Through Rose Coloured Glasses

Written by: Phil Zinck

My mom loves me. And I love her.

But if we were to measure the extent of love by the expression of affection then she loves me more than I her. It’s not even close. Every time we speak she addresses me as if we hadn’t spoken for ages. When we meet (which is less often) she welcomes me with open arms, a big hug and a “love you dear”.

And when she speaks of me to others her expressions of pride in who she sees me to be is – well, frankly, a bit embarrassing. Not just because I don’t like attention but because I know me better than she, and know that I was not and am not the “perfect angel” that she portrays me to be. So we banter, which inevitably ends with me saying “mom, you gotta throw out those rose coloured glasses!” to which she replies softly, with that loving twinkle in her eye, “Never”.

To be honest, it’s kinda cool that mom feels this way toward me. What is most humbling, though, is that I know that she knows that I am human with human struggles and failings yet her heart is to look through and beyond all of that stuff and say “Never”.

You see, “Never” to mom means “I love you and accept you, regardless. You are my son who is worthy of my love and affection”.

Yet such love from a mother to her son is but a mere shadow of the love that God has for each and every one of us. Where my mom knows that I am not perfect, God knows the dark and dirty details of my imperfection that no one sees. And still His love is such that He freely offered up Himself as the living, eternal payment for our sins and failings – the perfect, eternal sacrifice, asking only that we accept this gift and live a life bringing honour and glory to Him as our Lord who has saved us from ourselves, despite ourselves. Such an amazing gift!

Does God see us through rose coloured glasses? Absolutely!!! When we accept this amazing gift He sees us through His eternal sacrifice as holy, blameless, without blemish or imperfection (Eph 5:27; Col 1:21,22), still knowing that we are often to blame when we stumble, knowing that we come with are riddled with imperfections.

Are you feeling defeated?

Your failings too egregious to be forgiven?

Take Heart!!!

For as hopeless as we may see our battle against our sinful nature and wonder if He will soon tire of us and our failings, He still sees us as His own sons and daughters, not deserving but receiving unmerited favour, unfailing love (Ps 33:18-32), as through rose coloured glasses.

Our loving Father, looking on us with a twinkle in His eye, saying “Never”.

And that is REALLY cool!!

Move Over, Mrs Jones

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; (1 Timothy 4:4)

When my husband Nathan and I got married I truly believed that if I kept our home clean, cooked him delicious home-cooked meals every night and kept his dress shirts pressed, that those tasks would make me a good wife. While cleaning was never an issue, I truly struggled with the cooking. I burned e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g; even water. Haha. My good intentions often ended in a billow of smoke with a blackened pot as a constellation prize. Failure to excel at these expectations of myself really did a work on my self-confidence.

You see, this failure to meet my own expectations had me doubting I was a good enough wife for Nathan. I grew up with a mom that made cooking delicious meals look SO easy, she served my father very well. Now, here I was, completely insufficient to serve my husband in the same way. There was a period of time in our marriage that was pretty rough because I doubted my ability to be good enough for Nathan and feared he would leave as a result of my insufficiencies.

Over the years I have learned two very powerful truths:

1) Comparing my abilities and/or inabilities to others is not healthy. The only thing I gain from doing this is more insecurities.

2) My worth is not measured by my husband, it is measured by my Heavenly Father. I could do all the dishes on the planet, iron every fibre of linen that was ever spun into existence and cook better than Rachael Ray….but if I do not live a life devoted to loving like Christ first loved me, I have nothing.

So….it is no longer what tasks I can master that makes me good enough for my husband; it’s my willingness to love him like Jesus. And, because of Jesus and His love for me, I am good enough.

Sister, YOU are good enough. Don’t waste hours of precious time to pour out love on your spouse by trying to keep up with Mrs. Jones! Just love like Jesus loves. Sacrificially, genuinely, passionately, wholeheartedly, and unconditionally.

Jesus, thank You. Thank You for loving us first with the most incredibly radical love that has ever been shown. Thank You that we don’t have to be awesome at cleaning, cooking and ironing in order to be a ‘good’ wife. Thank You that Your word reminds us that it was You who created us, and everything You have created is good. Jesus, I pray for my sisters who are struggling in their marriages right now, not because of a marriage gone bad; but because they do not feel they measure up to other wives. Please overwhelm their hearts with the truth that You have made them fearfully and wonderfully. YOU have created them; and that alone makes them good enough. Please bring peace to their minds and calmness to their spirits in this very moment. In Jesus name. Amen.

Within The Funhouse

Written by: Sarah Walker

There are often times that I see myself through distorted eyes. It is like I am looking at myself through the lens of a funhouse mirror, which twists my reflection in crazy ways. What I see in my altered reflection is the not the same as reality, but that is not always easy to see.

I am reminded of a Dove commercial with the slogan, “You’re more beautiful than you think.” Within the video, several women were asked to describe their physical appearance to a forensic sketch artist, who had never met them, and who was sitting facing away from them and could not see them. He would then draw a picture of them based on their self-description. In the same experiment, the women were also asked to meet with another person, a total stranger. After the woman left the room, the stranger would then also describe the woman’s appearance to the sketch artist.

In the end, there were two pictures drawn of each woman by the artist. One picture was drawn from each woman’s own self-description, and the other came from a description from the stranger she had just met. Side by side, the two pictures were vastly different from each other. The women typically emphasized the things they disliked about themselves, while the strangers tended to notice their best features, and described qualities like, “She had nice eyes that lit up when she spoke.” In every case, the women’s self-description picture was noticeably more negative and exaggerated than the gentler (and more accurate!) picture that came from the stranger’s description.

(For full impact, check out the commercial here!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk )

So we maybe don’t see ourselves as accurately as others do. I wonder how God would describe me, compared to how I would describe myself?

For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. (Psalm 100:3)

When I read these verses, which say that God has formed every part of me, and that He has plans for me, and that I am His work of art, and am precious to Him – I know within my soul that every part of me has been wonderfully made.

But, in times when my judgment has been clouded, I have had no problem justifying that I shouldn’t feel good about who I am.

My four-year-old daughter came up to me this week and made a negative comment about her appearance. Yikes! As her mom, I know she is beautiful and perfect in every way! As a parent, to hear my young daughter form a negative opinion about herself was absolutely heartbreaking.

Until I had this experience as a parent, I had never considered how my self-critical attitude might affect my own heavenly Parent. I can only imagine how God our Father in Heaven must feel when I look down on myself. He literally knitted me together in my mother’s womb, breathed life into me and predestined assignments just for me to accomplish!

My love and devotion for my daughter is beyond measure, and yet it cannot compare to the love God has for my daughter, or for me. She is His masterpiece! And so am I.

We are children of God, formed in HIS image, dearly loved by Him! How have I thought it is ok for me to carry negative attitudes about myself, when God has put so much love and detail into every part of my life?

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; make and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

Watching my kids grow and discover life is an incredible experience. It also has brought me new insight into how God sees me and loves me. The way I feel towards my own children gives me a glimpse of how God sees and loves His. And what He sees is so much better than I how I might see myself!

Words of Life

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

According to Webster’s dictionary the word proverb means, “a brief popular epigram, adage,” or “a short saying that is widely used to express an obvious truth.” Often a proverb indicates a positive action necessary on the part of the reader. Even when you break down the word proverb into its two parts you see the smaller words pro (positive) and verb (action) within. In essence, a proverb is positivity moving forward!

Recently, a proverb from the Bible, one read many times before, struck me in a new way! Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” I was walking through a particularly difficult time at work, feeling the weight and pressure of deadlines, financial upheaval and staffing dynamics. There were days all I wanted to do was turtle from my responsibilities and take as many days off as was allowed.

There were also days where I was ready to approach every situation and interaction with fire, fury and an unparalleled ferocity. I must admit that there were days where my words matched the latter.

Thankfully, through his incredible grace, God brought this verse along my path and by His Spirit it pierced my heart and filled my mind. I was reminded that words have incredible power over situations and over people. The Lord showed me again that there are words of life and words of death; that words spoken carelessly or negatively can seriously damage the work God wants to do in others and definitely wreak havoc in my own life. He showed me that my ability to verbalize is a God given privilege, because I am made in His image, and one I should protect and use responsibly. That I must be careful when, if and how I wield my tongue. That I must begin to speak the name of Jesus over every broken part of my workplace so that life and healing can take place.

Daughters, it is so easy for us to bend to the world’s standard of quick-witted retorts, petty insults, hurtful accusations and slanderous gossip, in an effort to relieve our feelings of frustration and of being wronged. The world feeds us a steady diet of revenge and retaliation, of standing up for our rights and making others pay. We are conditioned to take action and deal quickly with situations, to speak our minds freely and pat our self-esteem.
However, God shows us a very different path of communication with others. In James 1:19 we see that God wants us to be, “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Much easier said than done, but an action we must all adhere to for peace and life to abound in any and every situation. We must engage the Holy Spirit in helping us to achieve this, sometimes each and every moment of the day!

We can simply pray, “Holy Spirit, help me,” before answering a feared phone call, or interacting with a particularly toxic co-worker, or entering a heated meeting, or facing a financial partner. Whatever we face, at home, work or play, we can enlist the help of the Almighty God, through His Spirit, to effectively communicate words of life everywhere we find ourselves. Our words will no longer pierce, but heal! These are split second prayers, but they keep us in touch with God’s presence, and are powerful against our flesh and the enemy!

I have learned that as I positively act to change my speech patterns, bringing them in line with the Spirit of God, I find greater joy in life and can confidently handle all that life throws my way. My hope is this encourages you to do the same. I will leave you with this one final verse, Ephesians 4:29.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Life on Purpose: Where dreams begin

Written by: Emily Pelley

One of the things I truly love about God is that His dreams and plans for us are way bigger than we could ever come up with (Jer 29:11). I think sometimes we pray that God would just help us out so we could just barely manage to achieve that personal goal, or get that job, or heal that broken relationship. I think what we forget a lot of the time is that God is not at all worried or stressed about His ability to come through. We make the mistake of seeing an all-powerful God through the lens of our own human frailty.

God desires our lives to be lived with Him. That every day we would know Him more and understand His character. When we are in this relationship with Jesus, He puts dreams in our hearts for what this life could look like when we are surrendered to His plan. He wants our lives to be beacons of hope that point back to Him. So, what do we need to understand about the dreams God has put in our hearts? The vision that God has given us for our lives and the lives of our family members?

While we trust in the dreams and vision He gives us, the answer is not in seeing a final picture, but in the daily experience that contributes to the intricate tapestry of our lives.
If God has put on your heart the people in your community who are in need, you need to ask yourself- what do you have to contribute today? What love can you show? How can you make a difference? I find a lot of people become overwhelmed with these questions, often sighing with discouraged resignation, but how can I fix things? How can I make anything change?

Let me encourage you. God is not asking you to fix everyone’s problems, to heal broken hearts, to restore what was lost. No, that’s His job.

What He is asking you to do is to be faithful and take a step out. Love someone. Show kindness. Write that song that has been on your heart. Have that conversation you know needs to happen. In the book of Zechariah, it says:

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…”
Zechariah 4:10

This verse is really calling out our pride which so often points us away from what needs to be done today with an attitude of, “oh someone else can handle that”, or, “God has something bigger for me to do”. Let’s examine our hearts. What are we not doing today because we feel God has something bigger and better for you to do?

Who knows…maybe someday you will lead the biggest rescue mission in the country, or be a world-famous author, or the prime minister of Canada! But today…what does today look like? It looks like living life on purpose- not dismissing anything as too small or ineffectual. God rejoices to see the work being done. So if it is in your path to do, could this not be an important piece of the larger picture- the dream- that God has for you?

The whole point of this life is to walk each day, each moment, with Jesus. Don’t put off an opportunity today to work, to show love, to believe God for your dream. And trust that God will bring together all things for your good (Rom 8:28). Trust Him with your dreams and walk faithfully- purposefully- through each day.

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 power to the weak
 and strength to the powerless.
 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in 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 faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Risks to Everything

Written by: Christianne Williams

Last Friday night I ended up someplace no one wants to be, especially on the first night of the weekend. My sons have taken a keen interest in BMX and learning tricks, which has already led to some scrapes, bruises, and sore limbs. I thought what happened Friday was among one of those minor incidents, so when my eldest son came home and posted a video of himself falling backwards off his bike, I just told him to be more careful. I got an eyeroll, an admission that his wrist was sore, and a weak, “Yeah, there’s risks to everything”, and off he went to see Spiderman at the theater with his father and brothers. Three hours later, when he came in the door looking pale and sweating, and in a very bad mood, I knew that we were going to be taking a trip to the local emergency room for an x-ray.

There are times when we look at small hospitals with a bit of disgust, believing that they can’t offer the same quality of care as in larger centers, and in most cases, this can be true.

On this particular night I was thankful for it, knowing that it wouldn’t be busy and we wouldn’t have a long wait. Anyone who has taken a teenager to an appointment of any kind will appreciate this fact as they have zero patience when it comes to waiting. Add in the extreme pain factor and it was a pretty miserable five minutes waiting to be assessed! After an x-ray and some poking around, the doctor decided it would be a good idea to put a cast on his arm, fearing that there may be a fracture that they couldn’t see.

At that point, I was thinking, “I get at least a week of not worrying about what injury he might bring home” and was actually looking on the bright side of this. Fast forward to Saturday morning when a refreshed, and in significantly less pain, 15 year- old proclaims, “I can still ride my bike! The cast is on in a way that I can still hold on the handle bars!”. Not going to lie, my heart sunk for a few second – no sabbatical from these stunts. Something that struck me though was his lack of fear to face the situation that had caused him pain.
We’ve all faced situations that have hurt us, physically or emotionally. As parents, we face situations that aren’t easy. Comforting our children when they’re hurting, especially when we have no answers for why they’re enduring them, enforcing consequences when they’ve broken the rules we have in place, especially when they show no remorse. As spouses, we face difficult times. It could be financial, betrayal, complete severing of the marriage through no fault of our own. In our work place we deal with problem people. In any relationship on the planet there will be times when we’re left reeling, feeling too hurt to put ourselves out there any more.

As a pastor’s wife, I’ve seen the best and worst side of people and let me say, it isn’t always easy to forgive and move on, let alone put yourself back in the line of fire. More difficult is to see your husband or children the target of the firing squad. But you know what? We must be strong and courageous, we must dare to love one more day. Just as my son got back on the bike and rode down the road, we too must ask God to give us His heart, fill us with enough grace for today, and dare to risk the hurt for the broken. Not only that, but when we find that we’ve messed up, fallen off the bike, we need to get back up and choose to try again. There’s never a point where we can’t start over. There’s never a time on this side of Heaven that God says, ‘Enough, no more chances for you!’

Just as He is patient with us, we must be patient with others and ourselves. There may be times when you need to walk away, something may be unsafe physically, or may be making you emotionally weak, but pray that God shows you the situations that are worth taking the risk to rebuild.

Duped

Written by: Cindy Morrone

On a day trip, we went back to my alma mater.

As we entered the university gates, I could see the many buildings that I once sat in to study for my degree.

We crossed the bridge over the river that ran through this beautiful campus and climbed the rolling hill. It was then that the memories flooded into my thirsty identity causing turbulence.

Back then who I was; was all wrapped up in my education, career and making a great income. There seemed to be a confidence and an assurance that I was successful. I worked hard and was rewarded with tangible payments. A degree. A paycheck. A new car. A paid vacation.

It wasn’t about the degree or career getting (I believe that was part of the Master plan), it is about the wrappings of my self-worth.

I have never had less to my name than I do today.

I have never been more satisfied about who I have been created to be than now.

And I continue to try to make sense of it all.

Not too long ago, I was asked the question, “What motivates you?”

Over the years, the answer to this question has changed much for me.

The difference has been an ever progression to letting go of the tangible and pursuing God’s kingdom purposes for my life.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

Wild & Free…

Written by: Megan Kincheloe

Scene 1, Act 1. There was this girl. From the time she was a baby, she attended church with her family which included mom, grandparents, and early on also included aunts, uncles, and cousins. She was baptized as a baby by a sprinkle of water from the baptismal font. At age 10 she went through confirmation classes in order to accept Christ as her Savior. She continued to age and eventually went off to college. During college she referred to herself as a ‘Christian’, however; she did not represent Jesus well in her actions. But that was ok…right? She was kind to others and was just having fun! AND, on some Sundays, she would make it home for church, read the preprinted confession of sins in her bulletin, and she was good to go again!

Scene 1, Act 2. 20+ years after this 10 year old accepted Christ, she started to believe there must be something more to this Christian life. She grabbed a few friends and made an attempt at Bible study. As a result of this time together, the group of friends made a decision to visit each other’s home church. During one visit, at the end of the service, the Pastor asked for everyone to close their eyes and raise their hands if they needed saving. This girl put her hand up halfway, and back down. In the next 3 visits to the same church, the same question was asked and the same half-hearted response was given. Finally the girl decided it was time to meet with the Pastor of this church. The Pastor prayed with the girl and in that tearful moment, she knew how she was being called to live her life and she was ON FIRE for Christ.

Scene 1, Act 3. This on fire girl became downright robotic. She had this overwhelming feeling that she needed to ‘be’ and ‘act’ a certain way as a follower of Jesus. Instead of seeing, smelling, tasting, and hearing the beauty in His Creation, she walked around preoccupied by her thoughts. She was filled with shame by past sin and was filled with worry over the future. She squashed the Spirit because she was so consumed with her plans and what she thought was best. She was so scheduled that she left her Spirit no room to move and left herself no room to breathe. Every move she made was thoughtful and methodical and downright exhausting.

Scene 1, Act 4. This is her current ‘act.’ Only she is tired of the act. She craves to know what walking in His grace and freedom feels like. She believes wholeheartedly that His grace is enough….only she does not allow herself to receive it completely. She shares her heart with one dear friend and on an ordinary Thursday, she receives this extraordinary message:

“We worry about offending God and so we hold back. We keep our talents, passions, feelings, words, and actions toned down, so that we don’t say or do the wrong thing. So that we don’t ‘misrepresent’ God or our faith. So we aren’t misunderstood. We live lukewarm in certain areas…maybe all areas of our life and I can’t help but think God would rather we just bring it…(Rev. 3:15). Bring it all. Our fire and passion, our humanness and mistakes. All we are, to live wholeheartedly for Him. We’re missing it because we’re worried about messing up or looking bad and the truth is, He can handle all of those things. Lukewarm living is safe, easy, known and controllable comfort…God never called us to those things. He called us to be all in.” (Morgan Alexander).

I believe this is what it is all about. Living wild and free. Not taking advantage of His grace, but receiving it when our authentic selves mess up. Who is ready to be ALL IN with me?

Scene 1, Act 5…

EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT REVEALED!!!!

Hello, my friends!

Its Mandy here with you today and I couldn’t be more excited (just ask my team!!) to share with you this special announcement today!!! I’ll let my friend, Karen Ehman, take it from here…

Here are the details that go along with this exciting announcement:

Dates: September 4-October 1, 2017

Sign up will open very soon and we would be so honoured if you would join us!! We have completely revamped the way we do Online Book Study and we cannot wait to reveal to you even more surprises in the days ahead!

Comment below if you are planning to join us!

Under the Microscope

Written By: Sarah Walker

Recently I have been studying various scriptures about how God “sees” us.

“From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth.” (Psalm 33:13-14)

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry.” (Psalm 34:5).

These verses fill me with a sense of awe and wonderment! When I think of how God is watching over me and is attentive to the sound of my voice, I am filled with a deep sense of peace and love from my Saviour!

But then I came across this verse:

“The Lord is in His heavenly temple, the Lord is on His heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; His eyes examine them. The Lord examines the righteous.” (Psalm 11:4-5).

I was still in awe that the God of the universe watches over me, but to hear that He is also examining me made me feel a bit anxious at what He might be finding!

It made me question: how many times do I choose to act or respond in the wrong way, or how often are my inner thoughts and attitudes not what they should be? It is hard to think about God examining me, because when I examine myself, I don’t always like what I see.

I love that John 13:1 says that Jesus was coming to the end of His time on earth, and “Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.” Even though Jesus, the “examiner,” knew His disciple’s everyday sinfulness, and even more, knew those who would eventually deny and betray and abandon Him, He still got on His hands and knees and washed their feet.

Not only did He become like a lowly servant to show His love and care for them, He also laid down His life for them despite all of their present and future failures.

And He laid down his life for you and me, despite all of our present and future failures!

“For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:3-4)

The verse above says that even though I still struggle with sin, even so when the perfect, holy, and righteous God looks at me, no longer does He see my sin and shame, because I am tucked in safe with Jesus and His perfect righteousness! When He looks at me, He still sees me – but now He sees me joined with Jesus’ perfection. Because of this, the Lord’s eyes on me are a lot less scary, and a lot more hopeful, and gives me a lot of reasons to praise Him!