Gratitude …

Last year I attempted to make it a weekly practice in my form class to be grateful.
We ended up engaging in Thankful Thursday. It was successful to some extent. At the very least it reduced the amount of complaining the group of 14-15 year olds did. All of the class members had a journal to write in and most Thursdays we remembered to do it. To begin with a number of the students struggled to write anything down, some weeks we’d watch a clip from World Vision, or Compassion to help remind them of what they had compared to others. At the end of the year it was almost a habit, they seemed to enjoy Thankful Thursday and I think they quite enjoyed the alliteration as well…maybe that was just me.

This morning, I went to the shops and joined the queue of parents buying school supplies.  I reached the checkout I placed the items I was going to purchase, plus the 20+ journals for my form class this year, on the counter.
The teenager working at the checkout was a little taken aback at the number of journals.

“I’m a teacher,” I explained. I’d like to think I said it in the way a doctor would say “It’s okay I’m a doctor” as he/she’s about to do an emergency tracheotomy in a restaurant … maybe that only happens in movies.
“Oh,” the perplexed look on his face was replaced by one of relief, “I thought it was a lot of journals!”
“They are for something I’m going to do with one of my classes this year.”
“Oh, so are you a primary or high school teacher?”
“High school.”
“Oh, so which grades?”
“8,9,10,11,12”
“Oh, so all of them…! Is this your first year?”

Let’s pause right here, the rest of the conversation isn’t important here and now … me … in my first year of teaching! I’m not sure if it was my youthful good looks, or the fact that I was smiling about heading back to school that made him reach this conclusion.
I said “Umm, no, my first year was 2001.” I’m assuming based on the shocked look on his face that 2001 was before he was born.

So the journals are going to be thankful journals for my form class. And this here, might just be my first entry – being mistaken for a first year teacher!

Seriously though, gratitude is something I, personally, need to be better at.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve health, reduce depression(some good points in this infographic), increase happiness … another side effect might be that I should be more of a pleasure to be around.

Ann Voskamp has written about gratitude in “One Thousand Gifts”.

The word of God tells us:

in every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

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2017 – gratitude journals


Further reading:

https://dailyverses.net/gratitude/niv/esv

https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2016/11/23-bible-verses-about-thanksgiving-and-gratitude/

http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/debbie-mcdaniel/the-power-of-a-grateful-heart-21-verses-of-thanksgiving.html

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Survival and sanity for separation, divorce and the life that follows …

The truth is that your life won’t be the same again, neither will that of your kids. You will not be the same. Many of your relationships will change. It is something you will all survive, but you will be different, things will be different. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

For some, the transition is an easy one, for others it is not. For some, the unpleasantness is over quickly, for others it is not. Today I’m talking to the others for whom it is not.

For me, it’s been a few weeks shy of 10 years since I started down this road. A decade, or 70 years in dog years! 😉

I’ve been talking to a few people lately about some of these issues.

Before you read on – I’m obviously not a counsellor, I’m more of an observer.

Having said that, while I’m speaking from my experience, I am not speaking only about my experience. I’m talking about a number of behaviours, some I have witnessed, some I have experienced over the years, some are the experience of friends, and others are the experiences of acquaintances.

I also want to state that this is not coming from a place of bitterness. This for me is about a desire to help those who have found their world torn apart and then find it difficult to find a friendly face or an understanding person. I am noticing that there is a massive lack of empathy from people on the outside of these situations. It’s absolutely true that until you have lived through it you have little appreciation of how difficult it is. And when I say lived through it – I don’t know of too many people who can say it is all behind them. Most of the people I know who have been through this continue to deal with some ongoing issues. These people are some of the strongest, most deeply hurt, and yet most compassionate people I’ve met.

If this is your story, you probably know by now that you will have to deal with an ex-spouse for a number of years to come, especially if you have children, and it will not always be pleasant. Something my counsellor told me very early on was that whatever your relationship was like before separation, will inform how it continues post separation. So if you were the submissive person with an aggressive demanding partner that dynamic will be what your ex-spouse wishes to continue. If your partner was especially materialistic then that’s really going to kick in when the property division comes up, if they have a like-minded new partner — we’re praying for you!! 😉
If you were the one who carried the burden of certain responsibilities, it is unlikely this will change.
If you were married to a selfish person – that is unlikely to get better – it’s more than likely going to get worse.
If you were married to someone who refused to take responsibility for their actions – guess what – that isn’t going to change either.
If you do attempt to change any of these dynamics – which is wise – and you were the submissive partner to a demanding one, you will be met with opposition. You will be met with an escalation of the behaviour that they used in the past to make you do what they wanted.
I think this is doubly true for those who are coming out of a relationship that was possibly one in which they had little to no “power”. If your spouse used to engage in gas lighting — this behaviour will escalate. Maybe they used the silent treatment, unfortunately this doesn’t escalate instead what I’ve seen happen is the person who used to control you with silence tends now to be quick to reach for verbal abuse. Watch for words and phrases like “unfair”, “selfish”, “I’m disappointed”, “childish”, “toxic”, “rude”, “arrogant”, “tantrum thrower”, be on the look out for the times you are responsible for, or the cause of, their behaviour, watch for the times when they have behaved in an inappropriate way because of you. These are fairly good indications that you are dealing with someone who is trying to manipulate you. You need to understand this and see it for what it is. In some cases the reason this happens is that you are dealing with a person whose reality has turned out to be disappointing compared to the dream they pursued.
They may even attempt to head to the moral high ground above you, and then proceed to lecture you on the appropriate ways to behave in your dealings with them or other situations. Based on what I’ve seen, a controlling person in a marriage will attempt to become more controlling outside of it, this seems to be especially true if they are the one whose actions ended the marriage. They may in some cases literally tell you what words to use when responding to them … you can laugh at this point if you wish but I kid you not … this happens. Expect to be treated as though you are a child. Don’t be surprised if you are told to whom you may speak, whom you may and may not see, you may even be instructed about what you are allowed to speak to your own children about. I’ve even heard of a parent being threatened with a restraining order in a desperate attempt to prevent him having a discussion with his own children. (!!) You may also be instructed by your ex-spouse on the appropriate etiquette required in order to deal with them (your ex-spouse).
Wow… writing that list I’m actually thinking how ridiculous it is that an adult would attempt to treat another like this – unfortunately I’m writing this because it happens.
Be aware that if you do not behave in the way you have been instructed to, they may become even more aggressive and demanding.

At this point it’s always a good idea to take a few moments to review the high ground the person is presently attempting to occupy.

Is the ground they are standing on what you would consider to be high?
Do they meet the standards they are telling you that you need to meet?

The answer is rarely yes, perhaps they are giving you parenting advice yet they are a parent who routinely puts their own needs above those of their child/ren. They may even be the parent who walked out of the family home and away from their child/ren in order to pursue “love” or “happiness”. In that case, unless there has been some drastic turn around in behaviour since that point, maybe you don’t have to respond to the “parenting” tips or take the bait.

Another good question for you to consider is, is there any truth in the accusation?
More often than not this baiting is an attempt to regain a position of dominance or power over you that they believe they have the right to occupy.
You can choose not to rise to this bait and ignore it – which is usually the best option. Yes, you do run the risk of them believing you have seen the error of your ways, but so be it. Hang around they’ll be back to point out more of your failings and shortcomings.
If you choose to confront, be aware that they may, at that point, feel that you are attacking them. This often happens when you contradict a lie with the truth – in which case you may then face some name calling or a barrage from a new partner or a family member or a friend maybe with the name calling thrown in for good measure. This usually means that your response has not been one that allowed them to resume their (self) perceived position of power over you.

As I said, the person is unlikely to change, you will simply need to learn to deal with these issues on a day by day or incident by incident basis.
My advice is:

If it matters with regard to your kids – deal with it. If it’s more like an attack on you personally, move on.

Spend some time working out if it matters or not. Write emails but maybe don’t include the person’s address in the “To” spot, if you do hit reply —delete the address, write your email, save it as a draft, come back to it later.

If you have remarried, and they decide to attack your new spouse – ignore it – no matter how much it hurts – it has nothing to do with them. This type of behaviour is an incredibly good sign that whole “discussion” has derailed, this is definitely not worth responding to. It goes without saying that the same applies if their spouse decides to attack your spouse – take a timeout!

If you choose not to respond — it may be perceived as a victory on their part – my advice is, if it makes them happy for now – great! Let them have it, you don’t need to engage in the point scoring behaviour.

If you are a Christian this is for you. There are a few verses that I would like to bring to your attention and hope that you can lock onto them and hunker down there… for now.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus …..

Our works and our motives will be revealed…

If you are living your days in the light of His presence – you need to remember this. You also need to know that the people who are condemning your actions, your words, your behaviour – are not speaking on His behalf. They may, in fact, be speaking on the behalf of the enemy. The truth is the closer you get to God the more opposition you should expect to face. Not really a comforting thought.
My counsellor of several years ago also suggested that when you are faced with accusations either from your ex-spouse or others, pray through the accusations with God – and then ask Him to reveal His thoughts of you from His word.
I’m pretty sure the first one that will come to mind is – there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus….

And finally, if you are – as a good friend of mine is – as a result of these difficulties, reaching out to encourage others to turn to God and lean on Him, you will face opposition, sometimes from surprising sources.
You should expect that the good you are doing will be met with opposition from the enemy of our souls.

Listen to the people who matter…there are some out there.

More importantly than that listen to the One who knows.. the One who knows your heart, the One who has been with you through it all.

This is my prayer for you, that His is the voice you will hear above all of the others.

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In 2017 …

I’ve been musing a little on what I would like from 2017.

I think the conclusion I’ve reached is that this year, the best I can do for myself, and my nearest and dearest, is to be more like Jesus than I was last year.

This means a number of things:

it means love,
it means mercy,
it means grace,
it means justice,
it means truth,
it means light,
it means life,
it means patience,
it means selflessness,
it means humility,
it means submitting,
it means service,
it means sacrifice.
It means persevering through difficulties,
it means facing trials.

For me, as a wife, a mother, a step mother, a teacher, a friend … (and all the things I am in between) personally,

it will mean biting my tongue,

it will mean speaking up when it’s easier to be silent.

It will mean failing when I forget to rely on Him,

it will mean falling and getting back up again,

it will mean relying on Him rather than myself.

It will mean that my own wisdom is not enough,

it will mean being wrong when I decide that it is.

It will mean humility and awareness to admit the wrong,

it will mean apologising to others,

it will mean forgiveness for myself.

It will mean gratitude when I want to grumble.

It will mean forgiveness when I want to hold a grudge.

It will mean patience when I want to snap.

It will mean joy when despair is close.

It will mean faith in the One who knows what is ahead when I do not.

It will mean stepping out in faith when I want to shrink back.

It will mean using the gifts He’s given me, for His glory.

It will mean seeking His will, rather than my own.

It will mean humility.

In short, it will mean that I must decrease in order that He may increase.


 

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Grocery shopping … 

(I posted this on the Facebook page today – then I remembered a number of you don’t do Facebook – so I’m leaving it here for you – it may resonate for one or two of you...)

Dear parents trying to do the grocery shopping, with small children: 
It gets better! 

Today, I did the grocery shopping with my 13yr old boy. He pushed the trolley for me from start to finish, he loaded the groceries back into the trolley once they were bagged, he unloaded the groceries from the trolley into the boot of the car. 

The days of buying a “cheesy-mite” scroll or a finger bun (bribe) from the bakery before heading into the grocery store are done. 

The days of; “please just hold onto the trolley”, “look out for the lady”, “please stop leaping onto every post we walk past”, “please stop jumping from black square to black square, you can walk on the white ones too”, “either get in the trolley or stay on the trolley you can’t keep alternating”, “please don’t stick your leg out as we pass people”, “no, we don’t need any kinder surprises today”, “don’t run across in front of people’s trolleys”, are gone. 
Today, as we did our grocery shopping I felt a little nostalgic for those days. Days like the one when we somehow lost “wibbly pig” in the freezer section of Coles, the day the boy jumped onto the trolley and I caught it mid flip. The tantrum on the floor of the grocery store when I said “no” to stopping at Donut King on the way out. Which was, coincidentally, the day of my greatest parenting bluff ever as I stepped over him and said “I’m going to count to three and you’d better get up and follow me” … he did … I sighed with relief. (I don’t ever recommend doing that one, I only ever did it once).

Today, he was the consummate grocery shopping professional, well, the trolley did double as transport for him once or twice, it did also do a couple of unnecessary 360s at the end of an aisle or two, and he did make some helpful suggestions that made it into the trolley … (I was weak, hungry and a little nostalgic at the time). 

My boy is growing up … I’m still not sure how I feel about it. 

Parents of young children, you will look back on those difficult shopping expeditions with some nostalgia. You may even remember them when you have a helpful teenager (not an oxymoron) and you witness someone in the middle of the worst grocery shopping expedition of her/his life. At that point I recommend that you give them a sympathetic smile, tell them to hang in there, it gets better! 

In the meantime, you’re making memories… Happy grocery shopping !!!

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The year behind, and the year ahead…

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I guess we all come to a point each year when we look back and assess the year that has been. I think we all have a desire to see where we’ve been, in order to be able to see what impact we have made.

The reason (one of the reasons) why my husband loves to do the mowing is that he can, very clearly, see where he’s been and, I guess, what is yet to be done.

I believe that we all have a drive, on some level, to be able to measure our success. We want a bigger house, a better car, we want our children to be successful, we want promotions, we tear down our barns to build greater ones, we seek to upgrade what we have. I think we desire this because this type of success is measurable, we can look at it and see. Better still, others can look at it and measure our success.

As Christians, our instructions are pretty straight forward… we are to upgrade, we are to build, we are to add to what we have … just not in the way many of us do.

giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I remember, what seems a life time ago, I was at a New Years Eve get-together with my cousins, I was visiting from out of town. Carloads of teenagers and twenty somethings descended on the home of one of the church families, and we saw the new year in together. It was the end of year 12 for me, the number I’d received in the mail (in those days) wasn’t what I’d wanted, it wasn’t what I was capable of, it was what I’d earned. I was looking at the year ahead without a clue, as to what I was going to do.

Just before the New Year began, one of the guys there gave a short message. It was simple, or at least what I remember of it was simple, he encouraged us to make the passage above our New Year’s resolution, to build on something that mattered. That was twenty three years ago, at the end of each year that message comes back to me.

So maybe, for you, this year hasn’t been one that you’d classify as a raging success …
Maybe you are still carrying the extra 10kg that you had made it your goal to lose this year.
Maybe you are facing another year alone when you’d really hoped and prayed that this would be the year that you’d meet the partner of God’s providing for you.
Maybe you’d hoped and prayed that this year God would reveal His will to you with regard to your purpose in your service of Him… but you still can’t see it.
Maybe this year you missed out on that job you were really hoping for.
Maybe, worse still, this year you lost the job you believed was your way to serve Him.
Maybe your kids are still making choices that break your heart.
Maybe your spouse has broken a promise that has fractured your family, your life, your heart and your home.
Maybe this year, you prayed for the healing of, but lost, a loved one.
Maybe this year, you have a loved one who has received a heartbreaking diagnosis, or maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your heartbreaking diagnosis.
Maybe you still feel that those who are against you massively outnumber those who are for you.

Looking back on your year, compared with year of others, yours is not a successful one. 2016 will not go down in the book of your days as being one of the best.

Maybe you need to look at all of this from a different perspective, as the fox tells the little prince at the end of the story of The Little Prince, it’s the things that are invisible that matter.

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Maybe 2016 saw your faith grow.

Maybe in 2016, to your faith was added virtue,

to your virtue was added knowledge,

to your knowledge, self-control,

to your self-control, perseverance,

to your perseverance, godliness,

to your godliness, brotherly kindness

to your brotherly kindness, love.

Do you know what my friend? None of this fruit is easy to grow and in fact I’ve only ever seen it grow in difficult situations. But once grown – it will not need to be traded in, it will not go out of season, it cannot be taken from you. This fruit while invisible to the eye, creates more fruit, and if you are wise you will ask discerning people you know, if they can see it. If they can, they will no doubt tell you that you are not who you used to be.

So at the end of this year maybe don’t take stock of the stuff you’ve accumulated, or the successes others have praised you for. Instead, maybe read over this passage in 2 Peter 1:5-8, meditate on it, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the areas of your life where this fruit has grown and if you’re brave even ask that in the year ahead, He would develop more of that fruit in your life.

From this point on, build on the foundation that matters, and add to the things that matter …

… faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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One of the least …

He was probably 12 years old, he was distraught, trying to hide inside his shirt. He still had his bike helmet on, and he was pacing.

The three women working in the convenience store had him well and truly bailed up. They’d locked the front doors so that customers, in order to get in, had to go around the side. They were not letting him out.

It was the kind of dishevelled looking tradie in the bakery, with my son and I, who told us why.
The boy had been caught shoplifting – the three women, employees, in the store were letting people in, but not letting the boy out till the police arrived.

Another woman, clearly a mum, and I looked at each other,
They can’t do that surely? You can’t hold a child like that. They can’t do that.

I walked my son back to the car where my husband and his two kids were waiting.

I was struggling to hold back the tears.
The other woman was waiting outside the shop too. I think in the look we exchanged we’d both decided we had to do something.

I think I have to go back and do something.

My husband says he didn’t hear what I said.
I was upset – the tears were blurring my vision. The lump in my throat was massive, maybe it overwhelmed my vocal chords which is why he didn’t hear me.
All the while, one phrase from the tradie in the bakery, repeated in my ears.
No one at home’s looking after him if he has to steal his lunch.

I think I said it again – maybe I only thought it.

I have to go back and do something. I’m going to go and pay for it.”

In hind sight it doesn’t make much sense to someone who didn’t have the full story.
I guess my husband was wondering if I’d lost it, had I just stolen something? I have been under a fair bit of stress lately. I was obviously upset enough to go back to sort something out.

I walked back to the front door where the other woman was still waiting. One employee in the store gestured to the side door. I could enter there. So I did.

There he was – someone’s son. He was distraught, trying to hide his head inside his Year 6 shirt. He still had his bike helmet on, and he was pacing, and sobbing, and at one point banging his head on the wall in the store.

Can I pay for whatever he was taking?
She stared at me.
I repeated myself, waving my keycard at her.
Can I pay for what he’s taken?
No, he stole it.
But can I pay for it – then you can let him go.
She stared at me… open mouthed.
No!
Why not? Why can’t I pay, then it’s paid for.

One of the other employees left her place at the door. By now my husband had joined me – clearly I was up to something. He wasn’t sure what, then another person entered as well.
I guess at that point I became the difficult one or at least a diversion for the boy who was sobbing, bike helmet on, face cocooned in his shirt, trying desperately to vanish.

A second employee came over to me.

I asked her, “can I please pay for what he took?
No, he stole it, he ran out of the shop, we caught him and brought him back. He needs to learn.
Why won’t you let me pay for it?
It’s stolen you can’t – we’ve already called the school and the police ..
So … you seriously won’t let me pay?
No.
I’m not sure if, at this point, I asked “what is wrong with you?” That sounds like something I’d do.

I guess at that point I’d created so much of a diversion that the boy saw him moment, seized it, and exited the shop.
Not sure if this is a good or bad thing.
I offered to pay once more, I was greeted with “No, he needs to learn.

At that point we also left the shop – through the side door. I was dumbfounded.
My mind was racing through the scenarios – if he is a repeat offender then they know who he is, there was no need to have him locked in the store, especially when he was clearly so distressed.
If this was his first offence I seriously doubt he’ll ever visit the store again, much less steal from it.

At any rate once he left the shop, he then ran into the other woman outside and she checked if he was okay – he wasn’t – but he jumped on his bike and, we assume, rode to school.

Our drive to school turned into an opportunity for us to talk about God, I hope that the boy who sparked our talk has the same chance to hear about Him.
I have been incredibly saddened today. I feel like that boy missed a chance to see Jesus, he missed a chance to see someone step in and pay his debt, he missed someone being able to set him free, to feed him and send him on his way.
Would it have been a turning point? We can’t tell.
Would it have been a time for him to see what grace looks like? Yes and isn’t that what we are called to do?
We are to love truth and grace, justice and mercy. We are meant to show the world who our Saviour is – who Jesus is ….
The one who came to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, to set the captives free.
Are we not encouraged to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give the thirsty a drink…?
Matthew 25:37-40

From the back seat of the car came the voice of my thirteen year old son,

I’m proud of you Mum, you were trying to do the righteous thing.

I’m not sure if he has a full understanding of what righteousness is – do any of us?

My distress today is nothing compared to how much it must pain the heart of God to offer His free gift to a broken, destitute, impoverished world, only to be told, “No thanks, I don’t need it.”

I couldn’t help but reflect on how we demand justice and mercy for ourselves but are less willing to demand it for others.
We expect respect for ourselves but often refuse to give it.
We expect to be honoured for who we are, but often fail to honour others.
We want what is ours, and theirs, and are happy to walk away from those who do without.

At the end of the day I can’t get this kid out of my mind … for now.
How long will this sadness remain? I know it will pass all too quickly, it will be a blip on my screen of ease and comfort.

How often does my heart break for the people with whom I share this time, this space and this place in world?

Not often enough I’d say.

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The Year 12 “Affirmation” Post…

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Dear Year 12s of Muellerland,

(To my usual readers – non year 12 students,  feel free to read on – you are not excluded from what follows – but this one is for a specific group of people.)

So back to you year 12s, a few of us got together and this is our affirmation note to you. If you are reading this now, it’s because you saw our very brief impersonal note in your affirmation bag and you became curious, you followed the link and here you are!!

Welcome!

Teaching for me has always been more about sparking interest, curiosity and encouraging you to learn and explore. So if you are reading this now – well done! ‘A’ s all round! A number of the students in your year level gave up straight away, I’m not surprised. :/

So you’ve asked us time and time again if we were going to write notes for your affirmation bags – we told you we weren’t. (Well I did anyway – the others may have been kinder and avoided the question.) What we’ve done instead is assemble some thoughts for you here, on the internet where you can never throw them away. 🙂

You are leaving us – in Muellerland – to venture out into “the great unknown”. For some of you the day couldn’t come quickly enough, others of you are a little less keen to depart. I understand that, I think I’d feel the same way.

For each of us there’s a few things we would like to have done for you:

We hope that for you students, Christian and not, that we’ve treated you in such a way that we, followers of Jesus, look like the good guys.
We hope that in some small way, we’ve done Him justice.
We pray that you have seen that being a Christian means we know that we aren’t perfect, we know that life isn’t smooth sailing but that we have trust in Someone who knows more than we do, who loves each and everyone of us more than we can comprehend.
We, each of us, hope that through the talks we’ve had over the years, you might have on more than one occasion, seen Him and that the times that you’ve seen Him outnumber the times that you haven’t.
We pray that we haven’t ever provided you with a reason to turn away from Him.
We pray that we have not turned any of you away from Him through our actions or words.

I guess that there are a few things we would like to say to you, a few things that we’d like you to remember, and a few things we’d love for you to do.

Our parting wisdom for you comes from the story of Josiah, you can read about him here

Our collective wisdom is as follows:

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young …

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.

At this point, if you’ve listened in devotions at any point in time over your schooling years,   you  would know to read 1 Timothy 4:12

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.

One way to look at it is: don’t behave in ways that give people reason to think less of you because of your youth. Don’t give them a reason to write you off because of your age.

Don’t let your history define who you are…

Manasseh [Josiah’s grandfather] was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem…But he did evil in the sight of the Lord…

Amon [Josiah’s father] was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem…But he did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done; for Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and served them.

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem…And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

No matter what has happened to you, no matter the mistakes you have made, the poor choices, the awkward outfits on free dress days (I jest), these things do not define you. No matter what you have been told about your past, your heritage, your mother, your father, your grandmother, your grandfather, this does not need to define you. Your home life, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant it is, should not define you. Josiah’s father and grandfather were horrible men, they did appalling things. He did not decide that he was a write-off because of his history, or his heritage. Neither should you.

Don’t let your culture or generation define who you are…

You can go to sites like WiReD which claim to be able to tell you “what you need to know to be culturally literate in 2016” … but I think you might be starting to notice that it’s kind of hard to keep up…
Your culture tells you that you need to be certain things, that you need to look certain ways, that you need to do certain things in order to matter.
The culture in which you live should not, must not define who you are. If you allow it to, you are robbing the world of the person God has created you to be.

Seek God…

This one is hard for some of us.

Mainly because it means that we have to acknowledge that He (God) IS. It also means that you and I have to acknowledge that we are NOT God, and for some of us that is tricky. The thing I want to say at this point is, seek God. He wants you to find Him. He’s not hiding, He’s not going to run away. He’s waiting for you to start looking for Him, He’s there. He is truth, He is love, He is real. He knows your name, He knows you and He’s waiting.

A.W Tozer, in his book, “The Pursuit of God” writes:

Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which, briefly stated, means that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man….We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit…The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him. All the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand…

Do what is right…

And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

You need to know what is right. What is right isn’t always easy, in fact, in my experience right can be downright hard and painful at times. But you should do it anyway.
What this means is you need to have given the idea of what is right some thought. What are your morals, what are your values? You know what ours are. At least we hope you do. But what are yours?  Outside of Muellerland things are different – some of you know just how different – others of you are going to be a little shocked by just how different things are. Find yourself friends that you can trust, people who will encourage you to do better and more importantly, find yourself some older, wiser people to whom you will listen and with whom you can be honest. If you aren’t sure what is right … ask someone who looks like they’ve made some good decisions or better still learned from some mistakes.

For the Christians among you it’s easier for you to know what is right but not always easier for you to DO what is right.
Charles Swindoll in his book “The Owner’s Manual for Christians” says first we must know what is right. We do this by reading God’s word; trusting in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives; and to listen to wise, godly Christians.

God’s word tells us very clearly what is right in Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Do this.

Get rid of your idols …

…in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, [Josiah] began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images. They broke down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars which were above them he cut down; and the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images he broke in pieces, and made dust of them and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. (By the way – he’s 16 – 20 years old now – so … about your age)

Tim Keller tells us that an idol is; anything that becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity.

Think about that, ponder it for a moment.

What is of the utmost importance to you?

Is it your talents, your looks, your athletic ability, your intelligence, your status, your popularity, your job, your dream career, your OP, your university acceptance, your dreams, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your family, your car, your gaming, your money, your friends, your security, your pride, your religion, your goodness … your self? Are you, in fact, the god at the centre of your life?
Are you prepared to do what Josiah did? He removed the idols, destroyed them and then took the next step…

Follow God with all your heart and all your soul.

Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.

This is our prayer for each and everyone of you; that you would choose to accept the sacrifice Jesus made for you and that you would give Him your whole heart and all of your soul.
So while it’s not the affirmation you were perhaps hoping for, it is what we believe is most important and it is affirming in the best way. You’ve been a pleasure to teach … on the most part 😉 … take that as you will.

We have prayed for you often, and we continue to do so. Today (Tuesday) in our staff meeting you were prayed for – some of you audibly and by name – some of you inaudibly – but be certain that each and every one of you has been covered in prayer.

And with that we come to a close, we wish you all the best.

From:
a certain Art/English/History/Form/QCS teacher you may have once had,
a certain Science/Form teacher you may have once had,
a certain Science/Math/Form/Physics/Math B/QCS teacher you may have once had,
a certain Biology/Science 21 teacher you may have once had.

For further reading:

Books:

Josiah Road – Luke Harper

Counterfeit Gods – Tim Keller

The Owner’s Manual for Christians – Charles Swindoll

The Pursuit of God – A.W Tozer

Websites:

John Piper – desiringgod.org

Andy Stanley Sermon series – Who needs God? (Gods of the no testament)

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For you; if you are, right now, in the middle of a season of loneliness…

Loneliness is definitely one of the strongest and most difficult emotions to shake.

I know of a few friends who at the moment are in the middle of a lonely season. I say season, because I firmly believe that it will pass. Loneliness is something each one of us has experienced or will experience at one time or another. 

Loneliness is a season, that God will use to teach you things about yourself and about Himself.

What I learned in my season of loneliness is:

  1. God is the only one who can satisfy you. When you try to use people to fill the God shaped space in your heart – you will put too much pressure on yourself and them, they will fail as will you, you will get hurt and He will patiently wait for you to realise that.
  2. The pursuit of a relationship or the desire for romantic love, can become an idol. You really don’t want the type of relationship that you will settle for when you are at this point. You don’t want to make someone who you know doesn’t really fit the bill – fit the bill.
  3. God will give you His best when He can see that is what you want. Surrendering your own will to His is an ongoing daily practice – always.
  4. God will give you His best when you realise and acknowledge that He is all that you need. I believe we all reach Abraham and Isaac moments in our lives, sometimes we have them multiple times. God will ask you to show Him what it is that you truly believe you need. Hint: it’s Him.
  5. God doesn’t ever forget you – you forget Him. He wants your attention. He is, as His word says, a jealous God, talking about this recently I think all that phrase means started to come home to me. God is a jealous God, He is not envious, He is jealous. One definition of jealous is: fiercely protective of one’s rights or possessions. What this means for you, is that you are His, He does not like to see you placing more importance or significance on anyone or anything that is not Him. 
  6. Feeding on the entertainment offered by a world that does not value Him is going to do nothing other than stir up dissatisfaction within you. All it will do for you is leave you feeling discontent, unsatisfied, unhappy and … Our world places too much importance on who we are with romantically rather than who we are. We, none of us, should be defined by any relationship other than the one we have with our Saviour… If you are right now thinking the perfect relationship will make you complete, it won’t, it may, in fact, just highlight for you how incomplete you truly are without Him.
  7. You can’t short-cut this process – you can’t trick God into believing that you are through these steps. I know because I tried. My friend, He knows your heart. He sees the things that no one sees. He knows when you are ready.

Spend your time praying in the way a wise friend of mine always tells me to pray.

Ask God to remove desires from your heart that have not been placed there by Him.

Ask Him to strengthen you as you wait on Him.

Ask Him to help you to surrender your will to His.

Ask Him to prepare your heart for His will, whatever that may be. He will honour your prayer.

If you are at all like me my friends, it’s going to hurt, it will be worth it, you will get through it.

He will be with you.

At this time pray also that if there is a partner of His choice waiting for you that they too, will be doing this while they wait for you.

If, at the end of this season, God grants you the desire of your heart and you do end up with someone – you won’t end up with a perfect person ( sorry dear husband). As I heard a preacher once say “if you’re looking for the perfect person, what makes you think that they will be looking for you?” A little confronting – but true. God will place you with someone who will encourage you to continue to grow more into the image of His Son. In the experience of most, this does not happen in the days of wine and roses. This happens in times of adversity,  you won’t always make each other happy, you won’t always agree, but the one thing you want to be sure of is that you will always encourage each other to cling to Him, to trust in Him, to rely on Him, to turn to Him, and to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Pray for this – while we pray for you. . .  and maybe have a read of this old one too. 

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But God planned it for good …

… those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. Psalm 34: 10

All things work together for the good of those who love him. Romans 8: 28

Sometimes my friends, we find ourselves in the midst of situations where the good the verses above refer to, is difficult to see. There is no specific number of times that after hearing the words above, you can suddenly understand the complexity of what it all means, embrace the bad things, and move on happily to seek God’s good.

More often that not, you aren’t sure what God is doing in the midst of your difficulty and you can’t see any good in what is happening.

We can be certain that He makes even the worst situations turn out good for us in the end.
One of the biggest and most significant differences between God and us, is perhaps His definition of good.

We could question the good that comes out of a situation where a godly man loses his home, his livestock, his children, his wealth and his health. Yet it says of him that he was more blessed in the end than he had been in the beginning.

We would question how good it is for an innocent man to be accused of a crime he did not commit, convicted of said crime and end up imprisoned as a result – yet his story is the one from which we see the phrase emerge ‘you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.’

We could question where the good is, in an innocent man dying because His goodness was too much for those around him to bear.

Essentially what we are looking at is the difference between our definition of good and God’s. Our definition of good is probably very easily revealed when you look back on a day and classify it as having been “a good day”. To be honest, for me, a good day is one in which I have felt as though I’ve done well. And for me doing well sadly often means I did it all. I didn’t really have to rely on anyone – not even God. A good day is a day that I can look back on with pride and a sense of satisfaction. But for God, my Heavenly Father, a good day for me, in His books, doesn’t look like that. A good day doesn’t mean I got through it without Him – in fact if we consider it even on a superficial level, that definition should make for a bad day. A good day for me from His perspective is one in which He saw the fruit of the Spirit rise to the top rather than my pride and my effort. A good day for Him is one in which I was presented with the opportunity to behave in a more Christlike way and I took it, and I leaned on Him, His Son and the Holy Spirit to bring that to pass.
God’s desire, I’ve said it before, (I’m saying to myself again) is not for me to have good days apart from Him. His desire is that my days be spent with Him, the days when I lean on Him the most are the best of days, these are the good days.

I guess what it comes down to, for me – is redefining good.

If we are genuinely seeking Him as the verse suggests then we shall not lack or miss out on good things. Now, the good may be very cleverly disguised and concealed, it may after all present as bad. But we know that no matter how bent on our destruction others may be – they are able to do nothing without the permission of God. God allows bad to touch us in order to bring about good.

So, friends who are suffering at present, can I suggest that we reexamine our definition of good. We know God knows infinitely more than we do, we know that He knows the end from the beginning.

He knows what you would be like had He given you that relationship, career, home, family you so desperately believed would be for your good, He also knows where that would lead, He knows where you would end up and He knows who you then would be. Trust that He knows what is for your good. Take solace in the fact that because of this knowledge, because of His perspective, and because of the massive heart of love He has for you — He has said no, or not now. He wants you to focus somewhere else, He wants you to see Him more as He is, we know He has something that is better for you.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Remember you follow the One who is still waiting for His enemies to be made the footstool of His feet. Remember that we know those who lift themselves up will be humbled, remember that those who set themselves up will be brought low. You might not think right now that He has something better – but remember His better often isn’t just for your good – sometimes it’s for generations who follow after.

Sometimes God chooses to allow good things to happen to us, sometimes He permits the bad, as the psalmist in Psalm 73 suggests – sometimes it’s the bad that gives us the perspective we need. What we do need to know is that the bad is also part of His plan to bring us good. We know this because one day we’ll see the One who suffered the most and on that day we will be brought into the immense goodness that His suffering has brought about for us.

Yet the Lord was willing
To crush Him, causing Him to suffer;
If He would give Himself as a guilt offering [an atonement for sin],
He shall see His [spiritual] offspring,
He shall prolong His days,
And the will (good pleasure) of the Lord shall succeed and prosper in His hand.
As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He shall see it and be satisfied…  (AMP )

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Happy weekend! 


A quick tour of our garden netted these beauties this morning … happy weekend everyone. 

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