As For God

I’ve been meditating on the perfect ways of God recently. My fiancé and I are going through our toughest test of faith to date, waiting for a visa that will allow us to live in the same country and get married. The website says the processing time can be anywhere up to 17 months. We are currently one month down. We can’t start planning our wedding because we don’t have a date, which everything hinges on. We watch as many of our Facebook friends get married and post about a wedding date countdown for 2018 and we don’t know if we will be able to do the same.

But instead of fixating on the time (the when, when WHEN?! will drive you insane) I am learning to fixate on the God of the timing.

“As for God, his way is perfect. The word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.” – 2 Samuel 22:31 (NIV)

I remember being arrested by this chapter in the Bible five years ago in a college laundry room, reading it over and over until it became one of my favourite passages.

Perfect. Who of us has perfect ways? Who can claim to be a person without error or folly, someone who has never made a mistake and has nothing to be embarrassed by? The idea is actually difficult for the human brain to comprehend.

I have neatly packaged timelines in my head that I would love God to adhere to, especially when it comes to the date of my wedding. If you had asked me when I was 18, I wanted to get married at 18. As the years changed, so did the ideal age. But looking back now, I was so immature and ill-prepared at 18, and my choice at the time would have led to devastation.

God in his goodness said no to my prayers. Said, “Not yet. Wait.”

Wait.

That word we all hate, but as I looked through the Bible in this time of waiting for Jacques, I have realised (much to my disappointment) that waiting is indeed a very biblical thing. Many people in the Bible waited many years for God’s promises to be fulfilled (at least I don’t expect to be waiting 400 years to marry Jacques).

Because waiting builds character. And God loves to build character in his kids. It occurred to me some time ago that patience is not a lesson that can be learned quickly.

“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

I was stressing out and becoming so negative about our situation, feeling like everybody had it easier than us (of course focussing on the couples around me who live in the same town) and felt that I couldn’t handle the maximum waiting time for the visa, like I would explode.

It’s funny how people can talk to you for hours and then God can say one or two sentences and it completely transforms your mind.

“I am not making you wait for nothing.”

Immediately a peace rushed into my heart. Ahh. There’s a point to it all. One of the things that was getting me the most worked up was that it felt like an arbitrary wait time from the government and that they had the final say on our wedding date, but God reminded me that he is in control.

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” – 2 Samuel 22:33 (NIV)

He already knows the date of Jacques landing in Australia and our wedding. No government can thwart any plans of his. God also revealed that we were benefitting from the waiting, and I started to see all the changes that we as individuals, and as a couple, were experiencing monthly and even weekly.

I stopped focussing so much on the exact timing and the seeming unfairness of long distance, but the blessing in the wait, and the goodness and faithfulness of God. A friend encouraged me to prepare myself for the maximum processing time so that anything shorter felt like a bonus. God revealed to me that the question wasn’t whether I was strong enough to tough it out for 18 months, but did I trust that his grace was sufficient for me to wait 18 months if that was what he had ordained? It took the pressure off me and put it back on God, who can more than handle it.

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
– Proverbs 18:21

My mum encouraged me to start speaking out positive words about our visa situation every time someone asked (which is often), even if I didn’t feel positive, and see how that changed my mind set. My thoughts began to change and I stopped crying so much about the visa. I now feel entirely different than I did even three weeks ago because of declaring God’s goodness over the situation instead of giving in to self-pity and defeat.

The thing about God having perfect ways is that when we trust in him, as opposed to leaning on our own weak understanding, he makes our way perfect too. Not that everything in your life is suddenly roses (we still don’t have the faintest inkling of our wedding date) but that walking with Christ, clothed securely in Christ, spending time with him and trusting, is the definition of godly perfection.

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48

Sincerely
Lil

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Second Sight

and then i met you

My hope for this blog post is for it to encourage brothers that are single and struggling, and shed some light and the truth on being single. I pray God is glorified through this written piece of my journey pursuing Lil.

Are there any suitable ladies out there? I’d often ask myself the question: is there something wrong with me? Am I too sensitive? Do I care too much?

After falling short of finding a relationship throughout first year of university and the end of high school, I had come to what I’d say was my wit’s end: an intense night of prayer began which had me humbled in the study of my best friend’s house, leading to a hopeful prayer, asking God if I could just know my wife as a friend. How do I remember? Oh, my best friend will tell you of the passion I had prayed with; he heard every bit of it in the room next to the study.

As much as a mother worries about her son finding someone that is suitable for him, I think it’s only fitting that a son worries the same amount. Growing up in the church and in a Christian home, I was always exposed to fairy tales of what love looked like. My parents modelled it every day, and I craved that same love. I remember desiring so much to just appreciate a woman, to show her true value, to care for her and look out for her. I was always a soft and caring person; it makes sense why I’d desire to care for someone so much.

The evening of intense prayer was followed by the first day of World Equip, and I was trusting that I’d meet my wife there, as a friend. When selecting seats, I always make sure I get an aisle seat. I can’t stand having to barge through people to get to the loo mid-session. And so, a group of friends and I found the perfects seats. They were willing to forfeit the aisle seat and I was willing to sit in a row they wanted to.

Coincidentally, I saw this incredibly beautiful girl walking with the brightest and most joyful smile. The first thing I noticed was her gorgeous rosy cheeks and her sea-blue eyes that I couldn’t stop staring at. She continued to walk in the direction I was seated, my heart started throbbing, I was so confused. She sat in the row in front of my friends, and as she sat down, she almost immediately turned and introduced herself. Could it be this easy? I had been planning on how I’d approach her as she was walking towards me. Swoosh!

Endless pursuing throughout the week (with lots of rejection) landed me the all-important date, where I told her how I really felt. Knowing she was leaving the next day, I had to get it out – I didn’t want her to leave confused, and I didn’t want to hide it. I felt something deep for her. Graeme still refers to that evening as the day Lil told him that I’m insane. He enjoys the memory.

I feel like ladies always get the easy job. The next few months were followed by a whole lot of confusion; it was difficult. I had planned on seeing her again, because I knew I had to, but that trip would turn out to be one of the most heart-breaking trips I had ever been on. Odd to think so, knowing that I had my best friend with me the whole time.

I saw Lil in June/July 2016 after being separated for around 9 months. I had come fully expecting to gain clarity on where our relationship stood. This trip only led to more uncertainty, and it was heart-breaking from my side. I remember the one day, even though most of the trip was super confusing, Graeme and I were speaking about our relevant ladies and we both, almost at the same time, agreed that they were the ones for us.

Lil and I shared a few significant evenings, and heart-to-hearts, and even though I went home being more confused, for some reason I just couldn’t stop pursuing her, and that’s what we believe to be the Holy Spirit playing a role in both of our lives. Where she was still confused, and I wasn’t, the Holy Spirit thought we both had things we needed to work on, before we could take the responsibility of being in a relationship. Even through the heart-ache, I look back and know that I was not able to lead a woman at that stage in my life, and it is by God’s great love that he kept us apart.

Although there is still far more to the story, I’m going to land it. I got back from Australia, and for some reason, Lil and I had decided that we weren’t truly pursuing a friendship, so we decided to put some rules into place. We scheduled our calls, and limited our talking time to weekends only. This was probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to enforce in my life, knowing truly in my heart that the woman I was deeply in love with needed a bit of space, and I needed to be known as a friend before I could know her as a partner.

I seemed incredibly strong to her in this time, but I was dying on the inside. I tried to view other ladies through the same lens, but just couldn’t – there would always be a caution in my Spirit, I almost felt as if I was cheating, even though I wasn’t in a relationship. To escape the pain, I spent a lot of time playing squash and hanging with friends. God revealed to me that there was still a lot that I needed to work on, and that I had to pursue him before I pursued Lil.

‘’Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is the house of mourning, but the heart of the fools is in the house of mirth.’’
– Eccl 7:3-4

I look back on that time, and this scripture speaks volumes, I had never been so dependent on God and I crave to be in that space again.

Single men, I’ll encourage you, it’s not shameful to admit the hardship of being single and lonely.

‘’He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord.’’
– Proverbs 18:22

There is a reason why we desire this, and there is a reason why it hurts to be single. But I will encourage you, never has a man been led astray by pursuing the will of God for his life.

I will leave you with this.

‘’So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world’’.
– 1 John 4:16-17

God is love, and does all things out of love. Being single is not a curse. Pursue God and let him be your absolute and complete satisfaction, even when you have found your suitable helper.

Regards,
Jacques.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Image: https://favim.com/image/617547/, sourced 28 October 2017.

First Sight

Jacques Lil Chair

Where to sit? The auditorium held over a thousand people and was still filling up. My friends and I wandered through the rows of seats, glancing around at the stage and the exit lights, weighing up the pros and cons of each section. Too close to the speakers, too far from the loos, too strange a position for my neck.

We figured off to the side of the stage was still close but not ostentatious. I sat on the aisle, about eight rows from the stage, at least six seats away from Joel. Six seats away from him was his wife Tracey. In a crowded room it was beyond talking distance. I stared blindly at my phone for a moment or two, but remembered that this was South Africa, and I didn’t have any service here.

Swivelling in my seat with the thought of being social, there were a group of guys sitting in the row behind me. I introduced myself and the strawberry blonde guy immediately stood out as the loud one, exclaiming over my Aussie accent. The guys and I quickly got chatting, about crop tops, of all things and a couple of my friends from Australia joined us. They were all really friendly, but one guy stood out for some reason. Maybe it’s because he was a little more reserved. Maybe it was because he had dark features and olive skin (hey, we all have a type), but somehow my subconscious flagged him.

Jacques. Last name too hard to pronounce (and immediately forgotten).

God reminded me of his name in the middle of the worship that followed. You see, that morning as I’d been praying God had given me three prophetic words. After telling me who the first two words were for, I asked, “Who is the last one for?” God said, “You’ll meet them this week.” As I was singing he told me, “It’s for the guy in the seat behind you, Jacques.”

Little did I know that when I shared that prophetic word with him, God was also adding another bit that I would not be informed of for at least another year: Oh by the way, this girl is your future wife.

I was coming to the end of what was possibly the worst year of my life. I had moved a few times in my 22 years, but this was the first time I had done it indefinitely. God had swept away my plans of being an Au Pair nanny in Europe for a ‘gap year’ after my uni degree and had told me to go to Werribee, or as the people in my home town call it, ‘the poo farm’ (it is known there as the home of a sewage plant).

Moving up to Melbourne, I had found a job quickly, but was barely making enough money as a casual to get by, and Mum and Dad had not been able to support me. I had moved house 5 times already that year, with another move scheduled for the week following my return from South Africa. I had broken up with a guy in May and felt like I was saying goodbye to my last hope at finding love. There were barely any single people at my church. I was surrounded by married couples and young families that I had to fight hard not to be jealous of. I thought it would be another 10 years before any other guy would look my way, but God was doing a big work in my heart. The most painful work to date. And he showed me that I needed to allow him to if I wanted to stop going round the mountain. At long last, I did.

At the same Christian conference in Melbourne called AusEquip that God had told me to move to Werribee for a local church there, he had also showed me that I had to be at the World Equip in Johannesburg, a year and 10 months later. For the first time ever, I truly submitted my whole life and will to Jesus. I said, “I’m yours. Wherever you lead me, I’ll go.” So I cancelled all my plans and my only goal for over a year was this conference.

The day I booked my flight (having had to borrow some of the money from my parents) the booking company called me an hour after I received ‘confirmation’ that they had somehow lost my seat on the flight. Having not had the best couple of months, I was raging, to put it mildly. I was scared of being left in a foreign country by myself but was a little placated when I realised the return flight that I had been re-booked on was the same one that my second family, the Kay-Hards, were travelling on.

I was more than a little upset and I said to God, “Okay, this has obviously happened for a reason. Something good better happen on that extra day that I’m staying there.”

That something good was my first proper date with my future husband, the 19-year-old young man who had sat in the seat behind me, who God had asked me to prophecy over before we even met. It wouldn’t be 10 years for another guy to notice me, but 5 months. Oh how glad I am now that I obeyed God in that moment months before the conference, when I had no idea how long I was going to have to wait.

Has it all been smooth sailing? Ask Jacques. He’ll tell you no. Just like I told him for the first nine months. He had to ask four times even just to get a group date out of me. I put him though some tests, curious about whether he was interested in me, or in just having a little romance at a conference filled with so many young single girls.

When I came back to Australia and first told my dad about him, Dad said, “If he’s the right one, he’ll be unstoppable.” Jacques has been the definition of that, pursuing me single-mindedly for two years now.

I finally said yes, and even though I thought my wish list for a husband was big, God has given me far more in Jacques than I ever dared to ask, or even hope for. One day in the car a few months back as I was driving to work the song Good, Good Father came on and I just started bawling my eyes out, realising how generous God has been with me.

And he wants to be that generous with you too.

But he doesn’t need your help in supplying you a spouse.

“There aren’t many guys at your church.”

“You’ve just got to put yourself out there more.”

“Maybe you should move to an area/church with at least some potential husbands/wives.”

“How does hanging out with all these young families help you?”

“When you finally stop looking and are content to just be single, then you’ll find the one.”

These ideas are often frustrating and sometimes tempting to buy into in those lonely moments, but what does that say about our faith?

At the end of the day my heart would always ask:

How many guys do I need? A whole crowd of them, or just one?

How big is my God again? Oh wait, He holds the entire universe in his hand. Is the same God who spoke galaxies into being not powerful enough to bring me one man? Do I have to help him out because he’s tired, forgetful, or just struggling to get it all done?

Lift your eyes again, or for the first time, to the one who has promised to be faithful, to never leave you, to always work for your good. If you let go of striving for things like a spouse, he is not going to leave you hanging. Not this good, good Father of ours.

“So do not worry about your life, what you will eat … what you will wear, [who you will marry] … But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
– Matthew 6:25,33

If anyone reading this would like to share their story or struggle with me, please feel free to contact me in a comment below. I’d love to pray with you.

Sincerely
Lil

The Man of Peace

Ever heard people talk about inner peace, or finding their bliss? To some people this sounds cool; to others it might sound like a load of new age mumbo jumbo. People try self-help books, crash diets, inspirational seminars, meditating, various religions and practices. The question is why does none of it last?

The reason is that peace is not a feeling to conjure up, or a philosophy to follow. Peace is a person.

The person of Jesus Christ.

“For he himself is our peace.”
– Ephesians 2:14-18

His title, one of many, is the Prince of Peace. My pastor often quotes the saying, “No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace.” If the peace you experience doesn’t really seem to last, it is because it’s like separating a coal from a fireplace and throwing it out onto the concrete hearth. Slowly it cools, leaving you wondering why you now feel cold and alone. And where you can get your next fix.

Jesus is the fire.

You can find lasting peace in Jesus because he is in control of everything and unchanging. The man spoken about in the bible died but he rose again and is still alive and well today, and he hasn’t updated himself to keep up with the times. Remember that song, “He’s got the whole world in his hands…”? It is as true today as when God created the universe “through, and for and by” Jesus (Col 1:16). The same passage says, “He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Consider the fact that the only thing holding all your atoms together, or all the droplets of water in the world’s biggest ocean, is Jesus. So when he says he doesn’t change, we can trust it.

God has always been a God of peace, and Jesus is the “exact representation of his being” (Heb 1:3).

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
– Isaiah 9:6

The bible makes it clear that God’s peace through Jesus is available to us through faith in him. Philippians 4:4-7 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Peace comes from knowing that once you believe in Jesus and ask him to come into your life that all of your striving can cease. How many of us actually take that on board? Sometimes I feel like I should have it as a poster on my wall. “Hey Lil, now that Jesus is here all of your striving can cease.”

Religion says, “Try really hard your whole life and maybe, just maybe, you might be good enough to scrape into heaven as a servant in the back shed at the end of it all.” God says, “As soon as you believe in my Son I adopt you into my family. You are a child of God, seated in heavenly places and co-heirs with Christ. Forget the back shed, I am preparing a bedroom for you inside my house. Because Jesus already paid what you couldn’t pay, you now have access to forgiveness and a restored relationship with me. All you have to do is believe, repent and receive.”

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Romans 5:1

What a relief. Our eternity doesn’t depend on us. Religion makes it about us, but God makes it about Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

In Matthew 3 when the Holy Spirit appears as a dove and lands on Jesus after his baptism, we learn something else about God’s character.  It was recently pointed out by our pastor Russ that a dove won’t land on someone who is moving around or panicking. It will land on a still and peaceful person. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” This is talking about the peace that comes from trusting that God is in control and is working for our good.

One of the ways people will be able to recognise us as children of God is our peacefulness, even in difficult situations or tragedy. As one example, Paul and Silas were singing worship songs to God while in prison (Acts 16). As another, in 1873 when a man named Horatio G. Spafford wrote the famous hymn It is Well With My Soul, it was right after his four daughters had just died in a shipwreck.

Jesus can bring peace to a troubled and anxious mind. In the gospels he delivers many people tormented by demons.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
– John 14:27

Peace to relationships in turmoil.
The most obvious being the human race separated from God by our sin, but Jesus’ blood paid the price to restore shalom, peace, to that relationship too. God also has the power to restore marriages and bring estranged families back together. He can bring relationships back into harmony and he wants to partner with us to do it.

Rom 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Peace in the midst of illness.

God allowed Satan to take Job’s wealth, children and health from him in a very short space of time to test his heart. Job’s faith in God was real, because his response was not filled with curses and anger, but submission and trust.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” – Job 1:21

Peace during financial insecurity.

Is 54:10 “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

I will leave you with this one last scripture.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

Sincerely,
Lil

 

Further scriptures about peace:
Psalm 119:165 “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

Is 55:12 “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.”

Isaiah 57:2 “Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”

Zech 8:19 “Love truth and peace.”

Zech 9:10 “He will proclaim peace to the nations.”

Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). While a gift is given in an instant, fruit is grown over months of sun, watering and tending.

Col 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

 

Sources:
http://staugustine.com/living/religion/2014-10-16/story-behind-song-it-well-my-soul, sourced 14 October 2017.

All bible verses are from the NIV translation.

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