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.

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.