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