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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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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 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.

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Beep of Death

communication-1472636_640 There was urgency in the continual beep heard down the hallway. It clearly indicated something was wrong and I sensed it wasn’t good. Overtaken with panic, my steps quickened as I hurried to find the source of the warning signal that pierced the air.

When I opened the door, computer monitors and tangled cords greeted me. I pawed through the jumbled mess and located a thin black box. The back-up drive was no bigger than the palm of my hand and contained years of photos, business documents, e-mail archives and personal data. It was my lifeline in the event damage occurred due to hardware malfunctions, viruses or corrupted files.

As the beep of death resonated from my lifeline all hope of restoration was swallowed into the abyss of digital darkness. Years of effort vanished in an instant.  It was a wake-up call that gave pause to how I had outsourced the back-up plan for my spiritual life.

Computer memory is very different than biological memory. A computer receives and stores information in the form of data. The human brain, on the other hand, takes that same information and processes it into knowledge which is stored as a living memory.

There is an advantage to a living memory over stored data.  When we commit something to memory we are less likely to lose that knowledge. This is especially important for Christians.  To outsource our spiritual life to digital technology is an open invitation to the beep of death.

There is no digital equivalent to physically opening your Bible to read and memorize scripture. It is a process that takes God’s Word from our minds, to our heart, to our lives. His Word become alive within us and is a lifeline that never malfunctions.

Knowledge benefits our life. Information, on the other hand, is merely an accumulation of facts that can overload us with useless information. This type of data clutters our back-up lifeline. The risk associated with fragmented data is the beep of death

The acquisition of more information doesn’t necessarily increase knowledge or wisdom. In fact, the plethora of stimuli and data at our fingertips can invoke a feeding frenzy where information is ingested, but never digested. The influx of information is more likely to bring distractions.

To continually ingest information but neglect to cultivate that information into knowledge deprives us of wisdom.

“The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.”
–Proverbs 19:8

Do you have a back-up plan in place for your spiritual life? At a moment’s notice, a life malfunction could trigger the beep of death and spiral you into darkness. Would you be able to recover?

You are not a Jeopardy contestant; there is no value in useless information. Instead, focus on the pursuit of knowledge so that you may acquire wisdom and seek understanding in all things.

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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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WHY TODAY?

Why Today?The recent killing of four marines in Chattanooga raises the question, at least for me, of why today? It’s a question I ponder about death. In the case of my dad, it was death by cancer. He clung to life until the appointed day of his death.

As the marines drove to work that day, they had no foreknowledge of the fate that awaited them. That day they were in the right place at the wrong time.

I understand God has given mankind freewill and the choices we make will impact our life as well as the life of others. The gunman of the marines choose the day he would purposely fire an AK-47 rifle at innocent people. In the process, he was empowered to determine the day he and four others would die.

Certainly the families of the slain, like me, have asked why today. As I try to wrap my thoughts around death, I am reminded that scriptures only provide a glimpse into the mystery of death.

“It is in the plan that all men die once. After that, they will stand before God and be judged.” Hebrews 9:27 NLV “Man’s days are determined; you (God) have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” Job 14:5

In this age of electronic devices death is broadcasted in real-time and reminds us that life is but a breath; it can end with little or no warning. Even as I write this piece another senseless massacre has taken place in a Louisiana movie theater; three people are dead and others seriously injured.

What I do know about death is we will all die. Some will experience a prolonged death; others may die instantaneously, accidentally or by choice. The knowledge that death is inevitable poses a greater question. Are we prepared to meet our maker when that why today moment happens?

The Psalmist said, “My whole life is in your hands.” Psalm 31:15 NIRV

When we trust that God is sovereign and in control of all things, the victory of the cross overcomes the fear of death. When our life is in God’s hands the why today question is answered with why not today.