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?

Five Minute Friday: Comfort

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 –

Comfort.

It comes on a frosty winter’s morning, with fluffy socked feet snuggled under my soft, brown blanket.

It comes with that first sip of the day of strong, freshly ground coffee, the scent permeating throughout the house…. it stealthily creeps up the stairs, a very welcome intruder.

It comes with another hand in your hand.  The joining of souls, the linking of limbs with hearts united.

Comfort can come in so many ways.  In many varieties of forms. Sometimes it is a tangible thing that brings comfort, and other times…..not so much.

A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray.’ – Proverbs 25: 11

The comfort that an encouraging word brings, lasts.  The comfort that a loving word brings the ability to endure.  The comfort that a word from God brings with it much courage, boldness and fearlessness.

Let’s use our words to comfort.  Let’s use God’s words to inspire, to change lives, to point the way

STOP.

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Crossroads

‘He’s going to grow up not knowing who he is’.

We’re a real crossroads in our life at the moment.  Us, my family.  Coming to America was only ever going to be a temporary thing.  Our three year visa was actually extended and we were granted an additional two years.  We have to leave the country by early next year.  Which brings us to now – a crossroads point in our lives where we are exploring options for what to do next, where to go next.

‘He’s going to grow up not knowing who he is’ – those words were casually yet pointedly spoken out to me last week.  A warning of sorts, by someone who cares, but a critical spirit tends to prevail at times.

Yes we may end up in another country, and not back ‘home’.  That may be where God leads us – or the doors may shut.  We’re open to whatever.  What is most important for us is to be where God leads us, where my husband’s skills can be most useful.

Our lives are not our own.  And this is what our children are seeing and learning.  This is what we hope they pick up both intentionally and through the natural process of osmosis, sponges that they are.

And so, to the words spoken as a warning, I rebuke them.

My boys will grow up knowing they are citizens of New Zealand.  Part of the Ngai Tahu tribe.  They are members of a wonderful and large extended family.  But, more importantly, they are children of God.  They have skills and talents and abilities – God given – and it is up to my husband and I to foster in them a love for learning, a love for each other and the wider world, and to develop servant’s hearts.

We are their example.

How we do things in our home, right now, at this crossroads point in our lives, sets the tone.

And so, we talk about the options we have before us.  We talk openly about God’s ability to open and close doors.  We show them that we’re praying.  We remind them of how God has always provided.  We include them in the process.   Not with every, single thing, but with hopefully a bit of wisdom and insight on our part.

And yes we are going to stuff up.  We may have to backtrack on decisions.  We may have to disappoint.  I have no doubt that my children will see me impatient and frustrated.  They will learn that things happen according to God’s timetable and not ours.  As we begin homeschooling to tide us over the transition period, crazy Mummy will no doubt raise her ugly head.

But my prayer, more than anything, is that they won’t remember the frustrations, and the ugly.  My prayer is that they will remember the adventure. They will see what amazing things happen when God takes the reigns, when we let Him lead our lives.  They will see that even in the unknowns of this crossroads time, our faith stands strong and steady.  They will know that as a family unit we are tight.  Unshakeable.  That there is strength in unity.

We are at a crossroads right now, but with God’s help, my kids are always going to know who they are, because they are mine, but more importantly – they are His.

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A trip, a song and promises.

At the ripe old age of nineteen I decided to blow a big chunk of some inheritance money and planned a big trip that took me from my University town of Dunedin in New Zealand, to the USA and then onto visit the land I was born in, Nepal.

Being young and adventurous I decided to visit the places I really wanted to visit.  The things that were important to me at the time.  I started off in Arizona where my brother was at a University, completing his Ph.D.  From Tucson we were supposed to road trip to the Grand Canyon but an unfortunate incident in a little hick town with a sewerage truck not stopping at a stop sign and our rental car coming off worse quickly put a halt to that.  I went on to Colorado Springs to visit  Focus on the Family (this is an indication of how unique a thinker I was….I mean isn’t Focus on the Family HQ on all 19 year old’s bucket lists?), then I went to a summer camp way over on the East Coast that a New Zealander I knew was speaking at, and then it was on to my final American destination.  Brownsville, Pensacola, Florida.

Yep.  Right then, revival was happening at the Brownsville Assembly of God and I wanted in on it.  So I went.  And I participated.  I went to a school of intercessory prayer.  I learnt a lot.  I saw a lot.  I loved a lot.

So if you can remember what I’m talking about with this big revival, you’ll most likely remember some of the worship songs coming out of there led by Lindell Cooley.  One of my favs back then was ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign God’.  It is still is a fav.  Based on the words of Isaiah 61: 1 – 3  –

‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives and to open the eyes of the blind.  He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of God’s favour to them has come, and the day of his wrath to their enemies.  To all who mourn in Israel he will give: Beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness.  For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory’.

Now, I’m no bible scholar but I know that this is the prophet Isaiah speaking.  And I know that Jesus quoted these words in Luke 4.  And I know that the same Holy Spirit that was upon Mr Isaiah here, is also upon me.

Which really means…..

I am anointed to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted.

God has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, announce freedom to captives and I’m also sent to open the eyes of the blind.

I have been sent to share with those who mourn that God will take away their ashes and give them beauty, and give them joy instead of mourning, praise instead of heaviness.

And you know what?

Acts 10: 34 tells us God is no respecter of persons, in other words, he doesn’t play favourites.

Yes I am anointed to bring good news – God’s good news to the suffering and afflicted – but here’s the thing…so are you.

You are anointed to bring good news.

You are being sent to comfort the brokenhearted.

You can announce liberty to the captives.

Yes there are always ways available to help us do these things ‘better’.  We can attend courses and do bible college lessons and attend sessions on ‘how to share our faith’, we can read up on the latest books of how to reach our generation, listen to the best podcasts, go the best conferences….and this is all very good and well, but sometimes there is the danger it just delaying the DOING.

This is my challenge to myself at the moment.  To just do it.  This.  It.  Walking and living in the knowledge that I am anointed to share the good news that I know so well.

Let’s just do it.

Let’s live in God’s many promises, and keep reaching out and looking up – knowing we’re not doing it in our strength but His and when we step out – He meets us and works in and through us.

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Lord, I’m sorry

As I write this there are people all over the East Coast of America being lashed about by Hurricane Sandy.  For many it is a case of prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.

I’m sure daylight will bring with it stories of bravery, heroic acts and also sadly, tales of tragedy.

This is rubber meeting the road stuff.

People facing trials with a capital T.

And you know what.  It is a very good reminder to me, that by golly the devil is so good at distracting us from what really matters.  We are so easily led astray from the most important things in life.

In my own life I’ve been struggling with worry and day to day troubles. In the big scheme of things they are not major things – but – still – in the now they are important to me. And I’m finding the need for peace – seeking that anchor to hold my thoughts and runaway emotions at bay.  But I’m realizing more and more……..these things are all distractions from the very mission I have been given.

To know Him and to make Him known.

That’s it.

That’s what it boils down to my friends.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Yes Hurricanes can and do cause devastation.  Livelihoods will be forever lost. The forces of nature can cause damage beyond repair – in people’s hearts as well as with material possessions and the very land itself, and this is all sad, and tragic and words cannot even describe just how terrifying this must be for some people.

But.

I have something to offer people.

I have hope.

I know a Lord who says come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.

I know a saviour who accepts the least of us, and in his Kingdom the very last shall be first.

I know a King who says not to worry about what you’re wearing, or what you have in your bank account, for in the grand scheme of things, these things matter not.

Instead of my eyes being turned from the side to other side, with Mummy woes and health issues and blah blah blah…..I know I need to concentrate more on loving people and introducing them to the very one who gives me Hope.

What matters most, more than anything else – quite simply is, where are my friends and family going to spend eternity?  Where are your friends and family going to spend eternity?

This is what I cannot be distracted from.

The lights may be out in New York City, but God’s still there.

I’m sure that many Christians will have many opportunities to share God’s love, right now.

The lights may be out in my neighbours’ houses, but I still need to shine His love to them.

The parents on my kids’ sports team may be stressed and overworked, but I can be a listening ear.

The lonely kid, the bullied kid in my oldest’s class can be invited to youth group, and pulled alongside a strong leader.

The overwhelmed mother, at her wits end, can be invited over for coffee and a safe place to sit.

Lord, I’m sorry for being distracted by the daily worries of this world.  May my perspective always be like yours – may I seek out ways to show people your love and your light and lead them to you.

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Let’s get physical, physical!

Now that you all have that song in your head, along with Olivia Newton-John sporting some kinda lycra fluorescent outfit picture in your head…..actually I want to write about getting practical today.  But I don’t know of any songs about that.  Tricked ya!

So let’s get practical for a moment.  Practical.  My Mom’s group had a wonderful speaker last week.  She shared about her childhood and early adulthood.  She overcame some amazing circumstances and is now a pretty inspirational lady. She is a mother to 8, married to a great guy, homeschooling, hospitality queen etc etc.  Amazing.  I could have listened to her stories for hours because I really respect her – she is doing an amazing job and her heart is so in the right place – she’s a vessel for the Lord.  Humble but intentional in all she does.

I do wish that she could have shared for longer…..what I really longed to hear about was how she got from point A in her life – dealing with ‘stuff’, to point B – being a mature woman of God.  We’ll just have to have her back to Mom’s group another time….

As she spoke to the group I could kinda feel some angst in the room…..the whole ‘you’re getting your kids to memorize huge chunks of scripture while I just want to pee alone’ kinda angst.

SO.  Let’s get practical.  I’m on this journey too – the journey of dealing with all the demands that a young family places on you, along with a limited budget and all of the demands that places on you, but, I have this desire like so many of you do too, to BECOME that Superwoman of God.  So here are some things I am learning along the way….some I learnt the hard way…others by the grace of God I have gotten right….

1.  Getting your people in the right order.

God first.  Husband next.  Children next and then……ministry/ friends and extended family.  I see people around whose lives revolve around their kids.  They make amazing Moms in the process but what happens when the kiddos leave home?  And what happens when the kids all of a sudden realize they are not the centre of the universe when they end up in a group setting? I’ve found that the times I am most patient, most loving and kind towards my children and husband are the times when I have given God first place in my thoughts and actions. Everything just gels so much better.

2.  Quiet time/ bible reading time/ devotional time.

Just do it.  In whatever way works for you, at whatever time works for you.  And you’ll find it becomes addictive and you realize your days change and you can handle the interrupted shower and the spilt cereal so much better.  Don’t be legalistic about it, don’t place pressure on yourself about to do it for certain amounts of time…..we’re all busy – but we all have the same hours in a day given to us. Just do it.

3.  Talk to God throughout your day.

To be honest my days do not usually start with saying ‘good morning Lord, how are you going to use me today?’.  Nope.  Usually my first thought is something along the lines of ‘Lordy it can’t be morning yet’…..but if I can get my thoughts on God and chat to God by the time I’m in the shower, then great!  I don’t think I ever understood the concept of praying continually throughout the day until my oldest boy began school.  All of sudden he was not under my watch – I had to learn to let go of him in a new and scary way and my prayer life took on new heights.

4.  Input.  Need more input.

Just because your hands may be engaged in a household task like school lunch making or my favourite – ironing (yes that was sarcasm), it doesn’t mean your mind and soul and ears can’t be engaged at the same time.  Come on people – if you’re reading this you are most probably a woman and that is what us women do best – we multi-task.  And we multi-task well.  So find some great podcasts or online Christian programmes that you can watch on demand – or live.  Get some input!  There are loads of churches that put their messages on itunes for free.

5.  Include your kids in your ‘ministry’ things as naturally as possible.  

However big or small you think your ‘thing’ is.  The fact that your world is bigger than just those around you, the fact that you are doing ‘Jesus with skin on’ stuff speaks mightily to those kids.  Actions speak louder than words.  You can create your own teachable moments.  It may be as simple as bringing your kid’s teacher a hot coffee on a cold, cold day, or bringing your child with you as you deliver a meal to someone.  BUT don’t let this edge out spending time on what is important to your kid.  Today I had to fulfill a promise of playing soccer (in between snow showers) with my middle child and I have to tell you I was grumpy about it.  Grumpy. GRUMPY. My attitude was not what it should have been.  But thankfully I have tomorrow to get that attitude adjusted, and hopefully no snow showers tomorrow.  You see if I was too busy doing stuff for others, but not stuff for my own family – then what is that teaching them?

6.  Get yourself a mentor. 

I can only write about this now because I have finally sorted this out in my own life in the last couple of weeks.  I am soooo thrilled to have an older woman say YES to me.  She is there for me for those moments when I need to dissolve, when I need a shoulder and advice.  When I need a woman’s perspective.  And she is sooooo kind and loving – but not gushy, perfect I think for me as I’m not a gushy person. I’ve known for so long that it is so important to have this in my life, but I haven’t made it happen, until now.  Here is a fantastic blog post about mentoring.  Read it and then do it.  I haven’t dissolved on my mentor yet…….but there will come a day when I will….but she will be ready for my tears and snot I’m sure.

7.  Practice, practice, practice

Practice listening to God.  Practice hearing him, really hearing him.  You will get things wrong – but if you and I don’t try and keep trying, then for the times when we really hear a message that needs to be told to someone, or if we hear an instruction that needs to be done to speak to someone, then we’ll miss out.  And others will miss out on seeing God’s mighty power.  Also practice in your head what you would say to others if you were given an opportunity.  You may well laugh at this – this is pretty up there as far as my dorkiness levels go – but I give myself pretend topics and I pretend to prepare messages to share as if I am speaking to a women’s group.  I ask the Lord ‘what would you have them know’…..dorky right?  But it gets my head in the right space of at least attempting something way out of my comfort zone and ultra relying on God.

8.  Be kind to yourself.  

I’m not going to become that Superwoman of God if I am a tired, sick mess.  And neither are you.  We need sleep and decent food – but I’m also all for a few treats too.  Moderation, my friend.  Peanut butter m&ms are my vice and that’s ok.  Oh and coffee.  We need bucket loads of coffee.  You and me.

But you know – and this is my last point – I talk about becoming THAT Superwoman of God.  The truth is – she doesn’t really exist.  We’re all on a journey.  We’re all at different stages of maturity – but we all need Him and we’re all needing to keep coming before God and as I said in my last post – emptying ourselves of ourselves and becoming more like Him.

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