To Have and to Hold

We have been in full-scale wedding planning mode the last few weeks. My youngest, Carmen and her fiancé, Jack will be wed on July 18th. COVID-19 changed so many of their original plans, but both families have adapted and coordinated our efforts to hopefully make their day so memorable. (Please pray for great weather, specifically: sunny with no wind, as the ceremony is scheduled to be held outdoors here at the Ponderosa.)

We are also on Baby watch mode, with my son and daughter-in-love expecting their third boy. Her due date is today, so I am sitting with my phone close by waiting for news. I cannot wait to hold my fifth grandbaby in my arms!

Last weekend, we helped move my oldest daughter, and family into rental accommodations until their new home is built. Moving on Canada Day is one thing, but moving during a pandemic takes on a whole new set of challenges as well. For instance, maintaining distance from their friends who came to help them move. Hopefully, their future move will be less challenging.

This morning as I prayed and had my time of devotions, I thought I would read some past entries from my journal. Wow, what a difference a year makes! Last year, I was in the midst of chemo treatments. I was battling hard and lamenting my hair loss. I complained about my chemo “ curls” the other day, and immediately felt ashamed about it. I had prayed for my hair to grow back before the wedding and it has! Yes, the curls are a new look for me, but I should be thankful I don’t have to don a wig for my daughter’s big day.

I spent yesterday mowing our lawn, watering my garden, tidying my home. Listening to praise music as I worked, I sang with gusto, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow…” God held me tight through last year, and He continues to hold me in His safe and comforting arms. I hardly had strength during chemo thunder to walk up and down stairs, and yesterday I accomplished all my tasks and had energy to burn! So grateful! It’s important for me to remember how far I’ve come health wise in a year, and praise God.

I had such high hopes for 2020 after my cancer battle. I told my husband I was going to do all the things I missed out on doing in 2019. Then Covid hit and we all went into lockdown. I wasn’t able to hug on my kids or grandchildren for months. I wasn’t able to get out and about, and being cooped up took an emotional and mental toll on me. Even now with some restrictions being lifted, safety protocols still must be adhered to. I find it strange to see people masked, still protective of maintaining proper physical distancing. At my daughter’s bridal shower last weekend, I desperately wanted to hug all the ladies I hadn’t seen in person in months, but we held our distance. Instead, we blew kisses and promised hugs in the future.

Of all the lessons I’ve learned over these many months of Covid lockdown is my need to be held. God held (holds) me when I face challenges, I know that full well. I also know that human touch is vital to my well being. I am thankful to my sweet husband who has hugged me well and often, especially when my arms ached to hold my kids and grandbabies. Mother’s Day marked the first time since March 14th, I hugged my children and I thought I would never let them go. I look forward to giving hugs freely to friends again. I will welcome the day when physical distancing will not be necessary.

I think about Carmen and Jack, who will both in a week’s time, promise to have and to hold each other for a lifetime. I pray as they make their vows, they will never take for granted the need to be held. To be held in the centre of God’s Will, and to hold onto God’s promises and each other when they face challenges. To hold tight to their dreams, and take hold of ideas that foster and grow them together as a couple. I want them to know that they are held in our hearts and prayers throughout their lives. I know they can “hold their own” when they need to, but I pray they know we are here whenever they need us. Our hugs are life long!

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To Be Or Not To Be

I am sooooo done with Covid-19. Am I the only one that feels this way? I am done listening to our Prime Minister give his daily updates about the virus and how his government continues to spend our tax dollars on “helping” Canadians get through these challenging times. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out our Canadian economy will be adversely affected by this virus for years, maybe decades from now. My grandchildren will be paying for this long after Mr. Trudeau has left office, and is living comfortably on his pension.

I’m done listening to the news. The media is so negative, and adds to the hype and fear-mongering that is so prevalent lately. For my own mental health, I just have to avoid listening to daily news reports.

I’m done with masks, and protests, and long line ups, and no sports, and no concerts, and no Stampede Week, and not being able to hug my friends, and not being able to attend church, and social distancing, and running out of hand sanitizer, and, and, and……

I realized I had spent most of my morning complaining about all the things I was inconvenienced about due to Covid-19. The more I complained and fretted, the more I forgot all about a key scriptural mandate: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Apostle Paul must not to be misinterpreted here. There are no exceptions, no excuses, no way outs. We must in EVERY circumstance “give thanks”. The pattern of a Christian’s life is that we consistently, and endlessly give thanks to God.

I can feel the Holy Spirit nudge me. I know my heart is not in the right place. I have a critical spirit right now and I need it gone! I don’t want to admit fault, but I know I need to stop complaining and start being more thankful.

It’s a work in progress. I freely admit that. Two weeks ago I got another blood clot in my right leg. Just when I thought my health issues were behind me, I got hit with another health crisis. It’s knocked the stuffing out of me. I cannot find anything in this situation to be thankful about. My leg is swollen and painful, and I’m back on blood thinners. It’s hard to feel upbeat and grateful.

Still, I think about how far I’ve come since last year and I must give thanks! I was gearing up for my first round of chemo last year. Praise God that is all behind me! Sometimes I must look back in order to move forward.

To be thankful or not to be thankful? It’s not a choice. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:15-17)

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The Lord Sees the Heart

It was a smaller demonstration than the ones we had seen on the news this week. It was a peaceful gathering held in Calgary, in response to the brutal death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There were signs held up, tears, silence, people taking a knee, prayers lifted for the family of Mr. Floyd, and calls to end the violence against people of colour. One sign that particularly caught my eye read: “What would Jesus say about Racism?”

Since Jesus did not speak directly to the subject of racism, I can only speculate how He might react to this week’s events, and these verses come the closest to answering that question.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

According to Webster’s online dictionary, racism is defined as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Based on that definition alone, Jesus would be in complete opposition to racism because He does not look at the outward appearance of someone; He looks at their heart.

1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I read a particularly good quote by Darrell Bernard Harrison, Dean at Grace to You and lead host of the “Just Thinking” podcast. “Many people, he said, “say they want to “end” racism. I understand what they mean by that, but “racism” isn’t like a carton of milk with an expiration date. Biblically, ethnic prejudice (“racism”) is not an “ism”, it is hate—period (1 John 2:9-11; 3:15) —and the only way to “end” hatred is by repenting of that sin and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:9-11).”

Amen.

Jesus is “colour” blind. It does not matter to our Lord whether a person is black, white, yellow, red, or a combination of those skin-colour pigments. He made man in His own image, perfectly and wonderfully made, in every size, colour, race, and ability. Jesus loves ALL people equally. Jesus does not look at the outward appearance of a person, but He looks at the heart, and this is what he sees:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

A good man stores good things in his heart, but an evil man stores up evil in his heart. And the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45)

It is from within a person’s heart that evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly come. (Mark 7:21-23)

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” (Proverbs 27:19)

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” So, God looks from heaven to see if there are any who seek God. (Psalm 14:1)

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2)

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

People justify themselves by what others think of them, but what people value highly is detestable to God. God knows their hearts. (Luke 16:15)

“The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but he delights in those whose ways are blameless.” (Proverbs 11:20)

The hearts of people are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts. (Ecclesiastes 9:3)

Does this shock you? It should. The sad fact is that humanity’s overall heart condition is deplorable. What we say and do reflects our heart condition. We cannot hide our true nature from God. The heart gives us away. For the most part, we follow our hearts, and it is our own undoing. Unless we allow Jesus into our hearts to change us from the inside out, we are doomed. He is the only One Who can set our hearts right.

Racism is a heart issue not a race issue. Let’s face it, to be racist and full of hate is to sin. The only way to end racism and hatred for good is to repent of that sin. Jesus is the only One Who saves us from our sins, so we must put all our faith and trust in Him! Racism will only be defeated if we follow the teachings of Jesus, and we begin to love others as we love ourselves. My dream is that one day we can all live in peace and unity as brothers and sisters in Christ!

“He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9)

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