The King

Recalling that I have a Father who lets His robe trail among twigs and His nail scarred feet walk upon hard cement to give His daughter her crown.
Thank You, Jesus.

the beautiful project

I can’t.

I can’t go on.

The words, weak and soft, were barely heard to her own ears.

She was so weary.

Her journey was long and rough.

Rough enough to lead her to a forest of broken trees and dead soil.

But she was so weary.

She walked a couple of steps more to a tree stump, where she eagerly collapsed.

She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply.

Unwanted tears spilled down her face but she didn’t wipe them away.

She just took a deep breath.

And exhaled.

Deep breath

And exhaled.

She lay there for a while in the quiet of night.

Too weary to move.

Too weary to speak.

Too weary to care.

Until a question came from behind her.

“What’s wrong?”

Without turning around, she exhaled,“I’m so tired. I don’t know what to do. I’m not good enough. I’m not doing enough of the right things…

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Bitter Batter

“He is no good.”

Freida’s brown eyes narrowed as she folded her arms and leaned back against the couch cushion.

I had said only a few words before she rapidly declared her judgment.

I tried to begin again but was cut off.

“But—“

“He is no good. What do you expect?”

Her voluminous conclusions drowned out my further facts and details.

“He’s trifling.”

“That’s what they all do.”

“He’s needs to be ashamed of himself.”

“I’m so sick of all of them.”

Eventually, I settled into silence as she preached the tainted sermon to her own choir.

As she spoke, I could almost see the words as they exited her mouth.

Each letter blackened with toxins and spiked with pain.

So heavy with hurt that entire sentences crashed into me.

Causing me to inch away from them…and from her.

I think Freida makes her batter each morning.

Her bitter batter.

Furiously stirs it in a large ceramic bowl.

The thick ooze poured into 3×4 muffin tins.

Baked at 500 degrees.

Each morsel slowly eaten until the tongue absorbs the flavor.

The bowl and spoon are licked and washed clean.

Until the next day.

When a fresh batch is made.

The ingredients came into Freida’s life 7 years ago.

She’d been dealt a heavy blow: Her 17-year marriage was ending.

Her ex-husband inarguably was the cause of the demise and had soon remarried.

Which made Freida’s recovery that much tougher.

And though it appeared from all outside appearances that she was rebounding quite nicely, any conversation with her proved that assumption wrong.

This daily dining on bitterness has become dangerous for Freida.

Its aroma repels those around her.

Its flavor colors everything she says and thinks.

And her emotions are gaining weight.

Added pounds that sadly will only make her sink.

We all have or will encounter situations that damage our spirit and make us look at life scornfully.

And left to ourselves, it is an easy opening for satan to convince us to stir the batter.

Bitterness will never let us heal.

But forgiveness does.

It is always difficult to forgive the source of our pain.

And sometimes it’s even harder to forgive ourselves for getting entwined in the first place.

But by praying for that person and asking Jesus to help us to release the grudge, the flow of bitterness will begin to slow and eventually cease.

Jesus, the Ultimate and Constant Forgiver, can completely heal the broken heart.

And only He can make the broken heart forgive.

Praying for Freida and for all who have bitter batter in a bowl.

____________________

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Colossians 3:13

 

Garden

This isn’t a garden.

Gardens are gorgeous green playpens for nature to blossom.

Living bouquets of sweet daises and soft roses.

But this isn’t a garden.

Gardens are where pearls of dew slide off ripe tomatoes and grapevines.

Where flower scents sweeter than vanilla and thicker than caramel rise into the air.

But this isn’t a garden.

Gardens are vibrant and viewed, clipped and cared for.

Exquisite displays of maintained earth.

But this isn’t a garden.

This is brush.

Tall thick straw that barely sways when the wind blows.

Bushes of branches with shredded leaves.

Trees of varying sizes in every direction.

Hard black soil that’s pockmarked with pebbles, stones, and rocks.

Fog as far as the eye can see.

And I’m in the center.

This is not a garden.

It is a wilderness.

Loneliness can feel a lot like this.

A place that is untouched by human elements.

Possibly unknown to anyone else.

Unattended.

Unapproached.

Undisturbed.

Neglected.

Forgotten.

We wander this wilderness, leaving footprints that we think no one can see.

Tracks that no one will notice.

Traces that no one will follow.

But Someone is following.

Jesus is incapable of leaving or forgetting His children.

He says,

“See, I have written your name on the palms of My hands.”

And He has.

The nail scars in His hands form names, mine and yours.

An incredible testament of how enduring His care is.

An indestructible reminder of how permanent His love is.

Loneliness can feel like a dead empty space.

We wonder,

How’d I end up here?

How did the path from the pretty garden lead into such an ugly wilderness?

How could someone in such a deserted place be on anyone’s mind?

But the God who seessees you.

And you, me, we, are never forgotten.

_______________________________________________

“Yet Jerusalem says, “The Lord has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.”

“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?

 Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?

But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!

See, I have written your name on the palms of My hands.”

-Isaiah 49:14-16

Grow

“…When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow…”

I had a dream recently where I was standing alone in a dark room.

I was praising God while being beaten by an unseen force.

I was slapped in the face while saying “Hallelujah.”

Someone sucker punched me when my face was turned up toward heaven.

It was when something pinned me against a wall that I could no longer hear my voice.

But my lips were still moving so I knew I was still praising.

I’m entering the third quarter of a year that’s proving to be a trying one.

My faith is stretching like chewed bubble gum. 

My spirit feels like a old snow shovel that’s seen one too many blizzards. 

It is tough.

It is uncomfortable.

It is a place I’d never dreamed I’d see.

But I know God doesn’t bring difficulty without development. 

Something is brewing.

Something is evolving. 

So in spite of the pain … it has to grow. 

So let it grow.

________________________________________________________

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

-James 1:2-4

Leak

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Patrice bit her bottom lip nervously

Dew glistened on her lashes as she closed her eyes.

Bitten fingernails caressed each other as she folded her hands.

And her head, heavy with days of expectation, months of faith, and years of prayer, hit her pillow with the force of a meteorite.

At 34, she expected to be married with children.

Instead, she isn’t.

She expected to be living in her own home.

Instead, she isn’t.

She expected to have a better relationship with her sister.

Instead, she doesn’t.

Her attempts at reversing each condition have been glaringly unsuccessful.

But in the face of each disappointing turn, she had held onto the chance that things would and could change.

Until last night.

From her pillow and in a shaky croak, she prayed,

“Lord… I’m afraid to hope anymore.”  

Afraid to hope. Fearful of anticipating. Scared to believe.

It happens when in spite of physical, emotional, and spiritual effort, a desire has yet to come to pass.

It’s the hesitancy to trust God to deliver after winding detours and solid roadblocks.

It’s what diseases the heart,

Frustrates the spirit,

And causes faith to leak.

It is an agonizing feeling.

Yet all of this is central to God and our relationship with Him.

Being afraid to hope is not just about the joy. It’s about the journey to the joy.

______________________________________________________________________

Surely, the woman in Mark 5 had good reason for her faith to be leaking.

Her body had been broken for a long time.

She had the malfunction of menstruating for 12 years.

Bleeding for 144 months straight.

She tried to remedy the plight and was seen by many doctors.

But the medical visits just left her accounts empty and her condition even more debilitating.

It affected her physically and personally.

As an unclean woman in Jewish society, she couldn’t be married or bear children.

She was effectively alone.

As she went to each physician, I wonder if her thoughts ever flickered with hope.  

Maybe this time it will work.

Perhaps this guy will have the cure.

Maybe now.

Maybe now.

And with each wrong prescription and every year of blood and pain, I wonder if the flicker finally flickered out.

Maybe not.

Maybe I’m to be this way for good.

If I was meant to be healed, it would have happened already.

Surely, she had a reason for her faith to be leaking.

Yet, when she found herself in a mob of people following a certain Healer, she mustered up a scoop of faith to

“[come] up behind Him and [touch] the edge of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.”

The edge of the cloak was not a thick strip of cloth.

It was a fringe.

A tassel.

Slivers of thread eliminated 12 years of suffering.

Jesus never needs a lot to bring to pass what He’s already decided.

_____________________________________________________________________

Jesus saw her tears, frustration, and bewilderment about her state.

Her sorrow was not at all lost on Him.

But the extended length of her anguish never meant that it was to continue for her lifetime.

It was about her journey.

During those 12 years, the Lord prepared, soothed, developed, and nurtured her so that when the answer came, she was not only ready, but got more than she thought.

God Himself spoke to a daughter who was rejected in all eyes but His and made her well.

Without side effects.

Without a follow-up appointment.

And instantly.

Indeed, her waiting was timed to end but in God’s time.

We can become afraid to believe after months of no answer.

Our faith can begin to leak after years of no change.

But like the nameless woman, that is no indication of what the answer is.

Our journey just requires a bit more time. 

Amnesia

Hailey’s laugh sounded like ice cubes rattling in a glass.

During a recent phone conversation, I expressed a concern about a heart matter to which she responded with a dismissive chuckle.

 “You’ll be all right,” she said flippantly. “It’s nothing.”

Over the past few years, Hailey and I shared countless conversations about dating, love, and solid relationships.

I encouraged her as she lamented, soothed her as she mourned, and laughed with giddiness as she celebrated.

But recently, she fell in love and gotten married.

And had taken a shot of amnesia.

Amnesia is a heady drink.

Part pride, part apathy.

A frothy spirit served in oversized martini glasses.

Brown sugar pebbles surround the rim while a maraschino cherry bobs back and forth on a wooden toothpick.

The sweet flavor delights the senses while its heavy composition is ingested.

And then memory… becomes a memory.

I think we begin to sip on amnesia after we’ve accomplished a goal.

Passed a test.

Been released.

Jumped a broom.

Gotten a raise.

Our history before that point suddenly becomes alien.

We become estranged from those who are not yet where we are.

We forget how complication feels.

We don’t remember what insomnia is.

The former struggle, tears, pain, and trouble are no longer things we can or want to relate to.

Instead, we lift a glass of amnesia in the air as a toast to the present tense.

I shrugged off the slight, knowing that the hurt was unintentional.

But it hurt all the same.

It is very easy to soak in present pleasure, current peace, and existing joy.

But remembering the battles from yesterday, the sores from last week, and the sadness from 2 years ago keep us grounded,

keep us connected,

And keep us grateful.

Praying that my memory has staying power. 

The Final Blow

 I couldn’t move and I didn’t want to.

I was still.

Not still like peace.

But still like a dead engine.

Like a broken wheel.

Like a chalk outline.

I couldn’t move and I didn’t want to.

I lay there, feeling the pain from bullets 1 through 5 radiate through my body.

And then came the last bullet, snipping my spiritual spinal cord.

I couldn’t move and I didn’t want to.

Why should you get up?

You lose.

You’re a loser.

You lose.

You’re a loser.

You lose.

You’re a loser.

A furious refrain that was stuck on repeat.

A poisonous chorus that bloated me with shame.

And left me so lonely that I could taste it.

I couldn’t move and I didn’t want to.

My vantage point showed a lifeless scene all around me.

Because I had lost.

I’m a loser.

This was it.

But whenever I decided to cease looking and let the dirge sink into me, a different melody would begin to play.

This isn’t the end.

There’s more to this.

You are not forgotten.

I am with you.

My thoughts are higher.

Keep on trusting Me.

They were stirring.

I felt my eyes flutter. My legs twitched. My knees bent.

And I began to move again.

Current conditions made the forecast plausible.

Persuasive.

Convincing.  

But all is subject to change when God is involved.

I am not a loser.

I haven’t lost.

I will not lose.

For I know the plans He has for me.

And they don’t include failure.

Bullet #6 was meant to be the final blow.

Weapon #6 is resilience.

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“We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.”

II Corinthians 4:8-9 (The Message)