Bad Brokenness Can…Become Good Brokenness…and Joy!

child riding stick

Bad Brokenness Can Become Good Brokenness…and Joy! 

These last years, our family shed a lot of tears. Maybe yours has too…

During times like this, we all go through a lot of confusion regarding the “why’s”. Why? Why…again? What is happening? Who can help us? What can we do to reverse this?

Then…the stages. The accompanying indignation, the anger…facing the losses.

All the while, seeking Jesus…sometimes not sensing Him. Sometimes…no strength to seek Him. Yet…He is ever there.

Then…loss of hope. How can we do this? I can’t do this. I can’t keep doing this!

We cannot bear this kind…of loss. Not. Again.

Though the situation isn’t better…in fact, seemingly “worse”…we are now further down the road and… on the edge Easter. (As you can see, I am posting this well beyond Easter and that sentence is still true.)

And…

Because of Jesus Christ…we have hope. Actually…we have immense hope. We are moving forward in that hope. Our greatest desire is to learn, to grow to touch other broken lives. To laugh.

I am looking at my little Snoopy “Happy Journal” with the verses on each page and tiny, happy, Peanuts characters. It makes me smile and think…Another year to practice thankfulness and…

Hope…!

And…this brings me to tears: Another year of seeing each of us grow in spiritual strength when we should have been…could have been crushed. A year of watching those I love seek joy…the kind you can only find in God. Not only in His word and prayer but in taking on life the way He intends. He is a giving and joyful God. Think of Adam and Eve. Where did He put them? In a garden! A beautiful place of glorious nature, creatures…a place to love and be loved.

And…in His presence.

These are the things He wants (has always wanted) for all of us…for you and for me. Despite our disobedience and the weeds/broken places we have allowed (or others have caused) in our garden…His desire is for any “bad brokenness” to become good brokenness.

What a joy to see that happening in in the lives of my family. Some have taken on life in ways only God could orchestrate. Only He could put that vision, that hope in the hearts of me and mine. Only He can take the bad brokenness and make it good brokenness.

It’s true for each of us. As we seek Him…and do not give up…

He will be found.

And in His presence…hope and yes…joy will rebound…

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NASB) 1  The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 2  To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3  To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

 

 

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We Believe…We Don’t Believe…We Hope to Believe. Our Hope…is In Him!

surfer under water

  We believe…we don’t believe…we hope to believe. Our hope is in Him!

Gosh…so many broken hearts. Families are in disarray…sometimes with seemingly no explanation. The relational pain within the family is so deep, so deadly that human logic will tell you this can never be made right.

Maybe you are experiencing physical pain. Maybe a disease is ravaging your body and making you feel ever so helpless. Sure, there are days you walk strongly by faith. But some days…some days it is all. just. too. hard.

Of course, what often follows a day (or pocket of days) of feeling nearly hopeless is a feeling of guilt and worthlessness. “I am not much of a Christian. Who am I to speak into the lives of others? I can’t even figure out my own life. I don’t know how to walk consistently in faith and joy. I need to hush…keep to myself. I have nothing to offer.”

I sat with a loved one going through such emotional pain that breath would almost not come. Tears could not be stopped. Oh…that we would not feel compelled to try to stop our tears. Of course, accompanied with the tears is often guilt and shame and loss of hope. “What could I have done differently? Why can’t I feel more ‘stable’?”

Guilt is also a tool of the enemy. He is good at waiting until we can hardly breath and then whispering his lies in our ears. Then the icing, “You are a weak Christian…you are a hypocrite…you have nothing to offer anyone else because you are such a failure.”

As I thought about my life and yours, I thought… “We believe…we don’t believe…we hope to believe. This…is being human.”

Oh yes…the books we read and even the blogs I write can make it seem like we should be completely strong all the time. I need to double check as I write in the future to be certain I am not leaving that impression. I bet I have…maybe more often than I can imagine.

Remember David’s Psalms? We all know he is all over the place emotionally. Strong one minute and weak the next.   Yet…he was called, “A man after God’s own heart”. You know why? He kept coming back to our God for his strength and assurance, comfort and joy. He never walked away from God because he gave in completely to guilt or uselessness.

Remember in Matthew, the father of the child who so wanted his child healed, who said, “I believe…help my unbelief!” His child was healed, though his faith wavered.

Tenderly I remind you, remember Jesus? The One who came to earth to give His life? In so much emotional pain, knowing what He was about to experience, Jesus…even sinless Jesus said, “Oh Lord…if it can somehow be your will, please don’t let this happen to me.” Then He said, “But your will, not mine.”

 You see…Jesus was an example of what it is to struggle with our humanity and our faith.

Like you and I, the child’s father was human. David was human. Jesus was (yes fully God) but also fully human.

As we continually return to Him and renew our faith and strength by His Spirit, we too, are men and women after His own heart.

 We believe…we don’t believe…we hope to believe.

 Our hope is in Him!

Psalm 147:3 (ESV) 3  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:6 (ESV) 6  The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.

James 1:2-4 (ESV) 2  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Revelation 3:21 (NIV) 21  To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

 

 

 

 

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Contentment…A Thankful Heart of Faith

Cactus

Contentment…A Thankful Heart of Faith

“Oh God…you ARE God…you are worthy.

You have given us your very life…your very life’s blood…and why? Why? Why create us in the first place? We are a mess, Lord…rebellious and willful…a stubborn and stiff-necked people.

Still…you have created us and loved us and continue to love us and draw us to yourself for our good and…yes…somehow for Your glory. Too wonderful…too marvelous for us to ever come close to fully understanding. And yet…and yet…you do give us understanding. You give us a sense of your presence.

You delight us with simple pleasures like the blue-jay who is just outside my window calling out so loudly that I can hear him even over the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir! He is a fierce and funny watchman! Beauty and laughter are such loving gifts from you!

I am so thankful for the things you put in front of me, Lord. The books to read, the music to listen too, the piano across the room in my sweet little home with nature all around.

And…during the hardest of times, your comfort is ever near, when we just reign our minds in to see you, hear you and sense you. Yes…sometimes you are quiet. Too quiet to our way of thinking. You allow things in our lives that are almost too painful to bear. But you, Oh God…you create a perfect balance. You don’t make mistakes. You know what we need when we need it and why. You know how we need to be stretched in order to be ready for the next challenge or the next blessing…and to be conformed to your loving image.

Oh God…help us remember…keep us mindful of You…of Your love.”

Can we not trust Him enough to thank Him that (even if we don’t see it or feel it) He is bringing us through? Can we not look around us and see all that we have to be thankful for, despite the losses? Can we not trust Him enough to be content in the moment…knowing He is Almighty God who loves us enough to create us and then protect us in ways we cannot possibly understand (or see)? Surely, we can. After all, He created us despite the fact that He knew it would mean His death would be required!

Ohh…it sometimes takes such dogged determination to live each moment with a thankful heart of faith! We cannot live in the past or the future and expect consistent contentment and joy. But we can truly experience His calming love by choosing to walk with Him in the present…moment by moment…with a heart of thankful faith.

Matthew 6:31-34 (NIV) 31  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

2 Corinthians 5:7 (NASB) 7  for we walk by faith, not by sight—

 

 

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Make the Presence of God Priority…PRACTICE the Presence of God…

dog looking in window

Make the Presence of God Priority…PRACTICE the Presence of God…

(See the boots in the window of this picture…His master is present…you think he knows it?)

Max Lucado said something like this:

“You must believe that you will never go…you will never be…where God is not.

Make the presence of God priority. More than a person, more than a thing. Seeking the presence of God is what will allow you to succeed during tough times and…after the tough times.

The Lord was all over the life of Joseph because he sought Him first. Can you count on Him being all over you? The secret is to seek Him first above any other person or thing.”

I thought about the things that fill me with dread. Is it because I am hoping for the kind of relationship with someone that God does not have in mind…yet or maybe ever? Maybe I am hurt because something hasn’t happened soon enough or has been taken away.

The list of things that hurt us (fill us with dread) can be endless. What hurts you?

What if, instead of allowing that thing to hurt you today, you sought the Presence of God above that thing. What would that look like?

It really is so basic and simple. Cause and effect, like eating too much and gaining weight. Simple solution. Or maybe you are prone to lose patience and speak harshly. Once again, you have hurt someone and…you caused your own heart to hurt or (worse) harden. Cause and effect.

If you are hurting over a relationship you can’t have or one that isn’t what you had hoped for you can keep hurting or…you can make the Presence of God priority. You can seek His view of this situation…this relationship. You can wait…knowing He hasn’t allowed it to look like you wanted it to look. His Presence…His view settles your heart and hurt. Maybe it is about a job or a promotion, a pregnancy, money or ministry or a sin.

Maybe these things are tearing you up, day after day. You wake with them in the morning and go to bed with them at night. You battle them during the day.

Making the Presence of God priority…Practicing the Presence of God above all of those things is, in essence, choosing to believe that what He allows He is also bringing you through. Practicing His Presence is bringing yourself back to the realization that He is at work to bring about His glory and your good.

Practicing the Presence of God will help you remember…

“The will of God will not take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.”

Psalm 91:4 (NLT) 4  He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Psalm 9:9-10 (NLT) 9  The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10  Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.

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Yes…There is Hope…!!

Final 2

We take road trips (and airplane trips) for the purpose of enjoying God’s creation, hiking a bit and taking photos. My husband delights in allowing me to hunt down the perfect shot! Blessed.

Last week, we took a little hour road trip to Bastrop State Park. On our way, we planned to see the bluebonnets and other wildflowers and then… get a perfect  picture of the little pine tree crosses that appear a couple of weeks before Easter to announce Christ’s resurrection!

Just prior to shooting the pine tree crosses, I noticed this wonderful, almost whimsical scene. One that not only made me smile but touched me deeply.

In 2011, Bastrop had a terrible fire. People lost their homes and livelihoods and wondered if life would ever be the same. Two precious people were lost in those fires. Afterward, when you looked up…instead of the beautiful life-giving pines against the blue backdrop…your eyes now fell on towers of charred black against a gray smoky sky. At your feet were acres of twisted and charred black trees.

Of course, there were many tears seen on television interviews. Yet,  behind the tears… was hope! We saw God during that time. We saw His spirit strengthening the people who were hurting and…the people who were helping.

Now, just over 7 years later,  we were driving up the curvy roads to find the little pine crosses…those meaningful little symbols of hope and joy.  Out of nowhere, this “other” symbol of joy appeared.  Not sure how close we were to the edge of the curved road and the drop off, my husband chose to back up, just so I could “get the  shot”.  I am so glad I asked and so glad he was willing!

On the edge of the tallest hill was this smiling face. The sun was glistening off  the edges of his cheeks and bouncing off of the blackened remains of what were once majestic pines. At the bottom of the charred pine towers was fresh green…new life…hope beginning to be realized. All around us were gorgeous young trees…flourishing. More symbols of hope.

I couldn’t help but wonder if this smiling face was there during the fire…or if it was painted afterwards. In my mind’s eye, I think it was there…smiling with the knowledge and assurance that things were going to be okay again…that there was absolutely, irrevocably hope.

Though human eyes couldn’t see it at the time, restoration had already begun!

I thought about how (for the believer) the pine tree crosses symbolize hope and how today this beautiful, whimsical  face symbolized hope for me. I smiled all across that forest as we searched for the perfect pine-cross picture.

I couldn’t help but smile, because in my heart…I knew that this…this sweet water-tower-happy-face was my perfect picture.

In a very different way than the pine tree crosses do, this little guy (though not really so little) made me think of our God…smiling at us…knowing what we sometimes don’t know…can’t feel.

God is at work…He is here…

In Him…there is always…always…hope!

Romans 15:13 says, “May God, the source of hope, fill you with joy and peace through your faith in him. Then you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (GWT).

 

 

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Yes…Even the Pine Trees Announce that “He is Risen!”…

Easter pine crosses777

Yes…Even the Pine Trees Announce that “He is Risen!”

Each year, the pine trees put on little crosses about two weeks before Easter dawns. I did not remember this until our dear friends sent us a quick pic of some they discovered on their walk!

Well, that sent my (sweet) husband and I off to Bastrop State Park to see it with our own eyes. You have to search…not every pine tree puts little crosses on and some were not quite ready to fully look like little crosses. But they are there…for all to see!

What a glorious thought…a beautiful gift. Each year that passes, my precious husband and I become more aware of how God’s creation reflects His glory in thousands of beautiful and glorious ways. This…this was a quietly sweet gift that we might not have ever noticed, had our friends not taken the time to bless us by thinking of us and shooting a text our way!

Thank you, Oscar and Cindi! We love you. You are one of those “glorious blessings” He continuously gives!

Here is the reason we celebrate tomorrow…the one the pine trees proclaim!

Ephesians 2:4-7 (NLT) 4  But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5  that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6  For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7  So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

Praise God…HE IS RISEN!

 

 

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Oh…to Live a Crucified Life…A Brave Life…

seagull and posts

Galatians 2:20 (NIV) 20  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

THE STORY, by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee…a chronological reading of the Bible that truly keeps you reading! Of course, reading God’s Word allows the Holy Spirit to do His work in your life, which then brings joyful (sometimes convicting) understanding and eyes that continually open…resulting in a true and continuous heart change!

So thankful my big brother mentioned this book (Bible) to me!

The authors write about Roman crucifixion; “The victim’s groaning became a morning’s entertainment for onlookers. Seeing the horrors of crucifixion was an effective deterrent for wrong-doers. For Jesus, this heinous death was undeserved. As he gave his life, he looked beyond it to God’s bigger story of salvation that was being played out through his life and death.”

Oh the “other truth” that came like a laser searing my heart. Think with me, here. Isn’t that what God has called us to do?

He has truly called us to live our lives with His sacrificial love. In other words, He has actually called us to give our lives to love in a way that can only come from Jesus. Not an out-of-balance superficial way, because He wasn’t (isn’t) superficial. But in a balanced way that can only come from Him. His way is not a way that excuses sin with all of today’s catch phrases and lackadaisical approach toward it.

We are not to be tolerant or easy on sin. We aren’t meant to make those in our sphere comfortable with actions or a lifestyle that breaks the heart of God and eventually leaves them empty and wondering, “Is that all there is?”

True, we aren’t supposed to hate the sinner or get up in his/her face in ways that lack love. But how often we forget to speak the truth in love…because we are afraid and because we aren’t truly walking closely to our God moment by moment. We are to speak out…we are to hate the sin, just as we hate cancer and what it does to the people who have it.

Sin is loving something more than God and His ways. It is a cancer that kills the hearts and lives of the sinner and…breaks the hearts of those who love them and stand helplessly by!

Oh God…may we be brave about walking out our faith through love…may we boldly speak the truth in love. May we be faithful to pray. May we always remember that prayer is truly participating in the battle for the hearts and lives of those we love who simply cannot see to fight. May we…

Look beyond the pain that bravery may cause us, to God’s bigger story of salvation that is intended to be brought about through our own lives. Let’s pray for death to timidity, self-protection and fear. Ask God to give you a true distaste for time spent on the things that take you away from essential time with God. Remember, anything more important to us than developing our relationship with Him is…idolatry. Any idolatry will separate us from that brave life…that crucified life.

That life is…the life that brings us purpose and joy. The one that makes a difference now and for generations to come!

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