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

Cost

It has been forever since I’ve posted on here.  We’ve been on such a journey over the last four months.  We’ve moved geographically, we’ve moved spiritually and we’ve moved emotionally.

From a small town in Oregon, to a suburb in Brisbane, Australia, with eight weeks of travel and visiting family in New Zealand in between.  Now we’re settling down.

There’s a lot of talk in faith circles about ‘doing stuff’.  There’s a strong emphasis on missions, on living a life outside of your own, on giving, on extending your reach.  What is often left out of these conversations is the cost that goes along with this.  The price paid.

You see you can’t have sacrifice of any kind, without some kind of pain, Some kind of blood shed.  Some kind of reaction.

The cost of following God’s will for your life is real, baby, real.

And it looks different to each and every disciple.  Back when Jesus recruited those first disciples to now, when you step out in obedience, that cost is real.

For us the cost at the moment is financial, and to do with fatigue and sometimes feeling overwhelmed.  It is hard setting yourselves up in a new country when you’ve got limited time to get to certain government agencies, with three children in tow.  When everything is new – new driving routes, some different road rules, names for things are different, and you can count on one hand the number of people you already know.  A family spends an amazing amount of time together, when in a new place.  Church hunting is a grueling experience. And it just costs a heck of a lot of money when you’re buying all the basics all over again.  You don’t ship things like cleaning products or any pantry items when you’re moving overseas.

There’s a cost to stepping out and acting on what you’ve been called to do.

For others I know who are in ministry of some kind, there may not have been such a financial cost, but a cost to their family life.  Many trips away. Special milestones and occasions missed, because of itinerary conflicts.

Other people I know have to pay the cost of loss of friendships.  God has led them down a different path to their friends.  Life choices are suddenly polar ends apart.

There are all kinds of loss, and heartache, pain and suffering that comes along when you’re stepping out in faith, when you’re following certain paths for your life.  Especially if you feel like you’re on that path alone.

BUT.

BUT.

The Lord who leads me and the Lord who leads you, has ALL things in hand.  His promises are yes and amen.  They are new every morning.

Don’t we all want to be in the refiner’s fire?  And don’t we all want to be transformed to be a little more like Him, all the time?  Well the last time I burnt myself it hurt.  We can’t expect to be in the refiner’s fire without it hurting, just a tad.

 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (ESV).  As Christ followers we will have tribulations, the cost of following Him becomes very real at different times for us, in all sorts of ways, but God has already overcome the world.

What I face now – will be a distant memory in four/ six/ twelve months time.  God is already there.  In my future, as in my present and my past.  I’ll one day have a bed, and a bookshelf and more ‘stuff’.  I’ll be familiar and confident with driving in this new city.  I’ll have more than two friends.  God is already there.

Yes, there’s a very real cost to following God  - in whatever way that looks for you – and we are to be set apart and look different to ‘the world’ – and this cost should not be glossed over and forgotten about.  Likewise, the flipside of walking in His power, walking in obedience, the blessings that come from being His disciples should be shared and rejoiced in.

The cost is necessary, for without the cost, there is no need for co-existing.   I need God in my life, in every compartment of my existence, just as much now, as ever before.

Share with me your experience of paying the cost, but seeing new growth and blessing as a result of this cost, I’d love to read of it.