Spread Joy

Backwards living

Society says, “you deserve this,” “If you want it, get it,” “If it feels good for you, do it,” “its all about you, you, you!”

We have become a culture that encourages irresponsibility, and we have become a nation of people full of entitlement, slaves to our own desires. I hear the older population say all the time that things have changed substantially in the last few years, that the world is a worse place now than it was when they were younger, that morals are on a steep decline.

I see it too. I see it in friends who neglect their families, spouses they are supposed to love and children they grew themselves coming second to their own selfish desires. I see it in public when arguments flare up over parking spots, the last item on the shelf, or general disrespect of others. I see it in myself too. When I think thoughts like “why aren’t things going the way I want them to?” or “Why isn’t there more time for me to do what I want to do?”

The more I think of me, the less happy I feel. The more I think I deserve this, then I realize I must also deserve that too! The more I think of my own wants, the less I think of other’s. Its a vicious cycle, isn’t it? That is what it feels like to be “dead to your sins” as the Christian world says. What they mean is, your gratification for whatever it is you think you deserve or what, whatever it is that consumes you is controlling you. You are a slave to what you obey, whether its society’s ideas, marketing ploys, lust, pride, or just general selfishness.

So why, if I deserve it and it feels so good, does it actually make me less happy? Because its empty. Its what Christians refer to as sin.  That word made me cringe so much when I was first learning about Jesus and I was a newbie to church. Its a condemning little word that packs quite the punch, doesn’t it? It is covered with judgement and condemnation while wearing guilt like a robe. 3 little letters, and yet they create in so many people a different level of discomfort and negative thoughts.

The book of Ephesians tells us that before Christ’s death on the cross, “you were dead because of your disobedience and many sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) For those who have accepted Christ, it says, “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil – the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.  All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature.” (Ephesians 2:2-3)

This verse really hits home for me. Sins control us, leaving us dead to our own desires, caught in a vicious cycle of self gratification that we can never fully seem to satisfy. This verse tells us perhaps these notions of self gratification aren’t from God, but rather from the enemy who loves to see us struggle, who loves to see us fail and who loves to see us overwhelmed in self pity and misery. Did I just say that the devil is real and he lives among us? You bet I did! There seems to be this beautiful little idea amongst society that there’s no such thing as hell, or satan himself. Don’t kid yourself – that’s his greatest trick yet, convincing you to believe that he isn’t here, and that God who can be blamed for your unmet needs.

Verse 4-6 carries on, “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved.) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Dead because of our sin. The dead here refers to our eternal life. When sin controls us, and we don’t understand how come Jesus died for us, we are dead eternally.  However, when we accept Jesus as our Saviour, like this verse says, we are raised from the dead WITH Christ. (More on that here: https://seekinghispeaceblog.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/why-jesus-anyways/) What does that even mean? Well, that we are no longer slaves to what controls us. We are no longer dead because the debt is paid. We are no longer defeated because of the riches that this world offers us.

But Christians still sin. Yup, we sure do. Remember when I wrote that I see it in myself too? I will never be perfect (despite my jokes to the contrary!) But, the difference is what I shared from Ephesians 2:2-3, I used to live in sin, passionately following the inclinations of my own nature.  But verse 13 sums up where I am now, “But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.”

The fact is, I am not a robot, and God never wanted me to be – he created us to have free will so that we can choose what we think and what we do. My free will means I am liable to mess up as I do, but it doesn’t mean that I’m dead because of my faults. And it doesn’t mean that I need to let my faults and sin control me. Rather, I have a higher power to remind me that I want to do better and be better. I have been united with Jesus, which means my debt has been paid, like a traffic ticket – we mess up, and we owe a consequence for it – well Jesus paid for all my “tickets.” Yours too.

Jesus was the very opposite of selfish. Even when he was being sent to die on the cross, he prayed “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26:39) So, he said God, if you can redeem your people in any other way please do, but I am willing to endure all that suffering to obey your will, rather than what I want for myself because I trust that you know best.  I even wrote a post on all the temptations satan offered Jesus to disobey God. (https://seekinghispeaceblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/all-the-kingdoms-of-the-world/)  So, he gave up every glorious thing this world has to offer, and he put our lives before his very own – leaving us dead to sin.

So while the world says you deserve this, you are entitled to that, if it feels good for you, do it! Jesus deserved nothing but praise for the amazing teacher he was while he walked the earth, he was not entitled to die the way that he did, and it sure wouldn’t have felt good for him. But he persevered none the less knowing that his suffering would save us all, that his example would help us break the chains of bondage our own selfish desires have over us, and most importantly that we would have life through him. He calls us to backwards living: putting others before our own self. Turning our phones off so we can talk face to face with those around us. Putting someone else ahead of our self. Letting them have the parking spot. Thinking of their needs even though we are so tired. Ending the vicious cycle of me, me, me thinking.

Backwards to society, yet the very example that Jesus was while he was here. We don’t have to listen to the world’s message, when we can follow the example Jesus set for us. There is so much freedom for me in that. As Romans 6:16 says, “Don’t you realize that you become a slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leaves to death, or you can choose to obey God which leads to righteous living.”  Well, I trust God has a better plan for my life than satan.  And righteous living sounds better to me than death.  But, how do I stop thinking of me when the entire world tells me that’s what I should do? The simple answer of course is to read your Bible, there you will find much hope and examples, but also you will be filled with the love of God which is really all the gratification our souls need and long for. No amount of selfish thinking or self gratification will ever be able to top that! 

Verse 10 of Ephesians 2 sums it up, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” We are God’s masterpiece. We were worth Jesus dying for. We are loved more than we ever know, so much so that we need to meditate on that so that we aren’t filling the hole in our hearts that is empty before we know God in a personal way with garbage, debt, time waste, relationships strained.

Ephesians 4:23, “Instead, let the spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”

 

 

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Spread Joy

Not today, Anxiety.

Though I haven’t had the chance to write much lately, rest assured, I have been committed to learning and growing in other amazing ways.  I have sacrificed time writing for other important things including daily Bible reading.  In searching for Him, in His Word, I have found great comfort, and restoration. Amazing moments keep happening to me, enough that I could write for days!  I am feeling joy on new levels!

But of course, this isn’t always the case. We have to go through valleys so that we recognize and appreciate the mountains in our lives. A valley that has been troublesome for me lately has a name common to many: Anxiety.

Panic attacks are real, and terrifying. They come on unexpectedly. They bring a slew of symptoms with them including headaches, stomach issues a plenty, exhaustion, anger, outbursts, and all sorts of physical ailments. They cause relationships to suffer, plans to be cancelled, life to be altered. The worst part is the complete lack of control I seem to have over them.  But God is bigger than anxiety. He is bigger and mightier than any storm I could ever come across.

Each morning I read my Bible, I find new nuggets of truth to meditate on all day, a new verse or two to remind me how much God loves me, or a simple reminder of the fact that its not me in control, but rather a much stronger force is.. God Himself.  I had plans made with a wonderful friend, I was excited for them, and there is no reason to be worried. We have no conflicts between us, we both search whole heartedly for the Lord, and we are both friendly, fun women, and yet I woke up feeling anxiety rearing its ugly head on the morning we were supposed to meet. So, cue my frustration. I am annoyed that I am feeling anxious when I have no reason to feel anxious. I’m debating cancelling plans, or even hoping she will so I don’t have to deal with Anxiety’s annoying cousin, Guilt. I’m running millions of scenarios though my head and its worsening by the minute.

Like I said earlier, I have been committed to my daily Bible reading, so out comes my Bible and anxiety is just going to have to wait while I make my priorities known. I picked up in Isaiah – such an amazing book in the Old Testament that is written by the prophet Isaiah. He wrote over and over of salvation, and pointed to Jesus’ coming about 680 years before Jesus came, writing about Jesus in ways that actually happened and came true! The book is amazing. I couldn’t stop reading, and even ran over the time I had allotted myself, but I couldn’t help it! I know the first 39 chapters lean on judgement, and the last 26 (beginning at chapter 40) are really focused on comfort. I had reached chapter 40 and I didn’t want to stop! I was excited for the best parts of the book. So now add anxiety about being late and not being ready to my already anxious self. But it didn’t matter, I kept justifying one more chapter, one more chapter, one more chapter for some reason.

The reason became pretty evident in Chapter 40, God opens the chapter by telling Isaiah “Comfort, comfort my people.” Okay God, I could use some of that comfort! But the real eye opener came at the end of the chapter, verses 28-31:

Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God, 
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives powers to the weak
and strength to the powerless. 
Even youths will become weak and tired, 
and young men will fall into exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not grow faint.”

Do you understand at all how God thinks? Of course not! In all our lives of searching for Him, we will never fully understand His ways. We are mere humans incapable of thinking on the level God does. But, His Word (the Bible) offers us so much insight into His love for us! I know that I can relate to that as a Mom. My children fill my heart, they are the very reason I try to grow and be better, and yet sometimes they can be darn right awful! But, I still see them as beautiful, perfectly made individuals who have so much potential and I don’t ever love them less because of their faults. This is exactly how God feels about me, and you! Each and every single one of us. I know my biggest fear when I went from one child to two, was how could I love two kids in the same amount that I love my first? Would my love be divided? I was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn’t! It was multiplied. That’s how God loves us!

Because I carried on and read one more chapter, I was reminded that God is full of power and might, which He promises to give to the weak (and in my case anxious!) I trust God in my deepest fears, my biggest goals and my every day life, and as such He has promised me NEW STRENGTH.  He has promised me that I will run without growing weary, and walk without growing faint.  I was so thankful for that verse, I had to stop right there and pray a prayer of gratitude for God, and express my thanks for His word, His love, and His comfort. But, it didn’t end there..

One more chapter.

Isaiah 41. Verse 10. Its so well known on its own amongst Christians, but when you read the Bible as a whole you forget about memory verses until they sneak up and provide you with exactly the wisdom you needed in that moment. That, is Isaiah 41:10 for me, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”  Wow. Anxiety. Never mind. You’re not welcome here today. At least not in this moment, because in this moment I have fought the lies of anxiety with the most powerful force you can imagine: God, and His Word, His Truth!

But.. one more chapter! One more chapter.. I was starving for more comfort, more peace, more of God’s love.

Isaiah 42 is full of examples of Jesus. I am in awe of what God is predicting, having read the Gospels and knowing Jesus, I am excited to see these prophecies that I know to be true. It just strengthens my faith and cements me even deeper in my love for Christ.

One more chapter. Still my soul yearns.

Isaiah 43:1-2:

“But now O Jacob, Listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.

It carries on with the second half of verse 4 saying, “because you are precious to me.  You are honoured and I love you.” I wrote my name next to that, God said “I love you, Leslie.” Because that was what I needed to hear.  He created me, He put me on earth in this time for a purpose. He knows my days, He knows my struggles, He knows me on a deep level, and He loves me. He honours me. He promises to walk with me through deep waters, rivers of difficulties and fires of oppression.  These words are for me, but they are also for you. He gave me the gift to gab so that I can speak my faith and encourage others. He used others to tell me to write so that I can process and share with others as well. He planned for me to write this on this very day, and He planned for you to read it. He honours you, and He loves you. Its my prayer for you that you gain some understanding of just how much He loves.

 

Bible Reading · Spread Joy

Our Motives Are What Define Us

Our motives are what define us.

So often, we think “if I do good things, I will be known as a good person.” “If I am labelled by this job, or this skill or this talent, I will be known as ….” But I really feel challenged to think more internally.

Why do we do the things that we do? What are we hoping to accomplish with our goals, our tasks, our missions? In our darkest and deepest thoughts, what is motivating us to have the behaviours that we do?

Our motives are what define us.

The problem is, we rarely ever place thought into our motives. Sometimes the reasons behind our motives are so deeply buried, we wouldn’t even be able to identify them without help. Other times, people are intentional and know how to be manipulative and that becomes their motive.  Regardless, our motives are what define us with every decision we make, conscious or not.

When we do something good, to look good in front of others, we’re not doing it from a good heart, but rather from an insecure place that needs validation to come from people telling me how thankful they are, how awesome we are, or what a difference we made. When we do something good for the purpose of “having good karma” as many say, we’re not doing good to make a difference, but rather we are hoping that we will get luck on our side so to speak. When we do something good, and we turn to Facebook to post about it, or brag to our friends, we are doing good to be able to boast in our own abilities. When we do something good, so that we can later use it to control someone, or have them reward us back we are doing good but out of manipulation. Those motives are wrong, even though the outward appearance can sometimes seem good.

Its important to be self-examining. Its also important to be committed to growth and learning, to maturing and developing yourself into the best version you can be. I believe that being aware of our motives is a huge step in this process, and I can say this from having learned these lessons in my own life. Luke 6:45 explains it well, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”

It was Jesus who said that, and it was apart of his longest record message, the Sermon on the Mount. Over and over the point of this sermon was to constantly be reminded to watch our motives.   Jesus mentioned the Pharisees often, and his extreme anger towards them to warn us – you see, a Pharisee was a super religious person, who followed the law to a fault and used the law to oppress others (reminding them they weren’t good enough because they didn’t obey every aspect of the law.)  On the outside, the Pharisees seemed perfect! They followed all the rules, they obeyed every command and they made a big public example of how to behave, setting the bar high. So, why on earth would Jesus be full of anger towards them? Because of their motives, of course!  Our motives are what define us.  They were doing all these outward things to look good, get praise from others, and to be able to say, “I’m perfect, unlike you.” But their hearts were bitter and miserable. They were terrible to those who they considered to be less than them, and they did everything out of oppressive motives.

Jesus spent so much of that sermon and his other lessons teaching us the opposite – for example, a Pharisee would believe they were perfect for obeying the commandments, including “you should never murder.”  Sure, they didn’t murder, but Jesus said “if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgement! If you call someone an idiot you are in danger of being brought before the court.” (Matthew 5:22) Jesus is tying to teach them that even though they didn’t physically murder someone, they still are at fault for having a heart full of hate or anger.  Going back to the first reference I shared, out of an evil person’s heart comes all sorts of evil things, so do you really think your motives can be good when you are full of anger and hate? Will you look out for the person’s best interest? Of course not. So, while you are not murdering them, you still aren’t wishing them well, trying to help them or forgive them, and therefore your motives will start to be out of anger, and hatred, and as a result will produce nasty outcomes.

The author of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, was a man who became a King over Israel and asked God for wisdom.  He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes to stop future generations from learning the hard lessons he had learned, including about our motives. In Chapter 4, verse 4, he writes, “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors.”  Is that why we choose the careers we aspire to? Is this why we raise our children the way that we do? Is this why we go into debt to have all the bells and whistles? Is this why we burn ourselves out trying to accomplish everything that we can? Is this why we have the relationship norms that we have? Is this why we have to go see the latest movie, or concert even though the scenes and words do not depict our morals? Is this why we are cruel to those we are jealous of, or show spite to those who have more than we have? Is this where our constant anger, jealously, resentment and bitterness comes from?

Our motives are what define us.

What motivates you?

I can honestly say that I am learning to be more aware of my motives and make sure they are right. I want to stand before God someday and say, “I did many good things out of pure motivation full of love.” I don’t want to say “Well you see God, they deserved it. They had it coming to them. They shouldn’t have treated me as they did.” I don’t want to stand before the creator of the universe making excuses.  Ecclesiastes 11:10 says, “Do everything you want to do; take it all in.  But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do.”  This someday will come for all of us, because the only certain thing about life is that it ends.

I am human. I have flaws, and I always will. God doesn’t expect me to be perfect, He knows I never will be and I don’t expect that of myself either.  In my imperfection, I make mistakes all the time, but the first step of trying to be aware of my motivation is helping me to mature immensely. Am I motivated to do right for selfish reasons, or because out of a good heart comes good things? Am I motived for human gratification, or for God’s? Am I motived to make the lives of those around me better? Motived to make this world a better place however I can?

Proverbs 21:2 assures me, “People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  Galatians 1:10 says “Obviously, I’m not trying to get the approval of people, but of God.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Lastly, Philippians 2:3 says “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Over and over again, the Bible is full of verses like these, reminding us that even more important than what we do is why we do it.  The world could be a better place if we all chose to do things entirely out of selfless love and not just to glorify ourselves.

Spread Joy

Sounds Like A Spoiled Child

This morning, I had to take my vehicle in for service and with my youngest child being almost 2 years old, and a serious busy body compared to her three older siblings, I already knew it would be an “adventure.” Despite all my best coping mechanisms, it was not an easy appointment, but I rejoiced in excitement when my husband randomly had an extra long lunch and was done at the same time I was. We met at a little fast food restaurant, which was a huge deal for us because never in his career has he been close enough or had enough time to take a lunch break outside of work. This felt like such a special treat to me after a boring, annoying car related appointment.

During our appointment, I tried the bribery route with my toddler. ‘Mommy will get you this for lunch if you pick up the toys you brought, stop playing with the stuff that’s not yours, etc.…’ but it was to no avail, so I had to follow through with consequences and limited her choices at lunch.  When we sat down I explained the entire thing to my husband, and we had a few moments to encourage each other on how we’d survive our fourth go at raising a boundary-pushing toddler.

I felt proud of myself for not having given in and allowed her the choice she wanted, and I felt encouraged through my venting to my husband.  That is, until I stole a bite of her food that she had stopped eating. She normally doesn’t seem phased by this, but she was getting close to nap time, and was just all around put off by the morning, so she wailed. On the second cry, I said “If you do not stop crying right now, Mommy is going to take you and go sit in the van.” She didn’t stop. So, I stood up to gather her, her left overs, and our belongings up to yet again follow through with another consequence when it happened. There beside us was an older couple, and the man said, “Sounds like a spoiled child to me.” I immediately felt so insulted as a mother, trying to do right, and defensive for my daughter who was not a spoiled child, and is instead a tired 23-month-old toddler who can’t communicate her frustrations the way we can.

With my crying daughter in my arms, I said “Actually, if you knew us at all, you’d know she is not spoiled at all, thanks!” and I stormed off to the van repressing most of my anger, and reminding myself I am a Christian and I need to act accordingly. Sometimes it seems easier to act, then ask for forgiveness, doesn’t it? My husband climbed into the van with me to finish our lunch, and the tears flowed from me like crazy! I am sensitive, but generally not a crier, but I just couldn’t stop. Maybe it was the morning I had already had, the fact that I was feeling so challenged by my toddler, the fact that it seemed much easier with our other children, who knows. But for whatever reason, I was a hot mess sitting there crying in my van so hurt.

My husband eventually left to return to work, and I still cried the entire drive home. It seemed the more I cried, the angrier I was too, and yet it seemed so pathetic. “Lord,” I cried out, “Why is this bothering me so much? You know me and my daughter, you know I’m doing the best I can and that she is too, so why is one stranger’s insensitivity bothering me so much?’ I felt weak and foolish.

I give my all to the world, I’m cheerful, pleasant and polite when I go out in public. I’m helpful, friendly and bubbly to all I come across in my journeys. I pride myself on being that way, but that doesn’t mean the world will show me the same courtesy and respect. Today was a reminder of that. I really felt reminded that I need, even more, to continue being full of light when I go into this world because it is so dark, and people are so miserable that they can’t see a parent trying and ignore the child for the few seconds it takes to get the child out of the restaurant or under control. People are so judgemental they don’t think things like “that poor child, I hope she’s okay whatever the issue is.” They instead turn to insults. I will not let this world break me. It may steal my joy for a few minutes, but I am going to continue bursting forth with love and shining bright. I will not let darkness take control of me, and I will not treat people the way I am being treated, but rather I will treat them how I want to be treated. I felt encouraged and motivated by that. Perhaps this man never raised kids and has no grace for children in general. Maybe he has a grandchild who is spoiled rotten and its taken his patience from him. Maybe he had a worse morning than I did and was just in a bitter place. I don’t know, and I won’t ever know. Yet more reason to add joy to the world.

I couldn’t help but smile when I noticed a bible verse shared in my social media that summed up how I felt so perfectly, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11. My Christian friends, how will you go out into the world tomorrow and show God’s glory and love? How can you reflect joy despite whatever is going on around you?

Still I felt foolish and weak, so I went to God in prayer again trying to understand why I cried so much. Honestly, it was out of character for me and I really wanted to see what application I could take from this experience and that’s when it hit me:  I had done all that I could as a parent in that moment, and yet it still wasn’t “enough” to please. Someone still was bothered by me enough to be insulting. An experience God must feel every moment.

God does everything he can for us, the fact that he gave us Jesus and all we need to do is accept Jesus to be saved proves it. He instilled in all believers the Holy Spirit to guide each of us, that little voice you hear, or the impulse you just can’t shake. He provides for us all that we stand in need for, including an entire book of 66 books that are full of wisdom, instructions and love. He gave us a beautiful world to live in, full of nature, vegetation, sunsets and millions of other beautiful things. He provides comfort and peace when we seek it, and when we know who we are in Christ, we are literally drowning in His love. He did the best he could, and yet, we still hear people saying its not good enough, God’s not good enough, He’s not right.  Things don’t go the way they want them to, people hurt them, they have a misguided view of Jesus from our culture or a misguided zealously religious person, and immediately they attack with their words. God is not good enough. He did this wrong or that wrong despite them having no theological understanding of God, just as this man had no concept of me as a parent, they shame and condemn God.

The sadness I felt, having done all that I could, pales in comparison to the sadness God must feel when people who don’t even know Him, or understand Him or His ways reject Him. I just had my feelings hurt, but He is being rejected by the ones who He created. The enemy in this world is winning them over with ignorance, anger and bitterness.

If I cried that much for a moment of insult, how much more does God cry for his lost children? How much more hurt is He when we reject Him with our ignorance, our anger, our unbelief, our lack of knowledge, or our bitterness? I hope you can see in my words that God does love you more than you can ever imagine. Can you spend some time reflecting on the fact that you are “perfectly and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14.) ❤

 

Spread Joy

Coming Full Circle

I was driving down the 401 (Canada’s busiest highway, for those reading from elsewhere)the other day, and I saw an ambulance heading to the city of Toronto, where many major hospitals are that are equipped better than many hospitals in the area, and it was coming from a town near where we used to live. It was serious enough to be making a 2 hour transfer, sirens blaring, in the hopes to save the patient on board. My stomach felt ill as soon as I saw it.  Without knowing who was on board, or what was going on I immediately began to pray. I prayed for knowledge and wisdom for the doctors and nurses, comfort for the family, and strength for the patient, and of course for a positive God glorifying out come. I prayed “Lord, I don’t know if these people know you, but I pray that this experience draws them close to you, and if they do know you, I pray this experience draws those around them observing close to you!” After I finished praying, I thought about my own experiences with ambulances and what a traumatizing time they were, and then I remembered, I too had made the same long drive in an ambulance with my son 8 years prior.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian family, although I did believe in God. Without Biblical knowledge, or someone to direct my steps, I never truly understood God and thought he must really dislike me because the circumstances I faced were not ideal. So, my defense mechanism was to dislike him (and even say there was no such thing as God.)

However, on the day that I gave birth to my oldest child, a son, I couldn’t deny God’s existence in the overwhelming feelings of love and gratitude I felt instantly. I looked at his beautiful, perfect face and I knew that there was more to this than just random chance of a particular egg and sperm cell meeting. Science wasn’t enough to explain how instantly I’d have died for that beautiful boy, and so his birth changed the trajectory of my relationship with God.

Fast forward a while, my son was now 21 months old. I was so diligent about teaching him all that I could, including that money goes into piggy banks so that he would never ingest it. My now-husband was on his way home and had called to let me know. During that distraction, my son had grabbed my wallet and as all toddlers do was exploring what was in it. He found some arcade tokens, and some money. He put the money he had found into his piggy bank, but when I told him the arcade tokens weren’t money, I took them back from him to put back in my wallet and cleaned the mess up. Little did I know, he had saved one token balled up in his chubby toddler fist.   After putting my purse away, my son started pointing into his mouth and almost immediately began vomiting violently. He literally threw up about 15 times by the time I called his Dad in a total panic. He was just about back and told me to get ready and we’d be off to the Emergency Room as soon as he pulled in.

An x-ray revealed the missing token I didn’t realize he had, in his esophagus. It was explained to me that had it landed any differently, he wouldn’t have been able to breathe and would’ve died, but because it closed off his stomach, that caused intense gagging and vomiting as his body tried to bring it up. We lived in a small town about a 2 hour drive from Toronto’s Sick Kids hospital, and the doctors did not feel safe operating, or have the proper equipment for his tiny body. They had to keep him in an upright position so the token wouldn’t move and transfer us by ambulance to Sick Kids. The ride was horrendous. I’ve never been so full of fear, worry and tremendous amounts of anxiety in all of my life.

When we arrived, they explained what they would be doing and they took my beautiful and perfect child from my arms. I didn’t know if he would be okay under anesthesia, I didn’t know if they’d be able to remove it orally, or if he’d survive if they couldn’t get to it if it moved in time. It could go easily, or it could go long, and brutally. They had no idea themselves. When they took him, his Dad and I cried harder than we ever had into each other’s arms. It was scary moment. My Father-in-law was with us at the time and reminded us that our son was in good hands, and the two of them left me alone to get some food as we hadn’t eaten all day, and in that moment alone, I prayed to a God I believed in but didn’t know on a personal level. I remember telling God there was no way I could survive if my little boy didn’t make it, that I needed to have him returned to me safely and that I would do anything, literally anything, if he answered my prayer and spared my son.

It was only minutes later that the Doctor came out and told us, he’s totally fine, it was super easy and quick and over within minutes. The best case scenario had happened and my child was fine. I cant even try to describe the relief I felt in that moment. But any parent who has lost sight of a child in a busy room, and then finds them can understand it was like that, but multiplied by a thousand. I hadn’t told anyone about my prayer, and I thanked God quietly, and kept the promise in my mind. It was 5 months later that my husband (my son’s Dad) and I got married, and it was after we were married that we sought God together and joined a local church. I always think of this story as the beginning of me coming to know God as I do now, a loving father. I kept my promise, even if it took a little while to get there, but within a years time I had accepted Christ as my personal saviour and my entire life changed for the better.

It hit me like a ton of bricks in that moment as I prayed for the person on the 401: Perhaps as we travelled down the 401, tears streaming down my face, and rumblings of nerves rolling through my body, and my beautiful boy on the stretcher that someone saw us and wondered who was on board, what was wrong, and even prayed for us. Maybe even many people prayed that this event would be God glorifying, just as I had prayed for the ambulance I saw. I think back on that day, and never really thought about what was going on outside the ambulance, and now I wonder if a spirit-prompted person had prayed for my son, and for me to have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment. I felt so overwhelmed by the emotion of knowing, that just as I, a stranger to the person passing me, stopped immediately and prayed for them and their life and family, that strangers did the same thing for my son and us.

Here, 8 years later, I had the chance to do the same thing. What a blessing for me, to be able to answer the promptings of the Holy Spirit to do something when there’s something to be done (even if all I can do is pray) and to recognize that my random prayer for a stranger may have made severe impacts, as someone else’s did for me. I felt so grateful for whoever prayed for us that day, not only that they prayed for us, but also that that was the start of this new life, in which God is our focal point. I felt like it was such a ‘paying it forward’ moment, or even coming full circle, and it was such a beautiful moment for me to reflect on God’s glory, the magnitude of all situations in our lives even when we don’t understand them in the moment, and how far I have come since that desperate prayer 8 short years ago.

Never underestimate the effectiveness of your prayers.

(Photo.. the actual token he swallowed, his little bracelets, the Poppa Smurf the paramedics gave to him en route, and a picture he coloured with the Doctor who explained the procedure to use that day.)

 

 

 

 

Spread Joy

What Jesus Says When You’ve Been Burned

I’ve been a part of a group bible study (By Jen Wilkin, The Sermon on the Mount) for a few months now and have learned so much about the teachings of Jesus in his longest recorded sermon.  I have always tried to follow the “red letters” (in most Bibles all of Jesus’ words are written in red text, instead of the typical black) for wisdom from Jesus himself but sometimes it seems intense. This is why I have often said the best reason for having a study bible, is to understand the bible in ‘today’s terms’

Case in point, Matthew 5:39,But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.” Jesus said this. But doesn’t this seem entirely the opposite of logic? Do not resist an evil person? Really? I want an evil person as far away from me as possible! And, let them slap me a second time? Instincts wont even allow that – we’d duck, move or protect ourselves after one slap I’m sure!

Diving into the study more has really helped me understand a lot of Jesus’ teachings better, and this verse included!  We need to remember to look at things in context within the era they were said. I realized I had the opportunity to apply that knowledge with my oldest child this morning, after he told me about a cyber bully calling him names online on a game he enjoys to play.

I quoted this verse to him, and said “now let me explain this in a way that makes more sense to you.”  In Jesus’ time, the expression was “that was a slap on the cheek.” Today, my generation would say “that was a kick below the belt” or as they started saying when I was a teenager, and my son has now learned “burrrrrn!” So the simple way to look at Jesus’ words here are “If someone burns you, let them burn you again.” Still, this doesn’t seem to make sense – why would Jesus advocate for us to allow people to insult us?

Jesus knows the truth of who we are, he knows every part of our heart, even the parts we hide from others. So when someone ‘burns’ you, he knows the words of an evil person are meaningless. In a roundabout way, Jesus is telling us to ignore their words. Why would we allow an awful person’s hurtful words to hurt our feelings? Easy to say, but not so easily to apply as I am sure everyone can think of a time someone else’s words crushed them.

But also, Jesus is reminding us that their words mean nothing – say for example someone calls you a worthless person, and you are crushed because that person and their opinion means something to you. What Jesus is trying to tell us is – that’s simply not true. Ignore that comment, and recognize its coming from a hurt person. Healthy, productive people do not go around trying to hurt and belittle people (even when they have a legitimate issue with them.)  Jesus is trying to say “I know you already, and I know them too. I know they are hurt and their words are coming from a space of hurt, but I also know you, and I call you full of worth. I do not find your identity in what that person says of you, I find it in what I know to be true of you and therefore you can ignore their words, or turn the other cheek.”

I do not believe for one second that Jesus was meaning for us too allow ourselves to be abused ever but especially in this verse.  I think its easy for someone to misunderstand this verse, especially when they don’t have the Holy Spirit guiding them as they read scripture, or when they are not sure of the entire context.  Jesus would never want to see anyone he loved enough to give his life for be abused or hurt, and I think that’s exactly why he gave us these words. He wants us to forgive hurt people instead of harbouring on their thoughts knowing they need perhaps more grace than we can imagine, and he wants us to stand firm in our identity in him, rather than what mere people say about us.  Jesus wants us to not drink the poison that stewing, hatred and anger offer. He wants us to be full of grace and forgiveness which is why he modelled that for us. But he also wants us to call ourselves heirs to the throne, daughters and sons of God Almighty, perfectly and wonderfully made, made in His image and loved beyond our capacity to understand!

So, the next time someone burns you, let it go. Remember normal healthy people don’t destroy others. They need your grace more than your anger.  Most importantly, remember who you are in Christ, that is where your true identity comes from!

 

Uncategorized

Finding Comfort When There Isn’t Yet A Solution

I am sure most people can think of someone who has really added tension and stress to their life. Often, we work with these people or are related to them somehow and therefore can’t always walk away. I have someone like that in my life, who unfortunately has given me a lot of issues and anxiety over about 1 1 years.  Initially, I sought her approval so much that I was willing to ignore the hurt, and move on without an apology or any repentance for her behavior. This created a positive relationship between us, for a while, but I still carried my old hurt below the surface, and she repeated the same type of behaviors against me. I recognize now that this is partly my fault, for not having boundaries or the courage to speak up and demand respect.

Fast forward; now I am a Christian woman, and I seek only the approval of Christ. I am way more secure in who I am as a woman, and I don’t need the approval of others around me because I am confident in my abilities as a Christ follower, functional adult, dedicated wife, and a devoted mother. I know who I am in Christ.  As a result, this person is no longer a part of my life.  We are connected through familial ties though, but I do not engage with her and have only seen her less than a hand full of times in the last few years. Still, she seems to surface every now and again – I have never been a private person per say, but I do believe that not allowing certain people access is for the best. I wish instead of watching our fanily from afar, she would own up to the hurt she has caused and make amends. I am for reconciliation, and I have mended broken relationships that seemed irreparable that proves that. I am for peace, which is why I can not allow an unrepentant person to recreate the same cycle of hurt that has already been recreated too many times in the past. Jesus told me I am to forgive, and I do, but he never said I had to endure emotional and mental abuse and that is where I have established boundaries for a reason.

I am literally unable to write all the damage, and all the hurt that I have endured at this person’s hands in one post, and in the same sense I’m unable to write all the comfort I have received from God about it. I can tell you before I met with this person to try and seek counseling, I wrote pages and pages of scripture verses, and almost every single time I open my bible I read something that reminds me of her and the entire situation, so God has been very present to me through it all.  I am thankful for that.

So, this week when I heard the latest in this seemingly never ending saga, I just felt incredibly overwhelmed. I said to my husband, “I don’t even know how to pray over this anymore, and I don’t get why God hasn’t changed this situation yet.” I felt exasperated and angry, and with that, I went to bed.

The following day,  I woke up with the same feeling. Only now I was even more frustrated that this person was trying to steal my joy yet again. Despite my feelings of turmoil with God about it, I sat down to read His word and seek His peace. This is where it gets good, as it always does when God is involved! Each day, I read some of the Old Testament, one or two Psalms, a few Proverbs and some of the New Testament, in that order.  Before I began to read I prayed a quick prayer thanking God for His word and asking that He reveal the truth of His word to me.

I am currently reading from Judges in the Old Testament. The stories I have been reading are about Gideon, a Judge over Israel who restores Israel and it’s people as Holy and following God’s commands. Eventually he passes away, and it takes no time for the Israelites to resort to their old habits, including worshiping other Gods and walking away from God himself. I explained what I had just read to my husband, and we had a conversation about how there is such a pattern in the old Testament: the Israelites get a good leader, and obey God and are rewarded, then they fall away and are punished, then a new leader rises up and the pattern repeats itself. During our discussion, I laughed at the symbolism – just as Israel kept making mistake after mistake, so do we humans. Yet, every single time, God forgives us when we repent and loves us the same. I began to recognize my need to repent for my anger with God the night before. I know He is in control, and I have seen Him bring peace in relationships I never imagined could have peace (as mentioned before.) So I know already that He works things out in His perfect timing, and yet, in my frustration, I ignored that and questioned God. So, within the first part of my four parts of reading, I’m recognizing I am not any better than the Israelites, and I am in no way worthy of questioning God despite the fact that I didn’t have peace about the situation or an answered prayer.

So, onto my next part, the Psalms, and it just so happened to be Psalm 56. I am going to include the entire Psalm here, and I will bold the parts that really stirred me.

“1 O God, have mercy on me,
    for people are hounding me.
    My foes attack me all day long.
2 I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,
    and many are boldly attacking me.
But when I am afraid,
    I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
    I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
    What can mere mortals do to me?

They are always twisting what I say;
    they spend their days plotting to harm me.
They come together to spy on me—
    watching my every step, eager to kill me.
Don’t let them get away with their wickedness;
    in your anger, O God, bring them down.

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
    This I know: God is on my side!
10 I praise God for what he has promised;
    yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.
11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
    What can mere mortals do to me?

12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God,
    and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.
13 For you have rescued me from death;
    you have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God,
    in your life-giving light.”

Wow. I read this and God’s comfort wrapped around me like a warm blanket fresh out of the dryer.  I have been so slandered by this person, verses 1-2. Verse 3, I was terrified before seeking counseling with her to the point of physical stress to my body, and I prayed prior and my heart palpitations went away.  Verse 4, God has shown me who I am, and allowed me to accept who I am in His eyes, and the recognition that her words can do nothing to me anymore. Verse 6 – Exactly how I was feeling, spied on, and I saw the second part as they were trying to kill my spirit. Verse 7 – I don’t wish ill on those who are wicked, but I do know that God is a God of justice who sees all. Verse 8 – I know that God sees all the sadness in my heart, and I know that he cherishes my tears so much that he collects them. This reminder made me remember that through it all, He has been there and He has seen it all. Not one tear has fallen from my face (or yours) that God doesn’t know about. The remaining verses just really spoke to what I had lost sight of, that God would take care of me and the situation. Though I felt no relief about the situation itself, I felt comfort from God, and the reminder that He’s in control.

Next, off to the Proverbs, and I was in chapter 22.  The very first one I read, Proverbs 22:8 “Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster, and their reign of terror will come to an end.” Way back in the first situation I had with this person, other people who have since seen the same behavior from her, believed her when she slandered me. Though I was innocent, the injustice was planted and the disaster that harvested was strained relationships for me, however when the truth came to light my relationships were restored and hers were not. The situation has been so severe I would honestly call it a reign of terror, not just over me, but over the entire family related to this person including my husband.  I discussed this with him as well. This discussion got quite intense and lead us to recanting some of the past hurts and sadness we have over the situation. One thing that has always upset me, is during counseling I had pages of things I was upset over and this person had nothing to say about why she treated me poorly.  Because I see this person as a narcissist, I believe she has not liked me because she can’t control me the way she controls others around her. My husband ended the conversation saying I never deserved any of the pain she had caused as I was a good person. I felt comfort hearing his words, but also felt angry because he is right. I didn’t deserve this, I couldn’t have changed it, and I have suffered a lot for no real reason.  Suddenly that warm blanket of comfort slipped away, and I began to board the self-pity train.

Still, I read on. The last reading I had was my New Testament reading from my favourite Gospel, Luke.  In Luke 16, Jesus is judged by the pharisees for basically everything He does even though He is undeserving, because they had their hearts set on rules, status and appearances, and Jesus was the total opposite, which angered them. Jesus calls them out on this in verse 15, after they money-loving pharisees scoffed at Jesus when He told them they can’t serve both God and money. Jesus says, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts.” I finished reading Luke, but didn’t catch on the importance of that verse until I prayed after reading.

I shut my bible, and still feeling slightly sorry for myself, I went to God in prayer. I thanked Him for the way in which His word spoke to me, and I explained to Him my heart and how frustrating it has been to deal with this situation I was undeserving of, and then it hit me during prayer, Jesus was hated by the world, especially by the Pharisees. This particular woman values her status in the world, and it hit me – she is like the pharisees. She loves to appear righteous, will never admit to any wrong doing, and cares more about the status of this world.  The entire time, I had lost sight of Jesus. Jesus was hated by the Pharisees of his day, and I am not liked by this woman who is like the Pharisee.  Jesus suffered in their hands the same way that I have in hers. Yet, Jesus died for them, while I was wallowing in self pity at the situation with my human heart. I had forgotten that God knows her heart, and He knows mine too.

Now, I am not equating myself to Jesus, but I found comfort in the minor parallel between us and that same comfort also gives me encouragement to be more Christ-like. Jesus told the Pharisees where they were at fault, He didn’t hide from them. He created boundaries and didn’t bend to act like them.  He didn’t worry about the fact that they didn’t like Him, because He knew they were after worldly status, which is detestable in the sight of God. He let their opinions, their gossip and their hatred roll of His back.  Jesus turned His attention to the people He came to save, who had ears to hear and eyes to see the message He was bringing. I need to remember the same thing. Forgive, as Jesus has instructed me, and follow the lessons God taught me through this one day of scripture reading: humble myself, trust His plan, accept His comfort, trust He will end the terror, and aim to follow Christ and His example.

I am amazed at how much God spoke to me, right when I needed it, through daily Bible reading.  This really just shows how much the Word of God is alive. These words date back to centuries before I was even born, and yet they speak right to me and the problem I am experiencing. Every single thing I read.  Praise God that he loves us so much that He plans for me to read the verses I need right when I need them, and that He reminds me how loved I am and how much He wishes to comfort me.

So, while I don’t have a solution to a decade long issue, I do have peace. And I do have a loving Father who gave me His comforting Word and His beautiful son, Jesus. Praise God for that. I pray that you find much comfort in the word of God as well.