Seeing Through the Pain: Message of Hope

Luke 12:22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

 

Dear Page Turners,

A little goldfinch visited today. I am quite sure she was at my window a year ago, her strange behavior the same. She is more interested in what is going on inside our house than anything outside. She sits, looking directly at me, tilting her head. Then she lands on the sill to get a closer look. Neither the barking dog, nor the kids frighten her away.

She is a love note from God. Love notes are moments when God does something that wows me! I’ve received many of them throughout the years, but this was extra special because it reached through the haze I walk through these days and stirred my heart. My problems are deep and many layered, but God’s is faithful.

She sat there looking at and declaring with every little twitch of her head. “He loves you, he values you, and he is providing for you.” She spent about an hour with me her last visit, but I easily dismissed the visit as a passing “interesting” moment until she returned today.

How quickly I can forget He loves me, when the mess of the years problems seem insurmountable. Having her suddenly appear as I walked into the office took my breath away. God knew I needed to be reminded of hope. He knew that I was struggling in my exhaustion to even look for his many provisions for my family. So he made his promise clear through my little feathered example.

Are you soured by circumstances? Cynical about the knowledge that God is good, because all you see and feel is bad? Frantically scrambling to fix whatever is wrong in your life? Come to the window with me. Look at a little bird whose only thought today was to serve her master in a big way.

May I be that little bird for you. Tapping on your heart to remind you that God sees and values you, and he is very much in the midst of your loneliness, your despair, and your prayers!

 

Love,

Karisa

Grander Views in the Middle of Pain

Jeremiah 15:18 Why then does my suffering continue? Why is my wound so incurable? Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook, like a spring that has gone dry.

 

Daniel has been in more pain over the last few weeks. His vertigo and sensitivity to any kind of car motion has ended up in several episodes of throwing up. So our trip to Cedar Point (roller coaster capital of the world) was up in the air as to whether he would enjoy.

Much to my surprise and delight, Daniel worked within his limitations and enjoyed his time. But I questioned the wisdom of one chosen ride. Spinning 300 feet in the air at 30 miles an hour didn’t exactly sound vertigo friendly. He wanted to try anyway. He did fine as we went up, but as soon as the swings began to circle around the nausea began. I held his hand and told him to look forward. Vision better focused he could now take in the scenery and exclaimed. “It is beautiful! God is so creative! Wow, is this all one lake?”

Oh, what a glorious view I received as a parent! I breathed in my son’s joy and suddenly my own heartache diminished. Daniel could see God’s glory, even though his own physical struggles felt overwhelming.

We all need grand view reminders, so that when life is at its hardest we see God is bigger and so capable of bringing us through. But, we can’t have them if we have boarded up the windows, locked ourselves in pain, and wait for death to take us. We can only have them if we step out, take a risk, and look outside our problems. Where will you go for your grander view?

 

Love Always,

 

Karisa

 

 

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

 

 

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!

 

Reduced to Prayer

Luke 22:39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. 40 When He came to the place, He told them, “Pray that you will not enter into temptation.”

41 And He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, where He knelt down and prayed, 42“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not My will, but Yours be done.”

43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. 44 And in His anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.c

 

Conversation, smallest unit of trust,

on which faith’s DNA is shaped into obedience.

In the garden heaven multiplies cells of lush truth

while relating to our God.

Willing clay shaped by willing love.

So that, when we are tempted to despair, we are never alone.

Mountaintop Corner Office

A glory glimpse of your mighty work, after grunting and groaning

up mounds of sweaty mountains–so worth

the breathing room of the corner office. I knew you here.

Studied and learned to read the blue prints of your plan for my life.

But returning to the valley assembly line  . . .

I quickly reverted into a disgruntled blue-collar drone.

Clocking in complaints, among the hot rows of trouble,

The boss, distant and irrelevant, to the idols

cluttering my desk. I missed our team building exercises.

So daily I rise early, hike the heights for a clearer view of your presence with me.

 

 

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.

 

Thanksgiving, The WD-40 of Faith

Despair rusts my resolve.

Construction of new life halts,

when tears of losing oxidize into

bitterness.

The strength of my steel,

tested too long, flake away,

weakening exposed beams.

 

 

Thankfulness is my WD-40.

When worked into my frame

I remember Your goodness.

You built a firm foundation of

faith, hope, and love.

 

No matter the damage I withstand,

I can count on the sturdiness of my God.

God’s Gym: Working Out Depression

 

Suicide doesn’t water down my faith with

flowery prose about God.

I take my doubts to the mat and wrestle

with who I believe Him to be.

Depression is the resistance between

my will and Yours being done.

Sacrifice, daily dripping with sweat,

works out belief on the gym floor of reality.

 Muscles cry out at the strain of discipline.

But still you coach me beyond what

I think I can reach. “Just one more breath!”

Shaping and toning my soul into your image.

Turning heads with a foxy endurance

that is not of this world!