Dark Night of the Soul

Dark night of the soul
Cold
And alone
You whisper
To the blackness
You speak
To the abyss
You shout
You scream

And watch
No
Feel
Your words
Vanish
Into the void
You listen
To the silence

You stand
Still
feet in cold sand
Nothing in your hand
But the wind
The world pulls away
Like a wave receding
Into the never-ending night
Ever receding
Only receding
Further
And further
Away
from you

You exhale
All the breath
You’ve ever breathed
Molecules of memories
Particles of pain and joy
Drift
Into the ether

You watch
You stand
You breathe

You are

Emptied
of expectation

You are

Free

You are

©️Nichole Q Perreault

Photo by Kyle Johnson, https://unsplash.com/@kylejeffreys

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Where They Hide the Bodies

I don’t know, people. Sometimes these things just ooze out of me. Don’t let it worry you. In the words of Bridget Jones, “It’s just a diary” but in this case it’s just a poem.

I’ve got nothing
But words
And words aren’t enough
For me now

I’m so tired and
I can’t find the door
I think I’ll just
Lie down

If I do
Will anyone notice
Will the sky change
Will you

Continue reading

Escape Not Allowed At This Point

The other night my daughter showed me a social media meme of a computer screenshot with a dialogue box and the words “Escape is not allowed at this point.”

20140203-090953.jpg

I scoffed and then whined, “That’s exactly how I feel!”

Truth be told, I feel that way a lot. I mean, somedays I just want to claw my way out of my own skin…shed this body that holds me prisoner. But blinking in my mind’s eye is this annoying little neon reminder “Escape not allowed at this point.”

For the last six or seven weeks, I’ve been experiencing an as of yet unexplained bout of relentless heart palpitations…what the doc calls a “benign” (though, I say, hardly normal) irregular heartbeat. If you’re wondering what that feels like, imagine having the hiccups all day, every day, for a month and a half. Fun, right? So yeah, it’s driving me crazy! And while I’ve had a bunch of cardio tests, the only current recommendations are some heavy hitting drugs – you know the kind with television ads that show people running through fields of grass, smiling, while the soft spoken, monotone voiceover tells you of certain possible side effects such as dizziness, headache, rash, amnesia, hair loss, fingernail loss, tooth loss, the inability to sleep…or stay awake….and death. (Now tell me, since when is death a “side effect”? If you ask me, there’s nothing “side” about it.)

Anyway, I have a great primary care APRN who has recommended a specialist that can fit me in, oh, sometime next year…ok, I may be exaggerating a little, but after a direct call by my APRN to the specialist, they’ve worked me into their calendar in mid-February. Which, based on recent calculations, is about 138,240 palpitations from now.

“Escape not allowed at this point.”

Friday, I got to talk on the phone with my dear sister-in-law, Anne, (who is currently living the pioneer life in Vermont). At one point, I asked her how she’s doing spiritually. I won’t tell you what she said….that wouldn’t be very friend-like. But I will share what she shared with me and the world on her blog…in a sec…

First, here’s a timeline refresher:
I feel monumentally frustrated.
I talk to Anne and happen to ask her how she’s doing spiritually.
That night my daughter shows me the “escape not allowed” pic.

OK, got that? So then, the next morning I open Anne’s new blog post, which is an update on the pioneer life and her thoughts in response to my question “How are you doing spiritually?” After lots of fun updates she starts to talk spiritual and when I get to her main point, I nearly fall out of bed: she writes “You can’t escape God.”

You can’t escape God.

Now remember, she didn’t write this message specifically for me. It was simply a summation of her recent experiences with God, shared with her friends, family and blog readers. And yet, God spoke directly to me through her. (Love it when He does that.) As a result, I was reminded that while I can’t escape myself, my skin, my problems, I also can’t escape God. And isn’t that the better truth? The best truth?

I don’t so much need to get away from my problems as I need to get into God. In fact, running from my problems is akin to running from Him, because God doesn’t exist apart from reality. He is reality and any attempts on my part to escape reality put me, at least mentally, further away from God.

I believe, and my experience has been, that God manifests himself in my life most powerfully when I live in reality, accepting my circumstances and inviting God to work in and through them rather than looking for a way out. I guess I just needed a reminder. Thanks God…and Anne.

Immanuel, God With Us, doesn’t promise to take away all our earthly trials but he does promise to be with us in them, always, even to the end of the age.

Escape is not allowed at this point.

But peace is.

Hope is.

Love is.

Joy is.

God is.

The Day I was Done with God

Some days – far more often than I would like to admit – I feel like God has pulled the rug out from under my feet. Or better yet, that I am Charlie Brown and God is Lucy, who’s just swiped the football away from me, again. I try and try and try and no matter what, I miss, I fail, I fall. And there I am, lying flat on my back, staring up at the sky shouting, “Really? Really?!!”

Oooohhh, can I get angry. I mean the breaking-things kind of angry. On my worst days, you can find me shaking my mental fist at God, silent screams reverberating in my gut, “I am doing my best here, God! I am trying! Why…do…you…keep…making…this…so…impossible?! Do you want me to fail?!”

But on the very worst day, I spat out something pretty much exactly like this: “You know what, God? That’s it. I’m done with You.”

Yes, I actually said that. (I shudder every time I tell this story.) And there’s more….

“You and me, God. We’re done. I’ve had it. I’m sick of you bailing on me, on my kids, on my family. So that’s it. No more. No more quiet times. No more prayer. No more me relying on you for anything. We. Are. Done.”

It’s awful, I know. Horrible, dreadful, treacherous. What was I thinking?! Well…I wasn’t.

In mother terminology, I was what we call OUTOFCONTROL. And I knew it. But that’s the thing with being OUTOFCONTROL, you can’t really help yourself.

I immediately braced for the death blow. Any second I would be struck by lightning…or hit by a bus, at least. I mean, you don’t say things like that and get away with it. In more mother terminology, I was cruisin’ for a bruisin’ and the cruise was over. Somebody get the wooden spoon, already!

Well, a few minutes later, still alive and breathing, I realized that my new plan actually had some practical implications. At the time, I was leading a women’s Bible study and co-directing a kids program at church. Oh yeah, kids! What about my kids?! I quickly determined that I would put up a good front; I would take the kids to church and perform all my nice, Christian duties. I would “pretend.” I would “play Christian.”

And so I did. I went on. I went on asking nothing from God. Giving nothing to God. Expecting nothing good because I deserved the worst. And surely the worst would come.

Several days passed without any catastrophic acts of divine retribution and I suddenly understood that such a fate could hardly be God’s worst. No. His worst wouldn’t be a bolt of lightning. His worst would be to just leave. And so I waited for Him to leave – for Him to leave me ALONE.

And so I waited for Him to leave – for Him to leave me ALONE.

What would it be like, I wondered? Would I know He was gone? Would my mind and soul, once awash in Light, suddenly go dark? Would my heart, once warmed by His ever-presence, turn cold and barren? Surely life without Him must be like life without air.

The days turned into weeks and still I waited.

Raging waters from angry clouds beat violently upon the earth, overflowing banks and uprooting trees. But after the storm squeezes dry the clouds and the wind runs out of breath, the waters begin to slow. Smoothing out and away, moving almost imperceptibly, they find their way home, around rocks and through mountains, over fields and through the rush, back into the lap of the ocean.

So too, riven lovers find themselves pulled again, as if by lodestone, into that familiar embrace.

And even the rebellious, petulant child, once again finds her little arms wrapped around her daddy’s neck, though his strong arms do the holding.

And so weeks later, to my own surprise, I found myself resting quietly in the lap of my heavenly Father. Perhaps because my own father left me so easily – and more than once, too – I wondered at the strangeness of this God who stayed even in the face of my betrayal.

Then He answered the question I dared not ask:

“You see, Nichole, you were done with Me, but I am not done with you.”

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust…but from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him…Praise the LORD, O my soul! Psalm 103

Baseball, the Red Sox, Curses and Cures

In honor of the Red Sox 2013 World Series win, I have resurrected my 2004 Christmas letter and with a few modifications, made it into a blog post. Enjoy!

English: Boston Red Sox Cap Logo

English: Boston Red Sox Cap Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a little girl, while at my mother’s softball games or watching the Red Sox on TV with my late stepfather, Kenny, I learned to love the game of baseball. There’s just something about the hum of the crowd, the shouts of the ump, the crack of the bat on a hot summer night. Even through the television, I can practically smell the peanuts and hot dogs.

I know it’s a slow game. Some might say baseball’s nothing but a bunch of waiting, staring, spitting, crotch-grabbing and dirt kicking punctuated by short bursts of “real” action. I disagree. Actor Dennis Leary once compared baseball to Shakespeare. I get that because for the keen observer, baseball is more like a three act play than a game. Baseball tells a story.

I remember the day I realized what it means to be a Red Sox fan. I was about six years old, running around on the playground at school and some kid kept teasing me about the Sox. (Pretty sure he was a Yankees fan.) As I grabbed the ladder to the slide, I thought, Why? Why do I have to be a Red Sox fan? …like someone had thrust the identity upon me. Sports allegiances are a little like religion. At first you’re born into it and then, just as with your faith, there comes a day when you have to choose for yourself.

That was my day. I don’t have to be a Red Sox fan, I thought. And for a split second I imagined what life might be like as a Yankees fan. (Cut me some slack, I was six). For some reason, I couldn’t make the switch. As I climbed step by step up the ladder, I knew that I would forever be a Red Sox fan. Was it allegiance to my family? My stubborn personality? My dedication to underdogs the world over? I don’t know, but standing there atop the metal slide looking out over the playground, I decided I would stick around for the ride. Then I jumped onto my bottom and smiled all the way down.

Many years and just as many lost opportunities later, in 2004, I found myself watching the Red Sox throw it away to the Yankees…again. I felt so dejected I actually refused to watch game 4 of the ALCS. That is until my brother woke me in the middle of the night with a phone call.

“Hey, turn on the game,” he said. “They just might come back and win it.”

And they did. Well, at least they didn’t sweep us, I grumbled before falling back to sleep.

The next morning, I was folding laundry when the phone rang. I heard my stepfather on the other end. “Are you sitting down?” he asked.

“Um…well, I am now,” I said as I sat down on a kitchen bar stool, bracing for bad news. “Why? What’s up?”

“Want to go to the game tonight?”

“Wh..wh..what?” I stammered.

“I got a guy here at work – he just offered me two tickets to tonight’s game. Do you and Doug want to go?”

Do I want to go to the GAME? Game 5 of the ALCS? Against the Yankees? Pedro Martinez pitching? Probably the last game of the season? How? What?

“Y-Yes. Yes. Of course, yes!”

Sure, they would probably lose, but you just don’t say no to something like this, right?!

The next couple hours consisted of a frantic series of phone calls to my husband (Get your butt home!), my in-laws (Can you please, please, please watch the kids?), my brother (Can I borrow your cell phone? And by the way, sorry you have to work and I got the tickets instead…sort of.) And before we knew it, Doug and I were standing in the bleachers at Fenway Park watching Pedro Martinez strike out Derek Jeter. Somebody pinch me.

Fenway Park on June 21, 2008

Fenway Park on June 21, 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can hardly begin to describe the anxiety levels at Fenway. The game lasted 14 innings and nearly six hours. Not to mention, all sorts of crazy things were happening on the field…like Big Papi trying to steal second base and starting pitchers Wakefield, Schilling and Lowe walking across the field to the bullpen at the end of the ninth. And they stopped serving beer after the seventh inning, so you could say the tension was palpable.

From the 10th inning on, everyone stayed on their feet; we were practically jumping out of our own skin. But I spent every top half sitting down with my face buried in my knees. I couldn’t bear to watch the Yankees at bat; every pitch was torture.

And then the moment came. 5 hours and 49 minutes after the first pitch, David Ortiz batted in the game winning run, keeping the Sox alive for another day and saving us all from having to watch the Yankees party on our turf.

We were cold and tired. Our bodies ached from standing on concrete all night. I hadn’t been to the bathroom in seven hours – seven hours! – and we were screaming and high-fiving and hugging total strangers. Doug carried me around piggy-back style while we bellowed Sweet Caroline and Tessie, filling our lungs with the cold, magical Fenway air. As we pushed through the crowd on Brookline Ave., I heard some kid shouting “SOX IN SEVEN! SOX IN SEVEN!” And for the first time I began to think, maybe, just maybe….

Well, you know the rest of the story…the bloody red sock, the biggest upset in history, a party in their house, the Red October Lunar Eclipse, the longest winning streak in post season history, the sweep, the curse reversed. Redemption, sweet redemption.

For all those who never lived to see the day…Kenny…Aunt Kate… and for those who did…my grandmother… my friend Julie’s father who watched the last game with his daughter and grandson. For all the pain, heartache and disappointment. For all the years of taunting and abuse we took from Yankees fans. Could you have imagined a better win? People have tried. No one came close. Because this was magic.

When my brother came by the house a couple of hours after the Sox won the World Series, he said, “We were just getting used to the fact that they beat the Yankees and now they’ve already won the World Series.”

It was crazy, right? 86 years of disappointment and then in eight games, we’re on top of the world. One minute we were the jaded, anxiety ridden, baggage-carrying, curse-burdened, Red Sox faithful and the next we were the light-hearted, unshackled, banner waving victors.

Our new status has taken some getting used to – not the Oh no, I don’t know how to be a winner! getting used to – but the Did that really happen? getting used to. Because miraculously, all the years and generations of bitterness are gone. Completely gone. Life will never be the same again. Red Sox Nation has been redeemed.

But that’s exactly how redemption works, isn’t it? One minute you’re worthless and broken and the next, you’re bought back and restored. The shame and bitterness disappear. It’s as if you’re a new person.

The transformation of Red Sox fans from cursed to champions happened in a moment, but the process was long. There was pain, suffering, defeat, sacrifice and the shedding of blood. Redemption, by its very nature, comes at a price.

For thousands upon thousands of years, a fallen humanity waited for redemption. The process was long. There was pain, defeat, sacrifice and the shedding of blood. On that final day, Jesus suffered the agony of an eternity separated from God for each one of us. And then, just like that: Redemption. Sweet redemption.

One minute we were baggage-carrying, curse-burdened, broken, defeated children and the next we arose forgiven and transformed. The curse was broken and now, we’re new people. We’re whole.

The price was steep but Jesus paid it all. Our lives need never be the same again.

Need | A Salvation Story Imagined

Recently God helped me to more fully understand the depth of my need for His work on the cross – that even if I could stop Him, I wouldn’t, because I need Him to save me and to save everyone I love. This was hard to express and when I sat down to write it, what came out (below) was unexpected. Please don’t freak out that the “Judge” is a woman. I’m not questioning God the Father…it’s just creative writing.

I stand, hands clasped tightly behind my back to stop them trembling. There is no noise to muffle the pounding in my ears, against my ribs, in my stomach. Breath comes fast but not fast enough.

Photo by Tito Balangue

Photo by Tito Balangue

Concentrate. In through the nose, out through the mouth.

Somewhere nearby, a crow is cawing. Gray clouds shroud the sun and a cold breeze bites at my ankles.

I fix my eyes just above her head, on the words engraved in the stone wall behind her, “Justice Shall Prevail.” Though I’m staring at the stones, I can tell she isn’t looking at us. She examines the scroll before her, reading every word. When she looks up, her face is hard and cold, like metal. She’s here to judge me. To judge us all.

She doesn’t ask if we are guilty or innocent. She already knows.

To my left, stands everyone I love. To my right, looms a crude wooden platform and behind that, a pile of stones so tall that it casts a shadow over us. There is no one else, save the Enforcers. No one to condemn or defend us. The record speaks for itself.

My children, two boys and two girls, old enough to answer for themselves now, stare ahead as I do. Except for the youngest. He looks hard at the ground. Silent tears roll down the cheeks of my oldest daughter. I can feel her crying.

“Guilty as charged!” The judge’s voice hits me like a bullet. “For rebellion, treason, betrayal and murder. You know the penalty.”

For a moment, I can’t breathe. But I will not move. I will not turn my head. The judgment is no surprise. I know. We know – we all know – what we have done.

Except the youngest. “We’ve done nothing wrong!” He shouts. “Mother, tell them! We’ve done nothing wrong!”

My eyes burn. I open them wide to keep the hot tears from spilling out. In a moment, they will take us to the platform, lie us on our backs side by side and strap us down so we cannot move. Then they will pile stones upon us – stones equal to the weight of our crimes – until we are crushed to death. But what scares me most – what hurts me most – is that my own son seems to have forgotten the difference between right and wrong.

His screams grow louder and the judge bangs her staff against the stone wall and the Enforcers scramble toward him and a sob threatens at my throat and then I hear him…not my son…but him.

“I will pay!” He thunders. “I will pay for their crimes!”

Olive Press at Public-Domain-Image.com

Olive Press at Public-Domain-Image.com

Silence once again engulfs us and I snap my head to look behind me. He walks toward the judge, meeting her eyes with his. A plain, simple man in appearance, but something about him is different. He is determined yet tender. He stops between me and the platform.

I am frozen in place. The judge’s eyes pierce the man as she asks, “Do you know the cost?”

“You know that I do,” he answers softly.

I watch something like sorrow pass over her face as she warns, “I cannot stay with you.”

“I know that, too,” he whispers.

For a moment, she looks away but then turns her face toward him again…softer now…not like metal…but like, like love. Is that possible?

“Thank you,” she says.

“You’re welcome, mother,” he replies.

Mother? I stare, forgetting to breathe. Then he looks at me for the first time and I feel as though I’m melting beneath the warmth of his eyes. It’s like I’ve known him all my life, as though he is my brother, my father, my friend. And I can hardly bear the thought of him taking my place. My chest aches and I before I know what I am doing, I find myself on my knees in the dirt, crying, “No! No!”

He rests a strong hand on my head and whispers, “But you cannot pay. Even your death will not be enough.”

I begin to sob and I don’t understand my own tears. I cling to his bare feet, my hair, soaked now with tears, falling around my face, and all I know is that I never, never want to be separated from him.

“But you can’t!” I’m shouting now.

“I am the only one who can.”

Between sobs I plead with him, “I am a traitor. A murderer. All my life, I have been lost, confused. But, but, but now you’re here and when I look in your eyes…I’m… I’m not lost anymore. Please! Please don’t go!”

“If you try to pay for your crimes on your own, you will die and we will be separated forever. But if I pay for these crimes that I did not commit, I will live and we will be together again.”

“How can that be?!”

I hear the judge’s steady voice, “I wrote the law and my son will fulfill it.”

“How do I know? How do I know you will return?!” I demand.

He puts his hand on my chin and turns me towards him, brushing the hair out of my eyes, “I came here today to save you.” He pauses, shifting his gaze to each of my children – even the youngest, who looks defiantly at the ground. “And to save them.”

Dread, sorrow and shame overwhelm me. Grief and desperation ravage my body and I can’t get air. And I know…I know that I need him…this man with eyes that see into my soul…I need Him to die…so that I can live and so that I can be with him again.

“Do you want me to save you?” he asks.

I look down, clawing at earth with my fingernails, “Is there no other way?”

“There is no other way.”

Helpless, I collapse, “Then, yes. I need you to save me. I need you to save them.”

“Yes. You do.”

He takes my head in his hands, bringing my forehead to his lips before stepping away. Afterward he speaks to each of my children, though I cannot hear his words.

Finally, he looks toward his mother. She turns and walks away.

Alone, he climbs to the platform and lays himself down in the shadow of the stones…the stones that should have crushed us all…the stones that will now crush him.

As we all watch him go, it is my youngest son who weeps the loudest of all.

One of my new favorites by Hillsong…

Living History | My Political News Addiction is Killing Me

This post was written in response to the WordPress.com Weekly Writing Challenge.

Well, at least it’s killing my joy.

Photo by  DarrenHester

Photo by DarrenHester

I guess I’ve kind of known this for a while but it took a 40 day fast to expose the damage. As a junkie – political news junkie, just to clarify – I needed time away from the drugs (i.e., political news websites and cable news) to remember what life was like without them.

When our church observed a time of fasting and prayer to coincide with the Impact Connecticut 40 Days of Worship, I felt God prompting me to give up political news. I was so relieved – He didn’t say chocolate or television or baseball! Just political news. I actually wondered if I heard Him correctly, but time and again I heard the same answer: give up political news.

So with Syria in crisis and the budget battle looming, I logged off of my favorite poli-news sites, cold turkey. However, after a few days, I realized that political news is everywhere: on local television, on cable television, in magazines, on the radio, on the web, Facebook and Twitter. I can’t even turn on the Disney channel without Michelle Obama lecturing me about exercise. (If I wanted to be exercising, would I be watching Disney channel?) Maybe that’s not exactly political news, but I can’t see her or hear her without thinking about politics so she was off limits. Period.

Ultimately, I found that to keep my fast, I needed to avoid news and politics in every shape and form. So for most of September and half of October, that’s exactly what I did. Now I can spot (and scroll past) a political meme on Facebook without reading a single word of the post!

One night while channel surfing, I stumbled upon a tease for the nightly news: “Will the government reach a deal before midnight to avoid shutdown? Find out at 11.” My jaw almost hit the floor. What?! Shutdown?! Tonight?! That’s how out of touch I was.

Except for that one brief moment of shock and curiosity, I felt only relief – I didn’t have to go there. Didn’t have to listen to all the spin and arguments and back-biting. Didn’t have to let their mess ruin my day. And why should I? After all, in 40 days not much has changed. The Middle East is still a flipping mess. U.S. immigration will continue to be a disaster for the unforeseeable future. And politicians in Congress and the White House continue to fight over how to spend (or not spend) our money.

Seems that life goes on whether Nichole is getting all hot and bothered or not.

How liberating it is to know that the world still spins when we are sleeping – or watching I Love Lucy reruns instead of the morning news.

A little perspective is always good. But God used this fast to do so much more than give me perspective.

Years of watching and listening to the vitriol, contention, angst and even well-intentioned debate that permeates our news cycles, had invaded my heart like a bitter poison. As the fast wore on, I felt the poison seeping out of me, washing away. It was like an acrimony detox without the withdrawals. I relaxed. I relinquished my defensive position and felt the heavy armor melting away.

As my heart began to soften, I realized that my addiction, as addictions generally do, increased my misery rather than alleviated it; and the steady diet of hostility had made me…well…pissy. And pissy people don’t listen well. They don’t take in new information well. And even if they’re right, pissy people aren’t very gracious.

But God is. Gracious, I mean. Always. And He convicted me in the gentlest of ways. In love, He showed me myself. His mercy brought me to genuine tears of sorrow. Sorrow for the bad attitude I had been harboring and most of all, sorrow for the way I had allowed that attitude to keep me from loving others well.

Sure, I have plenty of family and friends with whom I differ politically and I love them. Always, always, I have known that we can agree to disagree, but still, somehow, there was a small part of my heart that I wouldn’t give to them…or let them enter. I was on guard.

Why? Because I hate being misunderstood. More than almost anything else in the world, I hate being misunderstood. Which means that if you think I’m a bigot or a woman-hater or a Bible thumper or a racist, I will be overcome with an almost irrepressible urge to defend, explain and validate myself. Sure, in part, that’s because I’m prideful and want your approval, but at the deepest level, I want to be understood because I want to be known.

Isn’t that what we all desire…to be known…to be truly, completely and thoroughly known?

But if I’m so busy trying to make sure you understand me, how will I ever really get to know you?

So I am laying down my idol of being understood by others. After all, God is the only One who truly knows us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. To search for understanding in anyone else is idolatry, plain and simple.

It’s not so much that God has changed my values or my principles or my opinion of how government and society should operate. I can’t even say I plan to vote differently. But He has changed my heart as only He can, because He knows me. He knows when I sit and when I rise, He perceives my thoughts from afar, He discerns my going out and my lying down, He is familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue He knows it completely. He hems me in behind and before. He has laid his hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139)

Recognizing God’s Voice

Dear friends, I have a new post on our church’s 40 Days blog. Here is a taste, then you can keep reading at their site if you like:

Photo by Rose Braverman

Photo by Rose Braverman

Recognizing God’s voice…that’s a phrase packed with will all sorts of potential reactions. Here’s some that come to mind:

  •  Oh, so now you think God is speaking to you. Great.
  •  I don’t hear God. I pray. I meditate. I sit in silence. But guess what? Crickets.
  •  Umm…does this mean I’ll hear a voice? Or have a vision? Or fall down on the ground and start screaming and hollering? Because I really don’t want to cause a scene. Just sayin’.
  •  God has already spoken. The Bible is His final word.
  •  Are you hearing voices in your head?
  •  How do I know if what I hear is from God?
  •  I’m actually kind of afraid to hear from God. What if He’s angry with me? Or worse…what if He doesn’t say anything at all?

And of course there’s the unspoken fear of many comfortable Western Christians:

  • What if He tells me to sell all my belongings, shave my head and move to Zambia? ‘Cause that happens…like all the time…right?

Listening for the Lord, hearing from Him and then understanding what He’s saying can be scary and frustrating. But it can also be exhilarating, freeing and life-changing. I am grateful that some of my first experiences as a Christian included Listening Retreats. At those retreats...keep reading this post

I Am Not Enough

I am not enough. I will never be enough. I am inadequate. Completely, desperately inadequate.

I sit at the counter and feel the weight of those words pressing down on me, pressing me into the counter top. I am unable to push back.

Why do these thoughts oppress me when they are true? The truth sets me free. But this…this is hopelessness and shackles and life draining from my limbs and air leaving my lungs. Somewhere deep in my thoughts, this truth harbors a lie. What is it? What am I thinking?

I search my mind. God, help me search my mind. I think about how I think about me.

I AM not enough. I am NOT enough. I am not ENOUGH. I never will be. I never was. I learned that long ago. I remember crying out to God to rescue me…to fix me. I knew there was something wrong with me. As a child, a teen…I did not wonder…I did not ask. I knew. I was deficient, defective, Less Than…

Less than what? Less than what I should have been. What I could have been. I failed. I am a failure. Should have been what? Could have been what? Enough. I should have been enough. I should have been adequate. I should have been complete. Strong.

But I know…deep within me…in the cold, dark place…I know, I couldn’t have been enough. Because I am broken and I am a sinner.

Oh, but I should have been! I should have been enough. I should have been Good. Strong. Complete. Independent.

That last word almost slips by. Out of the corner of my eye I see it…drifting off into the distance…trying to sneak away…but I caught it. My mind draws that word back and lays it out before me. Because that’s a word that doesn’t belong. Independent. That word doesn’t live in the space I share with Jesus. That word has no place here.

But I feel it: my desire to be independent; to be good; my anger at having failed. I hate that I need help…that I need to be rescued. And I begin to untangle the lies from the truth.

I am not enough.

Finish that sentence, Nichole.

I am not enough…on my own. Truth.

I never could have been enough. Truth.

I never could have been enough…because I am defective. Lie.

How is that a lie? My sin, my brokenness, my failures and misdeeds clamor and clang down the streets of my life like a Mardi Gras parade…refusing to be ignored. I should have gotten it right. But I am a failure. I am defective…a disappointment…weak…

You never could have been enough because you were never meant to be enough…on your own.

Truth.

I feel the freedom. The pressure easing off my back, my chest. I breathe.

I need God, not because I am defective, but because I was never meant to live without him. I was made to need Him. We were made to need Him. And yet we come into this world thrashing and gasping for air…desperate to survive. Selfish…to keep the breath for which we struggle, to hold this life..to own it…to be something…on our own.

On my own, I am not good – not because I failed – but because I could never be good apart from God. I was not created to be on my own. On my own, I am nothing…maybe something worse than nothing.

I am not a failure. I just am. Truth.

I am needy. Truth.

I am weak. Truth.

I am broken. Truth.

And that is exactly what He wants me to be. Truth.

On my own – like independent – those are words that have no place between Jesus and me. His Spirit and mine. We are one. I will never be on my own. I cannot be on my own.

I am His. Truth.

Everything He gives me, which is all of Him, is endless. I don’t need enough – I have everything. I have more than everything.

I am complete. Truth.

I breathe in this truth. I am light and hope finds its wings. The truth sets me free.

I am free. Truth.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11

One of my all time favorite songs. Hey fellow Scots, dig these bagpipes: 

A Love We Cannot Fathom

The other morning as I was praying for a friend, these words just poured out onto the pages of my journal. About halfway through, I realized that this message is not just for one particular friend (though it is certainly for you, my dear) but for all of us. Happy Easter, my friends.

What if we just stripped away all the theology, all the questions, all the seeming inconsistencies of life … and just let Jesus love us?

What if we took a step back from our toil, set down our work and opened our hands. I would like to sit in a chair – perhaps a rocking chair – and rest my tired feet and aching muscles. And then, what if we just sat back with nothing left to do but receive His love?

No need to labor over this or that. Forget about if you’re doing a “good enough” job. Stop fretting over whether you said this right or thought that right. Just stop and let Him love you.

Because His love just is. There is nothing you can do to change it. You can’t increase His love or decrease His love. His love has no limits – past, present or future. His love is perfect, bottomless and complete. God’s love just is.

So what if instead of thinking about love, trying to figure it out, you just sit back, relax and open your heart?

You may say that you don’t get it – this love. You wonder, how can you receive His love when you can’t even fathom it? Here’s the thing: you will never truly be able to fathom the depths of His love because it’s His love… and He is God.

But you can experience His love. You can receive His love.

When you were a child, you didn’t understand or fathom your parents’ love. How could you? An infant, a toddler, a child, a teenager can’t know what it is to love with a parent’s love. They can’t even begin to understand such love.

Oh, but they receive it! Like a dry sponge, they soak in every ounce of love their parents will give them.

And so it is with God. We don’t have to understand His love….we just have to receive it.

He loves us. Whether we love Him or not. His love never changes, never runs out, never gives up. His love for us, for me, for you… just is.

And this love is more faithful, more powerful, more rich and deep and warm and consuming and freeing and nourishing and redeeming and forgiving and compassionate and nurturing and constant

Photo by natasha555

Photo by natasha555

and merciful and gracious and fierce and healing and completely free… than any love we’ve ever known.

His is a love we cannot fathom. But it is a love that is ours.

Let go of your toil. Let go of your work. Let go of your need to figure it all out. Let go of every last shred, every little thread, every tiny cord of control. Let go so that you can open your hands and receive.

Let go. Let go. Let go. And let Him love you. Let Him have you.

He waits. He waits at the gates of your heart for the moment you will turn the lock, pull back the heavy doors and let Him in.

He waits. He longs to give Himself to you. Receive Him. He is yours.