Tag Archives: Bible

How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

Back in the day the Bee Gees sang “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”  It’s a question we all have to answer at some point in our lives.  I’m in the middle of a season of the broken heart right now.   I certainly don’t have all the answers and my strength and resolve fluctuates as I go through a grieving process.  I’m quite sure that is normal.  We can grieve many kinds of losses in life.  Sometimes it is not a person who dies, but very often it is dreams that die, and we have to face that reality.

Some things that have helped me tremendously so far on this particular journey are:  the support of family, the loving care of friends and community, my church, cards in the mail, having lived fifty-five years and having survived other heartaches, the counsel of wise mentors, prayer (this is a big one), encouragement, practical assistance, kind words, hugs, reading the Bible, and feeling the peace of God which passes all understanding.

It’s a long journey, these seasons of the broken heart.  But we have tremendous promises in the Bible to hold on to and know that the storms of life come, and at some point they dissipate.  The intensity of pain will not always feel the same as it might feel today for you and for me.  Hold on to hope if this is a season of the broken heart for you as well.

Here are some encouraging words from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman:

Poverty, hardship and misfortune have pressed many a life to moral heroism and spiritual greatness. Difficulty challenges energy and perseverance.  It calls into activity the strongest qualities of the soul…Many a headwind has been utilized to make port.  God has appointed opposition as an incentive to faith and holy activity….If for you He has appointed special trials, be assured that in His heart He has kept for you a special place.

And some comforting words from Christ:

I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”  (John 16:33,  The Message)

 

 

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God’s Word = Beautiful

GodsWordBeautiful copy

Finished a painting I started long ago, then made a little video from the thoughts I found inspiring.  It is symbolic for me.  A painter tries to create visual beauty like a dancer tries to create exquisite lines or a musician works to create pleasing harmonies.  Picturing the Bible in this painting makes me recall many a morning as I searched for answers, saw words of hope for the future and passages that have encouraged me along the way.  Over time this morning practice has become “beautiful” to me.  Hope you enjoy this little “morning devotion” from Psalm 19.

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A Beautiful Life – Psalm 19

GodsWordBeautiful copyQuotes from Psalm 19 – The Message

God‘s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. 2 Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening.

Sunrise and sunset are glorious moments with spectacular colors painted across the skies.  God often presents us with masterpieces that I do not even notice.  Yet, they are silent love letters to us, His creation.

3 Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, 4 But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

The Great Artist’s handiwork is everywhere and His signature must be the roses.  Every good and beautiful thing God made testifies of His truth – His goodness, His mercy, His justice, His love.

God makes a huge dome for the sun – a superdome! 5 The morning sun’s a new husband leaping from his honeymoon bed, The daybreaking sun an athlete racing to the tape. 6 That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies from sunrise to sunset, Melting ice, scorching deserts, warming hearts to faith.

God gives us incredible moments that cause us to stand in awe of who He is, and what He has done for us.

7 The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. 8 The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes.

God’s Word is beauty!  He speaks to us, warns us, shapes us, fills us by His mighty Spirit whispered through the words of life.  Oh, that I would fall more in love with His Word that I might know Him better!  How my life is improved by sitting at His feet!  I have so much to learn but it scares me to think of where I would be without the Word of God in my life!

9 God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree. 10 God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds.

What God has for us is the best – even when times seem like the worst.  His Word promises that all things work together for those who love God and are called to His purpose.  What precious promises in the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter of our lives!

You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries.

Some of my favorite things – an old pocket watch, cut crystal, an antique oak table, a treasured old blanket, beautiful flowers point to a love for God’s Word.  His Word is a treasure.  Oh Lord that I would delve into Your Word more deeply that I might know You more and more!

11 There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. 12 Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool?

Yes!  Decisions based upon Your Word give me peace of heart and mind.  Decisions that I make based on my own way of thinking can get me in trouble!  You tell us straight out what is right and wrong and how to keep our feet on Your road.  Hold me tight Lord – keep me hungry for Your Word!

13 Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.

Thank you for the freedom of forgiveness!  You alone suffered and died in my place so that I might come before you clean – not because of me, for I am a sinner saved by grace.  No, it’s all because of You!

14 These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar.

Thank You for Your Word, O God.  It points me to You – the God who knows me completely, and still loves me!  Amen and Amen!

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Heart-to-Heart Fellowship

It’s so good to be home, we both agreed.  Each of us, in different circumstances, transitioned in our careers and found ourselves working from home and being an everyday participant in our grandchildren’s lives.  Neither of us were planning for this outcome, but looking back we realized God had orchestrated this timing and as we talked, our appreciation for this special season of life increased.  Before we left we clasped hands and prayed thanking God for this time in our lives, for our friendship and gave Him some practical ” I-need-you-Lord-today” requests.

Matti

Matti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sweetness of Christian fellowship means that we can talk about the reality, struggle and heart aches in our lives and we can also bear witness to how God has turned around bad circumstances for good.  We share joy, we laugh.  We encourage each other and strengthen one another’s faith.  It is heart-to-heart.  Fellowship – true fellowship in which we are sharing about what Jesus is doing in our lives today, yesterday, and in this season.  Much more than visiting or socializing, fellowship is a precious bond that can be described in terms of spiritual chocolate – it’s just “the best.”  We are designed for relationships and fellowship fills us up to the brim.

Because God is love, he treasures relationships. His very nature is relational and he identifies himself in family terms: Father, Son and Spirit. – Rick Warren

Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church.

Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God is active and working in our lives today.  By sharing what our Heavenly Father is doing, how we are responding, and what treasures we are finding in His Word, we speak on the level of “brothers and sisters”.  That special relationship we enjoy is worthy of celebration and thanks.  Fellowship is heart-to-heart.

 

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Tug of War

There’s a tug of war in the believer’s heart and one side wants what it wants when it wants.  That’s the self.  On the other side is the part of our heart that truly wants to please our Maker.  On our journey with Christ spiritual growth means that the side that wants to please the Lord is gaining the upper hand.  Oh, how our culture screams in the opposite direction!  We hear a lot about “me.”  “Me time,” “What’s best for me,” “What makes me happy.”  We tend to hear and “I love Jesus” rather than “Jesus loves me.”

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church http://www.stjohnsashfield.org.au, Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verse 11). This version of the image shows the detail of his face. The memorial window is also captioned: “To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of William Wright. Died 6th November, 1932. Aged 70 Yrs.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do we know if we love Jesus?  Is it primarily a feeling or an intellectual nod to the things He said or what we think about Him? Do we “love Jesus” because He is cool or fashionable?   A writer named John in the Bible said it pretty plainly:

But those who obey God‘s Word truly show how completely they love Him.  That is how we know we are living in Him.  Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.  I John 2:5-6 (NLT)

Obedience and following His example…two things that do not come “naturally” to the human heart!  It’s against our grain – contrary to our independent, seemingly “self-sufficient” nature!  But why should it surprise us that loving God means to be obedient to Him and follow His example?  Don’t we want this from our children?  As parents we want what is best for them, and we recognize being able to take direction even if they don’t understand it is for their own benefit and protection.  No!  Do not put your finger in that light socket!  No, do not run into the street!  No, do not drink that orange scented shampoo!

As parents having our children simply say they love us but reject our instruction and example would indicate that there is no real love at all – just maybe a warm fuzzy affection, at times.  God could have created us without a free will and made us completely obedient beings.  But genuine love cannot exist without the ability to make a decision of our own free will –  from the heart – to obey even when we don’t understand or feel like it.

The only reliable means of measuring our love for God is to examine whether we obey Him.  – From Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Tim Grissom

 

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Unanswered Prayers

Some of God’s greatest blessings may be in unanswered prayers.  That may not be theologically correct…exactly.  Unanswered prayer is what we are feeling sometimes, not the reality of what is happening in the heavenlies.  There are many Biblical references that substantiate that God hears every prayer and knows every intent and motive in our hearts.  It’s just that when we do not experience any outward sign of our petition that we think that perhaps God did not hear.  But because He loves us in a deeper way than we can comprehend, sometimes He holds back.  It is restrained grace.

God the Father 16

God the Father 16 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

Sometimes our prayers are focused on the surface – changes that we believe would make our lives go on a little easier.  The requests no doubt line up with God’s will.  We pray for people in our lives and the choices made that cause them harm, ourselves included.  But sometimes it is in the waiting, the longing, even the suffering that His restrained grace has it’s full effect.

The Apostle Paul, when going through a troubling time wrote these words:

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia.  We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.  In fact we expected to die.  But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves, and learned to rely only on God…We placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us.  II Corinthians 1:8-9a,10b

 

English: Saint paul arrested

English: Saint paul arrested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Our lives are messy.  God is not any less loving than the parent or grandparent that steps back and allows the learning to take place, knowing it is for our ultimate good.  God’s plans and purposes are so much deeper than ours, and His restrained grace is always full of meaning and care.

In Psalm 77 the writer lamented:

When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord.  All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted.”

But later in the Psalm when the writer regained his composure and insight he wrote:

But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;  I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.  They are constantly in my thoughts.  I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

Both the Apostle Paul and the Psalmist recognized the mind game that unanswered prayer seems to be.  However God doesn’t play mind games.  It is a mental and emotional challenge for us and step of obedience for us to accept with trust His restrained grace for our good and His glory.  Paul in his troubled time learned to rely on God.  The Psalmist comprehended the importance of mentally reviewing how God had been faithful in the past and his thought patterns changed as a result.  He was able to see that, this too, is still in the hands of the Almighty.

May that which concerns your heart be committed to His restrained grace, and may you experience that day when the tears are ended with the night and you know the full joy of the morning.  Hang in there.

 

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Decision Making and the Will of God

Flipping a coin, going through open doors, and goosebumps are all something we hear when people talk about making decisions.  Fear of making a wrong decision can paralyze us into inactivity.  Acting spontaneously or going by feeling alone can lead us to long-lasting undesirable consequences.  As believers, an oft-spoken prayer in the area of decision-making is to ask for God’s will to be done and then for spiritual wisdom.

As I read of King Solomon’s life in the book of I Kings, I was impacted by the fact that wise decisions in one season of life does not automatically mean a life where sound judgments continue!  King Solomon “had it all” after he asked God, above everything, to give him wisdom to lead his people.  God was well-pleased with such a prayer and granted Solomon not only wisdom but riches and respect from those around him.  Solomon did some tremendous things!

Piero della Francesca: Legend of the True Cros...

Piero della Francesca: Legend of the True Cross – the Queen of Sheba Meeting with Solomon , Detail. (c. 1452-66, Fresco, San Francesco, Arezzo, Italy) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But decisions are a day-by-day occurence and a little less conviction one day followed by a teensy weensy slide into mediocrity the next eventually produces a downward slide of epic proportions.  Solomon, the builder of the great temple, eventually found himself worshiping false gods to please his many wives.  There are many bad decisions represented in that last sad sentence!

How often in life we know people who have had a season of sound decision-making based on seeking God’s will and months or years later we find that same person miles away from where they once were spiritually.  What can happen to other people can happen to us – no one is immune from the enemy’s attacks.  One of Satan’s craftiest ploys is in drawing people away one little “innocent” decision at a time.

Such reality can keep us on our knees, especially when there is a decision to be made.  For weapons, in this spiritual battle of decision-making, we have the Bible as a compass, prayer to bring us into God’s presence, wise counsel from godly Christ followers, God-directed circumstances, the shield of faith to ward off stabs of unbelief and especially the peace of God which works even in situations we do not understand.

Rather, cling tightly to the Lord your God as you have done until now.  Joshua 23:8 (NLT)

 

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What We Don’t Want to Talk About

The hearts of those who know of Pastor Rick Warren’s ministry in Southern California ache for him, his wife Kay, and the family as we learn today of the suicide of his twenty-seven year old son.  Suicide is not a comfortable subject for anyone, but it happens at an alarming rate, and our hearts break for those left to deal with the “whys, “if onlys,” and “what could I have done?”  Here are a few things I have learned in my time as a church counselor to minister to families that are hurting in this way.

  • It is never a time to throw stones.  In the aftermath it is common to try to access blame.  The grief and loss are bad enough.  It is not a time to point fingers, it is a time to simply grieve and have compassion for one another.  Ultimately the act was something within that person and he or she, as hard as it is to accept, is responsible.
  • It is a time to be gentle.  The Bible’s admonition to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” is most applicable at this time.  Creating a climate where the person who is left can express their feelings is helpful.  It’s not a time to tell someone how to feel, it is a time to listen.  Or perhaps it is simply a time to quietly weep with that person.  Tears say a lot.
  • No one and no family is immune to some of the most difficult things life can throw our way.  People in ministry hurt and grieve and feel the same feelings as everyone else.  Make no judgments on the family.  If our family has not experienced something terrible, it is simply by the grace of God, and we should humbly be thankful and not think for one moment that tragedy could not happen to us.  We are all human, we all struggle.
  • Encourage the survivor to find avenues of support, and stay involved in their life.  Simple phone calls mean a lot.
  • Offer to pray with the individual.  Pray asking for God’s comfort and peace within this most difficult chapter of life.  Gently acknowledge that our compassionate God was also a suffering Savior and intimately knows what it is like to hurt, and experience intense pain and grief.  He cares in ways we cannot fathom.

Dr. Norman H. Wright shares a poem by Iris Bolton written in 1981.  It is from the book, Crisis & Trauma Counseling.

I don’t know why…
I’ll never know why…
I don’t have to know why…
I don’t like it…
I don’t have to like it…

What I do have to do is make a choice
about my living
What I do want to do is accept it and to
on living.
The choice is mine.

I can go on living, valuing every moment
in a way I never did before,
Or I can be destroyed by it and, in turn,
destroy others.
I thought I was immortal, that my
children and my family were also,
That tragedy happened only to others…
But I know now that life is tenuous and valuable.

And I choose to go on living, making
The most of the time I have,
And valuing my family and friends in a
way I never experienced before.

 

May Our God, Our Great Physician heal the broken hearts of those left behind who hurt and grieve.

 

 

 

 

 

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Broken Dreams and Soft Hearts

When I was in Bible school studying Wisdom Literature, one of the assignments was to read the book of Job in three different versions of the Bible.  For my devotional times I am enjoying the New Living Translation which speaks pretty much like we do – with a certain casual cadence.

When we think of Job we think of broken dreams, and he had many.  The worst of course was the loss of his children.  It is said to be a parent is to forever have your heart walking around in someone else’s body.  We can’t control what happens to our children nor control what they do – but our hearts are so intertwined with their lives.  Job had a long list of things in his life to grieve.  Broken dreams can top most of our lists when it comes to grieving our losses.  It’s the “what could have been” in life that often sets us to plains of sadness.  What resolution is there for broken dreams?

Well, the last seven verses in the book of Job shed some light and give us hope.  After his time of great suffering Job found relief from his troubles.  It is important to remember our times of crisis have beginnings AND endings.  It won’t always feel so bad as it may feel today.  God directed Job to pray for his so-called friends.  They were the people who were great friends and grievers for seven days and then they started talking, which was their downfall.  All their advice was just salt in the wound of a hurting friend.  When Job was down his friends verbally beat him up.  But at the end, as part of His restoration of Job, God tells Job pray for his friends.  And as Job prays (it’s hard to be unforgiving when praying for someone) God restores Job’s fortunes.

The end of Job tells of the goodness that comes his way.  His life was blessed more than at the beginning.  There is an end to the story.  If Job had harbored any ill will against his friends, even though they were in the wrong, the happy ending could not have been accomplished.

As Job journeyed through his season of broken dreams he kept his heart soft, as difficult as it was, and lived to see great things.  In our season of broken dreams, keeping our hearts soft is sometimes the hardest thing.  It’s much easier to default to anger, depression or bitterness.  But this is not what God wants for us – He wants to “restore our fortunes” and heal our hearts.  The end can be better than the beginning, and the key to this is the condition of our hearts as we travel through some of life’s broken dreams.

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Eeyore and the Psalms

I had two friends that both underwent a similar medical procedure.  Afterward they both described their experience to me in detail, with one important difference.  One, who viewed life with an optimistic flare accentuated her report of her medical experience with “it was cool!”  The other, whose life outlook relates to Winnie the Pooh’s friend, Eeyore, kept saying, “it was terrible.”  Same procedure, different perception.  One approached the situation with a sense of wonder, the other thought the sky was falling.

“Storms of life” come to all of us.  My pastor has often said, we are either going into a storm, in the middle of the storm, or coming out of a storm.  In reading through the Psalms we see this truth in the life of David.  And sometimes David was like my optimistic friend and other times he had his “Eeyore” moments.  But what I like about David is though at times he starts a Psalm with an Eeyore voice, he interrupts himself, reminds himself of God’s faithfulness and goodness in the past and ends the Psalm with hope and trust in God.

From Psalm 61:1-4 (NLT):  “O God, listen to my cry!  Hear my prayer!  From the ends of the earth, I cry to You when my heart is overwhelmed.  Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.  Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of Your wings!”

Lord, if my mind starts going down a negative road today, please interrupt my thoughts and help me to remember that You are the rock of my life and help me to cling to Your promise that You are working out all things in my life for good.  Amen.

 

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