Contentment, Faith, Inspiration, peace, Resilience, Social problems, Uncategorized

“Peace in a Pandemic”

Imagine running from a dangerous animal in a dark forest. You know you can’t keep the pace as your breathing intensifies. You conjure images of yourself being eaten alive and wonder if you’ll feel the pain or just become numb from the shock; maybe you’ll die instantly and won’t feel a thing? Your heart palpitates as you feel the animal gaining ground. You duck around the next corner and look up at the giant oak tree before you and wonder if there’s any way you can climb it to escape the impending doom you face.

Chances are, you haven’t actually experienced a scenario like the one I just described. Did you know that the definition of a “fear” is related to real or IMAGINED danger? Your body experiences the same physiological response if a wild animal were actually chasing you through a dark forest as it would if you were lying on your bed imagining it or dreaming about it while you sleep.

The mind is powerful. What you dwell on and think about, worry about, or dread has a physiological impact on your body. Constant agonising raises your blood pressure, makes your heart beat faster, creates tension headaches and muscle soreness. Your jaw clenches in your sleep; you can even get stomach pains and ulcers.

On the contrary, pondering the Word of God brings life. Focussing your attention on an absolute truth like the fact that God is with you and for you actually calms your nervous system down and brings comfort. Muscles relax, that pit in your stomach goes away and your heart-rate lowers. Your mind steels itself and you are clear-headed and at peace.

You are the framer of the wandering path your mind takes.

In the midst of the global pandemic, we are all faced with great uncertainty. Will baseball and netball for my kids resume? How long will Floraville Public School be closed? Will I have enough food and toilet paper if I’m quarantined? Will my online business weather this storm and stay afloat during uncertain economic times? Can I continue with my plans for family holidays overseas? How will the church continue to reach people in our community if we can’t gather in person?

You have your own list, I am sure.

You have a choice to make: allow fear to consume you and suffer the physical consequences. (Which, can I remind you, will not change the situation.) Or, you can stand firm on God’s faithful promise that his plans for you are good and that he can take anything tragic in your life and mould it in the palm of his mighty hand, forming something beautiful to be used in the future.

It’s time to rise up. Look beyond your fear and your own needs and lend a hand to a neighbour. Feed your children the divine taste of goodness while the world seeks to sour their palate. Use this time of social distancing with friends to lessen the space between you and Jesus. That crazy schedule is turned upside down so while it’s lying flat and empty, lay yourself down too. Fill your time with self care and rest.

Re-think your expenditures and make a budget you can live within, allowing more savings so you aren’t under so much financial pressure when “normal life” resumes.

God will take care of you. Sometimes, you just have to look up and ask him to show you what you actually need. His answer is simple and his supply is endless.

David’s poetic praise to God
The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd.
I always have more than enough.
He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love.
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
That’s where he restores and revives my life.
He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure
and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness
so that I can bring honor to his name.
Lord, even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.
Your authority is my strength and my peace.
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.
I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.

Psalm 23:1-4 (TPT)
Contentment, Fasting, Inspiration, Leadership, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 14: “Leaders”

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Romans 13:1-2 (NIV)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised for the way he has handled the national bushfire crisis in Australia. The American President Donald Trump is consistently called a racist for his stance on illegal immigration. Your boss is gossiped about in the workroom or at after hour drinks for her recent decisions around the office. Mums are criticising teachers and administration on the playground for how they handled the recent bullying complaints at school.

If you’re in a position of authority, chances are, someone is out to slander you too. They might not be overtly blogging about you on the Internet but somewhere, they are talking about the “poor decision you made,” how you don’t know what you’re doing, and how they would do things differently if they were in charge. This is the price of leadership.

No one in a position of leadership is perfect. Managers, Presidents, Directors, Captains. Whatever the title, each one makes decisions he feels are best at the time with the current resources and capacity of the organisation. (Yes, authority figures can get on power trips. Sometimes selfish and self-seeking, you’ve seen and heard about abuses of power. Leaders can embezzle money, hurt their parishioners and royally mess up. This is true.) More often, people in high positions are doing their very best and have no intention of hurting people.

As you continue to pursue God through prayer and fasting, think about the leaders in your own life. Think about yourself as a parent, a boss, a volunteer leader. God has allowed them/you to be in those positions. Until you have walked in their shoes, you don’t know all the problems they face. They need your prayers and support just like you need the support of others to shore up your own burden of leadership.

You might be battling a health issue others don’t know about. Your leader’s marriage could be suffering or he may be dealing with difficult children. This private pain isn’t talked about; yet, he gets up each day, carrying the weight of what he leads, using the cards he has been dealt, endeavouring to play his team for the “win.”

Having a Godly perspective of your leaders means admitting God has allowed them to be in their positions; therefore, you trust the Lord to intervene where necessary. Interjecting criticism and disdain, gossip or abandonment doesn’t help leaders lead. It only holds them back and causes them more stress.

*Today, lift up the leaders in your life. Ask God to help you see them through his eyes. Try and find something positive to say if you’re not happy with them. Pray for their families and ask God to show you how you can be a better follower and support. If you’re in a position of leadership, ask God to surround you with the right team who will shore up your weaknesses and help you achieve all that he has in store.

Contentment, Fasting, Prayer, Resilience, Uncategorized

Day 13: “Work”

Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.

Colossians 3:23-24 (MSG)

Work is the focus of a big part of your life. If you’re a student, it might be homework, but it’s work nonetheless. If you’re a mother, not formally employed earning a wage, you’re plugging away from dawn until dusk.

The daily grind can be a major source of stress in your life. Work mates can be difficult as can bosses. You might be doing a job you don’t love or feel any passion for and if so, you struggle to find joy in it.

Today, you no doubt have some sort of work ahead of you. Whether it’s in the home, at school, in another city or online, see it as a gift from God. You have been given a capable mind and hands with which to carry out your labour. You are surrounded by others who are moving ahead and you are blessed to not be idle. Seek to honour God in every task you perform today. Allow him to speak to you about your work and to show you how much you glorify him by putting your hand to the plow.

Pray for your boss, no matter how he or she treats you. Bless your annoying co-worker and pledge not to join in on workroom gossip. Seek to live in such a way that gratitude trumps your fatigue. Your ability to earn, provide care, or study is a gift.

*You might be praying for breakthrough in your job situation during this time of prayer and fasting. Be brave and trust God for a new season. Maybe you’re dealing with extra stress at work. Study Philippians 4:6-7 and trust God with every detail of your situation.

Contentment, Love, Prayer, relationships, Uncategorized

Day 9: “Love”

Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honour. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (TPT)

According to Dictionary.com love is “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.” The Bible’s expression of love is found in the personhood of God himself. HE IS LOVE!

In a society full of self-promotion and constant striving to “get ahead,” how do you outwork God’s definition of love giving preference and honour to others? How do you extend love to someone who wrongs you? And then keep no record of it?

Think about how easy it is to extend love to a small child. She needs your help and it’s difficult to deny a crying baby what she needs. So, you selflessly lose sleep, skip a meal, and work overtime to meet her needs without any thought to yourself. This is love.

Somewhere along the way, the grace begins to wane. You decide at a certain age, people “should” act a certain way or not require so much from you. Expectations aren’t wrong. However, if what you covet falls short of the mark, you become hurt and disappointed.

Love isn’t so easy anymore.

What if you took off all expectations today? Set aside what you want others to do for you and focus on doing for others instead?

Someone in your world needs your unconditional love today. There’s always be a reason to disqualify someone, to be angry, to be offended. If you are to live at peace, honouring God in your relationships, you must learn to love better.

Continue to dig deeper in your time of prayer and fasting, reflecting more of Christ in every way. Like water off a duck’s back, you have a heavenly perspective and what once seemed an important point to make is now moot. You’re bigger than all that pettiness. You desire peace above being “right.” You can serve the ones you love with no strings attached.

God has no expectations for you to perform. He loves you just as you are. Sins and scars and mistakes and all. Sometimes, you act like you have to put on a costume and dance around all day ticking boxes, hitting all the right notes in a perfect performance in order to receive God’s love. Strip off the garb of pressure. Put down the microphone. Turn the spotlight off and bask in the quiet place of rest in the presence of ‘Love Himself,’ almighty God.

*Think about your relationships today and what expectations you might need to give over to God in order to extend love. Ask God to show you how he sees the people in your life that are hard to love. Include yourself in this assessment and ask him to reveal his unending love to you.

Contentment, Courage, family, Finance, Inspiration, Leadership, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Lady Wisdom

Happy New Year! 2020… a new decade! Time to pull out the diaries and start goal setting, resolution-ing, and asking good questions:

“Do I have time for this?”

“What should I say “yes” to?”

“What items in my cupboard need to go?”

“Can I afford this?”

These are questions I’ve heard my friends, my family, the teams I lead, all asking. I bet you are too. Andy Stanley wrote a great book many years ago called “The Best Question Ever” and it changed my thinking. Andy says, “In light of my past experiences, my current circumstances, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do?” (Emphasis mine.)

Before Greg and I ask if we can afford something, what we should cull from the calendar, we query, “What’s the wise choice?” When someone begs me to take on another volunteer role, it’s not “Do I have time?” Rather, “In light of my current and future priorities, dare I say ‘yes?’

Does this expenditure align with my value to put God first in my finances? To stay out of debt? To live minimally so I create margin to do the things I love like supporting my kids’ endeavours, traveling, etc?

If I take out the buzz of emotion that’s shouting in my ears, do I hear the whisper of prudence and sanity speaking to me?

This method takes off so much pressure and fuels my priorities! Wisdom tells me I need space in my days to feel alive, to hear the voice of God, to rest. Savvy says my budget is stretched and one more activity will only add to my stress. Wisdom reminds me that my kids are going to be just fine if they skip a year of XYZ sport or music or art. Chances are, they aren’t the next Beethoven or Steph Curry so giving them space to play outside, eat a proper dinner with the family most nights, and giving them my undivided attention as their mother (not just their Uber service), matter more. Good judgement calls out to me from the early mornings reminding me how much I need exercise for my sanity so my day must include TIME for that as a priority. Experience has taught me that I can make time for another activity but I won’t because these other priorities rank higher.”

In your gut, your heart of hearts, your intelligence and discernment, you hear Lady Wisdom speaking her truth to you too!

Listen to her!

She teaches you how to establish your values as a person and family. Then, you must find the courage to not let other people dictate how you outwork those values. What other families do or don’t do, how big their cars and houses are, how smart and amazing their kids might seem, what their social media account looks like with regards to their travel and experiences shouldn’t be factored into your goal setting or planning for the year ahead. This year, be brave and chart your own wise course.

Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

Colossians 1:9-12 (MSG)
Contentment, Faith, Friendship, Inspiration, Leadership, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Visual Impairment

I recently found out I needed a mild prescription for reading glasses and was completely baffled and overwhelmed at all the offerings of frames there were to choose from. It reminded me of my first days of motherhood when I realised this whole world existed long before I joined the ranks. When I walked into the glasses shop and tried on a hundred pairs of frames, I thought, “Everyone who wears glasses has done this. I have never appreciated the pain of what they have gone through.” So, to all you glasses-wearing people out there, cheers to a job well done, making it happen for so many years.

My lenses brought the slightly blurry print into focus and I realised that for a few months, I had been straining to see what was clearly there all along. I had been looking through squinty dissatisfaction that what I knew was there just wouldn’t pop off the page clearly enough to be read.

My husband has needed glasses for several years now and he absolutely CANNOT see anything without them. His misplaced specs must be located before he can read homework, look at my Instagram, or check his sports scores. Without his lenses bringing into focus the world around him he is an outsider. Frustrated at what he can’t find. Trapped in his own head for what is out of reach without help.

When he slips on his Clarke Kent frames, his brow loses its furrow and he can once more connect with the world around him. He participates in the conversation; he contributes and is able to see what was always there.

We understand how two people can literally look at small print and see different things depending on the level of myopia involved. However, near-sightedness affects more than how we read the newspaper. Shortsightedness alters our very life experiences.

Wrongdoings of others cause crooked vision and if left untreated, may lead to blindness.

Prideful judgements introduce dyslexia as we swap our expectations of self for other people's intentions.

Miscommunication and an unwillingness to handle conflict breed cataracts among friends, a live lived askew.

Negativity dulls the world around us. Our vision is clouded, like driving through fog; we slow down and even stop for fear of the road ahead.

Clarity comes when we align our optics, not with physical glasses but with the One who is truly perfect. God, our almighty Creator, is the only perfect lens. Life is never perfect, but God promises that we can trust him because he overcame the world. Living a life of faith means we can’t actually see everything in front of us with clarity as we weave our own imperfect perceptions into our world. We must pause and clean off the debris blocking us from seeing Jesus in our midst. Rose coloured glasses are at our disposal if we will just put them on. It doesn’t mean we deny the pain around us, but the onus is on us to be willing to shift our perspective and view life through the 20/20 Biblical lens God has freely given us to look through each and everyday.

That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. 

2 Corinthians 5:6-7 (MSG)
Contentment, Fasting, God Speaks, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 19: “Pray in the Spirit.”

What do you do when you don’t know what to pray? When this journey is over and there are no devotions landing in your inbox nor any clear direction?

Some of you enjoy the structure of having a thought to pray around; you you can easily find a devotion online or on the YouVersion Bible app.

Others write down your prayers like a Santa Claus wish list – all those wants and needs pouring out of you in desperate yearning like a child highlighting items in the Target ad circular.

You might pray “HELP!” when a desperate need arises. Or, you may have the same prayer you keep bringing before God day in and day out; it’s caught in your headspace like a bad pop song you heard yesterday that just won’t go away.

Prayer is as much about talking to God and sending up your heavenly airmail as it is about listening to what your God has to say to you regarding your situation. Oftentimes, the answers you seek are right before you as you calmly wait on God to intervene on your behalf. But, you are so busy shopping around for what YOU can do, striving to make stuff happen. You are box ticking and stretching yourself beyond your human capacity to work out the angles and to try and solve your problems, all the while crying out to God, “come along with my plans… bless them. Guide me as I jump off this next cliff. Save me as I step out to do more, more, more, more!”

What if you relax into his loving arms and do nothing today except pray in the spirit and wait? The most troubling situations you’re facing might resolve themselves without your angling and posturing. The answer you seek might be found in the secret place alongside your Saviour. He is intervening on your behalf. He goes before you. He is behind you.

Wait on him and give him a chance to come through for you.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Romans 8:26-27