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Silence: Blessings in Disguise

“The loveliest gifts sometimes come wrapped in the ugliest paper.” ― Matshona Dhliwayo

 

I call out to God, but the heavens are silent. My words seem to fall on deaf ears and my suffering continues. In anger I cry out to God, “where is your goodness, where is your love”– I know you hear my voice, why don’t you answer, why don’t you respond to my desperate pleas?

If your relationship with God sometimes feels like this, you are not alone. When stretched to our limits and in the fight for our life, when darkness seems to be winning and we are overcome with betrayals, addictions, health issues and we can’t find answers, we question God.

But what if our tears, hardships, pain and suffering in this life is really blessings in disguise. What if God purposes these situations to remind us this is not our home, to draw us closer to the cross and to thirst after Him? I believe God hears our cries; he listens and is continually proactive in our life.

We will never understand the inner workings of God in our life but one thing is certain, when life frightens us or gets us down—or when life seems like a battle ground and we feel like we’re alone on the battlefield—our omnipresent God is with us in every moment of any life situation.

In our valleys, when the heavens are silent, when doubt, fear, and transition overwhelm us, we must encourage one another and cling even closer to God. There is no nook and cranny of space that is absent of His presence. Whether you’re aware of it, or not, God is there.

I too, experience seasons of silence in my faith.  Sometimes they are short-lived, other times they seem like forever. Right now is one of those forever seasons for me.  It’s a conscious effort to forge ahead when God is mute and I am overcome by doubt and spiritual aloneness.

My journey with God has become a test of trust, a time to embrace and accept that His silence may actually be a blessing in disguise. Is this a time of training; is there something He wants to teach me? Whatever the reason, it will take as long as it takes and in the process my companions will be darkness and loneliness.

But dawn always follows darkness; loneliness is dispelled at daybreak and intimacy is restored.

“If you let God’s silence do its work, you will come out the other side knowing that you’re not alone, that God longs for deeper intimacy with you, that he’s worth trusting for the journey, and that you’re stronger than ever.”   ― Verla Wallace

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ADONAI Ori (The LORD is My Light)

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I awoke earlier than usual this morning. In the quiet twilight of dawn the Holy Spirit, as only He can do, prompted me to pray for those who carry grief and sorrow in the secret places of their heart. One friend in particular came to mind but I felt impressed to pray for others. I didn’t know the secret heartache of many, but God did.

In the stillness of the hour I meditated on the goodness of God and watched as daylight slowly edged its way through the dark morning skies.

        “You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.”
         II Samuel 22:29

Isn’t that just the way God works with the sorrow and grief we conceal in the darkened corridors of our heart? When the blackness of night casts shadows of hopelessness upon us, along comes daybreak to penetrate our heart with random words of encouragement or acts of kindness. Our hope and strength is renewed for a season as our darkness turns to dawn.

Today, I pray you find His light in the presence of your darkness and that your sorrow is turned into joy. From the rising of the sun to its setting, give praise to God. For praise is the clearest and most direct means of showing our total dependence on God in the midst of darkness.

Even King David endured periods of darkness in his life. He responded with praise and God brought deliverance. Psalms 27, written by David and sung in Biblical Hebrew, gives insight into how this song may have been heard by the listener when first written.

Listen to Psalm 27

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TWEETS FROM SATAN

evil-twitter-bird-with-hornsI am not a person prone to depression, but this morning heaviness filled my heart. Loneliness and teary outbursts befriended me as the enemy taunted me with my shortcomings, failures and flaws. What was going on?

I had just experienced a weekend of spiritual renewal that left me feeling empowered to take bold risks in my Christian walk of faith. The movie ‘War Room’ further inspired me to make a greater commitment to my prayer time and the study of God’s Word.

My fiery aspirations were quickly dampened as the enemy began to infiltrate my thoughts with relentless tweets that focused on my inadequacies.

“Why would Jesus love or use someone like you.”
“You think you are helping people through your devotionals but no one reads them.”
“Don’t you know God gave up on you long ago? He isn’t listening anymore.”
“Do you really believe God has a calling on your life at this age? “

And then, Father God began to stir the embers of my downtrodden spirit. Flames of faith reached upward as He stoked the fire. When I called out to Jesus, my darkness was turned to joy. God’s altar of grace burns continuously and the enemy cannot extinguish it.

Our sacrifices of praise, the blood of Christ, God’s Word and prayers of believers will keep the fire burning until God’s appointed time.
As the spiritual veil of darkness lifted, the Holy Spirit directed my thoughts to this scripture:

“The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.”
Leviticus 6:13 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but I sense an urgency to keep the fire burning continuously as we witness believers being mocked, persecuted and tortured daily for their faith in Jesus. Truly we are living in the end times where ungodliness is embraced by those in high places, acts of perverseness have no shock value and homage is paid to man’s ego and fame.

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
II Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

I encourage Christians everywhere to keep the fire burning upon the altar of God. We are at war against the enemy of this world, Satan and there is no middle ground in this battle. You are either for God, or against Him. Who is your master?

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CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF HOPE

9625878147_837aba6b41_zI surveyed the sporadic patches of dense clouds from my window seat as the jet engines hummed in the background. The captain announced the plane had reached an altitude of 30,000 feet and it was now safe to move about the cabin. My gaze remained fixated on the endless billow of clouds that obstructed my view. Life’s journey guides us in many different directions and sometimes to locations where clouds obscure our extended vision. According to a NASA web page 70% of the earth is covered by clouds. I can relate to that because my personal life seems to have the same percentage of cloud cover. It is only when the sun breaks through to reveal clear skies that hope is revealed. Having been married to a commercial pilot, I was aware of our captain’s navigational skills would bring us to a safe landing even though my view was impeded by cloud cover.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV

Like our pilot, God is able to navigate in any weather, even when we don’t have a clear view of where we are headed. When He signals it is safe to freely move about our daily life, do not fear; unlatch the safety belt and enjoy the trip. Let God, your pilot, control the course to your final destination. As the plane began its descent to San Francisco, the clouds began to dissipate and gave way to clear skies. Once landed, the captain announced, “Welcome to San Francisco, folks. It’s 72 degrees with clear skies. I hope everyone has a great day.” When life is overshadowed by cloudy skies, know your only chance of hope is to trust God’s navigational skills for a smooth landing.

#devotional #cloudywithachanceofhope #denisemarksblog

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BROKEN

Broken in Spirit
I find solace in walking the wooded trails behind my home. The sound of crackling branches beneath my feet and rustling leaves from the canopy of trees above seems to awaken my senses. Daily things that seemed so urgent are momentarily abandoned as I slow my pace and embrace my surroundings.

Yesterday, I needed the respite the trails offered. It had been a 10 hour wait in ER before mom was finally admitted to the hospital. Overwhelmed with exhaustion, I longed for quiet time to meditate and digest the events of the day.

My plan was to curl up on the sofa and do nothing; instead, I walked the trails. For whatever reason, I sensed there was something God wanted to privately share with me. And so, with walking stick in hand, I headed toward the trails.

I probed the ground with my walking stick in search of anything that might bring inspiration to my emotionally charged day. Frustrated, I bowed my head and silently prayed.

“OK, God, a still voice prompted me to take this walk; what is it you want to share with me? “

Immediately the wind seemed to whisper “look upward” and my gaze was directed to a pine tree with its trunk nearly broken in half; most likely, by an expected storm. The tree appeared to be in survival mode with signs of new growth just below the break as it struggled to find light. In that moment it was clear what God wanted to share with me.

The events of the last few weeks have left me feeling much like the pine tree that stood before me; broken and struggling to reach upward to the light. God understood the heaviness of my heart. My merciful Heavenly Father had directed me to this pine tree to speak to my heart that in my brokenness he was near.

It is our brokenness that attracts God’s attention and reveals our need for His mercy. When we acknowledge our dependence upon Him, the Holy Spirit shines a searchlight to help us find our way. New life sprouts as we reach toward the beacon of light.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Psalms 51:17
“The Lord is near those with a broken heart.” Psalms 34:18

To those who are broken my life circumstances and losses, I say look up. God is near and longs to cradle your heart in His Divine hands and breathe new life into your spirit.

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I DON’T KNOW ABOUT TOMORROW

WhoHoldsTomorrow

The past several weeks have been filled with heartache. I lost a good friend to cancer and a family member at age 59 to Alzheimer’s. I grope for words of comfort to share with those families torn with grief at the death of a loved one. Amidst this recent roller coaster ride of emotion, I received word that a cousin has been diagnosed with liver/colon cancer. The devastating diagnosis comes just days after her sister’s husband was laid to rest.

Nothing equips us for the detours of this earthly journey. We can prepare, plan and pray, but ultimately, we can’t control our future. For me, the reality of our human limitations was most realized as I watched my Daddy take his last breath. He was a dedicated minister, pastor and Bible teacher. His commitment to his faith was unquestioned; yet, he suffered a debilitating disease that led to death. He couldn’t control his future.

Did my Daddy pray for a miracle? Of course he did. Did he question or understand the earthly path God had chosen for him? If he did, he never shared those thoughts. Instead, he chose to accept those things he could not change and to live each day with hope and purpose.

Only God knows what tomorrow holds for us, our nation and our world. Satan continually deploys detours to keep us from following God’s divine plan.
His earthly arsenal includes sickness, disease, addiction, poverty, abuse, persecution and even death in his attempts to undermine our commitment of faith in Jesus Christ. Stand firm in your Christian faith; refuse to let the enemy compromise or have a stronghold on your faith.

This is a song my Daddy would sing in church when I was a youngster. It still seems very appropriate.

I DON’T KNOW WHO HOLDS TOMORROW
I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine,
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.

CHORUS:
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But, I know who holds tomorrow
And, I know who holds my hand.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”
Romans 8:38

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BLOSSOM OF HOPE

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This week has felt like I was navigating upstream without a paddle. The onslaught of business issues coupled with the loss of a dear friend to cancer had drained both my mental and physical energy. I needed a distraction from life so I went outside and pulled weeds.

The Barren Tree

The barren weeping cherry tree.

I’m not sure why, but when faced with life’s difficult moments, I find comfort in pulling weeds. I many not be able to control situations in life, but I can control the unwanted growth in my flower beds. And so, with garden trowel in hand, I walked through my flower beds looking for weeds. Every turn of the blade and scoop of dirt would help my plants thrive.

As I worked my way around the property, I approached the final flower bed. It is my favorite flower bed and home to a weeping cherry tree I planted many years ago. Every spring its pink blossoms cascade downward in an effort to kiss the ground below and has been the backdrop of my daughter’s many prom pictures. But today, there were no pink blossoms as it struggled to survive; it was slowly dying and its days were numbered.

Sadness overwhelmed me much like it did when I heard the news of my friend’s death. No amount of weeding, feeding or care would revive or extend the life of my beloved weeping cherry tree. There were a few signs of life, but for the most part, the barren branches told me its days were numbered.

I wrapped my arms around the base of the tree trunk and prayed silently. It wasn’t a prayer for a miracle and certainly not a prayer filled with much faith. It was more an outcry to God for assurance. I needed to know I wasn’t alone in the midst of the difficult moments and challenges before me.

It was a simple prayer,
“Heavenly Father, I am overwhelmed by life right now. I am broken, drained and barren just like this weeping cherry tree. I am being choked by weeds and need your divine intervention. There are no blossoms on this tree that I embrace, not one. If you are here with me, if there is hope beyond today, let me see just one cherry blossom on this tree. Amen.”

For me, one cherry blossom would signify hope endures even in life’s darkest moments. When I finished my prayer, I looked upwards. It was then, my eyes were directed to one lone cherry blossom and I knew God cared about every detail of my life.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Whatever difficulties and trials you face in this life, embrace hope in things eternal. When weeds seek to choke your hope and peace; when you are overwhelmed with sadness, anxiety and the uncertainty of the future, know this: God has a plan for your life.