Category Archives: Brokenness

Fiction Friday! Beauty for Ashes

Beauty for Ashes (The Isaiah Cadre) by Alyce-Kay Ruckelshaus

How do you maintain your faith in times of unexpected trouble or trauma? Especially when it hits you out of nowhere. And what if the trauma has long-lasting effects—perhaps for the rest of your life? Would you still be able to trust God?

Beauty For Ashes: Isaiah Cadre, Book 1 (Isaiah Cadre Series) is the first of a series by my friend, Alyce-Kay Ruckelshaus. It chronicles the story of Kelly, a student at Westmont College in Santa Barbara in 1981. She is an MK (missionary kid) and in love with Matt, a PK (preacher’s kid). She is also part of the Isaiah Cadre, a group of dorm mates who have committed themselves to God and one another.

The book starts off a little slowly, but sets the stage well for an idyllic college experience, deep friendships, and young romance. It gives context that will be important later. And then the unthinkable happens and in a moment, Kelly’s world is shattered. Her faith is tested. Her love is tested. Even her friendships are tested.

The book offers a realistic portrayal of the way many people handle sudden trauma. It especially demonstrates how trauma affects a normally logical person, and how shame can distort one’s thinking.

I highly recommend this book. I loved it even though it’s not  my demographic. It’s well written, fast moving, and thoughtful. The author offers discussion questions for personal use or better yet, for a book group. Or even for a cadre. And best of all, it’s free on Kindle!

 

When There Are No Easy Answers

When There Are No Easy Answers by John S. Feinberg

When There Are No Easy Answers: Thinking Differently About God, Suffering, and Evil by John S. Feinberg

We’ve all heard the stories. Some of us live them. How do you reconcile the worst types of suffering in life with the notion of a good God?

John S. Feinberg is one who is living “the worst” of suffering. His wife, Pat, has suffered from Huntington’s Disease, an incurable, debilitating, genetic disorder, for over 25 years. For many years, she has been unable to walk, talk, or respond. In addition, his children are at risk because the disease is genetically transmitted. Pat’s mother probably suffered from Huntington’s and the information was in her medical record, but was not made available to them until years after her diagnosis. So Feinberg, a seminary professor, was hit with not one, but several, tragedies–each one raising theological and emotional questions.

In When There Are No Easy Answers: Thinking Differently About God, Suffering and Evil (Kregel Publications), Feinberg uses his theological training and life experience to grapple with the many questions that suffering raises. The result is a raw attempt to make sense of the nonsensical. He tackles the character of God and the stupidity of friends. He offers theological assessments and practical tips.

I was especially drawn to this book because my husband has Parkinson’s Disease, and while he is still quite functional, I know from friends in my support group what most likely lies ahead. I strongly recommend this book for anyone struggling with theodicy – the question why a good God permits the manifestation of evil, for anyone facing personal or health issues they don’t understand. It isn’t an easy book to read, although it is quite readable. It will make you think, pray, and discuss. It will help you become a woman of splendor. And hopefully, will give you answers to make the journey a little more tolerable.

 

Hunting Hope

When I receive a book for review, I can usually tell within a few pages if it’s one I want to keep or pass on. If it’s one I’ll tell clients about or one I’ll shelve and forget. Hunting Hope: Dig Through the Darkness to Find the Light by Nika Maples is not only a book I’ll keep and recommend, but also one I’m ordering for my ministry’s bookstore. I began underlining on page 2 (page one was very short) and I have tabs throughout. My indication of a good book.

So what’s so great about this book? Other than everything?

Authentic Voice:

First, Maples speaks with an authentic voice. She is a survivor of systemic lupus and a massive brainstem stroke that left her a quadriplegic at age 20. She fought her way back and became a public school teacher in her native Texas. She still struggles with the lupus and with falls. But she has learned how to mine God’s character and conform hers. She doesn’t sugarcoat her points, but rather shares from the depths of her discipleship.

Excellent Writing:

Not only does Maples make good points. She makes them well. She has the ability to turn a phrase, and then illustrates her points with great stories—most of them aimed at herself. Hunting Hope is a good read, a compelling read.

Transformational Points:

Maples has been tested in the fire. She had to learn to trust God or die. Her writing isn’t theoretical. It’s real. And transformational. If readers will pay attention, she offers hope for those trapped in situations that don’t seem fair. She shows God to be faithful. She says, “when we have nothing left to lean on, we learn to lean on God.”

It seems that most writers are either all miracle—believe God will heal everything all the time. Or no miracle—just thank God in the suffering. Maples says, “We should always ask for a miracle, but while we wait, God’s calming presence in our lives is a miracle in itself.” She focuses on obedience: “God unfolds His plan after the person takes a step of obedience, not before.” She affirms that wounded warriors have a vital place in the church: “Our worst life experiences may be exactly what qualify us to lead with authority…. The darkest moments of our lives might be the beginning of our divine mission on earth. So many times, the battlefield is a training ground.” And she recognizes that trials are just an exercise. An opportunity to grow in godliness.

My Only Complaint:

I’m usually not a fan of discussion questions in books. They are usually trite. But this is one book I wished Maples had added discussion questions. Now I’m going to have to write them myself. I’m pretty sure I’ll be teaching this book.

So please, I don’t say this often, but BUY THIS BOOK.

Hunting Hope Nika Maples

Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain

Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain by Matt Bays

Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain by Matt Bays

Is your life perfect in every way? Then you probably won’t like Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain.

Do you have absolute, unwavering, all-the-time, no matter what faith and confidence in the perfect plan of God? Then you probably won’t like Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain.

Do you prefer a perfectly linear book that moves systematically from start to destination, you definitely won’t like Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain.

But if you’ve ever wondered, “Where are you, God?”  or “Where were you, God?” you’ll appreciate Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain.

If you’ve ever wanted to shout, “God, you’re doing it all wrong!” you’ll love Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain.

Finding God in the Ruins: How God Redeems Pain by Matt Bays is a raw, gritty, irreverent, meandering look the experience of one man – and all of us – as we question God and his ways in the face of pain and doubt. Bays’ story is one of childhood emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, but he weaves into his story those of suicide, cancer, disability, and unanswered prayer. The story he shares with us is a long journey of authentic questioning. In fact, he took a hiatus from God, inviting him to prove himself. Or not. Bays says, “Unexpressed doubt can be toxic.” And so, he went on a quest to express, explore, and challenge his doubts, inviting God to show himself. Or not.

In the process of this meandering journey, Bays’ subplot is that of his journey toward healing. Again, he is in no hurry, exploring his memories, his feelings, and truth. One critical concept that is so often underestimated is that whatever happened to us can’t be undone. Only healed. Yet we all too often blame what happened and who did it to us, as if we could rewind our life and make it better. And since we can’t rewind, we decide we can never be healed. Bays says that while the offense can’t be undone, it can be rewritten from this point forward. That is the best we can expect, and it can be enough.

This is an uncomfortable book. It doesn’t tie up our faith into a neat bow. In fact, it doesn’t tie up much of anything. But it’s well worth the read and will become required reading for many of the women I mentor. Especially those who believe that they are forever beyond healing because of their past. And those who believe God doesn’t play fair.

 

 

 

Addiction: A Thought for the Church

In all likelihood you have someone in your life with an addiction. Maybe even yourself. Addiction issues came to the forefront during my high school years in the 1960s, with the Viet Nam war, the war on drugs, and the Summer of Love. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, eating disorders, gambling, internet, porn… the list has grown as we have become more aware.

Need a Hug?

Need a Hug?

But the common denominator, especially within the Church, has always been, “Addiction = weak person.” We look down on those who need a crutch to get by (because of course, we don’t need that crutch and let’s not talk about my crutch, ok?). We judge. We offer recovery programs to help those people. I know. I’ve been there…

So I was intrigued by an article entitled The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think.  Author Johann Hari offers another explanation, backed up with some fascinating research on both rats and humans. It’s a long read, but well worth the time. Bottom line, he says that both rats and humans need love and a stimulating environment. That the chemical addiction (and I would argue, non-chemical addiction) is less compelling than the loneliness, the boredom, the lack of connection. OK, that might be simplistic. But is it?

I’ve seen people with serious addictions heal rapidly when they finally understand God’s love and see it demonstrated in the people around them. That’s what did it for me. I called it a miraculous healing, but was it or was it that I was finally safe? Finally loved? Finally seen?

Sure, sometimes people need prayer, accountability, and discipleship. I certainly did. But is it those factors that change them or the fact that someone finally sees them for who God created them to be. That someone is bold enough to debunk the lies they have believed, often since childhood or even infancy. That someone is willing to speak Truth to their wounded spirits. Over and over, as needed. Is that why “hire a friend” (aka therapy) often makes a difference?

So what does that mean for the Church? For you and me? Maybe we need to judge less and love more. Criticize less and speak Truth more. Shun less and hang out more. We have the words of life, and we can share them, even with those struggling with addictions.

What do you think?

 

 

 

When You Think You’re Dying

Making change is hard. Sometimes very hard. When I’m doing ministry and encouraging change, I often hear, “I feel like I’m dying!” And that’s true. Change often feels like death, and in fact, requires a death.

Go Ahead and Die!

Go Ahead and Die!                                                                                                                        Photo Credit: Jhong Dizon

Here’s the deal. Many of the behaviors and attitudes we want to change actually require a death. A death to the habit. A death to the factors that drive the habit. A death to the good feelings that the habit generates. It feels like death unto death.

But here’s the reality. When we make a change that is good for us, it can be a change unto resurrection. We may be in the “grave” for a short time, but if it’s a change for good, it’s a change to resurrection. We come out better. We come out transformed. We will never be the same again. The old has indeed passed away, the new lies broad before us. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

So if you feel like you are dying as you try to change, that’s a good thing. Continuing the old habit will bring death. But allowing the habit to die, well that brings resurrection! So go ahead. Die!

Tattered and Mended: The Art of Healing the Wounded Soul

Tattered and Mended: The Art of Healing the Soul by Cynthia Ruchti

A crumbling statue. A torn tapestry. A discolored painting.

Artisans can reclaim exquisite beauty from the broken, frayed, and shattered—perhaps once thought beyond repair. But what about us? What of the wounds that keep us from living the life we want to live?

In Tattered and Mended: The Art of Healing the Wounded Soul
readers walk through a gallery of reclaimed and restored art as well as broken and restored lives of those who have gone before us. With a gentle touch and personable wisdom, Cynthia Ruchti shows how even the most threadbare soul can once again find healing and hope.

Ruchti writes with a gentle, poetic style that will speak to those who are feeling beat down and torn up. Her word flow, saturated with grace and hope. In an almost casual manner, she assures the readers that, just as broken and torn things can be restored into something beautiful, so can their lives. And what’s more, the signs of brokenness can become a badge of honor. Something even more beautiful than the original design.

This is a tender book that is perfect for someone in the exploratory or hopeless stages of healing. It’s probably a bit soft for someone aggressively pursuing healing, but may provide a respite when hopelessness sets in.

Celebrate the release of Tattered and Mended with Cynthia by entering to win her Reclaimed Treasures giveaway!

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One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 27th. The winner will be announced July 28th on Cynthia’s blog.

 

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Daily Communion: A Valuable Practice

Do you want a practice that will greatly enlarge your love of God, your healing, and your contentment? I’ve been doing daily communion for all of this year, and I can highly recommend it. I take my first moments of the day, even before coffee, to spend a few minutes with Jesus. I thank him for his amazing sacrifice. I meditate on the cross and the pain He endured. I thank him for the salvation and healing he offered me. Me. Personally.

Daily Communion

Daily Communion
Photo Credit: klndonnelly

As I break the bread, I ask that he break off all sin, infirmity, sickness, bad habits, brokenness – anything that is not pleasing to him. As I take the cup, I remind him of the new covenant that promised me a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone. I receive the healing effect of the blood. I pray. I remember.

Since doing the same thing every day can feel a little stale, I’ve also been using a simple devotional At the Foot of the Cross: Meditations on the Meal of Remembrance It gives me new ideas and insights on how to pray.

Since starting the practice of daily communion, I’ve noticed more healing, more serenity, and more faith. To avoid the problem of not having the components at home and the nuisance of preparing every day, I buy my individual communion set ups from Amazon, either Fellowship cup,Prefilled communion cups juice/wafer-100 cups (net wt.1.62 lb) or Celebration Cups Wafer and Juice Communion Set (100 Count) (shown above). Both have been quick satisfactory.

I encourage you to consider this wonderful practice. Let me know what you discover.

Do You Hide Your Brokenness?

What are the strategies you use to hide your brokenness? Come on now… You know you have more than your share of broken places. Wounds that you cover up with habits, addictions, sinful attitudes, lies…

Problem is, most of us hide our brokenness. We make excuses. We make sure our hair and make-up are done. We avoid the people who rub us the wrong way or make us feel inadequate. We enhance our stories in our favor, while demeaning those we are in conflict with. Anything to hide our brokenness.

Would you consider another way? The Japanese have an art form called Kintsugi, where broken pottery is mended with lacquer resin dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. The idea is to treat both the breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. In fact, the repair (as well as the brokenness) is literally illuminated.

Perhaps rather than hiding our brokenness in shame, we need to illuminate it. I do this by telling my story when appropriate. Recently I met with a new discipleship mentee. The first thing she wanted to know was my story. Rather than creating shame, it gave me credibility. She knew that I had experienced pain and not only survived, but thrived. It made her willing to trust me. Had I tried to pretend that my life was flawless, the result would have been very different.

So would you consider illuminating your brokenness? Not to glorify it, but to share your history? Let me know how it works.