Blessed to be Broken

God's not finished with me yet!

Keep Paddling

For a couple weeks God laid a person on my heart to pray for. Last night I had a dream about this person. This morning when I woke up, I checked my text messages. A friend sent me pictures from an event she attended plus another pic she was given. In the pic she’d been given was the person who I had been praying for and dreamt about last night.

I stared at the pic. Past memories collided with my present. I cried. For many different reasons. If I only knew then what I know now. Garth Brooks sang a song called “The Dance”. The lyrics say:

“And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end
The way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance”

I wrote in my journal that it’s hard living with one foot in the past and the other foot in an unknown future while straddling the fence of the present. The past is both a blessing and a curse. It’s easy to get stuck floating in a river of disappointment, despair and lost dreams. Floating isn’t the same as paddling. Floating to me represents contentment while paddling means momentum.

Where are you? Are you floating or paddling? Are you straddling the fence? Friend, if you’re still here, you still have purpose. That means there’s more to be done. Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep that forward momentum going. Remembering the past is different than reliving it. It’s so much more important that you stay present.

Today is a gift. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is yet to come. Right here, right now, is all that’s promised. Make plans but keep an open hand on them. Seriously, how many times can you count the plans that didn’t go as you planned?

Whatever the reason you’re still here, trust that it’s part of a bigger plan and a greater purpose. Remember, it’s the small things that make up that bigger plan and greater purpose. So keep on paddling my friend, because each stroke counts.

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The Favorite

You were their favorite. The baby of our dysfunctional family. It came at a cost. It sucks when parents single out a child as their favorite. Everyone suffers. Including the favored child.

How ironic that you would be the first to leave this earth. You found solace in the mired depths of alcohol attempting to silence the demons that daily hunted and chased you down. You were sad, angry, and misunderstood. Also, loving, compassionate, and beautiful.

You never asked to be the favorite. But you had special needs that required more attention than your older siblings. We’ll never know what it felt like for you. We were too focused on what it felt like for us.

Today is your birthday. I’ve been thinking about you a lot. I sang “happy birthday“ to you. It’s what I do. Eleven years ago, I called to sing to you. I was shocked to hear your actual voice. Back then you hardly ever answered the phone. I was so shocked I forgot to sing. We had a nice conversation and you ended it with ”goodbye sister of my loins.” Ummm, what? You said it was from a movie. You thought it was hysterical.

After we hung up, I realized I forgot to sing to you. I waited about an hour and then called you back. Imagine my shock and surprise when you answered again. You were supposed to be running your errand. So we talked a bit more.

I was nearing my retirement from the military. You said you wished I lived closer so we could have face to face conversations. You told me about a town you loved in New York called Skaneateles. Pronounced skinny-atlas. You said I should check into it. The fact that I was even considering coming back to the NY area was confounding since I swore I’d never move back that way.

Next thing I know, I’m looking up the chamber of commerce website for Skaneateles. The picture that first appears is beautiful gazebo on a lake. I see another picture of town folks dressed up in costumes for the annual Charles Dickens festival. I’m enthralled. I knew in my knower I had to get there. Not sure what it is about gazebo’s, but I love them.

Months later, I would move to Auburn, begin working at a bed-and-breakfast as an innkeepers assistant and my beloved employer would be a part of my Jesus story. Buckle up, because I’m about to tell you how God chose a proclaimed atheist to save my life.

My brother said he believed in science and facts, not God. But God, despite my brothers belief still created him and still knew him. He even loved my brother. Loved him so much he knew his heart, his desires and answered a prayer to have his sister move closer, so they could have more face to face conversations.

I don’t believe for a second it was a coincidence my brother answered that second phone call and told me about Skaneateles. My brother loved this town, I loved gazebos’s and lakes and I had a dream to own a bed-and-breakfast. That is until I worked at one. But, that’s a story for another day.

The bed-and-breakfast where I worked, was located in Auburn, NY. My employer attended church in Skaneateles at Grace chapel. Eventually, I would join her and her family and we’d attend church together after we served breakfast and got the guests checked out. Sunday was my favorite workday.

After attending this church for several months, they began talking about their next baptismal ceremony. I felt called to take this next step in my faith journey. This is the best part.

My baptismal took place at Skaneateles lake, at the very spot that I once viewed from a computer screen, some 4,360 miles away. And yes, the gazebo was there.

God in all His glory and sovereignty can use anything and anyone. He’s not limited by what you believe. He used my brother and a gazebo to get me right where He needed me to be. His good plan included an “atheist”. Don’t worry about my brother. His salvation story was written long before life things happened.

I love and miss my brother. God loves him more. I have no doubt my brother is God’s favorite. I’m ok with that, because I’m His favorite too. Guess what? So are you.

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Rain

I sat trapped in my car. No, not really. I actually chose to sit and wait out the dump of rain from the heaven’s above. Lord knew we needed the rain. My once green lawn was smattered with brown patches of dry, brown, crunchy grass. No bare foot wants to walk on that mess.

As I sat there watching the rain, I saw it run off the ground, and down the road in a steady, stream like flow. The ground couldn’t soak up the water as fast as it was coming down. It had been too many days since the last rainfall, and the ground was as hard as a rock.

Listening to worship music while waiting out the storm, I started to cry. Yep, I’m that girl. But, I’m ok, with being weepy over rain. I cried because I was reminded of the times my heart was like the hard ground.

Having a hard heart doesn’t typically happen over night. It usually comes from defending it in the only way we know how. That’s what happens when we put up a shield to shut “things” out. Truth be told, it’s easier to stuff it down than work through whatever made us put the shield up in the first place. In this moment, we think we’ve conquered the “enemy” that threatens to steal our peace. In actuality, we gave into the enemy and a root of bitterness started to grow.

I need to add that in abusive situations, protecting yourself is vital but it’s different from hardening yourself. Protecting yourself means you know your attacker and you have defense mechanisms in place to thwart the enemy and still be who you are. Hardening yourself changes who you are to your core.

I attended a nurse pinning ceremony in 2021. One of the nursing faculty gave a speech to the student’s on the “heart-brain”. Say what? She had my full attention. I wanted to know more about this “heart-brain.”

Since I haven’t studied or majored in this area of expertise and I don’t want to misrepresent this, I’m including the link from Science of the Heart so you can dig deeper if you’d like. It’s titled Heart-Brain Communication and it’s fascinating.

Now let’s get a little nerdy, shall we? I’m going to quote straight from the website.

“The heart-brain, as it is commonly called, or intrinsic cardiac nervous system, is an intricate network of complex ganglia, neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells, the same as those of the brain in the head. The heart-brain’s neural circuitry enables it to act independently of the cranial brain to learn, remember, make decisions and even feel and sense. Descending activity from the brain in the head via the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the ANS is integrated into the heart’s intrinsic nervous system along with signals arising from sensory neurons in the heart that detect pressure, heart rate, heart rhythm and hormones.” (bold emphasis added)

Wait, it gets better!

“The anatomy and functions of the intrinsic cardiac nervous system and its connections with the brain have been explored extensively by neurocardiologists.[13, 14] In terms of heart-brain communication, it is generally well-known that the efferent (descending) pathways in the autonomic nervous system are involved in the regulation of the heart. However, it is less appreciated that the majority of fibers in the vagus nerves are afferent (ascending) in nature. Furthermore, more of these ascending neural pathways are related to the heart (and cardiovascular system) than to any other organ.[15] This means the heart sends more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart.” (bold emphasis added)

Is that not the coolest thing you learned today? Our bodies are so complex and intricate. Is it any wonder the author of Proverbs says:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” ~ Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

In addition to that, from Ephesians 6:14 we are to daily ensure the “breastplate of righteousness” is in place. Notice it says righteousness not hardness.

Back to my rain lesson. As the rain slowed down, the ground was more open to soak up the water. The downpour was too much for it and the water flowed off it instead of down in it.

When we take time to sit with Jesus, the constant deluge of the world’s chaotic pace takes a back seat. We can breathe easier and our heart opens up to what Jesus has for us. And now that we know our heart sends more information to the brain than vice versa, how much more important is it, that we allow Jesus full access so He can remove our hearts of stone in exchange for a heart of flesh? (Ezekiel 36:26)

Lord, thank you for showing me your ways are not my ways and your ways are higher than my ways. Thank you for never giving up on me and being the good Shepherd who gently leads and guides me through all areas of this life. Thank you for your love, guidance, grace, and mercy. How can I not praise You when every where I look, there You are! Bless my friends, family and enemies with a heart of flesh and remove the stony hearts so they may see Your glory. In Jesus name I pray, amen!

Have a heart-brain day my friends!

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Identity Thieves

I started watching a new series on Netflix. It’s a hot mess. I could tell you what the name is, but I figure if it’s meant for you, you’ll find it. The typical 45 minute show gives you glimpses of how the characters got to be where and how they are in the present.

I find shows like this fascinating. I mean, haven’t we all heard something to the effect of how we’re modern day versions of the collective experiences of our past? Reflecting on how the past factors into who we are is a good thing. Staying stuck in the past…that can cripple us.

In this new to me show are two main female characters. I’m gonna focus on the one who seems to be a present day hot mess. But before I get into that, I want to share a short personal story. I feel it relates to our hot mess gal heroine.

Back in my drinking days when my glass would get empty, I would raise my glass and sing a little ditty with my own high pitched flair at the end. It was for anyone in the house who happened to be up and about while I sat in my queen’s chaise lounge. The song went. “Running low, running on empty, running low, running drrrrrr-hiiii.” And voila, my glass would be refilled.

Running low.
Running on empty.
Running dry.

I never even knew singing that song was about so much more than an empty glass.

Ok, back to our heroine.

This gal grew up in a couple of homes. When she was a young girl she grew up in here grandmother’s loving, safe home. As an adolescent and teenager she grew up in her mothers drug addled, chaotic home.

All years in my opinion are formative years. I believe every second since we were formed and knitted in our mother’s womb, matters. What you believe is on you. No need to get defensive or divisive on the matter.

It mattered the way this gal was shown love and affection. We don’t really get to see the love she was shown in her grandmother’s home. But, we see a lot of the love and affection she desperately craved, but didn’t get in her mother’s home.

As our heroine steps into her grown-up life, she appears, happy. She drinks, does drugs, sleeps with whoever she wants and becomes a high-profile, successful talk-show host. That’s what you plainly see on the outside.

On the inside, she’s the scared, insecure girl who only wants her mother’s approval. Flash to a scene where our heroine thinks it’s safe to go see her mother and share that she’s successful. She’s hopeful her mother will be proud of her accomplishments to date.

Imagine her heartbreak and disappointment once again when she doesn’t get it, but instead hands her mother, money for “rent”. She hides her hurt well. She stuffs it way down inside and covers the punch in the gut with a false sense of bravado.

She then struts her stuff with her head tilted high, shoulders squared, and chest puffed out, seeking approval from all the wrong places. She keeps everyone at arm’s length so they can’t get close enough to ignite the deep raw anguish ravishing her soul. To her, that would be a crime against the core of everything she’s built.

That’s the problem with building your house on materialistic things. Eventually, it all tumbles down. The control you think you have over your trauma is misconceived and misplaced and it needs a place to go. Trust me when I say, it will find a place, and it won’t be pretty.

Our heroine only wanted her mother’s approval. She even said something to the effect of “I keep going back for more, hoping this time it will be different and it never is.” She’s shattered from not getting love from a mother who in this stage of her life is an empty well. Yet, our heroine wants what the empty well can’t provide. Why?

Why do we constantly seek approval for who we are and what we’ve accomplished from others who are just as flawed as we are? I can’t answer that question. It’s truly just a hypothetical question.

I do know that when we desperately seek approval from others and don’t get it in the way we want, we turn to our identity thieves.

Others
Sex
Drugs/Alcohol
Success
Fame
Money
Social Media
TV
Cutting
Food
Shopping
Working out (make our outward appearance an idol)
Unwarranted plastic surgery

I could go on and on. Almost everything on the list above, I could raise my hand and say without out a doubt I did that. To be honest, I still do some of that. Just not the ones I deem detrimental to my being. Or are they?

The truth is, when we’re running on empty, low, or dry, unless we look to God’s Truth to fill us, we’re looking in the wrong places.

I can relate to our heroine. I grew up in the drug/alcohol addicted, devoid of love home. I saw what being desperate for love looked like. I lived what looking for love looks like. It made real love in action look like somebody wanted something from me. I lived my life suspicious of almost everything. The trauma I experienced took away what “safe” felt like and put my nervous system in a constant state of high alert and panic.

I can’t even begin to describe what my body does in response to certain stimuli. The funny thing is, it’s just when I think I’ve conquered something that yet another “alarm” goes off. This is not living. It’s surviving. My body was never built for this kind of trauma. Neither was yours. There’s a difference between learning to live with your pain, and healing from your pain.

It takes great courage to move past your hurt into healing. Facing the giants of your past will no doubt cause lots of tears and lots more snot. Always make sure you have plenty of tissues close by. Seriously, where does all the snot come from?

I’m still working through a lot of my “issues” but each day, I’m one step closer to becoming all God created me to be. I used to dread meeting “her” but now I can’t wait. I bet she’s going to be phenomenal.

The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He’ll take all he can get from you. He laughs at your pain and constantly tries to get you to sit and wallow in what hurt you. Just what you’d seek in a friend, right? NOT!

Friends, God sent His one and only Son so you could live an abundant life. He cares greatly for you. But, like I always say, don’t take my word for it, take His!

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” ~ John 10:9-11 (ESV)

Now that’s some good news.

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Cover-Up

You know that moment everything is going really well and the next thing you know, tears are streaming down your face? Yeah, me too. It’s kinda important to pay attention to what’s happening in that moment. Then again, it’s way easier to ignore the inner turmoil and just “keep swimming” as Dory, the Pacific blue tang fish from Finding Nemo would say.

I recently visited Santa Rosa beach in Florida. It was beautiful. I’m not your typical beach- goer. I love to watch the ocean and all its majesty, but I neither care for sand or the things that live and breathe in those waters. Literally, shiver me timbers mate, at the thought of all the creepy, crawly, wiggly tentacle and sharp teeth having creatures that could come alongside me.

This particular beach had the softest sand and the prettiest shades of blue water. It was peaceful and just what my soul needed. What I didn’t appreciate were the translucent looking crabs. These camera shy claw pinchers would burrow under the sand to get away from any and all prying eyes. This didn’t stop my friend and I from trying to get the ones we saw to smile for the camera. And, it didn’t stop people from trying to catch them. It’s no wonder they took to burrowing under the sand.

One evening I was walking along the beach, getting my feet wet and decided to take a few pictures. Little did I know I was standing on one of them buried crabs. The crab had enough of me and scooted out from under my foot. I jumped up like a crazy arm and legs flailing ninja and quickly backed away from the water. Done! I wanted no more crab encounters.

Let’s talk about those crabs for a second, shall we? As I thought about the crabs I thought they had a good lesson about hiding. These crabs just wanted to do crabby things. Whatever that may be. They hid when they didn’t want to be seen, and they revealed their hiding place if too much pressure was put on them. I‘m guessing they hid because they automatically considered us a foe and it’s a good defense mechanism.

What the crabs may not know is what’s under where they’re trying to hide. Is it possible for an even bigger danger to be found? Only the crab knows.

We’re not too far off from the crabs. When someone hurts us, we tend to hide and cover-up the wounds with false words like ”I’m fine.” When too much pressure is applied we use learned defense mechanisms to ward off potential foes. I say foes because it gets harder to make friends when pain and hurt do the leading under the false bravado of ”I’m fine”.

I don’t know how deep those crabs can dig down, but, I know how deep wounds can go. That’s where I found myself the other day. Thinking everything was fine. I said I had forgiven this person. I appropriately and messily walked through the hurt with Jesus and declared myself healed.

Imagine my surprise when something out of the blue nudged that ”healed” place. I exclaimed, ”Lord, I thought we were done with this?” Now, this is a great place for the enemy to try and convince you what a failure you are because you’re still dealing what seems to be the same hurt. Don’t you dare buy a ticket to that condemnation show.

God wants to fully heal and restore you. If something you thought was healed comes back to “haunt” you, take this opportunity to go deeper with Jesus into healing. As I processed this familiar hurt once again, God showed me I had merely covered up the remainder because I thought it to be inconsequential to my journey.

Apparently, God didn’t think it was inconsequential. Friends, God loves you. He wants to fully heal and restore all the areas we try to hide. He knows all the bad and sad things that covering up and storing our hurts away does to our mind and body.

Feeling shame or guilt from not being where you think you ought to be on your healing/forgiving journey only hinders moving forward. It doesn’t stop it, but it adds undue pressure on top of it. Remember, condemnation is not from God.

I had to remind myself that I was years in the making of where I am today. Why would I think it would take mere seconds for the undoing? There’s beauty to be found in the ashes and my pile of ashes is pretty hefty. But that just means even more beauty to be discovered. That’s good news!

Wherever you are in your journey, let God walk with you. He knows how slow or fast that healing will take. And if you think its done and something nudges your heart to go deeper, trust that on the other side of deeper, is everything God intends for your good. Heal on my friends!

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Unexpected

I was sill in my pajama’s enjoying the stillness of the morning. I finished my cup of coffee and was still reading my morning devotionals. Moose was sleeping in my lap.

We were both jolted out of our comfort by a knock on the door. I thought, ”Who can it be knocking on my door?” Totally sang that, by the way. I yelled out, ”Just a minute.” Moose sprinted to the door, barking his fool head off. I quickly went to my room to grab a robe.

I threw the robe on, put Moose in his crate and opened the door. There stood a nicely dressed woman whom I didn’t know. She apologized for interrupting me, and jumped into the reason she was there.

She had a black and white feral cat escape her pet carrier. She was taking the cat to be spayed at the vets across the street. Somehow, when she lifted the carrier the door opened and the cat ran onto my property. She wanted to know if she could set up a trap for the cat. She was concerned because the cat wasn’t familiar with the area. It was from another town. She mentioned another woman whose voice the cat recognized might be stopping over.

Of course, I said it was ok to set the trap and for them to search the area. Again, she apologized for disturbing me. I told her it was no bother at all, I was just reading my devotionals. She told me she was a woman of faith as well, and her name was also Faith. I introduced myself and she started walking to her car to get the trap. I told her “good luck” in catching the cat.

I don’t believe in ”luck”, so not sure why those words popped out of my mouth. She thanked me and went on about doing what she needed to do.

I let Moose out of his crate and he insisted on going outside. I decided I ought to get ready for the day and as I was brushing my teeth, I heard another knock on my door.

It was Faith, and a young girl. She looked to be a teenager. They were both crying. The girl was distraught and unashamedly weeping. Unfortunately, the cat met its demise and had gotten run over. Faith wanted to let me know, there was no need for a trap now.

I expressed my condolences and we all stood there not knowing what to do next. Faith turned to the young girl and they slowly started moving toward the car. I watched them with a heaviness on my heart for their pain.

This wasn’t their cat. They were just trying to do the responsible thing. Yet they grieved for this tiny fur baby like it was their own.

I prayed for their peace and comfort. I wondered if I should’ve invited them in. But, that didn’t really matter now, because, I didn’t.

That’s how quickly life can change. We both said we had faith the cat would be found. And it was, just not in the way we wanted. In these type moments, when things don’t turn out like we want, ”faith” is either lost or embraced. We either trust that God is who He says He is, or we decide that a god who lets bad things happen, can’t possibly be good or loving.

Ditching God for our perceived control over things doesn’t stop bad things from happening. You just have to find something else to blame it on. You usually start blaming yourself. You begin the ”I should’ve done” tracks in your brain. Thoughts start spinning out of control because somewhere along the line we think we’re responsible for everything and everyone.

As if their very existence relies on our knowing what’s best for them. Totally forgetting we don’t even have a handle on our own life.

Recently, I’ve found myself battling a familiar yet unrealistic fear. It directly ties into my thinking that I have any say over the length of time anyone in my family has left here on earth. It reminds me where I’m placing my trust. It reminds me what or who I’ve made into an idol.

I either trust God with my loved ones, or I don’t. It’s both simple and complicated. So what’s the best thing I can do? Confess my fears, repent my unbelief, and pray. Praying is my heart speaking to my Heavenly Father. He’s not ignoring what I want. He just knows better what I need. Trusting that His will be done, knowing it’s His best, releases me from the bondage of worry.

Yet, I still worry. But amidst that worry, there’s a peace. I believe it to be His peace beyond understanding, which is a gift from our Heavenly Father. It’s in that gift of peace I keep moving forward.

I don’t know what hard thing your facing today. But maybe, just maybe, try giving it to God. Seek the Father’s heart and allow Him to get all up in it. It may not turn out how you want, it may take longer than you want, but however it goes, please know, it’s part of a bigger plan for a bigger purpose. And you, my friend, are a part of it.

God’s always working. Even in the unexpected.

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You Deserve

Rant alert! I don’t know what it is about those two little words, “you deserve,” but they get under my skin like a bad bug bite’s venom. It’s right up there with the word “karma”. Nope, I don’t easily agree with them. In fact, I wrestle with those words, every time I hear them.

I remember when I went to the car dealership to trade my 2007 vehicle in. The salesman almost lost the deal when he told me, “I deserved” a new car. The vehicle I got came with a new car payment. My 2007 vehicle was paid off. So, I guess “I deserved” the car payment as well? He for sure didn’t congratulate me on that part.

Have you ever read the story of Job in the Bible? Job most certainly didn’t deserve the pain and suffering he was handed. But God permitted it? Why? Because He knew Job. He knew Job wouldn’t turn against Him and rebuke Him in his suffering.

Did Job deserve to be blessed double for all his suffering and pain after he proved his faithfulness to God? Did Job suffer any less or more than others suffer? Did Jesus deserve to die on the cross and suffer the worst kind of a criminal’s death?

Do people only deserve good things because they do good things? Do good people deserve to suffer at the hands of evil doers? Who really gets to decide what any person truly deserves?

I can’t answer these questions. If it were up to me, anyone who commits a heinous act would be put publicly to death. You know who would already be dead then? Me. I’m guilty of committing heinous acts against other humans and God. I’m guilty of breaking almost all the commandments. Yet, I’m still here.

I venture if you spent any time on planet earth, you’ve committed heinous acts as well. It’s human nature to sin. We ALL fall short of the glory of God. No one is immune to sin.

That young man who killed all those children in Texas, in my opinion didn’t deserve to die. To me, he got off easy. He deserved a long prison sentence so he could live with what he’d done until he reached a ripe old age. I wanted to see him suffer a lifetime of pain. Pain that goes deep and runs wide. But, that wasn’t my call to make.

On the other hand, I have empathy for the young man who must’ve dealt with far more pain and suffering in his short life that he thought killing innocent children and adults was the answer to his problems. How much hurt, hate and pain must he carried in his hardened heart? No clue.

I don’t believe for a second those children, parents, teachers, faculty, staff and families deserved what happened to them. Yet, it did. The carnage and trauma caused will take years to heal.

Where is the justice for those left behind? Those that have to deal with the consequences of the senseless murderous actions of one man will try to make sense out of what happened. They will try to wrap their minds around the fact their loved ones are gone. That the last time they said good-bye was literally the last time they would say good-bye, or I love you, or have a good day. Most assuredly the voices they’ll never hear out loud again will echo forever in their minds.

Do they deserve that? No, no they don’t.

It’s easy to place blame when these things happens. It’s how we try to make sense out of the non-sensical. We come together and grieve, but then we start shouting and pointing fingers at one another. Whoever shouts loudest is the one who wins? Right? Be careful with that theology. It’s typically the quiet ones stirring a pot you didn’t see coming to a boil until it’s too late.

The truth of the matter is, we will NEVER know what really happened, what transpired that day or what was going through the killer’s mind. All we know is the fallout.

But, there will be plenty of folks who will try to convince you to believe what they want you to believe. They’ll fill in the gaps with their “best’ guesses. It’s no longer about doing good for the people. It’s about, greed, and power, and money. All things rooted in evil when they become the focus of our existence. Idols in this day and age don’t have to be golden calves. They’re anything you give power to.

It’s easy to blame God when things don’t make sense, don’t go our way or when tragedy strikes. How can a good God allow such things to happen. God didn’t put the gun in that young man’s hands. Once again, God gave us free will, the choices we make HAVE consequences.

On this side of heaven we don’t see God’s bigger plan or the restorative plan He no doubt already has in place. It’s in times like this we either walk by faith or sight. We either believe who God says He is and His Sovereignty or we don’t.

Job chose to walk by what He knew about God despite his crappy circumstances and despite what his friends and wife said. Job had no clue what God was truly doing or that God would double all that was taken from him and make the latter half of Job’s life better. The justice God serves up will most likely never make sense to us. Our finite minds truly can’t handle that kind of sovereign truth.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

God never leaves us alone to deal with the things other humans are capable of doing to us. I daresay it’s when we leave Him out of the picture and take justice into our own hands that we suffer catastrophically more than if we’d have left the avenging to Him.

Count the cost. Count your blessings. Give thanks to God in ALL things because God’s not the bad guy here. We are.

Lord God, we give thanks that You are still in control and still on your throne. Lord, I beg You to hear the pained cries of your people. I believe you are close to the brokenhearted and You are giving comfort as only You can give. Your children are in deep pain and groaning from the tragedy of recent events. I boldly come before you and ask an abundance of love, comfort, mercy, and peace over the families who are left behind to deal with the travesty of evil being ever present in our world. Greater though are YOU than he who is in this world. Whatever You are already doing, I trust that it’s a plan for good and that restoration is already in progress. I pray this nation turn from its wicked ways, and turns back to You. I pray the idols of greed, hate, lust, power, and money are shattered and Your Kingdom comes on earth as it is in Heaven. May it be Your will that’s done and may we repent and submit our evil ways to You. In the mighty name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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Its Done Me Wrong

The other day I was watching TikTok and a reel came on with Richard Marx. Good Lord, talk about a blast from the past! Richard’s a singer/songwriter that sprang up in the 80s and recently joined the community of TikTokkers with a compilation reel of his hit songs.

I smiled as I listened to the songs but was sorely disappointed when I didn’t hear my favorite song, Hazard. It’s a haunting tale of a young boy who moved to a small town and the town folk found him less than desirable.

In this sad-ish tale, he managed to find one person in town who he gelled with, Mary. Mary loved sunsets, hanging by the river and being with him. That is until Mary goes missing and everyone looks to the “boy” as the reason to her disappearance. I say boy only because the song alone doesn’t allow for you to know years pass by and the two are now grown.

Once again, based on the song, you get the impression the boy, despite his cries of innocence is found guilty in Mary’s disappearance. Look at these lyrics from the bridge of the song:

“I think about my life gone by
How it’s done me wrong
There’s no escape for me this time
All of my rescues are gone, long gone”

The song video tells a different story. The villain in this story is actually the local town sheriff. And in the video, the accused man is actually seen walking away from the town, leaving it ”all” behind him.

The things of this life have a way of getting deep into our souls. When allowed to sit too long, they twist and turn our insides until we feel like the person in the song…”there’s no escape,” and nothing good is ever going to happen. Our mantra becomes, “this is as good as it gets”.

That’s how I felt when I left my hometown years ago and went into the military. I couldn’t wait to kick the dirt of Elmira off my shoes and leave it all behind.

God had other plans. 32 years or so after I left, I moved back to Elmira. The circumstances that brought me back are unimportant now. It’s in the past. Suffice it to say, I made some bad choices and once again, Elmira left a sour, bitter taste in my mouth.

Had I not returned to Elmira, I would’ve not gotten to spend precious time with my dearly departed brother. How I miss him.

I remember whining to God for the umpteenth about Elmira. How could this be part of His plan for me when He knew how much I hated it?

His answer; it’s not Elmira you have a problem with, it’s what happened to you here. That was kinda like a gut punch, taking the wind out of my sails. He was right, Elmira did nothing to me but in my eyes, it had done nothing for me either. Elmira was not the problem.

Dang it. Now I knew I had work to do. It was time to transform my thinking. (Romans 12:2)

As long as I was blaming a city, how could I forgive the life things that happened here? How could I escape from the clutches the negative strongholds had on my hardened heart?

One by one, as I drove or walked by places I would say out loud, “you didn’t defeat me”. “Lord, help me forgive what happened here. Lord, show me where you were in this?”

On my own, I would’ve kept holding onto the bitterness of the hurt and pain form these hurtful incidents.

It’s hard to turn beauty from ashes when you won’t let go of the ashes.

The hard things of this life when allowed to take up any kind of residence changes you. It’s why forgiveness is so vital in keeping our souls moving forward.

Unforgiveness cripples our forward momentum and keeps us in an invisible prison. Stuck inside this prison we become victims to the schemes of the enemy. It’s a perfect playground for him to keep you in the darkness of pain and suffering as he replays the events like a vinyl record skipping on the same note.

Whenever I read Bible verses about weeping and gnashing of teeth, I’m reminded the pain and suffering of unforgiveness go hand in hand with this. I know whenever something from my past creeps in, my teeth clench as my face changes and contorts to the distasteful memory.

Being brought back to Elmira was not a punishment from God. It was a blessing. No, it most assuredly didn’t feel like a blessing each time I visited or drove past a hurtful place. However, each time I invited God into the mess, I opened myself up to the possibility that God would fulfill His promise and redeem/restore another part of my story.

I’m still working through parts of my story that didn’t have that happily ever after ending. Instead of dreading those parts now, and as crazy as this may sound, I look forward to working it out with God. I want all the ashes gone. They serve me no good purpose and the weight of their pain is too heavy a burden for my heart.

Friend, I don’t know what’s caused you deep pain and suffering. But, know you weren’t alone when it happened and you’re not alone now. The first step is acknowledging what happened. Invite God into that mess and allow Him to walk it out with you. It may take several times. Don’t lose hope in the process Hang onto hope like it’s your best friend.

One last thing. Whatever your “its” done me wrong is, I daresay, and with boldness and godly confidence, this is not as good as it gets, the best it yet to come!

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Right On Time

How is it dreams can be so realistic they make your heart hurt? That’s the kind of dream I had last night. Someone from my past had deeply hurt me…again. Sigh.

On top of the person from the past, dream hurting me, let’s just add a new person into the dream mix too. This new person made a promise and broke it in a hurtful way.

I tearfully confronted her. She got indignant. I plead with her to help me understand why she broke her promise. Instead she cried tears of anger and said something to the effect that when she cries, the talking needs to cease. She started walking away. She was done trying to justify her actions.

I stood there in disbelief for a few moments before I started walking towards her. I asked her to wait. She turned towards me but then crumpled down, weeping. Hugging her knees she repeated that when she starts to cry, the talking needs to cease.

All I could muster up as I looked at her were the words, I love you. I woke up feeling gut punched and sad.

I laid in bed for a few more minutes processing the dream. Have you ever tried to make sense out of your dreams? I don’t usually get too far figuring them out. But I did resonate with a part of the dream.

The woman broke a promise.
She knew she did wrong.
She got indignant about it when confronted.
She wanted to ignore the pain she caused.
She crumpled up.
She cried.

That woman sounds an awful lot like me. And the one who kept chasing after the woman who did the hurting and showing compassion despite being hurt, sounds an awful lot like Jesus.

Lord, help me.

It doesn’t seem right that you’d tell someone who hurt you, “I love you”. It doesn’t fit in the world’s standard of karma’s coming for you. You’ll get what you deserve. It’s today’s version of an eye for an eye.

But Jesus. He got hurt. He had emotions. He was fully God, yet fully man. He felt pain, sorrow, joy, anger, and love. He was betrayed. Falsely accused. Ridiculed. Whipped. Spit on. Given a death sentence. There’s not a single thing we’ve experienced that Jesus didn’t go through. The circumstances may not be the same, but the results are.

Jesus being a man and being among us is a way for us to relate to Him being human. To understand just how much God wanted a relationship with us.

When we do wrong against Him, it’s easy to be indignant in our sin. It’s easy to carry on like we did nothing wrong. Especially when society screams for us to do things this or that way.

It’s easy to turn and walk away from Jesus. I know. I did it for years. But, not once, did Jesus leave me. He was always there. I can look back and see the people He placed in my path. His people. His children.

And when I was done, walking away from Him. He called my name. I crumpled down in a heap of tears and pain so deep in my soul that I couldn’t even speak. I didn’t need to. He spoke.

Let me show you one of the many love verses Jesus has spoken into my heart:

And when I passed by again, I saw that you were old enough for love. So I wrapped my cloak around you to cover your nakedness and declared my marriage vows. I made a covenant with you, says the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.” ~ Ezekiel 16:8 (NLT)

Did you catch that first sentence? Don’t miss that He passed by “again”. He waited. And when He saw I was finally ready to accept Him, He made a covenant with me and called me His.

I always thought I came late to the Christian party. But, it was always going to be His time. The time in between, we were writing my testimony for His glory.

Maybe you think it’s too late to give yourself over to a Savior who loves you. Maybe you think you’re too “far gone,” or maybe you think, not even Jesus could love you after what you’ve done. Let me assure you, none of those things are true.

He’ll keep pursuing. Why? Because He wants all His children in Heaven with Him. He doesn’t want a single one to perish in the pits of Hell.

I’m ever so thankful Jesus never left me. Yes, there were things in my life that were permitted. Yes, they caused me great pain, but every day, He works in me to bring about His redemptive story. And He will continue until the work is done.

He’s true to His Word. He will never leave us or forsake us. Jesus loves you, this I know. Not only because the Bible tells me so, but because I’m living proof. Pssst….so are you.

Be blessed! God’s doing new things! Do you see it? I hope so.


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Closure

I don’t know what closure means for you. I’ve heard people say they can’t move forward until they get “closure” from a life situation.

What happens if the closure you so desperately want never happens? Do you stay stuck where you are forever in wait mode? Never moving forward?

Do we always wonder about the “one that got away”? Or the bully that changed the way we see a certain aspect of life? How long do we fumble around in the darkness of non-closure? How many days, weeks, months or even years have you waited to get things “settled” the way you want?

I had a friend who told me on the heels of my last divorce that she wasted years of her life after her divorce. She was sad. She didn’t want to be divorced. She wanted things the way they were before the divorce. She warned me, sternly, not to do the same.

When my brother died, my mother told me not to waste my life like she had done. When I asked her what she would’ve done differently, she said she didn’t know.

From what I can tell, the only person in charge of closure is ourselves. We have the power to close the chapter, without the apology, without being paid back, and without anyone’s permission.

It may be easier, said than done, but don’t you think your life moving forward is worth it?

Frank Sinatra sang these lyrics from the song “My Way“;

Regrets, I’ve had a few“.

What happens when regret takes over our present day living? I daresay regret turns into resentment, which turns into bitterness and finally anger. It’s a slippery slope down to the pit of depression.

Life is seldom the way we plan. When people get married, do you think on their wedding day they’re already planning on getting divorced?

What about your dreams as a child? Did you become what you dreamt you’d be? Seldom does a person take their first sip of alcohol think they’ll become an alcoholic.

What about remorse? It’s a kissing cousin to regret.

All of these things are a road block to moving forward. When we stay stuck in them for too long, we forget how to enjoy life. Not only that, we forget what it’s like to take the small forward steps. Somehow life got too big. Suddenly, everything became overwhelming and the next step became the whole staircase.

Staring at the whole staircase is daunting. We forget each step represents moving forward. Trying to jump from the bottom to the top, will no doubt cause a fall.

This is as much for me as is it for anyone you who happen upon this blog. I know the pain of all the things I’ve mentioned here.

I guess for me it’s a longing for an easier time. But, those easier times, had their share of trouble too. It’s like I’ve carried them all with me and without them, I don’t know who I am. As if my identity is wrapped up in all the things I did wrong, over the things I did right.

Truth of the matter is, my identity is not tied to any of them. That’s the performer in me still seeking worth. But, my worth doesn’t come from my performance. I know all this in my head…but how do I get it into my heart?

I stay the course and stick with Jesus. He’s the giver. I’m the receiver. He’s the Vine. I’m the branch. He tells me to forget the former things; He’s doing a new thing. But, I have to open my closed fist, let go of what I’m clutching onto, which threatens to kill, steal and destroy me, and release the former things.

You all know I love me some claymation Christmas shows. Do you remember “Santa Claus is Coming To Town“?

I love the part where Kris Kringle teaches the evil warlock to “put one foot in front of the other” in an effort to change from evil to good. When the evil warlock goes to take his first steps, he’s really shaky. But, then he takes another step and another, and with each step he becomes less shaky. With each resounding step he was leaving his past behind.

Maybe that’s the key. Sing your way through it. Sounds a lot like praise Him through it. The “it” being whatever’s not right in your life. I love to sing. I love to give praise to Jesus. It settles my heart. It allows for God to move and replenish my weary heart.

No, we may not always get the closure we want, but Jesus always makes sure we get what we need. In His time, in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.

Ephesians 3:20 says:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (NIV)

That’s the beauty about God being a creator, He never runs out of ways to show us His glory.

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