Thursday, 24 November 2016

How Strong Do You Need To Be? (An open letter to all the men we love)

An open letter to all the men we love:

I don't pretend to understand the burden that you carry. A burden you did not choose. Placed on you from birth, inherited by virtue of your gender, it grows heavier with each passing year. 

'You must be strong.'

The urgent cry permeates every facet of your existence... and every choice you make in answer to its call, colors you. Shades the way others see you. The way you see you. 

No, I can't begin to fathom the onerous load you shoulder. 

'You must be strong.'

Born to take the lead in providing and protecting... day by day you answer the call. 

Strength. Courage. Mastery. Honor... defining traits of your masculinity... you lift your chin and set your shoulders, plant your feet and take a brace. Always pressing forward... always fighting... always striving to be strong. 

And yet, I see you. Holding your head high... pretending not to feel it... not to feel your back breaking - straining under the millstone that weighs you down. 

You need to rest, but you are afraid to. Afraid to let them see you fall, for somehow the burden has convinced you. 'You must be strong at all costs.'  And so with eyes front, you press on.

I wish you could hear me. 

'Lay it down, my brother; this weight you carry was not meant to be borne alone.'

When the weight of life's trials crushes in on you, and  you reach for the One who can carry you... I see your strength.

When you trust me enough to let me in... to let me see the pain you feel... I see your strength.

And when you can't stop the tears from falling... I see your strength.

You're still strong in my eyes.

So, my dear brother, husband, brother-in-law, son, friend... how strong do you need to be? 
'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.' Deuteronomy 31:6

Strong enough to be real... to be you - fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of our Creator.

Strong enough to accept that you don't have to be strong enough. 

Strong enough to embrace the true Source of your strength... to accept that when you are weak your God is strong. 

Strong enough to stand firm in the Lord and in his mighty power
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:13-17
Finally, my dear husband, brother, brother-in-law, son, friend, to all of you - all the men I love - please know that I'll always be here for you, and I will never stop praying for you.
'I pray that out of His glorious riches, [God] will strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.' Ephesians 3:16 
May this beautiful video of Strong Enough by Matthew West be a blessing to you. 
(Posted by Alexandria K)


If you're reading this, and know of a strong man in your life who could use this encouragement please share it with him. And please join me as we pray for our men. Pray that they will be strong and courageous and that they will never be ashamed of where their true strength lies. 


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Is There Hope For The One Who Suffers Alone?

These last few days have been filled with hope. A hope that started out full and expectant, but day by agonizing day, moment by heart-rending moment dwindled away. Down to a sliver... a tiny thread of a spider web... but still we desperately clung on .... hoping against hope ... that our hearts' desire would miraculously materialize. Hoping ... until... all hope was gone. 

Or so it seemed.

At moments like these, I retreat inside. Crawl up and hide. Alone. Alone with my pain, my suffering, my unanswerable questions. 

Have you ever been there?

Racked by an unexpected pain; one that is hot and searing and burns you to the core? A pain that is personal and deep. 

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you've been there. And maybe you were alone in your suffering. 

But in my loneliness, way down deep in the depths of me, I meet Hope. 

Not the hope of this world that disappoints. 

A Hope that picks me up and carries me at the very lowest and saddest times of my life. A Hope that promises never to leave me or forsake me

A promise I can rely upon... even in my darkest moments.
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33
My heart breaks. I think of my loss. 

And then I think of those who have no Hope... who suffer alone. And I pray that they would know that it doesn't have to be that way. 

My heart swells and aches with raw emotion. Pain.. Suffering... but in the midst... Hope... and Gratitude.

Gratitude for God's 'never giving up, always and forever love' for us. A love that is relentless in His pursuit of us. A love that is not earned, but gifted. A love that knows no bounds and can never be defeated. Never.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38-39
A love that beckons us to come... just as we are... alone and suffering... to accept His gift. The gift of His presence with us.  

A Presence that embraces us, lifts us up, comforts us, empowers us, transforms us. A Presence that, God in his mercy, assured me that my dear brother felt... and embraced. A presence that gets me through the storm. 

A presence that I am eternally grateful for.

For my friends, when it all comes down to it, when everything else is stripped away... the only thing that matters... that has any eternal significance is that we understand and experience the love of Christ for us.

So as I sit in my suffering... not really alone... but lovingly nestled in the arms of my Father... I pray for you... the one who suffers alone... that you
 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.  Ephesians 3:18
And that you may place your trust in Him... the only Hope that endures... so that you may never ever have to suffer alone, again.


This song - 'Oh, My Soul' from Casting Crowns, seems to have been written just for me... and for you... when we feel alone... but we are not alone

May you find comfort in its words.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

How to Keep Moving When You Are Stuck In the Middle

It's hard being in the middle.

Gone are the hope-filled feelings of a new beginning - the thrill of adventure - a tinge of fear mixed with a dollop of excitement, the child-like expectation of grand things to come.

You know those feelings. At the beginning, everything seems POSSIBLE. You are sure you can make it. Life is full of potential and should there be any hurdles you are sure to sail over them.

Whatever your beginning may be - enrolling in college to chase your dream, accepting that new job that promises more, marrying the one you can't live without... designing a bespoke home education plan for your children. Yeah, at the beginning it all seems so POSSIBLE.

But in the middle... it's different here.

It's not like at the end.

The end is a joyous time overflowing with celebration and steeped in relief. The words 'well done' echo all around you... filling you with a deep satisfaction. The POSSIBLE has become reality. No one can steal your happiness as you march up those stairs to accept your college degree, receive that long sought promotion at work, celebrate yet another anniversary, or savor the successes of your children.

Yes, the end is like a double happiness. Brimming with the joy of completion, you gaze excitedly, hope-fully at the new beginning ahead of you. For a new beginning always follows the end.

But in the middle... life can be hard.


Every day is more of the same.  Every step seems tediously slow. Plod. Plod. Plod.

Have you ever wondered what the tortoise was thinking?

No. Not at the beginning. Not when he challenged the hare to a race. At the beginning, he was probably pretty optimistic. Victory seemed POSSIBLE, if even a little improbable.
But, right there in the middle, when the hare had long gone past him, when the end was not even in sight, what was he thinking?

What made him keep taking one more step? Step by laborious step, what kept him going?

Devoid of the positive emotions that accompany the beginning and end of a major goal, the ‘stuck-in-the-middle’ blahs can drain your energy and rob you of the ‘get-up-and-go’ that you need to keep going.  To be honest with you, sometimes it is just plain exhausting to lift that foot up and take yet another step.

But what if it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if we infused the dreary middle with all the anticipation of the beginning and the celebration of the end?  What if we look forward to each next step with joyful expectancy - a period of time pregnant with POSSIBILITY - and sigh with deep satisfaction at the culmination of each tiny feat accomplished.

What if we saw each step taken as a victory – a cause to celebrate? I mean no more waiting for the big moments; life is in the NOW. It takes courage and boldness and most of all determination to keep moving forward, so why not celebrate our plodding.

But, let’s be real, friends.  To change my mindset and celebrate my daily plodding is a greater exploit than I can manage on my own. When it comes to sowing positive thoughts and harvesting fruitful actions, I am still rather weak and inconsistent. But thankfully, I don’t travel alone, and my Travel Partner is all-powerful and unchanging.

‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ 
says the LORD Almighty. 
Zechariah 4:6

Yes, God has a plan for my NOW and for my next steps, and He is working all around me. While I choose to trust Him to be my Vision when I can't see the end, He expertly chisels and molds my character, working into me steadfastness, perseverance, endurance, and a willingness to be used by Him in all my next steps... a painful but glorious process. One I am grateful to be a part of.

Yes, in the middle is hard, but it is also where trust grows and faith blossoms, where God becomes my power when I come face to face with my weakness. Where I look with eager anticipation for the next thing God is calling me to. The. Very.  Next. Thing.  No matter how small in the world's eyes.

When I choose to follow God in the NOW of my journey, in the daily plodding of life, I get the thrill of seeing God gloriously at work in the small things.

Do not despise these small beginnings... Zechariah 4:10a

And I get to celebrate each victory. I get to live the victorious life he has called me to. And I get to win the race.
Step by step, the POSSIBLE blooms into reality. 

What about you?

Are you feeling stuck in the middle, 
trudging ever so slowly onward towards your goal, 
growing weary of your small steps?

Don’t lose heart. You are not alone.

God has a road planned for you, and He is willing to walk with you. 
So why not move forward in trust and 
celebrate where God is taking you, step by step.