Speaking Life Without Saying a Word

When I encounter an angry or hurt person, I find myself shying away from them.  It’s a form of self-protection, I suppose.  If I don’t talk to them, I won’t get hurt by the angry barbs that come flying from their mouths.  In spite of my avoidance, I’m kind of famous for letting other people’s pain roll right off my back without a second thought.

We’ve all been burned by those who have spoken hurtful words out of their place of pain. Often, even an attempt at a loving response is met with more angry words. More pain. More hurt feelings. We talk about speaking lifewords into a person’s situation, but sometimes it’s just not possible.

I was reminded of that at the gym this morning.  The teacher of my group spinning class was having a bad day, to say the least.  It was reflected in his angry tone and his choice of even angrier music to get us all moving.  Some of us started grumbling about the negativity, but then it hit me – pray for him.  Speak grace over him.

photo

my view of the ground during spin class

As I was fiercely pedaling to keep up, I spoke words of life into the air – God, release him from his anger. God, heal his pain. God, show him you love him. As I prayed those words of life over this hurting man, something changed. In ME.

I realized that sometimes it’s not the time or place to hit someone over the head, so to speak, with words of kindness.  In those moments, we have the great opportunity to pray and let God work out the details.  Perhaps He will send someone else to that person at a time when they will truly listen and be healed.

We don’t need to try and fix everyone, and we need to stop pretending we can. We just need to be faithful.

I wish I could say the instructor today instantly changed his demeanor and played happy music for the rest of the class.  He didn’t.  From all outward appearances, he was still suffering inside, but I believe God began to work on his heart.

…And something changed in me this morning; I gained a new understanding of what it means to speak LifeWords into someone’s life ~ without them ever hearing a sound.

 

0

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

She looked at me with vacant eyes, her mouth turned down in a a half frown, half smirk that betrayed the condition of her heart.  “You heard, right?”  No.  I hadn’t.  “We’re getting a divorce.”  Ohhhhhh.  I’m so sorry.

I embraced her outside the church with a hug that says “hang in there, girl – you’re gonna be okay.”

It’s not that I was surprised.  In all the years I’d known this friend, I’d seen it.  After 20 years, she just couldn’t take it any more.  She described how hard she’d tried to keep it together, the counseling sessions, the long nights of talking, the yelling, the abusive words.  She. Just. Couldn’t. Take. It. Anymore.

Then she looked at me and said words that broke my heart,

“I failed again.”

the-broken-heart

It didn’t matter that her first marriage ended because he had a drinking problem, or this marriage ended because he had an abuse problem.  Somehow, the only thing that mattered to her was that she now had two failed marriages. Like a scarlet letter, she felt like a marked woman. And somehow, it was all her fault.

Except it isn’t.

I wanted to scream about the unfairness of this, that we are a people who allow women and men to wear the sins of their spouses instead of offering healing balm for their pain.

As I offered up what few words of encouragement I could muster and pledged to meet with her for lunch soon, I could think only of how Jesus would have responded to her.  He would have reminded her of her incredible worth in His kingdom.  He would have told her she is beautiful, even though she feels rejected; wiped away her sorrow and replaced it with joy.

Jesus himself announced “The Spirit of THE LORD JEHOVAH is upon me, and because of this he has anointed me to preach The Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal broken hearts and to proclaim liberty to captives, vision to the blind, and to restore the crushed with forgiveness,” (Luke 4:18 Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

Heal broken hearts.

Proclaim liberty to captives.

Restore the crushed with forgiveness.

What does this mean for Christians who are called to be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus?  How about we start by getting real with our friends and allowing Jesus to begin to heal them through our LOVE…

0

The Beauty of Grace

As we come away from Resurrection Day, the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead after offering himself as a sacrifice for ALL of our sins, I must share my gratitude for – His Sufficient Grace. For ALL have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23) – we are all in need of salvation which comes by His mercy (compassion and lovingkindness) and grace, and by the shed blood of Christ on the cross.

DSC_0434a

Webster defines Grace as: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification, approval, favor, mercy, pardon.

Wiki says: In Christian theology, grace has been defined as “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it”,[1] “the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race”.[2] It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man – “generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved”[3] – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.

And even deeper and better yet, the word in Hebrew is paralleled with several other ideas including: healing, help, being lifted up, finding refuge and protection, strength and salvation; to be rescued!

I met and accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was 6 years old. I spent my youth quite close to Him. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I really began to deviate from this relationship. I began to make poor decisions, and at some point I felt that I could never go back – that I had strayed so far that there was no point in even trying. Over the years I slowly drifted further and further away, trying to keep up appearances for those around me. I fought depression and isolation and eventually sunk deeply into alcohol and drug use and various other unsavory choices. I should have been dead many times over, but my God protected me despite myself. He showed me mercy even when I did not deserve it. I felt like I was too far to ever receive His Grace.

Finally, in early 2008 a perfect storm of circumstances caused me to hit bottom so hard that the only way to look was up. All I had to do was turn around and cry out – and there He was. He was there all the time. Restoration and rebuilding can take a long time, but when you call His Name, His Grace and Mercy come upon you in an instant, for you have finally stretched out your arms to accept what He has freely given.

You see, we all go through trials and difficulties in this life. That is just the human condition. We bring many of these upon ourselves, but others come from other people or circumstances beyond our control. God sees us through all trials, regardless of their origin – He extends His grace and mercy without regard to how or why we landed in our situation. He just wants us to turn to Him.

It seems to be hard for some people to grasp the simplicity of salvation. How could the Creator of the Universe so freely give His love? All I know is that He does, and that He extends that gift to ALL. No exceptions. He cried “It is Finished” from the cross, because He paid ALL our debt once and for all. Hallelujah!

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.

At my time of restoration and renewal, I latched on to some wonderful songs that encouraged me and built me up.

One was “Beauty of Grace” by Krystal Meyers (a song sung from God’s perspective):

Tell me why’d you run
You say you’re so ashamed
bruised and broken
Thought if I figured out
The mess you’ve made
That I’d leave

Chorus:
But anywhere you are

Is never too far away
There’s freedom from your scars
The mistakes that you’ve made
Forgiven
The memories erased
Baby, that’s the Beauty of Grace

Tell me what is love
I’ll never hold you to
The things you may have done
You say you want new life
In my arms, there’s mercy

Another, by the greatest selling Gospel group of all time, the Clark Sisters. (Do yourself a favor and download this one!)

“Blessed And Highly Favored”

He brought me through hard trials
He brought me through tribulations
Never let a day go by and not realize
Had not been for the Lord who was on my side

Back was against the wall
He looked out for me
He heard my cry and rescued me
Never let a day go by and not realize we are blessed

Chorus:
Don’t take it for granted that we are here today
Just know that we’re blessed and highly favored
Just know that we’re blessed and highly favored

As I look back through the years,
It’s amazing how He kept me.
What the devil meant for evil,
God turned it around,
Turned it around just for my good.

I know that I am blessed and highly favored.
Just know that we’re blessed and highly favored.

It coulda’ been me,
It shoulda’ been me,
It woulda’ been me if it wasn’t for the blood.
Grace, mercy.
Grace, mercy.

Not only does God extend grace to all of us by the power of the shed blood of Christ on the cross, but he also extends forgiveness and separates our sin from Him as far as the East is from the West. Since space is infinite, that means there is no ending point in the East or the West. So this means, as in the song “Beauty of Grace,” that He erases the memory of all that you have done. Think of all the times another human being has hurt you. Have you been able to forgive? Hopefully you extend the same grace to others as God has extended to you. But, if you are like me, you don’t easily forget that hurt. It can be hard to forgive others and yourself. And it is certainly almost impossible to forget. We harbor hurt feelings, and we condemn ourselves sometimes to the point of spiritual paralysis.

Imagine the kind of Grace that God is extending to you. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been. He has offered atonement and covering for your sin through the Cross. All you have to do is accept it. You can never earn it – it is a GIFT. And not only has He offered this gift, but He has also promised that once you have repented of your sin, He will cast it off into infinity and beyond!

If you are waiting to “get things together” before you turn to the Lord, let me advise you that you will NEVER be ready because your efforts will always fall short. Cry out to Him and accept His gift of life. There is no greater thing than a relationship with the One who created you just as you are. He knows everything about you and loves you unconditionally anyway.

And that’s the Beauty of Grace.

Psalm 103:1-12 NIV
Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.  He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

0

UGLY JUNK

IMG_1295b

For eight months I was blessed to live in an apartment on one of the northernmost beaches of Massachusetts. I watched the Atlantic Ocean change every day. The heartbeat of the sea was sometimes calm with small waves lapping against the sand like a lake. Sometimes those waves were angry and frantic, especially during the epic storm named “Sandy.” Even the color of the sea changed from day to day depending on the sky of blue, grey, or spotted with white puffy clouds.

Although I was safe in my shelter watching those violent storms, I certainly recognized the power of the waves as they pounded the shore, and I was constantly thankful for God’s laws in commanding the waves to keep a boundary, lest they overtake the earth! (Job 38:8-11)

While walking along the beach after the most violent of storms, I was disgusted at the “garbage” that was regurgitated from the turbulent sea. It is one thing to know that we, as humans, have violated our oceans with waste, but also to realize some of the items “thrown up” were from shipwrecks where lives were lost.

On that day of seeing and smelling “garbage” I also found beautiful pieces of sea glass, tossed to smooth perfection.

What a contrast, I thought, and so like our lives.

In our life experiences we suppress years of “ugly junk” deep in our innermost being. When the ”junk” is stirred up it comes out in anger, sadness and depression. Like those one time broken pieces of glass, jagged and ugly, we are confronted with the sharp edges of our lives. We can either push the sharp edges back down until the pain becomes unbearable, or we can allow Almighty God to gently toss and tumble the hurts until those experiences are formed into something beautiful. It may take many years, but the process is a release of control…yes, an absolute giving up of those hurts to the Master to knock off the sharp, rough edges and form a one-of-a-kind, beautiful person, who is an example of trust and faith in God.

The sea glass was once a bottle, dish, or maybe a sugar bowl that was useful, but now it is a broken shard that has been refined into a beautiful, colorful, smooth piece that can be made into elegant jewelry or some other art form that pleases the eye!

Dear Lord, help us to allow your clean up of the “ugly junk” in our lives and give it over to you to make something lastingly beautiful and useful out of our brokenness. We want to be beautiful on the inside as well as outside so that others will see Your beauty shining through us. Thank you, Lord, that you care enough to take us through the storms of life. Amen.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

CSC_0453a

0