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The God of Comfort

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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.

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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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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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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 ‘I am Your Provider’ Cocktail

GodsWordinUsPREFACE: 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.

Today’s topic is about our struggles with financial insecurity. Count yourself blessed if you are one of the fortunate few who haven’t been through financial hardships.  One of the biggest strains in life is lack of money to meet the monthly bills.

Maybe you lost your job, are going through a divorce, have over-extended your credit card, paying orthodontic or medical bills…there are a host or reasons that put us in a financial bind and limit our ability to stay on top of things.

I have experienced plenty of indigent times when standing in a line for food stamps or accepting State assistance was my only means of survival. I have never forgotten the shame I felt when walking into a local grocery store to pick up the free Christmas ham offered to those on welfare. It was humbling but at the same time I was grateful that there was a program that helped me through the rough times. As a single mom, it allowed me to pay my mortgage and put food on the table for me and my daughter.

We sometimes unjustly judge others without any knowledge of the where, what and whys of their financial circumstances. Thankfully, that isn’t God’s nature; He sees our circumstances through divine eyes and with omnipotent knowledge considers our daily needs.

Unlimited credit card expenditures are the popular trend. The buy now, pay later philosophy has become the acceptable norm. I’m fairly certain the scripture, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:19] doesn’t apply to spend binging based on our wants.

God never promised us earthly riches but He has promised provisions for our day-to-day needs. In times of financial woes, we need to open God’s Word and allow Him to teach, lead and restore our trust that He will work all things to our good.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God isn’t going to wondrously banish your financial misfortune simply because you open the cover of your Bible and click your heels together. He wants to be our provider, but requires a few things from us. God’s remedy to our financial issues are not as difficult as might think.

  • Acknowledge and accept Him as your savior. He can’t help if He you don’t know who He is and what He can do in your situation. He knows you, but He won’t invade your space unless you personally invite Him into your life.
  • If financial issues are self-inflicted due to overspending, then stop unnecessary spending and live within your income! If it means cutting up credit cards, then do it.
  • Seek the help of a professional planner to help guide and advise you in resources available to you. Financial instability leads to a feeling of a lack of control, which can increase anxiety and stress. Research1 reveals that financial insecurity can actually cause bodily pain.
  • Focus on God and what He is doing in you rather than your circumstances. Allow your current situation help you grow closer to God. There will be times of excess and times of need in our lives. Money and possessions aren’t included in our suitcase to Heaven, the only thing we have to carry through this life and into the next is our faith in and relationship with God.

God is full of wisdom but we need to be to listen and heed what He says to improve our financial situation. It’s unlikely a new job will drop in your lap while you’re watching TV. We must forth effort and on God’s end, He’ll give us favor, but we have to make the first step.

Prayer for Today:

God, your truth is more important than how I feel or what the circumstances say. You are big enough for every situation; free me from worry, anxiety and stress with the knowledge that you are in control and will provide for my needs.

“…we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 2:18 (NLT)

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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.