Rising from the Ashes| By Ashley Siliezar-Kinchen

“For our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29

It was about 8 years ago that I woke up to a screaming sound at 12:28 in the morning. It was my brother who was yelling that the house was on fire. It took me a while to understand what was going on because I was half asleep. I immediately took action and called 911 and woke up my family to evacuate. Believe it or not, despite how hard the fire was on our family, it was an answer to a prayer.

Have you ever prayed for something small and God transforms it into something much bigger? I am sure we have all experienced God in our own special way.

I have encountered God’s greatness in such a personal, yet supernatural way that it hardly seems real at moments.

In the years leading up to 2011, I lived in what seemed to be a storm of my own making. A troubled past coupled with resentment and bad decisions made me a cold person.

However, my father continued to bring my brother and I to church every Sunday. Life for me started to change because of this. But there were still times that I felt alone, like God could not hear me.

I would think, “Am I doing this right?” or “Can he hear me?”

I would think that that maybe He was upset with me because it seemed like some people around me had God’s direct hotline. However, no matter what guilt I felt, I knew that He always loved me and that guilt was the enemy trying to put distance between me and God.

As it turns out, God never abandons his children, and He had always heard my prayers. I did not know it then, but God was planning something that would change my entire life.

“Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” John 13:7

When my house caught on fire, I remember everything being such a blur. However, in the midst of it all, I remembered to grab one thing – my bible. At that moment, nothing else mattered, other than my family being alive.

When we stepped outside, I watched my mother drop to the ground and scream at the top of her lungs. It was painful to watch my mother drop to her knees as she saw everything crumbling in front of her. It was painful to see everything that I have ever known, burning in front of my eyes.

Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” Matthew 7:7

My thoughts were racing all over the place, but the only thing I can remember thinking was, “How can this happen?”

But then it hit me. I had to prayed to God to light a fire in my heart for him. Fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. I prayed for God to bring me closer to him. My heart was yearning for God’s love. That is exactly what God did.

“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

The day we lost our house we lost many things. We lost almost all of our belongings and even some of the memories that we made as a family in that house. But as the phoenix rises from the ashes so did we. Although it was painful to see our belongings burned, God always protects and provides for his children. God provided us with amazing people that helped us get back on our feet. He provided us with an even more beautiful home, and most importantly, He kept us safe.

He did not burn down the house to punish but to free me and bring me closer to him. The fire that burned my house down lit a fire inside of me. I yearned for God even more than I did before. Nothing can ever put out that fire.

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Caged, But Still Singing| By Chelsea Verdin

christopher-windus-92825-unsplashHave you ever wondered why a caged bird still sings? It is held bound in a metal cage with no freedom. It cannot do much and hasn’t received much, but still every morning, it manages to sing out a song. Sometimes the song is dressed in beauty with loud joy, and other times, it is a quiet mourning. But everyday, the caged bird still sings.

In the last year, I have felt like a caged bird. When we lost my three-month-old nephew last October, my entire world was shaken. Everything I knew was now questionable and unreliable. From the outsiders view, I looked like a pretty little bird happy in her own little world. You would have never imagined that I was caged in by depression and so much grief because I still managed to smile and sing through the pain.

A cage is not a place that anyone wants to be in. Birds do not even want to be in them. We want paradise because it looks good in pictures and feels like freedom. However, I have learned that you can be in paradise and still not be okay, and that faith can take deeper root within the cage.

Faith is messy and hard and meant to pull out of you the deep questions that challenge everything you think you know, so that you may learn the ultimate truth.

There is a story in Mark 5 about a man who sought out Jesus to heal his ill daughter. In the story, his young daughter dies, and Jesus heals her with some very simple words.

“Little girl, I say to you, ‘Arise’.” Mark 5:41

Instantly, she stands and begins to walk around.

This whole past year I felt like this young girl – alive on the inside, dead on the outside, caged in by illness. I desperately needed truth to speak to my heart and awaken the girl inside of me. I needed the courage to arise, stand, and walk in freedom. But grief crippled me and told me that because I questioned God that I could not live. I could not go to him with my doubts and seek real answers.

The enemy knows that our voices are weapons. They hold so much power and can strike him down instantly. He tries to make us believe that we need to be silent. He tries to make us believe that we cannot enter into the presence of God messy, but I have learned that even the most inaudible whisper slices through the clouds of the enemy and lands on the ears of our King.

The truth was God had not strayed away or left my side during this hardship. In fact, He drew closer because He knew I would need Him. And when I ignored the other voices and let my own lips sing, I found that the cage is not always there to hold us in. Sometimes, it is meant to be a safe haven, a place of rest to sit still and let Him sing over us.

“The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

And when we answer the call to sit and to seek Him out, we learn that a caged bird does not sing because it is caged in. Rather, it sings because it knows that freedom is not found outside of the cage, but from within the song it sings. And it does not matter how loud or even how inaudible the song is. Sometimes we have to sing until we believe it – until we believe freedom has arrived.

Your whisper is a roar in heaven.

Winter is just a season. The cage is just some metal walls. And your victory has already been proclaimed. Like my friend says, “This is just another battle you get to win.”

“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. For the winter is over, and the flowers are blooming. The time for singing has come.” Song of Solomon 2:10-12

The caged bird is still singing my friend and so are you.

 

Your Wasteland is Your Wonderland| By Heaven Harris

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February 7, 2007. A day seared in my mind forever. This was the day that I found out my dad had committed suicide. I woke up that day like any other day, and by the end of it, I felt like a freight truck had hit me at 100 miles an hour.  I was broken, lost, confused, angry, and sad. So many emotions, and life just seemed to stop for me in those moments. My grief overcame me and blinded me to even see that God was in my midst. My once good life was now laid barren and broken before me, and I had no clue what to do with those broken pieces.

What could God possibly do with an orphan daughter and how could He possibly use such a tragic situation for any good at all?

How many times have you asked such questions? Maybe your wasteland came from the loss of a child, or the job that fell through, or maybe the countless times you hoped to see the plus sign on the end of that pregnancy test. Maybe you are living the single life longer than you ever anticipated, or maybe it’s the divorce that you feel like follows you like a scarlet letter.

No matter your questions, no matter your wasteland, first thing is first…

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18

The next thing I will tell you is Romans 8:28 tells us that He works ALL things together for good.

You may be wondering how that is even possible. Believe me. I have been there. You may be there now.  You may be wondering how such pain could be good for anything. Know that it is not wasted. You may just be in a place that requires a perspective change.

We all know the quote, “One person’s trash, is another person’s treasure.”

I have heard it my whole life and always knew it referred to perspective, but until I began to truly serve God, perspective was something I focused very little on.  As my maturity in the Lord grew, so did my understanding of how important it is to have God’s perspective on EVERYTHING. As seasons pass by, as the storms rage and trials blindside us, without proper perspective, sinking sand is our foundation. As a result, we end up wandering in our wasteland.

Unfortunately, as human flesh would have it, I have become narrow sighted too often and found it extremely difficult to walk in God’s perspective of every situation.  Some situations hurt too bad or seemed to impossible in human form. There were times when I couldn’t see the purpose in the pain and was demanding all the answers NOW.

As I was walking through the season following my father’s passing, I read an analogy that really opened my heart to God’s ability to turn it all around with just a little perspective change.  I realized in that moment that my wasteland was God’s wonderland.

The analogy was about two clay vases. One is in immaculate condition with not a single scratch or hole in it; a beautiful piece of pottery. The other one is not so beautiful on the surface.  Its edges are rough, there are big gaping holes all over it. It looks like something you would throw away without hesitation.

If I turned the lights out and placed a lit candle in each vase, something interesting happens.  In the first vase, perfect in form, the light from the candle shines beautifully out the top of the vase.  Now the second vase, once the candle is placed inside, through every hole and scratch, that light is illuminating its surroundings.

It’s all about perspective.

You, my friend, are the vase.  You aren’t perfect. None of us are. You have gaping holes in your life as it has side swiped you and broke you down. But the light of Jesus can shine so much brighter through those rough places and empty spaces.

“Your lives light up the world. Let others see your light from a distance, for how can you hide a city that stands on a hilltop?” Matthew 5:14 (TPT)

God’s desire is to set you apart and use even the hurts and pains of life to glorify Himself. If you will just allow Him to shift your perspective, you will realize that we don’t serve a moderately big God, but a God that is GRAND!!!

Your wasteland is God’s opportunity to write your story.

For me, that wasteland became a platform for me to share my heart with others who have not only found themselves struggling with family or friends who deal with suicide, but I have also had the opportunity to share the love of God with those who directly deal with depression and suicidal thoughts.  God has opened so many doors in my pain for His love to not only heal those I was reaching, but also my own heart.

When I felt like trash, God was right there to remind me that I am His treasure, and so are you.  You are God’s treasure and His love for you is immense.

I encourage you today to hand Him over your trash and let Him turn it into His treasure.