Me Mother

Today is Mother’s Day here in Canada so I would like to take this opportunity to honour me own dear mother, who is one of my heroes.

If I have gotten my story straight, my mother was born in England, under a table, during a bombing raid in WWII. The circumstances of her birth seem to have become an analogy for her life. She has had to survive one battle after another all her life. I think that most people, if having had to endure all that she has, would either be dead or suffering substances abuse. At the very least, they would be miserable, negative, pessimistic, angry and bitter.

It would have been so easy for her to give up and give in to those dark feelings, and she has struggled with them, but she chose to fight on through the darkness. She is one of the bravest people I know. She chooses to hold on and then rise above her situations. And while she is fighting her own battles, she still takes the time and puts in the effort to be kind and helpful to others.

If anyone should have a reason to be angry with God and to turn away from Him, it would be my Mom. BUT – my Mom continues to honour and praise God. She NEVER blames God for the bad things that have happened to her. She is well aware of who is her enemy. She continues to give thanksgiving for all that God has done in her life. She knows that she would probably not be alive if it wasn’t for His grace and mercy. She is joyful in the hope of the resurrection in Christ Jesus.

My Mom is my sister-in-Christ and my prayer partner. She encourages me and prays for me during my own struggles. She has been a light in my darkness. I know that she has also been a shining light of truth and love to many other people.I think that she is truly a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I know that she is not perfect, and we have had our differences, but I honour, respect and esteem her. And of course, I love her to pieces!

Thanks Mom, for all that you are and all that you do. You are my BFF. (Best Friend Forever) (along with my hubby of course)

 

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Lord of the Dance

Balter: (Middle English) To dance gracelessly, without particular art or skill, but perhaps with some enjoyment.

If I believed in past lives (which I don’t) I would say that I must have been a dancer. I love to dance! I guess you could say that I’m a dancin’ fool!

When I was a child, I studied ballet for a short period of time. I really liked ballet but I didn’t particularly like performing in front of other people. My mother also loved to dance and we used to have fun dancing all around the living room. I did the same thing with my own kids (much to their chagrin when they became teenagers). My hubby and I even occasionally enjoy a slow dance in the living room. (for New Year’s Eve, we got all dressed up, lit candles and danced to Frank Sinatra crooning).

During my teen and young adult years, people used to tell me that I was a great dancer. I loved to watch the movies Flashdance, Fame, Dirty Dancing and Footloose and imagine myself in them. I also love watching ballroom dancing – the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers type.

Unfortunately, as illness began to take it’s toll on my body, I was no longer able to “bust a groove” the way that I used to do. Body parts no longer wanted to obey my commands and my brain lost it’s ability to keep up with the rhythm. I began to feel like a puppet being controlled by a puppeteer suffering with Parkinson’s Disease.

But I still love to dance! So every once in a while I put on a hand-clapping, foot-stomping (often contemporary Christian) music CD and I dance – or rather “balter” before God in my living room. Not only is it good for my body, it is good for my soul and spirit. I certainly won’t win a spot on the “Canada’s Got Talent” TV show (I can just hear those buzzers now) but I think that God smiles when he sees one of His children dancing for joy and to give Him honour.

Now there are some churches which teach that dancing is wrong (ok – there are some people who look pretty scary or funny when they dance – my hubby falls into the latter category). I don’t think that such dancing is sinful in and of itself. However, I do think that the motivation or reason for which a person is dancing can be sinful. Exotic and/or lap dancing is in no way honouring to God. Neither would dancing around a tree, fire or an idol as worship.

Exo 32:19 And it happened, as he came near to the camp and saw the calf and dances, the anger of Moses became hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands, and broke them at the bottom of the mountain.

Mat 14:6 But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. (and that little dance number didn’t bode well for John the Baptist!)

God’s Word mentions dancing in a number of different scriptures. Dancing for God is a great way to show Him your appreciation for the things that He has done for you. Just as Miriam did after God had saved the Israelites from the Egyptians by parting the Red Sea.

Exo 15:20 And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand. And all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.

David expressed dancing as a method of thanksgiving in Psalms.

Psa 30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have torn off my sackcloth, and have clothed me with gladness,
Psa 30:12 so that my glory may sing praise to You, and not be silent. O Jehovah my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

And King David danced as he was returning the ark of God to the City of David.

2Sa 6:5 And David and all the house of Israel were dancing before Jehovah on all instruments of fir wood, with lyres and with harps, and with tambourines, and with sistra, and with cymbals.

2Sa 6:14 And David danced before Jehovah with all his might.

2Sa 6:16 And it happened as the ark of Jehovah came to the city of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and dancing before Jehovah.

English songwriter Sydney Carter wrote the lyrics to the song “Lord of the Dance”. The words are written as though Jesus is singing them and pictures the Christian life as a dance, with Jesus as the leader.

“Dance, then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the dance, said he, And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be, And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.”

I invite you to join with me in the dance of the Christian life. Come “balter” with me before our great and gracious Heavenly Father. I promise you’ll feel real good when you do! 🙂

Psa 149:3 Let them praise His name in the dance; let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp.
Psa 149:4 For Jehovah takes pleasure in His people;

The Scream

(The following post is about a topic that is close to me heart – er – rather me head)

In Canada, it is national Mental Health Awareness Week so I thought that I would share a bit about my personal battle in the hope that it may encourage others who suffer and help to educate those who don’t.

According to Wikipedia, Expressionist painter, Edvard Munch, wrote the following poem based on a diary entry he had previously made,  onto the frame of the 1895 pastel version of his famous artwork known as “The Scream”.

“I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature”.

The artist, Edvard Munch suffered from mental illness. Many, many famous artists, writers, musicians and actors have suffered from various mental problems. But mental illness is not the sole domain of creative people – many “regular” folks suffer too. I know, because I am one of them.

Although I have had cancer, it does not seem as if it has come as close to threatening my life the way that mental illness has done. I have battled depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Like Edvard Munch, I too have sensed “an infinite scream” passing, not through nature, but through myself. I have stood at the edge of the black abyss contemplating a jump into nothingness.

This post is somewhat of a personal challenge to write as there is a stigma attached to mental illness. I have encountered that stigma from both the medical profession and the public, including some family members. I even had one doctor who told me that the reason I was having panic attacks was because I was “high strung”! And then there are those “well-meaning” Christians who like to quote the various scripture verses that tell us not to be anxious and to “count it all joy”.

There is the idea out there that all we have to do is “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” and “buck – up”. If only it were that easy! Most people will experience periods of sadness and/or anxiety in their lives due to various circumstances – illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, etc. however, when those circumstances are over, the sadness and /or anxiety usually ends. But for many of us who suffer a mental illness, the episodes may be triggered by exterior circumstances but more often they happen for no apparent reason at all. The reality is that while there may be no “apparent” or visible reason for a mental illness, there still is a very real reason. Brain damage from illness, injury, or substance abuse; prolonged and elevated periods of crisis and stress; and inherited genetics can all  affect both the structure and function of the brain. Just one of the preceding factors can upset the delicate balance of chemicals within the brain. And often the only way to adjust that imbalance is to take medication that affects the creation, absorption and metabolism of of those chemicals.

Recently, a friend and fellow sufferer told me that her doctor explained it to her this way: the brain is an organ like the pancreas, liver and kidneys. When the pancreas doesn’t work properly, a person has to take insulin. When kidneys don’t work, dialysis is required. So when the organ of the brain doesn’t function properly, medication is required.

I want to make an important statement here: if you suffer from mental illness and are currently taken medication for treatment – “DO NOT STOP TAKING YOUR MEDICATION” without proper medical advice and supervision! As a Christian, I believe in divine healing, and as such, I was led to believe, by many healing ministries, that if I truly believed in healing, I would step out in faith and stop taking my medication. I tried and BIG MISTAKE! Not only did I start suffering symptoms again, I had to go through very unpleasant withdrawal. On top of all that, I had feelings of guilt over the fact that since I was not manifesting my healing I must not be believing enough. (Again, if you are a Christian, DO NOT allow another Christian, whether they be a minister, faith healer or another believer, lay guilt at your door and pressure you into stopping your medication) I believe that God led me to finally understand that what is most important to Him is my quality of life. God wants us to be healthy and happy. So I have decided that if I have to take medication in order to enjoy a fulfilling life, then so be it! I still believe in divine healing, but until that time arrives, I will do whatever is necessary to be as happy and as healthy as I can be. I can’t be an effective (I hope) witness for God if I am dead!

 But by God’s great mercy and grace, I am still here.  And by His incredible, matchless love and grace, I am the mental “healthiest” and happiest that I have ever been in my life. The road has been long and hard and there is still the occasional speed-bump, but I have hope that the journey before me will be much smoother than the one behind me has been.

If you think that you may be suffering from some form of mental illness, please don’t be ashamed. Seek good medical help and counselling. And seek God too; He loves you so much and He wants to help.

If you know of someone who may be suffering from mental illness, please don’t be judgmental. Be patient, kind, compassionate, understanding and supportive. And pray for them!

I steal part of a quote from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill – “WE SHALL NEVER SURRENDER”

May God bless you with peace and joy.

 

How To Train Your Dragon

I have written this particular post because of something that happened this week, concerning one of my son’s.

There is a cute, animated movie by Dreamworks called, “How To Train A Dragon”. It is about a Norse lad who learns that training a dragon to work with him is more enjoyable and beneficial than training himself to fight and kill a dragon.

My father was in the military so I am quite familiar with the concept of “training exercises”. He was also an athlete in a variety of sports, which required regular training. I “trained” as a nurse, one son is a “trained” carpenter and the other is a “trained” heavy equipment operator.

When our children are small, we “potty train” them and put “training” wheels on their first bicycle. The parent/child relationship is an ongoing training exercise. The parent is the “trainer” (or certainly should be) and the child is the “trainee”. The parent “trains” by teaching, whereas the child “trains” by learning and practicing what has been taught.

We train our children to learn many things. Hopefully, the things in which we are training them will help them to become happy, healthy and successful individuals. But more important than training their physical, intellectual and mental skills, we need to train their spiritual skills. God tells parents:

Pro 22:6  Train up a child in the way he should go; …

Now, I have heard it taught that the above scripture verse refers to helping a child to develop their natural gifts and talents. While this is a wonderful thing to do, I believe that the concept is taking that scripture out of context. Many of the proverbs give practical counsel on how to live wisely, but I believe that the over-arching purpose of Proverbs is to develop a person’s character – in fact, to develop a Godly character.

As parents, I believe that our primary objective should be to “train up” our children to have Godly characters. To do this, we must teach them about the character of God. We must teach our children about God’s great love, grace, mercy, patience, forgiveness, compassion, and kindness as well as His holiness, righteousness and justice. We must teach them about Jesus, who was the fleshly manifestation of God’s character, and we must encourage them to follow Jesus’ example. I believe that this is what God meant when he told us to “train up a child in the way he should go”.

As an earnest, Christian mother, I understood the importance of “training up” my children in the ways of the Lord. I taught them from the Bible, and how to read it for themselves. I taught them how to pray and to pray regularly. The way in which Jesus conducted his life was held up to them as THE standard for their practical and spiritual lives and I disciplined them, usually with God’s Word, when they strayed from that standard.

I invested a lot of time and energy in the labour of love (and it was out of love) of training up my children in the knowledge and ways of God, so it was with great heartache that I watched both my sons abandon their “first love” (Rev. 2:4) and walk away from almost everything that I had taught them. My sorrow came from knowing the consequences of such actions. Where would they turn when they went through difficult times (and difficult times they have been through!)? Where would they get hope and peace in the troubled times? Who would be their “very present help in times of trouble” (Ps. 46:1)?

During all these years, I have continued to pray that God would have mercy upon them and continue to call them back to Him. I have prayed that my sons would return to “their first love”. And I continued to talk to them about God’s love, grace and mercy and how He has answered prayers. Most of the time, they responded with “yah – but…”.

However, this week my oldest son told me that he has been praying again! Not only has he been asking God for wisdom and knowledge, my son has been thanking God for His help and provision during this particularly challenging time in his life. Can you just imagine what great music to my ears this news was? I was so filled with joy that I had to restrain myself from shouting “alleluia” right then and there (which may have prompted my son to hang up the phone). However, I could not keep the joy to myself so I had to fire off a quick email to some sisters-in-Christ who have been praying with me for my son. And of course, I had to write this blog.

It is wonderful to have one’s faith “pay off” and to see God’s promises manifest themselves. Sometimes (maybe more often then not) we wait a long time to see answer to prayer, and it may be that we may not live to see the fruit of our faith. But God’s word is ALWAYS true and we must trust in Him and in  His faithfulness to bring about what He has promised.

This week, I have been blessed to see this truth beginning to come to pass. I followed God’s command to “train up my children in the way they should go” and He is bringing to pass the promise “and when they are old, they shall not depart from it”.

I encourage you who are Christian parents, to obey the command in the first part of the proverb and hold on in faith to the promise in the second part. And I pray that you will be able to enjoy watching your children walking with the Lord.

Blessings