Bragging Rights

The good, the amazing, the bad and the ugly – I spew it all out here on this here blog.

I haven’t shied away from sharing some things that have been hard – things that come with being in Christian ministry and with moving internationally.  Things that just come along the journey of walking in obedience.  But in and through it all – I hope that you can see what we hold on to – the hope we have in Him.  The faithfulness of our Father God.  His provision.  His care.  His love.

I can’t paint a clear and accurate picture of life as we know it, without this highlighting of challenges and highlighting of great joy, because that’s the reality of walking hand in hand in God, and my prayer and goal for these posts is to encourage and to bless, most of all – because it’s in these hard times that God shines through, and it is in the good times, that God is glorified.  God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.

So – today I just have to shine a huge big spotlight on my God.  The hero of my story today is my one and only Saviour.  The bragging rights can only go to Him, and Him alone.

With our recent move to Australia one of the many things that concerned my Momma heart was to do with how my two oldest boys would cope academically, with settling into a completely different school curriculum.  Add into that equation that we felt God calling us to send them to a private school, where the academic expectations are somewhat higher than a state school.  Add into that equation the fact that both boys pretty much skipped a grade each, although the comparisons are hard to make as each of the curriculum and year intakes work are so different it is hard to compare. Add into that equation my boys are taking subjects they have had no exposure to before….you get the drift….this whole schooling business has been a big deal for me.  It would have been no surprise to have found gaps in their learning – even though they both are hard workers and have excellent attitudes towards study.  But God.

Our story is peppered with ‘BUT GOD’ moments….and this is just another to show His loving kindness.

But God.

We now have had school report cards for both boys – and quite simply – they are rocking school.  There are no gaps in their learning.

But God.

I would brag about my boys and how wonderful they are, and they are.  Quite wonderful.  But they are also works in progress, as are we all.

I had to learn to trust God and trust that these boys would be ok in this new school environment, that they would not be intimidated and overwhelmed.  And God came through.  And is coming through.  And this is the story of our lives.

Accepting the call.  Embracing the call.  Swallowing fear and pride and personal desires and disappointments and allowing God to do what He does best.  Come through.  For us.  Because He loves us.

We will overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony……I have no greater tool at my disposal of showing God’s greatness, than of bragging of what he has done in my life.  In the lives of my family.

My boys could be struggling so much – they could be grieving over what they have lost, they could be struggling with cultural changes and they could be troubled with feeling of inadequacy and low self-esteem if they were struggling academically at school.  But they are not.  Because.  God.  There are still challenges for them – speech and accent issues to name one – but God is still so very good.

Whatever God has called you and your family to – He will lead you through.  He will enable you.  He will protect you.  He will bless you in your obedience.  There will be road-bumps along the way, there are always road-bumps along the way – but that’s part and parcel of life and of our Christian journey.

There is so much to be gained in and through obedience.  God knows what our Mother hearts cry out for, God knows what keeps us awake and thinking of the worst case scenarios.  He knows and He moves.

My God’s a big God. Your God is a big God.  We serve a mighty God.

Branded.

Night falls early in these parts, so I imagine the deed was done early one evening.  The ‘deed’ being the scrawling of an ugly word with an even uglier meaning, onto the front of a car.  By scrawling I really mean scratching.  Leaving a permanent mark.

 

 I don’t know the victim of the ‘crime’ – the owner of the car at the time.  She obviously had upset someone.  Maybe a jealousy was playing out in a very real way.  Maybe it was a spiteful prank gone wrong.  I don’t know – but I do know this – she didn’t deserve to be branded in such a scarring way.

 

 We are now in possession of the aforementioned branded car.  A long time loan while its current owner is overseas.  I can’t help but notice the unpleasant word every time I get in or out of that car.  It looks very out-of-place the few times it has been parked at my boys’ school.  Their ‘private Christian College’ school.

 

 In the bible, in John 4, we read of a woman who was branded with the same word that appears on our car.  The Samaritan woman with a bit of ‘baggage’.  Jesus approached her at the well and asked her for some water.  Now this was not the common practice in that day at all – not common for a Jewish man to speak publicly to a woman, much less a Samaritan woman, and even less common to talk to a Samaritan woman with a past like hers.

 

 In his book ‘Powerful and free, confronting the glass ceiling for women in the church’, Danny Silk looks at this interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman and notes that ‘Not only does Jesus talk with her, but he also talks with her about theology – a topic expressly forbidden to discuss with women.  In one conversation, Jesus literally sliced through years of rabbinical law and cultural norms with the extreme love of God that sees the treasure in every human heart’.

 

 The people around the Samaritan woman would have had all manner of labels stuck on her.  All sorts of branding.  Yet Jesus was able to look into her eyes and see her simply as a child of God.  He saw in her purpose.  And hope. A future.

 

 He saw the treasure that is in every human heart.

 

 He looked past her past, and saw what she could be in her present.  And she did use that information he shared with her; the fact that he revealed his true identity as the Messiah for the first time, to her, she went back to her people and shared the good news with them.  She brought people to him.  There must have been some point in her thinking when she realized ‘if this man the Christ sees me, then I am worthy’, for her to have gone back to her people with enough confidence to share her story with them, to bring others to Him.  All it took was for her to see herself as the Lord saw her – worthy.  Daughter.  Beloved one.

 

 We all wear labels of some sort.  Some of these labels are positive, some are negative.  Some stop us from seeing ourselves as God sees us.  My husband and I have to look past the label on our car.  We know that this branding doesn’t affect how the car drives, its effectiveness in doing what it was designed to do.  We have to choose to not focus on the negative connotations of this label.  What if we all carried this on to every area of our lives?  To every dark and hidden corner of our hearts?  What if we all worked on trying to rip off every label that has been imposed upon us, by simply accepting the Father’s love for us.

 

 Jesus sees the treasure that is in every human heart.  We are his children.  What if we start walking in that?  What if we start living that out?  We are loved with an everlasting love.  We were created in His image.  I think it is time to start ripping those labels off – time to help your friends and relatives see themselves as God sees them.  Cherished.  Beloved.  Designed while we were in our Mother’s wombs for a purpose.

 

 I’m gonna start tearing off some self-imposed labels and others-imposed labels…..how about you? Are you in?

Hey, you!

….yeah, you!

Life’s pretty full on, isn’t it?

I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed and was struck by the thought that so many people I know are facing hard times at the moment.

Disappointments.  Sickness.  Health scares.  Family breakdowns.  Accidents. People letting people down. Financial issues.

There’s a whole heap of sadness just hovering over precious lives.

And if you’ve been a reader of this blog at all you’ll know that life’s been a little tough for me just lately.  I’m very real about the cost and the price that comes with following God, and choosing to serve and walk in obedience.

But along with the trials that I’ve been facing, and along with whatever you’re facing, there is no doubt in my heart and my mind and my soul, that God is so very faithful.

If you’re a Christian – your only chance is to hold into hope.  Cling to the promises we have in Him.

If you don’t know Jesus in a personal way, then ask Him to prove himself to you.  Put yourself in a place of openness, and just wait for the transformation. He’s real.  He’s kind.  And He’s there for each and every one of us.

Isaiah 41:10.  Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.

Whatever darkness you’re facing.  Whatever questions you have over your future and your beloved ones’.  Hold onto hope.  Hold onto those words we have from someone who loves us far more than we could ever imagine or dare to believe.

He is strengthening me.  He will strengthen you.

He is holding me with his righteous strong hand.  He will hold you.

Dear friend, hold onto hope.  Just cling to it.  Cling.

 

Loving (and hurting ) Deeply

I’ve been quietly working on a blog post in my head. Grabbing little thoughts and inspirations from here and from there. I don’t know if anyone can relate, but you see the thing is, I feel things very deeply. Part of this is because I’m a woman. (And any blokes reading this immediately go duh). Part of this is just how I’m wired, my personality and God-given gifts.

I was going to write a blog post asking for help for how to diminish this ‘feeling deeply’ part of my life.

I was going to grab your ideas on how to work on turning my feelings off, of growing thicker skin and of not minding it so much when friendships aren’t reciprocated or when people don’t follow through on promises or when something hard and bad happens to my husband or children.

But you know the more I started to gather my thoughts and try to put into words my helplessness and frustrations at myself…….the more I felt that gentle tugging of the Holy Spirit.

Be still.

Know who you are is who you are for a reason.

It is ok to feel and to feel deeply.

I think it comes down to something as simple as this……how deep is the Father’s love for us…..how vast beyond all measure indeed……there is no limit to God’s love – we are promised this in the His word……as much as that love is so deep – what can I give, but to give all of myself?

How can I love my friends, and my family, if I’m not loving with all of myself.

And the deeper the love, the more fulfilling the relationship. The more honest. The more relate-able we are. The more help we can be to each other.

So really, the question that I really have, is not on how NOT to love deeply, but on how to handle the hurt that comes with it. Hand in hand – loving people deeply brings such amazing rewards; deep and meaningful friendships, cherished moments, shared joy, but there is also sadness and heartache that comes with loving people as we’re simply human at the end of the day.

And so far I’ve come up with – We can use hurt to build up barriers to prevent us from reaching out, or we can use hurt to propel us forward. To learn from. To change future behaviours/ reactions. Both actions are hard. Both actions are done intentionally…not just as a side effect. Both reactions are things I have knowingly and willingly done. And not just in the past – but recently. My husband and I have some people in our life who aren’t the best with communication. A lot of the time we have to repeat information, sometimes that information is misconstrued, oftentimes that communication is one-sided – us making the effort, time and time again. So what have we done as a result of our hurt and frustration? We’ve chosen to stop making an effort ourselves. This has then become a no-win situation. We’ve built up the barriers to prevent us from reaching out.

But what I’ve realized from this reaction is that no-one wins……no-one benefits and no-one learns anything. We certainly don’t, because we’re the ones holding on to the ‘big ball of ugly’, and other party in this scenario is clueless as to our hurt and our frustrations. So nothing changes.

I am rather slow on it……I take my time to learn these things you know….but I now know that hurt does nothing as long as it remains hurt. As long as those feelings of powerlessness and frustration remain – the hurts wins – division wins – and the enemy wins. Because he doesn’t want us to be united. He doesn’t want us working together. He doesn’t want joined forces, abounding in love….because that’s the very thing that is going to change the world. That’s the thing that makes me as a Christian, stand out from another who is not.

So I’m learning that what needs to happen is we need to change the hurt into something else: a chance to re-evaluate ourselves, a chance to learn from an experience, a chance to do better next time, a chance to see the good in all.

The hurt can’t win. The hurt can’t take over our hearts.

I do believe that we were made to love deeply. We are loved deeply. Hurt comes hand in hand with loving people – but the rewards of loving people far outweighs the damage this hurt can do – I’m learning that we just need to be intentional with how we react to this hurt….

fionapic

Welcome Here

I read an article the other day that talked of how there have been numerous snake hatchings lately…..there are lots of snakes being found in various suburbs of the city I now live in.

I don’t do snakes. The thought of encountering one makes me throw up a little in my mouth. Spiders aren’t so bad. But snakes? Slithery, slidey, poisonous thingies…….nah…….I’m more than a little afraid.

Since reading that article, I can’t go out to the washing line without first looking carefully at the lawns and checking for snakes, then I give the pile of grass clippings behind a tree a very good look at too…..

I’ve been dwelling on those words that I read. Can’t get them out of my head. What we choose to see, read, hear, we dwell on. It is as simple as that.

I can choose to dwell on the negative thoughts I have on the house we live in at the moment and I can fret about finding a house to move into as soon as our lease is up and how that is all going to work out, I can choose to dwell on the lack of communication I have from some people I dearly miss, I can choose to dwell on the right here, right now issues at hand in my life. Or I can choose to dwell on the good and right – happy and settled children, newly forming friendships, the steadfastness of my amazing husband and so very much more.

But even more than dwelling on the good – even more than just thinking positively, I’m experiencing a new desperation for the Holy Spirit in me…..the peace and direction from Him and only Him. The following of His promptings. Making space for Him. He’s filling the gaps, being the grouting in the wobbly and misaligned tiles in my life.

But this making room – it has to be an intentional thing. He has to be sought. But He comes through! Jeremiah 29:13 ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’. The New Living Translation says ‘If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me’. What a promise we have. What comfort and strength can be ours.

No more snake articles for me…..just more of Jesus……more of Jesus……this song is my prayer at the moment…holding me together…..

Leaning……

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

It is quite amazing the number of things that can go wrong, disappoint and cause hiccups along the way, when you’re walking in obedience.

I’ve already blogged a little about the cost of obedience.  But seriously – it is amazing the things we’ve encountered in the last two months and keep facing.

Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

I could list all the details – but won’t.  God knows our trials and our needs.  We just need to keep on eyes and hearts facing Him.  Leaning into Him.  Leaning on Him.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Our pastor preached a fantastic sermon this morning.  No matter what you’re facing – keep leaning forward, keep running the race.  This one thing I know……..

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

You see where your eyes look to – your body follows.  There’s no forward momentum if you’re looking behind.  In my dancing days I learnt the art of  ‘spotting’ – fixing your eyes in a position, and then whipping your head around the find that same exact spot as fast as you can.  Essential in pirouettes – spinning.  A couple of days ago Brian Houston tweeted this:  Look down to get discouraged – Look around to get distracted – Look up to get direction!

So, although we’re tired.  We’re frustrated.  We’d like a break from the struggles we currently face – we’ll continue to look up.  We’ll continue to lean forward.  We’ll continue to lean on each other, and on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

dancer

 

Five Minute Friday: See

Five Minute Friday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5 mins of writing on a set topic.

I’ve decided that if I ever wanted to do more writing….and to really get serious about it then I need to be able to just write. Simply write. So I’m going to join some friends linking up at Lisa-Jo’s blog and we shall see what fun ensues…..

So here goes….

START.

See.

At the moment everything I see is new.  New beaches, new roads, new shopping centres, new churches, new people, new new new.  New brands of food, new names for things, new customs, new new new.

It can be overwhelming.  I feel like my senses are on high alert.

And I’m in a first world nation.

Ohh how my heart grieves and how I admire those who God has called to serve in developing nations.  The poorest of the poor.  The sickest of the sick.  Culture shock?  I’ve got nothing on those who daily sidestep around disease, who face the very real threat of martyrdom, who are called to be the face and hands of Jesus to the most depraved of us all.

Such things these people must see.

Such things these people must hear.

Such things these people must feel.

Lord help us to remember those who are working for you in the most unpleasant places.  Who are serving you in the real combat zones.  Help us to encourage them, to pray circles of protection over them and to bless them mightily. Help us to partner with them, help us to shoulder some of their burdens.  Amen.

 

candle