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!

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.

 

Connect, Engage!!

So, I’ve been away for awhile…thanks to all of you who took the time to encourage me to come back.  We all need encouragement!

Well, then–what have I been thinking about all this time?  Connectedness.

A friend and I were talking a few weeks ago about being single women (sorry, guys–this does apply to you, too, in a slightly different way!  Keep reading!) and I got to thinking about how we relate to those around us.  On seeing two men meet for the first time, often the first question that is asked is “What do you do for a living?”  For two women meeting for the first time, the most common first question by far is “Are you married?” or variants of the same (“Where’s your husband?” or “which of these is your man?” etc).

Now, this is not a hard question to answer.  “Oh, I’m not married.”  But this now puts the other women in a tough place.  She relates to other women, and has likely been related to for much of her life, through marriage and possibly kids but if she is talking to a single women she may feel out of her depth.  What usually happens, sisters, AFTER you say that you aren’t married?  “Oh, that’s too bad.  Don’t worry, It’ll happen one day” and then they’re off to find someone that they can comfortably relate to.  And we are left on the sidelines…again…

Because of this we tend to feel unconnected.  Now this is mostly not OUR fault but really that of society and the church for laying such an emphasis on family that they have almost excluded those who are unmarried in their midst.  But note that I said MOSTLY not our fault…

We need to take on the responsibiliy of ENGAGING people.  When that new acquaintance asks the inevitable “Are you married?” question we need to speak truthfully (“No, I am not married.”) but don’t stop there.  They are trying to relate to you, to connect to you, so help them out.  They don’t know what else they can talk to you about so show them.

“No, I’m not married.  BUT there is something that I’m quite passionate about and that is…(insert interest here).”  It can be anything that you are interested in–working with the youth, cooking, golf, reading classic novels, painting, hanging out with your adorable nephews, running, jumping up and down while your hair is on fire…whatever.  Just give them SOMETHING with which to connect with you.  ENGAGE their interest.  The ball is in your court–go in for the point!  They have unwittingly opened the door for you to connect to them through something other than marriage or children.  Take control of the moment.  You could even ask them about their family and kids (something that is likely near and dear to their heart!).  If you engage them it is more likely that they will feel comfortable talking with you again as they have something to ask you about.  “How are your nephews?”  “How is youth going?”  “I’ll bet the rain has put a damper on your golf game!”

We as singles need to help people out and show them how to relate to us.  Then we will develop meaningful connections (which is essential for singles) and  will perhaps teach others how to relate to the next single person they meet.

Reach out and get connected!  Don’t leave it to others to involve you!  Just dive in!

GOD’S NOT DEAD

“The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.”
St. Augustine

I just watched the movie, God’s Not Dead, and boy was it a good one!  What I particularly liked about the movie was the way that each character did what was right despite their family and friends and what must have seemed like the whole world standing against them.  They spoke the truth.

Cheers to each actor who was in the movie and to each person who has been involved in a similar situation (they’re commoner than you would expect).

I had a professor in my undergraduate science degree who was a Christian in what I would describe as the ‘bastion of atheistic faith’ aka my university (there were not many professors who professed Christianity at this great place of learning).  He was a great teacher but alas I learned later, after finishing the class and moving onward, that he was no longer teaching at my university.  From the rumours, it was because of his stance on creation.

This was confusing to me at the time because our university moto was straight from the Bible:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8 NIV

My friend, Mandie, also told me that her brother, while in grade school, was asked to write a paper on worshipping the devil.  When he refused he got into a lot of trouble.  Kudos to him for standing up for what he believed in even at such a young age!

Freedom of speech would seem to be withering away in our western world.  Don’t let this be the case!  If the Spirit is telling you to talk, do it.  No one can argue with your testimony–it’s your story.  Tell them how God is not Dead–how could He be?  You just spoke to Him 5 minutes ago!!  Speak Truth and He will defend Himself.

I would probably re-write St. Augustine’s quote:

The Truth IS a lion (the Lion of Judah).  Speak the Truth and He will make His defense.  All you have to do is let Him loose!

Here are the Newsboys, with the heavenly voice of Michael Tait, proclaiming God’s Not Dead! (you just have to love the enthusiasm of the drummer, Duncan Phillips!)

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

Freshly Fallen Snow

Well, I am finally back from my busy Christmas season…finally…  I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, remembering God’s great works in your life in the past and anticipating with wonder His great works in your future!Scrooge

Past and future are both important to us as Christians.  At church on Sunday we talked about “Ebenezers” (and no, not the Scrooge kind!).  An Ebenezer is something that you “put up” to remind you of a difficult time that God helped you through.  Like the stone alters that the Israelites put up in the Old Testement to help them remember God’s grace in bringing them into the promised land.  I think it is important to have something that we can look to when we ‘walk through the valley of the shadow of death’ to remind us of all the times God has helped us before and therefore to give us hope in our present situation.

But we can not dwell in the past.  We are inexorably trapped in the forward passage of time and to walk forward safely we must look ahead.

Looking forward at the beginning of the year is like looking out across a vast expanse of pristine, freshly fallen snow.  It is beautiful.  Untouched.  Full of potential.  Just like this year ahead of us.  An opportunity to be apart of God’s work, spread His love, to love those around us. Let’s make a resolution this year to seek God every day and to follow Him wherever He leads!

We Are by Kari Jobe

The Final 14 Days of Gratitude–Days 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14

So far I am thankful for:
Day 1.  Jesus Christ
Day 2.  The Bible
Day 3.  My parents
Day 4.  My Grandmother
Day 5. God’s Holy Spirit
Day 6.  My nephews, Caleb and Joshua.
Day 7.  My best friend, Mandie
Day 8.  My job that I love
Day 9.  My home.

I haven’t posted in a while.  I’ve been sick and unfortunately in the hospital.  It has made me think a little about the single life.  Hospital bed

As a single person, I have sometimes wondered what the outcome would be if something happened to me.  You know, a slip in the bath tub and blunt force trauma to the head…(thank you, CSI…)

Would anyone know?  Would anyone care?  Or would I just die there in the bath tub–yeah, an awfully undignified way to go.

Well, I have learned in my illness that I have many people who would be concerned and come looking for me if something happened.

This is the tenth thing I’m thankful for–the true concern and overwhelming outpouring of love from all around me when I got sick. I can’t believe the number of visits, texts, emails, cards and phone calls that have come from concerned friends.  It has truly been an eye-opening gift from God.

The eleventh thing I’m thankful for is our wonderful health care system, including my family doctor, the dotors in emergency and in the hospital, the nurses, the lab workers, the housekeeping staff and even the lady who brought me my meals.  These people often do a thankless job well and with dignity.

The twelvth thing I am thankful for is good health.  It would have taken me a lot longer to overcome a bilateral (double) pneumonia if God had not given me a healthy body to care for.

The thirteenth thing I’m thankful for is for great colleagues at work.  Part of the time I was sick I was on vacation but for the rest of the time I’ve had no trouble with having to find people to cover for me at work.  On behalf of all my appointments, thanks, guys!

And (FINALLY) the fourteenth thing I am thankful for is for the opportunity to be able to blog and talk about all the things that randomly rotate through my mind (thanks to God’s Spirit).  I have so long wanted to provide some encouragement to my single and non-single brothers and sisters in this world!  To those of you who follow me, thank you for the support.  To those who are just visiting, I pray that God blesses in some way as you wend your way through these incredible blogs on WordPress and elsewhere.  May God bless all of you!

I could continue to praise You, God, all day for these precious gifts of Yours to me!

Thank-you!

(I’m so glad I only picked 14 days of Thankfulness!  I have many more things to be thankful for but my friend is doing 90 days of thanksgiving…)