BY GOD’S GRACE- THE TESTIMONY OF CATHERINE DONOVAN

Cathy Photo

CATHERINE DONOVAN, contributor for today’s blog post 

We have been studying about God’s grace and our thorns and these series have come to an end. There are many thorns in my life, but even more evident is God’s grace. For me, one of those constant thorns or pain in my flesh and soul has been the sense of loneliness through my life. By God’s grace, I have learnt to dress up in the mantle of God’s fatherhood each day.
I was born in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, in East Africa. Tragically my mum was shot when I was 6 and I found her body. My dad was murdered when I was 10. Left a total orphan in a country that UNICEF estimates to have 2.5 million orphans, it is a miracle that I have never lacked clothes, slept on the streets or gone a day without food. God has been my Father. Psalm 68:5: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of 11 when a call was made to come forward in Church after a sermon. I knew I had no one and God would be my refuge. At the time when my Dad died, I was left with one of my stepmothers who took out her frustrations on me to the point that I would wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking she was shouting my name. I worked hard to go to the best secondary school in the country, a boarding school that banned corporal punishment. I found out more about what it meant to be a Christian in that school and joined the Christian Committee.
My faith was quickly tested when at the age of 15, I was purportedly rescued from my step mother by a maternal uncle. When he came to collect me from school his financial circumstances had changed and he gave me over to his very rich best friend, who had a daughter in the same school. Unfortunately this rich man wanted me for a wife. I spent my time hiding from him and locking my bedroom door with a belt through the door handle and keyhole. God protected and delivered me from that situation. However, my faith faltered as I could not understand how God could take me from one state of suffering to the next. I stepped down from serving on the Christian Committee because the rich man’s daughter had spread the word in the school that her dad was my sugar daddy. I left their home but did not know where I was going to live or find school fees. I was filled with hatred, had a hit list and asked a local security man to teach me how to use a gun so that I could enact vengeance on those who had wronged me. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.”(Leviticus 19:18).
Overwhelmed by life, I took to blanking my mind using transcendental meditation through a book I read. This situation was turned around when staff members introduced me to a Pastor and his wife who opened their home to me and the staff members sorted out sponsorship for me. Their commitment took me through my secondary education and I passed highly enough to get a scholarship for my University education and qualify as a lawyer.
I am grateful that: the Lord rescued me from the rich man as many young girls died of AIDS because of him; because of my stepmother’s ways I ended up in that specific secondary school; God has been a Father to me and has brought healing, deliverance and bestowed the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair- Over and over in my life (Isaiah 61:1-3). Truly, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose“ (Romans 8:28).

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A PRAYER ABOUT TEACHABILITY

everyday prayers scotty smith“Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.” Proverbs 15:31-32

“Lord, Jesus, scanning through the book of Proverbs recently, I noticed how many verses are about staying teachable, receiving correction, and loving discipline I’ve underlined over the course of the years. I wish the sheer number of highlighted verses was an indication of how humble and nondefensive a man I am. But that’s simply not the case. I still shift blame, make excuses, and sew fig leaves with the best of of them.

So here’s my prayer: I want to own, grieve, and repent of my defensiveness, Jesus. I’m not sure why, but I’ve become a little more touchy of late, a little more likely to bristle when confronted. I’m sure it’s my pride, insecurities, and self-righteousness, but I’m equally sure you’ve got grace for that.

Jesus, help me to anticipate and welcome feedback from my spouse about my attitude, choices, and excesses. Help me to hear your voice in things my children may want to or need to share with me about the past and the present. Help me to cultivate friendships in which growing in grace is just as important as the fun stuff we choose to do. Don’t let me ignore concerns and corrections from mentors, ‘underlings,’ neighbours, even angels you send.

Help me not just to read the Bible but to have the Bible constantly reading me – exposing my sin and brokenness and revealing more and more and more the riches of the gospel. There’s no way I’ll make ‘my home among the wise’ without having my heart at home in your mercy, grace, and peace.

Jesus, it’s because you made yourself of no reputation, becoming sin for me on the cross, that I don’t have to live for my own reputation. Because I’m not long guilty or condemned for my sin. I can live in the freedom of convictability, teachability, and humility. Help me Jesus, help me. I pray in your gracious name. Amen.”

A PRAYER ABOUT THE OBEDIENCE OF LOVE

everyday prayers scotty smith“As the Father has loved me, so have I (Jesus) loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15:9-10

“Jesus, there are times when just the right Scripture comes into view at just the right time. Today is such a day. These words, your words, cut through my confusion and cut to the chase. Because you love me, I’m to obey you.

In my zeal to guard the gospel of grace – the good news that all our efforts, works and obedience could never gain or maintain a relationship with you – I’ve been less clear about the place of obedience in the life of your children. But it’s really not complicated at all.

The hardest part is to actually believe you love us as much as the Father loves you. How can you possibly love us with the same passion and delight you’ve enjoyed from the Father throughout eternity? Every time I ask you that question, you direct my gaze to the cross. Because you were obedient to death upon the cross, I can be certain of God’s love for me.

Here’s where my obedience comes in. I’m to remain in your love through my obedience in the same way you remained in the Father’s love by your obedience. Obviously this doesn’t mean you earned His love, any more than I can earn your love. I can see how your obedience to the Father’s commands was a primary way of communing with Him – of enjoying your relationship with Him and bringing Him great glory. You spoke of His will being your bread, and bread is a life-sustaining gift.

May the same be true in my life, Jesus. Deepen my awareness of your love for me, even as you draw forth a more consuming and consistent obedience to your commands. Because the gospel is true, your commands are not burdensome to me. They are beautiful. They are bread. They are life. I have been saved by your obedience; be glorified by mine. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

A PRAYER FOR FREEDOM FROM RESENTMENT

everyday prayers scotty smith“The godless in heart harbour resentment.” Job 36:13 NIV

“Dear heavenly Father, whether it’s the annoying fly interrupting my needed nap, the thoughtless words spoken by a trusted friend, the new ding in my twelve-year old car, or the old hurt that generates fresh pain, resentment never helps; it only hurts.

To harbour resentment is nothing short of harbouring a criminal, for resentment is bent on criminal activity; stealing peace, vandalizing sleep, robbing relationship, killing kindness, murdering hope, infecting the innocent with deadly toxins, to name a few of resentments crimes. Indeed, as much energy is being wasted as oil spills into the Gulf of Mexico. There’s no greater waste of energy than resentment.

But worst of all Father, resentment is a contradiction, a blatant misrepresentation of who you are and how you relate to us in Jesus. For if  anyone has a right to hold a grudge, to keep a record of wrongs done, to rehearse and remember our sins against us, it is you.

Yet you do not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is your love for those who fear you; as far as the east is from the west, that’s how far you’ve removed our transgressions from us. You’re the Father who has compassion on us as your children (Ps. 103:10-13). You show us neither vexation of spirit nor exasperation of heart, so great is your love for us in Jesus.

So Father, by the love that sent Jesus to the cross and by the power that raised him from the dead, continue to heal and change me. I don’t want to be godless in heart but want to be grace-full in heart. I want to be free even from resenting other people’s resentment. I pray in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name. Amen.”