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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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Don’t Miss the Moments

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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.

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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.

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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

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The ‘Anti-Anxiety’ Cocktail

Overshare_HavingEverything_V1What triggers anxiety in your life? For me, it is stress that is self- induced by taking on more projects than I can possibly handle. It is difficult for me to tell others I can’t do that, be there, or help you solve your life dilemma.

A close second in the stress arena is being a passenger in a car on the expressway. Sounds crazy, I know, but anxiety grips every part of my being when I don’t have control of the driver’s seat. Your anxiety triggers may differ from mine, but the feelings of angst are the same and can have crippling effects.

Scriptures gives us the following solution to our anxiety woes:

“Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, 7 then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.” Philippians 4:5-7 (TPT)

“I can do that!” said no one ever.

It’s the application of the above scripture that proves problematic and challenging. Let’s take a look at what this scripture is really suggesting we need to do to overcome the anxiety issues we encounter daily with or without meds.

  1. Accept Jesus as your Savior is the first step. Without Him, you are powerless to overcome anxiety or anything else that impairs you to live life to its fullest.
  2. “Be saturated in prayer throughout the day…”
    Yep, that is what the scripture tells us to do. Really, God? Who has time for that when life is happening and I barely have time to put a meal on the table when the kids get home from school. Read these words carefully, you don’t have to be on your knees to pray. God is Omnipresent, He is everywhere you are. He is with you in your drive into work, at your kid’s baseball game, while cleaning the house or hanging a light fixture. ‘Saturated’ in prayer means talking to God on the go.
  3. …” offering faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude.” OK, so God is telling us to have gratitude and faith when pulled into the abyss of anxiety. It looks that way. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has determined that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
  4. “Tell Him every detail of your life.” Are you suggesting I make God my personal therapist? Absolutely! As we communicate and admit to God that we need His help, He will orchestrate every detail of anxious moments. He will make the violins of our workplace and the flutes of our home life make perfect harmony. God’s wonderful peace transcends human understanding but only to the degree that we allow Him to work without our obstruction. The anti-anxiety cocktail is dependent on our dependence on Him.
  5. “Then, God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.” WOW! That scripture alone should make us want to seek God in all things. For some, meds help with anxiety issues, me included. However, saturating myself in communication with God in daily prayer and seeking to find gratitude in all things helps me find peace when anxiety overcomes me.

Prayer for Today:

Dear God, when I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? But you do God and for that I am thankful.

You stand ready to battle against every anxiety that seeks to destroy my peace in you. Help me to immobilize any anxieties as I talk to you in the moment. No one knows me better than you. I trust you to redirect every arrow of anxiety I experience to the throne room in Heaven.

Thank you, Jesus, for caring about every detail of my life.

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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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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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Hands & Hearts for Haiti Mission Trip

Hands & Hearts for Haiti

On September 27, 2016, my daughter and son-in-law will travel to Haiti on a mission trip. The purpose of the trip is to disciple, teach and share the Word of God to those living in the small village of Dine just outside of Port Au Prince. I solicit your donations to help them pay for airfare. This is their second trip to Haiti and the local community stands behind their efforts to donate handmade pillow case dresses and shorts for the village children.

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https://www.givesendgo.com/mattjamie