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?

Advertisements

On the cusp…..

This is to you, dear lady who is standing on the precipice of a new direction in your life.

This is to you, dear man, who struggles under the weight of responsibility and concern for your family, yet you know, that you know, that you know, that you are being called into something new.  Something different.

This is for the couple that are just feeling more and more unsettled with your status quo.  Your life is ticking along just fine now, things are good, things are great, but there’s just something inside of you that hopes you’re not settling for less. Something inside of you wishes to expose your kids to a new dependence on God, a new level of trust having to be established.

You’re not alone with your fears, misgivings, second-guessing and concerns.

But this is what I know, without a doubt, as sure as night follows day, as sure as a baby poops as you’re about to walk out the door, as sure as a seven year old’s eyes leak as he’s learning the discipline of graciously loosing…….WHEN you step out in faith, WHEN you follow God’s leading, WHEN you choose to obey what has been asked of you, He will be faithful.

So very faithful.

One of the beauties of this world is we’re all called to different things. As a body of Christ we all have different ministries to serve in, different capacities to fill. What God has called my family and I to, will look completely different to you and your family has been called to.  There is no ‘better’, there is definitely different.  There is no ‘holier’ or ‘more worthy’, obedience is obedience.  Serving is serving.

At the moment we are starting to pack up our lives here in Southern Oregon, and we’re researching and planning for a move to fulfill our new calling (in Australia of all places! You can read about that here) So, while your family may not be called to move geographically, or you may not be looking at fulltime Christian ministry, what you are being called to is of equal importance in the Kingdom.

And if you’re peeing your pants at the thought of something new, if you’re feeling that sense of doom over details that are way out of your control…..please know…..God has this.

God holds you in the palm of his hand.

His will is perfect.

Sheer and utter dependence on God is a scary thing, but a blessed thing.  That walking step by step in His will…..that’s the kinda walking that brings miracle answers.  That’s the kinda walking that shows God as the hero – because of ONLY God.

How do I know this?  Because of God’s track record in my life.  Because it is in the stretch and in the pull, where I think I’ve lost it all, where I think this time I’ve really done it, really gone crazy, really lost the plot….His track record shows the Lord provides.  The Lord opens doors.  The Lord makes crooked paths straight.

As a parent and as a trained teacher, one of the biggest concerns I have for my children is for their schooling.  We were hugely blessed with a great experience of school here, and with moving that has been a concern of mine – where to put my boys in school, with not knowing the system, not knowing the options and not knowing areas etc.

A very legitimate concern in the natural.

But you know what?  We *think* we have a school sorted. An amazing school at that. I did some internet research, chatted to a very wise and godly friend who was familiar with this one particular school that stood out from the others immediately, made some inquiries and we prayed and left it in God’s hands.  And now…..because God has made a way, where there seemed to be no way….as long as this particular school accepts the boys we have been blessed to be able to make it so this will work for our family.  Now we may never be able to save for a deposit for a house (ha!) – but that is not our concern at the moment – this big deal for me of where to place our kids in school – after a big move and after leaving all they have known for the last four and a half years – is in the process of being sorted for us.

God is most certainly in the details.

If it weren’t for looking back at all God has done in our lives – all he has provided – all those details we’ve seen his hand at work in – it would be easy to say no to our next God adventure.  it would be more appealing to go back to where we’ve come from.  Back to familiarity and all the comforts that brings.  Back to what we know and to where we’re known.  But God.  But God’s track record shows He loves us and cares for us – for our every need and then some.  God’s track record shows I fret and I worry and I falter every step of the way – but He doesn’t.  He is patient and kind, his love is everlasting.

It doesn’t matter what the crowd thinks of what you’re called to do.  it doesn’t matter if your heart skips beats and you can’t sleep and you mutter grumpy words to yourself…..it doesn’t matter….because in and through our weaknesses, He is made strong.

What is God asking of you right now?

Live in the stretch my friends.  Allow opportunities for your kids to see you thanking God for his provision.  Step out into his glorious unknown – step from the cusp – into the scary.  He’s there.  It is not unknown to Him.

 

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: In Between

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 –

In Between.

If there ever was a family that could portray the situation of being ‘in between’ that would my family. Right here. Right now.

Our run at our local state school has finished.
My commitment to a ministry to teenage girls has ended.
My responsibilities with the Mom’s group I’ve been a part of have been passed over.
I’m no longer on the nursery roster at church.

The things I do, the things that are part of the root structure of settling here that I’ve created……are falling off my calendar….and the days left here, in this little corner of Southern Oregon now number less than ninety.

My family and I are in between.

Piece by piece getting rid of furniture, appliances, toys and ‘schtuff’.

We know what we’re leaving. But not what we’re going to.

In between.

As hard as the uncertainty can be, as much as the unknowns can frustrate, what makes the ‘in between’ bearable is the knowledge that God is there. God is here.

In the stretch, in the learning and in the listening, while waiting for the next door to open, God is here.

While our ‘in betweens’ may seem hard and long, we have great hope in that God has no ‘in betweens’. He is present, always. In charge, always. Constant, always.

Jehovah Shammah – the Lord is There

El Olam – The Everlasting God

Not waiting for the next best thing – He is the best thing. Always.

STOP.
hallway

On being robbed.

Violated.

Uneasy.

Sick to the stomach.

Anxious.

Nervous.

I’ve never been robbed, but have been told that these are the feelings one feels after such an event.

Not a good mix of feelings at all.

While I’ve never actually been robbed, just lately I’ve been realizing, very clearly, that my days are robbed from me.

And I’m the one who is leaving the door wide open to my intruders.

My front door has been wide open – and I’ve been robbed of peace.  Robbed of joy.  Robbed of hope.

And I kinda reckon, I’m not the only one who has been welcoming intruders.

Your intruders may have a different root cause, or motivation than mine.  But they are real enough.  They come in through the front door, and not only do they take a wander through your jewelry box, they have the nerve to help themselves to a drink from the fridge, sit down on the sofa and make themselves well and truly at home.  They are there to stay. Until they have eaten you out of house and home, taken all your treasures, and left you completely at your whit’s end.

Well I’m saying enough.

No more.

No more worry eating at me.

No more doubt cracking through my peace.

No more.

Enough.

First I’ve needed to recognize what it is that has been intruding my home, my heart.  One of those things for me, is worry over my third son and his speech delay.  If you’re a Mother of a child who doesn’t fit within the range of ‘normal’ you’ll get this.  You’ll get this.  It hurts.  It is hard.  For me, something happens to my heart whenever I hear of a friend’s child telling them something cute, and all I want is a simple sentence from my own cherub.  So I think of what he doesn’t say, and I dwell on how far he has to come, to be considered ‘normal’.  And then I doubt my own parenting skills, and I play the stupid comparison game and so on.

It is a vicious cycle and a slippery slope down, down to basically being down in the dumps.

I forget who is ultimately in control.

I forget the progress already made.

I forget how uniquely different and wonderfully made my own child is.

I forget to notice the giftings he has.

I choose to look at what he’s not – instead of looking at who he is…..all because that intruder of worry, that intruder of self-doubt, has taken up residence in my home.

So how do I stop the intruder from coming in?  I simply need to lock that front door. By golly that intruder may knock, but no way can that intruder enter.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ – 2 Corinthians 10: 5

You see I know what God says about fear.  He says not to.  Just don’t.  Many, many, many times in the bible.  And worry is driven by fear, and I don’t want either of them in my house.  And if I’m worrying, then I not obeying Christ, simple as that.  And not obeying is sinning.  Simple as that.  So to obey Christ, I need to take every thought captive.

By taking every thought captive, I’m not letting it in the front door.

By taking every thought captive, I’m not letting the negativity take root, and take possession of my mind.

By taking every thought captive, I’m choosing to believe that God is in control and his ways are not our ways,

So while your intruder will most likely have a different name to mine, is the nasty perp getting past your front door?

Do you keep leaving your door open a little?  Cos once that big toe is in the door, the intruder muscles its way in…it doesn’t need much convincing.

How about you join me, as I learn to deadbolt my front door.  As I say to fear, doubt and worry ‘Not my house, not my heart.  Not today and not any day’.

Taking every thought captive. That’s my best defense against intruders.

deadbolt

 

Permission to Parent

This evening I read a fantastic blog post that is doing ‘the rounds’ at the moment.    Written by Steve Wiens, who happens to be a husband, Dad, pastor and runner, this blog post speaks to parents of small children in a very real and honest way, tinged with a good dose of humour.

I bet Pastor Steve was not expecting this post to create quite the stir it has.  But it has.  Not sure how many tweets today have been talking about it, but the number of facebook shares for this post are well over 3,000 already.

You see this open letter to parents of small children addresses the fact that we’re all bone-weary.  We’re all hopelessly head over heals in love with our little munchkins.  We’re all learning how to handle the very (often) demanding personalities, needs and desires of our offspring.  And we’re all desperately trying to enjoy, yes to even savour every single. blessed. moment.  When not every moment is even slightly enjoyable.  Truth.

What interests me is how well-received this post is turning out to be.  Yes the writer does a fantastic job, I love the humour, I get the honesty, I get it all, I really do.

What stands out for me though is, we’re starving.  We – parents – of all cultural backgrounds, of all walks of life, whatever our socio-economic status – we’re starving for permission.  Permission to just get on and do it.  Permission to parent as best we can.  Permission to feel like we can do this, and in fact we are doing it.  Permission to stop comparing ourselves with others, our bambinos with other bambinos.  Permission to help each other, be the best we can be.

We applaud Steve Wiens for writing such a great piece and we receive it, we embrace it.  We want to know we’re doing an ok job with parenting.  We want to know that others struggle with the very same issues that keep us awake at night, that drive us to create engaging and colourful chore charts/ potty training schemes and help memorize spelling lists/ state capitols and the periodic table….

I look at my facebook list of friends, and I’m thrilled to say that I see each and every parent there is an active and involved parent.  Yes we’re all on a very long and hard journey.  Yes to some of us parenting comes more naturally than others and some of us were blessed with better childhoods than others so we have a few more clues about parenting than others…..but every single parent I know is doing their darndest to do the very best they can.

So why don’t we encourage more?

Why don’t we point out brilliant behaviour when we see it?

Why don’t we thank our neighbours for their kids’ marvellous manners when we hear them (yeah Frosti and Kurtis I’m talking to you!).

Why don’t we tell the other Mum at school pick up time how well their kid is doing with new reading skills?

Why don’t we smile at the exhausted parents of a houdini toddler, and tell them that yes their kid is a ‘busy’ kid, but by golly that’s leadership material?

We’re starving.  Parents of small kids especially but I don’t think it gets much better as the kids get older. We still need permission from each other to get frustrated by the challenges we face, we need to know it is ok to put the clocks forward an hour(stealthily – unseen by the kids who can actually tell time) to hasten bedtime when we need to and we need to celebrate the victories together. Big victories.  Small victories.  We’re in this together.

Let’s try to feed each other’s souls just a little bit more, yes?  After all, one day my three boys are hopefully going to marry……we could be parents in-law one day to your little princess……

Let’s try not to starve, together.

IMG_2903

Building Your Lifeboat

storms

I’ve been marinating on this little ditty, this little nugget of truth since I saw it on pinterest a couple of weeks ago.

You see it is all very good and well to read these words and to believe them.  It is another thing to actually live them out.  And gee……there is absolutely no denying the truth of these words when you see someone living it out…..when the truth they have stored up in the silence is the only thing that gives them hope, it helps them carry on, sees them through the hard times, when the storms come.

This past week I’ve had the honour to walk alongside a friend as she has encountered one of life’s curveballs.

You know that mixture of feelings you get when you go for your big anatomical ultrasound scan, when you’re about 20 – 22 weeks pregnant?  You’re thrilled to actually see this little person for the first time, you may or may not be eager to know the baby’s gender, but you also have that slight uneasiness..hoping everything is ok with that baby.  Wanting a good report for everything.  Well Lindsay didn’t get that all clear that we all hope for, not then anyway, and she has another wait of a few more weeks before she gets definitive results from more tests done this week.  You can read this part of her story here, and she writes it beautifully, so much better than I ever could.

I said it is an honour to walk alongside her through this and I truly mean that.  I can see the fruit and the evidence of what Lindsay and her husband build up in the silence, carrying them through the uncertainty.  Giving them hope and that peace that passes understanding.  You see it is not that Lindsay and CJ are perfect – nope – they are human, just like the rest of us – it is because they serve a perfect Lord.  They are conduits of the Holy Spirit – vessels – that’s all.

I like to think of ‘the truth that we build up in the silence’ as being the things we build our lifeboats out of.  Lifeboats to keep us afloat when our ships are capsized by life and life’s curveballs.

*  The word of God = the body of the boat, the hull.  Knowing God’s word means knowing God, knowing his heart, and who wouldn’t want to know the creator of the world’s heart?  In Ephesians 6 Paul talks about the armour of God and of putting on the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.  The bible illuminates, it reveals to us the good and the bad, it gives clarity to the wise and the unwise.  The sword, the bible, is used for offensive and defensive purposes.  Jesus used the bible to counter Satan’s attacks when in the wilderness.  The word of God deep down in our souls is going to keep us afloat when storms come.  We can depend on God’s word and the promises in his word.

*  Prayer = the gps/ radio in your lifeboat.  The prayers that you pray in the silence come back to you in the storm, when you don’t have the words to say, when you can only muster up that Holy moan. An utterance. Prayer is just communication with the Lord and the *best* thing about prayer to me, is it keeps your perspective right, it keeps you looking up and out so that you’re not consumed by your here and now.

No relationship survives without communication, including our relationship with the Lord.  Prayer – communication is necessary for growth and intimacy.

*  The companionship of Godly friends = the outboard engines on our boats.  Sometimes when we walk through the trials of life we can walk that ever bit faster with a friend by our side.  Things can be so much more bearable when you have a shoulder to cry on.  Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.  Sometimes it takes a lot of guts to make good friendships great.  It involves a lot of vulnerability, on both persons part, a lot of trust and a lot of wisdom.  It is never a good thing to just spill your guts to just anyone, but when you know who can be a great friend to you, and when you make room in your life for them and them for you……friendship is one of those things that can get you through anything.  C.S Lewis said “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
You know this past week the easy thing for Lindsay to do would have been to hide away.  To just hibernate with her husband while working through the emotions and seeking a Godly perspective in all the waiting.  But in doing that she would have been denying her friends the opportunity to reach out to her, to uphold her family in prayer and the opportunity to partake in a miracle.  The harder thing for her was to share with people where she was at – and God was glorified.  She could call on these friendships because they have been established in the silence.  When life was a little easier.  And then, when the storm came, the outboard engine of friendship helped to push her along a little….reassuring her….

Now here’s the scoop, the latest on Lindsay’s baby, Charlie.  Lindsay’s OB (who also happened to be my amazing OB, a great man of God) emailed her today with the news that the fact that the ultrasound that Lindsay had yesterday showed no abnormalities in the baby’s heart, that it was normal, was a gift from God.  The ultrasound yesterday was so different from the bizarre one from the previous week shows that the baby was healed.  This was not a technical glitch, but a healing.  Praise God.  Praise Him.

And here’s the thing – because Lindsay chose to include others in her journey, both in her real life and through her writing, others have been blessed.  My own faith has been boosted.  What my husband and I prayed for, in the quiet of our time with the Lord, has been heard.  Countless others have likewise stood in faith with her about this too and prayed for healing – they have been touched and who is glorified?  Not Lindsay, not CJ, even though they are strong leaders and amazing people in their own right.  No, the Lord is glorified in this healing of baby Charlie, because the Lord is the reason for their peace and their very purpose.

Lindsay and CJ still have a few question marks hovering over their little Charlie’s life – but nothing can take away from the fact that this life is God-ordained, this life has a purpose, this life already has an amazing testimony of God’s healing power and this life is loved.  Loved by the people around him already, but even more so by the one who created him.

Whatever the next weeks or indeed the years to come bring my dear friends, they will be riding out the storms just fine.  They have a lifeboat.  They are building their lifeboat……prayer by prayer, bible verse by bible verse, friend by friend, they are building their boat.

All of us will encounter storms in our lives, it is not a matter of if, but of when……when will you need your lifeboat to hold you afloat until your seas become smoother?  And will that lifeboat be ready for when you need it?

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Dive

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.

Every so often my head breaks the surface.  I look upwards with all my being.  I seek and receive the fullness of joy, develop the fruits of the spirit and gifts of the Holy Spirit move in and through me.

I am Him and He is mine.  And I know this.  And I live this.

Then I dive deep within.

I’m swallowed up by day to day happenings and expectations.  While I have that peaces all understanding…things still to happen that shake my resolve.  Sickness wipes my husband out.  The toddler is bitten by a visiting ‘cherub’.  The ten year old talks back.  The seven year old refuses to eat his dinner. Again.  Questions surround us concerning our future.

Up I go again, to breathe some holy air.  Read words that give me hope.  Pray prayers that restore my faith.

Down again to deal with fleshly nature.  Sin and all its selfishness.

That struggle to constantly be breathing Him.  To live my life without the diving down, as I’m aware of Him in me always.  Eliminate the dive.  Bringing heaven to earth…..

STOP.

splash