All you have to do is ask.

Today in my readings Paul talks about “…behaving decently, as in the daytime” Romans 13:13.  And I’m not going to say anything new here, but sometimes it bears repeating, it helps to be reminded.  How many of us exhibit behaviours in the privacy of our own homes, behind the closed doors of hotel rooms, or it the darkened anonymity of bars and night clubs, behaviours that we would never want our mothers, our children, our friends to see.  That’s what Paul is talking about. And he’s not just talking about our physical deeds, but our emotional ones as well, the ones we keep secret in our hearts, the jealousies, the coveting, the dissensions and grievances.

I will be the first one to admit that there are things I might say or do in my own house that I would never want other people to see or hear.  Losing my temper, slamming doors, speaking badly of someone.  I do them all.  I forget that someone is always watching.  That my actions never occur in a vacuum.  That’s why Paul’s words are so important.  In this letter to the Romans he is calling on them, on us, to “put aside the deeds of darkness, and put on the armor of light”.  Are you asking yourself how?  Or have you convinced yourself that your behaviours in those times were justified, or that they drove you to it.  That they deserved what they got or that’s just how you were made.

I won’t even tell you that those things aren’t true. But part of what Paul is telling us, part of the message of Jesus, and the reason he died for us and our sins is that we are called to be better.  To rise up against our own sinful nature, “the way we were made” and put aside the deeds of darkness.  If you’re like me, maybe you’ve tried this before, but feel as if you always slip back, you always fall down and maybe you’ve even reached the point of giving up. I can relate.  But today I’d like to tell you that we are supposed to fail, in fact we will fail every single time if we are trying to go it alone.  I have come to learn that the absolute only way I can be a different person is through Christ.  Time and time again the bible calls upon us to surrender ourselves to our Father in heaven.  But we are so stubborn, so determined to have our independence that we refuse, we protest the freedom and light that is offered to us freely.  But that’s okay.  Because our time here on earth is about that journey.  About gaining a gradual understanding of the power of the life and death and love of Jesus Christ and God our Father.

So if there is a darkness in your heart or a heaviness in your spirit, know that you don’t have to shine a light on it yourself, you don’t have to carry the burden, because there is someone greater than you who will happily do it for you.  Someone who wants to do it for you.  All you have to do is ask.

God bless,

Meredith

Drop Everything!

The calling of the disciples.  Have you ever given much thought to exactly what those twelve men were called to do?  I mean sure they got to walk beside Jesus and perform miracles, but they were also called to walk away from everything, EVERYTHING in their lives…we are foolish if we don’t count the cost of what they were asked to give up;  wives and children, homes and security.  Could you imagine yourself doing the same?  Honestly I don’t know if I could.

Of course I could walk away from my house, and most of my possessions, but what about that ring my beloved grandmother gave me?  And don’t even get me started on my kids.  I mean I know I’ll eventually have to give them up, but on my terms, when they are old enough to leave the house and go to college.  Except that’s not really true is it?  I could lose everything tomorrow, today even.  We live our lives with such an illusion of control.  We put our kids in travel sports, Kumon, music, etc. all because we are determined to make them into their best selves… except anyone who’s ever had more than one child knows that you really don’t have much control over how athletic they are, how smart they are, how friendly, kind, caring they are.  Our children are born with their own personalities and while we can sand off some of the sharp edges, and we can love them unconditionally and teach them values and principles, they will ultimately be who and what they are going to be.  No parent of a murderer thinks that they are going to raise a killer.

So when Jesus called on his disciples to give up everything, he wasn’t really asking them to give up anything that was really theirs to begin with.  There are a lot of people, my husband included, who believe that we are successful in life because we work hard.  I don’t discount that.  I absolutely believe that hard work matters. But, I also think it’s important to remember how much of your success was simply because of who you were born to be, because you were born with an aptitude for something, or a gift?  I was born with a love of books and an aptitude for writing.  That was a gift.  How I choose to develop it, or what I choose to do with it is entirely up to me, but in the end, it will always be a gift from God, not something of my own creation.

So the question we have to ask ourselves instead, is what are we willing to give up when Jesus calls us to be disciples?  Websters defines a disciple as one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as a Christianity.   In Luke 9:22-27 Jesus says “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”  I think that what he is calling on us to do here is give up the illusion of control and trust in him.

How many times have you found in your own life that the more you try to control a situation, the less control you actually have… the more you “lose” control?  When Jesus calls us to give up our families, to deny ourselves and to lose our lives to save them, he is calling on us to surrender our illusions, to trust in him completely. And it is in giving up our illusions that we find the peace and comfort and joy.  Today’s world is determined to convince you that you are in control, with your smart phone you can turn on your car, your lights, your furnace, all from across town.  But do those things really matter, or are they illusions to distract you from the fact that you aren’t really in control of anything important?  You can’t control if you are going to get cancer, or if you will be in a car accident, or even if your children will make it home safely from school today.  I guess if those things aren’t really under my control, then I find it a lot more comfortable knowing that they are under the control of the One who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow;  The Maker of the Heavens and the Earth.

What is Jesus calling you to do today?  To follow him?  To become a disciple? To give up your illusions?  I have personally found great comfort and peace giving up my life and family to Jesus.  I know he can and will do the same for you.  All you have to do is ask.

God bless,

Meredith

Sometimes It’s Hard.

Trust in God.  I know it’s important and I do.  But where is the line between being active in your own life and trusting in God’s plan?  How do I know that I’ve done enough in today’s media driven society where everyone is competing for the consumer dollar to promote my work?

What brings on this line of questioning you ask?  I generally don’t look at monthly comic book sales figures.  I know how much my comic Rose from Image is selling and I don’t find it helpful or productive to compare myself to what everyone else is doing.  That being said, I was curious to see how well my latest project The Light Princess (an adaptation of the George MacDonald classic, published by Cave Pictures Publishing) was doing.  To say that I was crushed when I saw the numbers is not an over exaggeration.  I feel like this comic is so special and inspiring and beautiful and to see such a low number of issue one sold was heartbreaking.  And this is where I started asking the question, did I do enough?

From the very beginning I have felt that my work with Cave Pictures Publishing was divinely driven.  The email that they sent to approach me and introduce me to the company was almost word for word exactly like a prayer I had been praying over and about my work.  And as I write these words I am remembering exactly what I prayed, “that my work be used to bring glory to God and not to myself”.  Pause for a moment of self-reflection here because I think as I write this I have found my answer….

If God guided me toward this project, if God provided the perfect artist for this project, and if all of this came at the perfect time, in the perfect way, then I need to stop worrying and trust that he has a plan for The Light Princess that is beyond me and my understanding.  Furthermore, I am reminded of these words written about George MacDonald. “MacDonald was singularly unconcerned with his own ‘image’ among his fellow men, preoccupied rather with championing his vision of the reality of the world of the spirit. ‘Perhaps the highest moral height which a man can reach,’ he wrote, ‘…is the willingness to be nothing relatively, so that he attain that positive excellence which the original conditions of his being render not merely possible, but imperative. It is nothing to a man to be greater or less than another – to be esteemed or otherwise by the public or private world in which he moves.’  He (MacDonald) determined to leave his reputation and destiny in the hands of his God.”

How can I do anything less?  Thank you Father for reminding me to trust in you and your plan for my life today.

God bless,

Meredith

Afraid of too many blessing?

Last night as I was getting ready for bed I had this moment in which I just felt completely the entirety of God’s blessings in my life.  And then I paused, and felt a moment of fear, because I couldn’t imagine that this could continue.  I have lived so many years waiting for the next shoe to drop, and it always does eventually.

But that fear was a trick.  Yes, we will all experience the pain of loss and rejection and defeat throughout our lives, but we have a choice.  We get to choose if we are going to live our lives grateful for each blessing of each day, buoyed up by God’s enormous love for us.  Or we can chose to walk a darker road; one on which we see demons and shadows lurking around every corner. A road of fear.

It seemed completely appropriate that this morning I would read this devotion by Sarah Young in Jesus Calling“Sometimes the relationship I offer you seems too good to be true.” Why yes, that’s exactly how I was feeling last night, Lord.  “I pour My very life into you, and all you have to do is receive Me.  In a world characterized by working and taking, the offer to rest and receive seems too easy.  There is a close connection between receiving and believing; a you trust Me more and more, you are able to receive Me and My blessings abundantly.  Be still and know that I am God.”

There was my answer.  The more I trust in God, the more I am able to receive His blessings abundantly.  And I do.  I trust in God’s plan for my life in a way now that was impossible for me in the past.  As I have worked on developing my relationship with my Heavenly Father, I have come to a new and deeper understanding of Him and His role in my life. And I am finally able to trust, and understand that, in those times when I walk through the valley of darkness, He will be there with me.  Truly, only He has the power to make even the darkness a blessing.

Can you feel God pouring his blessings into you life today or is your fear preventing you from believing and receiving?  If death had no power over Christ, who gave His life for us, how much more will He do for you, His beloved child? You just have to let Him.

You can never hear this song too many times.  “Fear is a liar”.

God bless,

Meredith

Taking a Leap!

What is faith?  The dictionary defines is as the complete trust or confidence in someone or something.  Synonyms for faith include, reliance, dependence and belief.

I think all of those words sum up fairly well what God wants, and expects from us when it comes to our faith.  He wants us to rely, or depend upon Him to provide for us, and our needs, even when we don’t fully understand what that is ourselves.  He wants us to have complete trust in Him and His love for us.   He wants us to walk through each day confident that He is by our side, walking each step of our journey with us.

But if faith is the cornerstone of our relationship with God, why is faith is so incredibly difficult to find? And, in our modern world, where we have come to rely on science and technology to give us answers, questions about faith are even harder to answer.  We want proof for our belief, proof before we will believe.

I’ve been reading the book God’s Crime Scene by J. Warner Wallace recently.  And, while I haven’t gotten all the way through it yet, the case for a creator of the universe, as presented by a seasoned detective who solved more than his share of cold cases, is compelling.  I can and would suggest you read it, but here’s the thing… You are only going to be convinced if you want to be convinced.

Haven’t you noticed that about people these days?  Everyone is a debater.  Everyone has an opinion that they are convinced is right, but very few people are actually willing to listen to an alternative viewpoint.  If you are struggling to believe, with your faith, then I would suggest that there is really only one thing you can do.  Make a decision.  Decide to believe.  If you’re wrong, and there is no God, then what have you lost?  You’ve lived a life of love? You’ve found strength and comfort in times of sorrow? You’ve found meaning or a purpose for your existence?  But if there is a God, and you don’t believe…you’ve lost out on the greatest gift possible.  An eternity in heaven, bathed in the overwhelming love of God.  For me, belief is an easy win, win situation.  But an eternity in heaven isn’t the reason I believe.

We are an aimless people without faith.  We were designed by our creator to have a searching soul, to have a place in our hearts that needs to be filled with something.  Some people choose to fill that searching with money, with material possessions, with fame.   And I would be a hypocrite to not acknowledge that God has blessed my family with a comfortable life.  But it’s not the house, or the cars or the big TV’s that fill my heart with joy every morning; that bring me to my knees.  It’s love of God.  It’s being loved by God.

If you are struggling in your belief I would offer you this comfort…you are struggling because there is a part of you that can’t ignore God’s call.  You can try to drown it out with the world around us, but if He is determined to have you as His child, there is no power on earth strong enough to stand in His way.  Take heart, and make a leap and choose faith.  What have you got to lose?  What could you possibly gain?

God bless,

Meredith

Flat On My Face.

Do you sometimes struggles with ways to express your contrition before God?  I didn’t grow up in the Catholic church which has an established system of confession and absolution.  I was brought up in the United Church which has a very staid, conservative, and moderate faith.  As an adult I converted to the Anglican or Episcopalian church because I found that the service gave me the sense of peace and sense of communion with God that I had been missing.  I love everything about Anglicanism; the kneelers, the weekly communion, the confessions and Glorias.  Being in my church, and participating in that service, brings me a feeling of being in the presence of God in a way that I didn’t find in other services.  The great thing about faith is that there are enough different styles of worship to suit everyone.

But as much as there are a variety of different ways to worship God, I think that there is really only one way to come before him as a sinner.  With a penitent heart.  I talked earlier this year about how forgiving myself can sometimes be harder than coming to God for forgiveness.  I also think that it’s can often be at those time that we are riding high in God’s grace that we fall hardest, that we feel most ashamed.  We understand how completely we have separated ourselves, from who, and what God calls us to be, by our actions.

I have had an amazing week with God.  I called Saturday my day of little blessings.  I could see God’s hand in my life everywhere I looked.  I guess it seems appropriate that Sunday would be a day I would fall flat on my face.  A day in which I would lash out and react with anger instead of love.  I woke up this morning knowing that I had done the wrong thing, feeling the weight of it in my heart, and needing a way to become right with God.  I thank him that the first thing he did was to take the anger, and resentment out of my heart, and replace it with an understanding that it doesn’t matter if the world at large would consider my actions justified, if I was in the right.  What matters is how I responded, and I didn’t respond with love.  I needed to atone to that other person for that.  I needed to apologize and ask God’s forgiveness for that.

The amazing thing about God is that he already knows what I’m going to need and he provides me with the solution.  I didn’t do my bible reading yesterday.  It literally didn’t even cross my mind to do it.  Because God knew that I would need yesterday’s reading today.  Psalm 51.  This morning I read that Psalm, and then I wrote it out, and then I prayed the verses I have highlighted here as a meditation.  God spoke to my heart, and because I came to him with an open and penitent heart, he not only gave me forgiveness, he also gave me the means to forgive myself.  I guess sometimes you have to fall flat on your face in order to learn to let God to pick you up.  It hurts my heart to know how kind and loving our Lord is toward us, even when we don’t deserve it.  He really is the ultimate Father.  I don’t know what my future has in store, but I know that if God already has the answer before I even ask the question, if he’s always going to be there to pick me up when I fall down, then He’s who I want to have walking beside me every step of the way.

God bless,

Meredith

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. (NIV Study Bible)

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
    to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
    in burnt offerings offered whole;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

The Perfect Weakness.

How is your Lenten journey going?  Today is day four and I’m feeling pretty good.  I feel different this year, like I have a new resolve.  I truly feel strengthened knowing that I can’t do this on my own and that I’m absolutely going to be relying on God to help get me through my times of weakness.  It’s a strange feeling, acknowledging weakness and actually feeling stronger for doing so.  I’m usually the person who has it all together, or at least that’s the impression I give.  (If I’m wrong, please don’t tell me.)  Paul writes about this same moment of clarity in 2 Corinthians 12:9  ‘But he said to me “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 my rest on me.’

While I may be feeling strong about my Lenten journey, there are other areas in my life where I am tamping down a growing sense of chaos and panic.  I have so many things to do and I’m starting to feel overwhelmed.  I have three projects I’m working on from a writing perspective and because I am now homeschooling Isaac in the morning I have had to shift my days around and work at night.  I’m sure that this will get easier as the days get longer, but it is definitely a challenge to sit down at 7 or 8:00 and shift my brain into creative mode.  That’s not to mention the housecleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, meal making and carpooling, and errand running I’m starting to letting slip. I’m trying to be more efficient with my time, I was at the grocery store this week at 8:15, after I dropped the big boys off at school.  But, I’m a creature of habit and I’m struggling to fit everything in right now.  I know that God has called me to be active in all of these areas and that I just have to keep reminding myself that if I trust in him, he will provide.

My devotional today reminded me of that very thing.  Sarah Young writes in Jesus Calling  “The world around you seems to spin faster and faster…yet there is a cushion of calm at the center of your life where you live in union with Me.  Return to this soothing center as often as you can, for this is where you are energized; filled with my Love, Joy and Peace.”  I have definitely felt God’s hand on my heart this week.  That overwhelming love and joy that brings you to tears.  I think it was His way of preparing me for this understanding today.  His way of letting me know that He is here for me and if I trust in Him, He will not let me fall.  If I am feeling strengthened in my Lenten journey knowing that he will help me through my times of weakness, then I need to believe that giving him these feelings, these weaknesses, will result in the same.  God doesn’t want us to turn to him with parts of ourselves, he wants all of us. His love is enough to take anything and everything we can give him.  I’m going to give him my chaos today, and trust that he can handle it.

Are there areas in your life that are feeling chaotic or are spinning out of control that God is calling you to share with Him?

This song by Danny Gokey just kept speaking to my heart this week every time I heard it.

God bless,

Meredith