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Archive for October, 2018

IMG_4461 (1)When one is convicted by God, it is clear … unless you feel really uncomfortable with the lesson God has for you, then the instinct to flee and forget is greatest.

Such was the case when God was stalking me, prodding me to immerse myself into understanding forgiveness.

The first biblical reference that came to mind was from Luke 23:40, when Jesus was hanging on the cross and he cried out:

“Father, forgive them;
for they do not know what they are doing” 

But what if they do know what they are doing/have done?

This is the verse that is reminded to people when the their injury is still bleeding. Can forgiveness happen before the full weight of the trauma is felt? Can one forgive before the one who did the injury feels the weight of their actions?

Then there is the story of Joseph in the Old Testament (Genesis 37, 39-48). Our favoured boy in the coat of many colours, attacked, then sold by his brothers into slavery. After years of slavery, he became favoured by Pharaoh, a man with a position and power. Then, during a famine ‘chance’ gave them opportunity to reunite (unbeknownst to the brothers). And Joseph forgave them … NOT! Joseph played head games with them, putting them in prison, asking if they had any brothers at home, then having them leave Simon as a prisoner until their return with Benjamin. Placing their payment for grain, a silver cup in their sacks, to test their honesty. It wasn’t until he heard them speaking in Hebrew, saying, “now we must give an accounting for his (Joseph’s) blood” (42:22), that he knew they were repentant … then he forgave.

What? I have always been taught that we forgive regardless of the repentance of the one who wronged us!

Within the story of Joseph is a fascinating tidbit about how Joseph dealt with the sins committed against him by his brothers:

“Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (Genesis 41: 51). What?! God made him forget what was done to him? But he never forgave them. I have always been told that forgiveness is for the victim, the one who is wronged … that we forgive so that we might have peace. It would seem that Joseph had peace simply by God granting him amnesia over the events that had been done.

Within the Lord’s prayer we hear the words, And forgive us our debts/transgressions/sins, as we also have forgiven our debtors/transgressors/sinners” (Matthew 6:12). But, does that only qualify if what someone else did to us was an actual sin? What if they said something thoughtless or mean-spirited? Is that forgivable? Does God only forgive us inasmuch as we have forgiven others?

So many questions!

Since I started immersing myself into the topic of forgiveness I have found myself with far more questions than answers. I find that much more of my understanding of the topic of forgiveness has to do with psychology, song lyrics and cliches than that of biblical instruction and application. I know there must be more to this topic and I am determined to unearth it.

So, for the next few weeks I am planning on spending my blog-writing time (basically every spare, waking moment) immersing myself in what it is to forgive. There will still be posts rolling out on this site … reposts of blogs posts of the past seven years.

Forgive my absence 😉

 

 

 

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Retreat

retreat copySometimes what I write is because I so desire to share what I am learning. Sometimes what I write is my attempt to put a positive spin on something that is negative, or to speak of joy in the mourning, in the pain, in the bad news or the discouraging. Much of the time what I write is because I know that if I have heard, seen, felt or experienced something, others have too.

But, my main purpose in writing is always to leave something for my kids … so that when I am gone, they have my words to remind them who they are, how loved they are, and who loves them more than their mom ever could.

I also want to teach them that there is not perfect formula for finding balance in life. For life is lived in a sin-filled world, alongside individuals who have the freedom to make their own decisions. Sometimes we need to persevere, sometimes we need to retreat.

Jesus knew what it was to retreat. He knew that his human body and mind needed to get away alone to refresh, to rebuild, to rest and to reconnect with his Father. Even when (especially when) the demands for his message were greatest, he slipped away from those who needed him for awhile.

There is the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy. As one can imagine, when word got out that someone had been healed of that horrible, disfiguring illness, people came in droves looking for Jesus. Luke (5:16) tells us thatJesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Then, after Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, “he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13)

Just hours before he approached his disciples, while walking on the water, Jesus “went up on a mountainside by himself to pray” (Mark 14:23).

And, of course, before his arrest, he had gone to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.

When Jesus retreated from the crowds he wasn’t heading off to an adventure-filled holiday, nor was he picking up his favourite book, having coffee with a friend or catching up on social media. When Jesus retreated, he did so with one purpose in mind, to pray to his Father … seeking guidance, strength and support.

Our world is busy, noisy, demanding. Solitude, the reality of being still and knowing that He is God, is something that takes intentional effort.

May we seek our Father, when we retreat from the world around us, for his guidance, strength and support.

 

 

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Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 6.50.51 AMI grew up on the east coast of Canada, with rolling hills, spectacularly colourful autumn foliage and green, lush valleys.

It is my understanding of the east coast valley that has created for me the imagery of a valley in Psalm 23.

lush.

soft shadows.

cool.

life-giving.

Recently I came across an article about a valley between Jerusalem and Jericho. There are parts of this valley where the cliffs on either side are so high that the sun only reaches the bottom when it is at it’s noontime high. Most of the day it is

dark,

cold,

and every sound reverberates eerily throughout the valley.

This valley sounds more like the Valley of dry bones that Ezekiel wrote about after having a hum dinger of a dream.

I wonder which valley David was thinking of, when he penned the twenty-third Psalm?

Recently I realized that I am like a lifeguard. When a crises or emergency occurs, I become a person of calm, of peace. I think clearly, I speak wisely (ok, that might be a stretch), I care for those who are hurting, I do what needs to be done. Basically, I walk through the Valley of the shadow of death with ease and peace … as though I am being guided, confidently, through this death valley by the Shepherd himself.

Then, days, weeks or months after the crises or emergency I go from strolling through the lush valley with my Shepherd, to fearfully stumbling in the shadows, feeling lifeless, scared and so very alone.

I think that, like myself (like you?) David experienced both types of valleys. He experienced the shadows, and the presence of the sun. He walked through lush green growth, and the dry rocky paths. He heard nothing but the echoes of his own fear-filled heartbeat, and the comforting whispers of the Shepherd.

The thing is, the Shepherd (God) was and is present in both the valley of Ezekiel and the gentle ones I knew growing up.

In the one, Ezekiel is given a vision, by God, of dry bones in the desert. God told Ezekiel that these bones are his people, who say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely” (37:11). That’s a dark valley! A dark, shadowy, fear-filled valley. We have all walked through that valley! Then God instructs Ezekiel, to tell them to live. He told him to say, “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live” (37:5).

Those dry bones might be quite representative of me when I am stumbling through the dark, shadowy valleys, feeling scared and so very alone. The thing is, though, that shadows are not really something to be fearful of, for a shadow cannot cause us harm, and a shadow is evidence that light is present, for shadows do not exist where there is no light.

In David’s valley there is not just an awareness of the presence of God, but of him leading  the way through the valley. For some that very direct leading can happen right in the midst of walking through the shadow of death. For others it is in retrospect, looking back on that time living under the shadow, that one sees that they were never alone, that they too, were being led by God himself.

The shepherd is there with us, deep in the valley of the shadow of death. He is gently guiding, whispering to us to inhale the breath that makes dry bones come alive. He never leaves us alone, whether we see the fertile lushness of our valley, or it is a mirage that leaves us confused. He is healing our souls … our broken, dusty souls, with his healing presence. He nourishes us, right in sight of our enemies, showing evil that good is being restored.

I wonder …

could it be that when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

that our Shepherd whispers sleep into our minds,

and while we are sleeping

our souls receive his refreshment from him?

Maybe, while our reality is the dark and deep crevasse, his presence transforms our souls to a restful, peaceful valley, where we can be restored.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
  He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

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18517956_10155072239395590_9048810510230076221_oYou are the one that reminds me how old I am, how long since I could sleep late into the day, how long I have been called mama, mom, mummy.

You were the first that I whispered I love you, wondering how it was possible, if it was possible to love you as I did, as I do. You were the first to leave to go off to preschool, to sleepovers, to the other side of the county, to a little apartment in another town.

You are first that the still small voice whispered, keeps whispering, let her go because letting go is the only way to hold close.

You dare to be brave, leaping to save others in the deep end of a pool, in a group home, a home of recovering addicts, even in the parking lot of McDonalds with Narcan kit in hand.

You have both a love of the way things have always been done and a desire to do things differently, better. Your idealism makes my heart skip a beat, for it echos within me, and I remember how it can make you explode with energy and determination to make a difference, and I know that years can decrease that energy and deplete that determination like a balloon with a small leak.

People say you are my image bearer, but that is only skin deep. It is your dad who courses through your veins, and it is he who inspires you … it’s written all over that determination you have to change the lives of others, for the better. And that’s okay, because, like your dad, you are unselfish to your calling,

You make me think, you challenge me, you make me proud.

Though I am immensely proud of what you do, what you have done, I will always love you for who you are … body, mind and soul. That trinity of being that gives the most but also needs the most nourishment, time and care … please care for all three, for they (you) do not exist without them, together.

I love you, daughter of mine, and I wish you the sweetest of days to just be thankful for life and breath.

 

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Just a year ago, the phone rang, as I sat, cross-legged, on our sofa, writing away, enjoying the new delight of not having to go to work on a Pro D day.

That phone ring, and the ensuing conversation, changed the trajectory of our lives, resulting in loss of work, long term illness, a move and more.

It was as if the world stopped spinning, as I unwittingly overheard the conversation on speaker phone and I knew that life was about to change and that hubby was entering the valley of the shadow. I also knew that no one enters it alone.

A rock, when dropped into water will cause the water around it to displace, circles of water pushing outwards, one wave at a time until the ripples quiet like the water furthest away. Like that rock, every action, or inaction in our lives has a ripple effect into the lives of others around us.

The thing is, that while the one who dropped the rock into the water moves on down the shore, forgetting the effect of their action, the ripples continue to form and move outward, farther and farther from the place/person of initial impact.

We all have, or have had events in our lives with ripple effects. We have all caused ripple effects in the lives of others. These realities are part of the human experience, the human reality of living in community.

This is why, at court proceedings, there are often victim impact statements that are read, preceding the sentencing of the accused. This is so that the judge, jury, but especially the accused is made aware of how far-reaching their action has gone. It is the stories of hurt and loss and struggle experienced not just by the victim, but those surrounding them.

Ripples, once started in water, cannot be stopped. Eventually they will dissipate as they move further and further from their origin, but to try to stop them by external means, only creates new ripples. Truly, once the rock touches the water, the effect can never be stopped, or reversed.

Such is the case with everything we say, or do … or don’t say, or don’t do. We are the ones responsible for throwing that rock into the water, whether we stand by and watch the waves grow ever farther outward, or keep walking along the shore, unaware of the waves we started.

“I will call upon your name,
And keep my eyes above the waves”
Hillsong United

“We are none of us cast adrift, if we have faith.
In the cross, we find our anchor.”
Monica Joan Call the Midwife

 

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In the daily stuff of life, it can become easy to forget where we have been, where we are going, who we are … it can become easy to forget to live.

We work, we do what must be done to maintain life. We work towards a future … a future education, vacation, vocation, retirement.

I believe it was Rihanna who said it best,

“There’s something ’bout that work, work, work, work, work, work”

Every once in a while, either we choose to take time to re-create, to play and be revived, or our revival might come to us.

That revival can come in many forms, but, I believe, all revival comes from encountering something beautiful.

Beauty in nature, in relationship, in physical activity, in profound revelation … all beauty is not beauty in itself, but a reflection of the One who is beautiful. It is in His reflected beauty that we experience and hold onto the life-giving essentials of trust, hope and love. These keep us grounded … grounded in Him.

They also keep us able to keep doing the work, the chores, the schooling, the activities that we choose, that we must.

“Hope can lighten the sky.
Love makes us courageous.”
Call the Midwife

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IMG_4402

Are you feeling broken?

If not today, there have been days, there will be days, when we all feel irreparably broken. Moments, days, years when it feels as though the very flesh of our heart is irreparably broken and you cannot imagine how it can still beat for the pain you feel.

Maybe it is a deep heartache of love lost, or the news from the doctor, or the academic goals that seem out of reach, or more bills than money at the end of the month, or the struggle of your child, your spouse, your parent, your friend, or the heavy darkness that simply

will
not
lift

or …

And you feel as though life as you know it … is gone.

And you cannot imagine it ever returning.

And you wish you could do something. Willing to do anything.

“Sweat, wrung from him like drops of blood, poured off his face.”
Luke 22:44

And you look in the mirror, at your hands … for you know, at this level of brokenness, that one can indeed sweat blood.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me …”
Luke 22:42

And, like Christ, you have prayed, you have asked and begged that God would take whatever this horrible thing is, from you. That you would not have to face this news, heartbreak, fear, discouragement or rejection. That you would not have to face tomorrow.

” … yet not my will, but yours be done.”
Luke 22:44

How did Christ say those words? How could he submit to what he knew would end his life? How could he end that life, apart from his Father?

He was walking the walk of the broken.

Like Daniel who with “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18). Some have interpreted the verse to “but even if he does not, he is still good.”

Matthew Henry would said, “true devotion calms the spirit, quiets and softens it” …

there is nothing like brokenness to prompt us to raise our hands in defeat, in weakness, in forfeit, and give up … or confidently let someone else take over, accepting that, in doing so

it is not our will, but his …

and even if he does not intervene, we will still serve him

and he is still good.

When I am broken, and I have experienced brokenness, the only thing that keeps me going is the hope, the belief, that God is in the business of redemption. That it is through our darkest nights, through our deepest pits, through our heaviest heartaches that he makes something new and beautiful from the devastation in our lives.

I want my brokenness to be birthed into his redemption story.

But, before redemption, before re-birth into wholeness, there is the labor of the brokenness. There is submission to his will, his plan. Finally there is the acknowledgement that he is good, even if …

 

 

 

 

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