It all begins in this place of beauty, in Eden.
I can only wonder at such beauty – God speaks, creation flourishing at His Word.
Perhaps its truest beauty though, is not what Eden reveals of God’s hand, but what it reveals of intimacy with Him. What would it have been to walk in the cool of the day, at His side? Union with Him, that is still untainted and unbroken. Union with Him, that is our source, and our wellspring, and our deepest satisfaction.
But we know how the story goes. The enemy of our souls enters in, serpentine. Bent as he is on destroying all that is good and beautiful and life-giving, he comes, with his cunning, and his questions, and his casting of doubt on the nature of the only One who is truly good.
And doesn’t he come in the same way to us? His question as old as Eve: did God really say?
The real temptation was never ultimately about the fruit of the tree. It was after all, fruit that was good for food.
The real temptation is always one of trust. Who is this God of ours? Is He truly good? Is He truly able? Is my hope, my life, surer in His hands, or in my own?
It was doubt the serpent brought first, and later, a playing on the delights of the apple.
Once doubt in God has taken hold, it takes very little to sell the delights of the apple.
And so with doubt, came defiance, and with defiance, death. It was as God had said it would be. And why does this so often escape me? – in everything, it is always as God says it will be.
It was the severing of Eden intimacy with God that I think about. To have known Him, enjoyed Him, and flourished in His presence, and then for all that to be torn apart, in the moment of a choice.
But what grace we know in Jesus. The Second Adam, tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Who sympathises with our weakness. Who has taken our broken choices, our sin, upon Himself, and made a way back for us, to this Eden intimacy with the Father. That we might know Him, enjoy Him, and flourish in His presence again, through Christ.
Where we have fallen, there is mercy, and grace, and a God who will bring beauty from ashes.
And where temptation is before us, may we choose to trust God. It is always as He says it will be.
‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly’ ~ John 10:10.
Writing and Photo by Birgit Whelan © Copyright 2013.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) ~ Hillsong United.
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) ~ Hillsong United.
Recently I directed a three-day silent retreat for six women in Virginia Beach. As the retreat opened, I met briefly with each woman and asked her to write on a sheet of paper the one grace that she would most like to receive from the Lord. [One …] told me she wanted more than anything to actually experience just one time the love of God. I assured her that I would join her in that prayer.
The following morning this woman (whom I’ll call Winky) arose before dawn and went for a walk on the beach … Walking along the seashore barefoot with the chilly waters of the Atlantic Ocean lapping against her feet and ankles, she noticed some hundred yards away a teenage boy and a woman fifteen yards behind walking in her direction. In less than a minute the boy had passed … but the woman made an abrupt ninety-degree turn, walked straight toward Winky, embraced her deeply and kissed her on the cheek. She whispered, “I love you,” and continued on her way. Winky had never seen the woman before. Winky wandered along the beach for another hour before returning to the house. She knocked on my door. When I opened it, she was smiling. “Our prayer has been answered,” she said simply.
~ The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning (Colorado: Multnomah, 1990) 95.
This is one of the many beautiful stories in Brennan Manning’s, The Ragamuffin Gospel. What I love in it is seeing the lengths that God will go to, not only to answer our prayer, but to reveal just how much we are loved by Him. That in the spontaneity and warmth of a stranger at the seashore, God would answer this woman’s need to know in a felt way something of His great love for her.
Though we see in His Word and in His cross His immense love, what about in the small, and the day to day? Those Spirit-soaked grace-filled moments when the tenderness of God’s hand is unmistakable?
And though it may be different from the kindness of a stranger on a beach, God is endlessly creative and perfectly particular in His love. A moment from Him, just for you.
He has not left us alone. He is nearer than we might sometimes realise, seeking out the ways this very day that we might be reminded of Him, and His tender love. Let’s ask Him again for eyes that might see, and moments, like the woman in this story, where we are arrested by grace.
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In September, Michael and I spent some time in beautiful Cyprus. These few quiet days over Christmas have meant that I’ve finally been able to get to the photos of our time there, and make this slideshow :).
Even though it was the end of summer that we were there, it was still incredibly hot. To give you an idea, we arrived into Cyprus quite late in the evening, and at our villa close to midnight, with the temperature at that time being 30 degrees! Thankfully the air-conditioning indoors was excellent! In the photos here, the temperature was typically around 40 degrees! What was especially lovely was going for walks around the coast and discovering little secluded coves, where you could just go into the water there and then, and cool off. Photos 67 – 69 are of one of these coves that we came across, and the water was like crystal.
We were based in the south-west of Cyprus in Paphos, and would often make the journey to the harbour to walk along the promenade there, or have a meal. I spent my birthday at the harbour, and have also included some photos of Michael and me on the day. There are a couple of me having a hand-massage by fish! There is a bit of a story as to how this came to be, but in the end, I thought I would give it a try. The little fish actually nibble at your hands, not so that it hurts, but it does feel weird!
We travelled north to the capital city of Nicosia. The city is actually divided so that whilst we were there, we went through immigration, and crossed the border into the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. There are photos of what was formerly St Sophia Cathedral, and is now the main mosque in the city called Selimiye. The construction of the cathedral began in the early 1200s, and the exterior reflects the Gothic style of this period (I have included photo 43 as an example of this). At the time of the Ottoman occupation of Nicosia in 1570, the cathedral was turned into a mosque. There are one or two photos of the interior as it is now (photos 44 – 46). Büyük Han, which translates as ‘The Great Inn,’ was another really interesting part of our visit (photos 52 – 56). This caravansary, with its beautiful construction, was built in 1572 by the Ottomans. It now functions as an arts centre with galleries, workshops, souvenir outlets, and a café.
I’ve included a number of other impressions of our time on this beautiful island – there were many wild cats, and you’ll see a photo of a couple of dear little kittens who kept us company at our villa (photo 71). There is also a photo of some quite magnificent-looking cliff-side mansions under construction (photo 65). A local explained to us that one of the industries that has been most hard-hit in the recession in Cyprus, is the building industry. It’s meant that many constructions have simply had to be left as is, half-way through the building process. Though I’m not sure if this was the case with the homes in this photo, in our time on the island, we did come across many of the partially-constructed “skeleton” buildings, described to us.
The fruit and vegetables is also something to mention! The quality, size and taste of the produce – nectarines, peaches, watermelons, tomatoes – everything! – was wonderful! It has to be all that glorious sun! And lastly, the sea and the sky as the days dawned, and the sun set. These scenes were breath-taking. Stillness and glory. Moments of God, and of gratitude to Him.
So lovely :) The Christmas Story as told by little ones back home! :)