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)
Contentment, Faith, Friendship, Inspiration, Leadership, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Visual Impairment

I recently found out I needed a mild prescription for reading glasses and was completely baffled and overwhelmed at all the offerings of frames there were to choose from. It reminded me of my first days of motherhood when I realised this whole world existed long before I joined the ranks. When I walked into the glasses shop and tried on a hundred pairs of frames, I thought, “Everyone who wears glasses has done this. I have never appreciated the pain of what they have gone through.” So, to all you glasses-wearing people out there, cheers to a job well done, making it happen for so many years.

My lenses brought the slightly blurry print into focus and I realised that for a few months, I had been straining to see what was clearly there all along. I had been looking through squinty dissatisfaction that what I knew was there just wouldn’t pop off the page clearly enough to be read.

My husband has needed glasses for several years now and he absolutely CANNOT see anything without them. His misplaced specs must be located before he can read homework, look at my Instagram, or check his sports scores. Without his lenses bringing into focus the world around him he is an outsider. Frustrated at what he can’t find. Trapped in his own head for what is out of reach without help.

When he slips on his Clarke Kent frames, his brow loses its furrow and he can once more connect with the world around him. He participates in the conversation; he contributes and is able to see what was always there.

We understand how two people can literally look at small print and see different things depending on the level of myopia involved. However, near-sightedness affects more than how we read the newspaper. Shortsightedness alters our very life experiences.

Wrongdoings of others cause crooked vision and if left untreated, may lead to blindness.

Prideful judgements introduce dyslexia as we swap our expectations of self for other people's intentions.

Miscommunication and an unwillingness to handle conflict breed cataracts among friends, a live lived askew.

Negativity dulls the world around us. Our vision is clouded, like driving through fog; we slow down and even stop for fear of the road ahead.

Clarity comes when we align our optics, not with physical glasses but with the One who is truly perfect. God, our almighty Creator, is the only perfect lens. Life is never perfect, but God promises that we can trust him because he overcame the world. Living a life of faith means we can’t actually see everything in front of us with clarity as we weave our own imperfect perceptions into our world. We must pause and clean off the debris blocking us from seeing Jesus in our midst. Rose coloured glasses are at our disposal if we will just put them on. It doesn’t mean we deny the pain around us, but the onus is on us to be willing to shift our perspective and view life through the 20/20 Biblical lens God has freely given us to look through each and everyday.

That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. 

2 Corinthians 5:6-7 (MSG)
Devotion, freedom, Friendship, peace, Personal Growth, relationships, Series, Uncategorized

Day 7: “Peace. Not People.”

Photo: Caique Silva

God gives us family and friends for community, support, encouragement, wisdom, fun. He wired us all differently and we each come with our own opinions, experiences and expectations. Navigating relationships is tricky on the best of days. What God means for good, the enemy loves to use to bring division, conflict and pain to our lives.

“He made me do it. It’s her fault. If only THEY would cooperate.” Blaming bosses, spouses, friends, or neighbours for your emotions and problems only gives your power away to someone else. Accusations and criticism don’t bring resolutions. You allow other people to rob you of peace and they don’t even know it. While they rest happily in their ignorance, you are tormented, angry, unforgiving. You play scenarios and pretend conversations around in your head like a bad playlist on repeat.

You might be struggling in some of your relationships right now. Your goal: to be understood, heard, loved, appreciated. Communication may seem difficult and you either can’t find the words, or your words are misconstrued, further complicating the situation and your life.

Discord is a thief to your peace.

Unfortunately, many times, resolving issues with others can be out of reach. You just don’t see eye to eye. Or, you’re so different in your approach, finding common ground is impossible. You can become discouraged and even so hurt that you withdraw, allowing yourself to miss out. Your expectations are unmet, you feel ashamed. You even question God when you’ve tried everything in your power and you just can’t find a resolution.

God wants us to live at peace; with others, yes. Ultimately, with him. You must learn to have a Godly perspective regarding people in your life, viewing them through a lens of understanding. This doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything. It means you know where they might be coming from – their pain and past hurts, their dysfunction. Hurting people hurt people.

When you feel your peace is being threatened by a relationship, you must seek God for his wisdom and pursue his ways. Remember, peace is the personhood of Jesus Christ. Keep him close and allow him to mediate the conversations in your head. He will bring clarity if not resolution. He can help you to love those who have hurt you despite their unwillingness to budge.

*Today, write down the names of anyone in your life who is causing you pain. Ask God to show you if there’s something you can do to find common ground. Forgive them. And give them over to God. He will deal with them on your behalf. The battle is not yours to fight.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
 if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:17-21 (NIV)
Fasting, peace, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Day 6: “Peace. Not Perfection.”

Artwork by: Bartosz Kosowski

Ten tiny fingers and toes, skin like velvet, total contentment with eyes closed all swaddled up in a cozy blanket: PERFECTION. Unblemished body, shiny leather, sleek and ergonomic with all the bells and whistles: FLAWLESS. Tall, dark and handsome with straight shiny white teeth, adoring eyes, and a sense of humour: IDEAL.

Some of you grew up aspiring to be the paragon of the school, the cream of the crop, the epitome of excellence and achievement. Your hard fought wins taught you that putting in effort gets you results and attention. You thrive on other’s approval, keeping order, juggling all the balls so they remain elevated at just the right height.

Perfectionism: the antagonist in this chapter on peace. Your desire to experience breakthrough during this fast is robbed when your aim is 100%. Every. Single. Day. The house must be clean. The kids must behave. The cooked meals should meet everyone’s standards. A raise at work. A good body. It goes on and on, as exhausting as walking up ten flights of stairs.

The problem with ideals beyond reach is the subtle message they send: “You’re not good enough.” Your life, your bank account, your job, your spouse, your kids, your size… measured against utopia, you have failed. When you feel you’re not enough or your life isn’t enough, you will find yourself striving, controlling, battling on every front. You’ve lost your composure and the lull of relaxation feels like guilt.

Give yourself permission today to let go. Give up your ideal and allow your present reality to suffice. You are not a problem. Comparison is a trap. The hamster wheel of achievement is hard to get off; you may feel the more you achieve the more others expect you to perform. Relax even if you know more could be done on your project, at work, in your home.

Pay attention today to the things that bring you angst and set them aside. Spend ten minutes meditating on gratefulness. Giving thanks for your current circumstances and looking for the good in yourself and others will resolve the tension in your life. God loves you just the way you are and he wants you to spend time with him, leaning into him for wisdom AND a to do list. Prioritise Jesus and HIS ways. After all, only God is immaculate, without blemish or stain. Glean from him and allow a cease-fire between your expectations and your reality today.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Proverbs 17:1 (NIV)
Fasting, Inspiration, Personal Growth, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 20: “Put It Into Practise”

intentionalEat less. Exercise more. That’s how you lose weight. Spend less, save more. Have a nest egg for retirement. Doing things with purpose means accomplishing your goals. Your time of prayer and fasting was calculated. You were intentional in your sacrifice. You spent time praying specifically over these last three weeks.

Considered meditation on the things near to your heart has brought you closer to Jesus.

Let the rest of 2018 be a continuation of the progress you have made. Keep putting into practise what you have begun. Let the nourishment you have received for your spirit propel you forward and become the floor for your next layer of growth. Exercise your spiritual muscles by concentrating on what you’ve learnt.

Don’t fall into neglect, rather launch yourself into everything God has for you.

You’re just getting started!

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practise what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies” (Philippians 4:8-9).

 

Devotion, Faith, freedom, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Day 8: “Pursue Freedom.”

freeWeek 2 of the fast hopefully finds you more rested, clear-headed and at peace. Pursuing freedom is a lifelong journey, not to be oversimplified here. However, you have hopefully identified some blockages in your life which rob you of your peace and inhibit your ability to receive God’s gift of rest.

The Holy Spirit wants to rid your life of shame, guilt, un-forgiveness, offense, anger and strife… whatever torments you or holds you back.

Today, meditate on this:

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:3-5 MSG)!

Allow the Holy Spirit to flood your life with more of his Word, an abundance of  love, additional blessings. Let your heart overflow today with worship and thanksgiving. When you see your troubles developing passionate patience in you, you can even count them as benefits. Divulge your secrets to your God. Declare victory over your past.

As you speak these things out loud in your prayer time, you’re pioneering your path to freedom.

Devotion, freedom, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Day 7: “Free From Insecurity”

free from insecurityEveryone knows a pubescent teen battles insecurities; they can own up to their self-doubt. Insecurity is a common vocabulary word in a young person’s vernacular and you empathise when an adolescent acts out. You know where it’s coming from.

When you’re all grown up (18? University graduate? Marriage? Parenthood?), it’s suddenly no longer socially acceptable to admit you’re insecure. On the contrary, it’s entirely EXPECTED that you never show weakness, that you exhaust yourself covering up your problems, and that no one knows your pain.

Women might admit they feel embarrassed in a bikini but they hardly confess how insecure they feel in bed. Men appear overconfident by dominating conversations about work yet fall silent when asked to open up about their feelings.

You cover up uncertainty by gossiping and judging… it’s so much easier to tear down others so your own short-comings are masked. You feel belittled by your wives and criticised by your fathers, so you retreat and self-medicate with porn or alcohol.

Living a life of cover-up is exhausting. Vulnerability is a scary word, one you avoid at all costs. You’re weakened by your negative self-talk and proving yourself to the world. Relaxing in your own skin is about as comfortable as a fish is out of water. You may not call it insecurity, but it is.

The opposite, (self-acceptance), stems from knowing your identity in Christ. Author and research professor Brené Brown says, “Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.” Where do you acquire love and belonging, especially if you’ve ever been rejected?

God says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. He says he has plans for your life, that you were created with a purpose uniquely yours. He loves you and says you’re created in his perfect image.

In a world longing for validity, you, as a child of God, are the legitimate and conclusive evidence of God’s love; you belong to HIS family. Your imperfections merely highlight your need for Jesus and they aren’t something to run from. There’s no greater peace than embracing the skin you’re in and loving the only you you’ll ever have.

As you go deeper with Jesus during your fast, allow vulnerability to expose your insecurities and expect God to re-define and re-align your identity.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (1 Peter 2:9-10).