A God I Did Not Form
My energy is all spent up
on belief in a God Invisible.
I die in this furnace of pride, while
Pagans laugh at you. All because I did not
shape you into what is acceptable. This
God who claims to be the sole
provider of all things good in
my life. A slave who should
bow down to idols rather than
kneel in prayer—alone— in awe of you,
while the whole world pushes there
shiny gods on me.
Look up, child.
While flames lick around this
fragile form, you take my hand
in your callused carpenter hands
and hold me in the head-turning unexpected.
I sing, Holy, Holy, Holy when my faith should be singed
in the smoke of my humanness,
because you are not a God
I forged with my own hands.
If the God whom we serve exists, then He is able to deliver us from the blazing fiery furnace and from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18 BSB).
Turning Your Page:
The book of Daniel has always been one of my greatest fascinations. How do children, taken captive by a cruel king, cultivate faith willing to stand in a fiery furnace, face a den of lions, and eighty years as a captive? I want that kind of faith! Knowing the character of God takes reading scriptures, putting it into practice, confessing sin, and a willingness to be open to God’s will come what may. I encourage you this week to:
Pray on your knees.
Ask God to help you to maintain integrity when others ask you to bow down to other gods.
Express yourself in journaling, art, poetry. We learn from one another. Record God’s faithfulness.
Lord, I did not form you with my own hands, you formed me. Keep me in the flames so that I may never forget my dependency upon your will alone. Amen
On this day
You knit motherhood into my soul.
Sweeping away cobwebs
Of brokenness and rebellion.
Filling my world
With vivid colors I grew up missing.
You deepened my breath,
Made me reach deeper inside
For strength I had never explored,
Laughter never expressed,
On this day
You made me a mother.
Not even the grave can swallow
Turning Your Page
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
Birthdays are beautiful opportunities to remember your loved one forward. Below are some suggestions I have done. Feel free to add to the list in the comments with how you remeber your loved one while pressing into making new memories.
Create a memorial garden
Take a family hike
Share a meal at their favorite restaurant
Encourage a neighbor
Visit someone who is lonely
Write a poem or story
Share funny stories
Plant a tree
Lord, this is the special day you made for me to remember my child. May nothing steal that joy and help me to press into the live you have given me. Amen
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.
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
Words of yesterday slammed
into my chest, mocking the
rhythm of will.
Why do I till the rocky
soil of relationships for hope
day after day, I start again.
Let go—an impossible smile
appears on my battered tear-streaked face.
I look you boldly in the eye
strengthened by forgiveness. Whether
you ever embrace my love, I know I
have embraced His.
Turning My Page:
Embracing the love of Jesus is changing how I love. Quick-tempered, I replay events, fantasize what I would say to those who have hurt me. I am the hero of every story. But, the truth is, I am often the villain, speaking words that cause heartache in my husband and children’s lives.
My daughter reminded me of this truth last week as she interrupted my son and me in a heated argument. Instantly the following happened:
I looked at Daniel and really saw him.
Recognized that what I was so defensive about mattered far less than my son.
To Natalie it didn’t matter who was right, it mattered that we love one another.
I prayed: God help me to love my son as you love me.
We apologized to one another.
Forgiveness strengthened our relationship.
I am different because Jesus said, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Thank you, Lord!
Turning Your Page:
Forgiveness strengthens us because it takes our focus off of self and places it squarely on Jesus. Jesus was dying on the cross when he said the above words. He had his eyes on the prize. Reconciliation between his Holy Father and the wretched sinners placing our only hope on the cross.
When another person hurts you can the wound be filtered through forgiveness? Maybe all you can manage now is to pray for them. That is okay. Ask God to help you.
I cry out to you Jesus! Help me to forgive as you have forgiven me. I am a wretch hating another wretch. Lord help me to keep my eyes fixed on you, and to love my enemies, no matter how my soul is battered by this world. Amen
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.
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
The cross was necessary for the salvation of many. I have done so many things wrong, and I can never make myself clean enough. But, even saying that I confess I want another answer. I don’t want suffering to be the answer for anyone, not even the Son of God. Yet, Jesus warned that this life will be filled with suffering. But, no matter how much I suffer, it does not define me. Jesus does. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39, NIV
Turning My Page: The Cross is Necessary for Salvation
I struggled with the cross after Jonathan died. Why did require such a brutal answer for our salvation? From the moment I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I lived my life trying to follow what I knew as the character of God. I know my faith wasn’t perfect, but being a good mom felt like enough for a good outcome for my children. While I knew with my head Christians are not immune to the evils of this world, there was still an undercurrent of grumbling in my heart. And when Jonathan died I asked, why did my son suffer, and how does Jonathan’s death work anything for good in God’s plan?
The Lord answered my questions the first Christmas Eve service after Jonathan’s death.
It was not enough that Jesus came as a little baby. We don’t need a perfect example, we need a savior. Christmas Eve 2014
Jesus came as a baby, grew up among us, performed miracles, and provided good principles to live by. But still, the cross was non-negotiable. Without Jesus’ death on the cross, we are left trying to measure up to the laws of God without grace.
With Christ’s sacrifice, God said to the Centurian standing as witness to the sentence of Christ, there is more to life than our suffering and attempting to be good enough. He didn’t curse His accusers, he forgave them. The Centurian declared Jesus the Son of God before he fully understood his need for that crucified Savior. The cross was necessary to redeem us.
Without the cross, there is no victory over death. My son’s death is not the end of my story because Jesus redeemed the grave and gives power to all who believe. I was worth saving. My son was worth saving.
You are worth saving.
I now celebrate transformed lives because Jonathan’s life mattered to God, and he utilizes our story to encourage others to not give up.
Jesus came for me, not when I had my act together, but when I didn’t even know that I needed him. My son’s death does not limit God’s power. Life is still full and possible because Jesus chose the cross. The cross was necessary for the salvation of many.
Turning Your Page
Open each day like it is a gift, filled with joy that transcends your understanding. God does things that don’t make sense to you in human judgment because he is sovereign. He rescued you, not as baby Jesus in the manger, but as Christ, the Savior on the cross.
Have you ever walked around the cross? Take time this Easter to read each of the gospel accounts of the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. Put yourself in the characters involved. What did you see differently through each person’s view of the cross?
Journal any new insights God reveals as you place yourself in the crucifixion story.
Gracious Savior, I need you. Amid painful suffering, I know You are truly the Son of God! Amen He is enough. The cross has made you Flawless. My story.
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.
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.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
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
Freedom starts with hope. Realizing the power of trust, belief, and faith, inherent in the word has kept me reaching out and allowing others to reach in no matter what crisis comes my way. I have been struggling lately. Sometimes I forget to keep my hope in Jesus and start looking to others or my own ways of self-medicating. These are moments. Despair has an end and knowing that I can turn from sin and embrace the truth of God’s promises, come what may.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Romans 8:20-21 ESV
Turning My Page: Freedom Starts With Hope
I have struggled to write for months, and the excuses have piled up.
My house is a mess
I’m not sleeping
My physical health is deteriorating
Grieving my grandmother
I am a burden to others
This week, the Holy Spirit interrupted my unconscious mantra and reminded me that I have a vast vocabulary–start with one word. Moving beyond writer’s block, depression, or any other block in my life starts with HOPE.
I may not see the fruits of my hope right away, but the seeds exist. I write one word, and then another, and another and before long I am looking back at the obstacle rather than having it firmly planted in front of me.
My hope in all things is found in Jesus Christ, so yesterday and today, I confessed my depressed state and tuned my heart to my Savior’s voice through scripture.
Worked on memorizing Romans 8
Prayed for my family who is grieving the loss of our grandmother
Acknowledged I am substituting food and mindless activities for the comfort of Christ in my grief
Went to bed and trusted that God would give me the needed rest
Set healthy boundaries with my children
Chose a few small ways to attack the mess of my home
One of the first things the Spirit of Despair attacks is the healthy habits I form.
Notice my list above. I stopped having time in scripture. The house was a deep hole of undone chores, so why try. I avoided grief through food and TV. While these things give me temporary relief, they will never give me lasting help or draw me from the pit of hopelessness because I will always need more and more of those things and accomplish nothing by escaping through them. They do not feed me, mind, body, and spirit.
I know this because at age twenty I almost succeeded in taking my own life. That moment was the cumulation of all my attempts to deal with life’s hardships and pain by burying it and not pressing into hope. At that moment I recognized, rightly, that nothing in this world would make me feel better, but did not press into hope in Christ until the following year.
Only then did my life begin to look more hopeful. I started recognizing Christ died for all of the hardships I experienced and He would faithfully take all experiences and use them to lead others, and offer hope when others can’t yet see the potential. Placing hope in Jesus Christ meant my ultimate failure was not an option. No more throwing in the towel. I do not do this perfectly, but when my footing slips I gain it back more quickly and easily because hope has become the pattern of my life rather than the exception.
Turning Your Page
Freedom starts with hope.
That hope does not disappoint. You may not yet see the fruits of pushing back against the doubts or feel anything will change. Hope is powerful! It gives you space and opportunity to discover resources, mankind to reach in and help, and develops muscles of trust. We will get to the other side of our experiences because nothing separates us from the love of Jesus (Romans 8:28). Nothing and no one will ever be able to steal that freedom from you.
What are some of your favorite promises in scripture?
Look at the definition of the root word of depression and compare it to the definition for hope.
Journal about the difference and similarities between the two.
What are some antonyms of each?
Pick an antonym of “depress”, such as rejoice, and begin practicing daily.
Lord, I want to cease spiraling into despair. Help me to look up from the pit and see that all things are possible through you. I’ll hold on until they happen as you promised. Amen
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Turning My Page: Conviction Overturned by Love
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.)
Parenting an adult child is both a joy and full of landmines and challenges. Each stage of my children’s development has been a pleasure, and when my oldest reached for more independence, I loved watching him gain confidence in purpose and character.
I dreamed and hoped my children would embrace faith, enter adulthood equipped to succeed at whatever job they set their mind to, and live life to the fullest. I had no illusions that life would throw challenges their way; my life had been anything but easy. But couldn’t I hope for better? Was it unrealistic to believe that good would ultimately result from “raising them right?”
No, not unrealistic.
We have an enemy seeking to crush and destroy families, young and old. Enter health issues, unbridled stress, and ultimately the suicide for my barely adult son, Jonathan. Before his death, I had to navigate the difficult world of an adult child who battled mental and physical illness. He held all the rights and responsibilities of an adult and the core of my hands-on care for him was over. He could refuse any help offered, yet he was in crisis.
From those difficult months, I learned to:
Pray and trust God with what I could not see
Recognize that my child’s choices were his own
Parenting is a joy, but when tragedy strikes it cut to the core of my parenting heart. I am grateful others helped by holding me, lifting Jonathan in prayer, and reaching out to him.
You may be in the midst of a similar crisis with your adult child. My recent interview with Teresa Janzen identifies some tools we all can utilize as parents of adult children. I pray God’s wisdom, discernment, and joy for you as you navigate the new relationship that emerges when your children embrace adulthood.
Turning Your Page: Tools for Parenting an Adult Child in Crisis
We hope as parents to raise our children, equip them to the best of our ability, and that their life is full and trouble-free. Scripture makes it clear, that in this life we will have troubles, but as parents, we can take heart. Jesus Christ has overcome the world. (John 16:33).
You may have questions, such as:
How do we care for our adult children who are in crisis?
What does scripture say about our role as parents?
How can we find support and help?
Lord, things are shifting and changing in my relationship with my adult child and my role as a parent is getting redefined. Help me to love them in the same way I love my neighbor. Amen
Interview with Teresa Janzen
Teresa Janzen Bio:
Teresa Janzen is an author, speaker, storyteller, and African explorer. She engages big issues and extends an invitation to thoughtful dialogue. More than 20 years’ experience in non-profit administration and global ministry has ignited this passion for missional living and drives her to share stories that inspire people to action, joy, and gratitude.
Teresa is married to Dan and together they bridge two cultures and continents—serving as missionaries in South Sudan. They have eight adult children and ten grandchildren in the USA.