Healing · Spread Joy

To my church family, with love.

Church totally sucks sometimes.

Seriously though, it does! It can be so overwhelmingly hard, emotionally draining and if I’m being honest, sometimes it really stinks to be challenged when you just want to sit still in your ignorance, or unpleasant habits.

This past Sunday, our Pastor put to death a vision that has been in the works for years. Multiple people have spent countless hours planning, dreaming and envisioning a new hope for a second site, a satellite location for our church in a town near where we normally meet.

His pain and heartbreak as he laid these broken plans to rest (at least for now) was very evident. I remember when this plan started, it was very much Spirit-lead. In the beginning, I was there to see that. God had opened a brand new and exciting door. And yet… it is no longer happening. The door has been closed.

How on earth did we get here?

Of course, its been a journey, a progression of sorts. Big decisions aren’t made overnight, and nor are they changed that quickly.

Slowly over time, there has been a disunity amongst our congregation. Change is hard and it is scary for so many, and some people panicked at the mere thought. Others had varying opinions of how things should be done, what shouldn’t be done, etc. and the disunity grew and grew until the plan God had laid out shrunk and shrunk until it was gone all together.

And the disunity reminds us that church isn’t perfect. We are not perfect.

I read a quote before about church not being a museum of the perfect, but rather a hospital for the broken and it is very true. When you combine over 150 people who are broken, imperfect and flawed, you can’t expect perfection.

The world around us looks at us as though we are supposed to be the very example of Christ as Christians, and they hold us Christians to standards of perfection that are unachievable to anyone but Christ himself. The second that we show any fault, they are quick to call us hypocritical. But we’re broken people. We are flawed people. We are not Jesus, we are totally imperfect.

What we are is a family. Yes, we are dysfunctional in many regards, just like any other family. We are a family of believers who want to know Jesus better, who want to be closer to him in knowledge and behaviour. We are learning. Learning to admit our faults, learning to deal with things in a Christ-like manner, and learning to draw closer to him, so that we can be more like the perfect person he showed us. Learning to pray, to read our Bibles, to hear from God about the direction of our next steps.

As all families have dysfunction, you can’t expect any differently from a church family. People get their feelings hurt, people step on people’s toes, people feel neglected, people feel frustrated and annoyed. Sounds like any other family get together, doesn’t it? The difference is Jesus. His example taught us forgiveness and grace. He told us to drop everything and find those we have a problem with and make peace.

“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” – Matthew 5:23-24

Jesus didn’t want us to wait with unresolved conflict. He wanted us to deal with it, and get it taken care of instantly. He wants to see us with peace, resolving differences, and having unity amongst our family.

But I am guilty of the opposite. In my anger, I shut down. I walk away. I need space. I stew. I have the hardest time putting my anger away so that I may resolve my conflict. This happened to me within my own church. I wanted to abandon a family that I loved because of hurt. Instead, when some time had passed to allow calmness to brew, resolution came. And I can’t tell you how amazing and freeing that was for me. To be able to say these are my feelings, and have them validated. To apologize and to be apologized to. To restore the love for the family I feared I had lost forever.

I can see clearly now why Jesus calls us to resolve our conflicts quickly. I can see the damage that stewing causes, the time wasted in anger. When I took off the clouded judgement that anger left me, I was left to realize that yes, church can totally suck sometimes, but its also one of the most amazing parts of my life.

My church is real. People are honest about their brokenness. We pray for one another, and we walk through each other’s trials and triumphs together. We celebrate when couples get engaged, married and add new little members to their family. We cry when people lose their loved ones, when people move away, when illness hits.

We joined this church just over 5 years ago now. I will never forget being alone with 2 kids, all three of us sick, and my husband was 3 provinces away working. Someone from the church happened to text me, and found out we were sick. She phoned another woman on our pastoral care team and that afternoon a fresh, warm meal was dropped at my door. I was totally embarrassed to open the door looking like death, and feeling the same. I’m sure the smell that radiated out the front door was retching. But this woman risked illness to make sure I had my needs met. And then she apologized because the meal wasn’t homemade because she had just found out her husband had a minor car accident and she had to go rescue him from the accident site, but not wanting to forget about the sick, struggling Mom, she grabbed a whole chicken and the fixings and delivered it while on route to him.

Never in my life have I been so thankful. And yet, so anguished. If my husband had been home, he’d have taken care of me and the kids, she wouldn’t have had to stop on the way. But she did. She told me in that moment, despite her own struggle, I was still worth receiving a chicken that would allow us some strength to nurse back to health. I wondered if I would have had the same compassion to remember the sick mom in the distraction of worry about my own husband’s accident. She truly showed me Jesus that day, and in that moment, I knew this was a family I wanted to be a part of, and I dove right in.

I walked through some pretty challenging times within these five years, and many people stepped up to walk alongside me. There were more meals, one was made for me in my kitchen by one church member while I literally wept to another about the going-ons in my life at that time. None of them judged me as I handled my brokenness, instead they kept pointing me to God, the author of my life, who loved me and wanted best for me. They became a literal Jesus to me. They carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. If I didn’t have the support of the church then, where would I have gone? How would I be the overcomer that I am now? Would I have survived the darkness I was drowning in?

I have news for you. Life is hard. People are broken. Our hospital for the sick is no better.

But, we all know whose children we are. We know what is commanded of us: forgiveness, resolution and grace. Thank God that I learned that lesson when I did, and within the safety net of my church so that when the next storm of my life hits, I know where to turn. So that in your storm, you know that I will be there for you.

“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10

Our purpose is to grow closer to Jesus Christ himself. We do this by living in harmony with each other, supporting one another and our leadership. We need to bring back unity within our congregation and I trust we can do by staying focused on the very purpose we gather together, singing and praising, learning and worshipping.

Let’s encourage our leadership. Let’s step up and fill in the gaps where there aren’t enough hands to do the work. Let’s give generously and cheerfully of our time and finances, in serving and praying. Let’s continue to walk through this very dark world together, united for Christ in love. Let’s comfort those who’s pain is so deep, and who’s burdens seem unbearable. Let’s praise and celebrate our accomplishments together. Let’s commit to resolving our differences, to forgiving our brother, to taking up our cross daily and remembering our church is called the Bride of Christ.

Above all else, let us love on an other. Love each other through the hurts and brokenness. Love each other through the joy and triumphs. Just love.

“We love each other, because he loved us first.” – 1 John 4:19

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Healing · Marriage · Spread Joy

Sorry Hef, Marriage Rocks!

Today the world learned of the death of Hugh Hefner. Within hours, social media ws blown up with articles both singing his praises and warning of the damage he has done.

One thing I have noticed is how many men idolize him, commenting that he couldn’t be in a better place now (because being in the playboy mansion with a bunch of playboy bunnies is their goal not heaven itself) and comments about wanting to be like him, or replacing him.

 

Posts like this are currently circulating social media in mass amounts.

 

 

The idea these men are idolizing is having tons of beautiful women preform sexual acts on them, on their beck and call. Having a whole slew of attractive women at their demand.  But really… is this what you truly want?

True intimacy is a million times better than any one night stand.

Having someone preform sexual acts on you because they truly love you and desire to please you is a million times better than having sex with a person who truly doesn’t value you beyond your brief sexual encounter.

Having the safety net of a partner who values you for more than just your body is a beautiful thing.

Being encouraged because you have a vibrant mind, an educated opinion or a wonderful personality trait is more meaningful then being valued only because your body exhibits a certain sexual want or you are able to preform a certain sexual act on demand regardless of whether you want to or not.

Being in a relationship where you know your partner truly wants to have sex with you and feels safe and comfortable doing so rather than knowing they are faking it because of your status or the expectations you’ve placed on them is an amazing thing.

These types of things are the happenings that are now being idolized. One of Hefner’s former ‘girl friends’ went on the record to Macleans and told in detail what goes on behind closed doors.  She mentioned sex capades in which Hefner would take medicine needed to preform, cover himself in baby oil and expect his random girlfriends to satisfy him until he masturbated to porn to finalize things.  She mentioned some of the pressures and hypocrisy of the situations (things like being told they never had to do anything sexual but then also being told they wouldn’t get rewards without sexual performance.)  She mentioned things that show these women were not treated with respect, their own desires weren’t being met and worse yet they were getting infections from the baby oil and not using safe sex practices at all. Everything I read, I read with sadness for her and the lifestyle that today so many men are celebrating.

I imagined these young women feeling beautiful and on top of the world, knowing they have been chosen to live in the playboy mansion. I imagined them recognizing their only real value in their non monogamous relationship was their sexual capabilities. I imagined their parent’s sadness at seeing their daughters, full of value and worth, demoralized to just simply someone’s living sex toy.

This is not something to be jealous over.

Greetings!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to photograph my younger cousin’s wedding (featured above), and of course that got me thinking about my own wonderful wedding over eight years ago now (the cover photo). When I set out for marriage, I remember the jokes and comments about being with only one person for the rest of my life. I remember feeling as though so many people were against marriage as we walked into our wedding and feeling sadness for them as I considered how excited I was to get married to my best friend, hoping for forever with him.

And then reality hits. Marriage is hard. It is a crazy turbulent journey, and we have made it through some pretty incredible scenarios.  Now, more than ever, we stand united in love and dedication to one an other. This is what people need to celebrate.

I see couples married much longer than we have been full of respect for one an other, acting like newlyweds still and this is what makes me jealous. Not a lavish lifestyle of forcing people to do what I want when I want.  When I see people with successful marriages, that have been married 10, 20, 30 years I want what they have – love, passion, safety, vulnerability.  If people learn to celebrate these things perhaps our divorce rates would lower and we would learn to encourage one an other in marriage rather than encouraging adultery, easy outs, and walking away over things that really are fixable. (And I am not saying all things are, but with a divorce rate of 50%, I’m sure many can be resolved if people are willing to work at it.)

We need to celebrate marriage! Celebrate our own marriages! Celebrate with our friends and family as they hit more and more anniversaries! We need to be sounding boards when our friends or family are upset in their own marriages, encouraging them to reflect and seek action steps on how to move forward, rather than taking the opportunity to complain about our spouse as well. We need to sometimes be the bigger person and put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own.

We need to put marriages on a pedestal! Instead of ball and chain jokes, we need to celebrate that someone found a person they deemed worthy of the deepest level of commitment there is. We need to congratulate people when they pass an other anniversary, for their dedication to their marriage and for making it yet an other year united.

If we want to change the world’s view of marriage, that begins at home. That starts with building our own marriages up, encouraging the success of marriages around us, and celebrating the joy of love. Not lust, but rather the love that comes from commitment, even when you don’t always feel good about your own marriage.

We need to shift our mindsets from those who are jealous of the lonely life Hefner must have lead without a significant attachment to any one person to watering the green grass of our own marriage instead.

I love being married. It has been incredibly hard at times, sometimes for very long times.  There was a while were I imagined us not surviving, and I remember thinking about how determined I was to succeed at marriage when I said my vows. I remember thinking how devastating it was that the vulnerability I had placed into marriage could be taken from me.  Thankfully, after a lot of elbow grease and dedication, my husband and I survived our deepest drought in marriage. And that’s a story for an other day, but today I want to encourage others to hold fast to their commitments, to celebrate love, to encourage others to find whatever needs to be done to make it work.

There is nothing better in this life than having a best friend for life. Having a husband who values me in every aspect of partnership, sexual included, but also for my emotional impact, for the things I do outside the bedroom, for the commitment that I have for him. These are the hopes I have for my children when they grow and find spouses.

There is such a deep intimacy between us having survived all that we have to this point in life, there is no other person I want more when I am happy or hurt. He is the source of much joy for me, and my comforter, my very best friend. I couldn’t imagine the loneliness of rotating through sexual partners, never completely having my needs met or meeting the needs of others, risking sexually transmitted diseases and never truly forming a life long bond with someone.

Marriage is a sacred and holy union.  Holy meaning, to be set apart. And that’s what should be done. We need to set apart marriage in our minds and raise it to the hierarchy it deserves. Studies prove how much children thrive with happily married parents, and life is way easier in a team. Marriage deserves to be encouraged and celebrated.

So, if you want to be jealous, be jealous of those who are determined to succeed in their marriage and set your goals to work with the same dedication for your spouse that they do, or to make sure you encourage that same dedication in those around you. Protect your marriage and encourage others.

Be jealous of success in marriage and not sexual conquests.

Bible Reading · Spread Joy

Where is God for the starving & poor?

Our church had an amazing guest speaker on Saturday evening, Dr. Tony Campolo. For those who don’t know him, he is the author of over 30 publishings, including the popular series “Red Letter Christians” which focuses on Jesus’ teachings (the red letters referring to copies of the Bible that put Jesus’ words in red ink.) He is an educator, a guest speaker, a sociologist and a pastor. He has been featured on many TV shows including as The Colbert Report, The Charlie Rose Show, Larry King Live, Nightline, Crossfire, Politically Incorrect and The Hour, and he was once the spiritual advisor to President Clinton.  At 82 years old, this man knows his stuff! He spoke with humour and also a clear passion for the calling of Christians to love others as Jesus did and as he called us to do too.  I was so blessed by and fortunate to have heard him speak, and to have the opportunity to introduce myself and my oldest son to him on Saturday, September 16th.

Tony Campolo

Dr. Campolo spoke with clarity and authority.  Without needing notes, he was able to direct us to verses all over the Bible to support his message, and it was evident that the love of Christ is very strong in him.  He challenged his listeners to ensure the Spirit of Christ was living in them, which is more than just being a believer of Christ. Even the devil believed in Christ, but there certainly isn’t any Spirit of Christ living in the devil.

In talking about the Spirit of Christ living in us, he mentioned the great joy we would feel. He drew from some amazing stories to demonstrate the immense warmth we receive when we freely allow God to inhabit us. He explained that we are here on earth as agents of Christ’s love, meaning it is our responsibility as representatives of Christ to spread the love that Jesus did when he walked this earth. He challenged us to see the faces of the poor and needy as the very face of Jesus, and he challenged us to actually think about what Jesus would do if he were in our place and to live so that we actually reflect Jesus himself.

I was very challenged by his message. I hope that people can see Jesus when they see me. But more importantly, I want to see Jesus in the faces of others and learn to be a better ambassador of God’s Kingdom.  In Matthew Chapter 25 verses 34-40, Jesus describes a day of final judgement and he says the following,

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

The first sentence is describing what will happen on the final day of judgement. People will be divided into two groups, and those on the right are who Jesus is speaking to, those who loved like Jesus asked. Jesus tells this group that they took care of him, though they don’t understand how as they never actually saw Jesus.  His response is so crucial, when we take care of the poor, the sick, the needy, the impoverished, the socially challenged, the imprisoned, the strangers, the lost, the starving, the widowed, the ones suffering greatly, the condemned, the broken, then we are facing Jesus Christ himself. We are serving him by carrying for those who are in need.

So where is God for the starving and poor? He is in us. He is represented by us. We are his hands and feet on this earth. We are called to feed the poor, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and love every single one of our neighbors.

This is OUR responsibility. This is our God-assigned task, and in my opinion, the very purpose of our life!

As Christians, we spend time debating scripture. Our various denominations have differences for things like infant baptism, women in office positions, homosexual topics, and alcohol to name a few. We debate these things, and stand united in our separate congregations on our opinions. Yet, none of this matters as much as doing what we are called to do, being who we are called to be. Dr Campolo made an interesting point, he stated that over 5000 times in the Bible there are verses about taking care of others, and yet only a handful of verses about homosexuality. So why are so many Christians debating the topic of homosexuality and not discussing feeding the poor? His thought was that its easy to discuss topics that don’t affect us personally, or allow us to talk about others, but it isn’t so easy to talk about things that convict us, or challenge us to be doing something better or differently. Ouch. I heard that loud and clear.

Since I heard about the more than 5000 times the Bible calls us to help, in my personal Bible reading I am amazed how often I have noticed this command and yet I didn’t pay as close attention to it before having it bopped over my noggin like a V8 commercial. Thank God that he opened my eyes even more.

Dr Campolo shared some amazing statistics that I also feel are note worthy – He said that 25 years ago, 45 000 children a day died from malnourishment, 1 out of every 6 people didn’t have access to clean water, and 80% of the planet was illiterate.  Today, he said that its down to 17 000 children dying each day (ouch, still a very scary number), 1 out of 12 people now do not have access to clean water and the illiterate now number 20% of the world’s population! Wow! 25 years is really not a huge time period considering the difference of those statistics! Where can we be in 25 more years if we the Christians representing Christ actually live out our calling? Dr Campolo stated that much of this change was from Christians rising up and implementing literacy programs, creating food programs to meet the needs of the poor and hungry, and fundraising to dig wells all around the globe just as a few examples. What an amazing accomplishment to be thankful and proud of! But, because there is still starving children, and still people without access to clean water, and still people who cant read or write, we aren’t done yet.

So again, where is God for the starving and the poor? He’s represented by us here on earth. We are the ones responsible to help. What does that look like? While I think it depends on your passion and position. But certainly it requires action. Dr. Campolo was representing World Vision and strongly encouraged Child Sponsorship.  Our own family sponsors a boy and girl through Compassion, again, I don’t think the difference matters (much like the denominational differences) I think it just matters that we accept the mission we’ve been given.

There are a million ways to support the needy around each of us, it would take me an entire week to even be able to research the ways in my own community.  Whatever your passion, whatever your church, whatever your hope just get out there and take action as often as you can. Once in a while is not enough! We truly don’t recognize how good we have it in a first world country – even our poor aren’t a reflection of the poor in 3rd world countries. But both groups need support, regardless. People need support. And its our job to support them.  And when we need support, we should rest assured knowing that there will be people to support us too.

There’s a beautiful song that I feel like captures what I’m trying to communicate as well, Matthew West’s Do Something. I urge you to absorb the words and message of this song. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_RjndG0IX8

Lastly, I will leave you with a verse that I read in my personal devotional time this morning that also really spoke to me, reminding me that even the little things we do add up, and every single thing matters. Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” !!!

Do SOMETHING!

 

 

 

Parenting · Spread Joy

Fruity Virtues

love
joy
peace
patience
kindness
goodness
faithfulness
gentleness
self-control

Sound like beautiful words you’d love to equip your kids with, don’t they? Perhaps even your spouse could use some nudges in these areas?  Maybe even your own self…

For those in Christian circles, you probably instantly recognized these words as ‘Fruits of the Spirit.’ (from the book of Galatians, Chapter 5, verses 22 and 23) For those who aren’t familiar with Christianity, or the Bible, it is still a beautiful list of things we want to see in those around us, isn’t it?

So, here’s my back to school plan: Let’s focus on the good! Lets encourage the positive instead of chastising the bad. Let’s build one an other up when we see greatness rather than dwelling on the negative things that can sometimes drive us bonkers about the ones we love most. Let’s be goal setters working to be better versions of ourselves!

In order to accomplish this, I turned to this list! I wrote the entire verse out on our family’s white board (“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” – Galatians 5:22-23, NLT) and each week we will focus on one area at a time. 

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This week, we started with love, the first fruit. Its my goal to find a scripture verse to match the virtue of the week, and also to encourage my children and hubby each time I see them showing that virtue to one an other, this week being love. I spent some time talking about love and what that looks like this evening with my children, and as a result, we all began to think of ways we can show love to each other, and to others around us. Through out the week as we talk about love, I can teach them about loving themselves, loving the earth, etc. Love truly is an endless topic!

We were able to talk about positive skills. I was able to make suggestions and offer encouragement, rather than the usual parenting lecture. Focusing on the positive, encourages the positive. I really hope to raise young adults who are full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control some day, so today seems like a good time to sow the seeds I want to reap in the future.

Not only that, I get so tired of feeling like a nag, or a lecturer. It’s not fun. It makes my kids miserable, and it makes me miserable. This new goal allows me to get rid of the boring negative chats, and work towards the positive goal setting ones.

By the way, this week’s verse about love, is 1 John 4:7, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.”

Don’t like the use of scripture? No problem, call the fruits virtues and list them! You cant lose when you make love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control goals in your own home. I know our home sure could never have enough! Parenting is hard enough as it is, so lets make it more enjoyable by encouraging the wonderful and focusing on the positive!

Spread Joy

To my child

I wrote this letter on a hard day. Today I’d like to share it. There is so much more I could write and add, but I wanted to share the original message I had written in my trying moment: 

“Dear sweet child,

Today was a hard day for me. I felt impatient and frustrated with you because of my own bad mood.

We sat down to eat lunch: cheese, crackers and kolbassa. I laughed because you had yours all separated into little piles until I put mine into little sandwiches and right after that you stacked your cheese like I had. 

I felt so overwhelmed with emotion. 

Here I was, greedily thinking of my own self and my own issues and in one little moment with something so simple, you reminded me who I am! I’m your Momma, the woman you look up to and despite my flaws and imperfections you want to be like me – it’s an honour and a reminder that I gave up my right to fall apart.

My life is about you and your siblings. I’m in service to you. So, I am sorry I will never be perfect. I’m sorry I’m so incredibly broken as a person. I’m sorry I can’t ever be perfect, but I hope I can show you who is: Jesus. 

When I fall short with patience and love, he won’t.  

He is working in my heart to heal me, but I am a work in progress. I’m sorry I won’t ever be perfect, but I hope I’ll be “enough.” 

I hope despite my flaws, you will know my love for you is forever, and won’t be dependent upon who you become or what you do. You are my child! I’m forever thankful for you and the blessing you are to me, even if I fall short on showing you that in my own brokenness.  

You are such a joy to me, and I love you endlessly. 

Love forever and always,

Mom. Xo”

Healing

God loves alcoholics too.

I have been wanting to write about alcohol for a while.  It seems so many wonderful people in my life are affected by this one word, either as a victim of someone else’s over-indulgence with alcohol or perhaps even their own. Alcohol is one of those things that affects generations. Children grow up hating their alcoholic parents, only to become alcoholics themselves. Or perhaps alcoholic parents are funnier or friendlier when they drink, and give their children a notion that alcoholics aren’t bad, but rather its a normal way of living.

Full disclosure, I am not an alcoholic but I have been affected by alcohol.  Despite my other issues and flaws, alcohol isn’t one of them. For some reason, I don’t suffer from hang overs, and there has been a very brief period of my life where I would drink a few drinks each evening and just love the overall ‘warmth’ it gave me and that’s when I realized I so easily could become an alcoholic. In that moment, I made a decision that I would not raise my children to have an alcoholic mother and I stopped drinking each day.  I knew that if I continued, and allowed alcohol to control me, those were the days I would one day look back on and think “why didn’t I stop then?” I do have the occasional drink, a bit of wine with company, or a nice cocktail during a fancy dinner out. I am not against moderate amounts of alcohol at all.  Biblically based, moderation with drinking isn’t an issue, in fact Paul even writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23, “Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often.” Notice the word little there – Paul isn’t encouraging alcoholism or overindulgence but is encouraging Timothy to drink a little wine to help his body, scholars believe because Timothy struggled from indigestion perhaps even because of contaminated water.

I have seen the damage of alcohol in many different relationships in my life unfortunately. Alcohol changes people. It causes them to become completely different versions of themselves, often less wonderful versions. Alcohol taints judgement and has ruined so many families, and relationships between husband and wife, parent and child, and even friendships. The problem is that each of us has free will to choose. We can choose to drink or not. We can choose to get help or not. We can choose to break the cycle of alcohol abuse or not.

Too many don’t. My heart breaks for you if you’re in that situation. If you have a parent, or a spouse who has made alcohol a priority above you in their life, I am truly sorry for you. If you are struggling with alcohol yourself and find yourself in this position where you can’t seem to stop, I am also truly sorry for you.

Let me tell you, God’s plan for our lives was not to see us controlled by a substance, either as the addict or as the person who loves the addict. God created us to be victorious in life. He created us to be full of joy and love. He created us to be loved, and to love others. We were not meant to live in our own bondage, or the bondage someone else created for us. If you prayed to God for help getting someone to stop drinking, and they didn’t, I’m so sorry. God can reach hearts, but at the end of the day He didn’t create us to be robots who He controls, He created us to be people with free will who choose their own path.

God didn’t give you an alcoholic parent, or spouse, but rather He gave you a person who was created to be more than that, but choose differently with their own free will. If that applies to you, I am so sorry. I know it wasn’t God’s plan for your life, and I know that God’s heart breaks when our hearts break. For every tear you cried, He was there crying too. I am sure of that because the Bible is FULL of references to how much God loves us, and the fact that he gave us Jesus also shows that too.

He created the heavens, the earth, the animals and even us. He doesn’t owe us anything, and yet, despite that, he sent Jesus to us, made of flesh and blood just like us. Jesus was with God in the very beginning of creation. He was there all along. So why send him to earth to be born in a barn,  growing up to only get about 3 years to teach people before he would be illegally tried, beaten, flogged and crucified? Why would anyone want to come to earth from the glorious place that Heaven is to die that way?! Because if God made Jesus flesh and blood like us, then we would be able to relate to him because he went through the struggles of this world. He grew up, went through the awkward phases we did, learned to navigate the adult world, and he did it all without fault. He was blameless and sinless, a perfect example of a life well lived, and a sacrifice for all of us when he died. (More on that here: https://seekinghispeaceblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/why-jesus-anyways/)

For those struggling with addiction themselves, we can look to Jesus for help and inspiration. Yes, Jesus drank, in fact his very first miracle written about in the Bible was when he turned water into wine at a wedding. But, that was so guests could enjoy a celebratory glass of wine, and not a reference to us that he drank, so we can drink what we want, when we want too! Jesus did not have a problem with alcohol.  That is inspiring to teach us moderation and control. But, he does understand those who do have that problem. Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” When they are referring to Jesus here as a High Priest, its because the Jewish people had a High Priest who represented them to God, and Jesus became that person for all of us. But the main point, Jesus UNDERSTANDS our weaknesses, for he faced the SAME testings we do, yet he DID NOT sin. Accepting Jesus as your Saviour allows the Holy Spirit to enter your body, and that Holy Spirit can help you conquer so much including addiction, but for some its not as simple as that and its okay to need more help through counselling or support groups, which I will write about in a moment.

The second half of verse 16 brings so much hope, saying that we will receive God’s mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. God doesn’t hate you because you couldn’t break the cycle. God doesn’t hate you because you spend day after day drinking. God doesn’t hate you because your parent, spouse, child or friend, reflects hate upon you during their own drinking. He loves us despite our flaws, mistakes and addictions. He loves us more than we can ever imagine, even (I’d even say especially) when we feel full of guilt and shame. He wants you to choose your free will to chase Him, seek Him, rather than anything in this world who you are trying to replace Him with.

Our church hosts an amazing support group called Celebrate Recovery. There are CR programs all around, so  I encourage you to search for one in your area (http://www.celebraterecovery.ca/).  Its a Christ-centred 12 step program for anyone with any hurt, habit or hang up, and it brings SO much healing for addicts, victims, and anyone with any struggle, even co-dependency, over-eating, sexual abuse, you name it – someone there has overcome it! I strongly urge you, if you are a child of an alcoholic, a spouse of an alcoholic, or even an alcoholic yourself to check it out. I have shared my blog all over, and so this wont apply to everyone in my life, but for those who live close to me – I am more than willing to accompany you to your first CR if you fear going alone. Please get in touch with me. The very DNA of CR will help every single person who related to any of the words I have written in this message.

The Bible makes it clear that alcohol isn’t bad, over indulgence is. That can be applied to other aspects of life as well. But, drinking in front of children when you’re responsible for them, drinking to the point of drunkenness, picking alcohol over relationships, going into debt buying alcohol, making poor choices because of drinking all aren’t okay. I don’t need to list all the signs of alcoholism, I’m sure you reading this know. Some people start their own problem with alcohol because they were shown that was a norm, and don’t know how to cope or handle life without alcohol. Some people drink thinking that it will help them with their anxiety, anger, depression, or various other flaws they see in themselves and want a quick fix for. Often, people are drinking because they are repressing feelings that they simply don’t know how to cope with. These reasons are why I mentioned CR. Don’t put a band aid over a broken heart. It won’t fix it. It isn’t easy to deal with the root causes of why people become addicts, but the freedom of bondage you will receive by mending your heart properly will last a lifetime.  Find the right tools to cope, find supportive people who encourage sobriety, find the missing piece of your heart that you’re covering with alcohol and you will find true peace and joy.

But in the meantime, don’t let your hurts destroy others. The photo I chose for this post is a sunset, a day ending, promising a fresh start tomorrow. I urge you to find a fresh way of life for your tomorrow. I urge you to be an overcomer. I urge you to find the strength to fight your demons off, instead of drowning in them. I urge you to begin to learn truths about yourself to cover the shame and guilt that comes along with an addiction, or I urge you to deal with the pain that comes from being affected by an addict.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Like I said, God loves us despite ourselves. Don’t be too hard hearted or ashamed to ask Him for help. Don’t think you need to fix yourself first. Go to God broken, and he can do tremendous work in and through you.

Despite your own addiction, or despite being broken because of the addiction of others, God’s love for you is still so much more than you can ever imagine. “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loves us.” (Romans 8:37)

He heals the broken hearted
and bandages their wounds..”
(Psalm 147: 3)

Bible Reading

Women shouldn’t teach… or…?

Yesterday I had the privilege and honour to preach my first sermon!! It was amazing. My pastor and I sat down to plan and discuss the summer sermon series, when we realized that one of the days he was away was one of the only days I’d actually be there (we have a travel trailer and had a lot of summer plans already booked.) He asked me if I wanted to fill in for him and preach.  I accepted the challenge with extreme enthusiasm! And so began my first ever sermon.

I followed in his summer series, Life in The Neighborhood, with the topic “God in our Networks.” I wrote it myself, and met with him for some coaching and on Sunday, August 13th 2017 I preached it!  It was amazing. I was overcome with emotion as I approached the pulpit, so I tripped up over a few words especially as I began because I was so afraid of crying, but I think overall for a first shot, I did well. I received some amazing feedback within the church and from people who watched the sermon on YouTube (https://youtu.be/KauTYEj_oRQ) and I feel so thankful for the support and encouragement I received. I am definitely going to do this again!

There are many denominations that will not let women preach, unless its exclusively to other women (they believe women shouldn’t teach men.) I have been in dialogue with my own pastor about this, and it has crossed my mind that perhaps there may be people who feel I shouldn’t be preaching my sermon.  Of course as I sat the morning of my first sermon drinking my tea and reading my Bible, without meaning to, I came across the very verses that have been used to make people believe women shouldn’t teach. Irony, eh?

The verses are from 1 Timothy chapter 2. The book is written by Paul as a letter to Timothy, a man Paul called a spiritual son to him,  and it is written to the people of Ephesus in about 64 A.D. The verses in question are as follows, 1 Timothy 2:11-12:

Women should learn quietly and submissively.  I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.”

Umm. Okay.  So I’m about an hour or so from leaving for church to preach my first sermon and I’m reading this and thinking “well, now what?”

I’ll tell you what! Study Bible to the rescue! (More about that here: https://seekinghispeaceblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/note-to-self-read-my-bible/) I have said it before, and I will say it again, owning a study bible is the most important tool you can have because it actually helps you to be able to understand the Bible and make sense out of things that culturally don’t make sense to us 2000 years later.

So, to put these verses in context, Paul said them to the first-century Jewish people. Their culture did not allow women the ability to study. So, though to us today these verses seem restrictive, they were actually liberating! Paul was saying, even though you guys don’t think women should be allowed to study, I’m speaking on behalf of the women to say that yeah they can! Let them learn about Jesus, let them hear and read the Word of God, let them grow in knowledge! Paul was going against everything that was normal at that time and actually liberating women.

But… he is telling them to listen quietly. How does that go along with liberation? Again, its all about context! The church that Timothy was at, in Ephesus, that would receive this letter had women who excitingly were on fire for all that they had recently learned.  The problem was that they were then stepping into roles of leadership and teaching, with very little knowledge. They didn’t have the necessary experience, knowledge or maturity in Christ to be teaching, especially to those who did have extensive scriptural education.  You wouldn’t send someone in to teach Nasa astronauts about space after they watched a few YouTube videos, would you?  Its the same concept. Paul is saying this particular group of women in Ephesus needed to grow in their knowledge and maturity more before they began to preach to others.

If you only look at the verses I shared and try to apply them to women you know in your own church, or in general, you’re doing yourself a disservice and misusing the Bible. The best way to understand scriptural truths is to understand the context, like I mentioned, but also cross reference with other scriptures. Acts 18:24-26 shares briefly about a woman named Priscilla who was a co-worker to Paul and taught Apollos, a great preacher! Paul himself even writes of several women who held important roles in the church too.

In Romans 16:1, Paul commends “our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea.” In verse 6, Paul asks for the readers to, “Give my greetings to Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit.” and in verse 12, he adds, “Give my greetings to Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and to dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. ” All were women who worked within the church, and as Paul says, worked hard for Lord.  He knows of these women in these positions and he doesn’t say anything against them like he did about the women in Ephesus.  This shows that Paul is not against women teaching, but he was against the women specifically in Ephesus teaching because they hadn’t yet matured enough in their faith to teach. To top it off, the Ephesian church had a real problem with false teachers in general, so these women who didn’t have the ability to discern the truth without the knowledge were just a further part of the problem Paul was writing to Timothy about in the hopes he could correct the Ephesian church as a whole to see them succeed more.

That’s completely fair!  When I was a new believer, I had a crazy zest for the Lord, but without the knowledge of scriptural truths I wasn’t handling myself properly. I was sharing my opinion without evidence to back it up. Even worse, I judged those who weren’t Christian thinking they need to follow Biblical truths despite them not having a relationship with Jesus as I did. My heart was in the right place, but I was immature enough that it would have been extremely damaging to offer me the chance to write and preach, even, say, 5 years ago when my faith was much more immature than it is now.

Paul was an amazing evangelist, missionary, author, apostle and motivator.  He wrote 2/3 of the New Testament and had a deep theological background having been raised as a Jewish man. He knew his stuff, and when he encounters Christ, he is able to speak with authority because he had the scriptural background and knowledge as well as a deeply personal relationship with Christ.  Simply put, that particular group of women just wasn’t qualified. In fact, Paul never once said that women in general shouldn’t teach. So, I will continue growing and maturing in my faith, and working hard for the Lord, so that I am a woman who Paul will say “good job” to when I meet him in Heaven someday.

But aside from that, I will continue to grow and mature because it brings me closer to Jesus, the one whom I want to be more like because his example on this earth is profoundly amazing.  Jesus himself treated women differently then what was considered normal at that time as well.  Jesus didn’t come for the “perfect,” he came for the marginalized, the sinners, the broken, the hurt, you name it. At that time, women were the marginalized, and yes, Jesus came for them. He showed deep compassion for women, he respected them, taught them, and healed many of them.  He was a bit of a revolutionary, in fact, for how well he treated women.

Honestly, there are too many examples for me to write about but my favourite story of Jesus showing compassion to a woman is from the book of Mark, Chapter 5 verses 25-34:

“A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding.  She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.  She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe.  For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”  Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.

Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

 His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

But he kept on looking around to see who had done it.  Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done.  And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” “

So what you need to understand about the context of this story was that Jewish women who were bleeding as she was for so long were considered “unclean” and were isolated from their community. Imagine being isolated for 12 years from your parents, spouse, siblings, children, and best friends! Imagine paying every doctor you can to help you, and the problem only gets worse! How disheartening and isolating! This woman had suffered a great deal. Jesus was on route trying to get somewhere and everyone was pressing up against him (picture trying to walk anywhere during a concert or outdoor celebration like New Years Eve!) and yet he knew that one person touched him specifically for healing, and stops to find out who. The men of this time would likely have been rather annoyed with this women who stopped Jesus from doing what he was doing, who interrupted and tried to almost take advantage of his ability to heal, but Jesus wasn’t mad. She was terribly frightened because she knew that culturally she was facing deep consequences for her actions, especially because she was considered ‘unclean.’ Again, Jesus wasn’t mad. He instead tells her that her faith in him has made her well, and she will suffer no more.

Jesus treated women radically different than the cultural norm of the time, and believe it or not, by Paul telling them in 1 Timothy 2:11 to learn quietly and submissively, he was too. I imagine in today’s Canadian society, the woman who touched Jesus probably wouldn’t have been so afraid because women today are seen as equals, able to approach men freely. I can also imagine that Paul’s writing to the Ephesian church now a days would probably be more along the lines of, ‘People, keep growing in your faith. Keep reading the Word of God, keep learning and maturing and when the time is right you will be able to teach with authority and confidence because you will have the knowledge to back up your words.’

So, I will keep on teaching. I will continue to be thankful that Jesus revolutionized the way women are seen and treated, bringing us up to be considered equals and allowing us the opportunity to learn alongside our male counterparts. I will take Paul’s words seriously, and I will really ensure that I continue growing in knowledge so that I can continue teaching, men and women, the Word and Love that God offers us all. Mostly, I will continue celebrating the woman God is growing me to be, thankful for the gifts He has equipped me with, including the opportunities before me.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”
Proverbs 31:30