The Rest of the Story---

Come stand beneath my wings


Written by Fiona Monaghan

This I declare, that he alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him. For he rescues you from every trap and protects you from the fatal plague. He will shield you with his wings! They will shelter you. His faithful promises are your armor. Now you don’t need to be afraid of the dark anymore, nor fear the dangers of the day; nor dread the plagues of darkness, nor disasters in the morning.            Psalm 91:2-6

hen-chicks-wings-swindle“Come to me” I hear You say, “come stand beneath my wings the storms of life may come your way but I’m with you whatever it brings.

I will protect and cover you in times of pain or fear. You are my precious little child, I long to hold you near.

But trust you must, and put yourself, into my loving care it is your choice to come to me I will not force you there.

And when the storm has passed along you’ll find my love is true I stood and bore the storm for you and my wings, they covered you.”

A hen when she senses danger will stand with her wings raised up and her chicks have to run to her for protection, she won’t chase after them. She stands still and they then run under her wings for the protection that they need. That was my inspiration for this poem.

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A Rod, Staff and Oil…


Written by Fiona Monaghan A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Philip Keller was an eye opener for me. Many of us know the Psalm that starts “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want…” and there are references made throughout the Psalm to physical things like rod, staff and oil. Mr. Keller explains how a shepherd would actually use these tools in his vocation and what it means to us.

The Rod was a weapon made from a sapling specially chosen and whittled down to suit the shepherd. The root was used and shaped to fit the shepherd hand. He would use this in a couple of ways. If a sheep was wandering off, as they are prone to do, he would throw down the rod to startle the sheep back to the group. It was used to check the condition of the fleece. Checking the skin by parting the fleece with the rod looking for sores, ticks etc. It was the ultimate protection tool used as a deterrent for predators and beating the bush for snakes etc.

Shepherd's StaffWhereas the rod was protection, the Staff was considered a tool of help or compassion; not for defense, but for rescue. If a newborn lamb got separated from its mother, the shepherd would use the staff to lift it back into proximity of the mother and not put his human scent on it. If he needed to draw an animal back into the fold he could reach out and pull them closer; used to rescue a wayward animal if it got caught in thickets or brambles. Also a means of support for him to lean on and assist his walking and used for guiding sheep on a new path.

The Oil referenced was a healer. It was put on sores or scrapes to prevent infection. Flies would bother the sheep and want to lay eggs in their nose, so the shepherd would put a coating of oil mixture to prevent this. A distraught sheep having to deal with these flies would disrupt a flock so it was very important to treat them by anointing with oil.

It was no mistake that we as a people were referenced as ‘sheep’ and Jesus our Shepherd. Sheep are not the smartest of animals. They tend to follow rather than lead. They are totally defenseless in the proximity of an enemy so need a Shepherd to protect them.

How often have we needed the Oil of healing in His words at a difficult time, or the Rod of correction if we are heading off in a wrong direction or the Staff of comfort when needing to know we are not alone.

Read Psalm 23 with the meanings of these words made clearer. See how this might be useful in your own life.

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Who poked the bear?


Written by Fiona Monaghan Self Control QuoteWe like to think we have all kinds of self control, but what happens when someone ‘pokes the bear’ or ‘pushes your buttons’? That is when we find out just how much self-control we really have. Now we have come to the last of the nine fruit of the spirit and this one is probably the toughest one to live with or without.

The only way to develop self control is to continually work at it. When stress or temptation comes into our lives and we can remember to take a moment before responding. Trying to ‘count to 10’ or take a deep breath, will give us a better chance of not doing or saying something we will have to fix later.

Choosing a correct response to things that come at us in life requires taking time to sort through and determine an appropriate response. Many of us don’t do that. We have that “quick trigger finger.”

self-control-1The good thing about this is that we can ask for help. God does provide the power behind the doing. We just have to be willing to ask for the help.

Then, of course, we have to put into action self-control when opportunity is presented. To stop and think, to weigh the outcomes of a certain response and the more we can practice the more it should become easier…

This week pay attention to those times you are called on to exercise self-control: in traffic, with children or spouse, with co- workers. Be willing to ask God for help in becoming better self-controlled.

Photo credit: Never & Proverbs

Are you True Blue?


Written by Fiona Monaghan I wonder if we might get a better idea of what faithfulness is if we looked at what it is not?

Someone who is not faithful is one who can be swayed to do mean things. Who can feel ok with letting people down, not living up to promises, not staying true to a loved one but will sell them out for a price.

image002-3“…Faithfulness has two different meanings. If we mean the faithfulness of God or Jesus, it refers to steadfastness, honesty, firmness, and God's utter dependability based on His unchanging character. If we mean human faithfulness, it refers to our steady allegiance to God and our trust in Him. A "faithful" man is "full of faith"; he believes in the reality of God as revealed in Scripture…” 

I think I have learned more about God’s personal faithfulness toward me since losing my hearing. I saw things line up to provide me with hearing aids from an unlikely source, was able to get in to see the best surgeon in Seattle to do the implant, to funds being available to pay for it. I could see his promises coming true right before my eyes.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Proverbs 3:5-6 - (The Message)

image001-6This fruit is a result from when we put into action our trust and loyalty in God. We want to live our lives to please Him. We won’t be looking to find a way out of things, or being disloyal to others or trying not to commit to something that requires effort on our part. We will discover that we are becoming people of faithfulness:

“Doing what is needed to take good care of what is entrusted to us”

I would suggest a word study on this one. We think we know what it means, but when you look it up in the dictionary or online, there is so much more to this word. You might be surprised…

Photo Credit: Faithfulness & Lucado

A Fruitful Effort


Written by Fiona Monaghan Gentleness is a trait, I think, that we would like more of. It paints a picture of someone who is careful with other’s feelings, who can soothe with their words and be mindful of other people that share their lives. It is not a place of weakness, but of great strength. For someone to be gentle requires effort. To be mindful of how our words come across to another, requires effort, and to be careful toward people in our lives, requires effort.

strengthsPicture a small child who has been given a kitten to hold. We tell them “be gentle” as their tendency would be to squeeze and maybe get scratched in the process. It is by extra effort that gentleness is managed.

Jesus was portrayed as a gentle man. But no one would call him a weakling or someone who was easily pushed around. He showed gentleness to people caught in bad circumstances by extending kind words and gentle commands. ‘…neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more…” He came along side people at their most vulnerable and never seemed to be at a loss of words. He just knew the right things to say.

If we are to grow in this fruit I believe it requires effort on our part. The other fruit we have looked at previously result from a trusting place - trusting God with our lives and circumstances. This one has us making the effort to think about what we say, how we say it and what action we use around people who share our lives. The better we can do this requires us to know the one who showed how to live it. As we study Jesus’ life and the way he treated people we would feel encouraged to do likewise.

Try asking the people in your life if they see you as a gentle person and then act upon that.

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What has its hold on you?


Written by Fiona Monaghan We looked at what living a life attached to the True Vine or Jesus would like versus living attached to things of this world and looking for them to satisfy and provide for us.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:7-8

abide I heard a pastor use a visual for the word ‘abide’ that has really stuck with me. He showed a little kid’s toy, this little man inside a gargantuan robot body. When the little man wasn’t inside (or abiding) in the robot he was in his own power and susceptible to all kinds of trouble and problems. But when he climbed inside the robot body, he was able to use all the power available to him in that robots power. That is what abiding in Christ looks like. We climb into Jesus and let Him ‘live out’ in us, He is also the Power behind the work.

“The disciple who abides (is at home) in Jesus is in the will of God, and what appears to be his free choices are actually God’s foreordained decrees…” Oswald Chambers

To live within His will and plan for our lives then frees us from all sorts of things. We take steps daily toward our future knowing He’s got it all mapped out. If we turn our concerns over others into prayers for them, it accomplishes things for the Kingdom far better than worrying will do. To do this we need to trust God with every aspect of life with the confidence of a little child who is totally focused and accepting that our Father would never do anything to hurt or disappoint. He loves us and wants only the best for us in order to grow and strengthen us to be useful in our time here.

Are there some things that have got you ‘hooked’ - things that have too strong a hold on you that need to be cut away so you are free to live your life fully and healthily getting your sustenance from the True Vine?

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Joy comes from within


Written by Fiona Monaghan But the fruit the Holy Spirit produces is love, joy and peace. It is being patient, kind and good. It is being faithful and gentle and having control of oneself. There is no law against things of that kind. Galatians 5:22-23

Karl_BarthMany think of joy as a happy emotion. An emotion one feels when something really, really good happens. When in all actuality, it is a deep sense of well-being and contentment no matter what the circumstances are around you.

James uses joy in this verse … Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4

Joy is something that comes from within, not subject to circumstances being all lined up in your favor and looking good on the outside.

Joy is distinctly a Christian word and a Christian thing. It is the reverse of happiness. Happiness is the result of what happens of an agreeable sort. Joy has its springs deep down inside. And that spring never runs dry, no matter what happens. Only Jesus gives that joy. He had joy, singing its music within, even under the shadow of the cross.   - S.D. Gordon

As I came to understand what joy is and what it is not, it became much clearer to me that it isn’t a character trait we can formulate. It seems to flow out of other things. Gratitude (as mentioned above); gratefulness, knowing that this life as we know it is not all there is; that there is something better coming. It is putting our faith and trust in God no matter what may be happening in our lives whether good or bad. Knowing He is still in control and it will work out in the end, even if not how we expected it. Then, from that choice of behavior joy flows.

This week’s challenge: Do your own word study on JOY. See how many quotes and verses you can come up with and see if your understanding of the word will change.

What are you growing in your spiritual garden?


Written by Fiona Monaghan This weekend I was working in my garden planting vegetables. While I was working, a talk I had heard came to mind. In the talk, the teacher painted a picture with words that have stuck with me throughout the year and I wanted to share with you.

A gardener is planting his seeds into the soil and then attaches a picture of what that plant will look like when it comes to maturity; usually the package that the seeds came is attached to a stick at the end of the row.

Imagine the seed is in the ground and wonders what it will look like when it matures. He pokes his head out every once in awhile to look at the picture of the mature plant. “Oh yes! That is what I will look like when I am done growing!”

Even though just a tiny seed with little evidence showing of what he will become, it doesn’t have to do much more than just wait, be patient and become like that picture.

This is much like Jesus’ encouragement to us to abide in the vine making sure we stay attached and in time we shall become mature branches and produce fruit. He used gardening metaphor because he was speaking to agrarian culture where they knew planting, reaping, and harvesting terms. We are encouraged to produce Fruit of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control.

This fruit or character traits don’t come easy to us. We experience a tug of war from all the opposite traits. But, the promises are there for us -“Christ in you, the hope of Glory”Abide in me and I will abide in you …” “ Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives… We are asked to join God in the work that he is already accomplishing all around us, and how best to be of help but to exhibit the fruit we are asked to exhibit.

Jesus is our model. He is the picture on the seed packet. He lived the character we are asked to exhibit. Not only that, he promises to empower us with his Spirit, to become all that we can be.

Take a moment and write a down a couple verses of Jesus’ words (ex: “If God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you?” Matthew 6:30; “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes my Father who sent me” Mark 9:37;“I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” Luke 6:27-28). Spend a week looking at them, soaking them in, activity applying them to your life. Jesus challenges us to grow and by continually looking to him and his lessons we will keep our eyes focused on him.

"Who do you say I am?"

Written by Fiona Monaghan Is the image that you have of God, through Christ, your own or has it come from other people?

I had for many years, an impression built from many other sources. After hours of quiet time, reflection, prayer, poetry and pain, a new image of God through Christ, has become more real to me at this time of my life, than at any other.

PastConfLogoThe authoritarian image of God I had has been tempered with a love-embracing "sold out" God who wants, more than anything else, to redeem as many of us as will allow Him. To reclaim His children from the misery we create for ourselves. He went to the lengths of self-sacrifice to prepare the way, paid the price and then gave us the means to claim it. We see it lived out in our favorite movies: the hero battling all evil to save a loved one, and yet we don’t appropriate the gift for ourselves from the Author of the Story...

Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Take some time and examine how you would answer this question: Has your view of God been influenced by opinion polls, other people, social media or past experiences?

This question will be asked of us many times over our lifetime. Sometimes, by a child or friends who are seeking answers when life comes crashing down. Let's answer with the same enthusiasm and conviction as Peter did in Matthew. He is our Messiah, the Son of the Living God! By seeing God in this light daily we will be blessed and strengthened. By living our lives based on this truth we will live daringly and outside of the constraints of our fear and insecurities - filled with joy and grace. Just imagine!

Live now with this in the forefront of our daily lives and respond to everything from that question, “Who do you say that I am?”

I guarantee you will view your world very differently.

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Building Trust (or Faith) is an Action…


Written by Fiona Monaghan When one has been seeking God’s will and direction in their life and over time He has shown Himself to be lovingly gentle and compassionate, then one finds that all plans and decisions involve Him on the basic levels. We are in His will and we can trust that if an adjustment to a plan needs to be made, He will show us how and where.

Trust It is the same as in our human relationships, when communication and trust are built up over time. We know without checking with a close friend or spouse, what their thoughts on a particular subject would be, because we are thinking like them more and more and we “know where they are coming from”.

God reveals Himself in much the same way when we seek Him daily - by spending time in quietness or following a devotional that challenges one to ‘get real’ and think deeper. It is amazing to find that the God of the Universe meets with us to teach, guide and encourage. It is His desire!

When our core desire is to get to know God better, He reveals Himself to us by providing what we desire, and in that we get to know Him better.

He then provides what we desire again, and we get to know Him even better, and on it goes… It is a beautiful and fruitful cycle.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desire of your heart

Somewhere in my growing up I had retained the image of God as one who would take something from me if I wanted it badly. Over time I’ve re-evaluated this and learned that through difficulty, true trust allows me to see God as one who might benevolently withhold or take something out of my life for my own good. I see how many detours might have been avoided if I had made that realization. Today, I know beyond shadow of doubt that He cares about every detail of my life, my plans, my health and especially my family. He can be trusted with it all. He loves them more than I, and will move heaven and earth to provide them the opportunity to learn to trust Him too.