Tag Archives: pain

Heart Condition – a prayer –

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Father,

I’m at a loss. This is such a new thing for me. I can’t remember ever being so cranky and easily frustrated as my baseline. What is this?!? It’s been at least 8 days of constantly feeling put out by whatever happens. All sorts of questions have come up in my mind as to where this is coming from, and so far, no answers. Why am I acting on such a short fuse???? I’ve tried to fix it by purposefully serving, hoping my heart will match up. But it’s not.

But, finally, today I think I heard the Holy Spirit’s soft whisper: maybe this is the end of my honeymoon phase. Maybe the “new and shiny” of my life here in Ohio is starting to wear off. Just look at how I approach my days, just desperate things to fill time. I get my homework done, and then I’m at a loss for what to do. Sometimes I try to distract myself with my favorite drug: social interaction. Or I work on one of the dozen projects we have available in our new place. But, not even a month into this behavior, and I’m already coming up dry. There’s nothing in those wells. They’ve been emptied for me. The places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned…. And now I’m wondering if this heart condition is so much more multifaceted than I’d initially bargained for.

What if I’m desperate for my home, for my friends, for my real family, and I’m not letting myself feel that hole? Why if my conscious attempts at filling the void are failing, so I’m always angry? And what if I’m acting out on that anger with Lauren because she’s the only one here who really knows me, so I trust her? What if this transition isn’t going as smoothly as I’d thought? What if I’m afraid of letting myself hurt? What if I’m afraid of being vulnerable with You? What if I don’t trust that You’re safe enough to carry my weighty pain?

The only thing I do know is that Jesus is enough. Jesus is enough. And you promise that I will bear the right fruit if I abide in you.

I’m sick of this nastiness. I’m sick of the fruit of “out of the heart the mouth speaks”. My own heart tastes filthy inside me. I am not at peace here.

Jesus, heal me. But please use this heart condition as a call to you, not just as a new means of symptom relief. Help me, guide me to the still waters where I can rest in safety under your shadow.

Oh I need You. So deeply. So fully. So complexly.

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maranatha, healed, Day 10

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“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hid their faces, he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Is 53.3-6

I praise God that he is “familiar with pain”. A man of suffering, my Great High Priest knows my heartache firsthand, not just because he created me, but because he experienced it himself. But Jesus is not only familiar with my trials and sufferings; he is deeply acquainted with the pain caused by my own hand. Like the people of Israel in the book of Judges, so often I live my life with no king, doing whatever seems right in my own eyes. He takes the pain that I can’t control and the pain I deserve for myself…. And by his wounds, I am healed.

Praise You, Jesus.

Anticipation: Day 8, Prosperity, Pain and Legacy

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See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man. And he will startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not been told; they will understand what they had not heart about.”        Isaiah 52: 13-15

There is such contrast in these verses. God is proclaiming that his coming Son will prosper, and to further explain that prosperity he brings us to Jesus’ crucifixion. Not exactly what I’d consider prosperous, being murdered by your own creation as the consequence of their sin. This word translated as “prosper” (yaskil in Hebrew) is used in other places as the natural result of wisdom or prudence. It’s like God is saying that Jesus acted wisely, and therefore will be eternally exalted and prosperous because of that wisdom.

I find great encouragement in this truth. Jesus suffered hard. He was broken physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally. But He did so in wisdom, knowing that He was building a legacy. Through this act of sacrifice, Jesus would reap the prosperity of millions of hearts turned back to their Father in repentance and transformation.

This is the incredible beauty of our God. He puts pain in our lives, just like He did in Jesus’, but promises us that He will redeem that pain. I find such comfort in knowing that as I wrestle-out this life against the flesh and the “evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world”, I am gaining ground for the legacy that will come after me.

A favorite artist of mine just put out his first worship album. This song, based on Isaiah 52 and 53, is incredible, both lyrically and musically. Listen to it and worship the greatness of our sacrificially-loving God.

The might of Yahweh stands revealed
And by His wounds we all are healed!

Wangki Mairin: Not About Me

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“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit… He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their sorrows.” Psalm 34:18, 147:3

If God has taught me one thing here in Waspam these past four months, it’s this: Missions is not about me. He’s done this by daily challenging me to die to myself in every possible way, calling me to step outside the clear boundary lines of my comfort zone out into the midst of those around me.

There’s a reason we call every other nation “foreign countries”; everything in life is different than my United States of America (Alaskan, no less) sense of normal. Different climate, different language(s), different food, different schedule, different relational interactions and expectations, different clothing standards, different governing principles. different health conditions, different worldview. And the list goes on. Countless times these past months I have been sorely tempted to just stay in my room and hide from all the different and difficult. It can be draining to feel out of place and out of touch 24/7. It’s scary, really. All that vulnerability. But, like always, I am given two options: act out of pride and don’t risk falling flat on my face, or act out of obedience, trusting that God’s will will be done as I steward each opportunity He gives me.

One sphere in which I consistently faced these two choices was music. I am so grateful that God gave me a musical heart, and just as grateful that he put me in a home with another musician. This extended summer has been one filled-to-the-brim with melodies, harmonies and broken guitar strings. Nutie and I are always learning songs freshly translated into Spanish and/or Miskito to share with our friends here.

The songs consistently strike deep into the hearts of our local friends; they always want to sing them! I have sung “Cristo, se el Centro” so many times now sometimes I forget the words in English! Honestly, a lot of times I feel more like I’m mindlessly repeating vowel sounds than sincerely worshipping the Creator of this world who died for me.

Not exactly the most entertaining or engaging to sing the same 5+ songs over and over and over again.

But then there are moments when I remember once again that missions is not about me.

Like the day I sang with Selia, a dear friend from the market. She had just miscarried, again, after four months of pregnancy. As my heart broke inside for my beloved sister, I looked over and saw her, eyes closed, struggling to sing the words to one of her favorite songs. “Jisas, yang kupi awa…” Jesus, my heart string, a Miskito term of endearment reserved only for your closest loves. A beautiful picture; Jesus, the one closest to me, the one inside of me. The one who’s love holds my heart together when everything around me is falling apart.

Moments like two weeks ago. Well past sunset, Rosap, one of Tom and Nutie’s dear friends and disciples, came over to our house. We welcomed him in with open arms, and he told us his news. His daughter, Glenda, had just died one hour ago. In thirties, Glenda slipped into a coma because of undiagnosed diabetes. And she died! We cried and prayed with Rosap, and went to visit his family the next day. Nutie and I sang of God’s love and faithfulness….. “Naikra laya kang kaiksa, Jisas baku ban ai sin” from “He sees each tear that falls, and hears me when I call.”

God has put one particular family deep inside my heart here in Waspam, the Lewises. The first time I met Cleveland and Anna was when they told Tom and Nutie that Anna was pregnant. Just three weeks ago we learned that Anna was going to have twins, a boy and a girl. They were asking us for name suggestions; we were becoming a family!

This morning Nutie told me the worst possible news: Anna had miscarried. She’d been having trouble for a week, and on her way to the hospital she gave birth to her two precious children. They were only 6 months developed, each weighing approximately 3 lbs. Anna said the little boy had dark skin and hair just like Cleveland, and their daughter looked like a little Anna. They had already been dead for a day inside of her. Anna and Cleveland are crushed, heartbroken. Nutie and I visited Anna in the hospital this afternoon. We cried and prayed, and listened and listened. We heard her heartache and felt like it was our own. The doctors were keeping her in the hospital because of her high blood pressure, telling her she must calm down or risk her own health. We kept encouraging her to bring her sorrow to Jesus; He’s the only One who is strong enough to bear it.

As we sang of God’s love and faithfulness, Anna began to cry. “Firme estar, sin inclinar, mis raices profundizar. Firme estar, sin inclinar en Ti. Yo quiero ser como la palmera al lado de un rio de agua viva. Sera mi cancion y mi oracion hasta el fin.”

“Unmovable, unshakable, I want my roots to go down deep. Unmovable, unshakeable in You. I want to be like a tree planted by the streams of living water. This will by my song, this will be my prayer, till the end.”

I saw Anna relax as God’s truth and comfort filled the room. God the Father knows the searing pain of losing a precious child, and His presence was felt by all in the room. This is ministry. This is the Gospel, God’s truth and love intercepting the most broken and painful parts of our lives. And, by the blood of Jesus, redeeming them.

Wangki Mairin: God Whispers in Costa Rica

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Not the sunset I refer to in this post, but one from the night before…

Yesterday was a classic, roller-coaster day. I say “roller-coaster”, because in the course of 5 hours, my life managed to turn inside out, upside down and then return back to “right” again, and I say “classic”, because this sort of thing has happened too often than I’d care to remember. Once again, I was blind-sided by a turn of events from someone very close to me, only this time, all my information was gleaned from the internet. I was thousands of miles away from home, and my life was changing faster than I could hope to catch up. Then, all of the sudden, everything was “fine”; it was like nothing ever happened. Again, classic.

As you can imagine, my emotions were a wreck. Like so many times previously, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. It was all just so confusing. So complicated.

As the day comes to an end, Tom and Nutie ask me if I’d like to join them; they want to go to a new beach to celebrate our last night in Costa Rica (we had to leave Nicaragua for 3 days to renew our VISA’s). Anxious for a diversion, I agree and we all pile into the car, off to Playa Coco (Coco Beach). Tom heads for the basketball courts as soon as we arrive and Nutie, eyes on the horizon, says she wants to take a walk along the shore. I find myself a nice spot in the sand and sit down to read. I try a few different books (Kindles are amazing things), but I can’t sink into the storyline. My mind is miles away, stalled in neutral, unable to move past the major road block from that afternoon. “WHAT. JUST. HAPPENED???” Over and over, echoing in my mind. “Father, where do I even start?” Heartbreak so raw, so fresh I’m scared to even touch it. So I just sit. Time passes unnoticed.

I start to stir when I notice the sun is starting to set. “I’m at the beach, after all. Maybe it’s time to get into the water.” And as I step into the waves, God gives me an incredible gift: the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.

Earlier that morning it had rained and it stayed cloudy for the rest of the day. Usually the skies clear up after a thunderstorm, but I didn’t think much of it; I had more than enough on my mind that afternoon. But as I walked into the water yesterday evening, I remembered that cloudy afternoons can make for the best sunsets. The show to come confirmed that fact. As I gazed at the awe-inspiring oranges, pink, purples, yellows and blues, my stalled heart was moved, and I couldn’t help but worship. “You are beautiful beyond description. Too marvelous for words… Holy God, to whom all praise is due, I stand in awe of You.” “I see your face in every sunrise… Oh, You’re beautiful.” “In the quiet, in the stillness I know that You are God. In the secret of Your presence, I know there I am restored. So when You call I won’t delay, this my song through all my days: There is no one else for me. None but Jesus. In the chaos, in confusion I know You’re sovereign still…” “Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Oh my soul, worship His holy name. Sing like never before, oh my soul. Worship His holy name”.

And as I continued to sing 10,000 Reasons, I remembered…

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning. It’s time to sing Your song again. Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me; let me be singing when the evening comes”.

I remembered that before my day began, I prayed a prayer that has almost become habit recently:

Father, I have no idea what the plan is for today, but You do. You hold today. Help me to walk with You in it, taking advantage of every opportunity, not giving in to cowardice or fear. Help me to recognize Your lead. Help me to abide in You.”

Whoa. Little did I know how incredibly fitting that prayer was! Mere hours before, I had no idea what lay ahead of me, but here I stood “singing when the evening came”.

All afternoon, as the hurricane rage around me, I prayed for God’s voice, for His clear direction. But He stayed silent. It wasn’t till I was standing in the ocean that I realized: I passed the test. I had surrendered the day into God’s hands, and I clung to Him in the midst of confusion and chaos. In that moment in the water, I felt His pride and pleasure over me. I did well!

Then the intense beauty of the sunset captured me. Such contrast. Whispers of cloud, hot pink from the setting sun, floating in a indigo sky; blue-black waves, kissed with pink in reflection. As the sun sank deeper, the contrast increased; it didn’t even look real. Could anything be this beautiful? And then, softer and more subtle than the ocean breeze, the Holy Spirit whispered this thought into my mind.

This is your life! As your circumstances become more and more difficult, as your surroundings grow increasingly dark, your life will shine all the more brightly for me, catching every ray and aspect of My light. I am a God of redemption. I use the pain and evil of this world, of your life, for my incredible good. This is your life. Watch, and worship. Be encouraged and be at peace.”

My heart was overflowing with love, admiration and speechless praise. Here stood hope. Here was joy painted across the skies in the very moment of my need.

Only in a tropical country can you watch the sun sink below the horizon (it sets so fast!). I scanned the skies, anticipating the incredible show to become muted and dissipate. But, to my great surprise, the contrasting colors grew even more vivid! And through them, I again heard the voice of my God speaking to me…

Take heart, Jessi. Just like I make the sky more beautiful after the sun has set, so I can do with you. Your life, lived in complete surrender and communion with me, can send forth sparkling rays to generations, even after your death. One life lived according to my plan can color the lives of countless in your family. I am a God who makes a heritage. Your life will leave a legacy.”

Nothing I could say, nothing I could think, nothing I could pray or sing could be the proper response to what I had just witnessed and heard. There in the Pacific, thousands of miles away from home, standing alone in the water, God met me in an unmistakable, unforgettable way.

Hesed…

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I first heard the definition of this word from Professor/Pastor Randy a few months ago, and it didn’t mean anything in particular to me. “Hesed”, Hebrew, often translated as “lovingkindess” or “unfailing love”. Literally meaning “the love that will not let me go”. So I wrote it down in my Bible like a faithful Bible student, but didn’t really give in a second thought.

And then this week happened. Sunday night, Grace Church held Communion, and I loved the way they went through the service. Before each part of the sacrament (Grace Brethren Churches do three-fold communion), they held invited the Church to give testimonies. Before the Bread and the Cup, they asked people to share how they came to know/surrender to Christ. Before foot washing people shared how God has used the experiences and choices of their lives to show them Himself and make them more like Jesus. And before the Love Feast people talked about who they would like to become, what they would like to do/experience, before Christ’s return.

And as my brothers and sisters were speaking, a thought kept echoing inside my mind. God has kept me from so much, and has saved me to so much…. And then I remembered Hesed. “The love that will not let me go.” In spite of all the pain in my life, in spite of the relational atomic bomb that my family experienced this past year, in spite of all the negative, addictive, painful habits and choices I have to draw from in my heritage, God has “not let me go”.

It doesn’t make any sense on paper; really, I should be a rebellious, boy-hungry, addicted, punk teenager, desperate to fill the gaping holes inside me with whatever/whoever I can get my hands on. A raging whirlwind of drama and self-destruction, intent on doing things my way. But, I’m not. My sister and I are nothing as we should be. Instead of hardening us against God and other relationships, the pain we’ve experience in our lives has softened us, making us cling harder to Jesus and those He’s put in our paths.

And it’s only because of His grace. His Hesed. When I look at my life, and I compare those “two Jessi’s”, the one that should be and the one that is, I’m left on my knees in awe. Who is this God who never gives up, who never stops loving, who never stops pursuing, who never neglects, who never abandons? Who is this God who is continually crafting me into the likeness of His Son, who, with each chisel stroke, chips another piece of me away, only to replace it with His material? This is the God I serve. This is the God I’m privileged to be in relationship with. This is the God, the Love, who will not let me go!

Praise God for His Hesed.

Thunder and Lightning

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Our God is amazing. I know I don’t need to tell you that, you know it just as well as I do. And yet, sometimes you realize it all over again… Right now, I’m sitting in a dark room, windows on both sides of me, looking outside at an intense thunderstorm. Lightning brightens the whole sky. The rain and wind is crashing right at that point where it’s almost scary it’s so powerful. Awe-inspiring. Breath-taking. And to get to witness such a powerful display of might within the protection of dry-wall and glass… what a privilege. Here I am, mere feet away from slanting rain and howling wind, watching water repelled before my eyes. Thunder that sounds like it’s cracking the sky apart and lightning so bright it’s blinding, but I have nothing to fear. Why should I? It’s just wind and rain, thunder and lightning.

Kirsten (one of my leaders) sang a song tonight she wrote based on Psalm 33, and the chorus really resonated within me: “Our soul waits for the LORD, He is our strength and our shield. Our soul waits for the LORD”. The concept (truth, really) that God is my Defender is wonderful, in the
literal sense, to me. There have been so many times in my life where I felt defenseless. Hopeless. Helpless. Like no one was on my side. Where was my rescuer, my hero?

This afternoon I was pulled back into some of those memories, and they’re easy to get lost in. But through this storm, God is reminding me of the words to a song we sang on Sunday. It’s a well known song, sung in churches across America. But this past Sunday God used it to speak to my soul, and tears of speechless gratitude and awe brimmed in my eyes:

“My Savior lives. My Savior loves. My Savior’s always there for me. My God, He was. My God, He is. My God, He’s always gonna be.”

God is, always has been, and always will be for me. It doesn’t make the painful reality any lighter to bear, but it’s enough to shift my eyes from the paralyzing chaos around me to Him. It’s enough to change hopelessness to joy: the resolute assurance that God has neither lost interest in nor the power to handle my problems. That’s the purpose that drives me on. That’s the difference that gives me the strength to choose to take another step. And another. And another….