Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Prison Break

"In that wonderful day when the LORD gives his people rest from sorrow and fear, from slavery and chains..." Isaiah 14:3

Funerals always impact my life. I attended one for the father of a new friend of mine not long ago. In our understanding he died too soon. He was only in his early 60's. Although I never had the opportunity to meet this man, his funeral impacted my life. The tributes and memories shared by family and friends were beautiful. We viewed a slide presentation set to music, tracing the journey of his life. The one thing that really spoke to my heart was that this man had truly lived.

He was an adventurer. Fear didn't hold him captive. He lived out loud. He wasn't afraid to follow the dreams God had placed in his heart, and yet he didn't take foolish risks. He enjoyed life to the full. In many ways he has gone from living to living.

My life in comparison would be such a shadow. Many of us would be likened to "dead men walking" in contrast. Oh, maybe outwardly we're going through the motions. Jumping through all the right hoops. We know how to play the "Game of Life". For generations it's been the same. We've read the rules. We know the expectations. Years go by, but our passion is getting buried deeper and deeper. We are allowing ourselves and others to dig our own grave...only we're still breathing. We're being buried alive.

I read recently of someone who, though living, described themselves as dead. Have you been there? Have you been to that dark place that numbs the heart. Apathy is your new normal. You feel indifferent...listless. You've lost interest in all your surroundings. Dejection and weariness characterize your existence. You are no longer a participant, but a spectator. You have eyes that see, without seeing. Ears that hear without hearing. A heart still capable of loving has become your prison. You feel empty, drained, alone.

Unbelievers are not the only ones held captive. Many Christians live life behind locked doors. Self-imposed cells. Discouragement, pain, rejection, insecurity, fear, accusations, past, present, future all build up walls. Gasping for breath you feel smothered, yet weakness and familiarity keep you hostage. It's often comforting to stay in the security of this new normal. Realizing work and effort may lay ahead, awakening holds too many uncertainties. A strange part of you enjoys the attention, pity and compassion from others. Silence is your truest friend and your most consuming enemy.

The problem? Right now life seems too overwhelming. Negatives far out-weigh the positives. Somehow your focus has shifted from what can be, to what is. Often it's a slow fade. Unfulfilled desires in a marriage, demanding children, a stressful job, painful, abusive memories, illness, ...disappointment in God. Oh, you'd probably not come right out and say that, but somewhere along the line, you've felt God has let you down. You had plans. You had desire. Your life was filled with enthusiasm and drive. You've been robbed in the cruellest way possible. You don't have to worry about being one step closer to the grave, you're already there.

How can I write of this? I've been there. I am all too familiar with premature death. But, can I offer you hope? If you are still breathing, you are not dead. Like a seed that may sit dormant all winter long, you are experiencing a winter in your soul. The season will change. Like the story of the "Secret Garden", there are treasures in you to be unearthed. Darkness can have a valuable purpose.

I don't know what God will do to call you back to life again, but He will. God is a God of Resurrection. He specializes in bringing the dead back to life. He wants to see you running and leaping. He comes to you, as He did to the blind beggar named Bartimaeus and asks, "What do you want Me to do for you?" He will not force Himself on you. He holds the keys to your release in open, nail-scarred hands and offers them to you. He is not the one holding you in bondage. Self-imposed shackles are the only things holding you hostage. He promises to bring rest from sorrow and fear, from slavery and chains. Today could be your Prison Break!

Acts 16:26 "Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose."

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Lutiemom said...

Wow, Joy. What a deep thought invoking post you have shared this morning. I once found myself in the very place you described..."Negatives far out-weigh the positives. Somehow your focus has shifted from what can be, to what is. Often it's a slow fade." I was married to a man that had numerous affairs. He would beg forgiveness and move on to the next relationship, meanwhile he would treat me much like the way Cinderella's step sisters treated her. I felt like God abandoned me and that I was not worthy of His love. This is not a place I ever want to be again.

I am truly thankful for the day he left with another woman. "In that wonderful day when the LORD gives his people rest from sorrow and fear, from slavery and chains..." Is 14:3

At the Woman of Faith Conference, I learned from one of the speakers that "not all pain is harmful". I grew from this experience, embracing the pain and allowing God to love me.

Shiela Walsh shared a beauitful insight...Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God". The term "be still" is the Greek word Raphah meaning to let go, let drop,abandon..

Beautifully spoken Joy! Let the chains that bind us go and let God give us rest...it's a wonderful "prision break".

I am so thankful for each of you.


Anonymous said...

good morning ladies of God,

in the past few days our readings have repeatedly used the phrase 'the LORD of heaven's armies'.

i just finished re-reading frank peretti's 'this present darkness', a novel written in the 80's, but oh so poignant for us today! it is based on the ephesians 6:12-

'we war not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities,the powers and world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.'

this novel is a drama based on 2 planes, a small college town being subtly invaded by the 'universal consciousness society', and the heavenly plane, full of demons (like lust, avarace, greed, anger, bitterness....) and the heavenly HOST, who guide their main characters (an unsaved newspaper reporter, and a pastor)through a host of heart pounding situations and battles.... the heavenly host's war cry is 'for the saints of God and for the Lamb!!', and they are powered by the prayers of the 'remnant'....

an awesome and inspiring and applicable read... which also ties into joy's recent commentary on God's cloud covering of protection...hiding the thunderous storms and battles that are taking place in the heavenly realm....

always amazed at the applicability of God's Word, on a daily basis!!
amy jane

Lori said...

Thank you for blessing us this morning by opening up your heart and exposing yourself. We've all been there too.

I vividly remember it, like it was just yesterday...walking one morning and saying, LORD what is my purpose? I need a purpose in my life. Why do I feel empty. Unsatisfied? Hallow? I continued to ask this to the Lord, not really thinking about it, but would just talk to Him in my walking times...

I felt almost guilty too for feeling this. I'm mean why me? I seem to have it all. There was not a need or want that I could not purchase. Healthy family. Devoted husband. Two wonderful sons. So my days continued. Inwardly nothing seemed to replace my vacuous way of life! I'd convince myself that shopping would lift my spirits - didn't help. Certainly REdecorating a room might be a pick me up! So, I went through the motions, playing the "Game of Life." Taking care of everyone's needs, making sure we were all dressed perfectly, and being at the right places at the right times. Serving on the right committees. But, as you mentioned dear Joy...getting buried deeper and deeper in an empty life. Covering it up outwardly tho with a smile.

Till, God was ready! As only God could do, he allowed me to have everything, to show me that even when you have it all, you are not truly happy! Even tho I was a Christian all of my life, I felt void, and just did not get it! One day, I'll never forget...a special best friend of mine, called me up and invited me to take a Beth Moore Bible Study with her. [need I say more?! :) ] I accepted, not knowing that that was the beginning of my love affair with my Savior! After all those years of being a Christian, and after all those years of thinking I was following Jesus, and living the life He wanted...I truly became aware of what it means to walk with The Lord. I began reading my Bible daily, and I truly can testify, my whole being changed! I had a purpose, dear girlfriends! Finally, after all these many years...I had a specific purpose in my life! Intentionally, my purpose became so very clear to me. To encourage those around me while telling people about Christ. My days now are full of contentment. Feeling blessed. Delighted. Happy. Glad.

Thank you dear Lord for wooing me back to you! "The nations of the world will help the LORD's people to return" Isaiah 13:2
Lord, in your mercy you placed the right person in my life to help me return to you. I didn't even know that I had left you...Lord you are so loving and compassionate. You always know our needs, even when we don't! Praise You!


Elle Elle said...

"...a winter in your soul"

That is such an excellent description of the times we know we are in despair and darkness...places we think or pretend are healed but still need nurture...and, as Lori shared so very poignantly, when we don't even realize we have left our Lord:

The absence of peace. The sense of something off. Never feeling full. Restless.

I just thank you Lord Jesus for your healing power...for loving us so much and forgiving us so deeply that we can bring it all to you and surrender it...that you will speak tenderly to us in the desert of the winter of our souls and wash us clean...fill us up with your plan and purpose and your gifts.

Our chains are gone, we've been set free...lifted from the ashes to accept our place as daughters of a King.

What a glorious day when we realize we don't have to be perfect to be in his sight...he is perfect in our weakness and longs to give us those keys!

Excellent meditation today, Joy...God Bless You!

"Living Out Loud",


Anonymous said...

Thank you for ministering to my heart this morning. God is so good!
I just praise Him and thank Him for being in control.


Anonymous said...

Thank God for technology,the computer.Through it God has connected me with sisters in Christ. Joy, once again through God you have lifted my spirits.I was feeling down-and-out(DEAD in life circumstances)But reading what you wrote about God being a God of Resurrection caused me to GET BACK UP AGAIN.

Thank you for allowing God to use you.Remember me and my family in prayer.

Hightly Favored

Raylene said...

So very true! Our pastor was just speaking on Overcoming our PAST~satan wanting to keep us there to keep us from our FUTURE and what God has in store for us. Jesus has come to give us LIFE and LIFE more abundantly. These verses too from Is. 58: 6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Marilyn in Mississippi said...

This spoke to me so very deeply Joy! It was just what I needed to hear today! I'm going to print it so I can read it again and again and share it with others. Probably with my Sunday school ladies class.

God bless you my friend!


Anonymous said...

Wow...great commentaries friends! Joy, so often your writing gives me chill bumps...you have a gift!

Amy Jane - I read that same book and it really opened my eyes to what can very well be going on in the spiritual realm! I had the same thought when Joy wrote about the cloud covering - a protection from spiritual warfare!

I also have had times of feeling like I wasn't living....spiritual winter....or not stepping out of my comfortable box. I am a very content person, which is overall a good thing; but sometimes the contentment contains me and causes me to avoid the unknown...even if God is encouraging me to go into an unknown area....yes, disobedience on my part, not wanting to leave my comfort zone. When I do not obey God, I then don't hear from Him as much, and so on....I need work on my obedience, prayer life, and trust; trust that God will never lead me where I shouldn't go.

I also relate to Lori regarding being a Christian for years; and the difference once you hear the Shepherd's voice. Big difference! And a wonderful one at that....
thanks for sharing insights you all!


Anonymous said...

Hi Joy,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and inspiring some deep reflection.

I appreciate all your comments during this one year journey. This is my first time reading the Bible (all the way through) It's surprising how moving this experiene has been. Some parts are confusing and emotionally draining to read through. But, there is always a nugget of inspiration or backstory explained and that really helps me keep moving forward. Other parts are so inspiring, it makes me want to cry (in a good way). I'm always amazed how much our God loves us and wants us to draw nearer to him.

Thanks for all the wisdom ladies. It's been an amazing journey. May God continue to bless our group with understanding, clarity and fellowship.

daughter of an awesome God,

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Fabulous thoughts, friend, on walking our living witness. Thank God for the grave that has been overwhelmed (a favorite line from a Chris Tomlin song) so that we can walk in the truth of his living witness.

love you.


Deb said...

From Joys powerful devotion this morning...sprung each and every one of your awesome and amazing postings. Each speaking to my heart...to be set free!

Forgiveness means letting go of the hope the past can be any different and moving from there to freedom! Jesus can so help us all to break those chains to the past that can't be relived or redone.

Nancy, I had a group of women from my church who attended the WOF conference in St. Louis. I have been to at least 11 of them. But didn't get to go this year. One of them truly loved Sheila Walshes message and bought her book. Also this is one of my favorite verses...Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God". I loved Sheila's in depth look at the phrase "be still" and your posting of it.... "The term "be still" is the Greek word Raphah meaning to let go, let drop,abandon."

Let go of whatever is on your mind and holding you from me...know that I am God...I am so much bigger than anything that can ever hold you away from me or imprison you! Be free and know that I am God! Love it, Love it, Love it!

....and I just thought He thought I talked too much! LOL

Loving you all from my heart, in Illinois, Debbie