Before the sun sets, I ask myself, have I been fully present to God, others and myself?
Transitioning into a new year is something some of us do with great joy and goal setting; for some of us it is just another year to get through. Some people give no thought to their future and live day to day, while some, I have observed, are so future focused, waiting for the big breakthrough, that illusive defining moment that will change everything, that they are rarely fully present day by day - to God, themselves or others.
I love the quick wit of that great philosopher, Groucho Marx, who when out one evening said to his host, “I’ve had a wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it!” For some of us there never seems to be ‘a wonderful evening’ because we keep looking for that big breakthrough evening or event. Is such a desire wrong? No, but when we live so future focused, we run the risk of missing present moments that bring great joy, life, community, deepening of relationships, hope, personal transformation and healing.
As my wife, Pip, and I have navigated our personal journey of health these past years and stepped into a new year, I realise I have discovered more from learning to be fully present each day than constantly staring into the future hoping for one big miracle that will make everything all better (not that I do not hope). As I seek to practice the art of being fully present to the moment, to each person and to myself, I am laying stepping stones that create a pathway to the possibility of breakthrough in areas of my life. Sometimes big breakthroughs are the accumulation of small, moment by moment breakthroughs, which become the foundation blocks to the larger ones.
My personal defeats and victories in navigating this season of recovery have become in themselves, defining moments of growth.
You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
I see why Jesus encouraged us to live one day at a time, not worrying about the next day (Matthew 6:25-34) because worry only robs us of present moments to grow, change and become the person God desires we be. As we journey through life, God is more concerned about the enlargement of our heart and our mind towards Him, ourselves and others so that we will have the capacity to receive and steward the big breakthroughs He has for us.
Today, He enlarges us to receive tomorrow.
While future hope is a wonderful focus, there is great power and transformation in learning to be fully present today, advancing one day at a time, not worrying but trusting.
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
God has invited us on a journey of trust, of learning to be fully present to Him, living in and from His
presence, so that we grow and become enabled to receive all He has for us. He alone knows the end from the beginning and crafts everything and everyone along the way.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
If we can learn to be fully present to God, ourselves and others and not miss today’s moments, we will become more greatly equipped to see the breakthroughs we desire - whether small or large. Let us steward today well so that we can be entrusted with His tomorrows.
“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still” (Chinese proverb)
May 2018 be a breakthrough year for you - each and every moment.
From the moment we wake up, we are faced with decisions - what to eat, what to wear, should we even get up or should we hit snooze for another 5 minutes (this is not really a choice in my household as the alarm clock comes in the form of a VERY busy 2 year old!). Some decisions we make almost automatically, but others, well they weigh heavy. We want to get it right. We're afraid of getting it wrong, perhaps we worry we'll miss out on what God has for us.
For me, this fear of getting it wrong coupled with my deep-seated desire to honour God with my choices, became somewhat paralysing. I had brought into a false interpretation of Romans 12:2 where Paul writes:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.
His good, pleasing and perfect will. I'd understood this verse as progressive 'levels' of living in God's will that we could experience and not as describing the nature of God's will. So I thought why would you settle for what was just 'good' if you had the opportunity to walk in what was 'perfect'? For someone wired as I am, this self-imposed pressure to not just avoid making wrong decisions, but also to then try and discern whether I was choosing what was merely good or attaining to the perfect, was incredibly dis-empowering. It threatened to rob me of the freedom to make decisions.
It wasn't until we were faced with an impossible decision for our family that tore at my heart and I heard God's whisper - it's ok Aimee, if you think you can keep going that's great, if you need to stop, that's ok too, either way I love you - that I came to understand that there isn't always 'one' right decision. Sometimes (or oftentimes), there are several 'good' options and God trusts us to choose.
God is a sovereign God, He is still on His throne and He rules and reigns. But He has also chosen to partner with us - He has created us in His image and entrusted His creation to our care until His return. And because we reflect Him, we have the ability to think and to feel; to dream and to create - and He wants to see us use these abilities.
He has invited us to enter into relationship with Him and this relationship does not render us powerless; it does not require us to act like robots or reduce us to clones of one another; it does not reduce our lives to a predetermined script. In fact, He empowers us, makes us able to test and approve what His will is.
It's a bit like those 'Choose your own Adventure' books - the ones where every few pages you're presented with different options and where you choose to go next determines the ending of the story. In some editions there were up to forty possible endings! Rather than having one fixed ending, I've discovered that in life there are a variety of possible outcomes and paths that we might go down and they all have the potential to have God-honouring endings. To be marked out by what is good, pleasing and perfect.
The paradox of this freedom and power to test and approve God's will is that it requires complete surrender. It requires us to hold nothing back, to be what Paul describes as a living sacrifice.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering.
Such a surrender is a safe-guard to the incredible freedom we have in Christ. God can always work with a heart that genuinely desires to serve and honour Him - even if we mis-step or mis-interpret what His Word says, He is big enough to redirect us and get us back on track.
And as we surrender our lives to Him - as we trust in the goodness of His nature and His purposes - our hearts and minds are transformed and renewed. Made whole. We no longer measure our options against the world's standards and wisdom, but against His. When life feels like a multi-choice test, we are able to recognise the paths that hold what is good, pleasing and perfect. And then, we can exercise our freedom to choose.
Over the past year or so, my husband and I have had to process A LOT of decisions - life-altering decisions - and I am so grateful that I am no longer afraid of 'getting it wrong.' That I am no longer (or at least less frequently) plagued by decision-paralysis because I know that I have been empowered to make choices.
And with each decision, we return to our posture of surrender, inviting God to confirm or correct the path we have chosen. Expectant that as we seek to honour Him, this life will hold untold adventures.
What adventures are waiting for you to choose them?
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.
I could see the whispers of fog wrapping themselves around the trees outside my bedroom window and it captured the emotion of how this season feels for me. Of how I'm not quite sure of what comes next but aware that there is beauty in the midst of the fog; in the midst of this somewhat ambiguous time in my life.
You see, as I've been journeying through my season of letting go - a season that has lasted longer and touched more areas of my life than I ever envisaged that it would - I've become aware that the satisfied life isn't always found where you expected it to be. That Scripture is full of people whom God called to step away from what they had planned and built for themselves to step into what was unknown and wouldn't always be fully realised in their own lifetime.
Men like Abraham who left his homeland - left the familiar and comfortable - to say yes to an undisclosed destination.
Women like Jesus' mother Mary whose surrendered yes took her down unexpected and sometimes lonely and painful paths.
People like the disciples who had trained in various professions and left it all behind to follow Jesus.
And so many more for whom the path looked different to what they had anticipated.
We have the benefit of knowing the end of their stories - of knowing that they stayed the course to possess what was promised even if they did take some detours along the way. But they must have had their in-between times and seasons like we all do. The days, weeks, months and even years where they didn't quite know how it was all going to turn out. Where the fog wrapped around their hearts and minds and tried to obscure their vision.
But here's the thing that I've learnt about fog; you don't have to be able to see everything that lies ahead to keep moving forward. You just need enough light to illuminate where you currently are.
Now this truth is not always easy for me to accept. I like to have things all planned out. To know the end-goal and exactly how we're going to get there. But life's not that simple - the journey is not always linear like we think it should be - and I doubt it was for the ancients either.
God offers to be the light that illuminates our path just as He has for those who have gone before us. For His presence to be a light within us and without. I've discovered that when knowing Him and not my own agenda becomes the goal, that the fog around me begins to clear and the beauty of who He is and how He loves me, shines bright. As David wrote:
For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
All our worrying, all our striving and efforts to clear the path for ourselves will not bring clarity in the fog because clarity comes from intimacy. Only trust, only relationship with the One who sees all; with the One for whom the darkness is as light (Psalm 139:12) can cause the fog around our hearts and minds to clear.
Later that day, the sun shone bright. All trace of the morning fog had lifted and I was reminded that there will come a day when we see clearly; when we know and understand in full because we see Him face to face (1 Cor, 13:12). Our revelation, our knowing continually grows and deepens as we know Him more, but none of us can know fully this side of eternity. For now, we only see in part and the journey of faith is to keep saying yes. To keep trusting in who He is, allowing His goodness, His love to be the light for where we find ourselves; to be the light that leads us forward.
How can you let Him shine His light for you today?
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?
I am no green fingers gardener (my wife Pip will attest to that), but I have noticed one thing about our fruit trees: they produce their fruit by standing still in one place and sending their roots down, silent yet bearing their fruit each season. You cannot hurry them. Thomas Merton made a similar observation, pointing out that as the world goes about its busyness and noise, all the plants and trees continue to “bring forth fruit in silence.”
We live in an age where we seem to be obsessed with speed, with doing everything fast - faster internet, fast food, faster travel and so on. In 1909, the Futurist Manifesto stated, ‘we affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed’. Yet despite this speed, our world is in a hurry and we complain about never having enough time. The reality is, we have all the time we need, but the faster we go, as one writer put it, ‘the hurrier I get’. Or in the words of Psychotherapist Carl Jung, ‘Hurry is not of the devil, it is the devil!’
I recently saw two seminars offered for church Pastors – ‘Further, Faster – How to Take Your Church Further Faster!’ I wondered to myself where ‘further’ was and why we had to get there fast? The second was entitled ‘Leadership Faster’. I have done leadership ‘fast’ and the results are generally not great. The faster I went the shallower I became, skimming the surface of relationships and decision-making, both wrought with potentially risky outcomes.
It’s interesting that Moses asked those he was leading to ‘stand still’ so he could hear what God was saying to them (Numbers 9:8). Yes, there are times in life we need to make quick decisions, but I have learnt that those moments aren’t really many.
This theme of stillness, of rest and quiet is interwoven throughout Scripture. As our Shepherd, God tells us that He will ‘lead us bedside still waters’ (Psalm 23). The word for ‘still’ in this verse means resting place, quietness. We are also promised that in ‘quietness and confidence we will find strength’ (Isaiah 30:15). Maybe, just maybe, there is something in this being still, being silent and still being fruitful?
I have always been intrigued by and loved verse ten of Psalm forty-six where God defines for us the posture of heart and pace of life we need to live in in order to know Him:
Be still and know that I am God.
The Hebrew word for ‘still’ conveys the sense of to relax, refrain, to be quiet, and to slacken. The word is also from the same group of words for ‘heals’ as in Exodus 15:26 where we are told that God can heal. Speed produces stress, even illness; being still produces rest and the opportunity for healing.
I am on a personal journey of healing from several ‘punches’ to the brain (aka strokes), and the professionals who are assisting me in this process keep telling me that sleep, stillness and even silence, help the brain to heal, renew and restore itself. This has meant making intentional choices to do less as I learn to live life more unplugged. And I've realised that being still and silent before God can be as fruitful as being busy for Him.
God knew that stillness is how we should live healthy in the first place.
That’s why He invites us to meet Him, to get to know Him - to not only hear Him but to follow where He leads and as we do, to be healed by Him through stillness and even in silence. The Father’s in the early church period thought that silence was an integral part of prayer. In the seventh century, Isaac the Syrian described ‘stillness’ as being:
“…a deliberate denial of the gift of words for the sake of achieving inner silence, in the midst of which a person can hear the presence of God. It is standing unceasingly, silent, and prayerful before God.”
We need to find ways to be still; to practice silence so that we can hear the presence of God, allowing Him to restore our soul. We need to realise that sometimes in doing less, we achieve more - that going further faster does not necessarily equal going deeper and being fruitful.
I cannot tell you how or what to do in order for you to find God in the stillness - not without knowing the context of your story and journey - but I can urge you to slow down, be still and know God. To let Him lead you. And I know that as you do, you will be like the trees on my property – your roots will go down deep and rather than being busy, you will be fruitful.
How can you practice silence 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,
It felt like somewhat of a standoff as my mother and I stood facing each other at my back door in a heated exchange. I had gone on the offensive, defending my actions as she confronted me about an attitude that she rightly perceived had become toxic in my life - and truthfully, even I was taken back by the words that were spewing out of me. I hadn't realised until that moment the depth of what had been hiding in my heart.
There was a position that I desperately wanted which I believed I was being unfairly held back from. I felt overlooked and like my contributions to the team were being taken for granted. My desires and intentions were good, but at that particular time, rather than fuelling an expectation for the future, they had ignited within me a deep sense of dissatisfaction and frustration.
I thought it should be my turn
I was afraid of missing out
I felt constrained and powerless to do anything about it
My inner dialogue in that season was telling me that it was NEVER going to happen for me if it didn't happen NOW. So I fell into striving; trying to prove my own worth as I grasped for what I felt I should have and be.
Often, more than we tell lies, we believe them. And these lies that I was accepting were doing me much harm.
In Psalm 37:7-8, David offers us this wisdom:
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him... Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil.
David warns us not to open the door to anger while we wait because it will lead only to evil. In addition to the word for evil meaning just that - to do bad or evil - it also means to hurt or injure; to break. When we wait with frustration, with anger and anxiety in our hearts, we can hurt not only ourselves, but also those around us.
That season of my life was marked by MUCH fretting and I can testify to the truth of David's words - it leads only to evil.
I did evil to myself - I robbed myself of peace; of being able to enjoy the season I was in and I placed a huge burden on myself to achieve and perform in ways that God was not asking me to.
I did evil to others - injuring them with my words as I lashed out in frustration and at times fed their own sense of dissatisfaction.
Fretting turned what God had intended to be a blessing in my life and made it a burden.
After my mum left that day, I went before God and I laid it all down. I surrendered my dream and the timetable that went with it. I asked His forgiveness for my wrong attitude and when I had settled the issue in my heart, I picked up the phone to apologise for how I had spoken to my mother and to thank her for her loving correction. There was an instant shift in my spirit as I laid down my striving and rested in who God was; as I chose to trust in His timing.
Eighteen months later, I was given the position that I had so desperately longed for. And as I stepped into it, as I began to feel the weight of responsibility that came with it, I realised something - I would not have been ready for the position when I thought I was. What was now a blessing to me and to those around me, could have broken me in another season. God had been right to hold me back from promotion (funny that!).
In Psalm 37, David encourages us with this promise:
Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, and He will provide for you what you desire most.
That chapter of my life taught me a lesson that I will never forget; truth that I have carried with me through other seasons of waiting and delay. God's timing is always the right timing and we don't need to force that timing, We can rest in His wisdom, enjoying Him and savouring the journey that He has us on.
God doesn't place dreams and desires in our hearts to frustrate us, but to bless us. His invitation as we wait for the proper timing for those desires to be realised, is to be still in His presence - to wait with Him; valuing the dream-giver more than the dream itself. When we accept this invitation, not only does He give us the desires of our heart, those desires become a source of delight to us.
What is He asking you to trust Him with in this season?
Live today with purpose,
I ran headlong into a wall when I was a toddler, and the wall won! If ever the saying “Hitting a brick wall” applied to my life – it was then…actually, it still is now on occasion.
If you ever get a glimpse of my forehead (it’s purposefully hidden under my fringe), you will see a small sloping line on the right hand side - that’s my ‘wall wound’, the anti-trophy from my strong-willed childhood.
“Slow down, don’t run!” said my mother, moments before it happened, “Be careful! You’ll hit that brick wall!”
I did not listen, I was not careful and I certainly did not slow down. I just wanted to run, not stop. The impact with the unyielding wall giving me a lifelong scar, a temporary bump to my head and a dent to my pride.
Did I learn anything from it though? There are times when I think not.
You see, I barely, if ever, think about that scar anymore – yet in a photograph this week with my fringe windswept to one side; there it was and I recalled it again as if for the very first time.
A friend had coincidentally (it wasn’t of course) had a picture of me last year. She saw me running full steam ahead into a wall wondering why it didn’t just fall down and let me pass. She then saw me backing up and trying the same wall yet again, still not figuring out why the wall didn’t fall over.
This wasn’t a credit to my perseverance, or a pat on the back, this was – ‘why do I keep trying the same thing over and over when it yields the same results?’ We all know that saying I’m sure: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
There are times when I do not take no for an answer. Instead I try again, and again, finding it hard to give up. Rather than concede defeat I just dig in and go harder. Bill Hybels says:
“If the request is wrong, God says, no. If the timing is wrong, God says, slow. If you are wrong, God says grow. But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right, God says “Go!”
Sometimes God says no to our petitions, prayers and personal longings. We don’t always understand why, we don’t like it, we grieve, we rail and sometimes take matters into our own hands. Doesn’t work does it? Remember? Scar, bump to head, dented pride – undented, unharmed, unyielding wall and barrier still standing.
As I look at that scar now, God starts to speak gently to my heart addressing the way I run head long at walls and obstacles I’m not mean’t to be running into at all.
My loving Daddy God says to me “Karen – that scar on your forehead….remember why you have it? You ran heedlessly into a wall, you did not slow down and you did not listen” he continues “That scar is to be a reminder to you of what I am showing you – when I say no, it is not to hurt you or harm you, but because I have better plans for you, I have paths set out before you”
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”.
Paths not walls! Which imply direction, progress, and a way forwards, not the insurmountable obstacles I keep running into.
I was recently given a prophetic word on the subject of paths.
“God has heard your petition, the matter that you keep bringing before him, he wants you to know that you are on the path that he has set out for you, in the direction he is leading you into”
Boom! Cannot get much clearer than that. The message is - stop running at walls, instead follow the path, in fact its plural – paths - that God has laid out for me. Run in that direction.
“I RUN in the path of your commands”
Am I willing to trust the process and trust God, when ‘no’ and ‘wait’ are what I hear – even when I do not understand? Are you?
Will I lay down my stubbornness and let go of what I desire and dare to believe Him? Will you?
We need faith to believe that God’s no is for our best, that he has paths set out before us – why? Because he loves us, perfectly loves us and He knows what is far, far better for us than we could ever possibly imagine.
One of my girls LOVES the mall – so much so that she often tells me she wishes that was where we lived! The moment she has managed to accumulate even just a couple of dollars she's begging to go to the mall and spend her money. I find myself constantly reminding her that if we go now, if she spends now, then she is delaying being able to get what she really wants. She's learning that she must determine what matters and plan accordingly, because money, like any other resource, is finite and requires stewarding and prioritising. It cannot be endlessly stretched, and neither can our time.
I like to say yes. But I know that I just can’t say yes to all the requests and opportunities that come my way – no matter how good they are! Opportunities to volunteer, after-school activities for the kids, social invites, more ministry-hats that I could wear, alongside the day-to-day ‘to-do’ list of shopping, laundry, cooking and so on – the things that I could say yes to are endless! And every ‘yes’ spends my time.
For the past two years, God has been challenging me about how I allocate my time; forcing me to realise that ‘every time I say yes, there is less of me for something else'; requiring me to evaluate is my ‘yes’ worth the less. This season of re-evaluating how I spend my time has meant learning to say no – not just to people, but also to some of my own desires. Like right now, I really want to zone out and watch one of my favourite shows, but I know that that means I won’t have time to write. Writing is a God-priority for me in this season - and saying ‘yes’ to it requires that I say ‘no’ to some of the other things that I’d like to do!
It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that ‘no’ is a negative word – that it is shutting off opportunities, denying ourselves pleasure, closing doors and causing us to disappoint and offend people. But I am increasingly understanding that when I say no, I am really saying ‘yes’ to something that I have determined is more important at that point in time. And while this may disappoint and even offend some, it ensures that I have the resources for what I do say yes to. My ‘no’ is really a ‘yes’ to what God has called me to do.
In Luke 2:42-44, Jesus models this for us:
At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
Jesus had been busy healing the sick and setting people free in the town of Capernaum. He had been doing a good thing, a great thing actually! He knew the time had come to move on to another town, but the people still had needs, so they understandably wanted Him to stay put. But Jesus was mindful of what God had sent Him to do – and that was to proclaim and demonstrate the good news in more than one place, so He tells them no. I have no doubt that His no disappointed the people! But if he had said yes to staying, He would have been saying no to God. His yes would have meant so much less for the people whom God intended to hear the good news of His love!
Let’s learn from Jesus and spend our time well by investing it in the people and priorities that God has for us in our current season. Learn to recognise that when you say no – be it to a little thing like watching your favourite TV show, or something that matters much, much more – that you are really saying yes, yes to the plans and purposes that God has for you. And that is a yes, that you will never regret!
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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