Archive for the ‘Brokenness’ Category

Businessman holding a paper with a prisoner behind the bars on i
Some prisons are invisible! I know because, although I have never committed a crime, nor have I ever been incarcerated, I have most assuredly felt the suffocating bondage of being imprisoned just the same.

In fact, my step-father even used the term “home prison” to describe an extended, and overly harsh, punishment for a minor violation of household rules which I committed at the ripe-old age of fifteen. For about six months I was not allowed to use the telephone, go anywhere by myself (not even outdoors for fresh air) nor visit with friends ˗not that I had any back then anyway. If that sounds like overkill to you, trust me, this kind of thing was fairly typical in my broken family.

This wasn’t my first “prison” though. Even as a child, I lived in great bondage: one of fear, doubt, humiliation and abuse. By the age of two, I was already, “damaged goods,” or so I was told. The more time passed, the more damaged I became until my only means of “escape” was to shut myself off from the rest of the world, both physically and emotionally. Of course I went to school, but that was just another prison ˗ different type, much larger. Children have a way of identifying, then assailing any other child who is weak and wounded, thus I was trapped -emotionally imprisoned- by their ridicule and torment day-after-day.

Many years later I had a miraculous encounter with my Savior, Jesus Christ [You can read about that here: His Invisible Hand] and I was truly free for a while. Even so, I would experience an entirely different kind of “prison” just a few years later, despite being a Christian.

Sitting in church one evening, long ago, my pastor made one of those sweeping comments from the pulpit that no one had ever experienced prison before and didn’t know what it was like to be locked-up, having no freedom. My body language told him I did, in fact, know that feeling; and he acknowledged my silent declaration with his own expression and slight head-shake. Clearly, he assumed I had been incarcerated in a literal prison, but as I stated previously, some prisons are invisible. Little did he know that, because of the repeated personal attacks against me and my family right there, in his cherished little church, I felt the pangs of bondage afresh; I felt imprisoned yet again, and my family had to flee from there. Thank the Lord we did! I am only sharing this because I feel someone needs to hear it. Some of you have likewise experienced hurt and bondage in the church and you need to know that you are not alone.

Before you start thinking I am slamming the church, however, let me assure you that I am not. Not every church is godly and not every person in them is a true Christian. (See this week’s Polished Pearls post). People can be deeply hurt in those flawed churches (even the good ones, for that matter), but even those kinds of wounds can be healed.

What I am proclaiming is this: God is still on the throne and He still SETS THE CAPTIVE FREE! It doesn’t matter what type your (invisible) prison is, our King has made a way of escape! (see postscript)

I have told many people over the years that if they could have seen the person I was before I came to know Jesus Christ as my Savior and compare that to the person I am now, they certainly would believe in God! Even a professed atheist would have to admit that the transformation in me was nothing short of a divine, miraculous intervention.

If only time allowed, I could share numerous testimonies of God’s miraculous intervention in the lives of others as well. I know of people who have, just this week, been healed of terminal illnesses, delivered from drugs, received much-needed funds, food and shelter, and the list goes on-and-on.

Every one of those situations was, for the person experiencing them, an invisible prison. Some never thought they would escape, but Jesus Christ showed-up and SET THE CAPTIVE FREE!

Dear friend, I don’t know what you are experiencing this week, nor do I know what challenges await you in future, but I do know there is an answer –His name is Jesus! Whether you steadfastly pray, or whether you have never prayed one single prayer in your life, I want to encourage you to call upon Jesus. He still answers prayers, and He is still performs miracles!

Finally, I want to share one more thing, because, again, I feel that someone needs to hear it. Several years after having accepted Jesus as my Savior I prayed and asked that all-too-familiar question: WHY? Why had He allowed me to suffer so much pain and trauma in my life. He never answered my question, but He did speak clearly: “I cried every tear with you.”

Dear reader, like me, you may never understand why certain things happened in your life; why God allowed you to go through certain difficulties, but you can be sure of this, you weren’t alone. The important question is not why certain things happened, but rather, are you willing accept God’s working in your life and trust Him no matter what. I truly hope you will.

“There is nothing a man can do to liberate himself if his time of divine liberation has not come. But when the time comes, nothing can stop it.” -B. Olurotimi


postscript:  This author is, in no way, suggesting that the Lord God  will miraculously release someone from a lawful incarceration.  Obviously He could (and did in times past for certain innocent Christians who were locked-up for no other reason than their faith in Jesus Christ), but God is as just as He is merciful, requiring mankind to be accountable for their actions.  If someone is incarcerated for their crimes, they should, and will, serve their sentence.  However, if they place their trust in Jesus Christ, and repent of their sins, He can give them a peace which passes all understanding, no matter how long they are incarcerated.  Moreover, Jesus can save, heal, and deliver from all emotional bondage any time, any place, even prison.

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Photo: Rodney Dodig

Through the years, I have given a unique end-of-the-year gift to those who could use an extra word of hope or encouragement.

This year, I invite you, dear reader, to share this same gift if you like. Simply print the following poem on an appropriate holiday paper (letter size), fold using a business fold and insert into a decorated envelope with a shard of broken pottery. There you have it, a thoughtful, non-traditional gift which will (hopefully) be a blessing to others. (Thank you for including the copyright information.)

From our Heart to Yours

You may think it odd that we give you
this little piece of broken clay;
but we give it with sincerest hearts,
and this is what we pray:

We pray that as you hold this little shard
gently in your outstretched palm,
you will remember that Jesus, in the same way,
holds the world and brings us calm.

Yes, you may have had moments of shattering
throughout the year, or years, gone past;
and you may have felt a bit like this shard of clay–
broken from a vessel that just didn’t last.

You may even feel that this busy holiday season
leaves you feeling weary and broken;
thus we pray you have the genuine peace
of which Jesus, Himself, has spoken.

For He not only holds the world in His hands,
He lovingly cradles each human soul,
gathers-up each broken shard
and makes us completely whole.

After all, our Lord is a masterful potter;
He only needs one small, surrendered part
with which to re-create a beautiful vessel
and restore a broken heart.

Knowing this, we pray for you the very best–
a season of abundant health and cheer;
relaxation and restoration;
abundant blessing throughout the coming year.

As Jesus’ return quickly approaches,
may you find great strength in each passing day;
that you may become all He wants you to be.
This is what we pray.

                                           ©Susan Shimkovitz 2001

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There are moments in every person’s life when a single image, thought or statement illuminates the mind profoundly. I had such an experience just this week. As my sons and I were conversing, my youngest spoke of “the artistic beauty of ruins.”

Immediately my own thoughts flowed in an entirely different direction. “The artistic beauty of ruins,” I pondered. What a perfect summation of Isaiah 61:3

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified .

Being an archaeology enthusiast, I long ago learned to appreciate the beauty in many of the structures made desolate over time. While it is true that some folks would view such ruins as nothing more than a heap of stones or toppled pillars, I see a work of art, once exquisitely crafted, now transformed into that which exhibits a different kind of beauty –more simplistic perhaps, but magnificent nonetheless.

Such is the essence of my own life. I was created in God’s image; a beautiful dwelling wherein His Holy Spirit could abide. But this frail, human vessel was broken down over time and made desolate –uninhabitable. So broken, in fact, that when others looked upon me, they ceased to notice that which was beautiful and were rather appalled at the shambles I had become.

Much of humanity can say the same of their own lives. Praise God, this is where “the artistic beauty of ruins” comes into fruition. No matter how broken or shattered our lives are, God still looks upon those who are His own, through eyes so filled with love that He sees only beauty. It is a more simplistic beauty because that is what brokenness does – it crumbles all the parts of us that remain lofty and impenetrable until we appear useless in the world’s sight, and yet of great value in God’s.

Perhaps, dear reader, you also feel that your life has gone from splendor to shambles. But remember, beauty and value lie in the eyes of the beholder. Had you been alive when Jesus Christ walked the earth as a man, would you have thought Him beautiful? I am certain you would have, yet this is how the Bible described Him:

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.              Isaiah 53:2-3

Of course, it was only those of this world that esteemed Him not. Those who knew Him as LORD considered Him to be the most beautiful sight on earth. Even after His body was mangled and crucified, Jesus’ followers soon saw the artistic beauty in the ruins of his crucifixion stake, for their eyes looked upon the sight with a much different understanding.

Likewise, when this world looks upon you with indifference, or even disdain,  your Father in Heaven looks at you with a different understanding, as we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory  (II Corinthians 3:18).

I would like to encourage you, then, to begin seeing yourself as Jesus does. Initially, you may see only the ruins, but eventually you will begin to appreciate the artistic beauty of the ruins until that glorious day when we shall all be perfected.

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I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere… Sort of heroic super-people, all of them beautiful and witty and calm and kind, and I always imagined that when I did find them I’d suddenly know that I Belonged among them, that I was one of them, that I’d been meant to be one of them all along, and everything in the meantime had been a mistake; and they’d know it too. I’d be like the ugly duckling among the swans.”
― Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road

As a child, all I wanted was to be loved by my parents and accepted by my peers. I tried in so many ways to make that happen, but my parents had their own issues and my classmates were just downright mean. If only I hadn’t been so desperate for acceptance at school, I might not have fallen so easily into the other kid’s traps.

Some of their taunts were less demeaning than others. The pencil incident might have fallen into this category, except that my foolish error earned me the nickname “Stubby” for most of fourth grade. As I said, kids can be mean.

Normally, I was suspicious when other kids showed an interest in me, but on that particular day, I totally dropped my guard when one of the really popular girls walked up to me and began chatting as though we were long-time buddies. I thought perhaps there were a few “golden people” after all. During the course of the conversation she asked me if I preferred long pencils or stubby ones. “Long,” I answered truthfully, “and very sharp.”

“Me too, she replied. “It looks like we have something in common after all.”

I stood there dumbfounded as she walked away, but I was happy.

Then the unthinkable happened; a second “golden girl” came up and began chatting with me also. I should’ve suspected something was amiss, but I was too busy basking in the moment. This girl also brought up the topic of pencils, but unlike the first, she volunteered that she loved writing with stubby pencils before asking me my preference.

It was very wrong of me, I know, but I wanted to have something in common with her too, so I assured her that I liked stubby pencils as well. “That’s what I thought,” she smugly barked, then walked away. My heart sank as the two girls started their confab, while shooting arrogant glances in my direction.  Naturally, they shared my indiscretion with all the other kids. They all sang their stinging words, “Liar, liar, pants on fire” and “Hey Stubby, got a pencil?”  until I was practically in tears and longed desperately to return to my invisible status.

Little did I know, but I was never invisible to the only one that mattered. Not only did He love me unconditionally, and accept me just as I was –lonely and broken- He loved me enough to lead me to a golden place when the time was right.

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
~~Psalm 139:1-18 NIV

To this day, I still don’t like stubby pencils. But I don’t keep a beautiful glass jar, full of long, sharp pencils, on my desktop because I have something to prove. They are there to remind me of the power of words. I guess that is one reason I still love the feeling of a pencil between my fingers. Every now and then, I pick-up one of my long, sharp pencils and think to myself, God loves me just as I am, and He has written me in His book.  And that, dear reader,  often inspires me to write words of encouragement to you.

I know that my words, in the midst of the psalmist’s are, as Mr. Yates penned, the ugly duckling among the swans.” Even so, I hope you were encouraged by them in some way.

Postscript: The opening quote from Revolutionary Road does not reflect an endorsement for Mr. Yates, nor his book.  Truthfully, I have never read the book and cannot, therefore, speak to its contents.  I merely stumbled upon the aforementioned quote and felt that it accurately described how I felt as a child, dreaming of far away places where people were kind and underdogs like myself would be accepted.  Mr. Yates’ book, as I understand, is a secular work with questionable themes.  So again, I am not endorsing His book by sharing this beautiful quote.

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Let’s talk poop for a moment. Don’t worry; I won’t bother you with some boring scientific thesis on excrement —that would stink. However, l want to remind you that God has a way of growing roses out of manure.

This might seem an incredibly odd topic, but I honestly believe with all my heart that God has created our world in such a way that we may learn important lessons from everything in nature. From the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, to the fiery eruptions of a volcano, we can see God’s intelligent design.

So it is with pasture muffins. An average man can walk through a pasture and see nothing but piles and piles of poo, whereas an insightful man might see acres of nutrient-rich plant food. It’s more than just a matter of pessimism versus optimism, though. It is a matter of understanding that God designed all things perfectly and He doesn’t consider anything to be waste. Thus, we may view the difficult circumstances of our lives to be as dung, but God looks upon them as nutrient-rich food for our spiritual growth.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Furthermore, Scripture says God raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill (Psalms 113:7). If you keep reading, you’ll find He doesn’t stop there. After he raises us up, he makes ‘roses’ grow right out of the dunghills so that we can see his love, mercy and compassion in the midst of every trial and circumstance.

Naturally, when we see a rose, we tend to think only of God’s beautiful creation. It would be beneficial, however, to  remember that roses sometimes have thorns.  These serve as a reminder that we must not take His grace for granted.  If you handle a rose carelessly, it will prick you. Likewise, God has a way of “pricking” us if we become indifferent to His working in our lives.

The apostle Paul had a “thorn in the flesh.” He explained, “lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance… there was given to me a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). He goes on to explain that his “thorn in the flesh” was a “messenger of Satan” sent to buffet him. The word buffet means to contend against or battle. The Lord God, in His infinite wisdom, allowed this person to constantly buffet Paul in order to keep him humble, and never take his position for granted.

Sometimes our thorns serve to remind us that, in this world, our lives will always be a bittersweet mixture of beauty and pain. The apostle Peter said: Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (I Peter 4:12,13).

As to Christ’s suffering, that brings me to another point; Even He experienced the stench of the dunghill.  That is to say, He was unjustly crucified at the place where all the “refuse” of society were taken to be executed —what a fitting place to defeat death.

Our Messiah willingly surrendered His life on Mount Calvary so that he could offer himself as the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins and reconcile us to God. But when that battle was finished, He rose from the grave, having conquered sin and death.   Truly, when our Lord, Jesus Christ, said “It is finished!”  that awful dunghill lost its power.

So you see, even if this life is littered with pasture muffins along the way, it doesn’t matter.  If we have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice, He has already lifted us out of the dunghill.  And someday soon, we will go to live with Him eternally. There, our pastures, having already been fertilized by these earthly trials, will be full of roses without thorns. Nothing could ever be more beautiful than that.


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Photo: Cake Picture Gallery

Once upon a long time ago, I was reading Christian nursery rhymes¹ to my children. This Mother Goose adaptation really caught my eye:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Humpty Dumpty shouted, “Amen!”
God can put me together again.¹

It really is that simple –not easy, but simple.

For those of you who have suffered through heinous circumstances and might be convinced that you can never be whole again, I want you to know that I wholeheartedly understand. Truthfully, if it had not been for the grace of God I would have killed myself twenty-five years ago. I was already dead inside, disposing of the rest seemed only logical.

However, I had been conditioned from birth to believe I couldn’t do anything right. Those degrading remarks replayed in my head like a broken record until I was convinced that I would botch even suicide and leave myself in a far worse condition. So, I prayed to God to take my life. I did not know God or if He even listened to the prayers of men. But if He did, I figured He could do a far better job of getting rid of me and my messed up life than I could.

Praise God, He did take my life, but not the way I expected Him too!

You can read about how the Lord Jesus came to my rescue and gave me an entirely new life on the ‘My Testimony’ tab at the top of this page.

As a child I used to listen to the Humpty Dumpty rhyme and it brought me great sadness. I could relate to the poor egg. Whenever I heard the rhyme, I felt like I too was an egg (a rotten one) which had been boiled in the heat of hell and then cracked beyond repair. It’s a shame I did not know THE King back then.

“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put…” me (or Humpty) together again, but THE king Himself did so! He made me whole, and He has given to me beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that I might be called a tree of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
(Isaiah 61:3)

The King longs to do the same for you because you are His child, even if you don’t know Him. He healeth the broken in heart, And bindeth up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

You may find, as I did, that emotional healing is a long journey. Nevertheless, the King will walk with you every step of that journey if you allow Him to. And He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

I too would like to walk with you through your journey. If there is anything I can pray with you about, please use the contact button to leave me a private note and I will add you to my prayer list.

Life is too short to live it broken and wounded. It is time to say, “Amen, God put me to together again!”

¹Ainsborough Decker, Marjorie.  The Christian Mother Goose’ Book of Nursery Rhymes.  Distributed by: Christian Mother Goose Communications – P.O. Box 330 – Beggs OK 74421 – (918) 267-5230

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