is happening here. He filled a carpenter with His Spirit to help build His temple. A carpenter? Wait, I thought God only filled people with His Spirit to do things like preach or sing? My mind was blown.

When we think about gifts from God, the first thing that comes to mind are of course the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians. Then next are the ministry gifts. But what about the rest of us? What about the people, like me, that just aren’t great at those? For so long, I focused on what gifts I didn’t have. The fact that no, I’m not a great preacher and you do NOT want to hear me on a drum set, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have God given gifts.

God doesn’t just give us the spiritual gifts that we so often think of. He also gives us our talents and abilities. All of them. Not just the ones we always think of. He gives us the creative ones, the logical ones, the ones we don’t really think of as ‘gifts’. Things like cooking, dancing, caring for people, understanding math (actually do those people exist?), writing, listening, taking care of kids…

Things like photography.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a photographer. It is my talent. You could attach a camera to my right hand and I would be totally content. But I struggled for years to see how God could use my photography. I never read anywhere of anyone saying, “I saw this photo and I just felt like I needed to give my heart to the Lord.” It just didn’t happen. Unless it happened to you, then you should tell me all about that. I just never understood how taking a nice photo would be beneficial to the Kingdom of God.

Over time, the Lord helped me realize that He does, in fact, have a purpose for photography. There may not be people running to the altars, but that’s okay. Because of photography, I’ve been able to meet people I would never have been able to. But more than that, I’ve been able to tell the stories of people that are ignored by most of the world. I’m able to shine a light on the fact that there are still people in the world that don’t know Him. We read statistics of how many lost people are still left in the world, but through photography, I’m able to give them faces. They become more than just numbers; they become real people with real needs.

You see, when we ignore the fact that God is the God of creativity, we miss an entire aspect of Him. He created the entire world, and He put the same desire to create inside of us. We are made in His image, after all. It’s in our design to make things. Not only that but to make things for Him like He made the world for us.

We also miss a lot of ways God could be using us to make Him known in the world. I feel like I have looked Him in the face and said “I cannot bring You glory with what You gave me” more times than I should have. I love that it says that God filled him with ability, with intelligence, with knowledge of all craftsmanship. God gave Bezalel everything he would need to bring God glory. He gave him the talents and abilities He knew he would need to fulfill the purpose God gave him. God also gave us all of the abilities we would need to bring Him glory. He didn’t forget anything. It feels like it at times, but He knew what He was doing. Knowing that He has already prepared me for His purpose gives me joy. And it should give you joy, too.

I want to leave you with this: what abilities has God given you that you’re not using? Ask God to show you what those are. You never know what He might do with them.

He Calls Me Friend

“Friend, do what you came to do.” – Matthew 26:50

This statement amazes me. The disciples have been praying in the garden; Jesus knows what is about to take place. He knows that Judas is coming to betray Him. But right in the middle of His betrayal, Jesus calls him His friend. This is the only place in the Bible that Jesus refers to any of His disciples as His friend. Why did He call Judas, of all people, His friend? In our minds, Judas is the worst of the worst. He betrayed our Savior! How could He call him His friend?

I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we aren’t much different from Judas. If we really take a look at our hearts, we’re a lot like him. We don’t like to compare ourselves to him. We’d rather compare ourselves to Peter or John, but never Judas. Never the one who betrayed The Christ. But unlike Judas, we didn’t just betray Him once. No, we betray Him constantly. Every time we sin, we crucify Him anew.

Every. Time.

Just think about that for a minute. How many times have you sinned this month, this week, or even today? How many times have you kissed His cheek, then turned right around and crucify Him? I know I have many times. More times than I would like to admit. It hurts me to think about all the times I’ve broken His heart for something so petty.

But this verse gives me hope because even in the midst of our betrayal, we can still be His friend. We can still come back to Him and He calls us friend. No matter how dark our heart is, no matter how many times we turn away, we can still be called friend. He can still save us! Even when we betray Him a thousand times, we can come back. We can break His heart daily, but He loves us so much that He lets us come back. I’m so thankful that on that night He called Judas His friend. And now, He calls us friend.

Broken Bones

“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have broken rejoice.” Psalm 51:8

I read this and it hit me so hard. I’ve read Psalm 51 multiple times, but I never noticed that line in verse 8 until the other day. This is the Psalm that David wrote after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba. The entire psalm is David repenting for his sin and asking for forgiveness and mercy, except this line. “Let the bones You have broken rejoice”. At the risk of stating the obvious, sin hurts. Maybe not immediately, but just give it time. Sin causes pain, heartache, and death. It hurts those around us, it hurts ourselves, and it hurts God. Yes, God will still love and forgive you. But that doesn’t take all of the pain of that sin away.

Sin breaks bones, but we should be able to rejoice even with our broken bones. Why should we rejoice? Because He loves us enough to discipline us. It says in Proverbs 3:12, “The Lord disciplines those He loves.” We should rejoice that He loves us so much, He is willing to teach us even when it hurts. David knew what he did was wrong, and he had to deal with the consequences of those actions. God doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves again. He knows what sin does to our hearts, and He wants to protect us from that.

The thing about bones is that when they’re broken, they only hurt for a while. Then they heal. Sometimes it takes weeks, other times months. One thing is for certain: they will heal. No matter how broken you are or how badly you messed up, He can heal you. That alone is a reason to rejoice, but we can take comfort in the fact that not only can He, but He will! He will heal your broken bones and make you new again. All you have to do is repent and ask Him. David, even after all he did, was still called “A Man After God’s Own Heart”. No matter what we do, we can still be redeemed.

Your broken bones can be healed. Let them rejoice.

New Year, Same God

2014.

When I look back on 2014, two words come to mind: faithful and change.

I spent the entire year fundraising and preparing to move to a country I fell in love with 4 years ago. In all honesty, nothing can prepare you for that. There were times I had doubt, and a few times I thought I might not make it. (even though I wasn’t willing to admit it at the time) But every single time, God showed me His faithfulness. He’s reminded me throughout this entire year that He has called me and that He is faithful to those He calls. I had many opportunities to give up and quit, but I didn’t. I knew that the struggle would be worth the joy of being in God’s will for my life. His faithfulness astounds me every day.

Then there was change.

On December 15th, I flew to Ecuador. Fitting your entire life into a total of 4 bags is a lot harder than it sounds. I went from winter weather to summer in a matter of 24 hours. I moved away from my entire family and everything I knew to move into a house with 30 girls that I didn’t know, yet I’ve never felt more at home. I’ve struggled with my Spanish, but somehow I’ve still made an impact. I’m learning a whole new way of life. It’s challenging yet fulfilling. It’s because I know that this is what I’m called to do. He made me for this.

It’s so comforting to know that no matter how much change happens in my life, God is still the same God. Even though my life is completely different from last year, He’s still the same. Years can go by and change me with them, but every new year He is still there. He is just as faithful as before. He’s just as merciful and loving as 4 years ago when He brought me here for the first time. He’s the same God that was with me 2 years ago when I stayed for 3 months and knew He wanted me back here. He was with me when I finally came back after 2 years of waiting. And He will be with me when I have to leave and return to America. In every season of my life, He has been there and will be there to guide me and help me through it.

I can depend on Him always, and that makes all of the change easier to handle.