A Loving Reminder

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Usually I just scroll by or hit the delete tab, but this time I didn’t. Maybe the picture of an international city on my bucket list to visit or the tag line appealing to my growth mindset were the draws. Regardless, I clicked on the embedded video link in this email from the advertiser that I’d still not yet ‘unsubscribed.’

You know you are loved, she says, this beautiful woman gowned in a dress that flows gracefully to the top of her knees, and wearing such high-heeled shoes that I wonder if she practices walking on stage prior to addressing the few hundred woman that attend her conferences.

The camera spans across the women at white-clothed tables, women eager to better themselves and their businesses, of different nationalities and faith.

Her bracelets dangle as she sweeps her arms up and around as if to embrace someone. You are absolutely loved and it is from knowing that love, that you can give your best to the world, she continues.

Continue reading “A Loving Reminder”

Lifting the gates

 

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The Light of the World
“This reminds me,” commented G, “of an 18th century painting where Jesus is knocking but there is no handle. Only the one inside can open it.”

“I wonder where that painting is now?” C questioned. But G was not sure.

We were gathered together, our group of four, to discuss what the Spirit showed us in the scripture passages we’d been led to read, to re-read and to reflect.

It is a cold Monday evening, the temperature just dipping below -20 Celsius and I resisted to take the 10 minute drive to my church to attend the first evening of Solemn Assembly.

The church auditorium is open every night this first week of the calendar year for a gathering of guided prayer and meditation. It’s a time to ‘take an extended pause….to turn to God in prayer’ the printed guide defines.

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But I found myself resisting the invitation, this invite to be present in prayer.

What if, I think, He stays quiet, like I feel He has for these many months past?

So many unanswered prayers (at least in my perception) had me discouraged and my intellect mind challenged.

But I gathered up my bible and my favorite blue pens, and drove the snowy roads, grateful for the heated car seats. Yet, in a small act of defiance I see now, (I’ve shown up for you front and center God, now it’s time for you to show up for me!), I slipped into the second row from the back instead of my usual third row from the front position.

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A few moments later, on the other end of the pew, G and B take a seat, B being the woman I wrote of here, whose welcoming act and invitation when I first ever attended this church, began the breaking down of my defensive barriers as a single attending a church.

When we move in our seats to be closer together, G, B, C (a lady who took a seat behind me) and I, B asks a question of me, a confirming question that is. And, I ponder, is this an answer to prayer?

And C and I, we learn, have a mutual friend from another church. And our smiles mirror, as we reflect on how lovely this lady friend of ours is, and oh! what a small world it is!

But is it?

Instead of a small world of random chance, could this time be divinely orchestrated by the One who always is there to prosper me, because I showed up?

 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

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Maybe, just maybe, rather than waiting behind our gates of resistance, our gates of uncertainty, or our gates of  discontentment, it is when we move, take a step in faith by taking a step of action, is when we open the door for Christ.

Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. James 2:21-22

The handle is on our side. Jesus is just waiting for us to open the door so He can come in.

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Lift up your heads, you gates;                                                                                                                      be lifted up, you ancient doors,                                                                                                                     that the King of glory may come in. 

Who is this King of glory?                                                                                                                                 The Lord strong and mighty                                                                                                                          the Lord mighty in battle. 

Psalm 24:7-8

Is there an action of faith you are resisting to take? Are you waiting on Christ to make the move? Or maybe, just maybe, He’s waiting for you to lift open the gate….?

 

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”

From flames to forgiveness-Part II

Outwardly I spread out kindness, grace, even good-deeds, believing my actions would convert the pain of betrayal, blame and condemnation. Act yourself into a feeling, so to speak.

Outwardly I resisted, controlling and protecting through avoidance by positioning myself to not be in the offenders presence for a duration. Time heals all wounds, so to speak.

The above is an excerpt from last weeks post Journey from flames to forgiveness. This journey of forgiving started in the upside down way of the world–do and then I will be the forgiver and the forgiven; do and then I will be rewarded; do and then I will receive (worldly) blessing.

Strive to follow the rules and then I will please God and become complete in Christ.

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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, offenses 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 offense. We become afraid and build our walls of defense.

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

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 offense 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.

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.

letgo3-35-of-1And how can we understand His perfect Love that holds no record of wrong, that does not take offense 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

 

 

What story are you telling yourself?

 

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Have you seen that new facebook feature? The one where you can share a post from a year ago. I haven’t participated but smile or maybe even raise an eyebrow, and click the ‘thumbs up’ from time to time when I see friends posting their past memories.

And my analytical, pondering, and forever-curious mind asks the question: What’s different for them today than from a year ago?

Has anything changed?

Does anyone really change? 

Have I changed?

Continue reading “What story are you telling yourself?”

A Work In Progress-Learning to just listen

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“I don’t need much,” she said.

Glancing at her registration form that each evacuee had to complete prior to shopping in this space that was once a Target store but now filled with donations, I saw we would be shopping for three. Two adults and a baby, yet she was alone.

“My girlfriend stayed with the baby. She’s the one I’m more shopping for. Her and the baby,” she explained.

“Okay,” I said, pushing the Home Depot cart that had been part of me for the last four hours, shopping with displaced families that had fled their homes due to forest fires raging in and around their home city of Fort McMurray. “I guess we can skip the men’s clothing section then. The women’s is just around the corner, and you can have three outfits, three pairs of socks, underwear…”

“That’s ok,” she says, cutting off my listings. “I can skip that stuff. Just really need the baby things for my friend and maybe some personal items.”

“I think you’ll be the fastest shopper I take through yet,” I said grinning at her. Then asked where she was staying.

And her story started. Another personal story of those moments of leaving a home, with only minutes to gather items, and then to be stuck in a grid lock of vehicles on a highway surrounded with flames just meters away, and engulfed in smoke. Lots and lots of smoke.

I was renting a basement suite, she tells me. The house burned. I have nothing left.

Continue reading “A Work In Progress-Learning to just listen”

Being single in a coupled church

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It’s been about 5 years since I first entered what is now my home church, on a cold December Saturday evening. I’d been exploring my faith again after many, many years of being away from the Christian church. But still always searching with the restlessness of one knowing there is a pursuant that he/she senses, yet turns to things of this world to satisfy.

For some that have shared their stories with me, it has been addictions in forms such as alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, and food to satisfy.

For me those things, those worldly ways to fill my always unsatisfied ego included the attention of men, the temporary satisfaction of being desired.

I was the perfect example of the ol’ saying: Looking for love in all the wrong places. 

I look back to a moment, divorced 12 years , driving on a rural highway. Broken, tears flowing from another bad decision, another chosen path of satisfying in the wrong place, when I hear Him.  Continue reading “Being single in a coupled church”

In the transformation

 

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It’s 2 am and after repeating a nursery rhyme in my mind dozens of times, I finally resolve to just turn on the light. From my office I grab my laptop, and then settle once again in my bed but with screen and words, instead of darkness and thoughts.

There’s a restlessness in this transition. An unsettling.

There is no physical transition. No move from one residence to another. Or change of church or relationships.

I see this cocoon, a fuzzy creature inside, transforming, my fasting girlfriend tells me the other day.

A fuzzy creature. I smile at that image. But also feel the constriction of being wound up in a small place, with no where to go.

And it’s uncomfortable, this place of transforming.

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This place where no doing distracts and disturbs from the process.

I don’t like it. I want to return to the busyness, the constant buzz of people every evening, and the to-do lists of event plans.

Why am I not doing?

Continue reading “In the transformation”

Reversal Changes

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The other day I was witness to a story of young lady whose life has been transformed in the past two months since she came back to Christ. There’s a lightness, a spirit of giddiness even, emanating from her every posture.

And it took me back 5 years ago to when I submerged myself in baptism, feeling light, free, and full of an endless horizon of hope.

Then months later the first crisis hit and enveloped me in a season of confusion and darkness.

I think of the many circumstances the Jewish people endured, often exiled into lands unknown, facing terrors I cannot even fathom.

When Persian King Xerxes reigned over 127 provinces from the citadel of Susa, a decree was issued to slaughter all the Jewish people living within the borders of the Persian Empire. (473 B.C) Also the decree, obtained and executed by the Kings prime minister, Haman, included confiscation of the Jews property.

All the Jewish people to die. Not even the women and children excluded.

And all property to be taken.

Dead and left with nothing.

Can you imagine the terror?

In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes. Esther 4:3

We see daily now in our newspapers, our social media feeds, and televised current events of people, women and children included, persecuted, slaughtered, killed for their faith. And images of survivors fleeing in terror.

And we may wonder, ‘Is there hope in this? Can it be changed?’  Continue reading “Reversal Changes”