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Monday, 15 December 2014

Journal Dec 14/14: What if?

From my journal Dec 14/14

Colossians 3:12-17

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Help me to listen carefully and attentively to others; help me to carefully weigh and consider what they are saying. Help me to hear the emotion behind the words. Give me empathy, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience and humility. Help me remember that a life lived solely to gratify my own desires is not a life well lived, it does not make the world a better place, nor does it bring any glory to you. Help me to think carefully before answering. Help me to give respect to others; to remember that they are your creation, and that you love them dearly just as you love me and my own. Help me to consider other's needs and desires; to remember that they have pain and troubles, insecurities and fears just as do I.  Help me to see and consider other people's humanity. Help me to forgive as you forgive me, to extend grace as you extend grace to me, to love as you love me. Forgive me for answering quickly in anger too often, for defending my rights vehemently when what was needed was to listen with respect, empathy, gentleness, patience and kindness.

Lord, when I look at the world around me I see pain, turmoil, violence and tragedy. In the midst of it all I see humans acting with compassion and humility and I am reminded that we are all created in your image.

What if we all lived Colossians 3:12-17? What would our world look like?

Lord, I can only start with myself.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Deep Waters

I've written my incomplete, raw thoughts, and I struggled with whether to post them.

Much has been written about Robin Williams' death this week, as though hurt and depression were new. When someone rich, famous, funny, and talented commits suicide, we say, "such a waste" and "the world has lost a great talent", as though other suicides were not quite as wasteful, as though other lives were not so valuable. All of a sudden, the spotlight is on mental illness, and suicide, as though in a week, or a month it won't be relegated to a dim corner again. We become careful, and compassionate, as though by next year we won't be avoiding the eyes of someone we know suffers from depression because they make us uneasy. If mental illness makes us uncomfortable, we are no different from those who suffer; it makes them uncomfortable in their own skin.

I think the world's response to Robin Williams' death is understandable. We somehow feel as though we know Robin Williams, and so we are saddened by his loss. It's okay that the spotlight shines on this matter even if only for a short while because I believe with such exposure change happens. In previous eras if someone famous committed suicide, it was spoken of in almost hushed tones, or listed as accidental. There was a lot of shame attached to mental illness, and suicide, but thankfully things are slowly changing.

When I was younger, I overheard someone say of my brother, Paul "He's so weak!" "There is nothing to him--no backbone." I heard this or something like it more than once. I heard others imply that my parents failed. I guess because my brother was flawed. I felt shame, but I wanted to run at those people and scream. I didn't know what I'd scream; I did not have any words to describe what I felt. Today, I want to say, we are all flawed; we are all marked by a world of misdeeds.
Who of us has never felt small, or looked inward and cringed? Who has not lain awake at three am, sick with worry, or sick with regret? Who has never felt utterly alone at times? Who has never had moments of staving off words that tumble through our minds like water over a cataract, words like worthless, stupid, ugly, and useless? Imagine the loneliness lasting for weeks, months or years, and not being able to turn off those thoughts. Imagine your friends slowly disappearing. Imagine feeling like a burden to your family. Imagine, an inner ache so great you just want to take the surest way you know of to make it stop.

I understand not wanting to be around someone with a mental illness; it is no fun. Sometimes we feel as though we need to solve the "problem", but usually there isn't much we can do, except listen. Living with, or dealing with a friend or loved one who has a mental illness is exhausting. There are times when you just want that person to get better, and stop "whining". I've been there. When you feel exhausted, or overwhelmed there is no shame in taking a break. If you have a friend who is wearing you down, it is okay to ask them for a time-out. Caregivers, and friends need to take care of themselves too.

What about when the ache becomes so great that the person ends his or her own life? Suicide hurts. It smashes into you like a tidal wave, it knocks you off your feet, and you don't know which way is up. You come up grasping, gasping, and looking for somewhere solid to land only to find that someone has blotted out the sun. Those who offer warm arms, or even a warm handshake are islands of comfort, and scriptures like "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" are sparks of light.

O The deep, deep Love of Jesus

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o'er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o'er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
'Tis an ocean vast of blessing, 'tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, 'tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!


Lost in an endless ocean.
Tired of treading water.
Waves whispering, give in.
Gulls screaming, give up.
Black clouds rumbling, get lost.
The deep calling out, find peace and rest.

My comfort is that he indeed found peace and rest deep in Jesus arms.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Mother`s Journal: an unexpected gift

A few years ago our church held small group Bible studies during Lent. I don't remember all the details of what we studied, but one thing that stuck with me is the practice of journaling. I started journaling during my morning devotions, and it revolutionized my prayer life.

Journaling gives my prayer time focus and keeps me consistent; additionally, I find scripture makes a deeper impression on me when I write it out. It becomes indelible. Once I have written out the scripture, I write out my responsive prayers. They are prayers of confession, thanksgiving and intercession, not always in that order.

The other day, I came to the end of a notebook and couldn't find another. Today, I woke determined to find a notebook. In my search I came across one of my mother`s notebooks; she was also a journaler. I discovered blank pages in the center of her notebook, and decided to start where she finished.
As I held my mother`s notebook in my hand I turned to the second page, and found a prayer she`d written for me. It must have been written years ago after the birth of one of my children because it is a prayer for me and my child.

Mother and Daughter

Lord I see them there
sleeping peacefully beside one another.
Keep them safe Father,
under the shadow of your wings,
my daughter and her child.

Thank you that you know
that they are yours.
I know the times may come 
when the going is rough.
May they always stay close to you Jesus
like the little lamb with the broken leg.
Help them not to wander astray,
but stay close to you Lord, the
Good Shepherd.
Lord hear my prayer. 

I thank God for a loving, and praying mother; she has blessed me over and over. Although my mother has been gone for six years her voice speaks to me because of her habit of jounaling. I am thankful for her prayers, they reach beyond her life to future generations. My mother left a wonderful gift, because her prayers continue to touch me and my loved ones. 

Snippets of scripture from my journal this month:

Lamentaion 3:22-23
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

 Psalm 62:1-2
Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 50:9-12
I have no need of a bull from your stall
    or of goats from your pens,
 for every animal of the forest is mine,
    and the cattle on a thousand hills.
 I know every bird in the mountains,
    and the insects in the fields are mine.
 If I were hungry I would not tell you,
    for the world is mine, and all that is in it.

Snippets from Psalm 90
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 91:1-2
 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Monday, 17 March 2014

Hillsong United-Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) Lyric Video

Called by name

Since Pete was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, it has been a bumpier road than I anticipated. We thought it would be a simple matter of removing the lesion with surgery, but things don't always go the way we foresee them. We have attended doctor's appointments where we left feeling like we'd just been toppled by a tidal wave, then we've felt overwhelming relief, followed by being knocked over again.

Pete has squamous cell carcinoma of the vocal cords, which has spread to his lymph nodes. He also has a mass on his lung, and many spots. He's been tested for latent TB and Hep C and B; all those tests were negative. Last week I decided to look for some answers on the internet. It was a big mistake because as I read, fear gripped my heart, and wouldn't let go. I couldn't concentrate on anything, so I decided to tackle shoveling the driveway and walkways. After an hour and forty-five minutes, the driveway, and walkways were clear; however, I was still disturbed, so I cleaned the house and went to work. After work I distracted myself with TV for a bit, and went to bed. I woke at three am feeling like I had a knife in my chest. I prayed, O God help me, I can't let go of this fear. At about 3:30am, I decided to get up and read for a bit. I took my book and left the room thinking that I would lie on the couch till I fell asleep; instead I decided to go into the guest room and lie down in that bed. As I got into bed, I noticed a little devotional book that Anna had left behind called His Footsteps, My Pathway. I began to read, and this is what I read: "Jesus said to them, 'It is I do not be afraid.'" (John 6:20) Trust Him; "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep."(John 10:11); "I have summoned you by name; you are mine."(Isaiah 43:1); "He himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" (Hebrews 13:5); "The Lord holds your future". Peace flooded my soul. I let go of my fears and held everything up to Him who is "the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end"(Rev:22:13). As I prayed, I realized that these promises are not just true for me; they are true for Pete. The Lord is Pete's good shepherd; the Lord has called Pete by name and he belongs to the Him; the Lord will never leave nor forsake Pete; the Lord holds Pete's future. As much as I love my husband, the Lord loves him more, and will care for him. I was able to let go, because Pete is in the best possible hands. His Father is the Father of all fathers--completely trustworthy. When I finished praying I got up, went back to bed, put my arm around Pete, and quickly fell asleep.

Something interesting happened that day as well. My friend Reta came to the door, and I let her in. She asked me how I was doing, and I started crying and told her about my fears. She hugged me and told me she would pray. I know Reta went away and prayed. I believe it was her prayers that helped win a victory for me that night. I know that many other people are praying, and I thank everyone of you. When we pray, we battle the unseen and win victories.
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12

I want to be there for Pete and help him through this, and the best way I can do that is to trust fully on my Lord.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;" Isaiah 43:1b&2a

Friday, 3 January 2014

New Year, New Day

On January 1st  this year, I read Ecclesiastes 12: 13, which is what Solomon, the wise, wrote near the end of his life. "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man."

Reading this verse got me thinking about God's commandments. I thought about what Jesus answered when asked, "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:35-40

Why did Jesus pick these two, which are not officially part of the Ten Commandments, and why did he claim that all the Law and Prophets depend on these two commands?

I think it is because Jesus knows that love motivates us to put the commandments into practice. If we love God, we will not want other gods, and if we love others we will want to to treat them well.

The other verse that came to mind is found in Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

I think that this is what obeying those commands looks like.

But how do I live like this, what are the components that make up a life lived by acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly? What came to mind then was this: "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:12-14

Jesus led the way. He lived like this.

These verses are not new to me; I've read them before. I've failed in observing them many times, and God in his grace has forgiven me many times.

I cannot live like this by making resolutions, or by willing it.
I cannot even start on this life by myself, my nature wars against it. My natural tendency is to look after me and my own. I need him.  "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-9

I am his work in progress, and I cannot grow unless I abide in him.

He said "Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:4 &5

What is the fruit that we bear when we remain in him?
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

The Bible is repetitive; God stresses love.

He is our Father; he wants what is best for us all.

The word also talks about putting on the armour of God, but it is not because he wants us to be a violent people. He does not tell us to take up arms against one another, but against an enemy that is not of flesh and blood. The enemy that would have humankind devour itself with hatred, greed, pride, selfishness, self-centeredness and self-preservation.

The Armour of God

The belt of truth
Breastplate of righteousness
Shod with the readiness given by the gospel of peace
The shield of faith
The helmet of salvation
The sword of the Spirit; the word of God

To stand against oppression, cruelty, and injustice; to reach out in Christ's grace, mercy, and love; to treat others with respect, and seek to understand; to bless even those who curse us and to forgive because we have been forgiven.