When the ceiling caves in…

I dream a lot. Like, almost all the time. And my dreams are vivid, complicated, sometimes confusing, sometimes really out there. Usually I wake up, shake my head, maybe tell someone in my family about the weird dream I had last night, and that’s it.

Last night I had another vivid dream, but this time it was so relatable to my life that I thought it must have come from the way things have been lately with my house. In the first half of the dream, we had bought an old house. It was full of extremely outdated finishes and had a really strange layout to boot. We tried moving things around and hashing everything out but we just couldn’t make sense of how to fix it and make it livable. In the dream, we were only fixing it up to sell it again, so it didn’t need to work for us, but had to make sense for someone else. One day as we were looking at all the mismatched flooring and making plans for what we would put in its place, we thought we would see how things looked if we knocked out a wall to a bedroom. I feel as though we were planning to rebuild it, but as soon as it was done, we could see that the problem was space and as soon as we turned the three bedroom house into a two bedroom house and moved the living room that was next to the kitchen into the new space so that a dining room could be next to the kitchen, it all made sense. We became excited for the potential in this new space we had created.

In the second half of the dream, we were living in a too-small house and trying to fix things all at once – getting half a project done before starting a new one. It wasn’t just us working on it, we had hired a few people as well. The floors were mostly torn up but not replaced, walls were half painted, etc. It was a mess and I felt hopeless in the dream because the finish just seemed to be so far away. Halfway through this part of the dream, I walked into the living room and looked up and suddenly saw that the ceiling was full of cracks. Not just little ones, but huge cracks that were starting to gape. In the back of my mind, I knew there had been a few cracks present before, but this was the entire ceiling in that room. I turned around and saw one area bulging downward and water dripping from it. I panicked and ran out through the back door to catch Mike as he was walking away from the house to go pick up something for a project. He came back in and with him came a few of the guys who had been working on the house. One was a man we know, a respected pastor and prophetic voice in Canada. He does a lot of construction which I see on Facebook, so it made sense that he was there in the dream. He walked to the back of the room after seeing the crack I was so concerned about at the front and reached up behind the fireplace to the relatively low ceiling and grabbed a piece of it. A huge chunk of ceiling came out with a slight touch and a piece of the chimney swung down and nearly hit him. Suddenly, the whole ceiling on that side of the room was gone and we could see this huge vaulted expanse above it. At that moment, it wasn’t dismay that filled me, it was excitement – I said to him, “Now when we fix it, we can have a vaulted ceiling!” He laughed and said, “Sure, why not!” I knew it would make this house feel bigger and as I studied the space, I realized we would even have room for a loft. I imagined a master bedroom loft in this new upstairs space that hadn’t been there before and the fact that it would free up another bedroom on the main floor in this house. All the frustration about the state of the house was gone realizing that there was this huge potential there now.

When I woke up, it was all still very fresh in my mind but at first just felt like another weird dream. And really, one that was very relatable to me as our house has a long list of issues that need fixing, and at the moment, it feels like more than we can manage while the house feels all the time “too-small.”

But after thinking for a bit, I realized that this was not a dream about a house or construction, but about seemingly awful circumstances revealing great promise. About choices made to remove something in order to make room for something better. How could we have been living in a house with low ceilings and not see that the roof was so high and there had to be room for so much more in that house? And why had someone built it that way?

Sometimes we do what is easy and avoid or cover things up because we can’t handle the potential work it will take to get the job done. I’m not speaking about the physical as much as I am about the spiritual. We know that studying the Word, spending time in prayer, being mentored and digging deeper will produce good things but it feels like too much so we build the ceiling a little lower where it’s a whole lot more comfortable.

I think this dream has two meanings. The first is that we are not to limit ourselves by building our ceilings too low or making our life so compartmentalized that we miss the potential for bigger things (like the bedroom that was taking up valuable living space in the first house). The second is that we are sometimes overcome by circumstances beyond our control. A caved in ceiling sounds like a nightmare, but in this case, it revealed an expanse of space behind it that had so much potential. I think this part of the dream can apply to most of us right now in the season we’re living in. This year has often felt like a caved in ceiling. And we can choose to only see that if we want. For some, it’s a lot harder to see promise after this year. I am not making light of the horrendous things some people have lived through in the last eight months. But I do believe there is promise after this. We have had our systems broken down – they have caved in on us and for some, have nearly crushed us. We have been powerless to stop it and dismayed and depressed watching it happen. But there is this expanse of vaulted space beyond it – I believe that. The Church has the opportunity to come into a new season, new ways of doing things that may actually be better than before. In our own lives, we have the ability to help pull down those ceilings full of cracks and reach for something greater.

In the second half of my dream, I remember thinking that because of this seemingly awful thing that had happened, I could now see a way that we could stay in this house instead of moving out due to a lack of space. Maybe the caved in ceilings in our lives are showing us a new and better way to continue in areas we thought we had to walk away from.

Personally, I’m going to let this one simmer in my heart and mind for awhile. I’m going to ask God what my ceilings are, where my unnecessary bedroom spaces are that need to be pulled down to make room for more important things. What areas need to be shifted to see their full potential. Maybe this dream was just for me, but maybe one of you will see meaning in it as well. It just pressed on me a little too firmly to let it be something I write off to an active imagination, and I knew it was something I needed to share.

Facing Impossible

Yesterday I suddenly became overwhelmed with all of the impossible we are facing right now.

We have been driving two vehicles since the end of June when we swapped our dying 15 passenger van for a minivan. We look regularly for another big van but everything we’ve seen is either way beyond our budget (which is pretty low) or is very far away from home.

We live in a province that is not seeing an increase in hospitalization or deaths from Covid-19 and is in fact looking at fairly low numbers in general but are being placed under increasing restrictions due to rises in positive cases in certain regions of the province. One restriction directly affects our family and many others as the newest order does not allow people to have more than six people visit their home. We have eight kids. Under this order, we would not be allowed to visit anyone else in their home.

We have a house that feels as though it is falling apart bit by bit. The list of projects continues to grow, right at the time when I’m starting to feel like we need to look into selling and finding something more suitable for us. Again, money must be spent, and we don’t have a whole lot.

There are other situations we are in the middle of that also feel impossible – no matter which way I play them out in my mind or talk them out with Mike, I cannot see how they will be accomplished.

I took a bath yesterday and put on an unfamiliar worship playlist from Spotify. The first song was one we sang in church on Sunday: Yes, I Will. The chorus rang out and the tears started flowing:

“Yes, I will
Lift You high
In the lowest valley
Yes, I will
Bless Your name
Oh, yes, I will
Sing for joy
When my heart is heavy
All my days
Oh, yes I will”

My heart is heavy and I feel as though we are in the lowest valley right now. I know I need to lift Him up regardless of all of this but it’s not easy.

Then Rattle played: “Since when has impossible ever stopped you?”

I have seen God deal with the impossible in my life before. I’ve seen Him do it in the lives of others as well. Why do these mountains feel so big? Why does it all feel like too much?

Each of these situations on its own may not pull me down but it’s a bit overwhelming right now when they all present themselves in front of me as things that cannot be solved with anything I do. And I know this is true – I cannot stop the government overreach or lack of transparency going on in response to Covid in Canada. I cannot instantly acquire $30,000 to buy the van I’d really like and another $50,000 to fix all the things wrong with my house. I cannot make all of those other situations play out perfectly or disappear, no matter how hard I try.

In Matthew 19, Jesus told His disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. They marveled and asked, “Who then can be saved?” He said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

All things are possible with God.

All things are possible with God.

All things are possible with God.

I’ve been in the habit for the last year of telling mountains to leave in the name of Jesus. Mountains of migraines, cancer, illness, depression, etc. And sometimes I have seen healing happen after those commands. I just haven’t been very good at telling my own mountains to be cast into the sea.

And even with all my prayers of “God, fix this! Deliver and protect us! Provide! Give us direction!” I will admit that my faith in His response has been weak. I have struggled to really believe that we will be delivered, protected, provided for, directed. I need to build my faith and at the same time let these things go and stay in His hands instead of constantly pulling them back out to worry over.

I think we’re all facing mountains right now, in one way or another. Some are very personal and others are societal. We look around at the world we’re living in right now and sometimes it’s hard to feel a lot of hope. Facing the impossible has only one response – give it all to Him and let Him deal with it. When we need to act, He will show us what to do, but if we try to hold it all and lean on our own understanding, we will flounder and become overwhelmed.

I will admit that even writing this I have a hard time believing that it’s all going to be sorted out. That’s because I think with my finite mind and cannot see what is going on behind the scenes in the spirit. He is working on these things even when I cannot see or feel it.

“Even when I don’t see it, You’re working
Even when I can’t feel it, You’re working
You never stop, You never stop working
You never stop, You never stop working”

I sing these words easily enough but it’s time to start believing them.

Silence

It’s not that I’ve been avoiding this place. I haven’t been feeling well this last month and have only had one or two times when I had an idea for a post at all. This one came weeks ago but today I decided it was time to dive back in.

I had to make a doctor’s appointment and at the moment, they all start out with a phone appointment where they decide whether you need to come in or not. My house is full of noisy people (crazy, hey?) and so when I got my appointment time booked, I took my Bible and notebook out to my van and closed myself in. I could have gone into my room and locked the door but every time I do that, there is an inevitable fight that breaks out or a demand on me that I can’t ignore.

When I shut the door to the van and settled in to read my Bible while I waited for the phone call, I realized just how quiet it was. I hardly ever experience real quiet. I try to get up before the kids in the morning, and most days I succeed, but usually only by ten or twenty minutes. My daughter gets up before me anyway, so she is often around and wanting to talk. In our house, the little kids go to bed between eight and nine but the baby doesn’t go down until after ten and the oldest five kids go to bed when they want to – sometimes as late as midnight. They are supposed to stay quiet but we recently had to move the oldest boys out of their bedroom downstairs and into the family room there. So now they are directly below the living room and my bedroom, meaning late night quiet isn’t really a thing either.

I soaked up the quiet in the van for around fifteen minutes before the phone rang. I thought about how silence is a bit scary to me at times – I just want to fill it with music or speech or something to laugh at. But I know it’s needed, especially with a life like mine, full of people and sound.

It has been a trying six weeks. I developed gastritis from the stressful situation I was in at the beginning of August and haven’t fully shaken it yet. We had a bit of busyness that was unavoidable and I got wrapped up in things that only distracted me from opportunities for silence and reflection.

When I was a teenager, I went to twice yearly “silent retreats.” Now this didn’t mean that we were literally silent the entire time and didn’t fellowship with each other, only that we had hours at a time to go off by ourselves and be quiet before the Lord. Ideally, I would have time each day to read the Word and talk to God in the silence before my kids get up, but I have learned that some stages in life require creativity.

This is not profound or anything, just a reminder to get away in silence now and then. We live in a noisy world – kids or not – and a little bit of silence is a beautiful gift to ourselves.

Confession Time

I have a confession:

 

I’m addicted to social media.

Not in the way many people seem to be, constantly checking to see if their posts have new likes or comments, seeking validation. I actually barely notice whether things I post get any response and don’t really mind if no one likes my photo or status update.

It seems that my problem is a combination of fear of missing out and a desire to obtain information and knowledge. For example, I may open the Facebook app to see if I have any notifications, any questions to answer (I have both a blog page and a business page and recently made a group to sell some of my Usborne), any updates from family members, etc. But whether I have notifications or not, I inevitably start the scroll. I’ve read about this behaviour before – you scroll down and your aunt has posted something about her dog, your neighbour posted an item for sale, your sister posted pictures of her kids. None of these things are new to you – they are sorted to the top by a particular algorithm – and so you keep scrolling.

In my case, I always feel this concern that I might miss something that someone posted that is important. What if my cousin or a good friend posts a pregnancy announcement and I don’t respond? What if a barbecue is posted for a really good price on Marketplace or a buy and sell group and I miss it? We need a new one and I wouldn’t want to miss a good deal! What if there is a new article or blog post that I haven’t seen before that will help me to better understand my kids, my faith, marriage or something else? So when the first five or six posts on my feed are old or not interesting to me, I scroll. Sometimes for a very long time. Then I catch myself doing it – this usually seems to happen without very much conscious thought – and I put my phone down. Time goes by – five minutes or even a few hours – and I pick up my phone again. The cycle starts over.

What amazes me is that I can and do go days without Facebook and do so without any anxiety over it or missing it at all. This is where it is not quite drug like for me – I don’t have withdrawals, rather I have a weight lifted off of me. I have less swirling thoughts in my head due to much less useless information landing there. I suspect that I could go weeks like this pretty easily.

But then I go back to “normal” (my Facebook free times happen most often when I am out of cell service for a few days or am doing a media fast) and as much as I want to be moderate in my use of it, I go back to the same habit. “Oh, I haven’t been on here in three days, I wonder what happened with that friend’s doctor’s appointment or my brother’s job?” And for some bizarre reason, I am more likely to scroll, scroll, scroll than I am to go straight to that person’s Facebook to find out what is happening with them. Like I think the answer is going to appear before me in my hours of daily scrolling.

At the moment, I have the Facebook app on my phone. I don’t remember exactly what happened to make me download it again after years of only using my phone browser to access Facebook but I do know that when I got it again, I set my “time on Facebook” reminder to two hours. So every day that I reach two hours on Facebook, the app alerts me. And I close the alert and keep scrolling.

So is the answer leaving Facebook completely? Sometimes I think so. But I live very far away from my family and it has been a good way to connect with all of them. Do I set rules for myself about how often and how long I check Facebook? Maybe that could work, but I’ve tried it before and found myself back to the same habits again.

For now, I start with this confession, and another one: I don’t like this and I want to stop. I know it clutters my thoughts, I know it distracts me from my work and the ability to be present for my kids. I know it steals time from God and His calling on my life. But I don’t totally know what to do about it.

Today I will start by deleting the app again. And trying to limit myself to checking Facebook on the computer, which does not hold the same scrolling appeal as my phone (anyone else agree with me here?). But what really needs to be done is addressing the root issue here. I have a need to know that must be dealt with. My fear of missing out must be dealt with. So I will go to the Father and ask Him to show me how to do this. I pretend too often that He doesn’t care what my relationship is with social media but I know that is not true. I believe He mourns for the lost opportunities while I was distracted and that He has a greater plan for me than this.

If this has never been an issue for you and you are shocked by my confession and just can’t understand it, then this post was probably not for you. But if you are also tied to the scroll – on Facebook or some other platform – and can’t seem to break yourself free of this thing, now you know that you are not alone. Ask God how He wants you to fill your time each day. Ask Him what it is that you are missing that needs to be addressed so that you can find freedom from this. He is gracious and compassionate and quick to forgive us, and I know He has the answer.

Un-masked

Just wait, this has nothing to do with that kind of mask. I’m not going to get into that. Okay, read on.

 

For the last few weeks, this place has been filled with inspiration. I have written fluidly and have felt there was real meaning in what I was trying to say. Today I felt I should probably write something.

But what?

I have something important that I’m working on mentally but I’m not quite there yet, so not that.

Anything amusing to talk about? Not really.

I could talk about how I changed my hair colour again (it’s two colours now actually, split right down the middle), but I am so determined not to be shallow. Is it shallow to talk about dying my hair?

Maybe not. What if what should be said is that we really need to start taking off the mask? I wore one for a long time, one of a typical young mother, devoid of personality in what I wore or what I did with my hair or my face. To be clear, my face is still very much bare, but that is a choice I’ve made, rather than a decision based on my desire to look like something I wasn’t.

Listen, I’m not talking about vanity. I’m not talking about self-love in the self-centred way that the world is. I just mean, if the colour red draws you in but someone once told you that you shouldn’t wear it because it was attention grabbing, maybe it’s time to let that go and buy a red sweater. If you’ve always wanted to see what it was like to have pink hair because it just sounds like fun and for goodness sake, it’s just hair, maybe it’s time to go for it, barring any real world/work scenarios where it would be inappropriate to have pink hair.

When I shaved my head, it was a stripping off of one more layer of the mask. It was liberating. And it turns out, my husband actually loves me for me and enjoys watching me change my hair colour every so often (he was the one who shaved my head for me, too). Did everyone around me like that I had done it or approve of it? No, of course not. But that’s not the point.

I think I have been a people pleaser all my life. I did things right, did things well, worried that I wasn’t good enough – constantly – and said yes to things I shouldn’t have out of a sense of obligation. Here’s a heartbreaking thought – it’s likely I didn’t move away or call out for help when being groped by a total stranger in a public hot tub when I was ten because I didn’t want to cause a scene or upset anyone.

What are we saying to ourselves when we continue to wear these masks? What are we saying to God? He made me LOVE colour. I am filled with joy when I can put on a bright green hoodie with a floral print dress or a purple skirt. I buy a white shirt and have to tie dye it (not just because I spill on everything and could never keep a white shirt clean, honestly). So why would I tell myself to buy all black and blue and brown and just blend in with the crowd? I realize some people love the sleek look of all black and good for them! I know people who thrive on a neutral wardrobe. It’s just not me.

These are my thoughts tonight, ones I’ve had before and may have even shared, but maybe they need to be said again. Maybe my tiny bit of bravery will help someone else to pull off the mask they’ve worked so hard to perfect.

Sword in one hand, hammer in the other

For the first time that I can remember, I felt led to a page number in my Bible recently, rather than a book and chapter. Page 444 in my Bible is Nehemiah 4:3-5:7. It was verses 10-23 of chapter four that I felt drawn to, possibly because the title of this section is “Opposition through Discouragement.”

When Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, much was against him. Threats, rumours, bribery, slander and more were thrown at him and the Israelites building the wall. Here in chapter four, they find discouragement because they expect their adversaries to come and overtake them while they work. Nehemiah has a solution for this and it is one I believe we should pay close attention to right now.

Nehemiah 4:17-18a “They which built on the wall, and they that bore burdens, with those that loaded, every one with one of his hands wrought in (carried on) the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so built.”

We all have work to do here. This work varies for all of us, beyond the things we are all called to do when we are saved. But how easy it is to get swept up in work – even ministry work – and forget that we have an enemy that prowls about. And how easy it can also be to become overwhelmed and discouraged by that enemy and neglect the work we ought to be doing.

The answer is not one or the other; some believers working and others fighting. The answer is in carrying the tools of work in one hand and the weapons of our warfare in the other.

They had guards and took shifts solely watching and guarding as well but what struck me was that these people were ready for work and war at the same time. Have you forgotten your work while you wage warfare? Or have you forgotten to hold your sword while you get the work done on Earth?

This is a simple concept, probably not very profound, but it meant something to me. My workload feels insurmountable sometimes and so does the state of things in the spiritual, especially right now. Now is the time to ask God what your work is meant to be, which part of the wall are you supposed to be rebuilding, and then remember your sword and keep watch while you build.

Fearfully and wonderfully made

A few days ago, I was back at it with an old foe. Self-image, weight issues, hearing words from long ago echoing in my mind. Thinking about how I can’t seem to lose weight without obsession or extreme deprivation, thinking about what certain members of my family might be saying about me behind my back if they could see me right now. It’s something I’ve dealt with for a very long time and is just not something I’ve beaten yet.

It’s easy to imagine what other people think and then start feeling like God probably feels the same way. Disappointed that I still have baby weight from last time, disappointed that I am not athletic, that I am not a socially accepted size. I was going down that road when I felt Him whisper, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I turned in my Bible to Psalms 139 and read this familiar verse again:

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:

marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knows right well.”

I have for many years imagined myself to be overweight, even when I wasn’t. When I was a young teenager and had to stop wearing junior sizes and wear women’s clothing, I thought this meant I was now fat. When my friends wore size fours and I wore a size ten, I thought this meant I was huge. I look back at photos of myself and feel grieved that I spent so many years thinking that way. So why do I still do that? I’m not talking about making excuses for bad eating or sitting around doing nothing – those are things I’ve been working on for a very long time – I mean focusing too much on clothing size and the shape of my body and what I look like in photos.

He has done marvelous works in my life, both physically and spiritually. I have been delivered from depression, healed of allergies and given the opportunity to carry and birth eight children, even though I once said I wouldn’t have more than three and when I got married, assumed I would be done by the time I was thirty. My body certainly shows the signs of carrying those babies but why don’t I wear it as a badge of honour? Why do I obsess?

The day after this gentle reminder, I asked God how I could lose a bit more weight. He answered quietly, “Just stop eating so much.” I tend to believe that I need to calorie count, work out all the time, eat perfectly, etc. to lose any weight at all and because of my weakness when it comes to perfectionism, I often give up when I realize I can’t do all of that perfectly. But what if I don’t need to be a size ten again? God knows what is right for me and I believe that the first step is moderation. Moderation in what I eat and how I exercise. Not giving into gluttony but not starving myself or becoming obsessive either – that side of things isn’t moderation any more than eating at a buffet every day would be. Not sitting around doing nothing but not spending all my extra time on exercise.

There are practical things I can do to lose weight or at least stop gaining but if my view of myself is broken and I do not see myself through God’s eyes, my motives will always be wrong. I have watched people with a terrible self-image have amazing success at losing weight and it’s just never enough – they still see themselves as too fat or not fit enough. I’ve been down that road, doing crazy things to just lose a few more pounds to hit a goal. That’s not what I want. I want to look at myself and know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I need to love myself regardless of extra weight, wrinkles, stretch marks or blemishes. If I can figure this out, it won’t matter what I look like and I can finally win this long battle.

 

Search and Rescue

I had a dream in early July that again, I knew had meaning as soon as I woke up. After sharing it with my church, I knew I wasn’t wrong, but it is probably a hard message for the Church as a whole. I pray it is received with grace.

*

In my dream, a cousin who lives in the States had a son, around three years old. He and his son were in the backyard together and one minute he was there, the next he was gone. Searches were conducted but everything pointed to an abduction, not a death. One day a month or two later, I received a program in the mail for his funeral – it had his date of birth and the day he disappeared as his date of death. I was angry. I felt like they were giving up hope. I went to the funeral anyway and while I was there, I was in deep intercession for him, praying for his safety and for his return. I prayed in tongues for most of the time and wept as I did so. I seem to remember that people thought I was strange for my behaviour. I am also certain that at the top of the program, it read “social distancing,” as a reminder not to get close to people. I thought about how awful it was that we could not hug people at a funeral.

*

I believe that this dream is about the Church in North America (and maybe the attitude some have about commerce and the economy as well). Believers have given up hope. We have had things taken away from us suddenly – church and Bible studies one week and the next told that everything is shut down – disappeared. Instead of searching and praying for their return, we are having a funeral – and that without loving each other as we would need in a time like this (social distancing representing lack of unity, distance from each other both literal and figurative). We should be on our faces weeping and praying for the Church but instead we are planning her funeral.

Imagine a large field where a child has wandered off. A search party would line up, nearly shoulder to shoulder, possibly even arm in arm, and comb through that field looking for the child. They would search until they were told they had to stop and even then, experts would come in and look longer. They certainly would never hold a funeral a month later without any evidence that the child had died. There are parents who are still hopeful their son or daughter is alive thirty years after disappearing like this. This is the posture we need to take right now – maybe not literally, but certainly in the Spirit. Hopeful expectation, prayer and fasting, unity in the search.

God has a plan and I know He is making good from what the enemy meant for evil. Will everything look exactly the same when we get it back? Probably not, but let’s not give up, Church. Hold onto hope and keep searching for what He has for us.

Just walk through the door

This is a dream I had at the end of January and I am sure now that it was a personal warning of sorts. I felt recently that it was time to share this more publicly than I did then.

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February 2, 2020


The night before last, I had a mind-bending dream. It was so vivid, like watching a movie. In the house I lived in with many other people, there was a door. Everyone knew that the door led to what could best be described as an alternate reality – an adventure or a major change for a period of time. Everyone who went through did so without knowing what they would encounter, as everyone had completely different experiences there. Sometimes those things were hard and painful or scary but no one stayed there forever. Without fail, everyone who went through came back significantly taller. I knew in the dream that going through the door would change me – change my life – but I was afraid because I didn’t know what I would have to experience there.

One day, the house was bombed. As people screamed and fires burned around me I realized that my only route of escape was through the door. I couldn’t bring anyone with me (Mike or the kids) and if I didn’t go, I would die. So I threw open the door and jumped out – and fell into this life altering experience.

What happened there was bizarre and likely has meaning here and there, but in the end the meaning I see here is that the door is change – major change. I should take opportunity to choose change that is something I am led to, rather than having a hard situation or circumstance push me into change as my last option. The fact that people came back taller signified positive change in their lives as a result of what they experienced on the other side of the door.

Pastor Larry spoke on trust today and how when we trust, we see God’s love. When we know we are loved by Him, we will also find it easier to trust. It’s a cycle.


I thought of 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” The door in my life was change and the willing step through it was trust. Having no other choice is not trust. When we allow fear to dictate our lives and make our decisions for us, we miss God’s timing and sometimes are forced into hard things as a result. God still uses those times when we allow Him to but we would experience greater blessing if we stepped through the door on our own when He asks us to.

*

I believe that COVID has been the explosion that pushed many people into change that they were not ready for or were previously afraid of. Losing a job, having your kids home when they were in school before, uncertainty around health and finances, all are major changes that we were taken off guard by.

Did I jump through the door before COVID? I don’t know. Have I thrived throughout the last few months? Thankfully I can say that I believe I mostly have.

I had another significant dream more recently. I will share that one in the next few days.

Exhort one another daily…

Each morning, I get up, sit on the couch and ask the Holy Spirit to lead me to a passage of Scripture that will benefit me in some way that day. Sometimes I don’t feel a firm response so I read the Proverb of the day or a few Psalms, a chapter in the New Testament, etc. Today I felt led to Hebrews 2 and 3. I often read most of what I feel I should without any major light bulbs only to find a single verse towards the end that is clearly my reason why. This morning, that verse was Hebrews 3:13.

But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (KJV)

What do most people think when they see the word “exhort?” In the NIV and NASB, this word is instead, “encourage,” but is that really what this word means? Encouraging other people is wonderful and usually fairly easy because it makes everyone feel great. It’s important but it’s not the whole picture.

The Greek word here is parakaléō and in this particular verse, it means “To call upon someone to do something, to exhort, to admonish.” This paints a larger picture than merely encouraging each other.

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word “exhort” is: “To incite by argument or advice, urge strongly; To give warnings or advice, make urgent appeals.” Dictionary.com says exhort means “To urge, advise, or caution earnestly; admonish urgently. To give urgent advice, recommendations or warnings.”

Has anyone ever said something personal to you that stung a little? That you knew was true but was hard to swallow? This may have been an exhortation. Have you ever been instructed in the faith and felt stirred up, even if the instruction feels a bit heavy and serious? This may have been exhortation.

I do not claim to be an expert in this area. In fact, I feel very new to this concept. Christianity is full of wonderful encouragers, and I try to be one as well. I had a brief experience in the store today that showed me clearly the difference between encouraging and exhortation.

There were two young mothers in the store with children, one with a little girl with beautiful short curly hair like Jenny had when she was young. The other had a little girl who was around four or five and a boy probably a year and a half younger. I struck up a short conversation with both women about their children because the first girl reminded me of Jenny and the set of siblings reminded me of Jenny and Elias when they were young. I smiled and did what I could to be uplifting as both looked like parts of their shopping trip with young children were slightly stressful. This was encouragement. When I tell my kids how proud I am of them when they’ve done something good, that is a type of encouragement. But when I show them an area they need to look closely at and make changes in, it is exhortation, or at least my understanding of it. I had that opportunity today as well – something most parents have opportunity for each day.

The second half of this verse is crucial here: “lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

Exhortation is not to make you feel bad. Exhortation is to prevent you from being hardened by and tangled up in sin.

I have often struggled with correction. I was the kid who tried so hard to do everything perfectly right so I wouldn’t get in trouble. I didn’t rock the boat in school and have done everything in my power to obey the law. I even signal on country roads when there is no one in front of or behind me for kilometres. When I have faced correction (or possibly exhortation), I have not reacted well. It seems possible that I actually did not receive enough exhortation growing up to become accustomed to it and was actually hardened by the deceitfulness of sin – in this case, fear of failure, fear of man and perfectionism.

In the area of advice, I know many people want to give everybody advice about everything and another group doesn’t want advice from anyone. I have tried to graciously accept advice over time, particularly from people who have more experience than I do in some area. I have also tried to avoid giving advice when I know it is not welcome or when it is actually unnecessary and I’m just trying to toot my own horn. Godly counsel is a great need in the Church, though. Take a look at Proverbs and you will see how important counsel is. Proverbs 11:14 says “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”

We are often quick to see a financial advisor when we’ve gotten ourselves into trouble with money or we want to secure our future. In school, we see a guidance counselor to help us make decisions about our life or college choices. Many people see counselors in the secular world or use a life coach to get them through trying times. None of these are bad, but we also need sound Godly counsel. This is the job of someone who exhorts.

I aim to take exhortation well in the future and also to do my part to exhort others when I feel led to do so. I believe the Church will benefit greatly when we take this verse and others on this topic more seriously. Yes, please keep encouraging, but don’t forget exhortation.