Are You Sitting in Ashes?

Being depressed is like having a bloodsucking leech embedded in my flesh. Drains me physically. Muddles my mind. Squashes spiritual zeal. I can’t seem to detach the ugly thing. Ever been there?
images-6If you want to get technical, the dictionary defines depression as a psychotic state of mind that entails sadness, despondency, hopelessness, inability to think or concentrate, inactivity, and the desire to sleep. The verb, depress, means to lower.

During the winter months, I often feel like I’ve been lowered into a dark hole. A lack of sun and exercise. Rainy days and long nights. Head colds and flu. These all contribute to a seasonal melancholy state of mind. But experience tells me this too shall pass. I know the Lord will lift me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He’ll set my feet on solid ground and steady me as I walk. (Psalm 40:2)

But oh, how I wish the Lord would rush to the rescue sooner, particularly for those I love. Because my ‘depressed spirit’ also resulted from concern and empathizing with so many family members and friends who are suffering far worse than me.

If they were mentioned among the heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11, their woes would be listed as such: experienced the death of a child, unemployment, loss of a home, financial devastation, divorce, major surgery, lack of health insurance, life-threatening illness, agonizing chronic pain.

Some of them remind me of Job. Sitting in a heap of ashes.

Begging for mercy. Pleading for answers. Waiting for the storm to pass. Trusting the Lord when everything shouts, “Give up!”

My spiritual mentor and friend, Loretta, once told me, “Trusting God is the most important ingredient in a believer’s life. Because there will be days when we’re in the desert and God appears silent. That’s when we have to trust who God is. And His promises.”

Loretta learned to trust God’s sovereignty early in her marriage. Trusting God—no matter what—proved invaluable and enabled Loretta to cope when her husband died in a plane crash. Instead of becoming a missionary with her husband, as planned, Loretta became the sole breadwinner and single mom of three young kids. Over the next twelve months, three other beloved family members died. Can you imagine the pain?

That living nightmare happened decades ago, and yet, from those ashes, grew a deeper trust in God. Here’s what she said:

“We have the opportunity to choose how we respond during adversity. We either bend and let God work in our lives in order to mold us. Or we resist and lose out on His lessons. Life is full of difficult circumstances. If we believe our circumstances are allowed by God, and that He withholds no good thing from us, then our trust grows and we’re better prepared for the next hard thing. Trust becomes—or can be—a way of life.”

Today, as I emerged from my lethargic fog, I thought about Loretta’s words when I saw the yellow daffodils preening in my yard beneath a blue sky.1929165_79192745912_7011292_nLast week, these flowers were bent. Beaten down by the cold, pummeling rain. Now, the daffodils stand tall. Their stems stretch heavenward as they soak up the sun. If I close my eyes, I can almost hear them sing. Heralding the coming Spring.

And a small voice whispers in the cool breeze. Trust God even in this…. 

 

 

 

Where’s the Hope?

“I’m not a very religious person,” said a young man who was interviewed on the street after the horrific shooting in Orlando, Florida. “But whatever religion you are, no matter what you believe—send it whatever—our way.”

He sighed as he tried to articulate his thoughts. “We all need it. We all need something. We all need that…hope. So just keep praying for us.”

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What is hope?

In the world’s vernacular, hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”

  • I hope our baseball team wins.
  • I hope it rains.
  • I hope you feel better soon.

However, it wasn’t hopeful, wishful thinking that triggered my brain when the man said, “Send it whatever our way.”

I yearned to tell him, “whatever it is” has a name and it’s not a “thing.”

It is Someone who loves you so much that He died in your place so you could experience a Living Hope that…

  • Exceeds expectations.
  • Satisfies desires.
  • Doesn’t disappoint.

I wanted to tell him about “Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1).

And that “our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers” (1 Timothy 4:10).

Only, I wonder if the irreligious man would have listened to me because…the world doesn’t want us to tell them about the hope within us.

They want us to show them.

The employees of several Chick-fil-a restaurants in Orlando could have told the wounded victims and the people who mourned, “We’re praying for you.”

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Instead, they showed compassion.

On a Sunday—when Chick-fil-a is normally closed—employees cooked and served free chicken sandwiches and sweet tea to hundreds of people who lined up to donate blood for the wounded.

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The folks who gave their blood also illustrated a compassionate heart. And reminds me…

God demonstrated His love towards us when He sent His only, begotten Son to shed His blood for me.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples, “the world must be shown that I love the Father and do exactly as He commands.” (John 14:31 NEB)

People are watching.

When they look at Christians, do they see a talking head? Or a disciple of Christ who loves God and does what He commands:

  • Prays for our enemy.
  • Loves our neighbor.
  • Serves one another as unto Christ.

Sometimes, I’m tempted to feel hopeless when I’m going through a crisis. But Romans 15:13 says,

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in your faith, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, your whole life and outlook may be radiant with hope.

Like the distressed man said, “We all need hope.”

So let’s pray and show the world the radiant hope within us even in this difficult time.

When Death Interrupts Life

My uncle died Friday night.

Lying in hospital, his one strong hand clung to the woman he loved. His pale cheeks wet from my aunt’s  teary butterfly kisses.

My uncle had suffered a Stroke weeks earlier, but on Friday—the first day of spring—I didn’t know his frail body was shutting down….

While I played Florence Nightingale to my outdoor plants—amputating dead limbs, nurturing them with life-giving water.

Springtime—the smell of fresh-cut grass, a sky the color of robin eggs, yellow buds unfurling in the afternoon sun.  My Friday was pregnant with new life around me and joyful possibilities.

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 What a stark contrast to my uncle and aunt’s reality. Death’s chill shadow loomed over them as the life they knew and shared concluded.

And yet, even in this…gut-wrenching pain of letting go….Hope was present.

Hope is the balm that soothes the burning sting of death.

 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. BUT Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Death can’t be sugar coated. “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.” (Lyric from Empty Chairs at Empty Tables)

However, my uncle and aunt believed “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day….”

And their FAITH is what the Bible describes as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

This world isn’t the end all. There may be mysteries we can’t explain. But God has given us His Word, and His Promise, that death will be swallowed up in victory.

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The Columbine seeds I scattered in my garden last year now rise from the earth, but in a new form. The clover-like foliage and lavender bell-shaped flowers are more beautiful and fragrant than its seed.

So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Because Christ lives, we live too!

That is the sweet reality for those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.” (John 20:31)

*Other scripture  cited is from 1 Corinthians 15

Photos by Jennifer Foster

Broken Lives in Search of Glue

She told me, “The man committed suicide.”

Just couldn’t live on this planet one more day.

I didn’t know him, but a knot forms in my gut while I wonder about the people in my life.

Is someone in despair? Would I recognize the signs?

 

I’ve talked with people who tried, without success, to help a loved one…

Change his behavior. Make her happy. Seek counseling. Point them to the Lord.

Forever haunted “If only I had done this, said that.

Haven’t we all been there?

Been the person with good intentions who knows what’s best for another person. Only the other person won’t listen!

We stand there with a tube of super glue in our hands. Looking at the mess of a person; fallen and broken. Realize that even Humpty Dumpty’s men couldn’t put him back together again.

 

So how do I help a human being who doesn’t care enough to—”help me help you.”

And why do I presume to have the answers for someone else when I can still see the jagged scars where I tried to super glue my own broken pieces back together?

Fact is, there’s only one answer that will help.

One Truth that endures  when we find even ourselves in quicksand because the enemy who “seeks to lie, steal, kill, and destroy” loves to…

Chip at our self-esteem. Break our spirit. Convince us.

  • “This is good as it gets!”
  • “Who cares?”
  • “What’s the point?”

Until we’re broken, and feel beyond repair………….

That one Truth—Jesus Christ—says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Then true to His Word, Jesus lifts us from the pit of sin and self-defeat and does the IMPOSSIBLE.

Jesus picks up the broken pieces. Puts us back together again, and reassures us:

This isn’t as good as it gets.

 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Someone cares.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1John 4:10)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

There is a point; an eternal purpose.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:28-29)

Even when we don’t feel God’s love, or comprehend His purposes,

Even in this….fallen world filled with broken promises, broken marriages, broken lives that break our hearts…and makes us weep.

Jesus tells us to “Come, and find rest.”

Are you broken?

Is your heart breaking for someone else?

Then Come!

What Do You Hope For?

My youngest child left for college a month ago. With the exception of some furniture, his bedroom is empty as a conch shell lying on a beach.

The occupant left. There’s nothing but a hollow space where there once was life.

View bigger - Conch Shell FREE for Android screenshotGone are most of my son’s clothes, his laptop computer, his Bible, the scent of his cologne. Even his lava lamp traveled East to get plugged into a college dorm.

So I decided to renovate the room. I stripped posters off the wall, and removed the camouflage curtains that I hand sewed.

Then I patched the holes in the wall with caulk…as if keeping myself busy with a room makeover could fill the empty spaces of my heart.

 If only moving into the next season of my life was as simple as replacing the fan blades in the ceiling fan.

Years ago, when our two older children left home at the same time, our nuclear family of five was subdivided. The sensation was like ripping a plant out of the earth, and then tearing the entwined roots apart to create three separate, smaller plants.

Transplanting my last child across the country feels like an amputation.

I’m still a mother, but there are no longer any children beneath our roof. I’ve severed my apron strings that held them within reach.

Those thoughts hovered in my head while the ceiling fan stirred the air which brushed my cheek like a child’s butterfly kisses.

This room never looked so good. But new paint won’t bring this room to life.

People make a house a home.

What happens when they’re missing?

I tell myself, come Christmas vacation, my son will return and this room will look lived in again—an unmade bed, socks scattered on the floor, the closet door ajar, a cup of water by the bed.

Family reunions, that’s something to hope for, right?

Isn’t hope hinged to every goodbye? If not this world, then the next….we’ll be together again one day!

“Faith is.the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I pull the brass chain hanging from the light fixture as the fan blades spin round the globe like planets revolving round the sun.

Who’s the center of my universe? The light of my life?

Have my children and house become the center of my attention…my affection?

If faith is the assurance of things hoped for….what am I hoping for?

Am I hoping my children will move closer? Visit more often? Stay safe? Be happy? Grow strong in the Lord?

“God Himself must be the one object of our hope and trust in our work, our needs, and our desires.

“Just as God is the center of the universe, the one guide that orders and controls its movements, so God must have the same place in the life of a believer.

“With every new day, our first thought should be: Only God can enable me this day to live as He would have me live.” ~~Andrew Murray

When will I learn, its indispensable to meet with God every day in prayer, and allow Him to renovate me.

I can long for the past or fret about the future, but my time is best spent praying for those I love.

So I pray for my children. I pray for my husband of 35 years who walked beside me during the child-rearing years.

And “I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in our hearts as we trust in Him.” (Ephesians 3:17)

Even in this…..season of life.

Truth Be Known

243Woke up depressed, but I have to go to jail, share the “hope that lies within me” with women inmates.

Can’t give what you don’t have?” Satan taunts me.

I get on my knees where the battle is won, and pray God’s Word aloud. “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3)

Then I go out of obedience, not because I feel like it.

The jail tank is empty. Most of the women are asleep in their cells. I sit at the metal table and pray until a young woman joins me.

I confess my foul mood; explain I had to pray for the desire to come to jail. But I’m confident that as we read God’s Word and fix our minds on Him, our moods will change even if troubles remain.

Tears trickle down her cheeks. Woman admits she woke up thinking she should read her Bible, but didn’t “feel like it” which made her feel guilty. Knowing I struggle helps her know she’s not alone.

I assure her that Jesus struggled with mental anguish just before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had to pray and focus on God’s will rather than his own feelings.

So we open our Bibles to Luke 22: 66-71 and read about the trial.

The Council of elders confronts Jesus, ““If you are the Christ, tell us.”

Just like Satan tempted Jesus. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Just like Satan taunts me. “If you’re a jail chaplain, where’s your hope?”

Just like Satan accuses the inmate: “If you don’t read the Bible, you’re bad.”

How does Jesus respond to Ifs.

Sometimes He quotes scripture.

Sometimes He asks questions.

During the trial, He states facts. “If I tell you, you will not believe.”

Again, they ask Him, “Are you the Son of God?”

“Yes, I am.”

Jesus condemns himself with his own words,

Because they feel that anyone who claims to be the “Son of God” is a liar or a lunatic.

They don’t believe Jesus is telling the truth when He claims to be Christ the Lord.

But disbelief doesn’t change the facts.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Believe it, or not.