Light for a Village of Seekers . You. Me. Us.

Archive for August, 2011

A Limp, a Loss, and a Liberty

Lord, if I'm broken, will You make me whole?

As I aimlessly limped toward my 60th birthday, the more I wrestled daily with recovering from the unexpected demise of a 38-year marriage, a loss I didn’t choose, abandoned by someone I always loved.

I began to coddle secret thoughts that questioned the relevance of God in my life. How is God really applicable to me now? Would He remain with me amidst the broken shards of unfulfilled lifelong dreams?

I recalled God’s stealth grace that ensured I overcame much heartbreak while growing up: a stranger’s molestation when I was five years old, severe child abuse by a troubled perfectionist parent struggling with his inner demons, and a youth of relentless school-kid ridicule.

My soul’s lacerations became more acute, when as a teenager, my parents divorced. Our family’s possessions subsequently were soon after taken by bill collectors which my dear brow-beaten mother, working three jobs, couldn’t rescue.

The tumultuous time which ensued, created a gaping emptiness and affirmed that I was deserted without help or hope. My teen years were filled with substance abuse to numb deeply-embedded soul-pain.

When I was 21 years old, I married someone my mother adored because he wasn’t a hippie on drugs, or didn’t have the intellect of a turtle. He was a quiet, precious one, underappreciated and unnoticed by the girls around him.

I fell in love with his irresistible internal attractiveness which was so opposite the personas of the brash, self-centered boys who had recklessly trampled my heart year, after dating year.

I also loved him because I mattered to him; a concept completely foreign to me. Imagine! Quirky me, being thought of worthy of recognition and care for who I was, and not because of what I could give away.

EL- Shaddai, are my mountains, Your molehills?

Fast forward 38 years and I found myself scarred with a new branding of an “I,” rather than a “we,” and unwillingly parachuted into a barren wasteland, exiled, alone, clueless about my future as a single.

How did I end up here? How did I, as a talented, confident, capable, career woman miss the signs that caused me to wind up in an unintended destination, lost in a desolate, foreboding wilderness?

What good can come out of being in the middle of nothingness, exhausted and without resources? Though a Christ-follower for decades, I grieved in anguish, “My God, my God, have you forsaken me? How do I pack up 38 years of marriage and memories? How do I start over with three decades of life behind me?”

Now what, God? Now what?

Have you felt utterly abandoned, holding in your clammy, trembling hands, a “happily ever after,” reduced to shattered pile of rubble?

I completely understand.

God, will You bring forth life from death?

Strangely, though, in the center of that wilderness filled with rocks and dead things, I found hope.

Actually, Hope found me … on my last breath, and at Ground Zero.

I’ve learned through a lifetime of hardships, that thankfully, nothing escapes the attention of my Creator. Nothing.

He’s mercifully using all the cumulative hurt, as bedrock to build and shape a new direction and promise-filled path.

“Do not earnestly remember the former things neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it, and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43: 18-19 AMP)

I ask you, fellow pilgrim, will you dare allow Him to daily, supernaturally infuse authentic hope into your heart for a new future? Will you cease looking back at what was or could have been and press on? Will you do so not based on how you feel, or what you see, but solely because He guarantees that He won’t leave you an orphan (John 14:18, Hebrews 13:5-6)?

Will you give Him permanent custody of your heart? I have, and I can joyously assure you that if you reach out to Him, with sincere expectant heart, He’ll never let go of His grip on your life. Ever.

Will you trust Him that much?

There’s a powerful vow which God makes that refers to the strength of the back feet of an adult female Red Deer. The stalks of sinew on first glance, seem skinny and incredibly feeble to support and maintain an upward ascent to safe landing. Surprisingly, this ruminant mammal effortlessly traverses jagged mountain terrain. Despite the treacherous landscape, it doesn’t lose its footing while leaping from crag to crag, because of its steady, even-toed hinds’ feet.

Jehovah-Jireh, how will You provide?

The ashes of your life will be used by God as substance to rebuild who you are, IF you want to be healed.

Only God can supply the sustainable strength that will cause you to burst forth from the ruins and become strong.

Like the Red Deer that’s equipped by God to move forward without fear or falter, so can I; so can you.

“Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!”(Habakkuk 3:17-19 AMP)

My ability to move forward isn’t in a self-determined human ability to scale impossible cliffs or cope with lofty, impenetrable obstacles. Rather, it’s an unswerving liberty in knowing Who God is, the historically-affirmed, “I AM,” Who parts seas and resurrects the dead, and already has made me whole, through the seismic eternal power of the Cross’ completed work.

Yeshua, may I rest in Your Light, while You watch over me in the darkness?

I no longer need to ask: Where is God in the wilderness?

He has shown me clearly: “I AM right here, redeemed Daughter, in the mist of the high clouds and in the midst of your low troubles. I never left. Now rest in Me, weary one, and let my strong Hands lift you to your intended destination. Fear not, I am with you, always.”
Moving Forward, by Israel Houghton




The Beach and an Angry Sea

God, if children are precious to You, then why do You allow some to suffer starvation and harm?

My family ceased going to church was I was eight years old, for no particular reason.

We just stopped.

Next time I stepped inside a house of worship was a decade later, for a funeral for a beloved friend, Chuck Davenport, who died valiantly in the Viet Nam war.

Our abandonment of church wasn’t because our family became agnostic, or even embraced atheism. We converted to the religion of apathy. Church was a boring inconvenience and waste of a perfectly good day.

Sundays became glorious beach expeditions for my brother and me. Hurray! Under the scorching South Florida sun, we built sand castles and took turns burying each other so only our heads popped out like globular living creatures. What fun!

We brilliantly plotted new ways to get our parents mad at us for being silly kids. We did this because when we were caught trouble-making, we were noticed and our voices heard; we weren’t invisible to our daddy. When we behaved, we were unseen, ignored, and blended into the drone of daily living.

We conspired to push the boundaries of how far we could walk unsupervised into the ocean before we’d get caught. One day we exceeded our limit, and almost died in our foolish rebellion.

The waves grew furiously higher. I lost touch with the sea floor. I struggled to stay straight up, against the gnashing water that was twisting and pulling me down.

The ocean’s battle to own me was near its conclusion. I was gasping and swallowing the acrid sea water.

“God, am I being punished for not going to church?” I yelled, “Where are You? I need You. Help!”

Savior, Do You hear my thoughts even in the Deep?

As I wildly thrashed, struggling for air, I could see the distant coast. Everyone looked so tiny. Angry muscular currents pushed me farther out. I was alone and drowning. My eyes burned from the salt as I tried to see if anyone was swimming nearby. Nobody.

Brother was gone. He vanished. No one could hear my cries for rescue over the arrogant laughter of the sea about to claim its next victim.

Suddenly, a strong hand appeared out of nowhere and reached down to bring me up to the water’s surface and then to the shore. Mommy was delirious that her daughter was alive. Brother rejoiced, as his tears of guilt were replaced with jubilant hugs of relief. He thought his sister died. Daddy fumed that I disobeyed his mandate of unescorted swims. Interesting perspectives of love lost, then found.

I have no recollection of a face attached to the brawny arm that saved me. I still don’t, to this day. Invisible love and tangible hope; a stunning reminder of God’s protection?

God, was that You? Did You set me free from death’s clutches? Why did You bother to save me? I was a nerdy friendless kid whom other kids mocked. How could I possibly matter to You?

Lord, why are You invisible?

His answer came 50 years later. He loves me. I’m precious to Him. God gallantly declares that my life matters.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2 NIV).

A fallen world brings much effort to pull us into the murky abyss of hopelessness. Pits and graves abound.

Many question, “If God is a God of love, then why does He allow some to be born without limbs, loved ones to die in disease and children to suffer the atrocities of flesh-wasting global hunger?”

Simple answers rarely quench the outrage, or the sting. Nor do they remove the excruciating, adamant ache of loss, or dry its ever-flowing tears.

However, I’ve discovered a hidden treasure of priceless worth, in the depths of my snake-filled pits and grave’s shivering numbness. These trials and unanswered prayers aren’t randomly-flung or heartlessly-permitted by some mysterious, distant, inaccessible Being.

My near-drowning is purposeful because it forces me to reach past my human limitations and capabilities and dance with the supernatural; the impossible.

Hope is strongest when I’m at my weakest.

As I pensively gaze at the totality of my life’s experiences, there’s an in-my-face reality that I’m able to even do so; to think, to remember, to breathe, to cry, to rejoice in the overcoming.

Jesus, do You celebrate my life?

Nothing can dissuade me from the evidence that I‘m raised up, time and time again because of Who God is, not because of what I can or will do.

Miraculously, I’m still alive, housing a soul beautifully scarred with memorials of God’s intimate loving and protective custody over my life, and yes, even my heart.

“Don’t pray for the persecution to stop. We shouldn’t pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure. Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live in a way that reflects His love and Power. This is true freedom.” – Brother Hun, author, “The Heavenly Man”

Scars, I’ve learned, are trophies for the living to testify of Heaven’s sweet affirmative embrace … and notice.

My precious Jehovah-Shammah, “The Lord is There,” personally knows the intensity and intent of scars as well. My life’s resurrection depends on them. They are indeed, glorious tributes of triumph.

His and mine.

“Beautiful Things” by Gungor

Beautiful Things video & song from SECCWorshipTech on Vimeo.

Editor- Phillip Brock
Script Writer- Marcy Bryan
PA- Megan Bryan
Artist- Casey Hyland
DP’s- Kevin Bryan, Dan Skinner, Phillip Brock
Music- Beautiful Things by Gungor


The Woods and a Stranger

God, why do You allow evil to prevail?

The woods near our home were such a source of adventure for my brother and me during our childhood.

We were fearless tree climbers, master fort builders, and relentless insect finders. We chased rabbits and boldly dared snakes.

Fifty years ago, with parental blessings, we could happily bicycle to destinations more than a block, even a mile away, to explore the hinterland of woods and wonder. There were no dangers from strangers.

We were safe; until Innocence fell prey to the Predator.

One chilly Fall day, my curiosity with a fire the adult stranger built deep in the woodland, and his cunning to send my brother and a few of our play pals to retrieve additional firewood so the stranger and I were alone, changed my understanding of Trust, forever.

Why was Heaven silent then? Why couldn’t I remove the stain of shame and fear from my little-girl heart no matter how many times I washed my hands? Why wouldn’t I tell anyone what was stolen from me until 20 years later?

Did God cry for my loss? Was He even there? Did He see what happened? What would it cost me to trust Him and others again? What did it cost Him to heal me and restore wholeness from my ugly, broken existence?

Abba, will I ever be able to trust again?

Have you ever wept from tragic loss, “Now what, God, now what?”

I know my tears significantly matter to my Creator.

I’m profoundly grateful that God strategically used every hurt to reinvent my definition and direction of trust, hope, and true peace. He lovingly did so through the ordained lifelong wanderings in the wilderness, the years of gut-wrenching thirst and hunger for significance, and the aching solitude of my own thoughts.

I now know more fully, what my grief and the source of my heartbreak, ultimately cost this God of Rescue. The Man of Sorrows knows intimately, heartache, loss and agony. His then, mine now.

I’m fully convinced my Creator cried five decades ago for my loss of innocence and every other assault against my peace since then. I know to the core of my being that He weeps now at the recent catastrophic passing of my carefully-constructed dreams, plans and hopes; a necessary soul excavation permitted by The Divine to make room for a new thing to spring forth (Isaiah 43: 18-19).

This cavernous wound and its bleeding, the outcome of a fallen world, is why He came and suffered His own pain, on my behalf, 2000 years ago on that Day of Intervention (Isaiah 53:4-5). He compassionately did so to assure the ancient ruins of the future He had in mind all along for me, will most assuredly be rebuilt one brick at a time, cemented together with the crimson-stained mortar of Heaven’s tears and mine.

God has promised me a crown of beauty for ashes; oil of joy for mourning; a garment of praise to replace a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61). My broken, shredded heart will mend in time, and I rejoice in knowing to the core of my being, that after the cross, there is always a resurrection. Always.

“For You are the God of my strength [my stronghold ― In Whom I take refuge]; why have you cast me off? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectedly for Him; for I shall yet praise Him, Who is the help of my [sad] countenance, and my God.” (Psalms 43:2 AMP).

Father, what does my future look like?

I’m forever touched by God’s daily kindness toward me as He sweetly, tenderly reminds me, of how much I truly matter to Him by protectively clutching and preserving my soul. I’ve given my King complete custody of my heart and life because He has proven Himself a faithful refuge, time and again.


Fleas and Socks

God, is this hassle, really necessary?

One flea, two fleas, three fleas; an interesting aggravation. Any more than that, particularly in a one room, 350 square foot windowless, sky-lighted attic apartment, which I used to live in, is a pestilence; a pernicious, evil influence.

My migraine and resulting daylong bad mood was proof enough that there was a strategic plan to take my peace hostage. Suddenly, mysteriously, I had a flea infestation; a gift from Fiona, my landlady’s cat.

After minor annoyance turned into major frustration because the fleas birthed many babies, I went into guerilla warfare mode. I purchased a can of natural bug spray containing lemon grass oil rejoicing that it would also kill fleas. The carpet was saturated with this mass weapon of destruction, and I was gagging from the “natural” fumes. Emboldened by the taste of eventual victory I belted out a war cry, “Failure is not an option; die you tiny fools!”

Headache starts. Eyes watered. Fleas laughed. No, they jubilantly danced, on my feet, my legs, everywhere, obviously stoned from the noxious, but sweet-smelling spray. First round score: Fleas 1. Marta, zero. Total time invested over an hour. I lost the war because I was ill-prepared. I underestimated my enemy.

Never again.

Anyone  who has even a mild acquaintance with fleas knows that you can’t kill a flea by squishing. You must pop them. Problem is that by the time the enemy sees your big fat fingers coming, he’s smugly disappeared. I needed a new plan where I could more clearly see the enemy.

Socks and water.

You can’t defeat your enemy if he is invisible. I prayed (yes, that’s right, prayed), asking for a replacement weaponry and new vision because mine was obviously not working. Unexpectedly, my heart heard a prayer’s answer. Socks! Clorox-bleached white socks.

Seriously, God? Socks?

As soon as I put on a pair of them, I gained a strategic advantage because it was easier to see the miniscule, hopping culprits. Add a bowl of hot water for flea dunking because popping thousands of them was too time-consuming. Did you know fleas swim then sink?

My apartment eventually had fewer fleas because I put on new battle gear and could finally see my tormentors. Several weeks passed before they were all gone, and a few more cans of the obnoxious spray, but when the I took charge and made a decision to not remain a victim, the power to overcome emerged.

Lord, when is enough, enough?

Ever get so darn tired of the daily flea bites you get from life’s struggles? Find that usually, one bad thing leads to another until you have an infestation?

The prince of darkness has only one thing in mind for you, and that’s to separate you from the truth of God’s historically-proven love and faithfulness.

More often than not, the muggings on your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual peace are stealth and come when least expected. My flea infestation didn’t happen overnight. Apparently, they were incubating and waiting for the right time to birth mayhem. I didn’t see them because I wasn’t wearing socks; the appropriate gear to gain clearer visibility.

My King, will You equip and empower me to do Your will?

When we spend quality time in inductive Bible study and scripture memory, we’re putting on spiritual gear to protect us from the evil pestilence of the enemy’s onslaughts.

The battering isn’t going to be one flea, or two, or three. Just a little crack in your mind’s floor, which starts to question God’s truth, and you’ll gain an infestation that’ll be difficult to remove quickly.

Ephesians 6:11 talks about putting on the whole armor of God (soldier talk because you’re wrestling with unseen armored ones). Socks gave me the ability to clothe and arm myself properly for an aggressive warfare with nearly invisible enemies (fleas).  When I finally saw my adversary, I won the battle. The stink of the insecticide remained for days, but my victory was forever.

So it is also with the right application of God’s Word and persistent praises to Him for His faithfulness. Relentlessly applied, these will restore order out of your life’s chaos and transform you into more than a conqueror.


The Inconvenience of Faith

Why me, Lord? Why Now?

God reminded me today that He wants me more accessible and available to be His conduit of grace and extension of mercy to others in need, regardless of how inconvenient.

My full schedule, on a scorching Summer day, was carefully-planned with precision and focus. The reward for the exhausting battle in traffic and checkout lanes was a tasty morsel at the local fast food restaurant. I was really looking forward to going home and taking a swim in the refreshing cool lake in mermaid-like fashion.

God had a different agenda for my afternoon. I wasn’t prepared for Heaven’s unexpected intrusion on my convenience or my conscience.  Initially, I wasn’t too happy about it either.

The usual alpha-jockeying for road lane dominance marked my exit from the parking lot. Upon leaving, I was startled seeing a sun-wrinkled, rough-bearded man sitting on the curb. He was clutching a dirty duffle bag and a hand-scribbled sign that announced his plea.

I tried to read the cardboard placard, but it was impossible to do so from the corner of my eye. I deliberately didn’t turn my head to make eye contact with the beggar. My conscience was briefly stabbed as guilt called my attention to selfish obsession on swimming for my own pleasure, while letting someone deeply hurting, to drown in his desperate misery.

Dutifully, though, as any pious being would (sarcasm here, against my not-so-thinly-veiled hypocrisy), I prayed for this street person. I wanted God to help him in some tangible way, for whatever he needed, but requested the assistance come from someone other than me.

Do you see me? Am I invisible?

I didn’t want to be inconvenienced.

Halfway, home, I couldn’t escape the haunting heart-whispers from my Creator, pestering me, “Why not YOU, Marta? Why don’t YOU, help him?”

I became a spoiled brat at that moment and demanded from God, “What about my swim in the lake before dark? I need that ‘me’ time!”

God, responded, “When have I ever been inaccessible to you, during your times of need? Never!”

Reluctantly, but in humble obedience to what I felt strongly led to do, I returned to the eatery. As I slowly drove around the building, I fought the demons of internal rationalization to not do something that was risky and inconvenient — reach out in service to someone clearly in need.

When I ended up near to where this gentleman was sitting, I noticed he was gone and remarked, “Whew! Thank You, Lord for officially relieving me of the obligation.” I sheepishly looked up to Heaven knowing fully, I was a lazy, spineless coward.  I justified myself by remarking to God, “Well, at least my heart was willing.” I strongly felt God’s disappointment and knew I wasn’t absolved from accountability.

My peripheral vision saw that the man was very upset. He stormed out of the restaurant mumbling something barely intelligible, “Doesn’t anybody care? Doesn’t anyone want to give a kid a chance and feed him?”  I didn’t see any child accompanying him and thought this street bum was obviously delusional.

Are you listening?

Suddenly, a young boy appeared who looked about 10 years old. Immediately, the scrawl on the man’s sign, completely made sense. He was pan-handling for the boy, not himself.

There was no escaping God’s persistence on my conscience when He relentlessly probed to the point I had to either obey or sin. “Why not YOU, Marta? Why don’t YOU, feed my sheep?”

Cautiously, in clinging faith, I rolled my window down and asked the man, “How can I help you?” He mumbled anger borne out of hopelessness, but I insisted. “Sir, I’m going to park this car, and you’re going to tell me what I can do for you and your kid.” His demeanor towards me was stunned but humbly grateful when Heaven’s grace met tears of need.

I felt tremendously insufficient to provide the remedy needed by these two. The uncle relayed that the ten-year old and his younger brother were often left without food or transportation by parents who were severely addicted to cocaine. Over the years, the uncle, despite dilapidating disability, which prevented him from keeping a steady job, provided physical and emotional sanctuary when he could.

When asked if I could drive them to the uncle’s home, a section of town not listed in the city’s “best places to live,” my internal struggle to move past comfort and convenience screamed louder. However, there was a certainty within me that though I was learning about their needs, my responsibility to them was not yet complete.

After buying a meal for these two and the brother, I drove them home, inwardly praying that God would keep me safe, and His love prevailing would tear down walls. They were used to cruel ridicule from strangers. Mistrust abounded.

Grace given was foreign to them. Their hearts softened when mercy was demonstrated.

A full stomach oftentimes can fill an empty soul.

Their suspicion of strangers didn’t change because I purchased food for the boy and his brother to stave off belly-growling hunger. Rather, trust was reborn in them because I allowed my shield of agendas, expediency, and risk to be dumped at the foot of Christ’s cross; where selfishness always belongs.

Lord, mold me to love as You do. Unlimited.

The scruffy, smelly man in tattered clothing made a comment which reminded me that the point of my existence is not grocery shopping, or filling up my gas tank, or swimming in the lake.

It’s not about me. It’s about them; those who need a touch of compassion, of hope, and yes, Heaven-birthed unconditional love.

We held hands in a circle, standing in his living room that held little furniture, praying together for God to intervene in their entire family’s severely-dysfunctional life. Afterward, he was barely able to speak from his soul’s bleeding and heart crying:

“Ma’am, God sent you to us to remind me that not every human being doesn’t give a %#$* (curse) about people like me and my nephews. He sent you to remind us of His love. I was about to give up believing that anyone cared, including God. You have restored my faith in people, and in Him.”

I choked with tears hearing that from him as the reality of my initial self-centeredness seeped deep into my soul’s crevices.

At that tender moment, somehow the swim in the lake for MY personal enjoyment was grossly insignificant to a larger reminder of how easily within reach Christ and His hope is to all His beloved creation — through me, through you, through us.

There is no one unworthy of God’s love. No one.