Last night during our small group discussion, we began to unravel a bit of Mary’s story- from the angel appearing to tell her of what would be before her to her response of ‘let it be’. During this time, these two words, comfort and courage, floated to the surface of our conversation and it has since got me thinking… I’d like to be courageous ( well who doesn’t really?) …. but then again I’d like to be comfortable too. The question then begins to arise, however… can these two actually exist side by side together? Is it possible to be both comfortable and courageous at the same time? I’m not so sure. I’ve touched a bit on this subject before of stepping outside of the comfort zone in some of my previous posts, including that of A Walk on the Wild Side. But I just wanted to write out some of the quotes from last night that went along with this story and discussion.
Courage always demands an element of leaving and leaving is hard.
I guess leaving can mean a lot of things to us. It can mean leaving a place to live somewhere else. It can be leaving a relationship that isn’t so healthy. It can be leaving old and negative habits or traits behind us too. Perhaps, it is leaving the warmth of my comfort zone and into the scary unknown. Maybe it is leaving behind my calculations and stepping out into a living faith that says ‘God’s actually got this!’. And as it says at the end of the sentence, its not easy or simple , it can actually be quite hard.
Moving from comfort to courage will cause you to question your decision. It will cause you to look around for the safety bars, seatbelt and any kind of security button.
Sometimes doing something that takes great courage is a bit like going for a walk in the dark. The path can’t be seen. I don’t know what is around me or before me. It is difficult to walk confidently, but yet I am trying to remind myself that the little steps are still steps too. I may put out my hands for protection from things getting in my way. I may fumble and even seek the solace of something that I can depend on in this situation. But how much more better to be walking in the dark from what was the inside of a cabin, to reach the end of that path and look up, beholding the stars and heavens above you. I’d like to think that I would be more satisfied and content (even if I am terrified!) under those stars, than staying in the comfort under the roof of that cabin I’ve made. If we are going to seek for a safety net, let it be Christ. If we are going to have questions about our direction, let it be Christ. And if we are going to have anyone who we can trust to walk with us in the dark, let it be Christ.
Moving from comfort to courage will cause you to feel weak in the knees- a good indicator that you should stop standing up and get on your knees.
Perhaps you can think of something right now, tugging at your heart and residing in your mind. A little ( or maybe even a loud) call to be courageous and leave that comfort zone. I think at some stage or another, we all have that! I can think of one or two now myself- it just sits back there and then when I hear things such as this, my ears perk up and my heart beats faster and I begin to wonder, does God want me to leave the comfortable and take courage for something bigger? Does God want me to leave behind my calculations or imaginings and just walk in the dark for a bit? No source of light that I have provided, but only that of whichHe provides? What is the thing that you are thinking of? Will it be hard? Yes, perhaps more than we have imagined. That is why we must be relying on God’s strength alone, from that first step and for the rest of the journey. To ever be able to do any of these things mentioned above, prayer must be an essential part of what we take with us on that walk. We might even have to stop at times and get on our knees. And even if we feel like we are not moving, like we are not courageous at all, we are simply resting in the direction that continues to call us out of the comfortable. Change won’t happen in the comfortable Growth won’t occur there either. Will I be content here too? I really don’t think so.
Let us leave behind what is keeping us back. Let us look forward to the One who calls us to greater. Let us get on our knees and seek Him alone.
Last month, my two friends and I took part in an adventure race….I think we were definitely rafting, hiking and biking out of our comfort zones!!
( Quotes from Jeanne Stevens, Twelve Women of the Bible)
Hello readers!! I feel like its been so long since I’ve last posted. Last week, I was away in Australia and got to spend some time in the sun at Airlie Beach. I have to say that I began this trip not having much expectation of how it would go or what exactly I would be doing. Being away with a book in my hand and the sun over my head sounded good enough for me and everything else was a bonus. I was visiting a friend from Ireland and as per usual, it isn’t long before we were delving into deep conversations among all of the laughs along the way. I’m so thankful for that time with her and the opportunity to see a new place.
Have you ever had that holiday that is just relaxing and the perfect amount of time to be away for? So much so that you are even excited and energised to get back into routine and the things that are before you? Well that was this holiday for me. Yes, I got to do lots of fun activities like ocean rafting around some of the islands, snorkelling and visiting the Great Barrier Reef. However, I also had those beautiful quiet moments of sitting by the ocean with a pen in my hand and the company of my thoughts. Here was how that looked at times…
Can I just say how amused I was by this bench table? You cannot see the little description there but it tells us that the bench is 100% recyclable and is made out of 3500 plastic bottles. I think it’s so cool, I’m going to write the local council to see if we could do something like that! So “L is for Lifestyle” of me, I know !!!
ANYWAYS, with these peaceful moments as well as being outside of normal routine and surroundings, I was able to step back and collect some thoughts along the way. It was on the first night that my friend and I began a conversation about life unfolding into something we hadn’t ever imagined for ourselves (Yes, this was amongst the yawns and tiredness of travelling). So here are some of my thoughts that I carried on from that late night conversation….
Life hasn’t really turned out how I imagined it to be. All this to ask myself “Well what is the purpose of life, my life? ” I’m not quite sure if its really about what you do in a sense, even though I do think what you do has consequences, value and importance. However, I’m beginning to think it’s more to do with the circumstance or place that God puts us in and what we do with that. His placing and allowance of things to come our way are ultimately to lead us to knowing Him more, being changed by Him and indeed through this, that others would come to know God too! I believe that God does know the best way to bring us through life in order to accomplish these things- and of course, that doesn’t mean it will be easy, comfortable, without mess and complications or a picture perfect, cookie cutter path. I think that this is what I’ve really been coming to know and understand the past few years, and yet I feel like I haven’t even began to scratch the surface on it all either!
C.S Lewis says “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
I believe that this quote sums up how I feel sometimes about God and having my best in mind. I guess I can believe that life will lead to this beautiful, pinnacle moment where everything changes and culminates into the start of something really great and because of that I’ll suddenly be this spirit filled Christian; overflowing with wisdom and joy… all of the time… and not just for a second here or there… However, instead it looks more like ups and downs, with some pinnacle moments but also a whole lot of mundane. With some joy, but with some sorrow present too. With beauty, as well as some ugly. And all of this so that I can become more and more like the person that God wants me to be; as I long to live for Him and be shaped by Him. Not every moment will I feel so pumped, ready to conquer anything and everything with that deep sense of joy or wisdom. But through those weaker times, I will still have my hands and heart open to God as my all. That it will still be the best for me.
Never would I have dreamed up that I would be near 30 and single, living in New Zealand and sitting at a park bench over-looking the sea in Australia. And yet here I am. Quite content in this moment with God. I actually would have written it differently altogether. But would have I been so content, shaped or used in the life I would have made? I’m not so sure. I’m beginning to understand more and more (especially in the times of difficulty or confusion) that if God had thought I would know Him better and change in any other place or circumstance, then He would have placed me in it. But if I am living in surrender, then where I am right now, is the best place or circumstance for me to be in to do that. Again, I wish I was always living this in the moments where fear, doubt or worry creep in. When the fear of the unknown of the future hangs over me like a little dark cloud. It’s not always easy. But as I look back to look ahead, I can take with me that although life doesn’t unfold the way we imagine it to, with God, it’s really so much better! It doesn’t make it perfect, easy or tidy but it makes it worth it. Because God calls Himself the giver of life, we actually cannot do it without Him in it! We can build our sandcastles that look so pretty with our comfortable status, beautiful family and home, job, materials , you name it…..and yet what happens when the tide comes in and washes some of those things away? What are we left with? Our foundation, our life, our dreams and plans, must be built on the foundation of Christ alone. They can be wonderful things to desire and acclaim but let us go to the life-giver; imagining and doing life with Him- not on our own or for our own gain.
My future will more than likely turn out to be completely different to what I imagine it to be right now in this moment. I’ll probably kick and cry and say things I shouldn’t when my circumstances don’t unfold so nicely. However, I hope that one day, in a few years time perhaps, I can sit on a park bench elsewhere and look back to say: “Wow, life just isn’t what I imagined it to be, its so much better. God’s best has brought me closer into knowing Him and I just love Him for that!”
At the moment, my small group and I are working our way through a series on twelve women of the Bible. Although they are stories of women who we might have heard and read about plenty of times, it still amazes me when something new can pop out of the text! This happened a few weeks ago when we were taking a look at the life of Rebekah.
Rebekah's journey leads us from her servant heart of drawing water to quench the thirst of others (and their camels too!) to travelling away to meet what was to be her future husband. At this stage in the text, she and her husband, Isaac are together and it is here that one little minor, but major, detail hit me in between the eyes. But first, let's read through the verses in Genesis 25 and see if you spot it too!
19 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham fathered Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?”[b] So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you[c] shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.”
24 When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob.[d] Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
27 When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. 28 Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
Perhaps, your attention to detail is much greater than mine. As I initially glossed over this, I observed some things but missed others entirely. When I had first glanced over the passage, I came to v21 where it says that Isaac prayed to the Lord and sure enough God granted his prayer. Easy peasy! I proudly and ignorantly thought how easy that some people have it- they ask and God gives. What about some of my requests and prayers with no answer on the horizon and silence in the background? Well it just doesn't seem fair really. Maybe, these Old Testament men and women of faith just have some kind of formula or good luck (if there was such a thing!) that I don't have! Ridiculous thought, I know. However, isn't it so easy to look back on someone else's journey and think 'wow, they just have it so good and got exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it!'. But oh how wrong I had it. I encourage you to read over the passage again and see what else we can pick up from when Isaac prayed to when God granted him his prayer?
That's it. That little detail that was separated by words and verses. We read in v20 that Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah. She was barren and this caused Isaac to seek God and ask that they would have children. The text then goes on to say that God answered that and that she was to have twins and all seems quite simple and quick really. BUT THEN. We come to v26, and its here that we can easily miss it. It says that Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. If we do the math, that means for twenty years they have been together and it is only now that she has given birth to offspring?? Wait, a minute, that means that yes Isaac prayed (at some stage in those twenty years) for God to provide and yet it was only when he was sixty that he would see the fruit of that prayer? And now, it just doesn't seem like it was so easy peasy for them. You can imagine with the promise that Abraham's seed will be as plentiful as the stars that they would have been thinking about babies from early on in their marriage. I can't say for fact from what I've read, but I don't think they were waiting till they had a house, secure income or whatever else to tick off their list before wanting to have some heirs. Could they possibly have waited twenty years to receive the thing that their hearts longed for? I'm so very thankful that God includes stories of people who wrestled, who messed up and who struggled. I'm (perhaps selfishly) glad that there are examples of people's journey included that were hard at times and confusing. If we only heard about the easy parts of their story, then we would walk away disheartened as it just wouldn't apply to us at times.
The Bible is filled with such great application to our lives here and now. Even if I cannot relate to a women's story of filling up some jars with water ( I wouldn't even understand the hours and the physical labour involved in this act of service ) and that she willingly went to marry some man that she hadn't even met ( that circumstance is just too difficult for me to fathom ). However, the life of Isaac and Rebekah can be relevant to our lives and our heart today, here and now, worlds and times a part. They sought the Lord and He granted them that very thing. We don't hear about those years of tears and heartache. Those twenty years that were perhaps confusing and made them question how God was at work. The times of silence when they yet had no child in their arms. I guess that is why Isaac and those who were before and after him are so mentioned in Hebrews 11 for their faith. They had faith in a bigger God then their circumstances. They had faith in a God that was more powerful than the emotions they may have felt. They had faith in a God that answers prayers, in His way and in His timing. And those twenty years just mean so much to me because they tell me to have faith in our very big, powerful and faithful God!
And remember that the details can be important sometimes!
Although, it is winter at the moment (and I'm ready for Spring!), this photo was taken at Mueller Hut during the middle of summer!
I have this list of titles for various posts and subject matters, some of which I’ve been thinking about for a while now. It has been around two weeks since I last sat down to write, and yet at this moment in time, I just don’t feel very inspired to put pen to paper. Perhaps, those are the days that I am finding myself in – contemplation, reflection….. with lots of questions and not that many answers. I read at least one blog every day and I continue to pour over books and conversations over coffee. But as for sharing anything right now… well… that’s just going to have to wait.
I can have high expectations on myself. I had aimed to write a post at least once every two weeks and over the past year that went according to plan. However, I think its equally important to take the proper time to think and process before simply putting words and thoughts out to the public. I want to include this in my everyday life. Before I say what I feel or think in that moment, perhaps, I should just leave a few moments, or some time, to respond. Perhaps words can be powerful and I fling them around too lightly.
So until inspiration comes my way or I find a great desire to expound on one of those titles. I’ll try to enjoy the reflection and contemplation, and remember that that is ok too. I’ve always struggled with resting. I’m totally the person who likes to tick off all the things on the to-do list before I can sit down and enjoy the break. I remember at the end of every school day, doing my homework first thing because I couldn’t enjoy doing anything else till that was out of the way. That can be a good thing… but it also can be a bad thing. It can be a bad thing when you have those lists in life that you know won’t be ticked that day, or week, or even month. So how do you rest then? It is something that I am continuing to learn.
So for this title, I’m saying that rests are ok. I don’t have to stick to the lists sometimes. Some times I can put them away in a drawer and enjoy the break. I’m not necessarily putting my blog in a ‘drawer’ right now but know that through the quieter weeks of writing, this is hopefully what I will be doing- resting in my thoughts and reflecting in relaxation.
Till then, may you find rest too!
I feel like I haven’t written much in a while and if I’m honest, I haven’t really been ‘in the mood’ to do so either. However, here I am this winter’s morning, sitting down to a cup of coffee and writing down some thoughts. It is now that I stop and begin to realise how thankful I am; that I know I can rely on a God who doesn’t choose to communicate with us based on His mood. He is always open for communion with His Children. I’ve thought a lot lately about God hearing our prayers as I’ve poured into the story of Hannah laying her request before the Lord. I look up and I mull over the verses that tell me more about God and His ear to us. What I don’t understand is why I get so surprised when I encounter those moments that I know I’m hearing from Him. Doesn’t relationship and communication work both ways? You mean I don’t just get to rattle off my thoughts and requests to God, but that He can communicate His thoughts to me as well? I’m convicted in my prayer life to remember to listen, as I pour into His words and as I lay, not only my thoughts and request at His feet, but also myself. If God speaks to us, then I guess I need to start being aware of listening to Him and recognising His voice too. I’d like to share one example of how it clicked with me, that perhaps God was trying to say something to me.
A few weeks ago, I was going about my morning as usual and ready to read through whatever was coming up in the next chapter of my quiet time. Did I take the time before to ask God for open ears, eyes and heart for what He may be wanting me to hear? In all honesty, probably not. In the Bible Study I was going through, I came across a sentence that struck me. I thought it was interesting and even wrote it down. It said:
Walking in the truth doesn’t mean a life of perfection but it does mean you are pointed in the direction of Christ. -Kelly Minter.
The word perfection stood out to me and it kind of got under my skin a bit. However, I went about my day and didn’t really give much thought to it or even pray about it. Then that very night, I was reading another book, on another subject and again, this word perfection hits me right between the eyes. Here Lysa Terkeurst said:
Saying yes to God isn’t about perfect performance, but rather perfect surrender to the Lord day by day.
Ok God, I get it, you obviously want me to have a little think about that word and it’s place in my life! I wrote down that line too and then I proceeded to acknowledge the presence of perfection that I might be living by. Perhaps God wanted to open my eyes to it because in my mind, I obviously didn’t think it was really a problem. You see, I’ve been through some tumbles and disobedient times throughout the years. I know people have seen my imperfections and I have seen how imperfections can point us to look at a perfect God, and not each other. One of the things, I feel so passionate about is being transparent and I can be quick to blurt out what I’m thinking that isn’t so wonderfully packaged and is rough around the edges. All in order to show that I’m not perfect, but I know who is. So why was that word bothering me so much? Why was God speaking to me about it? Have I just not got it? Well actually, no.
The day before something came up that seems like an endless cycle that I’ll never get out of. That feeling of failure had hung over my head and perhaps I had brought it around with me, as I engaged with others and in activities. Without realising it, I was starting to live by a perfection that I can’t contain or maintain. The burden that was lifted off my shoulders when I began to read more about what walking in the truth meant and that my direction being pointed towards that of Christ! He lived that perfect life so that I can aim to perfectly surrender my life to Him everyday! Even in my imperfections.
As if I didn’t need another reminder. Two days later, I kid you not, this very subject matter was brought up by someone in our conversation. They said it outright what I had been thinking about the past few days. That I expect perfection from myself. Ok God, I really get it now and so do others! And my whole point of mentioning this , is not to dive too much into the subject of perfection, but to be reminded that God does communicate with His children. I was going about my day and not really realising any of this. It took not one but two instances in my reading. It also took someone else to finish it off with an exclaimation mark.
We can read lots of examples throughout scripture of how God spoke to people. I don’t think that He uses a cookie cutter for every circumstance and situation. However, I believe He uses that time in His word and with Him to communicate most of all. Are we listening? Have you ever approached reading the Bible, just to attain information about God but not to get to know Him personally or expecting for Him to speak to you through it? I can forget about that! I’m so, so thankful that we serve a relational God and I am reminded to stop and be ready to listen. I can approach reading my Bible with the expectation that its words can take life and fill me with its truths. That God can reveal, direct and speak through them. I hope this encourages you somehow today, to take a few moments before you open the Bible and spend time with God, that He not only hears your prayers but that you can hear from Him too. Yes, sometimes we feel He is silent and that is another post for another day. Till then, however, I’d like to leave you with some filters that I read about in Lysa’s book, When women say yes to God.
1. Does what I’m hearing line up with Scripture?
2. Is it consistent with God’s character?
3. Is it being confirmed through messages I’m hearing at church or studying in my quiet times?
4. Is it beyond me?
5. Would it please God?
A few months ago, I picked up a book called Wrestling With Wonder by Marlo Schalesky. It was the title itself that caught my eye as I felt that those very words easily describe what I so often do- wrestle with wonder. Immediately, I rushed to the titles of the chapters where other words stood out from the page; words such as disappointed, blessed and transformation. These titles whetted enough of an appetite that I quickly bought the book and over the past few months, have slowly been remunating over this very subject of wrestling with wonder.
I wish that I could say that I loved to wonder and ponder various subjects all of the time, especially the thoughts that involve the future. Sometimes it is really great and it is exciting not to be able to predict what’s around the corner. However, it can often feel more like drowning in a sea of questions and just wanting to know some of those answers. I desire so much to have that open hand that says ‘Yes, Lord, send me’ or ‘ I’ll do whatever you want!’. But if I am honest, the joy and excitement in the adventure can be robbed from me as the unknown is just a little bit scary at times! So I wrestle with it. With a tension between wanting to exude excitement and the reality of shedding tears because I’m weary of wondering. I just want to know.
In this book, the author brings us through the journey of Mary. A young woman who was called blessed and was given the responsibility and privilege of rearing the very Son of God in His great redemptive plan for mankind. Her obedience and her heart paved the way for her to experience such a close encounter with Jesus and yet if we actually take a moment to think back on her life, it certainly wasn’t always an easy one. The chapters break down her journey, from the manger to the cross. From the beginning to the end, her story involves trust, confusion, fellowship, the witnessing of miracles, the example of love and being blessed, her nightmare unfolding, her disappointment arising and her hope being fulfilled. There is one segment of her life that I cannot stop thinking about and I had never really taken the time to consider. It is this that I’d like to share today and if you are intrigued by the other topics that I’ve mentioned, I do encourage you to pick up the book!
In Luke chapter 2, we get a glimpse into the life of Jesus as a twelve year old. I actually cannot imagine what it would be like to be the mother of a child who was perfect and did not sin. I’m sure it was very convicting at times! Here, we are told that Jesus’ earthly family were in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as they were every year. When the feast was over, they were returning home when they realised that Jesus wasn’t with them. I’m presuming that they must have been travelling with a large group of people for this delayed realisation that your child isn’t with you. So as parents might do when not knowing the whereabouts of their twelve year old, they searched for him. They actually searched for three days and had to retrace their steps back to Jerusalem. I can only guess that they must have been frantic and worried. I wonder what their prayers would have been like. ‘Hey, I know you gave me the responsibility of helping raise your Son, God, but I seem to have lost him…… Sorry?’ I don’t know what would have been racing through their mind but I don’t think it would have been something that was blasé or with a carefree demeanour. I’m sure heartfelt tears were shed and cries poured out as to the wonder of where the Son of God could have been!
Lo, and behold, thankfully, Jesus is eventually found in the temple. In fact, scripture tells us he was sitting among the teachers- listening to them and asking questions. This alone, would tell anyone that this boy is not your typical twelve year old. I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall and to hear the very words spoken by both divinity and humanity to a group of teachers! I’m sure they were amazed, intrigued and challenged by this young boy. But let us look at Mary’s response and this is the very thing that I had never really thought about before.
And his mother said to him. ‘Why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress. Luke 2.48
Why have you treated us so? I probably would have said and done the exact same thing. Why? How could you do this to me? Because this is the thing. Jesus, in His great knowledge, wisdom and sinless being, would have known that his mother would have been distressed at his absence. As he stayed behind in Jerusalem and allowed his family to continue their journey, he would have known that his mother (and father) would become deeply distressed. Most of your average twelve years olds might consider that their parents will be wondering with worry where they are or it might even cross their minds that when they are found, their parents are going to kill them for causing them such angst. But this young boy is different. Not only He is intelligent enough to be found in philosophical conversations with religious teachers but He is sinless. Which means…… that He wasn’t doing anything wrong in allowing his parents to go through a diffulcult, distressful and tear filled part of their journey! Mary’s first response and concern was ‘how could you do this to us?’. Have you ever been there? ‘God, why are you allowing this to happen, its really distressing for me to go through this!’. It feels like we are even wronged! We are confused that our loving Father, who knows what’s ahead, would even lead us into this. And we cry out WHY?? I want to know! But that is the wrong thing that we are wanting to know. We are seeking to know the why’s, when we should be seeking to know the Who.
Jesus responded to that question with Did you not know that I would be in my Father’s house? He was asking them ‘do you not know WHO I am?’. ‘Had it not occurred to you where I would be? With my Father.’ And that is the very truth that we can hold onto in our great distress. He is the Son of God, interceding on our behalf to the Father. When trials comes and we are wrestling with all the wonder and the why’s, we don’t have to wrestle with who He is. He is perfect and He is perfect in all of His ways to us. He was perfect in His ways to his earthly family, even when they might have felt abandoned or alone.
Oh how easy it is to write these words and how hard it can be to really live them out. This one thought has continued to seep its way into those times of wrestling with wonder. I am still left with that tension of wanting to feel excited and enthuastic but struggling with doubt and distress. However, in it all and even amongst those feelings, I find who He is. He is with me and His ways are not wrong, they are perfect. I may not have grasped or understand all the why’s. I may still be hit with waves of questions but I have the very hand of God present to be my hope and anchor. Like Mary, who was considered blessed, I may sometimes be confused as to His whereabouts. However, I follow a God who is continously at work in bringing me to a place that knows who He is.