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Monday, July 31, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Why am I disposed to faint, or to complain under many various afflictions? Because my mind is not yet cast into the mold of the gospel...
'Lord, increase my faith!' Enable me to honor Thee by adding to the too few who suffer cheerfully, glorifying my Father which is in heaven. But this I can only do by the constant influences of Thy Holy Spirit."
                  - Sarah Hawkes in Seasons Of The Heart

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most."
        - Thomas Merton in The Seven Story Mountain

Friday, July 28, 2017

Quote of the Day

These amazing words were delivered in a speech just weeks ago, and I had to share. A hollywood star speaking from his past experiences dealing with depression and hopelessness to a room full of formerly incarcerated people who are seeking a new beginning:

"Ultimately, I believe that suffering leads to salvation. In fact, its the only way. We have to somehow accept, not deny, but feel our suffering and feel our losses. And then we make one of two decisions: we either decide to go through the gate of resentment, which leads to vengeance, which leads to self-harm, which leads to harm to others. Or we go through the gate of forgiveness, which leads to grace...
Your being here is an indication that you've made that decision already. You've made the decision to walk through the gate of forgiveness, to grace - just as Christ did on the cross. He suffered terribly and was broken by it, to the point of doubt and a feeling of absolute abandonment, which all of you have felt. And then there was a decision to be made, and the decision was to look upon the people who were causing that suffering, or that situation that was causing that suffering, with compassion and forgiveness. And that's what opens up the gates to heaven for all of us." 
                 - Jim Carrey 



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Guest Post: How I Discovered My Faith In Suffering

 Today, I want to introduce you to a very special person. I met Philip Holtz a year ago when he came up to Alaska to broadcast summer league baseball games for the team I work for. As he will tell you, God had much bigger plans for him (and many other people) than just baseball. Philip is truly one of the most amazing and inspiring people I know, and I asked him to share his story with you because not only is it a miraculous one, it is a reminder to us all that even the worst moments of our lives are not the end of the story in the kingdom of God. Without further adieu, I will let Philip take it from here...

"My name is Philip Holtz, and God has definitely had His hands on me throughout all 23 years of my life so far. I came to faith in the Lord through my biggest hardship in my life. That hardship was caused by a benign brain tumor that I had when I was just 2 years old. 

Doctors performed a surgery that removed the tumor, but something went wrong that caused me to have right sided weakness. That would lead me to needing to have both physical and occupational therapy sessions, multiple times per week to help me improve. Those appointments lasted for over half my life. I'm much better and stronger now compared to where I started, but my right side will never be as strong as my left. I would also need around 40 surgeries to date to try to make me as healthy and strong as possible. 

It's kind of hard to remember 40 surgeries, so I'll just focus on the big ones that I can remember. Rewind to when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I had been very sick, and couldn't even walk down the hallway without feeling the need to throw up. At first we thought it was just a bad stomach flu, but it turned out to be much more serious than that. When I had the brain tumor, that required me to have shunts, which are almost like tubes that would drain excess fluid from my brain and into my stomach. If it didn't drain, that would cause severe headaches, and they would cause me to throw up. So that's exactly what happened at that time. 

What started out as just an overnight stay turned into a 28 day stay (over Christmas I might add) that required 7 surgeries. There would times that I would just start to be wheeled out of my room and I would ask, 'Where are we going?' The doctors would reply with, 'You have another surgery today.' My parents wouldn't tell me when my surgeries were because they knew that I would overthink it, which they were absolutely correct on. So after that stay, I was all good from the incident. 

That stay in the hospital really made me think about everything that had happened to me up to that point. By the age of 13, I had already had around 30 surgeries, and the only thing that was 'wrong' with me physically at this time was a brace on my leg and a limp hand. Pretty awesome considering that I could have easily been brain dead or actually dead. It was at that time that I realized that that was too much to happen to simply be a coincidence. My family had raised my brothers and I in a Christian home, and I always considered myself a Christian to that point, but I had never actually given my life to the Lord. It was at that time that I gave my life to God because without Him and His grace, I wouldn't have been where I was at that point or now. 

Since then I've had around 10 more surgeries, including a foot surgery that involved surgeons cutting my heel cord and rearranging the bone structure of my foot, in order to make me walk completely flat. That was one of the toughest ones because I love playing sports, especially basketball, and it took me a year to learn how to run again after that. 

Then, just a year ago, I accepted an opportunity to broadcast for the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks in the Alaska Baseball League, and what made it even better was that the internship was through Athletes in Action, which is a Christian organization. Long story short, I got sick after broadcasting just one game and went to the hospital because my shunts had malfunctioned for the 2nd time in 6 months. But after being in the hospital for a few weeks, I walked out of there shunt free for the first time since I was 2. Absolutely incredible that God would take me all the way to Alaska to solve my biggest issue. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but His plans are always greater than we could ever ask or imagine. God is good.

Now, I'm married to my beautiful wife Lauren, living on our own, and being blessed on a daily basis. In a nutshell, that is how I came to my faith in Christ. It was a road of struggles and hardships, but a road of blessings and miracles as well, and it was totally worth it."




For more information about Philip's story and to read a more detailed post about his summer in Alaska, visit his blog page at: www.philipholtz.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...Most of the time to discover new meaning we have to go through a crisis, we have to go through a breakdown."
             - Jean Vanier

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Quote of the Day

"You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope."
                 - Thomas Merton

Monday, July 24, 2017

Our Forever Friend

 So often, the most enduring words are born out of the deepest depths of despair. This classic hymn has a tragic beginning and yet, God has used it's author and his words to give hope to millions since its writing. Don't write-off your sorrows, your disappointments, your griefs, as being too deep for God to redeem. Nothing is wasted in the kingdom of God, and He will use a broken, willing heart for beautiful purposes no matter the pain it has gone through. Christ is our forever friend. The world will leave us begging, but God will never leave us empty and alone. 
Take a few minutes to watch this amazing story...you won't regret it. 



Friday, July 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair."
               - Thomas Merton in No Man Is An Island

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The very thing we are afraid of, our brokenness, is the door to our Father's heart."
             - Paul Miller

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Why Brokenness Matters

Seizures. That was the common bond. I never would've thought such a topic would be the start of a connection. But we both dealt with them. And thus, we felt bonded. Because we knew what it meant to live with a broken body. What wasn't right with us gave us understanding between ourselves. Imperfection was our starting point. Because, for once, two people couldn't put their best foot forward but rather, their worst.
 I've been thinking a lot lately about brokenness. About why we struggle to accept it as a means to our healing, about why we fear it and think it's our un-doing, about why we are turned off by the presence of it in one another. 
 Several conversations and experiences in the past few weeks have brought it to my attention and have gotten me contemplating the importance of a life lived vulnerably - that the heart is incapable of loving fully without being broken, that we can never gain a full and open life without having a knowledge of our human incapacity to get it right. A life must be emptied of itself before it can be filled with God. It must have felt its worst before God can re-make it into it's best. 
 Lately, I've seen so much evidence of what is not right with the human condition. So many examples of people who would rather run from their fears instead of face them. People who choose to resist the broken way. Who would rather suffer in their soul-hardness than let the pain of being re-born take place. 
 And now I see why some relationships between people hit their ending - it is when souls no longer center around their need for Grace. When witnessing broken things in yourself or another becomes too much, you choose to walk away instead of to welcome God into the situation. And I'm learning to let go of those who make this choice. Because the only thing I can do is to keep on letting God break me to re-make me. Because He loves me. If another decides not to come this hard way with me, then let it be so. I have no control of their soul-ways anyway.
Perhaps it is seizures of the body or seizures of the soul, but I'm beginning to grasp that a broken way leads to abundance because only then do we begin to lean on God more completely. Through all the ways in which we are not perfect, we can begin to slowly see that He is perfection for us. The more I walk this journey to Grace, the more I see proofs of my own ignorance and inability to be the person I want to be. The more I see my own failures, the more I accept the fact that anything worth saying or doing in this life must stem from God. That it's not so much that I am a gift that that world needs but, instead, He is the gift that the world needs! It's not about me. At all. Ever. 
 If I'm not being broken of my pride, my need for control, my ever-present fears that reign...if I am not surrendering all the shattered parts of me so that God can turn me into His re-made masterpiece, then I am no blessing to anybody.
 Truthfully, the friends I most value are those who offered their resigned and God-broken hearts to mine and who accepted this flawed individual lovingly and without reservation, knowing that God is re-making all of us, so why not see through this resurrecting process together?! Shared brokenness brings people closer because God is about making dead things new...
 So why fight the very things that could make us better? Why resist taking the very journey which could lead to our transformation? 
Those who press into the hard lessons, who don't run from the messy in one another but who, instead, sympathize and encourage each other to look to the One who can turn all hard things into good...those are the willing ones who, in turn, see God. And didn't He say so in His sermon of Beatitudes? That the weak ones, poor ones, humbles ones, grieving ones, broken ones, would be the blessed ones (Matthew 5:1-12)?! 
 He gives me a hug and says gratefully, "Thank you for being a part of helping to change my life." Seizures and all that isn't right in this broken world...that's what broke down the barrier and brought understanding. That's what made us want to be friends. Not because we were strong, perfect, or had it all together. But rather, because we didn't. 
 I can't love or listen or help the way I want to, and neither can you. I can't be all I want to be in this one life, and neither can you. Daily, our failings remind us of all the ways in which we're not right. But somehow, by the never-failing grace of God, we can take the path of bravery in that being willing to enter the hard places nobody else will go, we may experience miracles and blessings we could never live otherwise without.
 Whether it's in your marriage, parenting, your dating life, your friendships, your church, your family, your workplace, be patient with the flaws of others. And be patient with yourself. God isn't done with all of us yet and, for every stumble, there is more grace given from Him. By taking the broken way, you just may find healing that you never expected...both for yourself and for others. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Who gets over a love like this? In the midst of trials, Jesus guarantees the best trial outcome: you're guilty, but you get no condemnation. No condemnation for failing everyone, no condemnation for not doing everything, no condemnation for messing up everyday."
                      - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Monday, July 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...There was what an Orthodox Hasidic rabbi had said on a flight westward...Somewhere over the mountains, the light thick above the clouds, the rabbi had turned to me, mid-conversation. 'Why do you people always say it's about having a strong belief in God? Who sits with the knowing that God's belief in you is even stronger than yours in Him?' 
I'd put down my Styrofoam cup of black coffee and tried to read the rabbi's face. He'd leaned forward in his seat and tilted his head so he could look at me directly. 'You may believe in God, but never forget - it's God who believes in you.'
He looked out the window and pointed. 'Every morning that the sun rises and you get to rise? That's God saying He believes in you, that He believes in the story He's writing through you. He believes in you as a gift the world needs.'
God's mercies are new every morning - not as an obligation to you, but as an affirmation of you. Was I living my life like I fully believed that?"
                     - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"When your identity is in Christ, your identity is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Criticism can't change it. Failing can't change it. Lists can't determine it. When your identity is in the Rock, your identity is rock-solid. As long as God is for you, it doesn't matter what mountain rises ahead of you. You aren't your yesterday, you aren't your messes, you aren't your failures, you aren't your brokenness. You are brave enough for today, because He is. You are strong enough for what's coming, because He is. And you are enough for all that is, because He always is."
                      - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Friday, July 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"There is a union for all this brokenness. 
'Ultimately it comes down to this, that the real cause of our trouble is failure to realize our union with Christ,' Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote. That. I sit there in the realization of that real cause of all troubles...
The pieces of me, the shards I didn't know how to gather together again, the ache that kept me up at night that I didn't even have words for - none of the pieces of me would find peace - until I could see and feel and experientially enter into the reality of my union with Christ. Peace isn't a place - its a Person. Peace isn't a place to arrive at, but a Person to abide in. 'I myself am your peace,' says Jesus. 
Is this how you live with your one broken heart? Your one broken heart is only healed by a oneness with Him.
Am I willing to give all I have to Him?"
                - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dare To Trust His Love

"It is sufficient proof of our depravity, that we prefer our own ways to the Lord's; nor can He inflict a heavier judgement upon us in this life, than to give us up entirely to the way of our own hearts. He made us to be happy; but He made us for Himself, and gave us a capacity, and a vastness of desire, which only He Himself can satisfy, the very constitution and frame of our nature render happiness impossible to us, unless in a way of dependence upon Him, and obedience to His laws."
                  - John Newton



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The thought comes like something falling softly from beyond the sky: there is no self-chastising or self-castigating or self-berating for even being afraid of brokenness. Maybe I had finally come to the place where I could see myself, my brokenness, my fear of brokenness, with the same tender compassion with which Jesus sees all of me. Maybe the broken way leads to being as compassionate with yourself as Jesus is with your soul, granting yourself the grace He gives, grace to get it wrong and grace to change again, grace to be broken and broken again, and the grace to grow and grow on, like the broken way of seeds. 
Maybe not being afraid of even the fear of brokenness allows you to feel the fear and know its okay because you're never alone in your fear. You are never alone, never abandoned, never not safe..."
               - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...God's way is always the broken way. For all my prayers and efforts to be broken and given for the suffering of the world, there'd been parts of me still terrified of suffering, avoiding it, still resisting being surrendered and broken and given. But now that is all I want. I want to be part of the fellowship of the broken. The fellowship of the broken believe that suffering is a gift He entrusts to us and He can be trusted to make this suffering into a gift. The fellowship of the broken take up the fearless broken way, are not afraid of brokenness, and don't need to try to fix anyone's brokenness, or try to hide or judge it or mask it or exile it...I can break open my hand and my need to control because I'm no longer afraid of broken things. Never be afraid of broken things - because Christ can redeem anything. When I'm no longer afraid of brokenness, I don't have to control or possess anything - dreams or plans or people or their perceptions. I can live surrendered."
               - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Monday, July 10, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It's not that your heart isn't going to break; it's how you let the brokenness be made into abundance afterward."
               - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Christ says, 'Give me all. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it...I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down...Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked - the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'"
                  - C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

Friday, July 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Real living doesn't always feel like living; it can feel like you're dying. It can feel like you are breaking apart and losing pieces of yourself - and you are. Because when you let yourself love, you let parts of you die. Or you aren't really loving. You must let your false self be broken, parts of you that you only thought were necessary. You must embrace your union with Christ, bravely surrender and trust that what's breaking and being lost is never eternal, needed parts of you, but always the temporal, needless parts that were getting the way of you becoming real."
                  - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Quote of the Day

"If life were an art lesson, we could describe it as a process of finding how to turn this mud into that porcelain, this discord into that sonata, this ugly stone block into that statue, this tangle of threads into that tapestry. In fact, however, the stakes are higher than in any art lesson. It is in the school of sainthood that we find ourselves enrolled and the artifact that is being made is ourselves."
               - J. I. Packer 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

When The Crazy Kicks In

There's been a lot of the crazy-broken going on lately. And honestly, I'm tired. 

Tired of hearing all the sad things, all the un-mended things, all the reminders that this one life is over faster than we know it...
Tired of the aching feeling in the soul that makes you wish you could slow down time, make all the hurting stop for awhile. 
Tired of the constant thought that bears down on every pain-inflicted heart: where in the world, in all this broken world, is God?

It's been a seemingly never ending string of hard news: people walking away from God, taking their one life and deeming it hopelessly un-redeemable and therefore worth ending, watching cancer waste away a youthful husband and father and ultimately hasten his eternal arrival, the sweet elderly man at church being recently diagnosed with the on-set of alzheimer's and the prospect that in the future he may never know or recognize anybody...it's all a bit much. 

And through all this not-okay, has been the return of a voice that hasn't let humanity go since the beginning of it all in the Garden - the lying invitation to return to your dark places in the vulnerability of your sadness. To go to the odd safety of the past, to live in the vain regrets because God can't be seen in the present. That faith can't hold up. The Enemy-voice has been after us all and seems to speak louder in the moments you are the weakest. 

I share all this not to complain about my one life but to relate to your life. To all our lives. Because I'm sure you're dealing with your own crazy-broken this week too. You may be facing your own fear-mountains, your own tempting moments of doubt, your own tendencies to live your one life in the rear-view mirror. And through it all you may feel alone. And yet, none of us are ever fully alone. 

I sit down to my devotions this morning, and these words seem to jump out at me from the page I read: "God often brings His people into such a condition that they do not know what to do. He does this that they might know what He can do. God is with His people at all times, but He is most sweetly with them in the worst of times," said Puritan preacher Thomas Lye. And it runs deep into my fogged-up soul - I don't know what to do. I can't stop all this loss, this pain, this grief. I can't end all this broken. But in the midst of it all is a call to trust. Once again, to believe. To have faith. To choose the "yes" when everything in me screams the "no!" 

I open the palms of clenched fists and realize that my doubts have no place in this journey of Grace. All that takes place is with a good end in mind. God is not writing the story without full intent to redeem all things. To redeem me. And there's no way to accept that unless one keep telling one's self the truth: that God is always with you, His plans are always good, and you are always loved. 

I face yet another day, unsure of what other crazy-broken may happen in this 24 hours given. But somehow I must keep choosing Gospel - "good news" in the midst of bad news abundant. Because the One at the heart of it all promises that the worst of times can always run in blessing because there is no harsh purpose behind what He has allowed. Even those things which break our souls right in two and make us question every hope, every dream, every honest-to-goodness truth we've ever believed in...even those can be re-made into something beautiful. When the crazy kicks in, God reigns large. 

And the solution to soul-heaviness isn't to ask God to remove pain. It isn't to run from the ache and imagine it's not there. It isn't to shake a closed fist and curse the whole wide wailing world and give in. It's to praise. To bless. To give thanks. 

It runs against everything my heart feels...but then again, that's my trouble. Feelings aren't my ruler. Their only my heart-reactions to the good as well as the un-okay. But truth? That is what must over-ride the affections. Surrendered soul falling deeper into Grace. Deeper into God. Trusting that abundant life still happens and that all trials can produce a better, re-made me. 

I call to mind all the remembrances of His grace in recent times...all the little things that have showed mercy and hope in the midst of such brokenness. And I pray for open hands. I ask Him to help me let go. Because I know I can't become whom I'm supposed to change into without it. I repeat the recent love-words of friends who promise to never leave, of those who continue to show Jesus to a fearful one who is me. And I keep on praying, praising Him because I know He's still working...even if my sight is a bit blinded by my lack of faith. 

And so...I step into another week, seeking forgiveness for my self-love, my doubts, my fears and placing my trembling hands opening into the firm grasp of my Savior. I give my shattered heart over and trust that all this will be resurrected into beautiful. He whispers it to my pounding heart and bids my heaving chest to stop its racing: I am already in your tomorrows. You are right in that you don't know what to do. But I do. And that is enough.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Grace is what holds you when everything's breaking and falling apart, and whispers that everything is really falling together...Once you face Him, you see who you really are...so you can go face anything."
                  - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Monday, July 3, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The heart has to be broken and plowed and resown if it's going to yield. The change must go deeper than the surface. This is only the beginning... And if you want your life to yield, there has to be yielding in the soul. There is a plowing that breaks your soul to grow you."
              - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Quote of the Day

"You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, 'Take up your cross' - in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute He says, 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.' He means both...
The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self - all your wishes and precautions - to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call 'ourselves,' to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time to be 'good'...If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be plowed up and re-sown."
                  - C.S. Lews in Mere Christianity