New Year’s Visitor – 2

bucks2-iconHere I was with 2 on-heat bucks running loose among my does.  Didn’t I decide 9 years ago that I was done with the ‘Births, Marriages and Deaths‘ scenario?  This was by far the worst thing I could think of!

I went down to the house and over a cup of coffee was inspired (thank goodness) to give myself a real hard talking to:

“Pat, this is the Serpent messing with you.  He’s got you in a right stew and as long as you’re in a stew, you block the Lord’s work.  Remember what He said: “Focus on Me!”  Just do it, and stop falling for Satan’s talk.  Whatever happens, it’s not the end of the universe.  With the Lord’s help, you will get through it.  And remember, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4)

Thank you, Lord.

In trials like these, it can be very difficult to realign your thinking.  All the evidence is against that, all the facts point one way, and the news is all bad:  ‘No-one in their right mind would think any differently.’   But Paul emphasized the importance of walking by faith, not by sight.  And he was tested sorely throughout his ministry: you can’t accuse him of not knowing what he was talking about.

Paul said, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”   WHICH TRANSLATES:

The more we engage with worldly thinking the more we turn away from the Lord’s power.  So we need always to be of good courage and walk by faith in Him, not by what we see.”   (2 Corinthians 5:6-7)

Our limited minds are always searching for answers and solutions: “How, how, how can this come right?”  “What can I do to sort this problem?”  “Can I think of some way out of this situation?”   It’s hard, with our worldly drive to organize and plan everything, to ‘opt out’ and let things go.  We get hammered with the goal setting, visualizing and life planning ideologies of the self improvement gurus.  Not to mention  the ‘I Did It My Way’ would-be standard for living enshrined in the world’s thinking over 46 years ago.  What a travesty that was!  How many people were fooled by it!   Still are.

Didn’t Jesus say, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)  No DIY, no  goal-setting instructions there.

How many of those who heard Him, and how many of us, struggling with the issues and dramas of everyday life, have thought, “This guy was crazy!”   And yet … ‘this guy’ holds the keys to the universe, life and death, in His hand.

Somehow, I managed to settle down and quit worrying.

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It would be nice to say that next morning the bucks had disappeared – well at least I couldn’t see them anywhere.  I opened the paddock gate again and the does went up.  Washing the dishes, I was full of hope – until I heard an irate call that didn’t sound like a doe.  It was Himself, allright – suddenly realizing they’d got away from him.  As I watched from the kitchen window, he charged through the open gate and on up the paddock in search of his harem…

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But now, 7 days down the track, I can pretty definitely say the bucks are not on the property.  None of the does is on heat and I haven’t sighted Himself or his offsider for over 6 days. Maybe they are like sailors with a girl in every port…   Somehow, they must have got back through the fence into the bush and I have a window of about 2 weeks to get the fence mended before the does come on heat again (if they haven’t taken to service).

As far as I could tell, only 2 of the does cycled.  So if I can keep Himself and his offsider out, the kid drop may be less than I feared.

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…”  (Psalm 103:2)

Yes indeed – Regardless.

Patricia

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Perceptions of The Nativity

nativityI have thought much, this last few weeks during the run-up to Christmas, of some of our perceptions attaching to the place and circumstances of Jesus’ birth.

A lot of what we think seems to have come from the statement of Paul at Philippians 2:7 which says,   “…but he humbled Himself, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men.”  From this we get ideas about Jesus, the circumstances of His life, and the details of His birth, that pervade the whole Christmas story.  We get the wrong impression that Jesus was born in undesirable, impoverished conditions.

Several years ago, I heard a very interesting viewpoint put forward by Pastor Robert H Shuller that while the innkeeper in Bethlehem has had bad press because he failed to find a lodging for Joseph and Mary, the stable they finally found to lodge in was probably a blessing in disguise.  Pastor Shuller pointed out that with a large number of people on the move to register in their own cities for the first Roman census, towns and inns would have been packed with all manner of people, making a crowded inn probably not the best place for the Son of God to be born.

That REALLY spoke to me.

So I would like to take the reasoning a step further.   When you look at the preparations for Jesus’ birth, His Heavenly Father went to great trouble to set the stage:

1)   The birth of Jesus’ forerunner and cousin, John the Baptist, was special in itself, because his parents were elderly and his mother barren.  God sent the angel Gabriel to announce the birth to the father (a priest of the temple).  God gave Zacharias a clear sign as proof, and also oversaw the naming of the boy.  (Luke 1)

2)   We also know that angels appeared to both Mary and Joseph concerning the birth of Jesus. Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she would have the baby, and an unnamed angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to quiet his concerns about Mary’s pregnancy. (Luke 1, Matthew 1)

3)   The birth of Jesus was announced to the Magi, powerfully enough that they undertook a long journey from the east to bring Him gifts.  We are not told how they were told this, but it can only have been by some form of supernatural revelation. (Matthew 2:1-2)

4)   Jesus’ birth was announced by an angel and the heavenly host appearing to shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem.  And before we write the shepherds off totally, let us remember that for many people in Israel, their wealth lay in their herds and so protecting their livestock was a high priority.  Think of David.

In other words, Jesus’ birth was announced both to certain wise and wealthy men who were prepared to honor Him (as the wealthy of His own country were not), and to men from the lower classes whom He came to save – men from the very occupation that He was to use as an illustration of His ministry in calling Himself  ‘The Good Shepherd’.  (Luke 2:8-17)

Are we to assume then in the midst of all this preparation that God somehow made a mistake in designating the place where Jesus was to be born and ended up with an undesirable result? 

That doesn’t make sense.

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Let’s look at a few other places where God made supernatural provision for Jesus:

5)   Because Herod had become aware of Jesus’ birth from the Magi, and was plotting to kill him, God took the following steps:

  • The Magi were warned in a dream not to return via Herod (who had asked  for directions so he could find the child), so they went back another way. (Matthew 2:7-8, 12)
  • An angel warned Joseph in a dream that Herod was looking to kill the child, and instructed him to take Mary and Jesus and flee with them to Egypt.  This he did, and remained there until Herod died – at which time Joseph was advised by an angel in a dream that it was safe to return.  (Matthew 2:13-14, 19-21)

6)   Towards the end of his life, when Jesus came back to Jerusalem for the last time, His need for a mount to carry Him into the city was met by the supplying of a donkey.   Clearly, there must have been a divine forewarning given to the owner of the donkey, so he was prepared to let it be taken and used by people who just turned up on his doorstep.   (Matthew 21:1-7)

7)   Later, when Jesus needed a place to hold the Last Passover supper with His disciples, His need was met in a similar way.  (Matthew 26:1-7, Luke 22:8-13)    Obviously, there are other examples.

So what does all this add up to?  I believe first and foremost we must stop demeaning the place and surroundings of Jesus’ birth.  Yes, there is simplicity and a message in it, but not the message we have been taking.

I’ve already made Pastor Shuller’s point that a room at the inn was unsuitable.   By comparison, the stable was a place of peace where God’s holiness and glory could shine out around this most special of births.   What a moment that must have been for The Father!   The animals that surrounded Jesus in His first hours were God’s creation – creatures that He loves.  They were and still are the innocent ones, with more understanding than we give them credit for.  And did I read in a recent publication where a man of God called them ‘dirty’?  Hmmm….

Remember, it was an innocent animal that had to be killed to provide covering for Adam and Eve after they sinned, and through all the history of Israel up to the time of Jesus’ death, it was animals that had to die as sacrifices for the sins of the people.

Now Jesus, the Lamb of God, had come to take that burden upon Himself.

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news/

Black Night of the Soul – 1

black-night-lionThis is an updated excerpt from my blog The Alzheimers Carer, written during and immediately after my 10 years stint as sole carer for my mother, whose life was taken over by alzheimers.

It follows on from comments I made in my last post about how readily the wrong kind of thoughts can overpower and dominate our minds.   Knowing what I know, this has still happened to me a second time.  The enemy is fully aware of our weaknesses – in my case a penchant for self-criticism – and he plays those to the max.

At the time of these events, I had no deep, personal relationship with the Lord, though I called myself a christian, and only a limited knowledge of the huge wealth of help and guidance to be found within the covers of the Bible, and in truly following Him.

About the year 2004, I could not see anything good left in life for me.  By way of background, I was a lawyer by profession and worked as a government lawyer and a law lecturer.  I was successful at my job, had my own home, and a comfortable income.  After my father’s early death (leukaemia), I was faced with the decision of staying put with a job, or moving home to the beloved family property in the country without one.  Never one to pass up a challenge, I chose the latter option.

This is not the place to go into details, but suffice to say for 17 years everything I touched to bring in an income had failed – largely for reasons outside my control.  I am reminded that after I got up here a number of people said to me, “Well, the saying is, ‘Come North and go broke.'”  As always, one hopes this kind of forecast isn’t true – but then, how did it get to be a forecast?   And so the seeds of doubt are sown.

The final failures were due to the growing restrictions imposed by my mom’s developing alzheimers condition.  Two promising attempts at setting up a real-life graphics and web design business fell under the wheels of THAT chariot.

It was like being thwarted at one turn after another. On top of that, my capital was gone, and my last attempt at business left me in debt.

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There I was, living on the benefit (for which I was grateful), with debts to meet, and completely tied to the house looking after my mom.  With almost 2/3 of our income derived from her – her own pension and a small army pension of my father’s –  I couldn’t see how in the long term I could afford to keep the beautiful place I had moved home to enjoy.  I felt I was staring down an endless black tunnel of my future – where had all the promise of my earlier years gone?  How was I going to survive if my mom died?

How was I going to survive if she didn’t?

The property was still in her name because I had put my capital into developing  businesses.  In this country and probably in yours too, government has now empowered itself to sieze the property of elderly people going into fulltime care, to offset the cost of keeping them.

At the very least if I put her into care, they would impose a caveat on the place and out of their ‘largesse’ allow me to live there until I died.  Isn’t that nice?   Especially after I had saved them so much in fees for elderly care over the years.  I can tell you – it would be the last straw.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I had owned this property then and had absolutely nothing to lose by putting my mom into care, I would not have done a single thing differently.  In fact if I did own the place she and my father worked so hard to develop, it would probably have been even harder for me to consider institutionalising her.  And there were ‘friends’ who, to salve their own consciences, advised me to do just that, every time I saw them.

My real worries lay in the future.  The completely, totally and always uncertain future.  I was haunted by those elderly permanent residents I saw in our hospital/rest home, laid out in special padded, reclining chairs and fed with spoons.

Many people around me didn’t know how I carried on as it was.   My fear was how I would carry on if looking after my mother came to that.

More next time.

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news/

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Battlefield Of The Mind – 1

roaring-lionI read the other day an article in which the writer was rubbishing the use of ‘old-time fighting armor’ as irrelevant to present-day illustration of the full armor of God described by Paul in Ephesians 6: 13-17.

Over the centuries, many illustrators and artists (myself included) have used these symbols, and I believe for very good reason.  These depictions of ‘old-fashioned’ armor come closest to the truth of spiritual warfare.

Now let’s get real about this: because we are being deluded into losing touch with reality in so many areas of life.  For example, here in NZ total online schooling of children has now been legislated into being – called COOL schools – WHAT???  Where will these children learn to work together and socialise with their peers and adults?  And for most families – who is going to supervise them at home?  This is typical beaurocratic nonesense.

Our worship of present-day technological advances, beneficial enough in themselves, is bringing about an appalling separation from reality!

For many people, war today is not what it used to be.  Instead of getting kitted out and going forth to fight hand-to-hand with the enemy on the battlefield, many warriors are sitting in war-rooms or high-powered jet fighters, bombers and tanks, pressing buttons.  Obviously, they do not need the body-protecting armor of days gone by – until the war-room gets overrun, the fighters and bombers crash, or the tank’s armor is penetrated, that is.

So – the enemy is trying to tell us that the old armor concepts are outdated, is he?  He is probably also trying to tell us that spiritual armor isn’t necessary.  Lies, lies, as always – didn’t Jesus say (speaking, note, to the religious leaders of His day):

“You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and lived not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”  (John 8:44)

On the contrary, in spiritual warfare ‘body armor’ – and by that I mean the armor metaphors used by Paul in Ephesians 6 – are as essential today as they ever were.  No war-rooms, bunkers, jet fighters, bombers or tanks can protect us from spiritual attack – and of course most of the world’s population is without protection in war-time, or at any other time.  Spiritual warfare penetrates any form of physical defence – and the outcome of battles on the spiritual plane is actually far more crucial for a person than the outcome of physical war.

It is as essential today as it ever was for people to understand the Battlefield of the Mind.  For the individual, the mind is where the crucial battles take place – and one of the greatest problems people have in dealing with spiritual warfare is failure to recognize –

  • that there IS an attack; and
  • where it is coming from.

Because the enemy attacks by putting out ideas and thoughts that we take into our minds (often subconsciously), people have no idea where this stuff originates.  They most often think the thoughts came spontaneously, or that maybe they themselves are reponsible.  In other words, the enemy flies in under the radar.  And who is the enemy?

In 1 Peter 5:8 we are plainly told:

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, like a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.”

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I will talk more about this later, but let me say right now, if you do not believe in a supernatural principal of evil, also called the enemy or the devil, if you think evil ‘just happens’ or some folk ‘just are bad’, then you know a lot less than people in third world countries who deal with this power and its principalities on a daily basis, in a far more open manner than we do.   These people know it only too well.

Wake up!

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news/

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Full Armor of God -Sword Of The Spirit

warrior5-iconI have several of these ‘Warriors in Denim’.

St Paul said this about the full armor of God:
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore,

  1. having girded your waist with the belt of Truth,
  2. having put on the breastplate of Righteousness,
  3. having shod your feet with the sandals of the Gospel of Peace;
  4. above all, taking the shield of Faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one,
  5. and take the helmet of Salvation,
  6. and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”
    Ephesians 6: 13 -17

With the world as it is, we really need this now, AND what’s more…

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…we need ‘righteousness’, ie being in right standing with God (nothing to do with self-righteousness which is most surely the opposite) to avail ourselves of these weapons.

The Sword of The Spirit

Paul elucidates further on the Sword of the Spirit in Hebrews 4:12:

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spiritjoints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

What a powerful weapon that is!  Especially for discernment, which is much needed in today’s world.

In this regard, note the importance of being prepared for spiritual warfare,  emphasized in my post Changing The Battle Ground.

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Artwork and Products available in my Damascus Road Gallery. Or click on the images.

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news

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And He Shall Reign in Miracles

he-shall-reign-iconThis afternoon, I have a personal miracle to report.  Yesterday – just over 24 hours ago – I was kicked in the leg by a horse.  I saw this coming one millisecond before he lashed out, so no time to take evasive action.  The force of the kick knocked me to the ground.

This is a young colt, recently gelded, so he still has plenty of spunk.  As I lay in the grass my first thought was “Is my leg broken?”   I am no way a teenager, so the concern was very, very real to me.  As we get older, if we don’t watch out, the world fills our minds with all kinds of negative expectations about the deterioration of our bodies.

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Cautiously, and shaking like a leaf, I got up – Hallelujah, I can stand, and put a little weight on it.  I opened a gate to move the horses into fresh pasture, then limped slowly back down to the house.

My first reaction was to thank the Lord for saving me from a worse outcome.  Broken leg?  Hospitalisation?  Wait a minute, I live alone and have animals to look after – can’t afford to be sidelined.  Don’t need a broken leg, either.

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I put some iodine on the wound (on the front of the lower leg below the knee and right on the bone) but the knee had obviously taken a serious jolt.  This knee used to give me trouble as a hill walker, and it was hurting more than the wound, which was starting to swell up like an egg.  I tried to pull an elastic sleeve over my foot to support the knee, and that caused excruciating pain up in the side of the joint.   Humm…   Deciding against the elastic, I got out a full length crepe bandage and put that on.

I knew from past experience that this would probably hurt more the next day than it was hurting then, so I resolved to get some shopping done right away.  Praying for help and support and still a bit shaky, I drove the 5 miles to our nearest shops and – thank goodness for the Lord, automatic transmission and supermarket trollies – managed to do shopping.

Night fell.  The leg seemed uncomfortable wherever I put it, but somehow with the help of a pillow I managed to get it reasonably rested – and fell asleep!  I slept the night straight through (unusual for me).

Today I’m hobbling around on an old walking stick – not without pain, I might say.  I’ve spent a good part of the day on the bed, with my leg up.  The swelling at the site of the wound has gone down.  The knee has swelled with some bruising beginning to show at the sides, and it is very painful to put weight on.  But altogether an amazing miracle, especially when I think of all the hassle and drama that would have gone on had my leg been broken (my nearest hospital is over 70 miles away, for a start).

So what comes out of this experience?  The most important thing I think is being granted to SEE it as a miracle.     The lesson lies in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I believe that being aware of the Lord’s presence on a daily basis, and being ready and willing to find reason to give thanks no matter what, is a key to seeing His work in our lives.  Saint Paul knew this – it’s a lot better than grumbling about what happened.

More about that next time.

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Artwork: acrylic on paper, capital painted in gold ink. – Artwork and Products available in my Damascus Road Gallery.  Or click on images.

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news

 

 

 

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So What?

“Well,” you may say, “so what?  This man Paul got hit by some kind of lightning bolt, and thought he had a mission.  So what?”

Well, the proof of the pudding, as always, is in the eating.  Paul was born some time in a 20 year period around  the birth of Christ.  His Damascus Road experience can be pinpointed between 31 and 36AD, so he was approaching middle age when his real career began.  He was executed by Emperor Nero in Rome around 65 AD, by which time he was at least in his late 60s.  For over thirty years, then, he traveled the Mediterranean, by boat and on foot, preaching the Gospel and setting up and supporting groups of believers which were called ‘churches’, but because of the dangers of the times they were really house groups.

He was the subject of enmity from the Jewish priests and their followers, from expatriate Jews, from followers of pagan religions, from the Roman authorities, and from people in his churches who tried to steal his standing with those he had converted.

Many of the passages in his letters that seem strange to us on first reading become clear when we appreciate that not only was he dealing with the specific qualities of the locality (eg  troublesome Corinth – a wealthy, bustling, cosmopolitan city where surplus meat from pagan sacrifices could end up for sale in the market), but also with countless disagreements between individual followers, and serious attacks on his own integrity.

Here is his account of some of the trials that befell him during those years:

“Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes less one: (40 lashes was a death penalty) three times I was beaten with rods: I was stoned once, shipwrecked three times; I passed a day and a night on the sea. I traveled continually, endangered by floods, robbers, my own people, the Gentiles; imperiled in the city, in the desert, at sea, by false brothers; enduring labor, hardship, many sleepless nights; in hunger and thirst and frequent fastings; in cold and nakedness.”
2 Corinthinns 11: 24-27

He was also imprisoned three times, and traveled in chains from Jerusalem to Rome.

So – from being the Persecutor, he became the Persecuted.  From being the highly educated fount of knowledge, he became the troublemaker.  From being securely established in his understanding of ‘the Law’, he entered the swirling waters of dispute and backbiting to convert and then nurture souls in a brand new concept of faith.

How many people would gladly make that change, take on that role, pursue it so long, and suffer that fate without some very strong conviction?

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news