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Several months ago, my aunt recommended that I read three books by the author Paula D’Arcy that had really impacted her. The Gift of the Red Bird: Story of a Divine Encounter really spoke to me as I recently had what I believed was a divine encounter with some finches (see my previous blog). She described how she was able to feel closer to God by being alone in nature, and this made me think. How could I feel closer to God while living in the city? Where could I go?
I remembered a special place that my friend Sharon had taken me several years ago…a Benedictine monastery. It was so peaceful there, and it seemed like the perfect place to go for meditation and prayer in this busy area. At this particular monastery, there was a labyrinth. Sharon told me a little bit about the background of a labyrinth as I knew nothing about it. Basically, it is a place to go to spend some quiet time with God away from all the hustle and bustle of the day and to get clarity for any problems through prayer and meditation.
A labyrinth is a type of maze that only has a single track, so you can’t get lost in it. It has been around for thousands of years and is present in many churches around the world. The belief is that if you walk the labyrinth, you will go through three stages:
1. Purgation – you are released from all the worries of the world while walking through the winding paths
2. Illumination – a divine revelation as a result of meditation and prayer. This occurs at the center
3. Union – reflection on what you have learned as you make your way out of the labyrinth.
Well, I thought about the labyrinth while reading Paula’s book, but I didn’t go immediately as life got in the way. I was so busy writing and working on my house that I just couldn’t find the time. Then, one night, I started to read the next book by Paula D’Arcy – Seeking With All My Heart: Encountering God’s Presence Today. Amazingly, early in the book she had an entire chapter on the labyrinth! I knew at that moment that I had to make the time to visit the Benedictine Monastery.
Several days ago, I finally went and spent quite a bit of time by myself in that quiet place. No one else was around. There were many things on my mind at the time, but mostly I thought about how my life had changed since my divorce. Five years ago, I had this life of lab work, dance, and a twenty-year marriage. Now, all of that had been taken from me. Why did that happen? I had been plagued by that thought over the years.
As I started to walk the labyrinth, the first thing that I noticed was that my mind quieted. I felt God telling me to be quiet and just listen. Just listen to the birds and crickets. Just feel the slight breeze blowing on my face. Just be still and listen.
As I walked, I began to think about how the labyrinth mirrors life. We walk straight ahead in one direction, and then suddenly we are forced to turn in the opposite direction, just like what happened to me five years ago. Do the curves in the labyrinth represent our difficult/challenging times? Was this God telling me that sometimes the path we walked previously is no longer to our benefit? Is there something on that path that could hurt us, so He is taking us in a different direction?
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
As I continued to walk, I noticed that some of the bends in the labyrinth were hard to maneuver without falling a little off the path. I noticed that my momentum brought me one direction while the path directed me another way. This made me think about easy it is to lose our way in difficult times. It is easy to get discouraged, depressed, or fall into a sinful life when challenges arise. I was intrigued.
The next thing I noticed is that the stones around the curves are very small in relation to the stones in the straight areas. This made me think about how, in difficult times, we have to take “baby steps” to get through it. For example, during the divorce, my strength was sapped and I just couldn’t do as much as I did when I was married. We talked at length about this exact thing in my divorce support group. We were told that some days, we would find it hard to even get out of bed. For me, these small stones so accurately depicted what happens to us, physically and mentally, during difficult times. We have to be patient with ourselves and take “baby steps” until we eventually get back to our normal lives (the larger stones).
Other ideas came to me as I continued on the journey. Some areas of the labyrinth have longer areas without bends while other areas are shorter. This also mirrors life as some times we will have longer periods of peace and stability while at other times, it comes in short spurts. Also, some of the bends are a complete 180 degrees (lots of change) while other bends are 90 degrees (some small change). Finally, I realized that some of the bends could actually represent good times that are also stressful (marriage, a move, etc).
But the biggest lesson I learned that day is when I walked into the center of the labyrinth. I realized that no matter what we go through, if we stay on the path to God, it will lead us to salvation. The little bends in that labyrinth cannot even be compared to the beauty of walking into the center of the labyrinth. I realized that if I stay on that path, even through the difficult times, it will ultimately lead me to God. Straying off the path into a sinful life is not an option. I just have to trust in Him, keep my eyes on Him, and walk through that narrow door.
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 10:22
Several weeks ago, I went to visit my mom and stayed overnight at her house. We had a wonderful time as we always do…shopping, eating out, and running errands. The weather was perfect, and we even laughed until our stomachs hurt as we watched Chevy Chase in the classic movie, Christmas Vacation.
The next morning, we decided to visit my dad’s grave. Before we left, we shuffled through a container in her garage that were full of artificial flowers since we wanted the grave to look nice for the holiday season. We found several things that we had put on the grave last year, but we were disappointed to find only one poinsettia (there are two vases on either side of the grave – see picture above). We decided that we needed to stop by Michaels to get another poinsettia.
As we walked the aisles of flowers in the store, we picked up many different flowers, but none of them really stood out to either of us. We looked at all colors but decided that red would be best. However, the red poinsettias that we saw were to big for the small vases at the grave. We looked at white ones and even blue ones, but neither of us were really happy with what we found. However, in those first ten minutes or so, we did find some really pretty stems, leaves, and pinecones that were covered with artificial snow, and they were small enough to work in the vases. But, it still needed something more.
Suddenly, my mom saw another area with Christmas flowers. We walked toward this new section, and since we were having some trouble deciding what to get, I said, “OK, Dad, show us what you want!” Both my mom and I laughed. My mom went to one end of the aisle while I went to the other. Then I saw it…one single red poinsettia with a small amount of glitter on the inner leaves. I looked closely at it, and I thought it was perfect. I picked it up, turned toward my mom, and to my surprise, she was holding and looking at the exact same poinsettia! I called to her, and when she turned to me and saw me with the same flower, we just smiled.
“I guess this is what Dad wants,” I said.
She laughed. “I guess so!”
To add a little more red color, we added a red hydrangea. Feeling quite certain that we had the perfect flowers, we eagerly went to the cemetery and decorated Dad’s grave for Christmas. When it was done, it looked just beautiful and perfect. We were both so happy and at peace. We both knew that Dad was with us that day, and we knew that he helped us to pick out the flowers.
Miracles happen every day. Just watch for them. They are all around you, and you will miss them if you’re not looking!
I hope everyone has a wonderful and miraculous Christmas this year!
Several months ago, I attended a Bible Study at a local church. I had been with this group for a while, so we all knew each other fairly well. During this particular study, one of the ladies shared a horrific event that occurred in her life. Her teenage son died by suicide several years ago.
Her son had been suffering from a deep depression, and the doctors were not able to effectively treat it. One day, he became so despondent that he ended his life. Of course, this caused immense distress in the family, and this lady explained to all of us how hard it had been on her and her family. The members of the group were so supportive, and we all rallied around her as tears streamed down her face.
She eventually brought up a concern that she had for several years since the suicide. She wondered if her son was in heaven because he took his own life. He had been very active in the church and believed that Jesus died for his sins. He showed love to everyone he met, and he helped out those who were less fortunate. She told us that he was a wonderful person but he suffered terribly from this depressive illness.
We all assured her that he was at home with Jesus, and he was no longer suffering from depression. I specifically said that the depression could have been just too much for him to handle and that God knows how much he suffered during his short life here on earth. God is love, and He has compassion on those who are suffering. According to what she said about her son, I have no doubt that he is with God in heaven.
However, one lady made the statement, “Once you are saved, you are always saved.” This statement bothered me, but I didn’t address it as that would have been inappropriate during that conversation. This woman needed support, and that is what I focused on at that time. Today, in this blog, I would like to address this statement as God’s word gave me clarification on this issue.
To say “Once you are saved, you are always saved” is an incorrect statement. When I heard this statement, I was bothered because I know people who have been saved but then turn away from God and lead a sinful life. It just didn’t make sense to me. Then one day while reading 2 Peter 2, I received clarification on this issue.
“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit’ and ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.'”
Does this mean that this young man isn’t saved? No. None of us here on earth know what was going on in his mind and heart at that moment that he ended his life. He never turned to a sinful life prior to ending his life. He may have had a very serious illness involving the neurotransmitters in his brain, and his actions may have been out of his control. It also says in the Bible, “Do not judge lest ye be judged.” Only God knows what truly went on at that tragic moment. No one on this earth has the knowledge of God, and no one can tell you who is going to heaven. If they do, they somehow have managed to put themselves on the same level as God himself, and that is sacrilegious. Only God can judge others here on earth.
Having said that, I do believe that it is necessary to clarify the statement, “once saved, always saved”. Do not be deceived into thinking that just because you accepted Jesus at one point in your life, you are destined for heaven even if you turn your back completely on Him. This simply is not true.
I will continue to pray for complete healing for this family. I know that God has them in His loving arms, and I pray that they find the heavenly peace that surpasses all human understanding.