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You Must Not Quit

~~Matthew 17:20~~ If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “’Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.



Rebecca Hynes. Photo property of Carla Cooper. All Copyrights Reserved. Worship Melodies
Rebecca Hynes (Photo by Carley)
I will never forget the day when we got the call telling us that Rebecca was rushed to the emergency room.  Our friend Miguel was in such a panic that he was practically incoherent on the phone.  My boyfriend and I spent almost all of our time with Rebecca and Miguel during that spring and summer of 2003.  We were like 4 best-buds, and we had so much fun together.  Rebecca, only 25, was pregnant with twins and was in her sixth month.  I was helping Miguel plan her Jack ‘n Jill baby shower.  It was going to be a great one.  We were so excited.

Suddenly one night Rebecca passed out.  Miguel got her to the emergency.  We went to meet him at the hospital in downtown Toronto.  The doctor told us that Rebecca had a problem with some blood vessels in her brain.  It was a condition that was always there, but it was never a known; and probably would not have ever been known if it were not for her pregnancy.  It was the stress on her body of being pregnant that caused these vessels to rupture.

She was in a coma for 2 weeks.  Miguel spent all his waking time with her.  I gave him a book of poetry for inspirational support.  He used to sit and read it to her.  After about 2 weeks he noticed that tears started to run down her face.  She was still in the coma, but she could hear him!  It was such incredible hope for him.  Then her parents decided that they would ‘pull the plug’.  They did not want to leave her and their grandchildren in this condition.  Miguel did not get to be part of this decision because he was not legally married to Rebecca.  Her family had shut him out of the decision.  He was shattered when he found out that he would lose his new family.  Rebecca and her babies passed away shortly after the machines were turned off that night.  We were all so devastated.  How could this happen to such nice people?

I have been reliving this story today because of a book I am reading.  This book teaches you how to never give up hope; how to turn your negatives into positives.  It teaches you how to be tough through thick and thin.  In this book the author tells a story of how his dear friend was in a coma.  A ‘death-coma’ they called it; which means there was no hope, according to the medical team.  The author, however, is a pastor who was taught in seminary to always ‘think life’ when in this type of situation.  He talked to his comatosed friend and said “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “’Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” ~Matthew 17:20 (NIV84).  He assured his friend that he was going to survive because the Lord said ““I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV1984).  At this point, beyond all human hope, a tear started to run down the face of this friend in a ‘death-coma’.  A year later this friend could talk full sentences.  Then not long after that his life was practically back to normal. 

One thing that life has taught me is that you never, ever give up hope.  Even, and especially, when things look hopeless.  I have inherited a stubborn streak that could try the patience of Job.  I am aware of this.  It can be a bad character trait at times.  However, it is this stubborn streak that I have learned to use as a tool to hold on to hope and faith where others tell me there is none.  I refuse to let go of it.  This faith has helped me get through the toughest period of my life, especially in the past 5 years.  I have gotten blessings that I never in a million years would have thought of on my own.  I have survived things that I most certainly would / could not have survived otherwise.  This hope has also helped to put behind me, the horrible chapters of my life that I had been holding on to.  I’m not perfect yet.  There are still a couple of anchors that I need to learn to let go of; but one thing is for certain, I will not let go of my hope and faith.  No matter what!

This book also quoted a poem that was near and dear to my heart.  My parents gave me this poem in a frame many years ago to help me hold on to hope.  To have it quoted back to me in this book, I saw, as a direct message from God.

Don't Quit
by Edgar A. Guest
 
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
 
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow -
You may succeed with another blow.
 
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
 
Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
 
What things are you keeping faith for today?  What things seem hopeless to you today?  Do you need a job?  Are you lonely?  Have you been given a diagnosis that scares you?  Do you need money to pay bills or to buy food?  Is your marriage in trouble?  Are you sharing custody of your child and the situation seems to be always very tense?  Maybe, you need hope to finish an assignment at work or at school before a deadline.  Please, do not give up.  The storm will pass.  The night will give way to dawn.  Spring flowers will start to appear.  My pastor said to me not long ago “you will get through this”, God says so!  You must not quit.
 
How would my life be different now if my friend Rebecca was given just one more week of hope?  How would the world be just a little bit different, a little more blessed, by having Rebecca and her babies to be a part of it?  Even as it is, my life has been blessed by knowing her.



 ~~Dear God~~ Thank You for never giving up hope on me no matter how many mistakes I continue to make, no matter how many times I forget to turn to You for guidance.  Thank You for giving us Jesus as the perfect example of never giving up hope even in the darkest of moments.  Please make my heart into one like His that You would be so proud of.  In Jesus name, AMEN.



NOTE:  The photo above of my friend Rebecca was taken when we all went to the circus one afternoon in the summer of 2003.  It was my first time going to the circus since I was a kid.  We had such fun that day... as we did so many other days that summer.  I miss her.

Here’s an inspirational video of the poem ‘Don’t Quit’.  Enjoy.

Big Dreams

~~Acts 16:31~~ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.


 
Pansy. Photo property of Carla Cooper. All Copyrights Reserved. Worship Melodies
Photo by Carley
Well, it is finally here.  The first day of summer!  Yea!!!  I love summer.  If God let me run the world, the first rule I would make would be ‘No more winter’.  The second rule would be ‘No more need for long pants’... or shoes.  I am not a huge fan of long pants.  I like living in shorts, skirts and tank tops as much as possible.  It feels so much less restrictive; and I love feeling so feminine.  Some may think that this is a silly dream, but I think that is a fun dream.  Summer is a great time for dreaming.  What do you dream about?  I think about romance, drive-in movies, long walks along the beach at dusk, water-balloon fights, and pansies (because they were my Grandmother’s favourite).  The whole world just seems lighter, happier, and freer in the summer time. 

I had a chance recently to write about one of my dreams.  The requested topic was to write about a place that I would like to travel.  Well, that was not something I had to sit and think about for more than half a second.  Italy.  La bella Italia.  Just the sound of it is romantic.  I have dreamed most of my life of going to Italy.  In a perfect world, I would go on an extended tour, taking maybe a couple years to take in the culture and beauty of Italia.  Then maybe I would buy an old villa in the Tuscan country side that I could fix up, where I could spend some time.  I am not sure why I have always had such a passion for Italy, I just now it is there. 

A perfect day would be to wander through city streets chatting with fascinating people and having lunch at some small bistro.  Then I would go on to spend the afternoon picking through old treasures at a flea market.  One of a kind items that I could never find anywhere else.  Things that I could bring home and use to decorate my house in Canada to look like that old Tuscan villa.  Another afternoon might be spent posing for a slightly risqué portrait painted by a fine-looking ‘starving’ Italian artist.  Or maybe, I could go to a vineyard and experience a wine and cheese tasting, Italian style.   Then, to accept a dinner invitation to a big Italian party from a handsome gentleman who speaks to me with such romance, yet I have no clue what he is saying; and it does not matter because we are having so much fun together.

As I did some research on this topic so I could write about it, I found myself being led to biblical resources about faith.  I was surprised, but as I thought about it; that is exactly what a dream is all about.  It is faith in God that the dream He has put into your heart will indeed come to be reality one day.  When you have a dream that is a passion you cannot explain and it never seems to die; it is then you know that your dream is from God.  If God put it there, it is there for a reason.  Our pastor tells us all the time that “God does not waste anything”.  It is by the gift of grace from God that, because we have faith, He will save us (Ephesians 2:8).  What is faith?  “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 – Emphasis mine).  If all it takes for God to do the amazing undertaking of saving us from spending eternity without Him is for us to simply believe in Jesus, then surely He will have no problems with a dream or two while we are here on earth. 

What are your dreams?  Travel?  A big home?  Missions trips around the globe?  A marriage and a family?  A fulfilling career?  Or maybe, it is simply just to have a vacation for a couple of weeks in a serene place where you can just escape the reality of the world, and focus on Him.  Whatever your dreams, have faith; and it just may become a certainty.  I do suggest, though, that you keep it to something realistic, and never let anyone else take your dream away from you.  For example, I do not expect God to put me in charge as much fun as I am assuming that would be.  Nor do I expect to escape the winter cold, long pants or shoes.  Through prayer and listening to His voice you just may find that the dreams you thought were ‘too crazy to be real’ just may become your world!  Do not be afraid to dream big.  God can handle big dreams!  Maybe I will get to travel to Italy one day.  I have faith.

If I still believed in past lifetimes, as I did before I was a practicing Christian, I would think that in a past lifetime I was Italian.  I feel like I miss it.  I think if I went there today I would want to stay.  I can honestly see that happening.  Well, until next time 'Ciao Baby'.



~~Dear God~~ Your ways are so amazing.  You give us dreams so that we can hold on to faith in You.  Please help me to always hold on to my big dreams because as long as I have them I will know that I have big faith and that You are forever with me.  In Jesus name, AMEN.



The Big Trophy

~~Mark 8:36 ~~ What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

 


NHL Stanley Cup. Free source internet photo. No copyrights claimed
Free source photo

The excitement in the air was thick enough that it could barely be contained.  The big game was about to happen.  It was the most exciting thing since... well, since last year’s big season-ending game!  Both sides being sure that they would be the ones blessed to carry the big trophy.  Who would get to bring home Lord Stanley’s big cup?  

I may be the only one, but I did not watch the game; and I had no intention of watching.  Maybe I am not a hockey fan?  Truth is I do not know if I am.  There has not been anyone who sat with me to explain the game to me so my interest has not had a chance to grow.  I live alone.  This may be a female perspective, but I see no point in watching alone.  I would certainly be open to watching a game if I were with someone I love; which, I think is the point for many people.

Well, it is the morning after the big game.  The big cup got to stay ‘over there’... across the border in the US.  There are many that seem to be rather upset with this outcome.  I have not seen any TV coverage about the reaction of the fans.  I just know that it is nasty to say the least with riots happening.  I do not watch much television.  Even without seeing the game, or seeing any news coverage; it is impossible to miss the frenzy of the fans on the losing side.  It is everywhere.  People are talking about it; emailing, texting, blogging, posting in on social websites.  

Sometimes I wonder where people’s priorities lay.  This is a game.  It is not life altering.  People are not supposed to be hurt, die, nor have their lives transformed because of the outcome.  It is entertainment.

Jesus told us a story about two men who built houses.  One built his house on a rock with a firm foundation.  The other built his house upon the earth without a firm foundation.  The moment nasty weather hit, the house with the firm foundation stayed put, but the house without a firm foundation was wiped out and lost.  (Luke6:46-49).  

The hockey fans, it seems to me, are much like this man without a firm foundation on his home.  Where do their priorities lay?  Why should losing a game alter their lives?  If it does not, then why the violent reaction?  How does this outcome alter their ability to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus?  The ‘storm’ hit and their lives seem ruined.
For those who are on the losing side, why destroy your own city because your team did not win?  What does this accomplish?  People need to follow the lead of Jesus and think about others; think about what is truly important.  Does losing this game compare to what those who have had to watch a loved battle cancer for over a decade go through?  Does it compare with those who have lost their children to diseases like Cystic Fibrosis?  Does it compare with those who cannot walk?  Does it compare with the pain of seeing a loved one throw away their life because they are addicted to crack?  Does it compare with the pain of seeing loved ones who are lost to the Lord and have no hope of going to heaven if they do not find Jesus?  Does it compare with the pain of watching a loved one be accused of a crime he did not commit?  Does it compare with the pain of going through mental illness, or watching loved ones battle with these problems?  These are all things that have touched my life in one way or another.   No trophy will finally cure my Aunt’s cancer, or help my friend walk properly, or rid my friend of his crack addiction, or rid my friend of the false crime accusations; or bring back my first boyfriend who died of a terrible lung disease at the tender age of 14.  The fans have filled their hearts with hatred... for what?  Who has gained from all this?  As one dear friend pointed out this morning “Come tomorrow, it will be quite lucrative to be a Vancouver-based lawyer.
For those on the winning side, what have they gained... really and truly gained?  Bragging rights?  From my experience, the novelty of bragging wears off in a hurry!  Money?  That has a tendency to disappear quite fast as well.  Jesus said it best, as only He can, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).


~~Dear God~~ Please do not let the priorities in my heart be anything outside of Your will for me.  Change my heart to suit Your Will.  Each time a ‘big game’ happens for me, and I happen to be on the losing side; please help me be thankful that I was able to play and have fun.  Teach me to shake hands and say “Thanks for a great game.  It was fun.  Congratulations on winning the Big Trophy”.  In Jesus name, AMEN. 




Small Steps - Are they Really?

~~ Romans 5:3-5 ~~ Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.


Spread Eagle, Newfoundland, Canada. Photo property of Carla Cooper and / or Worship Melodies. All copyrights claimed
Photo by Carley (Spread Eagle, Newfoundland, Canada)

There is an old Chinese proverb that says ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step’.  When was the last time you took a trip?  Was it a trip that you were looking forward to for quite some time, or a last minute decision?  The plans for your journey may have all fallen together in a half hour, or they could have taken months to put together.  Either way it was a planned trip!  Almost everything in life has some type of plan before it can happen. 

Part of my journey has taken me through weight loss.  This is hardly unique these days.  It is a big problem, no pun intended; yet at the same time, when you look at it; it's all common sense!  You put healthy stuff in; you’re going to get healthy stuff coming back!  As part of the program that I used, I have been well educated on the importance of setting small goals.  It teaches us that we are not initially out to lose 50 lbs, or 100 lbs or more.  In fact, we are out to lose 10, or maybe even 5!  Then, and only then, when that's gone; we are set out to lose another 5 or 10 and so on!  We are well taught that small steps are important; and so is not 'biting off more than you can chew', being patient, not giving up when you have set backs (which you will), and rewarding yourself at each goal achieved.  Working hard and relentlessly continuing to push forward and you will get results! 

Motivation is the key, and if you are lacking in that, then nothing works better than prayer, asking God to give you that motivation.  You need to have a vision in mind of the goal that you want to achieve!  Whatever your circumstances for being overweight, be sure it is there for a reason.  When you find a goal that is truly more important than your reasons for being overweight, then you will have the motivation you need to lose the unwanted pounds.  If you are not progressing, than what you think is more important is not really.  If it were than you would be succeeding.  So if you are trying to lose weight because you ‘want to be alive for your family’, but you are not making much progress in your weight loss, than you really have to do some deep soul searching, or get counselling, to find out ‘why not?’.  Weight loss is all about the psychological issues more than the physical.   Overall, it is a small percentage of people who are overweight for medical reasons over psychological reasons.  If there is anything about your reasons for being there or your lack of motivation that you do not understand you need to pray about it; and get counselling if necessary!

These important lessons about weight loss, I have found can be applied to other areas of my life as well.  I am learning so much about how to be a strong, capable, independent person.  This weight-loss program has changed me in more ways than just the physical.

Christmas 1992 I was in a major auto accident that changed my life.  I was the passenger in a car with my (then) fiancé on an icy highway in central Ontario.  It was Boxing Day (in Canada that is December 26th, the day after Christmas).  We were on our way north to visit his family for the remainder of the holiday season.  It is a trip that typically took us 3 hours.  On this particular day we were about half way there when we drove around a large turn in the road, and suddenly we in the midst of a 6 car pile-up.  They had to use the jaws-of-life to cut us out.  The rescue team told us that we were extremely lucky for many reasons, but one reason being that our car was a rag-top convertible.  Though our car was totalled, it was strong enough to protect us from being crushed.  If it was not for the grace of God and that well built vehicle I would not be sitting here typing this to you right now.  In the emergency room later that evening, my fiancé said to me “Now you know why that road is called The Highway to Heaven”.  I said to him “Oh great, so now you tell me!”.

My life changed in so many ways that day. I could, literally, write a book on the spin-off that affects my life to this day.  For months after I was almost completely bedridden.  I was able to get up and about but it would take quite a while and I needed help to do so.  Getting to the bathroom alone or putting my clothes on without help was impossible for weeks after the accident.  It took a long time for me to recover.  I remember the day that I finally went to the bathroom alone.  Then I came out and walked toward my bed, sat down on the edge and put my own clothes on… by myself!  It took me quite some time to achieve all this… but I did it!  Just me, with no help from anyone!  I truly and honestly felt like I could conquer the world.  I sat there alone, crying with joy and said out loud “look out world. I am back and there’s no stopping me now”.  I called everyone I could think of to tell them how excited I was.  I got responses that raged from “Yea, Ok… good for you” with a tone of “so what?” to “Yea OK… good for you” with a tone of “I’m so proud of you and so happy for you”; to a sarcastic “some of us have been doing that for quite some time now”.  Yea, I know there’s always the comedian in the bunch, especially in my family!

My point is that it was a small thing in my life, yet it was not!  It was huge because it got me one more step further along!  Just like each pound lost on my weight-loss journey,  it is a big deal!  There are no small achievements.  Each step is important to changing the whole you and to getting yourself closer to your destination!  Weight loss is not just about changing your body shape, your weight, or your clothing size.  It’s about changing who you are on the inside.  There is only one right way to change you and it has to be done in 3 parts; body, mind, and spirit!  If you do not complete all 3 parts, or if you do a flimsy job on anyone of the 3, than the whole package will not be complete or have strength.  You need to set your goals.  You need to know the steps to achieve them, and the route you need to take to get there!  If you do not know some of this information than you need to reach out to someone who can guide you in the right steps.  That is what I did, and continue to do, each time I reached a road block or a fork in the road.  Learning to reach out was a road block in itself for me.  I have finally learned that reaching out to others is not a weakness and it does not mean that I am not smart enough.  My support system is vital to my progress; which in itself was also a step to be achieved; something I had to build. 

We could have gone a different route for that trip north on Boxing Day 1992, but we did not because it would take an extra hour.  Being a snowy Ontario winter day we did not want to be driving any longer than necessary.  But, guess what?  For an extra hour, my whole life would, likely, have turned out completely different!  My lessons were these: Know what you want, do not be afraid of hard work, or how much time it takes to get there; and never, ever pay attention to the negative people that will try to make you feel bad, tell you lies or hold you back.  

Recently there was something that made me feel like I just passed an important mile marker.  It was a small step, yet a big turn in the road for me.  I have a friend that has blessed me more than I deserve to get from one person.  However, he has also hurt me more times than I can count.  No matter how many times people let you down, it never gets easier.  I have shed way more tears over one person than he should ever have gotten from me.  Letting go of this weight, I have come to see in the midst of my tears, is vital if I am to continue.  It can only be done through forgiveness... of myself as much as him.  I have come to realize that I have to let go of a very big weight that is keeping me anchored in the past.  Life goes on and I will survive and be OK because God never leaves me, even for an instant!  Despite the hurt, my friend will forever be in my heart, and will forever be a vital person in the progress of my journey thus far.  He was a stop along the way where I have gathered some important things to take with me.  Things like perseverance, character, hope, faith, forgiveness, determination, and strength.  I have also unloaded some unwanted things.  Items such as anger, hatred, fear, shame, hurt, hopelessness, and guilt. 

So, my goals for the next day or two… is to get through my next dentist appointment, to get the mountain of laundry done that has piled up, and to spend extra quiet time with God as to recover from the last big pothole that got in the way.  Look out world, here I come!  It’s all a matter of perspective; which in itself, for me, was something else I had to learn along the way.  Who is to say what is truly a small step, or what is a big one when each step in the right direction will get you closer to God?  For directions you will not need a map.  All you will need is your Bible.  I will continue to keep my focus looking ahead to God because I never know when just around the next bend God will have my greatest blessings waiting for me.



~~Dear God~~ I pray that You will never let me leave the path that You have laid out for me.  Let each and every step be taken forward, toward You.  Do not let any road block, pot hole, or pit stop be wasted.  Use each and every one to bring blessings to me and glory to Your name.  I thank You, Father, for this wonderful journey that You have chosen for me no matter how difficult it is for me.  In Jesus name, AMEN.



A Great Adventure

~~ Luke 15: 24 (NIV84) ~~ For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.


Casey. Photo property of Carla Cooper. All copyrights claimed
Photo by Carley

The phone rang and I answered it.  A voice from City Hall said “Is this the owner of Casey?”.  

“Yes”, I said.

“Are you missing him?”

The question threw me.  “What do you mean by ‘missing him’?” I asked.

“Well, someone found him and they gave us his dog license tag number.”

I instantly felt numb.  My heart stopped and dropped to the bottom of my stomach, at the thought that my baby wasn’t where he should be.  The voice said, “I can give you the contact information to call the lady who has him”.  

I wrote down the information, called the phone number and went to rescue my baby without a moment’s hesitation.  It could have been half way to the moon, and I would have moved the planet to one side if it was necessary in order to get him back.  I got to the address and he was on the porch of the home with a guy that looked to be in his late teens or early 20’s.  He was tall, skinny with dark hair; wearing jeans, a tan color jacket and a blue ball cap.  Casey was having a great time with him.  My baby is old, for a shih-tzu.  He is 12 now, with almost no vision left, not many teeth, a heart murmur; and a few extra pounds.  Little Casey had no idea that he was in a situation that could have been bad.  It turns out that Casey learned a new trick from the cat.  Kitty has taught him to jump through the hole in the screen door.  So Casey got out, and went on an adventure... alone!

When we go off into the world alone, without God; this is how He feels.  He longs for us to come home and He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get our attention to lead us back to Him.  He doesn’t want us getting into ugly situations alone.  If He’s not there, than we will end up in a situation where we will never get to go home again.  Just because we are having fun, feeling happy, do not know we are lost, or we do not see any danger; does not make it so.  Without God next to our side with each and every step of our lives we are not where we are supposed to be and we are in danger.  

Thankfully Casey did not go far.  He went only a few houses away.  I was thankful for that.  Later, I also found myself actually feeling thankful for the annual expense of a dog license!  It is good to see the system working.  There is no price too big for me to pay for the privilege of getting my doggie back.  

God feels the same way about us.  He paid the ultimate price of sacrificing His Son, Jesus, in order to save us.  There is no greater price or love than that.

When I took Casey home, I told him “No more adventures... at least until after Christmas!”  



~~Dear God ~~ Thank You for never giving up on me when I run away or get lost.  Please do not ever let me go on an adventure without You.  In Jesus name, AMEN.