Life with a Broken Heart

Denise Bryant:  When you’re not even looking God puts people in your life that you just know will be a blessing to you.  And He did just that when He placed Denise in mine. We both ended up attending a meeting and sat next to each other, not by accident.  I don’t know her well at all at this time but I know that God has big plans for our friendship.  Denise is the leader of our local Community Bible Study, better known as CBS.  This group of women go through 1 book thoroughly each year.  The knowledge that she must have tucked away in her head.  I can’t wait to have a chance to dig through it.   Not only is she a blessing to me but she has been a blessing to so many and will continue that trend.  I’m so glad to be able to share her heart with  you.

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It was a blustery snow flurrying November day in 1959 when I entered this world.  I was blessed to be born into a loving Christian family.  As an infant my parents dedicated themselves to bring me up to know Jesus.  Attending church was a regular part of our week.  We rarely missed a service. After 3 ½ years I was joined by my sister and our family was complete.

When I was four we moved to another town, where finding a church home was high on my parents’ priority list.  After attending a couple of different churches we settled into one that became our church home.  In this church the foundation of scripture was laid. Revivals were a big part of our lives and in the fall of 1969 before our fall revival I was part of a class that was teaching the steps of salvation.  I was an avid student but had no real direction when the revival began to make that decision.  But on Thursday night when the invitation was given my heart was pounding so hard inside my chest, there was nothing else I could do except to step out into that aisle and walk to the front to proclaim Jesus as my Lord and follow Him into baptism. The next day at school I was sure that everyone had to know what this 9 year old girl had done the night before.  I was so free.  I felt like I was walking on air.

My life continued on this same path. But the teaching that I was presented with was more about legalism and works than about grace.  Once again our family was to move.  This move was only 20 miles away, but the changes were so much greater than the distance.  Yet Jesus was still my rock.  He was the cornerstone to everything that I did.  I was in high school now and my world was still rather small.  When challenges came I was secure enough to say no, because of the love and confidence that I had at home.  I confess I was easily frustrated and confused why so many of my classmates struggled and were so concerned about fitting in.  My naiveté blinded me to the fact that my home life was more the exception than the norm, leaving me judgmental of my fellow students’ choices.

College time came and I chose to attend the University of Kentucky, living at home and commuting.  My judgmental attitude followed me there.  It did serve to keep me out of trouble, because I had my checklist of do’s and don’ts and my fear of disappointing my parents was always in the back of my mind.

Throughout college I was active in Christian Student Fellowship and God so graciously opened my eyes to the gift I had been given growing up with parents that not only loved me but loved Jesus even more.  It was in these years He began to show me how harsh my judgments of others were.  But it was not enough to turn my heart around.

I had met my future husband, John, at the end of my senior year in high school.  We began dating at the end of that summer only to find that our focus for life, with God at the center, was completely different.  After about 3 months we went our separate ways.  For nearly 4 years we continued to run into each other at functions, feeling drawn together but knowing our lives were on two different courses.  During my last year of college, John came to me and told me that God had been chasing him and that he was seeking and searching for answers.  It still wasn’t time for us to return to dating.  He again disappeared from my life for about 9 months.  This return made it evident that God was the center of his life and within a month we were engaged.  Thirteen months later we were married.  God began using John to show me about freedom and what that should look like in my life.  I was still holding on to the judgment.  This different understanding of God’s love caused a few ripples in our relationship but we just kept moving forward.

Four years into our marriage we were surprised to find out we were going to be parents.  It definitely wasn’t our planned timing but we were excited.  In August 1986, we became parents to our precious baby boy, Jonathan.  Life really changed, and I loved being a mom.  It was the greatest!  I needed to work outside the home but after a few months we decided that the sacrifice was worth it for me to stay home.  Then in April 1991, Jonathan was joined with a baby sister, Anna.  Our life was complete.  We began homeschooling that fall and life was very hectic but blessed.  Church and family were the center of our lives.  Our goals were to teach our children about Jesus and to instill in them a love for God above all else.  But as crazy as it sounds, for the first time in my life I began to doubt.  I began to ask myself did I really believe all that I was teaching my children.  Did I really want them to see life as I had always seen it?  I was still living in a very legalistic mindset that was keeping me in a failure mode.  I couldn’t live up to my own expectations.  I was drowning in the failures.  John was trying to show me the glories of grace, but I couldn’t really embrace it.

One Sunday in our church one of the men talked about having a broken and contrite heart.  Just as when I was 9 years old my heart was pounding in my chest.  He asked if there was anyone there that wanted to pray for this broken and contrite heart to come forward and he would pray with us.  There were several that went forward and I was one of them.   Little did I know what this would mean?  Our lives changed drastically in the months and years to follow.

Tragedy seemed to come at us faster than we could process it.  My sister miscarried.  My father had a heart attack followed by open heart surgery.  My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 58.  John was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease and three months later my daughter, Anna and I were run over by our conversion van.  This all happened in less than two years.  God was good in the midst of it all.  My dad survived to live 17 more years, my sister became pregnant with twins, my mother-in-law developed a relationship with Jesus and John was healed.  Anna and I survived with few injures and I began to see my need for Jesus more than ever before.  But 7 months from that accident the children and I were traveling to church and I lost control of the van and drove into an embankment.  Again we survive with little physical damage, but now we were dealing with more emotional damage, for that same day at almost that same time a friend of ours was in a similar accident and she didn’t survive.  Survivors’ guilt became my best friend along with depression as I struggled to see my purpose in life.

I tried to battle the depression alone.  I had Jesus so why should I need any other help.  Finally I recognized that I couldn’t do it alone and sought counseling.  I went with a great deal of anger but life improved.  The improvement was short lived only to spiral down further the next time.  This cycle continued for several years until finally after Christmas one year I told John I was empty and numb.  I returned to the counselor and this time she had a different approach.  Medication was prescribed along with reading through the gospels as if I was there with Jesus and He was talking directly to me.  The scriptures became more than a rule book, now they became a love letter to me, personally.  I could hear Jesus speaking my name and began to understand His grace for me and my need for it.

The years that have followed have continued to open my eyes to His great love for me, but there are still struggles. God has given me a purpose beyond my dreams when called to me to teach His word to women and children weekly through the ministry of Community Bible Study in Winchester for the last 8 years.  What a joy to be used in this way!  John and I celebrated 35 years of marriage and this past year God blessed us with the gift of a grandson.  I pray to always desire a broken and contrite heart for with it comes the blessings of thanksgiving and the knowledge of my great need for Jesus.

To truimph over tragedy, is only done with God.  I thank you Lord for sending Denise to give me that reminder.  Amen!

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Silence

Five Minute Friday on Monday night
Go:
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
When I think of silence, I think of one particular time in my life when I know, I just knew I had to be silent.  It was a time during my 2nd marriage was falling apart.  My 1st marriage had failed for many reasons and I was determined that my second one would not.  But I was also determined that this go around I was not going to be a door mat.  No one was going to run over me again.  Hence, part of the reason my 2nd was failing.
I was done!  And God spoke to me, saying be quiet, I will fight for you.  And he did.  I literally closed my mouth for 1 year and He rebuilt a marriage.  That was 12 years ago and we are better than ever.   I now have a voice but without that time of silence, I wouldn’t be where I am and God wouldn’t have had the glory.  He has given me many other opportunities to be silent and every time He comes out on top!
Amen!
Stop:
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Mistakes

A “Mistake”, some would argue what warrants being called a “mistake”.  Whether an action is intentional or unintentional, all actions have effects on the individual doing the action and most of the time on others.

mis·take
noun:   an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.
verb:   be wrong about.
I was watching one of my favorite night shows, “NCIS” and heard this statement.

“Even extraordinary people make mistakes, it’s a given. It’s our response to those mistakes that define us”.

I’m sure that there are many of you who have heard a quote similar to this. But for some reason, today, it stood out to me.  I have made plenty of mistakes and some have had minor consequences and some have had great ones.   And I have also experienced the consequences of other’s mistakes.  Regretfully some of those mistakes have had profound effects on me.  And this is where I come to the above quote.  I have chosen to respond to those effects graciously.  My own mistakes and the mistakes of others.  That is how I’m defined.

James 4:17

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has at one point or another made poor choices and everyone can be forgiven and cleansed but we only have 1 way of doing that so our mistakes do not define us.  And that way is through Christ.  Asking for forgiveness from Him, acknowledging our wrong doings, changing our behaviors and making amends to those our mistakes may have harmed.  If we continue to live with our mistakes buried inside, they will not hide away.  They will overtake us, consume us like a fire burning deep within.  They will show themselves in our future actions.  Christ does not want us to live with these mistakes, he wants us to let them go. Invite Him in!

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Lord, I thank You so for your promises to me and my life.  I thank you for your forgiveness for those choices/mistakes I have made.  I pray Lord that those who have been harmed by my mistakes will be healed.  I ask you to be with me as I continue to heal from the mistakes of others.  I ask you to help me be gracious and forgiving.  I pray for those who are carrying around mistakes/burdens and have not reached out to you for forgiveness yet.  I pray they will. Amen!

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The Value of Me

The Value of Me, is there any value?  Where does it come from?    What our name is, where we live, what we look like or who we’re married to.  A number of things can give us a false value. I have found my value in all these things but this value comes with a big price.  It is not lasting!

Ephesians 2:4-9

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, …

I knew of God and I knew of His love for me.  I knew that it surpassed any love that others could possibly have.  I knew that he made me and I knew that he forgave me.  I knew that he would always be with me.  What I didn’t know is that this gift of love, mercy and grace was a open door to loving myself.   Something that I didn’t realize I could do.  Because of many things from my past.   I was not taught that I had value.  Only Jesus Christ taught me that.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

God gave me life.  Jesus gave me redemption. And the Holy Spirit has given me direction. Through the trials of our lives, we must find our strength to stand firm.  My strength came from Jesus.   I was lost in a world of delusion, putting my faith in things that were not real, trusting in people that didn’t have my back, believed in my own delusions rather than trusting and leaning in God’s truths.  When the going gets tough, I kept on going and ran right into the arms of Jesus.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Today I live in Christ not myself, not others and not in delusions.  I live in the truths that he has given me.  I am guided by the examples that Jesus has given me and I am allowing the Holy Spirit to walk with me through life.  My value is found in HIM!  This value is providing me with strength that I have never had before.  Strength to not be fearful, to not allow others to over power me, to not live in shame of my past and not hide away when faced with opposition.  Strength that has provided me with Hope,  has given me courage to stand firm on, has given me freedom from my past and willingness to face it head on and has given me strength to show opposition love, compassion, grace and forgiveness.  I now have Value in Me because Christ is who lives in me. 

 Only words of gratitude do I have for You Lord. Amen!

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A Way Out

Our current sermon series at church is called “Casting Shadows”.  The basis for the series is talking about living in the shadows/darkness and how that keeps us separated from God.

I understand that life. I have lived in my share of shadows.

There are many ways that we can be living in the shadows and there are many shadows that pull at us from all directions, as the picture shows.  It can start at a very young age, where we are in the shadows of our parents and their authority, which can stem from fear or shame.  Or it can come at us from our peers in school or our careers, because of the desire to fit in or your drive to climb the ladder.  The shadows can overcome us from an abusive or over bearing spouse.  Regardless of the source, the shadows have the same hold on us.  From sexual impurities, alcohol, drugs, gossip or anything else that doesn’t come from God, these shadows can hold us down and strangle us with tight ropes around our soul.   But as we were reminded yesterday morning in church, there is ….

A Way Out

Proverbs 4:25-27 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.  Do not turn to the right or the left;  keep your foot from evil. 

 Proverbs 4 – FULL CHAPTER CLICK HERE 

Jesus is our way out.  He came to this earth, to show us a way.  He died on the cross and suffered great pain for us to be free of the shadows/darkness.  Guiding us straight into the light.  And Yes, He is not here with us in person but He gave us the Holy Spirit to walk with us daily to keep us on that path, fixing our gaze, steadfast and guiding our feet away from evil.

We have no excuses because He has removed them all.

Below is the link to yesterdays sermon, which was lead by our youth.  The same youth that wrote the series for our church community.  The same youth that are themselves breaking free from their own shadows and following in the steps of Jesus.  I invite you to watch the sermon/lesson and if you are interested  you can watch all the previous sermons.

“Casting Shadows” sermon series @ Calvary Christian Church

Lord thank You for breaking me free from the shadows of my life.  I pray Lord that I will fix my eyes on You and avoid living in the dark.  I pray for those who are living in the shadows of their lives.  The pain associated with it and redemption from the past that got them there.  I pray that You Lord will wrap Your arms tightly around us.  Amen!

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Friday’s Question

How do you know that the decisions you make are the right ones?

Ouch this is a hard one!  I have had many decisions to make in my 56 years and believe me when I say, “I did not always make the right one”!  Some of them had lasting consequences.  But the one thing I can tell you is this………………

James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

I have found that the more I dwell on the Lord and His will.  The more I ask Him for wisdom over a particular situation.  The more I pray for Him to give me the right words to say.  And the more I trust in His guidance.  Is when the more my soul is at rest with the decision I have to make.

DWELL     ASK        PRAY       TRUST        REST

IN        THE

LORD

Lord, I trust You!  You have given me Jesus to set firmly my path with examples of how to live.  You have given me the Holy Spirit to walk with me, nudge me and speak for me.  You have provided everything!  I will trust you with my decisions as I ask for You to make them clear to me.  Amen!

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