"Forgiveness: Why it Matters.”
Editorial Note: Forgiveness that most of us are required to give or receive may be of a different nature than the following account. However, the end result of any type of forgiveness is the same. There is healing for the person who is doing the forgiving. God is so gracious to grant that to us.
You are about to get a glimpse into one woman’s personal story about forgiveness - how she came to extend forgiveness to someone who had sexually abused her when she was a child. This is not everyone’s story, yet there may be some of you who have had similar experiences. We encourage you to not suffer in silence or alone; there are resources and support available to you. Please reach out and access them.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14, (NIV)
Forgiveness is a topic that not everyone enjoys talking about. It makes us think. Choices that have been made in life, whether it affects our life directly or not, places us in situations or circumstances where forgiveness needs to be addressed. Maybe we are not ready to look “in the mirror” and see what the reflection is telling us to do or what direction God is telling us to go.
Google gives the definition of forgiveness as “the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offence. The offence may not be forgotten yet forgiven.”
I like this definition as it says that forgiveness is intentional (on purpose) and it’s a voluntary process (it’s our choice and it can take a while). Forgiveness can be instantaneous!
As believers, one of God’s amazing gifts to us is His son who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. We talk about that as salvation or forgiveness of sins.
Why does that matter? It brings purpose for us to walk a holy life with and for God. God forgives us of our sin, yet we struggle with sin and the shame that it has brought to our lives. We often find that we need to forgive "ourselves" and the choices we have made in the past, and it becomes a part of the process of working out our salvation.
Jesus’ story is about believing by faith in someone we cannot physically see. When Jesus said in Luke 23:34, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do...”, this was at the time when He was dying on the cross. Pause and think about that scene for a moment.
When you imagine the scene, is He still on the cross? Or is the cross empty like the ones often displayed in churches?
I try to picture the scene on the day HE was there suffering for our sins. I know that I can’t see it all, but I try. I see the cross as the ultimate display of FORGIVENESS.
When I was growing up, I used to listen to a song that identifies with the topic of forgiveness; I still often think about the lyrics that went like this: “He knew me, yet He loved me”. This song talks about how if it were only for me, Jesus would have still died on the cross because He knew me, yet He loved me. Have you ever wondered that for yourself? Would Jesus have died for just "you alone" on the cross? This question can produce strong feelings and conviction all at the same time.
Forgiveness evokes many questions such as, do we forgive on the basis of feeling and emotion or by choice and being obedient to what God tells us in Scripture. What chapter and verse do we find that?
Forgiveness and why it matters is a question, I believe that many of us have to deal with in our lives. Perhaps you are dealing with someone or something that requires forgiveness - either giving or receiving? What is your story?
Jesus’ story of forgiveness was shared in the Bible for a purpose. Does the forgiveness that is needed in your life hold a purpose?
My story is one of childhood sexual abuse at the ages of 11-13 within a church setting that happened many years ago. I had to deal with this because God brought the situation to a point where the abuser needed to come to a place of accountability. He needed forgiveness. Did I wake up one day and say, “He is forgiven Father.” No, I did not. It was a journey of healing and a testimony of God’s faithfulness because through that journey, I came to realize that the LIFE-GIVER (Jesus) did not abandon me.
God gives us purpose and sometimes that purpose includes forgiving others for the wrong that they have done in our lives. Wrong choices that have affected our lives, caused us pain and suffering. Because of free will, given to us by God, we often make sinful choices. These choices harm us, but we know that our God is bigger than our mistakes and He can turn our situations around and give us new life. He is the life giver and remember He doesn't abandon us!
One of the choices in my life that still has repercussions today and that I continually talk with God about is “keeping secrets”. It was a big part of my life for a long time, a learned behaviour that became a part of my identity. God knew every detail, but I was “keeping this secret” from everyone. Someone made a wrong choice and changed the course of my life. Yes, I have the ability to change how that affects my life now. Through God’s grace, my secret was brought to light. That’s what God is about. Bringing light to the dark areas of life which results in progressive healing in His strength, His love and His hope.
Today, I literally have to remind myself to “change the tape, CD, record, and the “self-talk” that I am “a failure” because of the abuse, I am not a failure, I am a survivor of my past and a daughter of God who saved me, healed me, forgave me and made me a new creation in Him.
What is your story? What has happened in your life that needs forgiveness? Why does it matter? It matters to God, YOU matter to God.
On Saturday, October 13, 2018, I will tell my story and share how God has brought me on this journey of healing and forgiveness. I will share what I believe to be the purpose and why it matters in life. Hope to see you there!
Here are some verses to get you ready for our time together on Saturday:
Mark 11:25-26, (NIV), “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Luke 6:37, (NIV), “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
By: Ruthann Wheaton
Listen to the 2-part story that inspired the Matthew West, "Forgiveness" song.
“I will set out and go back to my father…” Luke 15:18a (NIV)
There is something to be said about distance; something about picking yourself up and leaving something behind, because you no longer want to be held captive by whatever was holding you down. The older I get, the easier I can recognize it! There is often a lot said about walking away from something, and never turning back, but I want to talk about going back to something that maybe you should not have walked away from or walking away from something that you thought was not for you.
It takes a certain amount of humility to return, doesn’t it? Tail between your legs, head down to the ground, total humility. It’s about going back to your mom after being away for a while because you thought the world was better than your family or returning to a marriage you had given up on. It’s going back to a place you maybe shouldn’t have left.
It can be terrifying! It can bring you back down to earth incredibly quickly. Until it becomes a matter of returning to the place that is home; the familiar and nurturing place where you find acceptance in spite of your shortcomings.
How often have you had to return to your faith home? Or are you in a place where you need to return?
I’m not talking about a physical church building, though it could be that too, but the home that is in Christ; returning to the Father.
Does this get you thinking about the story of the prodigal son? If you’re not familiar with that parable, you can find it here. It doesn’t have to be that dramatic or severe, but a return may be the next thing that you need to do in your faith journey. This is something that has been on my own heart lately, as I began to sense a disconnect; a bit of a distance from “home”.
Recently, I returned to a job which I had boldly left months ago. I was onto bigger and better things and was ready to become a full-fledged independent boss lady. Pretty quickly, I realized that this new place, that seemed shiny when I was looking from a distance, really wasn’t for me. Though I always had the option of returning to my original position, I knew that it would take a certain amount of humility, admitting I made a wrong move, and that I missed the place I called my “work home”. I remember how nervous I was to tell my former boss, that I wanted to come back. I was expecting a bit of frustration, even rejection, and was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome back I received.
It was like receiving the prodigal son’s robe, ring and celebration – I received a warm hug, and pure joy that I had returned. I’ve never felt more valued in a work setting before!
Jesus is like this – though better! When we stray, and honestly, we will all have seasons when we are a bit farther away from Him than others; it’s the ebb and flow of a human relationship with a Holy God. But He is waiting for us; arms open, with a warm hug, and our very own robes, rings and celebration. We see this in a series of parables recorded in Luke 15. In each of the illustrations, something is lost, and each time, the owner, representing the Father, searches for it; leaving the other items (99) to search for the one.
It’s so amazing to me when anyone gives me a second chance, but especially when God, the perfect being gives me chance, after chance, after chance. I screw up in countless ways and would have given up on me a long time ago. Thankfully, God never will.
I’m not sure what your story is; maybe you’re in a great place with your faith, where you’re excited to meet God every day. Maybe you’re feeling a bit over it, going through the motions, like you’re trying for no reason because nothing changes (hello, I’ve been there). Maybe you’ve given up all together, and are ready to move to the next place, city, relationship, job, family.... I’m not sure where this message meets you, but I hope it encourages you to return to your home, return to the place that can’t go wrong, even when it feels like there is a better way, a better, shinier home. There isn’t one.
Will it be easy? Probably not. Usually, when we have to return to our faith home, it means leaving behind a bit of mess. Maybe it’s a life of deceit, or a relationship that reduces you, or even habits that will lead to destruction. But take the step, He will meet you, and help you.
It’s never too late, never met with anger and you will not be turned away. You will be received with warmth and acceptance. Ask God for the courage to return and the humility to go back and start again.
By: Yelena & Yolande Knight
Allow these powerful, yet simple lyrics of this song "I Wanna Go Back" by David Dunn to resonate with you.
Our Mugs & Muffins Meet-up for March was a celebration of International Women's Day, which is observed on March 8th, and we selected the theme #PressForProgress as our focus.
Many groups or countries select their own theme for the day, including the UN, Canada, and the InternationalWomensDay.com organization, the latter's theme as the one we've selected (which is not to be taken as an endorsement of the organization).
For information purposes, the themes chosen this year by Canada’s Status of Women is #MyFeminism, and by the UN, it's: "Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives".
Why should we, as Christian women, be involved in any activities or celebrations for International Women's Day?
To quote Crosswalk, a Christian online magazine, “As Christians though, Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate the women who came before us, defying tradition and sometimes risking their lives to impact Christianity today.“1
Furthermore, the Bible has something to say about equality & justice. Read what the prophet, Isaiah had to say in Isaiah 58:6-7.
Our discussion at Mugs & Muffins focused on six Christian women who have #PressedForProgress long before it was a hashtag or slang. Here they are:
Cher Wang came from a wealthy Taiwanese family and is the Co-founder and Chair of HTC, a consumer electronics, high-tech company. Her company is one of the top three smart-phone and tablet providers in the world, besides Samsung and Apple.
Growing up in a wealthy and well-known family, Wang has never hid under the umbrella of the family business; she started a legendary new page in Taiwanese high-tech world with her partners and claims that her success is all God's grace; known by the world to be "the wealthiest woman in Taiwan" who is always in simple athletic attire, she does not chase after brand names, and is very content in being simple and free.
She is very vocal about her faith, never afraid to discuss the ups and downs and struggles of living out her faith, "I followed my family in my belief in God and attended Sunday school and Sunday services. I got baptized at 13 years old, because I was touched during a retreat, but did not continue in the pursuit of faith. I left alone to the United States for education when I was 15 or 16 years old, and you could say that I gradually left God." She said bashfully, "I might have gone to church on Sundays, but I was mostly late, or left early, and I mostly made up stories. I knew that I needed to pray before bed, that it was important to study the scriptures, but I never seriously read the Bible through even once. You could say that my life was not really transformed."
"In this path of faith, He has let me experience a little bit of blessings at first, then gave me some trials and tribulations, and then let me experience His miraculous guidance and works; in these ups and downs/gives and takes, my faith has gradually grown. And on this day, the bigger the trials, the stronger my faith becomes and the greater the joy that comes after experiencing God. I know how intricate His intentions are and feel that I need to grasp onto His words every day," she said firmly.
Gladys Aylward (1902-1970) was a simple British woman who wanted to go to China as a missionary, but she was told that women could only serve as teachers or nurses—and she was neither. So, without official backing she used her life savings to buy a one-way ticket to China. She knew about an elderly missionary woman in China who was looking for someone to replace her but when Gladys finally did arrive in China, she was told that the missionary had moved to another village, a two-day mule ride into the mountains. So, Gladys hired a mule driver to take her there.
In China, Gladys worked first as a “foot inspector” removing bandages from the feet of Chinese girls as they used to believe it would keep their feet from growing big. After doing such a good job as the foot inspector, she was asked to calm down some prisoners who were rioting. After successfully doing that, they referred to her as the “Virtuous One”. Gladys went on to work with orphans where she rescued over 100 girls. Her work was captured in the 1958 film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness—a film that Aylward hated because it glamorized her very simple life.
Jennifer Wiseman was a senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope and became the director of the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion for the American Association of the Advancement of Science. This organization encourages communication She is active in the science and faith dialogue, and enjoys giving talks to congregations, youth groups, civic groups, and science enthusiasts on the excitement of science.
“My scientific education did not cause me to doubt what the Bible says regarding God’s authoritative involvement in creation, but I started reading a lot more, particularly books by scientists who were Christians about how they reconciled their understanding of Scripture with what they had learned scientifically about the details of nature. Some of these scientists also came to our Christian fellowship groups on campus, and it was a terrific help to me as a student to see these models of excellent scientists who were followers of Jesus Christ. I saw their reverence for Scripture and God along with their love for studying the natural world fitting together in a beautiful mosaic.
Even though I don’t experience an ultimate conflict between science and my Christian faith, I still have many unanswered questions. . . What was God doing in all those ages before these familiar parts of our world existed? . . . Was God just waiting for humans to come around? Why didn’t he create all of this instantly and just get to the point?”
Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman to be admitted into the NASA astronaut training program and the first African-American woman in space. During her eight days in space, Jemison conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew and herself. In all, she spent more than 190 hours in space before returning to Earth on September 20, 1992. Following her historic flight, Jemison noted that society should recognize how much both women and members of other minority groups can contribute if given the opportunity. She is also a physician, engineer, educator, and entrepreneur.
After leaving the astronaut corps in March 1993, Jemison accepted a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth. She also established the Jemison Group, a company that seeks to research, develop and market advanced technologies and currently works on the 100 Year Starship Project which she says is “pursuing an extraordinary tomorrow to create a better world today.”
Known as the “Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement,” Rosa Parks was a seamstress and civil rights activist who became famous for her refusal to obey a bus driver’s demand that she give up her seat to a white male. Her arrest for civil disobedience triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which launched one of its organizers, Martin Luther King, Jr, to the forefront of history.
In her book Quiet Strength, Parks says this about how God helped her the fateful day she refused to give up her seat. "I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. God did away with all my fear...It was time for someone to stand up--or, in my case, sit down. I refused to move."
Born into slavery in New York, Sojourner Truth escaped with her infant daughter and went on to become an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. In 1843, Isabella (her birth name) sensed God calling her to adopt the name "Sojourner" and travel the country sharing the gospel and her testimony. Her children were horrified at the idea, worried that a poor, illiterate former slave would not survive as a travelling speaker. Besides, women weren't supposed to speak publicly during this era, let alone former slaves. But Sojourner reassured her family that if, as she believed, the calling was from God, then He would protect her.
Sojourner was not intimidated by convention or authority. She learned to manipulate establishment institutions to effect reforms. During her lifetime she brought, and won, three lawsuits. This was very unusual for a woman, especially for an illiterate ex-slave. She retrieved her son, who had been sold illegally from New York State into slavery in Alabama. She also won a slander suit in New York City and a personal injury case after she was injured in a street car incident in Washington. D.C. She is best known for her speech on racial inequalities entitled, “Ain’t I a Woman?” which she gave at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851.
Empowered by her religious faith, the former slave worked tirelessly for many years to transform national attitudes and institutions. According to Nell Painter, Princeton professor and Truth biographer, "No other woman who had gone through the ordeal of slavery managed to survive with sufficient strength, poise and self-confidence to become a public presence over the long term."
Some photos from Saturday's Mugs & Muffins Meet-up:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)
Trust Issues. It’s more than a Drake song, it’s something that many of us experience.
I can’t think of a person walking on this earth (even though I know like, five people), who has not experienced some kind of hurt that resulted in a break in trust. I can think of so many personal examples where I trusted in someone and that trust was broken by an action. It hits us in our core, and it hurts. If this happens to us enough times, it can make us not want to trust anyone (hands up if that’s you).
Lo and behold, a package of trust issues manifests. You will, of course, convince yourself that you are “protecting yourself”, and you are “wiser now than before”, because you refuse to believe that people can do good, can help, can truly and genuinely care without wanting anything in return. Of course, there is an element of guardedness required in life when it comes to trust – you should absolutely not trust in everyone you come across, that’s silly. However, what I’m writing about is when the pendulum swings too far one way, and you won’t trust in anyone at all out of fear.
Fear. How many of us want to admit that trust issues are a result of fear? I sure didn’t; I have told myself the above a million and ten times – I am just smarter now than before (and, I must add, I absolutely am). But my pendulum swung so hard the other way that I wouldn’t let anyone in. I was (and honestly, I still am) scared to meet new people, to let friends fully in, to allow myself to believe in the good of others. How many times have I blocked myself from meaningful and fulfilling relationships because of trust issues? This is important, but I think the bigger question is this: how many times have I blocked myself from a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with Christ because of my earthly trust issues?
A recent message at church (link here) really shook me to my core. Do I truly trust God, or am I putting in all of these terms and conditions for my trust?
Why am I acting as though God needs to earn my trust, when He doesn’t need to prove that he’s got my back? How have I allowed myself to put human conditions on God?
I will admit that I don’t always totally trust God, which seems almost blasphemous to say. I love God, believe that He’s good, and believe the Word. However, because of human hurts, and life circumstances I still don’t totally understand, I sometimes doubt that He has my back.
I love the story that many of us know well: Jesus calling Peter to walk on water found in Matthew 14:22-32. We can lose some of the meaning of the story by the sheer amazement of someone actually walking on water. Peter trusts Jesus while walking until he didn’t, until he thought about sinking. (vv. 29-31). When he saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink, crying out for Jesus to save him; almost forgetting the fact that he was walking on water before. How often are we “walking on water”, focusing on Jesus, and not our problems, and then we lose sight of that, look at our earthly circumstances, get scared, and begin to sink, forgetting that Jesus was there all along.
That is exactly what happens when we stop trusting in God, and look at our circumstance. It goes something like this: we stop trusting in God, look at how other imperfect humans have let us down, and lose hope. We forget that God is God; He is different. We cannot measure Him by human standards or through our human experiences.
In order to have a full and lasting relationship with God, we have to take the step toward truly trusting Him. Really. That means not always knowing what’s going to happen, or seeing the full picture.
Because if we knew it all beforehand, it wouldn’t be faith, would it?
By: Yelena Knight
Lauren Daigle's Song "Trust in You" is a perfect reminder of how we need to let go and let God.
As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night." (Genesis 8:22, NLT)
I’m an odd duck, always have been. I love winter. I don’t ski or snowshoe and I haven’t been on skates in years, but I love winter.
It came to me as a child.
We’d play outside after school until Dad came home, and then we would play all day on Saturdays. Homework was done after supper when the news was on and we had to be quiet. We played mostly in the front yard so our friends could see us and join in. Since Dad didn’t seem to be bothered when the snow tumbled onto the driveway, we made that our main playground. Sometimes we would even shovel it onto the lower half of the driveway so we could toboggan down our hill and up the other side.
When I went to school, the only time we were allowed to stay inside at recesses or lunch, were times when there was lightning. It didn’t matter how cold it was, you were expected to dress for it.
I can recall the school closing if there was a blinding snowstorm, when we would have to stay home and stay in! Not only were the roads hazardous, but there was a real fear that the street plow operator would not be able to see us with the auger on the plow, if we were on the road walking to school.
Today, at the school where I work, the school hardly ever closes for bad weather. Even when the school buses are cancelled, the school is often open. So, I watch the weather closely and test the snow with my hand every morning when I arrive.
Will we be able to do it today?
In anticipation of having the perfect snow conditions, I would have purchased four bags of large carrots which would be safely stored in the “Breakfast Club” refrigerator. I would have made and left cookie dough in my freezer at home. Then I would wait for the perfect winter day.
The perfect day arrives when there is lots of snow and it all holds together - the day for the Annual Snowman Building Contest!
Once that day is announced through the intercom system, the school erupts with cheers. Student teams are formed and one student is selected to be sent to the office for their team number and a carrot. Over the course of two recesses, and within thirteen categories, the students get to perfect their masterpieces. During the entire process, the principal films each of the teams in action and at the end, I get to go out and judge them.
Judging is difficult because each team has worked so hard. However, we are able to select seventeen winning teams and announce them during the following morning’s announcements.
On the Annual Snowman Building Contest day, there would be no fights, nor any throwing of snowballs. Instead, there is team work, imagination, and lots of fresh air. Teachers are grateful that their duties outside on that day, are fun and easy. It’s a winning day for all.
It makes me think of how our Heavenly Father must smile when He sees us working in teams, using our imaginations, and having fun!
Let’s Pray: Father, thank you for all the wonderful winter memories as a child, and for allowing me to create new memories now that I am grown and can experience the joy of the seasons through the eyes of the children around me. Thank you for the imagination of kids and for the opportunity to participate in activities that help them stretch those imaginations and work together. Help us all to see the wonder in your beautiful creation and the excitement in enjoying the simple things in each season. Amen.
By: Bev Charles
Enjoy this song from Hillsong Worship – "Seasons" - fitting for this post.
"Tree-Sight vs Full-Sight”
And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:24-25 ESV)
The first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, Helen Keller, is quoted to have said that “the only thing worse than having no sight is to have sight but no vision.”
This Helen Keller reference makes me think about the story of the blind man whom Jesus healed at Bethsaida. You know the one: the strange encounter when this man was brought to Jesus to be touched and Jesus took the man outside the village to heal him. Read it in its entirety here (Mark 8:22-26).
Perhaps, like me, you were so hung up on the manner in which the healing occurred, (come on, Jesus spitting on the man’s eyes is definitely bizarre behaviour), that you missed some of the gems of the story. After all, we’ve seen this “spitting thing” before but never quite like this.
On two other occasions, (see Mark 7:33 & John 9:6), we have recorded accounts of Jesus using spit in the performance of a miracle, but this is the only account of a miracle when Jesus did a healing in two touches and the only recorded miracle in all of the four gospels where Jesus asks a question of the person being healed.
Though I am only speculating about the reasons for what I consider to be key elements, some theologians have also noted these points as having illustrative or other importance in our Christian walk.
Some of you may be interested in delving deeper and can study the significance of factors such as, the fact that this was a private healing, the place the miracle took place, the timing of the miracle and how it is interpreted in the larger story of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. Bethsaida was the hometown of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip, and this was Mark’s last recorded miracle of Jesus in Galilee as He headed to the cross. It was also the signal of the end of Jesus’ public ministry; His remaining time was spent in private teaching and discipleship of the Twelve as He prepared them for His death.
Did you also wonder how this blind man knew what trees looked like? Could it be that he wasn’t always blind?
I will say this: I believe that this story is an illustration of spiritual vision, and like the disciples then, how our spiritual sight comes in stages. Like the physically blind man in Mark’s story, whose healing started with a little sight and then became full sight; our spiritual lives are the same. We are people who were in darkness, received partial sight (tree-sight) and our hope is for God to restore us to full sight where we see everything clearly.
This account has also caused me to think about my own life and how sometimes, I tend to have “tree-sight”, when I see things through my own eyes, and not fully, as God would have me see them. It’s in those moments that I need that second touch from God where I can have full sight.
How about you?
By: Yolande A. Knight - email@example.com
I'd like to share one of my all-time favourite worship songs that helps to usher me into a time of drawing closer to God as I seek Him for healing by Christy Nockels - "Healing is in Your Hands"
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)
We'd like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year and pray that 2018 will be your best year yet!
- Arlington Woods Women's Ministry Team
Today in the car, I was listening to a seasonal offering on audible.com from their narrators who were sharing their experiences about the holiday season. That got me to thinking about what I would like to share concerning Christmas. I recalled that many years ago, now; I loved to listen to Morningside on CBC radio, especially on Monday mornings when Peter Gzowski and Stuart McLean would share stories on numerous subjects. I remember one story where Stuart reminisced about the Christmas windows at Eaton's and Simpson's, which, every Christmas, were filled with moving mechanical scenes to celebrate the seasons and which were a favourite thing for families wherever they had stores. I believe Stuart grew up in Montreal.
I well remember all of my brothers and my cousins piling into the Queen Street streetcar, in Toronto, with my grandfather for the trip downtown to view these displays and the wonder and delight we took in it, especially as we drew closer to these iconic stores. It was something we always looked forward to.
Stuart went on to describe the intricacies of the mechanics that went into these displays and had even hunted up the folks who worked on putting them together. Then, he went on to talk about the holiday season in terms of the winter solstice. He spoke about how ancient peoples, especially in northern climes, feared the coming of winter and the shorter hours of daylight. He described how pagan peoples feared the dark and believed that the sun might go out. They devised rituals to appease the gods and looked forward to solstice celebrations which they used to convince the gods to bring back the light. At their height, these celebrations centred around December 21st.
I am sure that Stuart was aware of the analogy between the Christian celebration of Christ's birth and the return of the light, and this story has always resonated with me ever since. How clever our church fathers were to make this connection with new converts to Christianity.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is the light of the world and that his followers are also to be light in the darkness.
In John 8:12, Jesus tells us, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Matthew 5:14-16 says; “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’
And in Ephesians 5:7-14 it reads; ‘Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth).”
The celebration of Christmas is a time of renewal of hope and recognition of God's greatest gift to us - the coming of the Saviour of the world and the completion of God's plan for mankind.
Through Jesus’ coming, death on the cross and resurrection, our relationship to God can be restored and indeed, we are assured that God sent the Son to bring light to the world and we need never fear that darkness will overcome it. Indeed we are called to shine the light we have received to others in the world to share the free gift we have been given.
For me that is part of what Christmas is all about.
Like the star that the wise men followed, we can show others the way to the Saviour.
By Lynne Willoughby
Enjoy this song by a local artist, and CHRI announcer, Care Baldwin, “The Light of Christmas”.
The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still. Proverbs 27:9 (CEV)
After combing through hundreds of definitions and stories about sisterhood, and based on my own experience of having godly “sister-friends”, and doing ministry with all of you this past year, I’m sharing my understanding of what it means to have a sisterhood community.
Sisterhood is a bond that exists between women who are not related biologically, but who share an exceptionally strong connection as they do life together, sharing in the ups and downs, all the while enabling each other to thrive because of the connectivity of their relationships – relationships that are pure, and truthful, and authentic, and organic. In other words, real relationships. Relationships that are a way of life!
The Apostle Paul talks about the value of those types of relationships. In Titus 2, Paul instructs groups of people, through his letter to Pastor Titus, on how they ought to model proper behavior and he provides us, women, with some specific instructions on how we ought to mentor younger women. Before you discount this statement as not pertaining to you, let me say that no matter our age, we all know a younger woman.
Here’s the passage:
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
This short passage can take a long time to fully grasp and an even longer time to actualize in real life. We may never entirely get all of it, but we can definitely give it a good try. Do not be mistaken, ladies, we need each other to grow and to be successful in what we’ve been called to do by God.
A while back, God placed it on my heart that I needed to develop some healthy, godly female friendships which I intentionally sought out. It also meant that I had to let go of some unhealthy relationships that were not adding value to my spiritual walk. Of course, not all my friends are Christians, but I’ve learnt the importance of choosing how to spend my time wisely and to focus on things that are life-giving and setting limits on the other things.
How may God be speaking to you through Titus 2:3-5?
Paul wrote this letter to Titus as he (Titus) was pastoring a small, struggling church on the island of Crete and while his church was living under the oppressive Roman Empire and the evil leader, Nero who wanted to get rid of all Christians. Imagine living under that kind of persecution!
Yet, in that context, Paul was instructing them to persevere and lead godly, exemplary lives as a model for the younger women (and men) in their community. Our oppression today may not be as obvious, or it may be, depending on your perspective. The point is that we have opportunity, under somewhat better circumstances to carry out these instructions.
Our women’s ministry has been gifted to us by a God who loves us dearly and desires the best for us. AW Women’s Ministry exists to provide opportunities for the women in our church family and our community to authentically connect with each other and to have a deeper understanding of the value of healthy, godly friendships. This is not only important in our own lives, but it is essential for the life of the church and for our mission as ambassadors for Christ. The different gifts we've received through the Holy Spirit enable us to be a source of strength and encouragement to our “sisters” during difficult times. What a blessing the women in my life have been when I’ve felt lost or overwhelmed!
Our Secret Sisters ministry, as a vital part of AW Women’s Ministry, is not simply a program; it is a lifestyle that we hope you have developed over the past year as you have prayed for your “sister” and observed her life unfold through the veil of those faithful prayers. Now, you have the chance to “reveal” yourself to her and deepen that relationship face-to-face.
Enjoy this gift; nurture this new friendship. Perhaps you’ve been paired with an older woman from whom you can learn some things about life. Perhaps it’s a younger woman to whom you can pass on some nuggets of wisdom. Perhaps it’s a fairly equal match where you can share your experiences and begin to build a true friendship. Some of us are extroverts, some are introverts, some are serious, some are funny. It is precisely these uniqueness that make for interesting friendships. But, be mindful that it will take time to build. Lasting friendships aren’t built overnight; they take years, so be patient!
“True sisterhood cannot be forced. It has to be developed with interest, patience, reciprocity and over time. Not every woman will be your best friend, nor should she be invited to be in your inner circle, but every woman is deserving of your respect and support when you are able to provide it. Sisterhood is not a trite word we throw around. Being your sister’s keeper should be a reflex. It should be based on how you would want to be treated if you were walking in her shoes. Sisterhood knows no boundary, no race, no class or geography. Sisterhood transcends, and it transforms us for the better. Sisterhood is from the heart."1
By: Sue Bloomfield & Yolande Knight
Enjoy another Carole King classic in which she joined a few “sisters”, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain to sing - “You’ve Got a Friend”
"Brought Out…to be Brought In”
“and he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers.” Deuteronomy 6:23 (ESV)
I do my best to write from the place where I am; whether that’s a wonderful place full of light, or a bit of a dark place. When I was asked to write for this blog, I admit I was a bit reluctant because I was going through some stuff. You know, “monsters- under-the-bed” kind of stuff.
I liken it to being between a rock and a hard place, which is incredibly challenging. It is even more magnified when everything around you appear to be going fine. Casual inquiries about how things are going for you can be tricky as you force out a “great!”, because really, everything is going great. But on the other hand, you feel confused and uncertain about your next steps. It’s as if your blessings are overwhelming you. I am blessed beyond measure, and can actively remember when I was earnestly praying for the things that I have in my life now. But if there is anything I have learned in the last number of months, it is this: you cannot accurately gauge how a person is doing mentally or know what’s going on in their lives spiritually – good or bad – by how they appear physically.
But those monsters, man, they can be pretty scary! I believe that God is working on me to build my faith as he prepares me for my next “life task”, whatever that may be. I believe that once we finish one part of our mission, God begins prepping us for the next part. I’m in the pit of it right now, being prepared for whatever God wants to throw at me next. I’m not writing this from a place of having the answers, or even from a place of jumping up and down with excitement – I honestly don’t know how this next chapter of my story is going to turn out, or what exactly is going to happen once I no longer feel like I’m drowning in fear and uncertainty, because fear and uncertainty can be crippling.
But, I can tell you this.
God reaches us in those moments of fear, confusion, and uncertainty so we learn to lean on him totally and completely. He doesn’t quit on us like, maybe an old friend quit on you while you were in your pit. And trust me, I know that reading those words “he won’t quit on us” sounds great, but it can be hard to feel in your heart when you’ve been hurt – I’ve been right there. Believing that he has great things in store for us can feel like a joke when the last 15 chapters have been disappointments and hurt.
I love Deuteronomy Chapter 8 – which is titled, in my Bible App, “Remember the Lord Your God”. God was leading the people out of Egypt, into the Promised Land, but not before bringing them through 40 years in the wilderness so that they can learn to lean on him alone.
You see, God brings us OUT so he can bring us IN. Out of the old and into something new.
With the Israelites, he didn’t lie; they ended up where they were supposed to be – where he promised they would be, but he didn’t make it easy – he never said he would.
We have to make the decision to believe His promises, whether everything around looks perfect or even if things look completely opposite to perfect. We have to stop responding based on our emotions and circumstances and trust God, no matter what. Because when God brings us out, he always has a plan and a purpose for taking us into the new thing.
I heard Kristene DiMarco, who sings with Bethel Music, say, “something really beautiful happens when God becomes your only option” and it really resonated with me. It is in her short film “I Needed A Supernatural God”, from the album, “Where the Light Was”, in which she talks about the story behind the album. You can find the comment at the 10:50 mark of the film, though I would encourage you to find the 23:24 minutes to watch it in its entirety.
(Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4OAsxUJx2M)
In reality, living like God is the only thing is hard. That is a challenging way to live - if we are choosing to do it in our own strength. But we must make the choice to live like there isn’t another option, because, is there really?
Live without fear and choose to pursue him totally and completely.
That is precisely what I’ve been challenged to do lately; to let go of fear and waiting for the other shoe to drop, and to trust in God’s promises alone.
I’m sharing with you, probably my favourite worship song right now (okay, maybe even all time because it’s based off my favourite hymn): “It is Well” – Bethel Music & Kristene DiMarco.
By: Yelena Knight
It seems so fitting to add this song by the classic Gaither Music Vocals – “You Brought Us Out”,
and I know that many of you will enjoy this classic Southern Gospel sound.
Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 (NASB)
Our feature photo this week is a reminder of the “Called Retreat” table that was so lovingly decorated at the front of the church during our retreat weekend. Who can forget that gorgeous bouquet of thirty-something pink roses and those flowing fern branches! The ferns immediately took me back to my childhood and growing up in the Caribbean where I was surrounded by beautiful, lush vegetation all the time. These ferns grew in abundance there, so it was a very fond memory for me, and throughout the entire weekend, my heart was filled with appreciation for that reminder.
November is a month of remembering and leads us into a season of memory-making and memory-recollecting. This weekend, on Remembrance Day, our nation pauses to remember what our veterans have done and continue to do to secure and protect our freedoms. As people who enjoy these freedoms today, let us show our profound gratitude for the extraordinary sacrifices made by men and women who laid down their lives for their country. And let us remember the horrors and deep cost of war so that we will not be so apt to repeat them in the future.
Because, remembering is more for the future than it is for the past. Forgetting can be costly. It has been said that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
As Christians, we understand what it means to remember. God calls us to remember. Our faith is all about remembering. We can look forward to eternity because we remember God’s grace that saved us in the past, allowing us to spend eternity with Him.
God asks us to remember where we’ve come from; how He reached out with outstretched hands to pull us out of our pits of despair. (Deuteronomy 5:15) Hence the warning from the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 6:4-8; for if we forget, we are doomed to hell.
Ever wonder why God asks us to remember Him as often as we partake in communion? (1 Corinthians 11:24-26)
Take a close look through your Bible and see the numerous references to remembering. Here are a few examples (Matthew 26:13, Joshua 4:4-7, Exodus 28:9-12, 39:6-7) and look at the number of times the Israelites erected memorials to remind them of God’s goodness and mercy as they journeyed to the Promised Land.
This Remembrance Day, add a few things to your list for remembering…
- Remember how God saved you from your sins.
- Remember how God placed you in a loving Church family.
- Remember how God opened your eyes to recognize sin.
- Remember how God carried you through your season of pain and suffering.
- Remember how God provided for you when you didn’t know how you would make it through to the next week/month.
- Remember how God answered that impossible prayer for you/ a loved one / a friend.
- Remember how God sent that person over to comfort you during your time of grief / sadness / loneliness.
- Remember how God healed you / a family member / a friend / a colleague when the doctors had given up.
- Remember how the gospel came alive to you through the community of your small group.
- Remember how God…. (fill in the blank)
- Remember God!
By: Yolande A. Knight - firstname.lastname@example.org
Let the words of this song from the Passion movement speak to you as you “Remember” featuring Brett Younker & Melodie Malone.