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Archive for the ‘Shortcuts to Hope’ Category

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.”
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Moving Forward, by Israel Houghton


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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.

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“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 hylandglass.com
DP’s- Kevin Bryan, Dan Skinner, Phillip Brock
Music- Beautiful Things by Gungor
gungormusic.com

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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.
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Trains and Pigs

The train of hope, God's heart for you, is never far away.

When I was a little girl, we lived earshot close to some railroad tracks. We also lived near a pig farm. Life was hard, due to severe child abuse, but the smell of the pig farm, and the whoo-woo of the trains were rhythms threaded in my life that gave a tumultuous existence, some constancy.

Winds coming from the east were especially pungent in the middle of the night, under the covers of a non-air conditioned home, in Southern Florida. Nothing outside of intentional burrowing under the suffocation of sheets and a light blanket would allow escape from the stench.

But, at 4am every morning, no matter how alone I felt, or desperate for solace from the madness of a home environment where my father struggled to make sense of his own life, and my brother, mom and self dodged to keep out of his way, the trains came. Faithfully. On time. And wide-awake dreams followed the symphony, of where I imagined these trains could take me, if I jumped on.

God in His kindness would blow the winds westward into this little girl’s open windows, to carry the soothing clickety-clack, clickety-clack of the train’s old wheels on the rusted track
joints, the squeal of steel brakes on the rail coming through town, and His voice of consolation in the distance, to promise rescue disguised as the train’s recurring horn.

Exodus 2:23-25 proves God’s care for us in our darkest nights, in our times of captivity where we feel abandoned.

Distractions are like squealing, hungry pigs; never satisfied.

But then there are the pigs; the squeals for our attention, which distract us from the need for silence to hear and believe that help and hope is on its way. To avoid the stench and noise of our pigs, which we seem to not escape, we muffle the sound of the forthcoming train, buried under the covers, ignorantly preoccupied.

Yet the train, relentlessly on a liberation mission, speeds forward. Will you not hear it? Do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43: 18-19).

The train of hope, which transports precious cargo, God’s heart for you, is never far, if we will just be still enough to hear its assurance of deliverance and a new thing born.

Throw off those coverings, wake up your sweet self, and know that it is God alone who stands lovingly in the front engine as the Conductor to invite you to jump on, and remind you of your future destination.
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