Permission to Dominate

Calling the shots, running the show. Who’s the boss? If you’re anything like me, you’ve realised with some age and experience, there are very few things over which you truly have control. You might oversee, manage, direct, lead. But ultimate power over your life is fleeting, an out of reach mirage.

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I used to live under the delusion that being fun, attentive, engaging, and kind would govern how much and how many people liked me. The more amazing I was, would surely hold sway over people, forcing them to fancy me.

That’s a hallucination totally not worth the striving.

Worrying what people think of me to the effect of second guessing my decisions used to be a way of life.  Tethered to this issue of control, as if I could create a world where no one would disagree with me. What an illusion!

I’ve had struggles with control my whole life as they relate to an outward fixation on my environment or other people.

Thank God, I’ve found ONE area where I can give full vent to my desire to dominate – the elixir to my insatiable need to be in charge. Imagine, it’s right here with me, in my own possession, accessible 24/7, and ready to be put to use at my beck and call. It’s TOTALLY and utterly subjected to whatever I decide.

You have one too. It’s free of charge and comes with euphoric endorphins that make you feel high on life: your and my “Attitude of Gratitude” has been there all along, lying dormant at times but easily awakened. Just look up from your pain, your frustration, your stress. Thankfulness has the power to change your perspective and shift the atmosphere in your home.

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My Thankfulness Journal, where I document 3 things for which I’m grateful each day. Why not join me and let’s swap stories on its effect?

When I give thanks for the people around me, I suddenly have grace for their mistakes. Praising myself (instead of self-loathing) for working out or eating well, causes my reflection in the mirror to suddenly shine brighter. Words of blessing upon my children for their uniqueness diminish my frustration at their non-cooperation. A Thank You note to my husband helps cross out that list of wrongs I thought about keeping. Praise for my cute yellow house and its great entertaining space makes me less upset about how small it is.

What a powerful feeling – taking control of something so important, so life-giving, and so necessary. What would happen if we all acknowledged this untapped potential we have inside, utter reliance on something as firm and unwavering as gratitude? How might our days differentiate themselves when they find themselves full of fondness?

To look heavenward each day, governed by the Spirit of God who loves us and has our best interests at heart should be our aim. Dominate that space.

“And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way” (Colossians 3:16-17 MSG).

 

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Mile Two

go extra mileA recent MYER customer service experience blew me away when my question about a size 10 white blouse turned into conversation about  where I was planning to wear said blouse. After sussing out my style, the trendy young associate gave me ideas for other outfit combos, escorted me to the dressing room and even found some heels in the shoe department to try on with her suggestions. She made shopping fun and certainly went “the extra mile!”

When I envisage “going the extra mile,” I hear my CrossFit coach, Carl, encouraging me to get in an extra set if I want “gains!” I think of excellence in standards, generosity of spirit, an “over-and-above” attitude.

 

The opposite sentiment asks “do we have to” and, “what are the minimum standards?”

Extrinsic motivation for fear of retribution.

Jesus, in Matthew, instructs us this way: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Jesus referenced an ancient Persian custom of using couriers to deliver letters or important news, one with which his audience would have been familiar. The King’s personal courier held absolute power to enlist whatever help he needed to fulfil the task at hand. For example, he might not only ask to use your horse to deliver his message, but he could also demand you come with him; and, if you refused, you could be punished, even put to death! That would certainly motivate you to get moving!

All of us do things because we HAVE to; however, Jesus was speaking about attitude.

He was saying, “Don’t merely do what’s asked of you because you know if you don’t, you’ll be punished.” Sure, do what’s asked of you. Please.

And then, do a little bit more.

Go above and beyond in your effort with no expectation of a reward. It’s a “Wow, I can’t believe we GET to…” attitude driven by personal satisfaction, intrinsic motivation. Anticipation of fulfilment despite any tangible payoffs.

In the second mile, the one that isn’t required, fatigue sets in. You might start questioning why you’re there in the first place. You look back at what you’ve already done and if you’re not careful, martyrdom sets in:

POOR ME!

WHY ME?

DOES ANYONE EVEN NOTICE ME????

You look at other people and how little THEY’RE doing and you tell yourself how amazing YOU are in comparison and it’s enough to stop you short.

It’s HARD… this whole staying-the-course, second mile thing.

So, how do you fulfil the expectation Jesus has for you, going not just one mile, but two? Ratcheting up a level with joyful willingness? Expectancy?

Well, you don’t quit. When the pressure builds and odds seem like they are stacked against you, dig deep. Find your true strength, what you’re really made of. Don’t hold back. Cry out to heaven and ask for help. Push through the pain and remember that nothing good ever comes without a fight.

If the going is getting tough in your job, your marriage, your church, (your workouts), don’t retreat. Don’t entertain giving up. Don’t let a bad attitude, doubt, offence, or fear cause you to throw in the towel.

Your best days are ahead and if you’re struggling to stick with it, you put one foot in front of the other and press into the strength that only comes from seeking God.

He will sustain you. After all, he has all the answers. He laid out a path before you and his plans are worth fighting for. But, you’ll only find out if you keep going.

“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Philippians 3:13-14 MSG).

 

Soul-Trading

mark 8-36If you’re a parent, I would venture to say you spend a lot of time helping your children explore their interests, find their passions, make friends, and grow in their abilities. Outside a typical school day, you cart them to swim and music lessons, sports trainings and games, tutoring.

You make sure they don’t miss the party invite (what if they don’t get invited again or are left out on the playground at school?)! We only have Wednesday afternoons free and the school just opened up a term of Oztag… perfect! Sign us up! Wait… what’s Oztag?

My own daughter tried ballet, hip hop, gymnastics (at two different gyms) before we realised her passion was music and art. She now also plays netball for both her school and club.

How do we, as parents fit it all in? What’s the motivation for all this, (shall I daresay “over-scheduling”)? We tell ourselves we want what’s best for them. Some of us believe our kids are stars and in order to get ahead, they must perfect their trade. We must set them up for success. And… Kids are demanding at times. They tell us what they want to do and we jump through every hoop to make it happen. I mean, how guilty would we feel if right down our very own hallway slept the next Mozart and we didn’t pay for that extra term of piano lessons?

We live in crazy times! All this taxiing our children to and fro. Then, what’s left of us, these devoted, well-intentioned grown-ups?

Soul weary, budget busted, time strapped adults whose sleep patterns are poor and marriages are weak.

In the pursuit of fostering well-rounded, talented, happy children who have friends and self-confidence, we can lose our own souls. What happened to regular date nights? Adult friends who party with us while the children go to bed?

What are MY interests?

Didn’t I have hobbies once upon a time?

Where are friends who make me laugh, those who spur me on towards becoming my best self?

All of our choices come at a cost. This over-scheduling and saying “yes” to the aforementioned litany of options means saying “no” to other things. Unfortunately, those “other things” can be the very ones which sustain our souls. The fun. Spiritual growth. Marriage. Small group at church. Rest.

Let’s don’t mistake “good parenting” for soul-trading.

Kids need parents who love each other and they need to see us taking care of ourselves, embracing a hobby, setting boundaries, living within our means. The lessons WE teach through lives devoted to Jesus, the church, our marriages, and sabbath rest far outweigh any weekly half hour lesson you could pay for with someone else in charge.

“What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for” (Mark 8:36 MSG).

Notice Me, Please!

At my son’s recent cross-country race, every kid suddenly picked up his pace as he came down the stretch of the course where parents were lined up cheering. Knowing they were being watched and hearing the roar of the crowd, maybe even their own names, provided a catapulting adrenaline boost!

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Me, at the finish of the race!

A few years ago, I ran the Blackmores Half Marathon. It was a dream-come-true for this Texan to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge afoot and then finish those 21km at the steps of the Opera House. As I was running, I knew my husband, Greg, was somewhere out on the course and as my legs fatigued, I longed for his smiling face to find me amongst the crowd. I needed my adrenaline boost. At about the 10km mark, I turned a corner and spotted his bright red jumper in the distance. My smile quickly faded as I realised, he wasn’t looking my direction…

I kept staring at him as my feet pounded the pavement, music blasting in my ears, willing him to turn around as I approached. I kept thinking, “He knows my pace. He knows I should be at this point in the race about now. I’m doing so well… surely he’s going to clue in and start yelling for me any minute.”

When I was within about 50 metres of him, not only did he not begin cheering for me, but I started yelling out for him!  I’m singing Taylor Swift, “I keep cruising, can’t stop, won’t stop moving. It’s like I’ve got this music in my mind sayin’ it’s gonna be all right,” only,

IT. WASN’T. ALL. RIGHT.

Greg wasn’t the one huffing and puffing. He had the easy job: stand there in his nice bright red, warm jumper, cuppa in hand, and look for me. Yell out; clap; whistle; say, ‘you’ve got this babe!’ You know, catapult me forward. Make me feel like a star!  Show everyone around me how special I am and point out how I’m smashing this race!

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Here’s the bright red jumper which can be seen from a great distance!

By the time I was within 10 metres of him, not only was I exerting extra energy to yell out, but now my arms were waving and I almost tripped the guy next to me for looking to my right to get Greg’s attention. Just as I was passing him, he finally saw me. He yelled out a little ‘great job’ (or something) and I was turning the corner, on my own again. Now, instead of feeling an adrenaline rush of energy, I was feeling sad and irritated that my one fan didn’t even notice me.

He didn’t see how great I was going… How strong I looked. How fit! How my determination and discipline had paid off and, perhaps most importantly – how I was rocking my new shoes.

In that moment along the course, I needed him to recognise me. I wanted everyone around me to hear MY MAN cheering me on, to see that I was good at what I was doing.

A lot of us compete throughout our whole lives like we are in a footrace, panting along, hoping someone will notice us. We wear our achievements like a pinned on race number, right across our social media sites, longing for likes and views. We feel defeated when we don’t get invited to the party, as if everyone passed us at the finish line. We give up when the boss doesn’t notice how hard we worked, wounded like the runner in the courtesy shuttle who sprained her ankle.

We pour our blood, sweat and tears into things praying for

SOMEONE to NOTICE.

Looking to others to motivate, encourage, acknowledge, or validate you will, most certainly, lead to disappointment. Your friends might get it right one day, but forget all about you the next. Your kids may say “thank you” today and demand more than you can give tomorrow. Just as quickly as your followers “liked” your last post, they will un-follow you for something more popular.

If your self-worth is tied to what’s temporal, you’ll find yourself striving with an insatiable need to please. Or, you’ll constantly be bitter with the taste of envy, disappointment, and anger on your tongue, a resident victim.

The encouraging news is that there is ONE who is ALWAYS monitoring your progress, cheering you on, noticing your every move and smiling upon you.

His name is Jesus.

He never loses sight of you; as a matter of fact, his eyes are ranging about the earth, ready to strengthen those whose hearts are committed to him. He’s on the lookout for you and you have no other competitors. He goes before you and behind you. Our God never loses step or forgets to turn. You don’t have to yell out or wave him down. He loves you, just the way you are, at whatever pace you’re running your race.

Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
    a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
    when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
    don’t for a moment escape God’s notice (Psalm 51:16-17).

Day 21: “Smile at the Future”

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Laughter – good medicine. Nothing like a big belly laugh when you hear a funny joke or your kids do something hilarious. Have you ever smiled so much your cheeks hurt? Maybe it’s a day at a theme park or a show? Your wedding day?

Can you smile at your future?

Unfortunately, some of you feel dread with your approaching calendar. Unless you’ve got a holiday planned, you’re stressed about work coming up, bills that need to be paid, a problem you have to deal with… you think ahead too much and rather than hilarity, it’s a headache.

What does your future look like after these 21 days of prayer and fasting? How much of it pleases you, knowing your family is prepared to take on its next season? Your mind and heart are in a better place than they were three weeks ago. Your position is strong and secure. Your future is bright.

You know how to put your problems in the proper perspective. You’re secure in your position in your community as part of a larger world. You pray more. You encourage often. You allow vulnerability.

You close your eyes and envision what’s to come and you can’t help but crack a grin.

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Day 20: “Put It Into Practise”

intentionalEat less. Exercise more. That’s how you lose weight. Spend less, save more. Have a nest egg for retirement. Doing things with purpose means accomplishing your goals. Your time of prayer and fasting was calculated. You were intentional in your sacrifice. You spent time praying specifically over these last three weeks.

Considered meditation on the things near to your heart has brought you closer to Jesus.

Let the rest of 2018 be a continuation of the progress you have made. Keep putting into practise what you have begun. Let the nourishment you have received for your spirit propel you forward and become the floor for your next layer of growth. Exercise your spiritual muscles by concentrating on what you’ve learnt.

Don’t fall into neglect, rather launch yourself into everything God has for you.

You’re just getting started!

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practise what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies” (Philippians 4:8-9).

 

Day 19: “Peace”

peace worldAs you approach the final three days of prayer and fasting, you are more at peace. Yet, learning to walk in peace despite your circumstances is a lifelong practise and takes more than a few days to master. Composure comes when you make it a habit to take negative thoughts captive and submit them to God. You can walk in harmony with others when you learn to separate what someone else might say about you that’s contrary to what God says.

Nothing can steal your peace when you completely trust God no matter what curve balls life might throw your way. No scary diagnosis. No unforeseen accident. You’re embracing the blessing of well-being within your spirit which your mighty God offers you each day.

You can find the “Prince of Peace” right alongside you when you seek him continually. He is longing to embrace you and to care for you. He desires nothing more than to guide you into a quiet place of relaxation amidst any storm you’re facing. The practise you have incorporated into your life over the last three weeks is allowing you to experience more of Jesus.

You know that you’re not alone. You have seen and heard him speak. You can see that dedicating time to your relationship with your Heavenly Father brings contentment and rest. You, as a carrier of God’s peace, can actually set the temperature in your home, your family, your workplace. You make and maintain calmness everywhere you go.

“Finally, believers, rejoice! Be made complete [be what you should be], be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace [enjoy the spiritual well-being experienced by believers who walk closely with God]; and the God of love and peace [the source of loving-kindness] will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11 AMP).