Rainbow Story Sessions: Cynthia Giles

As I was asked to write a rainbow story, a story about a moment when God saved me from something significant, it would be easy to choose any heart-gripping situation, and after many challenges, I know the enemy is after my treasure. The treasure I’m referring to isn’t the “golden pot” at the end of the rainbow. It’s my relationship with God, my relationships with others, and my purpose on this earth.

From my mother having a complicated delivery, to cracking my skull open at the tender age of 4, to terrifying collisions on the road, to a cyst that came back as benign, the list could truly overwhelm me if I described what the Lord has saved me from. I’m not sure how theological this statement is, but it feels like the enemy had a plan for my life since the moment I was conceived. In spite of God’s counter-punches and potter-to-clay miracles, I am most compelled to share a rainbow story about a time when God saved me from a lifelong critic: myself.

Isn’t it funny how you go to war with the person in the mirror every day?

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I go to war with this woman in the mirror more than I war with any other situation or relationship in my world. Through God’s grace, I’m learning to take responsibility for what I can change and operate from a position of forgiveness when the tragedy is out of my hands. I’ve been on an uphill roller-coaster, learning how to celebrate my journey without pride and correct my weaknesses without losing confidence. I’ve been at war since I was a little girl to love the woman I’ve grown into.

What the Lord has done to grow me as a person and save me from my own downfall is bring me into deeper intimacy with His Son by encouraging me to walk in a new identity.

As I wrestle through disappointing and obscure situations, I am affirmed about where lasting hope and significance comes from. Because God has allowed hard times that strip away what I deem as precious, I am forced to transfer my false “security blankets” for the secure sovereignty of God. He has saved me from making choices that lean toward my sinful nature by transforming rejection into protection and blockages into a redirection of new discoveries. As I’ve fought through addictions and poor habits, God has saved me from the lure of counterfeit comforts.

cynthia3Many of the comforts of this world are counterfeit because these “comforts” make promises they can’t keep, strip everything we consider valuable away from us, and throw condemnation on top of the addiction like the cherry on top of a highly poisonous sundae.

God hides me in His embrace so I can understand what it means to love Him and to love myself without limits. Thankfully, God has surrounded me with loving people who aren’t afraid to challenge me and offer encouragement. And the beautiful thing about the community I find myself in is the truth that my relationships are as diverse as the colors on the spectrum wheel. I have friends in their 70’s, 50’s, 20’s, and mentees in the teens. My relationships contain multiple races and ethnicities, with diversity in personality, and kingdom builders who strike this dark world like a glare of lightning strikes the night sky.

I thank God for bringing me face-to-face with my own sinful nature so I could be convicted into a face-to-face encounter with His Son. I thank God for allowing the valley because the pit teaches me how to surrender and put my eyes on Him. I thank God for stripping away what I deem as precious, along with every counterfeit comfort, so I can quench my thirst with a pure love this world could never fake. I thank God for loving me at my worst and not waiting until I had myself all cleaned up to use me. God is so good, friends. He has saved me from head-on collisions, but now I’m crashing into His presence, with divine appointments and the most glorious purpose…and when I hit the target, I’ll be repaid double portions of favor for past pain, and my testimony combined with God’s love will transform hearts and inspire lives.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be [saved], as they are today.” Genesis 50:20, ESV

Go to Cynthia’s website here.
Find Cynthia on Facebook here.

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So Much More than a Slave

There’s this guy in the Bible with a pretty funny name: Onesimus. How do you even say that? Well, weird name aside, this guy has a powerful testimony.

more than a slaveWhile he is mentioned in another place in the Bible (Colossians 4:8-9), we hear Onesimus’ back story in the book of Philemon. It’s easy to wonder why this letter was included in the Bible – It’s less than a page long, and many Christians will never read it in their lifetimes. Why would the people who put the Bible together include something so small? Why is this book in particular so significant?

Philemon is included in the Bible because of the story it tells. See, Onesimus was a slave, and the apostle Paul actually wrote this book solely for the purpose of writing to Onesimus’ owner to prove that his heart had become good and to appeal to Philemon’s better nature to let Onesimus go free.

Onesimus started his story as a slave who stole something from his owner and then fled the country. As it turns out, he fled to Rome, right to where Paul was teaching the Gospel, and his life was changed forever. Onesimus was then able to spend some time with Paul, learning from him and growing closer to God. What a divine intervention!

Here is what Paul says about Onesimus (verses 9-16, ESV):

“I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”

Here, Paul is petitioning on Onesimus’ behalf. The New Testament is riddled with instructions for slaves to obey their masters and work as though God is their master, many of these cases written by Paul’s own hand, but here, Paul appeals to Philemon to set Onesimus free. What is the difference here?

philemonThe thing that sets Onesimus apart from other slaves is that Paul has spent time with Onesimus, getting to know him and investing into his soul. Onesimus isn’t some run-of-the-mill slave to Paul any longer; he’s like Paul’s own son. His transformation was so great Paul told Philemon, I’m not sending a slave back to you. I’m sending my heart.

By all accounts, Philemon owned Onesimus, and Paul did the right thing by sending him back, but that ownership didn’t change the way Paul saw him. Onesimus was a beloved son to Paul, and the fact that he was a slave did not change how important Onesimus was.

Paul hated that this was hovering over his head, a looming storm cloud of oppression. Some day, Philemon is going to call upon that slavery and tear my son away from me. He is going to punish Onesimus for his past when he’s not that person any longer. Paul had to do something about it.

Later in the letter, he did (verses 17-20, ESV):

“So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self.”

Paul not only asks Philemon to forgive Onesimus for the trouble he has gone through; he tells Philemon that even if he is unwilling to forgive Onesimus, Paul will pay for his freedom. He asked Philemon not to hold anything against Onesimus, but to hold it against himself as though he was the one who did wrong. For someone who was a Pharisee for a very long time, priding himself on not sinning, that’s an awfully large price to pay.

But that price didn’t matter; his son did.

This is the definition of standing in the gap for someone, saying, “I will pay the price for you so you can be free.” That’s what fathers do for sons. That’s what Jesus Christ did for us.

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When Paul talks about Onesimus in Colossians, he calls him a “faithful and beloved brother,” not a slave or even a former slave. A brother in Christ. Part of the family. Onesimus’ past was washed away, never to return again. He had a new name, and that name was “Beloved.”

This less-than-a-page-long book of the Bible is a Real Life example of how we can fight for people. This is how we are Jesus Christ to the world. This is how we bring freedom to the people who need it most. We make sacrifices so other people can have the life more abundant we do. We take their burdens upon our own shoulders and pay the price it takes to free their souls. We change their names from slave to brother.

This Post is for You

Dear Friend,

If I have one thing to say to you, it’s that you don’t have to listen to the lies spinning madly inside your head. You don’t have to watch the hurtful visions replaying over and over on the canvas of your mind. Your soul does not have to be plagued with frustration.

I want to tell you that you can be free of these thoughts, completely, forever. There is HOPE for peaceful rest. When you accept God into your life and promise to keep Him by your side, you have freedom from these vices. Just as Jesus quieted the storm raging around him and the disciples, He will quiet the storm raging inside your mind. You can have the peace you so desperately long for.

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If I have one thing to say to you, it’s that the world isn’t necessarily how you see it. When people look at you, they see a sweet, young, beautiful friend who’s trying to make it in the world. People aren’t out to get you, and they don’t see the twisted version of yourself you see in the mirror. You are strong and resilient, and I hate to see you affected so badly by the pain of your past.

I want to tell you that you don’t have to live with resentment. Those hurtful people you grew up with are not the other people in the world around you now, and their striking words do not define you unless you let them. Truth says you are a brand new person, and that brand new person will not be torn down by the things of this world. The moment Jesus Christ died on the cross, we became clean in God’s eyes, and once you truly grab hold of that, what they think and what they thought and said will no longer hold you in chains.

If I have one last thing to say to you, it’s to assure you that all your broken parts can and will be made brand new. That’s the beauty of the gospel – not that we can be whoever we want and do whatever we want, but that the Holy Spirit comes and undoes the pain of the past, kneading our hearts back to the way they were created to be: perfect and without blemish.

I want to tell you that God knows each corner of your bruised and torn-to-shreds heart. He knows where each piece of it went, and He went to great lengths to get them back. He longs to come into your life and sew every inch of you back together. I promise you He does this with the gentlest of care and loving kindness. You are safe inside His sovereign hands forever. Just take the step to trust Him with your heart. He is not like the flawed human beings we live with; He will not disappoint you.

Grasp hold of the HOPE you have at your fingertips and never let it go. You can be saved from this fear that threatens to eat you; I know this because I have lived through this journey. If God can save me from all the pain and lies of my past, He can save you, too. Just hold Him close and never let go; He will bring you through this journey to the end, a person made whole and brand new.

Much love and grace in Christ,

Meg

My Rainbow Moment

I’ve said this quite a few times, and I’ll say it again a million: I know this book will change your life because it changed mine.

rainbow moment cover 0 actualOver the past year and a half of writing The Rainbow Moment, my life has been revolutionized in several areas. From the way I see myself to the technical nuances of my finances, every aspect of my life has been saved and changed in radical ways. Areas that once held me in prison no longer do, and it’s all thanks to the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit alive and at work today.

While there are several examples I could give you of the massive shift that has happened in my life, this process of living out my Rainbow Moment would be best summed up by one experience that happened a few weeks ago:

At Ekklesia one night during worship, the lights were dimmed, and that one spotlight that never turns off was shining right in the middle of the floor. Feeling gushy and sentimental, I went to lie down and bask in the warm light. I felt radiant, as though the Son himself were shining down on me, and then He spoke to me, “I love that you have become the girl who goes straight to the light.” I immediately felt the hugest grin crop its way onto my face along with a few, happy tears.

I have come so far from where I was.

One of the first poem titles I put into The Rainbow Moment was called, “Can’t Find the Light.” To this day, there is only one note below it: “…how I feel right now…Looking and looking but don’t see a way out. Kind of hopeless.” When I stuck this title into the second draft last summer, I had no idea where this book was going. Its form was shifting every other day, and I couldn’t for the life of me define its purpose or its place in the world. I felt utterly lost in all the places I had thought I belonged. I had just quit a job following the direction of the Holy Spirit, yet I felt like He had abandoned me completely.

And right here is the base of all my Rainbow Moments wrapped into one. Here, now, within my soul lies confidence and boldness I never dared dream imaginable. The smile residing on my face is born from Truth the that says I am worthy of love because of the Creator Himself, not anything I say or do. I know I don’t have to go and find the light; He lives right here within me.

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Today is so different from yesterday. I know my place; I know my purpose. I know The Rainbow Moment is on its way to sitting in the world exactly where God has designed it to be. I know I can trust God’s promises, and if He has told me this book will change lives, I know it will, even when that doesn’t look the way I wanted it to.

If you feel hidden in the darkness, I want to encourage you that that doesn’t have to be forever. God can will send His angels to help you, to save you from that which you can never save yourself. All you need to do is turn your face to Him and ask.

Why a Rainbow?

TRM instaPeople have been asking about the meaning behind The Rainbow Moment. I’ve shared several versions of an elevator speech, but I thought I’d share the real deal here.

The volume itself is based off a poem I wrote a year and a half ago. I was doing a 30-day poetry challenge, and day eight told me to write about a color without using the name of that color. I loved the concept, but I couldn’t pick just one color. I decided to write an acrostic poem using the seven colors of the rainbow. What a genius idea, right? The poem turned out much better than I thought it would. It didn’t have a name then, but it made my eyes tear up, and it captivated my heart with a vice grip.

The poem itself is a story of redemption, and what a story it is. A prisoner finds his way out of his prison, and while he’s running away – and thinking all the self-loathing things a former prisoner would think of himself – he comes to the end of his road and the beginning of a new one. He comes across a boat surrounded by angels. They explain they’ve come to save him, and he can barely believe it. With tears in his eyes, he climbs onto the boat, and the angels bring him home.

Without fail, every person I’ve shared this poem with has teared up; they’ve felt warmth in their hearts, and their mouths are splayed open with gigantic smiles. This poem is freeing. It floats high on a cloud of the Holy Spirit’s powerful, all-consuming love, raining peace on the reader below. If you’re looking for something to save you, well, only God can do that. But this poem, and this book, too, will certainly help with that.

Double-Rainbow-over-ManhattanBut even still, why would I choose to base an entire book off of a rainbow? Doesn’t the rainbow stand for homosexuality and other ~ weirder ~ sexualities? Am I not scared of people thinking this is my coming out?

No, I’m not.

Rainbows mean a lot of things to a lot of people. A rainbow baby is one born after a miscarriage or a loss. The Rainbow Bridge is where dogs go after they die, to wait for their owners to come and get them. And, yes, it is the symbol the LGBTQ+ community has chosen to represent their movement.

Let us remember that the rainbow belonged to God before it belonged to any of us humans.

When we look at the rainbow from a biblical standpoint, it stands for God’s choice to define Himself as love. When God first created the rainbow, He told Noah that He was creating it for Himself. God created the rainbow to remind Himself of His choice to no longer look at the world through the lens of judgment. After all, His perfection would never be less than perfect, and our disgusting sin would never go away without his help. Thus, He promised to balance out the bad of the human race with His own goodness (Genesis 8:20-22). In the moment of its creation, the rainbow stood for steadfast goodness that would never fail.

In each of the modern meanings of the rainbow listed above, the rainbow stands firmly as a promise. People cling to rainbows for hope. They hold fast to it for reasons they don’t even know – reasons that are engrained in the fiber of every living being. When God speaks to Isaiah, He says speaks of Noah and says, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed” (Isaiah 54:9-10). This is what the rainbow stands for: an unshakable and irremovable covenant.

We cling to the rainbow because, at its very core, it is imbued with everlasting goodness.

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Throughout the Bible, God tells us of His promise to Noah; the authors of different books speak of His kindness and faithfulness when they speak of the rainbow. They speak about the beauty of His compassion and the choice He made to never act out in anger against the human species again. God chose the Israelites, and the Gentiles in time, to be His protected ones, His Beloved.

That’s what the rainbow stands for, whether people realize it or not. I whole-heartedly believe that the meaning first given to something – the meaning behind its creation – never fades, and the rainbow is definitely one of those things.

As my good friend Sarah said, “[God] literally made a new physical phenomenon just because He wanted to remind anyone who looked up after a storm of His loving kindness.”

So, yes, I have chosen the rainbow – the most grand and decorated and permanent of all God’s creation. The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but this God-spoken, naturally-occurring atmospheric condition will last forever, and I’m making a habit of writing about eternal things.

Let’s Go Back, Dear

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Let’s go back to calling everybody “Dear.”
Write everyone letters addressing them as close-to-our-hearts.
Let them hold our words in their hands
And be encouraged.

Let’s go back to holding doors open for each other,
No matter how far they lag behind.
We’ll bring people with us
As we walk into the world ahead.

Let’s go back to not letting strangers be strangers for long.
Smiles and hugs make the world go ’round,
And we know everyone we meet
Needs at least one to last the day.

Let’s go back to loving people regardless of limits,
Theirs or ours.
This is how they’ll know us; this is how they’ll see:
Our fully-functioning unconditional love for each other.

The Phantom of AWESOME

I went to the Fox Theater for the first time ever this week! It was honest-to-goodness one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever been inside.

The architecture was astounding, and there were stars in the ceiling, arches everywhere, original fixtures in the bathroom, and there was an orchestral organ that shook the building as it played and then vanished into the floor! I lovelovelove the gigantic beauty of it all.

phantom-of-the-opera_mainThe Phantom of the Opera was wonderful. It’s been one of my favorite musicals since middle school, so it was really nice to see it live. Of course, the musical play is different from the movie I grew up watching, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Overall, the cast did a really good job. To name a few actors: Derrick Davis (the Phantom), Katie Travis (Christine Daae), Anne Kanengeiser (Madame Giry), Phumzile Sojola (Piangi), and Victor Wallace (Joseph Buquet), I believe these characters were well cast, and the actors did a wonderful job recreating the characters I know and love from the movie.

The sets were my favorite part, by far; they are absolutely phenomenal. The chandelier literally made my jaw drop for a good five minutes, as did much of the rest of the stage design. I don’t want to give away the wonders of it, but if you have no other reason to go see this musical, you need to go just because of the sets. Holy cow. If I ever write a stageplay, I will have Paul Brown build the stage design for it. No joke.

A personal pet peeve I found recurring throughout the night: The actors over-enunciated the “R” sound while singing. “…YouR face, ChRistine…”  “…BewaRe the Phantom of the OpeRa…” This might be a personal tick, but I found it distracting and annoying. I feel it made the play over-Americanized in a bad way.

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If you are considering going to see this musical, I highly recommend you should go. It is playing in a gorgeous venue, and the story is pretty beautiful as well.

+ 60,000 smile points