Writing 101, Day Four: The Serial Killer – part 1

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Writing 101, Day Four: The Serial Killer -Today, write about a loss. The twist: make this the first post in a three-post series.

When I was a girl, I dreamed about happily ever after.  Guess it depends on what the definition of happiness is.  If happiness was defined as being happily married, having healthy children, wealth and minimal problems in your life, then I do not know whether anyone will every achieve perfect tranquility and bliss, known as happiness.  But for a short while I thought I had it.  Despite a bumpy childhood, I thought I could have the perfect family and lasting joy.  Then the enemy of our souls came and snatched it away . . . seemingly.

My family would never be the same, and the father of my children was to blame.  The death of our family as we knew it was agonizing and there was no escape from the mark it had left.  The signs of death were all around . . . functioning on a normal level was hampered, and life just seemed numb.  The children and I clung to one another, knowing God was going to take our pain and use it for good.

But then, what did normal look like?  How do we move on from this place of death?  Perhaps the death of what we idolized was more painful than we could imagine, but would also open our eyes to what in fact was wrong with what we were considering happiness…

 

Writing 101, Day Three: Three songs Most Significant to me – Commit to a Writing Practice

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As a singer/songwriter, this assignment is at once satisfying and like home to me.  Songs can make us happy, they can trigger nostalgic thoughts and make us ache for yesterday.  In a moment we can be brought back to a specific memory when we hear a song that is reminiscent from that time period, and suddenly all of the emotions we felt at that time are brought back.  Truly we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  The song, “Painting Picture in Egypt” by Sara Groves is one such song for me.  In particular, the poignant lyrics comforted me – so applicable to my situation during such a raw time of hurt in my life – perhaps I was not alone in my struggle?

“I don’t want to leave here – I don’t want to stay; It feels like pinching to me, Either way.
And the places I long for the most are the places where I’ve been – They are calling out to me like a long lost friend.
It’s not about losing faith – it’s not about trust.  It’s all about comfortable – when you move so much.
And the place I was wasn’t perfect, But I had found a way to live; and it wasn’t milk or honey, but then neither is this.

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt, leaving out what it lacks; the future feels so hard and I want to go back.
But the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned; those roads were closed off to me – while my back was turned

The past is so tangible – I know it by heart.  Familiar things are never easy to discard.
I was dying for some freedom, but now I hesitate to go; I am caught between the Promise and the things I know.
If it comes to quick, I may not appreciate it.  Is that the reason behind all this time in sand?
And if it comes to quick, I may not recognize it.  Is that the reason behind all this time in sand?”

Betrayal.  Scandal.  Happened to my family?  I listened to that song like it was medication – and it was.

Lying in a hospital bed, hanging onto my life, the doctors were puzzled.  No answers.  After all I had been through, was God going to forsake me now?  No.  He was going to have one of my daughters encourage me and share a song I had not heard before by Jaime Grace, called, “Not Alone”.

“Another sleepless night, She’s looking up and crying out – He’s just a little child.  Can you stop his hurting now?
It’s so quiet, But she hears in the silence

His arms are holding you – His love will see you through.  When you smile and you laugh but you’re fakin’
Cause you don’t know how you’re gonna make it. – You feel so much pain – And you can’t see your way – You’re not alone
You’re not alone

She’s trying to plan ahead, unsure about the time left – can’t let these moments pass, Instead she’ll treasure what she has
And when it’s quiet but she hears in the silence

His arms are holding you – His love will see you through.  When you try not to cry but to take it.
All the stress, and the hurt and heartache.  You may feel pain, But not as great as His name.  You’re not alone.
No you’re not alone – No you’re not alone.”

In that place of uncertainty amidst a lot of bad health news, the Lord gave me strength to rise up out of my hospital bed and make myself walk – make myself try to get better.  Thank God for this song that truly gave me strength and “grit” as my husband said.

The last song that has meant the most to me is difficult to select – it is from a multitude of songs that the Lord has given to me, which I penned.  All of them have meant so much to me, great encouragers of my faith, but perhaps the song, “Reign in Me” has ministered to me and listeners the most.  You can find the song at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dovel if you want to have a listen.  It is my song of surrender, of trusting God with all of my problems and placing my faith and life completely in Him.

“I come before Your holy throne, Lord, my life is not my own. You bought my life with Your sacrifice, now I know I’m not alone.           Reign in me – today.  

Make me whole, make me new, make me more like You.  Change my heart, change my mind, may new grace in You I find – Reign in me.

I bow my knee in humble need, Lord cleanse me of my greed.  I see my sin, help me begin, Lord, plant in me a seed.                     Reign in me – today.

Sometimes I feel I’m going backwards. When You show me what’s really on my heart.  But then You show me this is the path You said we all must take.”

Make me whole, make me new, make me more like You.  Change my heart, change my mind, may new grace in You I find – Reign in me.

Songs to me are the tonic of life.  When I became a Christian in college as a music major at the University of Maryland, suddenly God began to give me songs on the piano.  A brass musician at the time, it was indeed odd to suddenly have the skill to write and sing music.  So I did, and had a concert ministry and radio play for years. I currently serve on my worship team at New Life Community Church and there is truly no greater joy than singing to God.  Music is powerful and each song can impact another soul significantly.  I am grateful for the songs that have touched my life and hope that perhaps the songs that have healed me might heal someone reading this post, too. 

You Have the Strength

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By: Denise Pass – © 6/4/14

Judges 6:12-16, 22-24 “The Lord’s messenger appeared and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, courageous warrior!’ Gideon said to him, “Pardon me, but if the Lord is with us, why has such disaster overtaken us?’…Then the Lord himself turned to him and said, ‘You have the strength. Deliver Israel from the power of the Midianites! Have I not sent you?’ Gideon said to him, ‘But, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Just look! My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my family.’ The Lord said to him, “Ah, but I will be with you!’ . . . When Gideon realized that it was the Lord’s messenger, he said, “Oh no! Master Lord! I have seen the Lord’s messenger face to face!’ The Lord said to him, ‘You are safe! Do not be afraid! You are not going to die!’ Gideon built and altar for the Lord there and named it, ‘The Lord is on friendly terms with me’”.

 

This message is for the fainthearted today who do not think they can even crawl out of bed, much less make it through a day or cry out to God one more time. Like Gideon, do you find yourself in a place where disaster has overtaken you? Gideon is honest about his doubts of victory. I love our Lord’s patience with Gideon while he takes awhile to figure out that God is enough. I remember not being able to feel my hands or feet due to anxiety – fear and dread over what next thing my enemy who was once my friend would unleash upon me. In the depths of my despair I cried out, “Lord, why must I suffer for another man’s sins?” “I did not complain when I bore yours – my grace is sufficient for you” was the response. In that agonizing place sometimes hearing that we have strength is not enough or believable. We tend to focus on the problem or on our weakness.  Gideon did, too.  But when God says it, and He promises to supply us with the strength and grace we need, then if we just step out in faith, He will do it – through us. People have said I am strong, but I know the truth. In my weakness, He is the strong one. Gideon named His Lord aptly – how amazing that He is our friend. As we walk with God in relationship, not religion, we begin to know His character. How amazing that we can know God – the Creator of the world! He is my Shield and Protector, my Defender. He was ‘the God who sees me’ to Hagar, ‘The God Who provides’ to Abraham. Who is God to you?

Lord, help us to realize that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. Grant us strength to accomplish what you have called us to and faith to do that work.

Writing 101, Day Two: A Room with a View (Or Just a View) – Challenge Question

lake and cabin

The water is calm, with ripples dancing across the surface of the sun-glistened lake.  A welcoming breeze flows through the tall trees and kisses my face.  I breathe deeply.  The wind cleanses away the pain and the sun hugs me with its warmth.  I smile.  In this moment, here at a cabin at the lake, time stands still and I am overwhelmed as I reflect on the passage of time.  No demands, no stress, just silence. My soul longs to be in this place – the appeal is palpable.

Suspended by the same rugged hammock as years past, I drink in the view around me – the same lake, the same breeze, caressed prior generations.  But I am here now – alone.  I soak in the sadness over all that has transpired and robbed me of my innocence, clinging to melancholic memories as if letting them go somehow erases the good portion of the memories I used to cherish.

Being in this unchanging scenery, I am at once comforted and disconsoled; so much change evident in my life, but my surroundings remain the same.  Provoked to dwell on the reality of my life, I am at peace that God is sovereign over it all.  I bask in the confidence that God already knows the end.  The same God who creates the breeze and sun continually for our enjoyment and sustenance – He is unchanging.  There is grace for each moment under the sun, but now, for just a brief moment I am here, grateful to be surrounded by such beauty, in awe of my Creator.

Writing 101, Day One: Unlock the Mind – Stream of consciousness

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Not a surprise to me at all that I missed the first day of Writing 101.  I often bite off more than I can chew, and although many have commented how organized I am, I realize the truth is I am amazed I remember half of what I am supposed to.  So, the assignment is before me, though it is after day #2, which I just completed.  If you read Day #2 about containing emotions, I am bursting into laughter at this point; ok, maybe I am just going to type an LOL now.

So why do I write?  Certainly there are an excessive amount of words out there, many of them seemingly spoken in vain.  I am just getting started, finally stepping out to pen what has been in my heart for so long.  I write to express what God has placed in my soul, hoping it can benefit someone else – paying it forward, so to speak.  Every single person is precious and has a voice that needs to be heard – by somebody.  If nothing else, a voice for those who have none, a voice to add to the clamor of voices that will hopefully work to make change or heal a broken heart.  So often mankind can feel like they are the only one encountering the strange difficulty they find themselves in, but the refreshing antidote of an apt word uttered at the moment when it is needed can make all the difference in the world.  And maybe, just maybe, you’re not alone anymore in your struggles.

Life is getting busier and busier.  Knowledge is growing at an alarming rate and somehow we have forgotten the importance of fellowship with one another (myself included).  We relate predominately through our fingers these days, and our writing can impact people we may never meet.  Suddenly it is indeed a small world after all.  The problem is, where is the time for all of this communication through our hands?  Are relationships with flesh and blood harmed because we are incessantly typing away?  Hopefully not, in a life of balance.  As we transition to this new age, far different, I admit, from the days when I was typing college papers on a typewriter, there are blessings and potential curses in the new frontier of internet and blogging.  Finding time to write can be such a healthy outlet – as long as it does not consume us.  Putting the big rocks in first – time with God, time with my family, my church, my job, creates freedom for pockets of time in which I can express through writing.

It is my hope that I can encourage and inspire joy and healing through sharing insights from my own personal journey.  I look forward to being inspired by you, too!

 

Daily Prompt #2 – Which emotion(s) — joy, envy, rage, pity, or something else — do you find to be the hardest to contain?

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Perhaps bursting into laughter in the middle of a French final exam and trying to contain it by fake coughing was not the best solution.  But the two all-nighters I had pulled beforehand made it seemingly impossible to stifle my laughter.  The fight for joy is often such a battle, why then contain it?  Propriety in our culture often demands that uproarious laughter is not acceptable in certain situations, but the gift of joy should not be quelled.  My solution?  Dismiss myself if I have to, to give full vent to my joy, or to channel that joy into another expression – gratitude, writing a song, expressing love to those around me.  So I guess in the end, I do not contain it at all, for to contain joy would make the expression of it insincere.

Pressure’s On

© Denise Pass 6/2/14

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2 Corinthians 1:8-11

8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Squeezed like a lemon in life’s juicer of trials, one can often not find the comfort one hopes to receive, though well intended, from well-meaning Christian friends. “God will not give you more than you can handle”. Hmmm. Paul had a different point-of-view on this. Pressed on every side, he confessed that his trials were, in fact, more than he could bear. Sometimes we can be hyper spiritual and think that we need to put on a facade of faith, while inwardly we are broken. But honestly confessing our anxiety and inability is where victory lies. The faith comes as we set our hope on the promises and truths God gives us. Paul admitted he was enduring more than he could handle, but in the same breath he proclaimed God’s faithfulness and exhibited genuine faith that God would deliver him. His hope was set on God’s ability and promises to deliver him, but he also knew he needed the prayers of the saints around him. If we are not in the valley at this present time, may we notice those around us who are, and not try to offer “Christianese” advice to the weary and wounded. May we instead lift them up and cry out to God on their behalf, that God will indeed deliver them in due time. If you are one who is bearing a burden so heavy that you cannot even contemplate it, there is hope for you in that place of desperation. God is with the brokenhearted and He counts your every tear.

Lord, please help us to know that even though we seem incapable of handling life’s demands or struggles, you are completely sufficient to bear our burdens and strengthen us.