Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Life Told in Swims

Today I went swimming for the first time in about a year. By myself. I swam 3/4 lengths at my leisure, avoiding dive bombing kids and adults swimming with floats. I swam for 25 minutes but rested for a moment between lengths. This was followed by a relaxing hot shower, a few minutes in the sauna and taking my time getting dressed and combing conditioner through my hair. Contrast this to my 9 year old self: Racing to get to the pool early (having put on my togs beneath my clothes to save time), waiting at the poolside to be the first in, darting here and there over, in and under the water, getting the most out of every minute. I would wait until the lifeguard shouted, "time's up" before clambering out for a quick shower and change.

I enjoyed today as much as I enjoyed swimming when I was 9. Today was one of the infrequent times in the past few years that I have enjoyed swimming. I enjoyed not having to think, just doing the equivalent of a stroll in the pool with nothing/no one to worry about.

I can mark a lot of developments in my life in the swimming pool.
At 4 years old I clung to the bar afraid to let go. At 5 I jumped straight into the deep end, unafraid in my bright orange armbands. Through primary school I gained confidence, earning certificates and medals for my achievements. My Dad, brothers and I had season tickets at the local pool which we used often. By the age of 9 I had started lifesaving lessons, dividing time between learning in the water and shivering as I practiced CPR and the recovery position on the cold, wet poolside tiles. During one trip to the local pool the lifeguard told me to get out of the deep end. After towing my Dad around the shallow end I was never told to get out again!

At 13 however I was training for a particular lifesaving medal. There was one section (a timed swim carrying a person in a tow using a shirt) that I just couldn't do. No matter how hard I tried I just did not have the stamina to make the time. Discouraged I left and didn't return. Swimming lost its joy for me. In my teens and 20s my most enjoyable swims were with friends in the sea (I no longer feel so cold in the open water). But, for me, today was the first time I went swimming alone and didn't feel bored with nobody to talk to/chase around the pool. I enjoyed the time to myself without anybody needing my attention or being responsible for anybody. Thanks for the blessing today, Lord!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Letting go is not the same as forgetting the good times...

Amazing how when we let go of a situation, stop trying to fix it and hand it over to God, He takes it and does an amazing job with, beyond what we could hope or imagine! Thank You, Lord!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Thought for today...

Letting go is not the same as forgetting the good times.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ah, you are beautiful, My beloved, truly lovely...

"I've got a feelin' that tonight's gonna be a good night, that tonight's gonna be a good, good night..."

It was.

Tonight was the night of my final year college ball and it marked a landmark in my journey of self-acceptance. Traditionally, discos have stressed me out. The emphasis was always on boys and who likes who and who's kissing who... I never really felt like I was a part of the beauty contest. I was never the first choice of the girls in school and I never felt pretty, never mind beautiful.

The first time a man told me I was beautiful was last year. I didn't believe him! It took him persistently telling me, "you're beautiful", "you're beautiful" for it to sink in. My Lord says the same thing about me, "you are beautiful, my beloved, truly lovely..." and what His Word says is true!

Well, tonight I both felt and looked beautiful. It's not vain for me to say this. My security or self-worth does not lie in my outward appearance but in my identity in Christ. I was dressed in a midnight blue strapless, floor length gown that cost me a hefty £18 sterling in a charity shop in Co. Tyrone. I wore my silver Evenstar necklace (a copy of the one Arwen wears in the LOTR films) and diamond drop earrings. My hair was up and curly, topped off with a silver butterfly hairband. People noticed me!

While dancing (without caring so much what people think when they look at me) and sitting to rest I couldn't help but look at the people I have been in college with for four years. I feel like my eyes were opened and I saw them in a new light.

I saw the snob who ignored me (and I paid in kind) for four years, she was sitting down, self-conscious about her weight and wary of dancing in case somebody would pass remarks about her. For the first time I felt like I could identify with her and I felt sorry that she didn't feel free to dance.
I saw the guy desperate for a girl, any girl, to go out with during the course, he was smiling and chatting to the beautiful girl he had brought as his date and she was equally enamoured. I smiled, he looked content and at ease which was lovely.
I saw a close friend, always smiling and eager to help looking drawn and thin. I could see the strain of her relationships and sickness pulling her taut as she tried to cover up by drinking, smiling and hiding in the bathroom.
I saw another close friend, afraid that no one will accept her for who she is, admiring my ability to be myself. I told her that I was sick of trying to be somebody else.

I bless the Lord for these people. I have spent four years being critical of them, trying to avoid them and what a snob I have been. As I have journeyed into the knowledge of my identity in Christ I have seen that what is true of me (that I am loved unconditionally, that I am beautiful, that I am precious to Someone) is also true of these people and it's time I started treating them accordingly.

Teach me to love them and accept them, Lord, as You do. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Come, Rest in Me.

Come, rest in Me.
Cease all your frantic rowing,
Allow yourself to draw a breath.

Come, rest in Me.
Unhook your roughly hewn oars,
Cast them into the stormy sea.

Come, rest in Me.
Let down the fine, brocade sails,
Let My gentle breeze fill them out.

Come, rest in Me.
Curl up in the boat’s belly,
Close your eyes, let Me hold you close.

Come, rest in Me.
Come, place your life in My hands,
I am the Way, I’ll lead you on.

(c) Aoife Keegan 19th March 2010
Shalom xxx

Thursday, March 18, 2010


On Tuesday, I went to college and then after a few errands I set off to Belfast with a sister in Christ and a car full of bags, guitar and a buggy. I was tired when I arrived but I was hoping that after a good night's sleep I'd be able to get stuck in to the day of street evangelism we were there to do. Instead, I woke up tired even though I slept a good 8 hours. Not only was I tired but I was not in the mood for dealing with people, even my own friends- lol!

Memories of the past year (good, bad and indifferent) were flying around my mind and after a session of praise and worship I elected to stay behind and make lunch while the others went out on the street. I told the pastor who owns the house that I was able to deal with food today, but not people. He understood what I meant and came back a few hours later to help me. I chopped carrots and potatos and mushrooms for stew- 4 pots full- and just mulled over things. I remembered where I was on this day last year and it was a good day, a really good day! But a lot of things change in a year and here I was chopping vegetables.

I left Belfast when the stragglers started tucking into their stew. I didn't talk much on the way back, I just wondered why I had gone in the first place, apart from making lunch what was the point of me being there? I was frustrated and lonely and depressed and to top it all I was angry that I couldn't seem to get past the frustration and loneliness and depression. After dropping my passenger home I drove to the chipper, bought dinner, sat in the car eating it, crying and shouting at God.

I was still discouraged this morning when, having driven to college relatively on time I still managed to miss three lectures. Then I came across a post on sanctification in a blog I'd never read before. The poster describes how his definition of sanctification had changed over the years as he saw that he wasn't able to live up to his original definition. Here are the two definitions he writes in the post:

1. Sanctification n. The state of experiencing growth that is measured by becoming more Christ-like. Interpretation: You are getting better and better. You are not as mean as you were before. You don’t complain as much. You have a better outlook on life. You are never depressed. Your problems are dealt with in a more mature manner: you know, the way Christ dealt with them. Oh, and you also have more figured out than you did before.

2. Sanctification n. The process of Christian development that has more to do with how dependent you have become on the Lord, not necessarily about being “good.” Sanctification has more to do with how often you are broken before him, not your stoic ability to deal with pain. Sanctification has more to do with a recognition of your weaknesses than of your strengths. Sanctification has more to do with repentance than with the things that don’t require repentance. In the end, sanctification amounts to the progressive movements you make toward the side of God because you have no where else to go.
I would have agreed with the first definition a few years ago, but now the second definition describes me much, much better. I find myself being broken more and more often, not whole; recognising my weaknesses and failings, not growing in strength; moving towards God because I have nowhere else to go. I'm not resentful about this, it's just that nothing else satisfies. Sometimes I turn to God to complain about this but at the end of the day I'm moving towards Him and not away from Him. Thank God for that.

I haven't been magically fixed by reading the article but it helps just to know that someone else understands where I'm at. That means more to me right now than hard and fast answers, knowing that someone else can relate to me where I'm at. Hallelujah!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Where is my Refuge?

I went to a conference on Wednesday hosted by Freedom in Christ Ministries, "The Core of Christianity". There were about 20-25 people there, I wish there could have been more because the teaching was so solid and good, but the main thing is that God wanted me to be there and He made sure I was! I wanted to go because of testimonies I'd heard that the teachings and material the FICM uses are very good and that they've helped people with addiction problems, depression, eating disorders, etc.

There was a book shop available and I asked God which book(s) to buy- I had €20. I felt His Spirit encouraging me to ask the main speaker, Neil T. Anderson, which one(s) to get. I waited for a tea break and approached him. I explained that the fellowship I'm in do lots of street evangelism and that while the Lord is richly blessing the ministry, every person in the group is battling with an addiction or sickness or fear or anxiety. He was very brief (he had autographs to sign) and he suggested 3 books in this order: "Victory Over the Darkness", "Bondage Breaker" and "Discipleship Counselling". The total cost of the books was €42.97. I decided to nip out to the ATM- no problem!

Except... when I tried to take out €20 the ATM cheerfully told me that I had insufficient funds. Oh. I asked God to provide the remaining €20 (I had loosed change in my pocket to add to my own €20). After all He had led me to ask Neil what would be helpful and He wouldn't do that and then not provide what I needed to buy the books. On a whim I checked the zipped pocket of my bible cover. There was €20 inside. I laughed until I remembered that that €20 was a tithe that somebody had given me for the church. I decided to check another ATM, just in case there was something wrong with the other one. There wasn't.

As I walked back to the conference hall I told God that I didn't want to steal from the church tithes, it didn't feel right to me. Again, His voice filled my ears, "will these books benefit the church?" I told him that I hoped so and wanted it to. "Then spend the money on whatever will help the people in the church." I was filled with joy and peace! I walked in and bought all three of the books.

So far I've read through "Victory Over the Darkness" and am making my way through the study guide at the back of the book. There is so much truth and wisdom in this book but one thing in particular has struck my heart. Where do I go when I feel threatened, depressed or afraid? Bed. Since I was 3 years old, my bed has been my refuge, the safe place I go to when I want to hide away from the world for a while. Sometimes for a very long while. Since starting college ,where attendance was more or less up to the student, I frequented my refuge more and more, sometimes not making the morning lectures or even missing a whole day hiding in bed. For me it's a secure place, but staying in it past the morning hours has had consequences for me. Staying in bed past the time I felt tired meant that my mind was free to wander to places I didn't always want it to go. Sometimes I would feel paralysed with fear and unable to get up. Other times I would feel racked with guilt for staying in bed so long and ashamed and inadequate when my mum asked me how many lectures I'd missed this time.

I'd tried to find security in other places of course. In friendships (which exploded/drifted apart), in academic achievement (which held no fulfillment for me beyond the age of 16), in training to be a teacher (where my expectations were off the wall), in relationships (which fell apart). My bed, while inadequate and sometimes prison-like, was the best I thought I had. Many mornings I wrestle between trying to escape my too-comfortable cell and giving in to the warm comfort and quiet.

This morning, while I was struggling to get up, I was reminded of what I'd read in "Victory Over the Darkness": the Lord is my refuge. If God is my refuge then nothing else comes close, nothing else is good enough, nowhere else will I be truly safe and secure. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1. God is my refuge, not my bed. I am safe in God. And guess what? Because I am in Christ and He is in me, that refuge goes with me wherever I am! When I leave my bed I am secure in my refuge, when I eat breakfast I am secure in my refuge, when I drive to college I am secure in my refuge, when I am away from home I am secure in my refuge, wherever I go I am secure in my refuge!

God is my refuge and I am secure in Him :)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dear God, I would like to become a little child and rest my soul in you.

For the past 2 years or so I've been receiving a daily e-devotional from Dorothy Valcarcel's Transformation Garden. She decided to study the lives of each of the women in the bible, starting at Genesis. In my naivity I thought that wouldn't take too long. How delighted I was to discover how wrong I was! A few years into her project and Dorothy is currently on the life of Abigail in the book of 1 Samuel.

One thing I really like about this devotional are the quotes and prayers that Dorothy uses in each one. A prayer in today's devotional really touched my heart and summed up my heart's cry in words better than I could have come up with.

"Dear God,
I would like to become a little child and rest my soul in you.
I'm tired of the loneliness, tired of the struggle,
I want to surrender but I don't know how.
You see, I have this problem of being adult.
I belong to the generation which makes decisions, plans, works,
accepts responsibility, takes pride in being independent.
Adults are supposed to manage their lives.
They are concerned with owning things and
making things happen, and they don't like to look small or foolish.
Dear God, for a long time I've been living at the centre of a world
which has prevented me from entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
Father God, Mother God,
show me how to become your child.
I am aware of the advice that Jesus gives.
He does not say that we should remain in infancy.
He says that we should become as little children.
This tells me that I need to know the futility of independence before I can let go of it.
It is the letting go which is difficult.
I know you are there, waiting to give yourself to me, but I'm afraid to commit myself.
Please help me to loosen this grip on my pride
so that I can hold out my arms to you and be enfolded in your love."
Joy Cowley

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Finding my Niche

I've been involved with a very active street evangelism team since about November 2006. The team goes out on the streets 1-2 times a week and also goes on up to 8 "away trips" (in various parts of the UK and Ireland) a year. I was so thrilled to be part of the team! People we meet on the street get the opportunity to hear the gospel and many pray with us to repent of their sin and trust in Jesus for their salvation. Joining this team caused a lot of friction with my immediate family and later on with some people in my fellowship but I motored on with it because it was obviously (to me) God's will for me to be involved in evangelism.

Then I burned out in February 2009.

I'd just finished a 3 week work experience placement teaching English and Religion in a secondary school. I was also going out on the streets most weeks and leading worship 1-2 times a week. My first ever trip to meet my then boyfriend's mother for the first time should have been a few days filled with joy and good fellowship. It was! But I was so exhausted and drained that I got sinusitus, which led to numerous, violent nosebleeds which freaked out my boyfriend and his mother. I ended up being brought to hospital and spending my time sleeping, crying and getting to know my boyfriend & his mum.

I've been out on the street in Dublin perhaps once in the past year. A good part of me was beating myself up for not getting involved in evangelism, the Great Commission. The rest of me was relieved that the tension between me and my family had started to ease, I didn't have to brave subzero temperatures for 4 hours every weekend and I got to sleep relatively normal hours on the weekend. It was only this week that any residual guilt I felt dissipated completely.

I've had the past week off from college and spend a few days sewing a couple of aprons and doing a good deal of ironing. I was talking to God while doing this and asking Him where I fit into the grand scheme of things. While I was really enjoying the sewing I did wonder whether it was a waste of time in the grand scheme of things? Surely plucking pre-believers from the dominion of darkness and leading them into the Kingdom of God was much more important? Then I felt God saying, "whatever you do, do it for My glory". I did a double take. How on earth could I iron or sew for the glory of God?!

My mind quickly turned to a brother in the Lord who spends so much of his time running a charity shop, doing deliveries, teaching and ministering that instead of doing his laundry and ironing he tended to buy new clothes. While I may not be directly involved in helping out with the shop, deliveries, etc. I realised that offering to wash and iron his clothes would help him by freeing up his time to do what God has gifted him to do and by saving money that he could spend elsewhere. This really excited me! I could help others to evangelise by being part of a support team, doing things to help them do what they do best.

I shared this revelation with my pastor's wife and she told me about a spiritually "dead" church she visited in the States 10 years ago. She didn't expect it to be there when she visited again this year but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was. As she thought about how and why it had survived despite the fact that no pastor survived in ministry there for more than 2 years (due to a pernickity board of elders) her attention was drawn to a ladies' group in the church. They meet once a week to pray and to sew care packages for babies in orphanages. She decided that the group's outward focus (prayer and meeting physical needs) had allowed the church not to become too insular but instead to thrive, albeit in an un-extraordinary yet steady manner. In contrast, a thriving youth-filled and vibrant church she encountered 10 years ago had disappeared without a trace.

I realised that I'm not running a 100-metre sprint but a life-long marathon. I can't save the whole world in a day. I can however employ my God-given gifts in freeing up other people's time to use theirs. I can also devote more time to serving God with my own gifts, e.g. leading worship, by not getting side-tracked with other activities I'm not suited to- I strongly maintain that I was not built to withstand wintry conditions outdoors for hours at a time!

I'm still part of the evangelism team, even though I don't often evangelise. I serve with my gifts and that glorifies God. I've found my niche!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Know the Plans I Have For You...

Was thinking about Jeremiah 29:11 a couple of nights ago.
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end"
Most translations use the word "plans" instead of the KJV's "thoughts" and I wanted to see which one was more accurate. "Thoughts" to me doesn't seem to be as direct or as, well, planned as "plans", it seems to be more general, less regimented. So, as always, I checked out Strong's Concordance.

Strong's No. 4284: machashabah
a contrivance, i.e. (concretely) a texture, machine, or (abstractly) intention, plan (whether bad, a plot; or good, advice).

This didn't say all that much to me. Then I read that this word is derived from another word 'chasab' so I checked that up too!

Strong's No. 2803: chashab
a primitive root; properly, to plait or interpenetrate, i.e. (literally) to weave or (gen.) to fabricate; figuratively, to plot or contrive (usually in a malicious sense); hence (from the mental effort) to think, regard, value, compute:--(make) account (of), conceive, consider, count, cunning (man, work, workman), devise, esteem, find out, forecast, hold, imagine, impute, invent, be like, mean, purpose, reckon(-ing be made), regard, think.

I love that "thoughts"/"plans" is derived from a word that is linked to fabric: plait, weave, fabric. Knowing this gave me such peace. God is the master Weaver, patiently weaving together all the strands of my life. No thread is left unused, no matter how dull or insignificant it may seem. Nothing goes to waste in God's masterpiece.

"My life is but a weaving between my Lord and me
I cannot see the colors He worketh steadily.
Oft times He weaveth sorrow and I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper and I the underside.

Not till the looms are silent and the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver's skillful hands
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Ta-Da List

I'm shamelessly robbing this idea from the de-cluttering group on Ravelry.

Where my head's at at the moment writing a to-do list seems too daunting and I wouldn't be able to handle it. I'm half way through my teaching placement, 2 weeks to go and I've run out of my own resources. One part of me is freaking out. Another part of me knows that God can use what little I have to do a lot.

So, instead of writing a to-do list of all the lesson plans, schemes of work and resources I have to do, I'm starting to write down my ta-das for the day. Sometimes that can be as little as:
  • Get out of bed
  • Get washed and dressed
  • Go to the shop
  • Eat
  • Go on the internet
Sometimes it's less than that, other times it's more. But writing down what I have done rather than what is yet to be done gives a much bigger sense of achievement to me than scratching off entries on a to-do list, knowing that I won't reach the end of the list today, or even ever.

So... so far today I have:
  • Got out of bed
  • Got washed and dressed
  • Made lunch
  • Answered a text
  • Wrote a blog
  • Had a good chat with my Mum
Wow! All that and I haven't even been out of bed an hour! lol

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Loving the Prodigal Son

Luke 15:11-32

And Jesus said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

I love this parable. Last night I was thinking about it again and new meanings and depths started to emerge. First, a little bit of background. I believe that this parable speaks of eternal security. The prodigal son was always a son, even though he squandered his inheritance/reward and even though he didn't seek to be reinstated as a son. The father was so, so happy to see him. Think about it. Our Father, God in heaven, does not sit with His arms folded, an angry look on His face waiting for us to slip up so that He can punish us. There are natural consequences for sin, but our Daddy in heaven is patiently waiting for us to return to Him so that we can be reinstated into fellowship with Him in this life. The prodigal would always be a son whether or not he was reunited with his father in this life, always.

Last night I got to thinking about how this parable applies to the Body of Christ in this life. I got to thinking about modern day prodigals, people who are born-again into God's adoptive family but who slip away from fellowship with their brothers and sisters and even from God. People who struggle with anger, addiction, reclusiveness, brokenness, abuse... people who just don't seem to fit into churches. God loves them. If they are born-again, He will never leave or forsake them and nothing (not even themselves) will snatch them from His hand or separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. They have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and Christ lives in them, the hope of glory. Same as you or me.

What about the faithful son, the one who is also born-again into God's adoptive family but who is obedient to His Father, does His will in this life, is faithful with everything his Father has given him. God also loves them. He will never leave or forsake them and nothing (not even themselves) will snatch them from His hand or separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. They have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and Christ lives in them, the hope of glory. Same as you or me!

So what gives the faithful son the right to criticise his Father's love for the prodigal son? What gives me the right to stand in judgement over a brother or sister whom God loves, has justified, sanctified and glorified, whom He has died for? So called "good" Christians need grace just as much as "hopeless" or "bad" ones. Good Christians were just as damned before they were born of the Spirit of God. We all have besetting sins and faults, some of them are imperceptible to other people, others wreak havoc and wreck lives. And how do we in the church deal with this kind of besetting sin in others? We call it a demon and try to cast it out. We have prayer meetings and pray against it, we fast and pray.

When did Jesus ever command us to cast demons out of eachother? He commanded us to love one another. That's much harder than calling in the local deliverance minister who probably doesn't know the person and will probably never see them again. It's much hard to accept a brother/sister as they are and just love them. Love them? How? 1 Cor. 13


  • can be patient with them
  • can be kind to them
  • don't have to envy anything about them
  • don't have to brag to anyone that I'm loving them
  • don't have to be arrogant towards them (I'm saved by grace too, remember?)
  • don't have to act unbecomingly towards them
  • can't have ulterior motives in relation to them
  • don't have to be easily provoked by anything they say/do
  • don't have to hold anything against them (God doesn't)
  • don't have to rejoice when they mess up and say "I told you so"
  • can rejoice when the truth of God's Word changes the way they live/feel about themselves
  • can put up with them
  • can believe in them
  • can hope that God will heal them
  • can endure all things with them
  • don't have to give up on them
That's hard to do all the time with someone I like. That's really hard to do all the time with someone I don't like. In fact, it's impossible. But I've been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I that live but He lives in me and the life I now lead I lead by the faith of the Son of God! Christ (God) is love and as I relax into His salvation, His life can start to manifest through the earthen vessel that is my body. Praise Jesus :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Curse of Eve

Was recently reading Genesis 3:16. Had read it before in more than one translation but this was the first time I'd read it in the KJV: "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception". I will greatly increase thy conception? Other translations, including the NIV, translate it thus: "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing". Hang on a minute, these are saying two completely different things. The KJV seems to suggest that conception would happen more frequently, while the NIV seems to suggest that child-birth would be more painful.

I decided to google commentaries on Genesis 3:16 and most of them didn't deal with this specific issue, until I stumbled across this article from "gracethrufaith". For me, it settled the issue in my heart that nowadays, post fall, women conceive more frequently than they would have done pre-fall. Women were not originally designed to have 20+ babies, this is a result of our fallen nature.

That said, I'm not looking down on couples who have decided to go contraception free and have large families. The Duggar family has a really good website outlining their reasons for doing so and I bless them for it, I don't think they're doing anything wrong or sinful. They are raising their children in the way of the Lord- that is admirable and God will bless them for it. I'm also not standing in judgement over couples who decide to contracept in order to devote more time and energy to fewer children.

I do think it's important to know how different methods of contraception work in order to make an informed choice. E.g. until last year I hadn't realised that hormonal contraception (like the Pill and IUD) can work abortively (they do not allow a fertilised egg, a foetus, to implant). I know of one couple who use the Pill, knowing it's abortive properties, but they get around this by using a barrier method (condom or diaphragm) when they know the wife is ovulating (which is easier to calculate and measure when the menstrual cycle is regulated by the Pill.

My own mind isn't made up on family planning at the moment, except that I don't think I would be able for 6 kids never mind 20! As a single woman it's not an issue for me now but it's good to at least have an idea about it before I do get married :)

God bless,
Handmaiden of Adonai

Monday, January 4, 2010

Looking Back Over 2009

Where do I begin? 2009 has been the most fun, most traumatic, most spiritually fruitful, most painful and most healing year I've ever had. Most of 2009 has been coloured by falling in love with, getting engaged to and breaking up with Ollie, a truly remarkable, wonderful man... who struggles with addiction. Watching him fall into addiction and all the behaviour that goes with that was hard but even harder was watching the reactions of some of my close friends towards him, some of whom who have struggled with addiction themselves. But, God was at work in our relationship. Within the instability, unpredictability and pain of this relationship, I learned so much about myself.
  • I struggle hugely with trusting other people & trusting God.
  • Yet at the same time I try to please everybody.
  • Many of my actions have been driven by an intense fear (worry, anxiety, terror) that I didn't even know was there.
  • This led to me leading people to believe that I am stress-free, coping very well and generally a very stable person while inside I am despairing. It also led to the fragmentation of different areas of my life: college, home, church, boyfriend. I didn't allow any of these areas to interact with eachother. My mum doesn't know anything about my church, I won't let anyone from my church meet my college friends, etc. It takes a lot of stress and energy to carve up your life like that and strive to keep them separate. This often led to me not being able to/wanting to get up in the morning.
  • I really don't want to teach religion in schools- it stresses me out, I find it very difficult & I don't want to put myself in a position where people could accuse me of brainwashing their kids. I'd prefer to be able to be completely upfront about my beliefs and teach English, possibly resource English (can you believe that there are people who go through the Irish education system and graduate being functionally illiterate?!). I'd prefer people to know that I am a born-again Christian and not think I'm being deceptive or have furtive motives for teaching religion. 1 Peter 3:15 "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you" How will people see the hope that is in me? I want them to see a woman who is fully alive in Christ, not a woman who is stressed out because she is trying to save the world (God has already done that).
  • God will never leave me or reject me- I really believed that He would love me, take care of me and then at some point leave me on my own.
  • People's real expectations of me can be very different from the expectations I perceive them to have.
  • I don't have to fight every battle, I can even avoid most of them. This past year I had very heavy (sometimes spiritual) battles on every front: family, church, college, personal health & well-being. Some of these were unneccessary.
  • I need to talk to people and let them know where my head is at. I don't mean accountability where someone else is keeping tabs on my behaviour, I mean I need to get things off my chest so that they don't get repressed and affect my emotional/mental/physical health.
  • I can hit rock bottom and God is there, closer than He ever was. There is no depth I can fall to where He cannot carry me. He is more than strong enough to carry me and my burdens!
  • I am beautiful.
  • I am worthy to be loved.
  • I am worth taking care of.
  • I thought I could heal Ollie of his addiction. I really thought that if I prayed hard enough, loved him enough and took care of him that that would deliver him from addiction. I can't. Only God can do that. He does it instantly for some people. Other people struggle through it and eventually get free. Some never get free. This doesn't affect their salvation or spiritual growth, but it does alienate them from other people and especially the church. The church in general doesn't know how to love these people. We need to learn because God has given them to us to take care of, not to wave a magic wand and heal them but to take them where they are, love them and walk alongside them. Am I saying that this is easy? Definitely not, but God has told us to love one another.
  • If it weren't for Ollie coming into my life I would have kept struggling along thinking that living this way was normal (at least for me). It frightens me to think that if it hadn't been for his intervention (and God working through him) I could quite easily have ended up on valium, in a looney-bin or dead. I'm not looking for sympathy, I'm just telling it like it is. I bless God for him.
These thoughts culminated in the following conclusions:
  • I don't have to teach religion, nor do I want to.
  • If I am so stressed and run-down that I can't function, I can't help anybody.
  • I don't have to say yes to everything.
  • I now have a number of female friends who I'm learning to confide in.
  • I can be truthful with myself and others without being afraid of offending anybody. I can ask difficult questions of myself or other people. Jesus said that the truth makes us free. Being truthful with myself gives me a freedom I've never experienced before.
  • Preaching the gospel does not necessarily mean leading thousands of people to Christ, it can also mean leading one person to Christ and walking alongside them for a few years or even a lifetime and loving them unconditionally. The journey does not end at being born-again, it has only just begun and each of us needs support and teaching and love right until God calls us home again.
  • "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 My flesh is dead. I don't have to rely on myself for anything. Jesus lives in me, in my body, and is strong enough to live this Christian life for me. This is not a cop out, it's not denying my responsibilities, it's a recognition that I don't have to strive anymore. I can submit to Him, lean on Him and trust Him to carry me through everything. "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest." Hebrews 4:9-11 I really need rest. When God created the world He said that there was evening and morning after each of the first six days. On the seventh day He rested, but He doesn't say that there was evening and morning on this day. He is still resting and I can rest in Him. I can be free from fear and I can rest in Him. How amazing is that?!
So, where does all of this leave me? At the moment I feel like someone has tried to play the xylophone on the inside of my ribs with a spoon, I feel exhausted and I am constantly running to God with my fears. But at the same time, I feel hopeful. Open-heart surgery takes a while to recover from and I've had a lot of open-heart surgery this year.

To finish, here are a couple of quotes I found in a book I was reading last night, "God's Provision" by Charles R. Swindoll.

  • "Our English word 'worry' is from the German 'worgen' which in that tongue means 'to strangle'".
  • "Jesus dropped by His friends' home in Bethany. He was, no doubt, tired after a full day, so nothing meant more to Him than having a quiet place to relax with friends who would understand. However, Martha, one of the friends, truned the occasion into a mild frenzy. To make matters worse for her, Martha's sister Mary was so pleased to have the Lord visit their home that she sat with Him and evidenced little concern over her sister's anxiety attack... Mary's simple faith, in contrast to her sister's panic, won the Savior's affirmation. What is wrong with worry? It is incompatible with faith. They just don't mix."
  • "We just take life one day at a time. That's the way God dispenses life. Because He never changes and He knows what will work together for good. You and I don't."
  • "God is never at a loss to know what He's going to do in our situations. He knows perfectly well what is best for us. Our problem is, we don't know."
  • "Not even becoming a Christian erases our imperfections. We still make mistakes-even dumb mistakes. But, thank God, forgiveness gives us hope. We still need a lot of it."
  • "Contrary to popular opinion, God doesn't sit in heaven with His jaws clenched, His arms folded in disapproval, and a deep frown on His brow. He is not ticked off at His children for all the times we trip over our tiny feet and fall flat on our diapers... He is a loving Father, and we are precious in His sight, the delight of His heart."
Here's to a year of peace, refreshing and just living.
Grace & Peace (Shalom)