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 They become withdrawn and reclusive.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.

An Attitude of Gratitude During A Pit Stop

??????????????A pit can be a hole, a grave, a feeling in the bottom of your belly – or it can be a place of refreshment – like in race car driving – the pit is where the drivers pull in to be refreshed and to have their vehicles refueled and repaired. But we certainly don’t think that way about our pits, do we?

When you find yourself in a pit, do you look at it as a place of refreshing and reparation, a place of being refreshed?

A pit is a place of trial and testing that God has pre-ordained whether it is directly from Him or He permits it. He gives us tests and trials. They are gifts, though we don’t always see the gift because we, if we are honest with ourselves, we are rarely Kingdom-minded.

The purpose of a trial is not to take away from you; it’s to add to you. God’s economy is about abundance and provision not lack and need.

He doesn’t live inside us because He has nowhere better to go. He lives there to make Himself known to us intimately. From Him, through Him and in Him are all things. That is a kingdom mindset.

We cannot be believers, disciples, or ambassadors of Yeshua and allow the people watching us, see us living anything but as Kingdom dwellers here on earth, especially when we’re in the pit. We can’t lead anyone from a pit without an attitude of gratitude.

Our tests and trials are given to us to lead us into a path of growth – into a fresh anointing of the Spirit for the glory of Jehovah.

When we go through trials we are meant to be learning how to walk with God and submit ourselves to Him by sitting at the feet of His throne, by listening to Him – to His plans, to learn His ways of thinking especially in regard to our relationship with Him.

The spiritual sitting at His feet takes place before His throne; from time to time, the physical sitting takes place in a pit. But this should come as no surprise to us. “A servant is not greater than his master.” John 15:20. Should we live an easier life than Yeshua?

A time in the pit is a “pit stop” it’s not a “pit stay”. If you begin in the pit from a faithless perspective, your situation will not end well. If you begin from a place of trust and gratitude you will end the way God planned it to end.

The first words we have to speak when we find ourselves in a pit are found in: Psalm 103:1-5

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.”

When we bless Him, He blesses us and we can be fruitful and bless others.

The Name You Gave Me

HopeI saw you leaning over the bulbs you had just planted. Your hands caressed the soil as if it was velvet. A drop of sweat fell from your brow. The rose pushed through the soil and bloomed beneath your gaze. It reached up and kissed you. You sat down and began to speak. I wondered, as I watched in awe, to whom were you speaking. You seemed filled with joy; I wanted what you had. My gaze was fixed upon you.

You sat in the dirt and leaned back against the fence as you reached for a mason jar filled with water. You looked refreshed as you quenched your thirst. The late morning sun began to blaze upon you – the rose looked weary though it had not toiled as you had. You removed a handful of seeds from your pocket and put them in your mouth then spit them to the ground. Each seed took root before my very eyes. Sunflowers grew immediately providing shade and shelter for you and the rose. Your mason jar in hand, you poured the left over water around the rose. The roots drank it up; the rose bloomed. You smiled and began to speak again. Who were you speaking to? As if at your command, your empty jar replenished itself with cool water. If I hadn’t seen it, I would have never believed it.

One after another, roses of differing colours began to sprout around you. You began to draw in the dirt;  writing something perhaps. I was watching from a distance, marveled by this power you possessed; humbled by your dedication to the seeds you had sown. Every seed grew up strong in your presence. My curiosity drew me closer to you. I quietly inched my way closer to see what you had drawn in the sand  – you hadn’t drawn at all – you had written something. I stepped on a dry twig; you looked in my direction. I felt as if you could see through the shrubs I was using as a veil – as if you could see right through me. The sun began to peak in the sky. I was hot, afraid to move, afraid you would discover me, frightened that you could see into the very depth of my soul – where nothing grew. My heart pounded in my chest in anticipation of what was to come – what might be – if I would surrender.

You closed your eyes and picked up the mason jar, pouring water into the palm of your hand and then you blew, ever so gently, into your hand. My breath was taken away. The tiniest droplets of water began to fall upon me. It wasn’t rain; it was more like a refreshing mist. The flowers seemed to be moving closer, bowing their blossoms as if to read what you had written in the dirt. You smiled and looked up into the crystal blue sky and the flowers began to sing. They sang in harmony but from where did the music come? I don’t know how I knew, but I just knew the music was coming from your heart. I thought to myself, if I were to live but a moment more could it be in your arms? Your head slowly turned toward me as if to answer my request. You held out your arm – your spirit hearkened to mine, “Come.” Suddenly I knew that I was yours – that you had come for me – that we could be separated no more. It was predestined; I had always been yours. My clothes became brilliant as the sun. As I drew near to you, you seemed to draw near to me, but you had not moved. You reached for my hand and when we touched I tingled from the inside out. You looked through my eyes into my soul and I knew I was pure, I was beautiful. I felt your grip tighten every so slightly – you didn’t even have to speak. I looked down at what you had written in the soil. My heart leapt in my bosom. I was filled with knowledge and understanding. You had written the name of your betrothed – the love of your heart, the lover of your soul – it was my name…Hope, the name you gave me, a desire for you that you had planted within my soul from the beginning. You left the garden, but you stayed with me always and forever. You established my roots firmly; you gave me rest. You gave me shelter and my jar shall always be full.

The Refiner’s Fire

Recently, a show aired on television that showed how the ancients refined gold and silver. The refining of metals dates back to 550 BC at Sardis, where the first coins were minted. The refiner would heat the fire to 700 degrees to melt the silver and then pour it into clay jars. The impurities would float to the top and stick to the edges of the pots. How did the refiner know when the silver was pure? He knew when he could see a perfect reflection of himself in the silver.

I have to admit that I often struggle with the knowledge that I have been made in God’s image because at any given time I can take a spiritual look at myself in the mirror and I have yet to see His perfect image staring back at me. After watching this show, it became clear to me that the fact that I do not see His reflection it does not mean that I am not made in His image and it does not mean that I will never see His reflection looking back at me. Refining gold and silver is a process.

Malachi 3:2-3 describes Yeshua’s coming as follows: “For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.”

When I accepted Yeshua into my heart, my life changed immediately. My image did not. I became a child of God, but I did not always look like one to those around me, especially in the beginning. The process however commenced immediately.

I look at many circumstances, events – and from time to time – a crisis here and there. In retrospect, I can see that in all of things, God has allowed the heat to be turned up in order to separate the dross from my character by this very process. I am called to reflect grace and mercy, not unkindness and judgment. I am called to reflect courage and faith, not cowardice and fear. I am called to live and walk in integrity, not dishonesty. The purification or refining in my life is a continuous process, one that deepens my dependency on Him, one that brings me into a more intimate relationship with Him, and one that brings me closer to having His reflection look back at me in that spiritual mirror.

Knowing Him is loving Him. Loving Him is doing as He did in the same nature and spirit as He did. His Refiner’s Fire is not limited to the Levites….

The Furnace of Affliction

The LightWhen we find ourselves calling upon God to rescue us from the furnace of affliction what we’re really doing is asking Him to save us from an opportunity whose primary function is to bring Him glory and secondary function is to inspire growth in us.

I never find myself asking Him to remove circumstances from my life when they suit me.  When things are humming along I’m likely at my happiest though I rarely learn anything in these situations. I guess you could call that “blissful ignorance” and it’s safe to say that I don’t bring much glory to God because my focus becomes self-centred. Candidly speaking, it seems that the longer things go well, the less grateful I am. Why? Because the condition of my spirit begins to degrade – in the Old Testament days that is what they called a “hardened heart”. How many people really spend much time on their knees in worship, praise, prayer and thanksgiving when things are going splendidly?

Then there are those times – when I am being pulled out of the furnace that it seems to me I’m most grateful. It all has to do with mindset – where my focus is – and it’s usually on myself and my comfort rather than God and His promises for my life.

But here’s something new I’d like to try on, (did I just say that?). What would you say if I told you that the best place to practice gratitude is actually in the furnace of affliction? So, why am I not filled with gratitude when God stokes the fire a little? I know that every moment I spend in the furnace results in a spiritual upgrade, but for some reason – the “old man” in me seems to have the ability to resurrect itself when the coals begin to turn red.

Yahweh was in the furnace with Abednego, Meshach Shadrach,  but since then He has made atonement for us, He is in us in the furnace – with all-conquering power and glory. Before we even step in there, He knows what the outcome will be and He invites us to come into the fire. I have, on occasion, bowed down to fear rather than accept His invitation.

It’s all in the mindset – like Joshua and Caleb who believed and saw the promise of God while the other ten spies needed see in order to  believe. Glory is achieved in the furnace – His and ours. Daniels’ friends stepped into the furnace full on and later came out refreshed and with an attitude of gratitude. God is in our circumstances – we belong with Him.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NIV.

Loneliness

LonelyIf you Google the word “lonely” the results are, inevitably, a list of more than 172 MILLION are returned in .26 seconds. By the time I’m through writing this post, it might be even higher.

Many people believe that being alone and being lonely are synonymous. In fact, they are not. Being alone is a choice one makes; being lonely – for the most part – is not. I am an introvert and I enjoy being alone – I like and quite look forward to solitude. I don’t enjoy being lonely. I have had an extensive amount of experience in this area.  Some of my lovely, and well-meaning friends and family members have often recommend that I join groups and find things to do as a means of meeting other people. Joining an organization – such as a gym, or joining a bowling league, for example – are activities. Being lonely is not always related to an absence of activities. Being lonely doesn’t necessarily indicate an absence of loving family members or friends.

I am not a member of the Lonely Heart’s Club. My opinions don’t represent the opinions of all the lonely people in the world; I can only speak for myself. Being lonely is a heart condition. I have been (many times) in rooms filled with people who truly care about me and the feelings are reciprocated – yet I have – many of these times – felt lonely and alone and hopeless. For some, myself included, that can be a dangerous place to be for too long a period.

Loneliness is accompanied by a persistent ache, whose description is almost impossible to put into words. It’s like a cancer looming in the soul of your existence. Oh, sure it might seem to go into remission from time to time but then you wake up one day and just know it’s back. Each time it returns you sure it’s here to stay this time. It wants your life. You don’t know why it’s here, but it hurts so very much – no one can possibly understand your pain.  Some even say, “But you’re so lucky. You’re so blessed. You should be happy”…. They haven’t been there. They don’t understand. There is something significant to be said when a person can examine the exterior of another’s life and determine that, because they are blessed, suffering has been taken off the table.

If you are suffering, I want you to know that I have been there and I do understand. If you think, even for a moment, that ending your life will solve this problem … I’m writing to you specifically.

There was a time in my life when the pain of loneliness was so great that even the love of my beautiful children could not fill the emptiness that seeped into my thoughts, heart and spirit. All the faking in the world may have fooled others but it never fooled me. It seemed that loneliness was my shadow and the sun exacerbated my pain by shining into my darkness. There were times where it took more energy than I had to keep on, to hope. Hope requires energy … or does it?

Maybe you’ve been in this “place” for so long you have completely given up hope. Can I ask you, since you’re here and reading, can you please just hang on a bit longer? Will you do that for me? I know that we perhaps have never met, but we do know each other. We share a bond and that means that you’re not alone! There are far too many people still suffering, but TRUST me when I say, there are many who were able to move past this. There is hope. There IS hope.

It may seem that hope requires too much energy – what it really requires of us is to make a commitment to hang on to all hope, when all hope seems lost. Hanging on does not equate to filling the emptiness with substances or activities such as: shopping, alcohol, relationships, pornography, television, working 12 hours a day or, even exercise done to extremes. Hanging on to hope does not mean waiting for another human being to fill the void. Neither does hanging on to hope mean engaging in the latest methods of  “self” improvement; there is nothing “wrong” with you … there’s something missing. While all these things may very well take a temporary bite out of loneliness the problem will always be there unless you find the only thing that fits the void. If you’re searching for a permanent way out of loneliness I can assure you that the hole inside you right now will be felt for next to eternity, by those who love you, if you leave this world before trying to fill your own with a living and perpetual hope.

By design, we came into being with an emptiness, a void, a hole in our spirits. Our Creator fits into that hole. He longs to fill that emptiness in you. He longs to complete you. He is kind and loving and waits for an invitation. He will not bulldoze His way into your heart. Call on Him. He will answer. I guarantee it. He answered me and I was no one special, but I am now because His hope lives in me. Please, call His name. He is our Hope – the author and finisher of our faith.

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His Holy name,” Psalm 33:20

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the Lord, who remains faithful forever,” Psalm 146:5-6

“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my saviour, and my hope is in you all day long,” Psalm 25:5-6