Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It Really Is A Wonderful Life

The following is an article that was written by the late Jimmy Stewart for Guidepost Magazine. In it, he shares his personal thoughts and insights about the beloved holiday classic movie, It's A Wonderful Life. Thought I would share it with you during this Christmas season. Enjoy! ~ Michelle

It Really Is A Wonderful Life
By Jimmy Stewart

A friend recently told me that seeing a movie I made over forty years ago is a holiday tradition in his family "like putting up the Christmas tree." That movie is It's A Wonderful Life and out of the eighty films I've made; it's my favorite. But it has an odd history.

When the war was over in 1945, I came back home to California from three years service in the Air Force. I had been away from the film business, my MGM contract had run out, and frankly, not knowing how to get started again, I was a little bit scared. Hank Fonda was in the same boat and we sort of wondered around together talking and flying kites and stuff but nothing much was happening. Then one day Frank Capra phoned me. The great director had also been away in service making the "Why We Fight" documentary series for the military and he admitted to being a little frightened too. But he had a movie so we met to talk about it. He said the idea came from a Christmas story written by Philip Van Doren Stern. Stern could't sell the story anywhere but he finally had 200 twenty-four page pamphlets printed up at his own expense and he gave them to his friends as a greeting card. 

"Now listen," Frank began hesitantly. He seemed a little embarrassed about what he was going to say. "The story starts in Heaven and it's sort of the Lord telling somebody to go down to earth because there's a fellow in trouble and so this heavenly being goes to a small town..." Frank swallowed hard and took a deep breath. "Well, what it boils down to is this fella, who thinks he's a failure in life, is thinking about jumping off a bridge. The Lord sends down an angel named Clarence, who hasn't earned his wings yet, and Clarence jumps into the water to save this guy. But the angel can't swim so the guy has to save him and then..." Frank stopped and sighed, "This doesn't tell very well does it?" I jumped up and said, "Frank, if you want to do a picture about a guy who jumps off a bridge and an angel named Clarence who hasn't won his wings yet comes down to save him, well, I'm your man!"

Production of It's A Wonderful Life started April 15, 1946 and from the beginning, there was a certain something special about the film. Even the set was special. Two months had been spent creating the town of Bedford Falls, New York. For the winter scenes, the special-effects department invented a new kind of realistic snow instead of using the traditional white cornflakes. As one of the longest American movie sets ever made until then, Bedford Falls had 75 stores and buildings on four acres with a three block main street that was lined with 20 full grown oak trees.

As I walked down that shady street the morning we started work, it reminded me of my hometown, Indiana, Pennsylvania. I almost expected to hear the bells of the Presbyterian Church where Mother played the organ and Dad sang in the choir. I chuckled, remembering how the fire siren would go off and Dad, a volunteer fireman, would slip out of the choir loft. If it was a false alarm, Dad would sneak back and sort of give a nod to everyone to assure them that none of their houses were in danger.  

I remembered how, after I got started in pictures, Dad, who'd come for a visit to California, would ask, "Where do you go to church around here?" I stammered, "I haven't been going - there's none around here." Dad disappeared and came back with four men and said, "You must not have looked very hard, Jim because there's a Presbyterian church just three blocks from here and these are the elders. They're building a new building and I told them you were a movie star and would help them." And so Brentwood Presbyterian was the first church I belonged to out here. Later, that church was the one in which Gloria and I were married. Then after we moved, we attended Beverly Hills Presbyterian, a church we could walk to. 

It wasn't the elaborate set that made It's A Wonderful Life so different; it was the story itself. The character I played was George Bailey, an ordinary kind of fella who thinks he's never accomplished anything in life. His dreams of becoming a famous architect, of traveling the world and living adventurously, have not been fulfilled. Instead he feels trapped in a humdrum job in a small town. And when faced with a crisis in which he feels he has failed everyone, he breaks under the strain and flees to the bridge.

That's when his guardian angel, Clarence comes down on Christmas Eve to show him what his community would be like without him. The angel takes him back through his life to show him how our ordinary, everyday efforts are really big achievements. Clarence reveals how George Bailey's loyalty to his job at the Building and Loan Office has saved families and homes, how his little kindnesses have changed the lives of others and how the ripples of his love will spread through the world helping make it a better place. Good as the script was, there was something else about the movie that made it different. It's hard to explain but I, for one, had things happen to me during the filming that never happened in any other picture I've made.

In one scene, for example, George Bailey is faced with unjust criminal charges and not knowing where to turn; he ends up in a little roadside bar. He is unaware that most of the people in town are arduously  praying for him. In this scene, at the lowest point in George Bailey's life, Frank Capra was shooting a long shot of me slumped at the bar in despair. In agony I raise my eyes and following the script, I plead,  "God... God..Dear Father in Heaven, I'm not a praying man but if you're up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I'm at the end of my rope. Show me the way, God." 

As I said those words, I literally felt the loneliness and hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn. My eyes filled with tears and I broke down sobbing. This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer and the realization that our Heavenly Father is there to help the hopeless had reduced me to tears. Frank, who loved spontaneity in his films, was ecstatic. He wanted a close-up of me saying that prayer but was sensitive enough to know that my breaking down was real and that repeating it in another take was unlikely. But Frank got his close-up anyway. The following week he worked long hours in the film lab again and again enlarging the frames of that scene so that eventually; it would appear as a close-up on the screen. I believe nothing like this had ever been done before. It involved thousands of individual enlargements with extra time and money. But he felt it was worth it and in fact; quite necessary. 

There was a growing excitement among all of us as we strove day and night through the early summer of 1946. We threw everything we had into our work. Finally, after three months, shooting some 68 miles of 35-millimeter film we completed the filming and had a big wrap-up party for everyone. It was an outdoor picnic with three-legged races and burlap-bag sprints, just like the picnics back home in Pennsylvania.

At the outing, Frank talked enthusiastically about the picture. He felt that the film as well as the actors would be up for Academy Awards. Both of us wanted it to win, not only because we believed in its message, but also for the reassurance we needed in this time of starting over. But life doesn't always work out the way we want it to.

The movie came out in December 1946, and from the beginning we could tell it was not going to be the success we'd hoped for. The critics had mixed reactions. Some liked it ("a human drama of essential truth"); others felt it "too sentimental ...a figment of simple Pollyanna platitudes."

As more reviews came out, our hopes sank lower and lower. During early February 1947, eight other current films including, Sinbad the Sailor and Betty Grable's The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, outranked it in box-office income. The postwar public seemed to prefer lighthearted fare. At the end of 1947 It's A Wonderful Life ranked 27th in earnings among the releases that season. And although it earned several Oscar nominations, despite our high hopes, it won nothing. Best Picture for 1946 went to The Best Years of Our Lives. By the end of 1947 the film was quietly put on the shelf.

But a curious thing happened. The movie simply refused to stay on the shelf. Those who loved it loved it a lot, and they must have told others. They wouldn't let it die any more than the angel Clarence would let George Bailey die. When it began to be shown on television, a whole new audience fell in love with it.

Today, after some forty years, I've heard the film called an American cultural phenomenon. Well, maybe so, but it seems to me there is nothing phenomenal about the movie itself. It's simply about an ordinary man who discovers that living each ordinary day honorably, with faith in God and a selfless concern for others, can make for a truly wonderful life.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas: It's About The Cross

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Our Great Need

I want to share an excerpt with you from an article written by Smith Wigglesworth entitled, "Our Great Need." Thought this was a pretty profound word for us as followers of Christ in this day and age!

"I have a Jesus like that...who can speak the word and the thing is done; I have a Jesus indwelling me and vitalizing me with a faith that believes it is true; I have a Jesus within me who has never let me get faint-hearted or weary. Let us press on in faith along the line of God's will, and the outpouring which we have longed to see will come. Cheer up, hold on, never let go the vision; be sure it is for you just as much as for anybody else, and God will surely make it come to pass.

Never look down, because then you will only see the ground and miss the vision. All blessings come from above; therefore keep your eye on Jesus. Never weary. If you do not fall out by the way, He will be with you to strengthen you in the way. Hallelujah!" 

Smith Wigglesworth
November 1917

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fall: Through My Lens

I love the autumn season! And I love how God designed nature to respond during this time of year! Just thought I'd share what Fall looks like here; through my lens.

How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all...
Psalm 104:24 

The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
Psalm 33:5 

 The heavens are Yours, and Yours also the earth;
You founded the world and all that is in it.
Psalm 89:11

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.
Psalm 57:11

 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 1 Chronicles 29:11

All photos property of Michelle Holderman
Copyright © 2010 Michelle Holderman

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rehab By Lecrae

I believe one of the most genuine and committed Christian rap artists today is Lecrae. He brings a fresh sound with rich, honest lyrics that hit straight to the heart and point directly to Jesus. His newly released album, Rehab, speaks to me both musically and lyrically. It's what hot on my iPod right now.

Living in a culture where addiction has become commonplace and recovery is a hot buzzword, and with the popularity of reality TV shows such as Intervention and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, I think the title of Lecrae's album is quite interesting as well as timely. Truthfully, there are many of us who need the kind of "rehab" that only Jesus can give. Even those of us who call ourselves Christians. 

One of my favorite song off the album is, "Background." It speaks of how we can get in God's way when we try to take our own center stage. I love these lyrics:

If you need me I'll be stage right 
Praying the whole world will start embracing stage fright 
So let me fall back and stop giving my suggestions 
'Cause when I follow my obsessions I end up confessing 
That I'm not that impressive
Matter of fact I'm who I are
A trail of stardust leading to the Super Star.

I could play the background. 
Cause I know sometimes I get in the way. 
So won't You take, lead, lead, lead. 
And I could play background and You could take the lead.

I love Lecrae and his music. Most of all, I love his message; it's all about Him.

Yeshua Ha Mashiach - Jesus the Christ

Copyright © 2010 Michelle Holderman

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Living Real

Surrendering to the realness of one’s life is not quite as simple as it might sound. Do we allow others to see us as we really are or do we keep the facade going? As Christians, we walk in witness yet where do we draw the realness line? We’re ambassadors of Jesus Christ and we are also human beings with very human problems. So how real do we get?

I don’t know about you but I’ve deeply pondered this many times, especially since my life has been so greatly changed by illness. It can be challenging to be transparent with others. So let me say this comes from my broken state by way of Christ in me.

As Believers, our job is to be obedient and keep it real. But unmasking the realness of our lives can be frightening and intimidating. I'm not saying we throw every detail out into the open and I'm not saying we use it as a dumping ground, but I am saying we have a responsibility to be authentic about our faith. Christians don't have a perfect life, but we know the One who is perfect. Christians don't have all the answers, but we know the One who does. Christianity is not about living a flawless, problem-free life. If we portray that to the world then we are being false because the truth is; none of us have a flawless, problem-free life. None of us.

Jesus was very real with people when He walked this earth. He didn't belittle or dismiss their problems or pain. Instead, He met them right where they were at physically, emotionally and spiritually. He still does. And He called it like it was but showed people the more excellent way because He didn't want them to stay there. He still does that too.

Personally, the more I am drawn into the realness of my relationship with Him, the more I long for total realness in my life. This long, difficult journey I am on is responsible for transforming me into a more real being, a more authentic Christian. It's where God has revealed some of the unexpected to me; it's where He's taken Himself out of the neat little box I put Him in; it's where I've been stretched in my faith. It is the very place where I have learned to surrender.

So the question still remains - how real do we get? That question becomes even more demanding in the face of suffering and nothing can grab our attention for realness like suffering can. It yanks us out of our comfort zones. It shoves us into unwanted pain. It reveals false securities. It challenges our personal theologies. It is truly a crash course in realness.

As I’ve been dealing with my own suffering for many years now, I openly admit I wouldn’t be surviving any part of it without God. Yet I still struggle at times; pain still comes and hard days still happen. The truth is there is a lot of bad and ugly that goes along with the good and we all know it. Sometimes I just don't understand. And sometimes I have more questions than answers.

However, I have found a central key – surrendering to the sovereignty of Almighty God. I know this hardship is producing something within me that cannot be produced anywhere else. I know God has placed a divine destiny within me to be fulfilled. I know He is orchestrating this entire process. So I surrender to it; all of it. But it isn't always easy or appealing. In fact, it's the most difficult and heartwrenching experience I have ever faced!

But Jesus knows a thing or two about difficult and heart-wrenching experiences. Hebrews 5:7-9 says, “While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears to the One who could deliver him out of death. And God heard his prayers because of his reverence for Him. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

I must look to Jesus in my suffering, as we all must, for He understands the totality of it. He understands better than anyone the impact that suffering has on human lives. And He also understands the impact of obedience. Jesus surrendered to the realness of His life on this earth when He picked up that Cross and carried it to Calvary. It wasn’t for His personal benefit; it was for ours. He fully surrendered to His suffering with us, the whole world, in mind.

By learning to surrender to the realness of my own life, I am ultimately reminded that I can’t begin to live fully real apart from my Creator. Paul said it best when he said, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Yet learning to live real does not mean we subsist and flourish in the good, happy pleasant times while we live down and sugar coat the painful, difficult and unpleasant ones. It means we learn how to be in both by the foundation of our faith in Christ; that we learn, as Paul said, to live, move and have our being in Him through it all.

There will never be a time when we only exist in either the highs or the lows. Rather we learn to walk through both and oftentimes simultaneously. Usually we oscillate in between and in so doing; we learn how to interrelate with God in every facet of our lives. And by this we can show others who sustains us through it all; no matter what our circumstances. It's really all about our knowing Jesus and allowing Him to be seen and known through us.

I truly believe the Christian faith calls and screams out for genuine realness. I believe it's what many people are looking for now more than ever. I have since come to see that my own realness dilemma is conquered through the very act of surrender. And I think there's something very beautiful about surrendering to God’s sovereignty as it operates in our lives.

I believe living real for the Glory of God is pleasing to Him. And I want to live real. Real enough to express the truth of my struggle through the hope of my faith. And real enough to let Him and His strength shine brightly and beautifully through every step of my life's journey.

Copyright © 2010 Michelle Holderman

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

30 Things About My Illness You May Not Know

I'm joining in a wonderful blogging campaign for National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, sponsored by Rest Ministries. I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. If you'd like to know more please check out: http://www.invisibleillness.com/

1. The illness I live with is Chronic Lyme Disease, but this answer did not come easily. Can anybody say diagnosis nightmare?! Like many others, I've been through the gamut of diagnoses over the years. For a better understanding of my personal story, you might consider reading the post preceding this one entitled, Journeying Through Chronic Illness. 

2. I've actually had symptoms since 1992. But everything escalated after having oral surgery in 1994.

3. I was 24 when I first became ill. I'm now 40.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is in learning how to live with physical limitations.

5. Most people assume if I'm out I must be doing fine. That's not true. I do have some days I feel fairly good but it can change in a matter of hours or from day to day. Most days I don't feel well at all and a lot of days are just plain bad. I'm hoping this will change as we work through a new treatment protocol I'm on; especially since we now know what's really been going on all this time!

6. If I'm not feeling well when I first wake up; I know it's going to be a bad day. If I am feeling fairly good, however, mornings can be the time of day when I have more energy as compared to afternoons. I tend to get more fatigued and run a fever as the day goes on.

7. My favorite medical TV shows are ER, China Beach, Emergency and Hawthorne.

8. An electronic gadget I couldn’t live without is my iPhone. I especially like it when I'm not feeling well. I can listen to my music and access email, FB, Twitter and other apps; all from bed. Even though I use my laptop regularly, it's just too big to deal with when I'm feeling bad. That's when my iPod really makes the difference for me.

9. Sometimes people just don't understand. And sometimes people say the wrong things. These are two things I've had to both accept and make peace with. And while this is true of life in general, it is amplified in chronic illness. This was much more difficult early on in my illness but there are still those occasions when it stings a bit. I truly believe most people mean well; they just don't understand the complexity of living with chronic illness, pain and/or disability. 

10. The number of pills I take daily varies. I use homeopathic medicines, which are liquid, so I add so many drops to my water and drink or take straight by mouth. My herbal and nutritional supplements vary. Some are liquid also. Presently, I'm taking 4 pills a day.

11. I like and benefit very much from using alternative medicine and therapies. I spent several years using prescription medications but have since found a great deal of help through natural and alternative means. I believe everyone has to find what they feel is best for themselves and certainly what works. My physician is a Naturopathic Doctor. I have Massage Therapy and other bodywork regularly. I find Epsom Salt and aromatherapy baths can help ease muscle and joint pain and greatly help with detoxification. I've also found eating whole nutrition is extremely important. So I eat a very healthy diet, which actually first stemmed out of necessity but I truly feel better when I eat whole, healthy foods.

12. My wheelchair is the most tangible, visible part of my illness and that's what people always go to. But it certainly isn't the only part. Clearly, not being able to walk is a very big deal! However, it is one very visible reflection of many invisible aspects of this illness. I pray for the day, and this is my faith speaking, when I am well and will no longer need to use this wheelchair. I'll be very happy to become totally invisible in that sense!

13. I haven't been able to work in my chosen profession for many years now. It took me quite awhile to accept that. You know - one more thing I had to give up. But I truly believe God has other plans for me.

14. People would probably be surprised to know that I play the drums :)

15. Some of the hardest things to accept about this new reality have been the many losses and limitations that have come with chronic illness and disability.

16. My illness actually opened the door for me to speak to nursing and radiology students at a local college about my perspective as both a health care professional and a patient. I created scenarios, based on my own experiences, for the students to assess how they would potentially respond. We then had open discussions about it and many of them began to share their own personal stories. It was a really great experience for me and I hope it was for them as well!

17. I am thankful for the good days or moments that I do have; even if they are few and far between. Living with a chronic illness and disability has certainly brought a whole new and unique perspective of life; it has been a teacher to me in many ways.

18. Some of the things I really miss doing since being chronically ill is having the stamina and energy to go out shopping with my mom and run around all day i.e. shopping, having lunch, shopping some more, having coffee, etc. I miss going on vacations too, which require energy and money. Mostly its the simpler things I miss like taking a walk in the woods, especially in the fall. Being able to walk and run with my nephews. Or being able to indulge in something sweet without repercussions.

19. It's difficult to fully express the deep struggles of living life with a chronic illness. One not only mourns for the physical losses that accompany illness but also the loss of friends, jobs, lifestyles, etc. One thing that was really hard for me to give up was my total independence. Thankfully, I'm still independent in some ways. This has come through making our home more accessible and also by my investing a great deal of hard work into physical therapy and in being devoted to working with my doctor and sticking to my diet and treatment regiment. It's certainly not been easy and it's certainly not been fun but through it all; I've learned a lot about trusting God and how to depend on Him and others.

20. A new and serious hobby I have taken up since my illness is photography. And interestingly, I've found the view of the world around me is literally different because of my being forced to slow down and sit down. I catch things around me that others can sometimes miss.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would want to spend it with my family enjoying copious amounts of carefree fun at the beach. I want to run with my nephews into the ocean! If not at the beach then at home grilling out, riding four-wheelers, walking in the woods, running and playing with my nephews, building a bon-fire and roasting marshmallows to make smores, etc. I would truly savor having an abundance of energy, feeling good, and being able to move around freely without limitation.

22. My illness has taught me much about patience and perseverance. I've learned a great deal about God, trusting Him and truly learning to walk by faith and not sight. Not an easy lesson. I've learned a lot about myself and about health and nutrition. I've learned to recognize and appreciate small joys in life; they really do keep you going. I've learned carrying a dream in your heart is essential to survival. And I've also learned the one thing this illness cannot take away from me is my identity in Christ.

23. One thing that's frustrating are the many pat responses I've gotten from people."But you look good!" or "It can always be worse can't it?" or "If anybody could do this, it's you." I realize others cannot automatically know the ins and outs of living daily with a chronic illness and disability, but it can be frustrating to be told how good I look when I've just come out of a 3 week period of feeling my absolute worst. And clearly, I know things can always be worse but it doesn't change my present circumstances. As for the last one, what choice do I have? I find those who have understanding usually do so because of dealing with an illness themselves or having experienced it through someone they love.

24. I like when people will address my illness and disability and not talk around it. I find children are refreshingly open and honest about such things. I welcome their curiosity and questions. My nephews have asked me a lot of questions about why I can't walk and why I have to rest. They're cetainly not intimated by a wheelchair. I also like when people will look me in the eye and acknowledge me. There have been many times over the years when I've been out in public and had someone turn away from me or direct conversation to my mother or whoever I was with. I now realize that has more to do with them than me. Still, it doesn't feel very good. Conversely, there have been those who have gone out of their way to hold open a door, say hello, offer a smile or strike up a conversation. So there really are some kind, thoughtful people in the world and they far outweigh those who are not.

25. Some of my favorite scriptures and/or quotes that get me through tough times are: 

Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (I find a lot of solace in reading the Book of Psalms).

"...Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don't lean unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path." Proverbs 3:5-6

"So do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

"Hope knows that if great trials are avoided, great deeds remain undone and the possibility of growth into greatness is aborted." - Brennan Manning

"Never, never, never give up." - Winston Churchill

"Sometimes God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves." - Joni Eareckson Tada

"It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up that matters." - Vince Lombardi

26. If someone has been diagnosed with a chronic illness I’d like to tell them to not compare where they are and how they feel with someone else; we all deal with this differently. I'd say it's alright to feel those roller coaster emotions - scream, have a good cry, talk to a trusted friend, rip the newspaper to shreds or blast the music really loud; whatever helps. I would tell them to look to God for strength and hope. I'd also add that questions or struggles with faith are common in chronic illness but they do not necessarily equal a loss of faith; it's okay to work through that. I'd say don't be afraid or embarrassed to reach out and seek help when you need it. And I'd also say find a great online support system or resource like Rest Ministries; it can make a huge difference to connect with others who relate to what you're going through.

27. One surprising thing I've learned is that chronic illness is not simply black or white, but many shades of gray in diagnosing, treating and living with it. And it affects the whole family; emotionally and financially. My brother once said to me, "Michelle, while this is physically taking place in your body; it's happening to all of us." I've never forgotten that. And it's true.

28. Someone doing something nice for you means a lot anytime but  that's certainly true when you're chronically ill. My Mom, who is my caregiver, does nice things for me on a regular basis; they're just too numerous to mention.

Several years ago, before having to quit work, a close friend of mine came to my house and wrapped ALL of my Christmas presents for me because I was not feeling well enough to do it. Very nice.

A sweet friend of my grandmother's would send me notes and cards every week. She did this for a number of years before she passed away. She would often just write something very simple but meaningful. Very nice. And speaking of my grandmother, she like my mother, did so many nice things for me while she was alive. She would often make me homemade meals and goodies that only she could. Mostly, she and my grandfather would come to visit me every Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed spending that time with them. I love and miss her very much!

29. I’m involved with Invisible Chronic Illness Week because I want to put a face to what living life chronically ill is really like and to help others understand that a lot of the suffering of chronic illness and pain is not often visible to others. I also want to share hope and support with those who are living with chronic illness and/or pain. Even though many days are hard, and even though some days are beyond difficult, you can get through it with God's help and the love and support of family and friends.

30. The fact that you took time to read this list makes me feel you're interested and care. And for that I say a deep heartfelt thank you!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Journeying Through Chronic Illness

This is going to be a very different kind of post for me because I don't often write in much detail about my illness. I'm going to share some significant news about something I have been seeking out for many years now and ironically; I'm doing it preceding the national campaign for Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week (September 13-19, 2010). I truly had no idea it was going to unfold like this but it's just like God to set things up in this way. Can I get a witness?

Most of my family and friends know I've been chronically ill for the past sixteen years. What some might not know is how debilitating this illness has been and how difficult it has been to find an accurate diagnosis. I've been told a lot of things through the years. I've been a lot of places. I've been through a lot of testing. And I've been through a lot of trial and error. It's been extremely complicating, frustrating, draining and disheartening.

Throughout the years, I've actively searched for the true cause of my illness; even up until this present time. I've encountered some of the best and some of the worst that our health care system has to offer. That in itself forced me to change my thinking and make subsequent adjustments. And I thank God for it! For the past year, my doctor and I have pursued what we now believe to be at the root of this illness that has so changed my life and the life of my family.

It is with a mixture of relief and reservation that I share this with you. I mean this is the past sixteen years of my life briefly stuffed into this one little blog post. So it's a tad disconcerting. And it's bittersweet (if you're chronically ill and in search of answers, you know exactly what I mean). Honestly, I've wrestled with writing this. It is a stretch for me. But I have earnestly felt the Lord nudging me in this direction. So here it is.

I have chronic Lyme disease.

This implies I have had Lyme disease for a long time and it's true. Longer than anyone really knew. I was misdiagnosed many years with MS and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. But before that, a couple of my docs found that I had several chronic viral and bacterial infections (EBV, CMV, VZV, Strep etc). Before that I had been diagnosed with Post-Viral Deymelinating Syndrome, Transverse Myelitis, Primary Lateral Sclerosis, Vestibular Neuronitis, Optic Neuritis, and Migraine Variant secondary to MS.

It's really been Lyme and co-infections all along.

Uh huh. It's left my head spinning too.

Lyme disease is often called, "The Great Imitator" because it can mimic so many other diseases, which can lead to improper and delayed diagnosis. This is what has happened to me and to many others as well. It is a very complex, multi-systemic infectious disease that is caused by the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi. When Lyme is left untreated, it will disseminate throughout the body and cause big problems. So it's been with me.

As many of you living with chronic illness also surely know, my story isn't a simple one. I couldn't possibly address the myriad struggles that have occurred through years. What I do want is to share some of the invisible aspects of my illness, which is what Invisible Illness Week is really all about - bringing awareness to the fact that much of the suffering of chronic illness and/or pain isn't always visible to others.

Let me first say the most tangible and visible aspect of this illness is clearly my wheelchair. But what a lot of people don't really know is why I am in a wheelchair. And that brings me to some of the not-so-visible parts of this illness. Chronic Lyme disease has greatly affected me neurologically, commonly referred to as Neuro-Lyme or Late Stage Lyme Disease. I have weakness in my legs, which really stems from inflammation and damage in my nervous system. But you can't "see" that. I've experienced a great deal of numbness and paresthesias and have had many problems with balance, disequilibrium and gait. These are the primary reasons I've been in a wheelchair for thirteen years.

But there's more to this illness. Deeply profound chronic fatigue. Recurrent low grade fevers. Muscle and joint pain. Chronic sore throats. Headaches. On and on it goes. Much is involved. I really can't express how debilitating the fatigue and fevers are on many days; it's very draining. My immune system has been damaged as well. Co-infections and secondary infections are common in chronic Lyme and so it is for me. The bacteria that causes Lyme has also affected my heart, liver, and spleen. You can't tangibly see much of that either.

What can be seen are the effects of it but they're not always recognized. And while this might all seem random in how my physical body has been affected, it is the very essence of chronic Lyme disease. And it has answered many of the plaguing questions we've had about the complexity of my illness throughout these many years.

For me, the good news is in finally knowing what I'm dealing with. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to not know what's really going on when something clearly is. And after so long, you just want answers; no matter what they are.

I recently began a treatment protocol for chronic Lyme disease. So this is all very fresh. And it is emotional for me because I didn't just settle for the possible or probable. Rather, I prayed and fought long and hard for true answers. It's still an ongoing battle but I know better where I stand now. I will say that living with chronic illness is something like experiencing four seasons in one day; it's that overwhelming at times.

As I close, I must say that my faith in Christ plays a huge role in my life and therefore also in this illness. I cannot separate my faith from any aspect of living, including Lyme disease. My relationship with Jesus is what has ultimately sustained and preserved me. And I must also tell you that I've come to know Him in a much deeper and more personal way through all of this crazy, beautiful mess.

The love and support of my family, friends, doctors and therapists have been a tremendous blessing. My mother has been my caregiver throughout all of these years and I can't possibly articulate all she has done for me. I don't know where I'd be without her. Mom, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Although this is a very difficult and lonely journey that is often misunderstood, and although physical healing has not yet come for me, I truly believe great beauty will be birthed from out of this pain and suffering (that's why I refer to it as a "beautiful mess"). In some small way it already has. But I believe there's much more to come.

I hope you'll follow along with me in this Lyme journey. And I hope you'll celebrate with me one day when it all culminates in healing and wellness. Stay tuned.

~ Michelle

Immune Recovery Clinic - Atlanta 

Copyright ©2010 Michelle Holderman

Monday, September 6, 2010

Break Every Chain

Break Every Chain - by Will Reagan and United Pursuit Band

This impacted me deeply! It's not so much this particular video as it is this anointed song. The first time I heard it, I wept. I couldn't stop. It was that profound. It touched a place within my heart that I cannot fully articulate. Jesus has a way of affecting people in that way. He has me. Do you know Him?

All sufficient sacrifice
So freely given
Such a price bought
Our redemption
Heaven’s gates swing wide

There is power in the Name of Jesus...to break every chain

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Untitled Prayer

Lord, You are truth. All else is failing.
You order my heart.
Though my heart doesn't always understand.
I have great aspirations but often lose my way in the bigness of it all.
And I am overcome with expectation; expectation of myself.

I struggle to see past the chaos.
Where do I go now? What do I do next?

Yet You draw near to me as I draw near to You.
In this nearness, I can see scars of a work already completed.
And I am undone.
There is nothing left to say.

You finished it before I ever started.

Copyright © 2010 Michelle Holderman

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Matter of Trust

Everybody’s actin’ a fool and the whole world’s gone crazy...Trust in the Lord with all your heart…Frustrated, aggravated and irritated... And do not lean into your own understanding…What in the world is going on here... In all your ways acknowledge Him…God doesn’t make any sense... And He will direct your paths....I don't have clue where I'm going (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Does God really call us to trust Him in the middle of full blown chaos? I mean does He seriously want a shout-out from us even when we're struggling and tanked out?

I think God has a funny way of doing things sometimes. If you're wondering whether I mean funny ha-ha or funny strange, my response is: Yes, that’s it exactly!

Truly, there are times when God just doesn't make sense and it's hard to understand why the stuff that's happening in and around our lives is actually happening. Yet He simply asks us to trust Him through it.

I’ll share something with you that happened to me a few years ago.

I was feeling veeerrry frustrated with God. I did not understand what in the world He was doing because from my viewpoint; it didn’t make any sense. At all. I was struggling and I told Him about it too. He let me vent and kick and scream and carry on and the last thing I said to Him in that moment was, "God, you don’t make any sense to me! None whatsoever! Zip-po!" And almost immediately He replied back into my spirit, "Yes, but do you trust Me anyway?"

He said it in such a way that it almost made me laugh, which I didn’t want to do since I was so frustrated in the first place. And while He was probably glad to lighten my mood, even more than that; He wanted to make a point. And He did it by asking me a question (I just love it when God asks me a question).

He wasn’t asking for asking's sake. Rather He was trying to move me into the place of faith. He was essentially saying: Yeah, uh-huh, I know it doesn’t make any sense to you. I know you can’t see it the way I do. I know you’re frustrated. I know it all seems crazy. But despite all that, will you choose to trust Me?

It was really an invitation. And it’s not just for me but also for us all. God invites us to trust Him when nothing makes sense so He can show us more of who He is. He doesn’t ask because He’s in need of the answer but because we are.

Like it or not, there are just some things about God He will not show us except in difficult times; in times of hardship and in times of suffering. And often during times when absolutely nothing that is happening in our lives makes any sense.

So why is that?

I certainly don’t have all the answers but I think God often waits to reveal some of the deeper things about Himself during these times because we’re not so focused on other things; worldly things. And let me tell you, being chronically ill, the outcome of the ballgame or the latest fashion buzz isn’t the most important thing on my mind. My focus has dramatically shifted on working to be well; on wanting to understand why this happened and what purpose it is serving; on wanting to hear from God about it all.

And there it is.

In difficult times our focus and attention is shifted on God in ways that it isn’t during any other. We seek Him with fervor and intent. We start asking questions. And not polite, superficial questions but deep, anguishing, gut-wrenching questions. Desperate, demanding questions. And we set ourselves on a collision course with God to find answers. So He gives us a little something to hold onto, enough to keep us going, but just a bit mind you. Because God wants to keep us coming back for more. He wants us seeking Him over and over and over again. He wants to ever drive us straight into His Arms.

It has been my experience, however, that God is not really in the business of explaining Himself. Moreover, He has this thing about wanting us to trust Him even when there seems to be no reason to; especially then. He wants to show us that He is able to sustain us during the worst of times; during times when we’re flat out spent and broken.

Ironically, it’s also during these times that we seem to be the most receptive to Him despite our frustrations and disappointments, because we know can’t nobody do for us what Jesus can.

It almost seems like a game of hide-n-seek with God and in a way it is. Except this isn’t a game; it is the way of faith. Still, our hearts ache to know what it is He is doing and where it is He is taking us. So we keep on looking, we keep on asking, we keep on seeking.

But perhaps like the old U2 song says, we still haven’t found what we’re looking for. So we keep on looking and we keep on seeking and we keep on asking.

Whatever it is that drives us to Him, He just waits for us to come. He waits to show us how deeply He loves and cares for us. We don’t necessarily get all the answers we’re looking for. Instead, we find what we’re lacking in He can and will supply. God's in no short measure of anything. Whatever it is we’re in need of; He’s got.

It’s interesting though that the one thing we seem to want most is the one thing we don't have – understanding. And I think it's human nature to desire it. However, God is not so much interested in our always understanding Him as He is in our always trusting Him. Still, as many of us know, trusting God isn’t always easy; especially in those difficult and trying times.

The test results are bad, Lord. Yes, He replies, but do you trust Me anyway?

I got laid off from work...
He walked out the door...
This is not the way I thought things would turn out...
She’s still so sick...
This is all such a mess...
My boy went to prison...
God, I just don’t understand...

...Yes, but do you trust Me anyway?

No matter what, do we trust Him anyway?

We say we do but we really don’t want to go through anything to test if our theory is true. In theory it sounds good; in practice its application is not quite so simple. Yet through all the doubts and frustrations, God allows us to arrive at the place where we find our only real option left is to trust in His power and throught it; we come to realize that our finite knowledge can’t hold a candlestick to God’s infinite wisdom.

As His children, there isn’t one thing we’ll go through that has not first gone through the wisdom of the Father. Not that He causes it but rather that He allows it; be it for our own growth, for the benefit of helping others, or for a much higher calling. Whatever the reason, He has a divine purpose and nothing is wasted. If you don’t believe me, just take a look back through the Bible.

God knows what we need even more than we do and when we’re being conformed into the image of Christ, it isn’t always fun. In fact, the process can be downright painful. But God is precise in His ways. And as we move through that painful but precious shaping process, we’re shown those secret places of God we’ve never had access to before; we’re given fresh insight and new revelation; we’re drawn into deeper intimacy with our Savior and Lord and before we know it; we find ourselves trusting Him in a way we never have before. And it just comes.

Because as He’s shown us more of who He is, we realize who He is, is worthy of our trust. Not because He’s changed but because we are. And we are ever-changing, ever-learning, ever dying to self and allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us and through us.

God has a purpose for your life and for mine and that purpose has everything to do with advancing the Kingdom of God. And if we want to reach our full potential in Christ, then we must submit to and trust in the Father's perfect plan; even when we don’t feel like it or when it doesn’t make sense.

What God has in store for us is far more wonderful, far more awesome than anything we could ever imagine or dream of for ourselves! But it comes through the process and the process requires trust. Not trusting what we see in the natural but trusting in that glorious unseen supernatural realm of the Most High God. And very often the more difficult or impossible the circumstances; the more likely it is that God is up to something. And when God is up to something, He always goes about it in a way that bypasses our human understanding, which therefore requires our trust.

And so we’re left with a choice. We’re back where we started; back at His invitation to trust Him.

The God who created you, trust in Him...Trust in the Lord with all your heart

The God who knows your deepest sorrow, trust in Him...And do not lean into your own understanding.

The God with whom all things are possible, trust in Him...In all your ways acknowldege Him.

The God who knows the answers to your questions, trust in Him...And He will direct your paths.

The God who died to save you; this is the One who asks you trust Him...Will you?

Copyright © 2010 Michelle Holderman
Photos: Photobucket and Flickr

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jonah Moments

I have always been quite intrigued by the Book of Jonah. The Bible doesn’t elaborate on any other time Jonah must have surely gone to speak for the Lord as a prophet. Instead, it focuses on this one account. God doesn't do anything without a purpose so the fact that He included only this account tells me something - that we should pay attention to what His Word says about it. I find I take away several great truths from this and I find that I relate to Jonah. A lot.

Remember Jonah? He headed straight outta dodge when God told him to go to Nineveh; the Lord said north and he headed south. This is what I call a Jonah Moment: Running from God (Jonah 1:3). Nineveh was a wicked, pagan city. And God actually told Jonah that he wanted him to go and preach against the city because its wickedness had come up before Him (Jonah 1:2). But Jonah did not want to do it.

In his attempt to run from God, Jonah ends up drawing some innocent people into his escapade. This is Jonah Moment #2: He drug other people into his stuff. He fled by hopping on board a ship en route to Tarshish; the opposite direction of Nineveh. But Jonah couldn’t hide from the Lord nor can any of us for that matter. The Bible tells us that a great storm arose and it got pret-ty rough. Jonah fessed up and told the crew if they threw him overboard into the sea the storm would calm down. And that’s exactly what happened.

What took place next, though, sounds like it came straight out of a movie line from the SyFy channel. “But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17). So Jonah had to spend some time in the belly of the whale. Literally. This is what I call Jonah Moment #3: Getting a new perspective. I imagine that was a dank, dark, lonely and stinky place to be. Isn’t that always how it feels when we’ve run from God? Maybe spending some time in the proverbial belly of the whale is necessary for all of us on occasion.

It was there, deep inside the bowels of that great fish, that Jonah started praying. Amidst proclamations of God’s faithfulness and goodness, Jonah told the Lord he would make good on what he had vowed. I assume that meant the vow he'd made as a prophet to speak for the Lord to whomever He instructed. And that meant going to Nineveh. This is Jonah Moment #4: Crying out to God in the middle of a self-made mess. And it was at this that God commanded the whale to spit Jonah up. His rebellion and reluctance had put him there but his repentance had moved the Lord to bring him out. Little did Jonah know, this was a reflection of what was about to occur with the Ninevites.

The prophet hauls it to Nineveh and delivers the Word of the Lord. I’ll paraphrase – In forty more days your city is burnt toast! But the oddest thing happened. The Ninevites believed Jonah. When word reached the King, he covered himself in sackcloth and made a citywide decree for everyone, including all of their animals, to fast from all food and drink, give up their evil ways, and urgently call upon God to forgive them. And God saw their sincere desire to repent and He had compassion on them and relented from bringing destruction (Jonah 3).

This, however, did not set too well with Jonah. He had yet another “moment.” He got angry and copped an attitude with God. He told the Lord this was the very reason why he took off in the first place; that it was just like Him to be so gracious and compassionate and hold back from giving those wicked people what they deserved. He then asked the Lord to take his life because it would be better for him to die than live (Jonah 4:1-3). Clearly, this is Jonah Moment #5: Getting offended at God for forgiving people he didn't think deserved it.

Talk about drama. But I’ll admit; I can see myself in Jonah. There have been times I have had my “Jonah moments” with God too. I’m quite sure we all have. Like those times when we've run away from what He wanted us to do, trying to avoid it; the times we've not understood why He does what He does and feeling the need to tell Him about it; the times we've questioned why He changed His mind about a person, or a group of people, who we thought weren't particularly deserving of His mercy. Honestly, there have been times that I rather wanted God to sock it to ‘em; so to speak. Yet in His great love and mercy He relented when He saw a true heart change take place. And that was really what He was looking for all along. It's what He always desires. So it was with the Ninevites.

God’s reply back to Jonah cut straight to the heart, “Have you any right to be angry?" (Jonah 4:4) Still, Jonah marched off outside the city and found a place to sit and watch what would happen.

An interesting thing took place between God and Jonah. The Lord caused a vine to grow in order to give Jonah shade. This made him happy. God was concerned for Jonah too but He was more concerned about the spiritual matters at hand. So He later sent a worm along to chew on the vine, which caused it to wither and die. The sun came up the next day and Jonah, now without the vine, got scorched by the heat. Yet again he was outraged and wanted to die. And yet again he told the Lord as much.

Jonah just couldn't see it. He was angry. Angry enough to die. Again. Except this time it was about the vine. This is Jonah Moment #6: Still pouting and angry about the same thing only different. And again, God said to Jonah,“Have you any right to be angry about the vine?”

But this is where my heart really gets drawn in.

The last two verses in Jonah say, “But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?’” Jonah 4:10-11

This tells me something about God and His incredible, boundless love for people. God pursued Jonah just as He was pursuing Nineveh through Jonah. And love was at the root of His pursuit. God's love is unconditional and we, in our humanness, cannot always understand it.

God had created the Ninevites just as He had created Jonah and the Israelites. The Israelites knew the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Ninevites did not. God wanted to give them the opportunity to turn to Him just as He had done time and time again for Israel. And just as He had done for Jonah.

Much like a concerned father steps in to help and give guidance when one of his children is struggling, so does God the Father step in when we, or even someone who doesn't know Him, are cluelessly wondering off in the wrong direction. He wants to give us an opportunity to turn to Him; no matter what we've done.

In all of Jonah's "moments," I can see we're a lot like him - very human. But I also see through his account that God is a God of tremendous love and compassion; that He is a God of second chances. Don't know about you but I'm very glad about that one.

I see that He's a God who is truly concerned about people and He takes into account the hearts of mankind. I also see that God cannot tolerate ongoing sin. However, He will deal justly and righteously with people.

Whether you're a prophet on the run or a city immersed in wickedness, God will always do what is just and right.

~ Michelle

Copyright © 2010 Michelle Holderman

Jonah: A Veggietales Movie Music Video
"In the Belly of the Whale" by Newsboys

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Expect The Unexpected

We're all looking for something. We're all asking questions. We're all yearning to find our place.

So keep looking. Keep asking. Keep yearning.

Because sometimes we must do nothing more but nothing less than what we already are.

I'm not trying to make it sound more complicated than it is; quite the contrary. For it's in the looking, the asking and the yearning that we often discover the unexpected. And it's in the unexpected that we often find what we're really looking for. It's in the unexpected we often find the answers to our questions. It's in the unexpected we often find our own place.

We usually don't like such unforseen surprises. We mostly prefer what is anticipated, well-known and easily recognized. But we should embrace the unexpected for God frequently shows up there. He will work in unexpected people, in unexpected places, at unexpected times, in unexpected ways.

Abraham and Sarah. Aged and barren couple. A promise is made. God speaks. Sarah laughs. Isaac is born. A covenant is established. Unexpected.

Joshua. Mighty warrior. Ready for battle. But instruction came from the Lord. And with the blast of trumpets and loud war cries, the walls of Jericho crumbled to the ground. Unexpected.

David. The youngest and smallest in stature of all his brothers. But the Lord told Samuel, "He's the one." And David was anointed future King of Israel by the prophet. Unexpected.

Mary. A teenage virgin. Supernaturally impregnated. Birthed the Savior of the world. In a stable. Unexpected.

God will use what we cannot foresee to bring about His order and His will into the earth for our lives. Perhaps He'll wrap it in something remotely familiar, and He might even give us an expectable glimpse of some part of it, but it often comes about in unexpected means. And in this He is rightly glorified.

Expect the unexpected.

Copyright © 2010 Michelle Holderman
Photo: Flickr.com

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Some Things I've Learned Along The Way

the presence of God in your life is more valuable than any amount of money

having gratitude for the small things will keep you grounded

the laughter of children is energizing

a hot cuppa tea is as soothing to the soul as it is the body

if you're willing to look, there is beauty to be found within the messes of your life

the grass isn't always greener on the other side

dreaming is essential

prayer really does change things

opportunity does not always look appealing at first

family and true friends are to be cherished

God always has a plan

human perfection is an illusion

there really are some things worth fighting for

rest is necessary 

joy comes in many forms

the devil wants to exploit your wounds; God wants to heal them

words are powerful

hope has a tangible expression

genuineness speaks to the heart

sometimes the answers are right in front of you

love does cover a multitude of sins

we need each other to get where we are going; God has designed it this way

nothing is impossible if you truly believe

wireless digital technology is really cool

God is trustworthy

change is a sure and constant thing

people won't always understand

suffering and brokenness bind us to Christ in a way nothing else can

God knows our hearts better than we do

what you do matters

Copyright © 2010 Michelle Holderman

Friday, August 6, 2010

Broken Hallelujahs

“It’s not a cry you can hear at night; it’s not somebody who’s seen the light; it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah." (Leonard Cohen)

Hallelujah is a song, a hymn, an exclamation of praise to God. The bigger the better, right? The more dignified the better. The stronger the better. Right?

Yet as I read the Bible, I find it to be the total opposite. The weaker the better. The harder the better. The costlier the better. The more broken the better. The truth is there’s just something about a broken hallelujah; about praise that costs you something.

As much as we don’t like talking about brokenness and suffering, we would not be the people we are without it. We would never grow spiritually. And we certainly would not seek God the way we do apart from it. We would rely on our own strength and abilities instead of His.

David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Imagine if his “Hallelujah” had been spotless and perfect. What if he had never struggled with Saul, Bathsheba, and Absalom? With himself? With God? What kind of hallelujahs would we be reading apart from David’s heart-wrenching anguish, humble confessions, and prayerful grief? Would Psalms still be Psalms? 

What if Jeremiah’s “Hallelujah” had been concrete and full of certainty? What if he had never opened his mouth? What if he never lamented? Never prophesied? Never wept?

And Hannah? What about her broken hallelujah? It produced a son she so deeply longed for; a son whom God called a prophet, priest, and judge.

Or what about Job? What kind of hallelujah would he have had apart from all of his pain, suffering, and loss? Sounds half crazy but truthfully, what would the Book of Job read like had he never known such hardship? 

I know we all wanna skip over the bad stuff and go straight to the end where God gives Job double for his trouble, but we’d be overlooking a majorly important time in his life. 

The truth is this whole escapade started when the Father allowed Satan to sift Job. Anything – except taking his life. What kind of spiritual drama was played out through Job? Perhaps Job’s terrible tragedy was, in fact, a battle over his personal hallelujah, broken or otherwise. And in that, the Lord knew we would one day need someone to think about in our own suffering; someone who had lived it. Perhaps Job’s broken hallelujahs are but an echo of truth for us in twenty-first-century life.

Just suppose Paul never had that fleshly thorn. What kind of apostle would he have been without it? What kind of testimony would he have told apart from it? Would we still have, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness,” to hold onto in our times of difficulty had Paul not learned to boast with a most broken hallelujah?

And Habakkuk? His indignant complaints, his prayers, his fears and his uncertainties all pushed him toward one resignation: a broken hallelujah full of trust.

Think of Peter. He was so sure he would never deny Jesus yet he did exactly that. And when he did, his shiny, sparkly and glorious hallelujah suddenly changed into something deeply broken; something that God could take and powerfully use as only He can. Say something like building the Church and feeding the sheep.

Just read the Bible and you’ll see that many who walked in the faith before us were full of broken hallelujahs. It was necessary. Because it is in brokenness that we become fluid enough for God to mold and shape us into who He created us to be. It’s in brokenness and suffering that character, perseverance, and hope are produced (Romans 5). And it is in brokenness that we come to the end of ourselves and learn to wade out deeper with dependence on Jesus. If you want to know that; you’ll have to be broken. It’s the only way.

Apart from trials and brokenness, we would never know true joy and victory. Apart from the painful and broken hallelujahs, we would never know true worship and praise. We would never know what it means to partake in the sufferings of Christ, and therefore, never know what it will mean to be overjoyed when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12-13).

It’s when the wind has been knocked out of our sails; when we’re hanging on by a thin thread that our hallelujah suddenly changes and transforms into something more real and full of substance. And that’s because it has our pain, sweat and tears burned into it. It’s then God can really teach us.

If Hallelujah is truly a praise to God, and it is, then a broken hallelujah is a sacrificial praise to Him. And that moves Him like nothing else can; for He sees what lies behind those anguished, troubled and fractured words. He hears the heart cries embedded deeply within them.

Honestly, anyone can offer a hallelujah when the load is light and the laughter comes easy but pucker up and belt one out when the storm is raging; when it’s as dark as midnight. That, my friend, will cost you something. It will also develop something deep within you. It will also draw you to God as never before; even if you go kicking and screaming along the way.

Sometimes the only thing you have to give God is a broken praise, but it matters. In the economy of God everything matters; including all of the broken hallelujahs.

~ Michelle

Michelle Holderman 
Copyright © 2010

"And even if it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord of song with nothing on my tongue but, ‘Hallelujah!’” (Leonard Cohen)

Photo Sources: Photobucket.com and Flickr.com