Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Follow your heart?

This is a follow up post to a comment made on the 'I don't Feel like it' post, which asked a great question.

The phrase "Follow your heart" is something we often hear when it comes to make decisions or living life - so how do we follow our hearts if our feelings can't always be trusted?

First of all, I think the "follow your heart" advice has a few different meanings - we may actually be saying "Go after your dreams", "Don't do things just because of others expectations", "Don't be cold and emotionless in all your decisions in life". Those things maybe be closer to what we are actually trying to say with "follow your heart", rather than "listen only to your feelings".

But sometimes when we say "follow your heart", we are meaning - go with your feelings. And I don't like that saying in that cas. I think it's unbiblical and liable to get us into trouble.

If "the heart is deceitful above all things" then it's probably not to be trusted with our life decisions.

In the Bible, the heart outside of God's control is not looked on very positively. Gen 8:21  every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.

I think the saying "follow your heart" is a worldly idea, because in the world people believe that we are the masters of our own hearts, and should make our decisions based on our own inner most desires. But as Christians we know we have a different master, and One who has greater purpose than we can even dream.

So instead we should say, "Follow God, the one who knows our hearts, and has our best interests in His." That doesn't mean our feelings or dreams or desires don't matter - God placed them there, he knows them, and isn't going to neglect the things we hope for. But he also knows the far bigger picture and knows what will be right and wrong for us. He knows the deceptive parts of our hearts, and knows when we need to bring them under his control.

Trust God with your heart, and then you will be able to test and discern your feelings. Then rather than going on emotion or 'intuition', you will be going on the promptings of the Spirit.

Is 16:7  But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

1Kings 8:61  But your hearts must be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands

Psalm 26:2  Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I don't FEEL like it.

With children, we know that even though they don't feel like eating their veges, brushing their teeth, cleaning their rooms, doing their homework, they still need to because we know that it is good for them.

The problem, as adults we don't always learn the same thing. We are society ruled by feelings. Whether we think we are a hedonist or not, a lot of us unconsciously follow that way of thinking. (The heart is deceitful above all things - Jeremiah 17:9) If it feels good, it is good. If it doesn't feel good, it must not be good. Sure, we may know that we have to go to work, pay taxes, do the housework even if we don't feel like it. But often, deep down, we hold the belief that feelings rule. We just have to look at the state of marriages, the attitudes towards sex and drinking, towards health, food and exercise, to see that so many people are clinging to the roller coaster of feelings.

I know I have definitely let myself be ruled by feelings in my life. So I have done a lot of things that haven't been good for me because, either it felt good at the time so I did it, or it didn't feel good, it didn't seem fun, so I didn't do it. Like when I was trying to learn an instrument, and it was difficult and didn't feel much fun because I couldn't make a good sound straight away, I gave up. Or when I wanted to drink alcohol or go out with guys, I felt like it, so why not?

This is a very worldly attitude. And we're can notice and criticise this attitude when it comes to things like bringing up children (though because of the attitudes of so many adults, this is even being lost for children.) But often not so good when it comes to ourselves.

And especially when it comes to our relationship with God.

We base it on how we feel. We don't feel like praying, like reading our Bibles. Even when we do pray, God doesn't feel like he is there listening. It's all very easy to praise and worship God when we feel like it, when it feels like God has done something for us. But when life isn't so easy, we don't feeling like praising and thanking God. It doesn't feel like he's doing anything good, so I don't feel like praying. I don't FEEL anything. Is God really there?

But has God ever said, "When you can feel me, that's when I'm here" ? No, he says, "I'm here."
Has he said, "When life feels easy, that's when I'm looking out for you."? No, he says, "I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you."

And if we feel like doing something because it feels good now, why should we not do it? Because we know there is more to life than just what is in this earth.  

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

Even when we don't feel like doing something, when it feels hard or painful, why do we do it? Because like a child eating their vegetables we know God has told us it is good for us, even if it doesn't feel like it. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15

We when don't feel like God is near to us, or listening to us, we know he still is. How? Because he said he  always will be.

Feelings are not bad - but we have to recognise them for what they are - subjective and changeable. We should pay attention to our feelings, but not let them have the final say.

If we live letting feelings rule us, life is a roller coaster of emotions. We won't end up being very healthy or stable, and that includes spiritually.

When have you done something that went against your feelings, and been rewarded? Or when have you just followed your feelings and what have been the consequences?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Facebook is here to stay & I'm an advocate.

Ok, so Facebook doesn't really need an advocate. I'm sure it will continue to thrive whether I support it or not.

But in some circles, Facebook does need advocates. And not just Facebook, but all social media and technology. I think it's an amazing phenomenon, and although there are downsides and things we need to learn to manage, technology is revolutionising our lives. Whether it's good or bad, don't you think it's amazing that our lifestyle, especially for young people, is even rewiring the way their brains work! This is something we need to know about, not something to ignore.

Technology, and social media, in particular has changed the way we live life and the way we socialise. It's been moving so fast that I don't think we've really caught up with ourselves. In schools, for example, there are policies against using mobile phones and i-Pods in class, but then every student has or is being given a laptop and everyone is trying to incorporate IT into curriculum. The old boundaries are limited, and the new boundaries are becoming blurred, so schools are finding it difficult to embrace. What happens to these individual policies when you have a phone that essentially IS a computer? And where do Tablet PCs and iPads fit? And these new technologies and medias are so much a part of whole generations, that we are neglecting a large part of their lives it we ignore it.

Rather than working harder to ban these things, I think we should be taking a more proactive approach and being at the forefront of how we can USE these things. Young people already are using them, every day. All these new things don't show any signs of just going away, even if people want them to. If we don't get on board with what is happening, it will happen anyway - and we'll be left behind.

I've heard people say "We may wish Facebook would just curl up and die, but it won't." Half of that statement is wrong to me, half of it is right, but as a whole it is completely off the mark.

One, even though I may smile and nod sometimes to keep the peace, I'm not actually one of those people that wishes Facebook would 'die' - I use it and love it. As to the second part - they are most likley right in saying Facebook isn't going to go away - it's firmly entrenched in many people's lives and I think has more going for it to prevent it going the way of MySpace. But that statement is also off the mark - people blame the social media, the platforms. But the truth is they do come and go. They surge in popularity, then die off. But even when they go, that's not the end of it. People haven't all just suddenly logged off the internet never to return - these things die off because something else is replacing it.

Social media is here to stay. Why not embrace it? No media like this is essentially good or bad in and of itself - it's the way we use it. And if we don't get on board, it's still going to evolve and change and grow. It will just grow and change without us, until we are totally left behind.

There can be many benefits of using this media, whether in schools or in ministry - it is such an easy, convenient and interactive way to connect and reach groups of people, such as through creating facebook groups, or Twitter accounts for church announcements.

People argue that we want to create genuine relationships, and connecting through technologies is not genuine. I agree that if you only ever connected with people through technology, then that would be artificial. But used as another facet along with in-person socialising and connecting, I think it is an asset. For a generation of people for whom the online, technological world has become a large part of their lives, ignoring that it is a valid part of their entire worlds is a bit insulting. People are longing for community and connectedness - do we tell them it's only valid if you do it the old fashioned way? Do we neglect this sphere of engaging them?

And of course there are all sorts of privacy issues, and other problems that have been brought up through online presence - but I don't think these issues are new, they've just taken a new dimension that we haven't learned to deal with yet. On the whole, for most people, using common sense and privacy settings is enough to protect ourselves. It's like driving our car in to a huge public parking lot and displaying all our contact and personal details in the window for everyone passing by to see - we wouldn't do that. It sounds ridiculous in that context, so why do we do that in the most giant public space of them all, the internet? And the the issues aren't going to be resolved by us keeping out of it.

The problem is, because of it's rapid advance, we haven't learnt to manage it all yet. But that, to me, is the biggest reason of all for getting involved. Young people already are - they've got a huge part of their lives entwined with technology, but not all adults are in there with them. It's a whole world - and who is bringing them up in it and teaching them how to live in that world? It can't be us; we've got our heads in the sand wishing that it would just disappear. So who's bring them up?

They are teaching themselves and each other what's right and wrong in this world, what's appropriate and safe.

There is a reason kids have parents - because growing up, even the most mature young people are still developing their skills of rationalisation, their ability to understand right and wrong, and the consequences. When it comes to technology, it's a world community responsibilty

If we aren't in that world, not only are we missing out on new and creative ways of connecting with people, were are doing our young people a disservice. We should be setting the standards, teaching young people how to use it creatively but safely. We should be proactive in molding this technology into something positive, innovative and game changing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The "Old Testament God" is the same God as now.

People are confused by the old testament - people think the old testament God seems harsh, distant and impersonal. We don't like thinking of God as someone who would just strike us dead on the spot because we did something wrong. And because it's difficult, we often gloss over it, ignore it, or never try to actually understand it.

We like the nice side of God, the all forgiving, all loving, kind side. Which is of course all true, but without considering everything about the nature of God, the 'love' and 'forgiveness' we are thinking about is really just fluff and nothing. It loses any depth or meaning. We start to treat God like he's a nice little friend we can put in our pockets to pull out for help when we're in trouble.

The old testament tells us of a God who is absolutely, incomparably holy and righteous. A God who had to be hidden and who a very select few could even approach, only after very strict requirements were followed. A God who requires perfection beyond anything any human being can hope to even approach. Whose standards meant death to those who disobeyed him.

It's no wonder we don't like to think about this God so much - most of us already struggle with feelings of low self worth or inadequacy in our lives. Why am I reminding you how far short we fall of God's standards?

Because without grasping the righteous, holy and all powerful nature of God, how can we really understand the depth of his grace and love? If we don't realise how deep a chasm of sin separates us from God, how can we understand how utterly amazing the gift of Jesus was to bridge that chasm? If we don't get how sinful and far short we really fall on our own, how can we appreciate the gift of mercy? Without knowing the awesomeness, perfection and power of the presence of God, how can we even begin to comprehend the depth of God's love that he has provided a way for all of us, any one of us, to come personally into that presence?

If we don't see those things, and try to understand the God presented to us in the old testament, then we are missing half the picture - the half that provides us with the depth and gravity of what God has done for us. If you don't know why you needed redemption, how can you appreciate that you've been given it? Far from making you feel more unworthy and useless, it will convince you to your very core that God loves you, you personally, so much that he would save you. It will prove to you how much you are worth to Him.

Since God is the same yesterday, today and forever, the God of the old testament is the exact same God of today. Are we missing half the picture of who God is, in all his glory, majesty and righteousness, in all his amazing love and mercy, because we are afraid to confront those things that confuse, unsettle or challenge us? 

Read Hebrews 10, which started me thinking about this post.

Afraid of Love

We live in a world that doesn't really know what love is. It takes many different forms, from getting confused with lust or attraction, to "I love shoes".

 As Christians we feel like we have a different view, the real view. But the truth is, a lot of us are still walking around afraid of love. Of it's wild and consuming nature. Of what it really means.

But if we are afraid of love, we are also afraid of God. God is Love.  (1 John 4:8)

Usually the reason we are afraid of something is because we don't really understand it. We shouldn't be afraid of God, or of Love, because if we understood it completely we would know that as well as being big, and consuming, and powerful, God also promises to never let us down, never leave us or forsake us...so if we are completely safe, why are we afraid?
God is love - There are three ways to emphasise that statement.

GOD is love.
What is love? GOD is love. So when we are searching for the real meaning of love, the answer is God. Everything that God is, that is love. Eternal, powerful, compassionate, forgiving, holy, perfect. So when we show other people love, we are showing them God.

God IS love.
God doesn't just show love to us. He IS love. He is the embodiment of love. So everything he does will be about love - because that's who he IS. It's like everything you do will come from being a woman, or a man, because that's who you are. You don't just act like one, you ARE one. That doesn't change like a feeling, it isn't influenced by circumstance. Where ever you are, whatever you are doing, you are still a woman or a man. So in whatever situation, whatever context, whatever is going on - God IS Love. It's not a feeling that might change, it's not dependent on how good or bad you've been. It is as constant and unfailing as God himself. He IS love.

God is LOVE.
Who is God? He is LOVE. Perfect, amazing, unconditional, unending love. So when we are unsure what God is like, what hiss attitude towards us is, how he is going to respond to us, when we wonder "Who is he?". The answer is love.

We tend to be afraid of love because we sense that it is meant to be consuming and powerful, but we feel like anything like that is dangerous. That is makes us vulnerable. And we have been taught in our lives on earth that being vulnerable is not a good thing because it allows people to hurt us. And it unfortunately is often true in life that we will be hurt by other people, because we all have an  incomplete, imperfect view of love and fail at showing it to other people.

But make sure you are separating the fallibility of humans from the real love that comes from God. Go to God with your search for an understanding of love. It seems dangerous, it seems big and overwhelming. You will need to make yourself vulnerable to Him. But you can be completely assured that His love is safe. That he will never let you down.

Without God, there is no love. God is love. You cannot separate the two. You cannot have one without the other. So no wonder the attempts at love in the world are failing so badly. No wonder we have no idea what it really means, that we've taken it and totally perverted it. We've tried to discard God and still have love. But that's just not possible.

So if you are afraid of Love. Afraid of loving someone, or letting someone love you, then the first, and only place to go is God. Find your definition and meaning and security in Him. Rather than searching for love in the world, let all your focus be on finding God's love. Let Him love you, and love for and from other people won't seem so hard anymore.

1 John 4: 7 - 12  
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Letter to Single Women

Dear Sisters,

I want to tell you a bit about my experience with relationships, because there are so many things I wish I could have realised BEFORE I made all the mistakes and had to learn the hard way.

A lot of us have grown up believing there are just two options when it comes to finding love:

  1. Either fairytales exist, and we are waiting for our Prince Charming to come and sweep us off our feet and rescue us and complete us.
  2. Or fairytales don't exist, and we should settle for what we've got, because nothing better is coming along.
However, there are a few things wrong with those options. The first option suggests that we are waiting for someone perfect, and that once we've found them, life will be 'happily-ever-after', which is unrealistic and sets us up for disappointment.

But that doesn't mean we have to take option 2 - that suggests that we accept whatever comes along. Thinking like that encourages us to live with things that aren't good for us, or feel like we'll take anyone who shows interest in us, because maybe there's no one else.

We won't have a 'happily-ever-after' fairytale - men are not there to rescue and complete us, and life will not be perfect once you have found a man. But neither should we settle for someone who is not right for us.
My parents used to say to me, don't settle for someone who feels less than 100%. Not even 90%. I didn't really get what they meant then. How can anyone be 100% what I want from a man? Surely I have to compromise. No one is going to be perfect.

But now I see what it means - Not perfect. But perfect for us.

When I was in relationships, a few of them were completely wrong, and I knew it, but was too afraid to leave because I felt like I couldn't be alone. A few of them were almost right, but not quite. I knew this too, but didn't admit it to myself until afterwards, because I felt like there may not be better - maybe I was being to picky and should just overlook the things that weren't quite right, or weren't quite what I wanted in a relationship. I'm not talking about things like "Oh, he has brown eyes, and I want a guy with blue eyes", but things like "He's great in every other way, but he smokes." Or "We have fun together doing certain things, but he doesn't always get or accept my interests".

Often the things we see as being not quite perfect, but maybe we should just ignore it so we're not being fussy - these things often mask or represent deeper and more significant issues that we don't want to look at out. Because we're afraid. Because we don't feel like we deserve more. We don't believe there is something more.

But there is. We are so valuable that we don't need to settle for less than perfect - perfect for us. This doesn't mean that life will be happy and trouble free - we'll face problems and conflicts. The perfect person for us is sometimes even someone who makes us face some of the rough edges of our lives and personalities, so that we polish each other and encourage each other to grow.

Just don't ignore those niggling feelings. Be assured of your own self-worth and value before you even think about getting into a relationship so that you don't feel tempted to place your worth in another person.

Which brings me to the biggest problem - which is that we believe we need to pick an option. That we have to be waiting for someone. That we need a relationship.

First of all we need to find the freedom in knowing that we don't actually NEED to get married. (See 1 Corinthians 7 for Paul's discussion on this topic) Obviously if you want to have a sexual relationship and have children, then yes, marriage is part of God's plan. But I think so many of us feel the worldly pressure that if we're not in a relationship then there is something wrong with us.

That is the most important thing I wish everyone knew - you don't need a relationship to be complete and whole. In fact, if you are searching for a relationship because you don't feel complete, then you probably aren't ready for a relationship.

God, our author and creator, is the only one who can complete us. If you haven't been convinced of your worth and wholeness in Him, then you are only going to find disappointment and emptiness in relationships. I wish I had realised this before I started seeking approval, acceptance and self-worth from people. I came out the other side of relationships feeling even emptier than before.

If you realise that you don't need a relationship, then that can give you amazing freedom. Freedom to focus on God, freedom to be open to whatever he has in store for you. Freedom to want a relationship, but not have your value bound to finding one.

When you find that freedom, then you can realise there is far more than the two options we grew up believing. There is a life of fulfilment and value and substance, with or without a boyfriend or husband.

And if you still want to be in a relationship, it gives you the freedom to go into it without any baggage or burden of expectations for either of you to place on the other person.

Don't wait for man to complete you. Only God can. Don't settle and accept things you know aren't right for you. Ask God to help you guard your heart and convince you of your worth in Him first. Don't accept the lie that you need a relationship to be complete or to have a full life. So if a relationship is part of your present or future, you don't need to go into it with fear or insecure needs - you can accept the freedom God has given us to be complete in Him, and the freedom to choose!

My heart breaks for the girls I see come through my door who have no idea of how valuable and beautiful they are. My heart breaks to see them seeking to feel something from empty relationships. To see them so confused and hopeless because they can't understand why they just end up feeling more empty and less fulfilled. Because I've been where they are, and know how they feel, and don't want anyone else to make those same mistakes.

Sisters, look after eachother. Remind each other of our worth in God. Our freedom in Christ.

All my love and prayers are with you!
Love Jessie

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I'm a Caterpillar who has been afraid of Butterflies.

Caterpillars are a temporary life form...it is one stage in eventually becoming butterflies, but first they've got some things to do.

A caterpillar spends most of it's time eating and growing. The final stage is the butterfly, but before that it goes through several periods of growth, shedding out of it's skin a few times as it gets bigger. Once it is fully grown and can't get any bigger as a caterpillar, then it will find a secure, protected place to prepare for the next stage.

In their cocoon, while it looks like it's a time of rest, there's actually a lot going on inside there, preparing to emerge as a butterfly.

That is a very unscientific look at the lifecycle of a butterfly, but I think it is an analogy for my growth in God.

I'm a caterpillar. I feel like I've gone through many stages of life, with God teaching me things and feeding me his word so that I grow. A few times I've been sure that I've been changing for good, shedding an old skin and taking on a new one, only to find I'm still a caterpillar, just a bit bigger than before.

But it is all in preparation for that final chrysalis stage. A lot of nutrients are needed for the caterpillar to transform inside the cocoon. If a caterpillar tried to become a butterfly before it was fully grown, it wouldn't be able to handle it.

And right now I feel like I may be getting into that cocoon stage. I've found a sheltered, protected place. It feels like I'm resting. It looks like maybe not much is going on. But inside I'm being majorly transformed.

I don't know how long this stage lasts, but I'm excited about what is happening now. And you should be too - whatever stage you are at in growing in God. Each stage is necessary before the next. Keep eating - feeding on God's word. He'll direct you to the next stage. He'll let you know when it's time to break out of the old skin and into the new. Don't be discouraged if it feels like you're not getting anywhere. Look back, and I'll bet you'll see that while you still feel like a caterpillar, you're probably a lot bigger than you used to be.

The funny thing is, I've always been afraid of butterflies. A wierd phobia, but to me they seem flutter around, free, uncontrollable, unpredictable. And now I'm comparing myself to turning into one. And funnily enough, I've always been afraid of the metaphorical butterfly as well.

I like to dream big, but then sometimes have trouble actually realising the dream - not because it's not possible, but because I'm afraid. Afraid to be free, because it seems too scary and unpredictable.

Recently God's been helping me to see that it's ok to be good at things. It's ok to succeed. Being humble doesn't mean being self-depreciating. God has given us gifts to be used, not to bury away. Are we afraid that he doesn't know what he's doing?

Don't be afraid of what God is doing in you. Don't hold onto the old skin, because you're afraid of the new. Don't walk around ignoring those wings on your back, or second guessing yourself, like maybe God made a mistake in giving you wings, so you better not try to use them in case you fail. "I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground." Matthew 25:25

There's no need to be afraid. You may not fly right away - even once a butterfly emerges it takes a little while for it's wings to dry. And then it can fly. Not because it's so clever to have done it on it's own, but because that's what God designed it to do.

(Thanks Mum, for passing on this message to me :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Glimpsing Heaven

I feel like I got a little glimpse of heaven today. In a real way, not in a "Is that a giant closet twice the size of Oprah's filled with free clothes and shoes all for me?" heaven kind of way. It wasn't tangible in a physical sense, and I'm sure it's going to be really hard to explain in words what I felt.

I didn't see streets paved with gold or hear angels singing. But I felt like I just got a little step closer (a tiny, tiny step compared to all there is to know) to understanding what heaven is. Being in total communion with God, and with all Christians. I am a separate person, and lay down my own life to be used by God, but it doesn't diminish me, it fills me with strength and joy. I am just one person along with many others, but that makes me more significant and we are all together a part of something amazing.

We are built to long for heaven. To long for complete communion with our creator. It is why here on earth we long for acceptance, to be part of something. It is why we come away from worship or fellowship feeling all warm and fuzzy and uplifted. Because we were designed for it. And every time we get a tiny hint of what it feels like to be in perfect harmony and unity with God, or with others - for even those who don't believe in God will know the feeling, - our souls recognise it.

And on the other side of this, realising just a tiny bit more clearly what heaven is, I also realised what hell is. It's not about a pit of fire with demons jabbing you with red pitchforks. It's not even about some sort of eternal physical tourture and pain. It's the opposite to heaven - complete and utter separation from God.

I think we get caught up in questions about heaven and hell in wondering about their physical place, imagining heaven as a place in the sky,  hell below us, as some places we just move to when we're not on earth any more. And heaven will be really pretty and happy, and hell all dark and firey. We think of it in very earthly terms, according to what we find pleasurable and painful here on earth.

But I think because it is difficult for us to comprehend, often we don't make it past those surface thoughts to really get what heaven and hell are. More than just an arbitrary reward or punishment for being good or bad, it is the outcome of the purpose we were created for.

We were created by God, designed to be with Him. If we reject him, we miss out on that. That is heaven and hell. Either being completely with God, or completely without Him. And I don't think we fully comprehend how that will either be far better than any feeling we've ever had on earth, or it will be far worse than any pit of fire or physical pain.

I'm sure my words don't really describe at all the understanding I had in that moment, and it's one of those glimpses that was so clear and real at the time, then quickly fades when you try to remember it. It will always be the way while we live here in our earthly bodies. But that doesn't mean we stop seeking.

Roadwork Ahead

I drive along a stretch of highway to get to and from work. And this may be true of every highway, but it seems like there is always roadwork happening, even in the small stretch that I cover every day.

The other day I was driving home and had to slow down in the roadwork zone - and it seemed like a really long stretch that they were working on and all the cars had to file through slowly down to a single lane.

About halfway through the roadwork section I saw a big yellow sign that read "Roadwork Ahead". And stuck over that big sign was another smaller sign, also reading "Roadwork Ahead." So in case I hadn't already noticed I was in roadwork, or if the big sign didn't catch my attention, there was also the small sign to let me know - there's roadwork.

I laughed to myself about it for a second, and then God spoke to me through it (Or 'Jesus Juked' me if you will - see Jon Acuff's blog 'Stuff Christians Like' for an interpretation of that) - in the way that God can speak to us through anything.

There is roadwork ahead in my life. And though I laughed at the seemingly redundant signs on the road, I unfortunately often need that sort of thing in my life. I don't notice what's going on all around me. Then I miss the big yellow signs. Until finally I hear God's still, small voice, and I finally realise what's going on.

I have felt recently, and even for the past few years that I am in a rest period of my life, in training for something to come. And I often get impatient to charge ahead, even though I'm not ready.

So for the past three years I have been trying to remember that God is training me, healing me from things, preparing me so that I am ready for what is to come. Then this year I felt like I was ready for more - not that I will ever be done with God teaching me and training me and causing me to grow. But I felt like I was ready for more now.... and things started to happen, but not in the way I expected. I still felt like this wasn't the 'more' he had been telling me was coming. I felt like he was still telling me to rest and be patient.

And then I saw these roadwork signs, and realised something I hadn't thought of before. Not only has he been preparing me for things to come, he has been working on the road as well. And there is roadwork ahead. Foundations have to be laid, things put in place. I can't just charge ahead - sometimes we need to slow down, go in single file, because if we go too fast before things are ready it can be dangerous and damaging.

God is doing some roadwork. And while I am moving, now - I'm driving along the road, rather than sitting in my car in the garage - it's still time to go slow. To still be patient. Because when he's finished the roadwork, things are going to go back to a crazy, multi-lane highway and I've got to be ready to take that on!

Note: Since writing this intially, I've had a chance to see more aspects at work. There are many stages we can be at and roles we can play. Sometimes our car is in the garage waiting to drive. Sometimes we are in the slow lane, waiting for the roadworks to be done. Sometimes, we are the ones helping to do those roadworks and prepare the way for others.

I think we can be called to any and all of those things, even at the same time. You are not tossed aside once one job is done. And neither are any of those roles idle. You may be called to rest in God, but that doesn't mean you are doing nothing.

Where do you think you are on God's highway at the moment? Doing the roadworks, repairs in the garage, in the slow lane, or full speed ahead?

Bringing Kids into the World

I know some people are not sure about, or even totally against, having kids because they look at the state of the world and all the problems and think "Why would I want to bring someone into this?" It's not an invalid thought. And an idea that has prompted many adoptions and fostering of children needing families, I'm sure.

But is there another way to think about it? There are a lot of horrible things in the world, and a lot of suffering people. If I have children, I would hope they would be a part of helping, being one of the good people, someone who can help others in their suffering, be another messenger of God's love. So rather than thinking, "Why would I bring somone into a world with so many problems?" I think, "Why would I not bring someone in who could make a difference to those problems?"

Not meaning I am planning on having kids as some sort of mission to save the world. But I plan on bringing my kids up to be compassionate and full of love - all of us can have a positive impact on the world. Maybe they cure a disease. Maybe they start an orphanage. Maybe they comfort a neighbour who has no family. Maybe they save a baby bird that fell out of it's nest. Maybe they become friends with just one person who is lonely. Does your heart not sing at the possibilities that life can hold, big and small, all valuable.

Which brings me to my other thought - those people who say they don't want to bring kids into the world, as if they are protecting those future children from the horrors....does that mean you would rather your parents never had you? Life is not all bad. Do we deny others the chance to exist and experience all the good things, just because there are also bad things?

Just my unfinished thoughts on the topic....

Real Faith - it's like a muscle, but not like bicep curls at the gym.

Real faith is not when you believe in God and then get whatever you prayed for…real faith is trusting God, even when you don’t get what you’ve prayed for.

"And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”  Matthew 21:22. Isn't it amazing to know that nothing is impossible with faith. That we can pray and God will always hear our prayers. But I don't know if we always interpret that verse quite right.

I was reading a blog by a woman whose nine month old baby died, even though she and many others had prayed for him to be healed. Then people in the church told her the God hadn't been able to heal her son because she hadn't had enough faith! I was horrified and saddened by that.

We sometimes think it's some formula - that if we just have enough Faith, whatever we pray for we will get. But that seems to me kind of like us having the power - which is totally contrary to what God tells us.
It's saying if WE just have enough faith, If WE are just strong enough, then WE pray and WE get.

Where is God in that equation? Is God just there as some sort of prayer granting machine, only able to act when we pray with enough faith?

Do we decide how life is meant to go, and what should happen and when? I hope not, because when that happens, life is turmoil. I don't believe God is directed by us, I believe we are connected to Him through our faith allowing us to move when he moves, and become a part of His plan. Not just make Him a part of our plans.

A song I always remember singing in primary school and loving because of the actions that went along with it, was "Faith is like a muscle, use it and it will grow."

While this is true, I think without really being taught what faith is all about, it can be easily misunderstood.

When I imagine our muscles, and using them so they will grow, I picture a weight lifter, straining and bulging to lift the heavy weights above their head. Or someone in a gym, doing curls while they look at themselves in a mirror and kiss their veiny bicep.

 But seriously, I think a lot of us whether consciously or not, walk around with the feeling that we are just not straining hard enough. That we haven't built up our faith muscle enough to be able to MAKE things happen.

I don't think God intended us to look at having strong faith and being able to 'move mountains' as some kind of formula, or turning us into magicians able to control and do whatever takes our fancy.

Sometimes, of course, we do need to build our faith. It is true that we need to practise having faith, for it to grow. Use it and it will grow. But not in a way that has the focus on US being the strong ones.

This idea that we didn't have enough faith so God didn't listen becomes especially harmful to people who are suffering through something. Saying to them, in the midst of their crisis and turmoil and quite probably confusion and frustration with God, that YOU didn't pray hard enough, is like kicking them while they're down. You weren't healed, your baby died, your parents marriage fell apart, all because of YOU.  YOU didn't have enough faith. God wanted to help you, but you wouldn't let him because YOU didn't believe hard enough.

Praying is not like squeezing your eyes closed and wishing really hard to make something happen. It's never about US making things happen. It's about believing beyond a doubt that whatever happens, it's all completely in God's control. And part of walking in faith, is walking with God. God isn't arbitrary. We know there wouldn't be many occasions where walking up to a mountain and asking it to throw itself into the sea would be useful or part of Gods plan. And however much we would love God to give us the winning lottery ticket numbers and be millionaires, he probably isn't going to just because we'd like to be rich. He's not going to grant us things 'just because'. So we can also be assured that if he doesn't immediately give us what we've asked for, that is also part of his plan. Like he doesn't give us things on impulse with no regard for need or purpose, he also does not withhold things on impulse.

And like everything, when we ask God to give us more faith, it's not often he just goes, ZAP, "There you go. Go move that mountain over there." He gives us opportunities to be more faithful (consistent loyalty, devotion, unwavering belief). And that means trusting that God knows what he's doing and is always going to be God, no matter what. 

So when something doesn't happen the way we wanted, we don't need to feel like maybe we just didn't quite pray right, but that God has a different plan to what we wanted or thought was going to happen. That is using our faith and making it grow.

It doesn't mean it will always come easily. But it also doesn't mean that God will be angry with us if we have doubts or feel like it's difficult to really believe this is going to turn out ok right now. And this is where we'll fail every time if we go on thinking it's up to us to have more faith and to be stronger, because alone we will never be strong enough.

It's ok to say, "God, I know in my head that you're in control, but it's really hard to see what you're doing here. Even though I know you'll never let me down, it really feels like you have right now. I need help!"

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:7

Even Jesus had to use faith - he wasn't looking forward (putting it mildly) to what he knew was coming. He knew it was going to be unimaginably painful, not just physically, to take all the sins of the world and be separated from God.  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22: 42-44)

And as we know, God's will was not to take Jesus out of that situation. Can we tell Jesus he just didn't quite pray hard enough, or didn't have enough faith in God? No, we can rejoice because God knew the big picture! And Jesus showed us what it means to have real faith.