The beauty of being human is that each of us has inherent privileges. In the beginning, God lavished Adam and Eve with ones which gave them emotional life. Love and friendship. To make their own choices and speak their mind. The privilege to learn from mistakes and grow wiser. To work creatively and have faith… Each one is essential in God’s eye.
Now, if any one of these was forcibly removed from our lives, the way God created us to function would die in that area. And this is a death. It will affect every other area in life.
If my freedom to speak is torn from me, it affects my friendships, choices, and my opportunities to grow. It affects my decisions…
In May we published Eva Leaf’s This Crown of Comfort. Eva searched the Bible for years to discover places where God spoke to women and one rainy day in a tent, she reread Isaiah. ‘I finally found it,’ she writes, ‘I read an outpouring of God’s heart towards a city called Jerusalem. He called her a beloved woman!’ Many years, and 33 drafts later, This Crown of Comfort was completed. ‘With each new draft, I saw a bit more clearly that even in our brokenness we can be whole with God, and that whatever our grief, he is there to comfort us.’
‘I read an outpouring of God’s heart towards a city called Jerusalem. He called her a beloved woman!’
Drawing on the seven calls of God in the book of Isaiah, Eva writes out of searing experience – her own, and that of the many women who spoke to her for the book – and concludes, ‘Despite everything we go through, God’s seven calls are relevant today. For in his tender love, he shows us our beauty and worth. In his powerful love, he gives us strength.’
One of the women who generously shared her story with Eva is known as ‘Becks’ in the book. She has written this blog:
‘In This Crown of Comfort, Eva Leaf takes us on a personal journey through one of the most difficult and incomprehensible realities of existence: the pain and suffering that we encounter and experience in our lifetime. Society today may emphasize the responsibility for us to create happiness by following our hearts to the point where we tend to feel guilty when we are unhappy. This book, however, tells another story: life can be breaking us, circumstances crush us, people hurt us, feelings of sadness, pain, anger, and loneliness completely overwhelm us.
And yet, this is a book of hope!
And yet, this is a book of hope! Eva shows us the reality of pain and brokenness, but also the reality of a life-giving Companion. In Hebrews 12 the writer says: ‘Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.’ The word ‘race’ in Greek is Agōn, which means ‘struggle, conflict’. This book looks that reality squarely in the eye: yes, life is hard and there is serious struggle going on, and the many stories are witness to that. But thank God, there is another truth: we are not alone, someone has gone before us, loves us and – in mysterious ways – is able to use our brokenness and pain to draw us closer to himself.
God called Jerusalem a ‘beloved woman’. And when she was badly broken, He draws her into a process of healing. She is to take seven vital steps in her journey of recovery and renewed intimacy with Him. As his children, we are also God’s beloved (wo)men. Through many personal examples, stories from friends and everyday encounters Eva shows us how to use these seven steps as we turn away from patterns of lies and dysfunction and embrace the truth that we truly are God’s beloved. And it all starts with comfort…
This Crown of Comfort is an encouragement for people who are confronted with pain and hardship as they go through life, for we are not alone. Suffering does not have the last word, Jesus does. This book is also for those who are looking to make sense of the journey they are travelling. Eva challenges us to look inward, make an honest inventory for ourselves, and choose the right path going forward. And this book is for those who have a friend or loved one going through crises and are wondering what to say and what to pray. Give them this book as a gift, and if you are able, offer to go through it together, perhaps an even greater gift for the both of you. This Crown of Comfort allows us to discover the love of God in a deeper way, the amazing intimacy with Jesus, our big Brother, and the presence of the great Comforter.
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“A few years ago, I conducted a survey of women at various stages in life and with different beliefs. I wanted to know which felt more important to them – faith, hope or love. I figured every single woman would say, ‘Of course, it is love.’
The answers astonished me. They all said, ‘Hope.’
‘Why?’ I asked one woman.
She explained it well. ‘Faith comes and goes, and I have learned to live without love. But hope – if I didn’t have hope, I would die. There would be no reason to live.’
How I identified. If hope didn’t exist, I would have crumbled in impossible situations. If hope meant nothing, comfort could not have comforted me. Romans 15:13 says, ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ For us to find comfort, God gives us hope.”
Abraham Lincoln was a self-taught lawyer. He worked a menial job and studied at the same time. Apparently, one day he came upon a word he couldn’t define, so he stopped his studies until he could.*
For years I haven’t understood these words: “You are the salt of the earth.”** So for the last two months, I too have stopped. Here is one thought…
Salt is about taste. It is about an experience as we eat. Too much and we feel revulsed. Too little and we get bored.
The same is true in faith. I have noted that EVERYONE has an opinion about God, which means that EVERYONE has had an experience in one way or another. Could it be that those who are antagonistic had salt dumped on them by the bucket load? Could it be that those who don’t care found it tasteless?
It puts a lot on me. Jesus says that I, that we, are salt. Oh, to get those measurements right.
Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com *A children’s adaptation of Abraham Lincoln’s life. I read it as a child. **Matthew 5:13
What if someone told you, “Forget about your God and just do what I say”? What would you do? Would you listen?
God knows that many voices shout out, confusing us, but he still speaks: “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention. Forget your people and your father’s house” (Psalm 45:10) Those near and dear might try to control, might want to keep us ‘safe’, but God wants to take us where we have never gone before.
He asks us to trust him, to take a step into the unknown. He stretches out his hand and invites us to grasp it. “Come, follow me,” (Matthew 4:19) he calls. And we can, into his adventure, individually designed for each one of us.
“If you want to walk on water,” a minister said, looking around at us, “get out of the boat!”
I gasped. That was blunt! But it was true as well. How can I follow Jesus anywhere, at anytime, and at any cost, if I don’t want to climb out of the security of a boat?
Thankfully, Jesus understands our fear of failure, and anxieties at finding ourselves out of our depth, but he still stretches out his hand. “Come!” he calls to each one of us. He dares us to step out of our little boat. He dares us to put everything on the line for him. He dares us to trust that if we sink, he will reach out and hold us up. “Come!”
Have you ever been caught in a darkness so deep, you couldn’t see your hands in front of your face, even when you held them right up to your nose? Maybe you decided to sit still and wait things out.
But, imagine, your child starts crying. Deep darkness or not, you feel your way forward, crashing into furniture, calling out comforting words. It takes a desperation to actually walk, without sight, without light. The Bible says, “Let him who walks in the dark and has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10)
Are you walking in darkness? I am. Let’s follow the unseen God within our hearts.
I am surrounded by boxes. My rectangle house. My defined job. My acceptance of limitations in life. Yet I still dream of walking on water, of flying like a bird. What about you?
I also dream of writing extraordinary books. But, I have been told there is only one CS Lewis, only one JRR Tolkien, and sometimes I wonder if I should even dare try. That is, until I remember…
Jesus said something so freeing, it tears apart our cardboard walls. “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things…” (John 14:12) Faith in Jesus isn’t a limiting box. Faith in Jesus means we can embrace big dreams. It means we can go and do.
If you asked me if I recognized God’s voice, I would have said, “Yes!” But yesterday a friend came to mind. I felt I should visit her. I texted and rang, but no reply. In the end I drove to her house, a 72 mile round trip.
I knocked on her door. No one answered. I thought I had heard God right. In the end I wrote a note and posted it through my friend’s letter box. Romans 8:28. “And we know that God works all things together for good to them who love him.”
I laughed. Maybe this trip was actually for me. God wanted to remind me that everything does work for good, even when things go wrong.