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Posts Tagged ‘suffering’

BeautyStrangely warped containers and melted relics of what had been lay bent and twisted among cinder blocks stained by purple tongues of angry fire. Only the brick fireplace stood tall and unchanged, a lonely reminder of what had transpired there.

Like the remains of the house, my grief lay in an ashen heap and I wondered how people survive circumstances that devour every hope. Just fifteen, I’d experienced the loss of a home that represented comfort and stability. A home that my grandparents had built on the eastern Montana plains. A symbol of two people forging a good life in a land of harsh winters and summers with days as deep and wide as the blue sky.

Over time, the prairie took back what had once belonged to it and nature unfurled life from the midst of what seemed dead. Stalks of tall grass and wildflowers dotted the landscape; the gnarled willow tree that stood at the corner of the driveway loosed its branches and grew ever larger.

Beauty from ashes.

I understand the suffering of letting go of a dream when you'd believed God had more for you than this.#hoperestored#dreamnewdreams Click To Tweet

While few of us have experienced the loss of a home to fire, all of us live with loss. I don’t know what loss you may be facing, but I know you hurt. I know the doubt you feel. I understand the suffering of letting go of a dream when you’d believed God had more for you than this.

Perhaps your a mama who’d dreamed big things for your child, but now the one  you’d crooned to and prayed over has cut all ties or lives a prodigal life. Maybe the man you’d vowed to love for life has forgotten his promise to love only you. It could be your hopes for restored relationships with your mother or father have only fostered the false truths that your aren’t worth loving.

There are no easy answers to pain and suffering.But,there is a God who refashions broken lives.#hoperestored#beautyforashes Click To Tweet

There are no easy answers to pain and suffering. No get-fixed-quick self-help plans that erase the ache of a broken heart. But, there is a God who refashions broken lives. There is a God who renews our hope because He is also the one who revives what was dead. There is a God who accepted a life of loss and suffering in order for us to experience resurrected living now and into eternity.

Wherever these words find you today and whatever situation, take heart. Be encouraged. Your Father will grow beauty from the ashes.

 

Father,

Would you whisper tender words of renewed hope to your Daughter today? You know her pain. You know her loss. None of her tears have escaped your notice and you long to wrap her in holy arms of strength and peace. Be her rock when faith is shaken, her fortress when she needs shelter, and her hiding place when she is overwhelmed. We trust you to restore the years that have been stolen; to guide her on straight paths and along quiet waters until, one day, she’ll look back and see the way you worked faithfully to give her beauty for ashes. 

In Jesus’ powerful name,

Amen

 

Peace and grace,

Tammy

I often link up with the following: LMMLinkupPorch StoriesTea and Word Tuesday, Blogger Voices NetworkTea and Word TuesdaysWorth Beyond Rubies Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Soaring With HimPurposeful Faith, Encouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsImparting GraceDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementFaith and FriendsFaith on Fire, anitaojeda, Dance with Jesushttps://www.rachelmarielee.com/ https://www.instaencouragements.com

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“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you..png

Ask. Seek. Knock. These are the familiar words from scripture I’m reminded of as I read about the wise men from the East.

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2, MSG)

Carols romanticize their journey, but traversing hostile territory for months and even years left a band of mysterious travelers vulnerable to ill-meaning enemies and a hostile environment. Sand storms. Raiders. A limited food supply.

Still, men following after nothing more than a star and the certainty of conviction sought the infant king, Jesus.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

Bold in their quest for the Promise of salvation, the men stirred up hatred within king Herod’s heart and fostered fear in the lives of those comfortable with the status-quo. After all, an infant king threatened the power and position of a man with a bent toward fits of rage and murder.

Neglecting their own safety, the foreigners pressed hard for answers.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

Whether they arrived at the child’s home with an entourage of camels and servants in tow or were merely a couple of bedraggled, travel-worn seekers, the men must have paused at the threshold of the simple village home.

They knew. This moment would forever alter both their lives and their eternal destiny.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. (Matthew 2:11 NIV)

 

If Christ is our focus we can pursue him relentlessly-certain of a destination that ends with us...in His presence. Click To Tweet

Like wise men on a pilgrimage, we’ll wander into hostile territory. Face our own enemies of disease, distress, and difficulty. But, if Christ is our focus we can pursue him relentlessly–certain of a destination that ends with us in the glory of His presence as we offer our humble gifts of love and adoration.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

 

Thoughts to Ponder

  • What is your heart’s cry today? Is there something God longs to give you, but your pride, fear, or unbelief have kept you from asking for it?
  • Do you continue to seek Christ with the passion and devotion of the wise men or are you struggling to follow after faith? What action step can you take today to seek Him?
  • Do you raise your hand to knock at the door only to refuse yourself entrance because you believe you’re unworthy? Perhaps you turn away because of resentment, self-incrimination or shame. Christ stepped out of heaven and into a manger because He loves you–just as you are. Abandon your baggage at the threshold, Friend. Since He took it from you at the cross, you can leave it there.

 

Peace and grace,                                                                                                                            Tammy

 

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If you’ve ever found yourself doubting God’s goodness or wondering if your faith can withstand the hard of your circumstances, then I hope you’ll find some encouragement today.

I understand, Friend. Just a few years ago, I grappled with my faith. Fought and wrestled with God about the overwhelming, painful reality of all that was beyond difficult. Mine was a faith at risk of being abandoned.

For close to three years, I alternated between fighting for and against my faith. The beliefs I’d held since girlhood stood withered and emaciated beneath the scorching heat of personal trial and all that came with it. Anger. Grief. Disillusionment. Doubt.

You may be in that place now. Your soul may feel as though it’s bleeding and if that’s the case, dear Friend, let me encourage you to do battle to remain in Truth. It may take times of wrestling in the dirt before you rise up–your faith strengthened and doubts replaced with hope.

I hope the following video brings encouragement as you walk through the hard of your journey.

 

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My heart is pounding in my chest. It’s a thrumming, I guess. The rhythm that tells me something is wrong. Something (or someone) is anxious. The thin film of moisture coats the sides of my eyes, but I blink and blink, not letting it loose.

I don’t wanna. A two year old lives inside me, and she does not want to do the next thing. The next thing is hard and painful. She’d rather grab her favorite toy and play in the closet among her mom’s shoes, hiding from the world.

I try to talk the two year old down. You can do this. It’s only this one time. Or It will be over before you know it. Or even, you can have a treat when it’s all done!

See? Two. I told you.

But those pep talks don’t always work. Sometimes, on the lighter things, they do. But when it’s heavy and hard and nothing like what I expected, I’d much rather just…not. I wonder if I can tell God politely that I’d rather not do this next thing. And maybe if my voice is extra sweet and my demeanor uber-gracious, he’ll grant me this wish like a fairy godmother waving her wand. Only God’s staff is so much more powerful and wonderful than that.

I had a college professor who often talked about the phrase, “I prefer not”. He would tell us it was okay to use this phrase in life, and I want to cash it in right now. I prefer not. I change the words a little, thinking God’s ear will lean in my direction.

But there’s still no relief. The prefer nots and I don’t wannas and rather nots aren’t working. God is silent. Or perhaps no answer is the real answer. Because I already know what to do. What he wants me to do. I’m just avoiding it.

There’s no out. The next thing is the next thing I need to do. I’ll tell you a secret that I doubt will surprise you: I still don’t wanna.

But I hafta. And then I finally think to ask God. God, can you quiet this upset within my spirit? This fear and trepidation over the next thing? Help me to want to. Or at least give me grace while I don’t want to and I do it anyway. Because you’re asking. And I’m yours. Which means you are mine too. All of your goodness and your grace and your patience and your power—they’re here to equip me to do the next thing.

And then I remember that I won’t do the next thing alone. I always do that—jump ahead and imagine it without God in it. But then I remember he’s here now and he’ll be there then. That looming feeling of being alone and tired and just unable to do it is a lie. Because he’s there with me in that future of the next thing. And he has power and strength that I can’t even comprehend. And comfort. I’ll take some of that too.

Okay, God, let’s do the next thing together.

Jill-Lynn-Headshot-e1435757045485

Jill Lynn Buteyn is a co-author of Just Show Upwith Kara Tippetts, and the author of the inspirational romance novel, Falling for Texas (as Jill Lynn). A recipient of the ACFW Genesis award for her fiction work, she has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethel University. Jill lives near the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and two children. Connect with her on social media or at Jill-Lynn.com.
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I wrote a book about cancer and friendship with Kara Tippetts. I also write small-town happily ever afters.
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If we can trust Him with eternity, let's trust Jesus with our today

What happens when God doesn’t meet our expectations? When we’ve slipped a toe into the edge of the Jordan and suddenly we’re neck-deep in the river–disillusioned and doubting the call of the One who promised us beauty…bounty…blessing on the other side? What happens when our hopes or dreams are dashed against the rocks–shattered and floating further from our reach?

Do we blame Him for letting us down…for leaving us–struggling to manage the rushing water as we’re dragged somewhere unknown and unanticipated?

Instead of trusting that our Rescuer has already journeyed into the depths for us, do we give in to the pull of the current. Drifting. Doubting. Denouncing Him in our inability to see clearly from this side of the river to the other.

Maybe you’re at the place in your journey where nothing rattles your beliefs or sends you reeling–wondering if the God of scripture sees you…hears you…loves you. No matter the size of the Jordan, you trust Him to carry you across.

I’m not that grown up in my faith.

At times, I’ve been overwhelmed by the dark waves. Smashed against the river bottom. Sputtering for air. Shouting my doubts into the mist. Because suffering? It hurts. And sometimes I’ve felt like I’m drowning even in my living.

Some of you have shared about the Jordan your crossing right now. Cancer. Anxiety. Death. Divorce.

Pain so big it’d be easy to lose sight of the largeness and power of God. My heart aches for that journey you’re taking right now–the one causing fear unequaled. Feelings of aloneness. Deep soul-sorrow.

Can I remind you? He is El Roi–the God who sees.  He is Yishmael–the God who hears. He is Adonai–the God who loves you. And He is the God who walks on the water–right next to you…reaching out for your hand…and reassuring, “It’s me, don’t be afraid.”

If we can trust Jesus with eternity, let’s trust Him with our today–even as we totter toward the beckoning hand over the next wave.

Scripture for Reflection

As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

 He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!” (Matthew 14:22-23, MSG)

 

Thought to consider:   In what area of your life is Jesus calling you to “come ahead”.

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The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. Hebrews 1:1

The wind is elusive—an idea felt; a reality discerned through its visible impact on the tangible.

Silver ripples dancing across the face of a lake that only moments before lay in repose—glassy and motionless. A sudden rush of sound sending hundreds of burnished leaves to the forest floor like gilded feathers pirouetting in the sky. A high-pitched roar of anger propelling icy pellets of white against an exposed face.

I can’t see it, but I believe the wind exists. I can feel it—an invisible, unstoppable power. A thing of beauty that demands respect. An uncontainable, indefinable entity.

In the same way, I have faith in Jesus–the invisible God-Man who displays His glory in the beauty of creation. Each towering mountain arching heavenward and every tender petal unfurling at the prompting of morning light. God surrounds me with observable reminders of Truth.

I can’t see Jesus, but I believe He exists. Some might call this blind faith. The sort of faith based on nothing more than a pie-in-the-sky optimism or a myopic view of being human—ignoring the big questions about suffering, death, and purpose.

But I’ve witnessed it—lived it.

His authority transforming the broken places from deep inside; resurrecting hope in a loved one who had none before; breathing life into the lifeless.

No, my faith isn’t an endless well—a spiritual place of self-created hope. I’m not a version of Super Christian or someone who believes every story posted on Facebook or printed by the Associated Press.

Instead, my faith is less about me than it is about the One who is faithful. And when I waver? Those times that I doubt Him? I remember who He is and what He has done. I grapple with my mustard seed faith in prayer—showing myself real and vulnerable to the God who already knows my heart. Still…He remains true to his promises. Hope. Peace. Salvation. Jesus.

 If you’re walking in doubt today, friend, cry out to Him. He bends down from heaven to listen to even a whispered prayer. Remember what He has done for you and that His desire is to give you good gifts. Eternal gifts.

Beautiful…imperishable…holy gifts for having just enough faith to believe.

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A heart-rending scene in the movie Forrest Gump elicits uncomfortable emotions every time I revisit the movie. Why? Because I relate to Jenny—the young woman who returns to her family home only to be reminded of the pain and destructive secrets experienced in a place that should have been one of innocence and laughter.

 

Not Enough Rocks.pngPausing, Jenny leans almost involuntarily toward the ground where her hand wraps itself around something solid…indestructible. Determinedly, she hurls a rock at the faded, abandoned home in the distance. Glass shatters and one rock after another finds its mark—again and again–until Jenny presses her heaving body against the earth in exhaustion.

“Sometimes,” her companion laments, “I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”

Do you find purchase with those words, dear Friend? Can you understand how deep a wound this woman may have experienced?

And you—what about you?

Do you carry around scars, too? Maybe your hurts grew in the promising relationship of marriage. Oh, the hope you had the day you pronounced your love for one another. Now, perhaps, the dreams have all but disappeared and you wonder if your aching heart can bear the loneliness any longer.

Or, it could be that the dreams you held for your child have been destroyed. An imposter stepped in and occupied their place—substance abuse…depression….a precious one’s death.

Maybe your hurts were borne in a moment of a friend’s unwarranted betrayal…a workplace disagreement…or, perhaps, even at the hands of other Christians.

Oh, yes. The pain is real.

But what I know? Throwing rocks will not relieve the ache. The stinging words of retort meant to shame our offender…the dissolution of an unfulfilling relationship for another…the temporary solace found in a habit turned master—none of these “rocks” provide lasting satisfaction.   Instead, these stones will hang heavy like a weight—gradually pulling us deeper into resentment…remorse…regret.

But The Rock? He is the place of refuge…restoration…renewal. If we just unfurl those tightly curled fists and allow the rocks to tumble to the ground—each bitter thought and every cry of the heart—our faith will grow bigger, our hope greater, and our love deeper.

Scripture to Study (Genesis 38-46)

Consider Joseph’s story.

Because he was his father’s favorite, Joseph’s brother stripped him of dignity, threw him into the bowels of a pit, and sold him for next to nothing to slave traders. Remarkably, Joseph survived—and he survived without allowing hatred to implant itself in the dark places of his heart.

Instead, Joseph chose forgiveness. Beautiful, undeserved forgiveness.  

Joseph decided upon generosity. Life-giving, beyond expectation liberality.

The one who had been cast aside offered grace. Bountiful, unwarranted blessing.

 

-How do you imagine you would have reacted in Joseph’s situation?

-What is your response to those who have caused wounds in your life?

-Do your thoughts or actions align with the truth of who God says He is?

-What one step can you take today to let go of your grasp on a past hurt?

 

 

 

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We are, if we have chosen the good part, sitters at the feet of Jesus, just as Saul
of Tarsus sat at the feet of Gamaliel; Christ is to us our great Instructor  

–Charles Spurgeon

 

An uncommon God, He lived as a common man. Exchanging the beauty of heavenly glory for human flesh, Christ—the One who had strolled through the streets of heaven–walked the streets of everyday towns filled with common people burdened by common problems.

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He–who had known perfection–surrounded himself with the imperfect. He willingly gave up abundance for poverty, worship for rejection, and self for others.

hands-731265_1280Why did Jesus—who once stooped to breathe life into dust—bind himself to the earth…to men and women whose feet carried them further from truth and deeper into the deception of self…of false hopes and misplaced dreams…of willfulness and rebellion?

 

Because He knows what we are made of. (Psalm 103:14) And simple dust, once stripped of protection, shifts in the wind—sometimes mere inches while at other times it is moved completely from its place…drifting and unsettled. For hundreds of years, Dust had lived under the dark curse of sin–tossed about this way and that.

No one remained untouched. Suffering. Disease. Death. Corrupt men subjugated innocents to forced labor—stealing youth and hope. Outcasts—considered less than human—suffered in pain on the edges of the city while rotting flesh ached for relief. Human souls cried out to heaven and Jesus was the answer. And in becoming like the rest of us, God made clear the extent of his love for Dust.

 

A love so encompassing and grace-filled that He intentionally wandered from place to place—offering forgiveness, speaking words of love, and bringing the kingdom of heaven to aching, hurting people. And, unlike any other god before or since, the man named Jesus died to save Dust. The same feet—soiled and dirtied from travelling to the dwellings of Despair and Need—were nailed to the tree. Their blood flowed downward and marked the hill at the base of the cross. And blood and Dust became inseparable.

Jesus gave everything for this woman of dust. He gave everything for you, too, dear Friend. And at the nail-scarred feet of Jesus we receive the life of a common man and an uncommon God. 

Scripture for Reflection

Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand. At your feet they all bow down, and from you receive instruction… (Duet. 33:3)

…and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. (Luke 8:35)

…but few things are needed–or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

 

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A trusted mentor of mine put it bluntly…”What gives you the right to malign God’s character?”

Revealing the ugly places in my heart, I confided to a root of bitterness that threatened to impair my faith with its silent, choking growth–an infected seed of doubt…fear..and disillusionment had taken root. The Enemy’s whispered messages had penetrated my mother’s tender heart. This was not what I had imagined for my precious ones.

I wondered if God really had a plan…really had our good in mind. How could this hardship, this suffering, this hollow ache in my heart beating its cry moment-by-moment lead to something more…something beautiful?

Meeting my friend’s gentle rebuke with an unusually frank reply I responded, “I have no right to malign God. I know the truth whether I feel it or not.”

Could you, too, be struggling with a situation that makes it difficult to see God’s good in your hurting? You will see Him, dear Friend, if you watch and listen. His goodness might come through the words of a loving friend…a meal cooked by servant hands…a prayer offered quietly on your behalf. You might notice His mercy in the fresh, clean smell of your freshly bathed child pressed close to your heart…the rising of the sun when you didn’t think light could penetrate the darkness.

I pray you know the truth–whether you feel it or not.

Truths from Scripture

Psalm 27:13
I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of The Lord in the land of the living. Wait for The Lord; be strong And take heart and wait for The Lord. (Emphasis mine)

Romans 8:37
In all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us.

1 Peter 5:8-10
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ…will himself restore you…

John 8:32 …the truth will set you free.

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When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him ,he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.

 -Chinua Achebe

Close-up of a teenaged girl suffering from depression

He wasn’t invited…this interloper.  But some guests don’t require invitations and, like this one, quickly navigate about the room infecting everyone with their undesirable influence.  This guest…like so many memories of adult survivors of child abuse…pushes its way into the beautiful, harmonious places that were meant to be sanctified…pure…redeemed.

And suddenly, the once-cherished visions of giving something better to the ones you love seems unclear–like an aged mirror that once reflected all that was beautiful, but now only offers a blurred image of what might truly exist.

And in the suffering, you wonder...is it true?  Has God abandoned me to suffer alone?  How can a Father…the Heavenly Father…allow calamity of the mind?  Does He care about the spirit wounds doubling His child over in pain?  

Searching for a thread of hope…a reminder of His promise…a thought of what is beautiful I read words penned by Bible teacher, Paul Tripp…

Suffering will tempt you to doubt God’s goodness and kindness. Suffering will tempt you to doubt His faithfulness and love. Even though you may never speak this aloud, your theology will bring God into the court of your judgment and accuse Him of being unloving and unfaithful to His promises.   In moments of suffering, don’t run away from God in doubt. If you do, you risk missing out on the wonderful blessings of grace that He has made available. Even if those blessings are uncomfortable or even excruciatingly painful, you can run to the Father.

So…let’s run, dear friends–in our doubt, our pain, our suffering–to the One who enters by invitation only.

The Message (MSG)

Scripture for Reflection

Rev. 3: 20-21 “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!

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