Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The Whisper: a mini-post, an invitation

There is something about the Biblical story of Elijah that strikes a chord deep within...coming down from an incredible display of supernatural and dynamic breakthrough, the prophet - a man like us, the Bible tells us - is suddenly overwhelmed at a threat decreed by one of his enemies: 

Jezebel sent out a threat, a desire to tear him from limb to limb for what he had done to her kingdom of false gods. This woman, although powerful, was no match for the God who had been operating on Elijah's behalf... still, he is overwhelmed. He is tired. He has forgotten the miraculous and is drawn into the deep pit of reality; of present dangers and unfavorable circumstances; of threat and death and failure. 

The man flees to the desert and is fed by an angel. For several days he sleeps. He is weak. Vulnerable. Depleted.... finally Elijah awakes and is met by the Lord who tucks him into a cleft in a rock and promises to show Himself. 

First comes a mighty wind with a deafening roar; then the earth breaks open. Finally flames tear past with radiant heat. And then, at last a break.... the sound of something small. 



It is a gentle whisper and this is God.... 

It's a gentle whisper kind of evening and I am called away to a desert, a rock, to feed on the food of heaven and hear the quiet assurance of a gentle whisper... join me?

Friday, 3 March 2017

The Family Room

It's been eight months since I have written for this blog. I've avoided it. Missed it. Been relieved to see the back of it. All of those things. To say that life gets complex is an understatement - well, life between my ears, that is. This thing, called my brain, is a troublesome thing. It quickly turns an act of love into a labour of perfectionism. It creates a corner of the world that is supposed to be a place to breathe ; both for myself and for visitors...and it turns it into a formal lounge room. You know what a formal lounge room is, right? They're not so common where I live, in middle class working suburbia. My experience of a formal lounge room comes right out of the nineties:

When I was in my teens, my mother cleaned a home for a few years, to bring in a little extra money. I occasionally accompanied her; helping to do some of the tasks and she would reimburse me for my 'part' of the job. Mostly I remember the toilets (ick), vacuuming the upstairs bedroom and the bookshelves, where I would sometimes get distracted by enticing reads such as 'How to win friends and influence people' and a book whose title I forget, which was lamenting the loss of femininity in a modern world. The writer - a male - suggested that women had even lost touch with the art of brushing their hair. How a woman's hair today was, flat, dull and lifeless. His remedy was an old one; he suggested female readers ought to tip their heads upside down and stroke in 100 slow, deliberate movements from the nape of the neck to the tip using a natural bristle brush. But back to the lounge room.

At the front of the modern and sparse two story home that my mother and I cleaned, was a large, narrow room with a front-facing window. The room was pristine. It contained a formal lounge suite and a formal dining table. A fireplace, which looked untouched. A crystal vase or two and a generic picture on the wall. Every week, the room was spotless, clearly unused, and I was always taken with the waste of it.

All that perfection, no one to use it.

My blog, became a formal lounge: in my head at least. A place where only the best china belonged; only the most intelligent and eloquent thoughts; only the most innovative ideas that no one else was writing. My inner perfectionist loves to take the reigns of my life as it sees fit.
I'm learning to beat it into submission.
Realising that I don't always have to be the best (I can't)
the most polished (too much work)
or the most intelligent (how exhausting!)
so I'm reclaiming my blog as a family room.

Stains on the pillows, half-eaten snacks on scratched, ikea plates. The television might be blaring on a station no one is interested in watching.
And that's fine.
That's family life.

And that's what this is all about: creating space for life. For thoughts. For imperfection.
See, no matter how much I avoided this place, I couldn't stop the writing spilling out of me. It poured out in Instagram and on Facebook. In free-writes on my computer and in my bullet journal.

I'm made to pour out.

It's how I process life.

I stopped the process for awhile because I was afraid to be vulnerable.
Afraid for you to see my pillows. Afraid for the criticism I might receive.
Afraid that I might see for myself what a mess I am.

Now, I'm saying no to fear.

This is me and this is my corner of the world. My take on God. My online journal. It's a work in progress and so am I.

Put on your comfy pants - the ones with elastic in the waist - and join me on a new and comfy journey.

Here's to 2017!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

the vulnerability of being honest

image source: freeimages/CherylEmpey

Have you ever taken the risk of making yourself vulnerable to another person?

Maybe you decided to confide in someone about something that was troubling you; a problem or an addiction or a negative feeling that no one seemed to share. Perhaps you told a close friend that you struggle to connect with your kids or maybe you are getting too close to someone other than your spouse. Most of us, at some point in our lives, have made ourselves vulnerable by being honest with someone we felt we could trust.
It takes courage.
It often deepens our relationships and enables us to grow stronger and kinder toward ourselves and others.

And sometimes...
It goes really pear-shaped.

That's because vulnerability (aka honesty) makes you vulnerable. (I know, it's ironic, right?)

Who you choose to be honest with determines the quality of the interchange. Is it going to be a positive experience? Is it going to alleviate your self-doubts? Thrust you in a positive direction? Will it deepen the relationship or will you be left out to dry?

There have been times in my life when I have opened up to people who I thought I could trust. At times it has gone well, at other times, I have been left feeling more embarrassed, ashamed or awkward, wishing I had never said anything at all. Opening ourselves up to the wrong type of people or opening up to the right person at the wrong time can leave us feeling worse than before we started. I want to provide some tips that I have learned along the way (usually by trial and error) about how to be vulnerable without losing a piece of yourself.

1. Your Stories are Precious
It may or may not come as a surprise to know that not everyone deserves your vulnerability. When we open up, we allow others to look inside of us. We are giving a piece of ourselves away. Is the person we are sharing with trustworthy? Will they be able to see past our behaviours/addictions/problems and still love us for who we are without being put off by our 'messy bits'? Who you choose to be honest with is vital. Value yourself enough to choose someone who will value you right back.

2. Don't Force Intimacy
Friendship takes time. Over-sharing can impede what could be a good friendship. Some people are naturally over-sharers. I used to be on the generous side of the spectrum when it came to opening up to those around me. With time I have learned to hold some things close. To judge the quality of the relationship before trying to move it to the next level. Be wise. Sometimes honesty brings us closer to those around us, sometimes it is too much too soon. Take your time. Don't rush a friendship.

3. Sharing is like a Tennis Match
Sometimes I like to think of friendship as a bit of a tennis match. You know you're watching a really good game when the ball goes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth in a long and evenly-matched rally. Is the friend you are wanting to talk to likely to share with you also? Or will it be a one-sided affair? If someone is holding back on themselves, it might be wise to choose someone else or to wait. Some people won't reciprocate your authenticity. The reasons vary; they may simply be more naturally cautious and private, they may prefer to keep their friendships at arm's length or worse case scenario, they may be working hard to keep up a fascade. The worst thing you can do is to open up to someone who will use you weaknesses against you. We are all human. Not everyone wants to admit that fact. Unfortunately, some people will use your vulnerability to make themselves feel better.

What to do if there's No one

Blogs, Books and Podcasts
During certain seasons of my life, there have been times when I have found books, blogs and podcasts to be a helpful way to receive the validation I am needing. There are a multitude of resources out there to assure you that you are not alone; that life is hard and that there is always someone who can relate to what you are experiencing. If you are going through a season where there is no one you feel you can connect with, these types of resources can be really useful.

A Counselor
Paying someone to listen is a surefire way to ensure that your secrets will stay that way! Counseling can be really helpful when you need a sounding board, an action plan or simply need someone in your corner. Choosing the right counselor is important. Find someone you feel comfortable with. If the rapport isn't there after a couple of sessions, try finding someone else. Counselors are people too and not all personality types work together. Give it a chance, but if it's not working, shop around.

God knows what we need and when we need it. He Himself has said it is not good for us to be alone and tells us to meet together with others who know Him. Ask Him for a good, positive friend or mentor. You may need to take steps; perhaps engaging in a community; whether it is attending church or a small group; a mother's group, ladies group, craft group etc. You might need to make yourself available. Again, shop around! Some community groups are more supportive than others, but just remember, God has created you for connection. He won't leave you without the support you need.

And of course, God Himself!
By putting God last I am in no way indicating that He is our last resort, however, sometimes we need physical solutions or 'God with skin on' as I like to think of it (I have no idea where I read that line but it stuck with me over the years). When Jesus left the earth He promised His disciples that He would not leave them as orphans but that He would send someone to dwell with them forever: the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Truth. He is referred to as the Counselor, the Comforter, the Advocate who will lead us and guide us and remind us of Christ's teaching. Likewise, we are told to cast our cares upon God because He cares for us.

People may let us down, but God never will.
Others may judge us or use our vulnerabilities against us but God assures us in John 6:37:

'All that My Father gives Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me 
I will most certainly not cast out (I will never, never reject anyone who follows me).'

Friday, 13 May 2016

are you stuck?

image source:, Canada

Have you ever been in a rut? Are you in one now? Do the circumstances of life keep beating you down; does the dialogue in your head accuse you of being weak and incapable to live the life you know God has invited you to live?

I have. Multiple times. It is easy in these times to make sweeping judgments about the goodness of God. We see the circumstances of our life (which seem merciless); we see the weakness in ourselves (how easily we can be thrown into doubt or fear or anger or defeat) and we wonder if we will ever bridge the gap between the life we are currently living and the life that we have envisioned. We start to feel that God is far away. That perhaps we got it wrong; He doesn't care or He is untouched by our difficulties. Maybe we heard wrong; maybe we are not going to be a pastor or an author or an interior designer (or whatever God has spoken into our hearts) after all. Life presses in, doubts grow, and we find ourselves stuck. Not moving forward, but walking wearily the treadmill of life, wondering how long before our legs give out and we give up all together. Were we wrong to hope, to dream? Is this what life really is all about? Are we destined to be tired, depressed and overwhelmed?

I offer a hearty 'no way!'

While it is true that in this life we will experience good times and hard times, we are not meant to stay stuck! Even the difficult times are there to move us forward. Depending on the difficulties of the circumstances we are are facing, it is easy to believe that we have no control. It is simply not true. When we made the decision to follow Christ, we entered into a relationship with God; we became His children and He committed Himself to lead us and guide us into maturity. He has promised to heal and help us. We often complain and moan and fear and doubt but God is willing to lead us just as soon as we ask. He will faithfully take us step by step; the problem is not His lack of guidance, but often our forgetfulness in asking Him or our unwillingness to follow.

Often times the path to freedom is a slow one. Sometimes it is instantaneous, but mostly it takes practice. It is this journey that binds us to God's father heart. It is in our 'stuck-ness' that we learn to reach out; to invite God back into our parenting, our thought life, our careers and relationships.

It is not nearly so tricky as we think it is; it just comes down to this:
Ask Him.
Sit, wait, see what He says.
He will show you the next step to take because He is faithful.
It is up to us whether we will take it.

'Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
Don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
He's the one who will keep you on track.'

Proverbs 3:5 (The Message)

Monday, 1 February 2016

you can get help right now

image source: Niewiadomski

Have you ever felt as though you were waiting for something to come to pass? Some solution, some outcome, some answer to a problem? Oftentimes when I have been in a situation I have not been happy with or that I could not seem to get peace on, I have looked to the future, thinking, when is the answer going to come? This line of thinking often left me feeling as though I was just hanging: waiting around for something: a solution, for help, for God to do something. And yet over this past twelve months, one of the truths I am beginning to slowly wrap my head around is the concept of God as a present help. God as I AM and not I will be.

In the Bible, God's names represent a different aspect of His character. When He revealed himself as I AM, God was not only communicating His eternal nature but His Presence and Sufficiency for any situation, for any point in our timeline. Many of our concerns can be traced to living outside of the now. We might look to the past and see failure, disappointment and patterns we think we can't break. We look to the future and may fear the unknown or worry that the past will continue on a loop there. Or we might be waiting for something to happen that we believe will solve all our problems.

But I AM is above and beyond this; He is everything at once. Everywhere at once. I AM was there in the past and will be in the future, but most importantly, He is here right now. He is fully accessible to us in the present tense. That means now. And one second from now. And one second after that. There is no past or present sin, problem, dilemma or wayward thought that can alienate us from Him. We are not depending on the passing of time or the happening of certain events to be ok in life. We don't need to keep projecting our solutions to the future. Our answer dwells in the Present.

One of the biggest blessings of the God-life is the accessibility of help in every moment and circumstance. God's power to transform us, to strengthen us and offer us hope and give us wisdom so that we can face whatever is going on around us. It's the reason the apostle Paul could find joy even when he was in a prison cell. We can get peace in any singular moment, regardless of what is happening in our lives. Our security and help are not dependent on circumstances, on the unfolding of time. That would be a tragedy. There is too much at stake. Too much outside of our control. We could spend a whole life waiting.

Instead, we are offered help now. Today. This second.

Don't get stuck in the time-trap, projecting your help to some future point. Slow down. Synchronise with the rhythm of God and see how He will show Himself strong for you, right now.

'Now that we know what we have - Jesus, this great High Priest
 with ready access to God - let's not let it slip through our fingers. 
We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. 
He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all - 
all but the sin. 
So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. 
Take the mercy, accept the help.'

Hebrews 4:16 (The Message)

Thursday, 28 January 2016

the antidote to worry

image source: Nyberg

There are just so many things to worry about in this life. We could fill a whole day with a multitude of anxious thoughts concerning ourselves, our loved ones, our plans, careers, relationships, the world. In fact, if we look around, it often seems that there is more going wrong with the world than going right. In addition to what's going on 'out there', we have our own issues to contend with: past failures, lost dreams and hopes, experiences that seemed to have crushed us and trained us into believing that we might as well give up. We can become stuck amidst this stream of negative thoughts, trapped between the failures of the past and the fears for the future.
When we are overrun with negative, worrisome thoughts, it can be easy to get stuck. To feel like passengers in our own minds as the stream of concerns run through like a freight train, weighted by our experiences, by 'proofs' that things could and will go terribly, terribly wrong.

But there is an antidote.

God has not created us to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. Not even the weight of our own lives; He has provided a solution regarding those things which concern us. In Philippians 4:6 and 7 we find an invitation:

'Be anxious for nothing, but in everything buy prayer and supplication, 
with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 
and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.'

Within this well-known passage, we are offered the correct application for our anxieties: Prayer. When we are worried, it is a sign; a sign that we are carrying a burden that we ought not to be carrying. God knows that worrying about things that are outside of our control is not good for us. It is not His design for His creatures to carry the weight of the world; to try and plan their futures and keep all the plates in the air by their own strength. Some things are just outside of our control and no matter how much we churn over them, we cannot come up with answers.

When we are overrun with worry, we are invited to hand over our concerns to God through prayer. We are not casting them to the great void and hoping for the best. We are handing the problems over to a Being, asking Him to work on them for us. He has promised to equip us with strength and ability for every task. He has promised solutions, deliverance and His presence. When we pray, we invite him into the circumstance and secure His solutions. It is passing the problem from our hands into His.

Prayer also works an act of purging our minds of those thoughts that do not belong there. As we release the thought and the control to God, we reestablish our minds; we detox the negative, fearful churning thoughts and are left with a blank slate. God has promised that when we pass our concerns to Him, he will give us His peace.

In the verse above, peace is defined as the following:

  • a state of tranquility; exemption from the rage and havoc of war (remember, those things that concern us are not our battle to fight: God has promised to go ahead of us)
  • security, safety, prosperity
  • the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot of whatever sort it is

In addition to this, the word guard is likened to a military guard, which works to prevent hostile invasion or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight. It is a protection, a guarding, a keeping, a watching. When we pray, we release supernatural power; peace guards us but it is our job to stay in that peace. We need to be careful not to rehash a thought that we have released to God in prayer. Reject it; it has been committed to God's care and you can be assured that He will has taken responsibility for it.

This is God's design for his creation; communication with him. Re-aligning ourselves into His care and reminding ourselves that we are not meant to figure this life out by ourselves. He wants to show us the way and He wants to help us in our lives.

This is the fourth installment on a series of fear that I will be doing on this blog. Check back in the coming days for more on fear and how to take back control of a worried, fretting mind.

*For those who want facebook updates on my latest posts, you can find me at One Pilgrim's Journey

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

observe don't accept

image source: Brakkee

Too many of us are quick to accept a thing without thinking it through, without really asking, ‘is this true?’ My husband made a comment today about hearing that toasted muesli is not as healthy for you as untoasted muesli (which I think is true, incidentally), but when I asked him why it was healthier, he couldn’t tell me. He said, 'it has something to do with the fats'. Then he joked, 'but it was from a reliable source', to which I replied, 'yeah, if it was on the internet it must be true.'

We are a generation who are inundated with messages on a daily basis. Within a mouse click we are invited to learn and there is an abundance of evidence both for and against almost any topic we could imagine. We need to be aware that just because we hear a message (even on a grand scale) it does not make that message true.

For a long time, I believed that my thoughts were accurate measures of reality. If the thought was in my head, I would assume it was true. When I would think something like, ‘you know such-and-such could happen’, I would go into agreement with that thought, without even questioning it. The result? I would react emotionally, getting upset and convinced that that thing would come to pass. Most people seem to have a good grip on getting bossy with their thoughts but some of us struggle. I didn't challenge my thoughts, if I saw any grain of truth or possibility in them, I accepted them and with them, the negative emotions of fear, worry and doubt.

God is showing me that we do not need to receive the messages that come into our minds, via our thoughts. It might sound obvious and it's certainly not a new notion, but I don’t think we realise just how much real estate we give on a daily basis to thoughts that are just plain wrong. When we feed these unchallenged thoughts, they grow.

The enemy is a bully and he seeks to expand his territory in our minds. He does it through intimidation, persistence and often reasonings or imaginations (which feel real). In my last post, I spoke of the reality that the enemy has no real power over us, but when we accept his thoughts without challenging them, we allow his fearful lies to bed down and become part of us. He doesn’t have any power without our permission, but if we take his words and allow them to be truth for us, then we will live out of fear, or pride, or anger or whatever else he is trying to put on us. Then our actions reap fruit. In that way, he gains real estate and can gain it vastly.

Just think, if David had not challenged Goliath, but instead accepted his threats as truth (let's face it, the odds were definitely in Goliath's favour), then the whole territory of the Philistines would have continued to be inhabited by the enemy. The children of God would not have possessed what was rightly theirs.

No matter what territory the enemy has taken in our lives through his intimidation tactics, his imaginings or his persistent attack on the mind, we do not need to fear. God has given us the tools to take back what the enemy has stolen in regards to our peace, our health and our state of minds.

Slow Down

We need to observe the messages we are being told. Slow down and ask, is this true?
Hold it up to the mirror of God's word and if it doesn't match, ditch it! It doesn't matter if it feels true, looks true, smells true or sends your knees knocking together. (In fact the very reason it terrifies you is because it is un-truth or half-truth. Truth is a Person and He sets you free). This is the power we have. The power to separate ourselves from the thought. To observe it. And then to choose: accept or reject?

It will take courage. It will often mean defying reason, imaginations, experiences and the pull of our emotions, but these have never been measures of truth, so don't be fooled. Learn by those men and women of old who stood on the Word of God. Who took it literally and bravely, forsaking all else. God never forsakes those who rely on Him and the more we practice it, the stronger we will grow.

Truth is ours. Peace is ours.

Let's walk in it.

‘With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, 
for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness… 
But that isn’t what you learned about Christ.  
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 
throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, 
which is corrupted by lust and deception. 
Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 
Put on your new nature, created to be like God—
truly righteous and holy.’

Ephesians 4:17, 20-24

This is the third installment on a series of fear that I will be doing on this blog. Check back in the coming days for more on fear and how to take back control of a worried, fretting mind.

*For those who want facebook updates on my latest posts, you can find me at One Pilgrim's Journey