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)
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, government, peace, Social problems, Uncategorized

Day 18: “Across the Earth”

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 Counsellor, 

Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.

Isaiah 9:6

Jesus was sent from heaven down to earth 2000 years ago as “Saviour of the World.” You might look around and see all the wars, famine, drought, drug cartels, human trafficking, and so many other problems and think, “which part did he save?”

That’s a fair question as you face many hardships; chaos is everywhere. The beauty and magnificent splendour of the Garden of Eden seems so out of reach. You find it hard to imagine a world without worry, a planet of peace.

Jesus promised that in this world you WOULD have troubles.

Bummer!

Until he comes back or you’re in heaven, you will not experience perfection. However, Jesus DID overcome the world through his death and resurrection; and, because of this, you have the hope of heaven; you CAN and SHOULD pray for it to be brought down to your world each and every day. 

Recently, over 140,000 Brazilians, including their President, attended the Send Conference, hungry to see God move. Movements like Hillsong Church are seeing expansion across the earth with over 80 churches in 21 countries now. Stadiums are filled with young adults at conferences like Passion with Louie Giglio every year. Christian production companies are making wholesome family movies that promote Christian values (and they aren’t cheesy and lame)!

God is on the move across the earth. The church is not dead! 

No matter what you hear on the news or in your own circles of friends, Jesus is on the throne and he has already defeated the enemy of your soul. Yes, this world is struggling in many ways. The devil seeks to steal, kill and destroy. But the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives and moves within you.

Access that power today as you lift up this world in prayer.

*Today, in your time of fasting and prayer, ask God to move mightily on the Earth. Pray for continued revival within the church. Ask God to bring unity among believers so that their impact is greater. Pray for protection of missionaries and servants of God in third world and war torn regions. Ask God to be known in Communist countries where law and culture prohibit the free expression of faith. Believe by faith that more people will come to know Christ around the world despite its struggles.

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, peace, Prayer, Series, Uncategorized

Day 14: “Prince of Peace.”

Photo: thejonesgallery.co.nz

You’ve been praying into your personal circumstances and seeking peace for two weeks. Not peace as defined by a state of perfect harmony; but peace in the person of Jesus Christ, who can cause even your darkest days to be filled with light as you lean into his truths, positioning your heart and mind to openly receive what he has planned for you.

You’ve begun to learn that whether your life is a tornado of activity or a crisis on every corner, peace can cut through it all. Peace in the personhood of Jesus Christ, invited into your situations, re-aligns you and settles your heart.

Today, ponder the lyrics of this song, which says it all:

Prince of Peace: By Matt Crocker/ Joel Houston/ Dylan Thomas (Hillsong)

My heart a storm, clouds raging deep within
The Prince of peace came bursting through the wind
The violent sky held its breath
And in Your light I found rest

Tearing through the night
Riding on the storm
Staring down the fight
My eyes found Yours
Shining like the sun
Striding through my fear
The Prince of peace met me there

You heard my prayer

Hope like the sunlight piercing through the dark
The Prince of peace came and broke into my heart
The violent cross, the empty grave
And in Your light I found grace

Tearing through the night
Riding on the storm
Staring down the fight
My eyes found Yours
Shining like the sun
Striding through my fear
The Prince of peace met me there

You’re always there
And You hear my prayer

Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war
When night screams terror, there Your voice will roar
Come death or shadow, God I know Your light will meet me there

When fear comes knocking, there You’ll be my guard
When day breeds trouble, there You’ll hold my heart
Come storm or battle, God I know Your peace will meet me there

Again and again
Oh, be still my heart
I know that You are God

Oh, fear no evil
For I know You are here
And my soul will ever know that You are God
And You heard my prayer

Click here and allow this song to minister to you as you meditate today.

Devotion, family, peace, Series, Social problems, Uncategorized

Day 11: “Peace. In Family, pt 2.”

Healthy families are the fabric of a thriving society. Despite their imperfections, families provide stability and structure around the home life, our communities, and ultimately entire nations.

Broken families lead to poverty, lower academic achievements of children, and increased social problems. Although studies have been done the world over which draw these conclusions and validate God’s word in regards to his plan for marriage and family, you’re bombarded with the opposite messages.

The media tells you men can’t be trusted and that they are “toxic.” They are degraded and demoralised in our television shows. It’s a weakness for a woman to express her need and desire to have the leadership of a strong man in her life. The feminist movement has pushed a false agenda of “empowerment” onto women which says they don’t need fathers for their babies or two incomes to survive. All the evidence proves otherwise.

And, most importantly, God wants families in tact.

He longs for two parents to raise their children in loving, stable homes. God desires marriages to be strong and for your life and calling to intertwine and intermingle with your kids and their callings. You aren’t meant to live with a compartmentalised hierarchy of priorities. Allow God to flow through the mess of everyday life; and, by bringing unity in the home, let him weave his will into every situation. God first and everything else second. Moving in a rhythm of grace, pursuing God as individual family units creates momentum in our neighbourhoods and communities.

Your impact snowballs and takes ground everywhere it flows.

Today, let’s join in prayer for the family unit itself. If your family doesn’t look like you wish it did, it’s okay. God knows your desires and he has a plan for you. Spend time praying into your situation and asking the Lord to bring together strong families all across our nation. Pray for children who are being exposed to domestic violence and who are neglected emotionally. Ask God to mend broken hearts and give husbands and wives a fervour to fight for their marriages.

“To the fatherless he is a father.
    To the widow he is a champion friend.
    To the lonely he gives a family.
    To the prisoners he leads into prosperity until they sing for joy.
    This is our Holy God in his Holy Place!
    But for the rebels there is heartache and despair.”

Psalm 68:5-6 (TPT)