Tag Archives: LOSS

A Closer Walk: That First Faint Whisper

I remember after my accident the first faint whisper God spoke. I sat every day in the ashes of my burned-down-life, not sure if I even wanted to recover from all the devastation I saw.

life falling apartA weariness had enveloped me that was beyond anything I had ever experienced before.

That place, right in the middle of all my MESS—God showed up.

I wish I could tell you I was in this super-spiritual place but the truth is I was trying to contemplate a life without God. My disappointment went far beyond my rage at my circumstances. I was just “finished” and God and I both knew it!

That had been our deal.

I had returned to my faith from “the world” as beat-up prodigal who didn’t believe “a God of love” even existed. So, before I was even willing to try out this “Christian” thing again, I wanted a new deal between God and myself.

I wanted total transparency with no head-faking-bull.

I wanted no part of the phony church stuff I had seen growing up.

Actually, things worked out well for the first few years. I jumped into the discipleship thing for all I was worth. I studied my Bible each morning. I regularly attended church. I devoured every Christian book I could get my hands on. I began serving in church in all kinds of different ways. Life was good. I was growing. You might even say I was thriving.

Then life fell apart. An undetected illness and the resulting visit to the Emergency Room brought everything crashing down.

Each day I sat in the ruins trying to decide if my “return to God” had just been another colossal mistake in a long line of mistakes.

Was this Christian-thing just one big con job? I felt betrayed. I was recoiling from all the stuff I had believed.

If you tust God is THIS what you get?

So I stopped reading my Bible.

I couldn’t pray.

I wanted nothing to do with a God like this!

world in ruinsHow did I get here?

My doubts that had begun as whispers were now shouting at me, “Is this what obedience brings?”

Everywhere I looked I saw only devastation and chaos!

I wondered, “What kind of a loving God loves like this?”

God hears even the faintest whisper in our hearts.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is hidden from God. He was “listening in” on all my doubt and inner rage. I didn’t know it then, but He was counting each broken-hearted tear. He was letting me grope my way along in the dark for awhile—just waiting. Waiting for me to finish venting all my frustrations, and for the silence to descend.

Now in the inner quiet He began to whisper.

I grabbed a pen and began to write.

journal

ONLY CHANGED

You there.

Yes YOU sitting in the ashes.

These ruins you see all about you? They are not who you are.
They are not your final destination or your destiny.

I AM!

You are in Me and I AM in you.

Our two lives are as inseparable as a brook that flows into a river. Where does the brook end and the river begin? Hah, you can’t tell Me! That’s how it is with us. My life flowing in you. Your life flowing in Me.

ashesYou look at these ashes and think, “It’s all over now.”

You see ruins where once stood bright hopes and shining dreams, and you think, “What’s the use of dreaming?”

But Sweet Heart look up.

Turn those tear-filled eyes toward Me. I AM still here. You are still here. We are not going to dwell forever in—this place. This is only for a moment in your eternity. A wink! I AM your true Vine not your dreams. Your life flows from Me, not from people, possessions, or calling. Come, dry those eyes. Life is not over. Only changed. But remember what I told you? “I do not change!” I AM the One you can always count on. I AM the Foundation that does not move.

We will be leaving here soon. As we step out of these ashes to begin again? You will see Me transform these ashes of yours into radiant beauty.

You’ll see.

a closer walk

 

“To all who mourn… He will give beauty for ashes.”

Isaiah 61:3

In The Shadow Lands Of Our Story

I am a movie lover. Or, perhaps it would be more appropriate to say, “I am a story-lover.”

Movies, books, it doesn’t matter—I LOVE a great story.

Think about all of your favorite stories. They all have certain things in common, don’t they? Good guys and bad guys, disasters with all kinds of potential (if not actual) hazards. Twists and turns in the plot with questions, questions, questions. What will happen next?
Yes. To have a good story, one that really captures your imagination, you must have all the elements of risk and uncertainty, plus truckloads of unanswered questions that lead up to that suspense-filled finish.
Now, think about your story.
The one you and God are in the process of writing.
The story you call: My Life.
If you’ve been on this planet any length of time I’m guessing your story has had its share of ups-n-downs. Perhaps there’s already a good pile of debris with many well-intentioned-risks that DID NOT turn out the way you had originally planned, yes?
But isn’t that the thing about a good story?
Doesn’t a GOOD story need a few spectacular disasters here or there with a few unexpected cliff-hangers thrown in for good measure? Wouldn’t a story with everything predictable and nothing spectacular be, well, boring?
Now, shall I tell you something really strange?
This seems to be what most Christians want, a nice safe, predictable, boring life, with “certainty” being the rule rather than the exception! And, when they don’t get what they want? This is the point in the story where “the experts” (whoever “they” are) tell us that most Christians give up! Yep, they bail out. Abandon ship. God didn’t come through so, “See yah.”
There seems to be a growing trend for “the faithful” to bail out on their faith. Especially when everything they thought was going to happen, didn’t.
Right where the risks tanked, and all seems lost, and God did not come through like they prayed and believed He would so, “See yah God.”
Apparently yonder hills are scattered with former “sheep” wandering disillusioned, disappointed and discouraged; let down by themselves, others, and yes, even God.

Or, so they think.

Can I confess something? That was me once-upon-a-time.
Thrown into my own (much unwanted) holocaust, beat up, and left for dead. Angry, disappointed, and disillusioned, this is the point in my own story where I was sorely tempted to give it all up and walk away. In the Shadowlands of confusion, pain, and yes, even anger and disgust, where contradiction seemed to rule my every thought and emotion, right there in those dark shadows, where dreams and hopes had withered and died. Where people had lied, disappointed, and disappeared. Right there, in the middle of my story, I was reading, “The End.”
Mighty powerful temptation—giving up.
It’s a wide road. Well populated. Well traveled. Dark and shadowed.
We look at our story’s “first draft” and wad it up, intending to pitch it out, and say, “No good thing can come out of this mess.”

I was watching a great movie over the holidays called, The Shadowlands. It’s the love story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Gresham. Lewis is an Oxford professor, published and successful writer, a sought-after lecturer, living at the heights of his career. Smugly sure of his beliefs, sounding off to others with lofty phrases about God and His ways, until… everything crashes. Everything he believes about God gets shattered by brutal reality. Suddenly he finds himself out in The Shadow Lands with a God he does not recognize and does not want to know. He’s caught in the grip of darkness and pain with no miracle or escape on his horizon.

Now, what?

Enter Joy with his answer!

Not an answer he wants to hear but the answer he needs. She tells him that “The pain now is part of the joy then.” She is speaking of heaven but I started thinking about her statement.

Isn’t that the answer for all of us who find ourselves stumbling through the dark pages of our own story? We imagine and plan a storyline that doesn’t involve pain or disappointment. We want to write happily ever after’s only. No dark disappointments, please. I’ll take bliss and certainty every time.

But aren’t the dark pages an essential part of the greatest stories?

What if that’s an essential part that turns a good story into a GREAT story? Isn’t it at least possible?

And, if God is the one writing the story of our lives, isn’t the temporary part of our journey through the shadowlands, the last place where we should give up? What about the end of the story?

What about the end of yours?

Isn’t the pain we experience now, out in the murky-middle, part of the joy to yet be revealed at the end?

David was chased and threatened by Saul, hiding in caves. Joseph was hated and sold by his brothers, ending up cooling his heels in a dungeon. Joshua was faithful and believing, yet made to wander for forty long years with all the carping-complaining unbelieving. Gideon was at the bottom of a deep hole wondering how did this happen to God’s “chosen” ones?

All of them—destined for great endings—yet walking through The Shadowlands of their own stories.

The shadowlands were not the end of their stories.

Perhaps it’s NOT the end of yours either.

Each day, you and God together are still writing pages to your manuscript, yes? My point?

If you’re walking through the Shadow Lands of your story it’s not finished yet.

Don’t give up now.

No great story ends in the murky-middle.

Yours won’t either.

The shadow Lands is not a destination, it’s just one part of the journey. The pain now will be an integral part of the joy at the finish.

So? Simple. Your story’s not finished yet.

God has not stopped writing your pages.

If He’s not finished—neither are you.

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Broken To Bless

Pottery4I think it was Ruth Graham who wrote, “…there is a broken heart in every pew.”

Many years down the road, with many a “breaking-experience” under my belt, I can say a healthy amen.

We in The Church are “a building” built from broken things.

I recall when I was the editor of my women’s church newsletter.

I went to our Women’s Director purposing a series on suffering. I offered a couple of samples topics and suggested the book of Jeremiah as our ongoing theme. Her response, “We don’t want to hear about these things. Write about happy things.”

I thought at the time, “Seriously?”

I personally knew of many people in our church that were going through a very difficult time.

There were single moms, struggling to get to the next payday, wondering how they would feed their kids. Divorced dads, hemorrhaging internally, but wearing stoic smiles. People out of work wondering only two things—where and when? Folks dealing with catastrophic illnesses, for themselves, or their families. Marriages that were being held together with scotch tape, and half-hearted,  “why-do-we-even-bother” prayers.

Could she not see? Did she not hear? Or, was it just the same old coldness of heart that chooses to walk by the bleeding and broken, choosing “the other side of the road” like Jesus related in the parable of The Good Samaritan.

Today, thirty years later—I still do not understand it.

How can people who meet together to sing about loving the Lord, listen intently to all those fine-sounding-sermons about reaching the lost, but then pass the lost, messy, and broken—looking right through them?

Perhaps it’s going through a few breakings myself. Knowing firsthand, the pain and confusion; the helplessness; the dark and intense days suffering brings.

And yes, I know there are “professional victims” in our Churches. Those who seek a continual attention-feast every time you encounter them. (Yes, I know.) I have also encountered the drama-queens (and kings) who suck all the emotional oxygen from the room. Every church has these folks.

The trick, as I see it, is to not let their choices blind you to the genuine suffering that is all around us.

We are buildings filled with the broken, and yes, sometimes messy ones. People whose lives are in crisis and need our compassion and tenderness.

Our simple and decent caring.

That is what I am pleading for here—hearts that care for the wounded and brokenhearted, rather than walling ourselves off behind aloof and superior stone walls.

Jesus calls each of us to reach for His basin and towel.

My bible says no one is exempt:

Does He not call you, too?

Jesus was always tender with broken hearts—asking what He could do.

Are we, not all called by Him, to do the same?

Is not the last word… His words to us?

 “…YOU …do as I have done for you.”

BROKEN VESSEL

Into a shop, I chanced to go
Seeking vessels high and low
When in a box I casually spied
A broken vessel—cast aside

At first glance, I thought I’d take
These broken pieces for to make
A vessel “new” from broken things
To carry songs and glad tidings

But no! My Master bid me take
This broken vessel, for His sake
And look again… “This jar was you…
Before My loving grace you knew!”

“I came into this world so dark
Received the nails that made their marks,

To gather vessels—not a few,
Shattered and broken, just like YOU;

To bring to wholeness once again,
To piece and polish, glue and mend…”
Ahhhhhhhhhh, now I see!” I answered Him.

“The centerpiece for which I search,
To show, display, inside the Church,
Is BROKEN—like so many more,
That wait for us outside these doors.”

Why are we oh so slow to learn?
Why don’t we see that what man spurns,
Is just the ONE that God will use?
He chooses MOST what we refuse!

I thank you LORD for taking me
A BROKEN THING—that all could see,
Had little use… not much could be…
Reclaimed… restored… for Your glory!

 

 

 

Save

Beloved Prodigal… (Part 1 ~ bat Shuvah)

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The road you’re on is not an easy one. (I should know.) I have been down your road.

It is for that reason I wrote this book.

I am hoping it will plant some seeds of trust in that heart of yours.

The Jewish would call me “bat Shuvah”—she who has returned.

I have returned.

  • To my Abba-Father God.
  • To The Church.
  • I am a Prodigal no longer.

Yes, I returned.

But you know what?

I confess (even today) I still struggle to not get discouraged and go over that hill again.

Perhaps that’s because I also have learned—today’s Church can be a cold and lonely place for the wounded and broken. All the disillusioned, angry, and messy-ones. And yeah, it scares me to confess that truth to you.

Truth is, I grew up in a house full of secrets.

In my house?

It was definitely not okay to be wounded or broken.

(That would have been admitting the truth.)

No, appearances had to be kept up at all cost. Illusions were prized far above truth.

I still shake my head today, thinking back, looking at the choices my parents made I wonder, “Why would anyone want to live like that?” Then, I look at how it still is in today’s Church and I realize, not much has changed. People still live lives of posing and pretense.

Perhaps they think it easier… less messy—to just fake it.

But my heart has to ask, “Isn’t that just a waste… to live an unreal life?”

I mean…

“How do you ever become “REAL” without telling your real story?”

6a1d6b965ff0038f17473284a4997d96So, here it is. Mine, with all of its ugly scars, brittle edges, and more than a little healed-crooked, hard won, Jacob-type-leaning, and limping.

I’ve come a long way from that crooked and broken road.

(Been through some fierce storms, too.)

I hope I’ve learned—a little…

And maybe even earned… my place?

To speak to that deeply wounded heart of yours.

 



 


 

CODE RED

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I am stumbing through grief again.

“So soon?” my heart whispered.

It seems as if I had just recovered from one huge loss when I got the jarring news that someone I loved dearly had been whisked away.

Gone.

Death always jars me to my toes.

I never get used to it no matter how many times I walk through it.

And I wonder, “Is this the way it is with everyone?”

So here I am again walking through each day in a kind of a gray fog. Trying to concentrate on the next thing; the next step; the next breath; and not doing a very good job of any of it.

My eyes gush tears when I least want them.

My heart overflows with this new empty.

I am lost in a maze of memories I can’t hold back or control no matter how hard I try.

I drift. I flounder.

I reach for answers I already know I won’t find; can’t find, until Jesus and I are face to face.

I scold myself. Telling myself, “This is how it is at your age. Loss will be a regular part of normal now.”

But grappling with that truth doesn’t help much.

The bible warns us, “You do not know what a day will bring forth.”

“Yeah.” I think. “No kidding.”

Like the other day.

We had just had a nice lunch with some visiting family. A pleasant afternoon. Peaceful. Little did we suspect that in just a few short hours we would be sitting in the kitchen reminiscing and the phone would ring with words flashing across the T.V. screen — CODE RED!

I stared at the screen then at the face of my friend as her expression went from happy to grave.

She was listening intently to the message from our caller.

emergency-response-training-9-638Then she hung up and calmly announced, “We have been told to pack up whatever we can and be prepared to evacuate.

There is a wildland fire burning north of here; it’s headed our way.”

We just stared at one another for a moment, stunned; trying to absorb the warning; trying to think. What should we do first?

What do you pack up when you have only moments to decide what needs to be saved, and what you must walk away from, and surrender to the flames?

“You do not know what a day will bring forth…”  James 4:14 warns.

(For sure!)

The ONLY thing that is certain in this life is it’s abiding and constant uncertainty.

So let me ask you a question

“What are you going to decide to do with His pearl that we call: The Gospel?”

It is the MOST important decision you will ever make.

Perhaps this is your CODE RED.

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Apart from His blood that He shed on His cross FOR YOU, to cover your sin, so that you can walk into the city of God, a citizen of His Kingdom?

You have no hope of heaven!

There is no other way.

The micro-second you step into eternity your decision and the choice have been made. It will be settled for all of eternity. No arguments. No explantions. No second chances, or do-overs. Nope.

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through me.  —John 14:6  NIV

None of us know when death will come knocking at our door.

(None of us do.)

Don’t put this decision off.

Some things can wait.

This can’t.

To refuse to decide — is to decide.

Seasons

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Father—Creation that you’ve made!

Spring’s sweet buds, and Summer’s glade;

Pumpkin’s orange in Fall’s bright pallet,

Forest’s sleep ‘neath Winter’s mallet…

~~~

Your seasons teach me lessons stern;

Lessons that, I needs, must learn;

That all year ’round — these changes show,

I must change if I’m to grow!

~~~

1308a7b0e1add324fa76cc5904cb37a9Why do I fight it? Fists clenched tight…

Why resist with all my might?

…with each new season in my life,

Relentless Change’s pruning knife?

~~~

Cutting away the worn, with cost,

And though I weep at what I’ve lost;

Change will not yeild — but cutting still,

Bids me swallow this bitter-pill…

~~~

‘Tis not the death of Heaven’s dream…492c7237fbdcbe72b996796e66a3ee92

‘Tis not The Father’s heartless scheme!

But Tender Wisdom from above,

Calling him Home…

Because — he’s Loved!

~~~

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And so these tears — this Season’s end…

This bitter loss of Beloved Friend;

I will accept because I know,

Change must come… and you must go…

But never forget, how we loved you so!

For My Beloved Prodigal—free at last, July 2016

Changed In The Dark

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I’ve had you in the dark – it’s true!

How could you understand?

That all from the beginning

Is exactly as I’ve planned.

~~~

Could I choose, dear one, to smash your heart?

No, it would be cruelest wrong

Instead my plan, to change your heart,

And give it bright new song

~~~

I know the dark times frightened you

And filled your heart with dread…

But could I have surprised you

If you’d glanced what was ahead?

~~~

Release the past – gone is the old;

“Away… all former things!”

Instead unfold, with heart now bold

My gift to you… these WINGS!

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Ashes

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As I sit here, from Heaven’s view

Watching you weep among the ashes?

I wish you could see, what I see

The other life that crashes

~~~

Don’t think that you’re the only one,

That’s wandering through destruction;

That I’ve no plan to take it all

And begin the reconstruction…

~~~

Just like I’ve done so many times,

I’ll take all you have been through

And build a life that honors Me

Your hopes and dreams renew

~~~

I’ll carve from despair and discouragement,

Weakness, loss, and pain,

Doors of delight and deliverance,

Meaning and priceless gain.

~~~

Then with your humbled thankfulness,

I’ll build one final door

And you will lead—countless others through

To salvation forevermore

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Surrendering A Dream For A God Sized More

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Oh, the agony and the ecstasy of surrendering a dream!

I’ve learned so much about dreams.

They don’t “just happen” for one thing. They are often years and years of long hours (Twelve years to be exact!) and many hours of very hard work.

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They are a gift from God, yes.

But…

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They must always be held loosely, ready to be surrendered if He asks us to.

And He does ask.

(Sometimes.)

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I’ve learned that not everyone will rejoice in your dream.

No.

Some will, but some will look on your dream with envy, and even hatred. People close. People you trusted. Seems unthinkable. I know. But it’s real. Sadly real.

They want your dream to fail and when it succeeds instead? Their bitter anger is quite a shock.

It’s part of the cost. (The agony part.) And you need to know it happens.

Though you will try hard to prevent it, you cannot control another’s heart-choices.

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People will marvel at what you’ve done; at what you and God have accomplished.

(You and God will know the real truth.)

It was mostly HIM!

You just got to go along for the wild ride.

You know His Truth, “…apart from Him, you can do nothing.”

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The compliments will be nice.

Life affirming!

You will get to know yourself in a new way you never could have, apart from your dream coming true that is.

A dream will test you. It will test your gifts, your strength, your love of God. (Oh, yes!) That, too.

There will be tears.

Dreams have MUCH joy. But also (at times) much sorrow.

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You may discover (like me) that this dream everyone believes “fits you so perfectly” doesn’t really “fit you” the way you thought it might—once hoped it would.

No, not at all.

Someday, someone might challenge you to, “Ask for more.”

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And in your heart of hearts? You know there is much MORE God has for you. He has created you for His plan and for His purpose, for His Kingdom.

People will think you’re crazy! Say you’re crazy. (And you will think you’re a little bit crazy, too, sometimes.)

To surrender so much? To just walk away? To lay all these lesser things, these lesser dreams, down?

It will hurt.

But His Voice that is calling to you on the inside where only you can hear is saying,

“There is more… trust Me.”

And so you walk away.

You refuse to fight, quarreling in some sleazy courtroom over nickels and dimes.

Many will say, “You are wrong. Totally crazy! Get an attorney! Fight for what is legally yours! Right is right, after all. Demand your rights!”

But, here’s the thing.

First, the word of God says quite clearly, one believer is not to take another believer to court. [1 Cor. 6:1 ] That’s a BIG problem if you’re trying to live out what you say you believe.

Second, I knew in my heart. I was longing for something more than this “little dream” could provide. I had been feeling that something was missing. A big something.

I was longing for more than mere money. I wanted purpose. Eternal purpose. Intangibles, with eternal significance.

So, my choice seemed clear to me.

I released my smaller dream believing for God’s MORE.

I let The Takers in my life, TAKE.

Without a war.

It wasn’t easy! It certainly wasn’t painless! You may be so Christ-like you could walk away from your half of a six-figure business, but me? I struggled BIG time, for a LONG-time!

But again, if we really believe what we read in our Bibles, then I knew there would be far-reaching eternal consequences to everyone’s choices.

I will come face-to-face with Jesus someday and answer for mine alone.

I will leave others to answer for theirs.

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So I made mine. I laid down this dream-come-true.

(Sigh.)

ONCE UPON A TIME… I had a little book shop.

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The loveliest little shop.

The sweetest, dreamiest, little shop.

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(Everyone said so.)

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But I laid it all down.

I gave up ALL those heavy weights for A God-Sized-MORE.

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“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.  And whoever does not carry their cross and FOLLOW ME cannot be my disciple… In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”         Luke 14:25-27, 33-35 NIV

Thank you Abba for teaching me againNOTHING this world has to give matters more, satisfies me more… than Your smile.

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It was my great honor to serve you Siskiyou County. Thank you for your support and patronage, your friendship, and most of all, your love!

God bless you all, Martha “Molly” woundresser.com