Today I was reminded of quite a special conversation that took place a little over a year ago, but has been revisited in my thoughts at various times. The memory has been awakened by the emotion I see daily in the current 2012 Olympic Games being held now in London.
Let me take you back to that special occasion .. .. .. I packed my bags and hit the road. My arms were ready for hugs, my heart was eager for slobbery kisses and smiling faces. In my bag were goodies and treats for two little boys and a little pink princess. Soon I was there, and hugs and cuddles commenced eagerly. Eskimo kisses were exchanged and laughter filled our hearts and the room. I was on a sleepover with my nephews and niece, oh and their parents, who I had told to go on a date as I would babysit for them. Soon it was just me and the three musketeers, all in our pyjamas on the couch watching a movie. My eldest nephew, a courageous 7 year old then, turned to me as he noticed my black & pink heart pyjamas. He giggled and said, “Nisey, you always have heart things, why?” I snuggled him closer and explained to all three of them how important the heart is. They were giggling with laughter as I explained how the heart inside us keeps us alive by pumping blood around our body, but that it is also with the heart that we are able to love, and without a heart we would feel nothing. As they followed my lead they placed their little hands on the spot where their hearts were beating and their eyes opened wider as they understood what I was saying.
So then the challenge came…my eldest nephew turned to me saying, “Nisey, do you think you can find a heart every day and take a photo of it with your phone?” ~ I accepted his challenge, and we agreed that for a year, I would find a ‘heart’; and so the “Hearts 365 Project” began! The heart project has finished now, but in all of our lives the work of living with courage from our heart, still continues! It was an amazing project, and one that many people all over the world became involved in, joining in the fun of finding hearts. A heart revolution you might say! There will be more about that project at a later date ✿♥‿♥✿
.. .. .. As I watch the Olympics I am left in awe at the sense of teamwork and commitment I see between the various countries and their teams. On the night of the Opening Ceremony they each walked with pride behind their country flag and joined together in courage and preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games. Surely each of us felt our hearts beating loudly with anticipation and excitement? I know mine did as our dear friend Katie Taylor proudly led Team Ireland♣ with the Irish flag in her strong boxing arm! Go Katie!♣
“Semper Fidelis”, (a motto I love), resounds loudly from their hearts as they challenge their physical capabilities for the next two weeks. But no matter what medals are won or lost, they are together under the umbrella of “Always Faithful”, and even those who fail to make the cut or win their medal are still on the team, and will not be disowned in terms of their flag colours and team membership. We have much to learn about this in our own evaluation of the way we do life together day to day. Semper Fidelis is Latin for “Always Faithful” or “Always Loyal”, as the motto of the United States Marine Corps (and often shortened to Semper Fi in Marine contexts), Semper Fidelis has served as a slogan for many families and entities, in many countries, dated to have been started no later than the 16th century. Newly married couples have even had it engraved on the inside of their wedding rings, as a beautiful sign of their commitment and loyalty for the rest of their lives ~ beautiful! Semper Fidelis goes beyond teamwork ~ it is a brotherhood that can always be counted on. This became the Marine Corps motto in 1883 and it guides Marines to remain faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to their country, no matter what.
So to live as a committed person is to walk with a code of personal integrity, and they say that it is honour that guides those who do the right thing when no one is looking. It is not only a duty, but also a distinction, and one that sets you apart from those who easily compromise their values and ethics. It is true, that when you meet someone you can trust, your heart feels safe and refreshed, that although they are not perfect and may fail, you still know that at their core there is a code of honour and truth that they strive to live by. What is found in one’s beliefs is exhibited through one’s actions; When our truest principles are tested, it’s courage that prevents us from crumbling. It isn’t about ignoring fear, but being stronger than fear. Courage starts in the heart, and it is also the guardian of all the other values that we hold fast to. It is there when times are toughest, when difficult decisions have to be made.
A Nisey Note ~~> May God’s love reach in and heal where disappointments and emptiness war for our hearts! May His love stir our hearts again to live from a place of abandoned adventure. When the heart hurts it is tempting to kill it, to not feel from it, to hide it away where nothing can hurt it again; to pretend what we treasured was less than the beautiful gift we knew it to be. But from our heart is where God wants our life to live; from our deepest part comes our deepest impact on this world, from our heart our worship sings! Don’t kill your heart, for it is the place where real intimacy and life must spring from. Semper Fidelis “Always Faithful”…. must be the anthem of our hearts and the motto of our lives.
The amazing cyclist, Lance Armstrong uses the great slogan LIVESTRONG ~ so keep in mind no matter what you are battling, you can live Always Faithful ~ Forever Strong!
One of my trademark sayings (so I have been told), is my regular use of the brilliant phrase “God Knows!” – Yes, I admit that it rolls off my tongue quite a lot and usually when I have unanswered questions on my mind. ☺♥☺
Who knows you? . . . I mean really knows you? Has that question provoked a slight awkward nervousness in your heart just now? Maybe it brings a calming sense of well-being and peace because you know you are loved unconditionally and completely? Possibly it challenges you to the core of who you are or aspire greatly to be? Well today God sent a lightning bolt (as real as the one about to flash again outside my window), a gunshot, a bow’s arrow straight into this heart of mine .. .. .. I was asked the same question.
God challenged me to look at the things my heart hungers and thirsts for. Some moments later, I answered Him. It came through a song. It came through painful realization. It came through the acknowledgement that ONLY one person can truly ‘know’ every single facet of me. Though I choose to share different parts of myself, my life, my thoughts, my desires, my dreams, my jokes, my writing, my cooking, my achievements, my longings, my laughter, my creativity, my love, my affections and my passions with people in varying degrees of intimacy, truly there is only ONE who really knows the real me. He knows the “me” with no barriers, no pretending, no masks, no hidden motives, no insecurities, no fears, no vulnerabilities or barriers. He loves me despite my weaknesses, sins, frailties, failures and vulnerable ways.
He jumps right into each day with me, longing to make me even better than the version of me I was yesterday. He proudly comes alongside me to help me in my attempts to improve on yesterday’s performances and choices, because He knows my heart truly longs to be the best me I can be for Him and those I do life with. He giggles at my childish jokes, and loves the unique traits He has given me – He calls into being every dream and desire that resides in my heart; He gently holds me when the storm rages and I have no solution for the circumstances my little boat sails through; His name is God. He whispers goodnight as the moon hangs in the midnight sky, with His promise to never leave my side; staying with me through every twist and turn the road may take. Nothing surprises Him, and nothing about me is hidden from His eyes. When I have days where I would rather run from Him and life seems to dare me to give up, He will still be there, here, beside me. He is ever present, He never slumbers or sleeps.
Hunger (whether physical or psychological) is not a game; it can lead people to do crazy and dangerously soul-destroying things. You may be quite familiar with your own “hunger games” and the cravings of your own heart. Maybe you don’t believe in God? .. .. .. but truth be told He believes in you. He created you with a void that only He can fill. He sees the amazing dormant potential in you, that awaits for His breath of life to create a new and amazing detour to the road you currently walk on – is there a hunger in your heart, even now, to be ‘known’ – truly known?
He sees you weep when you feel the floundering winds of change sweep you to a place where life is scary or hard to understand. He holds your arms up when you are tired or weary from the fight. He cheers you on when life is victorious and hugely rewarding. He is God and He does not miss one solitary moment of your life. Even in a crowded room, where you are surrounded my many, He does not miss one thing about you. He knows you, but He also loves you! Sure many others can touch your heart, occupy space there, impact you deeply and love you there.. .. .. but there is truly only ONE who can know every facet of your life, your mind, your thoughts and your soul – GOD! Wisdom tells us to choose carefully the ones we allow into our hearts, to select these special ones wisely and cautiously, but we are always better off the closer we walk with God.
Today this truth hit me like a bolt of lightning .. .. .. like a dart aimed for the bulls-eye, like a perfect 180 shot straight into the dart board of my heart. I’ve experienced a lightning bolt to my heart before, but this is not the time to share those stories – all I can say is that upon reading a challenging piece of text today, I realized that God was speaking loudly, directly, clearly and seriously into my heart, asking me “Denise, do you know that I know you? You are not one of the ‘unknown’, you are not forgotten or undiscovered by me – I see you” ~
Can I be honest here? Well, I will be anyway and hope that you too will be honest with your own heart. I really forgot that God knew me .. .. .. that He both wants to and desires to, and is delighted to know me! The God I sing to and speak daily to, this amazing God that I daily surrender my life to, knows me. WOW .. .. .. think about that: The God who flung stars into space, knows you. The One who has seen and will see everything about this Universe; the One who sees when you win or lose – knows you. He knows exactly how many hairs are on your head, how many tears you have cried, how many years you have lived, the breaths your life will amount to, the past, present and future for you – He knows your name!
Maybe the land of being “known” is already a land you frequent a lot, sharing glorious moments, hours and occasions of great joy and strength in His beautiful presence? but for some it is a land where they feel like an alien; hungering to be accepted unconditionally. Well, today I remind you, invite you, beseech you, to find a quiet place (like I have), to take a realistic look at the activities of your life – who do you do them for? Are these activities a reflection of the desperate hunger in your life for acceptance and love? God does not want your life to be one series of relationships, endeavours and “hunger games” after another, where you seek to fill your life with anything rather than emptiness. He wants to fill you with the greatest acceptance, love, favour and romance you could ever know.
Close your eyes, listen, He is already here. No more hunger games, no more running, no more pretending; It is time to experience the liberation of being known by Him, and in that place you will experience God loving what He knows about you; and making you the best you possible! =)
Then go and feed others – show them how being unconditionally loved by God satisfies beyond any other source!
“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;” (Psalm 16)
…Indeed this is a beautiful thought, a precious declaration of gratefulness and peace at one’s surroundings and lot in life. To be honest it is not always the way reality seems to be for us at all, and life can sometimes be the complete opposite. Trust me, I know! Maybe when you think of the ‘lines’ of your life you imagine the perimeter of your homestead or dwelling place, and you wish it were larger, or smaller, or cleaner, or quieter, or richer, or safer? Some of you may think about the place where your lines fall and wish it were in a different location, or a far more appealing place? There may even be people dwelling within your boundary lines that are absolutely driving you crazy, or letting you down daily? Per chance even some of you are thinking of someone right now who you wish was able to dwell within your boundary lines but instead they are either far away geographically or even distant emotionally? Whatever your situation, wherever you find your lines to be or not to be, there is still a place for you where beauty can touch your heart and somehow kiss your life with peace; hang in there with me!
First, let’s look at the word “pleasant” ~ Pleasing, agreeable, or enjoyable; giving pleasure: receiving pleasant news. (dictionary.com)
Some synonyms of ‘pleasant’ are ~ Blessed, agreeable, darling, delicious, delightful, delightsome, dreamy, dulcet, enjoyable, good, grateful, gratifying, jolly, fair, comfortable, nice, sweet, pretty, satisfying, welcome, tasty, palatable, overflowing, or abundant. A person is ascribed the compliment of being ‘pleasant’ when seen to have qualities that tend to give pleasure, or when they act agreeably. You may also be characterised as being ‘pleasant’ if you have pleasing manners, behaviour, and a pleasant appearance, being easy on the eye!
David, the writer of Psalm 16, where the first line of my story is taken from, lived much of his life as a fugitive. At times he was on the run like a wild animal trying to save himself from an enemy who was viciously trying to kill him. He often found himself in some very difficult places during those years. Sometimes life was so hard that he quite literally sank into a horrible pit, unable to be rescued or even try to rescue himself. Many of us have been there or are living there now. Other times he lived enclosed in complete darkness in lonely caves. But believe it or not, it was out of these experiences that David wrote some of the most meaningful words of his writing career; with God as his motivator, editor and publisher!
So…as we read this line where David declares ~
“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
I will bless the Lord who has counselled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night…” (You would be forgiven for thinking that suddenly life must have taken a magnificent turn for our friend David, but guess what, it hadn’t!)
From all I have gleaned about his life at this point David is still not yet in a place of safety and life is not nearly as comfortable as his heart would have desired. He is walking through difficult days with no real sign of easier nights ahead. Yet in the midst of what seems to be hardship, back ache and disappointment, David is able to declare that the boundary lines of his life are secure and safe, sweet and pleasant…how can he do this you ask? Stay with me…
Right now where are your boundary lines? Do you know what it represents in the days of old? When Joshua was led by God to take the children of Israel into their promised land, God told him to divide up the newly entered land according to the tribes and give each one a section to call their home. So it was that each individual family was given a special place. The lines were drawn and the boundaries were made. Boundary stones were used as markers to show where the lines had fallen for each family, and every person knew the exact piece of land God had given them. So they lived in security and safety, provided for by God.
So how can David declare this, when we can see his life is a mess by comparison? Could it be true that David wrote these words against the backdrop of the knowledge of those great promises that had been given to him by God? Many have studied this passage and believe it to be so. He said it by faith. David knew the God he trusted, he reminded himself of all the promises that had been spoken to him over the years, and one day he would see all that God had whispered to his heart in the darkness of night. Although David lived on the run and in fear for his life, in his heart he had moved his residence to a land called “Pleasant Places”. He moved in and unpacked his troubles and cares there, in the place of protection. He came to find out that his new abode “Pleasant Places” was the place of provision. All that had changed about his circumstances happened in his heart, in his mind and in his relationship with God. He began to believe in what God said and he declared it over his life. Soon even his difficult circumstances could no longer rob him of the peace that he found in “Pleasant Places”.
I too am learning this…I have many desires and dreams waiting for the touch of God upon them, but one thing I have found is that there is a land in my heart that is mine, where God and I talk. And although I do not understand His timing or his workings in my life, I do know that I must trust Him in this place. By making a decision to declare that the boundaries of my life have fallen in “Pleasant Places”, I will lie down in peace, I will rise up in protection, and I will come and go in His provision and providence. There is a land I can live in where faith rules over my fears, where joy overcomes my sorrows, where tears are wiped away with the gentle touch of His hand. My dear friend, whatever season we may be walking through, it is an opportunity for us to learn something about God and to have an experience with Him that can literally bring a song out of our tired hearts. Even in the waiting time we can cultivate the hope that as we surrender and trust Him, we will come to realise that the “Pleasant Places” He has promised us resides within us!
I have decided that wherever I find myself, wherever I lay my head, (or my hat), whether rich or poor, whether happy or sad, I will declare it a “Pleasant Place” because He is with me and He makes it PLEASANT!
Speak these words softly to your heart . . .every day if you need to . . .
“The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely.” (Psalm 16)
Look, there’s a sign above your head, written on it are the words….”Pleasant Places!”
Well, Ireland’s chances in Euro 2012 are over, yet still a few green, white and gold flagpoles, car mirror covers and window flags are proudly displayed around the city and suburbs. During the games everyone rushed to hang their teams colours from every window sill, car window and roof top. I even saw houses fully cloaked in Irish flags or other Euro colours of their choice. I loved it. And even now when a team flag catches my eye I smile. Why? Well because it screams support. It shows commitment and dedication to a cause, all be it over! It shows the desire to stand by your team when they need it the most. And the whole world took note of the fact that although Ireland were losing and failing to qualify further, still those Irish fans in Poland sang even louder in prideful support of their lads in green on the field. So much so that the lyrics of ‘The Fields of Athenry” were posted on the front page of a Polish newspaper. When the colours we support are floundering in failure and disappointment surely that is the time they need our voices, flags, and belief in them so much more.
They say that a true and loyal fan is proven most, when they stick by their team even when failure looms and all chances of winning are gone. That’s a true fan in my book! Why wait until a team is doing well in order to show our support? It seems very easy to me to support a winning team, but true bravery and commitment are revealed by the fan who sticks by his colours when they have lost the fight. When their motivation and determination drop shouldn’t we come alongside them and stand shoulder to shoulder even more? I say a heartfelt “YES!” Supporting your team is a lot like a relationship, friendship or marriage. When it gets tough and the temptation to give up overwhelms them shouldn’t we hang those colours even higher? Wave those flags even harder? Shout those anthems even louder? Love them even deeper? Hold them even closer? For surely that’s when they need us even more. Who knows but one day it could be us needing them. When the wind and rain beat against their face; when the cold icy fear of failure torments them and when all is lost and life is crazy, shouldn’t we be the unconditional love and side line coach that screams their name out loud and says I’m WITH YOU and I believe in you? It reminds me of God’s heart towards us. As a Coach, He faithfully stands on the side lines of our lives screaming our names and reminding us of the truth that He is with us. Never will He leave us. He wore the colour red for us. His team won us over. That makes us winners too! Whoever you are…do you need to hear someone calling out your name and wearing your colours? Or do you need to reach out to someone you know and call their name? Maybe they need to hear you say you’re with them and believe in them? Goodness knows it could even be your own dear heart that needs your own acceptance and support. It is more blessed to give than to receive but as you give to others it will return to you a hundred fold. So grab that flag and hang it up through all the seasons of winning or losing. Your support makes the difference. Your love brings comfort to someone who has forgotten what it is like to have a supporter. That person who is failing and afraid needs to know you will never give up on them.
Is that person who feels like a failure today, the one who looks back at you when you look in the mirror? Then please be reminded that you have the Almighty Coach, and He thinks you are amazing. No matter how tired, worn out or confused you feel today, He is shouting your name at the top of His voice. He is cheering you on from the side lines. He knows your name and exactly where you are. Listen, and you will hear His voice telling you to get back up and wave that flag! He sees your true colours, He sees you as a winner!
I read a caption written underneath the American flag the other day…it read;
” These colours don’t run!” and my heart echoed in agreement! The courageous don’t run either…be a Faithful Flag-Bearer! Someone on your team needs you!
Okay, I admit it, as I write this short story I am unashamedly nibbling away on a “Rocky Road Biscuit Brownie”, purchased today at a gorgeous health food/home food bakery store. I am guilty as charged for falling for the overwhelming temptation of a dark chocolate, marshmallow & biscuit temptation. As I was out on my morning run, I succumbed to its alluring ways…and moments later it sat in my running bag as my après-running treat! And hours later, that’s just what it is. However, let me add, it is accompanied by a strong and hot cup of organic Chinese green tea; so all is good! As I munched this delicious treat, I mused to myself at its interesting name.
I decided that really the only “Rocky Roads” we want in life, are of the chocolate variety (for me the dark chocolate) but if only life was as simple as a chocolate “Rocky Road”. For many of us it is paved with seasons of “rockiness”, when we would much rather a smooth surface!
“Rocky Road” started as a flavour of ice cream; described as that hard-to-resist combination of chocolate ice cream laced with chunks of nuts and marshmallows. William Dreyer came up with this cleverly named ice cream flavour way back in 1929, and it was, and still is, a best seller. Its popularity is probably why the chocolate-nut-marshmallow combination is now found in so many desserts too.
So, when you saw that the title of my story was “Rocky Road”, what did you think of? Was your first thought of a chocolate/marshmallow tray-bake combination or were you far more concerned with the “Rocky Road” that your life may be right now? Do you dream of days where there are less obstacles and far more blessings? If you do, then you are not alone. I promise!
May I interject with some raw honesty? As I sat writing this blog today, right at this moment my thoughts have been completely thrown asunder by the news of the death of a dear friend. We knew he was ill but never thought that he would leave us. So strikingly ironic that I should be writing about the “Rocky Roads” of life and then receive this news. Somehow it impacts the next part of my story even deeper. When life is rocky, we have a Master Helper who comes alongside us to carry our load. When our hearts ache for those we love, He gently wraps His great arms of compassion around us and helps us trust Him through the tears. When life falls apart at the seams, He somehow weaves the tapestry of His design and allows us to see just enough so as to have hope, even one day at a time.
And today as we grieve the loss of an amazing brother and friend Joseph Fitzgerald, we can know that though this road is rocky, and hard to understand there is a faithful God who sees our hearts and cares about our loss. Jesus wept remember!
So I guess all I can say is whatever season you are in, whether life is rocky or smooth, make sure you have the Master Weaver as your friend, for then no matter what the road may hold for you, there will always be a road map to look to and trust in. All I know at times is that “GOD KNOWS”, these are often the final words whispered from my tired lips as I close my eyes to sleep each night. And He does know!
Within a week of each other, two of my friends have gone home to Heaven far sooner than any of us would have thought possible. Both of them incredibly talented musically and vocally, in abundance! And as another dear friend (John Edwards) said today, “Now promoted to the choirs of Heaven…” That is a beautiful thought John!
But it’s hard today to grasp that we are saying goodbye to another gifted friend. Our loss is Heaven’s gain it is true, but what a wake-up call to make our lives count!
Forgive, love, live, laugh and make a difference; for none of us know what tomorrow holds! If you love someone let them know. Carpe Diem…SEIZE THE DAY!
Make things right with God and each other! Remember in Luke 24 v 32, ‘They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?’ ~ There is a Friend walking this “Rocky Road” with you, and that Friend is Jesus. Listen, He is speaking softly to your heart, as you walk along this road.
You may actually make someone’s “Rocky Road” a little bit more bearable simply by the love you share and the encouragement you give!
Oh I am also leaving you with the “Rocky Road” recipe. Make a tray-bake and share it with someone who needs some kindness on the rocky road of life…..
♡♫♡ I heard these words today. They came like a thundering whisper to a heart that’s swirling in decisions and questions. I heard these words today as I contemplated big changes and new ideas. They came like a balm of healing ointment touching a tired mind. I heard these words today in a moment of waiting, in a place of transformation, when all my ways seemed unsure. They came suddenly and softy with power, courage and strength. I wasn’t looking for them; I simply needed a rescuer to steal me away from my anxious thoughts. I wasn’t even expecting these words of subtle yet invigorating power; yet they came and spoke calm to my heart and like safe strong arms they wrapped themselves around me. They brought me comfort like that of a warm soft blanket on a chilly evening. They came leaping towards me, with determination and love; chasing away my worrisome thoughts of tomorrow.
God spoke the words; “I’ve Got You!”
I can’t tell you what kind of voice God has or where His accent is from (although I can say it is heavenly!) I do know that His voice is like the sound of many waters, rushing together to lavish mercy and wisdom on the heart that thirsts for Him. His voice comes like a valiant hero to rescue the one who is calling Him. His voice is safe yet full of authority and command. He knows who He is and what to say. His voice comes at the perfect time; never too early or too late! His voice comes rich in colour, overflowing in acceptance, not estranged to correction or conviction, yet garnished with love and compassion.
The words “I’ve Got You!” overcame the noise in my heart with calmness, instant relief, and silence. To suddenly be reminded by God that no matter what you’re walking through He will catch you, is a wondrous thing. I sat there surrounded by all of my scented candles, His Book and His presence. My heart lay before him like an unwritten journal, waiting for the pen of His hand to write truth and wisdom upon it.
I have often prayed the words, “Lord whatever it is that I cannot see, please show me.” So I rested my head back on my pillow, and upon the chest of God. I heard His heartbeat for His child; beating wild, constant, and resilient. The compassion of God is so faithful that we barely can comprehend its magnitude. He is armed with a strength so valiant it makes every noble prince in every fairytale fade in comparison. He came to me; in a moment of surrender and need, He came…and caught me. How He will work things out was not revealed, nor did He answer every question or why of my hopeful yet tired heart, but He said; “Child, I’ve got this. I’ve got you covered. I am here and I will never forsake you. I am more dependable than your next breath. RELAX!”
When did you last feel the safety of a word fitly spoken? When were you last caught up in a wonder so vast and grand that your heart couldn’t even contain or communicate it? You know. You remember it right now; that moment when His voice came like a faithful friend alongside you, and wrapped His warm arm around your shoulders and your heart, as a reminder that you are never alone. To know that God’s got you, sees you, holds you, walks with you, protects you, heals you, sings over you, lavishes His gifts on you, goes ahead of you, provides for you, carries you, watches over you and restores you, is too wonderful for my little mind to try to conceive. The list goes on….and on. The ways of God. The timing of God. The absolute awesomeness of God. His voice interrupted my worrying, and it has had to do so numerous times since, but it does. I love His interruptions. I love it when He captures my heart and steals me away from my anxious thoughts and sets me beside those still, quiet waters. I am trying to live there, in that place of trust and confidence in all that He is.
May 23rd is the day on which I was born. It has always marked more of a new year for me than the grandeur of January 1st. You may ask why? Well, on January 1st the whole world starts a new year, but a birthday signifies your own fresh start, your own unique chance to recollect your thoughts and desires, your own opportunity to prioritise plans and run your race. The night before my birthday is a night where I am still, calm, quiet and full of ponderings. It is a special night to me for many other reasons too. I think back over the past year and somehow try to imagine the new things that will unfold in this brand new year. I allow hope to hunt for my heart and fill me again before a new season begins.
So tonight is that night; the night before a new year starts for me. I can almost hear the page getting ready to turn, as one year ends and a new one stretches out before me. But tonight I will plan, be still, pray and know, that “He’s Got Me!” He’s got you too ~ I hope you know that! Maybe it’s time to settle yourself somewhere quiet and allow your heart and mind to sink into the truth that no matter what life throws at you, that He’s got you. He’s got us, right in the very palm of His hand. It sure is a good place to be!
This cute cat poster you see here, hangs above my kitchen cooking area, where I spend time creating my food ideas; now it hangs in my heart reminding me again that He indeed does hear! ♡♫♡
“Life is like a game of chess, changing with each move.” (Chinese proverb)
Lately I have been reminded of the day I started to learn chess. It was Christmas and I set myself a new challenge. I found it difficult but interesting. Chess is a strategic board game which has been played for centuries. Playing the game can be a fun, challenging way to stimulate your brain and improve your problem-solving abilities. To me life feels like a game of chess. To be announced as the winner you must be able to outwit your opponent. It is not always as straight forward as we would like; sometimes the people playing the game of life with us have different ideas or priorities that are simply at odds with ours. To play well we need to know how all the pieces move, which, as I learned the game I found the hardest aspect to navigate my way through. One wrong unprocessed move and your piece is gone and the game could be over. So this means we have to plan ahead, every move counts towards the end result. You must see the path ahead, plan the moves before you need to make them, each step builds on the next. A bit like a five year life plan; which I tend to be terrible at. I am far too spontaneous and love to go with the flow. I love my flexibility but I am learning to plan too, and therefore I score more “checkmates”. Having an eye for opportunities, seeing details that others may miss will greatly add to your chess playing genius. It is also vital to have a back-up plan for when things go wrong or when you make a wrong move. Yes I am talking about chess, but do you see the correlation?
The object of the game is to capture the opponent’s king by putting the piece in “checkmate”. Through well thought out moves, each chess piece moves to set the board up for the last critical move of “checkmate”. Beginner chess players need to learn the specific movements allowed for each chess piece before playing. I learned this slowly, and given that I have not had much time to play it I find myself needing a refresher course. So why am I talking about chess? Well I am at that place again in life, calculating my next move, looking at my many options and praying to see the best strategy to get me where I want to be in five years time. Yes a five year plan. I am that person now.
While there are 32 chess pieces on the board, there are only 8 basic moves performed in a game of chess. If only life were as simple as a chess game. Most chess pieces move in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal line across the board. One piece, the knight, has a unique move on the board. The rook and king are able to “castle”, while the pawn only moves forward unless capturing an opponent. Once you play a game or two, the way the chess pieces move become almost second nature. Or you could be like me, and need a lot more than a few games. It depends on the level of your opponent, the tougher your choices are than the greater your awareness and survival techniques develop; that’s a lot like life!
All chess sets have the same basic figures represented in order to play correctly. Chess comes with a set of rules. The most powerful of the chess pieces is the queen. Also represented on the chess board are these pieces: the bishop, knight, rook, and the pawn. Each of the various chess pieces have distinct moves allocated to that particular piece. These movements are critical to winning in the game of chess. As too are the choices we make in life, they may seem small, but these choices are also critical in determining where we move next and what are the given opportunities that such a move will bring about in our lives? Before you can start playing chess you will need to be introduced to what these pieces mean. Let me run through them very fast, trust me this will all make sense soon…
The PAWN ~ (♙♟) is the most numerous and (in most circumstances) weakest piece in the game, historically representing infantry. Each player begins the game with eight pawns. The KNIGHT ~ (♘ ♞) representing armoured cavalry. It is normally represented by a horse’s head and neck. Each player starts with two knights; these begin on the row closest to the player, one square from the corner. The ROOK ~ (♖ ♜) formerly the piece was called the castle, tower, marquess, or rector. The informal term “castle” is now deprecated. Each player starts the game with two rooks, one in each of the corner squares on his own side of the board. The BISHOP ~ (♗ ♝) each player begins the game with two bishops. One starts between the king’s knight and the king, the other between the queen’s knight and the queen. The QUEEN ~ (♕ ♛) is the most powerful piece in the game of chess, able to move any number of squares vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Each player starts the game with one queen, placed in the middle of the first rank next to the king. Because the queen is the most powerful piece, when a pawn is promoted it is almost always promoted to a queen. The KING ~ (♔ ♚) is the most important piece. The object of the game is to trap the opponent’s king so that its escape is not possible (checkmate). If a player’s king is threatened with capture, it is said to be in-check, and the player must remove the threat of capture on the next move. If this cannot be done, the king is said to be in checkmate. Although the king is the most important piece, it is usually the weakest piece in the game until a later phase, the endgame.
So in summary; what can we learn from this ‘endearing to some’, but ‘boring to others’ game called chess? It is so important to plan for the future, even if you fail, at least plan something. Don’t blindly move your pawns without thinking about the outcome. Before you decide to make a move, imagine the scenario and how it will influence your game plan. Your actions will have implications, results, consequences and feedback. Sure it may go terribly wrong but you may well “checkmate” if you stick to your plans and keep moving toward your desired goal. At times I have had to sacrifice a pawn or two in order to win the game or change direction. Sure there are casualties and your dreams may crash and burn, but the game goes on. I don’t say that heartlessly, but I say it with huge respect for pain and the lessons it has taught me. Sometimes goals of a lesser importance must be left behind, in order to embrace the possibility of new things; again something that is easier said than done. Timing is everything, learning to predict the season you are in and the right piece to move or sacrifice. But through all of these endeavours to get it right, the beautiful “checkmate” could be just moments or seconds away. You must fight for what is yours, and this is what (life) and chess is all about; protecting and persevering!
I am learning to play the chess rules again. It is indeed mirrored personally in my own life presently. I must not be passive, or I will be destroyed at the first hurdle. I must be proactive, resilient, brave, courageous and sharp. I must focus all I am on the next game of play; being silent in thought while at other times bold and advancing. I have to be tenacious yet humble. Any sign of overconfidence and I could lose my concentration and be tripped up by my own pride. Are you with me? Are we still talking about chess or are we now firmly challenging our own game plan for life? Well truth be known, life is far more serious to me than chess, but the similarities can be used to reveal our deepest convictions and strategies for life.
I know my chessboard, and all I have is firmly watched over by the greatest game plan giver there is. He helps me make my moves and decide where I should protect a piece or where I should sacrifice a dream in order to achieve something else. He can position me in places I never ever thought were possible, and many times He has. He wrote the rule book and has given it to those who ask. I asked Him many years ago to come and change my approach to life, to take over and change the course of my life. Not only has God done this in my life, but I know whatever befall, whatever sacrifices I must make, the end result (checkmate) that He plans for me will be blessed, and fruitful and eternal. The game is not easy at times, but it need not be so fearful anymore. But this is only because I have the Grand Master coaching my every move and guiding my every step. There will be times when I have to take risks and jump to new places that seem daunting, but I know He sees the outcome and when I do it His way no move is wasted.
“When it comes to chess… You have to have a fighting spirit. You have to force moves and take chances.” (Bobby Fischer)
In closing; play the best game plan you can, muster all your resources together, keep the end in sight and play fair. Love the journey as well as those who play the game with you. Make the best moves you can, based on what seems good and right at that moment. Listen to the Grand Master, He’s speaking; you will hear Him if you listen.