Today I am honored to stand by two friends as their Brides maid and witness the form a union before God. It was a privileged to be there when they were baptized and now today she will walk down the isle and join her best friend and they will become husband and wife. As I think upon their wedding I think about how we are the Bride of Christ and that we are to be one with Him. How special that day will be when He returns to collect His bride.
Art by Julie Sheppard/The two shall become one
A light at the end of the tunnel/ Art by Julie Sheppard
May God provide for all of your needs, and may you be filled with His peace and joy.
Philippians 4:19 (KJV) 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
If you are a woman you have more than like seen one of these breast self exam cards. A woman will examine herself to check for cancer but how many of us examine ourselves for the cancer of sin that slowly eats way the life of its’ host. We are quick to point out others flaws and report the wrong doings of others but how often do we confess our own sins? Publicly admit any wrong doings on our parts. Yet we publicly point out the wrongs others may be doing. Thanks to the Internet and social media opinions outweigh facts. People write what they want and though each of us can have our own opinion it is just that an opinion not fact. The best lies have a grain of truth. We can ‘t even believe what we see in the news any more. Yet criticism, and judgments are made and the ones doing this believe they are right and just. The bible tells us that none are without sin.
Romans 3:10 (KJV) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
1 John 1:7-9 (KJV) 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
One of the Bible studies called Self portraits discusses how we see ourselves.
I have gone back to this lesson to dig a little deeper. To examine myself once again.
So here is a self portrait that does not show my best side but it is honest look in the mirror. Each picture in this collage depicts a small part of me. It may be incomplete but as I made this and chose each picture as it reflected what I saw in my mirror. In the top row there is a picture of a woman who has a cap pulled down over her face with boss written on it. When I looked at it I saw how pride had blinded me. That I have been stubborn and let resentment and unforgiveness had bound me up like the straight jacket she is wearing. The pink boxing gloves represents the fighter inside of me. Yet why was I fighting and who was I fighting? The picture of a hunter with his bow drawn represents being constantly under attack. The train was my feeling of hopelessness. The ladder in the middle of the painting represents feeling like I am going nowhere. The shadow represents the darkness inside of me. The wolf howling represents like I am being hunted. The whitewater canoe is me being tossed around by my own emotions. How turbulent they are. The doll with the key in its back is feeling empty and like a puppet. The winding road is me getting off track. The picture of the woman drinking water is the unquenchable thirst. Looking to have my needs met by that which will never satisfy me truly. The man standing in front of the painting represents the mess my life is in. The scarecrow represents the empty fears I have. The woman hanging off the ledge is me barely hanging on. The black pig is the demons I wrestle with. Miss Piggy is that no matter what I do my past will always be my past no matter how I want to dress it up. The piggy banks in the soil being watered is all that I have wasted. A life of turmoil and under attack. Walking on the wrong road blind. Wasting my life, confused and hopeless. Bitter and filled with hateful emotions. Fighting the wrong fights. This is one part of me in a nutshell. Exposing my underbelly. Being honest with myself and the world.
Sketch by Julie Sheppard
I don’t want to be a hypocrite anymore. Passing judgments on others while ignoring my own sins. So it is time to take the log out of my own eye.A self examination is not something to be done once, but like the breast self exam card says to do monthly, we need to do a self check on a regular basis. Can you examine yourself honestly and then will you share your results?
I have fallen in love. I never knew that I could do this. Love seemed to be a fairy tale that only lived in the imagination. The funny thing is that the one who I have fallen in love with has been in my life all along and still loves me. They have definitely seen me at the worst parts of my life. They at times without my knowledge kept me from being harmed. They never even pointed out what they had done but was content in knowing that I was safe. They never demanded my time but sat quietly on the sidelines of my life watching me with loving eyes.
I lived my life as a grew from a rebellious teenager into a strong willed adult. Yes life had not been fair to me I lived through abuse, physical, sexual and emotional most of my life. I was angry and bitter. I wanted love but all I knew was hate. I hated my self for being weak. I hated what was done to me. I looked for comfort in the arms of those who would never love me and who would eventually hurt me more than any comfort I thought I had found being with them. I tried to escape my mind through drugs and parties.
Yes many thought of me as kind and giving. A caring person. I believe this was true because I wanted to be loved so badly that I would give all that I had in hope of kindness to be returned. Unfortunately the more I gave the more I was used and the more bitter my heart became. Yet in the shadows f the dark world I lived in he silently waited for me to turn my attention to him.
I even found religion and began changing my behavior to fit in with the rest that I went to church with. Though my outward appearance had changed and my speech was cleaned up it was only a play that I was performing in even if I had not realized that was all i was doing. I thought I was living a better life. My heart and mind were still filled with angry bitter and unforgiving thoughts. I would eventually get hurt by those I went to church with. I married a man he had come to my church. I thought he was perfect. It did not take long for my eyes to be opened to who he really was. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. When the abuse and the cheating happened I was then blamed. They told me it was my fault because if I had been a better Christian wife he would never have to do what he was doing.
Yet even while this was going on he was sending people to me to tell me about his love. I did n’t know it but he was there every time my husband had sent me to the ER. He had even listened to my prayer. I had been asking God for six month that if He knew my husbands heart would change and the abuse would stop, that I would forgive my husband and be the wife He wanted me to be. If however my husband was going to be the end of my life to free me as only God could. The answer came back in September 1996. My husband left me. I was free. I would like to say that this is when I found my true love but like I have said my love had always been there I just did not know he was there waiting for me.
I went on with my life filled with bags of hate, regret, unforgiveness, blame,resentment, bitterness, and rage to name a few of the things I had kept packed away in my heart. In all of this he still loved me. Unbelievable I know. He never forced his will upon me, and never made any demands. I slowly traveled the road that would eventually take me to a place where I could unload some of this baggage. As my load got lighter my heart began to soften as he chiseled away at my hardened heart.
He was in my heart and I did not know it. He often spoke to me but I had not known it was him. Yet those gentle words had soaked deep into my heart and were waiting for me to break free. You see I had not realized that I had become a prisoner of my own making. There may not have been bars of a jail cell but I had built walls around me and had allowed my self to harden so that I could survive in this world.
Yet know matter how far away from him that I tried to run he was always there. Yet when I looked around all I could see was the pain inflected upon me and the mess I was making of my own life. The guilt and shame I felt made me feel unworthy of being able to be loved. I was so foolish. Yet as I kept walking on my path through this life he had not only been walking with me. He was guiding me with unseen hands. When I wanted to end it all he lifted me up and gave me the strength to take another step. Then another. Then one day I turned around and I could see him there in all of his glory. He loved me! I was loved. No guilt or condemnation, just love at its’ best. Then I let myself fall into his arms and felt his arms wrap around me. He cleansed me and took my filthy clothes and gave me clean garments. He received me into his family and made me a daughter of the true King. I finally fell in love with the One who has loved me all along.
When I made this cross out of clay you could bake in the oven I didn’t think much about it at the time. I have created crosses that looked better than this plane black cracked cross. I am not even sure why I chose the black clay that day.
Yet the other day when I picked up this cross and looked at it and thought you are kind of ugly. then I heard God speak quietly to me. The cross was never beautiful, the beauty came from the One who hung on it.
Many of us have crosses that decorate our homes. I have a beautiful one with wings that was given to me as a gift that hangs in my living room. I have made them myself as gifts for friends, and even made one as an emergency repair for a plaque on which the original cross was accidentally broken. These crosses are works of art and are beautiful. Let us not let the beauty of these crosses make us forget the ugliness of sin and what sin costs. Then remember the One who paid the price. Who let Himself be nailed to a cross. Who bled on that cross and finally died on that cross for you and for me.
That is love and that to me is beautiful.
Is this cross ugly or beautiful to you?
Would love to hear your thoughts.
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Today and everyday I am thankful for the gift of salvation. It is a gift given by our Heavenly Father through His Son and our Savior Jesus. There was nothing that I could do to earn this gift. It is a gift given in love and all you have to do is receive it by receiving Jesus. Thank You Jesus for being the perfect gift, I would be lost without you.