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.

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)
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)
Fasting, Inspiration, peace, Personal Growth, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 16: “Think.”

We pondered your love-in-action, God,
waiting in your temple:
Your name, God, evokes a train
of Hallelujahs wherever
It is spoken, near and far;
your arms are heaped with goodness-in-action.

Psalm 48:9 (MSG)

Do you ever think about something in so much detail that you feel a release, like you actually did the thing you were thinking about? Only to realise the next day that you actually didn’t accomplish anything at all but you thought about it so thoroughly that you believed for a minute that progress happened?!

You actually ARE bring productive when you spend time thinking, even if you don’t physically mark off something from your list of to-do’s. Thinking is extremely valuable. Interestingly, billionaire Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, is famous for taking a week off twice each year just to think.

Becoming a person of impact and influence comes through self reflection and development. What do you do when no one is watching? How are you thinking about yourself and life in general? When you’re alone with YOU, what reverberates across that grey mass between your ears?

What goes on in your consciousness affects the world around you in a major way. Your mindset towards adversity. Your self-image and self-talk. Your mentality and perceptions determine the decisions you make. If you lean towards negative thought patterns, recognise this and practise turning that around. Make a list of 10 positives in your life and silence yourself before that piece of paper. Look at it and THINK. Allow your mind to travel aimlessly down the path of positivity that each item on the list unveils. Pay attention to how good you feel!

Give yourself time today to stop and think about God’s impact on you. Your calendar needs space to breathe. Ponder. Speculate. Consider. Appraise. Imagine. Conceive. Ruminate. The wonder of heaven will be dropped into your spirit. Ideas will come forth that you never knew were possible. You will expand your own vision for the future and find yourself more content with the present.

*This time of prayer and fasting means you cleared your schedule of something. Social media, food, television. Whatever it was, commit to spending some time thinking today. Practise your deep breathing. Let your mind wander. Read Psalm 119:27 and commit to thinking for a change.

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.

Fasting, Grief, Inspiration, Personal Growth, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 11: “Comfort in Grief”

Celebrate with those who celebrate, and weep with those who grieve. Live happily together in a spirit of harmony, and be as mindful of another’s worth as you are your own. Don’t live with a lofty mind-set, thinking you are too important to serve others, but be willing to do menial tasks and identify with those who are humble minded. Don’t be smug or even think for a moment that you know it all. Never hold a grudge or try to get even, but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others. Do your best to live as everybody’s friend.

Romans 12:15-18 (TPT)

Grief leaves a gloomy haze across the horizon of your life. Deep sorrow and anguish envelops those who have experienced loss. Most commonly, you associate grief with the loss of a loved one in death but sorrow comes in many forms. The loss of a job or your health can bring grief. A physical change in location can cause sadness as you face the unknown future. Age and unmet expectations of yourself and what you thought you might accomplish by this stage of life can cause unbearable heartache. The death of a pet or the end of a season in parenting. The list goes on. If you aren’t careful, your whole life can take on a melancholy hue with the bereavement around you.

Where death and loss leave a cavernous hole in your heart, you are simultaneously opened up in a way that causes you to relate to the suffering of others with more intensity. This week, you’ve been learning about love and humility, thinking of others and praying for them too. Sometimes, the hole in your heart can only be filled with something heaven sent. The place that most needs filling can only be satiated with the hope that a relationship with Jesus Christ can bring.

There’s a part of you which grieves incessantly for that which you know will never come. This side of heaven, the whole earth groans with the pain of childbirth as you long for true deliverance. Jesus himself experienced the grief of betrayal from his friends. The anguish of going to the cross caused him tremendous heartache. Yet, without it, you wouldn’t have the hope of heaven, the glorious revelation of new beginnings and the power of resurrection life.

*Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 and thank God that he is the ultimate comforter. Seek him today for comfort in your own areas of pain and loss. Then, look outward and ask the Holy Spirit who in your world might need your comfort today. Anything you walk through can be used for the glory of God if you let it. Ring a friend or send a text to someone who is grieving.

divine appointments, Fasting, God Speaks, Inspiration, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 6: “Now You Know…”

Your mercy and your truth have married each other.

Your righteousness and peace have kissed.

Flowers of your faithfulness are blooming on the earth.

Righteousness shines down from the sky.

Yes, the Lord keeps raining down blessing after blessing,

and prosperity will drench the land with a bountiful harvest.

For deliverance and peace are his forerunners,

preparing a path for his steps.

Psalm 85:10-13 (TPT)

The status quo blinds you. Mundane routines are like blinkers on a horse, keeping your eyes straight ahead, only focussing on the immediate day to day finish lines. Work, chores, kids, laundry, meals, bills. You begin to expect what you’re used to but all that is changing.

Have you ever learnt something new and suddenly you started seeing it everywhere? This is called the “Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon” or “frequency illusion.” Has your awareness increased or is there a sudden uptick in the frequency of the information? Chances are, when it comes to your spirituality, what you now know was always there.

As a Christian who is intentionally seeking God in a deeper way through prayer and fasting, you’re taking off your blinders and changing up your daily routine. Everything has a brighter hue. Life is louder, more exciting.

What is right in front of you that you didn’t see before? A scripture you read or a sermon you heard brings forth a cognitive bias where you are now seeing Christ in all things. You are amazed at the beauty of a garden, the fresh smells and intricacy of the leaves on the plants. You’re reminded of God’s hand in all things because you’re recently aware of the detail he brings to your own life. 

You studied a passage of scripture about a widow with jars of oil (see yesterday’s post) and now you see oil on sale at Woolworth’s and overhear a conversation at school about cooking with coconut oil. You’re reminded of your own increased capacity even though grocery stores and recipes have nothing to do with it. God is using everything around you to speak to you!

You know the power of positive thinking and someone tells you about Dr Caroline Leaf. You scroll through Instagram and someone quotes a line from her book. You now notice it because you’ve had a recent revelation about positive mindsets.

You’re experiencing the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon with new concepts in unexpected places. Lean into them. Don’t chalk them up as coincidences. Rather, see God in all things. Realise he speaks to you through nature, other people, signs while you’re driving, anywhere.

God’s blessings are all around you.

* Be on the lookout today for one of the concepts you’ve read or thought about over the last week to come up again. This reinforcement of God’s word is like a healing balm over your life. You are experiencing a bountiful harvest of revelation and blessing from God. He wants to speak to you. Pay attention and journal anything you see that relates to what you’ve been learning.