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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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 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).

Day 11: “Home Sweet Home”

it's good to be homeWhat’s happening within the four walls of your own home matters more than anything you do outside of it. Your household environment affects every aspect of your life.

Is it good to live in your home? Is there an atmosphere of faith? Is the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) around every corner?

Home should be your sweet spot of serenity. The people you live with should be your safety net when troubles come and your party when it’s time to celebrate. Sadly, this isn’t the case for so many of you; do you have faith enough to believe it can change?

Your family needs prayer. They need support, acceptance, love, validation, encouragement. Your husband needs respect and honour. Your wife needs affirmation and attention. Your kids need cuddles and quality time together.

Ask God to show you where the needs are within your own home. Pray for each person in your family, specifically asking God to be present and for his will to be done in every situation you all face. Extend grace and forgiveness where it’s needed and seek wisdom from above.

“Through [skillful and godly] wisdom a house [a life, a home, a family] is built, and by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation], and by knowledge its rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (Proverbs 24:3-4 AMP).

Day 5: “Can You Slow Down?”

slowResting sounds good in theory; however, slowing down could make you realise some struggles you can’t seem to overcome. A cluttered mind helps you avoid that which is uncomfortable. Busy-ness allows you to sweep your pain under the proverbial ‘rug,’ denying Christ’s gift of rest. Your condition is clogged – your heart, hardened.

Consider the writer of Hebrews’ words: “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2a NIV).

What hinders you from an encounter with The Living God? He’s nearer than ever, watching over you, loving you, yearning for you to cast off whatever holds you back so you can stay on the course he has mapped out for you.

Are you insecure and unsure of your worth?

Have you fallen into the comparison trap?

Is it fear?

What about anger or un-forgiveness?

Can you slow down long enough to inspect your heart? 

We all have tender places of struggle. That’s not bad. We get into trouble when our compulsions consume us, our transgressions taint us, our shortcomings strip God’s truth right out of our hands.

Over the next several days, let’s pause, take an audit, and then believe God for breakthrough. Ask the Holy Spirit to shed light on any darkness that has caused a blockage in your walk with God. Don’t be afraid of what you discover. The very area you might be avoiding could be the key to freedom and peace – true rest.

“So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul” (Hebrews 3:12-14 MSG).

 

Day 4: “Rest.”

restDo you ever feel like your spiritual life is relegated to a check list with items that weigh you down like a household chore? Pray. Read your Bible. Go to Church. Serve. Finding a rhythm of spending time with God is about as easy as eating dinner with a two-year old. Sometimes it’s nice and everything stays on the plate. Other times, you look at your life and like Spaghetti Bolognese flying off the high chair tray, you see the messy pieces of what you desire to have in order smashed and messy and someone is crying.

Failure. Again.

Somewhere, you lost sight of companionship with God and felt like your worth and spiritual growth should look like a high school exam table, all laid out in neat rows with a time allotment and every subject neatly labelled.

Life screams at you to ‘do more’ and ‘be more.’ List off your achievements and post them on Instagram. Get more initials behind your name. Make more money. We take these action verbs and insist that Jesus expects the same level and pace that the world demands.

Guess what? He doesn’t.

He actually gives us rest as a gift. Mike Yaconelli in Messy Spirituality says, “Rest is the ultimate humiliation because in order to rest, we must admit we are not necessary, that the wold can get along without us, that God’s work does not depend on us.”

Jesus models an un-hurried life spending time with the people he loves and a slowness that allows him to hear the Heavenly Father’s voice, whispering what matters most, (not a demanding cry for a better performance).

Why not take today and practise resting?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)