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)
Australia, Contentment, Finance, freedom, Inspiration, Lake Macquarie, peace, Social problems, Uncategorized

“Parrots and Pelicans in a Pandemic”

In all my travels to beautiful Australia before I moved here eight years ago, I couldn’t get over how many amazing birds I would hear each morning as I woke up. Lying in bed hearing kookaburras laugh was so much fun for this native Texan. I fell in love with the pink galahs and couldn’t believe the amount of exotic looking parrots that were EVERYWHERE.

I enjoy running for both exercise and mental health as it refreshes and relaxes me several times a week. Leaving from my house in Lake Macquarie, surrounded by blue skies, bright sunshine and plenty of refreshing salt water feeds my soul. Most often, I run along an old railway track through the bush (Fernleigh Track). I love the sound of the bellbirds and any time I envision myself on that track, I can hear them calling out.

A graceful group of black swans lives just down my street in the giant saltwater lake. Magpies, although annoying and not very savvy, visit our window every morning, banging their beaks into their reflection. Pelicans as big as a smart car scoop up fish right before our eyes while we skip rocks on afternoon strolls with our family.

And what about the cockatoos by the hundreds, sitting on power lines or in the trees out back? I remember seeing those birds in zoo aviaries and I’m in awe that they live all around me everyday, as common as rubbish bins lining my street on Tuesday mornings.

None of these birds seem phased that Covid 19 is rampant across the world right now. As they sing out to each other, I marvel at their tranquility. They calmly roost in amongst our human fear, un-phased by the anxiety. How marvellous their wings! How soft their feathers! How oblivious to the pandemic!

I turn my attention to my beautiful surroundings and I find peace too. I let the stability of my magnificent environment ground me and my thoughts. Today, you might be facing the uncertainty of your finances, the weight of the reality of your stock portfolio, and/or the severity of illness. Take a moment and let yourself draft behind your fearless guide – Jesus. Let him remind you to “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds” (Matthew 6:26 MSG).

If you turn your attention outward, you’ll find freedom in your current circumstances. Pause and listen to the chirping of the birds outside. Let it be a lullaby from your Lord, reminding you of his sovereign hand in amongst your angst. Breath in some fresh air and reflect on past provision as a reminder of future stability. Your God WILL supply ALL your needs according to his riches.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Matthew 6:34 (MSG)
Fasting, freedom, Inspiration, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Day 2: “Hungry?”

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

Galatians 5:16-18 (MSG)

Your palate is tuned into preferences based on its experience. Never had spicy food before? It’s probably too much to handle. Your mum never made you eat vegetables? Even the smell of green beans and Brussel sprouts makes you cringe. It’s the same in life: you hunger for what you know… you crave the familiar. Your mouth waters with expectation of the things that have brought you joy in the past.

You long for what you feast on in an endless cycle, like a hamster running on a wheel – one bit and and the wheel begins to turn; the voracity of your appetite keeps you moving, spinning; unknowingly, you’re limiting yourself to the familiar.

When you spend time fasting, you’re practising the art of saying “no” to the familiar. Changing up your routine, trying something new, relishing something outside the “box” of normality. You say “no” to what you desire so you can create a void for God to fill. You’re able to focus on something fresh – new perspectives, information, scripture.

Feeding your compulsions has become a habit you think you can’t live without. Comfortability, familiarity, ease. You’re ravenous for the satisfying warmth that comes with territory you’ve traveled. These three weeks of prayer and fasting are about shifting that status quo, rejecting what is easy. Challenging your time spent with something heartier, more complex. Denying your flesh that thing for which it longs in exchange for what at first seems yucky. In reality, selfishness is what leaves a sour taste once you’ve experienced the sweetness of freedom in Christ. Focus on hopping off the wheel today, your feet on solid ground, intentionally starving yourself of the familiar so you can focus on carving a new path this year.

*Take inventory today of what you feast on without even thinking about – is it your phone, certain friends and their input, thought processes, maybe even physical food that’s unhealthy for you. Decide what you will eliminate with a firm “no” in order to focus on saying “yes” to Jesus.

freedom, purpose, Uncategorized

Day 20: “Purpose is a Key.”

Photo: organiseme.wordpress.com

This year’s 21 days of prayer and fasting is drawing to a close. You have pursued God with intentionality over the last few weeks and you are closer to him. What’s the key to moving forward in a deeper, more meaningful way with Jesus? For 2019 to be different to 2018?

Understanding your purpose and seeking God for revelation regarding your unique calling will always lend a clue.

You treat your future like a vast mystery, unsure whether you’re worthy of greatness. Doubtful whether this is “it” and whether you should just get used to the status quo. Getting by. Content with mediocre. Or maybe you feel overwhelmed and hopeless, saddened at the thought of moving forward when life keeps throwing you lemons. How do you make lemonade when it’s so hard?

The good news is that God created you with a purpose in mind. You weren’t born and then God thought, “now… what am I going to do with this one??” Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Did you catch that? God prepared IN ADVANCE…

Wake up each day asking God what he has in store for you. Expect greatness! Anticipate walking in freedom despite your circumstances. No matter how others treat you or what life deals, endeavour to trust God with every. minute. every. day.

You will find doors unlocking. Expansion of your influence. Purpose. Hope for the future.

“A person may have many ideas concerning God’s plan for his life, but only the designs of his purpose will succeed in the end.”

Proverbs 19:21 (TPT)
Devotion, freedom, Friendship, peace, Personal Growth, relationships, Series, Uncategorized

Day 7: “Peace. Not People.”

Photo: Caique Silva

God gives us family and friends for community, support, encouragement, wisdom, fun. He wired us all differently and we each come with our own opinions, experiences and expectations. Navigating relationships is tricky on the best of days. What God means for good, the enemy loves to use to bring division, conflict and pain to our lives.

“He made me do it. It’s her fault. If only THEY would cooperate.” Blaming bosses, spouses, friends, or neighbours for your emotions and problems only gives your power away to someone else. Accusations and criticism don’t bring resolutions. You allow other people to rob you of peace and they don’t even know it. While they rest happily in their ignorance, you are tormented, angry, unforgiving. You play scenarios and pretend conversations around in your head like a bad playlist on repeat.

You might be struggling in some of your relationships right now. Your goal: to be understood, heard, loved, appreciated. Communication may seem difficult and you either can’t find the words, or your words are misconstrued, further complicating the situation and your life.

Discord is a thief to your peace.

Unfortunately, many times, resolving issues with others can be out of reach. You just don’t see eye to eye. Or, you’re so different in your approach, finding common ground is impossible. You can become discouraged and even so hurt that you withdraw, allowing yourself to miss out. Your expectations are unmet, you feel ashamed. You even question God when you’ve tried everything in your power and you just can’t find a resolution.

God wants us to live at peace; with others, yes. Ultimately, with him. You must learn to have a Godly perspective regarding people in your life, viewing them through a lens of understanding. This doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything. It means you know where they might be coming from – their pain and past hurts, their dysfunction. Hurting people hurt people.

When you feel your peace is being threatened by a relationship, you must seek God for his wisdom and pursue his ways. Remember, peace is the personhood of Jesus Christ. Keep him close and allow him to mediate the conversations in your head. He will bring clarity if not resolution. He can help you to love those who have hurt you despite their unwillingness to budge.

*Today, write down the names of anyone in your life who is causing you pain. Ask God to show you if there’s something you can do to find common ground. Forgive them. And give them over to God. He will deal with them on your behalf. The battle is not yours to fight.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
 if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:17-21 (NIV)
Contentment, Fasting, freedom, Prayer, Uncategorized

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).