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.

family, Inspiration, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

November, Again.

Every November comes around with the velocity of a high speed train. Daylight savings, spring, open pools, sunshine.

And birthdays.

Three of them.

All in five days.

Sydney’s on the 5th, mine on the 8th and Sam’s on the 9th. No merging with traffic. November arrives – and, BOOM! So do all the birthdays.

I feel overwhelmed with another piece of childhood left behind; and, in the frenzy of planning parties, buying gifts, baking cakes for classmates, I forget about my own birthday. (It’s also very weird to celebrate in Spring when for 35 yrs mine fell in fall. Void of the changing leaves and leftover Halloween candy, there are no triggers telling me it’s my turn.)

So, this year, I decided to reflect a little more intentionally, to pick up blogging again, and hopefully inspire someone else who resents the audacity of the calendar with all its overreach and disregard for the pace I reckon we would all like to keep. The passing of time is a universal truth common to human experience. But we don’t have to like it!

I spend a lot of time prepping for the future: saving money, planning holidays, exercising and eating right. And, in the midst of all that habit-stacking and goal-setting, I often lament what was. Nostalgia rings a familiar bell with the sound of laughter and hope. I want to live in the present but I struggle to do so. I long to be content with what is but I have a hard time reconciling the vision I once held for what would one day be with the harsh reality of what actually is.

Disappointment has been an all-too-familiar friend over the last decade. Sure, Instagram shows the highlight reel of everything that’s been good. And, there’s been a lot of good. But, unmet expectations, betrayal, money stresses, mistakes, loss, (did I mention cellulite and wrinkles) have also taken up real estate in my life. No one ever puts those things on a vision board, do they?

The reality is, perfection is never a promise made by the One who gives us our breath. Easy isn’t extended to even the most lucky and blessed. Whatever our family, finances or faith, we aren’t immune to heartache and hurt.

So, this birthday week, as I reflect on my 43 yrs, I feel a little bit of ‘blah’ mixed with a little bit of ‘bliss.’ I feel free even though the heaviness of sadness threatens to invade. I can admit my faults and disappointments with unfettered honesty but when I do, vulnerability seeks to bring shame. I’m liberated when I can acknowledge I don’t have simplistic answers for complex problems but I would rather stick my head in the sand.

Embracing the monotony of putting one foot in front of the other is actually living footloose and fancy free. The fact that I woke up this morning means I’ve been given permission to use the gift of another plain old day to make a difference in someone’s life, to love the ones I hold dear and to give thanks.

Today, on this 43rd birthday of mine, I am more resilient, tested and true to myself… less insecure and more focussed on the things that matter most. I care about giving of myself more than of what I can gain. I feel grateful for every healthy breath and for a solid marriage. I’m pleased that my shoulders are a strong platform upon which my children can stand. I see my Heavenly Father through a sometimes beat up lens but what always comes into focus is his faithfulness and love for me (and YOU).

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Australia, Contentment, Uncategorized

Content Now?

Ever since I got a paid gig writing blogs last month, my own blog has suffered.  As Ecclesiastes says, “there’s nothing new under the sun;” the same feels true as I update you all on what’s going on here in Australia.  Our furniture FINALLY arrived after three long months of waiting and we have been unpacking and trying to organize our belongings all day everyday since then.

It’s interesting to see what’s inside each one.  I thought I had de-cluttered like nobody’s business.  I sold what felt like half our belongings and what remained was only the most loved outfits, personal effects that are irreplaceable, and items that would be too expensive to replace here.  Interestingly, after living out of six suitcases with only the necessities for a couple of months, I now realize 42 pairs of underwear and socks and 25 coffee mugs aren’t really that important after all.  I can’t tell you how many hangers and shoes I have no room for in my Belmont North rental.  And, that pile of paperwork that sat on my Lynnwood desk needing attention is now outdated and has no value nor importance in the Southern Hemisphere.

Although beds and outfits make life comfortable and I am certainly happy I can serve my neighbors dinner without washing dishes midway through the meal because I now have enough plates and silverware, I have come to appreciate how little we can live on if we really must.  I know, I know… everyone says it.  Missionaries live it.  Starving kids in Africa play with sticks all day and seem perfectly content.  Less is more.  I’m not saying anything new.

The trick for anyone who has experienced an adjustment to having less than what she used to is to stay balanced in the long run.  How do we remain generous with our money and possessions if we don’t have any?  Yet, once we do, how do we live comfortably, but not extravagantly?  Solomon wrote about a man who might live a thousand years twice over but still not find contentment.  He says “Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content” (Ecc. 1:7-9).

Yet Paul contrasts this with saying in Phillipians that he has “learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  He knew what it was “to be in need,” and what it was “to have plenty.”  He said he “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Contentment is sourced by our heavenly father when we are at peace with Him.  Only God can supply all our needs “according to his riches in glory.”  I used to think that meant material needs (and maybe it does) but the older I get and the more “stuff” I accumulate, I realize God supplying ALL MY NEEDS is much deeper than anything we can purchase in dollars.  Contentment means resting in peace when working really hard to pay the bills.  Contentment is enjoying the moment with my kids when dishes and laundry need to be done.  Contentment equals taking a back row seat in somebody else’s church so I can get fed and my kids can be in church even though God has called us to lead a large influential church ourselves.  Contentment means hanging onto my dreams even though they seem so far away.  Contentment when releasing control to understand unfair circumstances and grief.  Being anxious in NOTHING but by prayer and supplication, presenting my requests to God.  He promises to give peace that surpasses understanding.

Contentment means confessing John 6:35

Jesus is the Bread of Life.  I come to him and I am never hungry.  I believe in him, cleave to, trust in and rely on Him.  I am never thirsty at any time.  I am fully satisfied.

When I can confess this daily and mean it no matter my surroundings or circumstances, I have reached contentment.  In the meantime, I will enjoy my old recliner and photo albums.  And if you come to visit me, I will give you my California King and make you dinner in my Texas sized pots and pans.