Archives for : Hope for the Journey

When August Rolls Around

Meet the God Chicks—a wonderful group of women I have the privilege of teaching a couple of times a year.  (I’m the one in black in the front row at the right of the photo, next to my sister, Sharon Bass, in the gray blazer.)  Some of the women are holding “pillowcase dresses” that they sewed for little girls in Africa.

 

Hope for the Journey – By Mary Zigan

Feelings often change when August rolls around, as the lazy-hazy days of summer are almost over and it’s back to the routine. So my thought is…how does routine look for you? Are you heading back to school, closing up the cottage for the season, getting back into a schedule of things you do more consistently and consciously than you do the other months of the year?

Routine for me consists of being more aware to balance myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but not necessarily in that order. Indulge me to explain. I facilitate a group called God Chicks every spring and fall. This fall’s eight-week study is on the Holy Spirit’s function and purpose in our lives. The Holy Bible is our roadmap.  However, I have gleaned much from Watchman Nee’s study on the Holy Spirit through his search of Scripture.

Watchman Nee was a native of a province in Southern China. As a young man he proved himself to be a very intelligent and promising individual. He was consistently the top student in his classes, achieving an excellent academic record. He, of course, had many youthful dreams and plans for a successful career. Nevertheless, in 1920 at the age of seventeen, he came under the hearing of the gospel, and after some struggle, he received Christ as his Savior and Lord. Since then, the ministry of Watchman Nee has been one of the most significant and spiritual influences to emerge during the Twentieth Century. His labors had a profound effect upon the spreading of the gospel and the establishing of hundreds of local churches throughout Asia, while his many books and spoken messages have become a rich supply to believers throughout the world.

In Watchman Nee’s book, The Spiritual Man, I have gleaned a greater understanding of how important it is that the spirit within us is alive.  With the Holy Spirit before our physical (body) and soul (our emotions/personality), we can become fully alive. The Biblical new birth occurs in an area far deeper than human body and soul; it is where we receive God’s life through the Holy Spirit. The writer of Proverbs tells us that the lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being.” (20:27). Our spirit is used to communicate with the spiritual world, and the body with the natural world, so the soul stands between the two and exercises its power to discern and decide whether the spiritual or the natural world should reign.  In order for the spirit to govern, the soul must give its consent; otherwise the spirit is helpless to regulate the soul and the body. When our heart or spirit is filled with the Holy Spirit…we have truly come home to who we were created to be. Jesus doesn’t work on the old man or the old nature of sin within us. Instead, when we are born again, we become a whole new creation, the old nature is gone. When the Holy Spirit moves into our hearts, he pays off the mortgage of sin and builds us into a new structure that is unrecognizable to the uncleanness that once ruled within us. We are now “Under new maintenance”. Our home/body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Our purpose is to partner with the Lord Jesus Christ in character, conduct, and conversation. How liberating!

Thanks be to God.  Amen!

~ Mary Z

 

 

 

 

What God Means to Me

Whether you’re blessed to be married or you’re single

(still or again…) , God wants to be more than a spouse could ever be to you.

         Here are some of the precious roles I’ve discovered since I lost my husband to cancer.   I’m not really alone!!!

What the triune God means to me

He is my . . .

A      Advocate  1 Jn. 2:1a-2  If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins…

B      Burdenbearer  Ps. 68:19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.

C      Counselor  Jn. 14:16 & 26  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever…but the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things.

D      Defender  Ps. 27:1  The Lord is my light and my salvation—The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

E      Encourager  Rom. 15:5  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

F      Friend  Prov. 18:24…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

G      Guide Jn. 16:13  But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.

H      Husband  Isa. 54:5 For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

I       Immanuel   Mt. 1:23  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, ‘God with us.’

J       Justifier   I Cor 6:11  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

K      King  1 Tim. 6:15b-16  God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.  To him be honor and might forever.  Amen

L      Lover  Song of Songs   Jer. 31:3  I have loved you with an everlasting love.

M     Messiah   Jn. 4:25-26  The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

N      Name-above-all-Names  Phil. 2:9-11   Therefore God exalted him to the  highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

O      Overcomer  Jn. 16:33  In the world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.

P      Protector   Jn. 17:11   Jesus said, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.”

Q      Quietener  Zeph. 3:17  The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

R      Redeemer Eph. 1:7-8   In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us . . .

S      Savior  Ps. 89:26   You are my Father, my God, the Rock, my Savior.

T      Teacher  Jn. 14:26   But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things . . .

U      Upholder  Ps. 37:24 . . . though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

V      Vindicator  Rom. 8:31-34  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died… is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

W     Way   Jn. 14:6   Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.

X      Example   Jn. 13:15   I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you….Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Y      Yoke-bearer  Mt. 11:28-30   Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Z      Zenith  Ps. 8:1ff  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens….When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

 

~ © 2016, Sharon Sheppard

Words of Inspiration

Words of Inspiration for the Month of May

From the world’s all-time best seller:  The Holy Bible

MAY the Lord bless and protect you; MAY the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you; MAY he be gracious to you, show you his favor, and give you his peace.    (A blessing from The Living Bible, Numbers 6:24-26)

 

 

A Winter Thaw

Hope for the Journey:

 

 

A Winter Thaw is an excerpt from my book An Upside-Down Heart.  This is a chapter of hope and transformation. I looked up the word transformation on my dictionary to get a more complete overview of its meaning. A qualitative change, the conversion of one, complete change in character or condition, and the act of changing in form or shape or appearance. Let me hear your journey of transformation. I can be reached at: mzigan2442@gmail.com.

 

Chapter 20 – A Winter Thaw

By Mary Zigan

Out of the blue one day Don said, “Hon, what do you think.  Should we scale down?”

We had been empty-nesters for quite some time and were ready for a townhome.  We enjoyed going to open houses on Sunday afternoons, checking out the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities, but it didn’t take long to see that the homes were totally out of our price range.  One day my son, Randy, now back working in the area said, “Ma, find a lot and I’ll build a house for you and Don.”

My sister Sharon, who lives in Cambridge, sold real estate at the time, and found us a lot within the city limits of that small town of 5,000 residents.  Randy came to look at the lot and gave his approval.  He and Jill were expecting our granddaughter at the time, and with construction in the dead of winter being slow-to-nothing, Randy was happy to have the work.

As a designer, I was excited to think about executing the plans for a brand-new home.  My mind danced with creative possibilities, yet there was reservation.

Randy and his father, Waldo, worked together in construction.  If we hired Randy, we knew his father would be a part of the building project.  This would be the first time since our divorce that I would be working close-range with him.

When I saw Waldo at gatherings for birthdays and events relating to our kids, I would be courteous.  But was I ready for this much togetherness?  The day our divorce was final, Waldo and I had met for coffee.  I told him I didn’t believe in divorce, but we both agreed the relationship was over. Yet twenty years later we would be working together.

I wanted to manage the day-to-day decisions on our home both inside and out, and I did.  Construction began in November of 1993 and was completed in January of 1994.   The winter became historic as the fifth coldest on record in Minnesota.  The temperatures remained bitterly cold during the entire building project. Waldo, Randy, Don, and I would typically go to town for lunch during the three month process of building and have soup together.  It became clear that it was more than soup for the body; the fellowship was warming our souls, and especially my soul. Old resentments, like icicles in a winter thaw, were melting away.  To my surprise, our working relationship had become amicable.

Move-in day on South Vine Street the thermometer dipped to 38 degrees below zero.  There was no standing around.

As the months rolled along, I loved purchasing furnishings for the interior of our brand-new home, but was wrestling with the question of whether this was really a place where I belonged.  Could I survive in this small town with no Kohls, no Target, no Walmart?   Not even a Goodwill store.

Don and I kept one foot in the City for a while by driving to Arden Hills every Sunday morning to the church we had attended for ten years.  We were both reluctant to sever all ties to the Twin Cities.

It took me a while to find my niche in Cambridge.  I’m not the coffee-klatch-ing type, and I’m not good at small talk.  I longed for conversations with the locals, where I would get to know my new community and what mattered to the people who lived there. However, bondage from my past continued to nag at me. As much as I longed for new relationships, the lie that I was defective often hampered that from happening.

Bondage does not respond to common sense, logic, or clear thinking.  AA would call this “insanity,” which they define as “continuing to do the same things over and over and expecting a different outcome.”

I knew the pattern of running back to my closest friend, food, just reinforced the lie ‘See how defective you are’ and would keep me from really engaging in life.

I was in a new town, but could I start new?

Release came one night in my restlessness.  I clearly heard in my spirit, “You have the characteristics, training, and availability I need to touch others.  There is a place for you in the world that only you can fill.  Accept this truth by faith, Mary.  You are not forgotten or left behind.” 

I could hardly believe what I was hearing, because I had been feeling so displaced.  Yet I was profoundly encouraged by this message and tucked the treasured promise deep within my heart.

Matt and Julie Woodley had just moved into our neighborhood.  Matt was the pastor of Cambridge United Methodist Church (CUMC) and wanted to get to know his neighbors.   After a couple of visits to our home, he invited us to visit CUMC, and we did.   We were encouraged when he said, “I don’t know if CUMC is for you, but what I do know is that you could be a catalyst for worship renewal if you came.”

This excited me!  The drive to the City for church every Sunday was getting old.  So we became members, and we realized it was a good fit for us.

Another unexpected surprise about living in Cambridge sneaked up on me when I learned that pastors and lay leaders in various churches in the community were embracing the Freedom in Christ material.  Dr. Neil T. Anderson had written two books called Victory over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker, both of which I had read with great eagerness.  I had a yearning to be part of a ministry that could help me gain my freedom as a Christian.

Freedom is an interesting word.  There are freedoms from.  I wanted freedom from anger and bitterness.  And there are freedoms to.  I wanted freedom to love and forgive.

Going through “The Seven Steps of Freedom in Christ” in an appointment with two kind women was something I looked forward to. I went through the material twice, because deception and negative thoughts kept going through my mind.  I would ask myself, “How can I get free by just saying these words?  I was to learn that these were not just words, they were declarations of Truth. I learned that my identity is not based on what has happened to me in the past, or what other people think of me, or what will happen to me in the future.

Most changes in perception are gradual, as they were for Don and me. Most of us grow to embrace an idea, a person, or new concept over a period of time. But Don and I were diligent and kept reading the Freedom in Christ materials, particularly the step on forgiveness.  Neither of us wanted to hold onto bitterness and un-forgiveness from our past. My heart was turning, and Cambridge became a marking place for both Don and me. We once and for all claimed our new identity in Christ and laid down our regrets and past pain.

Freedom to forgive is a wonderful thing!

An excerpt from Dr. Neil T. Anderson’s book, Helping Others Find Freedom in Christ makes this truth very clear:

Because human life is lived according to what we believe, this essential truth of who we are in Christ is tremendously important. Our attitudes, responses and reactions to the circumstances of life are determined by our conscious or subconscious self-perceptions. No one can consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with how he perceives himself to be.

This truth was beginning to turn my heart right-side up.

 

 

 

 

 

In the Midwest Where I Live…

Hope for the Journey – By Mary Zigan

In the Midwest where I live, March, April, and May show VERY slow signs of emerging life. The warmth of the sun is our first hopeful glimmer that daylight hours are getting warmer and longer, and year after year dead life eventually emerges into the growth of new life.

In the spring of 1976, the warmth of the “Son” visited me personally with New Life.

Here is a testimonial of hope, from my book, An Upside–Down Heart:

 

Many mornings before work, I would sit on the foot stool in the living room after the kids had gone to school and Don to work, and think, “God, I don’t even know if you are real. With all the conflict we are experiencing, how can you be real? Show me if you are!”

A wonderful lady named Diane Miller from church befriended me.  She took great interest in my burdens and promised to pray for me daily. She told me about a Christian Women’s Club that was starting in my community. At her nudging, I went to the Holiday Inn, where they met, to find out what this luncheon was all about.

The woman who spoke that day was poised and dressed in an attractive white suit.  I was amazed at her freedom and wondered how she could get up and speak so freely to this roomful of about a hundred women.  I don’t even remember what she spoke about. I only recall that at the end of her talk she held out a white envelope and said to the audience, “I have a free gift here for anyone who would like to come and receive it.”

The room fell silent.  Finally someone walked to the front and took the envelope.

The speaker said, “God is offering the gift of His Son today to anyone who wants to have a personal relationship with Him.  But to receive His gift, you need to accept it.”

Feeling unworthy, as quickly as the luncheon ended, I fled out the door and returned to the safety of my car. I laid my head on the steering wheel and sobbed.

I said something like, “God, if you are real, come into my heart and take up residency.  I am a mess. Everyone around me is a mess, and if you are real, I need you!”

 I was anxious to get home to find my Bible, which I wasn’t in the habit of reading.  I had a King James Version and randomly opened it to the Psalms.  My eyes landed on (Psalm 32:8).  I couldn’t believe what I was reading, so I searched the bookcase for the Living Bible“I will instruct you (says the Lord), and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.”

I couldn’t believe this promise was actually in the Bible, but this was good news to me!  God was promising to take me where I was, and by His resurrection power I instantly received new life.

 

The Secret To Happiness

The Secret to Happiness

Here’s an early Christmas gift for you.  It’s one I discovered during the first months of widowhood as I grieved the death of my husband, best friend, and soul mate.  As I struggled to make my way as a single in a world seemingly designed for couples, I came across this passage in Scripture:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)

Though these three choices are easier to pay lip service to rather than actually practice, I discovered that the more I tried to implement them, the happier I became.  It’s transforming!

Sharon Sheppard

An Alternative to Halloween

Halloween—Hallowed?  Or Heretical?

Americans spend 6 billion dollars a year on Halloween, a holiday that has become second only to Christmas in commercial significance.  Halloween, a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening, or All Saints’ Eve, started out as a Christian observance, or had its roots in pagan Celtic     traditions, depending on whom you talk to.  In either case, Halloween has always been about death.  In Celtic circles, it began with people wearing costumes to ward off ghosts on All Hallows’ Eve.  The following day—All Saints’ Day–was a Christian observance that traditionally honored people who had been martyred for their faith.

Many of us probably have happy memories of trick or treating, or maybe bobbing for apples at an old-fashioned kids’ party.  But once unsuspecting children began finding that their treat bags held apples with razor blades, Halloween took on a sinister bent that has caused  parents to rethink the holiday.  Now many Christian groups have begun offering alternative celebrations.

Not so long ago, martyrdom among contemporary Christians was extremely rare. But now believers are being tortured and killed at an appalling rate.  According to Open Doors, an organization that provides support for believers, Christians are now the most persecuted religious group in the world.

Vatican officials warned the United Nations that in 2012 the worldwide death toll for martyred Christians was 100,000.  These killings don’t get much attention in the press, but British politicians, including their Minister for Faith and Communities and Prince Charles called the rise in Christian persecution a global crisis.

Who would have thought in these “enlightened” times where the protection of human rights is supposedly such a cherished value, that thousands of Christians would be killed for their faith?  Maybe it’s time to bring back the tradition of All Saints’ Eve as a time when churches honor those who have been martyred and pray for the increasing numbers of believers who are languishing in prisons and are being tortured for their faith.

The New Testament book of Acts records the stoning death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, this way:  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” . . . While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  When he had said this, he fell asleep.

By Sharon Sheppard

 

We might do well to go back to the practice of observing using it as a day to honor Christian martyrs.

Earlier the church established December 28 as a day to commemorate the first Christian martyrs—the babies ordered slain by the wicked King Herod.  Biblical accounts tell of his order to kill all the male babies under the age of two in the hope of killing the baby Jesus.

School Days

School Days

From Mary Zigan’s memoir, An Upside-Down Heart

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My grandchildren find it hard to get their heads around their grandma spending her first eight grades of school in one room. However, in the late ’40s early ’50s that was typical for kids who lived in the country. Usually there were 15 to 20 kids for all the grades, and of course there was only one teacher. We had a potbelly stove that heated our one room.  In the winter when my sister Sharon and I walked the mile to school, our teacher sometimes had a basin of warm water waiting where we could soak and thaw out our feet next to the stove.  We had no such thing as indoor plumbing, so we used the two-hole outhouse a short walk behind our school.                   

Lunch time was a highlight.  If you were willing, there would be a lot of sandwich trading.  Anyone who had something better than a pickle sandwich was willing to trade up. Typically, Mother packed an egg salad or Spam sandwich for me, and I would sometimes be willing to trade half my sandwich for an apple.  A lot of families in our neighborhood were extremely poor.  Occasionally, a milk delivery truck dropped off half-pint glass bottles of milk in the cloak room. Because there were fewer chocolate than white pints of milk delivered, there was always a race for the chocolate flavor.

By the time I was a fifth grader, I was pretty mature.  My classmate Arlys and I had put away the Sears Roebuck paper dolls that we had cut out of the catalog and played with at recess. Now we had our personal diaries with little gold keys to lock up all our secrets. At recess we would take out our diaries and share our hopes and dreams. One of my secret dreams was to be a pastor’s wife, cherished and loved.

One of the most significant surprises during my high school years was when I was chosen to play one of the lead characters in the junior class play.  I was Maudie’s mother in “Maudie and the Opposite Sex.”

This was not a glamorous role, but it was a part that was tailor-made for me.  Though the character “Ma” called for a dowdy housedress, apron, and old-fashioned high-heeled oxfords, I still felt like a star.  If I wasn’t there, the show couldn’t go on.

After the play, I suddenly became very popular with my school friends. They said I was quick-witted and had a wacky sense of humor. My heart was feeling a flutter of hope that maybe I had a place in the world after all.

On stage playing “Ma” gave me a real sense of belonging.   No wonder kids in school began calling me Ma after the play, which became my new name until I graduated. To this day, “Ma” fits me perfectly. Today I am being called Ma for different reasons.  I am a spiritual ma to many, a biological ma, a step-ma, a grand-ma and a great-grandma. I love to nurture, so Ma is who I love being.

Mrs. Allen, the director of the play, thought I was terrific. She was impressed enough to seek out my mother on the night of the final performance and say, “If that daughter of yours doesn’t go into acting, she’s missed her calling.”

I didn’t miss my calling…you may want to read about it in my Memoir, An Upside-Down Heart!

 

School Days

SEPTEMBER:  BACK TO SCHOOL ! !

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Love this photo of Mary Z. and her sister, Sharon,

bundled up in coats sewn for them by their Grandma

Olson–ready to walk the mile to their one-room schoolhouse! 

(circa 1950s)

 

 SEPTEMBER is a time to look ahead to new beginnings . . .

My mother once told me that every September when my brothers and I would head out the

door for our first day back at school, a part of her wished she were going, too.

Autumn is a time for nostalgia and reflection.  It’s also a time for settling in and getting back on schedule.  It’s a time for looking ahead to new projects, for getting organized and forming new habits.

Good habits could be most anything . . .

Trying a new recipe each week

Getting back to journaling

Joining a book club

Cleaning a drawer (or a closet) every week

Finishing some of the projects you’ve started

Visiting someone who is lonely on a regular basis

Calling your mother once a week

OR how about establishing a habit of reading a Psalm from the Bible each day?

 

Here’s a section of Psalm 8 (verses 3-9, quoted from The Good News Bible):

When I look at the sky, which you have made,

at the moon and the stars, which you set in their places—

what are human beings, that you think of them;

mere mortals, that you care for them?

 

Yet you made them inferior only to yourself;

you crowned them with glory and honor. 

You appointed them rulers over everything you made;

you placed them over all creation:

Sheep and cattle, and wild animals too;

the birds and the fish and the creatures in the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, your greatness is seen in all the world!

 

What an inspiring way to start the day!

 

Freedom In Christ

Freedom in Christ

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NIV

As a Christian, the truth of this verse is a great reminder. Sometimes, perhaps I may be somewhat relaxed or laissez faire to the freedom I have in this Great Nation. If I listen to the world view, it can sound mighty scary because all around us are voices of violence and crime. So I ask myself, am I safe and truly free? When I turn to the Source, amidst the noise there is a still small voice that is but a whisper: “Be Still, Be Still, I am God.”

As I read in the Bible, Jesus reassures us He came to give us freedom from the law of sin and death. We couldn’t save ourselves, so He stooped down and rescued us. All because of His great love and grace I am free.

This truth lifts my heart in song to the age-old hymn:

My Country, `Tis of Thee

              My country, `tis of thee, sweet land of liberty

Of thee I sing; land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims` pride

From every mountain-side

Let freedom ring!                                           Samuel F. Smith 1808-1895

                                                                                                    By Mary Z