Why Do We Limit Ourselves?

~~ Ephesians 2:8 (TNIV) ~~  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

by Carley Cooper

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I was watching a movie with a friend the other day.   Or rather, we started watching a movie.  We didn’t finish watching it because the movie triggered a very interesting exchange about our Christian beliefs.  I don’t really know if I should call it a conversation, or a discussion, or an argument; or a combination of all the above.  In the end, the movie got lost and forgotten in our lengthy debate.  Which was just as well, it was one of those that attempt to prove the bible false and incorrect.  I want so badly to witness for Christ when I have the opportunity, but the truth is when it comes to witnessing, I still feel like I’m a new amateur circulating among a bunch of well-seasoned 'professional Christians'.  Sometimes I feel so out of my league it just isn’t funny.  I wished, on this day, that I had some of my ‘professional’ Christian friends there with me for help. 

I don’t normally respond with any kind of verbal reaction to anything that I’m watching on a screen, simply because I don’t usually see what purpose it serves to yell at a screen.  It reminds me a little bit like sneezing.  I know what you’re thinking... ‘huh?!’.  Well, I don’t yell when I sneeze like many people do.  When I sneeze its generally pretty quiet, because screaming at the same time doesn’t accomplish anything other than extra noise.  It also reminds me of when I’m with my brother when he’s driving.  He yells at the other drivers.  He doesn’t open the window so they can hear him, but he yells anyway.  The whole concept behind that logic completely escapes me.  If they can’t hear him, then why talk to them?  Anyway, back to the movie... the comment “I don’t understand God” by one of the characters suddenly had me doing something that was totally out of character for me.  But this time, I couldn’t help it.  I rather surprised myself actually.  I responded, out loud, with “Well, Duh; if you could understand Him then He wouldn’t be God.  You would be able to fit Him into your version of some box, and He wouldn’t be the ultimate creator who is the beginning and the end of everything.” 

The comment led my friend to ask me some questions about what I believed about God, the Bible and God’s children.  He wanted to know if I believed that all people are God’s children.  I also told him that everyone is born with a basic knowledge in their hearts of a creator and the freewill to choose Him, or not.  If you choose not, then you’ve chosen not to be God’s child.  God’s children are those that have invited Jesus into their hearts to be their Lord and Saviour; which also means you are willing to leave the old lifestyle behind and allow Him to change your heart and your life.  If you have rejected God, then you’re not His child.  You made your choice.  My friend was overwhelmingly offended over this statement.  He said that he believes that Jesus died to forgive us for our sins, and that everyone can be forgiven; all it takes is to believe that Jesus died for our sins.   

Part of our discussion was on the fact that choosing a Christian lifestyle means you are willingly choosing a very difficult lifestyle because God will test you, He will insist on pushing you outside your comfort zone, and Satan will tempt you with your weakest issues and biggest struggles.  The enemy isn't about to let you go without a fight.  My friend argued with this as well.  He wondered; if God knows everything then why should we have to prove ourselves to Him?  I tried to explain to him that God is testing us so that we can learn how strong we are in our own faith, endurance, patience, etc.  God is outside of time, so He already knows the outcome.  It’s us that needs to learn the lessons, not God.  We’re not tested to prove something; we’re tested to learn something.  He shook his head in disagreement.  I told him that it’s all about faith.  We have to go to Him in faith.  God doesn’t have to prove Himself to us or do anything to earn our respect.  God doesn’t come to us; we go to Him.  Again, he shook his head in disagreement. 

I told him that yes, Jesus died for us to forgive us of our sins.  He’s right on that fact, but it’s a gift.  If you don’t reach out and accept the gift by inviting Jesus into your heart then you don’t get the benefits.  You either want the gift or you don’t.  He disagreed.  He doesn’t think that he has to be the one to accept the gift.  I told him that Jesus isn’t going to force it on anyone.  He will not dump it on your head or push it down your throat.  You either accept His gift or you don’t.  Jesus wants your love out of your own free will in your heart, not out of an obligation or forced position.  I can totally understand that.  The last thing I would ever want if / when I get remarried is for my husband to say to me that he married me because someone forced him to.  I've been through a lot in my life (My regular readers know there's a book in progress about my life.  Be patient.  It'll be worth the wait).  I've been in the forced positions way too often through abusive relationships.  It's not how true love is expressed.  As difficult as it is for me to be single; I choose it in a heartbeat over being in another abusive relationship.  I want true love that is from the heart, and all about God.  Jesus wants the same from us.  Just because you believe in Jesus and believe what He did for us doesn’t mean you’ve accepted the gift.  Even Satan, believes in Jesus!  My friend doesn’t believe that one has to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation in order to be forgiven and saved.  He thinks it’s automatically given to everyone who believes that Jesus existed and died for our sins.  He sees no reason for a concept of inviting Jesus into your heart, or accepting the gift.  I tried explaining to him that believing that He died for our sins and actually accepting the gift are two separate steps.  Jesus gave us an awesome gift... but it’s only a useful gift if we reach out and take it!
Several times I tried quoting scripture to him to back up what I was saying.  He saw my Bible on the table and said that it is not written by God; that it is written by people, who copied it from some another book.  He said that can connect me with people who can ‘prove’ my bible to be wrong.  I know he doesn’t  have these contacts, of course, because I know that the Bible is true and it is the only living Word of God.  It makes me wonder, though, why do people willingly settle for not wanting salvation when they could have a wonderful eternity.  Why are people willing to settle for temporary and instant pleasure even though it means an eternity in jail; in the fire pits of hell?  Personally, I only want to know THE one and only truth.

I told him to beware of churches that are preaching gospel that has been influenced by worldly thinking instead of being biblically sound.  Those types of churches are in every neighborhood these days.  I also shared with him about courses at my church and bible studies that I’ve done that show the data, even scientific evidence, that backs up the bible.  I told him that all the information he needs to see to believe is out there.  I even offered to start taking him to some of the courses that I’ve been doing where I’ve learned all these things over the past few years.  I also offered to give him phone numbers for a couple of men I know that could give him more than enough information to prove to him all he needed to know in order to show him that the bible is literal, accurate, God breathed, is backed up by science, that prophecy is accurate down to the letter.  He refused all my offers.

He figures his beliefs help him feel good and he is comfortable with that so it’s all fine.  I tried to use the example that God sets rules for us the same way that he sets rules for his daughters.  He saw no connection between the idea of him parenting his kids; and God setting guidelines for us because He loves us, just as my friend loves his girls.  He doesn’t understand that we go through so much trauma, trials and tribulations in our lives because God is trying to get our attention and we’re just not listening.  He believes that to be a ridiculous concept.  My friend thinks he hears God and believes himself to be Christian.  However, he also shares stories that tell me he is willing to cheat on his wife, doesn’t want to invite Jesus into his heart, to let God change him, live a Christian lifestyle, or follow Jesus (even though he says he believes in Jesus).  He says he hears God, yet he doesn’t believe that the Bible is the living Word of God.  I wonder, how what reference does he use to know it’s God’s voice he’s hearing over the enemy’s voice?  He has no drive or passion to know THE ultimate truth.  There is no quest in him to continue to know more and more about God, or to want to get closer to Him.  I want so much to make him realize that his thinking is relevant and that this type of thinking is useless.  It’s like chasing your own tail.     

Well, I was trying to explain to him about this drive within me to know THE truth.  I don’t want to settle for my own limited opinion or that of the masses; especially when I know it’s broken.  For me to settle for "my beliefs" leaves room for adjustment or being wrong.  I don't want that.  I only want to know the one and only, hard-core, unchangeable, definite, for-sure TRUTH!  I don’t understand how someone wouldn’t have an intense passion and a great need to how more and more about the one ultimate and absolute truth.  How could anyone settle for anything less?  My friend has no foundation for his beliefs except that it is what makes him feel good.  He stated straight out that this is perfectly OK with him and he’s willing to live with that.  What is my friend basing his values on?  He doesn’t believe that the bible is God breathed, so who’s rules is he following?  His own?  Where does he get the basis for his beliefs?  What makes him so absolutely confident in his own beliefs and feelings?  Personally, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be that confident in my own judgement.  What rules, guidelines or definitions is he following to know what is right or wrong; good or bad?  And why are those definitions so special that we should all be expected to follow them and base our lives, loves, faith, and eternal lives on them over the definitions or rules developed by someone else?  What makes him feel that his beliefs are so solid that he can be sure that of all the people in all the world in all of history, including the present time, that it’s his rules that will allow his soul to be saved for eternity and go to heaven?  If his own rules can do this, than what about everyone else?  Why his rules over someone else’s?  If everyone can save themselves just by making their own set of rules than where’s the order?  Why did Jesus die?  If everyone could save their own sorry butts just by feeling good about themselves than all the suffering, the sacrifice, humiliation, betrayal, pain that Jesus went through was in vain.  He died and fought death for nothing.  He went through the trouble of dying rising again from death to live forever all in an attempt to save us... when we didn’t need to be saved... we could have just save ourselves!?  And if we could save ourselves, than why would we have been broken in the first place?  That doesn’t make any sense.  There is absolutely no logic in that kind of thinking; no order, and God is a God of perfect order in every single thing He does.  And for those who don't believe that statement either, I've also seen the science to back that up as well!  It's fascinating when we can use the same science that scientists have been using for generations to prove the bible wrong; against them and prove it to be correct.  Jesus didn’t go through all that just because He was bored sitting around in Heaven waiting for us all to get there to have a big party!   

How do ‘seasoned’ Christians handle these things?  Does it ever get easier to see your friends or loved ones willingly turn away from God, even when they think they’re following Him?  Does the frustration ever go away?  Does the feeling that you failed your loved one by not getting through to them ever go away?  Does the feeling of failure to God ever go away; that you could have led someone to Him and didn’t?  My friend said that I have always had a big place in his heart, and always would, but that he wasn’t going to have this discussion anymore.  He willingly refused to hear or accept the gospel of Jesus.  I’ve known this man for twenty years, and I did not realize that he felt this way and so strongly.  I know that as a Christian that I have to pray for him.  I also know that if he continues to deny the gift Jesus is offering him than it is my responsibility to discontinue the friendship.  We are not to risk our own salvation for others.  My hope is that somehow I planted a seed.  I will pray, and continue to pray that Jesus will let it grow. 

As for my ultimate truth... I know this for sure... Jesus was born of a virgin, He died on the cross, He rose again on the third day, He lives still today.  He lives in my heart because I have asked Him to be my Lord and Savior; and as difficult as it is, I welcome the changes He is making in my heart and in my life.  I know that He loves me and forgives me.  I want to know more.  I want to get closer to Him.  I am not willing to be restricted by the limitations of worldly thinking.

~~ Dear God ~~  Thank You for taking me to a church that preaches sound doctrine based on Your Word; and is committed to producing disciples for Christ.  Thank You for opening my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my mind to understand, and my heart to accept the truth.  I do not ever want to be restricted by worldly thinking, Lord.  Please do not ever let me lose the passion for this quest to know more and to get closer to You.  I pray that there was a seed planted in my friend, and that there will be more seeds planted as others read this article.  I pray that Jesus will let each and every seed grow into a deeply rooted tree that will produce much fruit in Your Holy name.  ~In Jesus name, AMEN.

God’s Consultants

~~ Isaiah 55:8 (TNIV) ~~  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

by Carley Cooper

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I wonder sometimes if everyone has as many racing thoughts and odd questions running through their minds as I do; or is it strictly part of my Bipolar Disorder issues?  Sometimes that can be depressing, or frustrating, or just plain overwhelming.  The, other times it can take me to a place that’s rather.... ehhh... fun and interesting!   The other day during a devotional time I read Isaiah 55:8 ‘“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” declares the Lord.’  It got me to thinking... again; about things that are different in my head than in God’s head.  There are questions that I wonder about sometimes.  Do other people wonder about the same things?  Why do certain things have to be the way they are?  For the life of me, there are some things I just cannot see a purpose for.  Sometimes I wonder if God is just so busy that His mind is tired and He just doesn’t think about all the possibilities for a given option.  Maybe there are times when the first solution that comes along is acceptable just because He wants to hurry up and finish a project to get it off His desk and crossed of His ‘To Do’ list.  Maybe He needs a break.  Ever wonder if maybe He needs some help?     

Every job in this world has consultants of some kind.  Whether you’re the CEO of the largest company in North America, the Prime Minister of Canada, planning your wedding, or running a Lemonade Stand in the front yard; there are people who you consult with to do your job to the best of your ability in order to benefit the most people.  That’s because no one can know everything about any one thing.  Our views and abilities are limited and clouded at best.  No one can do it alone.  We need help. 

What if we could be God’s consultant for a while?  Remember those times when you got to go to work with your parents for a day and sometimes, in some situations, you even got to make a small decision or two just so you could get a small glimpse of what it might be like to do that job.  Well, since God is our Father, going to work and consulting with Him would be a little bit like that.  Or maybe now you are the parent and you bring your kids with you to your work place on Take Your Kids to Work Day.  Though most “Older” generations may not have done this on a regular basis as today’s kids get to do, I had the privilege of watching my Dad work often because he had been self employed for a great part of my childhood.  When kids get to go to work with parents for a day it’s always educational, but it’s also almost always a lot of fun too!  Well, unless your parent is a  porta-potty cleaning person, or part of a crime scene clean up crew, or they’re the person who puts make-up on dead people.  Then, I wouldn’t be so sure about the fun part.    

OK, so what if God really let me work with Him for a day?  Considering, I would have the power of God behind me (wouldn’t I?!) what rules would I change?  What new rules would I make?  If God gave me a little bit of free reign on my authority, I would make lots of suggestions that I ‘know’ would improve this world a lot!  Truthfully, I didn’t have to think about this much.  I knew right away what my lists would be.  I’m sure that fact in itself must say something about me.  Anyway, here are just a few things that I think would make this world just a little bit easier and a tad more comfy!    

First, there are the things that absolutely need to go.  They are outta here, gone, good-bye, departed, over; things that I ‘know’ this world would be so much better without:
  • First and foremost is winter!  Cold is just way too uncomfortable, and all that snow requires way too much clothes on your  body all at the same time.  I have a really big issue with wearing too many clothes.  Walking around like a penguin should be reserved for the penguins only!  Just sayin’!  And deep snow is just not fair for short doggies!
  • The next things to go, under my rule, in no particular order; would be long pants, processed foods, cancer, mental illness, footwear, mosquitoes, spiders, cats, punk and rap music, green peas, and panty hose.
Once I got rid of all that riff-raff stuff, then it would be time to spruce up the place.  I think that need to pretty things up comes from my creative nature, and my Interior Decorating studies in the past.  Anyway, to improve the world I think that:
  • our hair should grow much faster and be able to change color without chemicals or artificial processing. 
  • we need natural make-up.  I mean, no more shopping for cosmetics.  It should come built into the skin with perfect shades of eye shadow and lipstick to match the rest of your skin tone, and perfectly matching to every outfit. 
  • the ‘rule book’ (AKA: The Bible) should make a point of stating that no person is allowed to leave the starting gate and head out into a life in the world without taking an abundance of common sense (some people seem to have forgotten to pack some for their trip through life!) 
  • bellys should be self flattening.
  • boobs should be sag proof and self inflating, (or deflating if that’s one’s desire, though I can’t imagine I would pick that option myself). 
  • people such as teachers, nurses, firemen, policemen, veterinarians, and pastors should be the ones to get million dollar salaries; not actors, singers and athletes who entertain or play games for a living.  Oh yea, and people who walk a bunch of doggies all at the same time should get a pretty hefty salary too.  That’s an awesome talent!
  • cheesecake should be a food group all by itself and be completely calorie free.
  • everyone should be required to have some basic fashion sense!  People... face it, sometimes there are some things you just should not be wearing!
  • men should be required to have a clue when it comes to understanding women!  Oh, and they should come with any prior programming for lying, abusing or cheating completely removed and replaced with Godly characteristics.
  • every man should be required to learn how to be a good lover; come with a built in instinct to remember birthdays and anniversaries, and have desires to go shopping and to hand the remote control over to his wife.
  • governments and big industry should be required to put what’s best for the people before profits; and they should be required to be honest.
  • we should be required to equally share among all the people of the world all the food, water, money, knowledge, and medical resources; and all people should be treated equally with no abuse, discrimination or hatred.
  • children should always be treated as super special treasures, and there should never be a doubt in their minds about how loved and wanted they are.  Every child should grow up in an environment of positive thinking, encouragment, and to have the options to learn that they can be anything they want to be.  
  • we need to stop destroying our planet.  We have to live here for a long time.  It would be so much more comfortable and healthier if we keep it nice!
  • we should stop fighting amongst ourselves.  I am not convinced that war really has ever accomplished anything. 
All our own rules, in our own minds, make a lot of sense; but the reality is that we are not in charge.  God is perfect, so He does not need consultants.  We like to make rules, thinking it doesn’t matter that we can’t see the whole picture.  No decision or set of rules can properly be made and put in place if you’re basing it on an incomplete information.  He has everything under control.  His plan is perfect without one single flaw or loose end.  It is organized and being executed perfectly according to how He intended it to be.  God’s ways are not our ways.  He does things for a reason.  Whether we like them or not, or understand His reasons or not; He puts rules, restrictions, limitations, laws and guidelines in place for our own good.  Each and every thing in this world has a purpose.  Sometimes it takes a while to remember this when we’re in the middle of a trial.  Pastor Henry at church has told us a thousand times “God does not waste ANYthing”.  Yes... even mosquitoes and cats were put here by God... on purpose and for a purpose!  So sooner or later we’ll see what those purposes are. 

God gives us free will to choose to follow His rules, or not.  He gives us choices for a reason.  We can choose Him, or not; choose Jesus, or not; forgiveness, or not.  But with each choice there are consequences.  We learn the concept that the stove is hot and what that means by touching it.  He can tell us over and over what ‘hot’ means, but until we experience ‘hot’, we don’t truly understand it.  Without knowing the bad, we won’t truly understand good.  Without the darkness of being away from Him, we won’t truly understand just how much we need Him and how great His love, grace and mercy really is. 

In light of knowing these things about God’s perfectness, I can see that my ‘improvements’ may not be the quite so perfect after all.   I also know that God has a tendency to let us do things our way if we really insist... but the catch is that we do it with own power.   If He let me run the world for a day, He’s not likely to back me up with all His supernatural power.  He would say to me “OK, so you wanna do it?  You think you can do better?  Go for it.  Let me see what you can come up with.  Get back to me and let me know how it’s working out for you.”  OK, so that’s obviously a big mess waiting to happen for sure. 

There is a reason for winter.  I’ve been told it is to insulate the earth so that it can be prepared for rebirth in the spring.  OK, so that’s a good thing, I admit.  It still doesn’t help me feel comfortable in the cold temperatures or having to be bundled up in so many clothes, but at least I can be thankful that I have those clothes to put on and a warm home to go to.  Not only that, but when it comes to too much snow, now-a-days doggies have muttlucks to wear!  They’re a good thing...despite all the complaining that you’re dog will do!  But I also admit that despite how much I prefer to be barefoot that footwear has its purpose.  Self coloring hair, built in makeup, and perfectly agreeable well-behaving husbands would likely make things boring because we wouldn’t be as unique from each other.  Whether I like it or not the belly and boobs issues are... well... ok, never mind; that’s a depressing topic and I would just as soon not talk about it. 

We are an imperfect people living in a broken world, and God has set us on a need to know basis with information.  Until we become like Jesus living with Him in an unbroken world we won’t find perfect peace, true equality, or calorie free cheesecake.  Until then, in order to get there, we have to follow God’s rules; His way!

~~ Dear God ~~  Thank You Lord for Your perfect ways, thoughts, rules, laws, guidelines, love and protection.  Thank You for not letting me do everything my way.   Surely my whole world would be in a much bigger mess than it is already if Jesus wasn’t there to save me from myself.  Please don’t ever let me live by my own rules.  In Jesus name, AMEN.

Angels: To Serve and Protect

~~ Psalm 91:11-14 (NIV84) ~~  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.  You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.  “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

by Carley Cooper

Photo by Carla Cooper
One of many Angels in my collection
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It’s official!  The angel series of blogs I’ve been writing have taken on a life of their own.  I really did innocently started out just to share in a three article series a few interesting angel stories.  Then, it kept growing.  Again, this week I’m finding myself writing more about angels.  This time, at the request of a reader who wanted to know more about what the bible says about angels.  I’m wondering if this, the seventh article, will be the final one.  Since I always pray that God leads me in my writing and the messages I share, and seven is His favorite I believe that it He’s been the life behind this all along.

Here’s a brief overview of the series so far: 
  • In the first post (Angels From Heaven) I talked about how people in our lives can be like angels sent by God to help us.  I shared a poem I wrote to someone special in my life who has been like an angel for me. 
  • In the second post (Who Is Your Guardian Angel?) I talked about how God has given us angels, celestial beings, to protect us; to keep us from  danger.  Sometimes, if we are paying close enough attention, we will even get to see our angels as they’re digging us out of a pit that we got ourselves into!  My friend and author, Paul Duarte, experienced this first hand; literally!  As a Worship Melodies Guest Author, he shared his personal true story of being rescued by an angel from a situation that could have been fatal, on a cold winter day. 
  • In the third post (I Think I Just Saw An Angel) I talked about how God uses angels, of all types, to redirect us and keep us from getting into dangerous situations; or to keep us from wandering into a place that was never in His will for us to be.  I shared my own angel story about a woman who pulled me back when I was about to go ‘over the edge’. 
  • Then, in the fourth post (The Warm and Fuzzy Side of Angels) I talked about how our angels are there to give us comfort in our time of need. 
  • The fifth article (Angels: A Jack-of-All-Trades!) I gave a brief overview of what the bible says about angels. 
  • Finally, in the last article (How My Angel Fell Off the Edge of Heaven) I talked about fallen angels; specifically how I feel like I am the fallen angel in a painful situation in my own life, and how different the world looks when someone you love sees you in a different light.
In addition to all the purposes that they serve that we’ve already covered there are other interesting points as well.  The bible tells us that God sends out His angels to guard us (For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways ~ Psalm 91:11 (NIV84)) .  God sent angels to protect Daniel by having them shut the mouths of the lions so Daniel wouldn’t be killed by the lions (My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, ~ Daniel 6:22 TNIV)  Now that’s pretty awesome protection, and it wasn’t Daniel’s only interaction with an angel!

We are also told that there are those here on earth who are actually angels and we may not realize it or recognize them as angels.  We should be careful of what we say and how we treat others because we could in fact be interacting with an angel.  ~Hebrews 13:2 (TNIV) says “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”  

We are told that angels will take care of us when we need it (Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. ~Matthew 4:11 TNIV). 

Angels will point us in the right direction when we need it.  I mean, literally!  They’re better than a GPS any day.  Just ask Phillip!  ‘Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”‘  ~Acts 8:26 TNIV    

They will also help get you out of a mess if you find yourself in a sticky situation and God needs you to be somewhere else.  That’s what happened to Peter when an angel sprung him out of prison!  (But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.  “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” ~Acts 5:19-20 TNIV)

God’s angels are also worriers and fight in battles, and He will also send an angel ahead of Him in the last days to announce His coming, when He comes down from Heaven to gather His children together to separate them from those of the world.  (For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  ~1 Thessalonians 4:16 TNIV)

There is so much that we can know about God’s angels that can help us feel secure.   We can have a secure sense of protection because God loves us so much that He gives that to us.  God has armies of angels working for Him.  They are there to worship and obey Him.  Angels can be visible or invisible, they can appear as humans or shiny and full of glory, and they can be good or evil.  They can be guardians, guide, messengers, encouragers, comforters, attendants, deliverers, teachers, providers,  and rescuers.  Whatever God needs them to do for Him or for us, they are there to worship and serve.  (The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.  Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.  Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.  Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion.  Praise the LORD, my soul. ~Psalm 103:19-22 TNIV)

~~ Dear God ~~  You are so awesome.  There is no need that we have that You have not provided for.  Thank You for the angels that You surround me with every day that help keep me encouraged, protected, comforted and provide me with everything I need to keep me on the path that leads toward You.  Please don’t let me ever leave this path.  I want to be headed toward You and getting closer to You with each and every day.  In Jesus name, AMEN.

International Women’s Day – It’s Time to Pick Up Your Torch!

~~ Genesis 2:18 (ERV) ~~  Then the LORD God said, “I see that it is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make the companion he needs, one just right for him.”

by Carley Cooper

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD).  Here in Barrie, Ontario the IWD event is hosted by the Women & Children’s Shelter of Barrie.  I’ve become more aware of this day and why it is important in the last couple of years through an Abuse Survivors Support Group that I go to at the shelter’s outreach office.  I want to share you something that I learned about International Women’s Day in another country that has inspired me to realize how blessed I am, and yet it reminds me of how far I’ve come, and how far I have yet to go.
I was at the doctor’s office about two weeks ago at the hospital.  I think he’s awesome, and I tell my doctor about all the big things that happen in my life.  After my appointment was over, I was literally on my way out the door when I remembered something so I turned around and said to him “Oh, I forgot to tell you... I’m going to be speaking at the International Women’s Day event with my Abuse Survivors group next month.”

“Is that the thing on March 8th?” he asked.

“Yea, that’s it”, I said

With a big wave of his arm to motion me back into the room, he said “Well, come back in here and sit down.  I have to tell you a story.”

So I went back in, shut the door and he told me his story.

Doc is originally from Pakistan.  Back in 1990 he was still living there, he worked for a large international conglomerate.  I don’t remember the name of it off hand, but it’s one that we’ve all heard of, and their purpose is to help people around the world.  He said they had to decide on an event for IWD.  A few ideas were tossed around, and he suggested that they have a parade through the city with people carrying torches.  Sound’s awesome, doesn’t it?!  At the end of the meeting, this was the event that they chose to do.  However, this raised some problems.  The big one being “Where do we get torches?” 

He said “I mean, who uses torches anymore?” 

They figured that they would have to make them, but how?  They decided on clay pots shaped much like a bowl that could hold a ball of fabric filled with kerosene, and placed on a stick.  They searched the city for someone who could make these pots and there was no one.  They searched elsewhere around the country and found, in a small remote village, an old man who made his living hand-making various types of clay pots.  He helped them design a pot that could be shaped such that it could be placed on top of a stick and still hold some fabric and kerosene; and the torch for IWD was born.  Doc told me that, from that first parade until today, the torch has become the symbol of IWD throughout the whole country; and it all started with an idea by one man that is now one of my regular doctors right here in Canada.  Awesome idea, Doc!  Thanks!

At first I just thought it was a cool story, but I couldn't stop thinking about it.  More ad more I realized just how profound this symbol of the torch really is.  Granted, I’m not a sports minded person, but up until I heard this story every time I saw a picture of a torch I thought about the Olympics.  From now on, when I see this symbol, I will be reminded of how far women have come in our world.  We can look back to our history books, the bible, or even just to talk to our Grandmother’s; to see the extreme changes and advances that womankind has made through over the years.  The torch will be a symbol for me to think about how proud I am not only of all my sisters around the world and throughout history, and all these changes, but of how much I have overcome in my own personal life as well.  I have overcome so much that I’m writing a book about my story. That's a big accomplishment, if I do say so myself.

However, I don’t think that the important message of the torch stops there.  We are incredibly blessed to live in an age and in a society where we get so many advantages and opportunities; especially here in North America.  That being said, it would be really nice if winter would just GO AWAY so I can take out my tank tops and flip flops.  Uh, well anyway, it’s important to remember how far we have come in our own personal struggles and through womankind as a whole; but we can’t forget to remember our sisters in other parts of the world who don’t have the privileges we have here. 

Even as survivors of abuse; and certainly some  of our stories are absolutely horrifying and horrendous mainly due to the men in our lives; we have access to resources and social benefits that can help provide us with everything from food, to a home, legal support, protection, medical care and so much more.  I certainly don’t want to make light of those who are in situations who cannot leave an abusive situation because it is just too dangerous.  That happens all too often even in every neighborhood in North America.  However, I think that  often, we take it for granted that we can function either as a married person or as a single person and it is OK.  As women, are getting closer and closer all the time to being equals with men whether the man next to us collects garbage from the curb or he runs the whole country.  For the most part, we get to openly worship God in any way we choose.  We can walk up to any person on the street and start a conversation if we so choose to do.  We can choose to go to school and educate ourselves.   We can dress how we want to.  We can be proud to be female and feminine.  Personally, I love to be girly, and dress in things that are pretty and sexy.  I see no problem with having an extra button or two undone on my blouse.  If it’s done in the right way with the right outfit and fashion sense I think it is overwhelmingly beautiful. 

That’s not to say that any of us are finished our fight for equality.  As a matter of fact it’s far from it.  The truth still lies in media head lines that tell us that women are judged when she wears a skirt too short, or a top too tight, or she takes birth control, or she would like to  apply for a job in a typically male dominated industry or she has too many lovers or dating partners.  There are still thousands of people, men in particular, that still don’t understand that women are not a commodity, that we are not here for the purposes of pleasuring or serving men.  Some of our sisters around the world are still living under practically prehistoric conditions.  There are places in the world today... right now in 2012... where a woman is not allowed to walk down the street side by side with a man.  She has to walk behind him to show her status in society.  She is not allowed to have a conversation with a man who is not her family member.  She has to dress to keep her whole body hidden and often that includes most of her face as well; never mind showing a little extra leg or cleavage to feel pretty or sexy.  These women know nothing of these feelings or feminine experiences.  She’s not allowed to speak out and give an opinion, let alone worship God, be an entrepreneur, get an education or live a single independent life.  If she does any of these things the men in her life have a every right to punish her; or worse.  Then, there's the issue of human trafficking and the sex slave industry, which is a massive and extensive problem in practically every country in the world. 

I hear stories like this all the time and I get so overwhelmingly angry.  It touches me to the pit of my soul.  This is why I think the torch is so important.  All women are beautiful mind, body and soul; and we should be cherished and encouraged to be share, be open, and equal.   We are here for God’s purpose and  His pleasure; not man’s.  Ephesians 2:10 (TNIV) says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  God made us to be a partner for man; not his maid, sex slave, chauffeur, cook, or his punching bag. 

My dear sisters, you may think that you haven’t done enough in your life to fill a whole book about it; but that doesn’t matter.  I guarantee that you, that you have accomplished enough to carry a torch and be very proud of what you’ve accomplished and survived.   It’s fun to be a girl!  Enjoy every part of it.  You are beautiful and you deserve the torch.  Pick up your torch, let it shine brightly, and march with the rest of us if you haven’t joined in already.  We will not give up marching, and we will not let our torches go out until the abuse, discrimination, and cruelty stops; and safety, respect, and equality is achieved.  And, while you’re marching, don’t ever forget to say lots of prayers for our sisters not only around the globe in other countries, but in your own neighborhood, who feel they are trapped in a hopeless world who need us to pray for Jesus and the Holy Spirit to move in their lives every single day.  They need to know Jesus.  They need to know that they are beautiful, loved and there is a way out for them.

(If you or a woman you know is in an abusive situation and can’t get out, contact your local Women and Children’s Shelter.  They will help you put together a Crisis Plan that will get you out and get to safety.  I know you may think you're trapped and it looks impossible, but God loves you, and we love you.  There are resources in place to get you out!)

~~ Dear God ~~ Thank You so much for all the blessings that we get in our society today, but we are still suffering so much from abuse, discrimination and cruelty by evil men in our lives.  Please put Jesus in the center of each and every situation.  Please send your best angels to surround and protect each and every woman who is in danger and needs protection.  Keep all of us close to Your heart, Lord; and let each woman know that she is special and that she is beautiful and loved by You.  ~In Jesus name, AMEN.

How My Angel Fell Off the Edge of Heaven

~~ Philippians 4:13 (NKJV) ~~  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

by Carley Cooper

My original plan for the five article series on angels ended with the last post, “Angels: AJack-of-All-Trades”.  (Thanks to my readers for the great feedback on this series, and for sharing your awesome angel stories with me!  I really enjoyed them!)  Since then God has brought to light for me another type of angel.  Though I briefly touched on it in the last piece, I hadn’t really given the idea of ‘Fallen Angels’ much serious thought.   

I mean, I know that some of the celestial type willingly jumped off the edge of the clouds of Heaven to play in the tar pit; but what about the other angels... the ones that live here with us?  What happens when one of your angels falls off their pedestal?  It can be devastating and life altering.  It can make you question everything you know.  This happened to me.  Someone important in my life has completely changed the nature of our relationship.  It’s left a very big hole in my life that no one else can fill.  It’s made me question the relationship I thought we had.  Is it real?  Was it ever real?  How could I have let my guard down and trusted someone that much?  I knew better; didn’t I?  How do I know who I can trust in the future?  How do I know what’s solid and reliable in my present?  I have plans and goals that I am working toward; and I’ve come to second guess my whole focus and strategy. 

God has been working very hard to remind me of a few things since this happened.  I got a few  divine messages that are slowly helping the dust clear from my head.  I’ve been lead through a long, hard journey in my lifetime to learn to become independent and strong; and an even harder journey to learn to think positively, standing on my own two feet.  I won’t go into the details on that here and now because... well, because I could write a book about that journey.  As a matter of fact I am writing one.  For my loyal followers, be patient, it’s coming!  Anyway, God has taught me (and more than once it seems) that there is no setback that I can’t overcome as long as He is with me (Philippians 4:13 NKJV).  Why do I forget this sometimes? 

Everyone makes mistakes (Romans 3:23 NIV84).  I am to learn from it and move on.  I also, am not, to hold a grudge against someone for what I perceive to be a wrong (Luke 6:37 NIV84).  There is messy stuff that we just don’t want to face; pain, hurt, rejection, anger, the intense need to smack a guy up the side of the head to make him smarten up (eh, well, maybe that last one is strictly a female thing).  These things are certainly difficult, but once you get through it you’ll find that wonderful new things are waiting for you.  My friend once told me, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”.  Good advice!  I can’t let the past dictate my future.  God doesn’t want me to live that way.  I did for way too long and He’s worked hard to bring me out of that place; so I just can’t throw that gift back to Him.  It would be like saying “Thanks Lord, but I’d rather play in the dirt”.  Truthfully, the original hurt made me really want to play in dirt again.  It honestly looked like the better option.  It’s an option that I am familiar with and comfortable with.  However, God is reaching out to me.  I’ve seen the signs and I have to stop ignoring them.  It is my responsibility to reach out and take His hand.  Romans 12:2 (NLT) tells us “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  God is challenging me to hold on to the new  mindset that He’s worked so hard to instil in me.  I have to stop listening to lies from the enemy and accept God’s test.   Hmmm, come to think of it, I have been praying that He would show me when He’s testing my faith.  I certainly have no right to complain when He answers. 

My very special friend Ramona put it this way “I know it's corny, but whenever something is removed from our grasp it's usually because God is making room for something better.  Keep the faith, Carley!”  Of course, she also summed it all up very nicely in one of her own blogs by saying “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it!”.  Good advice as well!  On a side note, she also said that I should go buy some awesome new shoes to go with the big girl panties.  (Thanks for the advice Ramona.  You’re a Babe!  I’m thinking red high heels.  Whatta ya think?

That’s not to say that all is perfect in the world again.  As far as I can see I still feel like it’s no longer moving on its axis.  I still don’t know the answers to so many questions I have.  I only know that God does know the answers.  I can’t demand that someone respond the way I would like them to.  I can’t make them accept apologies or believe me when I tell them things have changed.  It’s also likely that next time I will test and re-test the water before I open up; but I have to keep faith in Jesus to lead me through.  Not only that but, that hole is still there and it still hurts very much.  How am I to fill that big hole in my life?  I don’t!  God will fill it, and I’m starting to feel a tingle of excitement in anticipation about what He’s going to fill it with.   

I’ve come to realize that if anyone is on a pedestal it’s ‘cause I put them there (hmmm, another lesson that I seem to remember learning before).  No one should be placed on that pedestal other than Jesus.  I am also reminded that my perception of right and wrong is distorted, at best, to begin with.  If the view looks different, maybe it wasn’t my angel who walked over the edge.  Maybe it was me.  It would certainly explain the nasty bump I just felt and the dusty brain.

I love the artwork above.  It's titled 'Fallen Angel'.  I want to reach out and hold her and let her cry on my shoulder without saying a word to her.  I just want to let her feel the safety to let her feelings out without the fear of being judged or rejected because of it.  I so very much want to let her know she is loved no matter what; no matter how broken she is.  I chose this artwork for this post because she looks like me... she has the same body I had most of my life, same hair, same color.  But more importantly; just like me, she's also alone, with the same tears, hopeless feelings and broken wings.  It hurts to see myself like this, but what hurts even more is that someone I love very, very much sees me like this now and has rejected me because of it.  I am broken and no longer good enough in his eyes.  I no longer have his respect, admiration or love.  It's turned my world upside down.  It's a pattern I've seen many times in my life when people suddenly see that I'm not the perfect person they thought I was.  Why do we see ourselves like this, when God sees us so differently?  Why does the opinion of others matter so much?

~~ Dear God ~~  Thank You for never giving up on me.  Thank You for the strength that You give me that carries me through each day.  Thank You for testing my faith.  Help me to see myself and things clearly; from Your point of view.  I also pray that You could help me adjust to changes easier in my life.  I pray that You will restore my brokenness in the eyes of my lost loved ones.  Please help me fill the void that is left and to feel Your peace with me each and every day.  In Jesus name, AMEN.