The Abrupt Arrival of Winter

 

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At 3am the storm hit – hail and thunder, pounding rain. And with it came the cold. Shortly after, my 4 year old clambered into our bed, feet and hands like ice blocks. Winter had announced its arrival. We knew it was coming of course. But the glorious long summer that we had been enjoying disappeared in an instant. You see apart from the mountainous pile of leaves that my oak tree had shed one could easily be forgiven for thinking that Autumn had not yet come, let alone winter.

Just last week, in the heat and mugginess of the day, shop windows with their winter knit displays seemed absurd. Today they looked delicious and compelling. This year the start of winter has been abrupt (and dispruptive!). We weren’t seduced into its arms by cooler evenings and fresh breezes, it just brashly arrived. And so flannelette sheets have urgently made their way onto the boys’ beds.

Our lives also have seasons. Seasons of growth and opportunities, seasons of rest, seasons of change. It is so important to embrace the season that we are in. Seasons of change are fluid and temperamental with uncertainty and restlessness. Seasons of rest are quiet but filled with the grace of God. But whatever the season, each season prepares for the next. The season of rest prepares for the season of change and gives you the strength and reserves for it. The season of change often precedes the one of growth. Just has nature has a pattern in the seasons so do our lives.

The change in season may be gentle as spring makes its gracious entrance with new growth pushing through the soil or may be as abrupt as the Winter that has appeared today. As my oak tree sheds its last leaf its energy will be going into its roots, growing strong so that in the Summer it can take the weight of its new leaves and acorns. I don’t know what season of life you are in but remember it is important. Do not be discouraged or compare yourself with anyone else; simply be obedient to what God has called you to in this moment on this day in this particular season. What goes on in someone else’s field is for them to tend and nurture. Our responsibility is for our field. 

Don’t fight the season! Understand that there is gold in every single stage of life. I’m embracing winter now – the duvets, the hot drinks, the scarves and my red polka dot umbrella will be much enjoyed!

Intent on being Intentional

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“intentional : – done on purpose, deliberate, calculated, conscious, done on purpose, intended, planned, meant, considered, wilful, purposeful, purposive, pre-planned.
I’ve decided that my word for 2015 is going to be “intentional” and I am intent on it! And yes I am sure I break a rule of English by using the definition of the word in the explanation of it! Nonetheless, I am intent on 2015 being a year where I am more considered and purposeful on all aspects of my life – whether it be family, relationships, work, health, church life or more importantly my relationship with God.
I intend to be more considerate of my decisions small or big. To understand that any decision has a flow on effect to all aspects of my life. Working late or after hours impacts my family life. A late night on writing impacts my work day and the quality of work that I do. Intentional to me means being present in the activity that I am currently involved in. It means ignoring the email when I am playing batman with my 3 year old. It means ignoring the phone ringing when the boys are telling me about their day. Intentional means making the wise decisions when doing the grocery shopping and being mindful of my needs for rest and ensuring my yes to anything is the best yes.
Having “intentional” as my word for 2015 gives a framework to my year, to my decisions and plans. The thing is though, I know, despite my best resolve that I cannot do this on my own. That on my own, the word “intentional” will be merely a word that I whispered to the night air at the start of 2015. Once again I can turn to no other but God, for His guidance and strength, His wisdom and care. And actually, He holds the key, and it really is quite simple.
“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (Psalm 37:4-5)
“Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3)
 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

The View

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Standing at my kitchen bench, I love the vista from the window onto a corner of my garden. I love watching the birds feeding on the bread I’ve thrown them. It’s a pretty sight, and gives me cause to pause and enjoy. You might have something similar – a favourite corner of the garden or maybe you look out at mountains, the sea, or views across the city.

Actual views aside, we also all have outlooks on life. And yes, forgive me for quoting the rather obvious “is the glass half full or half empty” description of viewing life. But there is a lot to be said for our attitude towards life. We need to hold to the perspective of Heaven for our lives. We need to respond to life like Heaven responds.

Setting our minds on things above is thinking about what God would be thinking about the events in our lives. Vision is what we see, but it is also the way in which we see. Vision is the lens that interprets the events of our life, our outlook on life. Vision is what keeps us looking forward, not back and certainly not down.

Whenever I’m finding it tough going and I’m tempted to focus on the negative in my life – whether it be the length of the lawn in my garden (!) or work pressures, or the seemingly endless list of things to do, I like to look up. And by that I mean to Heaven – to God, not to the birds in the trees! I look up to God, to ask for His perspective on life. And by looking up I gain hope, strength, and vision for my day and for my life.

My favourite Psalm says it best….

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore. (Psalm 121)

 

 

National Haircut Day

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It was National Haircut Day yesterday. Well not really, but that’s what it felt like. The first 3 women I spoke to at the school and kindy drop off, were all sporting new haircuts and had that I’ve just been to the salon sleek coiffured look. I apparently missed the memo reminding me to go to the hairdressers yesterday. It made me think I was part of a TV advert or something….come to think of it there is a TV advert of a person who missed the text message notifying him of the new haircut style!

It’s not unusual though in life to miss a notification of an event although fortunately this haircut popularity was just a coincidence and not something missed. In the plethora of notices that are coming home from school at the moment advertising gala days, raffles and school assembly costumes, it’s a wonder I haven’t missed something.

What it does remind me, is how often in life we can think that we have missed the moment, that we have missed what God has planned and purposed for us. Through distraction or confusion, disobedience, fear or events outside our control, we can sometimes be left with the feeling that we’ve missed our opportunity to be used by Him.

Mess ups and missed opportunities happen in life, but one thing is for sure, if your heart is after God, you will not miss your calling. God is the God of the second chance, the third chance and all the ones after that. And if that doesn’t convince you take a look at some of the people in the Bible. Moses killed, Jonah ran away, Peter denied. They messed up but they didn’t miss out on fulfilling the purpose that God had called them for.

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

 

Traffic jams and a lesson in patience

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Today, waiting at an intersection while an endless stream of cars passed by, all eating into precious time for getting to swimming lessons, I caught myself sighing and then definitely frowning. Well actually my boys caught me frowning. I was unashamedly impatient. In that moment, a song then came to mind. A song from my childhood, from Music Machine about yes you guessed it, patience.

So humour me here, imagine a snail, in fact a snail named Herbert singing this chorus…

Have patience, have patience
Don’t be in such a hurry
When you get impatient, you only start to worry
Remember, remember that God is patient, too
And think of all the times when others have to wait for you

It’s bad enough – hard enough sometimes, waiting at intersections, checkout counters, and yes waiting for my coffee, but what about the times when we wait for the fulfilment of a dream – of a promise from God? When the wait becomes a weight, a burden that we are to carry.

Don’t despair – no visible signs of progress does not mean that God is not working behind the scenes. Often we look for the miracle moment, forgetting that the breakthrough is actually just another step of many. Rather like the seasonally dormant egg, where the visible cracking of the egg just happens to be the final step. God is already in motion, preparing for breakthrough.

In this place of waiting, it’s important to keep our hearts open and full of hope. We need to stay in hope and expectation for the fulfilment of God’s promise. For waiting in the Bible is as much about hope as it is about waiting. But we have good reason to be able to stay in hope because He who promises is faithful.

“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)

And one day after waiting and waiting, suddenly what you’ve been waiting for happens.

I remember my Father used to say at intersections, “in the biggest traffic there is always a gap.” Sometimes we just have to be patient and hang in there a little longer.

 

Invisible

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It’s a notorious roundabout. 7 entry and exit points. Feels like Russian roulette at the best of times. Yesterday, having made a perfect entry onto the roundabout, two trucks pulled out in front of me, at speed I might add. They obviously (well I hope obviously) hadn’t seen me. Since I had to come to a complete halt on the roundabout to avoid them, I made sure that they heard me though– the horn is quite effective! Until then though, I was invisible. My little car compared to the size of theirs meant that they simply overlooked me.

Do you ever feel like you are invisible to those around you? And while I think that would be an fantastic super power to have, it’s not great when you haven’t donned your invisible cape and hopped into your invisible plane like Wonder Woman. Actually come to think about it I think Wonder Woman only has an invisible plane. It’s hard when people see you but don’t really see you. When they fail to see your potential, your gifts, your uniqueness. When it seems that continually you are being passed over for someone else who seems shinier somehow.

When we are like David, forgotten, not considered, out in the fields working, while his brothers are paraded by their father in front of Samuel for King. But we are not invisible to God. He sees us. Lysa Terkeurst once wrote “Overlooked by everyone else. Handpicked by God.” We are not anonymous to God. He sees the faithfulness, He sees our potential when everyone else overlooks it. More importantly He sees our heart. And when the time is right, He will find us.

God sees. God knows. And it is to Him that we entrust our dreams, our hopes, our giftings and talents.

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

He saw David in the field. He found him. Handpicked by God. I like that.  

 

 

Beautiful Weeds

Weeds

As we turned into our driveway, it seemed that my son and I noticed the length of the lawn at the same time. We had two very different reactions though. Mine was the obvious one – make mental note to talk to hubby about mowing the lawns! My 6 year old’s was to shout gleefully at the length of the grass and all the gorgeous flowers that seem to have appeared overnight – weeds really. He leapt out of the car and headed for the garden, appearing sometime later with a fistful of flowers for me.

In the vase on my window sill is now a bunch of yes, essentially weeds, but I’m going to go with saying wild flowers! Official garden sites though do list the clovers, dandelions, lawn daisies and hawksbeard that cover my lawn as weeds.  Through my son’s eyes, these  are of course flowers and couldn’t be anything else. And looking at these weeds through my son’s eyes I also see a pretty picture of purple, green and yellow flowers gathered and given in love.

How we are conditioned to see things affects our perspective on life. And it doesn’t just stop at weeds or flowers. The same can be said for us. Things that people have said about us or to us, knocks from life all colour how we see ourselves. We can find ourselves like Gideon, hiding scared in the wine press and wondering why God is calling him, the least of the least, a mighty warrior. We can see ourselves as a weed, while God looks at each of us as an exotic flower, a precious rose, a glorious sunflower.

It’s another occasion for me to learn from my children. My boys see endless possibilities as to what they can be when they grow up. From an architect designing the world’s tallest building, to a Doctor, a pilot, to yes a superhero. They have not yet heard the cry of the crowd saying no, it’s impossible, you don’t have what it takes. They just hear the beat of their hearts and dream unlimited dreams.

The way God sees us matters more than any thought that we’ve had or comparison that we have made about ourselves. It matters more than what others have called us or what they have said to us. Often we don’t hear what God has to say about us because the voices inside our heads, which derives value from the reward system of the world, clamors so insistently in our brains – Voices that say “They didn’t notice you”, “You weren’t good enough to be chosen”,  “You will never make it.” We need to push those voices away and listen to God who finds us in the winepress and says Mighty Warrior, I need you to do something.

 From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

Nothing disqualifies us from who we are except the way we perceive ourselves apart from God. Instead of looking at our limitations or constraints, let’s focus on what we do have! We have Jesus’ approval, and that’s all we need.

Purposed

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PURPOSE:- The reason for which something exists or is done, made, used

We move from Esther’s preparation and jump past her being made Queen, to Esther summoning the courage to appear unsummoned before the King. She has one question in mind  – how to save her people. Purpose is what drives you. Purpose is what gave Esther the courage to appear before the King. Purpose is what gave Esther the courage to risk her life.

Zaccheus was a man of action. He heard that Jesus was coming to Jericho (Luke 19:1-10) and went to great effort to be sure he could see him. He climbed up a sycamore tree. He didn’t care what others thought – he moved toward the goal to see Jesus. He postioned himself to be found. The rest is history – Jesus saw him, Zaccheaes was blessed and hten the entire town benefited from the encounter.

Fulfilling your destiny requires commission – cooperation with God’s mission for you. A commission must be acted upon. It will affect not only you, but the world around you.

Action requires risk. Taking a risk takes courage. Esther took a risk to go see the King. Zacchaes had to climb a tree so he could see. Mary risked ridicule by pouring oil on Jesus feet. The men who broke open a roof to let their friend down in front of Jesus all took a risk.

God chose where you would be placed but we have a choice as to what we should do.

Keep your eyes on the goal and not the obstacles.

Risk born out of great determination is courage.

Push past fear

Push past doubt

Push past anxiety

We must take advantage of the opportunities He has made available to us in the here and now. Our responsibility is to let Him use us where we are.

The message of Esther is that God might engineer the circumstances, but what happens after that is ultimately up to us. God might prod us, but we might refuse. And if we refuse, people might die.

Say yes to opportunities. Opportunities exist that you need to catch

 

Positioned

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POSITION:- condition with reference to place; location; situation. Status or standing

God has placed you here in this time – in your country, community, in your family and in your workplace. It is no accident that you are where you are. God has a plan for you! He has appointed the very places you shall live – “From one man He made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” (Acts 17:26)

Esther was in place as Queen before the threat to her people was apparent. God placed Esther on the throne even before the Jews faced the possibility of destruction, so that when trouble came,  a person was already in a position to help. Where you are positioned expect favour from both God and man. “The girl pleased him and won his favour” (Esther 2:9)

Also – how many women had already been presented to the King? Don’t worry about where everyone else is and what they are doing – your gifts will make way for you! God will make way for you. Dare to be you and walk in the fullness of the position that God has called you to.