God Loves Alcoholics Too.

I have been wanting to write about alcohol for a while.  It seems so many wonderful people in my life are affected by this one word, either as a victim of someone else’s over-indulgence with alcohol or perhaps even their own.

Alcohol is one of those things that affects generations. Children grow up hating their alcoholic parents, only to become alcoholics themselves. Or perhaps alcoholic parents are funnier or friendlier when they drink, and give their children a notion that alcoholics aren’t bad, but rather it’s a normal way of living.

Full disclosure, I am not an alcoholic but I have been affected by alcohol.  Despite my other issues and flaws, alcohol isn’t one of them. For some reason, I don’t suffer from hang overs, and there has been a very brief period of my life where I would drink a few drinks each evening and just love the overall ‘warmth’ it gave me and that’s when I realized I so easily could become an alcoholic. In that moment, I made a decision that I would not raise my children to have an alcoholic mother and I stopped drinking each day.  I knew that if I continued, and allowed alcohol to control me, those were the days I would one day look back on and think “why didn’t I stop then?”

I do have the occasional drink, a bit of wine with company, or a nice cocktail during a fancy dinner out. I am not against moderate amounts of alcohol at all.  Biblically based, moderation with drinking isn’t an issue, in fact Paul even writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23, “Don’t drink only water. You ought to drink a little wine for the sake of your stomach because you are sick so often.” Notice the word little there – Paul isn’t encouraging alcoholism or overindulgence but is encouraging Timothy to drink a little wine to help his body, scholars believe because Timothy struggled from indigestion perhaps even because of contaminated water.

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

We can choose to break the cycle of alcohol abuse or not.

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

Let me tell you, God’s plan for our lives was not to see us controlled by a substance, either as the addict or as the person who loves the addict. God created us to be victorious in life. He created us to be full of joy and love. He created us to be loved, and to love others. We were not meant to live in our own bondage, or the bondage someone else created for us.

If you prayed to God for help getting someone to stop drinking, and they didn’t, I’m so sorry. God can reach hearts, but at the end of the day He didn’t create us to be robots who He controls, He created us to be people with free will who choose their own path.

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

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

For those struggling with addiction themselves, we can look to Jesus for help and inspiration.

Yes, Jesus drank, in fact his very first miracle written about in the Bible was when he turned water into wine at a wedding. But, that was so guests could enjoy a celebratory glass of wine, and not a reference to us that he drank, so we can drink what we want, when we want too! Jesus did not have a problem with alcohol.  That is inspiring to teach us moderation and control.

But, he does understand those who do have that problem. Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” When they are referring to Jesus here as a High Priest, its because the Jewish people had a High Priest who represented them to God, and Jesus became that person for all of us. But the main point, Jesus UNDERSTANDS our weaknesses, for he faced the SAME testings we do, yet he DID NOT sin.

Accepting Jesus as your Saviour allows the Holy Spirit to enter your body, and that Holy Spirit can help you conquer so much including addiction, but for some its not as simple as that and its okay to need more help through counselling or support groups, which I will write about in a moment.

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

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

The Bible makes it clear that alcohol isn’t bad, over indulgence is.

That can be applied to other aspects of life as well. But, drinking in front of children when you’re responsible for them, drinking to the point of drunkenness, picking alcohol over relationships, going into debt buying alcohol, making poor choices because of drinking all aren’t okay. I don’t need to list all the signs of alcoholism, I’m sure you reading this know.

Some people start their own problem with alcohol because they were shown that was a norm, and don’t know how to cope or handle life without alcohol. Some people drink thinking that it will help them with their anxiety, anger, depression, or various other flaws they see in themselves and want a quick fix for. Often, people are drinking because they are repressing feelings that they simply don’t know how to cope with. These reasons are why I mentioned CR.

Don’t put a band aid over a broken heart. It won’t fix it. It isn’t easy to deal with the root causes of why people become addicts, but the freedom of bondage you will receive by mending your heart properly will last a lifetime.  Find the right tools to cope, find supportive people who encourage sobriety, find the missing piece of your heart that you’re covering with alcohol and you will find true peace and joy.

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

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

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

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

A Blue Bag

Today I had to go to the Hospital for a breathing test because my asthma has been acting up for a few months.

I met this wonderful older man who ran my tests, and we talked about our lives in between waiting for different parts of the testing. I was so thankful to have such a character to work with, because he eased my tension. I was placed in a plastic box – all the sides, and roof were see-through plastic and sealable so he could control the pressure levels to test my lungs.

I commented, “I feel like I’m in one of those glass coffins they put foreign dignitaries in when they’re dead and on display for the country, like Mao.” “Or Lennon, I think” he added. Clearly he’s had this conversation with other patients.

While he only had the door shut for a few minutes, and even though it was completely see through, I still a heavy feeling over me when the door of this tiny box of solitude was locked into place.

I thought “Thank you Lord that I am alive an other day, and that this is but a test and not a reality for me.”

When I said my good-byes to him, I gathered my belongings and went to the elevator to head out. I was standing there when it happened: two staff wheeled a person in a zipped up blue bag on a gurney past me. It was like the entire world froze, yet for them it was business as usual.

Who was this person in the blue bag?

What was their legacy? Was someone somewhere falling apart because this person is no longer breathing? Did they know Jesus? Was the family prepared or was this a tragic accident? Were they young? Or had they lived a wonderful and long life?

A simple plastic blue bag. That was it.

It just really had me reflecting on the anecdotes people tell about how it doesn’t matter what kind of car we drive, or how much money we have in the bank, when we’re dead, we’re all the same – gone.

This person could have been a multimillionaire, and they were in the same blue bag as would have been used for the poorest person around. This same bag covers criminals, and those who live their lives justly. It doesn’t discriminate. It just sends one message: Your time here on earth is done.

We’ve all been there: a phone call in the middle of the night. An unexpected diagnosis. An act of violence. Suddenly our world is flipped upside down, and a relationship we have is forever broken.

We’re all going to face this someday. Each and every one us will die.  I am thankful for my faith, and the promises of a new body, a place of no trials or tribulations and only love.

But, I have to live here until I get there.

I want to live so that people will be better off when I get my blue bag. I want to have peace with whomever I can while I can. I want to spend less time around those who don’t want to live for peace.

I want to be strong enough to have boundaries in place to keep myself healthy mentally and physically. I want to be happy, and spend a lot of each day smiling, laughing and singing praise.

I want to be known for my positive attributes, so I need to work on them and in doing so naturally my negative attributes will lessen.

I want to inspire others, to give out endless compliments, to encourage, and comfort. I want to love deeply. I want to be known as passionate, kind, and giving. I want to be a friend to all.

I want the world to be a better place when I get my bag than it was the day before my birth.

I don’t want to be wheeled through the halls in my blue bag and have people think “we never got to resolve that issue.” I don’t want people to be relieved when I get my blue bag. I don’t want them to be sad either – rather, I want them rejoice in my new address and be thankful to have known me while I was here.

What do you want to go into your blue bag with you? Memories of bitterness, resentment and anger? Or stories that bring your loved ones joy and peace in your absence?

How will you fill your blue bag?

Only we can control what legacy we leave behind. It is only in our own hands how the world will be when we each receive our blue bag.

“…Run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.  Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you…” – 1 Timothy 6:11-12 NLT

To my child, with love.

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

“Dear sweet child,

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

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

I felt so overwhelmed with emotion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love forever and always,

Mom. Xo”

 

Loving The Life I Have

In the interest of being super responsible (well not really, or this would have been a long time ago..) Okay.. trying to catch up and be responsible, my husband and I are working on our will.

No one prepares you for the emotional roller coaster that it is to think about the death of one us, or worse yet, both of us. What becomes of our home and assets? How about the responsibility of raising the 4 children we created? Who will give away our sentimental objects to the right people? What if one of us is on life support? What if one dies and the other is on life support? What if we all die together?

Some of these questions have been insanely hard to answer, much less think about.

The big one for us is in regards to our children. I hope and pray that I get the opportunity to fulfill my life long dream of being a parent, by actually getting the opportunity to raise my children completely.

But, if I don’t.. someone else has to. Someone has to step in and be their mom. Someone has to make sure they are there to cheer them on at graduation, to throw them baby showers when they become parents, to counsel them through the grief of losing a parent. Someone else has to take them to countless doctor’s appointments, kiss their booboos, make sure they eat a healthy diet and don’t forget their lunch.

Its been in these moments of reflection that I have been thinking about what an incredible honour it is to be a parent.

Someone recently told me she wasn’t ready to have kids yet because she wasn’t ready to be entirely selfless. I loved that she recognized that, because being a Mom is the most selfless thing I’ve ever done.

But in my heart, on this side of the children or no children equation, I know the blessing it is too.

For every selfless act, there’s a greater reward. For every long night, there’s a joyful morning with sticky fingers and a fresh start.

For every trial, there is triumph. Sicknesses and scars heal. They finally sleep all glorious night long.

We look back on stories that were absolute hell at the time and laugh as we retell them. Parents, think of the diaper painting stories, or the times when your kids embarrassed you sharing TMI stories.  Funny how the bad and scary seems somewhat hilarious as we leave those days behind.

There is a moment in each child’s life where they say “I love you Mommy” first. I don’t remember it with each child, but I do remember the emotions. Its usually around 2 years old somewhere. As a Mom,  you carried a baby for nine-ish months. You went through the worst pain to bring them here. You sacrificed painful moments learning to nurse, you have deep bags from sheer exhaustion, and you age immensely from the lack of sleep. Then, suddenly, you have a wild and rambunctious toddler. They disappear in stores. They ask ‘why’ 1000 times a day.  They drive you bonkers, but you love them so much it hurts.

Then, out of the blue, there it is. “I love you Mommy.” And suddenly every single thing you sacrificed seems like it doesn’t even matter. The person who you created out of love with someone you love, and whom you’ve spent all this time showing selfless love to tells you first, that they love you.  They recognize that you are worthy of their love. Sure, they show us their love when they show a preference for us, or calm for us. But when they are thinking to themselves “I just love my Mom so much I need to tell her right now.” That’s a whole new statement of love.

There is no greater moment in my mind. I’m so thankful I got to experience that four times. Whether I get to raise them until adulthood or not, my dream of being their Mom has come true.

The joys that I have felt as a Mom are endless. The trials have been many, this life is not for the selfish or the faint of heart by any means, but it is the single greatest thing I have ever done with my life. It is my dream come true.

So, though I am not overly enjoying the thought of estate planning and will making, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude.

It’s often said that the Holy Spirit is the greatest comforter that there is. I truly believe that because I know since becoming a Christian, I feel God’s presence in my trials so much more than I did before, especially as a mother. I feel comforted by my faith, knowing that my death itself won’t be disastrous.

I will be in peace, I will meet my maker, and hug my saviour. I will meet family that passed before me whom I never had the luxury of knowing this side of heaven, and I will reunite with many faces I have missed for years. I will be comfortable, free from pain, anger and sadness.  I will be in awe, worshipping.

Death itself used to scare me, but not now. Now I feel peace thinking about what awaits me. The more I read my Bible, the more my faith grows, the more excited I am to think about what awaits me. Death itself causes me no anxiety. I can’t wait to talk to Noah about what the flood was like first hand. To laugh with Isaiah about him being naked for 3 years as an image to teach with. To sing with David. Most importantly, to thank Jesus face to face for my salvation, for allowing death to not cause me the fear it once did. I am comforted, when I think of what awaits me.

What does bring me trepidation is what I will leave behind. It is my sincere hope that I get to raise my babies until they are grown. That I will snuggle with my grandbabies. That I will hold my husband’s hand long after retirement and aching bodies have set in. There’s lots I want to accomplish yet.

But, if that’s not the plan and my time isn’t long. I am just so thankful for what I got.

Over 30 years have come and gone since I was born. That’s a lot of time to do a lot of pretty amazing things. I’ve been fortunate enough to do things some people never get to do. I’ve created some pretty amazing memories.  I’ve outlived several family members, even cousins of my own. Their days are gone, but somehow for some reason mine aren’t.

It is in thinking of my death that makes me realize just how thankful I am for my life.

As cliché as it is, if we lived every day as it were our last, how much more joy would we have? How much longer would we hug those we love? Would we put our phones down and listen more intently to our children? Would we spend time making special foods from scratch? Would we hug and kiss our children and spouse more often? Would we worry less about the long term and focus on the joy that today brings? Would we complain less, knowing its such a blessing that we got to be alive this long already?

Would we focus on the immense joy we have instead of seeing only the burdens we are experiencing in that moment?

I want to be that person! I want my children to know how thankful and grateful I am to be alive,  with the pleasure of raising them. I want my husband to know how committed I am to loving him hopefully well beyond our 70th anniversary. I want my parents to know how thankful I am for every opportunity that they have given me, whether it be small like their encouragement or big like the physical work they put into raising me. I want my extended family to know how proud I am to be related to each of them, how deep my love runs even as the familial connections get smaller and smaller. I want my friends to know I chose them to be friends because they are so valuable and I appreciate so much that they are family to me even though not biologically related. I want my church to know it has shaped me, formed me and rearranged me in the best ways possible.

Most importantly, I want the world to know that I love life. Growing old is a privilege denied to many. How thankful we should be for every single day.

It’s in thinking about my own death, that I realize when that day comes, I’ll be thankful to say I lived well. I saw my dreams come true. I’ll take some pretty amazing moments with me in my heart to heaven.

I hope to see you there.

He Took It All..

“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.”

The author of Matthew quotes many Old Testament books in a bid to show the Jewish people that Jesus was truly the Messiah they were awaiting.

One such verse is quoted in Matthew Chapter 8. At this time of his ministry, Jesus was healing many people, including those sick with physical and mental illnesses. The author writes,

“This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:17, NIV)

He is describing the healing works of Jesus to be in line with what was prophesized about Jesus by the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah. This original quote is from Isaiah chapter 53.

First, I was caught by the wording. The word infirmities literally means ‘physical or mental weakness.’ So the author is stating that Jesus took our physical and mental weaknesses and our diseases. Isaiah predicted this, and Matthew showed it had come true, and is true today.

I thought about the struggles I have with anxiety, and how my biggest relief comes through prayer and meditation on God’s Word. Often I feel somewhat guilty going to God with my same burdens over and over, and at times equally as frustrated, but this verse showed me that Jesus doesn’t mind. He wants me to give him my mental weaknesses because he already took them to the cross.

To understand this on a deeper level, we need to go back further.

First of all, where do our diseases and mental and physical weaknesses come from? So many people are quick to blame God when they hear of a loved one’s diagnosis, but God never created these things. When he placed Adam and Eve on this earth, in Eden, they were healthy and disease free. They were strong and vibrant. Until, that is, sin entered. When the forbidden fruit was consumed, sin entered the world, and everything changed.
Diseases, physical and mental weaknesses are all a consequence to the sinful choice that Adam and Eve together made in disobedience to God.

But God loves us too much to leave us there. Enter Jesus. His son, our Saviour. Destined to bring about healing and victory to each of our lives. Before he walked on this earth, many spoke prophetic words about him, especially Isaiah. Here is the some of the original scripture that Matthew was quoting from:

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6, NIV)

By looking at the original verses, we can understand deeper the truths about the verse from Matthew. Isaiah’s verse shows much more detail, including the words that Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. These words referring to his death on the cross. The punishment that brought us peace, the debt for our sins, was laid on him on Calvary’s hill.

The debt Adam and Eve gave us all in their choice to sin, Jesus willingly paid.

Its already been done. Jesus has already paid the price. This means all of our physical and mental weaknesses as well as our diseases don’t have to be ours to bare any longer. We are welcome to give them to the Lord, because he’s already paid the price.

So what physical weakness do you struggle with? What mental weakness can you not seem to escape? What disease inflicts your body?

Keep on handing it over to Jesus, as often as you need too. He already paid the price. Allow him to heal you, to comfort you, and to take care of you.

The best part of this verse is that it covers all of our sin too. Our mental weaknesses don’t just cover things like anxiety, depression, or insomnia, it also covers all the things we think that cause us to sin: our lust, our hatred, our anger, our jealously, our false motives, our rage, our manipulation, our gluttony, our greed, our pride, … Our physical weaknesses aren’t just our exhaustion, our digestive issues, our muscular problems, but they include the physical sins we do, too: our sexual sin, our violence, our addictions to drugs, alcohol, food, whatever it may be you can’t seem to stop abusing, our thefts, our wrong turns – literally all of it, covered!

Jesus took our physical and mental weaknesses and our diseases. He took them. We can stop living in condemnation because of our sin, and claim victory over it because he has already been victorious. We can stop living in misery, because he has already been victorious.

We can literally give him every single physical and mental weakness and disease every single day and trust in him for a better outcome because he literally took it all.

I am so thankful.

Submitting to Political Leaders in Uncertain Times..

I’m currently studying the book of 1 Peter with a lovely group of women. The book itself is written by one of Jesus’ closest disciples – Peter, whom Jesus refers to as the rock on which he would build his church. Peter was there to witness Jesus’ ministry first hand, and had great authority when he wrote because he was so close to Jesus himself.

Peter wrote the book of first Peter around A.D. 64 which is a time totally different from today. A lot of the verses in 1 Peter seem counter-cultural to today’s society, and yet the more you study the background and reason for them, the more that they seem beneficial, even now.

That is, until you find something that absolutely makes you uncomfortable.

Respecting People in Authority

 For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.

It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.” – 1 Peter 2:13-17, NLT

Submit to all human authority? Even the King or Head of State? Those are the officials God has appointed, wait – what?!

Rewind almost 2000 years to when Peter wrote these words. Times were a lot different then they are now.  First of all, who were these words written for? Peter addressed this letter to the Christian believers who were living in the Roman Provinces of Asia Minor (which is the Northern part of Modern Turkey.) Biblical scholars believe that the intended audience was Christian Gentiles, so in other words non-Jewish people who had given themselves to Christ.

These people faced serious persecution, often dying excruciatingly painful deaths at the hands of their government for their belief in Christ. The Roman Emperor at the time was Nero. Remember the words Peter wrote above, as you learn some facts about Nero:

Nero was adopted by his biological Uncle, who was the Emperor of Rome, and as such he inherited his position as Emperor in A.D. 54 until his own death in A.D. 68.  Five years into his reign, he had his own mother murdered. It is alleged that he also murdered his first and second wives too. Many ancient scholars believe that Nero started the great fire in Rome in A.D. 64 (right around the time 1 Peter was written) so that he could rebuild Rome as he wanted it to be. In order to stop the rumour that he had started the fire himself, Nero blamed the Christian community and so began intense persecution leading to the deaths of Christians in many merciless ways including being thrown to wild dogs to be eaten alive, being tarred and burned alive as human torches during the night and many other despicable ways.

When you compare Nero to modern day leaders, suddenly they don’t seem so bad, eh? Justin Trudeau wearing the emoji-last supper sweater and Donald Trump claiming to be Christian suddenly pale in comparison! It doesn’t make the actions of modern day leaders right, but it sure does help us to recognize that we have a lot less to worry about under their watch then Peter did while he wrote those words while living under Nero’s leadership.

So how on earth could Peter write those words when he faced such intensely frightening persecution and a leader who didn’t even remotely have Peter’s best interest in mind?

Just prior to these verses, Peter reminds us that we are temporary residents in this world. Peter walked very closely with Jesus during Jesus’ ministry years. He was one of the three disciples who Jesus really brought into his inner circle. Peter had a true appreciation for the temporary life that we have on earth. He was able to keep his eyes focused on the bigger picture: eternity.

Peter’s entire goal in his writing was to remind us to submit ourselves for the sake of the Lord. When we walk in obedience with scripture, we are trusting that God knows better than we do. We are showing that we hold honour to God and His way even when society thinks we are nuts. We are learning to control ourselves and our own tendencies in faith that God does indeed know what’s best for us!

Submission seems to equal weakness in society’s view, but I would argue it is the exact opposite. It takes true strength to submit!

It takes true strength and faith to submit to a leader when you believe in your own self! When you think that you know what is best for you, that you know how to overcome or do what needs to be done. Learning to submit is a process of really demonstrating true faith to God. Its literally giving Him permission to take the driver’s seat of your life, and that is not easy at all.

I compare it to our call to forgive others. Learning to forgive, to actually truly forgive, enough that I was able to pray for my enemies and literally make an active decision each day to forgive was not easy! Its easy to harbour hate and anger, but I know that God’s plan for forgiveness is for my own benefit because it allows me to stop allowing those who have hurt me to live rent-free in my head, stealing my joy. In trusting God, and letting Him be the ultimate judge, I was able to forgive completely and now my life is not rooted in anger, but rather in God’s joy and peace that passes all understanding.

So, now I have to learn that submission to my leadership in government is what’s best for me too. Even though I didn’t vote for that particular party. Even though I don’t agree with what that particular politician is doing or saying. Even though I don’t agree with some of the laws and bills being brought into place. Even though, even though, even though…

Submitting to my leaders isn’t accepting defeat. It is not laying over and letting our leaders walk all over us. It is not allowing anyone to take our fundamental rights away. It is not ignoring my right to vote, or partake in a democratic society. Our submission does not mean that we change our conscience because even with submitting to leaders, we submit to God first and foremost.

So what does submitting to leadership actually look like? It looks like living a life that God called us too. How can we submit to our leaders in today’s culture?

God calls us to pray for our enemies. If you disagree with your political leaders, pray for them! Allow God to change your heart so that it is not filled with anger and hatred for the choices your governing body is making. Allow God room to give you His grace so that you may see your politicians as human, capable of error just like yourself.

If you don’t agree with policies, laws, legislations, bills or even just the current word usage of politicians, take proactive steps to help. This doesn’t mean heckling, or threatening. It doesn’t mean calling them names that would have warranted your mother threatening to bring out the soap. It means being professional and explaining your position perhaps through written word, or even by reaching out to your local representative respectfully and maybe even vulnerably.

If you feel certain issues need to be dealt with, or aren’t being addressed adequately than educate those with like minds. Help them to know how to take a stand respectfully, instead of simply sharing an article on Facebook declaring the idiocy of our politicians. Spend time fact checking things before you share them, so as to share truths and not slander.

Take time to consider that we will some day answer for our own behaviour. Can you imagine trying to justify the word choices you have used for your leaders to God someday? Regardless of how far apart you are in beliefs with your leaders, they are still children of the Lord in His eyes, whether they are serving Him or not.

My words are not coming with judgement, but rather with personal application. I tend to be like most – angry and disrespectful – when I see a political leader make a decision I disagree with.  Now that I have studied and reflected on these verses in depth, I need to put them into application and practice what I preach. For me, this means actively praying for my political leaders. First, for their salvation if it is not yet there, but also for them as individuals. When I began to pray for the strength to forgive my enemies, it didn’t necessarily change my enemies, but it did change me!

So, now I will pray for the same thing to happen regarding my political leaders. I will pray that God will equip me with the strength that I need as a person entitled to free-speech in the 21st century, to submit to my authority figures. I will pray that God will show me how to obey Him first, and how to show respect when my governing body defies the Word of God so that I may defend my rights as a Christian adequately and responsibly.

I will celebrate the victory that the leaders of today can not light me on fire as a human torch for believing what I do. I will take the time to consider that the leaders I may disagree with are there for a reason, with a purpose even if I can’t understand it. I will submit understanding that my God always has my best interest in mind. I will consider the Non-Christian world as they watch me and how I speak about politicians, leadership and authority.

If all of us as Christians dutifully submitted to our leadership and held them up in prayer instead of hate filled comments and Facebook fuelled debates – what could happen? Jesus said mountains could be moved if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, so what could be done if our entire body of Christ prayed dutifully or our leaders?

Ultimately, God establishes all authority. He is sovereign and in control. Our submission ultimately shows our trust in Him, not in our politicians. Our submission does not make us doormats, but rather it makes us respectful and honourable so that we may demonstrate God’s calling on our lives. Our submission allows us to stand out from the crowd, and speak with an ease that other groups may not show. Our submission allows us to not resent the rules and regulations that are designed to keep us safe from chaos and sometimes even danger.

Most importantly, our submission shows honour for the Word of God, and truly that should be our ultimate goal.

A Decade Of Difference

I turned 20 years old when I was 38 weeks pregnant with my first child. I was dating his father, on and off since I was 17, and I was in my last year of school working towards my Social Service Worker diploma. We had dreams of marrying, but upon the news that we were expecting our first child, the best thing we thought we could do with our money in our eyes then was buy our first home. So at 19 years old we became home owners to a small, and very old bungalow. We didn’t have much, but we had each other and the promise of a bright future together.

When our son was born, they placed this new life on my chest and instantly I knew there was not way this was strictly science: a random egg meeting a random sperm and tada! Yes, that is how he got here – but the level of love I felt the instant I looked at this new person whom I had grown and birthed was not explainable by science. Before he was five minutes old, I easily would have given up my very life to give him his. I can not fully explain the instant and preposterous love I felt. To be honest, it’s quite vulnerable.

Slowly, as I watched this new life develop and grow I wondered about God more and more. I had always felt because of the circumstances of my childhood and life that He must really hate me. But now, staring at the face of the little boy I loved deeper than anything in this world, I knew I’d endure anything to be this guy’s mom, and I began to wonder about God’s love, and why He found me worthy of becoming a Mom to this sweet son.

If you were to tell that 20 year old new mother that just before her 31st birthday, she would become a Tyndale Student pursuing a diploma in Religious Education, or that by now she would have written and preached two sermons, lead multiple bible studies and worked for two churches she would have laughed at you and said, “no f—ing way!” I’m not kidding.

Yet. Here I am. How on earth did I get here? Reflecting on my 20’s and the last decade has been quite humorous to say the least. In my 20’s, I would go on to marry that man, give birth to 3 more absolutely incredible children, sell and buy 2 new homes, each time in a different community, witness the death of my mentor, my Grandmother, and witness deaths in my family that included suicide and murder, burying several people much too early than they should have been gone. I would live through my biggest heartbreak, a story for an other day, and not just survive but turn the trials into triumphs! I would travel and see much of North America. I would survive several dysfunctional relationships, some now ended, and some restored by God’s grace. The theme of my 20s was definitely self building.

I took the broken and confused little girl who thought surely God must hate her, and turned her into a confident woman, a loving mother and wife and an advocate for the Kingdom of God here on this earth. And even I still can’t believe it!

So how does that happen?

I carried my own weight and burdens for years. I knew I could get through every trial, because I had so far, so my thought process was just to keep persevering and keep going. I was doing well too, mostly. I was a good Mom from the moment I saw the two lines, immediately quitting smoking and focusing on finishing my studies. I made positive choices like breastfeeding, and staying at home with my son when I was financially able to. I read a lot, and looked for mentors who could guide me and I tried my best at maintaining a positive relationship with my spouse. I slowly got better at keeping the house tidier, cooking nutritious meals, learning how to be frugal. I grew up, essentially.

But despite seeing life get better, I still struggled internally. My husband and I were newly married and both had families who had been broken. He lived through his parents divorce at 14, and I was born to separated parents who had married my ‘step’ parents by the time I was 2, so my norm was always two homes and four parents. My husband struggled too. We were simply doing our best as broken people to help unpack the baggage of each other’s pasts, but when you are broken yourself, its incredibly hard to put someone else’s broken pieces together.

We both had a curiosity for church, and even tried a church at one point, but it was kind of out there and not your typical church and it scared us off temporarily. I was invited by a woman I really admired to come to her church. She promised me it was super laid back, and they even had guitar and drums as opposed to an organ, ha! So, my husband and I went together and the first sermon was so amazing that it was like God was yelling at us from a megaphone himself. Boy, did we hear Him loud and clear!

There are so many little stories from that time, seeing God provide what we needed, exactly when we needed it, the conception of our daughter after a period of secondary infertility, peace where there hadn’t been peace, comfort when anxiety arose, protection, provision. You name it, God did it just to draw us closer and open our eyes to His amazing deep love. We both began to see God all around us in ways our eyes had not been open to before.

Slowly, we changed. It wasn’t some miraculous overnight experience. Hooray, we found Jesus now we’re mature and we’ve got it together! Ha, I wish! Slowly we gave up things that were detrimental to us. Slowly we learned how to gain momentum to move foreword again after we backslid numerous times. Slowly we learned to reach out to other Christians. Slowly we learned to read, and study the Bible. Slowly we learned how to pray and developed habits of prayer. Slowly, we found community and friendship. Slowly we developed an indestructible bond with God Himself. Slowly, we became new creations in Christ. Slowly we learned how to put the broken pieces together with God as the glue.

And now, I look back on so many little moments and I see God all around them. How did I get here? Slowly. One step at a time. By seeking to grow a little bit here, and a little bit there. By training for endurance rather than sprinting. By being available when God spoke. By saying “yes, I can try that” even when it was outside my comfort zone. By many, many apologies to God for not connecting with Him through prayer, or reading His word that day and the promise to try again tomorrow. By dealing with one burden at a time. By learning one new skill or ability at a time. By painstakingly self assessing and recognizing I was heading down a road I didn’t want to be on, and having the courage to redirect myself. Slowly, one victory over an other.

And somehow I made it here. A happily married mom of four kids who loves Jesus with all her heart. A confident, and happy woman who walks around with a huge smile on my face. A person full of joy and peace. A woman who is not perfect, but strives to be stronger, kinder and better each day. A child of the one true King who no longer feels shame for her brokenness, but rather feels encouraged and loved deeply by Her creator.

Start somewhere. Pick one small area and work on it. Then, pick a different thing. Life changes happen as a result of the small things we do day to day, not always the big moments. The small things really do matter and add up. Suddenly, you will look back and be amazed at how far you have come!

I wonder where God is going to take me by the time I turn 40! I cant wait to see. This past decade has been one of contrast and difference. What will the next one hold?

Stay tuned! 😉

For your unfailing love is as high as the heavens.
    Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Psalm 57:10

The Gardener, The Grapevine & The Branches: My second sermon.

About a year ago, I began a course taught by my Pastor called “Communicating For Change” where the students learned to write devotional materials, study the Bible more effectively, and eventually learn to write and speak an entire sermon.

For the last 5 weeks, our church held a sermon series called ‘The God Ladder’ where we explored our relationships, and each student preached on one area. We covered our relationship with the world, our friends, our spouses and our children.

Then, came my turn to close the sermon series off with our relationship with Jesus, which I preached last Sunday (November 26th, 2017.)

This was my second sermon, and it was an adventure! I had pages and pages of notes. I wanted to address so many things, and suddenly I realized the verses from John 15:1-15 covered them all.

I wanted to touch on God’s love, Jesus’s character, being non-Crusty-Christians both to our brothers and sisters in Christ and the whole as a whole. I wanted to talk about the glory of heaven, the pitfalls of religion, and the acceptance of Christ.

As I wrote, and rewrote, I realized I could not get in as much as I wanted. Each of those topics alone could be an entire sermon! So, thankfully, spirit-lead I found a verse that allowed me to touch briefly on all of those things.

John 15:1-15, The branches, the gardener, and the grapevine. Instructions for love. It was the perfect verse for this sermon.

Check it out:

 

I was relieved when I was finished, and received some great feedback. I’m thankful for those awesome friends and family members who came to listen, and cheer me on. I’m thankful for a church who praises and encourages its own. Of course, I am also grateful for a Pastor who leads us, cheers us on, forces us out of our comfort zone (seriously, I once told that same man I wouldn’t even pray in front of others!)  I have some amazing prayer warriors in my life who prayed for me through this, and I just cant help but consider how blessed I am for my support network.

Thanks to all who have helped get me to this point! 🙂

 

Remember..

Today, at our local Remembrance Day ceremony honouring the Canadians who fought for us, a friend of mine who saw me struggling with the kids alone initiated a conversation.

I told her how my husband was working today, and that I found out yesterday I have pneumonia. She looked at me, alone, sick, with my four young kids and said, “you didn’t have to come you know.”

I laughed. I told her I did.  I came for me.

I’m hoping my children will remember this someday, and remember a Mother who took Remembrance Day seriously, regardless of what was going on at that moment, on that day, or in her own life. Pneumonia included.

It wasn’t easy, but I prepared the best I could. Snowsuits so I didn’t have to hear about how cold it was. Goldfish crackers to prevent the classic, “I’m hungry Mom” comments. The promise of hot chocolate after if they just behaved for this ceremony.

But also, the reminder of why we were going.

Their school did a project where everyone could submit a photo and story of who they remembered. I knew this was my moment to teach them about a young man I went to high school with, named Mark McLaren who died in Afghanistan in 2008 when an IED hit the truck he was in.

My husband and I went to his wake. It seemed so surreal to be there by the coffin of a man who wrote a cheque payable to his country with his life, and had it cashed in unfortunately. I didn’t know what I was supposed to say when I saw his grieving girl friend, family and close friends. I couldn’t imagine being in their position.

Remembrance day reminds me that I’m thankful to only have that one experience.  Yet, so many other people can’t say the same.

I think of the Moms, who had multiple children head overseas. Some to return. Some not. Others to have an entirely different person return in the body they recognize, but the mind they didn’t.

I think of the men who overcame anxiety to fight sometimes daily. I think of the planning of missions. The sadness when they lost comrades and brothers on the field beside them. The sights, smells and sounds they endured. The choice between kill or be killed. Sleeping in the elements, not always getting a proper meal. The leaders who saw their own plans unfold, sometimes costing them their own crew members.

I think of towns reuniting with their dead constantly. Not just one person in 30 years. I think of the families who lost multiple generations, and multiple children.  I think of the families who didn’t find the remains of their loved ones. I think of the families who may never know what happened to someone they cherished so much.

I picture opening the door to soldiers, knowing the news they bring is the news that their family dreaded for months only to see it become a reality. I wonder how those soldiers felt, announcing the death of their fallen brother or sister, bringing a next to kin the worst possible news but also hoping that no one has to deliver that very same news to their own families.

I think of the civilians in the towns where these wars were fought. I visited many WWI and WWII sights in 2005 on a trip called “Battlefields”.

I saw the uneven texture of the grounds where Vimy Ridge was fought. I walked on the shores of Omaha & Juno beaches, amazed at the sadness of the event in such beautiful places. I visited many gravesites for the fallen, including one for the Nazi soldiers.  Photos don’t do the number of white stones justice.  It tugs on your heart to see the vast amount knowing you can’t pay your respects to each one, it would simply take forever. The same guilt panged me again when we saw places where all the names are listed. Endless lives gone far too soon.

I saw places in France that still had obvious damage, a church in the countryside with a huge cannon ball sized hole in their bell tower, multiple decades later.  I walked through bunkers, and even the Anne Frank house. I imagined soldiers, gun in hand looking out the tiny window. I imagined Anne silently listening to the events outside, hoping she could escape the death plaguing the world.

I think of the people who lost their homes, their businesses, their belongings and their life’s work, when war tore through their communities.  I think of the people who are still farming present day, and as they till the soil, come across the remains of body parts and unexploded land mines.

I think of the people still living that life today. I cringe when I hear people say refugees “ought to go back to where they came from” not knowing that their home is no longer there. I can’t believe this is still something that people are experiencing in my lifetime.

One of the speakers said today that remembering is a past, present and future thing. We remember things in the past, like whether we took the garbage out yesterday or not. We remember the present, like we need to turn the stove off before we leave, and we remember the future, like I have an appointment next week.

That same concept needs to apply to this day. We remember the tragedy behind us. We remember those who laid down their life, and those who returned. We remember the reason they fought, we remembered the sacrifices made by the families left behind, and those who innocently were affected by a war raging on in their communities.

We remember the people still living in war. We remember their great need for humanitarian aide and mercy. We can’t imagine the events they have witnessed first hand. We remember the people serving today with gratitude. We remember their families who are left for months at a time, praying and hoping those soldiers never knock at their door.

We remember the future. We teach our kids about the importance of this day. We show up, sick, cold, raining, whatever the circumstances, grateful that they pale in comparison to the sacrifices others have made for our freedoms and the freedoms of others.  We pray that our children don’t grow up to go to war, we hope they will know peace that the world has yet to figure out.  We remember the injustices that started these wars and put preventive measures in place so these things happen. We watch current world events with bated breath.

Most importantly, we remember how grateful we are. We can easily forget that in our day to day lives. We can take for granted the freedoms we have. But let’s not.  Let’s always remember with gratitude.

Jesus said of his own impending death in John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I’m thankful for that sacrifice everyday when I consider my salvation.  And I’m thankful for the sacrifice of many more ‘friends,’ who stepped up then and are stepping up today, ensuring my freedom. I’m thankful that there is a heaven free of war, pain, and suffering where many of these great people are now resting peacefully.

So yes, I had to go today. It was the very least that I could do for those who gave and give it all for me.

Lest we forget. 

Acknowledge The Valleys

Do you pay attention to the valleys and peaks of life? The peaks are those special moments we hold onto in our hearts, our wedding day, the birth of our children perhaps, or even paying off your debt, graduation, or a vacation you dreamed of. There can also be little peaks, like winning something, getting mail that isn’t a bill, or being told how valued that you are to someone.

Those peaks carry us through the valleys.  The valleys are the moments where we feel as though we could stay in bed hibernating all day, when we question our worth, when we deny our ability to shine, or when life seems to be unbearable. The times where perhaps we are more sensitive to things that may not bother us otherwise. When we know we’re just in a rut. The circumstances around us just seem to overpower us, as the expression goes, “when it rains, it pours.”

This time of year tends to be a valley for me. There seems to always be reminders of past events that caused great pain, fading daylight hours, and gloomy skies both outside and in my heart. The Hallowe’en season with death and decay all around me, depicting violence and gore. The morning being dark, the cool weather setting in, the busyness of routine beginning again. Fall is just hard for me. I often find myself in a valley at his time.

Can you relate? Perhaps it isn’t fall for you, but its the anniversary of a great tragedy you’ve experienced? Its the reminder that there was once better days. And time moves on, and suddenly a new season occurs, and you reach a new peak again. Oh, how the valleys make us appreciate the peaks so much more.

Sometimes we spend so much time filling others that we forget to fill ourselves up. We have jobs or roles that call for us to constantly put other’s needs above our own and that is an amazing thing, but sometimes it can also be very heavy. Sometimes we just don’t get enough sleep and begin to feel so overwhelmed and exhausted. Sometimes we just don’t reach out to our support system, or even worse, we convince ourselves we aren’t worth bothering our support system. Sometimes we just swim in our own self pity, forgetting we can choose to reach for a life vest, a friend, a counselor, a loved one.

We think we are the only one in our valley.

Sometimes situations are bigger than some cheery encouragement. Some things are just so much more complicated and bigger than a bumper sticker style phrase that is intended to help. Sometimes we just need to acknowledge that we are in a valley, and that is okay because we won’t be here forever.

An other peak will someday arrive.

But to you in a valley, know that I am right there with you.

Acknowledge your valley. Grieve if you need to. Let it out.  Strong people do cry, and in those tears we release the toxins overtaking our bodies. Seek help. Know the power that comes from being vulnerable with those you trust will help set you free. Don’t dig your hole deeper by thinking you’re in this alone. You’re not. Reach out and take control.

Though you may now be in a valley, you’ve overcome them before. And you have the power to do that again resting in your very soul.

Sometimes just simply acknowledging the existence of the valley gives you enough determination to start climbing up out of it.

“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.”
Isaiah 43:2

#Metoo But That Doesn’t Define Me!

Anyone who is on social media has seen many women posting the words “Me too” in the last few days.  It was started as a way for women who have been victimized by sexual assault and rape to be able to share their stories while also de-stigmatizing the act of speaking out.  It amazed me how many women in my social media networks bravely shared “me too.”  Sadly, I know there are many victims who didn’t share, and that’s okay because our stories belong to us to share when and if we want to.

What an eye opener. The amount of me too’s circulating online have been both liberating and devastating.  I was an other woman to write the words. I am liberated to speak out. I am devastated to see so many are in the same situation.

Since opening the Pandora’s box of “me too,” I have had a few conversations with people about the topic that haven’t been easy.

First there was a text from my oldest sister, “how come I never knew?” she asked.  Our conversation allowed me to tell her several stories I had just never brought up despite us sharing intimate details of our lives to each other all the time. It strengthened our bond that much more to open up about yet an other area of life that is sadly a norm to many women.

I had dialogues with friends about the topic, including some males. I was interested to see the way males reacted to this. My heart breaks for the men who have been sexually assaulted and raped and didn’t get their chance to speak up as this was a dominantly female trend. I hope those men get to share their own stories and de-stigmatize their trauma as well, because it too, is real, and too common.

I read comments of males that didn’t understand the severity of the situation because they were equating it to situations that they have overcome, like bullying for example. The problem there is that sexual assault is a lot different than bullying.  Comparing the two would be like comparing a broken bone to a stubbed toe. Yes, both hurt, but not the same. Even my comparison is an insult to sexual assault, because a physical hurt is so different then a sexual hurt. Physical hurts heal, but sexual ones often leave lifelong scarring.

The shame of being a victim of sexual assault combined with the stigma attached in our culture is truly heartbreaking.

The fact that my timeline was littered with so many “Me too’s” is heartbreaking. I really hope this helps people become more aware that this is a huge problem with our culture that needs addressing.

We need to defend our daughters, we need to inform our sons. We need to teach our children new patterns so that this decreases because no one deserves to be a victim of sexual assault.

I must confess, since this has been brought up, it has opened a door in my heart that I thought I could keep shut forever. In discussing some stories I am reminded that I am a victim of sexual assault too.

I’ve been in pain since I’ve opened the door. Being reminded of the events of my past have not been easy. Looking at my ten year old son and wondering have I done enough to raise him to be courteous and respectful as he is approaching the teenage years? Seeing my daughters play innocently and wonder have I equipped them with enough courage to stand up for themselves or to speak out?

I am raising 2 sons and 2 daughters. I have both sides of this dilemma. I have sons to educate and daughters to inform. I have a heavy task upon my shoulders of trying to make sure my sons become men who stand up for women, not men who belittle and harm women. I have daughters to raise, who I pray will live freely and comfortably never experiencing what so many women have, and if that burden falls upon them, I hope I can equip them with enough courage to confront and overcome.

In the meantime, it is too late for me. I can’t go back and undo what’s been done. I cant avoid that place, that person or undo the sadness in my heart about these events. They happened. They are done. Now I need to heal.

I foolishly searched online for the names of three men who victimized me. I stopped searching after that, realizing I was only hurting myself further. But, interestingly enough, I came to see that all 3 of these men now have daughters.  I wondered if they thought of me when they saw several “me too” statuses on their timelines. Did they remember the pain that I carry? Or did they just forget about it, having technically gotten away with it?

I wondered did they look at their little girls and think, “I hope no one ever puts my daughter into a situation where she could write me too as well.” Did they feel guilty reflecting on the situations of their past? Did they feel tempted to send me an apology message? Should I message them and tell them I haven’t forgotten?  I decided not too.  Although, I do hope to one day get an apology because that at least shows remorse, and shows they recognize their actions caused me pain. I don’t need it though. I’m going to carry on with my life regardless, and be the woman who does her best to do better for the kids I’m responsible to raise. I don’t need to bring them into my current life, because they can stay in my past where they belong.

Before #metoo, I wasn’t thinking of this often because I had tucked it away ever so nicely to ignore as much as I could. I wasn’t prepared for a social trend like this to remind me of the skeletons in closet that I was hiding so as to pretend they didn’t exist. But they are out now and they are on my mind. I fear that for many, the #metoo trend has been damaging.

If you have been shaken and reminded of your hurts because of the me too trend, I pray you are able to find peace to deal with these situations hopefully for the last time. But mostly, I hope you can stand in unity with me promising to do more to make sure less people carry this pain. Let’s take people seriously.  Let’s blame the person responsible, not the victim. Let’s create a culture that holds people accountable for their own actions rather than accuses victims of doing this to deserve it, or wearing that to suggest it.

Let us rise above. Let’s start by remembering we are not what has happened to us!  I am not just a victim of sexual assault. I will tell you what I am: I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a passionate person. I am someone who is motivated, encouraging, sarcastic and faithful.  I am strong. I am capable. I am full of worth, love, and joy. I am in charge of my future and I declare it will be great.

I am thankful everyday that I married the man I did.  We have been together since high school, and he was honestly the first person I dated who didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. Let that be a goal for you, men.  Be a man who makes women feel comfortable. Out of that, my husband got true and genuine love. He has respect from me. And I can’t wait until I can tell our children that fact.  Sons, be like your father who never made your mother uncomfortable. Daughters, be like your mother and find someone who always makes you feel safe.

Come on people, lets not let the #metoo concept be a trend that we forget about in the months to come, like Kony2012 or various other internet trends that blow up and are long since forgotten.  Let’s take the pain many are feeling as they relive these memories and use it to fuel a whole new and stronger society. Let’s discuss preventative measures with our spouses in raising our own children, like do we allow sleepovers where our children can potentially be exposed to these things? Let’s talk to our sons and daughters about consent. Let’s advocate for one an other. We all deserve safety, and it is a right we as human beings have. Let’s seek the resources we need to heal and recover gracefully so the next time we say me too, it can be to answer the question “have we made a difference?”

http://www.canadianwomen.org/stop-the-violence (statistics that we need to lower)

http://www.sexualassaultsupport.ca/support/ (sexual assault centres in Ontario)

http://www.avoicefortheinnocent.org (for male victims)

https://crcvc.ca/links/ (resources galore for all victims)

http://www.cwhn.ca/en/node/18961 (Sexual Assault support for women, including a 24 hour number.)

To My Church Family, With Love.

Church totally sucks sometimes.

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

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

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

How on earth did we get here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry Hef, Marriage Rocks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not something to be jealous over.

Greetings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be jealous of success in marriage and not sexual conquests.

Where is God for the Starving & Poor?

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

Tony Campolo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do SOMETHING!

Can Women Preach?

UPDATE: Since writing this post, I have completed a course on hermeneutics and used this topic as my essay. I would love to share more info on this verse and the topic if you’re interested, shoot me an email: lesliemountjoy@gmail.com I decided to keep the post as is because it was my original knowledge on the topic. 

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

I followed in his summer series, Life in The Neighborhood, with the topic “God in our Networks.” I wrote it myself, and met with him for some coaching and on Sunday, August 13th 2017 I preached it!  It was amazing.

I was overcome with emotion as I approached the pulpit, so I tripped up over a few words especially as I began because I was so afraid of crying, but I think overall for a first shot, I did well. I received some amazing feedback within the church and from people who watched the sermon on YouTube (https://youtu.be/KauTYEj_oRQ) and I feel so thankful for the support and encouragement I received. I am definitely going to do this again!

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

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

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

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

I’ll tell you what! Study Bible to the rescue! I have said it before, and I will say it again, owning a study bible is the most important tool you can have because it actually helps you to be able to understand the Bible and make sense out of things that culturally don’t make sense to us 2000 years later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Since writing this post, I have completed a course on hermeneutics and used this topic as my essay. I would love to share more info on this verse and the topic if you’re interested, shoot me an email: lesliemountjoy@gmail.com I decided to keep the post as is because it was my original knowledge on the topic.