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.

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)
family, Kids, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 10: “Childlike”

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift?

    the fruit of the womb his generous legacy?

Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows

    are the children of a vigorous youth.

Oh, how blessed are you parents,

    with your quivers full of children!

Psalm 127:3-4 (MSG)

The innocence of young children is precious. Watching how they stand in awe of everything around them brings wonder and beauty right into your lap. Answering “why” countless times as they seek to figure out how this world works is both exhausting and hilarious.

Children are a heritage from the Lord. They are not only your future leaders and caretakers. But, they deserve your “right now” focus and outpouring of intentionality and grace.

Kids believe they can conquer the world. They are full of hope and great ideas. They are creative and funny. They have no inhibitions when they are comfortable. It’s important to love and value the children in your life. It’s easy to pray for them and to support them because their needs are often obvious. They ask for help and articulate their fears in a way that prompts you to seek God for them.

Are you approaching Jesus with childlike faith today?

Jesus used ‘little ones’ as examples of how you should come to God. Ask yourself if you are pushing aside all your grown-up worries and sitting at the feet of Jesus, awaiting his encouragement. He will speak truth to your situation if you let him. He’s standing like a happy Father outside his car at school pick up, anticipating your endless chatter about your day. The Lord’s arms are open wide and he longs for you to climb onto his back; let him carry you.

Look at your own children with eyes that omit faults because of their innocence and purity. Then, exonerate yourself with the same respect. God is well versed in your flaws and indiscretions. And he loves you anyway.

Take the brokenness of your mistakes and the disappointment of regret and allow Jesus to put you back together. You are his precious child no matter how weathered you are with the passing of time.

*Ask God to reveal what areas of your faith are inhibited because of pride or an unwillingness to hand them over to your loving Heavenly Father. Pray for the children in your life. Ask God to heal the childhood wounds of your friends and family members. Most of all, see yourself as a cherished child of God today.

Fasting, Inspiration, Personal Growth, Prayer, Series, Uncategorized

Day 3: “Noise Cancellation”

Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

Matthew 6:6 (MSG)

Noise cancelling headphones are designed to block out ambient noise and other audible distractions. They help you focus on what you want to hear, a direct line with no distractions. You wear them when you want to disconnect from what’s happening around you. Children fighting, crowds laughing, you name it. In order to tune into what’s most important, you must disengage from everything else.

You’re on Day 3 and you’re starting to get into a better rhythm with God. You’ve severed from something in this fast, whether it’s food, television, social media. The goal is deeper connection with God, to hear him more readily because you’ve blocked out the surrounding milieu in favour of time spent with God.

You’re shifting the focus from crying out with your needs to breathing in God’s grace. No longer moving yourself along at a great rate of knots, you’re slowing down the pace. You’re re-training your ears to the tune of divine purpose and revelation. You’ve turned up the volume on positivity and truth, shutting out the lies and stresses of yesterday. You have given Jesus an all-access pass to your softened heart as you’ve pulled away some of the clutter and you’re becoming so tuned in that even his whisper can be heard now.

*Spend 15 minutes today sitting in silence before the Lord. Meditate on his word and practise the art of cancelling out the noise around you. Slow your breathing. Pay attention to your environment and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your soul.

Devotion, Fasting, peace, Prayer, Uncategorized

Day 5: “Peace. Not Problems.”

Photo: izismile.com

We all have the ability to take our minds off what’s bothering us. Unfortunately, the headaches of life are often addressed with unhealthy medication God never prescribed… alcohol, overeating, pornography, drugs, overspending. Anything to escape the reality of the obstacles you face. Retreating into Netflix, shutting others out, worrying incessantly… whether extreme or subtle, your concerns are not meant to be numbed away.

Problems can become crushing if you let them. Their roots can take hold and produce prolific weeds in your life, making the real issues hard to see. They become buried underneath the growth of unwanted tangled vines as they seek to attach themselves to your heart and soul. Strangled by their embrace, your desire to fend off these pests becomes so overwhelming you don’t know where to turn.

You may be praying and fasting around a specific dilemma you’re facing. Over these 21 days, you are rehearsing putting those issues at the foot of the cross, allowing yourself to release your grip on finding a solution and fixing what’s wrong. When you allow Jesus to lead the way, your answers will surely come. But they won’t come by avoidance; and they won’t appear through high blood pressure and angst. The solution isn’t found in self-medicating or avoidance.

Peace isn’t the absence of problems. It’s found in the person of Jesus who meets you in your struggle.

As you allow God to prune and garden your life over this time of prayer and fasting, he may expose some roots you weren’t aware of. Your vulnerability before him may feel uncomfortable or even unwanted. Remember: He comes lovingly and gently to dig down below your pain and pluck out your predicaments. What’s left behind is a tender heart, viable and strong, unmasked and unafraid of the future.

Your Heavenly Father wants to minister to you right in the midst of your quandary. Imagine yourself replacing that which you have forgone in your fast with a greater portion of your God. Be filled with more of Jesus – his presence, his peace, his promises, his problem-solving.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)
Contentment, Fasting, Prayer, Series

Day 3: “A Beautiful Exchange”

photo: starfishjourney.tumblr.com

Reciprocity is the law by which most of you live. Give and receive. Sow and reap. Work and be paid. Pray, fast… and, ahem… what’s there to gain? It’s the question on your lips; or at a minimum, in the back of your minds. What’s in it for ME?

Our expectations guide us through life. Treat others well and you’ll be treated well. Karma. We see a good person achieve something great and we say “they deserved that!” A bad one gets his due and we celebrate justice. This is why unmet expectations can throw us for a loop. They can derail us, cause us to lose faith, resent others, become bitter.

You may have entered into this time of prayer and fasting with a list of expectations, maybe even a bit of an ultimatum with God because you’re so desperate to see something shift in your life. Your hope lies in a formula with an acceptable rate of return on your investment over these three weeks.

Can I encourage you to put aside your predictions today and solely seek peace through the PERSON of Jesus? Rest at his feet and to allow yourself to receive his love and mercy as the ultimate gift, not because of anything you’ve deposited into your spiritual bank account but because of who HE is.

We are going to explore, over the coming days, areas of blockage to our peace.

But, it won’t be possible if you don’t first understand that peace isn’t a status quo to be obtained. It’s not a place you’ll suddenly arrive if you do and say mostly all the “right” things. Peace is not obtained if everyone around you cooperates a little more. It’s not even found in answered prayer or miracles.

The Prince of Peace is a person who is with you always. If you look closely at the page of your written words and requests, you’ll find him staring back at you, longing for you to trust him with your heart’s desires. No matter how major your hurdles, your peace guides you directly into your purpose and prosperity. Stop waiting for the stars to align perfectly in order for you to take your next step on the journey with Jesus. He is inviting you to come NOW.

A disciplined spiritual life, an authentic faith walk, isn’t one sans problems or difficulties. It’s not led by a Christian who never stumbles or sins. You can’t add up 2 good deeds plus 1 act of forgiveness minus 2 stuff ups and get 1 perfect life.

Jesus promises you ONE thing: in this life you WILL have trouble but he also promises you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Matthew 6:30-33
Inspiration, Personal Growth, Uncategorized

Mile Two

go extra mileA recent MYER customer service experience blew me away when my question about a size 10 white blouse turned into conversation about  where I was planning to wear said blouse. After sussing out my style, the trendy young associate gave me ideas for other outfit combos, escorted me to the dressing room and even found some heels in the shoe department to try on with her suggestions. She made shopping fun and certainly went “the extra mile!”

When I envisage “going the extra mile,” I hear my CrossFit coach, Carl, encouraging me to get in an extra set if I want “gains!” I think of excellence in standards, generosity of spirit, an “over-and-above” attitude.

 

The opposite sentiment asks “do we have to” and, “what are the minimum standards?”

Extrinsic motivation for fear of retribution.

Jesus, in Matthew, instructs us this way: “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Jesus referenced an ancient Persian custom of using couriers to deliver letters or important news, one with which his audience would have been familiar. The King’s personal courier held absolute power to enlist whatever help he needed to fulfil the task at hand. For example, he might not only ask to use your horse to deliver his message, but he could also demand you come with him; and, if you refused, you could be punished, even put to death! That would certainly motivate you to get moving!

All of us do things because we HAVE to; however, Jesus was speaking about attitude.

He was saying, “Don’t merely do what’s asked of you because you know if you don’t, you’ll be punished.” Sure, do what’s asked of you. Please.

And then, do a little bit more.

Go above and beyond in your effort with no expectation of a reward. It’s a “Wow, I can’t believe we GET to…” attitude driven by personal satisfaction, intrinsic motivation. Anticipation of fulfilment despite any tangible payoffs.

In the second mile, the one that isn’t required, fatigue sets in. You might start questioning why you’re there in the first place. You look back at what you’ve already done and if you’re not careful, martyrdom sets in:

POOR ME!

WHY ME?

DOES ANYONE EVEN NOTICE ME????

You look at other people and how little THEY’RE doing and you tell yourself how amazing YOU are in comparison and it’s enough to stop you short.

It’s HARD… this whole staying-the-course, second mile thing.

So, how do you fulfil the expectation Jesus has for you, going not just one mile, but two? Ratcheting up a level with joyful willingness? Expectancy?

Well, you don’t quit. When the pressure builds and odds seem like they are stacked against you, dig deep. Find your true strength, what you’re really made of. Don’t hold back. Cry out to heaven and ask for help. Push through the pain and remember that nothing good ever comes without a fight.

If the going is getting tough in your job, your marriage, your church, (your workouts), don’t retreat. Don’t entertain giving up. Don’t let a bad attitude, doubt, offence, or fear cause you to throw in the towel.

Your best days are ahead and if you’re struggling to stick with it, you put one foot in front of the other and press into the strength that only comes from seeking God.

He will sustain you. After all, he has all the answers. He laid out a path before you and his plans are worth fighting for. But, you’ll only find out if you keep going.

“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Philippians 3:13-14 MSG).