What I Wish I Would Have Known (Exposing Marriage Idolatry For What It Is)

marriage Believe it or not, when I was 22 I co-authored my first book.  It was an anthology exploring various Christian and theological topics, and I chose to write a section on celibacy.

Why celibacy?  At that time in my life I truly believed being single was just as special as being married.  I saw no major rush to be in a relationship, let alone to be married with kids.  At that time in my life, I honestly did not even know whether I ever wanted to be a wife and mother.  I loved travelling, my education, and the independent life.  However, within two years, everything all changed.

At 24 I moved to the city of Edinburgh, Scotland.  It was my first time living abroad, and like most, I took as many opportunities as I could to have an exotic life.  When I wasn’t learning to drive on the other side of the road using manual, I was off trying to check off as many sights as I could on my ever growing list.  I tried haggis and deep fried Mars bars, I drank a pint of Irn Bru (and decided I hated it), and I began cooking my famous salmon recipe (fresh from the sea).  Somewhere in all of this I decided it might be fun to try to find myself a Scotsman and get married to a kilted boy.  This never happened, but I did meet an Indian man.

This Indian man, was very kind at first.  He listened intently as I told him stories, he took me on long hikes and loved being my photographer for the day.  He was an excellent chef, and we used to get together to watch sermons on Youtube.  However, it only took about a month before discovering his true character.  When we were out with other people he often was kind, compassionate, and well-spoken.  But when we were alone, he belittled me, was a cheater, and wanted to keep everything secretive claiming he was simply a “very private person.”  I was quite inexperienced in the dating realm (having only been in 2 previous relationships – one when I was in high school which honestly shouldn’t even count, and the second when I was 21 but which only lasted 3.5 months).  However, even with my limited knowledge of dating, I knew enough to say, “this doesn’t feel right.”  The worst part of it all was his constant pressure for us to get married.  He claimed that in India where there were arranged marriages, people already knew the first time they saw someone.  He was adamant that we would get married, the sooner the better.  I weakly suggested 6 months, which then became 3 due to the constant pressure.  Eventually we broke up, him claiming that the “relationship was dead.”  There was no point to go bowling, to the cinema, or even just to hang out unless we were meeting together to plan all the details of our wedding.

After I broke up with this man, I remember going on a trip four hours away to Inverness.  It was here that God told me that He had someone special planned for me, but that it was not the right time to introduce me to this person.  I was at peace with this and even came to enjoy the single life because I had so many other friends who were single.  I was just loving life way too much.  Why should it matter that I was 25 and still unhitched?

I came home to Canada, keeping this same resolve and attitude for exactly three months, until marriage soon began creeping in and its idolatrous forces literally began eroding and destroying my life.  I was constantly unhappy, comparing myself to everyone I knew around me who was married.  Their lives seemed perfect and flawless.  I envisioned getting married to have all those same perks – status from the church, those special secret hang-outs that only double-dates seem to be invited to, planning a future and a life together, and those long and sappy Facebook posts complete with pictures.  Jealousy and envy reared its ugly head as I began a route of self-pity asking myself what I was doing wrong and if there was something inherently wrong with me.  I counted up my qualities – I had an education, lots of friends, a good family or origin, what I thought was a strong faith – were these not good enough for a man?  The hardest part of it all was seeing friends get hitched who went on to say that marriage to them was simply a piece of paper.  They were doing it for reasons of convenience or insurance.  Why did God want them to be married when marriage meant nothing to them, but not me to be married when marriage meant everything to me?  This idolatry crept into my life – invading every waking and sleeping moment.  Soon, I couldn’t watch TV, go to the theatre, or go on a walk without the thoughts beating against my brain.  Soon, every conversation I had with friends somehow ended up revolving around my unhappiness at being single.  I viewed singlehood as a punishment and the worst thing imaginable.  I do not doubt that this caused a strain on quite a few close friendships.  Thankfully, many friends stuck by me even in this mental torture, but I do know that it often did irritate and frustrate them.

The Bible describes idolatry as placing anything before God or giving anything God’s rightful place as number one in our lives.  Many of us view idolatry as images made of wood and stone, like in the ancient times, but the Bible is clear that idolatry literally can be anything – thoughts, emotions, ideas…that make our mind run astray instead of focussing on the truth of Christ. Even seemingly good things can become idolatrous if we have an unhealthy and obsessive view towards it.  For example, food is good and necessary to physical health.  We cannot survive without food, and it can be quite enjoyable for us to take great care in decorating and presenting the food in a special way.  However, if we over-indulge with food to the point that it makes us ill or we starve ourselves for fear of getting fat, we therefore have created an unhealthy and obsessive view towards food and thus food has become an idol (or as some may say, an addiction).

It is the same with marriage.  From the beginning for the Bible, God created humans with a need for a social network (primarily in marriage).  God said that this design of men and women needing each other was good.  It is not bad or wrong for a Christian woman to dream of and desire marriage, however, it is unhealthy and idolatrous when it is all she thinks of  and allows it to make her unhappy and miserable.

I made some mistakes while I was trying to figure it all out.  In my first 3 months in Scotland (the second year abroad), I went on 9 dates with 5 different men.  I don’t regret this because we did not cross any lines or barriers and always kept it in public locations, however, looking back, I do realize how incredibly foolish that was.  Thankfully, all these men were Christians so nothing happened, but it easily could have.  A young, single girl in a foreign country going on dates with random guys from the internet she’s only spoken to over text once or twice could easily have become a recipe for disaster.

Thankfully, God rescued me from all of this.  What I mean is that God had other plans.  It hasn’t always been easy to keep my focus on Him, and sometimes I still drift way too far into the future, but little by little, God was preparing me for something far greater than what my finite human mind could comprehend.  God actually did have someone in mind for me, someone who is far better than anything I would have wished for myself.  Someone who meets all my criteria – even before he even knew my list existed.  I wasted precious time which could have been spent enjoying the company of friends, travelling, and investing into my work, being obsessed and worried that I would be the only single person on the face of the planet left.  What a lack of faith and trust in God!

It isn’t easy being single and it can be lonely sometimes.  But here are some things I wish to share with any of my brothers or sisters who are still struggling in their singlehood.  I won’t pretend to have all the answers (or even all of the questions!) but I still hope it encourages you nonetheless:

* When I look back on the way God orchestrated my life and the emergence of my relationship, I am in awe.  God knows what He is doing and His timing is immaculate.  I actually knew this guy for years and we have been friends so long that I considered him as a brother.  When we finally came together, I remember us both asking, “Why now?”  What if God would have introduced us in this particular and special way earlier?  God alone knows, but I believe it was for a reason.  Maybe we were not ready back then and maybe we are different people today.  When I look at all the opportunities that have shaped me and all I have gone through (positively and negatively) I can honestly say on my part that if it had been even one year sooner, we might not have come together in such a glorious way as we now have.  I do wish, it would have been 24 or 26, but God was working in my life in ways that I didn’t even know about to prepare me to be the woman I am now.  It can be discouraging when people younger than you are getting hitched, but we are all growing and learning lessons at different rates.  What is monumental for one person might not be for another person and vice versa.  My singleness allowed me my two years or life abroad which prepared me for the challenges a cross-cultural relationship can bring.  My singleness also permitted me time to focus exclusively on my studies.  Sometimes people who get married young are given the blessing of having a family right away (which is awesome), but many times they miss out on these other opportunities like travel and school.  We don’t need to worry about our biological clock when we serve the author of time!

* Be open-minded.  God may work in ways you never thought were possible.  For example, lots of people I know are simply not willing to try to go online.  But what if your future husband is waiting there?  Some women worry about dating someone they have known so long, isn’t he a “brother” and hasn’t he been “friend-zoned?”  Maybe so, but then again, things might have shifted.  Obviously, I am not suggested that you do anything that it totally out of your element or that you might feel uncomfortable with, but if we are truly opening ourselves up to the Lord’s Will, then we need to be willing to take a few safe and calculated risks from time to time.  If you only go to the places that you usually go to, chances are you aren’t going to meet anything you don’t already know.  But let’s say, you’re willing to try a different church or join a different small group or even to approach a woman at a coffee shop or bus station.  It’s a risk, but you never know what can happen.  I even know of a real story where a woman met her husband while at the train station.  They got on the same train, began talking and three hours later when they reached their destination  and exchanged numbers.  Less then one year later they were married.

* Have faith.  I thought for a long time that I was having a problem with surrender.  I could not allow myself to give up the chance of meeting someone.  I didn’t know what would happen if I gave God this type of permission in my life only for Him to turn around and say, “actually you’re one of those I’ve called to be single forever.”  Looking back now, I realize it was not a problem with surrender, but with trust.  I honestly could not totally abandon myself to God trusting that everything would work out and that He actually did have someone in mind.  God promised me 4 years before I started dating that He had someone for me, but I tortured myself for 4 years by not believing it and condemning myself to a life of celibacy.  Today, I know how important it is to speak words of faith and affirmation over our lives.  If you constantly say negative words to yourself like “no one likes me.  I am unattractive.  I don’t have anything to offer.  I will be single forever.”  It will likely happen.  If you turn it on its head and declare truths of Scripture, a massive transformation can begin to unfold in the way you view yourself and the world around you.

* Don’t lower your standards.  Don’t allow desperation to permit you to go out with a man who doesn’t treat you right or a woman who is catty and emotionally abusive.  Don’t allow fear of being older permit you to go out with anyone who does not place Christ first in their life.  Don’t paint the red flags white.  Trust and believe that you are worth it.  Don’t settle for anyone less than the one God has for you.  Age is no reason to panic.

* Here’s the downer part, contrary to many other Christians, I actually don’t believe there is someone for everyone.  I don’t see this anywhere in Scripture. Instead I see that there are some who were born eunuchs, some who were made eunuchs by men, and others who became eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. That being said, I do believe that people who are legitimately called to celibacy often know they have this gift.  God is not trying to torture us by keeping us single forever, if that’s not our gift.  One of my closest friends really summed it up by saying “Some people prefer the single life and do well, some could care less and for others it’s sheer torture.”  When I was single, it did feel like torture, but today I know that it was God moulding and shaping me and He had a bright future ahead of me.  Once when I was really struggling with singleness, I was listening to the Bible on my phone and it came upon this famous verse,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-35)

If you truly give your heart to the Lord and seek first how you can be of maximum benefit to Him and to others and how you can best minister for the sake of the Kingdom. He will provide everything else.  God knows that we need a spouse.  God knows we need that constant companionship and partnership.  But if we are seeking marriage first as a way of idolatry, it won’t be a solid foundation.  If, however, we are seeking the Kingdom first believing that our marriage will provide even more force for evangelism and witness and using our marriage as a model of Christ’s love towards the church, then God will help to establish it.

Marriage is not meant to be a selfish means to a selfish end.  It shouldn’t just be about status, prestige, or cutesy pictures on Instagram.  It should primarily be a means of raising a Godly family and standing up in a culture that is not based in purity and in trust.  Christians are called to higher standards than the rest of the world.  Christians can model Christ’s holiness and love by the way they treat their spouse and family, by remaining pure before and within the marriage context, and also by avoiding any appearance of evil which might lead to misunderstanding among non-believers (even when that isn’t the case).

Both marriage and singleness have their unique blessings and challenges.  One is not better or worse than the other.  One is not harder or easier than the other.  Both can be incredibly hard, difficult and painful in different ways, and both can be amazing, and a blessing in different ways.  If you are someone waiting for the one God has in mind for you, please don’t give up.  I know from previous experience how detrimental vain wishing can be.  How destructive marriage idolatry can be both for your own soul and for the friendships you have around you.  But I also know from my own experience how waiting on God’s timing and trusting His process over our lives while continuing to serve Him in whatever capacity we find ourselves in is the most beautiful thing imaginable.  I pray that you may find this same result in your life as you seek first the Kingdom of God and allow marriage and family and all these other things to be given to you, as well.

 

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To What Extent Do We Control Our Life?

controlChristians often talk about “God’s timing” and His divine will and providence over our lives.  If something is meant to happen, it will happen just when God has directed it to.  This general mind-set is helpful in easing anxiety and allowing us to realize the plans are orchestrated beyond our control, but it also begs the question “to what extent does free will play a role?”

I have to admit, I am a huge control freak.  The worst part is, I didn’t even realize this until a year ago.  I have always tried to control what I was going to do and when.  I would make plans about where to study, what job to get, and where to travel to.  In my mind, everything had a start and finish date and I became obsessed with pursing my goals.  This was good in the sense that nearly every goal I have ever set out to seriously conquer has now been achieve.  It is bad in the sense that I likely went through most of life on auto-pilot not allowing the Holy Spirit to move.

I was recently doing some “pub theology” with a new friend when we began discussing this topic.  Non-Christians might call it “fate”, Christians tend to stick with terms such as “pre-destination”, but in reality, it’s kind of all the same thing.  Yes, I believe that there are many choices I’ve been able to make in my own life – we are not puppets and God allows us freedom to move around and to make bad choices which then have detrimental consequences.  But I also believe that there are certain life events that just happen upon us which we did not choose for ourselves, and yet which truly end up having a life lesson attached to them after the fact.  And then I believe that there are some things which I truly find very difficult to reconcile in terms of whether or not there truly was a point in it at all.

Take the first instance – free will.  We all have made choices in our lives which have ended up wonderfully or tragically.  Perhaps you knew that spending time with a certain friend was not beneficial for you, but you continued to do it anyways.  This friend then led you down a bad path which ended up affecting other aspects of your life.  This was not fate.  This was a poor choice.  Suppose you chose to eat only doughnuts and to fill yourself up with sugary sweets giving into every conceivable craving and you developed diabetes or other health conditions and became overweight.  Yes, God may have a lesson to teach you in your health struggle – and that lesson probably is to take better care of yourself and change your bad habits!  Or suppose you had the option of going to church on a Sunday or sleeping in and you chose church.  You then heard a sermon that really impacted you and changed the course of your life.  Was it free will or fate?  Likely a bit of both.  It was free will which enabled you to hear that timely message, but it was also likely predestined that you heard that message at the exact moment in time in which you would be readily able to accept it.  Perhaps if you heard that same message 1 year or even 1 week ago, you might have let it pass through you without giving it much thought.  Perhaps if you heard that same sermon one year later your life would be on a different path and so it would no longer be as relevant, but for today, it’s exactly what you needed to hear.  God used your free will decision to bring a special blessing out of it.

The second instance – Life Events Which Take Place.  We all have experienced these in our lives.  We’ve met someone that we never would have crossed paths with before and they have ended up blessing our lives tremendously.  We’ve found ourselves in a new location or in a new job that we didn’t know we would be in.  Or take one of the most common examples of all – marriage.  My own parents met 10 years before they began dating.  I know of another woman at church who could have met her husband 20 years beforehand, but due to a series of unforeseen circumstances it just never happened.  Why not?  If God knew the two partners were meant to be together, why not just speed things up?  There could be several reasons: maybe God was preparing one or both of them, maybe one or both of them were not yet ready, maybe there were still lessons to learn or ways to serve as single people which needed to happen first, and maybe there was a small element of spiritual warfare involved.  The old expression says, “Life is lived forwards but understood backwards.”

When I look at my own life, I can often see how even the most difficult and painful seasons have played a role in propelling me forward towards being more of the person Christ desires for me to be.  I remember being in university and applying for a transfer.  I had all my credits lined up and had spoken extensively to the dean at the new school.  At the last minute, I felt in my heart it wasn’t the right choice and so I stayed.  Was it God’s will?  I don’t know for sure, but I do know the people I then proceeded to meet who are now some of my closest friends whose paths I wouldn’t have crossed if I would have left.  I suppose the argument could then be made that I would have made other friends, but who knows?  I had a somewhat difficult time in my first year of seminary, and left to pursue a year at L’Arche before going back to my old Alma Mater to finish up.  Was that first year worth it even if it didn’t end the way I had hoped?  Yes, because it was in that year that I developed my passion and interest in disability theology.  If I had never have gone to that other seminary, who knows if I would now be doing what I am today.  I begged God to let me go back to Edinburgh after my first year there and the door was shut.  It took nearly 2 years to arrive back in Scotland, and sometimes I wonder why.  Yet, I think of all the lessons I learned in Canada (there were many), friendships strengthened, and a new identity forged.  I still don’t entirely know the reason why it took 2 years, but I believe that there might have been an element of God’s protection.  Who knows what might have happened had I been back earlier.  Possibly nothing, but then again, maybe something could have occurred which thankfully didn’t because God was keeping me safe in my home country.

And then there are those moments which seem to be utterly pointless.  I have to admit, I find a lot of tragedies difficult to explain away why they happened.  Yes, there are those who have risen victoriously and are now ministering to the hurt and broken as a result of their own pain, but then there are just some life events I cannot fathom the true meaning for.  And perhaps I never will this side of heaven.  Maybe the glory is in the fact that we simply don’t know and all will be revealed to us in time.  Perhaps the whole point is to live in that tension of shame, doubt, and confusion, urging us to trust in the One who does have all power and control.

I have learned that as much as I enjoy having full control over my life, my life goes better when I give that control up to Someone else.  I may make my own plans for the future, but God determines my steps.  Like the Psalmist says, “Unless the Lord builds a house, you labour in vain who make it.” (Psalm 127:1).  We potentially may have SOME control over our own life’s destiny.  We may choose to place ourselves in a position that brings us more of what we want or to position ourselves to achieve our goals at a younger age, but we cannot force the greatest mysteries of life to happen to us outside of the realm of God’s control.  When we surrender to His leading, we find that great events come to pass for us and countless others.  This is the great fact for us.

Templeton Revisited: A Salvation Case Study

billy-graham-charles-templeton-full-v2 Canada – a country known for its multiculturalism, liberalism, open-mindedness, tolerance, and etiquette.  A country large in land mass, but small in population which prides itself on apologizing, friendliness, and warmth.  Yet despite these stereotypical clichés of the Canadian mindset, this country once held one of the world’s most influential evangelists – Charles Templeton.

Templeton was born in 1915 and as a young man became a prominent evangelist and the forerunner (and mentor) to the late Billy Graham.  He was an avid preacher, evangelist, and revivalist.  It was often said that he was a man whom God had anointed and placed His hand upon.  Through Templeton’s charisma and passion, church attendance in North America skyrocketed and thousands came to an understanding of salvation found only in Christ.

Yet, something drastic happened.  In 1957 at the age of 42 (and less than 20 years after he entered the ministry), Templeton chose to renounce everything he once stood for.  He said that he no longer believed in the infallibility of Scripture – in fact he did not believe in Scripture at all.  It is almost entirely normal for every believer to have a moment of doubt at least once in their faith journey, but for Templeton this moment was ongoing.  It was not just a few days or even months full of pondering and questions, it was not a year full of disillusionment and bewilderment in which he eventually saw God’s Hand coming through, it was a complete reorientation of his life, his theology, his philosophy, and his passion.  The water of evangelism had completely dried up from Templeton’s soul, the fire that once burned so brightly smothered from a slow flame into ashes.  Eventually, Templeton wrote a book that now has been widely circulated entitled “Farewell to God.”  Templeton, a scholar and very well-educated, reasoned out his viewpoints academically and rigorously.  He blamed his newfound lack of faith on science and religion not being compatible.  He had serious issues with many questionable Bible verses.  But was his intellect alone what truly led him to abandon the God he once loved and aimed to serve?  Or was there a deeper reason that never really became public knowledge and which he never allowed to surface?

The story of Templeton has often been used as a wonderful case study among theologians debating the possibility of predestination.  Myriad questions abound from his life, ministry, and then gradual departure from the faith.  Questions such as: Was Templeton really saved?  Did he lose his salvation?  And what then happens to those who were saved under his ministry?

Shockingly, statistics show that even when Templeton himself departed from the faith, very few of those who were part of his evangelistic crusades recanted.  In fact, while perhaps a few of them were troubled, it did not seem to shake their general understanding and awareness of Scriptures in any major way.

This is a topic that I have often considered and then come back to.  I consider myself a Calvinist, but yet, I am not entirely in-line with the traditional views of predestination.  I have read many articles and books on this topic, but despite its general tendency to divide and disturb, I truly believe this is one area in which we will never fully receive an answer this side of heaven.   Yet, here is my best attempt at summarizing how I generally feel about the question of whether one can lose their salvation:
When I lived in Edinburgh, I attended an evangelical church that stated if one “lost their salvation” they were never truly a Christian to begin with.  In this case, Templeton was never really a believer.  Yes, he might have said all the right things and paid lip-service to God, but he never truly had Christ in his life.  If he did, he wouldn’t have walked away.

I don’t like this mindset because to me it is too clear cut and I don’t think salvation ever works that easily.  Firstly, we have no right to choose who is in and who’s out.  We don’t get to decide who truly is a believer and who isn’t – that’s only up to Christ.  My pastor recently told me that when she conducts funerals she will always refrain from saying “This person was such a Godly [wo]man”.  There may be some people out there who are living a “picture-perfect” life.  Their marriages, families, and professions seem to show that they are Godly examples, but we don’t know what they are doing behind closed doors.  We don’t know what kind of lives they are leading when no one is looking or what kind of secret addictions they may be harbouring.  On the other hand, someone could be seriously struggling in their faith, but trying to get by and do the best they can.  In the end of the day, we can’t tell someone’s moral and spiritual status simply by what we have in front of us.

Secondly, in Templeton’s case, the real reason for his departure to the Christian faith was a lot more personal.  Oftentimes, the arguments that people present have to do with intellect and knowledge.  They struggle with religion and science meshing together, they see inconsistencies, but in many cases, the real reason why someone departs from the faith is a lot deeper.  When I was in seminary one of my professors said that Templeton really lost his faith when his daughter passed away.  He found this extremely difficult to reconcile and this led to his anger and frustration.  There might have been lingering doubts prior to that, but this was the “jumping off place.”  We don’t really know what happened to Templeton when he made this bold declaration and didn’t back down, but I think my professor had a point.  Perhaps when Templeton gets to heaven, all of this will be worked out.  Perhaps when he meets Christ face-to-face his crisis of faith will be resolved.  We can only hope.

When meeting someone who has walked away from the faith due to personal or family crisis, our first reaction should not be to theologize about whether they were legitimately a Christian or not, it should be to show compassion.  Throughout Scripture, we meet characters like David (he was known as “a man after God’s own heart”) and yet he freely spoke about anger and injustice.  We meet men like Job who in the heat of fury challenge God, but then when God shows up, humbly submit to Him.  Life can throw some very difficult and challenging times at anyone and we should not forget that there are real people involved in real faith struggles.  Stories like Templeton should not just be used as case studies.  We should not strip these stories of the full weight and impact they had on the individual’s life.

So, is it possible to lose salvation?  No, but it is entirely possible to walk away from it.  Salvation is a gift that is offered to us and will never be revoked.  But we can choose how to honour that gift.  For example, if someone gives you a prized item for your birthday or Christmas, chances are they will not take it back.  But you can choose to use that gift on a daily basis so that it benefits you and brings joy to others around you, or you can simply hide it in a closet and forget all about it.  In either case, you will still have the gift, but in the first instance you will be able to get a lot more use out of it and it will be more meaningful.  Our sole aim in life should not be theorizing about others’ salvation, but working out our own with “fear and trembling.”  We can’t choose how others will use and accept the gift they’ve been given, but we can choose what to do with our gift.  Let’s tear the wrapping paper off, fling the box lid open, take out the gift, and show it off to all those we meet!

I first wrote an article about Templeton back in May 2016.  However, I recently decided to re-visit the issue and write a more up-dated version.  You can read the original here: https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/templeton-testimonies-and-traps-is-it-possible-to-lose-your-salvation/

Finding Joy By: Morven-May MacCallum Book Review

43218836_10160845604505291_7721555727315107840_n Joyce (Joy) is a 16 year old high school student who likes parties, boys, and all the typical things teenagers enjoy.   She is living her life, doing well in school, and making plans for university, when suddenly her body and mind start revolting against her.  Joy is then thrown into a dizzying array of unexplainable symptoms which doctors do not seem to have any knowledge about.  Joy and her Aunt, Beth, visit numerous doctors throughout all of the UK and each one gives a different answer: moody teenager, depression, ME.  But nothing seems to make total sense, and nothing offers Joy that full relief.  As the days progress into months, Aunt Beth takes matters into her own hands.  She does some research and discovers that these symptoms align with Lyme’s Disease (a chronic illness caused by the bite of an infected tick).  It is not until Aunt Beth and Joy take the route of private medicine that this in finally uncovered and Joy is able to begin her journey back towards full health.

I met the author, Morven-May MacCallum this past summer at the Ness Book Fest in Inverness, Scotland.  The seminar she helped to lead was entitled “Writing and Health.”  The general theme being how writing can be a powerful tool towards bringing awareness to various health struggles and also can be therapeutic towards the one suffering the physical, emotional, and mental consequences of illness.

Truthfully, I did not know much about Lyme’s Disease before this seminar nor was I entirely particularly interested, but I was drawn to the general theme.  I am a writer myself and having suffered from an unexplainable illness for over a year, I do know how isolating it can be.  Writing can be a very powerful tool to make one feel like they are still connected to the larger world out there and to put on paper or on computer screen their deeper thoughts and feelings of when they are in and out of doctor’s rooms.

Although Morven’s book centres primarily around Lyme’s Disease and its co-infections, the general style of the book which addresses issues such as how someone feels to be ill for so long, how illness does not just affect the patient but their family and friends as well, and how to be more sensitive and compassionate to someone undergoing testing and treatment, can be helpful to anyone undergoing a serious illness.

Joy’s story is one that sadly all too many people of different ages and backgrounds are experiencing.  Not being totally taken seriously by medical professionals, being misunderstood as “lazy” or “unmotivated” when there is actually something physically wrong, and feeling helpless due to being so unwell.  This is a great book that is a wonderful play on words.  Finding Joy is about finding the true person whom disease and illness threatens to take away from us as well as finding joy even amidst the various trials and hardships we may face in life due to ill health.  This book is definitely worth a read if you are working in the health or disability sector.

 

Downs With Love – A Play Review

20180612_211601 Human relationships are complex and fascinating, but what happens when a girl with Down Syndrome falls in love with a man who ends up being her carer’s boyfriend?

In “Downs With Love” a play that toured throughout Scotland, Beth (played by lead actress Abigal Brydon) becomes friends with Tracey, her support worker.  Tracey and Beth get together multiple times a week to sing, watch TV, and do chores, but Beth wants to take Tracey on a special outing.  Every Friday night, Beth goes to the local pub where she listens to a singer named Mark.  Mark is handsome, has an angelic voice, and is around her age, and Beth hopes that he will one day fall in love with her.  At first Mark ignores her and finds it difficult and awkward to relate to someone with a disability, but as support worker, Tracey, urges him to at least be friendly and kind to Beth a friendship forms.  Mark, Tracey, and Beth all begin spending time together, going to the movies, going out for coffee, and going bowling.  Eventually Mark works up the courage to ask Tracey to go on a date with him.  Tracey does not feel comfortable going behind Beth’s back, but she agrees as long as it is just a casual date, not a “date date”.  Yet as Mark and Tracey grow closer together, they both start getting more and more distant from Beth who truly believes that something might eventually happen between her and Mark.  Soon the day comes when Mark and Tracey have to break the news to Beth, a moment she does not handle well.  She is devastated and feels like her friends have betrayed her.  She questions whether it is all about her disability and if she were simply “normal” if she would have the chance for love.  Yet, at the end of the play, all is remedied as Mark and Tracey get married and Beth forgives them both and is truly happy for them and so their relationship continues.

The play “Downs with Love” is based off of Beth’s (Abigal Brydon’s) own experience.  Abigal is part of a local theatre troupe called Inspire that welcomes actors of various ability levels.  Abi has even succeed in her dream of being a professional by taking classes at a local college, though her ultimate dream is to one day be on television!  Throughout the play, Abi weaves in her past humiliations of being bullied in school and seen as different, as well as her day-to-day routines and her own previous relationships.  It is a play that is at once realistic, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.

After watching the play and having the question and answer session with the panel, I came away with so many questions about how our society perceives people with disabilities in relationships.  Do we view that as awkward or romantic?  Do people with disabilities have enough resources to learn about relationships as the general public?  What is right or wrong in a relationship for someone with a disability, who decides that, and why?

This play really showed me that it is so imperative to support those with disabilities to accomplish their dreams in the same way as we would for anyone else.  It is important to be honest, upfront, and to be clear about boundaries.

I have never seen a play quite like this one, but I believe this is the start of something amazing when it comes to disability inclusion in the theatrical world.  The director, Suzanne Lofthus, has so many upcoming dreams for continuing to make similar plays and maybe in the future, films.  Until, then, I am excited to see more actors with developmental disabilities taking centre stage and reminding us of how love can be a possibility for us all.

My Day with Patricia Bootsma

downloadOn Saturday, October 28th, one of the largest churches in Toronto – People’s Church, hosted a “Serve the City Day.” The day was focused on evangelism, outreach, and missional leadership and included a plenary session in the morning with the famous charismatic evangelist and author, Patricia Bootsma. I have heard Bootsma speak on more than one occassion, and every time I listen to her I am reminded of how much of a woman of God she is. Here is a woman who has experienced and helped to bring about healings, prophecies, visions, and more. It is evident when you meet her that the Spirit of God is upon her and the most impressive thing of all, is her humility towards this. She is not someone who does any of these things in order to amass fame and fortune, but rather she is someone who only seeks for God to use her as His evangelistic instrument.

At the conference, Bootsma spoke about the need for intercessory prayer and prayer evangelism. She explained how before we are able to go out and reach the masses, we must first bring the masses to God. For example, before we ever evangelize to a friend, we need to pray that this friend will be open and receptive to what they will hear. We need to become people who plead with God for lost souls and who truly are so deeply distrubed about the lost and the dying that we cry for them. If there ever was a “Mic Drop” moment in the history of Christian sermons, it would be this line from Bootsma “Do you love souls or do you just love your ministry?” Wow. What an incredible question to consider. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus Himself cautioned that not everyone who calls Him Lord and Master is truly His disciple. In an almost scary way He even mentions that there will be some who will posess charismatic gifts and perhaps even do much good because of them. These individuals may practice gifts of healing, prophecy, or even casting out demons and raising the dead, but in the end times, God Himself will say “depart from Me, I never knew you?” How can this be? How can someone who has practiced the gifts of the Spirit not be in-line with the Spirit of God to the point that He even says He doesn’t know who they are? The answer is then clearly laid out for us verse 21 where Jesus explains that only those who do the will of the Father are truly His disciples. In other words, only those who truly love souls, who engaged in ministry for the sake of the Kingdom (rather than for reasons of wealth, pride, fame, or prestige) are those God wants to associate with. I believe this is a great warning for anyone in ministry, but especially for those of us who have the charismatic gifts. A gifted preacher or evangelist such as Billy Graham may gain attraction and a following, but we also live in a day and age where people are impressed by signs and wonders. Therefore, when someone comes along not just claiming, but actually proving that they have the ability to raise someone from the dead or to heal the sick, our attention is piqued. And so, those of us with this gift, need to be cautious of how we use it and how it will be interpreted. If it is not for the saving of souls and for evangelical purposes – we should forget about it. The Lord gives us gifts in order to use them – not to abuse them. They are never there to draw attention to ourselves, but only to draw attention to God, and the minute we forget that is the moment we risk being one of the goats rather than one of the sheep.

I know not everyone agrees with the charismatic gifts. There are some Christians who feel those gifts were only for a certain time period directly after our Lord came to this earth. In this case, my heart is saddened because I feel these individuals are missing out. When we take the authority of Jesus Christ and use His power to accomplish His mighty acts and deeds, we are not only seeing revival in our own hearts and lives, but also permitting others to experience this revival as well. To hold it back is not only to cut ourselves short, but potentially to leave out great opportunities for evangelism and witness.

At the end of the sermon, I approached a young woman named Ruth, who is Patricia Bootsma’s intern. Ruth is Scottish and I have a heart for Scotland (having lived there for a year) and as we talked Ruth felt the Holy Spirit upon her heart and asked if she could pray and prophesy over me. I agreed. Ruth prayed that God might use me to bring a great revival to the country of Scotland and to interceed for the needs of the Scottish people even right here in Canada. Upon hearing this great prayer, my heart was glad. I was thankful to have attended a day where I was to minister to others, but I was the one who ended up being ministered to!

Everything about this day was a great experience, but as they say, unless you choose to implement something from a conference or a sermon within the first three days, it will never happen. There is a big temptation to be fed at a conference, but to not feed anyone else in turn. To be inspired, but then to not inspire someone else. I hope and pray that I continue to implement what I learned about prayer and intercession. That I continue to live out the specific gifts and callings God has given to me not for my own sake or to achieve fame or status, but for the sake of the Gospel. I hope to join the Apostle Paul in saying that whatever I have gained, I now count it all as loss unless souls are saved in the process. Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift of salvation found only in and through Jesus Christ and His shed blood and atonement alone.

A Prayer for Today

prayer-force

Let us pray for all God’s people:

For those who this day have woken up to adventure and love, and for those who trod through this day painfully hoping it will end soon.
For those who are struggling in their marriages, and for those who are struggling in their singleness.
For those who have problems with their children, and for those who yearn to have a family of their own.
For those enslaved by violence, oppression, and greed, and for the ones who enslave them.
For those who suffer from ill-health, mental disturbance, or increased disability, and for those who suffer in the state of their mind due to their own prejudices and character defects without even knowing how lost they are.
For those who travel to explore, and for those who travel to escape.
For those who are too trusting, and for those who do not trust enough.
For those addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, and gambling, and for those addicted to being liked, popularity, prestige, and fame.
For those who are homeless, and for rich Christians living in an age of hunger who refuse to do anything about it.
For those trying to find their worth in meaningless encounters, and for those who have found their worth but now are struggling once again with the possibility of losing it.
For those who are beaten down, and for those who beat down others.
For those who are puffed up and for those who do not consider themselves worthy enough.
For those who are bold enough to question, and for those who do not know which questions to ask.
For those afflicted, and for those too comfortable to notice the affliction of others.
For those who wander, and those who are bored of being at home.
For those who seek, and those who have found.
For those who hope for community but have not yet found it, and for those who tirelessly seek to build and restore community.
For those who care for the earth, and those who ravish it without conscience.
For those who are humble, and those who are haughty.
For saints and sinners, all.
For those who have found their home in the organized halls of religion – of church steeples, choirs, and pews, and for those searching but still on the fringes.
For those who find themselves on the fringes but would like to be included, and for those who choose to be on the fringes and find themselves excluded.
For those who doubt, and for those who believe.
For those who are just trying to recover for the first time today, and for those who have given up trying.
For those who mentor, and for those who need to be mentored.
For those who change too frequently and for those who do not change enough.
For the dreamers, the poets, the artists, and creators,
And for those who have had their creativity shut down.
For those for whom prayers are few and far between, and for those whose prayers effortlessly lift off their lips though never sincerely mean the words in their hearts.
For the broken, bruised, bandaged, and bemused.
And for the brave who are bothered by injustice.
Father of all Eternal Glory,
Draw ever near us today, be ever present
So that we, in turn, may be present to others.
Lord in Your mercy,
Hear our prayer.