Poverty Mentality

As a child it wasn’t often we went to a house where a generous morning or afternoon tea spread was put on, but when there was we were usually told – just one thing (maybe two on an extremely special occasion). I would stand there in fits of indecisiveness wanting to make the perfect decision – desperate to have one of everything, haunted by the idea I might choose something dry and miss out on the truly gooey and delicious.

rocky road

(You can tell I am fully committed to the gooey slice and provision of baking in my adult life!)

I realise I carry this sense of only being allowed one good thing into my theology sometimes. It’s like I have a poverty mentality when it comes to all the goodness and promises of God.

I can believe that, in the death and resurrection of Jesus I have been given the most wonderful, earth-shattering, universe-changing gift. I know I am wholly redeemed, completely forgiven, totally accepted. Yet, suddenly when it comes to believing that the story will work out, the tears and disappointments will bear fruit, the missing out and longings will in some way be redeemed – I’m back to the girl at the morning tea.

I think I’m not allowed more, so I don’t ask. I stop asking, I give up seeking, I no longer lift my hand to knock.

I think that my day-to-day needs don’t matter.

I’ve finished the dialogue because, when the answer didn’t come instantly my way, I think there is no answer to be had. I have forgotten about the fruit born in patience, the character developed in persistence and the overarching deep-down-in-my-bones knowledge that the One who promised is faithful.

I read this by Nicky Gumbel the other day –

If God provided the ultimate sacrifice to meet your greatest need, will he not also provide for all your other needs?

(Jan 10th, Bible in one year app, from alpha international).

Isn’t it crazy to think of someone ready to go on a life-giving rescue mission to bring life to another would then turn around and not care how that life turned out?

That someone would put on a lavish celebration feast for someone then leave them to poverty and starvation afterwards?

plateJesus puts it this way:

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12

Maybe our needs aren’t always met the way we hoped they’d be but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care or that we shouldn’t continue to believe for and ask for the ‘daily bread’ required in our lives.

We are invited to a table lavishly spread and to a generous host who can do, provide, and meet with us in ways beyond what we can imagine. We are also called to partner with that generosity as we live out our stories.

Live bold and prayerful dear ones, and may we all know we are offered more than one piece of all the goodness God has to offer.

xxx

** this is not a reflection on gaining prosperity, success and wealth as we might measure it culturally – it’s a reflection about trusting God to meet our needs, to care about our needs and to continue his goodness and generosity towards us all of our lives. **

Fixing on the Smallest Things

When the world feels like a never-ending stream of bad news, of fearful threats, of actual violence on small and large scales it can feel like a crushing weight.

When children come home with distorted views of news you haven’t even talked about together, and the internet rages with right responses and rumours of revolutions. It can feel like very second person has a differing opinion on what’s the ‘right’ way to oppose injustice.

On and on, round and round until it just feels like a hurricane of disagreement shouted louder and louder over the bodies of the broken.

I start to feel like there is no reason for joy anymore.

Like it’s inappropriate to feel anything other than hopelessness and despair.

Like weeping will last and last and last.

So today I am looking through the disabling, overwhelming bad news, through the rhetoric and the rubbish, over the piles of grief.

Today I am stopping to honour the beauty of Jacaranda trees in full bloom.

jacarandas

 

I am listening to the sound of little people I love laughing.

I am joining my children in the swimming pools and chasing them until we are breathless and delighted.

IMG_0020

I am going to the door of a rundown stable and peaking over the heads of those gathered, hushed in wonder. I am gazing silent at the Son of heaven whose love has never walked away from brokenness.

Of the One who came to give us joy and life in all its fullness.

Of, Good News incarnate.

I am filling up on the smallest things, the beauty of creation, the song found in laughter, the warmth given in a small hand holding mine.

I am not hiding from the news of sadness – my heart is sighing wordless prayers for all the world. But, I am choosing today in the midst of strife to honour and be grateful for the beauty I have been given today to appreciate.

There is beauty to behold and today I am choosing with all my heart to see it.

Let us not dishonour the gift we have by placing on our shoulders the worry of what might be, and miss the joy of what is today.

Wherever you are today, however deep the challenges of your own news, may there be a moment to delight in. May a ray of light stream through the cracked places of your heart today.

Always, always may you know the love of being worth a King’s ransom.

xxx

 

dear overwhelmed heart

It takes a great deal of grit to keep going in the face of things that feel like a fast closing tsunami on a flat plain with no higher ground in sight.

It takes courage to look past the comparison of your real life when you’re constantly thinking other people’s ‘show reels’ are their real life.

It take determination to face another day of the same challenges, the same demands, the same brokenness.

I’m thinking of you today and praying a safe space for you to lower your guard, to lay down this load of perfection, to come out from behind the screen and allow yourself to be really seen.

100 percent

The internet has its wonderful graces but it has helped us all to live under the sin of covetousness and comparison.

It’s made us look at our ‘neighbour’s’ (aren’t we all neighbours now?) parenting skills, slim thighs, attractive partner, exotic holiday locations, pin worthy bedroom makeover and let our hearts be dismayed.

Covetousness is a robber. God knew when we went down that path – the path that makes us focus on our flaws, our lack, our disappointments – we were never going to return healthier, more motivated, more gracious to ourselves, quicker to forgive the less than perfect people we share our lives with.

To a people just delivered from slavery we see God establishing a set of safeguards to keep them again from self-inflicted slavery.

Because, dear heart, when you start to focus on how everyone else is getting it right, how their load is easier, how their grass is greener you have entangled yourself again in slavery. You have become a slave to an ideal that not only is impossible to meet, but an ideal that isn’t true.

Your imagination is making more of the greener grass than reality would suggest.

Jesus says, come to me you who are burdened and I will give you rest.

He invites us to unburden ourselves and be clothed in something that doesn’t require us to get it right. It requires us to admit we can’t.

When we start living free we release others to do the same. When we lower our guard and admit friend to friend, heart to heart, face to face that we are struggling we will either find that we have freed someone else to admit the same, or, we will find a safe place to be loved despite it all. Surely either of those are a better offer than the struggle of trying so hard to be all we cannot be.

Today instead of looking at someone’s perfect life online how about taking time to connect with someone offline?

How about we all ask to be delivered from the trap of covetousness and instead see ourselves for what we are – the radically loved, forgiven, cherished children of the Most High. Because that is what we are.

belonging

See how safe you are to be imperfect? We are all imperfect and any who present as less than are probably drowning in a terrible tide of overwhelming pressure to continue the facade.

Let’s use our determination, our grit, our courage to hold onto our freedom in Christ and certainly not let ourselves be burdened with a yoke of slavery that demands perfection.

Instead, we rest in the Grace of the One who knows us as imperfect and loves us all the same.

Be loved beautiful ones.

Father let us rest today in your care, unburdened and free from comparison, covetousness, and perfectionism. Let us be found secure in you, becoming whole and fully rescued. Give us strength to face the battles in our lives knowing we are not alone, nor will we ever be. You have promised to be with us always, and you always deliver on your promises.

for the mamas with shaking hearts

It’s easy to lose sight of the light,

it’s easy for a mama’s heart to be filled to overflowing with the stories of the terror on the peripheries.

Sometimes it just whispers and hounds at your heels this world you’ve willingly brought your babies into,

and the thunderclouds of political rumblings and wars and rumours of wars and collapsing relationships around you

oh the weight of these things we want to shield our beautiful babes from

on those days remember little mama you are not alone;

mamas have come and they have lived and loved with all the fierceness of a mother’s heart,
they have grieved and cheered and felt so swollen with the joy of their little ones it threatened to burst out of them,

we live on, us mamas

and we see the thunderclouds and sometimes those thunderclouds take up residence in our hearts
they rumble and taunt us with the faces of our babes in their clutches

fear not loving mamas

fear not 

we live in and under the hand of the One who has never forsaken his own

we have forsaken him

but He is faithful and it is not the nature of God to change

when John opens we are reminded of Jesus – eternal one

Everything that was created 
received its life from him,
and his life gave life to everyone.
The light keeps shining in the dark,
and the darkness has never put it out.

Read those words again my anxious heart – the darkness has never put it out, never.

Because the clouds might be real or imagined – they may be the hugeness of a world groaning for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed, or those clouds might be hanging on the walls of your home creeping under the doorways like winter winds.

But you are held. You are held by the One who has never abandoned the ones who run to him.

and just in case we forget, after Jesus has spelled his commitment in the blood of his body he says, ‘Surely I am with you, always.’

Never forsaken, Always present.

So today when your heart wobbles look to the light, because the light is there and the darkness has never been able to extinguish it.

This light, our light, the eternal One.
This is your peace, this is your answer to your anxiousness.

God, that we would see your light, that we would rest in your faithfulness and that we would wage our wars with the reassurance we will never be forsaken to the battle ground. 
You, you are our peace and our inheritance, our joy forever.
We love you, even as we are loved by you.

when faith feels like oil in my hands

there are days when holding onto all I know to be truth feels like being given a litre of oil and only my hands to hold it with

the days when arguments storm around the internet with Christians pointing fingers at other Christians, and fingers racing across faith divides faster than lightning strikes, and enough rhetoric to make the whole world confused and turned off

the days I don’t feel anything

the days I look at the violence we commit against each other and the way we ravage the planet

and I start to doubt that I have built my house on a rock and I start to worry that I’m trying to build on quicksand

do you have those days?

this is why I need Lent

this is why I need a daily dose of reminding that running from pain is not the way of the cross

that pain and heartache are evidence of how we all need the cross

that pain, rejection, fear, misunderstanding…. these are not the end of the story

Jesus didn’t run from fear

he didn’t only say the words that people wanted to hear

he also didn’t seem to engage in endless debates about the side issues

he didn’t pretend there weren’t tears – he wept, remember?

he didn’t run away from pain – the lashes, the crown of thorns, the suffocating death, remember?

remember, remember, remember

so, when the world and all its words and images and arguments seek to land me with a faith that feels like oil, I need to run again, back to the cross and feel its splinters real in my hands – to face the pain without the fear

I sit and wait and breathe and hear again

peace I give you, my peace I leave with you – do not let your hearts be troubled, do not be afraid

and I drink it down like a parched plant

in this world there will be trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world

and when I have nothing left to hold onto but the splinters of the cross I wait to hear

surely, surely Miriam, little one I am with you right to the very end

and this is where I sit, and I stop trying to hold the oil and I let the oil pour down over my head and into my heart and I take courage in the fact that when I cannot hold onto my faith I can at least be held and I can know

that I have been given to Jesus by the Father and no-one can ever snatch me from his hands

and these words, this oil anointing, this will be enough for today

Be Gentle with Me

Sometimes my faith feels more delicate than others – I worry for the world my boys will grow into – damaged by war and hate and a disregard for our charge to steward it as those who know how much it delights the God who made it.

When people verbalise their own ‘I’m glad I’m old and I won’t have to live through what’s coming’, I feel a bit damaged.

What I need to hear sometimes are the words of psalms that I come back to again and again,

searing them into my heart like some kind of tattoo

when late night thoughts threaten to turn me from a steady course I whisper them to myself

sometimes through tears

I have lived long in the land but I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread Psalm 37v25

never forsaken

never forsaken

never forsaken

because like I sear these words into my heart I hear this

see I have engraved you on the palms of my hands Isaiah 49v16

I am engraved

and when the world breaks me in ways I cannot even begin to give words to

I don’t need your doomsday prophecy, no I’m not hiding

I’m gentle my faith feels bruised and battered and I need the promise of the prophecy of my saviour a bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not put out Isaiah 42v3 and Matt 12v20

what I need to hear from you is “throughout the pain, in the disappointment, in the tragedies that have torn my heart and split me apart I was not forsaken, never forsaken.”.

Let’s be gentle with each others faith when days are dark.

Let us strengthen weary ankles so they don’t turn over and let us revisit again and again the triumphs, the encouragements, the peace, the hope….

and when we falter let’s do what Joshua did for Moses and hold one another’s arms up over the battle.

beautiful reader you are never forsaken throw your hope and anxiety into that – this is the love that cannot and will never be defeated

x

When You’ve Clicked Refresh a Million Times

And you find no new message

no funny story to distract you from your current anxieties

when you’ve hoped for an inspiration from a screen – a text, a story, some email bringer of good tidings….

it’s in that few seconds of loading another whisper calls your name

and offers you truly good tidings of great joy.

When anxiety and your own brokenness clink like broken bottles in your backpack

there is another place to go to find distraction from your thoughts

there is a place of peace.

And it comes at a battle and it comes without price.

Because you have to stake a claim on it – and that requires a battle to silence all that whirls, and calls and shouts your name. All those thoughts, all those repeated mistakes and fears of being exposed… all of that and you have to shut it down – and sometimes when you stand on the edge of a cliff with all that noise and chaos jumping about in your back pack and threatening to tip you over – you get to choose to take that back pack off and throw it off the cliff.

and sometimes you need help just to let that worry go that you have had for so long – and help awaits, help is there to assist.

Then you turn and fall into the ‘without price’, and you allow the empty spaces to be filled with peace that cannot be explained or even fully comprehended. And you allow your quiet self to rest, and be, and linger.

and you get a true ‘refresh’ and from that ‘refresh’ come answers and sometimes no answers just the peace that it is well with my soul and the answers don’t matter any more.

Just a reminder that the story isn’t finished and you are in the hands of a master storyteller.

…. and maybe the end of a chapter is drawing nigh and the promise of a new beginning looms….