Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A good frost

Where we live, we have a few fruit trees in our backyard. We love it!

One of the trees is an orange tree. It's winter. The tree is full of ripe oranges and it looks beautiful. The oranges are juicy but they are still a bit sour. They haven't sweetened up yet.

We have been told that we need a good frost to sweeten the fruit. 

Frosts don't often appear to be good for much besides killing some plants and making a morning commute to work that little bit more frustrating when the car windows are iced up and need some work so you can see to drive. 

However, some have said that when a frost gets the orange tree, the oranges have been among the best they've ever tasted.

It got me thinking... There are times in our lives that we see as bleak and couldn't possibly produce anything good or 'sweet' and yet, just maybe, we are wrong.

I think - I know - that God can use those times to bring about very good things. Sometimes God sweetens our character or our relationship with him through those 'frosts' that occur in some seasons of our lives. God has changed me, drawn me closer to him and shown me his love in ways I may not have experienced had I not gone through seasons of grief, loss, loneliness, financial stresses, relationship strains.

Maybe you're in one of those 'frosty' seasons right now. Would you ask God to show you the sweetness in the midst of it all? I promise you it's there - he's there.

I'm looking forward to the oranges sweetening and sharing the fruit with family and friends. I'm praying that they will also see the sweetness of God at work in my life and maybe want to 'taste and see' him too (Ps 34.8 NLT).

Silence, a move, new things...

Once again, I have had a long break from the blog. I think the last time I wrote, I had come back from a big break and said I'd be blogging much more regularly. Hmmm... sorry about that. There has been a lot going on over the past 7 or so months but I really didn't think it would keep me away from here for so long.

It's been a bit of an unexpected journey...

About 7 or 8 months ago, my husband and I had been chatting and praying about where we felt God was leading for the coming year. Were we to stay where we were? Were we to move on and start a new church plant or move into ministry with an already-established church that wanted to see God do some new things? Were there some new schools and youth ministry areas to break into? How could we give the up and coming leaders where we were more opportunities to grow and serve?

Unexpectedly, friends emailed us a job description for a position at the church they attended. My husband and I took a look at it but quickly dismissed it. It was with a church that I had felt I never wanted to be a part of and my husband felt the job would be very limiting and the nature of the church would make ministry difficult to say the least.

God had other ideas... My husband investigated a few different options and as we chatted and prayed, he felt compelled to look again into the position at this other church. He called the Minister there and organised to meet and talk. One chat lead to more meetings which lead to us both going to a formal meeting with the rest of the church leaders where my husband was offered the position.

I had lots of reservations about leaving where we were and heading to this new town, church, ministry... I didn't want to leave my church family - the life and passion and moves of God that we were seeing. I felt that we were heading somewhere that lacked all of these things and did not want to go there (yes, judgemental of me, I know, but that's how I felt at the time...). And yet... In the conversations had with the church leaders, it appeared that they wanted these things; that they had glimpses but wanted more and thought we could have some part to play with God in bringing these things to this place.

My husband felt God definitely say 'go' and I didn't hear 'stay'. We said 'yes'.

God quickly provided a wonderful home to rent and we headed off to a new town, new church, new ministry.

I spent the first few weeks crying through each service at the new church, grieving the loss of my previous church family and all that we had known there. To be honest, there are days that I still do.

However, I have discovered that God has put some lovely, friendly, godly people in this place who have been kind and generous to us and want to see him move in new ways. We have seen people come to know Jesus over these past months and have seen God changing people's hearts, opening them up to Him in a way they haven't known before.

There's so much we want to see and there's a long road ahead but we're sure God has brought us here so we trust him and keep going.

Another unexpected turn that life has taken for us is that we have found out that we are expecting our second child at the end of the year. I still haven't quite wrapped my head around that but God has blessed us and we're excited and thankful (that journey is a story for another time).

So, life is different right now than I thought it was going to be 8 months ago but I do know that God's plans are better than mine and I'm grateful.

Our God who sings...

A few nights ago, I got up to one of my daughters in the early hours of the morning. She was upset and wanted a cuddle and asked me to sing to her.

She immediately calmed down and then asked for 'one more song'. Of course I sang. I love her.

I was then reminded of this verse in Zephaniah:

Zephaniah 3.17 (NLT)
"For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty Saviour. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Oh how God loves his people! God reminded me, as I held my daughter in my arms and sang to her, just how much he loves me. I know that when I have been afraid, his love has calmed my fears and it is amazing to me, that the God of the universe, my Saviour, sings over me!

He loves you too. If you are afraid, know that he is with you - and is mighty to save. He delights in you. He will calm your fears and sing joyfully over you.

Let that sink in... I know I need to sit and let this wash over me again and again so my fears fade and I can hear my God singing...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ups and Downs

Wow! I can't believe how long it has been since I have been here... I will endeavour be back regularly again from now on.

The past couple of months have been filled with youth camps, sickness, job losses and gains, and other kinds of change. I have had so many things to write about and share that I just didn't know where to start.

I have been feeling weary, anxious, sad, excited, doubtful and in awe. Yes, I've been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride that doesn't look like it's going to end any time soon.

I really don't love rollercoasters or any rides of that kind at all but I realise of course that ups and downs are a part of this life journey we are all on.

God doesn't guarantee us a life without dips and bends and steep climbs. He does guarantee that he will be with us in all of it. He does guarantee that we can be overcomers because greater is the Spirit that is in us, than the spirit that is in the world (1 John 4.4). He promises that his "love never fails" (Psalm 136). He says that even when anxious, we can have His peace when we pray and praise him (Philippians 4.6-7).

Really, if I'm honest, I wouldn't want it any other way. Yes, I like it when things are smooth and I can see what's around the bend but I have met Jesus in the dips - those dark, sad, anxious moments - and he has given me peace and guidance and comfort and He is amazing. I have also had wonderful times of worship and joy and being in awe of God as I've seen young people come to know Jesus, as we've been healed from sickness, as I have been wonderstruck by creation again and again.

I don't know where you are on this rollercoaster called life. Maybe you're at the top and loving every moment. Maybe you're on the way down and have that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach and don't know how things are going to turn out. All I can say is trust Him. Trust the One who promises to stay with you. Trust the One who promises you peace that is unfathomable. I am... He is able to do "infinitely more than we could ask or think" (Ephesians 3.19-20).

(Roller coaster image found here)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"I am"...

In Exodus chapter 3 we read that Moses was summoned by God in the desert as he was looking after his father-in-law's sheep.

Moses asked God, “What is your name?” God replied, “I am”. Some versions of the Bible put it this way, “I am and remain present”.

This God cannot be summoned – He has never been gone. He is present.

Moses was never alone. Never forsaken. God was and is present.

You and I are never alone. God is present.

I am so thankful to God for this reminder today. I don’t want to think that I can or need to summon God to come and do my bidding instead of me realising that God is here.

God called Moses to be a part of what God was doing with the Israelites. God wants to call me and wants to call you out to join him in what he’s doing. Are you willing to say, "here I am", to say "yes"?

I am also thankful for the reminder that God is here, with me, in whatever I'm going through. He sees, hears, hasn't left.

I'm so glad he is 'I am'...

This poem was given to me many years ago and it reminds me that God is here and the best way I can live is to be present, with him, now and not hang on to regrets or fear for what was or what may be...

"My name is I AM" - Helen Mallicoat

I was regretting the past and fearing the future,
Suddenly my Lord was speaking,
"My name is I AM".
He pause. I waited.
He continued.
"When you live in the past
with its mistakes and regrets
it is hard.
I am not there.
My name is not I WAS.

When you live in the future
with its problems and fears
it is hard.
I am not there.
My name is not I WILL BE.

When you live in this moment,
it is not hard.
I am here.
My name is I AM."

Wilderness #2 – A time to refocus, refresh and get ready!

Have you felt like things weren’t going as you’d planned or hoped? You thought God was leading you somewhere better than where you are and yet it doesn’t seem that way at all?

Oh I have. I have left places that weren’t so great because I felt God calling me somewhere else. However, I have struggled with thoughts that the not-so-great was better than I realised because right now is no fun at all...

The Israelites felt the same way. They were set free and led out of Egypt. God led them through the wilderness on their way to the promised land. However, in the wilderness, they started complaining and wanted to go back to Egypt, forgetting how terrible it really was.

I don’t want to be a person shaking her fist at God and complaining about where God has me when he answered my prayers to take me out of the situation I was in. It’s just that the wilderness doesn’t look like the ‘promised land’... That’s because it's not!

I think the Israelites forgot that and I sometimes do too. The wilderness was a place they needed to go through to get to the promised land. The wilderness was a place that God took them through to show them who they really were and whose they were. Perhaps God does the same with you and me...

The wilderness is where God led the Israelites after rescuing them – to protect them. The wilderness was where God showed them who they were – not slaves but a great army and people of God – they had forgotten. The wilderness was the place that God reminded them who he was – leader, protector, provider – God Almighty! In the wilderness, God was drawing them closer to himself – to strengthen and fortify them as his people. In the wilderness, the Israelites witnessed miracles – they saw God’s power first-hand. God used the time in the wilderness to prepare his people for taking the promised land – to prepare them for the battles ahead – exposing sin and weaknesses that needed to be dealt with.


Is this what God is doing with us when we are in those ‘wilderness moments’?

I want to be careful that I don’t miss out on what God has for me in these times – I want to see God for who he is more and more. I want to hear him speak and draw closer. I want to experience his provision and protection in ways I wouldn’t otherwise (oh, and I have!) - but I also don’t want to extend my stay because of ignorance or doubt or rebellion...

The wilderness season isn’t meant as punishment but as a time to be refreshed, to refocus, to get ready...

My prayer is that my heart would be soft and my ears in tune with God’s voice, that I would follow where he calls. I want to get rid of anything that will stop me from taking the land that God has for me – that would stop me from fully living the life he has for me on the other side of this wilderness experience.

What about you?

Get your feet wet

On a trip to the beach one day, to walk and chat with God, I stood on a point overlooking the sand and the water. I was contemplating my walk along the beach and back and for some reason I was thinking that I didn’t want to get my feet wet or dirty – weird for me who loves my beach walks.

I was at a crossroads with work, ministry and some relationships and had been wondering about what was next - if there was even something new to come or if I was to stay where I was. I was wanting a change but fearing what that might mean at the same time.

As I thought about not going on the walk, I heard God say to me, “Come and take a walk with me. Take your shoes off and get your feet wet.”

I was immediately reminded of two places in the Bible where God called people to get their feet wet.

In Matthew 14, Peter got his feet wet when Jesus told him to come to him on the water. He stepped out of the safety of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. This is probably my favourite passage in the gospels.

The other passage is in Joshua 3 where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River. The priests had to go first and step into the raging river and get their feet wet before God made dry ground for the rest of the Israelites to walk on (v8). Acting in faith came before seeing the result.

 Verses 15-17 tell the story of what happened as the priests took their steps of faith: “...the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water and the rivers edge, the water above that point began backing up a great distance away...the priests...stood on dry ground in the middle of the river bed...”

At the beginning of the chapter, God called the Israelites to a new place in a new way – not the same as before. He says, “since you have never travelled this way before, they will guide you...”

God has called me out before and this day I asked God if there was somewhere new he wanted me to walk with him or was he calling me as a reminder or confirmation that I was to keep walking with him, where I am?

God reminded me of who he was and of how he can be trusted, even when he asks me to follow him where it doesn't look safe or stable. He wanted me to step out and get my feet wet again. 

I decided, again, to say yes, because I know that God is faithful. Just like the priests, taking their steps of faith and then seeing the water stop, I needed to step out into the new thing God was calling me to, trusting he would do what he promised, providing what I needed at the right time.

It's not easy to look at the raging rivers of doubt, confusion, fear, the unknown and step out into it all, hoping that we'll be okay, praying that God will do as he said. But, God is faithful. I know I'm repeating myself but it is true. If he asks us to get our feet wet, following him, he will take care of us. 

Getting our feet wet can be uncomfortable but I know that it is better to live with wet feet, walking with God, than living with dry feet, standing on the bank  wondering about all that God might have planned and missing out...

Today, if you hear God ask you to take a walk with him and get your feet wet, step out. He won't let you drown.