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The Beauty of Pain: It Turns Us to Love

quote-god-did-not-rescue-me-out-of-the-pain-he-rescued-me-through-the-pain-tullian-tchividjian-128-47-56
I listened to a play list of my favorite songs today.  Each song represented a season in my life. Some brought memories of reclaimed joy while others resonated with lyrics that held my emotions hostage to some of my deepest moments of pain.

Letting go of what no longer supports a healthy lifestyle or relationship can be painful. It may be a failed marriage, death of someone deeply loved, feelings of emotional abandonment or quitting an addiction. There are a plethora of reasons and life events that torment our body, soul and mind.

When we fail to seek the divine consult of God and pursue our own desires, there will be consequences. Make no mistake, our heavenly Father loves us deeply, but the outcome of our success requires obedience to HIS will and planned purpose for our life.

If you are like me, you will screw up and it will be a hot mess. But, there is beauty to be found in our pain. How can that be?

God stands ready at any given time to turn our pain into HIS love and take our ashes and replace them with garments of joy. Isn’t that so like God?

And so, as tears filled my eyes in remembrance of the painful times in my life, I remembered that I am a child of an Almighty God who will forever point my pain in the direction of HIS love. It is my heartache coupled with HIS unconditional love that has shaped me into the person I am today.

We all experience physical, emotional pain and challenges of life. The beauty behind that pain is Jesus. He can transform it into joy and love if we allow Him to actively engage in our heartbreaks, hurts, losses and grief.

There is beauty in pain when we give it all to Jesus! It brings to mind the lyrics of an Evie song:

Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows?
Are you tired of spinning round and round?
Wrap up all the shattered dreams of your life
And at the feet of Jesus lay them down
(Chorus)
give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus
Shattered dreams, wounded hearts, broken toys,
Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus
And He will turn your sorrow’s into joy

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The Inspiration Behind the Dream

kindness winsAs the founder of the Linden Pay It Forward Project, this post is written from my heart.

Many years ago I became a part of the Linden community by marriage. Some of you know the person I married, others may not; that is not important. What IS important is, after the marriage ended, I felt abandoned in a community I did not know.

I had to find my way and it wasn’t easy. But God’s grace is sufficient in our time of need and that grace was more than I ever hoped for.

ROLL BACKWARDS

For whatever reason, I believed my self-worth was based on my martial partner. Hmm…. any of you been down that path of misconception? Now, at age 63, I can’t even imagine that I gifted that former spouse a digit on my scale of worth. But it happened.

ROLL FORWARD

My point of sharing is to enlighten you that WE create our future; WE reshape the circumstances that we thought would define our destiny.

I started to step outside my comfort zone. I joined a gym where I met some forever friends. I became active in my community through a Bunco group with friendships still shared to this day.

My daughter’s participation in sports throughout high school brought new friendships with parents in the community. When I started a home-based global business, I hired students from Linden High to help out. To this day, these gals are like daughters to me.

Bottom line, I choose to reshape my destiny. I went back to college, finished my degree and in the process recognized that I was worthy. I finally got it.

GOT WHAT?

I finally got that my faith, the love of family, friends and community is what really matters.  Some of you know my deepest struggles, some don’t. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the knowledge that whatever life throws at us, God’s grace and community friendships will see us through the pot holes of life.

FAST FORWARD

The community that once felt foreign to me is now my safety net, my fortress and my forever hometown.

PAY IT FORWARD

My reason for starting the Linden Pay It Forward Project had a dual purpose. It was inspired by an act of kindness by two high school boys within our community. On a more intimate level, it was a desire to make people feel like they belong. Perhaps, their life story differs from mine, but in the end, it’s all about a need to be accepted, appreciated and loved.

We all have stories of loss, personal heartache and remorse. I can think of no better way to recover, regroup and regain whatever it is we have lost than to reach out to others in their time of need.

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When God Lifts the Fog

fog

As the fog lifts from the lake this morning, I am reminded of how God lifts the fog from our life when we seek Him with all our heart.

What does ‘all our heart’ imply?

I believe it is a quest of the soul to discover the depth and breadth of God’s desire to lead us into a personal relationship with Him. It’s that simple. When we allow God to get intimate with our soul, He lifts the fog that hinders us from seeing the fullness of His redemptive powers.

What are His redemptive powers and how does that relate to our life?

In more ways than you might think or have considered.

Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross ransomed us from sin. It opened the floodgates of Heaven so we can stand reconciled before the throne of God. It means God is attentive to every aspect of our life because our soul has been given “sky priority” status and stamped with His seal of grace.

The heart (meaning soul) of mankind is inherently evil due to sin. Sin is our disobedience to God’s plan for us.  All the good deeds in the world will never make amends for that broken relationship. Thankfully, God’s love for us is beyond our comprehension. He gifted us redemption through the death of his Son Jesus on the cross.

It is through the blood Christ shed and His resurrection that we are given access to redemptive powers in our life. They are freely given to all mankind and the only requirement is to genuinely ask Jesus to become the ruler of our heart (soul).

What does that mean?

It means God’s truth must dwell within our heart and we give Jesus full rights to call our heart His home. If you want the fog lift, you must empty your heart of ‘you’ and pursue Jesus. Only then will the redemptive powers of God be operational in your life.

To love God with all our soul requires us to relinquish all ownership of self. It’s a process of realigning our understanding to God’s understanding. That’s not easy and it requires us to die to ‘self’ daily.

How do we die to self?

Prayer and ingesting God’s Word (the Bible) are the tools needed to lift the fog that surrounds our life. It sounds easy, yet harder than you think. The opposing force of darkness (Satan) seeks to engulf us in a mist of fog that prevents us from seeing the keeper of the lighthouse.

Our soul must be replenished and realigned from our understanding to God’s understanding. To lift our spiritual fog is an incremental process and one I struggle with daily. It requires effort, desire and time on my part, but when God lifts the fog, there are no regrets.

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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

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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

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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.