All in

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You entered my life in a quiet way

like rippling waters

approaching from afar

touching so lightly that

I could barely feel it

a hand – inviting me to share

life

I wasn’t there.

 

But you were.

you were always present, aware

a witness to the violence and abuse,

for the lies and the drama,

the rejection and abandonment.

I think sometimes I heard you cry

when I no longer could, or would.

 

Even now I ask myself, what did I do? Where did I go wrong?

but you’ve always had

your hand upon me

telling me it wasn’t my fault

though I wouldn’t listen.

there were good times – I see that now.

my reflections were poison

you were the branch thrown into the water

that made it clean

for me.

 

In your sight, I was highly esteemed.

I needed love but didn’t trust yours.

you never gave up. Even when

I was a wanderer

into this and that

as rebels can be.

I drifted farther and farther away

like a boat tossed about in a gale.

 

You stayed

storm after storm

you charted my course

from the eye of the hurricane

to a calmed sea.

you raised a standard around me,

hedged me in

and saved me from drowning,

from certain death

eternal.

 

You saved me

just as I was going under.

giving up

hope.

you gave it to me.

you lit a candle in the caverns of my soul

you were a light in the darkness

for me.

 

First a flicker

then a flame

darkness no longer draped itself over me.

I was drawn to you

attracted like the pull of a magnet

into your arms

I clung

redeemed.

 

One of ninety nine

I was –

forgiven. You gave me hope.

became my anchor

in fair or stormy weather

I took hold of you – with my life.

I’m surrendered to you

your love, your will, your desire.

 

I cannot be separated from you.

you claimed me from the start

when others rejected

you drew me into yourself

and held me

with your very life.

 

Joy immeasurable.

Peace-filled

I am.

Love surrounds and abounds.

I live for you. I love for you

because you

loved me first.

I give you

All of me

All in.

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.

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….