Thursday, December 9, 2010

How can we receive what God's giving us if our hands are already full?

God wants to give us good things. His gifts of grace, forgiveness, blessings and love are freely overflowing. All we need to do is ask, and we will receive. He's not a mean God, he doesn't even make us work for it. That's the amazing thing about Grace.

Sometimes it doesn't seem like we're getting anything though. We may be asking, but we think God isn't delivering, because we don't feel the love, our lives are still going downhill, or no prayers seem to be getting answered.

Sometimes we need to be patient and wait on God and his timing.

But sometimes, God is waiting for us. Waiting for us to realise he's answered, he is giving, but we aren't taking it. Sometimes our hands are so full of other things, things not from God that we have no room to receive what he is giving.

Almost a soon as we realise what it is we're holding on to that's taking up space, as soon as we let go of it and give it up, God's blessings can pour in.

A while ago, I was in a relationship that wasn't good for me. It wasn't going anywhere for a whole lot of reasons but I was afraid to let go of it because I feared being alone again. So I was clinging to it desperately, while asking God to help me with it. I thought he wasn't answering since nothing improved in the relationship.

God was answering, I just wasn't receiving. Until one day, I finally gave in to God's prompting and let go of the relationship. Not only did I feel almost instant peace, but it was just about the very next day that I met the man who is now my husband!

My hands were full of my own ideas for a relationship. As soon as I gave that up to God, he gave me the gift I needed. (My husband's name - Matthew - actually means 'Gift from God')

More recently I have been considering job changes. I have been a teacher for three years but have not been feeling satisfied with it. It's a scary thing to change careers, especially when the new career options are not nearly so secure or certain or comfortable.

But I felt God's promptings in my heart, and I finally made the decision to resign from my permanent, secure job even though I had no idea what next year would hold. I just felt like God wanted me to be available if something came up, and I knew I wouldn't have the flexibility to do that if I was in a permanent job.

Not long after I made this decision, but enough time for me to begin to worry and doubt, God provided. God gave, and I was free to receive because I had trusted him and let go. Now I am going to be the Christian Pastoral Support Worker (formerly known as Chaplain) at the High School I was previously teaching at. It's an exciting new role and something I can clearly see God in.

Over the last two days I attended training workshops for this job, and there I saw clearly many examples of people letting things go, freeing up their hands to receive God's gifts and plan.

One man's story stood out to me. He gave up his house and job in a much more prosperous position to move across the state to a tiny town and apply for the CPSW position at a school with only 7 children. Worlds away from what he was doing and much, much less secure and certain, he had the faith give up a life lived for himself for a life lived for God. I am excited to hear about the blessings I am sure are coming his way in whatever God has in store for him.

You may not need to give up everything in your life as you know it, it may just be small. It could be leaving one job, to be open to something more fulfilling. It could be letting go of a relationship to grow or find a new one. It could be letting go of bitterness or unforgiveness to receive healing for your heart.

But whatever you hear God asking you to let go of, you can be sure whatever he is waiting to give you is far more important and wonderful. We often hold onto things through fear. Fear of being alone, fear of not having enough money, fear of not being in control, fear or what others will think. It may not feel safe and secure or even comfortable sometimes, but you can be assured that God is Good! He does not send you out to do his plans then leave you there all alone to fend for yourself.

God is good.

Psalm 103: 5 He fills my life with good things.

John 1:16 From his abundance we have received one gracious blessing after another.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Body Image and Self Worth (Video)

It breaks my heart to see people, especially girls, with low self-esteem and no sense of their self worth. We get so influenced by the world and what we're told is important that we start to see that as the truth and define ourselves by the worlds standards, and by comparing ourselves to other people.

The problem with those standards is that they are not real, and so never achievable. And they miss the point of what's really important.

We feel inadequate because of our looks, appearance, weight, clothes....because we've come to believe that those things are important in who we are.

Your clothes change, fashions change, beauty fades... None of these things last, and none of these things are what God really cares about.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, ...Rather, it should be that of your inner self,
the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

1 Peter 3:3-4

If you are feeling bad about yourself as a person because of the way you look then you need to redefine what makes a person valuable and worth something.

To God you are precious! Infinitely valuable! So valuable he sent is son to die for YOU!

He didn't say - Are you too fat? Are you wearing hand me downs instead of the latest fashion? Are your eyes too close together or is your nose too big?

He said - I knew you before you were born. I knit you together in your mothers womb. I have plan and a purpose for you. I created you especially and then sent my son to die for you, because I love you!!!

You are a child of God. A precious daughter. Let God fill your heart with the assurance of your worth in him and then the outside stuff will fade away.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's Eternity that really matters...

This morning driving to work I got a realisation - one of those moments when something you've known in your head all your life suddenly becomes crystal clear and make sense in your heart.

Eternity is what really matters.

I was listening to music and just got to the line
"Care less you think if I'm dope.
I could have the freshest rhyme flow.
I could have the dopest live show.
Without Him, don't mean a thing, so...." (Do Yo Thang - KJ-52)

Now, never mind if you life aspiration is not to be a rapper and be 'dope' with a 'fresh flow' and 'dope live shows'....the point of it is, all our aspirations and life goals don't mean a thing without God.

Eternity is what really matters.

We get so caught up in the business and busyness of living our day to day lives that I think we often forget this vital point.

We can't take it with us. The things we strive for on earth are really insubstantial, temporary and fleeting. We worry so much about them, but in the end we can't take it with us. We might work all our lives and store up fame, money, possessions coming out our ears - but then we die and what does it all count for then? That's when we have to deal with eternity - then all that stuff we had on earth really means nothing.

And yet we worry so much about our physical lives, and spend so much of our time focussing on them.

It must be so much worse for those who don't believe in God and don't know there is an eternity waiting for them. Acquiring things, searching for something to make them happy, fulfilled - to make life seem meaningful consumes us. And destroys us.

Because there is NOTHING in our earthly life that can make life meaningful. Anything , no matter how good it my seem to us, without God it is worthless. Pointless. Empty.

It's like when you have a bad nights sleep because you were tossing and turning worrying about things, and all things you had to get done the next day were even invading your dreams. You wake up in the morning feeling anxious and stressed and overwhelmed.

Then, when the bad dreams dissolve away, when you actually look clearly at what you have to get done, or at the problems you were worried about, they turn out to be not so bad.

In the middle of the night all our worries are amplified because we're half asleep, thoughts become large and all out of perspective in dream land, and we're consumed with it because there's nothing else to think about but our problems.

The night time is like life on earth - it's right in front of us, dominating our thoughts. And so those daily things become everything. But we forget what we should be really focussing on.


It's like waking up. And then everything falls back into perspective and we see what really matters. This life is temporary - we're visitors here. Our real life is when we are with Him in heaven for eternity.

Sleeping to waking.
Sleep walking to living.

Death to LIFE.

When I was younger I used to imagine that the life I thought I was living was really one big dream, and one day I was going to wake up into my real life. I'd wake up and find that my real life was completely different to the one I had thought I was living while I was actually dreaming.

It wasn't until later that I realised that my childish imagination wasn't so far off the truth!

What are you storing up for yourself? Are life's troubles, the world's goals and aims, possessions, money...are these things consuming your thoughts, taking your eyes off the real goal?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6: 19-21

When you 'wake up' and find that all the physical things around you that you thought were so important have disappeared, what is going to be left? A fleeting memory of an insubstantial life and whole pile of 'stuff' that is now worthless. Or the comfort, and peace, and real, lasting joy of a relationship with God, no matter how difficult or troubled the path was.

'There your heart will be also'. When we see everything in the light of Heaven, our troubles and worries on earth seem so small. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things on earth become strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace." (My favourite hymn). So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. 1 Peter 1:6

Don't conform, be transformed. (Romans 12:2) Don't worry that everyone else is concerned and consumed with worldly things. You don't want to miss out on eternity with God because you were too worried about fitting in for a few years on earth.

So, in the words of KJ-52, 'Care less you think if I'm dope....Without God it don't mean a thing, so bring it....Go ahead and just do yo thang'.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Can't Get Out of Bed Sequel: I'm out, now what?

See the first video here, if you're not at the out of bed stage yet.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Behold I am doing a new thing!

I've always been fairly independent, and haven't formed strong attachments or friendships over my life. And while some of it was a protection mechanism, so I didn't feel the pain of certain things, I've always felt there was a reason for it - because I did end up moving around and bit, and was able to do that without the pain and trouble it would have been to be leaving people behind every time if I was really attached to a place or to a circumstance.

There is a time for everything. Sometimes we are meant to be settled, sometimes we are meant to be challenged.

I have recently been living in a place in the country that is away from family and friends in the city. For a long time I didn't like it. Because we went back and forth to the city, and I travelled between two towns for work, I felt isolated. I wasn't in the city to be involved with my friends, and I wasn't really a part of either town community since I travelled between them.

I struggled with this isolation, until one day God revealed to me what it was. I was reading about the Israelites in the wilderness - they were in training for what was to come and weren't ready to go into the promised land yet. I always feel the Israelites are an example for us, or a metaphor for us; this time I felt like God was telling me that where I was living and what I was going through was the wilderness and I was in training.

In the wilderness the Israelites had no-one to rely on but God. Just like I had no-one to rely on but God. We weren't going to Church or Small group, we didn't have any Christian friends around us, or family. I couldn't rely on any one else for what I needed spiritually  but God. I wasn't being spoon fed my faith anymore. I needed to flex my own spiritual muscle, so to speak. And for me, for that time, it was an important lesson to learn.

Then we bought some land and started building a house closer to the city again. I went through a period of doubt, thinking if God had just told me that I was out here in the 'wilderness' for a reason, was I really meant to be building a house and settling down somewhere instead of continuing to wander in the desert?

A time for everything, though. God reassured me that this would be a good thing at the right time -
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens, marry and have sons and daughters; seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you.  Jeremiah 29:5-7

But, as usual, things didn't happen the way I expected. We haven't yet moved there, and won't for a little while still. For a while I felt despondent, asking God why he was leaving me out here in the wilderness when all I wanted was for him to use me somewhere .

This time I got a different answer: Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a roadway in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

He was saying, open your eyes. Can you not see what I am doing here?

I'm often pulled up for being impatient and looking further into the future than I need to. (Something I wrote about here.) So things are happening now, but I am still away from family and friends, and may be for a while longer.

But I am also assured that God has a plan. Separation from people is sometimes part of that plan, even when we don't understand it. And when we are separated or isolated, even if it doesn't feel like a good thing, God always provides.

He provided for Israelites in the wilderness  and he didn't leave them out there alone. He provided for all their needs. He will provide for you and lead you where he wants you to go. I will go before you. Isaiah 45:2

What he asks from us is obedience, and to follow him. Don't be like the Israelites who would forget God's many blessings and the things they were learning, and focus only on the hardships. Look forward to what is to come - the promised land. And recognise what God is teaching you now.

It's not easy - the Israelites who had God right there with them as a physical presence even seemed to forget about him....we need to work on our daily relationship with him so that we don't so the same.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Me or the Dog (aka Learning to live in Boundaries)

People don't like to me made to do things they aren't interested in, or is not fun or pleasant. But sometimes things are vitally important in challenging us to grow, develop character and become a multidimensional person.

More and more in schools I am seeing young people who are one dimensional. And that one dimension is often not very pleasant. They've never been disciplined or made to do things. They know if they throw a tantrum they can get out of things or get whatever they want. They run away from the things they don't like. It doesn't make them happy people. It doesn't make them fun to be around. And it doesn't help them become good adults.

Even in school now, students less and less have to do subjects they don't like. There is more and more flexibility, but less and less responsibility or challenge.

This assignment's too hard for you? We'll change it. Didn't pass year 8, 9 or 10? Never mind, you can still go up to year 11. If you find that too hard, we'll adapt everything until it's so simple you can't help but pass.

And I'm not blaming any one person, group or system. It is the way society has become and we're all just swept along in the flow.

Where's the natural consequences? If you're lazy and don't try at anything, you'll fail. People won't always be there to rescue you or bail you out. That's what life is like, but we're not teaching them that.

I'm all for finding other pathways, and don't think that getting an education has to all come from school and university. But I also think that if a students wants to take a different pathway, that needs to come from them. They should be learning determination and self-motivation, not "If I yell at teachers and skip school and don't try on my assignments, I can get out of it all and someone else will find me a job."

And unfortunately, because we are all part of this, often life won't even teach them the lessons they need. So many people somehow cruise through life with someone always bailing them out or manipulating things to go their way. I think we often feel guilty, like we've failed these people, so if we just keep fixing things for them they'll be alright eventually. They might survive life, at least for a while, and think it's great.

But they won't be happy. And they won't make the people around them happy. They'll think they are for a while at least. But anything that focuses on the self - on selfishness, personal gain, and "me, me, me", leads only to self-destruction.

They say that dogs are happiest when they have clear rules to follow, know the consequences and have a clear place in the 'pack' - not when they are coddled, and spoilt and treated like babies. Have you not seen those dog training shows? It's Me or the Dog, or the Dog Whisperer.

Where does the responsibility lie? In the dog shows, it's rarely that they've just got a crazy dog - the problem is that the owners need training.

With this case we aren't dogs, so obviously some of it lies in the young people to learn to take responsibility for their own lives. But before that, it lies in the people with the job of teaching them how to do that - that's all of us.

Parents need to be less concerned with being friends with their children, and more concerned with making sure there children become rounded people. They need to instil in their children a sense of self-worth and value and love and compassion. Then whatever circumstances children face, they will be more equipped to deal with it. And less likely to be a pain along the way!

We are happier with clear boundaries and a clear place in the world. With an absence of rules and structure, we may think we're happy and free for a while, but too much freedom becomes a prison of its own. We always end up searching for something to fill the space. We look for something to define us, and end up being consumed and controlled by that thing. And anything other than God goes nowhere good.

We drive people away, we lose our joy, we lose the real things that make us who we are and become that one dimensional shell of who we were created by God to be.

Whether you are having trouble setting boundaries in the lives of those you are responsible for (parents with children), or have grown up without someone setting any boundaries for you (broken homes), or have just rebelled against the boundaries that were set for you (against parents, or against God) it's not too late.

My burden is light - God's boundaries, God's rules - they may seem challenging. We may have to do things we don't like, or don't think we're good at. He will discipline us when we do things wrong. But his burden is light. I don't think this means it's easy to carry all the time - it means that the outcome is worth anything we go through. It doesn't weigh us down and crush us. Carrying his burden ultimately leads us to more joy, fullness, happiness and freedom that we can imagine or ever hope to find in any other source.

Throw off everything you've piled onto your own back - it will crush you - and ask God to replace it.

Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Galations 6:7-8 ...You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

Proverbs 3: 11-12 My child, don't reject the Lord's discipline, and don't be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

And pretty much read all of proverbs....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's your frame of reference?

Your brain is an amazing thing in the way it helps us to make sense of everything around us. What we see, much of that detail is filled in by the brain so that we don't have to physically take in everything at once.

For eaxpmle I tinhk you can sitll raed tihs eevn thguoh the letetrs are all mxied up. Because the brain sees a whole, and fills in the details from what we remember. I notice it all the time when I try and read through my own writing - I miss the mistakes because I see what I intended to be there, not the mistakes that actually are there.

The brain doesn't like things that don't fit. Like looking at an optical illusion like the never ending staircase - look too long and your brain hurts because you know it's just not actually possible. Sometimes, however, that means our minds invent details that aren't there to make sense of something. Our brains construct a view of life.

For example, on my drive to work there is this part in the road where I am approaching a bend in the distance. Several times I've looked up there and thought I saw light reflecting of the white roof of what looks like a police car. It isn't - it is actually the gap through the branches of a tree - the light coming through against the dark branches in a slightly police car shape - up close it looks nothing like a police car. But from distance it doesn't look like a gap - so my brain wants fill in details and see a police car that isn't actually there.

Another time I was driving on a different road, still in the country, when up ahead something nearly made me have a heart attack. I had just seen a few minutes before what looked like a dead brown snake on the road. Now up ahead, for a moment, I could swear it looked like there was a giant python curled up in the middle of the road. Never mind that the thought is ridiculous. Never mind that there aren't exactly many pythons roaming free in South Australia. But for a second my brain, wanting to make sense of the unusual shape in front of me, saw a giant python. Only a second, and then I realised how silly it was.

And then up close I saw what it actually was - a man's flannel patterned shirt crumpled on the road. Up close it looked nothing like a python. Just a shirt.

(In my defence, the shirt did have a snake-ish pattern on it.)

Our brain is amazing - filling in details & making sense of things is an important function and helps us to see and understand the world around us. But sometimes that causes us to see things that aren't there. If we didn't have a frame of reference - such as knowing how unlikely it is to see a python in the middle of the road in South Australia - or the ability to get up close and check what we saw, then those false details become real to us and we believe them.

It's funny the conclusions we jump to....police cars & snakes.

The negative things. We see snakes and police around every corner waiting to get us when we look at the world as our frame of reference.

I was on the highway and have seen police there before making me worry and hope I wasn't speeding, so I see police everywhere. I see a snake on the road and remember the dangers in the bushes, and suddenly see a giant snake in the middle of the road.

What's your frame of reference? We're surrounded by a lot of negative things and sometimes those things become the standard we use to make sense of everything else.

Like when we're home alone and every shadow moves in the corners in the shape of a murderer because we watched that horror movie - or just the news. Like when we feel worthless because of one or two people who bullied us. When we think in stereotypes because we have fictional movies to compare life to. When we mistrust and dislike everyone because we take our view of the world from Today Tonight or Jerry Springer.

When something new comes along, something that seems unusual, our brain fills in the details from what it knows. When snakes and police (or lies, fears, prejudices...) fill our minds, they then also fill our view of life.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

What fills your mind? Is it the lies, perversions and misconceptions of the world? Or is it the love, the word and the truth of God?

This doesn't mean looking at the world with rose coloured glasses, and glossing over the bad things that do exist. We can see them, like recognising when there really is a snake and we shouldn't go near it. But knowing snakes exist shouldn't make us afraid to leave the house. The problems in life shouldn't make us despair and feel out of control, or feel anxious and depressed, or make us forget about what is good in life. Or make us take our eyes off God.

It means having an accurate frame of reference - a moral compass, a conscience, or in other words the Word of God & the Holy Spirit - so when new things come along, your brain fills in details from God, not your own brain.

Tame the Tongue

Whoever said "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" was in denial. Words hurt. Our speech has power.

Part 2 of my Trials of Teenage life series based on:

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Bible verses used in this video, plus a few extras:

James 3  - words are powerful, like a spark starting forest fire, and like a small rudder steering a huge ship, our speech can direct the course of our lives.

When we speak a lot, and without thinking, we're going to say things that get us into trouble or hurt others.

Proverbs 10:11 & 19
 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life....

When words are many, sin is not absent,
       but he who holds his tongue is wise. 

Don't listen to the people who are 'shouting' in your life - the wisdom often comes in more quiet package.

Ecclesiastes 9:17 
The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
       than the shouts of a ruler of fools.

We can't take back the things we say - once it's said, it's out there and we'll have to deal with the consequences.

MAT 12:36  But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of
judgment for every careless word they have spoken.

Our words show what's in our hearts and minds:
Matthew 12: 33-37 (Message version)

 "If you grow a healthy tree, you'll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you'll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree. "You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It's your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Virtual Jellybeans & Right Company

This verse was on my mind this week from the message we heard (watched) on Youtube this sunday - isn't it great how when you can't go to Church you can at least bring part of the church to you.

But it was discussing the verse that I've chosen for my memory verse this week, - 1 Corinthians 15:33 - and it really struck home with me. It has been a issue for me my whole life - choosing who I spend my time with, and the influence of some poor choices.

Recently I have made some decisions to spend less time with certain people, because I recognised that when I was with them I was gossiping and talking negatively about others, and I didn't want to do that.

It is difficult to talk about this topic sometimes without sounding elitist and like I'm looking down my nose at others who aren't as 'good' as me - but I want to make it clear that it's not that at all.

In the case of me gossiping too much, it wasn't the people I was with causing me to gossip - I was choosing to do that, and in some cases initiating it. But it was being with people that didn't discourage it, and would join in, that gave me a sense of freedom to say things I wouldn't say with other people.

So in many cases is not that others make us act in ways contrary to what we know God wants from us - it's often that what is permissable, allowable or approved with some people lets us act in different ways.

It is not to say you are meant to shun anyone - but think about who you are allowing close enough to have influence in your life.

If you are committed to walking with God, and living the life that he has set out for us, then it is much more beneficial to closely surround ourselves with people who point us in the right direction; people who have the same values and morals and beliefs as those we are aiming to live by; people who won't pull away from where we want to be, but will pull us up when we stray.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Link: Abide in God's Love

Every day I get an email devotional from Christian Women Today. It's always good to read, but sometimes the articles speak straight to me, like today.

I can't reprint the whole thing so the link is above. This was my favourite bit and something that I'm sure we all relate to:

"We ask ourselves this question:  “Am I worthy?” It torments our minds. The enemy steals that place of resting in the love of God and takes away any hope that God loved us while we were yet sinners.  It’s not about whether we are worthy, but about His nature and who God is."

This topic is definitely a theme in my life at the moment - but then again, shouldn't it be a theme in everyones? We all need reminding of how perfect, and deep and fundamental God's love is!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Don't Underestimate God's Plans!

When I started this blog, and even my YouTube videos, I really had no idea what I was going to do with them. I didn't really have any aspirations of people being interested, but I just felt like I wanted to express myself.

To have even a few people watch and read has been amazing. And to surprise myself that I actually have something worthwhile to say has been great!

I've always thought my life experience should be used to help other people, but I had no idea God was going to bless me along the way too. The last blog post, about people driving you crazy, was prompted by a girl I don't personally know seeking my advice.

At first I had no idea what to write - everything else I've written has just sort of come to me in prayer and Bible reading, not from someone requesting something, especially not knowing much detail about her situation. But I prayed about it, and then lying in bed one night I thought of a couple of Bible verses, and then the whole blog post sort of wrote itself in my head.

The next morning I wrote it and posted it.

The girl who requested it messaged me and said that God had spoken to her about her situation through my words, and that's an amazing feeling. Not that I'm so clever and wise - I know what I said was definitely from God, and I didn't come up with it on my own. I feel so blessed that God would use me to speak into someone elses life. I feel so happy for the girl who got something out of my post, and so humbled and loved that God would use me to do it!

We can all be used by God, daily in small ways to bless the lives of others - those around us or even those we've never met. But we're not just an empty shell, a puppet while God pulls the strings. We have to make ourselves available and ready to be used! I am sure that if I hadn't been taking the time to pray and read the Bible, and make myself ready for God to use me, then he would have found some other way to bless that girl's life.

He doesn't NEED us to carry out his plans - he'll do it no matter what. But it's a wonderful thing to be part of God's plans, so we want to make sure we're ready when he calls us to something, big or small!

I have a terrible habit of underestimating his plans, though. I like to know what's going on in life, have it set out so I can see where I'm heading, make sense of things. The thing with God is, though, that his ways are so much bigger than ours that we'll never be able to see the whole picture while we're here on earth.

So when God starts doing things, I start trying to fit all the pieces into my own puzzle. I'll recognise God doing something, then say 'Aha! That's what he's doing. ALright, off I go." and then I'll try and run away with it in my own direction.

Many times God has pulled me up and said, "Not yet. There's more to come. This is just the beginning."

Don't underestimate His plans - his picture is far bigger, far more detailed, and far more amazing than anything we can create ourselves. When we think we've finally worked out what it is he's doing, he'll probably surprise us with something bigger.

My ideas of what he might be doing have readjusted so many times - so now instead of trying to see ten steps ahead, I'm taking it one step at a time. When I look back, I can see so many little steps I didn't even know where happening at the time, leading me to a different place than I imagined. But a far better place!

Take encouragement. God is in control. Sometimes he doesn't show us everything because he knows we'll trip ourselves up. But he will lead you. He will make your paths straight. He will light your path.

And what he's got in store, if we'll let Him take us there, is far better than anything you've imagined.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When People Drive You Crazy

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Mark 12:30-31

The two greatest commandments are Love God. And Love your neighbour as yourself.

That doesn't just mean the people you like, or the ones that are nice to you.

The people in our lives aren't always going to lift us up, encourage us or even like us. But that doesn't mean they weren't put there for a reason. It could be a family member, someone you work with, even friends aren't always what we want them to be.

But before you get angry or frustrated again, before you try to cut them out of your life thinking how much easier it would be if they weren't in it - think about what purpose they might be serving.

I always love the thought, 'be careful what you ask God for' - if you ask him to make you more patient, he probably won't go, 'zap' you're more patient - he'll probably let you go through a challenging situation that teaches you to be patient through experience!

We are like uncut diamonds, still caked in dirt and rough. The people we come across, especially those who grate against us, can often do us the most benefit. Sometimes that person who we can't stand is there to teach us tolerance, or patience, or compassion. And we are in their lives to show God's love.

“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

Before you come across this person again, pray for them - but not "God, please make this person stop being so annoying!" - Bless them. Find something about them to thank God for. Or at least ask God to show you what you can learn from the situation.

There's a quote I read that said 'Have you ever asked God to change someone else, only to have him say "Well, you're here now. Why don't we start with you." There are a lot of things in life that we put on other people, when really it lays within ourselves. We don't have control over how anyone else acts or behaves. We only have control over ourselves. When you forgive someone, it's not really for them. It's so that you aren't eaten up and destroyed by harbouring those negative feelings. When you bless others, God blesses us in return.

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Matthew 5: 44-48

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Luke 6:27-28

It's one of the hardest things in life, to love the people who you don't even like! But God loved us first, even when we were unworthy.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

And it's not all off our own backs - the love we have for others comes from God. Ask him every day to help you see other's through his eyes! It's a daily challenge, I know!! But he'll help you.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Driving with Matt & Jessie

We regularly travel back and forth since we live a few ours from the city. Sometimes that drive gets we have a little fun with it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What a naked woman in National Geographic taught me...

Look in a National Geographic magazine every now and again, chances are you will see some naked people.  For these people, they are not being rude or provocative - that's just how they dress. A woman with her boobs exposed is just a woman. She's got a grass skirt on, she's fully dressed.

It shows you that things aren't inherently sinful - it's the way we look at them.

It's like alcohol - for some people they may like to have an occasional drink socially or with meals, and they would be fine with that. For others, even having one drink would be the road back to destruction if alcohol dependency is a problem for that person.

So whether it's alcohol, money, sex, shopping, movies... These things aren't automatically evil - they can be good or bad things depending on how they are used. And depending on where our hearts are when we use them.

So does that mean we can do whatever we like, as long as it's not a problem for us?

Not exactly - even if it's not something that God has commanded against, like cold-blooded murder, we shouldn't do anything just because we can. If we take the naked people in other cultures as an example - Just because they do it there and it's fine, still doesn't mean we'd do it here.

Walking around without clothes on here is considered rude, provocative and illegal. Here it would offend people and make us uncomfortable, shocked or embarrassed. And if we did it knowing we would get these reactions then we're not doing anyone a favour.

Its the same with everything else. First of all you are accountable to God - so you need to be sure you are right with him.  Nothing is totally inherently evil, but nothing everything is worthwhile either. And secondly, we should be caring about how we are affecting other people. We want to build each other up, not cause others to stumble exercising our right to do what we like.

1 Corinthains 10:23-24 & 32
I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. ... Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God-

1 Corinthians 8:13
So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live--for I don't want to cause another believer to stumble.

Why Did God Make Us?

Sorry for the regular changes in video quality. New camera, and still trying to work out the best way to do it. Hope the message still comes across, even if the picture isn't great :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How can we know God's Will?

God's will is not some impossible puzzle - often we do just have to trust Him and won't be able to see everything, nor should we try to sometimes because we just trip ourselves up - but he does give us everything we need to be able to move with Him and follow his plan for our lives. He is not sending us out in a dark maze without a map or a light.

So how are we meant to find our way?

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

His word is our guide. But it's not much good if we don't know it, or if we don't have that relationship with God for Him to show us how to use that light! God's word is not a big, dry rule book or instruction manual. It is living, alive, like running water!

Want to know my (somewhat imperfect) analogy for the difference between knowing vs understanding God's will? Not just for women, even though I've put it in my Women series. 

Verses I used in the video:

For the word of God is LIVING and active. Hebrews 4:12 

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of LIVING water.' John 7:37-38

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What babies are there in your bathwater?

I am quite a stubborn person. Once I've made my mind up about something there's not much that can change it. Its not a trait I'm very proud of - it means when I really don't want to do something, nothing can make me do it; that can be a stumbling block when it's something I should be doing, and when it comes to surrendering to God.

I've spent a long time feeling guilty for my negative traits, and trying to rid myself of them completely. When that wasn't working, I realised I was trying to throw away too much.

Like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

My stubbornness may get in the way of things at times, but at others it protects me. I don't succumb to other people's doubt of me. If others question or discourage my faith or my beliefs, I can stick it out and I cling stubbornly to God.

A lot of things in our personality have two sides to them. Everything is God given, it's just how we use it.

What's motivating your choices?

    No wonder we don't like exercise sometimes...a lot of the time.
    What we look like eating cake...
    What we look like exercising...

    But we tend to focus on the instant gratification. Cake is instantly gratifying. Exercise is instantly painful. It's easy to see which one we'd go for - IF we're only thinking of the short term.
    What about later on.
    Choosing cake every time....
    Pursuing a healthy life and putting in the work...
    Now, you may never in your life actually go and frolick in the fields or leap along the beach with a giant white-toothed smile on your face. But there's a reason these are the types of pictures always use to represent health and happiness.
    Because even if you're not leaping on the outside, it shows that energy and joy that you feel on the inside.
    Now, your cake vs exercise may be something else:
    Cake = alcohol, sex, watching TV, driving fast, dropping your clothes on the floor instead of the washing basket....
    Exercise = waiting until marriage, tidying up after yourself, telling the truth even if it gets you in trouble, making time for God....
    Keep the long term in mind. Eat cake - metaphorically or literally. But don't do it just because you're using it to feel better in the moment. There's a time and a place for "cake".

Saturday, October 30, 2010

God made Adam by breathing into the dirt

You've got to say that title in your best rapper voice because it's the lyrics to Hands High by Lecrae.

But beyond that, I just had a thought getting out of the shower this morning. It's always those random times when the best thoughts come to me. God likes to catch me when I'm off guard and my head is not as full of all my own stuff.

Genesis 2:7 says "the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being."

You could take that several ways..."so, what - human beings are just a pile of dirt then? Gee, thats encouraging.."

Or it can remid you of what's really important. Our earthly bodies are temporary and will eventually turn back to the dust they were made of. But, whatever we're told in Biology, it is not really our bodies that give us life. The blood, our heart beating, our brain firing, our lungs inflating....that's all just physical, temporary, and easily lost.

God breathed into us the breath of life... that REAL life from God. His breath, his word, his life is infused in us. It is enternal.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life - John 3:36


That word should take on a completely different meaning for us.

"Life is hard."
"Life is short."
"I should have achieved more by this stage of my life..."

We think of life as just the physical act of being alive, or as just the passing of time as we get older and go through stages.

Thinking of it that way, enternal life doesn't really seem like such a great prospect. An enternity of struggles, expectations and falling short of dreams.

But the LIFE from God - that's an entirely different and an entirely more inspiring and exciting concept.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:6

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you...  - 1 Peter 1:3-4

If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. - John 7:37-38

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. - Colossians 3:2-3

God.... made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. - Ephesians 2:5

When the thoughts of 'life is hard', 'whats the meaning of it all?' come creeping in, read these verses, and all of Gods living word. Let him breathe again his breath of life into you heart, mind and spirit. Set your eyes on him and remember what and Who it is you are really living for...and what that LIFE really means.

It is nothing to do with out physical selves and all to do with Christ in us

Read the whole verse of Ephesians 2:1-10 

And how do we claim this life?

My son, pay attention to what I say;
       listen closely to my words.
 21 Do not let them out of your sight,
       keep them within your heart;
 22 for they are life to those who find them
       and health to a man's whole body.
 23 Above all else, guard your heart,
       for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:20-23

The Message version:

Learn It by Heart
 Dear friend, listen well to my words;
   tune your ears to my voice.
Keep my message in plain view at all times.
   Concentrate! Learn it by heart!
Those who discover these words live, really live;
   body and soul, they're bursting with health.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Knowing vs Understanding. From the Inside Out

Romans 12:2  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When God's word comes from within us, when it is hidden in our hearts, when it is an ingrained part of us - that is when we live in God's will. That's when we don't need to come to a crisis or a crossroads and cry out "Now, tell me what to do God!" - because we've already been walking with him daily.
The Bible is more than giant rule book imposing itself on our lives - God is more than a task master, shouting orders from the sky.

When we think of it that way, we're inclined to buckle under the pressure - to one day shout, "I give up, God. All this is too hard. I need a break from feeling like my life never lives up to your standards." I've done that before. It took me a long time to realise, however, that it wasn't God applying that pressure to me, it was my own created perception of God.

God was actually there saying, "I love you. You're my child. My precious daughter. I love you. I'm right here - take my hand. I can carry you through this storm."

But I didn't even notice that loving God - I was too busy seething at my own image.

God is also more than an emergency contact, just there when things get crazy and we can't do it ourselves any more. Because the fact is, we can't do anything ourselves. It might seem to work for a while, but eventually we are going to realise that everything we are doing is leading us down a futile path.

How much better to walk with Him daily - to include Him in every step we take, so that our steps are in line with His - so that when he moves, we are right there to move along with Him.

Trials of a Teenage Life

 "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

I used to see that verse as an excuse, a free pass to validate my rebellious youth. "I'm young - don't you dare look down on me!" Reading it now I don't see that in there at all, but we all see what we want to see when it works for us. Now I see it as an admonishment, an instruction - as it was for Timothy.

I want to explore what it really means.

I had an interesting teenage-hood. I made a lot of mistakes, I can tell you, and from some of those choices I'm still cleaning up the wreckage. Mine is definitely a what-not-to-do in a lot of cases.

I would really like to share that with people as a warning beacon, as advice, and as encouragement that it's a hard time of life and you're not alone in struggling with it. Or just someone to look at and say to yourself, "Phew, I'm doing better than that at least!"

If you want to hear about my story, for whatever it's worth, there'll be videos coming soon on YouTube and I'll post links to them here.It will probably have a girl focus, because I'm a girl and that's all I know, but I'm sure things in it will apply to everyone. And boys, we know you like to read Dolly or Cosmo every now and then just to see what us girls are all about, so this can be for you too :)

I promise it will be more meaningful than a magazine!

Cupfuls of Love and videos-to-be

Part 1 is here!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What would the depth of your life be, if you measured it?

Don't be someone who doesn't care about things - who has built up such a facade of superficial things that nothing meaningful or real can penetrate.

"Though seeing, they do not see;
      though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
   " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
      you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
 15For this people's heart has become calloused;
      they hardly hear with their ears,
      and they have closed their eyes.
   Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
      hear with their ears,
      understand with their hearts
   and turn, and I would heal them.'" Matthew 13: 13-15

I was supervising a class who were watching a video on the boycotts in South Africa during the apartheid regime. By the end of the video I was moved at what a group of people banding together could accomplish even under severe  oppression.

But I watched as many of the young people, rather than taking in the words that were being said and recognising the significance of what they were seeing, they simply laughed at a man's accent, and the girls went back to giggling and I'm pretty sure I saw one flick there hair, like some bad teenage movie.

With another class, reading and watching the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - the boys, this time, spent more time laughing at inappropriate moments, drawing swastikas on desks and each other and making rude comments, than they did actually taking the time to think about the significance of the real life events and people behind the story.

Not all young people are like this - and there are plenty of adults who are like this still. So this is for everyone. Care about things - let things penetrate the shield sometimes.

No one wants to walk around being affected by everything in life - there are so many bad things happening every day that if we cared about all of them we'd go crazy. We obviously can't take on everyone else's stuff.  And we aren't going to walk around all day being super serious about everything.

But care about things - when you come across them, let the important things resonate and sink in. Don't be someone who walks around ONLY thinking about the surface things - that's when we become shallow and materialistic.

 It's also when our little daily stuff becomes disproportionately large. When not having the perfect brand of shoes, that annoying person you have to talk to every day, having to eat vegetables instead of pizza, that person you like not feeling the same - it's when all that stuff seems like the whole world.

Take notice of the things going on around us in this world, not to get depressed at the state of it all, but to remind you to put things in perspective.

And also to give you a sense of hope. Like in South Africa, determined people helped to overthrow apartheid. Even in the holocaust, a devastating and horrific part of history, there were those who made small differences, by risking themselves to help those who were persecuted.

In every story of terrible atrocities there are the small sparks of hope that remind us what we are capable of when we take notice of things. When we realise what really matters in life, and live our lives with depth and love.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.  Psalm 1:3

Monday, September 13, 2010

What is Five 1 Eleven

Romans 5: 1-11 pretty much sums up my definition of the amazingness that is God's love!

 I can't even express it in better words than amazingness....good on you, English teacher! But it has just struck me... while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. It takes a while for the full impact of that to hit.

While we were still sinners... meaning before we knew God, before we told him we believed in him. And even more, while were still his enemy!

While we despised God, and rejected him through our actions and words, he still loved us enough to send his son to die for us!

How many people in our lives would we willingly die for? There are probably not many that, when it really came down to it, we would willing die for. Our family, our close friends. The people we love and who love us back.

What about our enemies. The people who go out of their way to be mean to us and those around them, who torment cats and abuse children, who murder...someone like Hitler. How many of us would die to save their lives? I can't say I would. It's hard enough to stick up for someone being picked on by a bully, let alone if your life was at risk.

But Christ died for us while we were STILL sinners. While we were his enemies, he took the nails, he took the sin, he took the punishment. Though we scorned him and despised him, he loved us. He died for us. Freely.

What amazing, amazing, amazing love!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What...will I care about when I look back on my life?

Will I care about the size of my house (or even if I owned one), or the tiles that were on the walls, or the type of couch I bought, or whether I had designer clothes, whether I had a high flying career, whether I was always 'secure'....

Or will I care about the experience I had and what I learned, about doing things because I loved it, about the person I was in my heart, and not whether I succeeded, but whether I went after it and took risks. I'll care that I got as much as I could out of every day, rather than enduring every day and wishing them over.

But it's always a balancing act - throwing caution to the wind and following every whim is not necessarily the way to go. There's a fine line between spontaneity and irresponsibility.