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Archive for September, 2013

original_Overcomer

It does not take much to realize that we live in a fallen world. From the soil we grow our food, to the defiance of a two year old, to the frailty of our own bodies, to the inability for the people of the world to live in peace, we see the effects of sin.

The realities of living in this flawed world can leave our shoulders sagging, and our hopes evaporating quickly.

Each day we encounter the side effects of living outside of Eden …

rejection and isolation
fears and failures
dreads and disappointments
separation and divorce
illness and disease and death

And on a Monday morning, all of it can seem to weigh us, our day, our life down.

But …

John 16:33, in the words of Jesus to his followers (both then and now), tells us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

On the eve of his horrible …

betrayal by Judas

denial by Peter

abdication to judge by Pilate

death sentence by the same people who shouted “Hosanna” just days before

torture by the Roman guards

death on a cruel cross

Jesus was delivering a message of peace, hope and victory.

His message of the reality of the trouble present in this world is not just to his closest twelve followers, but a reminder to us as well, that, quite simply, life is not ever going to be easy in this world.

But, he does not stop there, he declares “I have overcome the world.”

In those five words, the Son of God reminds us that this world has already been conquered. Although His death and rising from it have not yet occurred, He, and therefore we, are the over-comers. Although He has not yet even returned to gather His believers (“when everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:3), we have the hope of eternity without death … or taxes!

Romans 8:37 reminds us that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

He loved us
He loves us
He will always love us!

We are overcomers with Him!

Now, put your dancing shoes on, and overcome this sagging shouldered Monday!

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“God is good” declared the pastor.943f0bc360d301c1077fd465aff02296

“All the time” responded all in the room.

But, is He?

When life is going the way we think it should … when the bills are paid, the family is healthy, the school marks are high, and our team is having a winning streak, we shout from the mountaintops “ALL the time!”

But, when we feel like we have been forced into the desert places …

When I read the title of the blog post I knew that I needed to read the entire post … now!

The title was :

Is God Good all the Time (Confessions of a former widow)

… confession of a former widow …

You gotta admit, it sort of draws one in.

Heather Gilion and Holly Snell write at Dancing On My Ashes. They are sisters … who have shared so much more than just a blood relation. The following is the post that caught my eye, and through reading it you will understand the bond they share.

“I cried through most of my twenties.

Who am I kidding? I’m still crying in my thirties, but for very different reasons.
Thirteen years ago, dreams were coming true. I had my college diploma in hand, the handsomest fellow by my side, and a wedding ring on my finger!
“God is good!” said the preacher. “All the time!” said the congregation.

I grew up in a church that said it a lot. We were taught when anyone from the pulpit said, “God is good…” in response, the congregation should echo back with exuberance “All the time!” 

As my life of ease and dreams was on its way to “happily ever after”, I easily joined the echo: Yep, God is good… all the time! (Even if I didn’t chant it out loud, I gave the pastor a good head nod.)

But a year later, I felt like I was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, trying desperately to tap my heels together three times to get back home. Shoot, forget tapping, I was banging those things together until all the ruby glitter became a pile of dust. Because somehow my life got all jacked up, as a massive “tornado” ripped through my land.

My new reality was heartbreaking.  

My dad – who had just walked me down the aisle –  was gone… he died at the age of 49. Nine months later, I stood over my husband’s casket. James – the funny one, the kind one, the one with so much potential, and the one I was ready to share babies and dentures with (not at the same time)… gone at the age of 22. And on top of that, the same canoeing accident that took my James, also left its mark on my sister Holly. She experienced the same loss as death ripped her beloved husband, Scott, away.

What in the world?

Three widows, one family… now under one roof. 

I’m not going to lie; our household was a scary place, people. Not a place you’d likely want to visit. (If you ever hear of a house where three widows reside, just bring them cookies… they like cookies.)

I want to highlight the 9 months between losing my dad and losing my husband. Go back with me for a moment to the days following my dad’s death. The truth is, this professing Christian, who went to church and asked Jesus in her heart, was now asking herself “Is God good… ALL the time?” Because it sure didn’t feel like it.

During this soul-searching season in my life, I stood quietly as the others professed God’s goodness. Internally, I conversed with myself. “I thought I knew God. I thought I could trust Him? Why did He let this happen? If He was/is the Creator of ALL things—if He can usher in the rise of the sun every morning, if He designed my heart to beat at a rhythm, if He created birds to automatically know how to fly—then He could’ve healed my father.

In my mind, I could not reconcile my pain with His all-the-time good. I was broken. I was sad. Indeed, in hindsight, I was prideful to think that He owed me a life of ease—of no hardships. But if I were to be honest, that’s what I believed. My response to my father’s death flushed out this belief: I knew better than God. He should’ve healed my father, for crying out loud! He messed up.

Here I was a newlywed. I was supposed to be embracing this season of possibilities and yet I was becoming a very angry, pessimistic adult. 

I was mad at God. I was wrestling with all the things I had always been taught about Him.

This anger led to bitterness and this bitterness was seeping into every area of my life:
my marriage, my relationships, how I ate, what I thought about, how I responded to the normal ups and downs of life, and how I spent money. This question was eating me up.

James struggled with how to help me. He listened to my rants and then pointed me to Jesus. He was concerned, “Sweetie, you grieve as if you have no hope.” It was true. I had no hope. When I had placed my hope and faith in Christ, I had obviously attached a few conditions of my own to the deal.

God was not silent during this season, yet I did everything I could to silence Him. He still offered me His divine comfort, but I refused it. 

After nine months of licking my wounds and telling God what I thought of His will, I received news that James was gone. This was my breaking point with God. I was ready to once and for all denounce my faith in God. I didn’t doubt that He existed; I was just done. I didn’t like Him and didn’t want to have anything to do with a God like this.

I remember standing alone on a hillside in Vermont. Well… not quite alone. The Creator of the universe was there. I was broken and dealing with the kind of pain that makes me want to throw up even now. Today, thirteen years later, I still struggle with putting words to this moment because something happened to me on that hillside.

I stood before God feeling justified in all my accusations, but as mad as I was that He would let this happen, I could not deny that God was near and that He cared.

James had drowned that day. And the fact was, the previous 9 months, I had slowly been drowning as well—in my bitterness. But on that hillside, I started experiencing new waves. God’s Love was like the ocean. Wave after wave pulling me away from shore—my security, my reasoning, my stability. And His rushing water – not violent –  but intense nonetheless, ushered in peace and comfort again and again. Grief had her own waves and fought to take me captive into her embrace. The waters battled for my soul.

Yet, His nearness – in that moment – spoke of a love that was real—as real as the stars that hung overhead. As real as the grass underneath my feet. As real as the tears that fell from my cheeks. He loved me. And His heart was broken over my pain There were two roads before me: run from Him or run to Him. I saw my death before me as I contemplated the first. Wave upon wave, grace upon grace, washed over me. The God that has the “whole world in His hands” was grieving with me on that hillside, and mixed with the evening breeze a still, small voice spoke into my soul, “You can trust Me.”

Even though I didn’t like my new reality—not one bit—I couldn’t fight the truth that was staring me in the face: He is good.

Some of you are asking, “So, you’re saying that God is good?”

Yes.

“All the time?”

With tears streaming down my cheeks—YES! He is. There are things we will never reconcile in our minds. The sin that is prevalent. The depravity. The disease. The head-shaking-mind-wrecking stories we encounter everyday. We don’t get it. I don’t get it. But that doesn’t change the truth—God is always good.

I walked away from that hillside different.

Sad? Absolutely. 
Still distraught? Of course. 
But I was free. 
The anger I had been nursing like a bleeding wound was no longer holding me. He was holding me. 

I, maybe even for the first time, understood a fraction of His love for His created, and I was humbled. My choice to bow to His Lordship – come what may with no terms and no stipulations – ushered in a peace despite my pain. I was all in.

Like I said before, I cried through my twenties. Now, I’m crying in my thirties. I’m a crybaby. So what.

I’m not ashamed. Dwelling on His unconditional, ever-pursuing, never-changing, patient, out-of-this-world love makes me weepy.

I said some horrible things to Him and about Him. He forgave me. 
I wanted nothing to do with Him. He sought me. 
I was chained to what could-a-should-a-been. He freed me. 

You can call me a crybaby. I don’t mind. Because my Heavenly Daddy has whispered the same thing to my heart, “Cry, baby, cry. Your joy came in the morning! I have turned your mourning into dancing. I have clothed you with gladness. There will be a day that your tears will be no more. Your faith will be made sight. But today, cry away. Cry for the hurting. Cry for the lost. And cry knowing you are loved beyond measure. My love is like the ocean without a shore. Go and tell others about My healing waters.”

So take it from the widowed, the cancer patient, the adulteress, the sexually assaulted, the fatherless, the betrayed, the lonely, the addict, the weirdo… (and that’s just my immediate family): He is good—all the time.

Start where you are, and chase after Him as fast as you can.”

—-
Want to hear more of the story?
Holly and I wrote a book about our journey called Dancing On My Ashes.
It’s a beautiful picture of restoration, and recounts God’s faithfulness on every page.
Prepare yourself to weep and rejoice with us.
You can also watch our story here.

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And we have entered the fall season!

I am not sure what the weather has been like where you live, but it has made an obvious change in the Pacific Northwest. I see cocooning in this weekend for me, as the forecast is rain, rain and more rain!

Perhaps yours is the same, and you too are planning on snuggling up with a warm drink, and a book … or a blog! Well, have I got a blog for you!

The best, most viewed post of this week was not written by myself, but was written by my daughter, for a Bible class. When I read it, I asked if I could share it, and she gave her permission. I know that I am totally unbiased, as her mom, but her post, A Time to be Born and a Time to Die, is fabulous!

The other posts for the week were:

Words on a Screen

Save the Environment

Something From Nothing

Ways He Says I Love You

Blessings to you this day,
Carole

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Are there any three words more delightful to hear than “I love you,” from someone who makes your heart skip a beat?

The best thing is when your ‘love’ knows you so well that he says it in ways that are definitely just for you. It is as though he is speaking your own unique language.

I had that happen earlier this week.

It was a typical Tuesday morning. I awoke at 6am, showered, dressed, and sprinted to the morning coffee. I grabbed a form of sustenance, climbed to my desk, and plunked away at the laptop for an hour. I then finished getting ready, kissed my love, and headed out the door.

I backed down our drive, feeling the ‘I love you’ in the fresh morning air filling my vehicle with the reminder of the gift in every new day.

Then, as I moved the vehicle from R to D, I looked up and faced the ‘I love you’ in the beauty of the sky … fog, moving to make way for peeking blue skies, telling me of the beautiful day to come.

I was awakened to His ‘I love you’s’, and began to anticipate what might be around the next corner …

… and as I turned that corner, the field, that I pass every day, was filled with fog, lightly laying within the confines of the fence that stretched around it, like roses confined to the safety of a vase … ‘I love you.’

I felt as though each corner would be another surprise, another expression of ‘I love you’ from my Creator … and He did not disappoint! More lifting fog, more revelations of hope of what was to come that day.

I smiled as I turned at that busy morning corner, whispering, ‘thank-you’ as I was sure that He had completed His ‘I love you’ message to me.

But, as I faced the tall trees framing the hill under it’s feet, the sky was shouting ‘I love you’ with that most constant symbol of love and hope … the prism of the skies …

‘I love you … with an everlasting love.’

“God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
    God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
    Professor Night lectures each evening.

Their words aren’t heard,
    their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
    unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

God makes a huge dome
    for the sun—a superdome!
The morning sun’s a new husband
    leaping from his honeymoon bed,
The daybreaking sun an athlete
    racing to the tape.

 That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies
    from sunrise to sunset,
Melting ice, scorching deserts,
    warming hearts to faith.”

Psalm 19:1-6

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ca8b8761a65cf7485827a2b0c79e036bThe book “Something from Nothing,” by Phoebe Gilman is a delightful tale of the childhood of a boy named Joesph, and his grandfather. Joseph’s grandfather makes him a blanket, and from that a jacket, then a vest, a tie, then a handkerchief, and finally all that is left is a button. At the same time, a parallel story is enfolding under the floorboards, where the mice family live, and they too make use of each and every scrap that falls (literally) into their … hands.

Not long ago, this book came to my mind as I was repeating over and over (as I have done since a young child when I was first read “The Little Train that Could”) I think I can, I think I can.

The idea of making something from nothing became very clear in my head as I was driving to the grocery store. The budget was tight … really tight, and the amount I had to spend on groceries was almost half of what I had originally planned to spend.

I think I can, I think I can …

Although I left the house with the confidence that I could make something from nothing, my knees were knocking as I entered the grocery store, and my doubts were rising, that I could pull this off.

I think I can, I think I can …

As is often the case when I am out shopping, I whispered a familiar prayer as I was choosing my cart, “God, surprise me with what might be on sale that we might need this week.” Many times I have prayed that prayer, and wanted to giggle out loud at a sale on turkey, or a bottle of shampoo on clearance. Imagine the looks I would get, standing among the turkeys, hands and head lifted up and giggling like a fool!

I think I can, I think I can …

And through the aisles, the coolers, I went, pushing my cart, and pushing through my thoughts of how make something from nothing.

I think I can, I think I can …

At the cash, my goods were rung in, and placed back into a cart. The total … twenty dollars less than I had to spend …

I smiled broadly, paid my bill, and pushed my cart back through the parking lot to load my vehicle with all that was needed for our family.

As I started the car, the following song was playing on the radio, and the words that kept echoing in my head were:

“Whatever tomorrow brings,
Together we’ll rise and sing
That we won’t be shaken,
No, we won’t be shaken.”

And this song, and it’s message, brought me back to the story of Joseph in Something from Nothing. Both Joseph’s family, and that of the mice, were ones of struggle to have life, but …

they worked hard,
they loved their families extravagantly
they gave thanks for what they had

In our lives, it is so easy to drop our heads in despair when things get hard, when it seems we need to make something from nothing. But, what we have been given is of greater value than what is out of our reach, and for that we need to keep bowing our heads, but not in despair, but thanks and gratitude for all that has been lavished on us.

“Whatever will come my way …”

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A few months back I saw a news clip about an environmental group picketing at the corporate headquarters in the middle of a busy, bustling city. As I watched the reporting, I was struggling to rectify the good message of concerns with the environment in contrast with the delivery of the message.

Those carrying well-designed, professionally made placards were yelling angrily at the people as they entered the building, some carrying a sign in one hand, and a cardboard coffee cup (of another corporation) in the other.

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I shook my head in disgust and disbelief at the hypocrisy I was observing. Then someone came to mind who, I believe, personified environmental responsibility far greater than any hired picketer ever could.

My grandmother was a simple, hard-working, God-fearing woman. She never had much, but she always had enough.

She thought that she was rich when she got her Canada pension in the mail each month, and mourned that such a cheque was not available to those raising young children.

She quilted pieced together quilts, for ‘the rich ladies’ she knew, and called that income her ‘fun money’ which she often spent on trips to visit relatives who didn’t live nearby.

She had a garden to share her home grown goodness with neighbors, until my grandfather died, and then she simply enjoyed the sense of community each harvest time, as her neighbors would call and let her know they had too many beans, or peas, or beets, or potatoes.

She made bread, by hand, every Saturday morning … and if I close my eyes I can almost smell it baking while spending the weekend in her spare room.

And her spare room … the register was always closed, as was the door, unless someone was staying over … no need to heat an unused room!

When the winters got really cold, she didn’t turn the heat up higher, she wore warmer clothes.

When she wanted cookies, cakes or pies, she made them.

When she had a weeks worth of left overs, Friday night became a left-over dinner.

She darned socks with holes, and when there were too many holes, they became rags.

When she washed her clothes, on the outside line they were hung.

When she needed to call long distance, she waited until the cheaper evening hours.

When she needed a poster … she made it out of an old cardboard box.

She re-used:

egg cartons for crafts and organizers

plastic dishes food came in, for left overs

plastic bags milk came in, for freezer bags

newspapers for packing, starting a fire, etc.

candles for new candles

and, most amazing of all (to me), when she had home baked goodies that were getting stale, she would soak them to soften, then use them in what she called ‘garbage bread’ … the most delicious homemade bread that never tasted the same twice!

She may have used her fair share of Styrofoam coffee cups, but she didn’t throw them out after one use … she would take them home and use them to hold her sewing pins, or gum drops, or to catch the last droplets of shampoo, before discarding the bottle.

She never had to hold a sign, and shout angrily to be environmentally conscious. She simply did was “anyone with the good sense God gave them” would do.

Oh, and God, environmentalism was His idea in the first place!


“God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.
You care for the land and water it;

    you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
    to provide the people with grain,
    for so you have ordained it.”
Psalm 65:5-9

 

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Ecclesiastes3_1-2

The beautiful poetry of the contrasts in Ecclesiastes 3 is almost like a lullaby, gentle and predictable. Beautiful, though it may be, this portion of scripture is also a reminder of the ‘ying and yang’ of life, of blessings and curses, of beginnings and endings.

The first comparison, “a time to be born, and a time to die …” is the most basic beginning and ending, and it is here that I want to spend some time.

After months of begging, those who were born to me have finally started to hand me their ‘guest post thoughts’ for me to share.

Today, my middle daughter,

the people-loving,
driver-learning,
last-minute planning,
gentle-hearted feeling,
I’ll-try-anything-once,
favorite red-head daughter is sharing her thoughts … on being born, and dying. I think she has brilliantly reflected on this reminder of the cycle and circle of life … of course, I am her mom 😉 .

Reflections on Ecclesiastes 3:2a

“A time to be born and a time to die.

For us as humans, we all have a time when we are birthed into the life God gave us, and then another time where we all will die. This is the same for each and every person on earth, every living thing God created.

Ever.

So, we aren’t the only ones who have to go through this circle of life. We aren’t the only ones who are gonna go through life, saying hello and goodbye to others. We will all feel the brute of death, and we will all feel the joy of life- and those are what make our lives so meaningful and important.

To think that God made each and every person you come across, that he’s made people you will never meet ever in your lifetime, that he’s planned out who is going to come into your life- it is that fact that should truly shock you, and leave you awestruck.

God has created so much for his children. So much for such little praise. He always provided, even in the smallest of ways. And we still never notice how unending his love is for us!

God’s love is truly unfathomable, and most of the time, we don’t give him a second look.

God made the sun, moon and stars. He created this place, earth, that we call home. He created US.

He birthed the sun into it’s seemingly infinite existence, and yet it will cease to be when he comes to bring his children to heaven. Isn’t is ironic how he also gave his one and only son life, just so the son could die in order to give us a continuance of life in heaven? All stories have a beginning, and all stories, no matter how many sequels, prequels, and series there are.

Your story is the only exception. His grace has given you an infinite epilogue.”

“Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.”
Ecclesiastes 3:15

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