The Widow of Zarapheth

HopeHave you ever come to a place of utter desperation? Maybe financial problems plaguing you. Maybe a separation or divorce. Maybe dealing with a wayward child, or dealing with a potentially terminal illness. Days, weeks and months go by as you do all you can, in your own strength, to handle the issue that never seems to come to resolve. You come to the end of yourself – the desperation has overtaken you.

 

There’s a story of a widow who lived in the town of Zarapheth with her young son. They were dirt poor and starving – to death. She was hopeless and contemplating suicide. Holding on to her son tightly, she called out to God as a last resort; her pleas returned to her like a boomerang.

 

Whether believing in God, or not, everyone eventually prays for help.

 

Someone came alongside the widow and prayed for her, standing in the gap for her and her needs.  Her prayers were answered. No doubt she was grateful for her blessing; it saved her son’s life as well as her own.

 

Sometimes, when we believe all hope is lost, that can be the moment God steps in and answers our prayers – rarely the way in which we expected. Once there is a resolution, even if its not exactly what we were hoping for, our peace returns to us, or, for the person who doesn’t believe in answered prayers – a type of homeostasis returns.

 

The widow and her son lived on for some time, enjoying everyday life. Some time later, her son became seriously ill. Her faith was again lost. Forgotten was the answered prayer of the past. All focus remained on her very dark and present situation.

 

So often people quickly forget that hope is real and mustn’t be forsaken. Hope is something we need to breathe in – it’s a living thing inside us that needs nurturing. Hope is the anchor, the anchor of faith that we all need in our lives.

 

The widow gave up hope as her son came sank closer to death. She lashed out in anger. She lost her hope. But God, once again made a believer out of her.

 

How many times have our cries resulted in our tears being wiped away, only to find that at the next crossroad, we keep taking the same left turn over and over again. What is the answer to remain at peace always and filled with hopeful expectation? “This hope [this confident assurance] we have as an anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whatever pressure bears upon it]—a safe and steadfast hope that enters within the veil [of the heavenly temple, that most Holy Place in which the very presence of God dwells].” Hebrews 6:19 Amplified.

 

Stand firm. Believe. Hope. Give thanks.

Rescued from the Pit

Female Warrior 2From the beginning, you had your sights set on me. You watched me from afar – every move – every single step, until you could predict my comings and goings.

You moved in closer, only enough to hear the sound of my voice and my cries. Listening and watching a small girl . . .  you stalked me – raping my innocence after his wickedness had violated me. He shut me up. You moved in closer, serving me a deadly cocktail of shame, guilt and fear. I didn’t know any better and I drank.

He couldn’t leave me alone – his sin was your entry point – your pleasure. You observed intently, missing nothing. You listened to my pain, pain that left grooves in my mind. I stopped feeling. I hid everything from everyone. I was dead on the inside, buried alive in my own life.  You treasured my pain because it birthed a diabolic plan that you would stick around, a very long time, to execute. You thought you had me – an eternal conquest.,

But you were wrong. I grew up like we all do. I made a choice that didn’t include you. You see, I’ve been rescued and redeemed from the pit you sentenced me to live in. He has other plans for me – plans that don’t include harm, plans that will prosper me. He’s everything I’ve ever needed or wanted. He is my fortress. He is faithful and strong. He is my refuge in a storm, and shade from the heat. He is my Rock and my Provider. He is my Comforter, my Hope, and my Advocate. He is my Redeemer, my Saviour and my Lord. He helps me and guides me. He is compassionate and very jealous, very powerful, ever present and all consuming. He is with me and in me and for me. So, there’s no room for you anymore.

I am serving you with an eviction notice; that’s right – no apologies. You’ll need to pack quickly. I will no longer be troubled or harassed by you. You’re no longer welcome here. You have no power or authority over me. You can’t steal anything from me anymore. You’re done. Finished. From now on, I’ll see you coming from afar. We’ll be ready for you. I have the power and authority to trample serpents and scorpions and you, sir, are a snake if I ever saw one. You can move into the pit; it’s already been decorated for you.

“But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster.” 1 Kings 5:4

You are my Desire

mountain landscapeYou have called me from the pit and raised me up by your strong and mighty right hand. You placed my feet on solid ground – a lasting foundation of hope.I will not fall, for I lean on you, my Cornerstone.

The morning dawns, I awaken to thoughts of you.

I see you in everything – everywhere I go.

 

I see your face in flowers, in the landscape, in the clouds and by the sea – your beauty is reflected in all creation.

I hear your still small voice and your whisper through the leaves rustling in the trees

I feel your touch as the sun lights on my face and wraps me in your warmth.

I weep at the thought of being alone – of being separated from you. You are all I need and more.

I have desired you with all I am. I seek you with all my heart.

You are with me in soul and spirit.

Your counsel is my comfort; your wisdom is my strength.

You shower me with love and tender mercies every morning.

You have put my past far from me and set my eyes on tomorrow – a future with you – eternity.

Your blessings are countless. I speak of them often to those you set before me, a testimony to your unfailing love.

My love deepens with the knowledge and wisdom you impart to me. Your Word illuminates my life.

I am filled with you. Your promises sustain me.

I am complete in you alone, my true love, my Saviour, my God.

My Beating Heart

love boxBlue skies darken. A stark gray moves in slowly as the clouds engulf the sun. Cold winds pass through me. The day is hardened. A new season begins – trials and tribulation abound.My heart beats for you and I trust.

My enemy stands against me, tormenting me. Fear knocks – I dare not open the door. Announcing a grim destiny – but you offer eternity.

My heart beats for you and I turn.

Hanging on. Counting on – your saving words. I battle from victory. Believing is seeing. He relents. You remain.

My heart beats for you and I rest.

The light of dawn shines forth from the east – a refreshing mist … a rainbow of promise. Your presence follows.

My heart beats for you and I worship.

From existence without life – my past washed away by your love. Forgiven. Restored. Reconciled.

My heart beats for you and I rejoice.

In your arms, your strong right hand – your protection, your healing, your promises and peace. Life reborn.

My heart beats for you and I serve.

A Star is Born; She Should Light up Someone’s Life

StarlightShe lived in a frigid room for nine months. There were no belly strokes, no songs sung, only the negative vibrations filtered down through the lifeline. Unwelcome.

It frightened her – reluctant to stay and equally reluctant  to leave. What if the outside was as uninviting as the inside? She was not chosen. There was nothing between the donors but anger and resentment echoed by the shrill but unspoken words between them. I don’t want to be with you. You make me sick. But the worse words of all meant to curse the womb – I don’t want this baby – your baby. A shock reverberated to the depths – stinging, poison, scarring the one within – a sentence meant to deliver a death blow. Little chance. Little hope.

Deeper than the pain that seared to her core,  a small beating heart began to pound. She began to move, making her way into the cold arms of a stranger.

Before it all – a seed sown that would one day grow. There was hope. She had been chosen by someone. She would light up His life.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:13-16

 

The Funk

TreibsandHave you ever felt it? Have you ever been in a dark place where any movement on your part will only bury you alive? Have you ever felt so naked, so stripped down, unveiled, exposed, unmasked, vulnerable, defenseless … have you ever felt raw? There’s hope.

When a person is in that state they are unable to articulate their pain. They become withdrawn and reclusive. Suddenly, they have nothing to say, no opinion to contribute. Nothing is worth the effort of stringing words together to form a thought. Everything they say and do comes from a place of emptiness, an emptiness that just can’t be filled by another human being, no matter how much they love you. You might not want to die, but the thought of continuing in life is exhausting. There’s Hope.

People seem to need a name for this “condition”. Some call it depression. Others call it Seasonal Affective Disorder and some just refer to it as a lack of faith.

Against every bit of judgment, good or bad, I am going to expose myself … there’s a reason this blog is named “Unveiling Hope”. At the risk of worrying my family and friends, let me state for the record that I am not suicidal so don’t rush over or call; don’t worry and don’t feel guilty if we haven’t touched base in some time. This post serves a purpose.

Several times a year I go through what I call a grand funk. It is a state that I seem to slip into ever so slowly that I don’t even recognize what is happening until I am full on engulfed by it. Most often, by then, there is nothing anyone can do to help me for the most part because they don’t know what is going on. I have become quite adept at hiding the ugly little truth.  For certain, there is that part of me that wants people to think I’ve always got it all together and I can handle everything that life throws at me – even though I’m sure no one actually thinks that. No, this “thing” takes hold of me. It wraps itself around me and squeezes until there is almost nothing left of me. My silence gives it power. I become fearful that people might misunderstand if I tell them what is going on. I’m cruel to myself. I yell inside “Don’t cry! Whatever you do, don’t cry!” Those words still resonate … haunting voices of days gone by.

I’ve also become accomplished at changing masks, wearing whatever mask I believe needs to be worn at any particular moment. I’ve been afraid to be the real me so much so that there are times I’m not even sure where I begin and the mask ends. It sounds rather pathetic to say but when I’m in this state, I haven’t the foggiest idea who I am. I believe however that it is the very action of veiling my truth that becomes a generating station of denial that only serves to sink me deeper and deeper into the funk. Who am I trying to impress?

So, you might be wondering, why I am sharing this? Or perhaps you’re thinking you should call 9-1-1. Why am I exposing my pain for all to see? Why am I doing the very thing that I have kept private and hidden from so many, so well, and for so long? It hurts too much to bury it. I feel like I’m being pulled into it deeper. Keeping it in doesn’t seem to be serving me any purpose. The funk must have a function. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Do I actually benefit from the state of raw? Is there any good that can possibly come out of an experience where someone is so exposed that every nerve throbs and the thoughts they think hurt? I think there is.

I have heard some well-meaning people tell me that I should pray more or that I lack faith and that is why this happens to me. But they are wrong. Maybe this doesn’t happen to me but happens for me; maybe it happens to me for others. There is only one certainty when I am in the funk: by God’s grace and mercy, I will prevail. I will be victorious. Some would argue, what kind of God would allow you thrash about in quicksand for an indeterminate period of time? The fact is that only a loving God would allow it because there is something that needs to be learned and shared. Experience tells me that no matter how long the funk lasts He will rescue me and I will always come out better than when I went in. I have learned to ride the wave and hang on to Him for my very life. There are absolutely times that I FEEL I’ll not make it this time, but I KNOW that I will because He has NEVER left me or forsaken me … never. He is the Hope I hang on to.

Each time I go through this, I become a stronger person, but more importantly, I become a more compassionate person. I know what people are going through and I can usually see it coming before they become fully overtaken by it. My journey has taught me (keeps teaching me) that I am able to stand along another and say, “I know Someone who can help.” Faith is believing in what you cannot see because you know it will be, even though it doesn’t feel so.

If you’re in a funk at this moment, I want you to know that you are not alone. I want you to know that you’re not crazy. I want you to know that it is not a lack of faith that got you to this point but faith will sustain you whilst you are there and He will lead you out. You will overcome. You will be victorious.

Be the best you that you can be today and don’t measure your goodness and value by someone else’s standards. If you can barely “be” at this moment, hang on to all hope. Hang on for dear life because life is precious.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have.” 1 Peter 3:15

My Hope is in Jesus.

Now, that’s Deep!

back massage detailA couple of years ago, I was preparing to run a 5K. I had spent several weeks adding on a block or two of distance and pushing myself a little bit harder every day. I had never run before; I was careful not to push so hard that I might injure myself before the race. I just wanted to do it to prove to myself that I could do it, to prove to myself that I was tough. There was however a life lesson throughout the process which did not manifest itself to me until such time as I would be open to absorb it and learn from it. Unfortunately for me, that time was later rather than sooner. Welcome to my world.

Thinking that a “deep tissue” massage might prepare my muscles for the big day and relax me at the same time, I made an appointment for the afternoon before the race. Is there a better way to end the work day than laying beneath a heated, thick, fluffy duvet with the sound of birds and crickets chirping in the background? The room was the perfect temperature; it wasn’t too dark, just dark enough to lull my body into a false sense that it was bed time. I took a deep breath, you know the kind that a child takes after crying – three breaths in one. Ah … I can’t imagine how much better this will be once the massage begins … sigh …. deep breaths of a relaxing proportion such that I could not remember having in years … if ever.

The massage therapist tapped on the door before entering. I watched, through the slits of my almost closed eyes, as she poured oil into her hands and warmed it. “Tell me if I’m too rough,” she whispered over the the chirps coming from the corner of the room. She asked me to roll onto my stomach and began with a gentle effleurage over my back and moved down to my thighs. Am I in Heaven already? I sighed. “Sometimes people can’t really handle deep tissue massage,” she stated. Clearly, she didn’t know me. I’m a rock. I’m built of sturdy stuff. I can take anything you can throw at me. “Just take those knots out of my muscles” I pleaded.

As her tiny, warm hands worked the muscles in my thighs I began to nod off. That feels so great, I thought.  I hope I don’t fall asleep. Oh … yes … that’s sooo nice … OH!! DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN! WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME!?  I was suddenly catapulted from a  sweet dream into a nightmare. What the … “Am I going too deep?” she asked as I tensed up. “Oh, not at all” I replied (lied). WOMAN! ARE YOU CRAZY? TELL HER THE TRUTH!! I couldn’t. I just kept thinking, if it hurts this much now, I’m sure it’ll feel great when she is through. I said nothing. I could take it. After all, I gave birth to two children. I was, for the most part, a single mom. I’ve spent a life time sucking it up. There was no way a massage was going to ruin my record or put a dent in my pride …  so  … I held it in. I could have told her it was a little rough. She wouldn’t have minded; it would have made no difference to her.The once tiny digits that caressed and kneaded my muscles now seemed like little boney, coat hanger-like fingers digging their way into every nerve ending of my body. She likely would have welcomed a slight change in pressure, but I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything. I sucked it up.

Sixty minutes later I rolled off that little table, the table that once lured me onto it with its soft, warm, fluffy duvet. I limped out of the office and winced as I tried to get into my vehicle. I could barely control the steering wheel. My arms and even my hands felt like they had been flashed frozen and thrown into a fire. Hot bath! Hot bath! Hot bath! My Sweet Lord, please help me. I’m dying!

That night was a sleepless one. Even my once soft mattress abused what was left of me. Needless to say, the following day, I missed the race. I could barely get out of bed. In fact, I could barely walk or move for the next three days. Was God giving me a deep tissue spiritual massage?

Sometimes God will use insignificant things, people, or events to teach us something He desires us to learn. Sometimes, He has to teach the lesson more than once. So, what was I supposed to learn that day that He’s had to re-teach me several times since then? Humility and vulnerability are precious to a person’s growth. I had spent months preparing for  a race that I was not able to run because my pride got in the way. That massage therapist would not have care if I would have said, “How about a not-so-deep tissue massage?” She was getting paid either way. She was not going to go home and tell her husband about the tough broad who was able to endure everything she had to dish out. I was afraid she would see that I was human; I had limits as to what I could handle. She was unknown to me. It was likely that I would likely NEVER see her again but I felt the need to continue the charade that I had become so adept at playing even before a complete stranger. Opening ourselves up, being vulnerable and authentic, is of more benefit to us than it is to the world of people around us.

Do you keep everything inside? Do you force yourself to live up to your own high and most often unreasonable standards? Are you trying to live up to someone else’s unreasonable standards? Is it difficult for you to say “enough”? Are you trying to please others at your own expense?

Was God’s plan for me to actually run that race? Or, was His plan to provide me with a life lesson … one that I soon forgot and would have to learn again and again and again? Life is not easy but there is always the blessing of a teachable moment if we set our “self” aside and open our hearts and minds to listen and adjust accordingly. A candid conversation with a friend recently brought that lesson to my mind … again. We are human. The people we love are there to remind us of these lessons when we let them inside. Don’t be afraid of being judged if you don’t complete the race you had planned out. There is always a spiritual race being run that is far more important than the races we try to run in the natural.

“For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11.