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)
Courage, Personal Growth, Prayer, Resilience, Uncategorized

Day 7: “Fill Your Arsenal”

I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (MSG)

Life IS a box of chocolates, as Forrest Gump once said… you never know what you’re going to get. Day to day, you can become exhausted from the force of life. You need courage, resilience, and the ability to handle adversity. You require scripture, friendship and encouragement, wisdom from God. You’re one week into this annual time of prayer and fasting. This endeavour is spiritual conditioning, supplying your arsenal with spiritual battle weaponry you will soon need.

Jesus reminds you that in this life, you WILL have troubles. But, you can take heart in knowing him because he has already overcome the world. What troubles are you currently facing? How do you handle the sour taste left in your mouth when you expected something sweet instead? You anticipated a raise and your boss fired you. Your son made a huge mistake and you’re disappointed and afraid. Your best friend betrayed you after you trusted her with your vulnerability.

When you know your future is secure and you are “battle ready” each and every day, you can handle adversity. As a matter of fact, your response to the curve balls life throws you testifies to your time spent in preparation. If you’re weary and ill-equipped, you will be taken out. But, when you have spent time stockpiling the ammunition you need to fight, you can continue to rebound when you’re knocked back.

See each day as an empty silo or storehouse for your weaponry. You’re taking time to fill it by praying, reading the word, and fasting. Hide away something useful today. Do it again tomorrow. You’ll be amazed at your supply levels over time.

*Read Ephesians 6:10-18. Which part of God’s armour do you need to focus on this week? Ask God to help you and expect to divert the enemy with strength when your next battle comes.

Faith, Personal Growth, Prayer, purpose, Uncategorized

Day 4: “Chart Your Course”

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 practice 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 (MSG)

One reason to spend 21 days fasting and praying to kick off 2020 is to set an intentional course for yourself this year. The direction you’re heading is not some arbitrary path. You haven’t been abducted and put on an uncharted bus ride. You’re not on a raft out to sea, drifting with the tide.

Praise God!

You have the mind of Christ. You head in the direction of your dominant thought patterns. Pause and ask yourself what you are saying to yourself about YOU? Your life? Your circumstances? Your partner? Your kids? Whatever you’re focussed on mentally grows larger in the lens you’re holding.

Make an adjustment today: shift your eyes eastward towards gratitude. Look to the west and ponder what’s best about your circumstances. Magnify the solid ground God you stand upon in God’s word. Face heavenward and remind yourself how much God loves you, his beautiful creation. Choose your course based on positivity, nobility, graciousness and right-living. Not on tit for tat dramas with people in your life who are directionless. Not on negative feelings, fear, worry or condemnation. You are intentional. Your steps are ordered.

You’re empowered knowing life is not a series of haphazard events that just come at you like waves tossing on the beach, pulling you under, sucking you out in a rip. No. You hold the oars and steer yourself towards God’s perfect truth and it starts in the map of your mind. Your direction is secure and you can rest knowing God is with you.

*Today, write out what direction you would like to see your life take in 2020. Do you need to change direction with a job or big decision that you’ve been putting off? What hurdles have blocked your course that you can remove now and prayerfully consider? If you lean towards negative thought patterns, put into practise taking those thoughts captive and submitting them to Christ. Choose positivity no matter how hard it seems. Talk out loud if you need to. You must give yourself the right trajectory as you set out on this God adventure.

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)
Courage, Devotion, peace, Uncategorized

Day 4: “Peace. Not Fear.”

Photo: Evgeniy Stepanets

Fear, keeping your kids awake at night, as they imagine what may be lurking under their beds. The panic of checking the lap belt one last time before the roller coaster drops sending butterflies through your stomach. Distress, when your teenager isn’t home and curfew was an hour ago. Nightmares, panic, anxiety, dread.

Fear can surely rob you of peace.

It can creep in slowly or it can jump on you like a small child in the pool. Beating you over the head, splashing you in the face, blinding you and making you dizzy.

Angst and worry can be a natural response to rattling circumstances. Remember the shepherds keeping watch over the flocks by night who were visited by an angel appearing out of nowhere? They were terrified. The angel told the shepherds not to be afraid for on that very day, the Messiah would be born.

Jesus: the antidote to fear.

Our Saviour didn’t come to earth as a mighty warrior, ready to fend off evil with a sword and shield. That might make more sense if bravery and comfort were the promise. No one is afraid if Sir William Wallace is in charge.

However, God sent down the Saviour of the world in the form of a helpless newborn baby, born in a manger, in less than stable times. Those shepherds, Joseph and Mary, and others in attendance found peace in the person of Jesus. He represented hope, a long-awaited promise fulfilled. This vulnerable baby boy brought peace to a foreboding situation.

Are you facing something unbearably scary? Are you entertaining vain imaginations of times yet to come which cause you to tense up, lose sleep, or lash out? You have the promise of peace in the midst of your fear.

Your days may never be absent of fear; rather, you must acknowledge God’s present help in your time of need. “Fear not” doesn’t mean “never feel fear.” It means, when you’re feeling afraid, look to the one who brings peace.

Allow his presence and promise to meet you in your angst. Picture his endless love washing over you despite what you’ve done. Remember that he owns the cattle on a thousand hills and his provision is endless to meet your needs. Jesus, and his infinite wisdom as the one who knows the beginning from the end, will guide you into perfect peace; your future is secure.

As you pray today, imagine God’s face shining upon you and your situation, reminding you of his ability to fend off the demons which haunt you. His gentle spirit packs a mighty punch and no weapon, whether seen or imagined, has any hold on you. Allow your concerns to be swept away by hands of hope. Breathe slowly. Allow Jesus to pacify you moment by moment.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)
Courage, Devotion, Inspiration, Personal Growth

Day 2: “The Right Road”

photo: wagabunda.club

Seeking God through a concentrated time of prayer and fasting means something different to each person. You may feel weary from circling around the same mountain and you want to see different terrain this year. Perhaps your spiritual walk feels sluggish and stale; you know the onus is on YOU to pick up the pace, focussing on Jesus more in order to break some bad habits or to hear his still, small voice again.

You might be seeking breakthrough in a specific area for yourself:

Overcoming an addiction

Physical healing

Reconciliation in a relationship.

Or, you’re praying and believing for someone else… A family member who needs a miracle.

Your path is covered in thorny bushes and roadblocks; progressing seems impossible. You feel out of breath at the thought of going higher. Your spiritual muscles are squishy and you think you’re not cut out for the heavy lifting required by a life of authentic faith.

Whatever your reason for embarking on this journey, it’s a good one. You have identified some stalemate in your life and you wish to overcome it, to stretch yourself and dive into deeper waters with your God. You have an intrinsic motivation driving you, compelling you to look ahead rather than behind. You are pioneering afresh, taking back ground which you might have thought was forever stolen from you.

Today, equip yourself for battle. Your armour is your faith. Your weapons are the truth you hold within the Word of God. Your salvation is secure and your Saviour is petitioning on your behalf as you align your will with his.

Step out in faith and you will hear what God wants to say… a personal road map of whispers, guiding you along your narrow trail of difficulty. Everyone is navigating treacherous waters. It’s a lie to believe you’re alone. Nothing you face on your road to victory is new to the One who carved your path.

Envision yourself today, saddled up alongside a brave hero who can conquer anything. Let Jesus take the reigns. Let go of the control you falsely believe is giving you success. Your peace isn’t found in seeing others do what you want, how you want it done. Clarity doesn’t come by more money landing in your account. Harmony doesn’t make its way to you through mowing down the next mile marker at breakneck speed.

You’ll never arrive at the perfect destination this side of heaven. So, begin the practise of leaning into the shadow of the Almighty’s wing. Let him take you 30k feet above the turbulence below. Your circumstance doesn’t have to change for you to see today differently. You’re en route and your help is near.

“The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes. God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree.”

Psalm 19:7-9