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.

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.

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)
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
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).

Courage, Devotion, Fasting, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Day 8: “Deep Waters”

deep-watersHave you ever been “in over your head?” Overextended? Gained more than you bargained for and you’re not happy about it? You’re overwhelmed or you feel you’re drowning.

That’s never a good place. But plunging head first into the living waters of a life with Christ is the best place you could ever find yourself. Once you find courage to step beyond the shore, it’s the start of trusting him and the end of self-reliance.

Ezekiel 47 describes water flowing from the Temple that is first ankle-deep, then waist deep, then so deep, it’s over your head. In this vision, everywhere the water flows, there is life in abundance. Great schools of fish, magnificent trees bearing fruit for food and leaves for healing.

The water flowed shallowly from the temple, but the benefits weren’t seen until the water turned into a great river, one much too vast to remain grounded. To benefit from everything it had to offer, you’d have to be in “over your head.”

Diving with God takes courage. Maybe you were merely wading during the first week of this fast. Were you giving it a trial run to test the temperature, skeptical of any true benefits?

Can you go deeper this week?

Is there an area of your life in which you desperately need answers or breakthrough?  Be knocked off your feet. Once you’re completely submerged, it doesn’t matter if you are one metre from standing on the bottom or ten. You’re in over your head.

The only thing you can do is let Christ sustain you. You will eat from his fruitfulness. You will be healed in his presence. Your God will be with you in the deep.