Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spirit of Heaviness

I'm so thankful for a childhood filled with scripture songs. We are at a church where we sing mostly hymns from the Cantus Christi, or choruses by Jamie Soles, in which he mainly sets large portions of scripture to music. It's been a blessing to my littles who often fall asleep with one of his CDs playing in their bedrooms.

One song that is on my mind today is Beauty for Ashes:

He gave me beauty for ashes

The oil of joy for mourning

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness

That we might be trees of righteousness

A planting of the Lord

That He might be glorified

-Robert Manzano

The Bible passage Mr Manzano quoted is one of my favourites -

The Year of the Lord's Favor

Isaiah 61

1The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

2To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

3To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

4And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.

5And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.

6But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.

7For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.

8For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

9And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.

10I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

11For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

A friend recently reminded me of those verses, indirectly. She was counselling a mutual frind who was having trouble with anxiety, and reminded her that the Bible speaks about a spirit of heaviness, and a spirit of fear, neither of which are from God, and both of which should be rebuked.

God has been unfolding this truth to me in my daily Bible meditations, and it was amazing to me that I had overlooked the spiritual side of my struggles lately. I am still struggling with my parents' divorce, and the huge huge aftereffects that totally transformed the landscape of my life.

I have been hearing His voice, promising freedom, but panicking that it might not look how i wanted it to look.

But i am feeling that freedom, and i am learning to ask my Father to lift that spirit of heaviness from me when i feel it descend in a heavy coat of sighs and settle.

I am so grateful for friends who will speak the words of life to me!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pleasures Forevermore

This blog has been kind of a downer  - and if you've been here with me, thank you.

I needed a place to process the hard times we were in, and this became the anti-Facebook for me :) - where i could write down what i was feeling and hopefully learn from it.

But we are in such a good place, and that's why i'm no longer blogging here.  I will leave the blog up, since i know others will be in the same place i've been, but right now we are so happy and blessed.

God has brought us to "the perfect" church.  You know how people say "Don't look for the perfect church.  If you find it, you'll wreck it!"... Well, so far we haven't been kicked out, and every. single.  thing just seems custom made to us.

Many of the families are larger than average, most of them are homeschoolers.  The whole church is family integrated, and there are no full time paid staff - instead, there are three "teaching elders" who take turns preaching.

It's a small church, but filled with kind, beautiful, believers.

When i was very ill with this last pregnancy, so many meals were brought, my house was cleaned, and once she was born, a shower was thrown for an eighth child!

We've been invited into people's homes, and enjoyed so much getting to know our brothers and sisters in Jesus.

ALL of our children are now baptized - even baby Octavia - since this church does practice infant baptism (but doesn't push it!).

This is not a place of social masks and conventions, or judging and bickering.  I don't think it's perfect, but it's perfect for us.

We are soooooooooooo grateful to God for Christ Covenant Church.  It has been a shelter in the storm this last year, and i hope we never move away, and can grow to be a support and leaders in time as well, to bring the love of God and the communion of the saints to many more people.

If you are where i was - please take heart from my situation!  I was so close to giving up!  When i knew we were moving, my sweet husband just wanted to please me, to find a church where i was comfortable.  And the first church we went to, after an invitation on Facebook by someone we had never met :) - was The One. For both of us.  It's a perfect fit in every way.

I just wish T weren't trying to do his master's degree at the same time as learn a new job in a bigger city.  But we are loving every opportunity we have to be with our church family :) - and i know God has a place for you, too...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Recalculating Part II

How do you gain resilience? I think i have none, and I need it so bad.

All of the good things I've blogged are still true, and so much more. God has poured out so many good things over our family and we are loving our new home and town even more than we did at the beginning.

But again, storms rage in my extended family and i am struggling to keep my head above the water. Part of this is the hormones of being 25 weeks pregnant with our eighth little one (one huge blessing!), but part of it is just weariness that comes from vacillating between anger and deep, deep sorrow. And then anger at the family members who have "destroyed my peace", followed by guilt and shame at not being able to be a support or a good friend in this situation. I just want it all to go away. And i feel bad about that. I feel like i did as a teenager... Uncomfortable, disconnected, broken and desperate for escape.

Tommy Walker wrote a song i play a lot. Honestly, not a lot of other songs appeal to me right now.

Lord, You are my hiding place
Come now and cover me
You are my safety
When storms are raging
Surrounding me
With songs of deliverance
Come and surround me now

I hide myself in Thee
I hide myself in Thee
I hide myself in Thee
I hide myself in Thee

Psalm 35 made me cry. T opened my Bible for me and said "read this." without even really looking and it was so pertinent.

"27 Let them shout for joy, and be glad,

that favor my righteous cause:
yea, let them say continually,
Let the LORD be magnified,
which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.
28 And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness

and of thy praise all the day long."

My Father will bring me through. I know this. So glad T will push me into His arms when i am sorely distracted by my sorrow.

Friday, September 30, 2011


My sister, Paige, has been blogging a lot lately - both on her personal blog and as official blogger for the Calgary 40 Days for Life campaign.  She signs up for "slots" of time to pray to end abortion, and on Fridays we have been fasting and praying for family in general.

Abortion hurts families.  And the dissolution of the family is one reason abortion has increased to the incredible rate it has.  Did you know that close to a quarter of all babies conceived in Canada will be aborted?  And that the rate within the church is roughly identical to the rate of abortion for people outside the church?

These things should never be.  And my sister and I are praying Malachi 4:6 over our families, our extended families, and the families of our nation, and the world.  (nothing like setting your sights high?)

"He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse."

There are some beautiful explanations of this verse (look here for a start!), but we are going with the simplest.  This says that God can (and will) restore the hearts of the fathers to their children.  Think how different our world would be if all fathers loved their children and cared for them.

Chuck Colson did prison ministry (for decades now), and he says on Mother's Day when his ministry takes in cards for men to send to their mothers, they never bring enough, but when they bring in cards for Father's Day, there are no takers.

Something went wrong between the fathers and the children. 

In a country where fathers love their children, there is no abuse, no neglect.  No verbal denigration, and needs are taken care of.  Fathers who love their children cherish their wives and make their relationship a priority.  The best gift a man can give his children is to love their mother.  And  most of all, if fathers really loved their children, they wouldn't pressure the women they are with to abort them.  Or insist, and drive them to the clinic.  They would worry less about having "enough" and more about the joy of family.

Because there is joy there!  I just read a National Geographic magazine article about the birthrate in Brazil, and how it's dropped drastically.  The headline on the cover said it was due to the "Sassy, smart women who know what they want", but the article said basically that a whole country of mothers has been swayed by daytime drama TV shows, which i'm not sure is a working measure of IQ or a great way to base a life changing decision.

If fathers valued their children, mothers would follow.  We need leaders, we need dads, we need marriages that work, and we need children who are protected, loved and cherished.

Since we started this prayer vigil, so much has happened!  And some of it is good :), and other parts are hard.  A family member's marriage is breaking down, and separation is being discussed, and it feels like Satan is upping the ante.  But God will prevail.  He is bigger, He is stronger, and He has a plan.

Anyway, i titled this blog post "Postures" because i did have a point about them.  Paige, who is my youngest sister, has had a series of posts on postures... postures of the heart.  But so many times i've found that postures of the body have influenced my heart.  The Bible uses such active language talking about our responses to the Word of God "my son, incline your heart/ open your ears/open thy mouth wide, and i will fill it/thy word was like honey on my lips"... 

And one posture i use when i pray is to just open my hands on my lap.  I don't even remember where i picked this up, but it signals to my spirit that all is open before Him.  Anything God wants to take from me, i give willingly.  All that he wants to give, I am open to His plans and ideas and ways...

What we are praying for is this same posture for families.  To be open to the will of God, and to the greatest commandment - to love...

Monday, September 26, 2011

More joy...

I wanted to keep posting here for awhile, because it seems to strange and unfamiliar to be where i am.

We are thoroughly enjoying our new church.  In ways i never would have imagined.

It's liturgical, which Travis finds reverent and thus he appreciates very much.

It's joyful, full of quick tempo praise, which i love.

It's leadership is balanced, and open, and friendly.

The people are open and accepting and kind.

Our children are so happy here.  So are we.

We were looking and hoping for so much less.  We had never heard of this denomination, although i have probably a dozen books by "leading lights" of this family of churches.  I had never really considered a Reformed church, and yet... here we are - and it fits so well...

When we moved here, i threw out a bunch of shoes i had that had never fit, but i used because finding ones that fit was impossible (i wear a size five, which is one size below what is sold in our previous town).  And T took me out and bought me some size five Dr. Marten shoes.  They fit *me* perfectly.  I don't have to wear two pairs of socks, or try sticky tape inside, or extra insoles :) - It's effortless, and comfortable, and i love to look at them, and to wear them.

I feel the same way about where we are right now.  God is so good.  I'm ready to see what He was doing in the past five years - and i know it was good.  And i am just enjoying each day, each week, here in this new chapter.

I hope if anyone is reading this who has had the same troubles as we have - that this encourages you.  That this is possible.  I was very close to thinking that maybe there just was no place for us in the Body of Christ.  That we would have to just let every Christian reject us, follow Jesus, and have fellowship in Heaven.

I'm reading a book right now called Face to Face:  Meditations on Friendship and Hospitality by Steve Wilkins.  I feel like those "muscles" have atrophied - and it was so affirming to read the beginning where he shares his convictions about the importance of relationship.

My mom once said "it hurts to be tolerated" - i felt like if i could just be tolerated, that would be enough.   But i want to pursue the image of God.  I want to *be* a friend, and to enjoy Godly friendship.  Hopefully He will grow me in this, too!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I know that's not a Christian concept - it's animist, borne from the dread of the ever present spirits - the worry that in their jealousy, if you speak your joy aloud, they will bear it away as a prize, leaving you bereft.

But i've still taken my time in writing on this blog, and it's not because things are bad :) but because God has poured out His favour on me, and i am still reeling, a little bit, inside...

For five years I've really struggled, and tried to fix it all on my own, to hear God's voice and find the good in the situation.  But for so long, it was just hard.  Very hard.  Very lonely, and with no hope of any change.  And then change came, and it only made the situation far worse.

And then, we moved.  And it seems like instead of a huge burden i have to carry around, God has answered the prayer i prayed in the Psalm i set to music -

 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord.  
He brought me into a spacious place. 
 The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid. 
 What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 118

In so many ways, over the past three weeks, i have seen Him set things into place that i had given up on.  A spacious place.  Room to grow, to maybe not be curled into a fetal position, hoping to escape the blows.  Even our new house is "a spacious place".  And i was so worried.

One scripture i love to quote says "6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
         Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. (Psalm 16:6)"  And the whole Psalm really speaks to me tonight...

Psalm 16

A Mikhtam of David.
1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.
2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
         I have no good besides You.”
3As for the saints who are in the earth,
         They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
         I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,
         Nor will I take their names upon my lips.
5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
         You support my lot.
6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
         Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;
         Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
8I have set the LORD continually before me;
         Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
         My flesh also will dwell securely.
10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;
         Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
11You will make known to me the path of life;
         In Your presence is fullness of joy;
         In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

On virtual religion - lessons from the world of gaming

This morning I read an article from that made me think.

I don't want to reproduce the entire article, so here is a link to the original, and it's well worth the few minutes to read all three pages.

Basically, an atheist game programmer was challenged to compete in an event during which the theme was religion (actually, Bigger Than Jesus).

What he came up with is part performance art and part psychology experiment.

But as i mused on his choices and the resultant chaos, it came to me that maybe the flaw was something that modern churches are doing as well, in a completely unconcious way.

See, Jason Rohrer's nine commandments for using his game began with him handing the thumb drive to a complete stranger, chuckling onstage that he couldn't give it to a friend.

But laying aside the aspect of the divinity of Christ, every major religion has had it's foundation laid precisely on , in the beginning, "giving it to friends". Maybe they were called followers, students, or disciples, but in the final analysis, the sacred truth was entrusted to those who had lived, walked, eaten with and conversed with at length, their master.

If Rohrer hadn't been an atheist, that part may have come to him more intuitively, that the game should spread from friend to friend...

And this is the point at which our churches seem to have become adrift.

As a teen and young adult, i felt a deep sense of belonging everytime i walked into a church, no matter what town or denomination. I knew that these were my people, my brothers and sisters. I knew i belonged.

But i think we are seeing the rise of a completely different system, one in which pastors and leaders are not identified and mentored, but one where whoever wants to can pay their money and come out with a piece of paper and get a job preaching.

I understand the concerns re: purity of doctrine, but like all discipline, retaining and owning information, skills, and beliefs come most readily from an environment of intimate friendship.

It's why we have one on one piano lessons, thesis advisors, parents, why apprentices have one overseer, tutoring and counsellors or psychiatrists who work in intimate one on one or small groups where trust and accountability flow both ways.

Ji, the stranger to whom the game was entrusted, proved to be someone who instead took months to pass it on, attempted to sell access to the game, and released videos in which he pretended to destroy the game. Would Rohrer's best friend have done the same? Or would the outcome have degenerated to the same level by the time it had changed hands a few more times?

Christianity is not a game, and God's Word assures us that it will "not return void" but i think this story emphasizes the importance that true relationships can have in maintaining a healthy, true community of believers.