Never a Threat

I am sure all of you had a different kind of Easter celebration than maybe ever before. At my house, I had a Skype call with my eldest and her family as they ate their first turkey dinner prepared in their home. Earlier that day I dropped of a gift of cupcakes and my roaster to my daughter, keeping the 6 feet social distance. For me, my granddaughter left on the porch step a ziplock bag of chocolate chips cookies she had made. Later today they’ve promised to drop off on my step turkey and a piece of apple pie left over from their Easter dinner.

During this time of social distancing, our front steps, our porches, our apartment doorways have become drop off zones of gifts, borrowed items, and left-overs.

I miss walking through doorways.

I look forward to the day when porches and doorways become again just a step before entering rather than the final destination they are today.

But for now, I’m called, like many of you, dear readers, to keep doors closed and stay in for the protection of life for others and myself.

Our Protector

May we always remember though too, we have another protector of life Who lets us through the doorway that brings us into God’s salvation.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.” John 10:7

When we listen to Jesus’ voice and follow Him through the gate into His pasture, He not only gives us eternal life; we also immediately receive His gifts of forgiveness, love and guidance.

I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:9-10

Our Security

And He never abandons us no matter the threat.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

There is a threat currently in our physical world too tiny for the human eye. Yet, nothing is threatening to the One who overcame death. As we follow the guidelines of our governments and health officials, keeping our distance that may mean not opening our doors, may we hold on to our great Shepherd by continuing to do His work He has called us to and let Him work within us.

Now may the God of peace who through blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen Hebrews 13:20-21

Linking up with #TellHisStory

When all Seems Gone-“Peace be with you.”

Usually these weeks before celebrating Easter, our sermons, readings, and devotionals reflect the upcoming celebration of Jesus’ resurrection of the cross. This year Easter seems to have been buried beneath the current events. But Palm Sunday is still almost upon us, followed by the Holy Week. These words I post were written a year ago, however like all of God’s words, it’s message is timeless and timely.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came among them and said, “Peace be with you!” John 20:19

An empty tomb. 

The tomb which had held Jesus, their Saviour, their teacher, their friend, was empty. The broken body of their King, gone.

Peter and John, along with the other disciples (except for Judas for he had betrayed Jesus, and for Thomas who was not with them that day) drew together behind a locked door. John’s gospel teaches it was a first day of the week, and Peter and John had recently witnessed an empty tomb except for strips of linen, and the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head.

An empty tomb. 

Although scripture does not name the room where the disciples were hiding that day, bible scholars think it may have been the room upstairs where they stayed before (Act 1:13) and reference it as the Upper Room.

In the Upper Room that day, I imagine the disciples fear and sadness laced the air, along with the lingering smell of  bread and wine from their last supper when Jesus, their Saviour, their teacher, their friend was still there.

I imagine Peter feeling regret, the roosters crow still echoing in his mind.

I imagine John, tears flowing freely in grief and wondering how best to honour his Saviour’s request to take care of Jesus’ mother, Mary. 

I imagine, even though they huddled together, the room felt empty without the presence of Jesus whose love they had known. 

A love that now seemed gone, with an empty tomb while they huddled in that locked Upper Room. 

And, I imagine, all the disciples hoping they could have just one more day with Him. 

Then….

Then, He is suddenly standing before them. 

“Peace be with you,” He says. 

Peace be with you.

Even after all He had endured—whippings, a crown of thorns, a cross to carry, nails in His hands, and all the sin of the world upon Him…

His first words to His beloved disciples were to settle their grieving, fearful, and shameful hearts.

“Peace be with you!”

And “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” John 20:20.5

Even when all seems empty, gone–a loved one, a job, a dream, a friend, a child moving out, consequences from a mistake- and your heart is grieving, may you remember Jesus first words to His disciples that day He appeared.

“Peace be with you.”

Those words are for you too, today and forever more.

Lynn J Simpson is just a gal doing life one step at a time. You can find more of her Breathing Spaces Photography at Lynn J Simpson Photography. You can also check out her publications at Publications.

Navigating the New Normal

Years ago I met a couple who had recently immigrated to Canada from India. They said one of the most odd things to them about Canadians was how they talked about the weather. For weeks it surprised them when taxi-drivers, teachers, or store-shop owners would say things like, “Crazy weather we’re having, hey?” or “Looks like it’s going to rain tomorrow.” When they realized how much the weather changed in Canada compared to India, they began to understand why Canadians chatted about the weather so much. Soon they found themselves also talking about the constant changing weather! 

Since then, I’ve tried to be more clever with topics rather than the weather when engaging in small conversations with others. 

On a zoom call with a friend this week we found ourselves talking about the obvious –Covid19–and stating how that is all anyone seems to be talking about these days! Our news, our social media feeds, our work emails are full of pandemic messages. Finally I asked, “Snow in spring, hey? I wonder when we’ll get a really warm day for the big melt?”

It is important to stay up to date to what is happening especially as, like the weather, changes are happening fast. My grandchildren left school on a Friday, all their belongings tucked away as usual, then told on Sunday night they would not be returning, possibly until September. Not even a chance to say good-bye to loved teachers and friends. A friend’s senior high-school daughter still has her grad dress hanging on the back of her bedroom door unsure now when or if it will be worn. And unfortunately due to a possible exposure, I was isolating when I received the news my sister ‘n law had entered hospice. I was not able to visit her before she passed away from cancer. 

Many sad stories are happening currently as we navigate this ‘new normal’ for time. 

Keeping it real, I must admit, I have felt anxiety over the uncertainties. It showed up as an upset stomach. So I knew I had to start getting my mind away from ‘what if’ and into the fruit of the spirt.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

Ten Ways I Calm my Anxious Mind

  1. Listen to Bonnie Gray’s PodCast – Breathe  http://bit.ly/2QlDORN 
  2. Watch Michael W Smith Live Worship Broadcast from his home. You can watch the recording here.
  3. Listen to a local radio station with only music, no news 
  4. Learning Art Journaling
  5. Making a cake just for the fun of it (even though it is just me and the cat in my home)
  6. Skype with my grandchildren as much as possible
  7. Plan Easter dinner where I’ll be having dinner with my kids via Skype
  8. Daily eating my vegetables, making my bed, and getting dressed (I haven’t been putting make-up on but know I will be grateful for the money I’m saving) 
  9. Watch for the chickadees that have recently started feeding from my bird feeder
  10. Intentionally find new subjects beyond today’s current events to talk about when connecting with others

My Go-To Psalm for Calm

Psalm 63

On my bed I remember you, I think of you through the watches of the night, Because you are my help, I sing in the shadows of your wings I cling to you: your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63: 6-8

So how is the weather in your part of the world? 

A Lesson from B & J’s Ice Cream

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It had been one of those days. Those ‘half a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream was gone’ kind of days. And I am a vanilla-liking girl! I also tend to stay away from dairy as it can disagree with my digestion from time to time.

Knowing that my self-control was out of control, I poured hot water over the remaining ice-cream until it was only a mush of brown slime in the kitchen sink while trying to keep my late mother’s voice in my thoughts from interfering: “What about those starving children in Africa?” 

I wasted good ice-cream that is also a perfect for a treat for my grandchildren due to my insatiable desire to feel better with a wordly item.

I mindlessly overindulged to try to relieve and distract myself from what I considered a bad day. 

What do you indulge mindlessly in hoping to feel better or to numb out? You can read more of how this Lenten season is helping me to draw away from overindulging at Inscribe Writers Online

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My daughters enjoying Leopold’s Ice-Cream in Savanah, Georgia April 2018

Next week I will be at Mary Geisen’s Place getting real about being a Type 7 on the Ennegram Wheel. Do you know your number?

A Breath for Your Spirit

Inspired by Trudy at Freed To Fly who wrote this week on her blog, “Thank you to all of you who share beautiful nature photos on your blog posts. They always breathe hope into my spirit,” I decided to purely do a Breathing Space post. May you be refreshed in your spirit and restful in your mind.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31

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Embassy of Love

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:19-20

Have you ever considered yourself an Ambassador for the Kingdom? When people ask what you do, have you ever considered answering, “I am an Ambassador?” And when they raise their eyebrows at you, you continue, “for the Kingdom of Heaven.”

I don’t know Ludmilla, but guess she may answer that way! Watch why…

What is an Ambassador?

A bible study I am currently in describes an ambassador as “a dignitary whose full-time job is to live for a period in a foreign land, intentionally building relationships with the people native to the land and purposefully representing to those people the desires of his king or sovereign and is given authority to speak and act on his behalf. Adapted from Chris Patton.”

How are we Ambassadors?

We are living in a foreign land until God calls us home. While we are here we represent  our Sovereign King. We live purposely by continuing the work of Jesus through the work of the Spirit that transforms our character and guides our steps. We are called to reflect God’s goodness and speak of His love.

Often I can get wrapped up in my wonderings of what my purpose is. Yet, God has it already laid out in His word!

Have you ever considered yourself as an Ambassador of God’s Kingdom? What resonated for you in Ludmilla’s story?

But you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 

Love Holds No Record of Wrong

(Originally posted on 2016 but a timeless message of love).

In our human world, it is natural to want to have rules to follow, laws to live up to, yet is that what God calls us to? Are His ways the ways of the world? Does He call us to follow the way of rules to become worthy of being complete in Him?

I tried to find my own words to answer these questions with what I think is truth but Paul’s words say it so much superior.

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily. Galatians 2:20-21 The Message

I’m struggling friends, of what to write, as there is so much here to unpack! It is the foundation for understanding how much we are loved without needing to ‘impress God.’ It is through this love, our identity in Him, we no longer are  ruled  by our egos, others opinions of us, and our human vulnerabilities. And we are free to love ourselves and others as Jesus loves who keeps no records of wrong.

(Love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:5

When we grasp this understanding that we are already complete in Christ, loved wholly and unconditionally, we no longer need to be loved by anything else in this world. Often our hurts, offences made against us are from expectations we have on others on how we think we should be treated. Our identity gets wrapped up in our attachment to how others satisfy our egos. So when others do not live up to our own expectations, our character feels attacked, and we take offence. We become afraid and build our walls of defence.

In other words we become a slave to others opinions and treatment of us.

The Way

But Jesus showed us a Way out of this entrapment to freedom. He showed us how to love.

 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24

They do not know what they are doing. No judgement, no unmet conditions, just Perfect Love seeing the brokenness in his offenders, and keeping no record of the wrong. Instead, He rose and came back into a world that crucified Him because He loves us that much!

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When we grasp this understanding of this perfect love He has for us, where there is no condemnation, no-need to please or make-up for our transgressions, we begin to love ourselves as the Father loves us, freeing us to let-go of any need to be loved and treated a certain way to feel okay in this world. And in that way we free others too, from our own judgement and conditions. This leads us to take no offence and casts out our fears of being vulnerable because we are complete in Christ, and fully loved just as we are now.  We can then take that understanding of God’s love for us and return that same love out to the world.

The Promise

Friends, I don’t pretend to know it all. Paul’s words again express this so much more superior than mine.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12

Camp on these words for a moment-Christ Jesus took hold of me. He’s got you, looking out for you, because of who He is-Perfect Love.

And how can we understand His perfect Love that holds no record of wrong, that does not take offence and extends only grace? I believe only through the Holy Spirit, asking our eyes and heart to be opened to Our Good Father.

Open the Eyes of My Heart-Michael W Smith

 

 

Lessons of (new, real) life

 

sky (35 of 1)Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]. For you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3: 2-3 AMP

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One summer vacationing in Vancouver, BC, with my daughter and two grandchildren, I found myself slowly stepping across the 450 ft (137m) long, 230 ft (70m) high Capilano Suspension Bridge.  Looking down, one hand gripped the twisted metal rail, the other held my camera tightly against my chest. People passed me, some whose quick steps swayed the bridge causing me to step even more slowly while muttering to myself that never again would I do this! Heights swell fear within me. Somehow my imagination sees me misstepping and falling, even though realistically I am safe and secure.

Once across I am in a 27 acre park of coastal rainforest where Western Red Cedar, Douglas Firs, and Western Hemlock trees grow among the delicate ground forest plants. My young grandson runs behind a tree and the trunks circumference hides him from our sight. But we know he is there.  We call out to him, and he comes back into our vision. He holds my hand securely as we step along the paths carved through this forest.

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When our minds play out scenes from our fears, we loose sight of the presence where we are now safe and secure. When life events cause our steps to be uneven and we try to fix our struggles in our own strength, we grow weary and worrisome.  I’ve been in a season of uncertainty experiencing the fears and worrisome mind. What I saw of as my security seemed to be dwindling away and a broken wrist deprived me of my regular exercise and photography pursuits.  I could say I sailed through looking up to heavenly things as Colossians 3:3 teaches, however keeping it real, I hid myself in a lot of Netflix and slept much more than usual!

We can’t hide.

Even when trying to hide behind screens and under covers, God though, knew where I was, always. And like my grandson unseen behind that tree trunk but known by us, his mom and grandma, nothing is large enough to  hide behind to not be known by God.

So the beginning of this 2020 has been like walking a swaying suspended bridge. Letting go of my grip and keeping my head up with hope and trust, and learning–learning the lessons (some of them the hard ones!) along the way.

My verse for this year is Roman’s 12:12-13 

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Have you a verse for the year? Or a verse that gives you hope during troubled times?

A Breath for Joyful Gifts

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

I do like to give gifts. Gifts is my love language! And in receiving…yes, I love that too, especially when the gift shows that I am known.

Treasured Gifts

What I have learned about the treasured gifts to Jesus from the Magi;

Gold: Gold is valuable, beautiful, and long-lasting. Scholars generally agree that the gift of gold represented Jesus as a king with an everlasting throne. It was a treasure befitting royalty.

Frankincense: An acknowledgement of Jesus’ priesthood, setting him apart from a typical king. Frankincense was used in the temple routines, burned ceremonially by the priests. Not native to that region made obtaining frankincense costly so was precious in both meaning and value.

Myrrh: A spice for a person who is about to die foreshadowing Jesus’ sacrifice.

And myrrh mixed with frankincense comprises an antimicrobial aromatic substance used to fight disease–practical way to protect Jesus when he was young!

Such precious, thoughtful gifts!

How do we choose?

As we come into the season with mail boxes stuffed with shopping flyers, an abundance of emails advertising gifts to purchase, and doorbells ringing from charity ambassadors, may we pause with breath to allow frenzy consumerism to drift away and the Holy Spirit’s voice to direct our choices.

For, like the wise men, we each have unique gifts to bring that are long-lasting, encouraging, teaching, healing and joyful to those we love.

Do you have a special gift-giving tradition at Christmas?


Idea on sustainable holiday shopping


Update on my broken wrist–I don’t need surgery! So, in about 6 weeks, I hope to be lifting my camera & start capturing nature spaces to share here again.

A slippery lesson of trust

Who knew my last post Being Alert in the Comfortable, with the tagline, “Even the most  noble can slip,” would be illustrated with my own slip a few days later.

After carefully (still not very skillfully, although improving)  practicing the ice skating elements taught by our coach, I slipped. But not on the ice-rink. Instead, my feet came out from under me while casually walking to my car, the parking lot icy from the warming and cooling temperatures upon the snow.

Waiting 

So, I type with one hand while adorning a cast on my other arm to stabilize a broken wrist. A green cast with a couple of red stripes. At least I match the upcoming festive season.

What’s fascinating is that I was about to take on a life turn, stop on one road and take another. Now I need to wait as if behind a guard rail while the train passes by.

I can pound the steering wheel in frustration, or cry with fear as the changes I hoped to help support my future roll away.

Trusting

Or I can wait expectantly, trusting.

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:25

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Adventure On-Hold

My seeking adventures to photograph winter wildlife including owls is now on-hold, too. But I have wanted to learn still photography with indoor lighting…. You may see my new adventure here as soon as next week, God willing! In the meantime, a couple from previous adventures!

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