0

Stuck in the Mud

stuck_in_mud

Sometimes in life we find ourselves in a mud pit spinning our wheels and getting nowhere.  No matter how much effort we put into moving forward in life and overcoming challenges we are stuck; we’re in a funk and can’t get to where we need to be or want to go.

I’ve been immobilized in mud many times for many reasons and there key questions to be asked when that happens.

  • Am I secretly coveting the life of someone else?

How we see another person’s life is one dimensional. We don’t know what’s going on in the shadows. It’s futile to desire the lifestyle, job, wealth or relationships of others. If you choose to do so, the only place you will go is the mud pit.

Looking from the outside paints a deceptive facade of what chaos, agony and personal pain this person may be suffering on the inside.

  • Am I waiting for someone or something to change life for me?

If that is your mindset, you will remain in the mud pit. Only you with God’s help can bring change. If you want to get moving again then shift your life into four-wheel drive. That requires you, not others, to assume responsibility for your emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.

What does that require?

  • Refuse to play the blame game. What has happened in the past is just that, the past. Your focus should be the future.
  • Switch it up and change your routine. A change of venue is a powerful tool to change your mindset and see life from a different perspective.
  • Stop making assumptions based on past experiences. Realize you are empowered to forge new experiences, change your course and choose your fate.

 

  • Have I invested in mud flaps?

If you are spinning your wheels in mud, you’re going to need some mud flaps to keep the backlash of those who have no interest in YOUR destination but are quick to offer opinions, judgment and their point of view. Mud flaps guard our vision from the dirt and debris that life throws our way. They keep us from being directionally challenged so we don’t end up in the mud pit.

I got mine for free by asking God. The set includes: Guidance of the Holy Spirit (guidance), the Word of God (intervention), Prayer (road-side assistance) and fellowship with other Christian believers (support). It’s a free-standing offer that I highly recommend.

  • Have I learned to say no?

Don’t be afraid to rearrange your priorities a bit and make “no” a more commonly used word in your vocabulary. The ability to say ‘no’ reflects you are in the driver’s seat of your life and empowers you to avoid the mud pits and navigate life according to God’s plan.

There are times that God deliberately places us in a mud pit to reform and transform us for a greater purpose. When we stop focusing on our circumstances (stop spinning our wheels) and focus on Him we find rest, encouragement and renewed passion.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
(Ps. 32:8)

If are currently in a stuck in the mud season of life, I encourage you to fully, completely, and absolutely surrender your own will and seek God’s. Let go of the lies, shame, worry, doubt, comparing yourself to others and take hold of your grace-filled pardon.

Dare to dance to the unique rhythm God has fashioned for your life and invest in mud flaps.

1

Still Waters

IMG_2894[1]A feeling of loneliness seems to envelop the lake today. Except for a few lone ducks that cruise the waterways, there are no boats, no people; only the stillness of waters at daybreak coupled with droplets of refreshing rain.

Any movement on the placid waters is limited to the ripples created by winged wildlife as they paddle to their next feeding area. The calmness of the waterfront awakens my soul to a need for private reflection. I feel compelled to connect the spiritual dots of my life in an effort to reveal the hidden picture.

Fog begins to lift above the distant water’s edge and I look for God’s ordained agenda for today. Will I find still waters, or perhaps identify with others encountering the ripple effects of heartache and loss?

Wherever God places me today, I want to be available to offer encouragement to those experiencing rough waters and point them to the safety of God’s everlasting arms of mercy and grace.

Adverse waters are destined to happen in our imperfect life. They can have a profound impact and cause us to search for life survival skills that keep us buoyant and afloat.

Are you invested in the everlasting arms of God’s grace and mercy that bring buoyancy to your life? Or, are you floating along the fringe of destruction without a life jacket which will eventually pull you into deep waters.

Do you want to sink or float?

Today’s forecast may begin with placid waters, but that can change at any given moment. When gifted with moments of stillness, we need to pursue the skills needed to weather future unexpected storms that will inevitably impact our imperfect life.

Prayer for Today:

Dear God, help me to float when life’s circumstances want to pull me under. In moments of still waters, restore my soul and clothe me with a life jacket to survive future storms of my imperfect life.

He calmed the raging storm, and the waves became quiet. – Psalm 107:29

1

The God of Comfort

36585479_2140006636014243_3275521430648782848_n

I appreciate art because it has the ability to make us stop in the moment and give pause to what the artist is hoping to convey. Art arouses our visual awareness and powerfully evokes emotions undefined by words.

This statue by Albert György uniquely captures the feeling of emptiness that coincides with loss. Life may appear normal on the outside, but internally there is an all-consuming void. I have to believe that a great loss inspired this artist’s piece of work.

We all encounter loss and can relate to the giant hole it leaves in our innermost being. We find countless ways to preoccupy ourselves in an effort to fill that hole; but the void remains. Even God experienced loss when His son, Jesus, died on the cross.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34: 18

Prayer for Today:

Lord, I know, you are the God of comfort and when my whole world shattered, you have been with me every step of the way. Continue to be ever near and my constant companion when the giant hole wants to pull into the depths of darkness and despair. In those moments, draw me ever closer to you and fill that hole with the knowledge that you are only a breath away and your arms of comfort are everlasting.

2

When There Are No Words

6a00d8341eb8e453ef01b8d0c6a4f7970c

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

0

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)

2

The “Never Alone” Cocktail

girl-1245678_640Earlier in the week, I determined to post about different areas and seasons in our life that need holy intoxication. When we allow ourselves to become inebriated with God’s Word, we experience divine liberation.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:13, “We were all . . . made to drink of one Spirit.” Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.

God is the Master of mixology and has deliberately provided the perfect biblical cocktail for every life situation. Today, I share the ‘Never Alone’ cocktail and examine God’s spiritual recipe for loneliness.

I consider a passage of Scripture found in the 102nd Psalm: “I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I lie awake, and am like a sparrow alone on the housetop” (Psalm 102:6-7).

I don’t know about you, but I have experienced extreme bouts of loneliness at times in my life. There are many reasons for feeling alone; sorrow, sin, rejection, separation, low self-esteem to name a few. It has been estimated that as many as one in five suffer from loneliness.

So what does God tell us about loneliness?

First, let me make clear that no one fully understands what it’s like to be YOU except God. The fact that He knows us by name and our coming and goings reassures us we are never alone. He is with us always.

“I know when you rise up and when you sit down, your comings and goings and how you’ve become enraged at me.” Isaiah 37:28 (NIV)

Having a personal relationship with God changes everything; it is the answer to our loneliness problem. Not only that, but He understands what it is like to be a lonely human. Just look to the cross where He was abandoned by friends who even pretended they didn’t know him.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

Scripture shares the story of a leper that sat by the roadside, an outcast rejected by society and forced to beg for food. He was ignored by everyone until Jesus passed by. The unsightly man ran to the feet of Jesus and fell to his knees.

“Lord, make me clean,” he said.

In that moment, Jesus reached out and touched him, yes, physically put his hand on a person who likely hadn’t felt the touch of a human hand in years and the leper was instantly healed. That one brief interaction with Jesus rocked his world. He still had no friends or possessions, nothing more than the rags on his back, but it didn’t matter; he had Jesus.

In our loneliness, we need to reach out to others and build a community of friends who care about us for the person we are, not for what we have or don’t have. When we connect with people who make us feel seen, heard, and valued without judgment, we see our life outside our own perspective.

No friend can save you from loneliness, but those relationships can sustain you in the down times and help you see you are not alone. God stands ready to be your BFF (best friend forever) in your loneliness. He is the solution that empowers us to find meaning, joy and comfort in a world broken by sin.

When you know Jesus as your savior, you are never alone. Do you know him?

Prayer for today:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you and experience your presence in my loneliness. I believe you died on the cross for my sins and want to invite you to take the reins of my life and lead me into a personal relationship with you. I ask that you become my new BFF. Thank you for never leaving my side and loving me in every situation.

0

The Perfect Cocktail

coppa-martiniDo you know the Bible has the perfect cocktail for every situation in life?

Bartenders are aware that the most important rule of mixology, the rule that supersedes everything else, is that balance is everything. The same is true in your Christian walk with Jesus. Forget about a splash of this scripture or a splash of that scripture.

To grow in God’s grace, we must look deep into His Word to truly understand and receive the balanced life Christ intends for us to enjoy.

We are quick to assess our Christian cocktail based on needs. A couple parts of joy mixed with a little kindness and love; we throw in a pinch of mercy for good measure. Or, I’ll take two shots of a miracle, one shot of peace, followed by three shots of forgiveness.

If only the Christian walk was that simple. It’s not! Bible cocktail recipes are based on sound doctrine and principles. We can’t just throw things into a shaker and expect it to yield a perfect and balanced Christian life.

The right cocktail of scriptures mixed with prayer is the only way we find balance for whatever weakness, need or struggles we face.

What does God’s perfect cocktail look like for you?

I invite you to visit my blog (DeniseMarksBlog.com) every Monday and Friday for the next five weeks as I share my thoughts on God’s perfect and balanced cocktail for our imperfect life situations. God truly desires for us to find consistency, balance and divine intervention in all things.