A death and an invitation

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split. Matthew 27:51

Have you ever stood, feet bare or protected, in a river’s rushing water? The river’s rocks slippery under your soles, the water colliding with your body somewhere between  ankle and knee? The river’s water pressure as it rushes by you feels strong enough to sweep you away too, taking you unwillingly along it’s travels downstream.

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Yet you stay placed, as the water sweeps by. Your body stronger against the current, your confidence deepening in your stance as moments pass along with the hastening river.

As the calm confidence settles your mind, the once roar of the rushing waves becomes a symphony to you, and the greasy rocks now glisten with polished colours like sun illuminated stain glass.

And you breathe, breathe freely and openly in this place now that the fear is edged out, replaced with the assurance that your posture will hold you from being swept away.

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My friend, I believe, know that is what God wants for you too. He wants you to breathe even when those thundering waves of difficulty threaten to sweep over you, to take you places along the currents you swore you would never go.

Sometimes these threats are pressures from relationships, where convictions and obedience are strongly opposed. That friendship, that mentor, that boss, that potential romantic partner you seemed to have waited for forever, is now asking you to join in to activities that once was the old way of living you turned from when cleansed that day in baptism, in acceptance of His way.

Sometimes threats can be from circumstances we never imagined we’d be in: a divorce, an estranged child, disease, a crime against us, and injustices.

We may even create our own threatening waves from our brokenness leading us to seek solace in things of this world that harm rather than bring life.

Yet Life is where we can turn to–no threat can defeat it.

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We celebrate this weekend the Hope that was given to us, the new way of freely living that opened to us with the tearing away of the veil.

Paul reminds us in Hebrews:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10: 19-23

This gift of freedom, this forever grace from our transgressions is due to the shed of blood on that cross of an innocent Man by ones who were slaves to their pride and self-righteousness–ones who felt threatened by the freedom that was being offered to them.

But you, my friend, can accept this freedom gifted through His offering to have your heart cleansed with the sprinkling of His grace, and your body washed to purity.

There is no barrier between You and the One who will not let the threatening rivers sweep over you. Will you accept His invitation to draw near to Him, the forever faithful One who will be your help, your protector, and your strength giving you His peace no matter how thunderous the rivers waters rush around you?

Will you, my friend, accept the invitation of an unconditional Love that surpasses all our understanding?

Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross to rescue me from sin and death and to restore me to the Father. I choose now to turn from my sins, my self-centeredness, and every part of my life that does not please you. I choose you. I give myself to you. I receive your forgiveness and ask you to take your rightful place in my life as my Savior and Lord. Come reign in my heart, fill me with your love and your life, and help me to become a person who is truly loving—a person like you. Restore me, Jesus. Live in me. Love through me. Thank you, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. Retrieved from Ransom Heart

 

A New Way of Success

 

Jan17“Search for it like silver, and hunt for it like hidden treasures, then you will understand.” Proverbs 2:4-5

The above scripture started a workbook on a study that soaks in the scripture of James. When I read those words earlier this week, I was surprised but then again not.

I’d read the same scripture exactly one week prior as the reading for a group gathering. And in that gathering I’d written to be persistent in seeking His treasure, His wisdom.

And just weeks before, I’d chosen a word for the year-PERSEVERANCE.

Honestly at the time when I chose the word I’d defined it as persevering in the places I wanted to grow in-my writing, my photography, my coaching business, for example.

And in those places of growth were multiple tasks of how to get myself BIGGER, more into the market place through social media and networking.

And hopefully creating new, valuable product as that is my favourite part.

But I left that goal as a possibility only because I felt I hadn’t reached the success level  to create something new.

I didn’t think it wise to create more when I still had inventory of past collections.

And not wise as (getting real and honest here) having not collected the amount back of the investment I’d already made into all my current creations. So making money an arching goal seemed like a wise thing to do.

I joined an entrepreneur  group to learn the multiple ways of marketing, made a binder of goals broken down into steps, vision boards, and daily, monthly, year success sheets to consistently “plan, do, review.”

I started listening to daily motivation videos.

But with all these items, just days in, my motivation began to slip away like water into a drain.

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A tough decision

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 

Matthew 1:18-19

Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary came from his faithfulness to the law, but his wanting to do it quietly shows how he wanted to protect Mary too. By quietly divorcing Mary, not loudly exposing her to the judging public, he may have been intentionally protecting her from being stoned. I can imagine, between wanting to uphold the law and protect Mary, that he must have felt he was between a rock and a hard place. And there was only one option to make the best out of the situation.

But God had another plan, another option for Joseph, beyond the law, and beyond his own rational thinking.

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But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. 

Matthew 1: 20-21

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Moving Right

Chuck slithered, his belly against the ground, his fur barely clearing the space between coffee table and his back.  Under the table, his front and rear legs stuck out the ends, and just the tip of his nose. 

“You crazy dog!” My friend stood, hands on her hips surveying the scene–a tipped mug and a coffee puddle by her feet, the result of enthusiasm (for me) shown through the wagging tail of her blonde Labrador Retriever.

I leaned down from my sitting position on her couch to peer under the table. Chuck’s head lay between his paws and his sorrowful, shame-filled eyes looked into mine. “It’s okay, buddy,” I whispered. “I know you were just trying to show you were happy to see me.” I hear his tail pump on the floor. “I make mistakes too, even when I think I’m doing what I’m suppose to do.” I stroke his nose.

Just recently I found myself slithering away from people too, after a misunderstanding of directions. Although not meant to harm, comments by others over my misdemeanour left me feeling raw, stirred my ‘not good enough’ gremlins. Shame washed over me like a tidal wave and caught me in its under current.

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The Builder

When I found myself in a new office, perched on the edge of the tan leather couch, not quite comfortable yet, I knew I’d reached another pivot. Or maybe the better description would be a place where, looking at all I’d built, was like looking at a place in the sand where once a castle stood.

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Now the castle is no longer, admired then washed away from an incoming tide, or maybe by the passing of time. I couldn’t be sure. But what I knew, the place where the castle laid is empty. And that’s how I was feeling.

Empty.

“What’s the point?” I asked

“Good question,” my coach replied. And with a tilt of his head, leaning back in his night-black office chair he asked, “What is the point?”

I’d built lots, you see. I’d done lot’s you see. Even done a lot of events to help the homeless, help people draw closer to God, help others to connect with friends, old and new. Wasn’t all this serving suppose to fill me, make me energized and whole, instead of burned out? Instead of empty?

If empty is the result of all this serving, what’s the point of doing?

Have you ever been there, my friend? Burned out and empty?

And wondered, what is the point? 

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Believe me I have, and it’s a struggle! But I’m learning that whenever we wrap ourselves in something, in the something other than the knowing that we already are complete because of who we really are, we will feel unsatisfied.

The Word says:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

Whenever searching for something, doing something, and looking for fulfillment outside of Christ, we will not feel satisfied and maybe even empty regardless of our endeavours.

The good news?

We are already complete in Christ.

For in him we live, and move, and have our being. Acts 17:28

…and in Christ you have been brought to fullness….Colossians 2:10

And God is always offering us to be filled by Him, be filled of His living water.

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Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10

Where is your identity? In what you build, or the One who builds all? 

Are you taking the journey today, my friend? Are you journeying on His words that you are complete, and His Beloved right now, no matter what you do or what you have done?

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Sandcastles will always wash away, beloved, but build them anyway! It’s ok. For your identity is not in what you build, but the One who built you. 

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(Interested in personal coaching to point you toward your identity in Christ, who God made you to be? You can find out more by clicking on my Personal Coaching Tab or visiting my website at Inspiring Hope In You)

 

 

 

Spinning To Grace

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It started when I was about 10 years old. I’d come home from school, grab a snack, and then open the door to the basement. I’d stand at the top of the stairs, nimbling on a Dad’s oatmeal cookie, and listen. Was she down there?

Yes. And if just starting, I’d hear first a sound like a hand clap, and then a whirling, like a spinning ceiling fan.

Sometimes I would take the 12 steps down, deep into the basement, red shag carpet soft on my bare feet. I’d see her, in the room off to the left, wearing hush puppy slippers to protect her feet from a cold concrete floor and the clay that splattered.  A scarf held her sand curls away as she leaned over the wheel, her hands moving up and down the spinning, wet clay. The clay would rise with her gentle hands. Sometimes, after dipping a hand into a water pail beside the wheel,  she’d press on top of the tower of clay, to decrease it, bring it down. And then, her encircled hands applying perfect pressure, she’d restore the clay into recognizable forms of mugs, bowls and vases.

She’d spin up the clay, my mother, and then flatten it down on the potter’s wheel, spin and press down, until the clay mixture was the perfect consistency to hold the mold she knew it could.

I didn’t see it then, this parallel, when watching my mother’s skilled hands,  yet isn’t that what God is doing with us too? Even in our battles, our trials, our hurts and betrayals, when we are in the depths of the valley, God is molding us and restoring us. His hands hold us, and His words are living water, replenishing and nurturing. His grace spins us from destructive habits, from shame and condemnation toward strength and redemption.

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Turn to God! Give up your sins, and you will be forgiven. Then that time will come when the Lord will give you fresh strength. Acts 3:19-20

You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

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And He rights our path and restores our soul.

He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name sake. Psalm 23:3

My prayer for you today, my friend, is that you know  He will lift you up from any depth, restore you, and satisfy you with His presence.

Can you feel Him today, encircling you with His grace and love? 

 

 

 

Changing times

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“Patience,” she says.  “After all, Niagara Falls wasn’t formed in a day.”

Niagara Falls?

“Mom,” I say, my ten year-old self feeling smug and smart. “The saying is Rome wasn’t built in a day, not Niagara Falls!”

She doesn’t stop pinning the hem of a dress I am to wear to my eldest brother’s wedding. We’d pick the material and pattern out on a shopping trip to the fabric store in town about a month before. And this was at least the fifth time I’d had to stand on the step stool in our kitchen as she tucked, pinned, and chalked the paisley printed cotton.

“Rome or Niagara Falls…great things take time,” she say. “Now straighten your knees or your hem is going to be as crooked as the tower of Pisa.”

I straighten in obedience. Anticipation of the new dress had me excited but irritable with the time it was taking. Yet, with each fitting there was a new piece added, stitched thoroughly. The dress changed to be suited perfectly for me, with my mother’s skill and with time.

Continue reading “Changing times”

A step into living hope

“And honestly, the loneliness of self-protecting barriers can feel like it will kill you–and the heart-breaking risk of intimacy and vulnerability can feel like it will kill you too.” Ann Voskamp from The Broken Way (2016)

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“I wouldn’t even know,” he says, his eyes becoming half moons with his warm grin. “Truly. You’re all  heart girl but I wouldn’t know how you feel.”

I pierce my lips, furrow my brow, wondering, his eyes now wide open with chestnut eyebrows lifted. He shifts in his cafe chair, waiting.

“Really?” I finally let out, let my breath release.

“Girl, just tell him. What do you have to loose?”

“What?!” I suck in air, hold it, a faint smell of vanilla and chocolate from our hot drinks dusting my senses. I let it out. “I can’t do that!”

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

“Well,” I start, my hands twisting my winter scarf on my lap, “it could mess up the friendship we already have.” I bite my lower lip, my eyes darting to the right and then back again, at my companion whose bronze eyes are once again partly disappeared in half moons.

He shakes his head slightly from side to side, then stills my busy hands with his. “Maybe but maybe not,” he says. “No matter the outcome, you’re still you–beautiful, fun you but more open and vulnerable to allow someone to know how you feel. You’ll take a chance, let down the self-protection walls you’ve been creating. And no matter what happens, at least the walls are coming down and I promise you, it won’t kill you!”

Continue reading “A step into living hope”

The Illusion (Stop IT! Part II)

But I’m not sentimental. This skin and bones is a rental. And no one makes it out alive. Lyrics from Up Where I Belong, by Switchfoot

Wintry droplets of water from a scatter of rain clouds overhead settle, soften and slip on the palms of my hands, and the back of my neck. My spine shivers, then calms, stretched straight as my eyes are drawn, lifted and squared on a strip of light ahead. I stride toward the glow, my hikers silently bending tall blades of wild grass. The bright beckons.

And my mind, even though observing my thoughts and perceiving my senses, is hushed in this place. Hushed even as I move, focused on a strip of light, a glow and bright that beckons. But this shine that invites also dims my sight to my temporal surroundings, and I’m tempted, my body favored to feel the pains of thistle needles or the ache of a marathoner’s lungs, to look away from this light.

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My body is pulled toward the concrete of the world, to cement itself in the securities it proclaims: money, food, possessions, relationships and careers. This is the concrete that not only through doing one possesses, but is also the concrete that possesses. The cement, the element of concrete, when believed to lead us to security, to freedom, instead I know, hardens and enslaves.

For when serving the system of doing, the system of gaining that which is only temporal to obtain security, we do not receive freedom, only death.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

 What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.  Ecclesiastes 1:1-4

But the allure of the glossy, polished and sparkling, the satiny, slick, and silken is tempestuous with promises of instant gratification and stimulated sensory fulfillment.

Cold, letting my thoughts interpret the water as uncomfortable dampness, a shadowed shelter I see lies just steps to my right, on another path away from the light. This path is not wild grasses, but instead concrete, not unlike a walkway to a neighbour’s front door.

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I hesitate. I draw my eyes from the right and look ahead again. I see a glow, but no shelter, no structured comfort can my worldly eyes see. Yet, my skin warms, my thoughts hush. The eternal beckons. I step seeking the light, my hikers silently bending the wild grasses. 

And as I walk, I don’t look but just know. Know that if I was to look behind, the shelter would not be there–the shelter that is only an illusion, an illusion of safety, disappeared from sight.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light on my path. 119:105

And even though I step, I stop inside this journey, peaceful when turned toward the Light, beginning to understand, the journey is more than a means to a destination. The journey is the end itself.

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May you be resting in Him in all that you do today, knowing you are already complete with Him and in Him.

 

STOP IT! (I)

There’s a song on the radio I often hear, even daily perhaps. And three words of the chorus often repeat in my thoughts, whether I have been exposed to the tune that day or not. They drop in like unseen raindrops, showering me over and over, until I finally take action, mindfully unfolding my umbrella, creating shelter between them and me. But the words unceasingly pelt , grabbing my attention, over and over.

Christ in me.

 

Alright! I say, in frustration, as I bring down my umbrella, look up and allow the wetness to cascade on my face. The falling rain drops absorb into the corners of my eyes, and into the canals of my ears. I lick my lips of the water, pure and clean. I cannot keep the rain away.

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But what do You want? I just can’t seem to be good enough, ever…..

I bow my head, bend my knees, and sink down into the sodden grass. The rain showers on me, drenching my hair, chilling my bare arms, and soaking my blouse.

I’m tired.

Continue reading “STOP IT! (I)”