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HOPE

 

If there is one word that continues to haunt me these days.. it is hope. I think for the first time that I can remember as a Believer.. I am struggling to have hope. The world seems like such a mess.. as I write this, fires are still burning in Northern California.. and that is our home. We smelled the smoke and looked at the pictures of homes burning, people dying and there was nothing we could do to stop it. It is heart breaking to see the suffering that is all around us.. the mass slaughter in Las Vegas.. just a week earlier. What is happening Lord? Everything seems to be out of control and there is so much suffering.. In my personal life there have been challenges on a level I have never encountered.. emotional and physical trials..

So as I process all of this.. the word HOPE emerges. We cannot live without it, but it does not come from our circumstances or our  surroundings. Our hope .. my hope.. can only be found in the Lord. He is with us and He is unchanging and we are living in a fallen world.. a dark world. All of these tragedies teach us that this world is not going to provide us with security or be our refuge .. it is an unstable place and we are not safe here. I believe that God is taking us deeper.. to a place where our faith truly rests on His goodness. Often that happens when everything else fails.. when all our dreams are broken..when we no longer believe that anything here can save or protect us.  The world gets excited when people come together and accomplish good things.. and of course that is encouraging.. but not enough to sustain us through the long years of recovery.. through the grieving process. Once the headlines are gone.. and we go back to our “normal” lives.. there are people who cannot do that and we may forget about them because their pain is not public.. time to pray for them.. to remember them.. because it could have been us.

I am grateful for my life.. grateful that so far we have a roof over our heads .. grateful for the way I see people reaching out to help others.. but what I am the most grateful for is my relationship with the Lord.. for the knowledge that He loves me and is with me no matter what happens next.. He is my safe place and my refuge in the storm.. He is good and we can trust Him when nothing makes sense and when our next trial starts.. Our faithful loving God.. we are blessed.

Hebrews 6:18 in the Message says:

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us..

Amen

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The hidden places..

This is a post from a year ago.. it seems to be the topic that God has been focusing on in my life .. it relates to the last post so I thought I would publish it again.. dscn4151

 

We have these places in our lives. They are like closets full of things that we don’t want to look at too closely. The truth is they are not hidden from the Lord. He sees and knows all the things we are keeping from Him and from ourselves. This closet may hold secret sins and idols.. but it also holds pain. Pain that we put in the back under everything. Why? So we don’t have to grieve and face the losses that happen in life. So when God goes into that closet and begins to pull out things.. He has only one purpose in mind and that is healing. How do I know that.. because I have experienced healing from His hand over and over again.

He wants to bring us into freedom. To touch our wounds and heal them. To bring out the poison.. the toxins that have developed because the wound is old and is covered with band aids that are filthy.. underneath there is an infection.. His desire is to clean the wound and heal it so that it is finally unable to keep us in bondage. Why do we resist this process? because it is painful. It order to receive this healing you need to open up and feel the pain that is stuffed down inside. It is not as though you have to relive it is.. but there is pain in remembering and releasing grief that is unresolved. The beautiful thing is realizing that God can take this process and change you.. He can ” create a clean heart” in you.

I am writing about this because I am concerned about Believers who run from this process. They hide their pain deeper and deeper because they are either embarrassed, ashamed or fearful. We are here on earth for a reason..not just waiting for the day when all this over. Eternity is here now.. we have entered the kingdom of God and He is at work restoring us. We need to let Him in fully if we want to begin experiencing the abundant life He promises in John 10:10.

Our God is pursuing us daily. He desires to go deep with you.. to take you to your hidden places and help you bring them out into the light so you can be set free to walk with Him without always looking back and without fear of the future. I want to encourage you to allow Him to come into those places.. if you are unable to do it alone, find someone to help you.. there is nothing wrong with needing help. The Holy Spirit is the counselor and He leads the way when it comes to unraveling your past and unveiling those wounds.. but He often works through counselors..especially those that walk with Him. Pray that the Lord will lead you to the right person and take a risk.. you won’t be sorry. He has only good things for you!

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free” (Luke 4:18)

The hidden places..

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We have these places in our lives. They are like closets full of things that we don’t want to look at too closely. The truth is they are not hidden from the Lord. He sees and knows all the things we are keeping from Him and from ourselves. This closet may hold secret sins and idols.. but it also holds pain. Pain that we put in the back under everything. Why? So we don’t have to grieve and face the losses that happen in life. So when God goes into that closet and begins to pull out things.. He has only one purpose in mind and that is healing. How do I know that.. because I have experienced healing from His hand over and over again.

He wants to bring us into freedom. To touch our wounds and heal them. To bring out the poison.. the toxins that have developed because the wound is old and is covered with band aids that are filthy.. underneath there is an infection.. His desire is to clean the wound and heal it so that it is finally unable to keep us in bondage. Why do we resist this process? because it is painful. It order to receive this healing you need to open up and feel the pain that is stuffed down inside. It is not as though you have to relive it is.. but there is pain in remembering and releasing grief that is unresolved. The beautiful thing is realizing that God can take this process and change you.. He can ” create a clean heart” in you.

I am writing about this because I am concerned about Believers who run from this process. They hide their pain deeper and deeper because they are either embarrassed, ashamed or fearful. We are here on earth for a reason..not just waiting for the day when all this over. Eternity is here now.. we have entered the kingdom of God and He is at work restoring us. We need to let Him in fully if we want to begin experiencing the abundant life He promises in John 10:10.

Our God is pursuing us daily. He desires to go deep with you.. to take you to your hidden places and help you bring them out into the light so you can be set free to walk with Him without always looking back and without fear of the future. I want to encourage you to allow Him to come into those places.. if you are unable to do it alone, find someone to help you.. there is nothing wrong with needing help. The Holy Spirit is the counselor and He leads the way when it comes to unraveling your past and unveiling those wounds.. but He often works through counselors..especially those that walk with Him. Pray that the Lord will lead you to the right person and take a risk.. you won’t be sorry. He has only good things for you!

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free” (Luke 4:18)

Grief.. a very long and very lonely journey

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I decided to write about grief again. It used to appear more regularly on this blog, but it has been quite a while since I posted on this topic. There seems to be some misconceptions about what happens when we suffer losses.  All losses involve grief at some level, but some are more intense than others. Of course the loss of a loved one is at the top of the list. We encounter deep grief when someone close to us dies. Our hearts are filled with a heaviness that is indescribable.. loneliness at the deepest level possible. One thing that troubles me in our culture is the absence of information on grief.. the denial of grief and the way people feel like they need to hide their grief. What a tragedy this is. God allows us to feel grief and it is a very natural part of life. No one gets through this life without going through losses and the older you get, the more you will experience. In the light of that information.. we need to know all we can about this journey we call grief.

It is impossible to say when your first big loss will occur. Sometimes children have their first huge loss in childhood.. a grandparent, friend, or sibling. Their feelings are deep and troubling and we can only hope and pray there is an adult present to help them process the loss. You may not experience this level of loss until adulthood.. that is quite common. When you do.. it will hit you hard.. your capacity to understand how you feel will be very limited. Unless the person who died was very ill for a long time.. you will not be prepared. Even if that is the case.. you may still find it totally disorienting and scary. Sudden tragic death is even harder to deal with..everything in us wants to cry out No.. this did not happen.

Grief has a life of its own and cannot be controlled. It often starts out slowly.. God’s grace for us includes a period of shock.. we don’t actually realize what has happened.  Slowly the shock wears off and each time a season changes or a holiday passes..we feel the loss all over again… almost as though it just happened. People who have lost spouses will often say the second year is worse than the first.. this is because as time passes the loss is more and more real. Your loved one is not there to celebrate holidays or witness important family events.. Feelings of grief are hard to understand unless you have an awareness of the process.. you may feel angry, frustrated, depressed, sad and lonely at different times or almost all at once. People have wondered if they were losing their minds because their grief was so confusing and intense. You may be very alone with your grief.. others can express their sorrow and understand your loss from a distance, but they are not with you every night when the lights go out. Many people spend sleepless nights crying and wondering if life will ever return to normal. Eventually.. you will come to a place of acceptance, but no one can tell you how long that will take. It is different for every person.. each of us grieves differently and uniquely.

No… Life will never be the same. You have joined a club you never wanted to join. You will never get over your grief.. you will learn to live with it.. if you process it and don’t stuff your feelings. Most depressed people suffer from unresolved grief.. many addicts become addicted when they encounter a loss and are unwilling to face what has happened. Not allowing yourself to cry and to suffer will only hurt you more in the long run. In our busy culture, people feel like they need to look like they have bounced back even before the grieving process has started. There is no time to waste.. life must go on.

My purpose in writing this is to give you permission to grieve.. not only your personal losses but the loses we read about every day online or hear about in the news. the losses our friends experience that tear our hearts apart. These things affect us deeply and we don’t need to block these feelings or pretend that they don’t. We live in a fallen world and there is suffering every single day all around the world. God grieves for those who are hurting and He gives us the capacity to do that same thing..

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  

Jesus wept.

The whispers of God..

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Today was a day when I heard God whispering… at least that is as close as I can come to describing what happened. It is as though God spoke clearly using only a few words and not really making any sound.. not even a whisper. This has happened to me in the past, but not frequently. I was just getting up and opening the curtains to let the sun shine in. My mornings are somewhat of a battle ground these days.. I can feel worries that were there when I fell asleep creeping back in.. today was different because I heard God say ” enjoy your day.. I am taking care of you” It was as clear as a bell!

I felt a warmth and a sweet presence right there near the window and I knew.. it was the Lord. How I had been longing for a word of comfort from Him.. this has been a very hard season and in truth the last 10 years were incredibly challenging. I have questioned my decisions over and over and wondered if I took a wrong turn or something. I prayed and cried out and it seemed as though God was pretty quiet.. He brought encouragement through the Bible and sermons and other people.. but I needed to know that He was close by.. His words are staying with me and I am clinging to them as I type this.. I knew it was the Spirit of God speaking.. the comforter.. the one who knows exactly what we need.. at the perfect moment He makes sure we know that we are not alone and that He is with us in the trial..we are not forgotten.

I am sharing this with you because I want you to have hope today.. don’t give up even if you have been waiting a very long time. God has heard the cry of your heart and He is taking care of you even if you don’t feel like that is true. Those words He spoke are not only for me.. maybe you need to hear them.. ” enjoy your day, I am taking care of you.” Such simple words but so filled with hope. He wants us to enjoy this life.. in the middle of the storm.. in the midst of uncertainty..when we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year.  He is at work in the silence.. in the doubts..in the fear..in the unbelief..these things do  not change Him. When it is time.. the season will be over and something new will happen.. He will come for us.. to rescue us and restore us and renew us.

Thank you Lord for speaking to me and my prayer is that you will speak words of comfort and hope to each person who is reading this post. Lift them up on wings of eagles.. carry their burdens.. renew their strength and remind them of your presence..

 

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Keeping on….

This post is a follow up to the one last one I wrote.. it seems like the topic of life’s disappointments continues to surface daily for me. One of the most difficult things to face is the fact that people’s choices often impact our lives in huge ways yet there is literally nothing we can do to make them behave differently..We can pray for them..and with them..we can talk with them. We can point out the things that would help them.. yet the choice is still theirs.

If you are the care-giving type like I am.. nothing feels like it is enough.. so there is a certain level of frustration that is difficult to handle. As I wrestle through these things.. I hear a quiet voice saying ” Rest in me, look to me, remember me.. I am in this.” It is God..speaking His truth to my heart. He is sovereign over everything and everyone..His plan is unfolding and He is going to redeem everything in the end. We are only passing through this place..our lives are so far from perfect, our relationships are so complicated..we know so little about God’s purposes.

He is asking us to trust Him when nothing makes sense..when others frustrate us, when our hearts are broken in many places. He is calling us to come to Him in a greater way..to lean on Him and to allow Him to comfort and heal us. Do you need this? I do.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
 When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
 For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” ( Isaiah 43:1-3)

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Disappointments

I was reluctant to write on this topic..yet it is one that has been following me for about 10 years. I heard someone talk about it when I was in grad school and it stuck with me.. I could literally see the sadness and disappointment in the eyes of a fellow student. I wondered what had happened to him.. I don’t think it is such a mystery to me now.

The last 9 years have been filled with many disappointments and each time I sit down to think through what has happened.. I am filled with a sadness that I never expected to feel. Could I have been better prepared? No. Should I have anticipated these disappointing things? No. There is literally nothing I could have done differently. We live in a world filled with disappointments..yet there is not much talk about such things. We have our ways of covering them up and pretending they are not bothering us. They are losses and we have to grieve our losses.. no matter how often they occur or how hard it is to face them.

Once we face them.. the tears start and we are filled with the pain of the loss.. knowing that things will never be the same.. that dreams have died.. that life is not fair and that we are in a fallen world. There is healing in facing these things.. if we hide our feelings and put on a happy face.. we are only prolonging what inevitably needs to happen.  My heart is broken in many places, but I am not defeated.. I am grieving the losses and trusting God for His healing touch.

Are you disappointed with your life.. have  your dreams failed to come true? Are you discouraged? Don’t hide or cover up your shame and sadness.. take your grief to the Lord and let Him apply the balm of Gilead on your wounds.. He is able to restore you …  to revive you. His hand is there to cling to as He takes you through the pain and renews your hope.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm
    my great army that I sent among you.
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
    never again will my people be shamed.”  ( Joel 2:25-26)

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