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?

Division

There’s a certain blog post doing the rounds today,stirring up heated debate with heightened emotion.

I guess at the heart of it, I would most likely agree with the writer of this post with the theology behind it, but the delivery and the polarizing that occurs with how what is said is delivered….that I take issue with.

Division. It ain’t just in maths you know. And I guess it is good to know where you stand on matters, and it is good to debate things and blah blah blah. But I can’t help but think that this all is just a tool from the enemy to stop us from just getting on with The Great Commission.

The longer we sit on our butts, behind our computer screens and toss around words that cause division and hurt, the less we’re out there doing. Doing stuff. Loving stuff. Knowing people – of all walks of life. Loving people – of all walks of life.

Yeah this is a simplistic view of life. But I am a simplistic girl.

I want others to know everlasting life because of me – because of my actions, because I took the time to look at them, and know their story. Because my God was attractive enough in me to show them their need for a savior too.

That Jesus light and love I speak of? It ain’t gonna happen by highlighting the errors of anyone’s ways.

I’m so tired of the ‘having to be on the right team’ mentality. Jesus came to earth and died an awful death so that none should perish. He wants everyone to come to repentance. Not just the pew sitters beside me every Sunday who sing the right songs and attend the Sunday school class as well as service. Not just the theologically sound who can back up every sermon or blog post or tweet with the right three or four verses. But everyone. We’re all on the same team. And seriously, I need to start caring more about the salvations of my team members, more than I care about what I am cooking for dinner, or the moving parts of our move across the world.

We’re so divided as a Christian population that our team doesn’t look appealing to anyone. And this must grieve the Father’s heart.

This life is so pressured as it is. So many things are constantly vying for our attention. Distractions are everywhere. Enough already.

My prayer this evening is that I stop giving my attention to things that are divisive. No more wall building from me. And in four months time, six months time or however long it takes us to get a dinner table..I want to fill that table with people from all walks of life. People who think like me, as well as people who don’t. People who love like me, and people who don’t. Not because this is what I want…no….this wouldn’t be easy for me in the natural, me in the flesh, but because this is what I believe God would have me do. Build my team, because it is really His team. And He wants that none will perish.

Enough of division. Here’s to addition and multiplying!

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

Rosa – The KitchenAid Stand Mixer

This is about a ‘thing’, but it is about more than the ‘thing’.

I do realize it is not normal behaviour to name a kitchen appliance. Not normal at all. But here’s the scoop – I welcomed a brand new KitchenAid mixer into my family last night. And her name is Rosa.

For the last four and a bit years I’ve had my eye out for a stand mixer. You see I do a lot of baking and once we moved to America I realized the huge difference in price in mixers here….just under a thousand dollars in NZ dollars for the very same thing that I got last night. More than three times the amount it costs here in America.

So for the last four years I’ve been entering every competition I could see on blogs to try to win one. For a while there I would tweet sometimes daily to @KitchenAidUSA, sometimes weekly. Just crazy little comments along the lines of ‘I still have a KitchenAid mixer sized hole in my heart’. I would have friends send me links to competitions. I would write silly facebook statuses along the lines of ‘KitchenAid mixer – the perfect Father’s Day present’. But there was no way I could ever justify buying one for myself.

I was a little over the top I know. But it was fun.

Last night I was invited up to a friend’s house under the guise of ‘cleaning’ in preparation for a new baby’s imminent arrival. Yeah well that house didn’t need no cleaning. Already spotless. Instead the kitchen was full of a bunch of amazing friends who had gathered for a bit of a ‘do’ and to present me with my very own ‘Rosa’ – a shiny red mixer.

Amazing.

Now while I will love using this appliance and will use it all the time – like ALL the time – at the end of the day the mixer is just a ‘thing’ I know…and the meaning behind receiving this gift is more than just being gifted a very handy appliance – that I may or may not have harped on about for over four years….

For me, Rosa will sit on my kitchen counter for years to come and serve as a reminder of just how faithful our Lord is.

Moving to America has been tough. Settling here has not been all smooth sailing.

But we’ve persisted. And God has blessed us tremendously. God has been so very faithful. Every step of the way. In the good times and the bad times. He has been our strength.

Three years ago I never dreamed that people would gather in a beautiful home, one summer’s night, to bless me with a gift – a gift that I can use to serve others. To bless others.

Two years ago I never dreamed that would happen.

But in the midst of just getting on with life, and reaching out and initiating and just being real and raw and learning to not hide who I am……..relationship has happened. Lifelong friendships now exist. ‘Community’ has happened.

Not because of me. Because I say stupid things and I have fierce and strong opinions, and I second guess myself all the time, but IN SPITE of me – God has been so very faithful.

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19: 29

Those words in Matthew, they are a very special promise.  To be perfectly honest with you, it isn’t the funnest thing in the world to yard sale a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff you actually use and are gonna have to replace once you move countries again.  It isn’t the funnest thing in the world to realize one day you have plenty of friends with kids your baby’s age, but hey, that tween, that tween of yours is seriously lacking in the friendship department and you failed miserably in that area.  It isn’t the funnest thing in the world to say goodbye to family and friends – and to miss special events, for years on end.

BUT God.

But God is faithful.  He does promise that if and when we give up ‘things’ and proximity of relationships for His name’s sake, for ministry purposes, then we will receive many things in return.  According to His purpose.

Whatever God is asking of you – be assured, He does provide all we need – as well as things we don’t actually need.  Like a mixer.  If you are being called to do something for His sake – he will not abandon you.  His will = His bill.

The very fact that I’ll be sad to leave friends behind when we leave in three months time is a very good thing – again it shows the Lord’s faithfulness.  If I left and I wasn’t going to miss anyone – then that would have been a terrible shame.

And for me, right now I can see the Lord’s goodness – represented by a shiny red mixer.  Others may see a powerful kitchen appliance that will churn out whipped cream in a flash and make the best pavlovas, but not me.  I see it as a symbol of God’s goodness.  That He cares about the details of my life.  He wants to bless us – abundantly.  And friendships matter.  They really do matter.

34911ff2d96511e2bdd322000a1fa8d7_7

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

 

Five Minute Friday: Remember

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….

Remember.

I remember when the prophet man asked us to stand.  So stand we did, hand in hand.  He spoke words of life over us, words that gave us hope, words that gave direction.  Truth.  From God’s heart to our ears.

I remember the time in my student flat when I saw my friend’s leg grow before my very eyes.  And then this very month when my friend’s baby was healed in utero of a heart problem.

I remember seeing and hearing people being set free from different spirits.  It wasn’t freaky, weird or spacey.  It was right and good and honoring.  It was freeing.

I remember prayer meetings so loud that not one voice was distinguishable amongst the rumblings, all were raised in agreement, special languages and all.  From our hearts to God’s ears.

I remember the amazing feeling when people remember past conversations with me, when they remember to ask after things. When they want to know progress and results.  I remember that feeling that someone cares.  Someone listens.  I matter to them.

I want to give people the gift of caring.  I want to give people the gift of healing, of being healed and whole.  I want to provide hope and encouragement like no other, with words of prophesy and knowledge.  I want to help people to shift and ease closer to Him, because I remember them, and not because of anything I do – but because of everything He has already done for them.

Let’s always remember that people matter.

Jesus remembers. We have these precious gifts from His helper.  Let’s use them to show people that Jesus remembers them.  Jesus remembers.

Always.