Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Body Image by Susan L.

  "For no one ever hated his own body, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church." Ephesians 5:29
 
  Sticks and stones will break my bones,
  But names will never hurt me.

  I have no idea who penned that gem. All this sing-song admonition did was encourage me to feel weak and stupid and inadequate because being called bad names does hurt. Terribly. Most of my flashbacks are rooted in instances of verbal violence, not physical violence.
  Childhood taunts, "Fatty, fatty two-by-four..."
  Teenaged cruelty and being the butt of jokes like having a tack put on my chair in Geography class. Ha, ha, ha. I laughed when I felt like crying. (Lord, I think we need to talk about this because I can still see and hear the kids in the class laughing at me. I can feel the waves of shame flowing through my veins.)
  Rejection.
  Abandonment.
  Betrayal.
  My body, my gender, the first building block of identity, has been used against me. I confess I hated it. I hated that it was inadequate. I hated the vulnerability, the powerlessness. I hated that femininity predestined me to live according to unspoken, gender specific social rules. I hated that I have a solid frame and muscular build and would never have a ballet dancer's physique...
  Most of all I hate when this body of mine kidnaps my mind. A flashback has no warning.

  This is the most revealing blog I've had in a while and even though there's been much healing, it's a long journey. I wonder, am I still angry at those who taught me the "rules"?
 
  God forgive me...yes.

  So, here's the million dollar question, "If I can't love me, how can Jesus?"
  Here's the million dollar answer, "Because His Father loved me first."

  All of me! Lumps, bumps, and sags. Anger, bitterness, rage, un-forgiveness, resentment, the whole ugly package which, praise God, is being healed and refined and forever changed thanks to the indwelling of the Spirit.

  Thank You, Lord, for Your love because only an indwelling Love can lead the way to something far better. Forever. Lead me beyond the anger to a better place. Cleanse me of the self-loathing and shy insecurity that is still part of my life.
  Shape me, mold me to be more like You.
  Open my eyes to the beauty in others and myself. Help me see Your children with Your eyes and Your love for all of us. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen!
  "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Eph 2:4-7



 
 
 
 

Monday, 22 May 2017

I am a Child of God John 1:12 by Susan L.

  I have to start off by making a comment about a movie, a Christian movie called "Broken". It's a story about a teenaged boy who lives with depression and asthma. The girl who was on a mission to save him, at one point, ranted to a friend about the fact he was taking medication to help with his depression.
  "He is using pills to numb his feelings!" she says in angry frustration.
  If a doctor has prescribed so much medication that it leaves a person numb, it's waaaaay too much!!! That's not what meds are for! My own psychiatrist gets visibly upset when his peers go that route and don't take the time to work with their patients to find the best solution. Meds are meant to help alleviate symptoms and facilitate a better life.
  Being able to get out of bed or even have a full night's sleep is a better life!
  Anyways, as the plot unravelled, the boy went on a church retreat with this girl. Perversely, his parents were terribly upset because he didn't have his asthma medication with him.
  It's not an old movie. It's fairly recent but clearly reflects the misunderstandings about mental health and medications still rampant today in many movies and TV shows. Sigh.
  "It's okay to take medication for a physical ailment but not for a mental one," was the not so subtle but sadly familiar message being delivered.
  I changed the channel but regretted not finding out who had produced it. It will probably be aired again so I'll take the time to find a contact. I'd like to send a letter to them because it's my mission to share what I've learned about mental health.
  Why?
  Mental ailments are often physiological: chemical imbalances, emotional trauma brain injury, genetics, physical brain injury, chronic pain, chronic illness. Thyroid issues often first manifest as a mental health one. There's also a situational aspect that is often overlooked like being isolated, or aging or having a new baby. There's much more involved than simply being a "mood".
  Maybe I should have watched the whole movie. I have a feeling that when the boy was saved, his depression would have been healed. The same with the asthma.
  I would never deny that God can work healing miracles. Let my life be a testament to that.
  Most of the miracles of healing weren't instantaneous (a few were) but mostly wellness has grown through a relationship with Him and His Son.
  It has took me a long time to accept that I need medications to stay well. When I was first diagnosed, I had attitudes of judgement fully rooted in ignorance just like the people who made this movie and others. I came down awfully hard on myself. "Weak! Incompetent! You have God, what do you need with pills?!" Ouch.
  I have heard my own thoughts echoed by many others who live with a mental health challenge. Sometimes a choice is made to go without meds. It ought to be a personal choice. I tried to go without for a while but am thankful that my decision to work with medications was the right one for me.
  Grace smoothed the way to knowledge, understanding and acceptance.
  Why? Because I am a child of God.
  You are a child of God!
  Broken is okay. Broken is more than okay.
  Lord, let my mission be filled with compassion and grace. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen!
  "He (John) said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness; Make straight the way of the Lord." Jn 1:23
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

I am Changed, 1 Samual 10:6 by Susan L.

  This verse is part of the story when Saul became the first King of Israel. I confess I am mostly familiar with it because of its brief appearance in "The Bible" mini-series. What struck me the most about this verse is the order of events. Saul would be changed after the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. In a few brief moments he was promoted from being a judge to being an honoured prophet. A few short verses later, he is proclaimed King.
  The next verse goes on to assure him that because he has the gift of the Spirit, God is with him.
  I am not Saul or Esther or Mary or any of the great people in the Bible. I am an everyday sort of gal. Flannel and denim are my preferred wardrobe. Mucking in the garden or making something brings me a great deal of joy. Getting dirty and making a mess is a barometer of fun.
  Yet, God has chosen to bless me with a king's gift. His Holy Spirit.
  Because I chose to believe in His Son.
  As a new Christian, I joined a small group. In one of the conversations, the topic of feet washing came up. I remember being rather grossed out by the idea and stating most adamantly I would never wash someone's feet! Bless the ladies, Lord, for not making this an opportunity to correct the understandings of a baby Christian. Bless them for their grace. Bless them for knowing that, when the time was right, the Holy Spirit would open my eyes to the truth of feet washing!
  It wasn't long after the Spirit revealed what this act of humble service represented.
  This happened before things turned really bad... I don't want write about that right now.
  Instead, let me celebrate the good that has enveloped my life. No anxiety for a few months now!!! It's enough to make me weep with gratitude, having this foe on the run. The upset because of the flashback at the movies a couple weeks ago was barely a blip on the wellness radar. Even though the stirred up memories whisper around the edges of my conscience, they have no sting.
  I give thanks for the Holy Spirit who took me by the heart and led me to this wonderful, joyous time in my life.
  I have been forever changed. Praises be to God!
  "And I (Jesus) will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." Jn 14:16-17
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, 19 May 2017

I am Carried, Exodus 19:4 by Susan L.

  God says, "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself."
  I have to ponder the circumstances of God's chosen people during their time of wandering in the wilderness. It must have been an exhausting and difficult slog. It was probably more so because there was no definitive destination, no hope of arrival at the vaguely labelled "promised land".
  It would have been a hot journey. Dust from countless feet would have swirled around, choking the last drops of moisture from tongue and skin. Their eyes would be full of grit blown in on a breeze that gave no cooling relief. Food became scarce over the years as most of the flocks of sheep and goats were slaughtered to feed the masses. Water was even more scarce in this land of desert and sun.
  Feet would have blistered in the beginning, unused to such labour. Callouses on heel and toe would have cracked, making each step a painful one. How many people walked the sandals right off of their feet?
  Parents would have grown weary of carrying the little ones unable to walk for very long. Others would become exhausted as they helped the elders to journey on.
  Setting up camp and taking it down every day is a laborious job. I have to wonder if many simply sat down and slept where they were, huddled together against the chill of a desert night with no fire to warm themselves by...
 
  What man sees as difficult, God portrays as being borne on eagles' wings. But then, His is a heavenly perspective. Ours, not so much.
  This reminds me of the well known poem, "Footprints" and the part where there were two sets of footprints along the beach but, at times, only one set in the sand remains. It's meant to represent the moments in life when God walks beside us and the times of trial when God carries us.
  "Today, if you will hear His voice; do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness."
 
  Lord, I lift to you those who are going through troubles and trials. Let Your comforting presence be revealed from out of the dark and dreary wilderness. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen!
 
  
 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

I Am Cared For, 1 Peter 5:7 by Susan L.

  There's a verse where Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times. Sorry, I couldn't find the reference but I heard a teaching about it a while ago I think is worth sharing.
  The first two times, Jesus uses the Hebrew word for agape love. It's the full on, no holds barred kind of love. Peter responds, yes, Lord, like a brother. The third time Jesus asks, He uses the word for brotherly love.
  Grace in action. He met Peter where he was at.
  In his letter, Peter calls the followers of Jesus sojourners and pilgrims. A sojourner is someone who resides temporarily in a place. A pilgrim is someone who seeks a sacred destination. It's a paradox that it's possible to stay put yet move forward.
  When Peter wrote these things to his fellow believers I have to wonder if he met them where they were at. Maybe they weren't ready to receive God's full on agape love just like he had been earlier in his walk with the Lord. Peter had walked and talked with Jesus but still held back a piece of his heart.
  Hmmm, isn't that validating!
  Lord, show me where I am holding back. More importantly, show me why I am doing this. Thank You for meeting me where I am at because this only fills me with a desire to be more than I am. It deepens my desire to know You better and to understand this thing called "love".
  "Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Pet 2:4
 

 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

I am Calm, Philippians 4:6 by Susan L.

  Gratitude, a grateful attitude. Being thankful is the healing balm that soothes worry, fear, and discontent. A life filled with gratitude is like living in the eye of a tornado where the destructive winds have no power. Gratitude is the gateway to calm because in being thankful for all things, the devil's swirling blasts of worry, fear and discontent have no power.

  It's a slow writing day today. Those few short sentences have taken almost an hour. Grrrr! There's a whack of frustration creeping in because normally the words flow. (I am not so calm after all.) Maybe it's because it's such a lovely day outside and I've a list of chores to get accomplished. Taking extra long over the blog is not part of the agenda. Ooooo, there it is... Why I am frustrated. This needs to be in God's time, not mine.

  Gratitude can also be prophetic. :)
  "Thank You, Lord, that this post will bear fruit and what is said will point to Your heart. Thank You, I will be able to surrender control of the process to Your more than capable Spirit."

  Hmmm, maybe that's all there is for today even though it doesn't conform to the "usual" length for a post. Now that's a struggle! Knowing when to stand. Knowing when to push past resistance. It's also learning to acknowledge my limitations. Being thankful for limitations? You gotta be kidding me!
  So I acknowledge that today's post is being written out of obligation and duty. I acknowledge I didn't listen to the gentle whisper that writing after doing some chores would be better. I acknowledge my mind is not completely on the task at hand. It is such a lovely day. The birds are singing. The open kitchen window is a distraction.
  I am so thankful our God is a God of grace.
  "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praise worthy--meditate on these things." Phil 4:8
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

I am Called, 1 Peter 5:10 by Susan L.

  The last summer of working the farm, I was on my own to get the hay into the barn. The equipment terrified me. The steep and rolling hills in the field terrified me. The consequences of not getting it done terrified me more. True to form, the "git 'er done" drive meant I stuffed those fears deep down but that first day, I did something I'd never done before. I prayed for safety for myself and anyone who was helping me.
  Cutting went smoothly. The older than ancient hay baler was as cantankerous as ever. I can still feel and hear the one-beat-per-second rhythmic heartbeat of the fifty year old beast. Ka-thunk. Ka-thunk.
  At the crest of one of the hills, there was a tremendous bang and thud. Whipping my head around, I realized the power shaft had broken free from the tractor. The heavy, steel post was flailing around. The front part of the metal guard around the shaft had jammed solid, pulling the shaft free but keeping it firmly attached to the baler.
  It was a long time before I made the connection between this happy accident and baby prayers. Had the shaft not jammed, I could have been fatally injured by an airborne fifteen pound steel tube.
  Just writing about it make me realize what a close call it was.
  So, why did I pray?
  I felt called to regardless of how stupid I felt about the whole thing. It was an urge I couldn't resist. I felt stupid because prayer was not part of my life. I believed God was not part of my life. I felt stupid because a neighbour saw me sitting on the tractor and drove in to ask what I was doing, if I was okay.
  My embarrassed, mumbled response was, "I'm fine, just sayin' a prayer".
  My spirit and heart knew what my mind had yet to embrace: God was part of my life. He hadn't turned away. I had.
  But not for much longer.
  I believe this obedient prayer was the first step of finding comfort in something good and pure and lovely. The simple prayer offered a glimmer of hope in the fear filled darkness that enveloped my life.
  "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Jesus Christ, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Pet 5:10-11
 
 
 
 

Friday, 12 May 2017

I am Buried with Christ, Romans 6:4 by Susan L.

  The third verse in Romans 6 goes on to say, "Or do you not know that as many of us were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?"
  What does that mean? What is the significance of Christ's death?
  I don't think I have time to write a book this morning. It needs a book because this is the biggest moment in Christ's life: His death.
  And resurrection. In two fateful events this accomplished what all the religious laws in the universe couldn't.
 The death of sin.

  God had tried to meet His people one-on-one after He freed them from Egypt. The very idea terrified them so they asked Moses to act as a go-between. God gave them rituals and rules instead of relationship. He met them where they were at.
  I wonder, was this because they still held on to a master/slave mentality? Five hundred years is a long time to be held captive.
  So many questions! But I think it goes to show the love God has for His people. He didn't try and force a new way of life on them because they simply weren't ready.
  It's a good thing Abba Father had a plan in place. It's a good thing everything is different now!

  I've been thinking a lot about how Jesus' death destroyed the Jewish temple and tore the veil. The veil was a curtain. Only those who had undergone purification through animal sacrifice, extensive prayer and ritual could go past it and enter into the holy presence of God.
  This ties into my meandering thoughts on being the Bride of Christ.
  It's been on my mind a lot.
  I think it's only a more recent wedding tradition where a bride wears a veil. Maybe this is why it was started the in the first place. After saying the wedding vows, the happy groom lifts the veil to see his wife for the very first time.

  I have imagined Jesus gently lifting a veil woven by sin and rules and ignorance off my face. Not only can I see Him better but I can sense Him looking into the depths of my soul. As I look back into His bright and warm, honey-brown eyes, all I see there is an amazing, unbridled love.
  What was done in the past, slips away. The poor choices, the judgements, the fears and regrets vanish under His unwavering joy and delight.
  It's a rolling stone moment. A resurrection moment made possible by the One who died and rose again. It's made possible because His life put law to death.
  My heart swells with gratitude because I have the joy of intimacy with my Lord. My "old man" has been laid to rest in the empty tomb of Christ.
  "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom 6:22-23

 I will be taking a short break for the weekend. I hope to be back writing on Tuesday. God bless.

 

 


 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Under Construction by Susan L.

 "I am built up." 1 Peter 2:5
  Yesterday was full of aftershocks from the flashbacks Tuesday night. A flashback is a powerful memory that has the ability to disconnect the mind from the present and transport it into the remembered event. The world around vanishes as sights, sounds and even smells flood the senses. It's rather frightening when it happens, when reality is suddenly gone. I think the hardest part is coming to terms with not being able to prevent this from happening. Flashbacks don't have warning signs.
  In saying this, I can fully acknowledge that the sources of previous flashbacks have been disarmed through prayer and much therapy. They don't happen anywhere near as often as they used to. Once they were daily. This was the first time in months.
  Yesterday was spent in a flashback "hangover". Once the fight/flight response is triggered, it takes a couple of days for it to settle down. The world was terribly loud. My nerves were jangling. I went and talked to a friend about what had happened. It was a beautiful day so I also took my bike out and went for a long ride (9.2 Kms. A first for me.) The exercise helped a lot. So did the sunshine.
  It's a good thing Jesus was a carpenter because I also prayed, seeking insight into the truth of my own circumstances at the time of this particular flashback. He put the pieces together one plank at a time. That is, using the planks in my own eye.
  I had a lot to be forgiven for. Mostly because following my ex's admission of infidelity, I waited for an apology from him. It never came simply because he didn't think he'd done anything wrong. He had learned from his father's example and Irish heritage that this sort of thing was something men did.
  It was also the first time in twenty years there had been consequences because of his behaviour. This did not go over well to say the least.
  I shared yesterday what the devil was throwing my way. Jesus built a shield of understanding to fend off these darts. The covenant of marriage had been broken, releasing me from "wifely responsibilities". Reconciliation takes two people willing to change the status quo. If I'd simply carried on as though nothing had happened, nothing would have changed. In fact, it would have given an unspoken permission for him to step outside the bonds of marriage whenever he wanted.
  A bad situation would have gotten a whole lot worse.
  I give thanks that Jesus helped me remain steadfast in my decision because it was the right one for the circumstances.
  I have found peace. Thank You, Lord. I ask You to remind me to pray for him often. In Jesus' name. AMEN!
  "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." Eph 2":19-22
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

I am Brought Near, Ephesians 2:13 by Susan L.

  I need an affirmation today. It's a good one. They are all good but this one is a healing balm to my unsettled soul.
  Our small group went to see the movie "A Case for Christ". It's the story of how Lee Strobel, in a quest to disprove God's existence, ended up believing. He is now a renowned Christian author.
  A couple of the scenes when he was drunk and fighting with his wife, a new believer, triggered some vivid and unpleasant flashbacks. The actor's script was nearly word for word what was directed at me so long ago. I would have left the theatre but was afraid that once I got moving, someone might have been hurt by a panic filled scramble to GET OUT NOW!
  I know it was actors playing the roles but on a huge movie theatre screen, it's hard not to get wrapped up in what's happening.
  I am feeling a bit down this morning. Or maybe haunted is a better word.
  So, Lord, I am drawing near to You. You are Redeemer, Healer, and the Captain of my heart. Guide me through this landmine of memories into truth and understanding. Show me the way to peace.
  Any story of reconciliation between spouses is always hard for me to watch. I guess it's the devil trying to steal my peace: "You could have done more. You could have handled things better. You should have stayed like a good Christian wife and brought your ex to the Lord. (That's the biggest lie ever!) You did a really bad job of portraying the love of Jesus."
  Now isn't that a heap of garbage! I had no voice in the marriage anyways. Becoming a Christian had only created another weapon of oppression. Which takes me back to the drunken fight scenes in the movie and why I am blogging about this now.
  I was hanging onto the Lord for my life. In shock. PTSD had been born although I didn't know it at the time. Yet, in the face of such adversity, I never let go of my newfound faith. The price was too high. The great, hoped for "something better" had been found. It had never been lost. I was.
  The Lord had planned the season and the reasons for restoring me to Him. For that I am eternally grateful. He succeeded.
  "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Eph 2:13
 

 
 
 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother by Susan L.

  "I am His brother" is the outtake from Hebrews 2:11 which reads in the NKJV, "For both He who sanctifies (makes holy) and those who are being sanctified (made holy) are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren."
  There is a lack of feminine pronouns in the Bible. Most of the books were believed to be penned by a man's hand, inspired by the Holy Spirit with the exception of the Book of Esther, inspired by the same Holy Spirit.
  Two of the most important aspects of Christianity are given feminine titles. First, the Bride of Christ (see yesterday's post). Secondly, in the Book of Proverbs, wisdom is referred to as a woman. I believe newer versions of the scriptures have expanded their translations to include the use of gender specific pronouns like she, her, etc.
  More often than not, the feminine honorifics are given over to the face of evil. It must delight the devil to no ends because division is his greatest weapon.
  Sigh. Poor Eve, if only she knew what was to be unleashed. To this day, some men still blame women for their choices just like Adam did. Another sigh. Perhaps, one day, it won't be so.

  Although, if Adam and Eve hadn't taken the fruit, would I have come to know God, His grace and salvation?
  I doubt there's enough Triple T's (thinking things through) that would ever get to the bottom of that question! It will have to be part of the mystery that is God.
  I'm getting off track. So here goes: if a man can be the Bride of Christ, there's no reason why I can't be a brother.

  I wonder, how do men wrap their heads around being called a bride?

  I wonder if we are being asked to set aside defining ourselves as men and women so we can embrace being children of God?

  My upbringing included learning gender roles. Was something "men's work" or was it the domain of a woman? It was a holdover from the fifties when mama stayed home to look after hearth and home while papa brought home the bacon. Ewww...talk about boxes!
  Sadly, gender roles are still around. My son buys his new daughter boy's t-shirts because they have statements geared to success while little girl's clothing only has glittery and disempowering, "daddy's princess" written all over them. Even though my granddaughter can't read, it's not about her. It's about breaking the restrictive roles that are still gender defined.
  It's why I knit my other granddaughter a frilled, purple sweater because she loves frilly purple only this has a hockey player on it because she's also an awesome hockey player! I'm trying to let go of archaic, barbaric lessons and embrace the new and improved attitudes regarding gender.
  My life as a single means I have to accomplish things that have been traditionally "men's work". Grass always needs cutting come summer! A frequent joke of mine is about having a "honey do" list only there ain't no honey! I confess to being much happier with a hammer in my hand than a vacuum cleaner. (Is there guilt there?)
  Hmmm, it's back to the old idea that identity is found in what I do. Man, that's a slippery one!
  So, I am Christ's brother with a wealth of experiences because I set aside gender roles. I set aside the idea that a woman couldn't learn how to do "men's work". I set aside the restrictions imposed through the misuse and misunderstanding of scriptures.
  Living outside the box has given me a way to relate to men, a common bond of experience. Thank You for that, Lord, because the bonds of brotherhood have done a whole lot of healing in my heart.
  "For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end." Heb 3:14
 
 

Monday, 8 May 2017

I am His Bride, Isaiah 54:5 by Susan L.

  "For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth." Is 54:5

  My Bible says that the Book of Isaiah spans the reigns of four kings and took at least forty years to write. It's humbling to think of the One, who inspired Isaiah, who is so great that a span of ages is not bound by the restrictions of time as we mortal souls know time to be.
  Chapter 54, in my New King James Version Bible, is titled, "A Perpetual Covenant of Peace."
  That means it's full of promises for all eternity, forever, and always no matter where I go, what I do, the choices I make...it's there. Permanently.
  It warms my soul and shakes it free of shadows. It makes me want to live better, love better and make better choices because sometimes they aren't the best or wisest decisions. My ability to love is broken, too, but my Redeemer will fix that right up if I let Him.

  This is a slow day, a day I have needed to pause often and bask in the simplicity of God's truth.

  My soul also dances with delight in the knowledge that I am His and He is mine. It's a forever covenant. No strings attached except an unbreakable, holy thread of connection.

  Yet, I still baulk at being called His Bride. Human experiences taint the idea of what a bride "should be". I guess there's still some unhealed hurts from my time as a wife...

  Wait a minute... I am not Jesus' wife... I am His bride!

  Hmmmm...a wedding day is a day of excitement, happiness, and hopes for the future. It's a day of promise and celebration. It's when the groom stands at the front and waits for his beloved to come to him or when the couple walk hand in hand to the front to enter into a covenant of marriage. It's the day when two become one in front of a cloud of witnesses.
  If I am the bride of Christ, this is what happens every moment of every day over and over and over!
  Shakespeare wrote, "Love is blind" as a way of pointing out that when a person is head over heels about someone, they tend to overlook any flaws. This all too human "blindness" is a glimpse into God's heart. We are, after all, made in His image.
  Jesus' love is blind. He only sees me, sees all of us, in the Truth of who we are. He doesn't see the bulges and sags and bags of age. He doesn't see the scars on our hearts. He doesn't see the sin.
  His love washes all those things away because all that matters is His delight in joining with His beloved bride. To have and to hold. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health.
  Except death doesn't come between us. Our covenant with Jesus stretches far beyond the boundaries of this mortal coil. (Thanks again, Shakespeare).
  "Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore." Is 54:4
 
 
 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

I am a Branch of the True Vine, John 15:5 by Susan L.

  We've had nothing but rain and more rain for days on end. There was a burst of sunny weather last weekend so I took advantage of it and spent some time in the garden. The shrubs and plants are starting to sprout new leaves so it's easy to see what winter killed off. With pruners in hand, I tackled the elderly lilac tree at the back. It always has a lot of dead branches each spring that need to come out. Too much dead wood creates a breeding ground for disease and parasites.
  One of the treasures in my back yard is a mature, ornamental crab apple tree that has a stunning explosion of deep fuchsia flowers each spring. The fruit is tiny, about the size of a pea, and a favorite feast of birds in the autumn. When I moved in, it had a split trunk. Half of the tree was an actual crab apple because the ornamental part is grafted onto a crab apple trunk. This is when they take young branches, cut them carefully, then insert the ends into a slit in the bark of the trunk stock. Apple trees are grown the same way and now there are trees providing five different types of apples!
  The unwanted trunk had grown unchecked until it was big enough to provide small, sour and wormy apples. Tired of cleaning up the mess, I had my son use a chain saw to cut the crab apple half down. It's taken a number of years but the ornamental part is slowly filling in the hole. If the unwanted growth had been nipped in the bud, the tree would have grown into a nice shape.
  Whenever the pruners come out, I always think of this particular scripture. I imagine the Lord tending the garden of my soul. It's fertile soil. Weeds sprout just as readily as the finest of blossoms. I imagine Him looking at what is going on now with an eye to my future as He decides what needs to go and what needs to be encouraged.
  I love the paradox in all of this: growth needs to be cut back to grow more and reach its full potential. In Christ, that potential is limitless.
  "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." John 15:1-2
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, 5 May 2017

Bride Price by Susan L.

  Affirmation #35, I am bought with a price.
  After some quick investigating, I discovered that a dowry and bride price are two different things.
  A dowry is the wealth, belongings, or such gifts a parent gives their daughter husband as part of a marriage contract. In the days of "hope chests", a young girl would begin to set aside items like hand embroidered linens for the day she had a household of her own. That chest would be part of her dowry.
  A bride price is what the groom pays the family for the daughter's hand in marriage.
  I heard a story again a while ago that has been making the rounds for a number of years. I'm going to try and capture the gist of it.
  In India, there was a plain woman of a poor family. She was constantly told how ugly she was by everyone in the village. She was treated poorly because her parents thought she would never become a bride. They were burdened with the idea of having to take care of her for the rest of their lives.
  One day, a young, wealthy landowner rode through town and saw the woman in the streets. He fell in love with her simple looks and humble manners. Later that week, a herd of ten cows was delivered to her parents. It was a bride price of extravagant wealth! No one had ever paid that much for a bride in all of India.
  She left home to be with her husband.
  A year later she returned to her village. People bowed down before the caravan, not recognizing the woman they had treated so harshly because her head was held high. She glowed with radiant beauty simply because one person knew she had hidden deep inside a ten cow woman.
  It's a version of the Cinderella story. This favorite plot line appears again and again in stories and movies around the world. It seems we can't get enough of it.
  My Lord paid a greater price than the one paid in all of India. He paid for my hand with His precious blood.
  "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's." 1 Cor 6:20
 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

I am Born Again, 1 Peter 1:23 by Susan L.

 There's a lot of "re" words in a walk with the Lord: re-birth, re-deemed, re-newed, and re-stored to list a couple of them.
  So what does the prefix, "re", mean? Google identifies it as meaning "again and again". 
  All of us began in the womb of God. Formed. Chosen. Beloved.
  In embracing Jesus as Lord, He opened the gateway so I am able to return to God's womb. It's a place of safety and incredible growth. Womb moments are ones of quiet dialog and private conversations. These equip me with the ability to live better, but more importantly, to love better. It's where joy begins and overflows. It's where grace resides. It's where the forever changes happen.
  And I am reborn into new truth and new life and new hopes every single time I make the choice to go back to the Womb. I guess that's what being re-newed is about after all.
  To deem is to judge. For example, "I deem Brussels sprouts as inedible."  :)  From my standpoint, they are. Others happen to like them very much. Why? I have no idea.
   Deem and doom are only a couple of vowels apart. To be re-deemed is to shake off the ugliness of doom. It means we have the ability to let go of anything that is not of God. Oh! That's rebirth in action!
  Wanting to? Sometimes that's the challenge. Hurts have a way of trying to take up permanent residence. Guess who's idea that is... here's a clue...it's not God.
  It boils down to choice, the greatest of our God-given freedoms.
  Do I want to be healed of the influence sin has on my life? You bet! Do I want to rid my soul of darkness? Absolutely! Do I want to be the woman God intended me to be? More than anything in this world.
  Because Jesus paid the price of reconciliation for all of us.
  The best "re" word of all is, "Rejoice!" I give thanks again and again and again for what has happened, what is happening but most of all, for the wonderful things that can happen in this walk with my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
  "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." 1 Peter 2:9-10

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Affirmation #33 by Susan L.

  "I am born of God." 1 John 5:18
  So what makes us, us?
  I had DNA testing done to learn another piece of my identity because as a child of adoption, it was a huge question mark. The company I chose continues to send me updates when a new match is found. My relatives, mostly second to fifth cousins, now number near 2000. It's staggering when I think about it. That's a small town!
  Before doing this, I felt adrift and alone. Disconnected because "where my family came from" is a huge topic of conversation.
  It would appear, from the raging success of all the DNA testing companies, I am not alone in feeling this way.
  Even Jesus knew His bloodline.
  It's only a small piece of the truths I've learned over the years. By working through the traumas and letting go of the lies the devil used to keep me from fulfilling my destiny in Christ, freedom is finally mine. I think that's why I am so happy now. The worst is over, finished, done.
  This healing path, with the Lord as my guide, has led me back to the moment of my conception. That shining, brilliant moment when God breathed life into the two tiny cells that began my formation.
  The moment was one He had precisely chosen. He knew the path that lay ahead. He knew what it would take to break my stubborn determination to "go it alone". He knew the generous gift of stubborn determination would eventually have me landing on His doorstep. He lovingly erased the stubbornness from the determination to know more about Him. Determination became a hunger for truth.
  There's something unbelievably wonderful ahead. I don't know what or how or where or even what it might look like. I am still learning to live as a "new woman" which, by the way, isn't really new because every aspect of identity was planned before the dawn of time. It's only new to me.
  I am, all of us are, born of God after all.
  "Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." Mat 7:7
 
 

Monday, 1 May 2017

I am a Bondservant, Psalm 166:16 by Susan L.

  A bondservant is someone who willingly gave up their freedom then swore to serve their master until the day they die. It wasn't a paid position. It's the volunteer corps of slavery utterly motivated by love for the one being served.
  I think of the brave men and women of the military and emergency services. All have sworn an oath to protect and serve.
  Our politicians are elected to office and swear an oath as well but the political animal often thwarts their desires to improve our great country and the lives of people who share this planet.
  Yet Jesus forbids oaths. Perhaps it's because when we give our word or make a promise, the devil has a grand time making sure we break it. Maybe because, most of the time, an oath's strength is founded on our own power and ability. God is out of the picture.
  I only have to look at some politicians to know this is true.
  I only need to look inside my own heart to be convicted of oath breaking because I haven't always kept my word. It doesn't take much reflection to realize that sometimes I've agreed to do something purely out of selfishness, not service. I've also agreed to do many things because fear was my motivation. There's been a lot of fear in the fifty-three years I've been on this planet.
  Motivation is really important.
  "What's in it for me?" is a question that doesn't belong to a bondservant of Jesus Christ...
 
  Thank You, Lord, for Your grace and forgiveness.

  When I worked at a local hardware store, I had an Asian man approach me who didn't speak English. He tried to convey what he was after through pantomime but it wasn't working. Embracing the communication challenge, I gave him a piece of paper to draw the item. His artwork was successful. When the item was in his hand and a smile on his face, he bowed to me in a cultural expression of respect and gratitude. It blew me away because I had only wanted to serve him as a customer to the best of my ability. Yet, this simple act raised my lowly place of hardware store clerk to one of honour and dignity and worth. I doubt I'll ever forget his kindness.
  I have to, once again, give thanks for the farm. This gentleman wanted a hitch pin for a tractor, an item I was very, very familiar with having lost enough of them myself. I have to give thanks that the Lord led him to someone who would know what he wanted.
  Lord, I know that in You, my ability to serve far outreaches my abilities. The worship team is proof. I know that, in You, service is not servitude. It's a joy to meet the needs of others. I know that service is the gateway to Your heart and unimaginable freedom.
  Service = freedom.
  I want to be a better servant, a true bondservant of Christ. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen!
  "Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No', 'No'. For whatever is more than this is from the evil one." Mat 5:37