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.

isaiah

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A valuable lesson

Thick, white bread with a consistency like cotton wool was a once a week treat. Chocolate cake was about a twice a year treat.  I played outside where streams of raw sewage would flow, and diaper-less children would squat any which way.  Corners were places for beggars – hands stretched out, eyes downcast.  My first movie was not ‘Cinderella’ or ‘Sleeping Beauty’ but ‘Chariots of Fire’.  Brown paper wrapped parcels would arrive with much fanfare, after having travelled across many seas.  The contents of them was not candy and treats, chocolate or clothes, no…those parcels contained vitamins and medicines.  I hand-washed clothes for play, without realizing it was the only option we had, and when I checked my bed for snakes at nighttime, it wasn’t part of a game.

Fast forward 26 years.  I still remember the sights, the smells and the sounds of living in such a different culture.  I don’t begrudge my time in that place at all – in fact I’m the only one in my family who has been back to visit.  I love that I know how blessed we are, in every way, in the first world culture we live in.  Sometimes I catch myself rolling my eyes at the first world problems that surround ourselves here.  Sometimes it makes me giggle.  Sometimes it makes me groan.  And sometimes I feel like shaking people and sending them on the first plane out of here……to smellier, dirtier, hungrier nations.

All this to say I have the benefit of experience.  I can compare and know, really know, how very blessed we are.  So I should know better….

The other day I was driving home from somewhere.  And God spoke to me.  God speaks to me most in the shower and in the car.  On all accounts I should be a very clean but very distracted driver.  I was coming home from being in a very gorgeous home and I allowed that thought of ‘I really loved that home and its beautiful decor, I wonder if I will ever have anything like that’ to linger just a bit too long.  You know what I’m talking about.  That thought just didn’t pop into my head and pop out…but it attached itself.  UNTIL, a few minutes later (while I was still driving) God gently spoke these words to me….’You’ll never know what they sacrificed to get their house and belongings’.  GAH!!!  Talk about a slap in the face.  Thanks God – its true – you never know what people sacrifice in their personal/ private/ spiritual lives.

Anyway – I thought that was that for that thought.  I thought it had been dealt with.  Not so.  The next day I was doing a quick clean of the house and noticing ALL the stuff everywhere that shouldn’t have been everywhere and the fact that the sofa had been drawn on again etc.  And I found myself saying the words aloud ‘We don’t deserve nice things, even if we had them, we would just ruin them’.  And as soon as those words were out of my mouth, I wanted to take them back.  I didn’t mean them.  I know what I value the most in life – and things certainly aren’t them.  I believe we should all hold ‘things’ very lightly in our hands and if someone needs something we have – then the best way to show God’s love is to give give give.  Not keep keep keep.  This is what I believe.  Then why the ugly words and ugly thoughts?

All because I had allowed that thought (of envy – let’s call it what it is) to take up residence – even if it was just for that short amount of time.

I was so upset at myself for thinking and saying those things…that once again while in a car….God spoke again to me on this subject…..’Don’t waste precious time on things’.  And he reminded me of how brief our time on this earth can be.

I can look back at Facebook account and already I have had five Facebook friends pass away.  All due to different circumstances, but five people, all of them younger than 30, in fact all of them younger than twenty five.  Life can be short.

I have no idea how much time on this earth I have.  But I no longer want to even entertain thoughts for mere minutes on the subject matter of stuff.  Stuff stuff stuff.  Sy Roger tweeted this thought yesterday – ‘Why waste time envying my neighbor’s ‘greener grass’: God wont give it to me. Better that I appreciate & cultivate my own patch of potential’.

Cultivate my own potential.  Yep.  That’s what it is about my friends.  Appreciate your most valuable assets – your family and friends and giftings God has given you, and then cultivating them.  Reaching up and out.

A life forever changed

There is something so wonderful about hearing a person’s testimony of how they came to accept Christ into their heart.  Something so undeniably ‘wow’ and so undeniably powerful about it.

A friend of mine sent me her testimony to look over, as she was preparing it for reading at her baptism yesterday.  I couldn’t help but be encouraged and in awe of what God has done in her life, and is still doing.

So grab yourself a coffee, sit down and take five minutes to read Juliet’s story…….

 

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When my parents met they were an unlikely couple, only chance of circumstance joined them. Namely, my ‘untimely’ arrival. Neither fully accepted the role of parent. Dad was a severe alcoholic and often distances himself from actively partaking of difficult decisions in his children’s lives. Mum was often abusive physically and verbally. When I was 12, Mum gave up completely being a mother and I became my Dad’s sole responsibility.

As you can imagine, my childhood was pretty bleak. Dad was also in the navy at a time when they were sent for 6 month trips away from home, so my sisters and I were often left alone with a mother who I now realise was suffering post natal depression quite badly. The only times there was joy in the home was when Jeanne and I (later Carol and Amanda) were together.

As a teenager, I began to search for the love I felt was missing. I had endless embarrassing crushes. Then as I left school, I started a cycle of unsuccessful relationships. Several times, these men abandoned me at crucial times in my life. One of these relationships did end in the gift of my oldest son, Liam. Who, for many years had the unwitting responsibility of ‘looking after Mummy’. I was often depressed and miserable; filled with self loathing and anger. He was the only joy I could see. When single, I would bury myself with work, or watching TV, trying to cover up the emptiness I felt inside.

When I turned 30, I gained a stalker – one of the parents of a student in my class. This drove me to make some major changes in my life. I lived in fear, so slept with a knife under my bed. I changed my cell phone number twice and moved to another part of the city. I also began to reflect on how my life had become like it was. I knew I had to change how I was living, but had no idea how to go about doing just that.

I tried hypnotherapy to change my mindset. This just gave the illusion of calmness in my life. I also decided that my circle of friends was too small, so I joined an internet dating site. This introduced me to a more seedy lifestyle of casual relationships. But it also brought me into contact with Andrew; the first act that I consciously recognized as God’s doing! He was already a Christian, strong in his faith. Like many of the people I have encountered throughout life that have a strong faith in God, he was calm, gentle and loving, and made me wonder what was so special in their lives. As our friendship grew, I knew he was a man who didn’t judge me for my past and just wanted the very best for me. When Andrew and I finally started dating, I knew that all those times I had cried in the night for a partner that someone had heard me.

About this time, my work environment was increasingly unpleasant. My skills as a teacher were called into question and I felt like I continually had to look over my shoulder. Two Christian women in the school took me under their wings and would pop into my classroom at the end of the day. Sometimes they would just listen, or they would help me get my work done. And other times, they would pray for me. This touched me deeply, especially as they weren’t in my team and I hadn’t socialised with them at all! I also had a wonderful friend who I virtually adopted as my Mum. She would look after Liam, cook me meals, give me advice and generally do anything that I needed.

These people all showed me the love of Jesus. And my hard heart started to soften and wonder about him.

When it became obvious that Andrew and I were going to get married, I decided I needed to do something about all the baggage I carried around. So I went to a Christian councillor. In one of the first sessions we were praying about the abuse my sister and I suffered when we were little. Here, I was given a vision from my past of me holding my sister and protecting her from my mother’s rage, just as I remembered it. Except this time, Jesus was protecting us too. He had his loving arms around us. Until that moment, I had thought it was my sisters and I against the world. As you can see, it still has a huge impact on me. (Probably crying by now). I felt such an intense feeling of being loved and accepted as well as a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It was that moment that I was given new life and asked Jesus into it.

In many sessions of counselling after, I continued to be shown God’s actions in my life and received healing for all the damage I had done to myself. And I also discovered how much grace and forgiveness Jesus was willing to give me. This also meant having to go and forgive my mother and father and to drastically alter my lifestyle. I had managed to persuade Andrew that it was okay to live together before we were married. This changed, and for a time he lived in the spare room until he moved into his sister’s house until our wedding. The hardest part for me about my faith in God was forgiving myself. One wise Christian said to me, “if God has forgiven you, who are you to not forgive yourself?”

Since my new life, I have been blessed with a husband and two more gorgeous boys. I started taking Bible in schools and led a small home group. I enjoy the fellowship of Northwest Baptist and have taken training in facilitating Lifekeys courses. I am no longer teaching and am able to stay at home and nurture my boys. I no longer stress out if the house isn’t ‘perfect’, and put relationships first. I’m more conscious of society pressures and am able to turn from them. I don’t feel anxious or lonely. I know I have a friend who is beside me and knows my thoughts and needs and is full of love for me. Now, I consciously think of Jesus before I act and I rely on his guidance and help. I see the joy that a child sees in a fly buzzing around or flowers growing in a field.

I know that I’m here because of God’s grace and I have turned my life away from my past. I want to put my trust in Jesus. I’m honoured that he would want me!