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Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category

My friend lost her husband without warning. She kissed him goodnight, and in the morning, he was gone. Her single-parent (of 8) life quickly became an overwhelming nightmare, and anger became her solace.

brokenAnd so did alcohol.

Grief and anger sent her into a dark, vicious downward spiral of addiction. Though she loved Jesus and tried to put on a brave face and cope with every bit of strength she had, my friend was shattered beyond repair. She tried, but didn’t have the strength to give God all the pieces.

I think it was one of the hardest things she’s ever done, but my friend agreed to enter a Christ-focused residential rehab program. It took more than a year for her to crawl out of the bottle and into the light of day, the kind of day that dawns one at a time, wrapped in God’s fresh, new mercy. The kind of day that slowly, carefully, and sometimes painfully, restores the broken shards of hopes and dreams that at first seemed utterly impossible to put back together.

God has been restoring my friend’s heart and life one jagged piece at a time, and the new woman emerging radiates grace, humility, precious surrender, and most beautiful of all, hope. Some people might call her a recovering alcoholic.

I call her incredibly brave.

I have seen broken. I have been broken. And maybe you’ve been broken at some time or another. Maybe you’re broken now.

Maybe you’ve looked at a person failing to hold it together and wondered why they can’t just dust off, grow up, and fly straight. But my friend’s experience reminds me that everyone’s brokenness doesn’t look the same, and we should avoid passing judgment on what we think we see. We should remember there is much we can’t see, whether it’s well-hidden, or a matter of our own short-sightedness.

My friend’s experience also reminds me that I need to extend the same grace and understanding to someone else’s brokenness that I would want shown to me.

We have a tendency to see through the filter of our own experience, the grid of what’s familiar. But this limits our ability to understand when it comes to the struggles, challenges, and pain others face. What wouldn’t phase me might give you PTSD, and vice versa. We may judge someone whose brokenness drives them to drink. Or to walk away from their spouse. Or into deep despair. Or debt. Depression. Anxiety. Food. Rage.

We are all breakable. Fragile. To be handled with care.  And none of us can fix our own brokenness any more than a cracked pot can fix itself.

But there is Someone who can.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

shattered-cambion-artAuthor Roseanna White posted about Broken Vessels on her blog today, and I found myself nodding as I read it. She said, “…our Lord is described as a potter. He knows all about these fragile vessels He’s made. He knows how easily we break. Shatter. Fall to pieces. And He knows how to fix us. More, He knows how to take the pieces and make something new. Lord, use us in your mosaic. Fix us where you can, filling our cracks and holes and empty places with you.” [Read the rest of her post HERE.]

 

This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 

Isaiah 43:16-19

Maybe in your life, you’ve faced overwhelming struggles or unspeakable horrors. Or painfully unmet expectations. Whatever brokenness you’ve suffered—or are suffering, I hope you have someone caring and strong to turn to. If you haven’t yet, cry out to Jesus. He cares more than you know. And he can make you whole.

 

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p-rugrats-christine-cavanaugh-chuckie-finsterWhen my kids were little, they watched Rugrats on Nickelodeon. Not a fan? That’s ok. I didn’t care if they watched it, as long as they didn’t pick up Angelica’s bratty behavior and attitude. But while I folded laundry or cooked dinner and listened to the show, I found myself rooting for timid little Chuckie, the one who was always afraid. Because somehow, Chuckie often summoned the courage to be brave and face his fears. I think Chuckie was the character written with the five year old in mind, the one kids could identify with.

I marvel at those who seem fearless. Do you know anyone like that? Aren’t they amazing? But what amazes me even more are those who are terrified and somehow summon courage even when they’re scared spitless.

I don’t know what Chuckie based his courage on. But as I thought about this character (yes, I like to analyze characters and I love to learn from them), what really struck me was the fact that Chuckie’s courage wasn’t based on an absence of fear. The poor kid was always afraid. There are those who just don’t get scared—like Navy Seals, maybe, and they’re awesome, of course, but they’re not much help to me, you know? So maybe you’re a Navy Seal who is totally in your Zen zone hanging out underwater in a 300lb diving suit with oxygen being pumped down to you by some guy topside who might sneeze and trip over your air hose and accidentally rip it loose, or fall asleep or get distracted by puppies on facebook. And I’m glad you’re at peace with that guy in charge of your oxygen. But for the rest of us who are petrified of drowning or suffocating, the idea of mustering the courage to do something like that, for me, is huge.

In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat faced a frightening situation when he and his people were surrounded by an enemy too numerous and powerful to withstand. I love that he didn’t posture bravado. He was Freaked. Out. And was not afraid to admit it. In unabashed humility, he uttered this prayer to the Lord:

“For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

Which was great, but even better, the Lord answered and said,

“Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.”

The battle belongs to God! That’s so cool! And, somehow, so easy to forget.

One of my earlier novels gives a nod to the Old Testament story of Daniel’s young friends as they face the fiery furnace, and the main character (Emily) is reminded that if she has to face a fiery trial, the Lord will be right there with her, standing with her through it all. A wise book reviewer (Carrie of Reading Is My Superpower) made this lovely meme quoting a line (inscribed in a fictional children’s book) from the story.

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Courage is not an absence of fear, or enemies surrounding our camp, or trials, or taxes, or fiery furnaces. Courage is stepping out in faith in spite of fear. It may help to remember that the battle is not ours, and is already won (YES!!) and that the Lord stands with us, right beside us, and will never leave us. Or accidentally trip over our air hose.

Personally, I admire the timid soul who summons the courage to trust God when afraid. I think taking a step of faith and trusting God in spite of fear is incredibly brave—maybe even more brave than a Navy Seal in the 300lb diving suit.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. -Psalm 27:14

Question: Care to share a moment when you were afraid and had to summon the courage to jump or step out in faith?

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hot buttonHot buttons. We all have them… those things that bring out the less flattering side of us when the right one gets pushed.

As a believer, I know I need to see with the eyes of grace. I need to rise above human failings and offenses. Need to step back and think of the bigger picture, the spiritual principle, the eternal significance of a wise, well-placed word.

Sometimes, I remember this.

And then… there are those other times. The times my particular hot button gets pushed and the last thing I want is someone pointing out that Jesus would never call that driver a bonehead. Jesus would never take offense at being falsely accused and fire off a text. Jesus wouldn’t see someone coming toward him in the store and spin and duck down a different aisle.

There are times that my lack of grace for others does not reflect well on me. That my negativity or complaint or harsh view of someone’s behavior doesn’t reflect well on Jesus and his spirit living in me. Do I have to like others’ idiotic driving? No. Do I have to take harsh treatment? No.

But what does my response to others’ failings and flaws and thoughtless choices reveal about the state of my heart?

When I’m more inclined to react “in the flesh” (meaning my hot button has been pushed) I need to really take a look at why. Is it the other person’s fault? Well, duh, if not for other humans, I’d be all sweetness and light all the time.

But… since I have been known to seek the Lord’s ways instead of my own, and ask for the ability to see people or situations with eyes of grace instead of with my nearsightedness, I realize that grace is a supernatural reaction, and is therefore possible. Not just possible, but expected of those saved by grace.

So why are some situations harder to respond to in grace than others?

In my observation, most people have at least one hot button. That one thing that flips our switch and has us off and running (or swearing, or slandering, or responding) before we have a chance to ask ourselves What Would Jesus Do?

What’s missing? I don’t know about you, but I find that a day began and bathed in prayer and the word is a day I’m more inclined to look at things through a spiritual lens, rather than just the natural. When I don’t begin the day focused on the Lord, it’s like using my phone all day and then forgetting to plug it at night, then trying to use it the next day. It needs to be recharged. And not just once a week, but daily.

We need to plug in to the Source and seek the Lord for daily renewal. We need the word, worship, and prayer. And we need to take the truths of scripture to a more intimate level, to press those truths deeper, from the mind to the spirit, from the natural to the supernatural, where God’s grace and wisdom transcend the world and the flesh and our rights and our petty grievances and our offended, wounded pride and being disrespected and a hundred other hot buttons. In quietness and prayer, the One who wrote the word speaks truth into me, lives in me, breathes his life into me, makes me new, gives me strength and power to overcome, gives me victory over sin and tailgaters and false accusations and offense.

If I begin my day in the spirit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 is one of my favorite verses:

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.

Because when I begin my day in the spirit, I have a better chance at responding not in a natural way but supernatural. It shields me from the careless, the thoughtless, and it helps me rise above, gives me perspective. Creates a protective shell so that my nerves aren’t so exposed, so sensitive. It allows time for grace to fall like a blanket of snow and cocoon the situation, and perhaps helps me to see a bit like how God sees.

And when I don’t begin my day that way, well … oh wow, would you look at the time!

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.  -Galatians 5:16-26

If you’re willing to admit it, what’s your hot button? Does beginning your day in the word and in prayer make a difference in the way you respond when your buttons get pushed?

Okay, here’s the question I really want to ask: Can you show grace to those who should know better and yet sometimes trip and fall right on their hot button? Do you, like me, tend to forget that other humans have moments of weakness, when maybe they’ve run their battery down and are in dire need of a recharge?

I hope I’m not defined only by moments of weakness, moments when my response doesn’t reflect well on me. It’s hard to remember to give the same grace to others that I would like shown to me. It’s also hard to not define a person by a mistake or an unflattering action. (Or am I the only one who struggles with this?)

Or do we expect everyone—except for us—to be perfect?

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Have you ever found yourself struggling in your walk of faith in the area of surrender, or “dying to self”? Have you, like me, ever had to figure out what surrender is supposed to look like?20180707_101429.jpg

Some of us not only had zero boundaries growing up—we’d never even heard of them.

For me, the book Boundaries: When to Say Yes and How to Say No by Cloud & Townsend has been very useful in recognizing how my skewed, naive baby Christian ideas about being a servant were doing me more harm than good. I won’t go into my journey of discovery here, mainly because it’s long and I’m still on it, but … I would like to briefly share something that Jesus spoke to my heart, in case it resonates with someone else.

One Sunday during worship, I was asking the Lord to help me let go of my grip on my time and my energies and do a lot better at giving to others when asked, to help me be more willing to surrender myself. See, he knows what a total brat I am about sharing my time – I rather hoard it like a kid who hit the jackpot at Halloween. It was no easy prayer to utter. It may have been accompanied by some deep inner growling.

Basically, I was asking the impossible.

I fully expected him to answer this obviously good and proper prayer. And he did—almost immediately. I felt like he answered me very clearly.

He said, “You don’t have to surrender to everyone. Just to me.”

Wait, what? Aren’t I supposed to give cheerfully and serve unselfishly?

“Yes. But just because needs cross your path, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically on you to answer every one. Sometimes you will help, and that may be deeply sacrificial. And when you give, you’ll sense My Spirit guiding and empowering you. Not depleting you. Not pressuring you. Not violating any of the boundaries that became necessary for your healing. But sometimes, what others need from you is not a sacrifice of your time and energy, but loving encouragement to bring their need to Me.”

I’m still processing this, still learning to listen to God, to discern when to say yes with a willing heart, how to gently say no, and when to say, “Let me encourage you and pray with you and not take this over for you.”

I suppose the key to Christian surrender is that we not allow ourselves to be pulled in so many directions that we’re pulled to shreds, which would make us useful to no one, but that we be willing to present ourselves daily as a living sacrifice to the Lord, and then allow him to send us, and work through us by his love, grace, and life-giving power, as he directs and enables.

Let’s be careful to take our orders from the One we serve, who does not enslave and burden, but who guides, empowers, and gives generously.

Find a similar post here: https://camilleeide.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/surrender-brings-freedom/

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At Easter this year, I heard several sermons on the Resurrection that reminded me that those who had spent significant time with Jesus were heartbroken and scared by his death, and were later confused by the disappearance of his body from the tomb. The people he had forewarned about his death and resurrection were shattered by his death, and when his body disappeared, they didn’t even consider the possibility that he had risen from the dead as he had promised.

In the last few years, I’ve made more of an effort to be in the word and in biblical teaching daily, starting each day in an atmosphere of worship and the word that helps me focus on the Lord. But though I’m more focused on God and on seeking his presence, I still have moments of doubt. Will he ever answer my prayer? Does he even care? Is he even there? Is this all a joke? What if I die and there’s nothing?

We don’t like to admit it, we believers. After all, we’re distinguished by the fact that we, unlike others, believe. Do other believers ever doubt? I mean real serving, committed, bible-quoting believers? And if they do, do they ever admit it? I rarely ever hear anyone speak of doubt. It’s like a four-letter word to Christians. I think we’re too ashamed to admit it. Some might look down on our faltering faith that we’ve professed it to the world, after all. If we admit we have doubts, people will think we’re hypocrites, frauds, or worse, suckers.

Do you ever experience doubt? If so, what do you do with it? Are you disturbed, unsettled by it? Wonder if there’s something wrong with you, or with your faith?

Doubt Is Understandable

The Bible is FULL of people who doubted. People who should have known better. People who made choices we would never make… hello, Golden Calf? Moses hasn’t been gone five minutes on the mountain of God and they’re already melting earrings and making a new god to worship. A cow, of all things. Were they abysmally stupid? Or were they humans who by nature have a hard time really listening to God?

Those closest to Christ suffered some seriously egregious doubt. These are men who walked with Jesus, ate with him, listened to him teach and watched him heal and forgive and deal with people. Saw the miracles, the power firsthand. Saw the one person on the planet who never slipped, never sinned, never missed a chance to obey his Father in heaven.  We know they followed him constantly, heard him teach, believed him and believed in him. And yet, there are so many instances of them quickly forgetting what he had just done for them and responding to unpleasant or difficult situations with worry and fear, hiding, even lying.

Don’t we all suffer from short-term memory loss when it comes to God? Although I have seen God answer more prayers than I can ever count, I still forget his faithfulness, his attentiveness, his provision. He has proven himself faithful time after time after time, and yet I struggle to hope and trust he will provide or take care of or resolve something. Why?

I think doubting God is not as strange as we may think. It’s not strange that we read the Bible and pray and share our faith and still forget about his goodness, still wonder about his eternal kingdom and plan and preparations for us, still wonder and worry that he won’t answer and do what we believe and say he will.

The Israelites quickly forgot all the miracles, provisions, promises, lessons, kingdom declarations, and presence of God.

The disciples quickly forgot all the miracles, provisions, promises, lessons, kingdom declarations, and presence of Jesus.

The women at the empty tomb and the eleven disciples quickly forgot what Jesus had told them about his death and resurrection repeatedly, and recently. And audibly. And in the flesh.

What I’m wondering is this: If the people closest to Jesus had such a hard time believing him, how can we expect to never entertain some doubt?

…And have mercy on those who doubt. Jude 1:22

Doubt is Forgivable

The Israelites in the days of the Kings had lost sight of God and turned to idol worship, and this had gone on for so long that the people eventually forgot the Lord and his decrees. When young king Josiah ruled, a copy of the Law was found during the repair of the temple. When it was read aloud, Josiah was grieved and moved to make changes.

The pair on the road to Emmaus had quickly forgotten what Jesus had said. We notice that Jesus didn’t show them who he was. He had done plenty of miracles; clearly those weren’t enough, and actually, miracles weren’t the point. Instead of proving them wrong, he took those sorrowful, distraught men to the word of God, to the scriptures. And he didn’t just quote a couple of key verses, he took them back through all the scriptures that told the story, from the beginning and up to this point in history, about the Messiah’s coming, about what the prophets had said, up to the necessary fulfillment of all these things. He patiently addressed their doubt by taking them back to the perfect plan of God, from the Word of God.

So why hadn’t these men seen it? Perhaps they had heard Jesus speak of God’s coming kingdom and latched onto the parts they wanted to hear or their interpretation of what they wanted it to mean and tuned out what he was really telling them. They had been looking for a political hero, an immediate fix to their unpleasant situation, their discomfort, their discontent. They had allowed their daily, earthly difficulties and challenges to cloud their understanding of God and his bigger, eternal picture.

RMlogoEp.43HowtoListentoOthersWithoutBeingSwayedbyThem

Either we are just short-sighted in our desires, or our heart wants to hear only what we want to hear. We can’t imagine what he’s telling us, so we focus on what’s in front of us. We seek him for help, and he answers, but we aren’t really listening to what he’s saying. Thomas had heard, as had the others, that he would rise from the dead, and even with a resurrected Christ standing before him, his doubt was so huge that he insisted on touching Christ’s wounds.

Jesus said, “You believe because you see, that’s good. But blessed are those who believe without seeing.”

Doubt is Treatable

The people in Josiah’s day had been without the Book of the Law for 57 years. Josiah was only 26, and had likely never even heard of it.

2  Kings 22:11-13  When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

They fell into idol worship and disobedience from a lack of God’s law, his word. I think some disobedience is marked by defiance, but sometimes marked by disbelief.

So, what do we do? How do we combat doubt?

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:17

We can combat doubt with faith, which comes from hearing. Reading the Bible, listening to truth. And with prayer. Charles Spurgeon said, “Prayer is doubt’s destroyer, ruin’s remedy, the antidote to all anxieties.”

In addition to attending church and hearing excellent biblical teaching, I hear (read, hear on audio) the Bible daily. But perhaps I need to be a better hearer. Perhaps I need to dig more deeply into God’s word, and learn to really listen.  Be willing and open to hearing his voice, his truth, his love, his nature, his plan, his word. Be more willing to allow it to speak to me, to be more open to understanding what it means. And maybe to take it a step further and put myself in a position to apply all that it says, not just the parts I like, and to see his truth, power, and love in action.

Come boldly, O believer, for despite the whisperings of Satan and the doubtings of thine own heart, thou art greatly beloved.  -Charles Spurgeon

Do you struggle with doubt at times on your faith journey? Don’t despair. While I too struggle at times, I also believe that God can handle our doubts, strengthen our faith, and remind us of the truth and relevance of all that we have come to believe and understand. Let’s come boldly ask and allow our loving God to do just that.

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In Wings Like a Dove, Thomas speaks of the kind, old man who took him under his wing as an orphan, a Norwegian man of faith whose quiet humility inspired Thomas to seek his own relationship with God. Thomas credits his own faith to Gabriel’s simple, lifelong devotion to God, even as his life was slipping away.

Have you ever known someone whose simple, steadfast faith inspired you in some way? Someone whose unwavering relationship with God bolsters your faith, increases your hope? I have.

The fictional Gabriel was inspired by our own real-life Gabriel—my father in law, Osborn Gabriel (“Al”) Eide, also a Norwegian.AL (34.0)

He was a man of simple, unwavering faith, a simple, hardworking son, husband, friend, father, and grandfather, whose love for Jesus was always evident all throughout his adult life and right into his nineties, even long after his mind was muddled by dementia. At that point, he couldn’t fake his faith, couldn’t put on a “religious” act. He had zero filters and zero “self-awareness”.

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AL (56)

His love for God and the spirit of God so visible in him even during those final years bolstered my faith. Even when he was confused and his conversation made little sense, he still exuded humility, kindness, and solid faith in Jesus, right up to the very end.

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He was a special favorite of his caregivers at the home where he last lived, people who never knew him in his strong, sound-minded prime, and yet still loved his grateful, kind demeanor and appreciated his gentle encouragement to “find yourself a good church.”

 

Have you ever known anyone with a faith that long and unshakable? To what do you attribute this?

 

Here’s the video tribute we made for Al Eide, for those who knew and loved him.

 

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Have you ever met anyone with a cold, unapproachable demeanor that made you think twice about talking to them?

You know, the If You Take One Step Closer I Will Bite You type?

curmudgeon

How do you usually respond to people like that?

I confess: I’m a fraidy cat. If someone’s expression or body language tells me they don’t want anything to do with me, I am quick to oblige and pass on by. And if for some reason I’m forced to speak to someone who’s stabbing me a hundred ways with their eyes, I’m sure I put off some kind of hunted prey fear hormone, making the encounter all the more nerve-racking.

Just once, I’d love to be that radiant soul who smiles anyway and has the nerve to clap the grump on the back and shower them with sweetness and light.

But life—and some great examples in fiction and film—have taught me that people are not always what they first appear to be. I am *learning* not to let a gruff demeanor fool me or keep me from reaching out or from caring. I didn’t say I’m finding it easy. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s so needed.

I personally have this weird soft spot for fictional curmudgeons. An example I’ll never forget is Margaret, in the novel Some Wildflower in My Heart. A woman named Birdie in the story is a beautiful example of the power of friendship. If you like the tough shell/broken heart type of story, you’ll definitely want read that one.

Speaking of tough shells, in Like a Love Song, Sue shoots off prickly vibes when she’s forced to hire Joe at her ranch for foster kids. She’s a no-nonsense gal with a tough demeanor. Joe is personally challenged to show Sue the love of God, despite her manner, and this woman doesn’t make it easy. But before long, Joe begins to see that her demeanor is only a protective shield for a deeply wounded heart.

The curmudgeon I’ve most recently fallen for is Ove from A Man Called Ove (novel & film). Have you met him? What a fascinating, heart-tugging contradiction he turns out to be! And how our feelings about him change as we get to know him. (I highly recommend this story; it will SHRED you.)

Ove 8-31-19

I’m convinced that God also has a soft spot for curmudgeons. He can see far more deeply into our neighbors than we ever can, and he’s not intimidated by a gruff demeanor. He knows the hurt, the disappointment, the loneliness. He knows what pain is being guarded by that prickly exterior. And not only is he not a fraidy cat, he’s interested in bringing a healing touch to those hurting places.

And I believe he’s interested in helping us fraidy cats muster the nerve to look beyond the “CLOSED” sign and give a lingering smile, offer a little friendship.

Let’s Talk: What other story comes to mind with a character like Sue or Ove—cold and unapproachable, but inwardly hurting and alone? Do you hesitate to approach people who seem to want to be left alone? Are you inclined to stop and speak anyway, or do you tend to pass on by? Have you ever gone out on a limb and approached someone who seemed gruff and found them to be surprisingly receptive?

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