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.

1

Don’t Miss the Moments

df1691214625d5ac8d5b4b00c4de712e
I watched my middle-aged neighbors as they cuddled together in a water tube in front of their lake house.  I couldn’t hear their conversation, but it was apparent they were enjoying each other’s company as the cooling waves splashed around them on a hot summer day.

It was a moment.

I couldn’t help but notice the man who clutched a bible in his hand as he raised his arms in praise during the church service today. He seemed overcome with a tenacious desire to give glory and thanks to the redeemer of his soul. Or, the young married couple, radically covered in tattoos, whose arms were lifted up to worship the God who had rescued them from their addictions.

It was a moment.

A good friend today, along with so many others, asked Jesus to be the Shepherd of his life and was baptized in the lake waters. It was so unplanned and genuinely sincere that it brought tears to my eyes.

It was a moment.

At the end of our pastor’s message today, my husband took my hand in his, gently squeezed it, and softly kissed my lips. I felt loved.

It was a moment.

A friend shared how much my devotional inspired them; a community member appreciated the donated gift, a client thanked me for a job well done.

It was a moment.

A family member called just to talk, a man waited to hold the door for me; the struggling, single mom who is a cashier at the corner store never fails to smile and ask how I am doing.

It was a moment.

One of the lines in the song Dream Small by Josh Wilson is…

…dream small. Don’t buy the lie “you’ve gotta do it all.”
Just let Jesus use you where you are one day
[one moment] at a time.

 __________________________________

Prayer for today:

It is the sum totals of simple moments that make up our life. Ordinary moments can change the world if we allow you to empower them with your greatness.  Make our moments count. It may be with a smile, a kiss or kind word. It could be opening a door for someone, visiting the elderly, conversing with family at the dinner table. Help me see that every moment is part of a bigger dream when seen through the eyes of God.

2

Jesus: The Feng Shui of my Soul

water-1525798_1280The consistent rhythm of lapping water against the lake’s shoreline is a harmonious and soothing Feng Shui blend to my soul. I need that right now. I am continually amazed how God uses nature to enlighten and direct our thoughts to find tranquility in His divine creation amidst life’s adversities.

Every one of us has been a casualty, even if only temporarily, of a life story that has an unhappy conclusion. God knew that from the beginning of creation which is why He sent Jesus to save us.

Our eternal redemption was secured with every droplet of blood spilled at the base of the cross, but that sacrifice never guaranteed life on earth would be without heartache. Even Jesus didn’t escape the hardships and suffering of this world.

In our moments of distress, when we feel lost and alone, Jesus is our Feng Shui. He listens to the inner cries of our heart, brings a balance that enables us to move forward even in our deepest moments of anguish and sorrow.

Are the lapping waters of your life’s shoreline bringing waves of defeat or waves that create?

Waves of defeat bring  debris to the shoreline of life. Waves that create, clear the water’s edge and wash life’s debris into God’s sea of forgiveness.

And so, as I listen to the lapping water, I choose to cast out the debris that contaminates my life and embrace the harmonious and soothing Feng Shui of God’s forgiveness. In the process, His redemptive grace cleanses my shoreline view. so I can see clearly; I can see Him instead of the adversity littering my shoreline.

Prayer for Today:

Lord Jesus, help me to look beyond my adversity and seek peace and tranquility in the shoreline of everyday life. Cause me to seek you in all things with the knowledge that every lapping wave is purposed from above.  Allow me to see that my reaction to those waves will either create a new shoreline view or obstruct it when I give into defeat.

“seek God…he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:27

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

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

0

A Funny Thing Happened: Life

life-happens-quotes-6.jpg

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)

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)