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.

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, Prayer, purpose, Uncategorized

Day 21: “Less Clutter.”

But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,

    the purposes of his heart through all generations.

Psalm 33:11

Well done for making it to the last day of three weeks of prayer and fasting. You have created a consistency in your time with God that will impact your life in a way that is meaningful and rich as you move forward.

Have you ever cleaned out your garage for council pick up only to find it full and cluttered again six months later? Maybe it’s your fridge or your pantry or that overstuffed linen closet? You organise and put everything in its rightful place while looking at it with fondness and enthusiasm for how well it will serve you going forward.

You’ve devoted three weeks to cleaning out the clutter in your spiritual life. You have prayed more. You have sacrificed to see breakthrough. You have opened up space in your life and organised yourself in a way that has been meaningful and sincere. Now, three weeks of prayer and fasting is drawing to an end and you are totally ready to move forward with more clarity, less chaos, and a closeness to the Holy Spirit that was lacking when you started this journey. Well done for making it to the end. (And, if you had a few hiccups along the way, no worries. Pat yourself on the back anyway!)

Spend some time reflecting on what might look different for you going forward. Who can offer accountability for you moving ahead so that you don’t get caught up in busy-ness and old habits? Ask them to check in on you. What will you be reading from the Word each day to keep depositing into your spirit? Who will you talk to about it? Will you keep a journal? Do you have a special place in your home where you meet with God? Don’t let yourself and your diary get filled back up with all the old habits and “stuff” that you worked so hard to eliminate.

If you have been praying and believing for breakthrough in a certain area and haven’t seen it yet, don’t give up. Keep pressing in and seeking God’s face. Find comfort in your pain by keeping Jesus close.

See each day as a God-adventure where you’re ready to take on whatever life brings you. There’s no secret sauce that turns anyone’s life into a sweet tasting main course of delicacies. Instead, most days are just normal, takeaway shop quality. Learn to find the yumminess in that sort of simplicity. Look for it even if it’s wrapped in brown paper. Learn to open up each day sniffing around for fruitfulness. Look ahead with anticipation that wherever you turn your attention, God is there with you. He’s cooking up something magnificent and you get to eat from his spread. Nothing has been spared in the cost and sacrifice God has put forth for you.

*Read Ephesians 5:11-13. Make a list of busywork that could potentially clutter up your spiritual life. Think about what you will put into place so this doesn’t happen. Ask someone to hold you accountable and commit to praying together as you go forward into 2020.

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.

divine appointments, God Speaks, Uncategorized

Day 19: “Dream State”

Jabez prayed to the God of Israel: “Bless me, O bless me! Give me land, large tracts of land. And provide your personal protection—don’t let evil hurt me.” God gave him what he asked.

1 Chronicles 4:10 (MSG)

Billie Eilish recently became the youngest artist at age 18 to win four of the top Grammy awards including Best New Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Record of the year, and Song of the Year. She also took home a 5th on the same night winning Best Pop Vocal Album. In interviews with her, she interestingly explained how much of her songwriting came out of various dream states: Night terrors, lucid dreams, nightmares, and sleep paralysis. Isn’t it fascinating  that the world is giving so much credit to a young girl who wrote an entire album flowing with ideas coming out of her sleep?! Her music has an eerie alternative vibe and if you watch one of her videos you’ll believe it came out of some sort of dream because outside of a hallucination they make little sense.

You have embraced 2020 as a “Year of Possibilities” and God has done a work in your spirit over these past few weeks. You’ve spent time meditating, praying, thinking, and hopefully dreaming about your own future, allowing God to speak to you. Even if you don’t have a 54.6 million Instagram followers and a stack of awards for your talent at putting your fantasies on paper, setting them to music and then uploading them to a YouTube channel, you can tune yourself into your dreams and use your sleep time as a time to allow God to speak to you. Billie might not give credit to her Creator for her experiences in the night, but you can!

You dream during your REM sleep even if you wake up with no memory of it. Tonight, ask God to speak to you after hours; have a journal next to you so you can write down anything you remember when you wake up. A lucid dream is where you become aware that you are dreaming while you’re still partially asleep. You can have an idea or experience so amazing in this state that you have the impression it’s real. If this happens to you, imagine yourself alongside Jesus and let him encourage you for your future.

Like Jabez, ask God to enlarge your territory. Envision your family and your work flourishing. See yourself flying high in your calling and gliding through your days with ease like a duck on water. You can transform yourself by renewing your own mind, even while you sleep. With the Holy Spirit’s help and a bit of concentration and awareness, greatness might just flow out of you too!

*Read Romans 12:1-2 and meditate on it for five minutes. What part of your mind needs to be renewed? Aligned with God? How can you transform your thinking today? Are you willing to focus your attention, even when you’re drifting off to sleep, on Jesus and what he wants to say to you? Be willing to put aside your worries, fears, and insecurities; let the Holy Spirit flow freely through you as you seek him at all times during the day.