A card arrived in my letterbox today. Filled with words that overflowed from a generous heart, it touched me deeply. I felt seen. I felt known. I felt appreciated and I knew that I held in my hands a precious gift...
These are the words God impressed upon my heart when I asked Him recently what it looked like for me to live in light of His everlasting and indestructible Kingdom. And they've continued to reverberate in my heart on a daily basis ever since.
I am, by both nature and nurture, a generous person. Growing up with parents who despite their own lack, continually had open hands and open hearts, I learned from a young age the beauty of cultivating a generous spirit. Yet, it's an attribute that I have struggled to give full expression to at various points in my journey.
We have never been materially wealthy. A combination of some unwise decisions in our youth, coupled with our obedience to pursue a call to ministry, has meant that the budget has seldom balanced, and we have had to daily trust God for what we need. For whatever reason, God has also chosen to position us in some of the more affluent parts of our city, and consequently, I have found myself continually confronted by what others have the ability to do and to give. In the face of their apparent abundance, I have often allowed lack and my perfectionist tendencies to close my hands and my heart, believing the lie that I have nothing of value to give.
Christmas - the time of giving and receiving - can amplify these lies and the accompanying anxiety that I do not have enough to offer.
But here's the thing that God keeps graciously and repeatedly reminding me of: radical generosity, kingdom generosity, is not based on what we do or don't have, but on what He has. It lives rooted in the truth of His abundance and His goodness.
Every single one of us faces poverty in some area of our lives. Whether external or internal, we all experience the frustration of our own limitations. But radical generosity is not hindered by such lack. It takes what we do have and sees it as a seed to sow - a seed that when we release in partnership with Him, will be multiplied beyond our wildest dreams.
He multiplies the seed as you sow it, so that the harvest of your generosity will grow.
Fear would try to tell us that if we release the little we do have, we will not have enough. It tries to scare us into clutching at our time and possessions, into closing off our hearts. But God's Kingdom doesn't work that way - it knows nothing of lack. When we release what He has given us, he simply expands and multiplies it.
I've discovered that we don't have to wait until we feel like we have accumulated or accomplished enough to be generous. We can start right where we are, trusting in the goodness of the One who always has enough.
Scripture is full of acts of generosity. Some of them carried extravagant price tags like the perfume that Mary poured out upon the feet of Jesus or the thousand burnt offerings that Solomon sacrificed to God, while others could have easily been overlooked and seen as insignificant - like the few coins that the widow popped in the offering box or the young boy's lunch of bread and fish. What they all have in common is that God commended the heart with which they gave to Him.
You can't attach a price tag to true acts of generosity. Their worth has nothing to do with their monetary value. They are defined by the heart of the giver to minister to and bless the recipient.
In writing this, I have found myself reflecting on the generosity that I myself have been a recipient of recently. Generosity that has sprung up in spite of lack and limitation in the giver's own life.
Like the friend who gave me money to buy something to wear to an event I was running when I knew she needed new clothes herself.
Or the friend who often texts me about what she has been praying for for my children when I know that she is currently knee-deep in a crazy mothering season.
Or the friend who faithfully sows $5 out of every paycheck into this ministry when I know she is still waiting for her own financial breakthrough.
Or the woman who became a friend after reaching out to me when she heard I was writing a book and she didn't want me to feel alone in the process like she had.
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
Each of these gifts have given me an even greater gift - the gift of presence. Their acts of generosity towards me have been a statement that they see me and desire to identify with my need, with my season, with my heart.
Presence is the gift Christ offers you and I each and every day. It's the gift that we remember as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. The gift of Him dwelling among us and within us. The gift of Emmanuel, God with us.
And it's the gift that we also get to give if we will choose to push past the lies and limitations of our circumstances and simply open our hands and hearts to those around us.
Radical generosity is a spirit. It is the fruit of living according to the reality of heaven and not the reality of our circumstances. It is a pouring out of ourselves knowing that He will pour back into us all that we need because He never runs out. He never runs out of resources and He never runs out on us.
This Christmas, let's give the gift of presence. It costs nothing and yet everything.
What does radical generosity look like for you today?
I am feeling hemmed in with no means of escape, not even a handy fire exit. I stand before God with all my insecurities exposed knowing the only way ahead is to go ‘through’ the pain, ‘through’ the hurts and ‘through’ it all. I am on a journey of obedience and self-discipline as I surrender my heart and my will to God. But let me tell you a secret – my spirit is rejoicing, even though my flesh is complaining.
A couple of years ago my son celebrated his birthday at the “Escape Rooms” in Auckland. As a group they were locked into a ‘themed’ room patiently following a series of clues and puzzles which provided keys to enable their exit. I find this concept very relatable right now.
“I am in (the Biblical) Joseph’s Prison” I wailed to the Lord, aware of the restriction and confinement I’m in. “It’s not a comfortable place, it’s confronting and it hurts – a lot.”
“No, you’re not; you are in a Refinery” I heard the Holy Spirit reply.
A Refinery? What did this mean and how did it apply to my present situation?
Wikipedia enlightened me “A refinery is a production facility composed of a group of chemical engineering unit processes and unit operations refining certain materials or converting raw material into products of value”
I had to smile (albeit with some derision) at that last sentence. Basically, I’m a lump of shapeless clay on the potter’s wheel being crafted into a product of value by the Master Potter - God. I realise my job is to stay put and allow Him to mould me into what He plans to make. I can’t pipe up and say “Actually I’ll be a Port Merion vase please” or “A nice soup bowl”. The Lord knows what He’s fashioning and He’s doing the refining.
Aware that God is making something beautiful of my life sings to my heart and my spirit. I am not in a dark depressing Prison with only a visiting sparrow hopping onto my window ledge for company. No, I’m in a place where I’m being converted into something of value, purified, refined and sanctified by the God who loves me and wants the very best for my life.
I hope to bring encouragement to you also. Maybe you are feeling like you are in a tight restrictive place which doesn’t make sense as you navigate pain and disappointment. Or perhaps you have some unanswered questions. I believe that the work God began in us He will fully complete! Friends, please stay put on the Potter’s Wheel. You are his Masterpiece.
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
Once moulded the finished piece of pottery is placed in the hot Kiln oven. This process in the furnace serves to increase its strength and set its shape. You and I cannot grow without this refinement, or be free without God going deep into the painful recesses of our hearts.
At times I have wanted to give up, leave the ‘Refinery’, jump off the Wheel and get out of the hot Kiln oven. But where would I go? What would I do? And what would it achieve? The truth I’ve found is that God is the only one who can fill the void in my heart and soul. My happiness can only be found in Him. Throughout this season He has been showing me who He is, His constancy, faithfulness, love, grace and mercy. My part is to have faith in the process, faith in the Master Potter’s work.
The Refinery is indeed a place of testing and affliction, but I’m seeing it as a pivotal point where major life changes happen. Affliction sucks; it’s pressurising and brings up the ‘stuff’ within us that the good times conceal; but without it, how can there be any transformation?
As I was writing this piece, I paused to look up the Greek meaning of the word affliction, a laugh escaped from my lips at God’s humour. If you re-read the first sentence of this post you will see just what I mean.
The meaning? Oh yes - “Used of a narrow place that hems someone in, no way of escape.”
God is at work in my – our – lives.
“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”
Of late, my devotional reading has been the writings of the great Puritan Pastor and preacher Richard Sibbes (1577-1636). During his lifetime he was referred to as ‘the heavenly Richard Sibbes’ and it was said of him that when he spoke ‘it was as if his words were dropping from heaven’. When he died at the age of fifty-eight, his epitaph was: ‘Of this blest man, let this just praise be given, Heaven was in him, before he was in heaven’.
I wondered what it would be like to have this as my epitaph? (Not just yet though!) I have been blessed to be around people, influenced by some, who seem to carry the presence of heaven. We hear a lot about this subject in books, teachings, and worship songs etc. that speak about bringing heaven to earth. Sometimes it comes across as almost too mystical, intangible and disconnected from life.
Sometimes Christians have been derided as being ‘so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good’. The reality should be that we are so heavenly minded that we are every earthly good. In the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, before instructing them about what it means to live the Christian life, he lets them in on the secret, the key to living a life as a believer in Christ that will impact every sphere of their life and influence.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
The key to staying spiritually alive, connected to Christ and being every earthly good is essentially recognising that we live from a position of having been ‘raised with Christ’. We are resurrection life people. We live and outwork our faith from the resurrection side of the cross. To outwork this and walk in it, we must set both our heart (affections and will) and our mind (thinking, understanding, perceiving) on ‘things above’.
In simple terms, we must live from heaven to earth and be so heavenly minded we are every earthly good. Jesus had this in mind when He taught the disciples how to pray (Matt. 6:9) and when He told them to ‘seek first his kingdom and his righteousness’ (Matt. 6:33). The New Testament makes it clear that we are people of two realms – heaven and earth, but we are citizens of one – heaven (Philippians 3:20). Believers are referred to as ‘aliens and strangers on earth…in the world’ (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11) and we are therefore to ‘live our lives as strangers in reverent fear’ because one day the Father will hold us to account for our lives (1 Peter 1:17). Heaven is our home, we are visitors here.
These verses effectively reveal where our truth-view and perspective on life should derive from; what our point of reference should be – ‘things above’. Heaven is our starting point and pattern for how we see and relate to our world, ourselves and others and it should determine how we speak and act towards people and life. It should be the filter through which we evaluate life.
I like the way the following people translate this verse:
He must be heavenly minded here on earth and so help to make earth like heaven.
‘You must not only seek heaven; you must also think heaven.’
This is not something passive and mystical; it is something we set our hearts and minds intentionally to seek. The word set conveys the idea of ‘craving something, seeking in order to find - by meditating on, thinking on, aiming at, striving after’. It can also be translated ‘think’ or ‘have this inner disposition’. We are called to pursue the things ‘that are above’. We must be intentional about it and ‘set our hearts, set our minds, on things above’ to know heavens perspective on life, so that we influence what happens on earth. It is a proactive, constant persevering with all our heart and mind for the things of the Christ and the kingdom of heaven. It is a passionate pursuit of seeking to live and think from heaven’s perspective.
How do we do this? How can we learn to see our world, the circumstances we face, and the people we encounter through heavens eyes? The Father has given us two primary means - the Scriptures – the written Word of God and the Saviour Jesus Christ – the living Word of God. God has given us His Word that reveals His mind, heavens reality and perspective. Later in this same chapter of Colossians, Paul tells us to ‘let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (verse 16). In Jesus Christ we see heaven on earth in action, in the flesh, displaying our Heavenly Father’s heart and mind to a lost and hurting world.
For us to set our heart and mind on things above, we need to soak them in the Word – the written and Living Word of God.
Imagine if we did this...
Imagine if heaven was in us before we were in heaven...
Imagine how different our earthly sphere of influence could be...
As a girl I loved building sandcastles; armed with my bucket, spade and imagination I would construct a castle replete with turrets and towers, windows and bridges, a surrounding moat of water and carefully placed decorative shells to top it all off. Once complete I would stand back to admire my work of art. However, the inevitable tide would advance up the beach only to remove my precious sandcastle bit by bit; how sad I would be seeing my masterpiece collapse and disappear into nothingness.
The fact is, that no matter how good that sandcastle looked, or how intricate or creative – it could not withstand the incoming tide. Why? because it had no solid foundation to keep it standing there. This is also true in our own lives, anything that is built on a foundation of sand is not secure and will be washed away when storms, rains, tides and tempest come.
Let me be honest with you. I’ve had a very tough 5 years and this year has surpassed itself on the toughness scale. I’ve wondered how many more mistakes I could possibly make; I’ve not understood what’s driven me to do the crazy things I’ve done and I’ve been all at sea seeing my ‘sandcastle’ washed away.
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
There are painful consequences when we dis-obey God’s word, when we justify our own behaviour and do not surrender our hearts and lives fully to Jesus. Yet, my faithful God has removed from my life, that which needed to be removed. He has shown me He truly is who He says He is. I grieve and repent for what I have done yet marvel at his faithfulness and His promise to build me up again, with my foundation built on Him alone.
The Lord appeared to us in the past saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again.”
God in his mercy and grace has been exposing the areas of my life that have been built on the wrong foundations. Through the storms and the rising tides, I have learned first-hand there is only one I can trust. Only one that has my best interests at heart – only one that is my true rock in this life: Jesus. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand.
I am aware of God’s discipline as a true loving Father. The struggle and suffering are hard, but oh, let me tell you, I have seen the goodness of God. He has rescued me and set me upon the solid rock.
Have you felt like your life has slipped so far that God cannot reach you or change your situation? That you have made so many bad decisions and wrong choices that you cannot be re-routed? Let me tell you now - that is a lie. You may have failed. But you are not a failure. God is in the business of restoring and rebuilding. Let Him rebuild your life with your foundations set on Jesus, the Solid Rock.
Building a sandcastle maybe easy and fun. There you are at the beach on a balmy sunny day with no storm in sight, armed with your bucket, spade, shells and not a care in the world. But building spiritual foundations; building on a rock is about faith, obedience, commitment, determination, blood, sweat and tears.
But once you build on the solid Rock, on foundations that will not be shaken - no matter the storms you have to weather, no matter the tides that rise above your neck, this true foundation will not be washed away. There true security is found.
Let me leave you with the first verse and reprise from the old classic hymn by Edward Mote, and pose these questions to you – where is your hope? What foundation are you building on?
My hope is built on nothing less
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
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.
I've often thought of myself as someone who colours inside the lines. You know, a good girl who gets on with what's expected of her and keeps the rules. But the more I journey with God, the more I can see that I've learnt to colour outside the lines; to go against the grain and walk with Him by faith.
Isaiah 55 tells us that God's ways are not our ways - they often sit outside of our logic and reasoning and because of this, faith often calls us to a path that feels counter-intuitive.
Sometimes faith says pull back when we would think rush in
Sometimes faith says give when we would like to hold back
Sometimes faith says go when we would prefer to stay
This has been the pattern all throughout Scripture:
God asked Noah to build an ark when he'd never even seen rain
He sent Abraham on a journey to an undisclosed location - asking him to pack up all his belongings and leave everything he had ever known
He asked a destitute widow to share the last of her provisions when she had no means to replenish them
He sent the disciples out in pairs to do ministry and wouldn't allow them to take any provisions with them, asking them to rely on those they ministered to for sustenance
All things that fly in the face of conventional wisdom - that go against the grain of forming a plan, of making provision, of having a safety net. Yes, while faith isn't about being reckless, sometimes it will sure look that way!
In my own journey, I've come to realise that my ability to walk by faith - to be obedient to what God is asking of me - is tied to my priorities and my affections. Hebrews 11 tells us that the men and women we so often refer to as the 'heroes of faith' were able to live as they did because they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth (v. 13). The Passion Translations challenges me with this rendering:
For clearly those who live this way are longing for the appearing of a heavenly city. And if their hearts were still remembering what they left behind, they would have found an opportunity to go back. But they couldn't turn back for their hearts were fixed on what was far greater, that is, the heavenly realm.
These heroes of faith both endured and achieved much for the Kingdom of God because they had determined where their treasure lay. They had fixed their heart to His.
When this world and all of its comforts has more of a hold on my heart than He does, my capacity to embrace His wisdom and to walk in faith is diminished. When He is no longer enough for me, then I hesitate to walk in surrendered obedience and even my frail human logic seems safer than the path that He has set before me.
Yes, this life of faith requires on my part a constant checking of my heart and my pursuits.
Am I distracted by what is temporal instead of engaged with what is eternal?
Am I self-reliant or God-reliant?
Am I craving the approval of the world or anchored by His love?
The current landscape of my own life is both exhilarating and terrifying. And truthfully, I find myself having to continually determine and redetermine to walk by faith. It's not a one off decision but a day by day, sometimes moment by moment process of choosing to trust and obey. To keep my heart fixed to His.
But the last two years have reminded me afresh that not only are God's ways not our ways, they are higher.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
And because they are higher than ours, we find rest and strength in them; provisions for the journey that He has sent us on. The path of faith might be uncomfortable, but because it is marked out by His presence we can expect to experience His comfort along the way.
However much sacrifice walking by faith invites, the rewards are far greater.
How is He inviting you to fix your heart to His today?
When my kids are fighting over something I sing 'Let It Go'. I get down on one knee and make a fool of myself, changing the mood and making them forget what they were fighting over in the first place.
I can often have an internal argument and end up singing the song to myself… which, if you were watching me, would be quite weird…
I can be quite particular. I like to do things in a certain way; I have my routine, and a method to carry out my tasks. But I struggle to keep going if my routine gets interrupted for some reason. There is a part of me that says, if you can't do it perfectly, you might as well give up now. It might sound odd, but it can be physically exhausting. And this is where the song comes in.
I have to shift my focus from whatever is blocking me to the simple truth: God doesn't ask for perfection, he asks for perseverance. John Bloom from desiringgod.org said:
Perfectionism is a pride- or fear-based compulsion that either fuels our obsessive fixation on doing something perfectly or paralyzes us from acting at all — both of which often result in the harmful neglect of other necessary or good things.
There are things in life that are beyond our control. Schedules, situations, and people are ever changing. And while I like my to do lists and love the feeling that comes when I can cross something off one of those lists, I've had to learn that when things beyond my control hinder me from being able to achieve my tasks, that I need to let go and let God. There is a prayer that I say often:
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
This is where I thought it finished. But I have recently discovered a second verse:
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Taking this world as it is, not as I would have it - we need to be faith-based, not fear-based, followers of Christ, accepting the things we cannot change and trusting God to make things right.
We are reminded of this in Proverbs 3:5:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
I love worship music. It soothes my heart and fixes my eyes on God. It Is Well With My Soul is a popular hymn and has been remade by many musicians, but the second verse of the original lyrics seems to connect with me:
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
Although Satan will continue to strike repeatedly, attempting to knock me off course, I can stand sure that my God loves me and gave His only son for me. (John 3:16)
Can I encourage you: whatever is holding you back or frustrating you, give it to God. Through praying, singing or writing. Let go of what is holding you to this world’s lies and grasp hold of His truths that you are loved and you are worthy. Let it be well with your soul.
Keep shining, you never know whose dark day you might be lighting up!
I've always known that my girls are chalk and cheese: one of them gravitates towards a schedule, liking to know not only what is happening, but exactly when it's happening. She thrives on order and clear expectations while the other is more free-spirited. With her creative temperament she doesn't like the how - or even the when - being dictated to her.
Our recent foray into homeschooling has brought these differences to the surface and I've struggled at times to figure out balancing their competing needs for freedom and discipline. But it's not only watching them that has had me contemplating this balance - as I've been adjusting to our new lifestyle and settling into our new community after our move, my own routines have been somewhat upset. Constantly surrounded by children with very little time to myself, I'm having to find a new normal and create new spaces and ways for staying connected to God.
The process of carving out new rhythms and routines has made me realise afresh that we all have this need for both freedom and discipline. And that rather than competing, they are actually complimentary threads that we need to learn to weave together; that we can't truly have freedom in our lives without discipline.
In my own journey, I've tended to swing like a pendulum towards one or the other, failing to allow them to work in sync. When life has felt out of control I've grasped on to discipline in an attempt to regain control; to help me feel like I'm doing and being enough. If life is reduced to lists and tasks that can be ticked off then I feel a sense of achievement and worth.
But such phases are short-lived simply because, well, life happens and I can't sustain the internal pressure that comes with having to constantly achieve my 'list' or the guilt that comes when I miss something on my list. So I throw off the yoke of discipline because, after all, the one whom the Son sets free is free indeed, meaning, I can do what I want, when I want. I don't need systems and structures and disciplines because I'm free; I'm covered by grace.
Again though, it doesn't take long before chaos ensues and the pendulum swings back to discipline and then back to what I think is freedom. This backwards to and fro movement stems from a false understanding of what it means to be free and of the heart and purpose of discipline.
My rebellion against discipline is often tied up in how I see it and in what is driving me towards it. When I associate discipline with punishment alone, then a fear of disappointing those that I love, of disappointing God, paralyses me and all I can hear are voices of condemnation. When I look to discipline because I am driven to perform, driven to prove what a 'good girl' I am, it becomes a relentless master that I cannot appease.
I have a very wise father, and he once said something that has always stayed with me, shifting how I viewed the subject of discipline. He said: We must steward our desires with discipline. Desire without discipline is fantasy.
What if I could see discipline as the vehicle through which I steward the desires that God has planted within me? What if instead of connecting it to fear and punishment, I saw it through the lens of love and grace?
Proverbs 3:12 tells us:
For the Father’s discipline comes only from his passionate love and pleasure for you. Even when it seems like his correction is harsh, it’s still better than any father on earth gives to his child.
God disciplines us, and encourages us to discipline our own lives, because His heart is to facilitate the freedom and the fullness that He created us for.
Because while we might think of freedom as licence, it is actually the power to choose well. And if we want to enter into all that God has for us, we will use our freedom to steward that desire with the appropriate disciplines.
People who accept discipline are on the pathway to life.
My own journey in recent months has reminded me that the absence of discipline was robbing me of freedom and fruitfulness and that I needed to make wiser choices.
Without disciplining myself to spend time in the Word I was being robbed of the power of its truth. My life and my heart couldn't be washed by its wisdom.
Without disciplining myself to be connected; to gather regularly with other believers I was being robbed of the power of what happens when two or more gather. I was robbed of their gifts in my life.
Without disciplining myself to pray and commune with God, I was being robbed of the power of intimacy. I was missing out not only on sharing my heart, but on hearing His.
I have felt the gentle and yet firm whisper of God inviting me to interweave my freedom with discipline, and as I have heeded His correction, I have been reminded why the puritans referred to spiritual disciplines as disciplines of grace. Disciplines, when they flow from our freedom to choose, instead of our efforts to prove ourselves, create times and spaces for us to experience the grace of God in our lives.
So I'm learning (yet again) to slow the pendulum down; to allow freedom and discipline to come together to shape my life.
What desires is God inviting you to steward with discipline in this season?
There’s a long and layered backstory to this blog (which I may put into a book someday) but for now I'm going to summarize the relevant information in 3 points:
1. I really want to have children and be at home with them (at least while they are little)
2. God has made it extremely clear in a number of ways that he wants my husband and I to build a house
3. 1 & 2 are not compatible with our current financial situation (in order to service the mortgage we both need to be working)
About a month or so ago, we had a number of “out-of -our-control” situations that meant the cost of our build almost doubled (keeping in mind point # 3 was a thing before this happened).
Now, I’ve never really been a fearful person. I’ve been graced with childlike faith and carefree hope, but the moment I saw that number something flipped inside me and all I felt was trapped and powerless and ashamed.
I began to do mental math – what sort and how many promotions I would need; calculating what I could earn from doing extra jobs or hours or what I could possibly do to make this work. I spent the afternoon swirling around in a frenzy of anxiety and numbers that I knew would never add up. I was so caught up in this spiral it was hard to hear His voice, so when I got home I returned to the original promise we had been given, to reassure myself that God had called us into this process and would not abandon us halfway through.
A song of the stairway, by King Solomon
When I was first given this Psalm, I was understandably captured by the parts about children and houses. But this day, the moment I heard His voice again was in verse two. My one and only question was “How am I going to pay for this house?” and His answer came gentle and firm.. “Get an early night.”
So I did. I went to bed before 8pm and had the holiest sleep of my life. When I woke up, not a single thing had changed about my 3 realities listed at the start, but I just understood on a deep and unshakeable level that striving is senseless and His gifts are good. And that some of His best work happens, not necessarily when I do nothing, but more when I lay my head down in confidence that he's providing and doing His best work while I'm at my most vulnerable.
Bill Johnson says, "You only have authority over storms that you can sleep in." (Matthew 8:23-27) I am convinced that once God has given a promise, there is nothing the enemy can say or do to stop that promise eventuating. The only thing that is up for debate is your rest, peace and joy in the process. Your rest, peace and joy are yours. Don’t sacrifice them, don’t squander your beautiful inheritance as those things are yours right now and can be with you on every journey and in every storm as you walk toward the future He has declared for you.
I’m beginning to learn that sleep is a prophetic demonstration of trust and rest, and is one of His most precious gifts to us. He provides sleep to His beloved, AND provides for His beloved even while they sleep!
Since that night, I’ve had a growing awareness of just how much sleep is contested in so many people’s lives, and the impact that it has. With that growing awareness has come an increased authority to see this precious gift restored. To my tired, exhausted or weary friend: If you’re reading this, regardless of the reason, I release grace over you right now and declare that the contest over your sleep has ended and the winner is Jesus. It’s always Him. He’s never lost a battle. Tonight, is the beginning of you sleeping soundly, and waking up refreshed, regardless of the number of hours you got. He can do a lot with a little, you know.
As for the house, we have had at so many instances where the impossible has become possible including one where we needed $50,000 in one week and 7 days later it was covered (through about 5 different creative and random miracles). I’m embracing this season for the extravagant demonstration of Love that it really is, and pondering these things in my heart until a day where I have the full and powerful story to tell. And until that time, I’ll be over here with more than enough peace and joy for the journey.
P.S. I’d love if you would get in touch with your stories of sleep provision in your current situation, or your stories of provision while you sleep!
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.
If you want to get blog posts direct to your inbox pop here.