"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.
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.
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”.
"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.
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine." Isaiah 43:1
I brought my black Toyota Camry to a safe distance stop behind the car in front of me. Sitting at the red light, I surveyed my surroundings, as I often do, while waiting for the light to change. The music on the radio accompanied me on my errand running day and my mind was thinking about the 'to do' list laying on the passenger seat beside me.
Looking out the passenger window on my right, I could not help but notice the young 20 something year old woman, seated behind the steering wheel of the "Jeepish" vehicle beside me. There was something about her demeanor that caused me to keep watching her.
She had shoulder length soft brown hair tucked behind her ears and a slender face. Her eyes were fixed straight ahead, looking, as though trying to change the picture unfolding in her life.
Her hands were gripping the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 o'clock positions, except for the moments she released them, one at a time, to wipe away the tears that were cascading down her cheeks.
Immediately, my mind and heart were engaged in her situation - though I did not know what it was. I did not know her name, but I wanted to speak to her!!
The distance that spanned the space from my driver's seat, across the center console, across the passenger seat, the thickness of my passenger side car door and the roadway between my vehicle and her car's driver side door, seemed like an un-navigable gulf. Too far to cross with the uncertainty of the timing of a changing stop light. Reaching over, I turned off the radio, as I simultaneously rolled down the passenger window, trying to "will" her to look my way so I could ask her if there was anything that I could do to help.
She stared straight ahead! Hands gripping the steering wheel. Her crying- containing gasps, even as her chest heaved to try and catch her breath. From where I sat, her sadness and sorrow were palpable. Everything within me wanted to comfort her!
She stared straight ahead - wiping tears - gasping cries!
The light turned green.
Traffic started to move. Her vehicle began to roll forward, as did mine. I debated as to whether I should follow her; to find out if there was something I could do to help. My concern for her affected my own concentration on my driving for a moment, as I watched her drive away and disappear over the crest of the hill.
Putting on my blinker, I signaled left and drove into the parking lot of the dry cleaners. Pulling into an empty spot, I put the car in park and turned off the ignition. For several moments, I sat quietly looking off in the direction in which the young woman had driven.
What was her name? What had happened to cause such pain?
Had she just received news that someone she loved had died or was in an accident and she was on her way to the hospital? Had she just received news that she was ill and trying to process the prognosis? Had she just learned she was pregnant and it was not welcome news for her life situation? Had she just broken up with her boyfriend? Did she just find out her husband was cheating on her? Had she been abused? Had she just lost her job and did not know how she was going to take care of herself? Had she said goodbye to a parent, or a child? Had life become too unbearable and she was contemplating suicide?
What situation was unfolding or news received that could illicit such a deep, guttural sorrow in her body?
I did not know her name. I could not give her comfort but I wanted to! I wanted her to know she did not have to be alone in her pain!
WHO WAS SHE? WHAT WAS HER NAME?
I could not comfort her but what I could do, I did.
"Lord Jesus - take care of her! You who knows her name and brings comfort. Please go to her where she is and meet with her in a tangible way. Help her O GOD!"
I often think of her. The young twenty-something woman in the "Jeepish" vehicle - nameless to me BUT not nameless to the GOD who knows her.
I was reminded about another broken-hearted woman who lived many years ago, in ancient days. She had a friend; a close friend. A friend of authentic caring, influence and love, who had changed her life. That friend was wrongly accused and had been horrifically brutalized and nailed on to a cross in the most humiliating of circumstances, for all to see. Then his body was laid to rest in a rock enclosed grave.
Three days later, in grief and deep trauma, she had gone to visit his grave. When she got there, her heart and mind and body experienced another adage of pain because it appeared to her as though his grave had been robbed. His body was gone.
This was too much pain to bear and she collapsed in gasping sobs. The cascading tears were falling from her eyes when a man walked into her presence.
"Woman, why are you crying" (“what happened to cause this much pain")
"They have taken away my LORD'S body (“my friend's body is gone") and I don't know what they have done with him".
Almost three years ago, I stood at the edge of an opening in the ground and watched as cemetery workers lowered the casket containing my brother's body, into the concrete vault 6 feet below. Then they put a heavy concrete lid on top of the vault and began to cover it with dirt. I stood there till the last scoopful of earth had been put in place, then grasping tightly on to my husband's hand, walked away in silent grief.
How utterly disturbing and devastating an experience it would have been if 3 days later I returned to his gravesite to find the earth dug up, the cement lid of the vault upended, the casket lid opened and my brother's body not there!
But I picture that this is the type of scenario in which this woman found herself.
"Woman, why are you crying. Who are you looking for?"
Weeping, broken-hearted, vulnerable, frantic, shattered, alone, reeling from trauma and loss, she was now in the presence of a man she did not know and he wanted to know what was wrong. She thought he was the gardener, and possibly in desperation to try and get some answers, through anguished tears, she told him her plight.
"Did you take him? Just tell me what you did with him and I will go get him...
Desperate pain - needing answers - gasping cries.
Wait. She knew that voice!!!
Why when he had spoken the first time and called her 'woman', which held no depth of familiarity, and asked her a question, had she not recognized it?
But, when he called her by her name --- oh, that was different!
"Mary" - she was known!
The gardener, or so she had thought, did not ask her name.
It was not a case of "Now, remind me who you are again?"
He KNEW her! He KNEW her name and he called her by her name!
She heard it, and in that moment, something happened!
"Rabboni - Teacher" (she knew her friend!)
"Don't hold on to me because I have not yet gone to my Father in heaven."
I can only imagine the intensity with which she grabbed hold of him - throwing her arms around him, clinging to him! "Could this be true? Could this be real? Are you kidding me? You were dead and my world shattered and now you are standing here!!"
Intensity of joy, disbelief and relief, overwhelming elation mixed with the tears and feelings that physically impact the body in grief.
This was Jesus! Her friend, her LORD - Alive!!
A staggering cacophony of thoughts and emotions.
Such an intense response she had that he told her - "Don't hold on to me".
The kind of intense response that happens when despair does a 360-degree turn.
A running leap into his arms.
It would be that kind of response for me.
It is an exquisite account to me. A demonstration of magnificent love.
Jesus did not have to go back to his gravesite after he was raised from the dead. BUT, there was a woman there that was in deep pain!
Her friend, her LORD, came to where she was - in her pain.
He knew exactly who she was.
He asked her what was wrong, and then...
He called her by her name!
That is ALL He did... And it was profound!!
It changed everything for her! It transformed her world!
October 13th & 14th are two days which have been chosen for us, as women, to get together. Will you come? Will you bring a friend or two or three?
Provision will be made for you!
I am thinking about you and praying for you!
I will be waiting and I will be watching for you!
I will be interested to see how God, the Most High God, who created you and loves you and knows where you are and all your needs, will give to you on those days.
I hope you will come with anticipation!
I hope you will leave full!
Written by Deborah A. Caya Klassen
(August 2017. All rights reserved. Do not use without written permission)
Click here to listen to the track "Take My Life" from Deborah's "Legacy of Hope" CD
Photo Credit: T. Lau
I thank my God every time I remember you. (Philippians 1:3)
I have been blessed to call Arlington Woods Church my home church since 1967 when my family moved to Ottawa so my father could start work at Carleton University. Back then, we were meeting at Knoxdale Public School while waiting for the original church building to be built. My mother faithfully brought us kids to Sunday School though people tell me I spent a lot of time hiding behind my mother’s skirts since I was a painfully shy child and still learning English.
I am grateful for many at Arlington Woods Church who befriended my immigrant family and blessed my brother, sister, and me as our Sunday School teachers, mid-week club leaders, and youth group and young adult leaders. In time, my mother, sister, brother, and I all came to faith.
Some of you took a special interest in mentoring a painfully shy teen. You gave me opportunities to serve alongside you in Sunday School, the mid-week kids’ club, and the library. You introduced me to Wesley Acres Camp, where I worked several summers as a cabin leader and flipping burgers at the Raven Snack Shack.
As a new Christian, Dave had joined Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) while studying at Acadia University. After graduating, Dave moved from small town Nova Scotia to work in high tech, in the big city of Ottawa, where he joined IVCF at Carleton University, where I was studying. Dave and I met while volunteering with IVCF’s International Student Ministry friendship program. You welcomed Dave when he was looking for a new church. In 1987, you celebrated with us as Dave and I got married in the original sanctuary, the present-day fellowship hall. In 1992, you supported Dave and me when we took a giant and crazy leap of faith and moved to Tokyo, Japan for our 3-½ year international adventure.
You welcomed Dave and me back as parents of two young children and walked with us as our family grew to include two more daughters. You were a big help when those two both came seven weeks prematurely. Just as you had blessed my siblings and me growing up, you blessed my children with your leadership and friendship.
As my children grew, you gave me opportunities to serve in kids’ ministry and, in time, allowed them to serve alongside you and me. In recent years, you supported me when my parents had various serious illnesses and encouraged Dave while he was out of work. You gently encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and take on some leadership roles. You warmly welcomed me in your small groups, where I continue to grow. This summer, you celebrated with us as my firstborn was married in our current sanctuary.
As I look back over 50 years, I see God’s faithful hand in blessing my family in various seasons of life through generations of our church family - some who are still here, some who moved, and some who are with the Lord. I can’t help but be filled with gratitude. So, thank you, my Arlington Woods Church family. May God bless you and continue to bless others through you.
By: Christine Villeneuve
Please Call Back Later!
“Waah!!!”, “Mom, I need help!”, “Honey, can you give me a hand?”
Since my son was born in January, I feel as though I am being called upon 24-7. Sometimes, the last thing I want to do is pick up a phone, respond to an email, or feel obligated towards something. Admittedly, that feeling is similar to when I feel God calling me for something. That little voice inside my head goes, “please call later?” or “so-and-so has a natural gifting in that area, call them”.
Inevitably, the voice inside my head is wrong. In Matthew 11, Jesus calls “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (v 28-30 NLT).
Many of us as women have multiple calls on our life. We are called in roles in our family, in our workplaces, with our friends, and our extended loved ones. In these times, it is important to listen for God’s gentle whisper, when we are called to rest and be cared for, or when we are called to action. Ultimately, a calling from God is not meant to burn us out or over burden us. It is meant to lighten our load, and help us learn about God’s love, life, and direction. Yes, a calling can stretch us, and challenge us at times, but that yoke should not be heavy as our spirits are refueled by the Holy Spirit, which keeps us strong (Ephesians 3: 16:19), and supported. When life starts taking over, we can quickly become overwhelmed again.
God calls us all to a full life, not an overfull one.
Ephesians 3: 14-19 (NLT) When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
By: Rozen Mathai
"Hall of Fame/Faith"
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. (Hebrews 11:1-2, ESV)
Sam’s sermon a couple Sundays ago was a powerful reminder of how important faith is for all of us. Much of what we know of faith we learn from the Bible, but also from the example and teaching of our parents.
In Proverbs 22:6 (NASB) we read: Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Moms, Dads and other relatives have a major role to play in the lives of little ones.
Looking back on your walk of faith, who are those in your personal Hall of Fame?
I love to do genealogy and have done it now for many years. I love to root out the personal stories from the facts I discover. My maternal grandfather lived most of his life in a mining valley in South Wales. While I have lived most of my life in Canada, I saw my grandpa, William for the last time when I was just three years old. He died when I was eleven. Imagine my joy many years ago now, when I discovered that he was born again in one of the last of the great Welsh Revivals. I knew for many years that he had been active in the Anglican Church and was considered by the family to be very religious and a good person. It wasn’t until I connected that to the Welsh Revivals, that I realized I would get the opportunity to sit beside him in Heaven. How special that thought is to me!
This year, I have been writing the story of my paternal great-grandfather, John Willoughby and his parents, Thomas and Mary Willoughby. Thomas and Mary homesteaded north of the Durham Road in Grey County, Ontario in the 1850s. They were both refugees from the Great Famine in Ireland. They came to Canada as members of the Church of Ireland (Anglican) and by the time they showed up in Canadian records, they were attending the Wesleyan Methodist Church. They probably changed denominations because of a Methodist circuit rider, although I do not know this for a fact. At least one of their children married a Mennonite.
The story about their son John, my great-grandfather also came as a revelation to me recently. Researching his life, I discovered a bunch of records about life in Sundridge in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I found reports from the church he and his family attended in the 1890s in Sundridge, Ontario. He too was a Methodist.
John Willoughby died in 1938 so I didn’t know him at all. I did know that he and the family suffered a number of tragedies that occurred before and during WWI that were difficult to bear. John homesteaded along the Muskoka Road where he met and married his wife, Margaret. They were among the founding families of Sundridge. John eked out a living there for the rest of his life. He lost his first grandchild, his thirteen-year-old son, and his wife within one month in 1914. Then in 1918 he took in and raised an orphaned niece and nephew and saw their six siblings safely settled with other family members.
As a young child, my paternal grandmother would regularly read to us from the Bible when we visited with her or stayed over on weekends. She shared the gospel at a moment’s notice and we grandchildren always knew she was praying for us. I also had at least two Sunday school teachers who touched my life in similar ways.
My mother, my favourite aunt, and a dear uncle also have very specials spots in my Hall of Faith along with a small number of Bible study friends and a special older couple from the church family who mentored me for many years. I could go on at length, but the main point is, where would I be without their examples?
The other day I decided to look at the WWI war record for the family member of a friend of mine. Just a little something I thought she might enjoy. She is a cousin of Reverend Reynolds Herman James of Kingston. I researched and wrote a short piece about the life and war record of his father, Delmer Stewart James of Stittsville. Delmer’s parents were both born in Ontario with Irish roots. They were living in Goulbourn, Carleton County from the 1860s and were part of the Holiness Movement Church. Delmer had four brothers and four sisters who all grew up with that influence in their background.
Delmer, in his turn, continued in the Holiness Movement throughout WWI when he served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps and later returned with his new wife, Grace Susan, to raise his own family of six in Stittsville, Ontario. His oldest son, Reynolds Herman James carried on the family tradition and his recent obituary gives awesome witness to the results of a life lived by faith. He served in WWII in the air force, and it was through his time there that he came to know Christ personally and realized his calling to be a pastor.
James, Rev. Reynolds Herman - WWII - RCAF Went to be with the Lord, peacefully at the Kingston General Hospital on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, at age 96.
Born on a farm 4 miles south-east of Stittsville, Ontario on June 17, 1920. He was the son of the late Delmer James of Stittsville, Ontario and Susan Reynolds of Folkestone, England and the eldest of 6 children. He attended the local county school until grade 8 and worked with his dad on the farm and alongside the neighbouring farmers. During the first year of WWII he worked in the flax mill. The fibre was important for airplane wings. On his 21st birthday, Reynolds joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and served in Quebec, Newfoundland, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for 4 years and 4 months. While serving in Windsor, Nova Scotia, he attended the Nazarene Church where he was born again on October 14, 1944. Reynolds served as a Pastor for 42 years in the Holiness Movement Church, which joined the Free Methodist Church in 1959. Reynolds loved his family and they all were very special to him. He often remarked how thankful he was that his children loved and were faithful to the Lord. He was proud that they were all active in their church and that his grandchildren attended church.
Reynolds is predeceased by his beloved wife of 64 years, Eliza-Jane (née Hodgins) and by his dear son, Stewart James. Loving father of William (Marilyn), Bonny Chapman (Peter) and Anne Kenny (Vernon).
Cherished grandfather to 10 grandchildren, Rachel Spink (Derek), Natalie Baker (Justin), Laura Thompson (Corwin), Nicole Chapman, Melissa Kenny, Julianna James, Jennifer Chapman, Victoria Edwards (Zach), Lindsay Chapman and Aaron Chapman and great-grandfather of Hailey and Lily Baker and Isabel Spink. Survived by his sisters Lillian and Lena and brother Lorne. Predeceased by his brother Gerald and sister Lola.
Fondly remembered by many nieces and nephews and their families.
“Be ye steadfast unmovable always abounding in the work of the Lord for ye know your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NASB)
When I reflect on the legacy of faith these folks have produced, I can only hope to have had a similar effect on the lives of those I know and love.
How about you?
by Lynne Willoughby
Photo 1: John Willoughby (supplied by Lynne Willoughby)
Photo 2: Delmer, his wife Grace with their children, far left Reynolds, Lorne, Lola, Gerald, Lillian, Lena. Photo 3: Reynolds at a Remembrance Day Ceremony in Wilton where he would lay a wreath annually for his dad, four uncles, and himself. Photo 4: Reynolds & Eliza-Jane (Photos 2-4 supplied by Reynolds’ granddaughter, Victoria Edwards)
Last week we featured Part 1 in this 2-part post from Naomi Priddle who recently went on a mission trip with YWAM to Hawaii and Nepal. This week, we are featuring the second installment which focuses on Naomi's experiences in Nepal and how she applied the lessons of overcoming her fears.
- The Editorial Team
“FEARS" – Part II
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV)
We arrived in Nepal and I discovered that one of the main things we had to do was, guess what, evangelism! It was a little more complicated in a foreign language but we had translators to help and it all worked out. I can recount numerous stories of God filling me with a boldness in the streets of this foreign land and allowing me to be His light in a country so overwhelmed with darkness. I didn’t let fear slow God’s work through my life. Instead, I allowed Him to radiate brilliantly through the way He changed my heart for His glory!
What I really hope you hear through these testimonies is that we cannot let fear hold us back from doing what God wants us to do. I write this hesitantly because I know that I fall prey to fear constantly, but it’s something so very important to our faith and I think that even taking the smallest steps can slowly enlarge our ‘comfort zones.’
I have been studying what God has to say about fear and I selected two of the many passages to share with you. 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Initially, when I read this verse, I sort of felt convicted, thinking that my fears were showing that I was not trusting in God completely. However, I began to realize that this verse is not trying to make us feel guilty, rather; I think it’s trying to reassure us of God’s perfect love and to remind us that we have nothing to fear. God loves us and He doesn’t want us to be scared, because He is in control and when we let Him do His work in our lives, it always turns out for the best even if getting there is scary.
I really want to emphasize that stepping out in fear brings freedom. If we fully trust in God, holding His hand, so to speak, and letting Him work through our fears and weaknesses will allow us to see incredible things happen. There is nothing more exhilarating than seeing God work in powerful ways through our weak human hands. “‘“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Don’t hinder Him from working wonders in your life and in the lives of those around you. Let God’s Holy Spirit flow through you and give you the ability to live bravely. Don’t let the enemy weigh you down with fear but know that your Creator, your Heavenly Father, is always there to protect you, to hold you and to guide you. Be free from fear, because once you overcome your fears, you will experience perfect love and there is nothing like it.
When you do step out in your fears you are not alone. Even if there is no one physically around you cheering you on, rest assured that God is with you and has armed you with the fiercest of weapons - the Name of Jesus Christ. There is nothing and no one who can stand against that Name.
Satan has to leave the room when you utter the name of Jesus! And that’s exciting, it should get you fired up about fighting a battle against evil alongside Jesus our Lord and Saviour. If your fears are stopping you from doing what God wants you to do it’s Satan trying to stop you from overcoming the darkness of this world. Take hold of this power and defeat fear, because fear is from the enemy and God wants you to realize that you don’t have to fight this war from a posture of fear because Jesus has already won for you.
The other day in Church we sang this song called “What a beautiful name” by Hillsong. One verse goes like this:
“What a powerful Name it is, Nothing can stand against, What a powerful Name it is, The Name of Jesus”
How true is this! How great and powerful is the Name of Jesus!
Once we realize the power that is in the Name of Jesus, we will be unstoppable warriors for God. Don’t let fear stop you, step out in faith and experience how rewarding it is once it has been conquered. Jesus is with you. His great and mighty Name can move mountains and shake the earth. God wants each and every one of us to shake the foundations of this earth with Him.
Refuse to be held down by human thoughts and fears and let God work miracles through your life! Be a Daniel, go into the den of lions and be unafraid. Be an Esther and stand up for your people even if it means death. Be an Abraham and be willing to give up your son for the love of God. Be a Moses and speak even when you don’t think that you can. Because the living God is with you and He will close the mouths of the lions, He will reward your bravery, He will see your faithfulness and He will give you a voice and fill you with words to speak.
He is mighty to save and He cannot be stopped.
Photo Credits: Naomi Priddle Photo 1 - Naomi and team leaving for Nepal; Photo 2 - The Girls in Kurtas, (traditional women clothing in Nepal) Naomi is wearing the green wrap.
By: Naomi Priddle
This week we feature Part 1 in a 2-part post from Naomi Priddle as she gives us a glimpse into her recent mission trip with YWAM. Next week, Part 2 will describe Naomi's missionary experiences in Nepal and the lessons that God revealed to her about fears. You definitely will want to see how this phase of Naomi's journey unfolds so come back next week to find out.
- The Editorial Team
“FEARS" - PART I
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’. (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV)
Fear is something that God has been really speaking a lot to me about recently. I think it’s something that, in the past, has slowed me down or stopped me from maybe, going all in for Jesus. A couple years ago at Camp iawah (In All Ways Acknowledge Him), I completed a leadership training program called “Roots”. On the first day of the program, one of the leaders drew a circle on the board and inside he wrote the words “comfort zone”. He then drew a bigger circle around the initial one and within the two circles he wrote the word “fear,” explaining that it represented the things that we are scared to do because they’re outside of our comfort zones. Outside both of those circles he wrote “panic zone,” describing the things that are so far from our comfort, they cause us to panic. That’s when we start to feel that gut-wrenching fear, the all-consuming terror that takes away our breath. He began to explain that the next four weeks of our leadership training would push us outside of our comfort zones and close to our panic zones. He explained that the only way to grow is to step into our fears and slowly our comfort zones will grow and things that once seemed scary won’t anymore and things that were once absolutely terrifying will only be a little scary.
The message of that leadership training has stuck with me ever since. I’ve often thought about how true it is. It’s like exercise; the only way to expand your lungs is to push them, sometimes so far that you run out of breath. But I honestly don’t think that I truly lived this out until I went on a six-month mission trip to Nepal via Hawaii, with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). Because it’s one thing to say you’re going to go beyond your comfort zone, but when it comes down to doing it, it’s really very much harder to act on.
So, at the beginning of this school year, I found myself in Hawaii surrounded by many people I didn’t know in an unfamiliar place and very far away from home. I was scared. And I began to think about that circle graph from my leadership training at Camp IAWAH a few years ago. I realized that the next six months were going to be filled with terrifying experiences and I was going to have to choose to get outside of my comfort zone and grow. It was about time I conquered my fears, but all this would have been super impossible without God.
Of the many experiences from my time in Hawaii and Nepal, one of my favourite testimonies is how God took one of my fears of street evangelism and developed it into something I quite enjoyed. One of my biggest fears in life is talking in front of big groups of people, but really this fear could be translated into talking to random strangers about my faith. I’m not huge on going up to people that I don’t know and talking to them, let alone talking to them about my faith, my beliefs, all things controversial and uncomfortable. The first day I arrived in Hawaii I found out that one of the things that would be required of us was street evangelism every other Friday night. Going back to that circle graph, I would say this was pretty far into my panic zone. When you throw in the fact that I was sitting with a bunch of people I didn’t know; I was pretty much ready to go home. But that wasn’t really an option so I stuck it out and I got to know these people who became my family for the next six months.
Fast forward to the first night of street evangelism where we were split into two teams; my group headed to a town called Hanapepe where they celebrate a Friday night “art-walk” with vendors selling food and art and people from all over come and enjoy the balmy Hawaiian breeze. Our group began the evening by sitting in a circle in the park, praying before going out. Our leaders asked us to express our feelings in order to pray against any fear so that we would go out in boldness allowing God to speak through us. I remember sitting there feeling surprisingly calm.
I had been dreading this night but as I sat there I felt at peace and I knew that God was with me.
We were partnered up with another member and I was paired with one of our staff members, which was simply intimidating. We had a goal of praying for at least one person and things went so smoothly that we prayed for probably 3 or 4 people.
It’s surprising how receptive people are to prayer; it really makes them feel loved and noticed. You should try it some time.
My first night of street evangelism went so well that those Friday nights grew to be one of my favourite things that we did in Hawaii.
I got excited to share the gospel with people I didn’t even know. Don’t ask me how this happened because even as I write it, it sounds a little bit crazy and way out of character for me. All I can say is that God was changing my heart, I didn’t let my fear stop me and God used that in powerful ways.
Photo Credits: Naomi Priddle. . Photo 1 - Naomi on a roof in the Himalayas; Photo 2 - Naomi with team at the Hanapepe Art Walk
By: Naomi Priddle
“Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)
It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that I have finished my degree. Even typing that statement feels surreal. I will be honest with you, and say that it’s terrifying to leave my safe bubble of university life to go out and be a “real adult” in the “real world”. I woke up this morning to go to work, wishing that I could be getting ready for school instead. While I classify myself as someone who thinks 10 steps ahead, I was finding myself wanting to take a couple steps back.
Graduating is scary. In the weeks since I finished my degree, I realized that school had become my safety net. Having been studying for several years, I felt comfortable going to class, working on assignments, remaining in a contained and safe “school bubble”. While my classes were challenging; school felt like a big cozy blanket. On the other hand, graduating feels like a cold winter morning when I am snuggled up under my duvet and my mom comes into my room, ripping the covers off while telling me that I need to get up and get going.
I believe that God does that sometimes; removes our comforts and pushes us into the cold world where people are waiting on us to do something because He knows that we are ready. We’ve learned enough and we are sufficiently equipped to launch. God constantly wants us to grow in order to further His Kingdom. But growing often means leaving things behind; graduating from our different “comfort zones”. A lot of the time, we want to wait until things are safe and perfect before we remove the covers. A lot of times, God does things before we feel ready. We must trust that He knows best, that His timing is best and believe that He will always walk with us.
God's way is perfect. All the LORD's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. (Psalm 18:30, NLT)
I urge you to look at areas of your life and see if there are things from which you need to graduate. Maybe it’s a group of friends who bring you down instead of encouraging you. Maybe it’s a bad habit that keeps hanging on and preventing you from being all that God has called you to be – gossip, an unhealthy lifestyle, too much time on social media, excessive shopping?
Is God calling you to “graduate” into a leadership role in your church or community instead of hiding behind bad habits or behind the scenes?
God has a plan for each one of us and the “covers” we cling to may well be standing in the way of God’s plan and the future He has in store for you. What covers may God want to remove from you, and from what comfort zones do you sense you need to graduate?
When I graduated Junior High, my mom gave me a gift-book containing the story to a song, along with the CD, that is still a "go-to" song I listen to when I feel like crawling back under the covers. It's a song that many of you may know but I'd like to share it with you today in the context of this message.
I hope you dance!
By: Yelena Knight