addiction, affliction, an intense love, art, artwork, backslidden, believer, Bible promises, Bible study, brokenness, Bryan's comments, comfort, community, contrite heart, deliverance, derailment, desperation, devotional, discipleship, encouragement, failure, faith, Father God, following Jesus, forgiving sin, gifts, grace, homeless, humility, intimacy, Jesus Christ, joy, kingdom of God, life lessons, lost causes, mercy, paintings, past, personal comments, pleasing God, pleasing self, prodigal son, regret, Rembrandt, repentance, Serving Mentally Ill Christians, shame, sorrow, spiritual lessons, trials, trust, understanding, Very helpful, will of God

Rembrandt’s Meditation on the Younger Son

Rembrandt-The_return_of_the_prodigal_son
Painting by Renbrandt, 1606-1669
“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to  one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:11-24, ESV

Three hundred and twenty-nine words– these describe the life of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. These 329 words reveal to us a God who forgives much, and loves easily; the Father loves far too much, way too easy— and far too extravagantly for human beings to understand. Perhaps we sort of expect that he will ‘appropriately’ punish his son— at least put him on probation at least. It only makes sense.

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Many of us have lived in prodigality, some  of us for a very long time. We have spent our inheritance like ‘drunken sailors’ and have nothing at all to show for it. The prodigal, completely destitute, takes the only work he can find. (Imagine a good Jewish boy feeding hogs.) He is so far gone that he starts inspecting the slop pails for something to eat.

Many of us will understand his despair. But there comes this crystalline moment of amazing clarity. The prodigal—filthy and impoverished, has  a memory of the Father’s house. The servants there had far more than him. Sometimes in our captivity we instinctively want to go home, if only to be a slave.

The Father has dreamed of this moment. The parable says, “He saw him–felt compassion–ran out to him–embraced him–and kissed him.” In moments we see a swirl of servants who completely overwhelm an already overwhelmed son. I’ve read the Parable of the Prodigal Son a hundred times or more . It never loses its punch. I simply want to bring you for just a few moments back into its light. I expect that the Holy Spirit may have business with you. rembrandt-prodigal3 (1)

We see that his father receives him with a tender gesture. His hands seem to suggest mothering and fathering at once; the left appears larger and more masculine, set on the son’s shoulder, while the right is softer and more receptive in gesture. His head is downy, almost like a newborn’s. Standing at the right is the prodigal son’s older brother, who crosses his hands in stoic judgment; we read in the parable that he objects to the father’s compassion for the sinful son.

Rembrandt had painted the Prodigal once before, when he was considerable younger. And it is a very good painting. The prodigal is happy and gay; there is absolutely no indication of the consequences of sin. He is charming young man at a happy party. But Rembrandt chooses at the end of his life to re-paint it to reflect reality. This is one of the last paintings he will do, and it is the Prodigal Son–destitute and repenting. I can only imagine; the years have taken a toll and he doesn’t really feel his first painting is enough. He wants to paint what is true. He is painting us.

*

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

believer, challenges, change, devotional, discipleship, encouragement, endurance, failure, faith, Father God, flexability, frustration, God, grace, Holy Spirit, hope, humility, interruptions, Jesus Christ, kingdom of God, lessons learned,, life, life lessons, Messy Spirituality, ministry, personal comments, plans, rashness, regret, schedules, self-centered, Serving Mentally Ill Christians, spiritual lessons, transformation, truth, understanding, Very helpful

A Sidetracked Life

 

sidetracked

I’m thinking that an awful lot of my life has been filled with ‘inconvenient interruptions.’ I like a certain order, and schedules and keeping appointments. I’m not a rigid person, but I become mildly annoyed when my life becomes ruled by these unplanned intrusions.

However, at times an interruption can be quite productive. Often when my plans are set aside, I get the opportunity to see the Holy Spirit step in. He does things that are eternally true and special.

Scriptures are saturated with ‘inconvenient interruption.’ Mary, whose life was jolted by a visit by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-31). Paul, on the road to Damascus was overwhelmed suddenly and converted (Acts 9:1-9). The virgin Mary would have a son, and Paul would shake the world with his preaching the Gospel of Jesus.

There are many others who had their calm lives interrupted by God.

One could almost say that the Bible is a book of ‘blessed interruption.’ I’m thinking right now of Moses, whom God shook and completely altered his life in just a few moments. And of course we read of Abraham, suddenly leaving everything to follow a promise.

I tell you, God has a flair for the dramatic. He often steps into the lives of His people. We might get irritated, frustrated, owly and a bit afraid. The question is this– can the Spirit interrupt you?

“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.”

Psalms 33:10

Perhaps this is the next lesson in your discipleship. You will need to be a servant. The most profoundly Christian people I know are those whose lives can be side-tracked. I encourage you, look for God’s purposes behind your next interruption. Let Him arrange your schedule. 

“The Lord can control a king’s mind as he controls a river;
    he can direct it as he pleases.”

Proverbs 21:1

bry-signat (1)

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

&

believer, difficulties, discipleship, downloads, grace, Jesus Christ, lost causes, mental illness, personal comments, regret, sadness, Serving Mentally Ill Christians, spiritual lessons, temptation, understanding

What Could Have Been

What do you regret? As a believer it is already forgiven.

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.”  

~Fulton Oursler

Regret is an ugly thing. Dictionary.com describes “regret” as, to feel remorse for, or to feel sorrow over. It is a difficult emotion for us, as there can be a dissatisfaction, or sorrow or remorse over, it can be a paralysis of sorts. It is the kind of personal sorrow about ones behavior in a certain situation, that can be overwhelming.

There will always be a deep sense of loss for “what could have been.”

I regret many things, my mind works as an active recorder. Future life continues its relentless advance, and there is from the past a constant awareness of darkness, failure and sin.

There are some who have no idea what I’m talking about. I might as well be speaking Chinese. But there are others who will “spark” on what I have just stated. Regret for many of us, is savage and bitter.

Not a day goes by when the voice of darkness doesn’t speak to us. My thinking is that it may be more reasonable to take a baseball bat across your femurs, and dealing with broken legs, than handling regret gone viral.

We think “about what could have been.” We imagine life without regret, of things we might have done not having this dark burden. However, these possible choices are things we can never be sure of.

In my younger days I dreamed of attending college, and then going to seminary. I really thought that I wanted to be a pastor, in some small Lutheran church in the Midwest. But this would never happen. It was just an aspiration, a dream. And it wasn’t reality (even though I wish it had been).

I assure you there are much nastier and blacker regrets, there are things of which I am profoundly ashamed. But my point is this, they exist, they do unsettle us, and the present moment is corrupted by my past behavior.

You are not unique or alone. There are millions of sincere Christian believers who face what you are facing.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

1 Cor. 10:13, NLT

I must tell you that there is a spiritual war. Satan is the enemy of our souls. He will bring to your mind fear and confusion. In scripture, he is called “the accuser of the brethren.” He has a diabolical ministry is to bring you down. He operates out of pure hatred, and he will never show you mercy.

We must develop a more scriptural method of wrapping up our minds in God’s Word. It stops and then alters the spiritual radiation from the enemy. The Word has tremendous power to halt the enemies attack. Ephesians 6:10ff tells of spiritual armor that must be utilized and worn.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Ephesian 6:13

cropped-christiangraffiti1-2

affliction, broken believers, brokenness, compassion, deliverance, depression, despondancy, discernment, forgiveness, forgiving sin, frustration, God, grace, guest teacher, intercession, Jesus Christ, Linda Kruschke, pain, poetry, ragamuffins, rascals and strugglers, regret, rest in God, sadness, Serving Mentally Ill Christians, sorrow

Tears with a Purpose

her-tears-grey-puddle

I’ve been thinking a lot about tears lately—in part because Pastor Bryan pointed out to me how many hits my post titled God Keeps Your Tears in a Bottle has had, in part because I’ve cried more than a few tears this year, and in part because I’ve been listening to Johnny Cash’s Cry, Cry, Cry in my car all week—and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all here.

People cry for a lot of reasons. Earlier this year my sister died of breast cancer at only 61 years old. I cried, a lot. It’s normal and even helpful to shed tears over the death of a loved one even if we know where they are going when they die, because it allows us to express the grief we feel over not having them in our lives any more here on earth.

I remember a time I had a previous boss say some very cruel things to me in front of other people. She accused me of having done things I had not based on motives I did not have. I was very angry, hurt, and frustrated. And I cried, a lot. I didn’t cry in front of her, mind you, but afterwards I did. And it was good to express that anger to others.

Just yesterday I experienced unexpected tears. I was reciting the prayers of the people in church, which I’ve done many times. Our church has many prayer concerns for members, family, and friends with health concerns and more. Towards the end of the prayer I began to lift up prayers for a church member’s brother-in-law who is a pastor back in New York because he is faced with conducting the funerals of two teens who had been killed in an accident last week, and with comforting the families of three other teens who are in critical condition. I unexpectedly had tears in my eyes and my voice cracked praying for these teens and families that I don’t even know. But they were good tears because they touched those who heard my prayer and I know they touched our Lord, too.

I have cried tears of loss, anger, indignation over an injustice, frustration, compassion, and even of joy. I sometimes cry tears of regret when I hear a beautiful song about the sacrifice of Jesus, knowing it is my sin that required him to suffer.

Tears often serve a purpose, as expressed in this poem that I wrote recently:

Tears

Tears of sorrow, anger
drench my soul
course without end
eroding pain, anguish

Where once only aching
occupied my heart
now is a deep empty ravine
carved by a river of tears

Tears of forgiveness
water my soul’s riverbed
allowing flowers of love
to flourish and grow

Peace arises in my heart
held aloft by God’s promises
the fragrance of sweet alyssum
blossoms of my soul

I think the saddest tears of all, though, are the tears of major clinical depression. These tears are so sad because the one who cries them doesn’t know what purpose they serve.

I remember when I was suffering from major depression sitting in a chair and just crying. When someone asked me why I was crying all I could say was, “I don’t know.” And I truly didn’t. The tears didn’t wash away pain; they only seemed to make it all the worse.

In the midst of such tears, there is One who knows their purpose. Romans 8:26 says: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Through prayer God can sometimes lead us to an understanding of the purpose of the tears of depression, and ultimately to healing. Often the wounds are so deep it takes years and a great many groaning prayers to heal. But we must accept our weakness and our need for God’s Holy Spirit to intercede for us.

For me, after much prayer of my own, the blessed prayers of others, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit, God led me to an understanding of the purpose of my tears. They were tears of anger and unforgiveness; they were tears of lament that I had allowed myself to remain in bondage to the sins of another for so long. Ultimately, with God’s help, the tears did lead to healing once I truly understood why I was crying.

Peace, Linda K

 

Forgiven-drop

 

Linda has a good and perceptive blog at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/. Please do pay her a visit.

 

 

 

 

 

believer, broken believers, calibration, depression, devotional, difficulties, discipleship, faith, fellowship of the saints, grace, holiness, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, king, kingdom of God, mental health, mental illness, mercy, personal comments, pride, questions, ragamuffins, rascals and strugglers, regret, Serving Mentally Ill Christians, spiritual lessons, temptation, trials, trust, truth, understanding, Very helpful, victory, weakness, witness

Learning to Walk, Again

“You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
4 Trust in the Lord always,
for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.”

Isaiah 26:3-4, NLT

Life is chock full of mysteries, so much is unknown.  Early in my walk, over 40 years ago, I concluded that I would be able to acquire all the knowledge that I could ever want.  I was on the short track, going up of course.  It was a glorious thing, it took me some time to realize I was very ignorant of so much.

I think we need to work through this, for most it is a minor tweak.  For others who still think that their life consists in how smart they can become, it is trouble.  I believe that the Word of God, read and meditated on is an exceptional thing.  All scripture is God-breathed…”  The Bible communicates truth, not facts.

As I age, I start to understand that things are much more enigmatic and unfathomable than I ever dreamed they would be.  It is a step of faith to accept truth when their are still a lot of things that are still vague.  Mike Mason wrote, “You say you have faith to be healed, but what about the faith to be sick?”

That is a penetrating question, indeed.  “Why are some healed, and other are not?  Why do I have eternal life, and my friend does not?  Why should AIDS sweep through poor African villages when I live in a very comfortable suburb in the US?”  I have many other questions like this, but I won’t bore you with them.  (You probably have them too.) And there are thousands like this.

And I’m not making a whole lot of headway here.  Reasons and facts are not there. Life becomes more mysterious and inscrutable.  But there is a word we must know–it is the word “trust”.  It is a faith that assists us through the landscape of impossible questions.

As a struggling, mentally ill Christian, many (even in my own church) create more questions for me.  “Therapists, psychiatrists and daily medications are really good, but do you really need them?” or  “Did God create in you the need for lithium and Zoloft?” and ” How can you follow Jesus when you have all of these depression issues?” And here is a humdinger, “Where is your joy?”

But it is precisely these issues that help me be a disciple.  I’ve been slowly learning you see.  And my weaknesses are becoming my strengths.  They lead me to exercise my feeble faith.  I trust in Jesus; my faith helps me trust. I find it interesting to note  that the Book of Psalms for the most part, was written by “a broken believer” like David– a king and a rascal.

“People with their minds set on you,
    you keep completely whole,
Steady on their feet,
    because they keep at it and don’t quit.
Depend on God and keep at it
    because in the Lord God you have a sure thing.”

Isaiah 26:3-4, The Message

These nebulous areas have only increased, but ironically my trust has only grown.  I have more questions then ever before, but my faith in him only gets stronger. I suppose I will never, ever be a gleefully upbeat, cheery person.  But I am learning “to trust and obey, there is no other way…”  He himself has taken up the chore of teaching me to walk, again. Just one thing, keep trusting.

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1-2

 

advice, alert, believer, Bible promises, blessings, broken believers, Bryan's comments, cheerfulness, complete surrender, contrite heart, cynicism, devotional, discipleship, encouragement, faith, fault finding, following Jesus, gifts, God's dealings, grace, humility, kindness, lessons learned, life lessons, love, ministry, oblivious, personal comments, rascals and strugglers, rashness, regret, Serving Mentally Ill Christians, sin, spiritual lessons, tongue, understanding, Very helpful, wisdom, words

Apples of Gold

goldapple

“The right word spoken at the right time
       is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl.”

Prov. 25:11, New Century Version

I’ve been thinking about this particular verse for years.  I had an older translation and I couldn’t decipher it.  It is really good to understand what you have just read.

This verse tells us that there is a certain cadence– a timeliness for just the right word.  There is a proper sense, a beautiful art in making the situation perfect. The wisdom comes in a conversation, and suddenly everything makes sense.  There is a elegance that’s shared by everyone, and a dignity that the Holy Spirit bestows on our words. We only have to ask Him to bless what we say (or write.)

People speak wrong words as well.  Rather then edifying, they tear down.  Thirty years ago a Christian girl I was working with would always try to counsel me.  Soon, I had enough of it.  I walked up to her desk and said, “Becky (name changed), God has given me a word for you!”  She looked up at me and smiled. ‘It’s Judges 16:16’, she got out her Bible to read the verse I just had given her. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.”

I absolutely crushed her spirit.  I had used the Word to assault her like a blunt instrument.  Tears welled up in her eyes.  It would be a time before I sought her forgiveness.  I was hard and brutally used the Bible to purposefully hurt her.  I do not suggest that you do this.  I will never forget what I did. Oh man, did I ever learn.

That day I would learn the awesome power of my words— for good, or for evil.

Let us also decide that our words will bring life to those who we meet today– wise and encouraging words!

1brobry-sig4

cropped-christiangraffiti1 (1)

*

advice, affliction, battle, battle wounds, believer, Bible promises, broken believers, brokenness, Bryan's comments, complexity, counseling, crushing, danger, desperation, difficulties, encouragement, endurance, evil, failure, flexability, grace, hospitalized, humor, imagination, Jesus Christ, kyrie eleison, lessons learned,, life, life lessons, lost causes, love, mental health, pain, personal comments, protection, quite useful,, ragamuffins, rascals and strugglers, regret, rest in God, scars, Serving Mentally Ill Christians, sorrow, special verses, spiritual lessons, storms, suffering, taking risks, tangled up, transparency, trials, trust, understanding, Very helpful, weakness

Different Ways to Fall Out of a Tree

boy-falling
Imagine climbing up to the top of a very tall tree. You work your way up to the highest point– you can go no further. The view is completely glorious, it’s more than you hoped for. You want to post it on Facebook, so you dig into your pocket to get your camera-phone. You suddenly slip, and because your arms are occupied getting your camera, you fall. And you fall fast.

As you plummet, you realize that you’re hitting every branch on the way down. The smaller ones break, and the bigger ones, well– you just bounce off. The trip down is very fast, and perhaps even a bit illuminating.

  1. First, you think of death.
  2. Then you think about the pain each branch causes, and wonder about your imminent arrival on terra firma.
  3. Perhaps you consider how stupid you are, and how you are going to explain it.
  4. Lastly, I suppose, you wonder if you have clean underwear on, like your mother always told you to wear.

This is how my life has gone, the last 20 years. This metaphor is a good way for me to process things, and to find some understanding. I now believe that some of us go through life sideways, or horizontal. We careen off of every branch on the way down, and it seems we are hitting branches that we didn’t even know were there. Tree limbs are snapping, as we are dropping.

Others who are wiser (or maybe more experienced,) try to fall more vertically. As they fall, they use their hands to try to slow their descent. (This does work!) They will take their fair share of jolts, no doubt. But their journey to the forest floor is way less traumatic. They may end up in the hospital– but not in emergency surgery like the first guy.

It sometimes seems like every trouble I have faced I have gone into it sideways. I have broken a lot of branches on my way down. I suppose I’ve entertained some who have watched me plummet, and seen me careen and spiral my way to the bottom. These have been some painful times, I have inflicted considerable amount of bruises on myself.

People who go through life sideways will invariably suffer. They seem to hit every obstacle and trial that could be in their flight path. The existence of pain in this life cannot be disputed.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33, NLT

Jesus understands. Especially if you are one of those people who are “trial magnets” going through life horizontal. (You just seem to collect them.) My hope for you that as you break your branches on the way down (for maybe the 100th time). You will try to plummet vertically. Not that it is any easier, life will hurt. But perhaps it won’t be as agonizing. And I suppose that would be a good thing.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,”

Jude 24

Just hanging on!bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

 

kyrie elesion.