Free

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“It is idle to say that men are of equal value. If value is taken in a worldly sense—if we mean that all men are equally useful or beautiful or good or entertaining—then it is nonsense. If it means that all are of equal value as immortal souls, then I think it conceals a dangerous error. The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine. God did not die for man because of some value He perceived in him. The value of each human soul considered simply in itself, out of relation to God, is zero. As St. Paul writes, to have died for valuable men would have been not divine but merely heroic; but God died for sinners. He loved us not because we were lovable, but because He is Love. It may be that He loves all equally—He certainly loved all to the death—and I am not certain what the expression means. If there is equality, it is in His love, not in us.   

—from “Membership” (The Weight of Glory) by C.S Lewis
What holds you captive?  Strange question, perhaps, but a reasonable one. Looking at the people around me I can see a lot of things that they could be captive to:  work, Facebook status, approval of others, even their own dreams.  If we look at the world in relation to something and make our choices based on that thing then really we have become captive to it.
I have been contemplating how some people base who they are on their relationships (or lack thereof in the single world) and I think this is a dangerous thing.  Relationships change, they wax and wane, they grow, they fade, they’re ever changing.  If you’ve longed for a relationship for a long time and finally find one, the danger to you if you base who you are on that relationship is that if anything changes in that relationship your self esteem and even your sense of self could be damaged.
Sometimes even our relationship with God can be affected by this.  If we base who we are on our Christian practices, like the fact that we go to church every Sunday, pray every night before bed and go to Bible study faithfully, then it is possible that these practices might be holding us captive.  Don’t misunderstand me, these are very good things but we should ask ourselves, ‘Why do I do these things?’  To look better in the eyes of others?  If so, you’re captive to the approval of others.  To earn God’s love for you?  Then you’re captive to pride (‘me do, me do!’).
As the above CS Lewis quote says, we make an error if we think that we are anything in the eyes of God because of ourselves.  It is entirely because of who He is that we can come into His presence.  If we base our life on becoming worthy of God’s love, not only have we missed the point but we’ll be wasting our time. Even worse, if we are held back from His freedom because we are captive by a sense of unworthiness we will miss out entirely on His plan for us.  We must come to the place of freedom in Christ.  Part of this freedom is relinquishing our captivity in feeling that we earned or are earning His love.  Coming to the place of truly accepting God’s infinite grace even though we can’t understand it is freedom like no other. This is why John 8:36 says,  so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (NIV)
I challenge you this week to honestly answer these questions to yourself–What am I captive to?  What can I do to change my focus to freedom in Christ?  And I hope you become free indeed!
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Lies Singles Tell Themselves…

SingleBcSo I found this new blog, The Single Woman, by Mandy Hale.  I’ve been keeping tabs on it over the last few months and am quite excited about it.  Mandy speaks from the heart with obvious concern for and understanding of her fellow Christian singles.

A recent post really caught my eye–Lies Singles Tell Themselves.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=289e1f78a90b57cfc0160d723&id=9756b3fa08&e=68c6e11a4b

The above picture is from the Single Woman blog post above.

I Blame God…

Grief

I love getting comments on my posts from those who happen across my blog.  Just recently a reader left a comment in response to an earlier post about how he does blame God for his singleness.  Seeing as there may well be a lot of you out there who may overtly or covertly feel the same way, I thought that it might be a useful thing to talk about again.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. Psalm 31:9 (ESV)

All of us at one time or another throughout our lives have been horribly disappointed or monumentally let down.  This does seem to be the nature of humanity:  to at some time in our lives passionately hope for something only to be eventually disappointed.  Perhaps it’s because of what we hope for, or how we express our hopes, or how persistently we cling to them against all odds that makes the disappoint in the end so intense.  I am confident that we all have, or will, have this happen to us at some point in our lives.

Now, there are 2 basic responses to disappointment:  1).  camping out at that point of disappointment and making the rest of your life about that issue, or 2).  mourning the loss of that particular hope and then moving on.

Sometimes the intesity of the hope lost precludes ones ability to move on.  You feel compelled to stay in that place of disappointment, circling it, staring at it, grieving it, wishing that it had worked out differently, creating worlds in your mind where it did work out differently.  Mourning the loss of a hope or expectation is natural and, should I even say, healthy.  I think a problem arises, though, when we refuse to let it go.  When after a while the grieving becomes a habit that we are unwilling to give up, when we literally get STUCK in this place of disappointment and sacrifice our future to mourning this lost hope.

At that point it almost seems like we WANT to be stuck in our sorrow.  That we want to warn all that pass of the vanity and futility of hope.  Is this a ‘dog in a manger type response’ (eg. if I can’t have happiness neither can you) or do we really think that hope is dangerous and best avoided?

C.S. Lewis published a little book called A Grief Observed.  In it are journal entries from the early days after he lost his wife to cancer.  Now, as I understand it, Lewis never really wanted to get married but fell into it to help a young lady and her children.  He fell in love with her though and was heart broken when she died.  Imagine his grief–he was a happy confirmed bachelor who was ‘dragged’ into marriage, discovered an unexpected joy in it, then loses it again.

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
Tennyson

Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?  I do not know.  I sit firmly in the camp of those who have ‘never loved at all’ so I will have to let you read Lewis’ book, consider your own experience and come up with your own opinion on the matter.

I think that the important point to make here is that if you have been seriously disappointed in your life, being single when you dream of marriage, being alone when you dream of togetherness, being solo when all you want is a duo, remember this:  if you stay stuck in the mire of your dead hopes things will never change.  If you insist on camping out at that spot of disappointment, whatever you think of God, you will always be there, surrounded by your broken dreams and sorrows, and you will never fulfill any of your other potential.  Unless you take courage and walk out the front door you will always be looking at the same four walls.

It does take courage to walk out that door, to move on.  Especially if you’ve been stuck for some years.  To move on means that you might be disappointed again, your hopes might be shattered again.  But, then again you might find a promise fulfilled or joy in a different place than you expected.  When you move on, instead of your lost hope being a weight around your neck, it can become an extra bit of character that gives you strength and courage and that will help you to stand strong–‘I went through pain and suffering but I made it through,’ or ‘it didn’t come to STAY, it came to PASS.’

We do not need to be stuck in our sorrow.  We can choose to move on.  And we will see things that we never expected and may even find joy in that which brought us the most sorrow.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

Dear Mandie

Dear Mandie,

I know both you and I have been going through the “valley of the shadow of death” lately and I know that you have many things that are weighing on your heart.

I have been praying for you, for your family, for your husband and his family.  If there were anything else I could do, you know that I would be right there ready to go.

I know God has given me your friendship as a very special gift and that this friendship has helped me to make it through hard times, times when I felt alone, tired, lacking in faith. My prayer is that I could be able to help you like God, through you, has helped me.

This song says it all.  This is for you.

Francesca Battistelli, Angel by Your Side

Are You Down for a Moment?

So for the last 8 months I have had my hands full with a significant amount of circumstance related stress/spiritual warfare.  It has been a really interesting time for me.  I’ve had to think and reassess and ponder and try to come to terms with how things were in my life.

I was in a bad place at one point and at the right time my friend, Mandie, sent me a video.  I had heard Mandisa’s song, Overcomer, but I had never seen the video.  I was “overcome” by the video.

The video includes former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, Captain Mark Kelly, Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton, and Good Morning America host Robin Roberts.

According to the Christian Post (online, Justin Sarachik, 07 Oct 2013), in a press release Mandisa said the following about the people highlighted in the video.  “We chose each of them because when we thought of who has been an example of an overcomer in a very public battle, it is hard to imagine anyone more appropriate than the amazing people in my video. They have all fought, and continue to fight victoriously. I pray that sharing their inspirational stories throughout the video will leave people saying, ‘If they can do it, so can I!'”

The same article quoted Gabby Giffords as saying, “I was really inspired by Mandisa’s song ‘Overcomer’ because its message is one of hope, perseverance and faith.  We can’t always control what happens to us in life, but we can control how we respond. Like the song says, if we keep positive and ‘stay in the fight till the final round,’ we can overcome more than we ever dreamed possible.”

Please watch this video. I’ll warn you, it makes me tear up every time I watch it.  I hope and pray that someone out there may find hope and strength in their time of need through seeing others that have overcome and by hearing the Good News that with God you are never alone!

Mandisa, Overcomer

You are not alone! (aka the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics)

You know, I am an Olympi-holic.  All Olympics, all the time!  Specially the Winter Olympics.  And oh, have I had a lot of fun watching all of the events this time around!

COC Photo by Jason Ransom

COC Photo by Jason Ransom

Unlike the Summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics are smaller, easier to keep on top of, easier to watch all of the events and cheer on all of our #TeamCanada Olympians (insert your own team name in at this point 😉 ).

Something struck me the other day as I was watching the free-style ski jumping.  I was thinking about the pressure these athletes are under during their event–all these years of training and focussing and preparing and now it is all on them.  No one can help them now.  They are on their own…

Then, as I was contemplating this, my interest was drawn to the replay of the jump of one of the skiers.  As they showed the jump from a different angle, I could see the athlete’s coach standing off to the side but under the jumper screaming encouragement and advice!  During the entire complicated, crazy flipping, twisting, upside-down time the athlete can hear his coach guiding and encouraging him/her!

What a great example of life as a Christian single and, really, as a married as well.  As we walk through the path that God has laid out for us, as we follow these crazy flipping, twisting, inside-out and upside-down experiences, although it may appear to some that we walk this path alone, the reality is that through every twist and turn our Coach is there with us, encouraging us and providing guidance every crazy step of the way.

What a great lesson to take home from this phenomenal sporting event.  I knew the Olympics couldn’t be just for fun!

Pastor David

A few weeks ago we had visitors at our church, Pastor David and his wife.  Pastor David is an amazing Christian man.  His story is that he was born in Vietnam into a “very Buddhist” family.  I’m not entirely sure what happened but through a miracle of God’s grace one of the members of their family’s life was saved (I think) and so the entire family became Christians.

I don’t personally know but I imagine it was a hard life being a Christian in a “very Buddhist” society.  I’m pretty sure you would feel alone and at times find yourself in some tough situations.

Then, Pastor David and his family and friends were thrown in prison during the Vietnam war.  I don’t even want to think what atrocities they suffered at the hands of other men.  But eventually they were released and ended up in Canada a while later (praise God!).

I think we singles have a good idea of what it is like to be immersed in a society were we stick out, where we sometimes seem like we’re the only ones.  We might even feel alone and find ourselves in some tough situations sometimes…

I think, though, that we can learn from Pastor David who has been through so much in his life.

The pastor of my church later told me that he had asked Pastor David to say the closing prayer for our service that morning but Pastor David said no.

I was surprised (seriously!  What pastor turns down a chance to speak, let alone pray?).

So I asked my pastor why Pastor David turned him down.  I was expecting to hear that he was worried about his english but instead Pastor Ralph said that he didn’t want to pray amidst our congregation yet because he always cries when he prays.

This man, who has been through well more than we can even imagine, cries every time he talks to the Living God!  Our God of grace who has seen Pastor David through incredible times can still evoke in this man a intense feeling of gratitude to his Creator and sense of wonder at how such a great God can love one so undeserving.

Wow.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons for our heartache and pain, for our aloneness and sorrow–that we might learn to truly appreciate what God has done for us and to give us a chance for God to teach us true gratitude.

Bless you, Pastor David!