Soul-Trading

mark 8-36If you’re a parent, I would venture to say you spend a lot of time helping your children explore their interests, find their passions, make friends, and grow in their abilities. Outside a typical school day, you cart them to swim and music lessons, sports trainings and games, tutoring.

You make sure they don’t miss the party invite (what if they don’t get invited again or are left out on the playground at school?)! We only have Wednesday afternoons free and the school just opened up a term of Oztag… perfect! Sign us up! Wait… what’s Oztag?

My own daughter tried ballet, hip hop, gymnastics (at two different gyms) before we realised her passion was music and art. She now also plays netball for both her school and club.

How do we, as parents fit it all in? What’s the motivation for all this, (shall I daresay “over-scheduling”)? We tell ourselves we want what’s best for them. Some of us believe our kids are stars and in order to get ahead, they must perfect their trade. We must set them up for success. And… Kids are demanding at times. They tell us what they want to do and we jump through every hoop to make it happen. I mean, how guilty would we feel if right down our very own hallway slept the next Mozart and we didn’t pay for that extra term of piano lessons?

We live in crazy times! All this taxiing our children to and fro. Then, what’s left of us, these devoted, well-intentioned grown-ups?

Soul weary, budget busted, time strapped adults whose sleep patterns are poor and marriages are weak.

In the pursuit of fostering well-rounded, talented, happy children who have friends and self-confidence, we can lose our own souls. What happened to regular date nights? Adult friends who party with us while the children go to bed?

What are MY interests?

Didn’t I have hobbies once upon a time?

Where are friends who make me laugh, those who spur me on towards becoming my best self?

All of our choices come at a cost. This over-scheduling and saying “yes” to the aforementioned litany of options means saying “no” to other things. Unfortunately, those “other things” can be the very ones which sustain our souls. The fun. Spiritual growth. Marriage. Small group at church. Rest.

Let’s don’t mistake “good parenting” for soul-trading.

Kids need parents who love each other and they need to see us taking care of ourselves, embracing a hobby, setting boundaries, living within our means. The lessons WE teach through lives devoted to Jesus, the church, our marriages, and sabbath rest far outweigh any weekly half hour lesson you could pay for with someone else in charge.

“What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for” (Mark 8:36 MSG).

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Day 16: “Pray for Your City”

cityYou’re approaching the end of your three weeks of prayer and fasting and your prayer life has intensified. You are freer than you were a few weeks ago and you’re looking beyond your own needs and asking God to work in your family, your workplace, your church and your neighbourhood.

You actually have the ability to change your entire city. A small group of disciples who walked with Jesus a couple of centuries ago sure did! They carried a message of hope to their cities; subsequently, much of the Western world built its culture on Judeo-Christian values. Imagine you and your group of friends from church who have a passion for your community changing and influencing your city. You CAN!

Why don’t you take some time today and pray for your city? Love your suburb. Lift up its leaders and ask God to bless them and guide them. Believe God will open doors of influence and opportunity for you to speak into the lives of your city councilmen and women and elected officials. You have a voice in your community.

Over time, your care and influence will impact those around you and spill over into every area of your community. Through loving it well, you can affect change.

“Seek peace and well-being for the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its peace (well-being) you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7 AMP).

Day 15: “Love Your Neighbour”

loveIf you read the news, you’ll see consistent coverage of polarizing topics and conversations that divide. Politics, government spending, inequality in the workplace, global warming, immigration. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion and divisiveness is the status quo. Marching, arguing, hating.

The thing is, you have more in common with your neighbour than you have differences.

If you’ve ever traveled to another country and spent time people-watching, you know a mother’s love is universal. Laughter in a movie theatre or adoration for a sunset alongside strangers transcends which suburb you grew up in or what sort of car you drive.

Stand in line at a water park with thousands of other guests and you’ll see that stretch marks don’t discriminate. Shade cover is ubiquitously desired and over-priced burgers taste good after a long swim in sunshine. Everyone agrees.

Can you spend some time today focussing on what you have in common with your neighbours, rather than your differences? Pray you will be able to extend grace to those you might disagree with and smile despite your disparity.

Prayer opens your heart and eyes to the need around you. The Holy Spirit will show you how to bless those across the road and serve your neighbours, no strings attached. Meeting people where they are will diminish your differences and allow God to make his way onto your street and into your hearts. Love lessons the gap between us and that’s something everyone can admit is more fun than fighting.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).

 

Day 17: “Marriages Matter.”

loveSocieties flourish when families flourish. Families thrive when marriages are healthy. And, unconditional love is at the centre of a strong marriage. 1 John 3:18 encourages us to love not with words or speech, but with actions and truth.

How can you show love to your spouse today? First, begin by praying for him or her. If you’re not married, pray for your future spouse or for important marriages in your life. Seek to look at your partner through God’s eyes today. It’s important to have him at the centre of your marriage. As each person seeks to know Jesus more intimately, intimacy grows between the couple.

You may not be married to a fellow believer. Pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to your spouse through your selfless actions of love. Ask him to reveal himself to your partner in creative ways.

Pray that marriages within the church will be strengthened. Ask God to give help those who may be struggling.

The Man said, “Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man.” Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24 MSG)

Step Out of the Traffic

I love to run because it helps me clear my head and hopefully keeps my metabolism from totally shutting down now that I’m 40! The thing is, my running is dangerous at times… I’m so zoned out that I sometimes forget to look before crossing streets or I misjudge the distance of the cars coming my way.

Oftentimes, when I’m about to cross Pacific Highway to head to Fernleigh Track in Belmont, I don’t wait for the light. If there’s a break in traffic, I just go. Last week, while I was on my own, I looked to my right and realised there was no way I could cross with all the traffic coming; then, as if in some sort of superhero dimg_0692aydream, I started envisioning myself weaving in and out of the cars, running so fast that I could actually make it to the other side safely. I even actually put my foot out onto the road before snapping out of my trance and realising I wasn’t in a real life game of Frogger.

If you lived through the 80s, chances are, you owned an Atari gaming system and used your joystick to get that little green frog safely across traffic. If you made it to the halfway point, you then had to jump him across logs on water avoiding snakes and alligators. I can still hear the “beep beep” of the frog making his way and I can see him splayed out in front of the trucks on the times his judgement failed.

Some of us live our lives like we are inside an advanced level of Frogger, hoping we have five lives in case this one goes “splat.” We race out before thinking; we misjudge the speed of the truck headed our way, able to crush us under its weight. We jump into over-committing our kids with activities with no regard to whether there’s time to survive safely to the next term. We’re so busy running from one thing to tfrogger3he next that we don’t even notice our heart racing and blood pressure rising. We’ve leapt onto a fast moving log, not even aware of the snake standing next to us…

We compete and run around like there’s a one minute timer ticking down and  I’m just wondering if the everything we’re racing to accomplish is really something keeping us from having anything worthwhile.

When we don’t proceed through life with caution, looking out at our surroundings before stepping into the traffic, we risk losing what’s most important – our God perspective.

When we leap from one activity to the next with no margin, our Creator’s voice is drowned out with the beeping of horns; the smog from our surroundings clouds our vision and inhibits our judgement. Jumping out into the street each day before grounding ourselves in God’s word, praying and seeking HIM for our priorities means risking our spiritual lives, possibly even forfeiting our destinies.

Frogger drowns by staying on a diving turtle too long, letting it take him under. He can die by jumping into a “home” occupied by someone else. The game is over if the frog doesn’t make it home before time runs out. When our lives are on a shaky foundation, they can crumble underneath us causing us to drown. If we aren’t careful to choose the path God has for us, we can wake up one day having lived someone else’s life, occupying the wrong space. The Bible says our lives on this earth are but a vapour – how awful if we just simply run out of time to do all God has called us to do.

You and I don’t have to let the world around us dictate our pace.

No one can make us risk our lives by stepping into chaos God never intended. Psalm 46 encourages us to “step out of the traffic.” Our peace doesn’t have to be destroyed because of the noise around us. Learn to go to God in the quiet place, jump on his back and let him carry you through the traffic. His path is always secure, his methods are sound.

“Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God. I am the God above all the nations, and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth” (Psalm 46:9-10, Passion Translation).

 

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day SIXTEEN

Read Psalm 127:3-5 & Mark 10:13-16

Children are God’s greatest gifts. Unfortunately, too many little ones are exposed to adult problems and difficult home situations. They face bullying at school, an over-abundance of social media and other electronic influences which can warp their self-images and contradict what the Bible says about them. Families are busier than ever and our kids often struggle to have the Godly affection and attention they deserve.

If you have kids in your life – whether they are your own, your grandchildren, those you serve in kids’ church, or just neighbours or friends, let me insure you: they NEED Godly encouragement and wisdom. Jesus took the children into his arms and blessed them; we can and should do the same. Never tire in telling kids God has a plan for their lives. They are unique and special. God gave them each amazing gifts and talents; find out what they are. Tell them to pursue their dreams. Show them love in every circumstance, even when they fail. Teach them to stand tall and confident.

Pray for Godly friends to come into their lives – people who bring out the best in them. Listen to them when they need to talk. Hug often. Tell them they are smart and capable.

Dear God, thank you for placing children in my life whom I can influence. Help me to be led by your spirit to speak the right words at the right times to lift them up and call out their Godly destinies. Show me how I can be used to influence the next generation so they grow up to know their identity in YOU. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

2015 Fasting Devotion, Day TEN

Read Psalm 68:1-6

(Today’s thought is contributed by Janine O’Rourke.)

Mother Teresa once said, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”

Working in retail, I have become aware of how many lonely people there are around us. As I’ve asked different ones about their Christmas or New Year, so many spend either or both on their own. I have been moved with compassion for them as these are the times we spend with family and friends.

As we go about our busy schedules, rubbing shoulders and trolleys with these lonely ones, pray for them to be set in families and communities that embrace and care for them. We must shine forth the bright morning star who dwells within us; it might be the only Christ they meet.

Heavenly Father, I pray today for everyone who is lonely in our community. I ask that they would somehow experience your love through one of your followers. You say you set the lonely in families. I ask that they would find a place in a loving church family. You are the perfect father. In Jesus’ name, Amen.