Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Uncategorized, Widowhood

TRANSFORMING THE BRIDE

transformation2.jpgJesus used many parables and examples from nature during His time on earth. The book of Romans tells us that we are without excuse because since creation His attributes have been clearly seen and understood through what was created.  This has caused me to look at spiritual concepts and view them through nature and thus enrich my understanding of them.

Look at the Church, the Bride of Christ, we all understand that concept. We see the denominational diversity, divisions and competitiveness – how can we really become the one Bride of Christ?  Jesus said they shall be known because they love one another!  The conflicts and religious wars of history have shown that that hasn’t happened.  How can we accept one another’s differences and love one another at the same time? Let us look in creation for a metaphor and see if we can find an answer.

A tree has four components, a trunk, branches, leaves and roots. Without these it cannot live each being dependent on the other as a whole and the spirit (life-force) within that maintains its cycles.  If we look at each part and compare them to denominational or religious philosophies, we can see how much we depend on one another and therefore need each other to prepare the Bride of Christ.

The trunk, solid and immovable on what is right or wrong, black or white, no shades of grey. The Word of God is the Truth; we need to be reminded that this is so, that our focus is kept on the Triune God and that no other philosophy can woo us from this Truth. Trunks are covered with bark, that bark can be smooth or rough, striped, ringed or covered with thorns, and depending on how our Truth is projected or told to others can either protect or harm them. Fundamental Truth and belief systems.

The branches represent those who teach the Intellectual and Practical outworking of this central Truth.  Their programs reach out like the branches; they offer shade and shelter to the weary and to passersby. They reach out to causes like prisons, missions and good works.  They bear fruit; they feed the hungry, comfort the sorrowing.  They are always reaching out, even in winter when the branches are bare.

The leaves are seasonal and colorful. You know the wind is blowing by the rustling in the leaves. Jesus compared the Spirit to the wind; no one knows where it comes from or where it will go.  The leaves flutter and give trees their glorious colors.  In the Psalms it says the trees in the field will clap their hands in joy, charismatic movement.  We need the joyousness of the leaves to lift our souls in worship above the heaviness of life and to know when the Spirit is moving.  The leaves are there for a season, then drop to the ground where in due course they provide food for the roots.  The young leaves are then formed for the next season’s growth. There are seasonal patterns in our spirituality and belief systems.

We cannot see the roots, but we know they are there, they draw the nourishment and water up from the soil to feed the tree. There are people who set themselves apart to pray, those who withdraw from the world, contemplatives and mystics where meditation and prayer are central; the prayer warriors, monasteries, convents and communities.  Even if we do not see them, if these people stopped their function in the Church it would become very sick and maybe even die. We all need their prayer and deep connection to the Creator

Nature has given us a solution to the problem of religious and denominational difference and diversity.  We must accept the place God has assigned for each of us individually, whether it is the trunk, branches, leaves or roots and fulfil our function with all our hearts, minds and souls. This may be for a season or for a lifetime. We then must accept that God has assigned different people to different places and they are there to create balance, diversity, color and strength to His church so that the Church Universal can fulfil its function.

If we each maintain our own identity and function and accept everyone else’s identity and function as God given and as part of the whole, together we can transform the Bride of Christ because the Church will be known “because they love one another”. A tree will not survive if any one of the four components are missing so we need each other to grow in love and unity so we may be THE Bride and not many brides.

Grief, Retirement, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Widowhood

THE WHEEL HAS MADE A FULL TURN!

 

January is the month we usually set our goals and resolutions for the year. One of my goals during this season is to find my artistic voice. I was looking back through my old sketchbooks and journals, to my amazement I came across a sketch I had made in 2001 of black and white geometric patterns, with a rainbow through the center, with the words “Transformation” and “Integrations”. A few years ago, after I had been widowed, my church had been going through a program of transformation and reconciliation, and responsible renewal in which they examined scripture in the light of today’s societal problems, updating their thinking and policies accordingly. This had inspired the sketch.

Fast forward ten years, I have been through nine years of working in a new country attending another church, which was not as progressive in their thinking and teaching. I knew I had to get back to the place spiritually I had left in South Africa. Moving to a new country yet again, I had the freedom to be discerning as to where I would worship, I was blessed to have found a local church that stood for all I believed in. I still had places to go in my past to clear up wrong thinking about God, which I dealt with.  I was invited to answer “My Most Difficult Question” at one of our church services to tell my story. I was also participated in writing a chapter for an Anthology “How Seven Women of Faith Manifest Godly Success Through Spiritual Intimacy”, The name for my story was ‘From Black and White to Rainbow Colored Thinking’. So, why was I so surprised when found my old sketch when looking to find my artistic voice?

With many interests and being able to enjoy drawing different styles, objects and thoughts I had not been focused on developing any specific style.  It now dawned on me there was a common theme to many of my pictures, geometric patterns, both abstract and natural, I liked my pictures to tell a story. God’s story in my life has taken a long time to unfold and is still unfolding. Perhaps I was not focused on following His lead to where I should be or maybe I was following Him through the forest and could not see for the trees!  Why do I want to write and paint on this theme of black and white and rainbow colors? Black and white rigid thinking only within your known parameters can seriously hold you back from experiencing the best God has planned for you. I want to be able to share my perspective and perceptions with people who struggle to let go of fundamental thinking.

The starting point is the character of God, I had been indoctrinated at an early age of a God who was always angry and only wanted to punish me, reinforced by family and church discipline. So how could I possibly know Him as a God of love when this was not demonstrated to me? My journey through life has taken me through divorce, widowhood and loss of homeland. It has been a long journey to get from black and white to rainbow colored thinking. To work through the belief systems that did not serve me well, to come to a place of rest in the God of Love. That is why I write and paint what I do, inviting you my readers and viewers to participate in this journey, hoping that if you too have struggled trying to find that God is Love, you may also have the scales from your eyes removed so instead of seeing everything within rigid black and white lines, you can see the radiant burst of color and light that emanates from Him through His creation and eventually be able to appreciate that He is Love and loves you with an everlasting love.

Divorce, Grief, Retirement, Transitions, Widowhood

WE WILL ALL BE CHANGED

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Winter is a time for deep thoughts as we wait out the cold months to take up our lives again in Spring. I was inspired walking through the cold, snow covered graveyard in Pennsylvania looking at the headstones of people long gone from this life. I came across two headstones, marked just FATHER and MOTHER.  Whose Father and Mother? What were their names? Why had they been buried here? Many stories popped into my imagination at that time, of an adventurous couple coming to an untimely end and being found by strangers and buried in the nearest churchyard?  I left them sleeping there with their untold story.

Death changes us. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed”. We are told we shall have new and glorious bodies at the resurrection. That gives us hope for our loved ones who have passed on.  But I thought that verse has a deeper meaning, we shall all be changed, those who are left behind also face major changes in their lives.

What happens when your spouse dies, or a child or your parents or beloved friend? Each of these encounters with loss, changes you. How you deal with the loss and how you walk through the grief process. When my late husband died, it left me with difficult choices to make.  Should I remain in Cape Town where I had plenty of friends and support?  Should I move to be nearer to one of my children living overseas? Did I want be left alone to grow old on the African continent when all my closest family lived in America?  How was I going to earn enough for my retirement?  There were a thousand questions I had to answer as a result of my husband’s death.

The answers to those questions led me to a career change, a move to the UK and finding my feet again at age 62, that experience certainly changed me, it stretched me in every direction. I was able to grow again, instead of being settled in the mundane existence that a married couple can fall into over time. I found myself excited about life again. We are so resistant to change and yet it is the very thing that proves our limitations and our character.  I found a new joy in being able to explore my new environment, I learned a whole new skillset, I made new friends and I was able to travel to places I would never have been able to had I remained in South Africa.

Was I afraid of the unknown? You bet I was!  Yet I knew deep down that things could not remain the same, and I would have to make changes whatever I did.  Have you been placed at a crossroads in your life by loss? Are you afraid of the giant leaps you may have to take on your own?  I have travelled this path and am happy to walk beside you as you make this transition to a new place in your life.  If you would like my map and let me guide you, please contact me via my webpage ww.crossingmybridges.com