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, Personal Growth, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 20: “Intentionality”

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,

    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.

They’re created new every morning.

    How great your faithfulness!

I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).

    He’s all I’ve got left.

Lamentations 3:22-24 (MSG)

New habits have made you more intentional. You are encouraged to continue the behaviours you have chosen over these last three weeks in order to maintain intimacy with God. Your life looks and feels different. In the space of 3 weeks, you have heard from God more clearly. You know him better. You can sense a fresh direction in areas you need to make decisions.

Now, be brave! Make your choices! Act on what you heard God speak to you! Don’t hesitate! Jump into everything God has for you and continue digging deeper with him!

If you haven’t been consistent over the last 20 days, it’s okay. Make calculated plans for the rest of your year and like the old Anne Murray song, remind yourself that you “gotta get back to where you used to be. Time don’t run out on me.” Start today and move forward with intentionality. Carpe Diem. YOLO. The journey of growing in intimacy with Christ never stops. You never arrive at a place where you are have nothing else to work on. SO, embrace this rather than lamenting it.

Aren’t you thankful God’s mercies are new every morning, never running out? Stick with him and don’t look back. Your considered steps are allowing you to make progress in every area of your spiritual walk.

*Read Proverbs 21:5 and ask God to show you what plans you are meant to move forward with today. You can’t tackle everything on your list, so seek him to determine what’s most important. Then, do it. Don’t overanalyse. Don’t worry about it or try and anticipate all the “what if’s.” Trust God and keep your attention on him.

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, Prayer, Resilience, Uncategorized

Day 13: “Work”

Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.

Colossians 3:23-24 (MSG)

Work is the focus of a big part of your life. If you’re a student, it might be homework, but it’s work nonetheless. If you’re a mother, not formally employed earning a wage, you’re plugging away from dawn until dusk.

The daily grind can be a major source of stress in your life. Work mates can be difficult as can bosses. You might be doing a job you don’t love or feel any passion for and if so, you struggle to find joy in it.

Today, you no doubt have some sort of work ahead of you. Whether it’s in the home, at school, in another city or online, see it as a gift from God. You have been given a capable mind and hands with which to carry out your labour. You are surrounded by others who are moving ahead and you are blessed to not be idle. Seek to honour God in every task you perform today. Allow him to speak to you about your work and to show you how much you glorify him by putting your hand to the plow.

Pray for your boss, no matter how he or she treats you. Bless your annoying co-worker and pledge not to join in on workroom gossip. Seek to live in such a way that gratitude trumps your fatigue. Your ability to earn, provide care, or study is a gift.

*You might be praying for breakthrough in your job situation during this time of prayer and fasting. Be brave and trust God for a new season. Maybe you’re dealing with extra stress at work. Study Philippians 4:6-7 and trust God with every detail of your situation.

Fasting, Friendship, Personal Growth, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 12: “Friendship”

Two are better than one,

    because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

    one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

    and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)

You’re more than halfway through the 21 days of prayer and fasting. You’re examining yourself more closely and you’re intentionally seeking God’s face in areas where you desire breakthrough.

Healthy friendships can spur you on towards progress in every area of your life. Subsequently, dysfunctional friendships can actually inhibit your spiritual growth with negativity, judgement, dysfunction, or strife. Your friends can help you grow to become all God wants you to be or they can bring you right down to your lowest point.

Friends matter to God. The Bible mentions friendship hundreds of times and uses stories like David and Jonathan to show you what true friendship looks like. Jesus himself was a “friend to sinners” and Paul and Silas had praying friends who brought heaven down in a prayer meeting so mighty, prison doors opened to set them free.

True friends stay loyal through good times and bad. They don’t gossip about you or betray your confidence. A true friend sticks closer than a brother. Do you have good friends you can count on when times are hard? Christian brothers and sisters who will pray with you, bring Godly perspective when you’re struggling and tell you the truth even when it hurts?

You might be longing for a dear ally right now. Someone who will sharpen you and understand you. Pain from past rejection might cause you to put walls up with friends so you don’t get hurt again. It’s a risk worth taking to put yourself out there for a mate. Although vulnerability is scary, it takes being a sincere friend to gain one.

Your friendship matters to someone today. If you’re not feeling like you are in a place of being able to offer what someone else needs, ask God to help you. Look at one thing you can do to be a buddy to a neighbour or someone at church. Then, just do it. Pray for your friends today. Ask God to meet them in the places they feel lonely and ashamed. You never know what prison walls might come down in your life and theirs!

*Read Proverbs 27:17 and ask yourself who in your life sharpens you. Do the majority of your friends make you feel closer to God and more like the “you” you want to be? Or, do they drain you and cause you pain? God wants you to surround yourself with those who will bring you closer to him.

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.

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.