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.

RUNNING IN THE LIGHT

In the quiet, before what is really occurring is truly known, the veil of darkness is lifted. Ever so slowly and gently, the warmth of the sun begins to creep into the cracks and crevices, into the corners and closets, driving away shadows along its way. The dark has left behind a weariness that is felt within the depths of the soul and cuts to the very center of the heart, the pain so overwhelming that the beginnings of the dawn are not even noticed. But the Father knows.

Ever gentle, ever faithful, and ever kind, the Father reaches down and begins to bandage the wounds left behind. He lovingly wipes away each tear and cherishes what each individual tear represents. As the intensity of the pain eases, He gently turns the face that is cradled in His hands toward the sun. The warmth shining in is so comforting, so soothing. The warmth brings with it a sense of calm and a peace that runs deep into the wounded places. Although wounded and weary, restoration is coming, peace is returning, and healing has begun.

Easing out of the corner and beginning to struggle to stand, a steady hand is offered, but this hand is unlike any other. This hand radiates power. This hand carries within it a boundless unfathomable love. This hand bears scars and written with in the scars, I find my name. I find my name carved into His hand! Within His hands, I find my healing, but it is a healing that is only found within scars left behind by nails.

Holding onto His hand, I rise. Holding onto Him, I find solid ground beneath my feet and the strength in which to stand. Focusing on Him, I find the assurance that all which remains broken will be healed, that strength will be renewed.

With one glance at the smile on His face, my soul begins to take flight. With wings like eagles, my heart begins to soar. Caught up in the strength of His hands, I find the courage to run once again. In His light alone does that which once was weary and broken become renewed and restored. Carried on by His everlasting arms, I run once again, for I am running in His light.

10 LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE DARKNESS

While going through several recent bouts with depression, I attempted to try to not only put into words the stuff going through my head, especially as the darkness begins to subside and light begins to creep back in, but I also wanted to see if there was anything I could learn from this time…find some purpose in it…find something that can be carried into the next dark time…find something to cling to. I know that there is a purpose for everything under Heaven, so surely He has a reason for these. Perhaps He will use these experiences in the future, but perhaps there is a more personal lesson that can be learned.

1. It is dark….some days are darker than dark – but even in the darkest of moments, He still sees. The darkness within does not block out the view of the Almighty.
(“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:12)

2. It hurts… some days the pains is almost unbearable, although there is often no explanation for it, but the Father knows. Every tear we have ever cried has been seen, understood, and known.
(“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” Psalm 56:8)

3. Everything appears to be upside down and the top cannot be found. At times, it is as if you are being pulled down a spiral and there is no way to know which way is up or which way is down. It is a swirling sea of pain and darkness. But, despite all of this, He is still there, He is still holding on, and He will not let us go.
(“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b)

4. It seems to last FOREVER — and F…O…R…E…V…E…R… is no joke when you are drowning in darkness.

5. God doesn’t let the darkness remain all-consuming. He sends a ray of help at the darkest point. BUT, it is in His time and not ours, which is a tough one to swallow. Perhaps this is why I always felt drawn to lighthouses. They symbolize hope in the midst of raging storms and help to guide sailors away from the unseen ragged rocks that would dash them to pieces. He truly is our Lighthouse as He is the One who gives light in the dark, that protects us from what would crush us, and that guides us safely home.
(“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27a)

6. You are NEVER alone or unloved in the darkness, even though it may totally feel that way.
(“The LORD appeared to us in the past,[a] saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…’” Jeremiah 31:3)
(“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2)

7. Nothing seems to matter, even though everything really does – and even more so.

8. Feelings, while very frightening, are allowed and need to be released/expressed during this time. Freedom comes from expressing some of the feelings. It is almost as if that, by putting words to the feelings, they are disarmed and lose some of power.
(“The tongue has the power of life and death…” Proverbs 18:21a)
(“My tears have been my food day and night… 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:3 – 5)

9. It will end – the light will break through. Just be patient and remember to keep your head up despite the drowning sensation.
(“14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.”
“20 He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.”,
“29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea[b] were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” Psalm 107:14a, 20, 29-30)

10. You will be stronger for having survived the storm.
(“2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:2-3a)

The biggest challenge for me, but one of the most crucial one, is to remember to just be still and to hold on. Even though I cannot see what is around me or where I am reaching, I must trust that when I reach out to Him, He will find me. When I grasp hold of even just the hem of His garment, He will hold onto me and will not let me go.

All that is expected of me during these times is to trust His heart and, most importantly, be STILL and KNOW that He is God.

He is in control even when the darkness surrounds and obscures all vision.
He is in control when everything around me seems to be crumbing to pieces.
He is in control in the mist of the chaos.
He is in present,
He understands, and
He will have mercy.

They dawn will break, morning will come, and He will exchange our tears for His healing, our pain for His peace, and our darkness for His light.

*All Scripture quoted is from the NIV.

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.

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.

The Dawning Of Grace

As I walked through the living room the other morning something caught my eye through the large window, which just happens to face the morning sun. A most beautiful display of red and orange was shining through the blind and panels. Of course, if it is this beautiful on the inside, it had to be even more so on the outside. I stepped outside the front door and beheld one of God’s most beautiful works of art! The sky looked as though it was on fire and it was streaking not only from side to side, but all over the sky. The magnificent pattern of color displayed was beyond description. Of course, being a great lover of sunsets and sunrises, I had to take a picture. But this sunrise was a little different than most – it kept on growing and changing. It ended up taking three different pictures that morning through different stages as it continued to change as the sun rose and the clouds added their part to the portrait. The fresh white snow on the ground provided a beautiful base to this unique and original piece of art displayed by the Artist of Time Himself. While I was in a hurry that morning (as I usually am), I was stunned by the beauty I was beholding and so grateful that the Father took the time to create this moment for me – a moment of peace to be shared with Him.

The day after I enjoyed this wonder expression in color, I was chatting with a friend. In the past, we had talked about the different metaphors contained in the concept of “daybreak” and the different aspects of our lives that can be like the dawning of a new day. (A few weeks prior, she had loved one pass away and she had reflected on the incredible daybreak this cherished soul must have had when she entered into her heavenly rest.) We started talking about daybreaks, sunrises, and new beginnings once again, and I told her about this sunrise I had witness the day before. It was then she presented an idea I had not thought of before….. Isn’t Christmas like a sunrise as well? Her next comment basically told me I should write about that.

This simple question posed has resonated in my heart ever since that chat. The more I think about it, the more I come to understand just how right she is. Since it is a few days before Christmas, please allow me to share with you my thoughts about that wonderful sunrise the Father designed in more ways than just one over 2000 years ago. (One fact that is important to keep in mind throughout this post is that, according to the Jewish calendar, the day is considered to be from sunset to sunset.)

On that most holy of nights, Jesus came into a dark and sleeping world (both physically and spiritually), and His arrival was proclaimed with lots of light. His birth was announced by a host of angels to a group of lowly shepherds, a new star began the wise kings on their journey, and a mother who kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. On that night, The Light of the World became Emmanuel, God with us. The Morning Star arose in our world dispelling the darkness from those would accept it, awakening those whose hearts were open to His call, and fulfilling all that the Father designed for His presence with us to fulfill. This Light of the World, which would become our salvation, had come to live among us.

While He came without pomp and circumstance and a traditional fanfare one would expect from a secular king, both Heaven and creation announced His birth. An angel presented the proclamation to this humble group of men that the Messiah had been born. Suddenly, a great company of heavenly angles appeared praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14) Obviously, these men were chosen by the Father to receive this proclamation because as soon as the angels departed, they hurried to Bethlehem to witness for themselves what the angels said – to see their long-awaited and promised Messiah with their own eyes. The dawn of His Light broke into their souls and they left the place where He lay to proclaim the glorious news of His arrival and share what they had been told by the angel. According to the Scriptures, all who heard what the shepherds had to say were amazed by the story. But Mary wasn’t amazed. What happens next in the story I find quite fabulous. The shepherds came and saw, they went and told, but that was not enough for them. They kept on glorifying and praising God for all that they had seen and heard – for it was just as they had been told. The Light of Messiah dawned in their hearts and they were not the same.

While they did not arrive on the night He was born, a new star was born and they were watching. The three wise men from the east saw His star when it arose in the night sky and they followed it. When they went to King Herod looking for this new king that had been born (they already knew that the star was for a King), he sent them to Bethlehem because that is where the Messiah was prophesied to be born. When they left Herod,”… they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” (Matthew 2:9, 10). When they entered the house, they saw Him. The Scripture account tells us that they saw the child and His mother – the saw the Morning Star, the Light of the world, first. It goes on to tell us that the first thing they did was not to proceed with introductions, discuss the weather, or talk about how uncomfortable it can be ride on a camel’s back for a couple of years, but rather they bowed down and worshiped Him. These kings from the east, these wise men who had traveled so far, bowed down and worshiped Him. The Light from the Star had dawned in their hearts and their response was to search, to follow, and to bow in worship. Once they worshiped Him, then they presented their prophetic gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Scripture tells us that “…Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19). After all, her heart was the first place where the Light first dawned. When the angel Gabriel appeared to her saying, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26), she was trouble by his words. He told her to not be afraid and then proceeded to tell her how she was to conceive, carry, and give birth to the Son of God. He told her how this miracle of God would take would take place and that she was to call Him Jesus (Yeshua), for He would save His people from their sin. (Yeshua means salvation). It was her open and obedient heart that gave her the courage to answer the angel Gabriel with her simple statement of faith, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38) The Light of the presence of God first born in her heart out of faith would be born from her body as the words of the angels were accomplished and prophecies from long ago were fulfilled. That Light remained in her heart as that is where she treasured and cherished that took place.

In my opinion, this Sonrise of Christmas was the dawning of the new age of grace. This moment in time would pave the way for us to come to the Father. He first came to us to show us how much He loves us, to experience life as one of us, to be us. The night of His birth became the dawning of our redemption. It was the first of the three greatest dawnings this world has ever seen and will ever know.

The second of such events, the second Sonrise, was the one that would complete and accomplish the work began with the gift of His birth and it was then presented it to the world. His death and resurrection was not only the sealing moment of our salvation, but it also happened to be the beginning of a new week (ironic that God would plan it that way?) The first day of the week became the first day of grace for those of us who, though we are Gentiles, have been grafted into The Vine because of this Sonrise. “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen!…” (Luke 24:1-6) The Son rose from the darkness of the grave and death and hell were defeated.

The third such Sonrise that this world will witness is yet to come. One day, our Lord will return! His feet will touch down on the earth once again in the same manner in which His disciples saw Him leave. At that time, all will know that He is Lord, that He is the Light of the World, that He is the Messiah!

So now, my friend, have you allowed the Light of His love to rise in your heart? Have you allowed Him to start a new day in your life? Have you allowed Him to paint your life with the colors of His love and to mold you as His own unique work of art? If you have not, I pray that you allow the Light that was proclaimed to the world by angels, witnessed and proclaimed by shepherds, followed and worshiped by wise men, and treasured by Mary to rise within you today. Allow Him to dispel the darkness with His light, allow Him to awaken your slumbering soul with the presence of His heart, allow Him to revive within you the purpose for which you were created. Let this Christmas be the dawning of a new life in Jesus Christ. He is Emmanuel, God with us and that is where He chooses to dwell – among His people. After all, He loves you so much that He was willing to not just die for you and came back from the dead for you, but He will return once again to take us home – to our ultimate home with Him.

Let us not forget the true meaning for celebrating Christmas. The gift of His birth, His love, and His life is truly the greatest gift of all – and it is offered freely to all who would come.

Merry CHRISTmas.

A Closed Off Heart – Can It Still Be Of Use?

I found myself in a situation recently that really perplexed me and has caused me to examine the way in which my heart functions in relation to people in my life. A friend I have known for many years had been sharing with me how different her life was, how happy she was, and that she felt like she had finally become who she was meant to be all thanks to the inclusion of a certain person in her life. Now you have to understand that when I first met her years ago, she was not a very happy person. She was torn, confused, and struggling to find a path for her life. Fast forward many years ahead and she is now a completely at peace, loved, cherished, and very happy. An amazing transformation – and due to acceptance and love. I have been so amazed by this that I decided to express my gratitude and told this wonderful person in my friend’s life how much I appreciate all that has been done and the unconditional love that has been shown. I, personally, did not find this conversation to be of any significance beyond an expression of gratitude. However, my perception was not correct. This wonderful person showed my friend the things that were said and my friend, in turn, expressed her gratitude for what I had done.

This conversation really kick started my brain after I finished laughing about the fact that I had been “ratted out” in my expression of gratitude. I relayed the conversation to another friend and expressed my surprise that the conversation was passed on. Her reply was “Well, wouldn’t you do the same?” My answer to her surprised me. I said, “No. Why would I?” Really…..? Something nice said to me or done for me and I wouldn’t share that with anyone? Yep, that is how I tend to be…

My upbringing was one of strictness and emotional control. You were to never “wear your emotions on your sleeve.” After all, allowing people to know how you really felt would give them an edge, give them leverage. Stoic was the motto and “never let them see you sweat” was the theme. Yes, I have always been short. Yes, I got picked on a lot as a kid. Yes, some of these theories of emotional control helped in not giving those who picked on me more fodder. However, they did start a pattern of compartmentalization and created a struggle within of how to express what I feel – or sometimes even understand it. Compartmentalize it and put it away became the standard method of walking through life and, while it is less painful, existing rather than living became the norm.

A heart that is of use to God is one that is open to His leading and to His love. How does a compartmentalized heart fit into that? If my heart is not open to much at all besides another passageway in the maze or another hallway leading to yet another closed off room , how can He find something of use inside? Better yet, how can His love get through the maze so it can be displayed to others? The answer to this heart-wrenching question (at least for me) came from a simple comment from one I have known for more of my life than I haven’t. It is a simple answer that took me a while to comprehend (even though I didn’t admit that at the time…) – paper.

Yes, the answer was simply “paper.” I was given a love of words and of writing as a way to work around the compartments inside the heart. On paper, I can express what my mouth is unable to utter. I can “perfect” the phrasing until it says just exactly what I want it to say. It can be re-worked, re-worded, re-written, or thrown away. The backspace button and delete key are my friends as they can erase and remove that which makes no sense at all. When the piece expresses what it is I want to say, it can then be presented to whomever without the need for waiting for my mouth to work or the words to try to come out right or for me to apologize when the words do not.

The Father so graciously provided a way around my heart so that I can still be of use to Him even though my heart is a maze and so many things and memories seem to be lost inside. So long as I yield my pen to His leading, my heart to hearing His voice, and the purpose for His glory, even a heart as broken, complicated, and scrambled as mine can still be clear, understood, and of use to Him. To think that He loved me so much that He provided a “detour” for me such as this is beyond amazing. On paper, I can express the thoughts and feelings that my mouth would screw up every time. On paper, I am able to better understand how He moves and flows in my life and heart and the journey He is taking me on.

Thanks to paper, I am able to understand even better now why this blog was started. You see, I had created this blog several months before I ever posted a thing. I created it, was terrified of it, and walked away from it. Eventually, the Lord did prod me back to it and I posted one entry or so, but nothing more. I still wasn’t even sure of what direction needed to be taken with the blog. Then one day I found myself engaged in a rather one-sided conversation with a wonderful friend from California who was proceeding to let me know exactly what it was, how it was, and that I needed to get off my duff and get to work for the Lord. She very poignantly suggested that I blog about this journey the Lord was taking me on and restoring me through. She suggested that, as I moved through the various healing stages and places where He would put more of the puzzle inside together, I should share the journey.

When I created this blog in the first place, I had no idea just how appropriate the title would grow to be…but He did. He had a purpose in mind for this all along – I just had to be patient and wait. He had a use for my closed off heart all along. He knew how I was, how I would survive some years of mess emotionally, and prepared a use for me anyway. He provided a way that I would be able to glorify Him in spite of the brokenness I had become – and He would get the glory and the praise for it all.

Do you have a closed off heart? Is it damaged, broken, compartmentalized beyond comprehension? That’s okay. Even in our jumbled and scrambled state, the Father still has a plan and we can still be of use. Are we intact vessels that can contain the living water He will pour into our lives? No, we are too cracked and broken for that, but I think He uses those cracks and chips to allow that living water to seep through our pain, to weep through the cracks, and to saturate the dryness around us. Through our flaws and defects, which keep us from being a seemingly useful vessel to the world around us, He is able to work and move and flow to those He brings into our paths as the living water He pours into us flows from the cracks in our hearts and into people He has placed around us – or onto paper.

Any heart, regardless of condition, when yielded to the Father, can become a vessel fit for the Master’s use and become a heart through which He can work and move. Don’t just step into the River of His heart, allow that river to flow through yours for His purpose, for His glory.

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!

When all else is gone, He remains

September…..where did it go? Somehow I missed part of it – I think. The real question for the heart is this, in the midst of the chaos and busyness of September, did I remember Jesus?

I guess you could call it a down-side to working for yourself…if the workload gets heavy, you work more. Days off?? Really? What is that? Working only 8 hours? How would that feel once again? On the other hand, it is extremely gratifying to know that the work has been accomplished, you were dedicated to your task, and you succeeded at defeating the seemingly insurmountable tasks in front of you.

However, once the glow of virtual success had dimmed slightly, one must truly look inside. How high was the price paid to accomplish this? Was time with Jesus sacrificed for the sake of some quiet, uninterrupted time in the mornings? Where priorities re-arranged for the sake of getting the job done?

Unfortunately, I am not at that place yet where I can sit back and bask in the satisfaction of knowing that the goal was accomplished, the task completed, the goal met. I am, however, at a place where I know that I can achieve the daily goals I set and I am coming around to a place where I can find my words once again.

In light of this, though, I am forced to ask myself the hardest question of them all. Where did the words go? I have stared at this blank page several times, but it remained blank, much like my heart feels. As I was praying about this and after reading some advice from a cherished friend, the light switch came on. When things go wrong with the “things” in our lives (microwave, coffee maker, alarm clock, etc), where do we go for answers? We pull out the owner’s manual. As believers in the Almighty God, we have an Owner’s Manual so to speak as well (the Word of God). Granted, we are not the “owner” of this product, but we happen to know exactly Who is. So then the answer to the hardest question of all must be this: the words are in His keeping as He is the Author of Eternity. When I find no words of my “own,” it is then that I must rely on His.

To my heart that feels heavy and blank, I say this:

Psalm 23
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley (the valley of the shadow of death),
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

To my mind that wonders where the words have gone within my heart and if they will return, I say this:

Psalm 139
1 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
a. Psalm 139:17 Or How amazing are your thoughts concerning me

Just remember that in the storm and in the night, His song is always with you. Regardless of the season in life, regardless of the depth of the darkness, and regardless of the silence within, He is still there. The Everlasting One remains. Timeless, unchangeable, ever faithful He remains.
And, when all else fails, read the Owner’s manual!