Why we avoid the things we love the most

Do you remember that strange thing at school athletics day as a kid when you’d be about to line up for the sprint race and suddenly need to pee? Never mind the fact you’d already been to the bathroom twice in the last half hour. No, just me?

I remember being so nervous about the running races in Year 9 that I was genuinely hoping I would somehow break both legs before athletics day. There was a girl who had been bullying me a bit for the last few months and we were pretty much neck and neck in terms of fitness (9 periods of sport a week together left little ambiguity). I was pretty sure I had the edge on her but I knew that it would push me to my limit physically.

But the horror of coming second, or ‘first loser’, as some competitive people like to say, drove me on and I won every single running race in that athletics competition. The most memorable was the 400 metres, my least favourite event. Middle distance is horrible, in my opinion, because it pushes you to your limit for the longest period of time. There’s no slow and steady, and you can’t give it all in the first ten seconds. Shortly after the race my legs cramped up so badly that I was lying on the grass crying while my mother stretched out my hamstrings.

I often used to look forward to long distance more than sprinting, even though I found it less enjoyable, just because I found it less stressful. And last time I was with my boyfriend Jacques the last thing I wanted to do was sprint. Because I love it so much.

I am currently working on a novel. Writing stories makes me crazy happy and I love every amazing, difficult second of it, but I have to get my cousin to give me deadlines because otherwise I will ditch writing to do the washing, or clean the house, or reorganise my pantry. Why do I avoid the thing I know will make me come alive the most? The other things are mundane tasks, yes, but it is a lot harder to fail at them. And if I did, what’s the big deal? So, I’m not a domestic goddess after all (or am I really?).

But somehow if I fail at writing, or view myself as having failed, I feel that I have failed as a person. Every writer (who actually shows their work to others) knows that you have to develop a pretty thick skin, and I have gotten better at handling rejection over the years. However if someone were to give ‘destructive criticism’ (as opposed to the more commonly used constructive criticism) I would find it hard not to perceive it as a criticism of me as a person.

In some ways it’s easier to never try your hardest, because then your all, your absolute best, can never be rejected, or deemed ‘not good enough’.

We need to decide whether the risk is worth it. Would you rather succeed at rearranging your pantry or winning an Olympic gold medal for the 100 metre sprint? Fill in the blank with your passion, but don’t avoid using the gifts that God’s placed in you because, in some ways, it’s a slap in the face.

As a side note, of course Satan would want us to become distracted and do everything but the thing that is going to have the most impact. The thing that would make us really come alive.

Look into your own heart. What desires are in there so deep that you feel like to cut them out would to become someone else entirely? Maybe you already know.

Now ask God to help you pursue that, to his glory.

 

Sincerely
Lil

 

Image: https://en.fotolia.com/tag/%22sports%20race%22, sourced 21 June 2017

Our Beauty Legacy

 

What’s more powerful for your daughter’s self-esteem than telling her she’s beautiful? Not telling yourself you’re ugly in front of her. As the video in this blog post shows, if you ask many young girls and their mothers what they either don’t like about themselves or would change, the answers are incredibly similar.

Growing up my mother never told me I looked bad. Not once. But I would sometimes watch her criticising herself in the mirror and think, if what she’s got is bad, then is what I’ve got bad too? I am a mini version of her, after all.

It didn’t affect my sisters much at all to my knowledge and I’m happy to say that they have not struggled with low self-esteem. It’s also important to say that there are many factors when it comes to low self-esteem, and this wasn’t even the most significant one to affect me, but it did impact me to some degree and I’m committed to looking at all angles of self-esteem. I am not sharing this to make my mother or any mother feel bad. My mum is one of the many wonderful, strong, beautiful women that make this world a better place just by bringing their heart to it.

But I refuse to let this continue one generation further. This stops with me. Because the way we view ourselves affects our daughters, and our relationships, and the challenges we take on in life.

I’ve decided long ago that I won’t belittle myself in front of young girls, but then I caught myself some time back criticising my drawing as I was helping my 6 year old friend with some art. She immediately started to criticise hers too and I had to pull myself up and point out all the good things in my drawing, as well as hers.

The point is that even though I was aware of how quickly younger girls can see themselves in us, I still spoke negatively about myself. If we’re going to get this right for the sake of the generations to come, we need to be very intentional.

The first time I watched this video I bawled my eyes out because it resonated deeply with me. Mothers, I know all of you want to have the most positive impact on your daughter as humanly possible. And even if you don’t feel comfortable speaking well of your appearance, just try avoiding talking about all the features you dislike, because chances are your daughter has inherited at least some of them.

We were created by God, fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), and he didn’t make a mistake with our nose, our legs, our hair colour, our freckles. He saw fit to infuse it into our DNA so that it would be replicated in the next generation in a new and beautiful way, mixed with our husband’s features.

And He looked.

And He said, “IT IS VERY GOOD.”

 

Sincerely,
Lil

Taking it to the Streets

“Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”
– Luke 14:21 (NIV)

 

It started with a video. Or, thinking further back, maybe it was a book. And before that it was a feeling, a soft call brought on by bits of conversation strung together over a number of years.

A lot of Christians think that working for the church full-time is what their end-game is, or should be. But for me it was always the marketplace, the streets. Beckoning to me. All the hurt and broken people crying out for a saviour, if only they could know His name. Know that Jesus wasn’t just a curse word, and that the church wasn’t only made up of bricks and timber. That the person they cried out for, from the moment of their birth, was not only their creator, but had been the silent (or sometimes not so silent) presence beside them during every moment since then.

The streets. Such a daunting place in various ways. So I prayed for a week straight. For protection for our youth group. And, in the end, it’s a good thing I did. I also prayed for opportunities. For us, and specifically me (the one whose idea it had been) not to fall on our faces.

Eight of us went out, just enough to fit into one of the parents’ people movers. We met and prayed beforehand, to hear direction and also just to focus. On went the worship music and almost as soon as I closed my eyes I saw a picture of a blonde lady in a white t-shirt sitting down with a little dog, like it had been waiting for me. I meditated on that to see if the picture would change but it just got clearer.

I also saw a picture of a big, dark guy (I thought possibly Islander) on crutches with a cast on his ankle.

When I asked the group what they’d seen, there was some confirmation. Tristan had seen a big Sudanese guy on crutches with a cast, while Holly had seen a picture of an ankle with something wrong with it. We were definitely onto something here. Confirmation like that can often build faith because people who are learning to hear God know that it‘s not just their own thoughts (ever wondered that?).

One of the girls had also gotten a picture of a bridge, and somehow, all of us knew before she explained which one she meant. The bridge that I had been told not to walk on, under or near, even during broad daylight. Brilliant.

With genuine fear in our hearts, but just a smidge more of faith, we piled into the Kia and drove towards the centre of town. On one of the main roads I glanced to the left while driving and freaked out because sitting there was a blonde lady in a white t-shirt with a little dog. Such a calm, collected leader I screeched, “What do I do?” and sped up to the normal speed again before someone suggested that I pull over into a side street.

A few seconds’ hesitation in the car at 60 kilometres per hour meant at least a 200 metre walk back to where this lady was (I guess those old “wipe off five” ads from TAC had a really valid point). It’s crazy how even when something has been your idea, you can still freak out in the moment. I asked for someone to go with me and one of our young men volunteered. The rest of the youth group agreed to pray while we approached this lady to say God only knew what, literally.

As we strolled towards her, trying to act casual, I kept praying, “Lord, now would be a great time for you to tell me what you want me to say to her.” By the time we had reached her all I had was “hi”. So I went with that (they don’t call it faith for nothing).

 

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”
– Luke 5:31 (NIV)

 

I looked a little closer and started to feel a lot less self-conscious as compassion filled me. This lady was middle aged, sitting on the grass on the side of the road, leaning against a bus stop sign, crying. I had my second confirmation. Lord, you care for the broken ones, I thought.

We started speaking to her, asking her if she was okay and what was wrong. Through apologetic tears she explained that her husband had left her, her son was no longer speaking to her, and her grown up daughter had just kicked her out of the house.

As our hearts broke for her the words started to come. We told her that we were Christians and that as we had been praying only 20 minutes ago, God had shown me a picture of her and her little dog. I told her, “Jesus loves you and he cares enough about you to highlight you to me today. He sees you and cares about the pain you’re going through.”

When we asked if we could pray for her, she said yes and asked that we also pray for the young people in the community because she saw a lot of things that troubled her. So we prayed a simple prayer for her, her situation, and the community. Most importantly I asked for revelation for her of who Jesus is and what he’s done for her.

As we walked back towards the car (she was heading the same way as us) the boy with me felt prompted to offer to buy her a meal. She graciously said no, for what reason we don’t know. This can be disheartening but the most important thing is that if you hear God’s voice, you say yes to him and step out in obedience. For this guy, offering the meal was all he had to do; it wasn’t his responsibility how she responded. God knows whether maybe she just needed to hear that offer of generosity.

Back into the car we got and drove in the direction of the shady bridge, everyone scanning the streets for a dark guy on crutches, keeping our ears pricked should heaven chose to intervene with any new people as well.

Not seeing anyone on our way who either matched that description or jumped out at us, we parked near the bridge.

By this time it was starting to get dark. We looked down under the bridge (there is a very small river there and a lot of grass) and saw a big pack of teenagers and young adults having a loud, drunken party. I quickly consulted the other adults in the group whether they thought we should go ahead, then asked Lucas to lead the way. We decided, let’s just go for a walk, as a group, in that area and see if we see the guy from our visions. If not, we would go home. We were as comfortable as could be with that plan considering the circumstances.

We walked slowly along with much trepidation, praying and attempting to spot this guy if he was here, while simultaneously trying to avoid direct eye contact with any people in this group that outnumbered us by at least four times.

 

“It is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”
– Matthew 18:14 (ESV)

 

And who should we find under the bridge but a tall, Sudanese young man on crutches, with a cast on his ankle, separated a little from his three friends, about 50 metres away from the party? We were in the right place.

About three of our cluster, comprising the two other kids who had received part of the prophetic picture, approached him. A young girl and her baby walked away with the pram as she saw us approaching, stopping to watch from a presumably safe distance.

I don’t know the first part of the conversation, having stayed behind with the bigger group to pray and try not to look suspicious. Soon enough, they motioned for us to join because the boy had invited them over to meet his friends.

He was blind drunk (somehow not falling off his crutches) but we weren’t discouraged. How else do you expect to find displaced youth on a Friday night who are in need of a touch from God? Sometimes you need to go out and seek the ones who would never step foot in a church, like Jesus did.

Some of us were speaking to him while others were chatting to his friends, one of which had read a lot of the bible and was quite the theological debater. One of the girls was carrying a much-loved, well-worn bible which the young man picked up and began to read aloud all the highlighted passages (there was a lot).

“Wow!” he said. “This is powerful stuff!” He looked up at the owner of the bible. “Can I keep this?”

Smiling, she asked him to hand her the bible and said, “Can I show you something?” Opening the front cover of the bible she read aloud from the inscription page, “To the person whom Jesus loves.” She smiled again. Six months earlier, after she had gotten back from an overseas mission trip, her grandma had prophesied that she would give that bible away. Borrowing a pen from me, she requested his name and wrote it in the front cover, under the inscription.

A group of us prayed over him for healing, and to receive the Holy Spirit and a revelation of who Jesus is. He hugged us all goodbye—it was fully dark by this time—and we walked back safely to our car. Thank you, Jesus.

Sometimes when doing this kind of thing, people can feel pressure to witness to a certain amount of people, or see people saved and changed in an instant. But often that is for a sense of validation or success, and Jesus calls us to go out and sow the seeds (remember that the farmer sowed on all kinds of ground). That night we simply made ourselves available to God and said, “Jesus, what are you doing in our community tonight? We want in.”

 

Sincerely,
Lil

Having trouble hearing God’s voice?

This Wednesday my bible study group spent some “soak” time, just being in God’s presence. We put some music on, got comfy/closed our eyes/whatever, and just waited. Not something a lot of us do too regularly.

Instead of bringing out our big shopping list for God and not letting Him get a word in edgewise, we created space for Him to do some talking, to reveal Himself. I was reminded, like I am every time I do this, that the less I talk, the better it tends to be.

God loves a thankful, adoring heart that is simply seeking to bask in His presence. We’ve somehow gotten the notion that our relationships must be firstly functional, even if we don’t admit it to ourselves. What does this relationship help me to achieve? If you really think about it, the best relationships aren’t the ones filled with gold stars but intimacy.

Consider a child. They are not efficient, functional, practical, but are in practically every way delightful. The bible tells us to be like children if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3) and God refers to us as His children (Galatians 3:26).

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that God is not an emotional God. If you want a refresher, read some of the Old Testament. If there’s one thing we can be sure God is, it’s passionate.

In John 17:24 Jesus, when praying, says, “Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!” (NLT)

Jesus wants us to be with Him and see His glory. During the quiet time on Wednesday I felt God say to create space for Him at youth group on Friday.

All of the boys (generally the louder ones) in our youth couldn’t make it that night and I was tempted to change the plan, especially when a brand new girl walked in, but in order to be obedient I had to stick to it.

Almost immediately I got us in a small circle, explained to the girls that tonight was a practical application of seeing Jesus (the discussion from last week) and learning to hear the Father’s voice. The time was so sweet. It is such a privilege to be involved in ministering to people, and there’s a special place in my heart for young girls.

Learning to hear God is a process, and He can speak in many different ways (dreams, words, pictures, His written logos Word (the bible), prophets, songs, donkeys (Numbers 22:28-35), to name a few). But my encouragement is don’t be afraid to practice; that’s how you grow. The more you create space the more you will hear God’s voice, and the more you hear God’s voice the clearer/easier it will become. Then comes the tougher part: obedience. But that’s another article in itself.

When you’re waiting for His voice, listen for the whisper, because the Lord was not in the wind, fire or the earthquake, when it came to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12). There’s a reason for that: God wants us to come closer.

Happy seeking!

Sincerely,
Lil

 


Image: http://thecrackeddoor.com/Main/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/God-Voice.png, sourced 15 May 2016.

Divine Happenings: The Right Place at the Right Time

The train stopped for the fourth time and the PA speaker buzzed. “Sorry again about the delays but we’ll be stopping outside this station for another ten minutes.” Are you serious? I looked at the time on my phone and my steadily dwindling battery before switching airplane mode on.

I was on my way to meet my cousin for a festival that the blog I work for had sent me to and was running seriously late. I had missed my first train because of track works, putting me 25 minutes behind schedule, then the next train was moving about the same pace as a dying slug. Needless to say, my frustration levels were through the roof. Of course my phone was dying, and to top it off my cousin wasn’t familiar with the area and had no idea where he was going.

All I could think about was the inconvenience of it all. Did they realise that my editor was counting on me and that I didn’t have another night that week to come all the way back out to the other side of the city? Did they realise how jetlagged I was, not having a moment’s rest since arriving back from South Africa three days before? Woe is me, you know how the story goes.

The train didn’t even make it to its destination. At a station called Westall the announcer informed all passengers that there was no point continuing the trip and could everyone just get out now please?

I marched off the train and paced for about five minutes, before I started to feel a little convicted. See only a couple of days prior I had been consumed with Jesus and His plans for my life. I had declared and even written in my journal: My life is about the Father’s business. Only that morning I had had this unbelievable joy at my salvation welling up in my heart.

Cutting through all the anger (because let’s be honest, there was a fair bit) a thought pierced my heart. Am I being a good ambassador for Jesus Christ right now? Look at my heart. It’s disgusting. You could smell my attitude a mile off.

So I made a decision. I sent a text to my cousin telling him where I’d gotten off and sat down on a bench at the edge of the station. I pulled out my bible, flipped open to Psalms and started reading.

The week before I had been at an amazing training time in Johannesburg with churches all across the world and an American lady named Cindy Booth had spoken about the prophetic. She talked about something she liked to call ‘divine happenings’: where Jesus puts you in the right place at the right time and He’s leading you to act. Long forgotten in my frustration was the fact that I had prayed that very morning for a chance to share the gospel and glorify God. Who’s to say He hadn’t allowed these circumstances to happen so that I could be in this very place at this very time?

As I was reading my psalm and trying to calm my frantically beating heart, along came two PSO’s (cops allocated to patrol the station) and asked what I was reading. To say they were taken aback when I said the bible is an understatement.

“Is it a story about King David?” one of them joked (because let’s be honest, Jesus makes a lot of Australians uncomfortable). “No,” I said, “but King David actually did write this psalm.” I went on to explain a little of what the psalm was talking about and what Jesus meant to me.

I’m guessing I said a few things they’d heard before because they seemed to rediscover their comfortable zone and said in a somewhat patronising way, “Oh, well isn’t that nice to have something to believe in. All religions are the same anyway.”

“But not all religions save.” That’s when things got uncomfortable again, but thanks to the courage that a Zambian farmer named Angus Buchan had given to me the previous week, I was encouraged to continue. And political correctness went out the window.

Wait … what? Was their response. I said, “My bible says that Jesus is the only way to God. The Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the father but through Him” (John 14:6).

The same cop said, “That’s really nice that you believe that.”

My inner monologue was saying, Can you stop calling my Jesus nice?

I said, “Truth is truth whether you choose to believe it or not.” I was able to share some more of the gospel with them, as well as a few healing testimonies I’d been told about, including two people being raised from the dead in India two weeks ago. They had no response for that one.

These two lovely men offered their phones as well as walking me over to my cousin when he found the station. I’m a pretty transparent person and mentioned that I’d been frustrated about the train situation but said to them, “But I’m glad this all happened because this way I was able to meet you guys and talk to you.”

So what I’ve learnt from this story is that when a situation doesn’t go as planned, or you are seriously inconvenienced, when the flow of events is interrupted or somehow redirected,

open your eyes.

Look for an opportunity that Jesus might have set up for you. As Cindy said, “Nothing is coincidence when you’re walking with Jesus.” Then an annoying situation can be transformed into a great testimony where you get to glorify Jesus. Because that’s what it’s all about anyway, right?

Lately I’ve been meditating on the scripture, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21, NIV).

If that is really true for us then what is a little inconvenience? A cause for rejoicing if it’s for the sake of the King. Why is it that if an earthly king gave us a mission we’d treat it as an honour but when the King of heaven commissions us it’s suddenly a ‘sacrifice’?

Do I always rejoice in inconvenience? No, of course not. But I think that only serves to show where my heart is.

Luke 6 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45, NIV).

What are we feeding into hearts? If our hearts are filled with Jesus’ grace, then so will our reactions be.

Sincerely, Lil