Community, Courage, freedom, Inspiration, Personal Growth, Racism, Social problems, Uncategorized

“Sleeveless Arms and FB Rants”

Source: NIKE.com

I went for a quick run during my daughter’s piano lesson earlier this week. It was a chilly 13 degrees Celsius and a bit windy. Even though it was cold, I ran in 3/4 length leggings and a tank top as I knew I would warm up quickly. With my headphones in and the sun beginning to drop down behind the orange and pink clouds over the headland, I was in my element!

Just when I passed a few walkers and saw some kids playing basketball in front of their houses, I noticed a silver-haired woman moving slowly toward me with her little fluffy white dog. I prepared to step to the left, gave a little wave and smiled. As I passed her, she snarled up her face and yelled out angrily, “You’ll catch pneumonia!”

My back was to her before I realised I had been chastised. I guess I broke some unspoken rule about what’s appropriate to wear on an afternoon winter’s run. True, no one else was wearing a tank top.

The whole scenario made me laugh!

It also reminded me of the social media posts by white people ranting about their whiteness to whomever innocently scrolls past. (Except those are no laughing matter.)

What did Mrs. Granny gain by yelling at me about my clothing? Was she really concerned about my health? Did shaming me make the world a better place? Did she feel satisfied after she said it? Justified? Like she had done her good deed for the day, educating this younger gal about the detriments of running while showing off shoulders?

I’ve seen Facebook posts by people who are sick of Black Lives Matter and, by golly, they will never apologise for being white (did anyone ask them to??). They preach to their followers about how white privilege doesn’t exist. They also know that if “black people would just follow the law, they wouldn’t be brutalised by police” (as if a DUI should end in a fatal shooting or black people’s lived experiences can be negated just because their white counterparts haven’t been profiled by a cop). Or how about the fact that these white folks were once poor too? They came up from some difficult circumstances, yet look at them now, resenting that word “privilege” while enjoying everything for which they worked so hard to get.

Those posts read like an old lady trying to reform random runners on the street. It can’t be done! I didn’t feel the need to put on a jumper and readers of those posts aren’t warming up to bridging our racial divides. If anything, these cold posts make me shiver.

I realise FB rants aren’t meant to bring us together; in fact, the chasm grows wider with every one. (Just read the comment sections.) The posturing on socials, the public denial of systemic racism in America is liken to the grey lady talking to herself out loud as much as she was talking to me.

She wasn’t engaging me in an actual conversation about my health, the weather, or what’s best or right. I can’t presume to know why she felt the need to spout off her judgement any more than I can presume to understand why some of my white “friends” like preaching to their choir of followers who already feel the way they do. It might feel good but what’s the point?

I am scrolling on by, feeling sad for the small-mindedness, rolling my eyes with my bare arms and elevated heart rate. I am unfollowing, praying, and grieving as I trod along – endeavouring to empathise and understand the black perspective. I am exhausted from miles of legwork and fatigued with pressing my own limits but it’s worth it. It’s actually long overdue.

I am re-defining racism while educating my kids afresh, at my own pace. Wrestling with those who sit high on their soapboxes of supremacy, I’m personally slowing only for those whose minds seem open to growing and stretching too. Like a good workout in the cold, it hurts to admit my own biases and question my motives. But the results are worth it to become a healthier member of society.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Matthew 5:7-11 (MSG)

** I’ve allowed my toes to be stepped on a lot lately and it’s been good for me. I’m interested in debate that leads us to more unity, not a greater divide, so I welcome comments and challenges as long as they are respectful.

Community, freedom, government, Leadership, Love, peace, Social problems, Uncategorized

“Uprising”

Photo: Freepik.com

Parenting a little one fooled me into thinking I could control other people. Putting a cranky toddler in his cot and closing the door felt good. A “prison” of sorts where I could stand guard outside, rostering mealtimes and rationing information. I was powerful. Strong. Loud from my soap box of grown up answers.

I was a master at eliciting compliance, “making him behave.” Commands like “use your manners” and “sit up straight” or “look them in the eyes” came naturally. Phrases like, “This is a dictatorship, not a democracy” flew out of my mouth on the heels of back-talk. Corporal punishment, (used sparingly and this was the early 2000’s so don’t judge me), meant using physical force to get the behaviour I expected.

It worked for the most part: threaten, demand, restrain.

Whatever means necessary to get the desired outcome.

By the age of about 12 or 13, my eldest started showing signs of disagreement, his own opinions, at times even daring to point out my own hypocrisy and flaws. The earth began to move under my feet. I felt the skin on my hands rip open as the tight leash I clung to was torn away by a teenager on a mission. He was on a hot pursuit to assert himself, to be heard, to try out his own voice, apart from the soundtracks I’d been playing. What I felt was firmly in tact one day began to fray around the edges, influenced by puberty and pimples. Muscles and height. An outward strength coupled with an even greater inner resolve to buck against my kingdom.

He had his own will and determination to use it. In many ways, he had escaped my grasp. If he wanted to deceive me or disobey, he could. I almost crumbled with this newfound information. It splattered across my life each and every day like a late night re-run and I couldn’t change the channel. I couldn’t fit either of us back in our boxes – me in my narrow-minded ‘think tank’ and him in his ‘bedroom with a toddler bed and too high door knobs.’

A different approach was needed.

I came across a great resource identifying what I already knew but didn’t have words to explain. What I desired most as a mother was a heart to heart connection with my son. The freedom I experience as an adult with my own free will is a gift; and, rather than controlling this soon-to-be-man, I realised I had to model and direct him to control himself in a manner worthy of respect. Ultimately, it was on him.

As I watch what’s happening in my home country with the Black Lives Matter movement, protests and riots across every major city, and the subsequent responses of the President, other politicians and pundits, movie stars, academics… (everyone seems to have something to say), I see parallels with my parenting journey.

Threatening people with rubber bullets, tear gas, military intervention and handcuffs reminds me of the ’18-years-ago-new-parent-me’ who had a lot to learn. Power players who shout “law and order will prevail” erect walls between the two sides. One is subservient to the ruler but only for a matter of time.

What does anyone gain if neither side captures each other’s hearts?

In the words of Stephen Covey, “we must first seek to understand before being understood if we want to be a highly effective person.” A great leader always seeks to understand.
A heart to heart connection with those we lead is priceless. Kinship before compliance. Two open ears will always trump one open mouth.

If the aim is obedience at the expense of relationship, then a dictatorship is a great way to run a family. Elect power hungry tyrants to lead a country. A fool believes that “good behaviour” equals progress. I would much rather have a loving relationship with my son than strict obedience to my laws if I had to choose between them. Submission with seething anger below the surface is like a ticking time bomb.

“So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you. For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.”

John 13:34-35 (TPT)
Community, Hunter Region, Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 17: “Your City and Region.”

Your people will rebuild long-deserted ruins,

building anew on foundations laid long before you.

You will be known as Repairers of the Cities and

Restorers of Communities.

Isaiah 58:12 (TPT)

Chances are, if you don’t work in government of follow politics, you don’t give much thought to who is running your local council, nor your state or federal government on a daily basis. If you live in a first world country like Australia or America, you probably take for granted hospitals, firefighters, and police. Your children have access to public education and you are governed by laws that protect you and serve to keep peace and order in your community. You have beautiful parks to take your children to play and your roads are smooth and safe. You are blessed.

Today, set aside your time of prayer to specifically lift up your community servants and your elected officials. They are the important people making all the aforementioned services and entitlements tick like clockwork for you. 

Kingdomworks, a Christian organisation which aims to bring unity among the spiritual leaders throughout the Hunter Region, recently spearheaded a mighty movement. Various churches and Christian business owners have chosen one day each month to pray specifically for three things: oneness in the body of Christ, for the Good News to capture hearts, and for a spiritual awakening across the area.

If you don’t live in the Hunter, why not use this as a catalyst to pray the same over your particular region? You might even lead the charge to create a similar movement in your neck of the woods. Why not be a repairer of your city and a restorer of your community through prayer?

* Read 2 Chronicles 7:14. What does it mean to humble yourself and pray? What “wicked ways” are prevalent in your community/state/country which might be inhibiting a move of God? Pray against those and intercede for your city today.

Community, Devotion, Prayer, Social problems, Uncategorized

Day 13: “Peace. In the Neighbourhood.”

A neighbourhood is the district in which you live. It’s your suburb, your address, and the determinate for where your children go to school. You come and go each day, probably giving little thought to your surroundings. An unconscious habit, you drive home like a robot programmed and automated.

Your senses are being heightened and your spiritual ears are tuned in like never before while you are fasting. Take note of your surroundings today. Which of your neighbours might need a word of encouragement? Who can benefit from your prayers over their marriages, health, or children?

Your influence can turn a group of people living in proximity to one another into a tight-knit community, looking out and caring for one another. The Bible says that by showing hospitality to strangers, some people have entertained angels without even knowing it.

Commit yourself to being a neighbour full of light. Let go of your complaints. Smile and lend a hand. Slow down enough to chat in the driveway. Live expectantly on your block. Ask for peace to come into your hood.

Lift up in prayer those who look after your neighbourhood today. Police, firefighters, ambulance workers: all shift-working for your good. They see the worst of what happens within the four walls next door. Under pressure, they make life and death decisions putting themselves at risk. Ask God to protect them and give thanks for their service.

“And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!

Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.”


1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 (MSG)
Community, Faith, Love, Prayer, Social problems, Uncategorized

Day 16: “Pray for Your City”

cityYou’re approaching the end of your three weeks of prayer and fasting and your prayer life has intensified. You are freer than you were a few weeks ago and you’re looking beyond your own needs and asking God to work in your family, your workplace, your church and your neighbourhood.

You actually have the ability to change your entire city. A small group of disciples who walked with Jesus a couple of centuries ago sure did! They carried a message of hope to their cities; subsequently, much of the Western world built its culture on Judeo-Christian values. Imagine you and your group of friends from church who have a passion for your community changing and influencing your city. You CAN!

Why don’t you take some time today and pray for your city? Love your suburb. Lift up its leaders and ask God to bless them and guide them. Believe God will open doors of influence and opportunity for you to speak into the lives of your city councilmen and women and elected officials. You have a voice in your community.

Over time, your care and influence will impact those around you and spill over into every area of your community. Through loving it well, you can affect change.

“Seek peace and well-being for the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its peace (well-being) you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7 AMP).

Community, Love, Social problems, Uncategorized

Day 15: “Love Your Neighbour”

loveIf you read the news, you’ll see consistent coverage of polarizing topics and conversations that divide. Politics, government spending, inequality in the workplace, global warming, immigration. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion and divisiveness is the status quo. Marching, arguing, hating.

The thing is, you have more in common with your neighbour than you have differences.

If you’ve ever traveled to another country and spent time people-watching, you know a mother’s love is universal. Laughter in a movie theatre or adoration for a sunset alongside strangers transcends which suburb you grew up in or what sort of car you drive.

Stand in line at a water park with thousands of other guests and you’ll see that stretch marks don’t discriminate. Shade cover is ubiquitously desired and over-priced burgers taste good after a long swim in sunshine. Everyone agrees.

Can you spend some time today focussing on what you have in common with your neighbours, rather than your differences? Pray you will be able to extend grace to those you might disagree with and smile despite your disparity.

Prayer opens your heart and eyes to the need around you. The Holy Spirit will show you how to bless those across the road and serve your neighbours, no strings attached. Meeting people where they are will diminish your differences and allow God to make his way onto your street and into your hearts. Love lessons the gap between us and that’s something everyone can admit is more fun than fighting.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).

 

Community, Courage, Devotion, Friendship, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 10: “Your Kingdom Come”

thy kingdom comeWhat did Jesus mean by saying, “Thy Kingdom Come?” while teaching his disciples how to pray? God’s plans, not mine. His intentions, not yours. Undertaking the Lord’s strategy before our own.

Total surrender to the will of God is easier said than done. Dying to your fleshly desires – submitting your goals, money, children, health to a Heavenly Father comes with resistance.

Your inward focus over the last week and a half has allowed you to hear God with more clarity, to tune into the Holy Spirit, to find freedom in areas where you struggle. Hopefully, you’re learning to yield to his voice in a more meaningful way.

However, if your biggest obstacle is yourself (your problems, insecurities, fears), then understanding “thy kingdom come” as it relates to others, will prove difficult. Ask God, “why have you put me in this spot at this time with these people?”

It’s time to begin looking outward. How can your own personal revelation benefit someone else in your world?

“God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them” (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19).

Sharing the love of Christ looks different for everyone. You may give time to a friend who needs a listening ear. Or, make a meal and cart kids around for a mate stuck at home with an injury or a newborn. You might go out of your way to help your co-worker.

Encourage someone.

Extend forgiveness.

Whatever God is asking you to do, go for it! Pray for opportunities. Step out in faith.

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
 as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:9-13).