It had been a particularly trying night. My sons had been fighting with me, and each other, and I’d been doing everything in my power not to yell back. The last thing I wanted was to add to the chorus of ‘stop it’ and ‘don’t’ and ‘aarghhh!!!’
My job is to be the calm one, right?
Calm, yet firm. In control, aware of my emotions, centred… The parent, not the oldest child. Yes, the parent – not the pushover.
I was trying – and failing, fast.
The minutes were racing towards their designated bedtime and my heart was pounding with either excitement at the prospect of ‘me time’ or the adrenaline of trying to wrangle two argumentative boys. Don’t know which. Either way, we were nearly there.
My nine-year-old was ramping it up more than usual, pushing back on my every request, pushing his brother, pushing every boundary.
“Maybe you need to get to bed earlier tonight,” I said. “You seem very tired…”
“No! I’m fine!” he yelled, before knocking over several toys in his path.
“What’s going on with you, Tom?” I said.“You seem really angry.”
At that point he started crying; sobbing…
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” he said. “I can’t stop this attitude. I keep having this attitude, and I don’t know how to stop…”
It’s a rare moment when a child confesses to an attitude problem.
As he continued to tell me about his ‘issues below the tip of the iceberg’, which included some mild bullying at school, and a general feeling of ‘not fitting in’, it made me think about my own ‘stuff’. Often my behaviours stem from deeper concerns too, and I don’t always take the time to address them.
Recently, I said goodbye to a church I’d been part of for over six years, and it was hard. I also changed workplaces after being at the same publishing company for close to 15 years.
Change is hard. Really hard.
And I think all of it has affected my emotional responses to my family, in subtle ways.
We all have worries and concerns that are simmering under the surface, and we tend to react by either melting down or shutting down. But the best thing we can do for ourselves when our behaviours take us by surprise, is to stop and question them. To do a bit of digging. And engage in a bit of raw honesty.
Sometimes we need to admit that ‘our attitude’ may be connected to something else… something deeper. Something which needs the hand of God on it, and the Spirit’s gentle guidance as we go to the Word and ask for fresh insight.
For me, working through all the changes in my life over the last 12 months has meant creating dedicated time with God where I talk freely and openly about how I’m feeling and what I’m struggling with. And he’s been gently leading me back to Scripture, where I’ve found refreshment and nourishment for the road ahead.
I’ve been able to admit my weariness and entrust my fears and concerns to him as I’ve spoken out loud – or written down in my journal – the words of God and allowed them to minister to my tired heart.
What are some of the areas of your life that need a bit more ‘digging’ with the help of a ‘gardener’ who knows you through and through?
John 15 says:
"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."
We depend on Jesus for everything, starting with our very lives – “for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Only Jesus can bring the healing and wholeness that we long for. Only Jesus can help us live fruitful lives for His glory.
Let’s pray that we’d have eyes to read between the lines of our lives and see what God needs us to see and faith to trust Him in the times and places that require pruning.
Lord, help us not to carry our ‘stuff’ alone. Help us to have the wisdom to take it to you; to engage in Scripture; and allow you to direct our thinking so that our attitude and actions are transformed. Help us to receive your grace for each new day, as we dig up all those things ‘under the surface’ and bring them into your glorious light. Help us to abide in you each and every day and be willing to serve you with our whole selves.
In Jesus’ name I pray,
The days here have been getting warmer and smatterings of spring blossoms have been making an appearance amongst the barren winter branches. Yes, it might still be winter, but spring is making her imminent arrival known.
I've found this rhythm of the seasons, the heralding of the beginning of something new whilst still in the middle of the prior thing, to be a pattern in my own life.
I have sensed that a move is coming long before it has eventuated
I have felt the shift in the spirit that signifies a breakthrough is coming long before it has been made manifest in my circumstances
I have dreamed dreams and felt the stirring of calling long before I have been ready to steward it
In Isaiah 42, God tells us this:
"See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you."
Perhaps you're more familiar with a similar declaration in Isaiah 43:
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I have found that God announces things to us - invites us to hear His heart and His plans - before it's time for them to be realised so that we can recognise their unfolding and be ready to partner with Him.
However, in my own journey, this early heralding has often been a source of frustration and I have become so forward focused that I have failed to be present and enjoy the season that He has me in.
Several years ago, it became clear that we had outgrown our house as a family. What had once been a spacious place now felt like a place of confinement, and while I was restless, a move was outside of our resources, so truthfully, I hadn't seriously entertained it. But after speaking at a woman's event (where I should say I didn't mention the size of our family or our living situation), a lady came up to me afterwards and said that she felt we had outgrown our home and that God wanted us to know that we didn't need to worry about it, we just needed to pray about it. It was to be the first of many prophetic words that we would be given about a move and a spacious place. The actual move would come two years later.
As these words began to roll in in quick succession, I felt sure that a move must be imminent and my attitude both towards my house and maintaining it deteriorated. I began to rationalise that certain things didn't matter anymore because 'we would be moving soon.'
But after a year, it was clear that the move was not a 'now' thing. We still believed that it was what God was promising us, but that He had spoken it when He did to offer us hope that things would not always look the way that they did; that there were things for us to look forward to in our future.
So I began to focus on the now. To be present in my home. To do all the things that I could to make it inviting and practical for that season. But we also made sure that we were ready for when God gave the green light for a move. We decluttered and hired a skip; we did what we were able to to make a move financially feasible; we began to look at houses in the areas that we sensed God leading us to - simply taking one step at a time while still staying firmly planted where God had us for that time.
At the beginning of this year, what we had earlier 'heard' God announce, was realised as God worked in miraculous ways to not only make a move possible, but to exceed all expectations that we had had for a new home. 'Hearing' in advance enabled us to perceive and partner with what God was wanting to do. It also readied my heart to be able to release - to forget the former - and embrace the new.
This, and several others experiences of 'hearing' something before its time, have taught me that we must both treasure what God is saying to us about the future and where He currently has us. Both are precious, and just as the seasons share a period of time as they crossover, we can hold both the present and the future in our hands.
What has God spoken into your future? What does it look like for you to partner with what He has promised while staying planted in your present?
Be encouraged that even if you cannot yet see how His promise could possibly be realised, that He is the One who makes a way in the wilderness landscape of our lives - who causes the barren branches to burst forth with new blooms of beauty.
Touching down in Auckland airport last week, my husband and I realised that not only did it feel like we were coming home, but also that we were away from home. Such a weird feeling, yet it gives a bit of insight into our world and where we find ourselves.
Two and a half years ago, we moved our family over the other side of the Pacific Ocean to Seattle, Washington. Had I known what would follow, would I have still said yes, or would I have run in the other direction?
Do you ever stop to consider where you’ve come from to get to where you are today?
There’s something beautiful about looking back, not to live in the past or to wish it were the good old days, but to see all that God has done.
I think about who I was before I said yes to stepping out into the unknown. I knew what trusting God meant, I mean, I had grown up knowing who Jesus was from a young age, attended a Christian school, been involved in various areas of leadership in church, but little did I know how much that trust would be tested.
I think about Ruth, in the Bible, when she found herself presented with the opportunity to follow her mother in law to a foreign land. She had just lost her husband, brother in law and father in law, and had to choose whether to go back to what she knew, or to step into an unknown path ahead of her.
Her response is recorded for us:
“but Ruth embraced her and held on…….Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge.”
As we journey in our walk with Jesus, we get presented with these intersections of decision: an opportunity to continue on with what we know and what is comfortable, or to pursue Jesus in the unknown.
There have been moments and days in the last 4 years, where I have wondered what the heck I’m doing, did we really make the right decision to leave everything we knew? So many things that when weighed up, could easily point to us going back to where we came from.
However, the more I say yes to Jesus and to following where He is leading me and our family, the more at peace I find myself. I believe God has written a story for each one of us, a story that invites us to trust Him with our lives, to trust that He knows us better than anyone else.
The beautiful part about Ruth’s story, is that you see God’s fingerprints all over it. In chapter 2 we read:
“So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers and she ‘happened’ to come to the
I love how it says, “she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz”. Boaz goes on to show her favour and ends up being her future husband. When we trust Jesus with our lives and we truly want to follow after ALL that he has for us, He shows up time and time again, in the places of our lack, to remind us, that it’s not about us, but that HE is all we need.
Ruth’s story concludes with her being married to Boaz, and to becoming the great grandmother of King David, being a woman included in the lineage of Jesus.
The beauty of being part of the story God has written for you is that it’s not just about you! Ruth’s journey ended up not only having a direct impact on Naomi, through provision and a whole new family, but her legacy became part of something so much bigger, pointing to the story of Jesus.
Where in the story do you find yourself? Have you let God in to write your story, or are you fighting to write your own? Are you at an intersection where God is inviting you to trust Him more in the unknown? What’s on the other side of saying yes to Jesus - who’s lives are yet to be impacted through your story?
He is the best author, and He knows you better than anyone else. He is so trustworthy.
Curled over clutching my stomach in pain, I was all too aware of what I had been trying to avoid for well over a year - I was gluten intolerant. Gluten-based food was making me sick; yet I kept on eating it, living in denial hoping, maybe – this time - I’d be okay.
Here’s what I painfully discovered: ignoring a problem does not make it go away. Doing the exact same thing over and over changes nothing, in fact it usually makes matters worse. The stomach problems only increased after each glutinous intake causing me to cancel appointments and miss out on events.
During my most recent episode racked with pain and saying “Never again”, I really did decide – never again. The Holy Spirit had got through to this tough nut at last, telling me “If you do not face your problems, they will not go away, you need to make some life changes”
Of course, it wasn’t lost on me that this didn’t only apply to food, but also to the bad habits and sinful behaviour patterns I was struggling with. Talk about God having to take strong measures to get my attention!
I hadn’t wanted to admit I had issues with gluten, neither did I want to accept or cease the sin in my life. I was afraid to make life changes in case God did not come through for me. It seemed easier to just carry on as I was in my miserable condition.
My journey the last 5 years has been no glutinous cakewalk. I’ve physically and emotionally hurt, I’ve been disappointed, I’ve suffered losses and felt acute grief. I know I am in a pruning and character building season but I’ve been bucking against it all the way. Yet throughout Jesus has revealed to me by grace that He is the Good Shepherd watching over my life.
God has been taking things away that do me harm and the pain has been part of the process, revealing what is within me when the pressure is on. I can see He’s been setting me free step by step and am humbled like Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I cannot boast in myself at all. I’ve discovered what I thought was good in me, is not whatsoever; and that what is bad in me doesn’t stop God loving me either. All I know is that I’m more real than I’ve ever been, holding on with child-like faith.
2 years ago, I became dairy intolerant and I had another period of denial and pain before I accepted life changes needed to be made. The crux of the matter has been coming to terms with giving up what is not good for me – even though I still crave it. The desire to eat dairy and gluten don’t leave me, and neither do the habits of a life time want to go either. Oh, but the consequences – are they worth it? Think slowly about that one.
Now sometime into a gluten elimination diet I am already much better. I have recognised that to see change, I have to make some life changes.
I’ve learned that Jesus really is my Shepherd and He is looking after me - his sheep. (Sheep aren’t the smartest creatures around, getting themselves tangled up and off track). He knows me in my weakness yet He loves and pursues me unconditionally even in my biggest messes – especially even!
My Good Shepherd doesn’t just wrench this Sheep out of the barbed wire or bushes – no, He untangles me bit by bit. This is what He is doing in our own lives, that’s why it’s a process.
Sometimes it takes time to give things up. We may not be ready, or we may be unwilling, perhaps even facing other issues that cloud the main one. The journey may appear to be somewhat of a dog leg trek, but I can testify that God never gives up on us! And along the way reveals His true unconditional love which changes our lives.
What are you struggling with? What symptoms are you trying to ignore? Is the tolerance of sin still winning over the pain of obedience? The truth is that making good choices isn’t easy. Our flesh wants what is bad, our spirit cries out for God.
But if we want to see a different result, if we desire to be free, we need to accept that life changes are necessary. We can trust God, we can trust Jesus the Good Shepherd. God really does and will come through for us.
We sat together on the couch, her head buried into my shoulder as she wept for the things, the people that she was missing. And my heart ached for my daughter as she tried to figure out how to navigate her current season.
Change is hard. Being brave and willing to give new things a go and walk down yet unknown paths can be overwhelming.
As winter has given way to spring in our part of the world, something deep within us rejoices and celebrates the signs of new life. We have ached for something to come and replace the barreness. But new beginnings aren't always looked for or even necessarily wanted; they aren't solely the territory of the dead and barren places. Sometimes, God asks us to allow Him to prune the fruitful things - the things that are in full bloom - in our lives so that we can be even more fruitful (John 15:2).
Over the last two years, God has been bringing restoration and life to areas in my heart and story that I have longed for Him to, but He's simultaneously been asking me to let Him bring about new beginnings - to be pruned - in places where I wasn't looking for change.
He has asked me to resign my position and my ministry credentials
He has called us out of the Church we helped plant to start over after some 18 years of community
He has led us to homeschool when I never even wanted to be a stay at home mum (He sure has a sense of humour!)
And each of these changes has asked a question of me - do I really trust Him in the place of exchange? In the place where I don't yet know what my hands will hold and all I can see is what I'm letting go of?
Pruning seasons can be a unique type of change because we don't always know exactly what it is that God is making room for in our lives. We often only see the gaping whole left that was once fruitful and flourishing. Pruning inevitably ushers us into an in-between time - a time of uncertainty and waiting - just like in the natural, it takes time for the new growth to become visible.
In my own life, the place of exchange has tested whether I really believe that He is who He says He is. Whether I trust His heart towards me and the plans that He has for me. The place of exchange has revealed whether the Scriptures I quote are merely platitudes and bumper stickers or the foundation of truth that I've built my life upon because the place of exchange requires us to live with a deep assurance of His goodness and His love for us.
Jesus makes the Father's heart in pruning us abundantly clear - it is not to diminish us in any way but to increase us. To make us more fruitful. Pruning is not about judgment but preparation. And while it can be easy to entertain the voice of condemnation when we feel like we're being cut back, Jesus offers us this assurance:
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Jesus is telling us, You are mine, I have washed you. Don't let the enemy tell you that you don't belong, that you're not valuable because you're being stripped back. Don't isolate yourself from Me; don't try and make things happen in your own strength, Trust that my heart is to cause you to flourish and be fruitful. Come, tarry a moment with Me. Apart from Me you can do nothing, but with Me, you can trust that greater fruitfulness is coming.
The word for 'remain' or 'abide' meant to remain, abide; to sojourn or tarry; to continue to be present; to be held, kept continually. It paints a picture for us of lingering in and savouring the presence of God with us. For me personally, I've found this 'abiding' to be both the challenge and the invitation of the place of exchange. My grief, my disappointment, my frustrations and impatience, the uncertainty can either build a wall between me and God or they can become a bridge to greater dependency, greater trust in His wisdom and goodness and in His time, greater fruitfulness.
If I want them to be a bridge, I must settle the question of trust. Will I trust His heart to lead me and yes, even to prune me?
I've decided yes. What about you?
I can testify that God really does do much more than we could ever think or ask! I know, because He has restored my identity and is making me whole.
Growing up I was incredibly shy; I felt trapped in my own emotions unable to elucidate who I really was – it was like drowning internally. In my heart though, I was a risk-taker and a dreamer of audacious dreams. My biggest battle (aside from my identity) - was fear. Fear of having to lead anything, fear of standing out, fear of shining, fear of succeeding, fear of failure – basically, fear with a capital F.
In 1997 when I was with Youth with a Mission I took the Myers Briggs (MBTI) Test which reveals the 16 categories of basic personality types. My results informed me I was an introvert, an “ISFJ”. My Team Leader called me a ‘wounded extrovert’ believing certain areas in my life and upbringing had affected my true identity and who I was in God.
I spent years thinking my personality wasn’t acceptable, holding a belief system that being outgoing, extroverted and excited about many things were negative qualities. I thought my worth and value could only be found in being quiet, orderly and introverted.
When my Dad died in 2013, I had to face my fears whether I liked it or not. Flying to the other side of the world, I dealt with more than I ever thought possible. I was also reunited with people from my long distant past.
My life, you see, was compartmentalised – there was my past in the UK and my now in New Zealand. It was as though I were two different people with two entirely separate lives. However, by confronting my past and those fears, God brought me into a place of freedom and healing. I felt I now had the permission to be my ‘whole’ self.
But who was that? I was more outgoing and no longer trapped or ‘drowning’ in my emotions, but I still did not know who I was or what my true identity was. It was like starting over.
If I thought I was in for an easy ride following my Dad’s death, I was wrong. Three years followed of unrelated fiery tests and intense struggles. I felt I was in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Yet, in this season I said yes to leadership (after 20 years of ‘who me?’) and doors of ministry started to open.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me”
This Easter Sunday, God set me free from one particular struggle I’d been wrestling with. “It ends today”, He told me - and it did, I haven’t looked back! God did the miraculous – He released this prisoner, spoke love and identity over me and made me whole.
Subsequently, I found freedom in yet more areas of my life because of those struggles I encountered. God brought so much restoration to my life whilst I was in the valley. In that place, He told me who I was in Him, who I was to Him and what my destiny was because of Him.
My identity was not found in what others may have labelled me, or desired me to be. It wasn’t in my past, it wasn’t defined by my struggles or circumstances, nor conditional on my ability or strength. My identity I learned could only be found in God and who He says I am.
I am no longer introverted and shy, or unable to express how I feel. I am alive, free, affirmed by God and the person I was created to be. I re-tested for the MBTI recently with very different results – as an “ENFP”. Yes, I am an extrovert, no longer wounded. The test was an encouraging indicator but my true identity is in God.
God knew us before we were born, we are wonderfully and fearfully made - and our identity and security is in Him - He is the one who lovingly takes our broken pieces and makes us whole.
It is never too late for change, God restores, renews, revives and speaks life into our identity because He loves us and fights for us. In the valley He is the Good Shepherd who comforts you and leads you along right paths.
I believe and pray that He will brings wholeness to you also, no matter the valley you are enduring or the battle! Your identity is in Him.
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We're entering the final weeks of winter and despite the biting cold, the signs of new life, of new beginnings are bursting forth. The lambs are being born, the barren trees are budding ready for the blossoms to emerge, and dormant bulbs are starting to push their way up and out of the dark heavy earth that has been concealing their existence.
It was a number of years ago now, in the midst of a dark winter season of my own soul, that God revealed this truth to me: the seeds of new life don't begin in the spring but in the winter. In the midst of the cold and sometimes barren landscape, things of great beauty are being realised.
Just last winter God led me to a new beginning of my own, asking me to resign from what I would have previously described as my dream job to be at home with my children and to write. In the midst of laying down the plans that I had built for myself - of allowing dreams to die and be rebirthed - I have been reminded afresh of the truth that God spoke through the seasons to me all those years ago, that the 'new things' often spring forth from the most unlikely of landscapes. That beautiful things can be born out of the hard things.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
The question that God asks us through the prophet Isaiah, is the question that we must each answer when we find ourselves in the midst of the winter - will we have eyes to see the new things God is doing? Will we have faith to believe that He is able to bring beauty out of our barreness?
There is a fragility to new beginnings. Like the lambs born into a harsh climate, seasons of transition, where we are just beginning to embark on a new path, can be times of vulnerability. The elements often oppose the new life that is emerging which is why we must guard our hope and protect the seeds that God has planted within us.
As we grieve what we have had to let go of; what we have had to release in order to embrace the new, we must trust in His redemptive plans and purposes for our lives. We must believe that He can make a way where we might not yet see one.
When we find ourselves in the paralysing throes of fear, questioning whether we have heard God right; wondering if we are adequate for the task before us, we must lean into His strength and trust that His grace is sufficient. Sufficient to equip us for what He is calling us to and sufficient to cover us when we mis-step and get it wrong.
When the path ahead feels lonely and confronting we must remember that He is not only with us, He is for us. He believes in us and He is cheering us on. God knows that we need His care and protection equally in times of despair and of advancement which is why He not only walks through the valleys with us, He is also, as Psalm 23 tells us, going ahead of us, preparing the table - preparing places of rest and provision - as we ascend the mountain. He understands our vulnerability and provides all that we need to go from strength to strength.
Stripped of my titles; stripped of my familiar routines, my own new beginnings have required me to face these same myriad of emotions. The contrasting emotions of grief and hope; of letting go and picking up have been overwhelming at times. Forging new paths and allowing God to do a fresh work in our lives is seldom a comfortable experience - they are however an opportunity to draw near and rely on God in a deeper way. To find our rest in Him instead of striving to make things happen on our own terms.
I have learned that it is only when we embrace the companionship of the Comforter over being comfortable that we are positioned for new things to emerge. But as long as we fight for our own comfort the seeds of new life are constrained.
As far as the seasons go, I actually love winter. I love cosying up to the fire with a glass of red or a warm cuppa and a good book, drawing comfort and warmth from its embers; accepting its offer of respite from the cold. I have not always loved it though as an analogy for my life. Experience has taught me however to appreciate the beauty that God births in us throughout the winter months.
Yes, the winter months can feel relentless, but beneath the surface beauty is waiting to be revealed. Do you see the new thing that God is preparing to spring up in your life?
P.S. Want to understand more about the table that God has prepared? Sign-up to get the devotional series, The Good Shepherd, to your inbox here.
Isolated and alone. They're not words that I would have typically used to describe my life - not for an extended period of time anyway. But a few weeks before I was due to give birth to our youngest, Lucas, it felt like everyone moved away. My parents had been a five-minute drive from our home, now they were over an hour away. Both of my sisters then moved to the outskirts of our city and six months later my brother and his family moved back to the inner city. We'd always lived in close proximity and it wasn't until we all dispersed that I realised how much I'd taken it for granted, but also how much I'd depended on their presence in my everyday routines.
It was to be the beginning of everything moving around me.
In the last few years, God has taken me on a journey of being stripped back; of being asked to leave the familiar and the comfortable behind to forge a new path and say yes to what is yet unknown. It's not only been hard, at times it's been lonely.
We are designed for community, not only with God, but also with one another. But here's the reality: there are some seasons, some places that God asks us to go to that others cannot go with us. Yes, we need to allow others to stand with us, to like Aaron and Hur did, lift up our hands when we grow weary. But equally, we need to know how to strengthen ourselves in the Lord if we do not want to be undone in the lonely battlegrounds of life.
There is an episode in David's life that takes place during David's time of exile and persecution under King Saul which challenges me. David and his men have been fighting for over a year as mercenaries under the commander Achish but when all the Philistine rulers come together for battle, the others are uncomfortable with David fighting for them. They think he could turn against them and so David and his men are sent home.
Three days later, David and his men arrive home to find their settlement burned to the ground and their wives and children taken captive by the Amalekites. Understandably, David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. But there's a difference between how they all handle things after that. Scripture tells us that his men began to talk of stoning David because they were bitter in spirit. In contrast, we read this about David:
But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
Some translations say that he found strength in the Lord or that he encouraged himself in the Lord. When he had lost those that mattered most to him, when everyone around him turned against him, David knew to turn to God and find strength in him. He allowed the presence of God with him and the truth of who God is to encourage him in the midst of despair. He let God be with him when he felt destitute and alone.
Lonely seasons can become places of bitterness and destruction, but they also have the ability to become something beautiful in our lives - to be where God gives us the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places (Isaiah 45:3). Leaning on Him opens us up to His perspective and seeing what He sees, changes everything. For David, it meant being able to rise up and fight with courage and tenacity the battle that lay before him, recovering all that had been lost.
Henri Nouwen in his book Spiritual Formation writes:
Jesus liberates human history from mere chronology to kairos - God's time, where past, present and future merge in the present moment... Even hard and painful times can be converted to occasions for learning, shaping influences forming us into the persons we are and leading us to the Source of healing and salvation. The spiritual life is not a life that offers a few good moments between the many bad ones, but an abundant life that transforms all moments of time into windows through which the invisible becomes visible.
Opening myself up to God's perspective, learning to see this time as not something just to endure but a kairos moment in which I can experience God, has given way to a strength that is not my own.
Yes, this season of being stripped back has been hard and at times lonely - but can I tell you this: it has also been breathtakingly beautiful. It has caused me to wholeheartedly pursue and rely on the Source of healing and salvation. To see Jesus at work in all the aspects of my life, weaving the past, present and future together for His purposes. No longer able to depend on proximity to those I love; no longer able to place confidence in titles and positions that I have held; no longer able to rely on the comfortable and familiar, I have had to rely on Him. And as I have, the fingerprints of His invisible work in my life have slowly become more visible as I have been shaped by His hand.
Don't let lonely places and seasons become destructive in your own life, allow them to become a place of communion with the only true source of strength, Jesus.
How can you strengthen yourself in the Lord today?
Lucas hides himself behind the couch cushions and peeks out - first one side, then the next. Each time laughing in delight as I ask, "Where's Lucas?" and then exclaim, "There he is!" when he pops his head out from his 'hiding place'...
The weekend had left me somewhat fragile and raw. It was one of those times in life where the new and the old collide; where you find yourself celebrating new beginnings while at the same time mourning the end of a chapter in your story. Joy and grief mingle in the paradox of life that both the beautiful and the painful can be happening simultaneously in us and around us.
There would have been a time in my life where I might have tried to suppress the conflicting or what one might think of as 'negative' emotions that such seasons can evoke. A time where I wouldn't have been fully present; where I would have forced myself to just get on with things and tried to hide the depth of what I was feeling.
But nothing about us - no thought, no action, no word, no feeling - is ever really hidden from God. Like Lucas' games of peek-a-boo, God knows exactly where we are at.
In Psalm 139 David writes:
...You have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.
There is no need to conceal our lives from God; nothing gained from trying to put on a face and pretend that we are something that we are not because God already knows everything there is to know about us. But more than that He already knows, He wants us to be open with Him because He wants to be with us. He wants to celebrate our achievements and cry with us in our pain; He wants to be our friend when we are lonely and to hold us when we're hurting. He wants to cheer us on and build us up; to speak truth where we have believed lies and to listen to our story. He wants us to know that we are understood. That He'll stick with us.
David knew that just as he could not hide from God, he also could not run from Him.
I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
His presence never leaves us. There is no where we can go - no height or depth - that He will not go with us. His love hems us in. And no matter how hard we try to run from our circumstances and from Him, He runs towards us.
We might hide but He always seeks. And like Lucas' joy in being 'found' by me, God wants us to know the delight of being found by Him. Of being known by Him.
Whether traversing heights or depths, I am no longer afraid to let God find me. Because when I let Him be with me, I get the gift of Him. He brings His light and beauty to each and every season and chapter of my life, illuminating the treasure to be found there. God's thoughts towards me - how He feels about me and His perspective on what I'm facing - have become like precious jewels to me.
Rather than hiding from Him, God invites us to hide in Him. To allow Him to be the safe place where we pour out our hurting and our rejoicing hearts; where we share our fears and our faith-filled expectations; where we bring both our weaknesses and our strengths.
Where have you been hiding? Allow Him to find you there.
Live today with purpose,
Low-tide is my favourite time to take a walk along the beach. There is plenty of room for Lucas to run and we are free to explore the full length of the beach without getting cut-off by the incoming waves. But as an analogy for life, I much prefer the idea of high-tide - of my life brimming to overflowing and reaching its full potential.
I recently heard a pastor make this statement: the tide will turn. He was encouraging people from the life of Nehemiah, reminding us that the Israelites had faced much opposition when they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and exhorting us that just as the tide of opposition against them turned and they were able to complete their work, it will turn for us too.
This declaration resonated with me and I've found myself contemplating it over and over in recent weeks. Pondering, what does it look like when the tide turns? What happens in the natural when the tides change? I googled these questions and came up with a bunch of answers that made my sleep-deprived (and somewhat unscientific) brain glaze over. But one thing did stand out and brought back some vague recollections of High School Science classes:
The tides change because of the gravitational pull of both the sun and moon.
There is a pull, a tension that causes the waters. to change their path. This is often our experience in the natural - when it's time to change direction; when God is calling us into something new; when breakthrough is imminent, we can feel a conflicting pull.. It usually gets messy before the new direction emerges.
This is the precise time that we must stand firm. When we must keep our eyes on the prize of what God is calling us to - seeing our lives and circumstances as God does. Not allowing the mess, the tug and war pull of our circumstances, to derail us from pursuing God's purposes for our lives.
The opposition that Nehemiah and the Israelites faced as they set about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was both external and internal. Their enemies mocked and ridiculed them; plotting against them and accusing them of rebellion. And in the face of this opposition and the enormous task that lay in front of them, the Israelites grew tired - their strength gave out - and they were afraid of what might happen to them. They faced lack and it all seemed too hard.
As they faced all this opposition from both within and without, Scripture records Nehemiah's response:
But we prayed…
But I prayed…
Nehemiah continually sought out God’s perspective, inviting God’s power to be at work in their circumstances. He chose to exalt God above His circumstances and to fight for what had been promised.
“Don’t be afraid of them. Put your minds on the Master, great and awesome, and then fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
Fighting faith, faith that stands firm, refuses to lose sight of who God is. Refuses to passively allow the enemy to take territory that is rightfully ours. And as the Israelites stood firm, vigilantly continuing to do what God had asked them to do, the tide turned. Not only was the seemingly impossible task completed, but it was completed in record time.
So the wall was completed... in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realised that this work had been done with the help of our God.
After a storm, the full-tide reaches new heights. It exceeds its former boundaries and claims new ground. I believe that this is a prophetic statement for this season - not only will the tide turn, but it is turning. And as it does, as you stand firm in the face of opposition, you will not only take back what has been lost, you will gain ground.
Where do you need to put your mind on the Master - to remember how great and awesome He is? To recall what He has promised? Stand firm in that place and fight, confident that high-tide is coming.
Live today with purpose,
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from the blogging team encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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