Story

The First Step of Forgiveness: Wanting to Learn How

“Help me to trust You enough to accept the full forgiveness that You offer me continually. This glorious gift cost You Your Life, and it is mine for all eternity! I’m grateful that forgiveness is at the very core of Your abiding Presence.” – Jesus Listens, June 3rd That relationship. Yeah, that one. When you began the relationship, you didn’t sign up for heartache or headaches, did you? Oh sure, you know conflict is part of life. Everyone knows. What you didn’t know was how deeply the spouse, child, friend, coworker, or church would wound you.  But here you are. The conflict happened. Or is happening. The hurt is real. So is the anger. And the confusion.  Enter the need for forgiveness. Years ago, my husband worked for a thriving church. However, when the senior pastor retired, f...

You Are a Tree (Not a Machine)

by Joy Clarkson “Lord, I want to flourish in Your Presence—like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God. As the sunlight of Your Presence shines upon me, it nourishes me so I can produce fruit in Your Kingdom.”– Jesus Listens, October 31st Machine like productivity You think that you have never described yourself as a machine, or thought, I am a computer. But think of how we describe ourselves processing something like a hard drive whirring away, or how we tell a friend that we need to update each other about life events, like new software. We adjust to new circumstances like a car whose tires need to be rotated; people push our buttons; we need to power down so we can recharge. When we don’t understand something, we might say it does not compute. When someone has been influenced to ...

Three Ways to Know God as You Read the Bible

“The Bible tells me that You created me first and foremost to know You and live in rich communion with You.” – Jesus Listens,September 20th For the past several years, I’ve been rapid-reading the Bible in two or three month increments. It’s been one of the most fulfilling, life-changing habits I’ve ever encountered on my goal in really knowing the Bible and understanding its beautifully redemptive story. It’s not an easy process, and the discipline of reading an hour a day (thankfully) crowds out other habits, particularly doom scrolling on social media. Still, I wouldn’t trade this practice, as it’s helped me know God so much better—because He lives in the pages of the book He wrote. By trade, I am an author, so I come to the Bible with a storyteller’s heart present. When I first read the...

Wholehearted Love Amid Unbearable Pain

“Today, the only things that seem endless are my problems and my pain. Yet I know You are here—tenderly present—ready to help me get safely through this day. Your loving Presence is my lifeline that keeps me from giving up in despair.” – Jesus Listens, February 6th My hair was slicked back and wet after my nightly shower. I was cozy in my pink heart bed shorts and pink T-shirt. I pulled out my two books. One of them I’d been writing in almost every night for a year, recording a brief description of what I had done that day. The other was a fresh, blue-flowered journal. I’d just finished another like it, writing a poem to my twin baby boys every night since I found out they had died inside of me. Routine was what had been getting me through the last several months of pain. But our usual sch...

Befriending Jesus Amidst Our Wilderness Seasons

“You have been teaching me that it’s possible to feel secure even in the midst of the most difficult, painful circumstances— through staying aware of Your continual Presence with me.”– Jesus Listens, July 19th The Wilderness “Go to Jesus,” they say.  “Clap your hands and shout,” they say.  Somehow, when we are in pain, the quintessential church phrases do not move us like they typically do. The exuberant testimonies of how others were able to pray themselves into wholeness and victory can feel like a taunt more than an encouragement for those who do not even have the strength to open the bible. Sometimes, we may not want Him, but instead, we may just want to want Him. On top of that, we may hope to hope one day—just not today.  How can we experience the Presence of God when ...

Do You Know About Jesus, Or Do You Know Jesus?

“ You are no stranger to Me, dear one.” – Jesus Calling for Easter I grew up in a family that never discussed giving up something for Lent. I always wondered how giving up chocolate for seven or eight weeks could make an impact on my faith in Jesus. As my faith matured, I began to better understand how Lent was a gift of time to prepare myself for Holy Week and the remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice for me. This time of Lent was not so much about what I gave up but more what I put in place to better spend time drawing more closely to Jesus.  It took me some time to realize that Lent was not just a time of darkness and the focus on my sinfulness, but rather an opportunity to keep my sights on the hope that Jesus offers me. This world is quick to show me how I consistently fa...

God Is Surrounding What’s Surrounding You

“Help me to stay mindful of You as I go step by step through this day. Your Presence with me is a precious promise—and a comforting protection.” – Jesus Listens, October 29th My brother was thirteen years old when a band of bullies on bikes encircled him like buzzards taunting their prey. He was outmanned and outnumbered. I thought it was the end. But then my dad pulled up in his Pontiac. He didn’t even get out of the car, but simply rolled down the window and gave a look that said, “I dare you.” The bullies scattered like mice when the lights came on. Prayer As we pray for ourselves and the ones we love, it’s easy to think the spiritual forces surrounding us are too strong to defeat, too shrewd to outsmart, or too slippery to take hold of. The prophet Elisha’s servant felt the same way. I...

The Weight of Perfection

by Emily Ley “I yearn for perfection, and only You are the fulfillment of that deep longing. You are perfect and holy, yet You choose to stay close to me as I walk through this sin-stained world. When I look the right way—toward blessings, toward You—the Joy of Your Presence shines brightly upon me.” – Jesus Listens, August 30th “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” — Hebrews 12:1 NIV Struggling perfectionist Hi, my name is Emily, and I am a struggling perfectionist. Even as I write those words, I squirm a little, because I am still very much battling my perfectionist tendencies. I’d like for my home to be spotless, m...

The Value of Surrender

by Justin Davis “You have invaded the innermost core of my being, and Your Spirit is taking over more and more territory within me. As Your Word teaches, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. I rejoice in the freedom I have found in You, Jesus. And I surrender gladly to Your conquering Love!” – Jesus Listens, July 4th When I was eight years old, my family lived in a house on a hill with a steep gravel driveway. Water ran down the hill when it rained, making huge, oval mud puddles on each side of the grass-grown median of the driveway. Dad’s Disciplinary Method One day, coming home from work, my dad caught me playing in one of those irresistible puddles. He wasn’t as concerned about me playing in the mud as about where those puddles were located—just a few feet from the county ...

Your Life Is Your Prayer

“I love to use Your Name as a whispered prayer, a praise, a protection; and it never loses its power.” – Jesus Listens “The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God and God in all things.” —Mechthild of Magdeburg “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” —Mark 11:24 (NIV) Personal Fear On a summer trip to Jackson Hole, I conquered a personal fear. The trip was jam-packed with activities. We hiked, fished, floated the Snake River, roasted marshmallows, and took the tram to the top of the ski mountain for waffles. It was a blast, until our trip to the Aerial Ropes Course. Everyone knows Mom isn’t a fan of heights. I panicked when the outfitter said both parents would need to be eigh...

Becoming Christlike, Even in Conflict

“Trouble and distress are woven into the very fabric of this perishing world. Only Your Life in me can empower me to face the endless flow of problems with good cheer.” – Jesus Listens Prayers for Advent Jesus said in this world we’d have trouble, but somehow we usually think it’s found the wrong address when it knocks on our door. Misunderstandings. Disagreements. Clashing personalities and preferences. These are just a few of the relational conflicts we encounter in our homes and workplaces. And it should come as no surprise. On this side of the Fall, life is riddled with strife, but the good news is that God hasn’t left us alone to be overcome by difficulties. We live in the presence of a Redeemer who is at work in us, desiring to use even the most challenging situations to make us more...

God Can Mend Our Broken Hearts

“I can walk through the darkest days with Joy in my heart because I know that the Light of Your Presenceisstill shining on me.” – Jesus Listens Prayers for Advent Our lives are a series of challenges and benchmarks, with all sorts of lessons waiting to be scooped up along the way. There are few life events as heart-wrenching as splitting from someone you envisioned spending the rest of your life with. In today’s world, with all of the distractions, game-playing, and lack of social courtesy, romantic disappointment is an all-too-common occurrence. I’ve been there myself. The pain and symptoms of loss and dejection that wash over you—it feels like that hurt will never go away. Fortunately, that too will pass. And youalready possess some of the tools to start moving towards a healthier place ...