The Heart of the Problem

A little over two months ago, my PC was attacked by a very nasty virus that inflicted irreparable damage to every document that was saved and not open at the time of the infection. Many years’ worth of writing was just gone. I could see the file name, but not open them. Countless ideas that had been jotted down and saved for future expansion and elaboration were gone. Hundreds of poems (many of which were not very good at all, but they had a line or two that could be used in another work) were gone. In one brief moment, all of my words seemed to just disappear, stolen away. Unfortunately, this was just beginning of many more trying times and various losses that were to ensue over the months that followed, however, I never realized how profound of an effect the loss of my writing would have on my heart.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, I attributed the heaviness and emptiness of my heart to being just a side-effect of all the other stuff that was unfolding in my life. No matter what I did or how hard I prayed, I just couldn’t seem to shake a rather specific feeling of emptiness that I just could not explain.

The other day, I was reading a wonderful novel my cousin wrote (Steal The North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom) and happened to read the acknowledgment in the back. In this, she references a tragic event in her life when a fire had taken place and she thanked the fireman who ran back to save her laptop. In this statement, she referred to herself as a “frantic” writer and it was at that moment that the light came on. The emptiness I had been trying to pray through, or pray away, was a subconscious mourning of the loss of my heart, the loss of my writing. A poetic heart with no poetry is like a heart with no purpose or peace.

I have often felt that my heart was more poetic in nature, but I never realized the depths of that truth and how tied to those words my heart really is. It is almost as if I can barely breathe without them. This thought, however, is rather astonishing considering how long it has been since I have written anything, even a sentence – and even longer since I have written any poetry (over a year…).

In an ironic turn of events, I was cleaning my desk the other day. Now, before you think I just left the sentence hanging around and unfinished, I must admit that cleaning my desk can be a challenge (If I am not careful, my desk gets as cluttered as my mind!). However, I was cleaning my desk on an act of faith that situations would be restored or renewed and that my desk would be needed again (the story in the Bible of the two farmers who prayed for rain, but only one prepared his fields in faith that God would send the rain). During this wonderful cleaning moment (not really….), I noticed a manila envelope in the corner with a stack of paper beside it. It is not like me to have a stack of paper standing up without it being in a clip or envelope or something.

I carefully remove both the stack and the envelope and I could not believe what I had found.

I had found my heart!

I found the manuscript (both the edited version and unedited version) of a book of poetry I had assembled for a completion a couple of years ago. All of my “best” works were there – in their finished form! In the envelope, I found the rough drafts, pieces in progress, thoughts/ideas for new works, and my notes regarding the format/setup of the “book” as well as the pieces I had elected to not include. While it was not everything, it was the most important parts – the pieces that I worked the hardest on, invested much of my heart into, and the ones that spoke the loudest to the depths of my being.

Up until this point, I had no idea that just the thought of losing my poetry (let alone the reality of its loss) would have such a devastating effect on me, that the words had that profound an impact on my heart and mind – almost as if they were a part of my very soul.

During these past few trying months, my heart has leaned heavily on Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God…”) and I had remained in Psalms on a basically daily basis searching for answers or something to fill the emptiness inside. The night after I found the manuscript, I just opened my Bible randomly and found myself in Jeremiah…29:11-13, to be specific. I was totally floored – again! The thought that there could be a plan through all of this, a reason, some purpose – some hope– was rather shocking. Hope had been in rather short supply in my heart despite the knowledge in my head that there is always hope so long as we have Jesus.

In re-reading this passage, I found that I love both the way the KJV is written as well as the NIV. Both give such a unique perspective and, in my opinion, complement each other very well. With your indulgence, this is how my heart reads it.

I know the thoughts I think toward you, the plans I have for you, what I have in mind for you.
Thoughts of peace, not of evil.
Thoughts to prosper you, no to harm you.
Thoughts for well-being, not for bad things.
Plans to give you a future and a hope,
An end and an expectation,
A hope and a future.
You will call upon me, come to me, pray to me –and I will hear you,
I will heed you,
I will listen to you.
When you search with all your heart, you will find me.

During this experience, I found that all the searching, seeking, crying out, and pleading don’t always end in His miraculous majestic arrival at the foot of the bed to announce to the universe He is here, but rather, when we are trying, searching desperately to find Him, He finds us.

He comes to us in ways that can be so subtle, so still, so quiet that if we are not looking for Him in that way, we will miss it altogether, but, thankfully, this does not negate or minimize His arrival! While we would all love the majestic fanfare announcing His intervention in a situation, sometimes He arrives in a manila envelope and a random stack of uncontained paper that He had been saving for just the right time – a time when I was broken, I had stopped fighting the emptiness, and given up all the hope I dared to.

It was in the moment that He quietly stood beside me and returned to me what I had given up as lost – He returned my heart and my hope.

YET AGAIN

Well, here I am – again. A blank page before me (again), thousands of thoughts and feelings flying through my head (again), and the cursor sits there blinking at me (again) as if impatiently beckoning me to do something, anything (again).

As I sit here and watch the blinking, I have to question just how long it has been since I have sat here like this? Better yet, I must also question myself:

• Why I am here, yet AGAIN?

• How long have I kept what was supposed to be spoken in black and white muzzled in silence, stifled as if time would collapse if I let it go?

• Why have I allowed so much to interfere, to come between, to cause me to close the blank page and file it away?

Once AGAIN, I find my focus re-directed by the mere blink of a cursor on a blank page… I should not have allowed this, yet AGAIN. I have missed out on the opportunity to listen to my Father’s heart. It should not be so. I know to do better than this…

I must be mindful, ever conscious, of my need to pause beside the River of His Heart at some point each day, to take the time to spend a moment with Him, to allow Him to speak and not just listen to my rambling. I must stop being too focused to be “distracted” or “interrupted” by taking time to just sit with Him.

After all, a loss of joy, a loss of peace, and deteriorating health are not worth the results achieved by squeezing one more thing into an already full day in the hope of accomplishing one more task rather than to just pause for a moment and have a cup of coffee with my Lord.

Too much Martha and not enough Mary will find us lying broken in His green pastures, too weak to reach His still waters, and too empty to even find the table that He has prepared before us. Thankfully, our Father’s love and mercy is far more stubborn than we – and He loves us far too much to leave us in the condition we are in when we finally throw ourselves at His feet.

Grace upon grace is ours, free for the taking – yet again.

My Shepherd

I know that I have posted this once before, but I hope you will indulge a brief reflection on a cherished passage. Given events in my life and heart, my soul needed a reminder of this simple truth – a reminder that He IS my Shepherd.

While all that is within me is longing for those still, quiet waters and the lush green pastures of rest, I trust my Shepherd and know that this path is for a reason, that there is always a purpose, and that He is eternally faithful. He has not forgotten me, forsaken me, or abandoned me.

I know that, even when the darkness seems to hide me, the night will shine like the day around me for the darkness is as light to Him. There is no where I can go where He cannot find me and no where I can run that He is not already there. He is My Shepherd.

***
My Shepherd

I – He WILL for He IS
Yahweh Ro’I, the Lord my Shepherd.
He supplies all that I need for He is Yahweh Jireh.

I will lie down and rest where
the meadows are sweet.
He will bring me to the still and restful waters,
beside peaceful streams of quiet waters,
so that my soul can rest.
He is Yahweh Mekaddesh.

He will restore my soul,
refresh my life,
and renew my strength.
He is Yahweh Rafae.

He will lead me in the paths that are right –
He is Yahweh Tsidkenu.

***
II – You ARE and You WILL

During the apprehensive journeys of life,
through the deep, sunless, darkest valley,
yes, even when I come to the valley of death,
I do not have to fear evil,
nor have I cause to dread it,
for You are always with me
and remain close beside me.
You are Yahweh Shammah.

Your will protect me and guide
as a father to His children.
You are such a comfort to me
and the rock on which I depend for strength.
You are my Abba.

***
III – You WILL, You DO, You ARE

You will care for me
and provide for me,
oh Yahweh Sabaoth,
Even when my enemies are near
Or are standing righting before me.
You pour Your love and joy over my life so that
my cup of blessing overflows
with the abundance and fullness of You.
You are Yahweh Shalom.

Your mercy, Your unfailing love
will follow me and pursue me
so long as I live.
You will be always be
the place my heart will call home.
You are my Adonai.

Baruch HaShem Adonai, Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Struggling To Reach The Surface, Fighting For Daylight.

I was hoping that the beginning of a new year would bring about a change in perspective, tide of events, and the opportunity for more positive transitions. However, after completing two months of this “new” year, I am coming to realize that these are not going to be outward occurrences in my life for the time being. I must, however, find them within myself and these need to become an outward expression of what I want my life to represent in spite of the trials.

Unknown circumstances…medical situations that remain unsolved, undetermined, unknown… These are not things I do well with and I have found myself struggling to keep my head above the waters of depression and despair. So many changes have come about in a very short amount of time due to the unknowns that still plague my heart that it has been a challenge to keep my balance, keep my perspective, and not get lost in the fast crashing waves of change. Absolutely nothing is the same and I don’t know that it ever will be again.

Because of this storm, I have a better grasp of how Peter felt when, while walking on the water to Jesus, he saw the storm rather than the Savior and began to sink. That is where I have been…away from the words I love so dearly, away from the outstretched hand of my patiently waiting Savior, away from many who could pray for the situation – or for me. I allowed the storm to rage and the waves to crash over my soul and here I sit, alone on the shore like a shipwrecked child.

As I sit here before this slowly filling screen, I am reminded once again of His faithfulness. I have thought about writing often, but I could never find the words to begin anew. As I sat the other day on the washed up shore of my heart, I began to try to put words to how I was feeling – even just a few. Slowly, the pieces of the title for this post began to float to the surface. Little by little, it came together until it was a cohesive string that summed up my heart and circumstances at the moment. I had been swallowed up the waves of despair and tossed about in the storm of the unknown. Reaching the surface was a struggle. Fighting for light in the darkness of my heart seemed impossible. So, I wrote those words and let the title sit (to simmer, so to speak). I allowed the thoughts that would come with it to soak into my heart and grow. When I opened the document the next day, those thoughts grew into words carried onto the page by only the strength of my Savior.

While understanding is great and crafting metaphors to explain things of the heart that words alone do not accurately convey can be wonderfully freeing, I now must ask myself some hard questions. What now? Where do I go from here? How do I open my heart to not only allow others to see the storm raging inside of me, to see the fear from the potential of the unknown, to see the pain brought on by the changes in life, or to even pray for me? After all, I am supposed to be the strong one …or at least the is the lie I have bought into for a long time… Honestly, I have no idea what the answer is besides to hold onto my Savior for dear life and trust Him to calm the storm, bring answers, and smooth circumstances in His time and in His way. Like the saying goes, I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds my tomorrow.

So, even though the storm rages around me, through my heart, and through my life, it is through these storms that I know my Lord will be faithful all the more. It is through these that He will show His strength on my behalf. Through this, He will continue to demonstrate His infinite love for me. Even though the challenges will continue to try to wash over me and circumstances will continue to disrupt and bring changes that so hard to bear at times, I know He is there. Even though my heart may feel like a piece of washed up shipwrecked lying on the shore, He will gather the pieces as they wash up on the shore, He will cherish them, and He will restore my heart.

All that is required of me now is to give Him my fears, trust His heart, and just be still.

Faithfulness Displayed!

This past year has been one of challenges. It has not been the easiest year of my life, but neither has it been the worst. I am not quite sure what to classify it as beyond challenging. On the flip side of this, I can say that this past year with the Lord has been one full of grace and faithfulness. Regardless of the valleys, caves, or shadows, He was faithful through it all. Regardless of the victories, the mountain-top moments, and the realizations of truth, He was an ever-present constant friend. 2013 was a year in which God proved His faithfulness time and time again. It was a year that, if one looks with the eyes of the heart, the hand of God can be seen throughout.

On professional level, even though I started to work from home in the summer of 2012, the transition from going to work to working from home has been one full of challenges that I never knew would exist nor would I have dreamed would take so long to adapt to. I love what I do and I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given, but it is more difficult than one might think. The lack of social interaction is merely one of the challenges as is the tendency to not leave the house very often. However, the Father has been faithful through it all and has walked me through each day. It is a daily challenge depend on Him for the endurance to handle all that comes my way and to trust Him to provide the not only an escape from the four walls I am surrounded by, but also the inspiration to write when the opportunity arises.

On a spiritual level, this is a year that has shaken the very foundations of my faith. Every truth I ever held dear has been challenged and my faith has been shaken to the very core. This was a year where I had to go back to the Bible, search it out, pray it out, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart. One thing that stands out the most about this period of time was a challenge I was presented regarding the truth of Jesus as the Messiah by a friend who was searching out the depths of her faith. I was asked how I knew for sure that He really was the Messiah. The fact that He lived was not disputed nor was the fact that He was a wise teacher. She wanted to know how I KNEW He was the Messiah. She didn’t want to hear about how I felt in my heart or the standard churchy answers that tend to be full of doctrine and rhetoric. This question above all others sat me down and hit me hard. The reasons for her doubting made rational sense, the presented questions were relevant and authentic, and I found myself in a very frightening position of not having an answer. As I prayed through this problem and was searching for an answer to share with my friend, I had a wonderful conversation with a woman full of boundless energy, a deep love for the Lord, and the gift of putting a whole lot of truth into a small, blunt, right-to-the point package and then slamming you upside the head with it in love (or at least that is how it hit me). (Paula, you are a blessing beyond description!) The fact that He is the Messiah is a FACT that must be believed IN FAITH. It is a heart-thing. It is a choice. While the truth that she hit me with soaked in and was prayerfully passed along to my questioning friend, the Lord proved Himself to be so faithful. He brought back to mind a situation from many years ago in which I witnessed firsthand how the Holy Spirit guides in frightening situations as well as the awesome power that exists in the Name of Jesus. If He was not the Messiah, then how can there be such power in just His Name? If He was not the Son of God, then why do demons flee at the mention of His name? There was my answer…spelled out for me many years before the question was even asked. How faithful He is!!!! Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

On a personal level, this year has been one that has brought to light some rather ugly truths about myself that sent me reeling as well as the return of struggles with depression. In terms of the ugly truths, I feel I still have a long way to go in this area, however, I have no one to blame but me. After all, if you aren’t prepared for an answer from the Lord, it is usually a good idea to not ask the question because it just might get answered – and that is exactly what happened. I still have not completely regained my footing with this or with the depression, nor have I sorted through all that needs to be sorted and understood. However, I know that there is a purpose for everything, that I was fearfully and wonderfully made, and that He has a plan for me. While I have no idea what that plan is or where the words He lays on my heart will go, I know that He has His hand in the midst of it all. He will continue to show Himself to be faithful just as He always has.

This is my favorite part – the true joy of my soul. Writing! And what an amazing year this has been in writing!! Through His leading, I have been challenged to share my poetry in ways I would never have dreamed – and He provided the courage. He also provided the strength needed to write and to share my story and my journey with others through this blog. I am normally a very private and closed off person so this has been a great challenge for me and yet another way for Him to prove Himself strong on my behalf. As if all of this was not enough, He even provided a way for several of my poems to make their way into two different poetry compilations this year. (Yeah!!!!!!) I cannot describe the feeling of holding a book in your hands and see the words once birthed in your heart printed in black and white before your eyes. Every time I look at the book, I am in awe of His gift, His grace, and the fact that He could find a use for the words jotted down through my heart.

The struggles of 2013 have left me weary and worn, but I have not been forgotten or forsaken. I have been challenged and defeated, but the Lord has not left me there alone. Every valley lead to His throne, every dark tunnel was illuminated with His love, and He was there through every desert crossed. Even when I had nothing left but questions, He was still by my side. 2013 was a year in which the Lord proved Himself to be faithful time and again to one who was unworthy and undeserving of such tender care. It truly was a year spent with Him. It was a year where my soul can truly shout Baruch HaShem Adonai, Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

May the coming year finding you walking in His way, showered in His peace, and resting in His love.

Words Fitly Spoken

Even though I have written about this topic once before, it would seem as though this is something that we cannot be reminded of often enough, especially as ones who bears the Name and are followers of Jesus Christ. While there are many areas we need to keep in mind as we walk through this journey of our lives in the shadow of His cross (such as showing the love of God), the way in which we walk and the way in which we talk are just as important and the things we choose to speak in our daily lives (you know, that side of life that takes place outside of the walls of the church we choose to attend). After all, being a follower of Jesus Christ is a 24-7-365 adventure and not a twice on Sunday and maybe once on Wednesday excursion or social call.

Rather than pull people apart or tear them down, let the words we choose to speak be seasoned with grace, filled with love, and poured out from the very heart of God.

Rather than criticize, pray for the person with whom you disagree.

Rather than judge or condemn, let us show love.

Build up those around you. Support those who are hurting, bent down, and trampled over.

Encourage hearts that are burdened and help to lighten the load if you can.

Keep an open heart. Allow the Holy Spirit to flow and move through your heart and allow Him to reach out to the world around you through you.

Several times in his letters to the churches, Paul reminds them to be careful of their words, to use them well and to honor God:

*Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29

*And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17

My challenge to you is this: be salt and light to the world in which you live. When you come across someone different than you or perhaps they have a different lifestyle than you, do not judge them based on what you perceive, but rather show compassion. Do not just listen to what they say, but really hear what they are saying (and sometimes listen to what they are NOT saying). Do not make assumptions about what you think is going on their heart, but, again, show compassion. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in what you say and how you say it. When someone you know makes life decisions you do not agree with, pray before you say anything about it and, most importantly, love them anyway. They will most likely receive enough judgment from the world around them when they just want to be accepted for who they are. Dare to be that one – accept them as they are. After all, that is the way the Father deals with us – He accepts us and loves us as we are. It is not our place to judge them. It is not our place to condemn them. Let us rather love the person, pray for them, and allow the Holy Spirit to move and work as He chooses.

Although this was written as Paul’s prayer regarding the church at Ephesus, this is my prayer as well for you who have blessed me by taking time out of your busy lives to stop by and read this humble offering to the Father of All.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp
how wide
and long
and high
and deep
is the love of Christ,
19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,
forever and ever!
Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21

May you be filled with the love and presence of God – and let it spill over and touch those around you.

All Scripture is from the NIV unless otherwise noted.

He Loves Me

I was listening to some older Christian music this week while I was working. I am a little behind technologically in some ways, but I have discovered the wonders of YouTube and the playlist option. Through this I have found music that I have not heard in such a long time – you know, the stuff you remember listening to as a kid that just seem to hold a special place in your heart and memories.

For me, music has always been a source of peace and a way to help focus my mind on God when things are going in “unique” directions. It has also served as way for me to worship my Lord in my own unique way and to express things within my heart that words cannot seem to convey – through music that glorifies God. I was so excited when I found some music from Evie (love her voice!!!), Amy Grant from the earlier years, and the Gaither Trio. So many good songs, good memories, and beautiful worship…and I didn’t get as much work done as I should have, but that is okay. After all, I know that within my heart, my Lord was glorified and that is what matters the most.

In the midst of my musical stroll down through the memories of my heart, one song sticks out. It is one of my favorites by Evie entitled “He Loves Me!” The lyrics are simple, but they are full of so much truth. I was sitting at my desk this morning knowing I needed to do some work, but that lyric just kept running through my head. It was then I had a “light bulb” moment. It was then that the simple truth of that song hit me. He loves me! That was the beginning of my story and will be the end of it was well – He loves me!

The fact that He has started a work in me that He will be faithful to complete is all because of the fact that He loves me. The chorus of this song repeats that phrase over and over while throwing in the idea that it is a “brand new” story and a “brand new” song. For those of us who have followed Him for many years, it is not necessary a new story, but it most certainly can become a brand new song.

1Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Psalm 96:1-2

Coming out of this season of darkness and this desert place within my soul, a new song is forming and coming to life. No, the season is not over nor have I finished passing through this desert place, but I can see beyond now to the sunrise up ahead. The night will be ending, my sorrow will turn to joy, and the simple truth of that song will lift my spirit up to His. God will be gloried, I will be healed and restored, and He will continue that work He started in me.

Why do I KNOW this, you may ask?

Simple.

It is all because He loves me!