Daring to admit Weakness

Doing well in the middle of tough times does not involve acting strong. Publicly pretending what is not privately true doesn’t impress nor bring glory to God.

In fact the pretense of strength in one suffering is damaging as the person does not get needed support.

Rarely does denying weakness strengthen us.

In crises and pain, God reveals the weaknesses of one’s heart. This revealing is not to embarrass or shame us nor to cause guilt. It’s in these times that an individual has an opportunity to cry out for God’s transforming grace.

To deny weakness is to deny opportunity and fractures relationships because transparency with others is absent. Rather be honest about your weaknesses and find a community of those who will allow this. They therefore can be a part of your healing process.

Overall, weakness does not need to be the enemy but rather the opportunity to discover your new potential .

Youth and Anxiety

Anxiety is a main complaint today among the young.

Increasingly, counselors are hearing from children between the ages of eleven to fourteen. They do not want to attend school due to anxiety.

Social media may rule their lives as they constantly watch the activities of their peers. They then wonder where they fit in this world.

Most institutions, including schools and churches cater for those whom thrive on social interaction. The quieter souls quietly struggle with this.

Attendance and participation in everyday events can be overwhelming. Thoughts that pass through their minds include, "where will I sit?, will anyone talk to me?, will anyone be my friend? what if the teacher asks me a question? or do I look okay?"

For some, these issues seem ridiculous but for many they are real concerns.

While the issue of anxiety is not solved overnight, we as adults can help.

A counselor and medication may be part of the answer, but that a parent fully listens and sympathizes is important. 

We may need to accept that a child is very different to ourselves and therefore understand that solutions that worked for us as a young one, may not work for a child.

Avoid simple answers. "Don't worry about it. "That's crazy." "You don't need to be like that." These are answers that are the end result rather than being thoughts that help a child through this process.

Establish social media free time in your household and this should include the parents. Apart from this, talk to children about social media. So much of it is false.

Lastly find ways in which your child can comfortably interact outside of the school setting. 

A child's anxiety may be alleviated by acknowledging that these years can be tough. To affirm your child that he/she is not strange but many are overwhelmed by similar issues. Your child is not strange but wonderfully unique.

Darkness, A Temporary Sanctuary

Darkness, being the mind's dark thoughts, is often a sanctuary when life crashes.

It can feel safe and allows us to feel that we have have some control, despite the fact that our life as we knew it, is over.

In darkness our life is a little less shocking while we fight to resurrect what we have lost.

In darkness, we attempt to create a path that will bring us back pre disaster.

This desire, to recreate, can be found in the book of Genesis.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they realized their nakedness while their first thought was to take control by covering their nakedness.

Of great significance in the situation is this. Adam and Eve's action was as shocking as what they failed to do.

Their lives were changed drastically and yet they tried to hide consequences via a leaf covering!  

Eyes open but hearts closed, they tried to manage the disaster.

Often in life we may encounter this type of situation. We build a pleasant and supposedly successful life but in a moment it is stripped away. We either shun God or struggle to believe that He is present in our darkness.

Yet God's light shines in the darkness (John 1:5). it's in this place of darkness, where we let go of what once was, and we discover God's light.

We are loved by God in our mess. He is never shocked by the dark places that we go. He waits for us and does not fear this darkness in which we shelter. His love is ongoing.



"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life." This Scripture, 1 Thessalonians 4:11 caused me to sit back and simply mouth "wow".

In many ways it goes against every thing in which I was raised, both family and church.

After many years of striving and pushing myself, I still find it extremely difficult to sit and read or watch a movie. My mind tells me to keep striving. if I'm not moving I'm not achieving. Crazy, I know!

Don't misunderstand me. To set goals and to encourage our children and ourselves to aim high is good. But while some people achieve huge success and beyond, most of us have to find contentment in a mediocre life.

One of the problems is that we're conditioned in this world to believe that we are only important if we've achieved great success. The growing career, the great looking spouse, the right clothes, appropriate children, the right connections so we can keep climbing the ladder of success. And yet we've got it backwards.

God used a woman named Sarah who was a step from the grave, to birth a child, the first of a great nation.

God chose Moses, a murderer, hiding out in fear for his life, to lead a nation away from slavery.

This Scripture today has helped me to redefine some of my thinking. We strive and strive for greater success to not just find security and contentment but to decrease our feelings of anonymity. 

And yet God chooses the least likely person to win.

There's an important reason for this Scripture to be in the Bible. In our mediocre, and boring lives God IS using us.

All About Ruth

In the book of Ruth, we see two very different types of women. While they plow forward through extraordinary loss, they portray differing strengths.

Many of us, in crisis, tend to isolate. People either are busy, want us to react in a certain way or after a draining day of work, there's simply no more energy or time to give.

Neither of these women though chose isolation,  a dangerous choice when in trouble.

Ruth also clings to her relationship with Naomi as while Naomi admits bitterness, Ruth knows Naomi better. Ruth does not try to correct this woman whom she loves. Ruth only seems to desire to stay close to her.

But there's another interesting aspect to this story.

In crisis, we can cling to possessions. After all, we spend a lifetime trying to acquire these things as they offer some sense of comfort and security.

For myself, when my security was so shaken with loss of marriage and job, I spent hours going over my possessions, to determine what wealth I could secure.

Yet here is Ruth choosing relationship over things. We do not see her concerned with possessions but concerned with losing a treasured relationship.

We see a lady who leaves the comforts of home and ventures forth into a new land with strangers, because she wished to maintain a relationship.

To me this is great faith amidst crisis.

The Problem with Moving On

One of the toughest comments is that of "move on." It's often spoken in a way that means "get over it" or 'forget it"  and the speaker comes across as the champion of conquering all. 

I've heard it preached from the pulpit and I've heard it spoken privately in leadership situations when a member must leave as they've become an embarrassment to a church.

I've nodded my head in agreement and cheered on a speaker when this term has been used but my conscience cringes.

Some times the message has been great as the words are wrapped in love and mercy. But at other moments, I've wondered. "Move on" honestly can be spoken when the deliverer of these words feels inadequate and afraid. Or perhaps some one's dilemma is demanding too much time. Avoidance is the answer, spoken as 'move on."

There are those people who do move on fast but then there are those, the deep thinkers, who analyse and sift through situations at a different pace, determined to examine things, from every angle. And yes this is annoying to many, but we do not all fit one mold.

Spending the time to work through situations does not necessarily mean that one is being a victim.

God is patient and yes, tolerant. He guided the Israelites through a desert for forty years when it should have taken eleven days.

Yes they moved on and wow was it frustratingly slow, but that's the process of God.

The Tension of God's Will

I'm loving this extra hour of rest this morning before I drag out of bed and get ready for church. Extra time to sit, play with the dogs and read and write. And I must admit, eating three donuts brought to me by my husband.

Part of my study this morning has been to study God and His will.

We wonder why God seems to do nothing about certain problems and so we question His power and care for us. We believe that if a problem, for example a marriage, a person or financial difficulty would disappear, then life would be better.  This form of thinking though shows shortsightedness and even arrogance. That we believe our plan to be  best.

Honestly we often don't agree with how God does the job and that He should work according to our wants and desires.

Sometimes we even lower our standards to find freedom if God does not perform within our time frame. For example, thoughts such as "I deserve to be happy" lead us often to do things that are contrary to God's plan. 

Patience is difficult. Living in the tension of unresolved issues is hard.

God's ultimate quest though is to make us holy and close to Him and no amount of shifting or short cuts on our behalf will alter this or bring us the result that we believe that we deserve.

Self Protection or Love

Every one of us lives with a level of discomfort.

Others may look really together but even 'the together ones" carry a form of mess within.

Discomfort heightens when we're put on the spot, anger emerges when a spouse displeases us, conversation shifts when a topic surfaces our ignorance and we search for opportunities to enhance our reputations.

We seek places of comfort rather than challenge and as believers we explore ways to improve our spirituality - serving and helping, reading and praying, selling our talents to others to prove our worth.

But still the nagging feeling of discomfort continues. There's more to us than merely loving God and others.

We were not designed to live in this world. Before sin, vulnerability with God and each other was natural. But sin ushered in shame and avoidance and a fear of rejection, even if it meant hurting those that we love. Therefore while we crave closeness, we create distance with others.

To present a front, or self protect may feel safe but it limits the depth of a relationship.

Finding those whom are willing to hear our struggles and anxiety is vital.

Being one whom is willing  to allow another to have issues is vital.

Even more, being one whom can hear but not offer the quick fix is more precious than gold.



Love is a Challenge

Is love described as a feeling in the Bible?

I ask this question because more often than not, people opt out of intimate relationships because of reasons such as "I don't like you any more", "our marriage was a mistake" or "I deserve to be happy". 

Few people understand what love is, particularly when it pertains to marriage. Most think of it in terms of romance, desire and pleasant feelings. When the term, "I love you" is spoken, it mostly means "I love me and I want you. Therefore I want to keep you because you make me happy."

If we think about this, it's a selfish way of living.

The love potion that often accompanies new romantic relationships does not last but should mature into a deep and trusting relationship. A relationship where one can trust the other with their deepest fears and desires. There is a level of vulnerability in which hope and hurt are shared and worked through.

Probably the greatest example of love is God giving His only Son due to His deep love for mankind, a love so filled with sacrifice for the sake of others.

This love is not a feeling, but an act of the will. And so should we, determine to keep this great act going.

To Be

As an elementary student, every year my greatest dread was the sports carnival. Running races for flat-footed me were horrific as no matter how hard I tried, last place was mine unless a girl, whose name I'll never forget and wont mention, would rescue me from this torture. Slower than me, she'd guarantee me second last place rather than last.

Beyond this though were other dilemmas. To be acceptable meant that I had to win. Mediocre was not okay but significance meant to be best or near best. I felt good if I was succeeding and accepted.

We often carry these thoughts into the church world. To be noticed and successful, I must be a pastor or worship leader, I must be on the stage or hold a grand title. We often too only show our positive front to leaders. Oh the shock if they saw our flaws and we were then rejected.

As believers, we may accept Christ but we hang onto our past baggage and endeavor to find acceptance and success through external measures rather than in Christ.

The real God is so different from this, being the God, "I am" rather than the god "I do."

No races, competition or comparison are in Him, only the desire for a relationship with each of us. Nor does He disappear if we fail or show negative emotions.

He created us as we are, to find acceptance and rest in Him.

External things such as high achievement and performance, are such an enticement for satisfaction because they are directly in front of us. And yet Solomon often admits, that they are empty and hollow endeavors.

Contentment that is long term,  is an inner quality found in God. Better yet it is free.


The Hand and Will of God - Questions and Answers

We've heard the statement, "Even when our world is falling apart, God is still working in all areas."

Easily said but not easily lived. And very hard to hear when life is in turmoil.

The hand and will of God though is often not pleasant. It is not the stuff of our dreams.

It may even mean that we have to stagger through a storm alone, accused and ashamed. 

God's will is rarely a life of success and no adversity. Consider Isaiah 53:10 in regards to Jesus.

We also cannot deny the pain of Joseph's life. At 17, he was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery and separated from family for twenty years. And yet would we say that he was out of God's will? And that God had removed Himself from Joseph's life?

God will accomplish His purpose and His will despite the messiness of life.

It actually takes trials and pain to make us useful to God. In fact it's doubtful that anyone is truly useful to God without very deep pain.

Alignment and the Bible

The Bible could be compared to a navigation system.

To simply look at a map for a potential road trip doesn't take us anywhere. To own a Bible does not make one a Christian nor does it do anything in one's life.

Nor is the Bible, God. It is however written about the lives and experiences of many people who truly knew God.

Therefore to get anywhere, we should align our lives with the instructions of the Bible. Similar to following the navigation's directions, if we do, we arrive at the desired location.

To obey, sometimes, is going to go against the deepest of our heart's desires and will make no sense at all. Some times we'll see those we love, reject us for our adherence to these principles. Some times it will mean ridicule and we'll want to give up.

If some Scriptures make no sense, this is an opportunity to just trust God. That at some point, understanding will come. 

This is the nature of Christian growth.

How Do I Fit In?

In the early twentieth century, Abraham Maslow developed a chart that categorized people's needs. His work is worth examination, especially considering family.

We can be part of a great family and yet still feel little value, unknown or insignificant. 

Often we emphasize the needs for food, shelter, safety, education and hobbies. Busily, we reorganize schedules to maintain all of these things. But to finish at this level, denies greater needs and therefore we cruise through life wondering purpose and worth.

Each of us has a huge need to belong and to be valued.

These desires are fulfilled by giving time, listening without preparing for an answer, and providing encouragement.

Practice affection or rather than focusing on being the center of attention, watch for opportunities to include others.

Watch for those things that bring a smile to another's face.

Listen and validate other's thoughts and engage in another's interests. 

Build up those, whether spouse or child, whether an unlovable teenager or an angry spouse. 

To criticize isolates, but encouragement strengthens connection and that sense of belonging.


Being Blessed

There is no guaranteed way through which we can receive God's blessings. There are principles that guide us through life but there is no such thing as a cause and effect pattern that will guarantee blessing.

We can work hard at raising great children or building a great marriage. We can work diligently at a business or making lasting friendships. Ultimately though, we do not have that much control over the outcome and may not achieve our desired result.

Christian leaders can work hard and serve God faithfully. Some enjoy God's blessing by building a substantial ministry but others do not.

Some parents parent faithfully and produce fantastic children but other parents whom have been just as faithful, do not.

Ultimately if we live with a cause and effect mindset regarding the blessing of God, life becomes a roller coaster and disappointing.

If children, marriage, business or friendships succeed, we are happy. If one fails, though, we experience contempt not just for self but for others.

If we live with a cause and effect mentality, or as one whom expects blessing for good works, life and God are disappointing. We live, preoccupied with using God as a source of reward, rather than aiming at a relationship with Him.

Beyond the splendor that life has to offer, focusing on the thought that God Himself is the ultimate blessing is fulfilling. He is the constant relationship that lifts us despite trials and loves and accepts us in spite of success or failure.

Anger as a Life Line.

Often we do not know how to handle anger, particularly when it is expressed by another.

We therefore offer solutions that bring no relief to the person. Honestly, we are uncomfortable with the other's rage.

Anger does not have to be logical or valid but tends to surface once a person is feeling  able to survive a crisis. In crisis, one often feels amazed that she survived the loss.

Anger is a necessary stage of healing and as permission is given to express this emotion, one is able to process true hurts.

Anger has no limits. Underneath anger is pain. But anger can be strength and provides temporary structure in loss.

If we ask someone to move past their anger too fast, all we do is alienate them. We fail to recognize their loss and pain.

Anger can be seen as a life line. It is a rope to which one can cling and climb until clarity is again found.

Believe in Me

One of my greatest discoveries recently is understanding that my source of affirmation has shifted.

Our desire to be valued is great and one of the ways in which this is maintained is through affirmation.

Our need for affirmation is greater when we feel that we have failed.

We can though make the mistake of trying to get affirmation from a source that is not appropriate. That source may not have the capacity, the capability, the time or understanding. 

Rather than attempting to repeatedly draw affirmation from that from which there is no result, we should look around and realize that God's provision will come from elsewhere.

New seasons bring new meaning and new people into our lives. We cannot change the season or other people. We should not depend upon our own understanding but know that our troubles are all a part of God's master plan.

Sympathy and Empathy.

Some times these two words are confused in meaning. Yet they are very different.

Empathy strengthens connection but sympathy can move us to disconnection.

Empathy means that we can see the perspective of another person. It recognizes that the other person sees their perspective as truth. An empathetic person doesn't just recognize the emotions of another but acknowledges and feels with them.

Empathy recognizes that someone is in a dark place and does not just tell someone that "life will improve". The empathetic are willing to visit that dark place with the someone.

Empathy assures the someone that they are not alone.

Sympathy, on the other hand, will acknowledge a difficult situation but remains removed from the someone. Sympathy may encourage the some one to reach out but fails to realize their true state.

Sympathy does not connect with one in pain because we do not wish to feel that pain. Rather sympathy minimises the problem, making it less than what it is.

If we examine our conversation, many of us do this a lot. We do not want to become enmeshed in another's pain. 

Empathy is prepared to acknowledge that perhaps we don't have an answer but that we are willing to listen and be a part of this journey.

Connection, a part of empathy aids in healing. Response, which is the prime ingredient of sympathy, does little.

What Do I Need?

In times of want and need we tend to focus on that particular desire. It becomes our primary focus and occupies our thoughts.

For myself, I found myself reestablishing myself as a single woman, selling and moving homes and finding a new career.

Do I leave my home church or stay? Do I move back to Australia or to a location close to my children?

Such concerns are a normal part of life but the stress of these things can find us pushing God to the periphery.

At such times we can neglect to seek God for help and become obsessed with our dilemma.

What do we do?

I believe that we start with repentance. Do what we usually do when we've neglected some one that we love.

After repentance, let the conversation with God flow.

The more we focus on God, the more access to His unfailing love.

His never ending love is empowering and fuels us as does nothing else. 

I Get It

I understand praying prayers that are not answered in the way we wish.

I understand fixing a marriage but I also understand losing a marriage despite all effort.

I understand life when it starts to unravel and when failure is discovered by others.

I understand telling one's children that their parents can't hold it together.

I know the fear of not knowing what's coming, of making wrong decisions and not knowing what to do.

I understand loneliness and the fear of being alone. Lord, will it always be like this?

But I'm seeing that God is a God of new things. I've made new friends. I have a new career and home and both are wonderful.

I've visited places and seen people for which there was no time in the past.

Dare I say, there's some fun in again being single.

God doesn't just create new things but He can make all things new.

In other words, He's not tossing us out and starting anew with someone else.

He looks at us and dreams of whom we are going to be when we get to the other side of our drama and pain.


Starting Over

We grow up in church  and the recommendations are to pray, read your Bible, attend regularly, get involved and to share our faith with others.

We usually struggle and feel guilty regarding our lack of competence in at least one of these areas. And therefore think of ourselves as being a little less than others. We carry a sense of failing God too.

But then great catastrophe can strike us such as relationship or financial disaster. In so many ways we no longer measure up to our former image.

And so we have to start again. It's actually a journey of rediscovery regarding one self. Who is God and what does He desire of me. I'm no longer what I was

The result is that God loved me as I was and loves me even now. I don't have to behave or perform in any certain way.

Hardship is a prime opportunity to move beyond immature ideas into greater faith and character. Some disasters, are a catalyst for learning perseverance, steadiness and hope.

Who among us wouldn't prefer an easier life but through hardship we discover the reality of God.