|Posted by Shivonne Costa on November 6, 2015 at 1:45 PM||comments (3)|
“Marriage is tough. We bring a lot of fairytales to the picture when it comes to marriage. We bring them to the altar with us thinking, ‘This is going to be perfect!’ And then the problems hit and you don’t know where to file those into your picture… The idea I’m trying to say is, ‘Can you lay down who you thought I was and love the ‘me’ that is? Can we take this from where we are now and realize that I can’t be that person?’ Only God is going to be able to make this work and broken people can be broken together.” – Mark Hall (Casting Crowns) on Broken Together
There is no denying the toughness of this world. There are the leaky roofs, the misbehaving children, and the fender benders. There are the separations, the miscarriages, and the betrayals. But then there is also the racism and the shootings, the bombings and the hatred. There is blaming and finger-pointing, judgmental stares and the malicious whispers attempting to destroy our youth one bully at a time. There are the suicides and the homicides, the addictions and the abusers, the mental illnesses and the delinquents.
The world, in a nutshell, is broken.
I am a broken wife, married to a broken husband. I am a broken mother, raising broken children. We live in a broken house and our children attend a broken school district. I love, but I do it imperfectly. I parent, but I often fail miserably. We are a broken people, trying to live in a broken system.
When I read the words of Mark Hall, I saw not just my marriage, but my family, and not just my family, but our society and the culture we live in. I look around and I see all of us bustling around, trying to out-do the person next to us with the portrayal of our new clothes and fancy cars and perfect families – attempting to climb nonsensical social ladders at the expense of others – striving to look self-important while ignoring the hurting of those in the next room – wanting to fit in when we’re made to stand out – desperately trying to mold our loved ones into forms that we see as lovable instead of rejoicing over who they already are.
You see, we are all broken. Every last one of us. We have baggage and scars that would stretch for miles if lined up end to end. Each of us have been found, at some point in time, barefoot and standing in the shattered remains of life, and we don’t need another program. We don’t need another self-help book. We don’t need another sermon.
What we NEED is to have broken people offering up broken hands to help their fellow man. What we have to have is so much compassion spilling out of us that we are willing to pray for a stranger in the supermarket. What we MUST show is the kind of empathy that allows us to hug the woman in the post office and invite her home for dinner.
The problems in this life will no fix themselves, folks. But if we are waiting for The Perfect to come along and fix The Broken, get this… we will always be waiting.
We are called to be broken together and to love imperfectly.
There was a man long ago that chose to come to our broken world. He hung around crooks and adulterers, murderers and drunks. He didn’t climb ladders and he didn’t obtain wealth. He lived humbly among the rest and offered one thing - Love. Only his love wasn’t imperfect. His love wasn’t broken. It was pure and holy and all-encompassing. He was the epitome of compassion, the precious mark of empathy.
This beautiful man took all that he had and, to show that his love was real, he allowed himself to become broken in order to meet us in our own state. He was broken to the death so that we could be broken together with him. Do you hear what I’m saying to you, right now? Do you understand the magnitude of this message??
We are human wrecking balls, tearing apart our own society, barreling down the human race with our unkindness and our stones. But Jesus, the Only Unbroken, became broken for you. He saw through the mess of your life, your arguments with your spouse, your frazzled parenting, your insensitive comments towards others, your lies and your bitterness and the facades… He saw through it all and offered to come down to where you are and provide you the greatest love that you would ever know. A love that makes you want to run screaming because you feel so unworthy… but a love that will chase after you and hold you until you have cried your last – until you are finally broken together.
Can we take this love, friends? Can we take this love and start offering it to those around us? To our spouses and to our children? To our friends and our colleagues? To our neighbors and to strangers? Can we let go of the image that we want them to be and love them in their brokenness? Can we, please… Oh please, can we be broken together?
“So when you’re on your knees and the answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held.
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held.”
- Casting Crowns, Just Be Held
|Posted by Shivonne Costa on November 6, 2015 at 1:15 PM||comments (0)|
“You can stand there all day, but it’s not gonna open.”
My daughter’s words woke me from my busy fog. I looked up from my phone and forced back the thousands of thoughts swirling around me in time to see that I was, indeed, standing on the wrong side of the automatic door at our local grocer. There I was, responding to multiple texts, arms full of groceries, trying to organize the next 12 errands all the while listening to my 7-year-old talk without breath about the holiday decorations in her classroom at school. In my chaos, I must’ve went to the wrong door and had been standing there for who knows how long, waiting for it to open.
I looked at my daughter as the situation began to sink in, and she said the words again. “You can stand there all day, but it’s not gonna open, Mom.”
I could almost hear myself saying to this same phrase to her when she was little and would repeatedly go to the wrong door, seeing if she could “trick it this time”. For the record, she couldn’t. And neither could I.
Yesterday, weeks after this incident occurred, I found myself at the same grocery store and in the same doorway. This time, I had chosen the correct door, but just barely. I was, once again, busy looking at my phone and running from place to place. I caught myself in time to step to the right and go through the correct door. But as I did, those familiar words rang through my mind once more.
You can stand there all day, but it’s not gonna open.
I was perplexed by the feeling that came over me as those words sank into my heart. I had this odd sensation that someone Great was trying to tell me something – that there was a message for me, on the tip of my mind’s tongue, trying to penetrate that thick skull of mine.
I made it to my car and inserted the key, ready to go to the next store on my list. And then, it was as if the weight of all my internal bricks fell and I heard the message loud and clear. I heard what was being said to me.
You can stand there all day, Shivonne, but it’s not gonna open.
One after another, quickly as can be, thoughts flickered through my mind. I saw myself sobbing in the babies’ room – the room where Isaac used to be, playing with us, reading his books, enjoying his toys. You can weep there all day, but that door to joy… it’s not gonna open.
I envisioned myself in the middle of a recent panic attack… my heart pounding and my breathing shallow, rapid. Anxiety made my mind feel light and I remembered that I kept putting off all those doctor appointments I was supposed to make. You can panic there all day, but that door to healing is not gonna open.
Next, I saw my Bigs. I saw them arguing and fighting, lying and sneaking. I felt myself getting angry and bitter in the memory of it all, wanting to run away and live alone just to never have to hear one more bit of untruth, one more tattle, one more scream. You can be the victim there all day, but that door to connections and love is not gonna open.
Finally, I felt all the failures. All the helplessness I’ve been experiencing. Trying to start a business but not having the know-how or the abilities. Trying to help our church grow but all my efforts being in vain. Trying to get ahead financially and having the car break down again. Trying to lose weight but the doctors not being able to find out what’s wrong with my body. Trying to keep my calm with my kids but constantly losing my temper. Trying to make our old home nice while the roof leaks into my living room. Trying to be all things to all people, while simultaneously trying to keep myself from going off the deep end.
Shivonne, my love, you can fail here all day, but that door to freedom isn’t going to open.
Needless to say, by this point, I was the crazy lady sitting in her minivan crying hysterically in the grocery store parking lot. People passed. People stared. People quickly tucked their heads and moved on. And in that moment of release, I didn’t even care. I couldn’t care. There was not enough energy to be found to give one thought to what other’s would possible conclude about me in that second.
Because God was doing something. He was showing me all the doors that were not opening. He was pointing out all the times that I stood at the wrong door and tried to “trick” it into opening with my silly ideas of grief and panic, victimization and failure. To think that if I cried hard enough, the door would open. To imagine that if I told the door all my failures, it would take pity on me and let me pass.
It was nonsense. All of it.
In the book of Revelation it says this in chapter 3:7-8, “What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
There I was, weeping and failing at closed doors, when all this time God’s been like, “Um, yeah… there’s an open door right over there. Look up! Take off those blinders! Cancel some errands and stop expecting closed doors to open!”
The verse even says it… God sees our little strength. Friends, does anyone else out there find themselves in the status of Little Strength right now? Yeah. That could be my Indian name, quite honestly. But God sees that! He sees it and is saying HELLO, WAKE UP!!! He’s challenging us to walk around these closed doors… to MOVE…and to find the doors that He’s already opened for us to walk through.
Sometimes in life, we have to face hard things. We have to let go of things that we hold onto so tightly. We have to stop knocking and setting up camp at the doors of dreams that He hasn’t called us to in the first place. We have to move past the things that look good on the outside because He’s opened a door to something that’s great just around the corner.
We can stand there at those closed doors all day, but they’re not gonna open… because He’s already opened all the doors we need. He’s already made a way. The door is just around the corner. Pick up your tents, roll up those sleeping bags. There is no need to mark time at closed doors any longer. It’s time to Move.
|Posted by Shivonne Costa on August 10, 2015 at 9:35 PM||comments (0)|
This week, I found myself amazed by a verse in the Old Testament. It can be found in the book of Zephaniah, chapter 3, verse 17.
"The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing."
Take a moment and let that last part resonate in your heart. The Lord, the most powerful entity to ever exist, the Creator of all things, the Savior of my soul... He lowers himself as a servant to sing over me?
As the worship leader at our church, I am usually focused on how we, as a congregation sing, to HIM. We take our few moments out of the week to praise our God with songs of thanksgiving and to humble our hearts before Him in worship. But to think that the Lord does that for me when the verse says that He should rebuke me - but He chooses to rejoice over me instead... you guys, doesn't it just completely overwhelm you??
I remember as a child, there were many, many instances when I required a little rebuking! My parents spent time training me and and molding me to follow the path that Jesus had set for me. And yes, that did require me getting my pants kicked a few times! But at night, if I were sick, sad, or had any kind of emotional need, my parents would sit on the edge of my bed, softly stroke my hair, and sing over me as I fell asleep. There was a time and a need for rebuking... but there was also a time and a need for tenderness.
Now, well into adulthood, I still find myself requiring a bit of rebuking, far more often than I like to admit! But my God, in His infinate mercy, also sees my inner most needs. He knows my heart even better than I know it myself. And, even though I may not deserve it, He humbles himself, leaving His mighty throne to kneel beside me and sing His words of love over me when I need it most.
Friends, I don't know about you, but that not only humbles me tremendously, but it fills me with such trust in God. He didn't just create me and then leave me. He chose to stay connected and pour Himself out on ME - just one, small, seemingly insignificant person in this universe.
And He wants to do the same for you. As you find your quiet moments this week, allow yourself to listen for that sweet voice that your heart knows better than your ears. And remember that even in your most lonely, desperate hour, your heavenly Father is singing over you.
|Posted by Shivonne Costa on November 8, 2012 at 9:00 PM||comments (1)|
Isaiah 55:1-3 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live." What an incredible reminder that God is ALL we need... he's our water, our bread, and our life. Everything our soul craves is offered to us every moment of every day... and it's free for the taking! Jesus is the $20 given to the homeless man on the corner. Jesus is the anonymous offering that keeps someone's heat turned on in the dead of winter. Jesus is the casserole left on the doorstep of a neighbor that has fallen on hard times. Jesus is the miracle for the family member lying in a hospital bed. And He's the answer to the questions that clog up our minds and our hearts each day. Why WOULDN'T we want this gift of love? And even moreso, why wouldn't we want to pass this gift on to those we love?
|Posted by Shivonne Costa on June 27, 2012 at 8:10 PM||comments (0)|
First Baptist Church of Ellwood City invites you to share 100+ years of faithful service to the community. The original First Baptist Church was opened August 13, 1891 behind today's location on the corner of Fountain Ave. and 3rd St. The current building was completed August 15, 1912. On March 7, 1933, a fire gutted all but the old walls, but the church was rebuilt and still continues strong today.
During the week of July 8th - 15th we will be celebrating this milestone with various special guests, musical performances, and events for the entire community. More information on these activities can be found by clicking on the event on the Calendar page. We hope to celebrate with you and your family!