I Am Loved…

Author, Ann Marie Collins
Author, Ann Marie Collins

This is me.

The woman who moved from Jamaica to northern California and, despite having a post-graduate education, struggled for months to figure out how the deer around Lake Chabot knew that they should cross the street at the “Deer Crossing” signs.  Google did not exist sooooo…

Still, I am loved.

I was in my thirties before I learned that tattoos were not painted on with permanent ink, there were NEEDLES involved! Still no Google, and still no tattoo sooooo… that was one wasted trip to Haight and Ashbury.

Yet still, I am loved.

I blame my Jamaican-ness for the fact the movie-watching is an interactive experience, although I have learned to control myself at public theaters…well, mostly.  In Jamaica the best entertainment at the movie theater comes from the audience.  We encourage, warn, and give advice to the protagonists and verbally abuse the antagonists, while reminding each other out loud of similar experiences in our lives, real or imaginary, as the basis for the sound advice we are giving the actors!

Still, I am loved.

Who says, “Is that a dog?” at the beginning of Racing Stripes, knowing that the movie is about a ZEBRA?!  And who, when asked, “Mom, what kind of pizza do you want?” responds, “I’m going to make cake!”?  I cook gourmet meals, but burn the bread.  I am a giant among my more regular-sized friends; louder and more  Momma Hulk than  Momma bear.  I have failed so many times at so many things I could be a ‘Failure Consultant’…

Yet still, I am loved.

Early in life I learned the lie that love is conditional.  My grades, my behavior, my personality, my performance, were all tools of the trade if I was to earn/deserve expressions of love that ebbed and flowed, were given then taken away until I could ‘earn’ more.  I was 50 years old before I walked free from that prison of ‘measuring up’ and ‘living up to expectations’ for the last time.

Now every day I witness and embrace the perfect, unconditional, love God has for me reflected in my very own “village people”, each of us flawed, but faithful; steadfastly believing God and striving daily to actively live His truth.

They remind me of that truth, with gentleness and grace, leaving room for me to find repentance and restoration without shaming, or condemnation.  They are overwhelmingly kind to me and mine, in words and deeds, generously meeting spoken and unspoken needs with no strings attached, and no expectation of reciprocation.

When life becomes war in the trenches, I look around and there they are, shields of faith locked with mine, and warfare prayers on their lips, surrounding me if I become too weak to fight.  They share the joy of victories won, and the sorrow of (temporary) loss or defeat…read the back of the Book…Jesus wins forever!

Yes indeed, I am loved.

This Thanksgiving, I am celebrating the ‘God-reflectors’ in my life who are… just living the thing.

thanksgiving

 

 

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Lord, I believe…

Author, Ann Marie Collins
Author, Ann Marie Collins

Recently someone hurt one of my children very deeply and with little warning a stark, raving, lunatic, Momma Hulk unleashed, and I went off!  I was angry, hurt, and honest about my feelings… yet completely wrong, because I did not act or speak in accordance with, or obedience to the faith I claim to have in God and the truth of His word.  (Yeah, I’m not into sugarcoating, excusing, OR condemning myself when I just plain mess up).

“Be angry AND do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.  Offer the SACRIFICES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and put your trust in the Lord.” Psalm 4:4-5 (emphases mine)

FAILED.

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:6

FAILED.

I was in agony over my child’s pain, deeply wounded by deception and betrayal of trust, and felt someway, somehow, I had failed someone I loved.  Anger, fear, and distrust rolled around in my gut like a poisonous swill that spewed out of my mouth…

“…for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  James 1:20

Into the quiet aftermath of my word vomit came another truth…

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” Romans 8:28 Amplified Bible.

Ohmigaaaaaawsh!  I was soooooo tempted to scream, “PLATITUDE”!

“A remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.” Oxford Dictionary

Suddenly, the horror of dismissing any Word of God as trite or inconsequential rose up and overwhelmed my ‘feelings’ like a tsunami’s tidal wave.  With everything I am I believe God’s Word is ETERNALLY TRUE, so I can BE AS HONEST AS I WANT about my feelings, but in the end, I MUST STRIVE to make my actions and my speech line up with what I say I believe, or the watching world has EVERY RIGHT to question my faith in God.

David is one of my Bible favorites because of the authenticity AND activity of his faith:

God, I feel _______  (angry, alone, fearful,…)

But You, God, are ______  (Sovereign, All-knowing, All-powerful, …),

EVERYTHING You do is _____ (right, purposeful, pre-determined, …)

Therefore, I am going to _____(worship, obey, trust, not act like I’m crazy, …)

Being honest about my feelings does NOT supersede my responsibility to exercise the discipline of discipleship, subject my ‘feelings’ to the truth of God, and then do/say what He says,

“…do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with (my) God.” Micah 6:8

Sometimes my Momma Hulk needs to seek divine wisdom on how to act, and shut her undisciplined mouth!   I trust God to forgive me, and heal all involved. I choose to forgive and must apologize, then keep on… just living the thing.

So This Is It…

Author, Wendy Morgan
Author, Wendy Morgan

So this is it. Tuesday marks the end of the craziest election season that we have ever seen. We have heard things that we never wanted to hear and accusations so bizarre they couldn’t possibly be true. There’s been hate, division, and violence and unfortunately I don’t think those will end on Tuesday no matter which candidate gets elected.

Our mail boxes are full of propaganda telling us how good one is and how bad their opponents are; and sometimes it seems they both have compelling arguments. Even the propositions we are voting on are enough to make us shake our heads.

We were out to dinner with friends recently and the conversation turned to politics as I think it does around most dinner tables lately. My friend asked if I was afraid of Tuesday’s outcome, and I told her I wasn’t, neglecting to say I had been afraid in the weeks prior. Every time I watched the debates there just seemed to be such an atmosphere of evil. I would think about our choices and end up sick to my stomach. People whose opinions I respect are on different sides and it caused confusion and stress.

However in the midst of all this angst is the Word of God. Being reminded of the unchanging, eternal Word of God is what brings peace to a struggling mind.

“Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning..”    Daniel 2: 20-21

“The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules overall.” Psalm 103:19

As it is with everything else in this life, God will not be surprised by the results on Tuesday evening because HE is on the throne and HE is in control. He isn’t worried or scared and we need not be either. Trusting in the sovereignty of God, our job is to pray that we make informed decisions, that His will is done, and then to pray for our elected leaders.  When I remembered this truth it was a moment to take a deep breath, relax and stop worrying.

However our responsibilities don’t end with the election. If we say we trust in the Lord then we need to be prepared to be witnesses of His grace. Opinions will not change and people will be watching how we react. We need to show that our faith is in God and not the candidate who gets elected.

This isn’t a time to be angry or anxious but to live out our faith in God because we know that man’s plans and the devil’s schemes will not thwart the will of God.

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”  Proverbs 21:1

The Word of God quiets my fears and gives me peace as I am …just living the thing.