What are Your Tags Showing: REDEEMED

John 19:19 Pilate also had a notice posted on the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

“Your tag is showing.” The lady behind me whispered at church yesterday, as she tucked the sales tag into the back of my shirt. First of all, let me just say . . . I got a killer price on the shirt! But what do you do when your tags of brokenness are showing?

  1. Hide them
  2. Lie about them
  3. Claim them and laugh
  4. Flaunt them

Everyone was labeling Jesus. They were trying to understand this man who claimed to be both God and man. Was he here to usurp power, or lead a rebellion? Was he a prophet? Yet Jesus cared more about who his heavenly Father thought he was. “This is my son, in whom I well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) He did not hide who he was.

For many of us, others see what we think hidden. They see we are unhappy in our marriage; coworkers are painfully aware of our arrogance; friends feel the draft of our hopelessness. Some just laugh and are grateful that it’s not them suffering those problems. Others lean forward and tell us to hide them better. Still others pluck the tags from us thinking they are being helpful.

I can’t hide the tag of survivor of suicide because it permeates from every aspect of my life. I miss that blue-eyed, dimpled chin young man. I miss his laugh, our conversations, seeing him at college, and all the things that were to come. But in this life we will have troubles. I hope you see, though deeply wounded, I will not back down from living! Be encouraged, our circumstances may tag us with heavy burdens. but no matter how may labels show, the original price on my life has been marked out. In its place are the words: REDEEMED! PRICE PAID IN FULL! BEAUTIFUL! WORTHY! JUSTIFIED! FORGIVEN!

Do you still carry the tag of who you were, or has it been marked out by Jesus Christ? Are you convinced, no matter what tags this broken world tries to pin on you, that you are a son or daughter of a risen king! Murderers tried to tack “King of the Jews” above Jesus on the cross. But, I declare that he was and is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Redeemer and gratefully my Savior. That is a tag I don’t care if anyone catches hanging out of my shirt!

Prayer:  Lord, we have tags showing. May your love redeem all of them and lead others to a saving knowledge of who you are. Amen

Learning to Layer Memories

Psalm 77:11 I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. 

Appalachia is a part of me! When everything seems to be haywire returning home, where I met Christ, is a place of retreat, safety, and remembering the joy of my salvation. As my husband departed with work to New York, my kids deposited for some grandma time, I made the solo trip home.

That is my first miracle.

I only got drowsy once, a quick stop, stretch of legs and I was good to go. It isn’t humanly possible to drive almost three hours on the amount of sleep I am currently getting. Yet God was gracious! He knew the journey was too hard, so he provided, kept me awake and safe.

My second miracle was walking where Jonathan and I have walked and having joy!

Engaging Memories
Jonathan’s 7th birthday party was held here, in the midst of a thunderstorm.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of layering memories.  It can be difficult walking a path with major landmarks of pain and sorrow. This trip I met a friend whom I hadn’t seen in years.There is always sorrow attached to remembering Jonathan. But when I create new memories, cherishing and honoring who he was by living defiantly and vibrantly a new life each day what was, becomes what is, and opens me to what will be.

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Miracle number three. . . friendship!

I do not travel any of this journey alone. The people around me, you readers, are a joy I pack with me. I grow, mature and love more deeply by being with you! Reconnecting with friends, laughing together, hurting together, listening and celebrating life together keeps me honest. Some of the old thoughts of self-worth have been attempting to creep back in, but you remind me that my worth is found in Jesus Christ alone.

How do you choose to remember? You may have difficult memories, but this world is brimming with possibility! We don’t have to be locked into past sorrow or failure. Begin layering memories and mine starts with remembering the joy of my salvation!

 

Father, thank you for taking me home and allowing me to reconnect with friends and your beautiful creation. I am so grateful for the time Jonathan and I had together. I confess that I don’t always remember correctly. I dwell on the failure, brokenness of my past and leave you out of it. I have gained so much from your presence in my life. I am not alone, my life is filled with laughter, and you invite me into new adventures. Bless the readers as they layer memories with your goodness. Amen

 

 

Sanctuary, You keep saying that word . . .

Psalm 73 . . .Still, when I tried to figure it out,
    all I gt was a splitting headache . . .
Until I entered the sanctuary of God.
    Then I saw the whole picture: . . . {The Message)

Give me sanctuary! For the past few weeks I had multiple excuses to not enter the sanctuary of God. I have literally felt oppressively hot each time I entered, to the point of feeling faint, and this week I was on the threshold of seizures as a result of my severe insomnia. But each time, with equal grit, I entered the sanctuary anyway!

Why? Because sanctuary is where my thinking is reborn. I’m no longer in the vacuum of my own thoughts and see more clearly God’s hand on my life. I am not alone! Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:10) How differently the aftermath of my son’s suicide would look if I chose to go through it alone.  So many of us, struggling with depression, become echo chambers as we withdraw from any voice but our own. I have had 42 years of playing my own thinking . . . there might be a broken record or two.

So I sing a new song each week, along with hundreds of brothers and sisters in Christ. This Sunday I let the truth of More than Conquerors remind me,  God overcomes every obstacle in my way. I can defiantly proclaim his love, truth, and presence to others desperate for answers. While participating in the sermon–which by the way means conversation–I hear God’s voice. You are not alone. Look around you. Do you think that you are the only one struggling to be here? Communicate your need to me, let me carry your burden.

I encourage you to enter the sanctuary, not out of obligation, but because there is relationship.  I raise my hands to praise, not because I have it all together, or have arrived at some spiritual nirvana! I raise my hands because I am defiant! I have a God who loves and fights for me and I recognize the warriors who surround me.

Find allies in the sanctuary of God.  (Please note, I have been abused by those who called themselves Christians, so I say this with the full awareness that church does not always feel like a place of protection.) But, I have also witnessed the generosity of Christians. I have experienced the provision and good gifts of a God who is not blind to my wounds. In the sanctuary I see that God is just.  We can angrily slam the door on God and Christians for perceived let downs, or we can enter the sanctuary and find our battle never was against each other. We have a common enemy and we cannot defeat him alone. Come to the sanctuary with me and raise your hand in defiance!

 

Lord, I praise you for placing a fire in me to be in the presence of your people. Thank you for the great music that encourages me and lights our way with the gospel of peace. Thank you for pastors that point to your truth and do not lean on their own understanding. Thank you that you raised your arms in defiance to death and teach me to become more than a conqueror! Amen

 

 

When Trauma Has You Frozen, Pray

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

I do not grieve like someone who is a slave to my son’s death. Sometimes, just like the Romans, I need a reminder that I can cry out to my daddy when fear is attempting to chain me again.

Yesterday I met a friend to study scripture and pray together. I made it through all the markers of Jonathan’s death and did not break down. But grief is not dictated by routine or schedule.

As I walked into the restaurant two police officers were waiting in line to place their order. I have yet to overcome a visceral response to police officers, since it was a sheriff who had to deliver the news that my son was dead. Every encounter since has been sweaty palms, shaking, and near breakdown.

I want to overcome this reaction, but am not sure how. My friend, aware of my struggle asked if I was okay when I came to the table. I struggled to not completely melt into tears. She assured me, it is okay if I cry, each moment is valuable, even the hard ones. We began catching up, but the officers sat only a few booths away and I was barely holding it together.

Finally I asked, “Can you do me a favor? . . . Oh, never mind.”

But my friend wisely didn’t leave it at that. “You want me to ask them if there is anything we can pray for them?”

All I could do was nod.

They asked her to pray for their safety, and we did just that. She redirected my overwhelmed feeling into meaningful, and purposeful care for these two men. As a result it also brought peace and calm to my soul.

What are you facing right now that causes an uncontrolled, physical response? It doesn’t make logical sense, but you can’t stop reacting to past trauma. I encourage you, just as my friend took the reigns and led me through the dark moment, to find a purpose in your grief. Begin with prayer. Lift up the person, circumstance, or fear to God who loves you perfectly and can cast out all fear!

Love Always,

Karisa

 

Prayer:

Just Another Day: Except it Isn’t

 

Scripture: Lamentations 3:22 The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.24“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”…

Thoughts: How do you turn the page on the hardest days of your life? In three years I have learned:

  • Pray
  • Be with family and friends
  • Pre-prepare
  • Hydrate
  • Laugh
  • Remember
  • Praise
  • Be present in today (pain, tears, joy, love, all is useful to God)
  • Notice blessings
  • Encourage others

Prayer: Lord, you are faithful in my sorrow today as I turn the page on the tragedy of Jonathan’s death, and another year begins. May others learn, live, love and grow because they see your presence in our lives. I find joy today because you are faithful. Thank you that Brian journeys through grief with me.  Laughter is not distant because you have given me Daniel and Natalie. Thank you for time with friends this afternoon. I feel pain, but know it does not last. Your love, instead is eternal! Amen

A Father Who Chooses Us

Scripture: Psalm 68:Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him. 5 A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.…

 Thoughts:  On our wedding day, Jonathan was seven years old. Brian prepared vows for his little package deal; it was important Jonathan know Brian wasn’t just in love with his mother. Brian knelt down, looked Jonathan in the eye and committed his life to loving, caring and cherishing his new son. He had no idea the hardships that would come with that promise, but Brian chose to love Jonathan.

God chose all of us, knowing from the beginning, the weight of  carrying our sin to the cross! Repeatedly he renews that covenant and gives Jesus, his one and only son, to share in our suffering. That is something to sing about! God is described as a desert rider, father to the fatherless, judge for the widow, home builder, advocate for prisoners. Dwell on this verse.

What characterizes someone who rides out into the desert to find or help the lost traveler? What provisions do they take with them?

Who adopts children? What sacrifices do they make?

Who takes the time to judge rightly? How do they treat each case as individual?

Who builds a home for someone who cannot repay?

Who advocates for the hardened outcast?

Any of us can fall into one of those categories of need. All of these actions take time, require much from the giver, and lots of follow-up. I have experienced this first hand. The vows the Lord said to me are what changed my life 21 years ago, peeled layers of sin and pain, and sustains me now. He committed to providing for me, my new baby, and set me free to live a new life.

 For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.…  (Romans 5:6-8)

That kind of love convinced a centurion Jesus could heal his servant by saying the word. That love turned a prostitute into one of the most generous and worthy women in the Bible. God’s love turned a rag-tag-band of disciples, caught in the turmoil of Roman rule and their own sins, into powerful messengers of  love, sacrifice and restoration. God’s love has made it to me into an advocate for prisoners of despair.

You may be experiencing depression. I am convinced, at depression’s core, the enemy attempts to seperats us from the love of God. But, God’s love and commitment snaps the chains of depression (Mark 5:3)!  Addiction, sexual sin, abuse, lying, stealing, anger, wrath are no match for Him. No matter who or what we prostrate ourselves to, God the Father remains faithul. His vows lead him into the pits of our despair, redeeming us, and places on us the cloke of adoption! He loves you, and choses you. Our response is to embrace that love, allow Him to reveal our character, and to SING THE PRAISEIS OF A FATHER WHO CHOOSES US!

Prayer: Father, thank you for reminding me of your vows! If anyone reading does not yet know of your commitment, may they become convinced that you choose them. I do not understand, nor can I explain the depth of your love in adequate words. I was so caught of guard by your answer to my prayer whe I first approached you as an ubeliever.  I am still so in awe of your presence with me when I struggle with despair. Father, reach out to any prisoner, widow, orphan, desperate, opressed person who is crying out to you. Provide a home, friendship, sustance, and freedom to all who need it. Amen!

 

Loss Through the Eyes of a Child

John 3:16 For God so loved the world: He gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.

 

Daniel, age 10, asked if he could write for my post. So, I am honored to have my son be my first guest blogger. 

Even the smallest of us can make a difference to family or a person hurt by loss. When I lost my brother, I asked everyone I met if they knew Jonathan. I wanted them to know he lived. By talking about Jonathan, I discovered that others had lost someone they loved. I could encourage them with God’s word and by listening and praying for them. John 3:16 helps me to remember that Jonathan is with Jesus, and his story did not end here.

God comforts me. Jonathan’s death has made me more scared of losing my parents because they have been very sick. I tend to cry when others lose someone in a movie, or I faced the death of my dog last year. I talk to God and he tells me I will be okay. He helps me to remember playing Nerf with Jonathan, creating a football field every Christmas as my present. I would wake up and look out the window and there would be a freshly painted football field and we would go out and play as a family. Sometimes when I go to bed, I ask my mom to sing a special song, because that is when I especially get sad or scared. Even though Jonathan’s death is tough on me, we have new family activities that we do. We are reading through the Bible and praying for Compassion International Families, together. We take a Mother’s Day hike every year at the cemetery where Jonathan is buried. Last year we made ornaments for Christmas, and crafts to remember favorite moments with Jonathan.  There are so many ways to remember him.

Anytime you feel the urge to pray for someone, I encourage you to lift them up to God. Loving others as God loves me helps me know that the sad times will pass and that he has a good plan for our lives.

 

Falling Does Not Mean Failing

Matthew 26:31 Then Jesus said to them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of Me. For it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

Falling Away

My grand entrance into the writer’s conference I am attending this week was falling down the stairs, in the pouring rain. Praise God, no physical injuries. But the internal wounds, the thoughts and false beliefs I have about myself when I fall . . . Many of us believe we are a failure every time something bad happens. So we fall deeper into sin, or reject God altogether.

The disciples drank the blood and ate the body broken for them–they were committed– but within hours they would all betray him.

Many would stay down after such a breach of loyalty. Judas did. But falling does not equal failure in God’s plan! Jesus went on to say, “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” He didn’t dwell on their betrayal. I can just picture Jesus as Friday on Dragnet, “Just the facts ma’am, just the facts.” Our stumbles put on display the mighty works of God! You may be convinced that God can’t do anything with you. You’re laying in the puddle and questioning why try.  I am convinced of God’s compassion for us, and that his plans will not be hindered by anything! There are people in our lives that need to witness the miracle of God’s faithfulness in our battling depression! Jesus is faithful, and he does not treat us as our sin’s deserve

How do you maintain the truth of who God is and who he created you to be when circumstances go sideways in your life? Do you believe you are beautifully and wonderfully made? (Psalm 139) Do you believe the covenant of the cross; while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us? (Romans 5) Do you believe his plans never fail! How many of us stop living before we see the fruits of what God can do in our lives? My son did. He died believing he was a failure.

May I lift your chin, look into your eyes, and declare with certainty, “God cares for you! His loving kindness will not fail you. Many times we will stumble, but God never falters. There is absolutely nothing you have done, or could ever do that will make him stop loving you.”

 

Prayer of Restoration

Father, when I falter, may I find my identity in you! You alone redeem me, and you alone take me to the mountain to see more clearly who you are and who you have made me to be. May we trust that you go ahead of our circumstances today to prepare a place for us. Amen

More to Come: Chose Abundant Life!

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness. 

The contrast between my son’s life and death is always the strongest on this day! He cared about people deeply. He was always looking to help, encourage, and equip others, even as his own resources felt limited. His smile could brighten the darkest of rooms even as the embers were being snuffed out in his own soul. He defended underdogs, even when he couldn’t defend himself from the pain others inflicted upon him.

Today my son would have turned twenty-one. No mater what you think your life is worth, there is so much more to you. You were born for a purpose! I turn the page on my sorrow because I know that God valued my son, He is greatly grieved, and will hold to account those who hurt him. I pray that God turns the page on your despair. I say God, because for some of us, it is impossible for us to stop self-destructing. The Lord must remove the oppressive thief. I acknowledge that the thief is powerful, but nothing is impossible for God. He uses that power to give us life!

May the scales of who we think we are fall from our eyes and we now revere the sacredness of human life. God shaped us with his own DNA!!!! No other aspect of creation has that distinction. As long as we have breath, God gives us the opportunity for the fullest life through his son Jesus Christ! Mother Theresa and The Little Sister’s of the Poor, exemplify loving and valuing those the world casts out as worthless. Please hear me, you matter to me! The very fact that many of you chose to share your journey with me, encourages me on the darkest days. Fight! Allow God to heal the deepest wounds the enemy has placed in your life. Shout from the mountain tops that no one is worthless. It is God’s will that none should perish, therefore, it breaks his heart when we despair of life.

On my son’s birthday chose to embrace life!

The Infinity Puzzle can Only be Solved by God

Psalm 139: 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.

I love jigsaw puzzles. The bigger, the more intricate, the better. I don’t just put the pieces together with the picture in mind, I separate, organize, divide the puzzle into manageable sections. It helps that the picture is framed, no matter how challenging it always has boundaries. My life on the other hand . . .

I have a lot of pieces, but I’m not sure how they fit together. Right now, the health of my family lays before me–my son in particular. I have stared at the minute details until I am cross-eyed and frustrated. Each doctor finds a new aspect Daniel is struggling with, but no one will frame my child as a whole person. No one sees how he fits together . . .

God does. I keep looking for man to answer my questions, but the Creator framed Daniel, He designed in the human body a puzzle so intricate, cells so complex that the doctors,  I want so badly to help my child, can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the body’s complexity. They do not have all the answers to my son’s illness, and neither will I, if the only thing I lean on and into is my human knowledge and understanding.

So, Lord I lay Google search at your feet and trust you more deeply. Amen

God has a purpose for Daniel, and I can either miss out on the glorious joy of watching the puzzle unfold, or be angry that can’t fit all the pieces together. Here are some of the things I notice about my son. Even though he is scared by what is happening to his body, he praises God. When he struggles with one more blood test, he laughs and faces his giants. He sings, dances, and meditates on the promises of God. He laughs, encourages, grieves, and hurts. He is a whole person, made in the image of God.

Jesus came that Daniel would have life to the fullest, and it is in this frame that I now place his illness. I open myself to the pleasure of a picture of infinity pieces, and only one who has put it together from beginning to end.