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When There Are No Words

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Today I find myself chasing after words as I try to pen them to paper. It’s unusual for me to be at a loss for words but writing is a creative process and creativity is a fickle beast when shrouded in unexpected grief.

 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.Proverbs 17:22 (NLT)

Within a 24-hour period I received news of two deaths and the energy that drives my thoughts is caught between two polar opposite extremes of grief: Ex-spouse and child of a close family member. My emotions seem displaced and off-balance.

The first life account was closed many years ago by divorce and in time we both opened new joint life accounts. Life goes on, or so I thought. I discovered that memories of love lost and shared intimacy never give divorce permanent closure.

Long forgotten emotional attachments surfaced upon news of his death.  Any hope for answers to questions I have longed to ask now rest in his grave.

The closure of the second life account is filled with moments I want to embrace and deposit into my forever memory bank. This life bears no emotional resemblance to the other, but both provoke feelings of grief. It’s a catalyst of mixed emotions that render me wordless.

Pervasive thoughts fill my thoughts and the reality that life ends with or without notice hits me head on. Did this life account close with a plus or minus balance? Did they know Jesus? Was the life account eternally insured?

I am convinced that our life encounters and relationships with people aren’t random. Even messed up relationships, the ones that go way bad, have a God-ordained purpose. Death compels us to pause and reflect on those shared connections and come to terms with our loss and the grief that follows.

Prayer for Today:

Heavenly Father,

I want my life bank account to be insured in Heaven.  When life circumstances bankrupt my life account and grief overwhelms me, disperse mercy and grace.

Let forgiveness cover any circumstances that overdraft my life account and when my words become captive to grief, allow me to rest in you.

Amen

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Never Wrong: The Sorry Never Comes

never wrongThere are those individuals who will never admit they are wrong and when challenged, they dig their heels in even deeper with a combative attitude which often leads to total denial of words spoken or actions performed.

An apology from a husband, wife or friend for unwarranted explosive behavior may never happen. Their ‘I need to be right and won’t back down’ situation is transformed into something entirely different through their eyes.

Phrases like, “I never said that,” or “I was calm until you raised your voice,” aren’t uncommon when a Mr. or Mrs. Right recalls and replays a confrontational moment. I think all of us have friends or family members obsessed with the need to be right at all times and in all things. It is tough on marriages, friendships and employer relationships.

Encounters with a person who is never wrong can deplete us of every emotion except the one that exacerbates the situation: Anger. Through personal life experience, I find the always right persona is often coupled with a tutorial of: If you had done it my way.

Maybe you are the person who is driven to always be right. Or, perhaps it is a spouse, family member or close friend. The reality is it’s a difficult place for all concerned. Each has their own set of coping skills and behavioral reasons that I call ‘help me Jesus moments’.

Aggregated layers

A culmination of life experiences and stories shape our life. Some we willingly acknowledge while others are laid to rest in the abyss of stories with bad endings. Bad ending stories have a way of resurrecting themselves at the most unexpected times and trigger a reaction.

Reactive behavior is a first response in the process of trying to gain control and look for someone to blame. It has a way of peeling away layers to reveal an alter personality that isn’t always becoming.

How to live and cope with an ‘I am never wrong and won’t say I’m sorry’ person?

I pose this question because many stories have been shared with me in confidence that echo these same relationship issues. Seems it is more common than one might think but most won’t openly talk about it because it provokes emotional/financial repercussions, disbelief, blame and shame from others.

As I sit here overlooking the lake and listening to the sound of boat engines and barking dogs, I want to believe life is simple. But it’s not.  I don’t have answers to the countless contaminates that dominate this world because of sin. I don’t have answers to the attitude of I’m never wrong and a sorry will never come that seeks to tear apart family relationships.

What I do know.

Tomorrow, when I awake, the sun will rise. Chances are good that it won’t be a perfect day. Chances are even better that I will encounter a confrontational moment with an ‘I am never wrong’ person. Odds are it will involve a conversation with God about what He needs to do to fix this person.

God’s reply will be the same: My child, today, I am working on you. My grace is sufficient to perform every good work… in my time.

Prayer for Today:

Dear God, keep me from bitterness and disdain for those that have the need to be forever right. Be near and keep me calm when I want to fight back with words that I will later regret. Remind me that my imperfections need your grace as well.

“Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious ideal;” Romans 3:23

Amen

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A Funny Thing Happened: Life

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Life happens in the most unusual places and the most inappropriate times. It could be in a grocery store, it might be while chaperoning your child’s school field trip, or picking up pet waste in your backyard. Life is funny that way. It doesn’t wait for you, it just happens.

Scenario One:

I decide to go fishing with my nine-year old grandson. How difficult is that? Bait a hook and cast the line off the shore line. BINGO, BANGO, BONGO something is tugging at my line. The pole bends beneath the weight of my catch and the bobber sinks into the water. The adrenaline pumps through my veins and I know I’ve got a live one.

And then life happens. I pull my line from the water only to discover I’ve caught an empty pop can that is entangled in a massive amount of lake weeds. My annoyance level grows when I realize the only wacky worm bait I own is at the bottom of the lake.

It’s in my power to make it a SH@# or SUGAR moment. What to do?

Scenario Two:

It’s Saturday morning.  With a shopping list in hand and three kids in tow, I am grocery store bound. It should be a flawless outing. But then life happens. Pulling the cart into the checkout lane I realize it’s not my cart. Oops! Thank you, grandson, for assuming the cart belonged to us because you saw Fruity Pebbles and strawberry pop tarts.

I can either make it a SH!# or SUGAR moment. What to do?

Yep! The odds of life going amiss are high.

When faced with life happen moments we are presented with two choices:  See the humor or get angry.

I’ve opted for the anger route more times than I care to admit and could author a book on How to Get Angry When Life Happens. Unfortunately, the last page of the book would be a repeat of the first page. Why? Because anger spawns a repeat cycle of past mistakes. Nothing is learned through anger and we end up in the same place we started.

When we allow humor to kick start a life happens moment the page turn reads differently.  Let’s backtrack to the first scenario and consider the options.

My fishing line is tangled and an aluminum can is the only catch of the day. The vile profanities perched on my tongue are but one breath away. My nine-year old grandson watches as I reel my catch onto the shore. He’s waiting to see how Neenee will react to this hot mess attached to her life happens fishing line.

“Run up to the house and bring back the biggest platter you can find,” I called out.

“Why,” he questioned.

“Stop with the questions and just go,” I said.

A few minutes later he returns with a cookie sheet. “That’s perfect buddy! Why don’t you pack up our fishing gear and head back to the house. Tell Poppy to set the table for dinner and I’ll be there shortly.”

I quickly cut the tangled fishing line from the pole and carefully arrange my catch of the day on the baking sheet and walk to the house.

“Wash your hands because dinner is almost ready.”  I walked into the kitchen and plopped the cookie sheet in the center of the table.

“No way, Neenee,” laughs my grandson. “We’re not eating that.”

“No buddy, we aren’t. The restaurant up the road is bringing us their fresh catch of the day. They felt bad that they caught all the fish in the lake today and the only thing left was aluminum cans.”

Yes, a funny thing happened: Life.

Oh how I wish I had understood in my youth that humor is the best Band-aid for so many day-to-day life happens moments.

Just for Today Prayer:

Jesus, life happens and not always as planned, but even then, those unplanned moments are purposely designed by you. It offers us an opportunity to grow in you in humorous ways we never thought possible.  Remind me that,

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)

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The ‘Grieving’ Cocktail

griefPREFACE: In an earlier in post, I determined to share about different areas and seasons in our life that often need holy intoxication. When we allow ourselves to become inebriated with God’s Word and fully embrace it, we experience divine liberation.

 

The death of someone we love shatters our life in ways we never thought possible. When my dad was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, I thought the foreknowledge of his impending death would help prepare me for the inevitable. I thought wrong.

Nothing prepared me for the overwhelming sense of void as I watched him take his last breath. Certainly Mary, the mother of Jesus, felt the same pangs of loss as she heard her son cry out, “It is finished!”

When a deep connection with someone is severed either through death, divorce or separation, grief kicks in. It’s a God-given defense mechanism that helps us cope with the crippling avalanche of emotions that put our life on hold.

So, what is God’s scriptural cocktail for dealing with loss?

  • Allow yourself to mourn. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that there is a time for everything, including death and mourning. Sin brought death to man in this life but the Cross of Jesus brought eternal life for those who accept its redemptive power.
  • Jesus understands the depths of human sorrow. He wept and was deeply moved when He saw Mary and Martha’s sorrow over the death of their brother Lazarus. Jesus already knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, but allowed Himself to feel and express the crevasse of human sorrow.

“When Jesus saw Mary’s profound grief and the moaning and weeping of her companions, He was deeply moved by their pain in His spirit and was intensely troubled.” John 11:33, VOICE

  • God has instilled within the spirit of mankind a natural grieving process that defies race, language or cultural boundaries. He promises to lead us through the “shadows of the valley of death”.

“He was… a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” Isaiah 53:3

Documented succession of the grieving process includes: Shock, depression, reality of the loss and recovery. It is no respecter of persons.

  • As a believer, God infuses your grief with faith. That’s powerful! God has promised to be with us in our darkest hours which include our times of grief. God longs to give us comfort, but we must reach out and accept it.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”
II Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT

It has been nine years since I lost my dad to cancer and feel confident I am in the recovery stage of my grief. Moments of intense sadness have diminished and the emotional void is being replaced with cherished memories.

I find comfort in the knowledge that Jesus is intimately acquainted with grief, disappointment and heartache and forever with me in every season of life.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever  (forever with me).” Psalms 73:26 (NLT)

Know this: Grief will visit us all at some point but God keeps track of all our sorrows, He collects all our tears in a bottle and records them in His book. I’m not sure what book, but I can only assume it is the book of OUR life on earth.

That’s how much God loves us. He even keeps record of our tears. His love for us is amazing!

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalms 56:8 (NLV)

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The ‘Worship’ Cocktail

worshipPREFACE: In an earlier in post, I determined to share about different areas and seasons in our life that often need holy intoxication. When we allow ourselves to become inebriated with God’s Word and fully embrace it, we experience divine liberation.


I just read about a church in Atlanta, Georgia that is adding skimpily clad aerialists as part of their Sunday morning worship. Don’t bother checking Snopes, it’s true.

Satan is one smart cookie. In this last decade, his deceptive powers have increased a hundredfold. He knows the return of Christ is imminent. His purpose is to use current trend antics to erode the foundation of salvation with distractions that turn church services into a masquerade of worship.

Nowhere in scripture do I find Jesus using strobe lights, bump and grind music and digital sideshows to proclaim the gospel. But, it’s happening every day in churches worldwide. In an effort to draw in the masses, churches are resorting to making worship service a (all-in-the-name of Jesus) three ring circus act.

The applause that follows isn’t in tribute to our Lord; it’s a tribute to the entertainment provided by the master of ceremonies: Satan.

The Master said:
“These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their hearts aren’t in it. Because they act like they’re worshiping me but don’t mean it, I’m going to step in and shock them awake, astonish them, stand them on their ears. The wise ones who had it all figured out will be exposed as fools. The smart people who thought they knew everything will turn out to know nothing.” Isiah 29:13

Christians, OPEN YOUR EYES to the cunning and deceptive methods Satan is using on the stages of today’s churches. It’s a debauchery to Jesus. The pastor at the Georgia church cites that God gifts us with talents and they should be used to praise and worship God. That is true, but not all talents are appropriate to showcase at a church service.

I just don’t see a silk rope draped around a scantily dressed woman, or a shirtless man in tight fitting stretch pants, as a ministry based talent. I know a talented tattoo artist…you see where I am going with this.

If is entertainment based and doesn’t incite heart-felt contemplation about the condition of our heart and need for salvation, it is deceptive and just plain WRONG.

This scripture sum up God’s idea of true worship before Him:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2  

There is a growing trend to make worship services entertainment based. Our focus of praising God for His mercy, forgiveness and redemption of our sin in an expression of reverence and thanksgiving to Him are lost in theatrics.

And then, there is the Beyonce Mass at a California church where hundreds gathered to worship God while listening to her songs.  Go ahead, shoot your arrows at me, but this is massnothing more than a Satan-ordained crusade to dilute the Gospel of Jesus and masquerade a pop star as an idol of God-ordained worship.

People of God, this is not of God. Let me put it another way: STOP embracing these popularized trends as a way to point generation X,Y and Z to Jesus.

The complacency within so many churches is grievous. Maybe it’s time to turn off all the microphones and silence the instruments and let God hear our imperfect voices lifted in praise to Him.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalms 46:10

Much to our chagrin, God doesn’t need us or our praise and worship. He doesn’t proof in worship of our talents and showmanship. Kick your pride to the sidelines. What God desires is a “eyes wide open” approach to worship.

Today’s Prayer:

Father God, cast out any ‘thinking outside the box’ views that are not in agreement with scripture. Remind me that the simple message of your grace and salvation doesn’t require theatrical displays or backdrops.

Open my eyes spiritual eyes to see that Satan stands ready to disguise the gospel of Christ with current trend antics that redirect focus from the life-saving power of the cross and the blood shed for our salvation.

Fine-tune my worship of you to align with God’s Word. Let your spirit reveal worship that is counterfeit and manufactured by the great deceiver, Satan.

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Dirty Lenses

dirty_lensesWhen our lens on life becomes clouded and smudged with the filth of this world it’s hard to keep our eyes on where God wants to lead us to fulfill His purpose. The same is true of the 50-plus pair of eyeglasses I own that have fingerprints, dirt and spatters of who knows what that obstructs my vision to see things clearly. I’m amazed I manage to get through the day, drive my car or see the screen of my iPhone and not notice my dirty glasses.

The perception of our circumstances is altered when viewed through dirty lenses and over time, we tend to acclimate ourselves to the dirty filter. Sin is like that. We don’t see the fingerprint smudges of sin in our life unless we hold the lens of our heart up to the light of God’s Word.

I do my best every day to avoid touching my eyeglass lenses, but those efforts prove futile. When I hold them up to the light at day’s end, I am surprised at the accumulated smudges and smears clouding my view.

I liberally spray them with water and use my handy-dandy cleaning cloth to wipe off the filth and my view of the world suddenly changes. Images appear sharper and I can focus with greater clarity.

Our Christian walk also requires daily cleansing to avoid the contamination of this world. Failing to do so will dramatically alter our view of what is right and what is wrong. Dirty glasses influence our perception of current cultural trends and popular opinions and hides God’s from our view. It’s the proverbial, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Are you in a place where you need God’s living waters to wash your spiritual glasses and His word to be your cleaning cloth?

“Show me the right path, O LORD ; point out the road for me to follow.” Psalms 25:4

God can’t point out the right path if we’re looking through dirty lenses. We must allow the Word of God to wash away the daily grime, crude and filth that this corrupt and sinful world throws at us to successfully walk in the paths of righteousness.

Today’s Prayer:

Dear Lord,

When things within this world cloud my vision give my spiritual life a serious wipe down and deep clean with the washing of your Word. Let me never lose sight of your eternal purpose for me when I choose to clean my glasses and seek the right path.

“Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sin!” Psalms 51:2 (GNT)

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The ‘Forgiveness’ Cocktail

forgiveness.pngThe indisputable truth about an unforgiving mindset is it can (and will) cripple our life spiritually, emotionally and physically. God desires us to be Christ-like in every area and since He has unconditionally forgiven us, I’m pretty certain He expects us to reciprocate forgiveness to others.

“But, you have no idea what he or she did to me and my family!” No, I don’t. I can only speak about my own life circumstances. I’ve had to drink the ‘forgiveness’ cocktail more than once.

Let me share:

Once upon a time I married my prince, or so I thought, but he was actually a toad incognito. Let’s call him ‘Dick’ to protect his identity.  Sidebar: This person is NOT my daughter’s father who remains a good friend to this day.

I gifted this prince my heart. In return, he gifted me a secret life of strip clubs, porn, drugs and lies. Imagine going to work and a co-worker shares, “I’m pretty sure I saw your husband at my in-home nurse visit today. He seemed to be living there.”

It all proved true. Dick’s out of town commercial paint jobs were really nights spent with the ‘other’ woman… or at strip clubs. Once his secret life was exposed, Dick never returned home and the IRS lien notices soon followed. My prince had defaulted on his quarterly business taxes and our home was about to go into foreclosure.

Call it bad choices, ignoring the obvious signs or being blind-sided. The truth is life happens and the ending doesn’t always play out like Hallmark movies.

In the Bible, the Greek word translated “forgiveness” literally means “to let go.” My translation would be closer to this:

I can ‘let go’ after you suffer alive as body parts are dissected for science; or, you experience a forever erection and acquire a disease that requires a lifetime catheter. Yep, you should get what is due you for my pain and suffering.

But then, there is God and His mercy. Hard to ignore when we look at the cross and realize we didn’t get what was coming to us.

“Get rid of all hard feelings, anger and rage; stop all fighting and lying. Put away every form of hatred.” Ephesians 4:31 (NIRV)

God’s ‘Forgiveness’ cocktail doesn’t mean you condom the offense. God forgave King David of serious sins (murder and adultery), but David still suffered the consequences of his actions even after asking for forgiveness. We aren’t the judge and jury for how the actions of others impact our life.

“Let go of anger and abandon rage.” (Psalms 37:8). To partake and reap the full benefits of the ‘forgiveness cocktail’ we must let go.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S. Lewis.

I had one brief encounter with Dick after he abandoned us. It was at his mother’s funeral. He gave no indication we had ever been married and shared an intimate relationship, but that’s OK. My decision to forgive rather than retaliate has yielded 23 years of marriage to a man who more than makes up for the guy I thought was my prince.

Prayer for today:

Dear Lord, help me to remember Colossians 3:14:

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Remind me that your mercy flows to me in spite of my faults and failures. Guide me into the freedom of forgiveness. I praise you for the work you are doing in my life, teaching and perfecting my faith.