Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sifted like wheat...

I have been reading among other things, a book by Beth Moore, entitled “When Godly People Do UnGodly Things.” I have been slowly working my way through it a chapter at a time. The other day I hit the chapter talking about God’s permissive will.

She started talking about both Job and Peter. In both cases Satan had to ask permission from God to wage war on someone with whole-hearted, sincere and pure devotion to God. Why would God allow Satan some license in our lives? Why would He want us to suffer under attack from the enemy?

Beth says, “Who’s to say when things really get tough that we, and countless other believers, have not momentarily been chosen to prove faithful to God?” (pg 85)

Through facing the giants in my life, through all of us facing the trials and struggles and the oppressions, God will show us and the enemy, He will prove that we really are for God.
After Peter claimed that Jesus was the Messiah, he then turned and rebuked Jesus for saying He was going to die on the cross. Jesus said at that point that Satan had asked for permission to sift Peter like wheat. But Jesus said that He prayed for Peter, that his faith wouldn’t fail.

“Satan had to attain permission to move outside his usual perimeters and launch a full-scale attack on one of God’s children… First, we see that Satan can and does seek permission to launch excessive attacks on the children of God. Second, we see that God can and sometimes does grand Satan such permission.” (pg. 89)

Beth proposed that God tested both Peter and Job were tested by God through Satan. He uses our enemy to test us. God wants to refine us like gold. Gold can only be refined in fire. That means being burned. Burning is painful, not pleasant. We all undergo some form of refining. Hopefully not all of us by being directly assaulted by the enemy to the extent that Job was. But Beth put forward the point, what if we are subject to being tested like Peter… sifting.

“Only one reason exists why God would give Satan permission to sift a dearly loved, devoted disciple of Jesus Christ: because something needs sifting.” (pg. 90)

If you are feeling attacked, pushed to the end of your rope, look inside as I have been. Are there things there (as I have found for myself) that need sifting out? Is Jesus allowing a time of struggle and sifting in your life to sanctify you to fulfill your calling… your calling from Him?

I know God is sifting me. In the past few days I have been pushed to see some of the things going on in me since the hospital. I feel that during the preceding 4-5 days, the enemy stepped up his attack against me, clouded my mind, and got me to the point of not only seeing darkness, but feeling it like this heavy weight, to the point I could hardly see straight or breathe.

It landed me in the hospital.

And starting in the hospital is where the attack lessened, and I could start to see things again. God brought me to a point where I couldn’t pray on my own. The Spirit had to pray for me, I didn’t have the words or will. And His Spirit knew what I needed, and prayed for what I needed.

Since then God has brought to mind a few specific things through one counseling session, through some books, through the bible, and through some deep times of prayer and reflection. I can see that through this experience, these few things wouldn’t have come to the surface very easily, or with such clarity and visibility to me. It would have been a much harder struggle to see them, and to give them up to Him.

Now I am going to start working on eliminating what was sifted.

As Beth said in her book,
“In His severe and loving mercy, in ways I’ll never fully understand, God used the darkness to chase out my darkness, then filled the emptied vessel with light. No matter how many years, I still have the conscious thought almost every day, so this is how it feels to be free. What Satan meant for evil, my faithful God meant for good.
Beloved, are you being sifted? Has God permitted the enemy to launch a full-scale attack against you? God knows what He’s doing. He isn’t looking the other way, and He’s not being mean to you. Maybe this is the only way He can get you to attend to the old so He can do something new. Grab onto Him for dear life! Give Him full reign to remove anything in you that needs to go. Hasten the end of the process. Sift, dear one. Sift!” (pg. 96-97)

I am beginning to see how I have been sifted. How I am being sifted. I choose to participate in the process and deal with the old stuff so that He can do something new in me, and use me in a new way. So that I can do something new for Him that the old has been blocking me from.
Will you sift with me?

NOTE: All quotes in this post were taken from “When Godly People Do UnGodly Things,” by Beth Moore. (c) 2002. Published by Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Espresso drinks and normal?

Espresso drinks and normal?
Posted by hkudla under Books, Emotions, Family, Heart, Thoughts (edit this)

Today was just a nice day. The kids got me up earlier by far than I wanted to, but Dave was home with me all day, so that was OK.
We hosted our small group tonight from church, so I finished cleaning the house as much as I could this morning. Then I had to run out to get some last minute groceries. Well, you have to know what happened then….

I asked Dave if he would be ok with the kids if I went out. I wanted to go to Beatitudes (our local coffee shop/bookstore that does incredible gourmet lunches) and then grocery shopping… being the WONDERFUL, SWEET husband that he is… he told me to go for it. I could hardly get ready fast enough!!!
I grabbed a couple of books, my bible and journal, my purse and grocery list and scrammed before anyone could change their mind.
Beatitudes is a bit of heaven for me. It really is. I walk in there and relax immediately. I don’t know if it is the coffee house jazz music playing, or the smell of the coffee, or the new book smell (always a heavenly one for me since I was a kid…) or maybe it is a combo of all 3. That place just has a sense of peace and this calming effect on my heart, every time I walk in there.
Today was no exception. Even though they were getting crushed by their lunch rush (that happened out of nowhere) I felt that I was moving at a slower pace. I didn’t care that the first 5 minutes I was there, I had to wait till someone was free from making drinks to take my order. I just looked around and took in the sights and sounds, listened to the murmured conversations and sprinkling of laughter.
When I was able to order, it was an iced breve… that is 2 shots of espresso over ice, a splash of hazelnut, and caramel, and top it off with half and half… ok, so its not exactly in the low carb diet plan that I have been trying, but neither was the AMAZING panini I had for lunch either! There is no going wrong there.
I sat down with my drink at a table in the corner, and started to read. Not much more than a few minutes later, I got a tap on my shoulder and there was Cindy! I totally didn’t expect to see her, because she had told me that she had loads to do that day at home. But she had to come into town for a meeting, and stopped by the coffee shop to have lunch with her husband and some friends. We chatted a few minutes, and then it was back to reading and eating and journaling.
By the time I got home with the groceries, I was jazzed on the caffeine, and the kids were in bed. I was able to do some more journaling and processing… but I am saving that for a later post maybe.
Peter got up first, and came and climbed on me (so much for writing and reading) and then he helped Marina get out of her room (she can’t open the door yet herself)… So pretty soon it was a pile of kids and cats on mom… on the love seat of course… not the couch where there is more room!! The love seat… meant for at most 2 people, or in our house, one person and one cat. Usually just one cat.
We had our whole small group together tonight. And it was so nice. One of the couples had been out east in Connecticut for the funeral of her father. I hadn’t seen them for almost 2 weeks now. It was wonderful to catch up, and just get into each others lives again.
And you know what else? It was nice to feel almost normal with them again. I didn’t feel like I was hiding anything, or putting on a “happy” facade, or putting on a “depressed” facade. I was just me. I was happy, and there were a couple of times I was melancholy. But it was OK. So what? I may be starting to hit some PMS mood swings, but you know? It’s OK. And I was OK.
That is HUGE after all I have been through in the last 2 weeks. Because it was 2 weeks ago tonight that I started going down hill, and ended up in the hospital 3 days later.
I told my family (because that is what our small group is, my family) that the weekend that I went into the hospital is so foggy. I can tell them sequentially what happened.. but it feels like it is all a fog. It’s really weird how that is. I don’t understand it. The only way I can explain it is that I feel like someone was clouding my mind, clouding my thinking, keeping me from thinking clearly… under attack, I suppose.
Anyway, back to my point that today felt good. Really good. Even though I am stressed about playing piano for worship team this week, and have some things that I think God is pointing out to focus my energy on next, I am starting to understand what “normal” feels like. What an amazing thing to feel functional, more than functional, and capable of taking care of my family and kids.
God has given me the gifts He has, to raise our kids, love and honor my husband, minister to others, and to live my life in the victory He desires me to. Though many times I don’t feel free, I am and I know that I have to claim that freedom. Today was a taste of it, even amidst some mild mood swings, and cranky kids. I had a taste of what normal might be like, and what freedom could bring.
I want more.
(more of that iced breve too, by the way!!!!)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Trust in His love...

I came across something in Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning, after Tricia and I talked on Tuesday. It seemed to pick up right where we left off on one of the images I had. It gave me more insight into my struggle.

“The grace to let go and let God be God flows from trust in His boundless love. Yet, many of us find it exceedingly difficult to trust. Only love empowers the leap in trust, the courage to risk everything on Jesus, the readiness to move into the darkness guided only by a pillar of fire. Trust clings to the belief that whatever happens in our lives is designed to teach us holiness.” (selections from pg. 117, boldface mine)

That reminds me of my session with Tricia talking about following that pillar of fire. It was almost my exact words… I truly didn’t read them until after the session. It was a God thing.
But that is it. Trust.

To take that leap in trust that He will catch me, to trust that His love is enough to catch me and cover me. To trust enough to quit asking for tangible, touchable proof of His love. To let go of my craving for physical expressions of love, from God and others, that is real trust.

And what better way to show His love for me (us), than to take all my (our) sins, all the separations, loss, broken heartedness, rejections, abandonment, betrayals, and every wound of my spirit (and yours) on His own shoulders, carry them to Calvary, and shed His blood to cover and heal them all? How could I possibly, in the light of that, ask for more proof of His love? What more could He give, after giving His very life?

How many times have I resisted the love of God? How many times have I resisted accepting the love of God because I didn’t deserve it? Of course I didn’t, and don’t. That is what grace is all about! I may not be who I want to be, or have done what I wanted or intended. I may be weighed down by false guilt. I may have failed, I may not be happy but I am accepted and held in Christ’s nail scarred hands.

To accept that gift of grace, to respond to that outpouring of His love, requires and maybe demands that trust.

When I am able to move beyond the head knowledge of Jesus’ love for me, to the heart knowledge of His love for me… then my trust grows. Then I know and believe with all my heart, soul, mind and strength that He loves me and HIS LOVE FOR ME WILL NEVER CHANGE!!! Then it is easy to trust, and to love Him back with everything that I am. Then I don’t reject His forgiveness, and I can forgive myself.

This connects back to my last post as well. When I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death, if I fully trust God, I can thank Him for anything I am experiencing. I can surrender myself completely to His hands, knowing I am held in His arms, on His lap, and that He is keeping me safe. It doesn’t feel safe. It hurts, it is painful, but through it all God is teaching me something. God is using me somehow. God is preparing me for something in the future, that is more than I could ever ask or imagine.

“The love of Christ inspires trust to thank God for the nagging headache, the arthritis that is so painful, the spiritual darkness that envelops us; to say with Job, ‘If we take happiness from God’s hand, should we not take sorrow too?’ Job 2:10″ Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning, pg. 118

So today I choose to thank God for this “curse” as my mom viewed it, of depression, oppression, attack, anxiety, hurt, pain… because someday I will be able to say with David, in Psalm 30;

“You have turned my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory my sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (vs. 11-12)

NOTE: Much of these thoughts, if you couldn’t tell by all the quotes, have come from reading Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning; particularly Chapter 6, pgs. 104-121. Get this book and read it! It is incredible. It has helped me to look at the gospel of grace in a different way than ever before. It has helped me apply scripture and truth to my life in ways I hadn’t before. God has used this book to show me the next step to take in correcting wrong thoughts and attitudes. Through study of scripture and this book as a companion, God is turning my heart evermore to Himself. Encouraging me to trust, to give myself grace, and accept His love.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fear of the unknown...

“I am afraid.”

“What are you afraid of?”

Long pause…

“I am afraid of the future.”

“What do you mean, can you explain?”

“I am afraid of making the wrong choice, going the wrong way, of not knowing what to expect, so when I do make a choice, and it is wrong, then I am not good enough. I don’t meet expectations, of myself or of others or of God. I am afraid of failure; because I don’t know what is coming, I can’t anticipate it, or plan for it. I am afraid of what is coming up this week. Will I be able to handle being home now? Will I be able to handle the kids? Will I be able to do anything that is asked of me over the weekend? What are our plans for the week and weekend? How can I prepare if I don’t know? I guess I am crippled by the need to know.”

“To sum it all up, would you say you are afraid of the unknown?”


Thus went part of my counseling session last week with Tricia, as best as I can remember it.
After that, we focused in on my fear of the unknown, and worked through the fear, to see what God had to say to me about it. As we talked, because I am very visual, I got a few images in my head.

One image:
Walking into the darkness stumbling and scared… then realizing something was ahead of me… I was following something… something moving ahead of me… creating a path for me… realizing it was a pillar of fire.

As I talked with Tricia about it, we both made the obvious connection to God leading the Israelites out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Can you imagine how much that pillar of fire, God’s reminder of His presence with them, lit up the night sky, and showed them the way through the darkness of the wilderness?

If God was that pillar of fire, leading them… how much more is He leading me into the unknown, giving me light enough to see one step at a time in front of me? How much more is my Savior and God giving me just enough knowledge for the very moment I am in?

Another image:
Tucked under the covering feathers of God, sheltered under His wing… realizing again how dark it is under there… then it shifted to kneeling at the foot of the cross… covered not by the feathers of God, but the blood of Christ… flowing down over me, and washing me…

Again, Tricia and I talked about that. Not only is God leading me through the unknown and lighting my way, He has covered me with His blood. Any fear of not being good enough, making a mistake, a wrong choice, not being perfect… all the condemning thoughts that come with that… washed away.

I am following God into the wilderness of the unknown. He is blazing the trail before me. He is bringing others alongside me to cheer me on and encourage me. He has made a path for me. He makes me lie down in green pastures at times to rest, and leads be beside the still waters. He restores my soul. But then we move on, back down that path into the wilderness, one step at a time.

That path.

I follow in that path; the path of righteousness He leads me in, for His names sake; making choices along the way, zigzagging back and forth, but hopefully not straying off the path. Those choices are mine, that I am free to make. And if I step into a pot hole in the path He was trying to lead me around, I have to deal with the consequences for a time. But He heals me, His rod and staff, they comfort me.

Along that path at times there have been points, and will be again I suspect, where I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Though I have felt alone; though I have felt abandoned; I need not fear any evil, for He is with me.

My focus has to be, not on the valley, not on the darkness of the wilderness, but one defining hope. Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Our pastor talked about that this past Sunday. All of creation is groaning. We are groaning, aching for the day when things will be put right. Our hope to keep going through the valley (the groan) is the hope set before us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, our Hope, our Savior. We will be with Him in glory, in heaven, forever.

We may be in the muck and mire now, but He leads us out of that. And as one of my friends says, with every little victory we have in overcoming the enemy, setting aside something that hinders us, tearing down a stronghold, persevering through pain, and coming out on the other side… There will be dancing in the streets! Rejoicing, surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, cheering us on, and dancing with us!

Yes, there is fear of the unknown still lurking in my heart, but hope is there as well. It WILL overcome the darkness. I WILL come out on the other side.

AND SO WILL YOU! Don’t be discouraged! Don’t give in! Don’t give up! You can do it! I can do it! We can do it together, walking arm in arm, and dancing in the streets together with every victory, be it big or small!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The storm...

How do I describe what has happened over this past week?

Last Sunday to this Sunday has been a night and day difference.

God has done something major in my heart since then. As I am watching the first thunderstorm of the summer coming in right now, it seems fitting to liken it to a thunderstorm.

Last week I felt all foggy, lethargic, and unable to focus. Much like it is before a storm, the stillness in the air, the humidity, the impending disaster…

Then the storm hit over last weekend. I felt assaulted on all sides, unable to think, unable to claim my thoughts captive. I couldn’t even pray and ask God for help. I felt like the storm had taken down all my lines of communication.

When I went to church last Sunday, the storm was at it’s worst. When the service was done a good friend could see my distress, though I was really trying to hide it, and took me somewhere quiet to talk. After talking with me she wasn’t convinced that if she let me go home that I would be safe.

I was in so much pain that I was frustrated at the time. Because all I wanted to do was leave. All I wanted to do was end the pain, yet I am grateful to her for listening to God’s Spirit speaking to her heart.

After an hour of prayer with the leaders of my small group, and some consultation with my counselor, I gave in to their encouragement to be assessed by the emergency department at our local hospital. My friend drove me there, and stayed with me through the whole process. In between doctors and nurses going in and out, she sat by my side, held my hand, held me and cried with me, prayed with me, read scripture to me through tears.

The end result was admission to the hospital, the same place I was back in October.

When I woke in the morning, after only about 4 and a half hours of sleep, I couldn’t believe that I was back there again. I felt alone, drained, tired, and despairing. I couldn’t read the bible, couldn’t pray… as I have mentioned in my previous post. All I wanted to do was stay curled in that bed and cry.

But. God. He started working. I don’t even know how, but he started working a song into my head… that I couldn’t get out all day. I could only remember the chorus.

“All of you is more than enough for all of me,
For every purpose and every need;
You satisfy me with Your love,
And all I have in You is more than enough.”
(Chris Tomlin - “Enough”)

I heard the song only 2-3 times prior to entering the hospital. So, I know now, looking back, that God planted that song in my head.

Through that day, through the other people there, God spoke. I received use of my laptop, so I was able to send out emails for prayer support. Being able to write, feeling the joy that filled my heart as I did so, gave me a confirmation that I need to write somehow. I felt like God was telling me that I needed to share my pain, struggles and victories with others. To give others the hope that I am starting to see now.

By the end of the night, I was able to pray, read scripture… the restoration of that was an incredible freeing of my heart!

The next morning I was left in charge of deciding if I was going to discharge myself, and go to my counselor appointment. Though it was tough, I made the choice to leave. It was good to be able to see Tricia, and have her help me work through some things so that I could come out of her office more stable than I went in.

After that, it was like the clean, cool air that sweeps in at the tail end of the storms. Slowly through the rest of the week, that cool breath of air, the breath of the Spirit sweeping through my head and heart, cleared my mind, heart, and soul.

Friday, I went back to my counselor’s office, and through meeting with her again another theme came up. Not only has God used that song “Enough” in my life through the week, but God has used many sources to speak to my heart about forgiveness.

He used my quiet time earlier in the week. He used Kimberly at “A Planting of the Lord” speaking about forgiveness in her post. He used Joyat “Ponderings” by having her send me an email about forgiveness. He used my counselor, Tricia by having her give me a hand out on forgiveness.

Hmmm, forgiveness.

“Really God? FORGIVENESS???”

“Yes, forgiveness,” said God.

Somewhere, somehow through this storm this week, God has softened my heart. He made me realize that I needed to forgive. He showed me that even though I could feel the emotions of pain at the hurt inflicted, I still could forgive… let go of the cold emotions and the bitterness that has bound me, and this other person for so long.

What freedom it brings to have forgiven, and to have verbalized that forgiveness to the other person! Again, it doesn’t mean that I might not grieve over things, or that I might not experience the feelings of pain again, but at least I won’t be holding on to the bitterness. Not anymore. And if the enemy tries to bring it up again, I can look at Friday and say, “No, I forgave and I will not be drawn into bitterness again.”

And this Sunday, I was able to stand up in church, and sing, leading the congregation in praising God that He is truly more than enough for all of me… I was able to freely stand, and freely worship, in a way I haven’t been able to in a long time.

The storm came, the storm blew through… and God, my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer, lifted me out of the slimy pit and set my feet upon the rock.

May I continue to cling to Him and trust in His deliverance, His faithfulness, His trustworthiness, His love… I choose to trust that He is always with me, and will always work things for good in my life… even the bad stuff. I have to trust that He will bring me through this.

I am not out yet. But I am finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it is getting brighter.

Other struggles stand in my way,
but if God can get me through this far,
He can get me the rest of the way.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Brokenness and Grace...

“To be alive is to be broken; to be broken is to stand in need of grace. It is only through grace that any of us could dare to hope that we could become more like Christ.” Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, pg. 86

Recently I have been broken. And I have stood in need of grace. The grace of God to get through. I don’t know that I can share the details now, they are too painful and too close. This weekend and early week has been devastating in many ways. It feels like the pieces of my heart, that were being healed together (see HERE) got shattered even more. The big piece that has been in Jesus hands as He has been working it into my heart, to heal, feels like it is tearing things to ribbons.

Maybe Jesus is healing that piece into my heart. And what comes now is the grieving and forgiving. To get wholly healed and pliable in His hands, don’t we need to be able to grieve through our losses, but to also forgive to let go of that pain? Then we can be truly used. That is when we fall to our knees in desperate pain. That is when we know we are truly alive. On our knees, on our faces before God, broken and fully aware of that brokenness… we are truly alive. Because we know that only by God’s grace can we stand up again. Only the grace God gives us, to heal us, fill our emptiness, flesh out our bones, will make us become more like Christ.

This weekend was about falling flat on my face and falling apart because I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. I couldn’t hold together the facade of everything being alright, when it wasn’t. I couldn’t stand the pain of what God is trying to do in my life, and I just wanted it to all stop.

And stop it did. I stopped. I found myself flat on my face, in an unexpected place. Unable to move. Unable to breathe. Just hurt, scared, trembling, awash with emotions that I couldn’t deal with.

God brought me to the point of realizing that I am incredibly angry with Him for allowing things into my life that never had to be. He could have prevented them. He chose not to. I don’t know why. Just realizing and admitting to myself that I am angry with Him took my breath away, and even my will to live.

My faith was shaken to the very core. The pain has been so much a part of me for so long, that to finally let some of it out, nearly drove me over the edge, but for a few close friends who could see what was going on. This pain is in the process of being let out, and slowly grieved through. God is giving me grace when I so desperately need it, so that I can continue on this journey, this journey towards healing, and forgiveness. Full and total forgiveness, with no holds barred. I am not there yet. But I am closer.

This weekend with my faith so shaken, I couldn’t pray; I just cried. I couldn’t read the bible; I just cried. I couldn’t even yell at God; I just cried.

I explained to someone that I was fearful that I was losing my faith. All of these things I have felt and experienced have brought it down to a faith issue with me. I feet all alone, left alone by God, because of my anger at Him, and because I have distanced myself from God the Father.

This person, whom I deeply respect, quoted part of a verse to me, “Faith is the evidence of things unseen.”

I kept thinking, “Faith, the evidence of things unseen?! My faith is the evidence or proof of things that are not seen, things like God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, truth, grace, love? I sure am not doing a good job of being living proof, when I can’t even pray, when the faith I thought I had in God feels like it is completely gone!!”

She continued on to talk to me about how I felt so completely alone, and that my faith was gone. She reminded me that feelings can be very powerful, but I don’t have to do what the feelings seem to be telling me. I don’t have to believe what the feelings may be telling me. If I am feeling abandoned by God because of other situations, even if that feeling is overwhelming, I don’t need to be ruled by it.

I guess that is where faith comes in. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I am still struggling with my faith. I still feel very alone at times. I am not far enough away from the events of this weekend yet. Even so, I can see that God has worked and moved in my life amazingly. He took me from a heap of brokenness on the floor in the morning, to being able to stand by His grace, and touch someone else’s life through reading scripture and praying with that person, by the evening of the same day.

I found the entire verse after searching for a while today:

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

My faith wavers like a little flame that is trembling on the edge of going out. Yet God has used it, even in my brokenness. He gave me grace. And through that grace, I looked a little bit more like Christ to that person, who God touched through me… a broken vessel.

I am so fearful. Of the future, of the might be’s, of the unknowns that come in this world. I can’t control them, and I am afraid. I can’t be perfect all the time, and I am afraid. I am afraid that not being in control, and not being perfect means that I am not good enough, that I am insignificant and can never get anything right.

“Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? What are you afraid of?
Are you afraid that your weakness could separate you from the love of Christ? It can’t.
Are you afraid that your inadequacies could separate you from the love of Christ? They can’t
Are you afraid that your inner poverty could separate you from the love of Christ? It can’t.
Difficult marriage, loneliness, anxiety over the children’s future? They can’t.
Negative self-image? It can’t.
Economic hardship, racial hatred, street crime? They can’t.
Rejection by loved ones or the suffering of loved ones? They can’t.
Persecution by authorities, going to jail? They can’t.
Nuclear war? It can’t.
Mistakes, fears, uncertainties? They can’t.
The gospel of grace calls out: Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.
You must be convinced of this, trust it, and never forget to remember. Everything else will pass away, but the love of Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Faith will become vision, hope will become possession, but the love of Jesus Christ that is stronger than death, endures forever. In the end, it is the one thing you can hang onto.” Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, pg 86-87

What more can I say? Can I stand in faith this weekend, in front of church, and sing “You satisfy me with your love, and all I have in You, is more than enough?”

My God give me the grace to stand, in spite of the brokenness, and look a little more like Christ. Even through the tears of pain, knowing You could have prevented this, help me to worship You, who you are, and praise you in the midst of the pain and loss. Oh Jesus, fill me with your joy, and make my joy complete in You. Wipe away the despair that nothing will change. Instead, fill me with Your faith that is the substance of hope, and the evidence of things not seen. Guard me and guide me. Help me to sing and lead in worship others who may be hurting as much or more than I am. Help me to be transparent in my brokenness, so that Christ may be seen through those cracks. As you have shown me in many ways, my legacy is brokenness, so that Your grace and love and strength may be shown to others, that it is not by my strength I stand, but by Your might. May that be evident this weekend. Cover me with Your feathers and I will take refuge under Your wing. Even when it hurts. Amen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I have to trust...

I have been going through a Beth Moore devotional on the life of King David. About a week ago, we started hitting the point in his life when he sinned with Bathsheba. We discovered all the ways that he first of all put himself in danger of sinning, then the ways he tried to cover it up, and then finally his reaction when he was confronted with his sin.

I wonder how many times we quench our consciences, the Spirit of God speaking to our hearts, and instead do what we want to because it is easier? It was so much easier for David to stay at home, rather than gear up for war, and head out into the field. It was so much easier to ask his servants who that woman was, than to turn his mind to the wives he already had in the palace with him. It was easy to let his mind wander into paths that were wrong thinking, when this woman that he saw was the wife of another man. It was easier on his pride to cover up what he had done, and get Bathsheba’s husband killed, than to confess it openly and ask forgiveness.

However, I was so caught by David’s reaction when the prophet Nathan confronted him. David immediately said that he had sinned against the Lord. (2 Sam. 12:13) Then when he was told that the child Bathsheba had born was going to die, and it was struck with a deathly illness, David prostrated himself before God. He wept and fasted and spent his nights lying on the ground.

When the child did die, David got up and ate and cleansed himself. No one understood, but David said it was because he hoped that while the child was still alive God might relent. Now that the child was gone, nothing could bring it back, not even his mourning for it. It makes sense. Once something is gone, there is no way you can get it back. David probably did continue to mourn the loss of his child. There is no parent I can think of that could ever go through the loss of a child without mourning it’s loss for a long time. But David knew that one day he would be with his child, that he would go to his child, though it could never come back to him. (2 Sam. 12:22-23)

In the study, it brought the point home that had David not experienced this time of extreme pleading and weeping and fasting before the Lord, he wouldn’t have been in a place to comfort Bathsheba later (2 Sam. 12:24). His pleading brought him to a place of complete dependence on God, which is where God wants us all to be… dependent upon Him alone. One of the many quotes from Beth Moore that I love follows.

David’s restored relationship to God enabled him to comfort his grieving wife. When tragedy hits, if we cast ourselves on the Savior and rely on Him for the very breath we draw, we will one day get up again. We will even have the strength to comfort another mourner.
pg. 296

Beth Moore talked briefly about how it might have looked when David fell on his face before God, and not only pleaded for his child’s life, but also just plain worshipped God. What was it like when he finally returned to public worship of his God? She asked a question of us as we walked through the study.

Have you ever returned to the Lord in worship after a painful loss that you believe He could have stopped? If so, you may view your return to worship as one of the most difficult and painful experiences of life. I suspect David would concur, but his return restored his sanity.
pg. 296

I thought about that. What painful loss have I suffered, after which I returned to worship? To worship a God who I knew could have prevented the pain I was experiencing?

Most recently, a loss that ended up driving me to a week long stay at the hospital, still has me in pain almost every time I go to worship. When I hear or sing certain worship songs about who God is, the all-knowing, all-loving God, it hurts deep inside because I know that He could have prevented my pain. I wrestle with the “why” questions. We may never know why something happened. I may never know “why” I needed to go through such pain. Why would a loving God allow all this in my life? Why I am going through such pain right now. Probably the more accurate question is “how?” How am I going to get through this? Am I going to do it on my own, using my own knowledge, my own coping mechanisms? Or am I going to allow the God, who let all the pain happen in the first place, to get me through this, and to heal me through this? I am still struggling. I don’t know the answer.

All I know is the first month out of the hospital, and back at church, in public, corporate worship, I couldn’t sit anywhere but the very back of the church; where I could escape out to the lobby to regroup and calm myself down. I cried and sobbed through every worship song, trying to sing, but unable to, because of the heavy burden on my heart, trying to stand up, but finding it impossible because of the grieving I was going through. As I look at it now, I can see the anger I had (and sometimes still have) towards God for letting this stuff happen to me. The things that put me in the hospital, the depression, and other things in my life that contributed to it, that contributed to my getting to the point of wanting to commit murder… wanting to commit suicide.

I hate admitting that I am angry at God. It makes me feel like a fool, and a failure as a Christian. Yet at the same time, I have to be honest. Somehow I have to cling to the hope that God, my Jesus, will get me through this. Somehow. I don’t know what He will do. I don’t know who He might help through me… whether it be through these rantings and ravings on my blog, or in person (!!!) I just have to trust that He has a plan. If He kept me alive, then He has to have a plan for me, or this is all for nothing. And I don’t think that I could bear all of this being for nothing.

I don’t know where this thread of hope comes from. My friends can be with me, encouraging me, and praying for me and lifting me up before the throne of God above… but when I am alone is when it all really counts. Somewhere deep inside there is a part of me that wants to believe that there is a purpose here, even when I am despairing. Something inside wants to believe that there is a reason that I am going through all of this, and that whether I see it or not, my experiences may be helping someone else. Maybe I will never know how. I guess, in the end, I really don’t need to. That is the hardest thing about all of this.

I just have to trust.

It sounds so easy doesn’t it. It sounds like a platitude. But it isn’t.

I have to trust.
Or there is no hope, and then life is meaningless.
I have to trust.
Or there is nothing to hang onto.
I have to trust.
Or maybe death is the only way out, because life is worthless.
I have to trust.

I can’t believe that this pain is all there is.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Truly "on the road..."

Well, this weekend Dave and I were truly on the road, traveling. I was able to go with him to Hayward, WI to a wedding of a former co-worker.

Dave creates slide shows for friends and family members (and co-workers, or anyone who askes usually). For weddings, these slide shows include pictures of the bride as a baby, through growing up years, the groom as a baby through growing up years… then each of them as individuals as adults, then a section of them as a couple. Then he sets it up in a program, timed out to music. Once the program is all set, he goes to the wedding, takes pictures there, then runs to the reception area, and starts plugging them into the end of the slide show. He renders the video, burns it to DVD and plays it at the reception, then gives a copy to the bride and groom and their parents.

That is when things go well. From the beginning of this project, Dave has had problems. Two weeks ago, Dave took a week of vacation to give him the opportunity to get the main part of the slide show done. He commented the weekend before his vacation that his main computer was acting glitchy.

So, he decided to wipe the hard drive and just reload Windows and all his programs. He figured out a way of being able to do this without having to go through the laborious process of backing up a 120 GB hard drive. Of course, something went wrong, and he wiped the whole hard drive, losing some of the info that he hadn’t backed up previously.

Then the computer showed up with a virus, that took 3-4 virus scans, and 3-4 re-loading of Windows operating systems… and lots of extra time. By the middle of his week off, he was just about back to the starting point again, and then found out that he lost some of the photos for the slide show. One thing led to another, and the slide show got to a point where he could stop… the day before the wedding.

We got to the wedding and shot a bunch of pictures through the service, then raced to the reception hall, and started picking, cleaning up, and plugging in the pictures. Ok, well, Dave did that on my laptop while I prayed next to him that he would get it done in time. (There was an exceptionally short amount of time between the wedding and reception)
After finally getting the program to start rendering the audio and video to a movie file, we ate… or rather I did… Dave was too nervous. Then, of course, you KNOW something else went wrong!!! No matter what we tried, we couldn’t get the movie to burn to DVD. Sigh.

So we managed to save it as a file to the desktop of my laptop, and then from there just hooked into the projector, and played the file.

It took us about an hour after actually playing it to get the slide show actually burned to DVD. After doing that, we were too tired to do anything else but go back to the hotel and rest and watch a movie on TV. We took a slow, leisurely drive home, and just had a good time together.

It was a nice time on the road, talking and sharing. It just provided us with some time to connect, and relax together. If I had needed to stay home with the kids and send Dave up alone, I would have had a hard weekend, and Dave later told me that he wouldn’t have nearly had as much fun, and probably been more stressed if I hadn’t been there.

It was good to ride with him, to talk. To be silly. To laugh. To take our time coming home, knowing our kids were safe, and knowing that we could just be real together. It was so nice to have this time together. It helped us re-connect even a little bit. It made me feel less alone.

Thank you for those of you who were praying for us for this weekend. I think it helped. Who knows what else might have gone wrong!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

On the Road...

So what does that mean? I am trying to think about what it really means to be “on the road.”

It could mean, standing on a road, trying to figure out which way to go. To a lot of people it might mean traveling, moving forward, to something good, hopefully. Especially since I subtitled my post, “Walking with Jesus.”

But to walk with Jesus means that when He walks, I walk. When He runs, I run. When He stands still, I have to STAND STILL. To wait. To stare at the road. To look around. To try to figure out why I am here. What does Jesus want me to learn? What am I supposed to do. I want to move ahead. I want to do the right thing. I don’t want to find myself in the wrong place because I started moving before Jesus did.

Can you see that road stretching before you; behind you? What do you see when you look behind you? Do you see the pits and valleys? Do you see the victories? Do you decide to go back? Do you decide that Jesus is worth following? Do I?

What do you see when you look ahead? Do you see the darkness of the unknown? Do you see the promise of Him leading you to where He wants you to go? Do you see and accentuate the negative possibilities, or do you see (or even guess at) the possibilities, and hope that might lie ahead of you? Is the glass half empty or half full? Do I?

When I look at the road, many times I find myself looking at my feet… stalled in the dirt of the road, scuffed, battered, hurting and weary. All I want to do is just sit down there in the dust and give up. I am so tired I just don’t even have the strength to stand. I see the cliffs rising high above me on either side of the road, and realize that I when Jesus moves, I have 3 choices.

1. I can get going and move with Him… hoping for better, hoping for healing.

2. I can sit down and stay where I am… despairing of seeing anything but these looming dark cliffs.

3. I can decide to move away from Jesus… go backwards and walk away from Him.

Any of the ways, the cliffs on either side are impenetrable. I have to go forward, stay, or go backwards. Those are the choices I have to face right now. I feel that Jesus has stopped. Either to give me a break and a rest, and a chance to re-group, or to show me the choices I have before me, or to just get me used to waiting on His timing… to learn to trust that He knows what He is doing.

I feel like giving up and just sitting down and forgetting anything but the weariness of my soul, and spirit, and pain of my heart. I don’t think I am at the point of retreat… into my shell, into the ways I know well… of avoiding pain by building walls. I just want to stop. I don’t want to face the pain of going forward into the healing that I know Jesus is leading me into. I am tired of the battle. I am tired of trying to keep fighting, keep going, when Jesus starts walking again. Maybe this “waiting” that Jesus is doing is because He knows that, so He is pausing on the road to let me get to a point where I am willing to go on again.

I feel that I am in the valley of the shadow of death. I just don’t know what the death is. Is it my will? Is it my willfulness? Is it the death of my sin? Is it the death of all I hold dear? Or am I going to choose to put to death my faith?

I am scared of the choices ahead of me once Jesus decides the time is right to move again. I am afraid of what I will decide to do. I am afraid I will choose to stay stuck… or refuse to follow… or choose to walk away and find another way out of this path, around the cliffs. I am terrified of following Jesus, of walking with Him, because I don’t know what to expect.

I am one of those people that needs to know the next steps. I am anxious and fearful when I don’t know what is going on, so that I at least will be able to make contingency plans, in case something goes wrong. I am afraid to let that control go, and let Jesus have the control. I am afraid to trust.

I am afraid. I am scared.

What do you think when you realize you are on that road? Please share your thoughts with me. It won’t help me make a decision, I know that is between me and God, but it will help me to know that I am not alone on this road. That I am not the only person who is facing these choices. Does anyone else feel that they are faced with these choices right now? Please share with me… because right now, I feel so alone; so isolated.

And that is not a good place to be.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Being carried by God, even in despair...

This weekend has been up and down to say the least.

I went to a wedding with Dave on Saturday, and before that I spent some time at the coffee shop with God. Had a wonderful conversation with the owner of the coffee shop, and a wonderful time with God.

Then came Sunday. I was at church, and I could feel it when I got up that morning. This emptiness inside that I just couldn’t pin point. The day before, I tagged it as just a deep longing for God to fill me. A spot deep in my heart that was still empty, that nothing I did could fill. Well, as I got to church, prepared and warmed up for worship team, it got stronger.

We started the service, and I got through the opening two songs, and the sermon. Then we got up and we sang 3 more songs before communion. The last song starts with the line, “Beneath the cross of Jesus, I find a place to stand…” I got that far, and almost lost it right then and there. Unfortunately I couldn’t just stop singing (I was the only female on the worship team) so I choked it back and kept going.

Then there was communion, which at that point, put me over the edge. I cried through all of communion. I was just asking God to commune with my heart, to fill the hole, to heal me. And felt so alone. My kids were with my in-laws, my husband didn’t make it to church, so I was sitting alone. (Did I mention that due to Dave’s schedule at work, we haven’t been to church together in about 6 weeks now?)

I cleaned myself up enough to get up and sing the last song, “In Christ Alone,” by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. Well, that one just about did me in as well. The second half of the last verse follows here…

“No powers of hell, no schemes of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
Till He returns, or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”

When the song was done, I got off the platform as quickly as possible and joined in a conversation briefly with a friend, and then headed to my community group. I slipped into the last row, next to a good friend from my small group. When prayer requests were shared, and then we started to pray, I started to cry again. As the prayer time was winding down, I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to “cover” that I was crying, so leaving everything but my purse, I ran for the bathroom, it was empty, so I hid in a stall, and let myself just sob. I literally was on my knees crying, and whispering for God’s help.

Over and over…. “God, I can’t do this anymore, I can’t keep this up. I need You to help me.”
Then I realized the bathroom door opened, so I got up on my feet, mopped up a bit and came out of the bathroom stall. It was my friend I had been sitting next to. She took one look at my face, and held out her arms to me for a hug, and asked what she could do to help. I fell apart and just sobbed on her shoulder. I finally calmed down enough, that we were able to slip out of the bathroom and into the sanctuary.

We talked until community groups were done, and then shortly after that I headed home. I found my husband, and we went to the farm. Right after a family meal, the kids went down for their naps, Dave and I went for a walk, and then Dave found one of our bikes in the machine shed, and rode it home from the farm. I hung around till the kids got up, rounded them and their sundry items up, and headed home.

All through this I was feeling terrible, and though I wanted to talk to Dave about it, there never was the opportunity, even on our walk.

When I got home, I let the kids run out to the back yard because I could tell that Dave had started a fire in our fire pit. After a bit of their playing, we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, and let them play themselves out.

Then Dave did something special for me. He rounded up the kids, and headed them inside for bath, popcorn and a movie. I was able to sit outside in the fading light, spend time at the fire. I was able to pray, journal, read scripture, journal out thoughts about the scripture… just spend some concentrated time with God.

Maybe it was taking my anti-anxiety medication that started the process of thinking more clearly, and even if it was, I guess it doesn’t matter. All that matters, was that for the first time all day, I finally felt better, my thoughts were clearer, and by the time it was too dark to write anymore, I had this gentle sense of peace. It was faint, there still was (and is now) the emptiness, but it is coupled with a bit of peace.

I am choosing to trust that God met me there.

During communion, our associate pastor was one of the elders helping pass communion through the congregation. He walked right down the aisle that I was sitting on. I have learned from past experiences that he is very sensitive to God’s Spirit, and has good discernment for what is going on. I have learned to trust his impressions… they are usually pretty accurate.

Well, to make a long story short, he came to me after the service. Even though he had seen my crying all through communion, he said that every time he passed me, he really felt God. He said he didn’t notice it except right when he was near me. He said that he just felt he needed to tell me that, why he didn’t know, but that he felt that God was doing something.

What he didn’t know, was that during communion was when I was feeling the most alone, the most lost, the most isolated and abandoned. Later, looking back, I can see that was when God must have been moving… even though I didn’t feel it, or realize it.

Like the “Footprints” poem says:

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

“You promised me Lord,

that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson, 1936

My God was carrying me… even in the midst of the worst isolation and loneliness and despair I have felt in a long time. I was being carried. I choose to believe it. I have to.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Irrational Thoughts, Irrational Feelings...

“You may be insecure, inadequate, mistaken, or potbellied. Death, panic, depression, and disillusionment may be near you. But you are not just that. You are accepted. Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.”
Brennan Manning, “The Ragamuffin Gospel” pg. 29
That is what I have been doing. Confusing how I see myself, how I am feeling, and allowing those feelings to take over… rather than focusing on who I am in Christ. I need to agree with God that I truly am accepted by Him, that I am loved by Him. Nothing can change that. Not my circumstances. Not my mistakes. Not my emotions.

I have been allowing myself to follow those feelings. Tricia talked at one point that everyone has Irrational Thoughts (ITs) and Irrational Feelings (IFs). I have been having irrational thoughts… thoughts that make no sense, they just pop in there. I know that those thoughts are not my own, unless I start owning them. Does that make sense? When those ITs pop in there, I need to renounce them, refuse to follow them, refuse to mull them over, meditate on them, explore them. Just say to myself, today (or this minute, depending how often they are coming) I am not going to hang onto that thought. I am going to focus on something else.

The interesting thing I have found, and Tricia and a couple of other people have confirmed this, is that when you start following your thoughts, your feelings follow where those thoughts are going. So if you are having thoughts of bitterness towards someone, pretty soon, you start feeling bitter… and then you start thinking more bitter thoughts, and it just keeps escalating.

I have found that particularly a problem lately. If you couldn’t tell by how my last post went!!!


I wish it were easier. I have to constantly re-direct my thoughts. Because my thoughts have been running how I have been feeling the past week or so… or maybe it was my feelings that were running my thoughts. I am not sure. Or maybe it was my hormones that were running everything!!!

If you couldn’t tell, I am feeling a bit better today. :)

I have found that this week I have really been having a problem with fighting. I mean, my thoughts and/or feelings go down one path. I know what I should do. I should battle with scripture, or worship, but I am so tired. I am tired of fighting. I get so exhausted of the constant battle, that I just find myself giving in and giving up.

One of my friends asked me last night if I am getting so tired because I am trying to fight in my own power, or if I am asking God to fight for me. I mean there is some responsibility that is mine, like filling my mind with the truth… but if I try to fight the whole fight on my own, without availing myself of God’s power through the Holy Spirit, at the least I am going to get tired, and at the most, I am going to miss out on something that God wanted me to learn.

I don’t know yet if I am fighting on my own power, or if I am leaning on God. I do know that there have been so many thoughts running through my head it has been really hard to hear the whisper of God’s small still voice in the middle of it all.

Tricia told me about a picture of a bird hiding under a ledge of rock, safe and resting, while outside a storm was raging all around. She said that is what is going on with me. I am hidden under God’s wing, and though it’s dark under there, I am safe and protected by Him.
It’s hard to remember when all you can hear is that storm raging around you, and nothing else. Here’s praying that I can keep clinging to God in the midst of this storm… the reassuring thing is, I know that He is holding on to me more tightly than I could ever hold on to Him.

From Psalm 139, “You have hemmed me in behind and before, You have laid Your hand upon me…” and “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.”
From John 10, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”