Beautiful Disruptions

IMG_0529One day on a beach walk with a good friend, I told her about an e-mail I received that morning from a man I did not know. It seems I knew his brother and sister-in-law a long time ago. I watched the waves beat their way to shore, scuffed the sand with my shoe.

“He asked if it would be alright if we wrote to each other.” When I glanced at my friend, she was smiling. She said, “I have such a strong sense that from this day out, things for you will change for the better. God is up to something.”

My heart gave a hopeful little leap, then settled back to the cautious beat of one familiar with pain, disappointment and struggle. For several years all I had known was the war zone of a messy divorce and a life-threatening illness. Hope was hard to come by. But now when I look back I recognize that moment on the beach as one of God’s beautiful disruptions. Sometime later I married the man who e-mailed me and moved on to a whole new life full of love, joy and fulfillment.

Webster’s dictionary defines disruption as causing something to be unable to continue in the normal way: interrupting the usual progress or activity of something. A disruption is at first stressful because it throws things into disorder, putting us off the course we were used to. But God has a way of disrupting lives that opens up possibilities never imagined, even if at the time the disruption is unwelcome.

The scriptures are full of beautifully disrupted stories where God suddenly steps in to redirect the current path of someone He wants to use to fulfill His purposes. In Exodus 3, Moses has spent many years tending his father-in-law’s flock on the far side of the desert. God captures Moses’ attention when He speaks from a burning bush. He sends Moses on a mission back to Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. As a country herdsman spending days on end with only sheep for company, Moses’ life is beautifully disrupted when he becomes God’s chosen instrument to lead His people to freedom.

As a lowly shepherd boy on the hills around Bethlehem, David was unlikely to be chosen for any significant role. But God changed David’s life by sending His prophet, Samuel, to anoint him as the future king of Israel. God’s beautiful disruption caused David to become a mighty king, a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV) and a forefather of Jesus, the Messiah.

In the most glorious disruption of all, a Jewish peasant girl is visited by an angel announcing she is to give birth to the Son of God. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Through the power of the Holy Spirit, she becomes the mother of Jesus, God in human flesh, whose life, death and resurrection provides salvation for all who believe in Him.

Sometimes God reveals Himself to me in subtle ways. To be honest, I would prefer He direct me slowly and gently. But when I think of the mountaintops of my spiritual walk, it is the beautiful disruptions that stand out. Those times when God breaks suddenly into my mundane life speak of a love so great He would do the extraordinary to capture my attention. Such beautiful disruptions cause me to exclaim, only God.
Only God could orchestrate so many details to fulfill His purposes.
Only God interrupts by making me breathless with His beauty and majesty.
Only God beautifully disrupted time by stepping down from eternity to live among us.

©Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Come as to a Feast

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In those days I craved tomatoes, but not much else. The cancer-fighting chemicals pumped into my body robbed me of an appetite for most foods. But the thought of biting into a ripe, fresh tomato made my mouth water. My husband’s garden tomatoes were abundant so I ate as many as I wanted.

After chemotherapy was over my appetite began to improve. I couldn’t eat much but I savored each bite with new appreciation. All kinds of foods tasted good again so with anticipation I sat down to each meal as if it were a feast, and I was satisfied. Soon I started to gain needed weight and energy as my body was nourished by healthy food.

Every day a different type of feast is spread before me, ready for my consumption, filled with all manner of good things to nourish and sustain. If I turn away from it in favor of lesser choices, my soul starves and weakens, for the Word of God is vital to its existence. But when I come to it with an appetite, my inner person finds repletion in all it offers.

“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise You.” (Psalm 63:5 NIV)

This fresh hunger for God’s word came later in my walk with Him, at a time when worldly props were being pulled out from under me. I desired to spend as much time as possible feeding on His Word, learning more about His ways and finding help for the struggles I faced. When my health deteriorated so I could no longer work, I would spend all morning in a big easy chair, taking in those life-giving words, like a starving person sitting down to a feast. Without those times of enrichment I would have been too weak in spirit to face the hardships.

When the prophet Jeremiah was persecuted by his own people because of God’s words spoken through him, he found a resource of strength in those words. “When Your words came I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear Your name, Lord God Almighty.” (Jer. 15:16)

Like a lavish feast spread before me, God’s inspired Word provides food for my spirit. Jesus, the Word become flesh, referred to Himself as the Bread of life, saying, “He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35) By ingesting the life-giving words of Jesus, I am sustained for the journey.

Someday I will be present at the wedding supper of the Lamb and His bride, the church, when all the words I have feasted on will be fulfilled. It is a banquet I cannot envision now but I believe no earthly feast will compare.

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

By His Wounds

Wounded Heart HD WallpaperIt is an old scar, healed over a decade ago, yet sometimes it pulls and aches and I am reminded of that journey to death’s door and back. Close to that scar beats a heart once wounded by sorrow so fierce I thought I would die with every beat. Give me the scars caused by a knife over those inflicted in the name of love. They may twinge but they do not leave the ghosts of grief hovering at the edges of my present happiness.

I think of it as my “Job Period”, when God withdrew His hand and I plunged headlong into a marriage betrayed, children floundering, cancer stalking my veins. Years of trouble at my doorstep every day and nights of despair-soaked pillows brought me to this,
“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10 NIV)

I could not turn my back on the very One I needed so desperately even though I often raged at Him. When everything I held on to in this world was whipped away, God flooded the echoing void with His loving presence. I did not need to know the reasons or the outcome for such suffering, only Him. Three years previous a hunger to know God more deeply sent me to feast on His Word, bask in His presence, be satisfied with His love. In this way He prepared me for the terrible wounding I had no idea was coming.

When the man I handed my heart to betrayed me repeatedly then left me destitute, the wounding felt mortal. “I heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds,” God promised.(Ps. 147:3) Later He breathed life into my shattered heart through the clean, pure love of a man who belonged first to God and then to me.

As my son sank into a depression so deep he no longer wanted to live, I cried out to the One who knew what it was to face the death of a child. He heard my prayers to bring my son back from the brink. “But for you who revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:2) I now can see the shadow of God’s healing wings in the wise, peaceful eyes of my son.

For 12 years now I awake each morning surprised by life. Cancer has been held at bay, so every day is a gift I will never take for granted. “I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.” (Joel 2:25) Locusts devour everything in their path, like cancer. I do not know why God chose me to be a restored survivor. I don’t need to know, just rest in the blessing.

It is a mystery why the blood shed from the wounds of Jesus should be the very means of my healing. “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) My eternal healing from sin and separation from God will be fully realized when I see Him face to face. I may recall the wounds I received in my earthly life, but they will no longer have power to cause me pain. No scars will be visible then, except those I see on the risen Christ, received for me.










The Tabby Catalyst

2007_0715BC0020I lost a good friend recently. A friend whose gentle companionship and unconditional acceptance is now missing from my days. For twelve years my cat, Pete, greeted me each morning with his distinctive squawky meow, asking for his breakfast in his gentlemanly way. Evenings he curled up on the back of the couch, his comforting purr sounding like an idling tractor in my ear. He wasn’t a lap cat, preferring instead to sit near where he could receive an occasional chin rub and hear the voices of his humans.

When I became Pete’s owner, he was already a mature cat with a sad history. He had been abandoned, then passed from home to home before he came to live with me. Once he knew he was in a safe place he relaxed into the mellow, slightly world-weary feline comrade I grew to love. I understand that cats are instinctive creatures. Much of their behavior is a result of God’s design for their survival, but there were aspects of Pete’s personality that revealed things I believe God wanted me to learn.

When Pete came to live with me, I was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. After a morning at the hospital, I would go to bed to fight through the effects of the toxic drugs. Chills, nausea, foggy brain — Pete saw it all from his post on an old towel laid on the bed. Except for brief visits to his food dish and litter box, he never left my side. For 10 months, one week out of four, Pete kept vigil. His constancy brought me comfort, as if he knew he had a job to do by staying close. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” – Proverbs 17:17

Pete adored my bath mat. Something about its thick, soft material put him in his happy place. After my shower he would flop down on that mat, curl himself into an upside down comma and grin. Then great purring would commence, along with stretching and kneading. Pete did contentment well. He found little things (like a bath mat) that brought him contentment and he revelled in them, enjoying the moment for what it was. He didn’t worry about the rest of his day, or what happened yesterday; he was content for right now. “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” – 1 Timothy 6:6

The purchase of a new couch and love seat meant no shedding cat allowed. At least that was my resolution, but Pete had another idea. Loud clapping, shooing, pushing and even squirts from a water sprayer did not deter this cat from his self-appointed task of taking over the new furniture. Eventually his tenacity won out, while I collapsed in defeat, exhausted from jumping up constantly to get him off.

Tenacity borders on obstinacy but it also reflects perseverance. Although I lost the battle, I had to admire Pete’s determination. He knew what he wanted — to be on the couch. He knew what he had to do to get there — keep jumping up, no matter what. He knew he would face opposition, but he was determined to persevere.  Maybe I’m giving his little walnut-sized brain more credit than is due, but it sure seemed like he was out to win! And he did. End of story, except for what I learned from it. “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5:3-4

Pete was just a little charcoal-colored tabby, but God used him as a catalyst (pardon the pun) to teach me bigger lessons about living a godly life. You will be missed, Mr. Pete!

A Rock Unshakeable

nakwakto rapidsI recall the surreal sensation of  the rock island shaking beneath my feet. I was on  a house-sized island which stands defiantly against the churning current of Nakwakto Rapids. There are at least 250 kilometers of inland waterways that comprise the Seymour & Belize inlets on Canada’s west coast, and the only connection with the sea is through Nakwakto Rapids. When the tide is running, the rapids rip around the island at up to 18 knots (20 mph.), recorded as the fastest tidal surge in the world. Such forceful movement of seawater through narrow channels actually causes the island to tremble, thus its local name, Tremble Island.

If I hadn’t experienced it myself I would not have believed that a rock island of that size could be shaken. The movement beneath my feet threw off my equilibrium. I was used to walking on a moving boat, however moving land was another thing altogether. Although the shaking wasn’t visible to the eye, I still needed to brace my feet and hold on to trees. When the tide finally slackened I was relieved to get off the island to the man-made security of a boat.

Standing on Tremble Island taught me something. Nothing in this world is secure, not even the ground I walked on. The people, places and things I looked to as stable and safe always had the potential to let me down. Realizing this didn’t make me a pessimist, just a realist. The world was in constant flux and I was caught up in its movement, like it or not.

Not long after standing on Tremble Island, all that I depended on in my life was knocked out from under me. My marriage, bank account and health all disintegrated within a few months and I was left floundering, swept along in the rapids of abandonment and hardship. Those rapids washed me up on the one surety left. God had long been the focus of my life, but now in a deeper way I found Him to be the solid Rock when all other ground was sinking sand.

I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  (Psalm 40:1-2  NIV)

That firm place to stand is God Himself. He is the Rock, the foundation under girding all life. Jehovah is my rock, my fortress and my savior. I will hide in God, who is my rock and my refuge. (2 Samuel 22;2-3 LB)

There is a learning about God which can only occur in the slimy pit, the mud and mire of this often cruel world. When I think about that pain-filled period, I remember the deep anguish, the hurt, the fear, but most clear in my memory is the presence of God in those times. He was more real than any of my trials, comforting me when I lay sobbing on my bed, providing for my needs before I voiced them, giving me peace as I faced cancer treatments.

More than that, He was, and still is, the solid ground beneath my feet when all else was in turmoil around me. His loving closeness, His Spirit speaking to mine, the assurances in His Word,  kept me upright through the worst storm I had ever faced.

Tremble Island still stands, in spite of its trembling through each tide change. It stands because it is a very large rock with foundations that go deep. I expect I will tremble too, with each trial which may come, but I trust in the Rock my feet stand upon; steadfast, immovable, the foundation of my whole being, and I will be secure.

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2 NIV)


Dusting Angels

Willow-tree-angels-demdaco-willow-tree-angels-willow-angels-1I pick up each angel figurine and run my dusting cloth gently over their wire wings and unpainted faces. Before putting them back I study every one, my heart remembering when they were given and why. An angel embracing a child commemorates the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Holding a single rose, an angel with upswept hair speaks of my husband’s love. There are angels holding a book, a cat, a bird and a golden ball, representing different aspects of my life. Two angels have praying hands, given by recipients of my prayers. A little boy angel holds a balloon aloft which says “hope”, gifted during a cancer journey when hope was hard to come by.

Why do these angel figurines, representing significant times and people, evoke poignancy, melancholy, even sadness? I think it has to do with the way I love. I truly give my heart away to those who call up love in me. So when life inevitably changes, a piece of my heart is left behind in those circumstances. Even when those I love are still in my life, relationships change and I find myself longing for how it used to be. The fact that nothing stays as it is creates a hollowness in my soul, a restlessness stirring up yearning sighs from deep within.

Slow to remember how to respond to this vague longing, I drift through my day, not able to settle on anything useful. When I finally open a well-thumbed book beside my chair and read, the hollow places gradually fill up with precious words about One who is able to satisfy my longing for perfection and permanence.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

These words tell me of the One who offers Himself as the perfect soul food so I will never go hungry, and the perfect spirit drink so I will never thirst. I keep reading to fill up with His promises to never leave me or forsake me, to be the same yesterday, today and forever, to prepare a place for me with Him in heaven. In these pages I find the Person who completes all my heart’s unfinished business. Jesus occupies my inner space so if there are hollows or lack, it is because I have taken my eyes off Him. I can’t afford to do that so I read on.

When I finally put my Bible down, my eye catches the upturned face of one of the little angels on the shelf. I can almost imagine her shaking her head at me for taking so long to figure how to assuage my longing. Life relationships and circumstances will always be fluid, shifting from intimacy to distance, from love to loss. I am grateful for people who have enriched my life, even for a short time, and for those who are committed to walk the rest of the way with me if they can. I’ve given them a piece of my heart which may well be trampled on or lost. I understand that. But the rest, peace and permanence found in Jesus Christ is the only completely reliable truth for my life now and forever. I hope it won’t take me until my angels are dusty again to remember where perfection lies.

Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.  – Augustine of Hippo, “The Confessions of Saint Augustine”

A Drop of Love

My most vivid encounter with God lasted only a few moments, yet impacted my life like no other before or after. If I ever doubted God’s singular eye upon me, His omniscient attention to every detail about me, this moment wiped them all away.

Admitted to the hospital for some minor surgery, I remember actually anticipating a few days of escape from my emotionally stressful life. Caught in a roller coaster marriage to a volatile, spiritually abusive man, doing my best  to mother three young children and dealing with fatiguing health issues, I longed for rest. A hospital stay was hardly the ideal vacation, but the prospect of a few days in bed seemed like paradise.

I remember breathing a hasty prayer before succumbing to anaesthetic-induced sleep. Then God woke me up with an awareness of His love for me. That sounds so simple, such a given, but it does not come close to capturing the all-encompassing intensity of how loved by God I knew myself to be. I did not want to return to full consciousness, to leave what I knew even then was a foretaste of heaven.

A nurse shook me and called my name to rouse me, but I fought to stay in that place of complete love deep within where my soul resided with God. Of course, I couldn’t. The real world of bright light, noise and pain could not be avoided. I opened my eyes and responded to the nurse, but my spirit danced on the verge of its natural home, trailing glorious love like streamers floating to the earth.

I am not one to pursue signs, wonders and visions. I see myself as a believer in Jesus Christ, based on the rock-solid truth of His Word. I recognize I am made up of body, soul and spirit and capable of a myriad of emotions, as my Creator has designed me but emotions do not rule my faith. Neither do I seek out artificially induced emotional experiences, as could be credited to the anaesthetic drugs.

But I know what I know, and now I know what God’s love feels like. He gave me these few moments as a glimpse of what is to come, I am sure of it. A crack appeared in the floor of heaven to seep out a miniscule drop of His great love for me. I could not have handled any more than that, but He knew at that particularly difficult time, a drop of His love would go a long ways. In fact, it has lasted throughout my life, impacting my relationships, faith and hope for the future in a deep and lasting way.

When my marriage finally died in a chaos of rejection and betrayal, His love valued me.
When cancer brought me face to face with my own mortality, His love carried me.
When all I knew was pain and loneliness, His love soothed me.

Knowing His love for me is replicated many million times over for all those He has fashioned, stimulates me to be a conduit for this miraculous drop of love. I cannot love well on my own. Only the indwelling Spirit of God, through Christ, can disperse this love like a drop of ink in water, to saturate all who encounter it. In God’s economy, a little goes a long way.

“I realize that everything I know is only part of the big picture. But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face. In that day, I will fully know just as I have been wholly known by God. But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12-13  The Voice

Shadow Lands

snow shadowsBefore I close the curtains at dusk, I pause by the window to gaze at winter snow shadows. Approaching night intensifies the blue of sky to depths of color soaked in by unmarked fields of snow. Words fail to describe the shades of translucent blue, green and violet stained across white. Such beauty in shadow transfixes me, then causes me to praise the One who paints light and dark in a palette beyond scope, even when few see it.

The shadow of God can seem to blot out light sometimes, when I struggle with tragedies, hardships, loss. When I finally quit fighting against circumstances long enough to seek Him, I find the dusk is of His own making and it is beautiful because in it is my refuge.

“He who dwells in the shelter of  the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. He will cover me with His feathers, and under His wings I will find refuge.” (Psalm 91:1, 2 & 4  NIV)

The writer of this psalm lived in an environment where shade was sought as protection from the harshness of the hot desert sun. Shadow is used as a conventional Hebrew metaphor for protection against oppression. The outreach of God’s shielding power is portrayed as shadowing wings providing refuge from damaging sun.

Walking in the shadows can be a frightening journey. It is hard to see where my next step should be or what lies ahead. I have been frozen with dread in the shadows, too afraid to move ahead, not able to turn back. A decade ago the spectre of cancer enveloped my life, darkening my vision and blotting out the future. I had nowhere to turn but to God. He alone heard my deepest groaning, saw my tears, spoke into my pain. I could not understand why the world had suddenly become such a dark place, then I gradually realized the absence of light was not evil but a shadowy refuge where I truly discovered who God is. I could not see God in the darkness of my affliction yet when I reached out in the shadows, there He was. The things I learned about God’s character — His love, His faithfulness, His strength, His provision  — I would not trade for a lifetime of ease.

As I draw the curtains across the window my eyes rest on shadows lengthening across the snow, softening angular lines of buildings and fences, covering winter-bare bushes in swaths of deep blue. There is refuge in the night, a time of shadow and rest.

“I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” (Psalm 16:7 – 8 NKJV)

When shadows fall I have no choice but to rest. In my humanity I first strive to do and to fix but soon come to realize I can not affect circumstances. God wants me to rest under His wings; I do not need to see what is going on beyond them as He undertakes for me as my protector. In the night seasons my heart instructs me to set the Lord always before me. I have come to realize it is against the shadows He has allowed where His holiness shines most beautifully. And I find refuge there.

Blessed in the Shadows

Blessings do not always come in good packages. When thinking of blessings in my life, the ones which stand out are not those inspiring gratitude but those which put me in the shadows. These life-shattering events could not be described as blessings at the time, yet without their occurrence I would not know God as I do today.

Some years ago God allowed my life to be covered by the shadow of a painful divorce and a life-threatening illness. Thoughts came that I would be consumed by the darkness. I cried out for relief, begged God to fix the problems, to send a little light my way, but shadows continued to loom, building upon each other until it seemed I faced a black wall.

I collapsed into the arms of God, someone who had always been in my life but up to this point, never had to BE my life. Now He was all I had; all else had been stripped away. The spiritual principle of the all-sufficiency of God was now being put to the test.  After each day of facing what seemed to be insurmountable challenges, I would cast myself on God again, thankful that he had preserved me through another day. More than preserving, He had walked with me each moment, revealing Himself to me in a new way.

When I abandoned myself to God in my brokenness, experiencing all the pain all the way to the bottom, there my feet touched ground and my desire for God was discovered, where all else had been removed, giving Him room to respond with His desire for me. This meant giving Him all my dreams for this world; not that they were bad dreams or that some may be realized or not, but their allure was lessened by the larger dream of my desire for God and His for me.
There came a time when I could say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” (Job 13:15) Therein lies the most precious blessing. I would rather truly know God in the shadows of adversity than be cold in the light of day without Him. Against the black backdrop of my trials God spread the jeweled facets of His character before me. The contrast of light on darkness made them sparkle all the more and I was drawn irresistibly into His love.

God said that He may give us bread of adversity and water of affliction, but He who teaches us will no longer keep Himself out of sight, but with our own eyes we will see Him. (Is.30:20) He reveals Himself in the shadows; a mysterious paradox which can be likened to how a blind person knows someone by feeling the shape of their face. We cannot see God, especially in the shadows of adversity, yet if we reach out in the dark His dear face is there for us to touch, and we will know Him. I could not see God in the shadows of my affliction, yet when I reached out in the dark, there He was. The things learned in the shadows about God and His character…His love, His faithfulness, His strength, His provision…I would not trade for a lifetime of ease.

There came an epiphany when I learned what it meant “to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.” (Phil.3:10) After a nurse in the hospital chemotherapy unit had painfully pierced the back of my already bruised hand, I lay back, exhausted and sick, while the toxic chemicals dripped into my veins. At a low point in this cancer journey, I silently prayed for strength to go on. The sun beamed through the window behind me, casting a shadow of the I.V. pole across my blanketed knees. It formed a slender cross, reminding me of Christ’s pain as He hung there, His hands pierced much more brutally than mine. I was brought to peace by identifying in this small way with my Savior. His sufferings were much greater, “but for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” (Heb.12:2) Could I not carry my small cross, even consider it joy to face such a trial because my Lord Jesus had gone before me? I was blessed by the warmth of the sun illuminating a spiritual truth I needed to learn on a heart level.

We who are blessed by the Father need to look for His blessings not only in the light He shines on us, but also in the shadows of trials and tragedies. Romans 5 tells why. “We 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, who He has given us.”

I look forward with hope to the day when all shadows will flee and I will stand in the full light of my Lord’s eternal blessings.