“A Long Time Ago, but We Have Now”, from L.Willows (Live Love, Courage, Bold)

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Joshua 1:9 –“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

A long time ago, I traveled very far away. It was a different time, my perspective was immersed in the experience. (a humanitarian initiative) I did not have colleagues from the US with me. My reflective life was on the inside of my heart and in prayer. The times asked for courage.

It was 1993. I gathered with many others in the old cushioned seats of the historic Sarajevo National Theater, a majestic structure that had been constructed in 1899. It was during the second year of the Balkan war. Though there was shelling from the nearby mountains and snipers lined an unseen circumference in the ridges, there was nothing that stopped the people of the city from attending a performance at the cherished Theater. The local performing artists worked to continue performing during the war. I remember that a small orchestra group also played regularly outside for all to enjoy each day. These were bold people.

That evening, I remember the feeling of being together with several hundred others in the cathedral-like opera house gathered together gazing towards the stage. It smelled a little bit musty, maybe of a perfume that I was not familiar with. It was semi-dark because it was only lit by an old generator. It felt wonderful to enjoy laughter at the comedy that was presented. There was joy even during the war. It was a relief to be together in the Theater.

No one had electricity at that time. There was no heat. It was winter-time in Sarajevo. Just being in the audience was a victory. Crossing the streets to arrive meant that you had risked the snipers that targeted civilians. I noticed that no one ran across the streets. Everyone learned to walked with heads held high. They had reasoned that there would be an appointed time to live and a time to die.  This was the time to laugh.

The actors on the stage were immersed in the play. I was far enough forward that I could see their expressions. It helped me to understand and be swept into the joy of the moment. Laughter rippled through the Theater. Then, suddenly, there was a loud thunderous sound. Then it happened again. It wasn’t us clapping. It was an interruption that everyone knew well. It was shelling from the mountains that landed next to the Theater if not upon an adjacent wall. My ears rang. My heart shook. No one moved. The play stopped. Everything became completely dark and still.

It was understood that the generator had been struck. No one moved towards an exit or left their seat. I sat in my seat and waited. I could feel the breath of the people around me. It was very cold in there.

I had learned to be still and expectant. Everyone sat together and waited in the darkness without moving for some moments, I don’t know for how long. Because of the thunderous shelling outside, the decision to stay may have meant living or dying. It seemed that the Theater was the target. It was a landmark. The next shell could have hit us all. It was the same as deciding when or how to cross the street.

God really does have your life in His Hands. We live and die for Him. This was one of those moments. There were many in that war. It felt like a collective decision to be together in the Theater with the expectancy of faith.

Suddenly a small light appeared on the stage. It was a candle. One of the actors was placing candles on the perimeter of the wide half-circle of the stage’s edge where the stage-lights had been. The actors were lighting the candles. One by one they were lit. In moments the lights revealed a wondrous view, one that was more spectacular than before.

Then, in the glow of a very special evening, with the pop-pop of shelling in the background and the occasional thunder of larger threats, the play continued in candlelight. The play was wonderful. I am not certain that I ever really knew what it was about but I laughed and was filled with joy.  It was a night to remember forever. Though it was very cold, I felt warm.

Later, walking to the room that I stayed in on those icy and snow-filled streets, I felt like I was in a neighborhood regardless of the threats that appeared to still be all around. Though I was not carrying one of the candles from the stage with me, I felt the glow of the room. The sense of faith and expectancy stayed with me. I did not have fear later that night when I was alone and the night war thunder.

We all seemed to be together, still in one larger room – not scattered individually throughout a city divided. God protects each of us, like a Light with and within every heart.

And now, (2019) if I hear thunder I am comforted. I remember that God is with each of us everywhere. I know that in some places and in some lives, we face times that feel dangerous or isolating but I know that He is always with us and never apart from anyone. I know that even when things happen that seem to cause moments that looks like a temporary “disconnect” – if we wait with hope, faith, and expectancy, especially with and for one another, and in fellowship – our Lord God responds bountifully and generously.

His Love and Light and His Spirit shine into our lives and hearts vividly. They warm us in ways that are transformative. We enter into bold new ways to tell His story, of how His Love has altered our lives and the landscape of our hearts.

He has mine. My story is one of the ongoing triumph of the Love of Christ in my heart and how it brings peace to me.

Joshua 1:9 -“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God is with you. He is with us all the time. He gives us strength and courage. I pray that we are each given the gift of many chances to step forward as bold Christians that walk fearlessly and lovingly towards the Life that we are given with generous and loving hearts.

© 2019 Linda Willows

“God is With You – All The Time”, from L.Willows (justice, Overcome, stand with Love, do no harm)

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Hearts that have been broken by trials and challenges can be lifted by God. They are given the strength to be stronger than before.

Sealed and healed by His power to walk forward in Love, we are given grace upon grace to walk beyond and through worldly circumstances.

Are there any of us that have not faced forms of brokenness? We all have examples from life, whoever we are, wherever we live. There are personal stories that line the insides of each of our hearts.

We pray that God is with us during these times; that His Goodness is greater than the experience of what is visibly broken.

God is With You, All the Time

Looking closely, we see that since we are living in a broken world – one that is not yet redeemed by Christ, in which, we ourselves, grateful for the gift of grace in Christ; are not yet fully redeemed (not perfect and removed from all sin), we are subject to personal brokenness and trials that recur.

Romans 8:19- “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption…”

Recently, I have listened to hearts sharing courageously about the corruption of evil, the forms it takes and how that feels when it becomes a ‘like a mountain’ in your path as you are trying to walk forward- even on behalf of your family or for others that you serve.

2 Peter 2:9- “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”

1 Peter 5:10- “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Revelation 3:20- “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

He is The Door to Freedom from Brokenness

Our lives are each so different but our hearts are similar. How we face God is similar and the way that it feels to go through a short or long season of inner brokenness in this world or one’s own “inner world” is similar. We live as God’s family. We are His children, His Beloveds. God is with us- all the time.

Joshua 1:19- “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

For one moment I need to be specific. Sadly, our culture and world today call out some things that families and communities face in degrees of severity regardless of where they live or what their status is. Evil, which is the opposite of Love seeks to win the ‘battle’ for our hearts and lives. Evil, which is Sin, is the equivalent of death. Love, which is Christ – is Life.

The Choice between Life and Death; Deuteronomy

See What Kind of Love The Father Has

Recently there have been numerous accounts of bullying. This may sound sensational and blown up on the news, taking on perspectives and short interviews but it is far more personal and with far-reaching for the hearts involved. It is an assault on the spirit. Bullying happens to people of all ages. It is aggression towards those perceived to be vulnerable.

  • It wounds his or her trust and sense of innate protection and safety of self.
  • It violates the boundaries of his outer and inner heart and mind.
  • It places a false shame upon the identity of the individual because it causes one to question “why me?”.
  • It potentially violates the natural progression of trust in peer, and or authority relationships.
  • It potentially shakes trust in the caretakers that were supposed to be in the role of protectors, this includes spiritual figureheads, mentors and inner “promise keepers” that one looks to. (sometimes people that are harmed unknowingly lose faith in “God the Protector” as well, questioning why He did not prevent the harm)

This has equal implications for all ages. People in their 30’s, 40’s, even seniors can be on the receiving end of bullying.

How is bullying defined? It is a form of aggression that inflicts harm on the vulnerable. 

It is described as the action of seeking to harm, intimidate or coerce someone that appears to be vulnerable. This breaks my heart because vulnerability to me is a quality that is appealing. It is often the sweetest part about a kind and open person, not only a child but someone with a soft and pure heart; especially a Christian that has an intimate relationship with God.

Psalm 105:15- “Saying, “Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!”

Romans 13:10- “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

Christian “weakness” is Strength in the Sovereignty and Infinite Power of God.

The interesting thing is that the worldly definition of vulnerability is that one is open to attack but the Biblical definition of vulnerability is very different. Christian vulnerability is allowing God’s power to be supreme and sovereign!

2 Corinthians 12:9- “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:10- “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Romans 8:26- “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

I could go on into hundreds and hundreds of scriptural quotes but there is no room! The Old and New Testament are filled with the encouragement of God’s Sovereignty and Divine ability.

In this article, I only mentioned bullying as a form of agression that inflicts harm. Please consider how much goes on in this world – all of the trials that our neighbors face. There are so many things that attempt to steal our spirit and take away purity of the heart.

Aggression and forms of anger are like underground streams of toxic waters that are often unknown to us. Sometimes we have to stumble into the result of them before we know that they exist. Then we respond, we feel, we want to repel, understandably.

We Must Choose to Stand With Love

Can we pray that we are more loving and kind to one another? If you sense that there is even a seed of unkindness, bullying or aggression of any nature – know that its source is evil, that there are currents pulling in powerful directions in our world today but really there are only two directions. One is for good and the other is the opposite.

Where will you stand? We must choose to stand with Love.

1 Corinthians 16: 13-15- “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

1 John 4:16- “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

Romans 11:22- “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”

Ending with these thought-provoking quotes from scripture, I have few words to add except that when I read Romans 11:22, I am reminded that the kindness of God is gracious, full and good. I am grateful that I abide in Him as a Christian and have been given the gift of salvation. It isn’t something that is to be taken for granted or that is a ‘once in a lifetime offer’. It is a daily, hourly, heart-altering journey that brings me humbly before God knowing that I need to ask that my heart be searched, reviewed, seen by His Spirit. I am not the judge or the arbiter of my destiny. I am not the one that is in control. I am not the one with the power or the strength to “do life”. I confess vulnerability. I go to God, to Christ, to His Spirit for “all things”, for wisdom, for help and in most especially in challenging times. I pray that He is sovereign in my life, in all life.

Isaiah 30:15- “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Zephaniah 3:17- “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

God is With You. He is Good. Behold, He is The Door

I am so grateful that God is with us, all the time! Behold, He is at the Door. How could we navigate this life in any other way – with anyone else at the Door?

Revelation 3:20- “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
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© 2019 Linda Willows

“Go to God for Strength in Difficult Times”; Bible Scripture for prayer and inspiration

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Scripture for Prayer and Inspiration in Difficult Times

Isaiah 43:1-3 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Habakkuk 3:19 “The Sovereign Lord is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Isaiah 54:10 “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

Psalm 27: 1-3 The LORD is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Philippians 4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:8-10 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts ofjoy.”  1 John 4:4 “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 Psalm 91:1-2 “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!’”

1 Chronicles 16:11  Seek the LORD and his strength;  seek his presence continually!

Psalm 32:7-8 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Exodus 33:14 My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Psalm 34:17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.

Ephesians 6:10-12 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

A Prayer to Lift our Hearts

Father, we look to you for every need, every hope and every prayer that rests upon the hearts of each in your family everywhere. We know that you hear our pleas and that you are able to fathom the cries of those from the farthest reaches of Your Created world.  All is known to you and held together by your faithful love. You reach to us with protection and the embrace of redemption since the beginning of time. You are our eternal Provider and Protector.

Lift us to your Heart and bind us closely to you in these times, Lord. We are dependent upon you for strength. We ask for patience, endurance and deepened faith. Help our hearts to be strong and courageous. Show us your will. Help us to bypass our weakness for grasping at our own goals and desires. Help us to learn to sacrifice for a greater good. Let us grow a vision that is discerning of what is Good to You, Lord.

We praise you for all that you have so generously given to each of us. We each have so much to be grateful for. Father- we praise you for the beauty and wonder of Life. Help us to honour you as we live this day. Teach us to live and walk forward with courage and gratitude. May we glorify you and inscribe your name upon our hearts.

In Jesus Name, Amen