How Do I Love Thee?

how-do-i-love-theeHow Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 – 1861

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Perhaps one of the most “lovely” – pardon the pun, poems of all time.  Every Valentine’s Day, it seems to be the one that is quoted most by lovers all over the world, well, at least the first two lines:  “How Do I Love Thee?  Let Me Count the Ways…”

The beautiful sentiment and meaning of the sonnet all but lost in comedic sketches and cheesy Hallmark cards we laugh at while shopping at the dollar store.  You know what I’m talking about.  Often times the husband or wife depicted in the sketch or card will actually count the ways:

How do I love you, let me count the ways”:

ONE.  I love you when you take the garbage out… (open the card) and I’ll love you even more if I don’t have to nag you to do it every time!

TWO.  I love you when you cook me dinner…(open the card) and I’ll love you even if it results in a trip to the hospital for food poisoning.

THREE.  I love you when I ask if I look fat in that dress, when I know I do but you say that I don’t…

We have all but ruined Browning’s poem!

Like the sweet words of sentiment my son wrote to me one Valentine’s Day when he was five:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Sugar is sweet,

And I am too.

(He didn’t quite understand the concept…)

Or how about this one, written by a close friend of mine?:

Roses are red,

Violets are great,

Just remember girdles

Cost two-ninety-eight.

I know it’s often said, “It’s the thought that counts.”  Not in this case.

But let’s get back to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  Born in 1806, in Durham, England, she was the oldest of twelve children.  For centuries, the Barrett family lived in Jamaica, where they owned sugar plantations and relied on slave labour. Elizabeth’s father, Edward chose to raise his family in England, while his fortune grew in Jamaica.  Elizabeth was well-educated at home and by the time she was twelve was already writing poetry inspired by John Milton’s epic poem, “Paradise Lost” and her love of Shakespeare.  Elizabeth was always battling poor health but that did not detour her from teaching herself Hebrew in her teen years so she could read the Old Testament; and later her interests turned to Greek studies.  Along with her appetite for classic literature, was a passionate enthusiasm for her Christian faith.  She became active in the Bible and Missionary Societies of her church.

A series of misfortunes hit the Barrett family in the 1830’s, where they all but lost their fortune due to the growing abolitionist movement which Elizabeth endorsed, much to her father’s dismay.  Her father sent his other children to work on the plantation but Elizabeth, due to poor health, stayed home with her father and continued to write a collection of poems which eventually garnered attention in 1844 from the poet, Robert Browning.  Elizabeth had praised him in one of her poems, and he in response wrote her a letter.  Elizabeth and Robert (6 years her junior) exchanged 574 letters over the next twenty months, but their romance was bitterly opposed by her father, who did not want any of his children to marry.  In 1846, the couple eloped and settled in Florence, Italy.  Her father never spoke to her again.  Elizabeth regained her health and had a son and she published a collection of sonnets in 1850 that she had written in secret before her marriage, including “How Do I Love Thee” that was dedicated to her husband.

Why am I sharing this?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning could not have penned a more perfect love letter to her husband.  It has been analyzed and re-analyzed by English Literature scholars who have tried, and in my opinion, failed to adequately define and interpret the amazing love she was purposefully trying to express to her husband through this one poem.

I think, and this is just my own opinion, of course, most of the scholars just don’t “get” the poem, because they do not fully grasp the Christian concept of love she has woven intricately throughout her poem.

Indulge me for a moment:

How do I love thee, let me count the ways.”

There are actually 6 ways in the Bible to count the ways of love.  Being a Hebrew and Greek scholar, Barrett would have known that.

In the Old Testament there are two Hebrew words that are translated into English as “love”:

Ahab” – is human love for another, including family, friends, spouses and God.  Ahab – is the “love” expressed in the great commandment in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

And in Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

The second Hebrew word, “hesed” is the unbreakable bond that God initiates with Abraham and Sarah and their descendants:  “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you, I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3

It is not conditional love, “If you do this, then I will do that.” There are no “ifs” in these promises of God. There are no time limits; no cancellation clauses. This is a covenant bond between God and Abraham and their descendants defined in the story of Moses, the escape from slavery in Egypt and the giving of the Ten Commandments. And so, while hesed has the feelings of love, kindness, mercy, and affection it is defined primarily by the unconditional, steadfast, loyal, faithfulness, and trustworthiness of God.  Hesed continues even when feelings change. God’s anger and punishment is ALWAYS expressed within the constraint of this unbreakable covenant bond, and is ALWAYS for the purpose of restoring the mutuality of that bond.

Further qualities that are also embedded in hesed are righteousness and justice; harmony and well-being. Notice that in the verse quoted, in Genesis 12, God says, “I will bless you so that you will be a blessing.” So, while God’s covenant bond is unbreakable and unconditional, it is not an “anything goes” relationship. It is a bond that has a purpose: so that you will be a blessing. And the nature of this blessing is justice: right relationships with family, foreigners, slaves, the land, animals, etc., etc.; and harmony and well-being for all.

In the New Testament there are four Greek words that are translated into English as “love”:

The word, charitas, is often translated as “charity,” and it connotes feelings of generosity, gratitude, favour, pleasing others, and finding beauty and delight in service to others. It is selfless love. 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 speaks about this kind of love. You may note too, it is the scripture most often quoted at weddings, when the Pastor is trying to tell young newlyweds, from this day forward, it’s NOT all about you as individuals anymore. It’s that balanced partnership of constantly striving to love your spouse more than yourself! (Am I right, or am I right? 🙂 )

The Greek word, eros, is named after the Greek god of love. His Roman counterpart was Cupid (meaning desire). This “love” is associated with sexual desire, romance and what we most often equate with Valentine’s Day. Solomon’s Song of Songs is a good example of this kind of love.

Phileo, is commonly associated with “brotherly love,” and is most often exhibited in a close friendship. Best friends will display this generous and affectionate love for each other as each seeks to make the other happy. Since phileo love involves feelings of warmth and affection toward another person, we do not have phileo love toward our enemies. However, God commands us to have love toward everyone. This includes those whose personalities clash with ours, those who hurt us and treat us badly, and even those who are hostile toward our faith.

Luke 6:28 “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

That type of love is Agape love.  It is God’s unconditional, unbreakable bond of love; kindness, and mercy so that we might live together with righteousness, justice, harmony and well-being. When Jesus quotes the Great Commandment from Deuteronomy and Leviticus, it is Agape love He is referring to. It is the most powerful, noblest type of love.  It is sacrificial love.  Agape love is more than a feeling – it is an act of the will.  This is the love that God has for His people and prompted the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus, for our sins.  Jesus was Agape love personified.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Agape is used to describe the love that is of and from God, Whose very Nature is love itself: “God is love” (1 John 4:8)  God does not merely love; HE IS LOVE itself.  Everything God does flows from His love.

Understanding that, let’s read Elizabeth Browning’s second line of her poem again:

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height”  – Stop there.

Have you heard of that kind of love?

Ephesians 3:14-19,  Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians: “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Immediately a Worship song comes to mind: “How deep the Father’s Love for us, How vast beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son to make a wretch his treasure.”

We cannot fathom that kind of love, can we?

That is Agape love and although we’re called as Christians to have that kind of love for our spouses, friends, family and enemies, Agape love does not come naturally to us.  Because of our fallen nature, we are incapable of producing such a love.  If we are to love as God loves – with agape love – we can only do so if we tap into its very Source.  This is the love that “has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” when we became His children (Romans 5:5). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16).  It is because of God’s love toward us, we are able to love one another.

In Elizabeth’s love poem to her husband, she endeavors to list the many ways in which she loves Robert.  She loves him to the length and breadth and height her soul can reach and also on the level of every day’s quiet need.  She loves him purely and passionately.  She loves him as she once did her saints, and with the smiles and tears of her whole life.  And if God lets her, she will love him more after death than she does while she is living.

“I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.”

God’s power over the body and soul in death seems to be the only thing that Browning acknowledges is stronger than the love she has for her husband.

Such beautiful sentiments to ponder upon for Valentine’s Day, but even Browning’s sonnets fall short of expressing the kind of love we can only experience by being in a personal, intimate relationship with God the Father.

There may be many ways of conveying Love, but Jesus, WHO is LOVE embodied, is the ONLY PERFECT, manifested expression of Love to us,…

And it is In His Word, He writes the perfect Love Letter to us:

 

http://www.fathersloveletter.com/

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From the Heart

259x400x3369782d_gif_pagespeed_ic_mr6gw0xg0dI have a little red autograph book that I have had since I was a kid.  Throughout school and into my college years I collected signatures and autographs from family, friends and sports heroes.  The first entry in my book are these words my mother wrote to me the Christmas of 1967:

“Dear Lynn!

When you were born, you cried, and people around you smiled.  May your life be such that when you leave you smile, and people around you are crying!”

Certainly when I read those words I thought that my little book would be filled with poignant blessings and sentimental poetry that would inspire and uplift me.  She adds this little ditty two pages later:

“Dear Lynn!

When you get tired of T.V. shows, climb up a tree and talk to the crows!”

That sort of set the tone for the rest of the book:

My brother Jack wrote:

“If I had a rifle, this is what I’d do, I’d tranquilize an old bear and take it to the zoo.”

Another “friend” wrote in June 1968:

“When you are tired and out of shape, remember girdles are $2.98.”

Dianne

Or how about this one my friend Tanya wrote to me in grade nine?  We were in the middle of watching the Stanley Cup playoffs and my favorite team at the time were the Montreal Canadiens:

“Just think, that if you were –

As good as Guy Lafleur

I’d never see you at all

‘Cause you’d be in Montreal!

….even the traditional “Roses are red” sentiment was distorted by another “friend”:

“Roses are red,

Violets are green,

You have a figure like a

Washing machine!”

*sigh*

You would think that based on those little rhymes I would have given up on finding that perfect heart-felt wording from someone that is usually found on the inside of a Hallmark card.  No such luck.  If I thought that I would have romantic poetry spewed in my direction I was sadly disappointed.  I had my eye on a certain handsome naval lieutenant in  the summer of 1977 and I thought surely this man might have some romantic poetic potential:

“To my dearest Lynn,”  (Certainly this started off as promising…)

When I return next year,  I hope you’re still free;

If not I’ll go as high as $1.49.”

Steve.

Word of advice guys…those words will NEVER win over a girl’s heart!

Flash forward to February 1978.  A new school term had just started at the University of Victoria where I was studying education.  I was busily scouring the book shelves at the bookstore, looking for the text books I needed for my courses.  Charles and I had only been dating for a very short time…enough time to know that there was a spark between us, but still not enough time to commit to saying we were in a “relationship”.  (This was waaaaaay before Facebook don’t you know.)  My “boyfriend” looked politely bored as he watched me go up and down the aisles.  He had a physics paper to write later for his class, and he seemed more interested in the Hot Rod magazines on the rack at the front desk than anything else.  I took idle note of the Valentine hearts dangling from strings around the store.  Valentine’s Day had never been one of my most favorite days of the year.  I had a small collection of silly cards that potential suitors thought would win my heart…they were wrong.  I hadn’t known Charles that long and so far, Charles’ only written communication to me was a hastily written note left on the windshield of my car.  “I’ll meet you later at the Student’s Union Building for coffee.  ‘C’ ”  Based on that I wasn’t holding out much hope that he would be that poetry-writing Romeo I was hoping for.  After all one of our first dates was me passing him wrenches while he put a new transmission into his hopped up muscle car.

I glared at him as he pulled a car magazine from the rack and I harumphed at him and batted a floating heart with irritation as I went in search of yet another textbook at the back of the store.

Five minutes later, I had my books in my hand and we walked towards the door.

“Here.” he said.

I thought he was offering to take my heavy bag of books but instead he handed me a little plastic pin.  It still had it’s tiny little price tag on it: 39 cents.Valentine's Pin

LOVE

That’s all.  He looked at me and smiled shyly.  His eyes spoke volumes.  LOVE.

For well over thirty-five years I have worn that little plastic LOVE pin.  All my life I had been looking for romantic poetry with  flowery sentiment but every Valentine’s Day since 1978 I’m reminded that only one word really matters when it comes from the heart: LOVE.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Complete-a-Series Disorder

complete-a-series-disorderI have been doing some early spring cleaning this past week…even though this past week we had yet another Alberta blizzard hit us, making it obvious that Winter is still upon us.

But I digress….

I decided to clean out my book shelves in the middle of this cleaning frenzy. With thousands of books downloaded on my Kindle, I realized that some of my books appear so redundant (and lonely) to be sitting on my bookshelves collecting dust, so I decided to sell some great book series I have accumulated, and donate the rest of my books to charity.

It is painful for me to let go of those dusty books because I still remember the pure joy and pleasure I had when I read each story. I remember times and places I read each book, some read while sitting on a beach, or house boating, or camping, or just curled up in my favorite chair on those long winter nights. Some were given to me as gifts when I was in the hospital battling breast cancer and I found reading to be a great distraction and comfort to me while awaiting and undergoing treatments.

I have an eclectic taste in books so I have Christian, Historical Romance, Science Fiction, Classics and some Young Adult series. I’ve got devotionals, biographies and autobiographies. Reading has always been my passion ever since I was a little girl. For one glorious summer in Grade Seven I read as many of the Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan books as I could get a hold of. Another summer it was Trixie Belden books, and of course the entire collection of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” series. Then I went through my “Bruno and Boots” (Gordon Korman) phase, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and when my kids wanted to read some of the popular series of the day, I decided to preview them first so I read the Harry Potter Books, the Twilight series and the Hunger Games.

The thing with any book series is that once I start reading one I need to read every book in the series. It’s a compulsion I have. Even if I don’t really care for some of the books in a series, if I know there’s a couple more to follow, I just have to read the next one. It must be a reading disorder I have…”Complete-a-Series Disorder” I call it.

Which led me to quite a dilemma a few years ago. I found seventeen of a nineteen book series in a used book store: Peter Danielson’s, The Children of the Lion series. Written in the early eighties by several authors, it is a series loosely based on Old Testament stories. I decided to buy the set and read a few of the books and I immediately got “hooked” on the series. Then came the disquieting realization that I was missing #15 and the last book of the series #19. I looked everywhere for the elusive books and finally in desperation emailed the author and he graciously sent me a link to where I could order the books! Yay! He did however, tell me that the series is not complete because the publisher refused to publish more of the series beyond the 19th book.

I have yet to actually sit down and read the last few books of the series fearing I will never get over this feeling of “incompleteness” and disappointment when a series ends without a good conclusion.  Like the way I felt at the end of the T.V. series “Lost”.

Anyway, it did get me thinking if there are other people with the “Complete-a-series Disorder” like me? Leave a comment and tell me what series you got “hooked” on and just had to finish.

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PTL (Praise the Lord)

I was listening to one of my compilation CD’s the other day and the classic country song, “Make the World Go Away” came on.  I am revealing a lot about myself here, but I do occasionally like to listen to a good country classic and this one is particularly poignant.  “Make the world go away, and get if off my shoulders, say the things you used to say, and make the world go away”…whoa!  Sorta gets ya…right here (pointing to my heart).  The rest of the song is cheesy, love- gone-wrong drivel, but it’s the opening lines that got to me and I couldn’t help but think that in essence those lyrics have been the gist of many of my prayers lately.

“Complain, complain, complain…why don’t You talk to me anymore, Lord?…complain, complain, complain.  Amen”.

I must sound just like the Psalmist, “But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.  Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?”  (Psalm 88)

I can just hear the response from God: “Because you are constantly whining at Me!  How ’bout sending me up some praises, eh?  Tell me all the good stuff that’s been happening in your life once in a while!  You’re bumming Me out with all your complaining.  I’m sick and tired of listening to it all the time!”

Well, I know the theology is a bit out of whack, but you sort of get my meaning.  It’s important to praise God.  Of course we must bring all our cares and concerns to Him as well, but we must shout out our praises too!  Praise Him in every circumstance.  Praise Him in the morning, praise Him in the evening.  Psalm 113:3 declares, “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.”

Praising God acknowledges His excellent being.  It’s not necessarily a “thank You” because that describes our attitude thanking Him for what He has done for us, instead praise is offered for who God is.  “I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise…” (Psalm 18:3)

All believers are commanded to praise God! In fact, Isaiah 43:21 explains that praise is one reason we were created, “This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise.” Hebrews 13:15 confirms this: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name.”

Praise originates in a heart full of love toward God. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Are you a Christian today? If so, you know that you love God because He first loved you! Without God’s love, any praise you can offer is hollow. Love, born from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, is an essential part of your praise.

So what does “praising God” mean?  Well, God looks at your heart…if your heart’s not in it, you’re not really praising Him.  “I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart…” (Psalm 86:12)  Before you utter one word, sing one song, pray one prayer or read one Word of Scripture check your heart-health.  Are you ready to praise Him with your whole heart?  “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.” (Psalm 139: 1-4)  Make sure your heart is right with God first, as our Pastor likes to say: “Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self!”

It’s not the method of praise that pleases God but the willingness and want to praise Him.  “Praise the Lord.  Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.  Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.  Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150)

“I will exalt you, my God and King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.  Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.  Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”    (Psalm 145: 1-3)

Can I get an “Amen”?

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Old Doors

proverbs-24-3-4In 2015, I was convinced that we would be making a major move to the west coast.  The feeling was so overpowering that as I packed away our Christmas decorations at the end of that year, I wept because I thought it would be the last Christmas spent in this house.  I remembered all the memories we had built up over twenty-two years here.  I was overwhelmed by the melancholy, but also wrestled with the feeling of excitement of moving somewhere new.  I’m not a fan of change, but I was so convinced that we were moving soon, I started the process of downsizing and packing some things away.

When we made a trip to the coast in late June of 2016, I fully expected my husband and I would find our new abode and make the big move away from Alberta to Vancouver Island in the early fall.  We prayed for God’s direction as we set out to find a new home and I specifically prayed that God would open and close doors as necessary for us to move or stay.

He answered that prayer: “Stay.”

He didn’t answer audibly, but His answer was still unmistakable by the way He changed our hearts.

I was both relieved and somewhat confused, when we came home from our west coast trip, having found no place comparable to our “old” home.  Although there were countless houses for sale, none seemed to catch or maintain our interest.  In fact, instead of being determined to relocate, we both felt completely cold about the prospect of moving away from our home in Alberta.  God had completely removed the feeling of wanderlust in both of us and replaced it instead with a renewed sense of purpose and belonging to stay put in our “old” home.  Even more astonishing, He restored the passion we once had for our homestead, and to see it in a “new” light, so to speak.

Before Christmas, we welcomed a new grandbaby into the family and as I held that little miracle in my arms, I thought about how wonderful it was to make new memories here once again.  I saw my home with new eyes, appreciating our view even more than I had ever done before.  I was reconnecting with all the familiar sights around me!  Walking through each room with a thankful heart, I was even taking renewed interest in cleaning, dusting and vacuuming them!  Talk about a miraculous change of heart!

Over the past month, my husband and I have “reclaimed” our home again.  We have been redecorating and doing some early spring cleaning so we can thoroughly enjoy our space once more, and embrace the life God has planned for us right here.

It’s a fresh start, in exactly the same place!  I had prayed God would open doors for us but I will admit I had no idea He would open the old, familiar ones and give us a whole new perspective and direction from there.

Isn’t God surprising?

 

 

 

 

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March for Life

I will never forget what it felt like to hold my son for the very first time.  He was born on a Sunday but I didn’t get to hold him until the next day and when he was placed in my arms it was love at first sight!  After two traumatic miscarriages and the doctors telling me I would likely never have another baby after the birth of my first daughter, adoption became our only option to have another child.  By God’s design, our son became our chosen child, born to a young unwed teen mom.  She could have chosen an abortion, but instead she made the tough, courageous decision to give her child up for adoption.  Her selflessness allowed us to parent our precious son to adulthood, and allowed our older daughter, who was eight when he was born, to be a “big sister”.  That God blessed me with a baby girl three years after our son was born, proving the doctors wrong about me carrying another child, was just another example of God’s grace to me.  My three children are my greatest gifts from God and just five weeks ago my son and his wife blessed us with a new grandson!  Our third grandbaby!

When my son was a young child, I became involved with the Crisis Pregnancy Centre in our small town.  They asked if we would open our home up to have an unwed teen mom live with us.  Scared and ostracized by her family, she became one of several young moms whom we cared for through their pregnancies.  Two of the girls elected to parent their babies, another opted for adoption.  In each case, I grew to have compassion and great love for the girls and an even greater appreciation for the young woman who chose life for our son.

In 2010, I published my first book, Shoot the Wounded, and one of the themes focuses on a young, unwed teen mom.  Ronnie’s character is a tapestry of the teen moms we have known and loved through the years.

As I was holding my new grandson, shortly after he was born, I couldn’t help but wonder how he will fit into God’s Great Big Story.  As I posted yesterday, 60 million babies never had the chance to live but neither did the millions of offspring THEY might have had!  Again, I feel an overwhelming sense of loss!

So, this past week I have been trying to raise awareness of those precious babies who cannot speak for themselves.  Abortion ends their hopes and dreams forever; not only theirs but THEIR children!

This past week, I came across a Facebook post that had me weeping with joy as I read it.  I’ve asked Heidi if I might share it:

“So I typically keep things pretty light on Facebook but I have something weighing heavy on my heart:

I have been watching, on all platforms of social media, the #womensmarch that has literally broken records and brought so many together. I have felt proud to be a woman and yet in a way I’ve never felt more disconnected from my fellow womankind.

You see, while I agree that women should have equal rights to vote and live and work and enjoy life, the “right to choose” is one that is tough for me.

The picture on this post is of my grandma and I (just after her 80th birthday). My grandma is a very kind and generous woman who has blessed many lives. My grandma is also a strong woman. My grandma is a fighter. My grandma is a miracle.

My grandma is a failed abortion.

In May 1935 my grandma was aborted at about 26 weeks. When my great-grandmother was induced and birthed my grandma live, the doctors and nurses told her that this fetus would not survive… she did!
My grandma has 2 of her own living children, 6 grandchildren (me included) and 7 great-grandchildren who are alive today because it turns out she was a baby girl who would become a woman; and she had to fight for her right, not just to choose, but her right to live.
I’m so grateful she had the strength to survive and thrive.

(Before you react or comment, please understand I’m only sharing my story. I’m not judging others, nor can I begin to comprehend the vast circumstances and life experiences of the potential readers. I just felt compelled to share my heart.)

I am blessed to have strong women in my life. If you are a woman reading this, thanks for sharing in my journey. Let me know how I can support you in yours.”

To all my Journey Thoughts readers but especially to all women, if you must march for something that will make a real difference in this generation and the next, March for Life on Friday, January 27 in Washington, D.C.  In Canada, the Campaign Life Coalition has information about marches for life that are held throughout the year in each of the different provinces.

March to honour the 60 million babies who were never born, and march for the ones who still have a chance to live and to discover their unique place and purpose in God’s Big Story.

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Mourning 60 Million Lives

hats-cropped-newOn January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, which recognized that the constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman’s right to make her own personal medical decisions — including the decision to have an abortion.  Forty-four years and 60 million abortions later, this “landmark” decision continues to divide women, physicians and politicians based on their belief about how old a child needs to be in the womb before it is considered a viable human-being.  In other words, does abortion kill an innocent human being? If not, then there is no moral or ethical problem. If however, abortion represents the killing of an innocent member of the human family, it is immoral, unethical and cannot be justified. There is no such thing as a right to kill innocent people.  So the question is, at what age, or at what point after conception is a baby considered an “innocent member of the human family”?

As a Christian, the answer is an easy one: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  (Jeremiah 1:5)  The Lord is speaking to Jeremiah in particular here, but the implication is for any and everyone…

The Lord knew us before we were even conceived!

It also alludes to the fact that God had a purpose in mind for all of us before we were even conceived.  Let that sink in.  Every single human being has a purpose that fits into God’s Big Story before we were even conceived.  Our journey after birth is discovering our place in God’s Story!

What an adventure!

And yet…

Since the Roe v. Wade decision, 60 million little ones never even had a chance to discover their purpose and place in God’s Story.

Let me try to paint a picture so you can visualize in your minds what it means to lose 60 million little lives of potential forever.  If you read my post from the other day: “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!” about the Women’s March world-wide, there are estimates that four to five million women protested around the world and in Washington D.C. alone there may have been close to five hundred thousand.  These women, as you know from my post, were marching for pro-choice rights (the right to abort), as well as spewing profanities at the current government(s).  Most of them wore pink-knitted toques (I’m Canadianizing them a bit), but they were supposed to represent women’s genitalia.  I know, pretty disgusting.  So, picture the streets littered with all those toques lying side-by-side had the women chosen to cast them aside like trash.  It would have been quite a sight!

Now picture 60 million little knitted baby caps like they give to all the newborns in the hospitals.  Pink for girls and blue for boys and gender-neutral colours of yellow and green.  Picture them littering the streets cast aside like trash.  60 million little caps, representing 60 million little babies who never got to wear their cap.  60 million little souls who never got to experience life and find their place in God’s big wide world.  60 million children who never got to play, sing, and experience the wonders of Creation around them.  60 million teenagers who never got the chance to work, to love, to grasp the realities of life.  60 million people who never got to discover who they are and who they could be in God’s Big Story.

It is too tragic to comprehend.

 

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I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!

“I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!”  That was the battle-cry of women in the 70’s, a Helen Reddy song released in 1971 and one that I sung with all the gusto a 13 year-old girl could muster that year.  It was all about equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, believing that girls could do anything just as well and maybe even better than boys!

Rather than sign up for the girl’s sewing and cooking options in my high school, my three friends and I signed up for shop class and we became the first girls in our school to do something so radical.  We were ridiculed and bullied for that “rebelliousness” not only by the boys who did not like seeing girls in the shop class, but also by the girls who thought us “freaks” and tomboys.  Still, undaunted, we took apart and rebuilt an old Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine, tried our hands at welding and participated in metal working and at the end of the year felt like we had actually accomplished something huge for the feminist movement.

That was then…

In 1977, I met the love of my life and we married two years later.  He led me to the Lord and together we became a dynamic duo that raised three children to adulthood and we are now involved in the lives of three, wonderful grandbabies.  Over these close to forty years, I have learned the true meaning of being a strong, powerful woman not by the world’s standards but in being “submissive” (1 Peter 3: 1-2) to my Godly husband.  That word has not threatened my femininity one bit because it draws me into rightful obedience to God.  My husband is the Spiritual Leader in my home, and rightly so!  He is the head of our household.  (Ephesians 5:23)  He does not dominate me, he cares and loves me as Christ loves His church.  I am proud that I am striving to become a Proverbs 31: 10-31 woman, because I am more valued and respected now than I ever was during those Feminine Mystique years!

This is now…

This past weekend I witnessed what was touted as “an inclusive event and everyone who supports women’s rights are welcome.”  It could have been an historical event to support women of all races, religions and cultures.  To rally behind the disenfranchised, to show love and unity and let our voices send messages of peace and hope to those who do not have a voice.  However, as I have learned over these few days, what actually transpired was a monumental lie.  It was an inclusive event only if you were pro-choice, and shared the liberal, cultural feminism that pervades our society today.  Women who shared different opinions, who were Pro-life advocates, and held mostly conservative views were not allowed to march.  Instead, they were turned away, ridiculed and even bullied.  In a documented incident here in Alberta, a woman reporter was actually punched by a man as she tried to cover the Edmonton rally.

That absolutely sickens me.

I was appalled by the pictures of women wearing women genitalia masks and the profane-laced vulgarity they displayed on their posters and spewed into microphones to rally those gathered into supporting their hate-filled cause.  That kind of pornographic diatribe was not fit to show, let alone support!

Instead, they ostracized more men and women with their vindictive slogans and venom-filled agenda than they managed to win to their cause.  I, for one, felt violated, horrified and ashamed by what transpired there in Washington and around the world, and I wish the images on T.V. and on social media could be erased from my memory forever.

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Who Reads What and Why? – Fake News

Today is the Inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the U.S. of A.  Media will cover this historic event from every angle (we hope) and will let all bias slide (we hope), but just in case, here’s what you need to know so you can keep informed today and going forward.

This is meant to be a Friday Funny 🙂

1.The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2.The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3.The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country, and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don’t really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

5.The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn’t mind running the country, if they could find the time — and if they didn’t have to leave Southern California to do it.

6.The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a poor job of it, thank you very much.

7.The New York Daily News is read by people who aren’t too sure who’s running the country and don’t really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8.The New York Post is read by people who don’t care who is running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9.The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country, but need the baseball scores.

10.The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren’t sure if there is a country or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped, minority, feminist, atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy, provided of course, that they are not Republicans.

11.The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

12.The Key West Citizen is read by people who have recently caught a fish and need something to wrap it in.

(I decided to add a few of my own…so that Canadians don’t feel left out.)

13. The Vancouver Sun is read by people who like to keep up with all the tree-hugging protests in Canada and think they run the country.

14. The Calgary Herald is read by people who like to keep up with all the tree-hugging protests in British Columbia that may interfere with the oil sands project and who know they run the country.

15.  The Winnipeg Free Press is read by people who like to keep up with the weather.

16.  The Toronto Globe and Mail is read by people who use the newspaper as a blanket when they can’t get into a homeless shelter at night.

17.  The Ottawa Citizen is read by Ottawa Senator fans only who look up hockey scores only.

18.  The Montreal Gazette is read by Quebecers scouring the “Help Wanted” ads for jobs in Alberta.

19.  People from New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Nova Scotia read any of the newspapers previously listed that were accidently left behind by tourists.

20.  People from Newfoundland get newspaper delivery a half an hour later than any one else in Canada so they could care less what is written because it’s always “old news” when it gets to them anyway.

(I will now be shunned by the entire newspaper industry…I could do worse :))

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Bugged!

Several years ago, my daughter, Laurelle was discovering the joys and challenges of living in a much warmer climate than she had ever been used to here in sunny Alberta, Canada.  She and her husband moved to go to seminary in Kentucky, and she was faced with stifling heat of 42 degrees celcius – in comparison to a warm day in Alberta of 32 degrees celcius.  Alberta can get above 40 degrees but it’s certainly not the norm for this northern climate.  Along with the temperature and humidity, Laurelle was also dealing with a variety of creepy crawlies and I’m not talking about my grandbaby, Jaxon 🙂 .

Laurelle has never been a fan of bugs in general.  Alberta knows how to grow moths and mosquitoes!  We get the occasional spider crawl up our walls here.  Beetles and ants and grasshoppers abound, but the cold climate manages to decimate them pretty quickly once the first frost hits in late September.  Still, I’ve known my girl to run screaming from a room if she discovered a moth flitting about.  I think she exaggerates when she says they are as “big as bats”!

In Kentucky, I assume the climate brings out the bug beasts in a variety of shapes and sizes that Laurelle had never encountered before.  I was on Facetime with her one day and had to laugh when in mid sentence she was suddenly screaming and running around the house having just seen a “spider-cricket” the size of a “horse” on a basement wall.  Her gallant husband captured the bug in a plastic cup and then with an evil glint in his eye, crossed the street to his neighbours’ (the Whitford family who traveled from Cochrane to Kentucky to attend seminary there as well); then smirking with delight, my son-in-law unceremoniously placed the cup in their mailbox!  It was the start of a host of practical jokes played out on each other that year!

When my daughter discovered another Kentucky bug in her basement she threatened to forsake ever going into the basement again to avoid dealing with those bugs there in her new home.  Since the laundry machines were also in the basement, I think it was just another excuse to avoid doing the wash! 🙂

It got me thinking though about all the things that “bug” me (and I don’t mean the creepy crawlies either).  Things that “bug” me enough so I don’t want to “stay the course” or I run screaming from the room so I don’t have to face it anymore.  I have a long list of things that stress me out, that bug me so much I don’t function well while I’m having to deal with those “bugs”.  Here are just a few:

1.  People – yes, sometimes people bug me.  What’s that saying? – “Hurt people hurt people!”  It is hard to deal with unpleasant, hurt people.  Anyone who has ever been in ministry is shouting giving me a “thumbs up” sign!  But scripture is clear:  “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  Luke 6:27-31

2.  Circumstances – whether you are healthy or not, financially stable or not, happy or not…sometimes circumstances will “bug” you to a point where you feel overwhelmed and depressed.  Just ask any young Mom of a toddler, or parents of a rebellious teen, or a man who has lost his job, or a woman struggling with breast cancer.  If you allow your circumstances to rob you of joy, you are allowing the enemy to gain a foothold in your life that may cause you to one day run screaming from the room trying to escape your circumstances.  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

3.  Unfulfilled Expectations – we all have them, I call them the “what ifs” in life.  You’re bugged because life just didn’t turn out the way you thought it would.  You’re either constantly looking back, wishing the past had been different, or you are looking forward, hoping the future will be better.  You’re not living in the NOW and therefore not enjoying the blessings of each given day!  “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong, and you shall be like a  watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.”  Isaiah 58:11

4.  The Reflection in the Mirror – this is the toughest “bug” to let go of – dissatisfaction with oneself; not liking the person in the mirror.  I am constantly shocked, when working with youth especially, how so many of them feel unworthy, unloved, ugly, and stupid.  Certainly there are those that may be egotistical to a fault too, but the majority of people I know, (young and old) are dealing with bitterness, abandonment, unresolved hurt and conflict, sin and guilt that hampers them from becoming the beautifully created men and women that God intended them to be.  Whenever I find myself being dissatisfied with my reflection in the mirror, I like to read Psalm 139 to remind myself how much God loves me “bugs” and all!  “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:14

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