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More than Conquerors

In the midst of World War 2, in the middle of a German death camp, a sixty year old woman whispered these words and in them found hope:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword….No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:35-37

Corrie ten Boom faced an impossible and hopeless situation…worse than anything I could possibly imagine. Everything she listed from the scriptures above happened to her.

Death, starvation and evil prevailed.

She stood for hours in the cold, naked and filthy as she watched the women around her get beaten and shot when they could stand no longer.

Her dying sister was mocked and brutally treated by even the nurses in the camp.

And yet, somehow, these very words brought such comfort to her soul that she was able to lift her hands in adoration and face each new day with courage.

I’ve been pondering these very scriptures in Romans 8 for the past few days now and I have come to the conclusion that while these words deeply move me, I will never quite know the depth to which they comforted Corrie until I face the very trials and pain of which they speak.

When I wake up, I am well fed and warm, healthy and clothed and it is SO easy to feel like I can conquer anything. But take even one of these “rights” away, and I become miserable, discouraged, perhaps even angry and bitter.

The true test of our faith comes not when things are good, but when things are hard.

I’ve recently seen two different people: both were pleasant and joyful, both claiming to have faith, both strong and admirable. There was no difference between the two when all was well.

Yet something terrible happened to each one. And here’s when their true colours showed. One of them grew angry, cold, hard and bitter, isolating themselves from the people around them, bullying anyone who tried to reach out and help.

Yet the other person stayed soft, thankful, kind, and gentle…not only this but they continued to even bless, encourage and even help those around them.

Somehow I think God wasn’t surprised.

Many times I look at the world around me and see people who don’t seem to care for God at all and wonder how they have their lives better put together than mine. I ask myself – is there any point?

Ahh, yes. Then I remember that right now, things are quite comfortable.

But a time comes for each person where they are tested to the core of their being. Only through Jesus Christ can we stand against these trials and say we are more than Conquerors.

I have a feeling that someone reading this today is going through such a trial now. My heart breaks for you. I am crying as I write these words, because such hardships can nearly destroy us forever.

But Jesus.

Jesus understands it completely. He was beaten almost to death. He was naked on the cross. He was mocked. He was betrayed. He saw evil reign. Yet he conquered it all!

AND because He conquered all of these things, we can be confident that he will never ever leave us and that through him we are MORE than Conquerors!

Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

What’s coming will FAR outweigh all the suffering we will experience here. Just like in childbirth, the reward is worth the pain. In fact, ask any mother and she would willingly go through it all over or even worse for her precious bundle. All suffering is forgotten when she receives her prize. I believe it will be the same with our reward in heaven.

Don’t let your troubles destroy you, dear friend. Even as you feel weakened in the flesh, may your spirit grow strong in Christ. Allow yourself to be purified in this time of testing.

 

 

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Stay Soft

One of the hardest things in life is to stay soft.

People will try to tear you down, indeed, even those closest to you will say hurtful things.

It’s so easy to just say “Fine! I’m done trying. I will no longer engage. I’m just going to go on and act pleasant on the outside while keeping up my walls so that no one can get in, so that no one can hurt me.”

This is not God’s desire for us. This is directly going against his plan. His plan is and always has been to speak truth over us where lies have been planted. His longing is to bring healing to our wounds.

Let me tell you a secret: Building walls may keep more hurt from coming in, but it also traps in the hurt you already have. What if your walls aren’t just keeping hurt out, but also keeping healing out?

It’s only in continuous opening ourselves up to the Father’s love and his view of us that we can get a correct view on others actions towards us and our response to them.

This isn’t a long, preachy post. It’s just a encouraging word: Stay soft, dear friends.

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Struck Down, Not Destroyed

Today we are praying for a largely forgotten group of people who are suffering tremendously under their leaders and governments: The persecuted church. We may forget them, but I assure you that the Lord does NOT. They are very dear to his heart.

About 215 million Christians are being persecuted due to their faith, according to a report released by the Open Doors organization. In other words, that means 1 in every 12 Christians live where Christianity is “illegal, forbidden, or punished.” The most dangerous place to be a practicing Christian is in North Korea. There is also a high level of persecution against Christians in the Palestinian Territories, the World Watch List report showed. The majority of the countries on the list saw an overall increase in persecution from 2016 to 2017.

It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse.

It’s hard to believe living in North American that this is still an issue in 2018 right?

“Every day six women are raped, sexually harassed, or forced into marriage to a Muslim under threat of death due to their Christian faith,” Open Doors reported. This number is likely low, since it includes only reported incidents. In North Korea alone there are more than 50,000 Christians in prison or labor camps.

And yet life in North America seems to go on as normal. Christians are (relatively) left alone, free to worship and live in peace. Some would argue that our rights are slowly being taken away, many fear for the future.

But we are not called to fear these things, we are called to PRAY!

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 4:8-18

 

As you turn your thoughts to Jesus, think about his sacrifice and all he went through for us. He was tortured, beaten, mocked, spat upon, and finally, killed in the most gruesome way possible. And yet, he loved those who crucified him. I am in awe of this man. He said: “Father, forgive them!” He went through it all to pay for your sin. For mine.

Thank you Jesus! We can never thank you enough. You paid it all. You took my punishment, my place on that cross.

Pray for your family. Are they saved? Are they struggling? Oh, that they would know this love, that was willing to die. Oh that they would encounter the one who millions of people around the world are willing to die for!

-Pray for protection for the churches across the globe, for laws to be made to protect religious rights and freedoms.

-Pray for those who have lost homes, jobs, loved ones for the sake of Christ. Pray that God would fill the deep void with his love joy and peace. May they truly experience God’s supernatural peace in a deeper way than ever before.

-Pray for their basic needs to be met daily.

-Pray for those locked up in prisons cells to feel God’s nearness. May they not feel alone, but strengthened in the knowledge that God has promised to NEVER leave them nor forsake them.

-Pray for those who have been rejected or abandoned by family members to be surrounded with a new family, the family of God. Pray for healing from the deep pain of rejection.

-Pray for a specific countries on the persecution list as God lays them on your heart.

-Pray for those being tortured day after day to have miraculous protection and strength from God. For the gates of prisons to be opened supernaturally. For healing to their bodies. For restoration of muscles and bones.

-Pray for the word of God to spread quickly in these countries. For people to come to God in large numbers.

-For for Bibles to become available to those who yearn to read God’s word. May their hunger be filled.

-Pray for believers who have been mistreated, imprisoned, struck down, persecuted, that they would find the grace to forgive and even love their enemies. May soldiers and officers become so amazed at the difference in their lives that they too turn to Christ.

Remember these brothers and sisters in their suffering. May I never forget them in my prayers! One day, it could be my country, it could be my family, it could be me.

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What’s Happening to Me?

 About two months ago, I went to the doctor thinking that there was something seriously wrong with me. Most days it was a struggle just to get out of bed. Exercise was out of the question. I could not last the day without taking a nap. And the pain…EVERYTHING hurt. These were just a few of my symptoms. In short, I was functioning way below my normal capacity level and I knew it. The things I used to enjoy became things that caused me stress. I dreaded them. Social outings felt meaningless. I wished I could just go to sleep one day and never wake up again. No matter how hard I tried to be joyful, the sadness was so deep in my soul I could feel it in my chest.

I thought that I must be dying.

After tons of tests and blood work, I was shocked to hear the results: “You’re as healthy as they come! Everything looks good and normal!”

And then the doctor began asking me lots of questions, with deep compassion in his eyes, “How have you been doing emotionally? What do you do for a living? Do you often have feelings of despair/hopelessness? Have you recently gone through something traumatic? How’s your support system? Do you ever have suicidal thoughts? Have you recently stopped enjoying the things you used to love?” Etc…

And suddenly the light went on.

I wasn’t able to just “cheer up” or “snap out of it” because my mind was telling me there was something very, very wrong. Basically, I was in constant fight or flight mode, our bodies way of responding as if we are being attacked. The stress I had been under for so long, was literally causing my brain to begin to act as if I were in constant emergency.

I then realized that although for many years I had told people I understood depression, I really hadn’t.

As a Christain, I have always believed that God is enough. For everything.

But I finally realized why telling someone dealing with mental health issues to just “lean more on God” or that they had to “change something” actually made things worse! You see, those living under depression or other mental health issues already realize quite clearly that something is wrong with them. And most likely they already are loaded down with feelings of inadequacy or shame or guilt because they know that they should be doing more, they should be trying harder…but they just CAN’T. Their brain isn’t functioning at full capacity…neither is their body.

According to the CAMH, 1 in 5 adults are currently struggling with mental health issues. And 1 in 25 adults live with a SERIOUS mental health illness. I bet you can guess which of my blog posts get the most hits: the ones where I share about my struggles with depression, anxiety or pain.

So why am I sharing all this?

Because this issue effects not only the MILLIONS living with it, but their friends and families as well. It affects relationships, the ability to work, parenting, employers, communities.

Just think: if 1 in 5 people are functioning at 25% or less capacity, how much the communities, the businesses, and families are missing out on!

Summer Prayer Challenge Week 1 – Wednesday: For the Church to Understand and Respond Appropriately to Mental Health

So here’s the prayer points for today:

As always start your focus on Jesus. Today thank him for his attributes: Holiness, Love, Kindness, Gentleness, his perfect Justice, etc. This is SO important, don’t rush this!!

Pray for each family member next, starting with your spouse.

And then for Mental health and the churches response:

-For Christians to have godly wisdom as they seek to help those living with mental illness.

-For us as believers to give less well meaning advice and just BE there to support these hurting people, not trying to “fix” them but  listening and praying.

– For the church to have compassion on those living with mental illness and not to lay further burdens/guilt/condemnation on those suffering.

-For us to find ways to practically help those in need, not by just offering a quick fix solution, but realizing that these issues go deep and most likely take months, years or in some severe cases, even decades to work through.

-For miraculous healings for people suffering with mental illness. You bet I believe that God still heals 🙂

-For grace, grace and even MORE grace…and patience – dealing with someone who is unstable is very difficult indeed.

-For eyes to see each soul, each person as GOD sees them and to speak to them with His tender heart.

-Lastly, I have realized that many going through depression or other mental health issues have been extremely accused or hurt by the church. I’ve heard testimonies over and over again that those who have gone to the church for help got turned away, brushed aside, not taken seriously or even rejected altogether. Many of these people have since left the church and gone elsewhere for help.

This makes me so SO sad. Pray for healing from hurts that Christians have caused. Pray that God would find these lost sheep and gently bring them back to himself. Pray that they would learn to trust the church again and be able to connect once more to the body.

Once again, if anymore thoughts pop into your mind, pray these as well. Thank you for partnering with me in this.

-Heather

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Accused

There’s much on my heart these days, but very little words come for me to write. What does one say when your heart is crushed?

What does one blog about when you pour out love and receive hatred in return?

How does one prove their own innocence, especially when the accusations have bits of truth mixed into them. How can one defend themselves against the taunts of hell itself?

DECIEVER.

LIAR.

BITTER.

TWO-FACED.

VINDICTIVE.

How can I defend myself against such accusations? Indeed, I can not. For how can I say I am perfect, when clearly I am not? How can I say my heart longs for truth and righteousness, when indeed, I have grumbled, gossiped and complained? I long for justice against those who’ve struck me down without reason. I’ve wanted to justify myself against my accusers.

Yet I’m not any better than them, I have misjudged others as well, even rebuked them in their darkest times. I have opened my mouth and spoke against those who suffered shame. I shook my head at their misfortune. I counted myself as better than them.

Now my self righteousness comes down on my own head. My judgements fall upon myself.

Where can I go, God, other than back to you?

Where can I hide in my time of need, other than under the shadow of you wings?

There is no one who is righteous. Not one. No one longs for peace. No one longs to see the best in others. They all lie in wait, ready to accuse, to spread their hateful venom against the next weakened prey.

When, God, will those who claim to be yours leave me alone to live in peace? When will their hatred for me end? They repaid my blessings with insults. My kindness is repaid with accusation.

Surely I know what Job meant when he spoke: “How long will you torment me and crush me with your words? Ten times now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me. If it is true that I have gone astray, my error remains my concern alone. You exalt yourselves above me and use my humiliation against me.”

If I am at fault, God, I repent! If I have done this wrong, show me so I can make it right! Don’t abandon me, for I have sought you with all my heart. I cry out to you day and night. I rise early to be with you.

“I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My Splendor is gone and all I had hoped from the Lord.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet I call this to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him,” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:17-26

I wait, Lord, for you to make these things right.

 

Poetry

Broken

How long will this heartache last?

Will I be broken in two forever?

I feel forgotten and worthless.

Yet here I stand.

Cold. Dark. Alone.

In vain some try to comfort me, to make me forget.

But can’t forget, I just mourn.

I mourn their loss forever.

Did no one value my friendship?

Did no one mourn the loss of me?

Life goes on as though I never existed.

They carry on without a glance in my direction.

What is love if it does not last?

What is friendship if it fades away?

Where is loyalty, can it still be found?

For though I reach out again and again,

None take my hand.

Though I call out in love,

There is no reply.

Just a cold, dark, silence,

Which speaks louder than words.

 

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When the World Around Me Crumbles

Today, Dear Friends, I feel sad.

I call you, my readers, friends. Because it’s you who I write to, not to “my blog”. Not that I know who you are, or how many of you will even read this. I never know. Sometimes it’s thousands, the next time it’s twelve. Strangers approach me and know precise details of my life. They tell me how amazed they are by some of the things I’ve gone through. They tell me they are encouraged by my writings. They tell me I have many talents. But what they don’t seem to know is how very, very weak I am.

The past couple years I’ve been so sensitive, not just to what happens to me, but to the very things which happen around me.

I see and old picture of myself and cry. Who is that girl?

I hear a story of someones heartache and I weep. I know their pain.

I hear about the struggles of the elderly and my heart goes out to them. How difficult it is to grow old.

I read a line of a poem that speaks deeper than its words. Tears flow freely.

And sometimes I literally am like: “STOP!!! Just stop being such an emotional wreck and pull yourself together!!”

But I don’t stop.

I keep feeling all this pain because I know the moment I shut myself down to what I’m feeling, that is the very moment I’ve ceased to heal the wounds which have been afflicted. I’m supposed to be in this season of pain. Only God knows how long. But it is where I’m supposed to be, because I can’t move on until God does. He’s here. And He won’t move until I’m ready.

My world, my hopes, my dreams, my beliefs…everything I built up for the last ten years crumbled in an instant. I was left on a deserted beach with my family among the rubble that was once everything that I knew about me. Gone are my multitasking abilities, I am so limited throughout the day. Slowly, step by step, I found myself in the same place I was ten years ago, with nothing to stand on but Jesus.

How humiliating. How humbling. How naked.

And I’m crying, maybe because of wounds…but mostly because I just don’t know how this all happened. I had thought I was building my house on the rock. I had thought I was strong, trusting in him every step of the way. But it turns out that I was just trusting in my own abilities, in my own way of doing things, in my strong leaders and my godly friends. And yet…

I see him among the rubble. Here he is!

Precious Jesus. Waiting for me to see that it was all temporary. Waiting for me to realize my absolute dependancy on him. Waiting for me to look to him and say, “You are God and I am man.”

And through all the deep recesses of pain within my heart, there is absolutely nothing, NO ONE who can comfort, but him. His words are the only comfort my soul receives. His presence is the only place that feels right, that makes me forget that a piece of me is missing.

When the world around me crumbles, I have but ONE.

Only One.

His name is Jesus.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though it’s waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:1-5