Post by Category : Soul Cries

Soul Suffering  2

 

 

I have 4 kids, all of them the age of Joseph (the 11th son of Jacob) in his prison years in Egypt. Now if I were Joseph’s mom, I think I’d feel pretty slighted. I’d probably be gaunt from prayers and worry and yearning. I’d cringe at the unfairness, while trying to reconcile the sovereignty of God with the cruelty of man.

 

Deep into the narrative we find the word, “kindness…”   Well, it seemed a little late. It would’ve been nice to have some of that kindness at the pit where his brothers were brutally throwing him away, or when they were selling him or when Potifer’s wife dramatically lied about him.

 

However it appeared to him, Joseph didn’t waste his suffering. It’s hard to believe an abandoned young man in his early 20’s would steward his suffering so well. Maybe out of a survival instinct, or a real sense that those dreams he had, would somehow come true (Gen. 37:7-9). But he neither focused on his traumatic past nor on a hoped-for future in a way that immobilized his present. Surely he had moments of grief, agony and worry about the future. How could he not? And surely he looked for ways out of his present situation.

 

Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.Gen. 40:14

 

But the realities of the past and uncertainty of the future didn’t hold him, or keep him from being “all in” in the present. This wasn’t a natural thing. He had the Divine presence. How that looked, we don’t know, but we do know it made a huge difference in the midst of intense suffering.

 

There was this underlying partnership:

 

  1. Whatever Joseph DID,
  2. God MADE to prosper. (Gen. 39:3, 23)

“His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.”

 

But it didn’t always end up the way Joseph would have wanted.

 

After getting his hopes up to get out of prison and asking the cupbearer to mention his skill to Pharaoh, he was again let down and spent 2 more years in the prime of his life, “wasting” his time.

 

God could’ve kept him from having to go to jail, or from being sold as a slave in a foreign land, or from such cruel rejection from his brothers. God could’ve made it a lot smoother for him. But His ways are deeper, higher, wider and they bring about good in the midst of chaos and other people’s stupidity. So he “prospered” in prison!

 

“He who has suffered in the flesh is done with sin.” 1 Pet. 4:1

 

Joseph was in jail for honoring God, for his integrity, for doing right for his boss. This was classic character testing using temptation and injustice. This was God’s intimate orchestration to move him further along in his journey as well as in His greater plan; the little story within the big story.

 

How easily self-pity, loneliness, complaining, entitlement, or despair could’ve taken over and probably tried to!   But Joseph was lifted above it, and he rose to it. He and God were in it together.   His trust was way beyond his circumstances. I want to be like that!

 

What circumstantial tests stare you in the face?

What has God intimately orchestrated for you?

We have God’s presence! Are we in the mess with Him or are we just trying to get out of it?

Soul Complications  0

God Complicates Things

Guest post by Dan Scott

 

Jackie and I have been reading in Genesis lately. The stories are well known… Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… but the DRAMA is still unbelievable. And on this latest trip though Genesis an inescapable fact comes home to me: God complicates things ON PURPOSE to reveal Himself better!

 

For example – Jacob. God could have just made Jacob the older brother to begin with if He wanted him to be the one who received the blessing and inheritance. That would have been so easy. Everybody expects the older brother to receive the blessing. No need to stress over it…

 

He could have simply put it in Laban’s heart to bless Jacob willingly rather than using Laban to bless Jacob against his will. Laban changed Jacob’s wages 10 times to try NOT to bless Jacob, but God did it anyway. Speckled sheep… stripped sheep… black sheep… it’s unbelievable! (Gen.31:7-9) Etc. etc…

 

But His ways are displayed BETTER in stark contrast to what we’d normally expect. He doesn’t just act on our behalf, He does it in ways that violate the norm… that defy expectations… that overcome the odds (odds of course that He stacked up to begin with!)… that DISPLAY Him as the “God of the impossible”. Our God. God to be feared. God that even our ungodly acquaintances and godless enemies come to recognize and bow to. (Check out Gen. 21:22-23, 26:28)

 

He is not interested in simply blessing us and keeping His promises to us in the easiest, most logical way possible. He intentionally DISRUPTS our lives, out of a loving, merciful desire to make Himself known – not only to us, but to the NATIONS – those among whom He sent us to live as strangers and aliens! (Gen.23:4)

 

Lord, we can’t claim to understand Your ways. They are too wonderful for us. But we choose the only reasonable choice – to humble ourselves under Your mighty hand and worship!

 

 

What complications in your life are you fed up with?

 

Take a new look at it from God’s perspective.

 

Soul Block  0

 

 

How can we rid ourselves of false concepts that keep us from growth and instead make way for truth that sets us free?

 

We subconsciously keep people (and God) out of our hearts and rather focus on the on the outward.

 

Jesus said to the disciples, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:21) after they floundered to get a spiritual lesson out of a physical truth. Their focus and false ideas blocked them from “getting” truth.

 

As a little girl at Catholic Church for Ash Wednesday, I was given a vivid reminder of my mortality, but didn’t get it. “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust” they said as a cross was inscribed on my forehead. The outward markings didn’t permeate my heart until many years later when I met God and saw my own self-deceit in a whole different place. (Isn’t it interesting how we often meet God in a different place from our origins that seem to get stale and hold little meaning until we’re awakened?)

 

The inner matters of the heart are what God is after. So whether you lent or don’t lent, 🙂 take a good look at your heart and let go of excuses not to.

 

“Lent is a time to let go of excuses for failings and shortcomings; a time to stop hanging on to whatever shreds of goodness we perceive in ourselves; a time to ask God to show us what we really look like.”

Bread and Wine

 

We say things in our hearts that if we would linger and listen we might get some insight into our questions.

King Jereboam in an effort of self-protection and control said in his heart, ‘if this happens, I die so I must take control’ (my paraphrase)…and it didn’t end up very well (1 Kings 12:26- 13). What we say in our hearts drowns out truth and exposes our strategies to make our lives work to our advantage.

 

Lack of recognition of our own brokenness can block us from moving on in truth.  Here’s a difficult prayer:

 

 

 

 

That’s a prayer I’m not sure I want to pray!  Unless I really want growth…

 

“The man who can articulate the movements of his inner…life need no longer be a victim of himself, but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the Spirit from entering.” Henri Nouwen

 

Soul Exercise:

Plan some time to sit before God and ask yourself, “What am I really saying in my heart?”

Write down what you find.

 

God will not be surprised but rather quite inviting.

 

Soul Emptying  2

 

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“God has shot his arrow and made my heart his mark…”

Lam 3:12

 

Another phase of soul emptying came when we landed in a seemingly forsaken post-Soviet land. Prior to this assignment my husband and I had lived in Bolivia, South America for seven years where we learned the language and culture, had four kids, worked with a team of movers and shakers and had our share of adjustments. So starting again in yet another unknown culture, and one of lesser appeal, I had nothing left to give. Though I wanted to be there, my heart was not yet. I wanted to want to learn the language, and I hoped to do something of help to the people of this land where God had supposedly been dead for quite awhile.

This place seemed to be paused in century-old ways with leftover Soviet concrete rubble and dilapidated pipes on display, with crumbling infrastructure alongside breathtaking scenery that no one seemed to notice…snow capped mountains, blue mesmerising lakes, jutting rock faces. A dusty, gold plastic amulet with Arabic writing swinging from the rear view mirror of the taxi exhibited the mishmash cimg9932of cultures. Things were used and overused; overlooked and worn out, little shanty-like towns passed us; miles of stout concrete gingerbread-looking cottages lined up, smoking in the cold, fatigued haze. It was a long, frigid ride to our new home.

 

We arrived in the capital on a very dreary day in early September 1994. There was nothing of beauty to be found. Looking out of the third floor apartment window I saw the rusty, arthritic playground equipment, broken glass and old crusty men in the courtyard. That’s where my kids were supposed to play?

I had, in the back of my mind, decided the language was too hard and I would thus stay at home and just take care of the kids, the house and my husband. That’s about all I could muster up at the time. So my first week there I went out to meet another expatriate woman with five kids, thinking I’d get some sympathy. When she opened the door, she was in the middle of her language lesson, her kids were working on their schooling and she mentioned something about going to help at a clinic…

I had some talking to do with the Lord about comparison, about copping out, about relying on myself, about his plan and not mine. It’s been a long discussion.

 

Disillusionment has to combine with emptying ourselves of what we thought would or should be, if we hope to grow. Often facing disillusionment is just the beginning of real faith, otherwise it can lead to a reactionary betrayal of faith, throwing out the baby with the bath water. I had a long way to go in what seemed to be a tunnel of questions about God, church and how to live out truth. I clung to what I knew was true though I didn’t have many answers. It is amazing the power of our misconceptions and what it takes to break through them.

 

God goes to great lengths to show us what we wrongfully believe about him and ourselves. I had ideas about God that needed reworking and ideas about myself that were a result of living in a fallen world.

 

Free us Lord to really want the truth; whether it fits into our boxes or not.

The truth is what sets us free!

We are fractions of ourselves and He’s in the business of putting us back together. Difficulties in our lives that we endure are often more for Him to show us ourselves and who He really is. This emptying isn’t the Buddhist kind where you try to rid yourself of all desire (which strips us of our humanity) it is rather the kind that rids us of our boxes of limited thinking. And God is always blowing out my boxes!

 

Have a soul conversation:

  • Acknowledge and listen for your self-talk (the underlying messages playing in your head. Like “I’m on my own” or “I’m not worth anyone’s love…”). Bring it into the open.
  • Where have you been disillusioned? Or felt mislead by God?
  • How might He want to redeem that?

 

“If your life is broken, it may be that the pieces will

feed the world. The loaf will feed only a little boy.”

Elizabeth Elliot

Broken Soul  0

 

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The “beyond within”- our inner workings

Often quite a mixed pond of murkings

With parts so crystal clear and gleamings

Of freedom from old and putrid holdings;

Other parts rippled with stirrings of teeming

New life and struggle to grow into meaning

Afar the diseased corner, sludge-afflicted

Where deficit shows and care neglected

Hidden under brush and shadows until

The Pond-keeper begins a flushing drill

Ready-ing an unseemly empty place to fill

With new and fresh water of Life

That our deficit calls forth in its strife

To re purpose yet another place rife

With mired ungratefulness, shame, and grief

O Pond-keeper, come

pond-weeds-piles-of-parrots-feather

 

JS 8/16

“He desires truth in our inmost being…” Psalm 51:6

Have you been there with Him lately?

 

“The beyond within” – Dallas Willard’s description of the soul in Renovation of the Heart

Tenacious Soul  0

“Suffering, like nothing else, shows us what we really love.”

Matt Papa

 

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A beautiful and sweetly raw post by Carolyn B as her 3 ½ year old daughter, Ruby starts her 4th phase of chemo on 8/6/16.  You are teaching us all in your pain.  Thank you for taking the time and energy to share.

 

“You come right up to the thing you’ve been dreading, and stare it in the face, quaking in your boots. Imagining what might lie ahead puts knots in your stomach.  What if it’s the same as before? you think. I just can NOT watch her suffer again. It was agony the first time, when we didn’t know what to expect. I can NOT do it again.

And you just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Keep breathing hard, in and out.  Keep focusing on the next tree, the next bend in the path, pulling it doggedly towards you step by step.

 

Day 1:

Made to fast from breakfast, she’s whiny and clingy.  At the hospital for a general anesthetic and spinal tap, but she’s last on the list, so while we wait she’s given her two hefty chemo drugs for the day — the dreaded red one, Doxorubicin, that shredded her insides from mouth to bum last time…

Please God, don’t let it happen again.

Click, click, the IV pump ticks the seconds away. You try not to watch, but your eyes are drawn in terrible fascination to that red syringe emptying into the tiny tube feeding the drug into her port and through her veins.  Poison to heal… targeted medicine… it only takes one cell to bring it all back…

 

Day 4: 
Back in for another drug…  Entertaining an almost 4-year-old for 4 hours in an isolation room: watching screens, sticking stickers, painting watercolors, doing puzzles.  The minutes tick past.  Finally the drug is done, the flush goes through, and the nurse is ready to de-access Ruby’s port.  Although it’s supposed to be routine by now, it’s still hard every time.  This is the bravest one I’ve seen her do… Crying huge tears the whole time, she voluntarily lifts up her little t-shirt so the nurse can gently peel off the 10cm-square sticky dressing – which after 5 days is stuck tightly to her tender skin.  “Stop!” she cries out once through her tears, and the nurse obediently pauses.  “Go…” she whimpers bravely a second later, and the nurse finishes peeling off the dressing.  Then the painful pressure on the titanium port, sandwiched between tender layers of skin and muscle, as the nurse holds it firmly to steady it as she skillfully pulls the needle and dressing off together with one quick tug. Ruby doesn’t want a bandaid (one more sticky to remove later).  She reaches across her tummy with a small hand, still trembling, to hold the gauze in place herself until the oozing stops.

Still heaving with sobs, she lets me gather her into my lap. Unlike some days, she’s not mad at me today, because I’ve obediently followed her request to “just sit on the bed but DON’T TALK.” Today I was silently supportive, my heart aching at her bravery, marveling at her maturity beyond her tiny years.  As I gather her in I dissolve a bit myself, welling up with relief that it’s over, sheer pride at her immensmomdaute courage, deep grief that we have to do these painful things together at least twice every single week.  Feeling my tears fall on her soft, fuzzy head, she sits up abruptly and looks at me, fat tears still rolling down her own cheeks.  Switching immediately into compassionate concern, she says sweetly, “It’s ok to cry, Mommy.”  Mute, I nod, patting first her cheeks and then my own with the same crumpled tissue.
Later, on the way to the car, with her all soft and tender and sucking her thumb (a rare gesture) for comfort after her ordeal, we talk together about how crying is good because it lets all the yucky feelings come out.  I tell her how proud I am of how brave she was, that I was so amazed at how she could cry so hard and yet keep herself so still and hold her shirt up so bravely.  I asked her whether I had done what she wanted, staying close but quiet, and she said, “Yes, I don’t want you to talk – I just want you to stay with me.” She’s outgrown all my attempts to reason and explain her through it.  She just wants me to trust her now that she knows what’s coming, she knows how to handle it, and she knows what she needs from me.  It’s pretty remarkable that she’s only been on this planet for 46 months.

In the car I ask her if there might be something we could say together next time, something that would calm and settle us and give us courage, something that would remind us both of the Source of our comfort… (She wouldn’t let me pray out loud with her today before the nurse came in – I think she was already deep into trying to get into the right space for what was coming.  So I just prayed for her silently…)

“We could say Psalm 23,” she chirps brightly.

“Yes we could,” I agree.  “Shall we say it now?”

“The Lord is my Shepherd,” she begins promptly, tears forgotten already, “I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures…”

“He leads me beside quiet waters,” I continue. “He restores — ”

” — my soul,” she finishes happily.

We keep on driving and reciting, and we come to “He prepares a table in the presence of my enemies.”  We talk about how “enemies” can mean fear or anxiousness, or something yucky we don’t want to do, and that “preparing a table” means Jesus can pour into our hearts the sweetness of His love and courage, through the Holy Spirit…  Then even when it’s dark or scary we don’t need to feel afraid because Jesus has poured his sweet love into our hearts.  And perfect love pushes out fear.

“I love you, Mommy,” she sighs contentedly.

Another day in this journey, fighting cancer, growing holy, saving Ruby’s life, watching her faith and mine deepen and expand… Mingled joy and pain, happiness and tears, relief and despair, heaven and hell, sin and redemption, ugly and beautiful, bitter and sweet.”

 

What am I learning from my own suffering?

What can I learn from others’?

Disconnected Soul  2

 

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We’re meant for community, shared lives, regularity, rhythm. For us, in our travels we have managed to keep good routine and rhythm, but the consistent shared lives with others, we miss.  I’ve described the feeling to friends as

“nomadic disconnectedness.”  🙂

There’s sweet connectedness sporadically, and a semblance of connection through social media and skype, which are great helps, but there is a sadness and weariness that can set in with much travel and movement.

Of course there’s the exhilarating side, the new, the invitation into lives that regulars may not get, the new perspective we see or can bring, the incredible people, energizing challenges, intriguing places and colorful cultures. All of that I love.

I wonder though, if a disconnected soul is part of life, everyone’s life…? I know people who have been in the same geographical place all their lives and feel pretty disconnected. I can only imagine the disconnected ache of the masses of refugees now being ripped from the fabric of their beloved lives and homes with little hope for their future. That kind of despairing disconnection I don’t know.

Maybe some kinds of disconnectedness can be a mercy that shakes us into the realization that we so need connection with our Maker first. That empty feeling can push us there – to realize that our disconnection is primarily from Him. We are His, first and foremost. That’s where real connection and wholeness is, that can then flow freely into the connection with the others that we’re made for.

I think there are times and seasons where the disconnect is a wooing He uses to call to us. A place to which God brings us to have conversations, new appreciation, fresh perspective, or a deeper sense of our need. I guess I should take advantage of that! I need to share life with others, but any distance in my relationship with Him hinders my connection with the rest of the Body.

 

“Abide in me, and I in you.. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him,

he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…Abide in my love.”

(Stay connected to Love.) John 15:4-9

 

“…so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. “

Romans 12:5

 

An African brother (FD) said it so well, “How inadequate I am without my brothers and sisters.”

 

Do you sense any disconnectedness in your soul?

 

Could it be Him calling to you to reconnect with His Love?

 

 

 

Soul Expectations  2

expectations

I kind of expect that when very competent and capable people give up their lives and loves for the sake of the gospel, take their young family and painstakingly spend years and make a home in an obscure and difficult place, there will be open doors, much fruit. Sometimes there are. Other times there are heartaches and hard questions. (I am reeling with the numbing news from a family in our organization whose 3-year old daughter was diagnosed with cancer, taking them from the field.)

 

We all have underlying expectations we don’t know about, nestled deep in the recesses of our hearts. I think that’s why there were so many varying reactions to Jesus when he was on earth – ranging from awe, appreciation and buy-in, to anger, jealousy and contempt. Underlying these reactions is something… some assumption or belief that they spring from. For example, under the anger could be a fierce disappointment that Jesus was not what I expected him to be or didn’t do what I expected him to do.   So my reaction comes to the surface and we take issue with Him today, just like people did back then. It’s good to wrestle it through – and think about what we think about.

 

“the ruling passion conquers reason still….” Shakespeare

 

His ways are far beyond us because He is so FOR us. It takes seemingly unseemly measures at times for Him to get to our hidden parts or just to show His glory – for our good.

(From the DS journal):

“I’ve been in Ecclesiastes a bit lately – such a weird little poetry book – but bottomless insight into life. It can’t be just trivial cynicism right? – it’s inspired! One theme that’s been standing out is that: humanity and this world are cursed – that means there’s a lot of evil… and life to a large degree is TOILSOME – we can fight it, and resent it… or we can accept it (direct revelation about the Fall, God’s sovereignty, eternal hope ahead of us, etc. in the Word helps a ton!) – and if we accept it, it takes a lot of pressure off of life to deliver. We are free to just start the day by choosing the Joy of the Lord and to enjoy the little glimmers of God’s image that do shine through depraved people… and the Creator’s beauty that irrepressibly shines through the fallen-ness of His created world.  We’re free to enjoy the simple pleasures – to enjoy our food and drink and the woman we love… and to go “all in” on whatever we do, knowing life is short… and not load it up with too many expectations.”

 

So where do our expectations come from?

If there’s disappointment or discouragement?  Then there was an expectation.

Can you name one?

Does that naming unearth a ruling passion in you?

If so…does it need to be reigned in and put in its place, or repented of as something you’re putting your hope in more than Him?

Soul Anguish  0

Soul Anguish…to pay for me.

“…Isaiah 53:11  “As a result of the anguish of His soul… My Servant, will justify the many 

 

Christ on cross

He was a common, ordinary man, lived a simple life, had a few friends and lots of enemies, many followers but many followed only for what they could get.  He associated with all kinds of people, often offending others.  He didn’t have much comfort and didn’t try to prove he was right.  He looked for those who really wanted the truth.  He constantly taught with his attitudes, words and deeds.  People misunderstood him, mocked him, tried to use him for their own purposes, scoffed at his claims, and thought he was crazy.  He knew sorrow.  He got used to grief.  He was undervalued, misjudged, overlooked, disregarded, oppressed…rejected.  He came all the way to our world so he could die and though he tried to tell his closest followers they couldn’t grasp it.  His soul was in anguish, deep and cutting.  Kelly T and Mark B took us through Isaiah 53 on Good Friday.  We stared, riveted, at his soul poured out, at what it took to pay my way, to buy my peace, to take my sorrows and to defeat my sin.

 

Sin Defeated   (K Scott)

Grace and Mercy for the forsaken, offered love

And by love, sin is overtaken

To bring justice upon evil

And crush the head of Satan forever

Blood flowing from the head of perfection

Offered life to the dying and infected

And finally calling home all of the rejected

Experience peace that transcends comprehension

And overpowers the sting of condemnation

Not earning and then receiving a compensation

But rather undeservedly accepting salvation

Receiving this inheritance free of charge

However, not cheap but bought by Christ’s scars

For this we lift our lives before you

And all your people rise to adore you

And creation shouts your name

For even the rocks will exclaim the glory of your fame

And one day every knee will bow, and face be flat on the ground

And every tongue confess that you alone are Lord and will reign forevermore!

Soul Cries  0

Last post we brought up the importance of our minds in our struggles.  We have to be purposeful about knowing what’s going on in our minds.  Our soul cries can give us hints.

Sometimes it takes a while to even know what our soul is crying about.  I’m in a professional coaching course that has stretched my thinking.  One of the factors brought up to discern in ourselves and others is the concept of self-limiting beliefs; things lodged in the core of our beings from past coping or just from living in a fallen world.  Things that can keep us in a box of limitations that aren’t from God.  God does put some limits on us for our good, but others are self-imposed.  By identifying a self-limiting belief we can then lasso it, take it captive and make a choice to think differently; think again… that’s actually the literal meaning of re-pent… re-think (to the point of actually changing my mind!).  By re-thinking, our minds are renewed with truth and thus move toward transformation!

“…be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that …you may discern…”

 Romans 12:2

 I can get stuck in lots of self-limiting thoughts.  For example, if I think all the overwhelming things in my life depend on me, and what I can do, that is self-limiting because I’m defeated from the start.  But when I think, “I will do my part with all I am and God will multiply my efforts and make a difference”, then I am free.  Free to trust the control and outcomes to God and not carry it myself.  This takes constant reorienting of my mind and heart; realigning my limiting beliefs to His truth.

 “The enemy’s chief target is the mind because the most effective way to influence behavior is to influence our thinking.  Our minds are our control centers…”

Praying God’s Word Beth Moore

 When we give in to self-limiting beliefs our souls shrivel instead of rising above this world’s thinking.  Ask God to show you what belief you might have that could be limiting you from moving to higher ground!

sitinboxSoul exercise:

  1. Sit down and think about what your soul is crying about.
  2. Ask God to give discernment into your real beliefs that may be “against the knowledge of God”. (2 Cor. 10:5)
  3. Rethink!  Reprogram your soul with God’s truth!