Posts Categorized: poetry

A Counselor Familiar with Dust

A Counselor Familiar with Dust

A Counselor Familiar with Dust

You didn’t impatiently check your watch like
you had someplace more important to be.
A God who listens.
You didn’t stare down my vulnerability
in disgust. As I poured out my broken heart,
you grabbed a tissue and sobbed with me.
A God who cries.

Your counsel didn’t come down from a distant marble throne.
You stepped into the crowd, looking for me.
A God who draws near.
ME—A single lost sheep.
You took my hand
into your callused carpenter’s hand,
and walked the journey of hope with me.
A God who touches humanity.

Turning My Page

I have had counselors of all sorts through my healing process and God used every single one of them to grow me. There remains only one counselor, the Holy Spirit, who has changed me from the inside out, while all the world’s counselors have the power to do is to change me from the outside in.

Just today I was tempted to bitterness and hardness, but God softened my heart with the following words, “I know it hurts. I see you.” We live in a messed-up fallen world and we are all prone to hurt one another. It was comforting to know that He knows my pain and gives a way for me to live differently than my sinful nature. The Holy Spirit has helped me to keep a short account of the wounds I have caused and the ones received. It has taken practice, oh so much practice, to listen and discern the crowed voices of self-help advice versus the genuine voice of the Holy Spirit in me.

I have learned that the Holy Spirit will never contradict scripture. His goal is to reveal truth and testify about Jesus.

“But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.

John 15:26 NLT

What a comfort to know I have an advocate who walks this journey with me.

Turning Your Page

  • List some of the voices that currently direct your path. Anyone or anything that steers you in a direction away from the voice of truth. They may come in the form of critics, well-meaning friends, religion, or enemies.
  • The world will always tell you that there is always peace in following the Holy Counselor. This is a false direction. The Holy Spirit has led men and women throughout history to stand against enemies, lay down a life for a friend, and took Jesus to the cross. Test spiritual direction against scripture and if you mishear, as all the original disciples did, pick yourself up again and try again.
  • Romans 8 lists what the Holy Spirit Does and Does Not Do on our behalf:

Not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8:23-27

Lord, tune my heart to your voice.  I have so many negative and destructive voices vying for my attention. Your love and direction come in a still small voice. Amen

 

Sparrow Falls

Not Even Sparrows Fall: Suicide

Sparrows Fall: Suicide

Not even a sparrow falls without God’s knowledge and we are more precious than they. Oh, one day, I pray that I embrace this truth with the depth and security of one who trusts God no matter what I experience in this life. I’m not there yet. As the poem reflects this was a tear-streaked day. I have witnessed God’s care over and over, but I still don’t understand why he allowed Jonathan to die by suicide. Bottom line, I just want Jonathan here.

Turning My Page

I wanted your heart to heal from
the world’s unrelenting fists of hatred.
I tried to shield you, but their blows penetrated
to marrow. Broke bone and spirit without pity. They
meant to crush you—rob identity.
Rearranged home until
you no longer recognized love or belonging.

I thought if I cradled your heart
enough with my love, that somehow, someway
you’d emerge from despair.

But, control
of your rhythm was never mine. Your
soul was formed and shaped by a God
who knit you together in my womb.
On my knees I plead that His will be
done in your life—from beginning to end.

“DO SOMETHING!” I screamed at a
God who was not deaf to my desperation.

He comforted. He still comforts,
but I will not pretend to understand
why He didn’t rescue you.

Your future—my future—was never
mine to determine. And I pray
one day I walk this path knowing
that not even a sparrow falls to the earth
without God’s knowledge.

Your life mattered, and heaven
mourned you even deeper than I.

Turning Your Page: When Sparrows Fall to Suicide

You may have sparrows who have fallen in your life. Your mourning may be deep and waves of emotions swamp you.  Courage! May the promise of God’s care sustain you, even when the feelings simply are not there. You are precious to God. Your loved one was and is precious to a God who was willing to suffer with and for you. As you think about Easter consider the following:

  • “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (Romans 5:6, NLT).
  • “When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36, BSB).
  • “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29, ESV).

Lord, this sorrow is too great. Carry it for me. Your tenderness and mercy towards my loved ones exceed my own and not one of them falls to the earth without your knowledge and mourning. Amen

 

Further Resources

Rob’s Kids is an excellent resource for children who have lost a parent.

 

cloak of hope

Cloak of Hope Resurrected

Cloak of Hope

Form of a condemned caterpillar, known by a Creator who
loves the despised.
Chosen to shed the itchy filth and red rags of hopelessness
And emerge into a purple cloak of hope–You delight in me!

Turning My Page: My Cloak of Hope

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5;17 ESV

Sometimes, I don’t want to change. I want to stay secure in my chrysalis and avoid life. I’ve experienced a lot of trials, right? I deserve to check out of my troubles for a while. Let others fulfill Christ’s purpose. Metamorphosis isn’t the climax, it is the tomb. The resurrection of a caterpillar to a butterfly is what makes the butterfly so spectacular. I can’t remain in the chrysalis, I must trust God, use my wings, and fulfill the purpose God has for me.

Jesus spelled out my purpose from the moment I accepted him as my Savior. I am to proclaim the good news, but don’t always feel like I capture the depth of God’s transformation in my life. Before I met Jesus, I used the words worthless, failure, and mistake. I searched for meaning in every place but a relationship with God. Then Jesus pursued me with great fervor and delight and convinced me of his love. Now, I love God’s truth and desire life, not death. God custom made a new wardrobe for my attitude.

Too often I catch myself looking through the old closet of thoughts and actions. Colossians 3:10-12 says that God has given me a new cloak of hope as a believer and follower of him. The chrysalis feels safer, but it is like living in a grave while your heart still beats. I am a transformed butterfly, meant to glorify God by sharing the reason for the hope I have, and fear does not have the final say.

A believer in Christ should truly look different.

When God removes our filthy garments of sin, and despair, and places his love and attitude on us, it should be noticeable. Not perfect. God immediately took away my suicidal ideations and desire for alcohol, but many other areas took, stretching, sacrifice, and growth.

In scripture, we see examples of immediate physical changes and in others a turning from sin when Christ entered the room. Immediately, the disciples dropped what they were doing to follow Jesus, but the transformation of their spirit and attitude did not begin until the resurrection. They were in the chrysalis of transformation. I don’t want to end the story, still caught in the in-between of faith. The cloak of faith in Jesus’ revealed that I am a butterfly. Oh, the joy to display his spender!

Cloak of Hope

Turning Your Page

Custom Fitted Cloak of Hope

Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. 

Colossians 3:10-12 MSG

What garment do you wear? Are your words, your heart, your thinking transformed by God’s love for you? When we wear new garments of salvation and belief, there is a heavenly glow. Just as Moses radiated in the Old Testament because he spent time meeting with God, so too, will you as you sit at the feet and apply the love God has for you.

  • If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, describe how has spending time in scripture, fellowshipping with other believers, and loving your neighbor as yourself changed your garments? If you do not yet know this Jesus I talk about, describe your current garments? How would you like others to perceive you? What current attitudes are you struggling with?
  • Snap a picture of a butterfly and post it to my Facebook Page. What do you know about how a butterfly is transformed? How would you describe a transforming moment in your life?

Lord, bring me out, place on me the full cloak of your glory. Amen

Do you feel like a broken butterfly? God has purposed you to fly no matter what you have experienced. Broken Butterflies: Emerging Through Grief is a collection of poems that illustrated in vivid details that the blow I received would not stop me from flying to God’s glory.

Healing Among Tombs

Healing Among Tombs

Healing among the Tombs emerged from time studying the demon-possessed man described in Mark 5. I wrestled with and even hesitate to post anything in this arena. I have edited this intro repeatedly, but a wise friend suggested, “If you could tell your audience anything, without hindrance, what would it be?”

I would tell you:

  • There is hope, no matter the reasons for your mental health struggles.
  • We have an enemy called Satan who seeks to separate us from the love of God in any way he can.
  • As Mark 5 shows, nothing will ever hinder Jesus, not even a legion of (approximately 6,000) demons.
  • We need to be as equipped by the Holy Spirit with discernment of the needs of those around us.
  • We fight the spiritual battle with scripture, allies, prayer, fasting, and by knowing whose authority we speak.

Many are terrorized by despair right now and I can’t just advocate for the physical fight. 

The people of the town had tried everything to subdue the man. Nothing in this world could save or relieve him of his torture.

He made his home among the tombs and was so violent that he broke through chains repeatedly. It seems that no one could possibly help this man. Had they given up? How did he come to be possessed? Did others bring him food? Did he have a family? Who chained him? What was the man’s family feeling? They may have even been the ones who chained him so that he would stop his self-harm.

The bottom line.

It took a divine encounter with Jesus to free him.

It took a divine encounter with Jesus to stop my self-harm and place me on a different path.

We have an enemy seeking to destroy us all and it is a spiritual battle as well as a physical one. I have witnessed spiritual attacks firsthand. I can’t pretend the problem will be only solved with physical solutions. 

This man needed Jesus. I need Jesus to stand against a spirit of despair that has led to over 48,000 suicides in the US. He will turn the tide, and my prayer is that you and I can be a spark of hope.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:10-12

Turning My Page: Among the Tombs

Forgotten, I greeted you from the remembrances. My home is hollowed from wealth, ready to entertain kings and demons. You crossed the unclean threshold of my grave, your royal robes billowing in the sea sworn breeze.

 

A crown, only seen by our eyes, testifies to us who you are. Naked, we claw with rocks at our putrid vulnerable flesh, mutilating your earthly jewel. We’ll make you unrecognizable too. Rip the flesh off God.

My God, why have you forsaken me?

 

 

I screamed for release from day and night horror. While they cried out to remain fast. I was a scarred lamb within, and a roaring lion without.

 

Mighty Samson would not tame we beating beasts.

 

But You, the Son of God, entered my tomb and knocked the breath out of me. What man chained you commanded freed. Clothed in righteousness, I now cling to you.

I am a demoniac commissioned to share the truth of your love for mankind.

Only God raises the dead.

 

Turning Your Page

You may have a loved one wrestling with mental illness. Whether demonic in nature, physical, or spiritual is not for us to determine. Only God can do so. Yet, God gives authority and discernment for man to cast out demons. Jesus used scripture to fight Satan; we can do the same.

  • Start with prayer. Ask God to equip you with His Holy Spirit’s guidance. 
  • Begin listing out scriptures that speak about the spiritual battle we fight.
    • Ephesians 6
    • 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
    • James 4:7
    • Mark 9:29

Lord, I acknowledge that I feel ill-equipped to catch glimpses of the heavenly battle, yet you have chosen to open my eyes to the unseen attacks of Satan. Father, train me from head to toe to trust your will and shut the mighty lion’s mouth that seeks to devour our world! Amen

 

 

Conviction Overturned by Love

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3;16

Turning My Page: Conviction Overturned by Love

Conviction certain,
I trembled as the sentence was pronounced.
The death penalty was on the table.
“Overturned by my Love!”
A collective gasp, some shouted praise.
Others cursed this Judge who lets sinners
go unpunished. I went to my knees grateful.

 

Turning Your Page

When was the last time you hurt another person, lied, stole, shirked responsibility, but instead of receiving what you deserved the offended party extended grace? Did you experience relief? Did you rush out to tell everyone about the turn of events? Did you quietly savor freedom? There isn’t a single one of us who hasn’t wronged another person. In a time when there is a lot of side picking and pointing fingers, grace, love, and forgiveness may feel like foreign words. We seem so eager to condemn one another. But God set up from the moment we fell a way for redemption.

Jesus addressed both our sin and the proper way to address sin when the woman caught in adultery was brought before him for judgment:

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

John 8:7,9-11 ESV

This woman probably went away living and loving others differently.

Anyone who experiences a conviction overturned by unconditional love is bound to be confronted by both their worth and the drastic damage of the sin patterns in their lives. When the future apostle, Peter,  encountered the filling of his empty boat of fish, he fell to his knees and cried out, “Depart from me, I am a sinful man.” Encountering the unmerited love of Christ changes us. If you have experienced undeserved grace, forgiveness, or someone else took your punishment, spend some time journaling on the experience.

  • What was your response to unmerited grace?
  • How did others treat you?
  • How did your heart or actions change towards others after the experience?

Lord, I don’t deserve your kindness, and yet you are kind to me. I have been your enemy and yet you accept me now as your child. Thank you for not treating me as my sins deserve and teach me to love others as you have cherished me. Amen

(There is a difference between sin and human mistakes. It is important to develop an understanding of what constitutes sin.)

Faucet of Hope

Leaky Faucet of Hope

Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

John 4:10 ESV

I have been contemplating the ripple effect of hope a lot lately, and a recent leaky faucet that filled bucket after bucket until a tiny little gasket was replaced drove home the power in just a few steady drops. I have cards of encouragement from friends, scripture, the Holy Spirit’s prodding, all as constant reminders that Christ is still loving and offering hope to me today.

Turning My Page: Leaky Faucet of Hope

I AM the constant drip, drip of hope, stubbornly
rippling through centuries
of evil, lies, doubt, and fear.

Turning Your Page: The Constant Drip of Hope

For the woman Jesus encountered (on purpose) at the well, hope took the form of an age-old argument between Jew and Samaritan. It was such a bitter, divisive, and evil argument over where mankind truly worshiped God that the factions of believers in the One True God could barely speak to one another. Worse yet, this Samaritan woman had been with many men. In the world’s eyes, Jesus should not have even been speaking to her.

Jesus gave her a drop of water by speaking to her. Then another, by describing Himself as “living water”.  Then He opened the door to the place of true worship, repentance, and hope in the Messiah. She didn’t just walk, she ran back to tell others of the Messiah. She is a ripple effect of hope in Jesus Christ!

  • What is hope like for you?
  • Does it have a color, texture, scent, etc?
  • Journal as a poem, prose, questions, artwork, or photography.
  • Who introduced you to Jesus? Send them a note of encouragement. Describe how they offered you living water.
  • Song to meditate on: Come to the Well

Lord, our world desperately needs the ripple effect of hope right now. So much bitterness, hatred of one another, and hopelessness. Equip believers to continue to be a ripple effect of hope. Amen

 

Saturday, January 17th at 7:00 a.m. EST my interview with Teresa Janzen will air here on Turning the Page on Suicide.

 

Reframing our Suffering

Reframing Suffering

Turning My Page: Reframing Suffering

Reframing Suffering

The portrait slumped in the back corner of the attic.
Her head folded in resignation of neglect—abandoned.
“A beginner’s musings,” I guessed, ready to dismiss my discovery.
But something drew me to the forgotten girl. Her eyes
haunted me, pleaded for hope beneath the cobwebs of neglect.

“I reframed my heartache after considering eternity.
Didn’t stop feeling when the world tortured me and laughed, What’s the point, no one cares?
“I reframed my longings, surrendered them to eternity.
Didn’t stop reaching for my creator when the skeptic told me, There’s no such thing.
“I reframed my thoughts to illuminate eternity.
Didn’t stop holding each other up when despair screamed, No way out!

The girl reached out, tugged my heart
closer for respect, kindness—for some granule of
understanding her pain. Her hair fell like flames
around her face. Untamable
beauty.  Maybe with a little work …

Reframing Our Suffering

Pain Looks Different in Light of Eternity

I traded out her beaten frame for a new one,
brought the broken child out into the light. Displayed her as a priceless treasure.
Strange how the new light brushed her cheek and
shared a different story.
Her soul danced with hopes and dreams, passions, and compassion.
Did a hint of a smile appear on her lips?

And in that hope, our joy emerged as a masterpiece of possibility.

 

Turning Your Page: Reframing Pain

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

The world can be brutal to our mind, body, and spirit. Jesus stepped into humanity to teach us a new way of looking at our circumstances and responding with joy, rather than despair.  Jesus reveals we can withstand so much more than we think. Often we view ourselves through shortsighted glasses and it takes an outside perspective to jolt us to an eternal reality.

  • That jolt can come in the form of scripture, wise counsel from a friend, or the Holy Spirit trying to challenge your thinking? How are you responding to their love?
  • Spend some time walking around your life as if you are looking at them as a stranger. Describe the challenges. Have others shared a similar experience? How did they get through suffering? Who did they turn to for help?
  • What is one aspect of your circumstances you can work on allowing hope to illuminate possible outcomes? Spend time this week asking God to open your eyes to see the possibility for good things emerging out of difficulty.

Jesus, my heart is heavy with circumstances I have no control over. You set the joy of being with your Father in front of you! Help me to endure my cross and have joy because my eyes remain fixed on you. Amen

Lean in to hope

Lean in to Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV).

Turning My Page: Lean In To Hope

Nativity displays beneath the canvas of night.
Where a mother sings, and chosen father dreams.
A candle, lit by God, twinkles in the heavens and
announces salvation has arrived.
And hope, swaddled in tender flesh,
sucks his thumb.

The shepherd
and the wise lean in, to wonder, are
you my king?

And I, an offspring of His coming,
testify 2,000 years later, He is
Emmanuel. God With Us, leaning
in to shape my spirit.

 

Turning Your Page

Have you ever contemplated the vast effect of those first moments with Jesus? Many lives have been changed over the centuries because one baby was born. Two thousand years later, men and women are still willing to lay down their lives for this child gifted by God to redeem us. Read Luke 1-2:40.

  • Take about ten minutes to contemplate the sights and sounds of the nativity.
    • Which person do you identify with most?
    • Do you have questions for Jesus?
    • What images and pictures of His arrival catch your attention?
    • Try to use your senses to write a description or poem interacting with aspects of the nativity.
  • How has your life been changed by the birth of Jesus?
    • Leave a link to your poem in the comments or pingback to this post: Lean In To Hope

Jesus, I am in awe of your birth. You are a God I often want to make distant, and yet you took on my struggles. I too can endure sorrow upon sorrow because you love me and are with me and I find joy in this life because my hope firmly placed in you. Amen

You Knit Motherhood

Starving for Christmas

Noses press against storefront windows

and gawk. We watch stars stuff our sorrow

into glib sayings and sitcom outcomes.

But, in truth,

streets still bustle with beggars,

desperate hands outstretched.

Souls starve on golden calves of

overindulgence.

Ears strain to hear the

clink, clink coin of hope.

Unwrap gods, religion or man,

they disappoint our empty expectations.

We are starving for Christmas.

Christmas arrived. God, in plain garments,

pudgy cheeks and dependent

flesh. God, sucked in the

the first stale breath of humanity and loved us.

Inked Hope

Inked Hope: Self Harm

Inked hope everywhere I could. Scrawled it
on bathroom stalls. Doodled, in
the margins of homework. Sketched
fragile bird, freed from captor’s
cage on my binder. Etched freedom
in bright red ink on my arm.

But whether cage or page, freedom wasn’t
tangible. It was a temporary ink, tattooed on
broken flesh. I was chained to a demon
past that roared and laughed
at all attempts to write a new story.

You took the pen from my hand, rewrote
my story with your love. Inked,
BELOVED
CHOSEN
BRIDE
FREE
on your own wrists, side, and feet. No more
ink left. My well drained dry of any possible sacrifice.

You inked forgiven into my soul and
hope became firmly impressed into my heart.

Turning My Page: How God Inked Hope Through Jesus

Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.

Mark 5:5, ESV

I attempted to ink hope into my life in a multitude of ways. Abused, I tried desperately to take control of my circumstances through self-harm. So hard to express pain, when I didn’t have words for the emotional, physical, and spiritual wounds I experienced. There is simply something I needed that this world could not give me.

Inked HOpe
You Gave Me Freedom

Like the man who cut himself and cried out, nothing anyone has done has brought me relief, and then I saw him. Getting out of the boat, and something in my spirit stirred in recognition. Is this the one everyone talks about? The one who heals the sick and casts out demons. Maybe, just maybe he can ink something different into my soul. Hope. Oh, hope that will finally bring relief…

From the moment I met Jesus, twenty-four years ago, my self-harm ended. The yanking out of hair, the cutting, the anorexia, and the drinking. I have no other reason or explanation to give you, but a real tangible encounter with Jesus. It started with Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen” (NIV). God showed me what that verse meant through tangible provision.

I still feel pain, but I no longer want to escape what I feel, because Jesus has written something different in my life. He wrote hope, faith, and love into my soul, and nothing I experience in this life will ever compare to God’s love in my life.

Turning Your Page: Where to Find Hope

Self-harm can become addictive and therefore very difficult to break. It relieves for a moment the pain you cannot express. You are not alone, and if we are honest, there are many that attempt self-harm in small and big ways. Look for the transforming love of Jesus. His truth about your identity is etched on a cross. You were worth dying for and your pain is not the end of his story for you.

Here is an excellent resource to begin connecting with a God who cares for you and your suffering:

Help For Cutters and Others Who Self-Injure in Some Way

Suicide & Prevention Hotline

National Suicide Hotline

If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call the National Suicide Lifeline at 988 or go to the website at https://988lifeline.org/