Glad you stopped by on this blog. I hope you enjoy what you read and would love for you to leave a comment. Helpful suggestions are welcomed. If there is anything I can do to help you, please e-mail me @ anitawriter7@ yahoo.com

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Unforgettable Gifts From Ireland

When my daughter and I decided to take a trip to Ireland, I didn’t really know what to expect because I knew very little about the country other than the Potato Famine, The problems between the Catholics and Protestants and the pubs of Dublin. While all of those are important facts, Ireland has so much more to offer than I expected. In Dublin I learned a little more about the history of Ireland and the contention between the Catholics and Protestants being more than just religion, but cultural and political. I was surprised to learn that Ireland had enjoyed unprecedented economic growth in the 1990’s to mid 2000’s, though there was a sharp decline afterwards. Not being one for a lot of boring details, I’ll leave that discussion for the history buffs. What I learned and experienced goes far beyond that.

In the seven days that we journeyed from the East coast to the West I fell in love with Ireland: its dramatic landscape, lovely people, complex history, Irish music and most surprising of all, its delicious food and drink. Dublin educated me about Ireland’s roots being steeped in Viking and Gaelic cultures as well as its Christianizing influences initiated by St. Patrick, but not limited to his influence.

After the tour, my daughter and I explored the city for our selves and enjoyed our first pint of Guinness at the only Victorian style bar, Ryans, which was a nice refresher.  Afterwards we set out for St. Patrick’s cathedral and enjoyed a dinner of fish and chips on the lawn. I saw how our St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was modeled after this original one, while history oozed from its stones. I purchased a medal with St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer on the back: 
One important attraction I planned to see was the Book of Kells located at the historic Trinity College in Dublin It did not disappoint. Built in, the college itself boasted classic European architecture and design. The exhibit was thoughtfully laid out in progression as you wound through cobbled stone rooms illustrating the various pages and books alongside informative text. As you approached the actual Book of Kells, light box replicas of the pictures filled the walls. The process for making the paper and the book’s hardbound cover was explained as well as the binding methods. As you approached the interior rooms, the various stones used for producing the different colored inks were displayed. When I finally arrived and saw the actual pages, I nearly cried. I couldn’t believe I was looking at this ancient text and illuminated manuscript from around 800 A.D. The open page from one of the four gospels was brilliantly illustrated. My heart leapt for joy!

After the tour, my daughter and I explored the city for our selves and enjoyed our first pint of Guinness at the only Victorian style bar, Ryans. It was refreshing after a long walk. After a brief stop at Stephen's Park we headed for St. Patrick’s cathedral and enjoyed a dinner of fish and chips on the lawn. I saw how our St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City was modeled after this original one, while history oozed from its stones. I purchased a medal with St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer on the back which is a powerful statement: 
“Christ be with me, Christ within me. Christ behind me. Christ before me. Christ beside me. Christ to win me. Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me. Christ above me. Christ in quiet. Christ in danger. Christ in hearts of all that love me. Christ in mouth of friend and danger.”

Later that evening, my heart was set on hearing some traditional Irish music at a typical pub and we discovered Whelan's. I don’t usually drink or go to bars, but I wanted to see what Dublin’s pubs were all about. I thoroughly enjoyed the fiddle, flutes, drums, friendly people and Irish accents. Anyone who knows me will understand it took a lot of self-control not to get up and dance! Just one of the good things Ireland gave me. A lighter look at life and a little more restraint.
Though our tour of Dublin was brief, it left me feeling fulfilled and with a deeper insight into Ireland—its history, struggles and its people looking for a bit of fun, craic as they call it! As we ventured out onto the roads in our rented car, my daughter soon discovered how narrow, twisty and completely blinding the secondary roads of Ireland can be. My heart was in my throat that first day as my daughter gripped the steering wheel, and I prayed the entire time that we wouldn’t meet any stupid Americans driving on the right side of the road! We almost did, but they were Irish and God spared our lives. The gardens of Powerscourt Estate, and the little town of Glenmalure were our first destinations. They were magical to me, with their castles and beautiful gardens, small winding roads sweeping with tall grasses and wildflowers, pastures dotted with sheep and family style pubs. The Wicklow Mountains with thier stone peaks and emerald slopes of a glacier valley intoxicated me with their beauty. I fell in love with the landscape instantly.

I began to truly understand why the Irish have such longing in their hearts and ballads for their songs. The countryside and many lochs woo them never to forget, but the mists and the ocean spray make it a hazy dream like experience. Though many dreams were dashed the Irish had a comeback as I mentioned earlier. A century after the potato famine destroyed a million lives, Ireland enjoyed a time of great prosperity, which they call the Celtic Tiger. There was far less poverty than I thought there would be and a lot more progress, though I’m a romantic and love the little whitewashed cottages. 

The people I met who live in Ireland love their country and their land. All in all, I found the Irish to be kind and gentle, “not a problem at tall.” The humility they suffered at the hands of poverty, and the oppression they endured shaped not only a strong people who did what they could to survive, but a humble nature. Not that they are perfect, far from it. They have been known for their pubs and heavy drinking. They also had violent clashes between the Protestants and Catholics, but they seem to be gentler now that they are separated into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The younger generation is more tolerant, though they do consider themselves Northern Irish if they live in that region. However, despite some of their flaws, I fell in love with the Irish people, both young and o
On the way back from a walk on the Burren, a rock covered stretch of 60 miles along the
Wild Atlantic, my daughter and I stopped at a restaurant/pub that was packed with a long wait. My daughter asked if we could sit at the bar and so we did. The fish I ordered was so fresh with a delicious balsamic, beet sauce and sea chowder was better than any I’ve ever had in Maine!  The quality of the food and their amazing tasting dishes was my biggest surprise. From buttery, melt in your mouth croissants and scones to lamb stew, fresh fish, mussels and oysters.
Though I’m not a fan of the last, the mussels were soft and delectable. According to what I read, the Irish had a real revolution in their thinking towards food from mere substance to a pleasurable experience. In the economic upturn, there was a lot of French cuisine, but now the Irish have taken to using their own fresh food items and creating their own unique sauces. The lamb stew with mashed potatoes had a wonderfully seasoned sauce as well as the mutton. It just made the whole experience much more enjoyable and I fell in love with the food. As an aside, while we were at the pub a very old grey-haired lady was escorted to a table next to us. Everyone greeted her and catered to her wants. It touched me and my daughter so to see how much she was respected and it was one of those aha moments that encapsulated my changing view of the Irish people and helped me fall more in love with them.

So in exchange for my time journeying though Ireland, she gave me several gifts—an appreciation for its great natural beauty, seeing the hand of God in its making, the awe and splendor of its land, an appreciation for the people’s kindness and hospitality, a deeper understanding of their love for their country, the enjoyment of the creative spark of lilting music and ballads full of longing and whoa. The dance in their hearts with a limerick in their spirit and an ancient history in its Medieval castles, completed the package. It was just my luck and the providence of God that opened up a whole new world and gifted me with Ireland!

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Father Knows Best

So many people today are floundering, searching for meaning and purpose or looking for direction and self-fulfillment. I get it. Back in the 70’s I was on that same track. Lost in the world of “doing your own thing,” I sought happiness in the things the world had to offer and landed in a big mess. It all started with the lie that you need to find yourself. At the time I thought that was the right course. I didn’t know that God had the ability to teach me what is best for me and direct me in the way I should go (Isaiah 48: 18).

Listening to my own inner being, I “lost” myself in seeking adventures, traveling, getting high and having fun. At the ripe age of nineteen I set out with my Geodesic dome building, hippy boyfriend to India. He made it there and crashed and burned in six weeks with a severe case of dysentery, which brought him stateside. I didn’t go seeking the holy guru but stayed in Europe and wandered the land by EuRail, hitchhiking, staying in hostels and backpacking through Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Holland, Spain and Greece. I joined the hundreds of other seekers as we traversed the planet experimenting with Tarot cards, numerology, astrology, Eastern mysticism and mind-altering drugs. We sought the pleasures of island life in Ibiza, lived in a cave in the Canary Islands and visited a hash farm in Morocco as a Spanish senorita. Yet I grew discontent and lonely, but I had no idea why. I had no clue that His Son said, Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:19)” I wanted to grab life and explore all it had to offer.
Though I had known Jesus as a child, I din’t accept him as my Savior and therefore, I didn’t have the Holy Spirit to enlighten me on spiritual matters and give me the power to resist “the pull of the World.” So, I continued in my sin. I changed my major to art, simply because I started doing sculptures and a friend told me how great SUNY New Paltz was for art. I got out of the hick town college I was attending and moved to the “enlightened” college town. There I met a dreamer like me and moved in with him. When that relationship crashed, I went down into a sink hole. Everything that I thought this progressive lifestyle would offer me, turned to dust. Ironically, two years later my no longer a boyfriend invited me to a Christian meeting on campus. After and few months I became a believer. I realized that God the Father was the one true God and Jesus Christ was indeed His Son.

Though “New Age” philosophy had promised me peace and joy, I didn’t find it until Jesus Christ entered my life. He immediately delivered me from the path of destruction I had traversed, and slowly lifted me out of my depression. I began to read the Bible and that’s where I began to understand the plan God had for me and for others. Knowing Jesus brought great enlightenment, peace and joy. Though I balked at times about His way of doing things, I learned that the “Father knows best.”

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Resting in God's Grace

This summer I’ve been praying about what God wants to teach me. So far, one verse has come to mind. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Those who know me understand that being still and doing nothing is very hard for me. I’m a type A person and I like to accomplish my goals. I usually have a goal list set up for the summer, but I’ve felt that this summer is to be different, which it has been. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a lot of fun things, but I’ve also rested in the Lord a lot more than usual.

Since I love to garden, I’ve had to pull out quite a number of weeds this year because of all the unusual sunshine we’ve been having here in the Northeast.  As I’ve been working, I feel that Jesus also wants to pull out some weeds in my own life. I’ve been asking Him to show me what they are. I know busyness is one of them. During the school year, I felt like a marathon runner on a never-ending treadmill; I daily called out for God’s strength and grace(Song  from Laura Story), which He supplied.

The year was very challenging in other ways too, filled with many art projects and emotionally needy children. I know that God now wants me to rest in Him—reading, praying and listening for His gentle voice, but it’s difficult after a year of non-stop going. You get into the habit of always doing. Yet I know this is what God wants for me. The challenge is to allow Him to slow me down in this fast paced, goal-oriented society. I can get so caught up in doing things rather than just being a child of God.

It’s been a struggle, this resting and doing “nothing.” I didn’t make my goal list for the summer or start a big writing project. Once I got through this cloud of ceaseless activity, I felt released from a great pressure to perform and allowed God to simply love me the way I am. and help me to relax. It’s had a healing effect on both my body and mind. My hands are recovering from doing a lot of work and my mind is more at peace.

Though it is a rest from human activity, it can be a time to allow God to probe your inner man and show you areas that need to change. For some this can be frightening, setting them on a path to doing things to change. Yet God has revealed to Me it’s more about surrendering and allowing His grace to transform us.

God showed me that I was able to appropriate His amazing grace to get through a busy year, but that I also need to utilize grace in the more restful times. In the beginning of the summer, I purchased the very popular book by Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace. Though I haven’t started it, I think God is revealing its message to Me through other means. Today, I came upon the online devotion from First 15, "The Simplicity of Grace." It spoke volumes to me about what God is trying to show Me. He’s done it all for us! We can rest in His work of reconciliation and forgiveness. We do not need to prove ourselves to God. What we do for God should be born out of our love for Him and what He has done for us! This is so freeing.

God’s love and grace go hand and hand. They bring such freedom to our spirit and soul. They help us to rest wherever and whatever we’re doing—in the middle of a difficult situation, at home or at church, with friends or family and even enemies! I think that God’s grace may pour down more abundantly when we are confronting darkness, though it is ever present even in times of blessing.

Today, many American Christians are faced with this same dilemma—to rely on God’s grace and rest in Him during a time of prosperity. Often prosperity tends to makes us more self-reliant, so the challenge for us in our business and success is to continue in His grace and rest from our own good works.  How about you?

I’d love to hear about your experiences with resting in God and His grace! Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Ths Significance of Birth Names

Thirty- two years ago a very sweet and gentle child was birthed into our lives. My labor was the easiest of all three and even surprised my friend who accompanied me while my husband hoped to get to the hospital to witness the birth. He arrived just in the nick of time to see his beautiful daughter born. We held her in our arms in awe, so calm in comparison to our feisty son! When it came to naming her, we have an interesting story behind her three names, Mara Lynn Elizabeth.

One early afternoon about two weeks before my due date I went for a walk up the road and sat down by a gurgling brook. I wanted to pray about the birthing process since my first labor had been very long and painful. As I sat on a rock a distinct impression came into my mind. You’re carrying a girl, not a boy. This was before gender relevel parties, and I was shocked. I had already chosen an unusual boy name, Moses, and had not looked for any other. My first son’s name was Aaron and I thought the two would make a dynamic team for the Lord. Not only did this revelation coma to me, but a gentle voice spoke to me, “Name her Mara.” Mara, I thought. I never heard the name before. I immediately got up and walked briskly back home, contemplating the revelation.

I went right to the baby name book and discovered Mara means bitter. Bitter, I declared! No way am I going to name my baby girl bitter. I told my husband and he said to pray about it. I did. I looked up the story in the Bible associated with the name, and interestingly it involved Moses. When the people got to the bitter waters of Meribah (the name Mara is derived from this), he threw in a stick and the waters became sweet. That’s it, I thought. She will be a sweet child to soothe any bitterness away. Yet I wanted a name associated with water to confirm this. I found it, Lynn, which means cascade of waters. Perfect!

When I went into labor and held my baby girl in my arms I wasn’t so sure about the name. I didn’t want her to be called Marilyn. We waited for three days to name her. The nurse came in and nudged us. My husband thought that if God told me to name the baby Mara, we should! So, we decided it would be best to name her Mara, but then my husband also wanted to add another name, Elizabeth. It was the name of his sweet sister and had many good associations. Elizabeth was also the mother of John. So, her name became Mara Lynn Elizabeth Estes. It reminded me of the name Miriam, the sister of Moses, who was drawn from the water.

Some people wondered why we gave her two middle names. Though it was a mouthful, I knew the reason why. Of course, one of our friends misinterpreted the name and thought we were bitter over having a girl, but that was so far from the truth! She turned out to be a very sweet little girl, gentle and contemplative! God knew it all beforehand. Isn’t that just like Him!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Truth About Mary Magdalene (Part One)

What do you think of when you hear about one of the most famous women in the Bible, Mary Magdalene? Repentant prostitute or perhaps Jesus’ lover or wife as portrayed in the Davinci Code? To set the record straight, neither of these claims are true! Mary Magdalene is not the prostitute in Luke 7: 36-50 who wiped the feet of Jesus with her tears and anointed them with expensive nard. Neither is she the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and was about to get stoned by the Jews, when Jesus rescued her. Then who is she?

There are twelve references to Mary of Magdala in the Bible. The first reference points to her as a close follower of Jesus along with some other woman (Luke 8:2-3). This is an amazing thing for her to do as a woman of the first century. Jewish men did not regard woman highly, nor often associate with them outside the home. The apostles were surprised when they found Jesus even talking to the woman by the well.  To have woman following him must have been controversial. Yet Mary Magdalene not only followed him but gave of what she had to aid in His ministry. This is another surprising fact in Luke since she was not a wealthy woman but form a humble town in Galilee. Mary gave her time, treasure and talents to Jesus, indicating her close relationship. But what makes her stand out from other woman of the Bible? An amazing deliverance!

In Mark chapter seven we learn that Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her. Imagine the torment and anguish she must have known before she met Jesus. I know I was tormented in my own way before I came to know him. Having grown up with two bipolar parents I never knew what to expect, so at the age of eighteen when I went off to college, I never returned to live at home. Looking for love in all the wring places, I got swept up into the counter culture, hippy movement. By the time I was twenty-three I had lived with several different men, traveled in over ten countries in Europe, became an art student and was suffering from loneliness and deep depression. I remember feeling borderline suicidal and my painting teacher told me my self-portrait looked surprisingly like a shaman. Why am I telling your this? Because I know a few years later at twenty-five I had an encounter with Jesus and He delivered me from all of my fears, just like Jesus delivered Mary Magdalene. Though it took a number of years as I began to change my lifestyle, pray and read the Bible, I walked out of much of my depression, loneliness, and insecurity. I found true meaning in my life, rather than a self indulgent, I centered path of an artist. I know if God delivered me, He can deliver you too! 
It might not be overnight, but if you open yourself up to Jesus and get close to Him in a spiritual way like Mary Magdalene did, He will fill your heart with unconditional love and a sense of purpose and worth. This is what drew Mary to give up whatever lifestyle she had before and walk with Jesus, contributing whatever she had of her time, talents and money. Her deliverance form the seven demons must have been a dramatic experience, so freeing that she was willing to risk all for Jesus. Even if our deliverance is not a dramatic experience, what Christ does in our life to rescue us from our sin nature is just as important as any demonic deliverance. He frees us form the torment of self, who can be a hard task master. So whatever our experience with Jesus, let us be passionate for Him as Mary Magdalene's life attests.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Fields of God

Though the entrance into the wide-open fields of God’s love is narrow, once you have opened that gate and walked through, it leads to the broadest place to live—in the realm of unconditional love. Yet many today have sought to enter through a different door which Christ warns us about. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:14).  One of the mass appeals of the wide path is it’s seeming tolerance of all faiths, but there in lies the deception of half-truths.

This back door of spirituality, which incorporates many gods, philosophies and “New Age” thinking appears to lead to the most inclusive arena, but it is very deceptive. In attempting to validate all manner of “positive energy” and belief systems, in it’s very essence it negates itself. Either Mohammad, Buddha, Krishna or Jesus is “the way the truth and the life.” They cannot be all right because they hold to very different ideologies. Jesus declares, “I Am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, but by me (John 14:6). That is not an inclusive statement, but one that is issued to the whole earth, for all people-white, black, red, yellow and all shades of brown. One cannot, with intellectual integrity ignore this and believe that all paths lead to God and ultimately eternal life. It is obvious from what Jesus tells us that the path of destruction is wide and many are led down it’s winding convoluted thinking. Scores of people think whatever they want and never examine the holes in their theories.

On the flip side, God’s plan has no holes. It is very clear that God sent His son Jesus to overcome death and lead the way to eternal life. “For my Father’s will is that everyone looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).  Yet Jesus knew it would be hard to find the door to Him and walk through it because it requires death to our own selfish ways, not a popular notion. Though many mysteries and seemingly incongruous statements sprinkle the Word of God, when examined carefully in study and tested by leading the life that Christ beckons us to enter, the elusive inconsistencies come into sharp focus, such as a narrow gate leading to a broad arena.

Though the gate is narrow (Jesus is the only, true gatekeeper), it leads to both abundant living in Christ and eternal life. He warns us not to be misled by the plea of the broad path with its cunning deceptions that appeal to our own selfish motives cloaked in humanity.  It takes effort to believe in something we cannot see, taste or touch, or fully intellectualize, but can certainly experience. Since knowing Jesus as My Savior, I have climbed with Him  on many rocky roads. Mountains have loomed before me, as well as valleys and ravines, which I’m fairly certain you have encountered also. At times the path nearly disappeared and lead to a bramble infested thicket where doubts and fears strained to rob me of my sight. But as I continued to walk and follow the path of Christ, it led to the most glorious field of lilies, jonquils, fragrant roses, myrrh and aloe—the pathways to God.

Healing flows from these flowers and herbs, filling you with a joy that defies circumstances. It glows from the life of the saints in Christ, anyone who is a true believer. Ripe apples, pears, berries and nuts become one’s food to delight in as Christ uses us to feed a hungry world. And then we come into an even more amazing place on earth: a golden field filled with all the fragrances of love—peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, forgiveness, perseverance, and unspeakable joy. It is a glorious field ripe with every good thing imaginable. It is the broadest plain of agape love spanning the horizon. It is a land of unconditional love and forgiveness, humility and servanthood, which eventually leads to heaven. The way may be narrow, the climb steep, the road rocky and the ravines deep, but it is worth it for the panoramic view at the end—heaven!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Popularity of "I Can Only Imagine"

I have always really liked the song “I Can Only Imagine.”  Having a vivid imagination, I related to the singer’s quest of trying to imagine what heaven will be like when we meet  Jesus. I’ve also been following MercyMe for over fifteen years and seen them live two or three times. So when I heard they were making a movie about the song, I though that was pretty cool. Let me tell you, it went way beyond just cool.

The movie, “I Can Only Imagine” surpassed the neat and tidy viewpoint of a Christian movie. It smashed expectations and was a huge hit opening weekend. Why did it resonate with us? Because it reached deep into the soul, addressing many current issues, though focused primarily on abandonment, child abuse and forgiveness. The movie portrayed the struggles so many of us have with our past life, the hurts we incur from family, and the pent-up anger many of us carry around because of these wounds. It also deals with the incorrect image we have of God, religion and ourselves.

Forgiveness is a powerful antidote for all the hurt, but when the wounds are deep as in the case of lead singer, Bart Millard, forgiveness doesn’t come easy, especially when we run away from the one who wounded us. For Bart, he found healing in music, which many do today, especially with a lot of high quality Christian music available. But the song, “I Can Only Imagine,” transcended the Christian music charts and reached into the psyche of Americans, with its spiritual ponderings and musical adeptness.

As the movie demonstrated, the song was a career maker for Bart because he reached into the depth of his love for music and God and wrote a powerful song inspired by the very father, Bart called a “monster.” However, his father didn’t remain this way and the movie demonstrates what the amazing love of God can do. Since I don’t want to spoil it for you, I recommend you see it for yourself. You can also read a review at http://mbcpathway.com/2018/03/26/review-i-can-only-imagine-shatters-expectations/

The movie surprised Hollywood, being the third most attended movie and money maker on its debut weekend. It came out above “A Wrinkle in Time” which received a lot of press since it’s a Disney flick. Yet I believe the theme of forgiveness coupled with the popularity of the song resonated with the audience more than super heroes and other such movie faire. The dynamite acting from both Dennis Quaid and J.Michael Finley along with the story line also made “I Can Only Imagine” a huge success. Yet it went beyond just an entertaining movie and possessed the ring of truth to it, which is exactly what Americans need and obviously a good portion long for.

Why not check it out yourself and tell me you think.