To be really brave

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Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia

You’re so brave, she says.

I tuck behind my ear a strand of blond hair that has escaped my ponytail. I wear no make-up and my feet are bare, my flip flops flipped off  as soon as I relaxed in her garden chair.

It’s a warm spring day and although there are still marshmallow mounds of snow scattered in dry, wheat coloured grass, the day calls for flip flops.

It’s a big thing for us northerners, after months of knit socks and snug boots, to bear sun-deprived feet and then don a pair of flip flops.

A piece of heaven on earth.

But I digress.

It’s easy for me somehow, I reply to my friend. Her pink nails tap her coffee cup encased in her palms that cover a Starbucks logo. But then, I elaborate, it’s really not even that brave. It’s actually kind-of comfortable.

Her brown eyes widen.

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Cathedral of St. John Baptist, Savannah, Georgia

Yes, bravery to me isn’t solo travel, airline flights to new places, navigating new roads in a rental car, exploring new streets on foot, and figuring out where the Air Bnb is that you booked on line.

Courageous? Maybe. But brave, no.

No, true bravery to me (and some may not agree), is when suddenly there is a call on you, a duty, maybe even unforeseen, with no preparation, and you step in. Bravery is when the call is so strong that saying no feels disobedient, and you say yes even though your life may be at stake.

Bravery is Mary, a young virgin, saying yes to the Lord.

Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.” Luke 1:38

Bravery is Paul, a converted young man facing those who want to execute him for his past transgressions, on the call of the Lord to speak the good news of the gospel.

“So you know Greek, do you?” the colonel replied. “Aren’t you that Egyptian who not long ago raised a riot and led those four thousand assassins into the dessert”

“I am Jew,” replied Paul. “I am a man of Tarsus, a citizen of that not insignificant city. I ask you to let me speak to the people.” Acts 21:38-39

And BRAVERY is Jesus, the son following the will of His Father even though he knows the cross he will bear will lead to immeasurable suffering.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42

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I slip my feet back into my flip flops, lean back in my chair, close my eyes and turn my face up to the spring sun. What I glorious day, I say.

I feel my friend’s hand on my arm, warm and soft. Just be careful, she says.

And I still think you are being brave, she comments.

My eyes closed, the sun warm on my face, my lips curl up in a slight smile.

I sure hope so.  I do want to step into action when God calls me to something that I cannot say no to out of obedience.

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When called, I want to be brave.

And be a bearer of His light in this world.

Psalm 56:3-4 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.

What is bravery to you?

 

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”

Awakening the wonder

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And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for awhile, will yourself himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:1

I started something new today. In a spiral notebook, using my new gel coloured pens,  I created the following legend:

Gratitude                                                                                                                                                               Miracle                                                                                                                                                                   Where I am at                                                                                                                                                      Success                                                                                                                                                                 Quotes and Scriptures   

With my pink gel pen in hand, I wrote today’s scripture verse which is also my verse for the year as it encompasses my word for 2017: RESTORATION

But do you notice the strike-through, the mistake I made when writing? Instead of himself, I originally wrote ‘yourself.’ In other words, I slipped (unconsciously) into restoration by my own efforts.

God sure does work in mysterious ways doesn’t He?

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The other day, after opening up to a friend where I am at, questioning, she said, “It sure isn’t always easy during those times when God is silent.”

I stared silently back at her. Silent? I hadn’t even contemplated that God is being silent. I’ve been asking a lot of ‘why’ questions lately, and praying for something, anything to show He works here among us, while in this world of flesh. With my own intellect and reasoning, I want to know and see.

In today’s reading time:

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3   

“The childlike heart is vulnerable, teachable, joyful, creative and filled with wonder. There’s a difference between being childish and childlike. Childishness is a posture of stubborn challenge. Childlikeness is a perspective of hopeful curiosity. Every question you ever ask is one of challenge or curiosity. Let childlike wonder awaken you again as you let go of all offense at the past and fear of the future.”                                                                                          The Creative Way Meditations, Ted Dekker

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Yes, I’d say His ways are mysterious but hopeful…

As this year of 2016 comes to a close and if, like me you are in this season where God seems so silent, my hope for you is that your childlike wonder is awakened and that you know God’s grace restores making you, as He has promised, “strong, firm and steadfast.”

Happy New Year, my friend. Thank you for sharing in my travels this past year, and for sharing your perspectives which has ministered and blessed me beyond words. I look forward to our continued awakenings and wonders expressed in 2017.

 

                                                                                                                                                          

 

 

 

Roads still traveled

And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way. Isaiah 35:8-

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During this season, just before another year has ended,  I’ll often find myself looking back down old roads. Some of these roads were crowded highways of twists and turns with various travel speeds dictated by traffic ahead. Also on these busy roads were detours created by others mishaps, or necessary repairs, or new construction.

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Other roads were quieter, with a clear destination ahead. Sometimes there were a few twists and turns to reach these new places, new people, new learning, however never was the way removed from my vision.

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And then there were those roads that I started on, with excitement and anticipation of hopes and dreams coming true. But to only lead to a complete dead end, barren and dry except for my own grieving tears.

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There were roads with bridges to cross but never to burn, and roads with intersections to navigate, choices to make.

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And then there were those times that the road could be barely seen, if at all. There seemed to be no way to go, my vision of my future gone and not seeing any new route at all. And I wonder if Mary felt this way when suddenly her life road was gone with the news from the angel Gabriel.

 The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary; God has shown you his grace. Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. Luke 1:30-31

Many plans of the road she would be taking as a young woman engaged to be married, now gone with this startling news.

And she chose a new route, a new way by surrendering to this unseen road.

Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!” Then the angel went away. Luke 1:38

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I don’t know what twists and turns, detours and dead-ends, completions and horizons are on the roads ahead in this soon turning of a new year.

What I do know though, The Way is always there even if unseen. And sometimes surrender brings the best gift of all.

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”  (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23

Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

(All photos are mine taken in Iceland, summer of 2015).

 

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.

 

A peace in the perfect design

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The pelts of a dribbling basketball accosted me as I rounded the usual curve on a pathway between homes that opened into an urban park. My earbuds in, I did not ordinarily hear the sounds of play but today was different. The melodies that accompanied me on my habitual daily walk had been muted. Having no beat to tread to, or song to stride with, my steps seemed spasmodic, uneven and irregular. I’d lost my rhythm in the silence.

Earlier, discouraged and disappointed, I laced my running shoes and stepped out of my front door. The chilly breeze of an autumn evening scratched my cheeks. I pulled my hood up over my ponytail, and hit the music icon on my phone assuming  lyrics would release me from my hurt feelings. My ears were belted by Michael W. Smith.

There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear

Inwardly I groaned.  And wondered if I had any tunes to conspire with my mounting crabbiness. Something with lyrics like:

You got it right /  to be uptight/ as life ain’t going your way/ so just be cool/ and know you ain’t no fool/ so stamp your feet/ and tear down that tree/ for you deserve to retaliate!

And the corner of my lips turned down, pierced together with irritability. Kind of catchy that tune. Maybe something Brad Paisley would sing. Or Carrie Underwood. There’s that scene in that music video of hers where she takes keys to her cheating boyfriends supped up truck…

Quickening my pace, I dug my hands deeper into my jacket pockets. Despite the crisp breeze, I felt my forehead perspiring and my palms heating up. I pulled my hands out of my pockets, flipped my hood off and undid the front zipper of my jacket. Great, my stomach is now cramping. What’s up with that? And that basketball sound is crashing in my head. Is a headache coming on? 

I’d let myself become a victim to ill-temper. And what was it getting me?

What is the cost of my feeling all these unnecessary annoyances?

Continue reading “A peace in the perfect design”

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