MY FAITH IS SO FICKLE

I have spent the past few weeks questioning God and being angry.

I have spent the past twenty years praying about something and not receiving any solution.

I have spent the past year and a half praying about something else, and am yet to receive an answer, and in the past few months I have had another prayer request that God may or may not answer as I have asked!

Faith is not a feeling – it is an act of our will.

In every situation and circumstance we need to pray ‘let your will be done, Lord’. And then we need to thank Him and trust that He does hear us. Often it will not be the outcome we want, at other times there will be no outcome and it is then, in that moment, that hour, that year even if our hearts are heavy, that we need to cling to Him through the despair.

“Faith is not intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.”  Oswald Chambers

It is in my darkest times that God speaks to me – I am coming to value these times of doubt and fear because these are the times that I am at my most vulnerable and open to hear from Him. I make Him a priority again, spend more time reading the Bible and praying and then realization dawns, once again, how fickle my faith really is.

Today I am resetting my priorities according to His will, yet again.

I am His dearly beloved child and as I repent and seek Him, He will reveal Himself to me in His time.

The painting above is titled ‘conversations unspoken’.  I found it poignant and a reflection of so many of us.

Conversations unspoken with the ones we love

Conversations unspoken with strangers

Conversations unspoken with God

A vast majority of us live in our own worlds, shrouded in fear and worry and silence…ignoring the words that Jesus spoke:

“”Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

““The LORD your God is in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17)

Just for today I will rest in the knowledge that it does not matter whether my prayers are answered or not it only matters that Jesus is. I will live the words of The Serenity Prayer:

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the
pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this
sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make
all things right if I
surrender to His Will 

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‘IS ANYTHING TO HARD FOR GOD?’

“Is anything too hard for God?”
“Is what I am going through at the moment too hard for God?” “Is this relationship that I am having such difficulty with, too hard for God?” “Is this addiction or habit that I am struggling with, too hard for God?” “Is this marriage that seems beyond saving, too hard for God?” “Are my fears and doubts and worries too hard for God?” “Is my lack of faith too hard for God?”

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son”. (Gen 18:13,14)

When God originally told Abraham that he was going to have a son, the Bible says “Then Abraham threw himself down in worship before the Lord, but inside he was laughing in disbelief! “Me, be a father?” he said in amusement. “Me – a 100 years old? And Sarah, to have a baby at 90?”
When Sarah overheard God telling Abraham that they were going to have a son, her reaction was to laugh and say to herself “A woman my age have a baby? And with a husband as old as mine?”

Exactly a year later, Sarah gave birth to a son and they named him Isaac.

In Luke 18:27 Jesus clearly states “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Nothing is too hard for God.

“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” Psalm 37:5

Are we prepared to take the time and make the effort to ‘delight ourselves in the Lord’?
Are we prepared to take the time and make the effort to read the Bible to discover exactly what His plans are for our lives?
Are we prepared to take the time and make the effort to spend time in prayer with the Lord?
Are we willing to acknowledge that His plans may not be the same as our plans and desires and wants?

Is anything too hard for God?
The answer lies within us.

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WHY?

One of the most common words used in the English language must be the word WHY?

Why did this happen?  What purpose does it serve?

Most of us struggle with the question of ‘why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”  Incredible that at the time of writing this, my then 12 year old daughter, came into my office and read me an essay she had written.  The title was “Why?” I listened in amazement as my child verbalized this age-old question.

“Why? Why would God make the world if He knew that it would be destroyed?  Why would He make the world if life, for some people, would be filled with pain, loneliness and hurt?’  Her essay continued to echo this question passed down through the ages.

Often, the answer to that question has nothing whatsoever to do with God.  It is to do with bad decisions a government or country has made, or wrong choices our parents made or the consequences of our own wrong doing.

God created us to have a relationship with Him.  He gave us freedom of choice. He did not want robotic creatures unable to have a relationship or interact with Him.

I heard the following story the other day and it highlighted for me the verse “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”. (Romans 8:28)

There was a king who had a devoted servant.  This servant loved the Lord and was continually praising God for His goodness.  The king and the servant went hunting one day and a lion attacked the king.  The servant managed to fight the lion off but, alas, the king lost his index finger.  The lion had managed to bite it off!  The king was really upset and what made it worse was the fact that the servant told him he should be grateful to God for sparing his life.  All the king could think of was the pain and the fact that his finger was missing. He could not believe that his servant was praising God for this so he had the servant thrown into jail.  A few days later the king went hunting and was captured by a tribe who offered human sacrifices to their gods.  The king was bound and laid on an altar in preparation for the sacrificial ritual to begin when the tribe suddenly noticed that he had a finger missing.  This caused great consternation as it was forbidden to sacrifice anyone who was ‘incomplete’. They cut his cords and allowed him to go free.  When he finally made it back to his village, the first thing he did was to go straight to the jail and set his servant free.  He explained to the servant that if it had not been for the missing finger he would be dead. The servant then proceeded to give all thanks and glory to God!  The king listened for a little while and then posed this question, “If your God is so good and amazing WHY did He allow you to be thrown into jail?”  The servant replied, “Because, my king, if I had been hunting with you, I too would have been captured. And when they discovered that you had a part missing I would have been sacrificed in your stead!  Thank God I was in jail!”

We have no idea what the future holds and our time here on earth is very short compared to eternity! If we accept Jesus as our Saviour we will be spending eternity with God and the things that we experienced here on earth will fade into insignificance.

“Measure not God’s love and favour by your own feeling. The sun shines as clearly in the darkest day as it does in the brightest. The difference is not in the sun, but in some clouds which hinder the manifestation of the light thereof”.   Richard Sibbes

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‘I WANT THEM TO BE HAPPY’

I have a friend who is a narrative therapist. I met her when my children were still very young and over the years I have phoned her up and cried “HELP!”
On one particular day she listened to me ramble on and on about my insecurities about being a mother, my incessant worry over my children and the fact that I ‘carried’ their hurt all the time. If they were lonely or felt that they didn’t fit in with their peers or if a friend had been nasty to them I would jump in and try and ‘fix’ things or I would try and compensate in other ways for their being hurt or sad.
Eventually my friend stopped me rambling and asked “Noel, what do you want for your children?”
My immediate response was “I want them to be happy!”

AND then she said something that changed the course of how I viewed motherhood. She said “You cannot want that for your children. If they never experience unhappiness, how will they know what happiness feels like? If they never experience failure, how will they ever know the joy of success? If they were never bullied or hurt or lonely or depressed, how will they be able to develop empathy for others who are experiencing these feelings?”

In other words how will we or our children be able to grow into our full potential as human beings if we do not experience pain, hurt and disappointment. It is what we do with these emotions that is important.

I realized then that if my children were to grow and develop into compassionate and caring individuals they would need to experience failure, sadness, depression, and loneliness to appreciate success, happiness, a good mental attitude and to learn the value of friendship.
My responsibility was to allow them to experience, feel and express the full gamut of these emotions. One of the biggest gifts I could give them was the gift of listening without trying to jump in and fix everything for them. To advise them, to guide them and then to let them have the freedom to manage and own their emotions.

If I am asked the same question today “What do you want for your children?” my response is “I want them to grow up with a sense of their own self-worth. With the knowledge that no matter what happens to them in life they will be able to overcome any difficulty. I want them to grow up in the knowledge that God loves them and desires the best for them”.

I want them to grow up believing and living the second greatest commandment that Jesus gave us.
“Love your neighbour as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39)

I want them to be able to love themselves in order that they can love others.

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‘JUST WING IT’

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One morning before I was due to give a talk at a breakfast meeting, I had a sudden panic attack whilst brushing my teeth. I asked God ‘what happens if I freeze or forget what I am meant to say’. He replied “just wing it”!

Isn’t that incredible. The Creator of the Universe loves us enough to answer us when we are brushing our teeth.  And He does not necessarily give us long Theological answers but short answers like ‘just wing it’.

The phrase dates to the late 19th century and is defined as follows:

“‘To wing’… indicates the capacity to play a role without knowing the text, and the word itself came into use from the fact that the artist frequently received the assistance of a special prompter, who… stood… screened by a piece of the scenery or a wing.”

In life we often don’t know the text that follows or we forget our lines…
How amazing is it that we can glance to the side and see God standing in the wings of the theater of our lives prompting and encouraging us.

Psalm 46:1
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Isaiah 41:10
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

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HOW QUICKLY WE FORGET…

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(Please note: names have been changed to toddler and child and children to protect their identities!!)

This morning I came across a journal entry that I had written more than a decade ago. I had written about a week in my life when my children were very much younger. It starts off like this:

“After a day when it felt like all I had been doing was lifting and fetching children, cleaning house and hanging up the washing I stopped off at an ATM to draw money to do food shopping. The machine swallowed and retained my card. I had to go into the bank and be issued with a new card. I was not on my best demeanour by then and it took forever to be issued with a card. The thought did cross my mind as I exited the bank, toddler on hip, that if anyone asked the man who had been dealing with me whether he thought I was a Christian, his answer would have been an emphatic, “Hell no, not her!”

I then went shopping with my toddler. When it came time to pay we had to stand in a long queue. It was one of those shops that have the queue aisle lined with sweets on both sides. I am convinced that if all mothers with young children started to boycott shops that did that, there would be a major change in the interior design layout of shops frequented by mothers with young children. My toddler decided that she wanted a Barbie chocolate. I said no. This is what followed:
“I wanta a Barbie choccie”, “Sorry, but you can’t have one” “I wannntaa a Barbie choccie (progressively getting louder followed by stamping of feet and waving arms) I waaaanntt a Barbie choccie”.
It was a very long, slow queue and I could literally hear the people behind me muttering “For heaven’s sake, just give her the darn chocolate – anything to keep her quiet!”
I am proud to say that I did not give in, but I did slink out of there with my head hanging down. Needless to add, I did not go into that shop again for the next six months.

From there we went to pick up another child from her playgroup, only to be informed that she had scratched a child earlier in the day and I was shown the nail marks on the back of this child’s neck to prove it. I duly apologized to the mother and scolded my child who by then had forgotten all about it and couldn’t understand why mummy was so upset.
That same child by the way now has no fingernails left because the first thing I did when we got home was to cut them extremely short. A bit of forward planning and damage control!
At least now when she attacks another child she can’t draw blood. I hate to think what will happen if she ever starts biting other children as I think our dentist will balk at extracting all her teeth!

The week ended by me taking the three children to the beach on the Saturday morning. It is almost impossible to keep an eye on three children simultaneously in a large open expanse. The only thing that benefited that morning were my calf muscles from all the exercise of trying to contain them. The children got to go home with a grumpy, irritable mother.

That night I reflected on the words from Psalm 127:3 “children are a gift from the Lord; they are a real blessing”.

God sees children as a gift, a blessing, and a reward. If only we as parents would learn to view them the same way”. End of journal entry for the week!

I had to laugh, but at the same time I had a feeling of immense sadness overwhelm me as I read this so many years later. I don’t even remember that week but I do remember that my overriding emotions when my children were young were largely of stress, impatience, and tiredness.

I wish I had known then what I know now – I would not have ‘sweated’ the small stuff and would have spent less time tidying the house and more time playing.
They truly are God’s love letters to me here on earth and I wish I had spent more time reading the beginning of the letters …………

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THE THREE GREATEST GIFTS YOU CAN GIVE YOUR CHILD

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The greatest gift you can give your child is a knowledge of God. There is no greater gift.

In order to be able to give this gift to your child you, yourself, must first have a relationship with the living Lord.

“To lead someone else onto the right road, means we need to know the road ourselves. If those who are being led (our children) are to feel safe and free, they must have unshakable faith and trust in the one who leads them” (Solly Ozrovech).

As parents we need to allow God to lead us so we can properly lead our children. Before He can lead us, however, we have to acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour in our own lives.

The second greatest gift you can give your child is to instill in them a sense of their own self-worth. They need to grow up in the knowledge that God loves them and desires the best for them. They need to know that no matter what happens to them in life they will, with God’s help, be able to overcome any difficulty.

In order for our children to grow into their full potential as human beings, to develop into compassionate and caring individuals they need to experience failure, sadness, depression and loneliness in order to appreciate success, happiness, a good mental attitude and to learn the value of friendship.

The third greatest gift you can give your child is the gift of listening to them.
Our responsibility as parents is to allow our children to experience, feel and express the full gamut of all the emotions mentioned above.
We need to give them the gift of listening to them without trying to jump in and fix everything for them. To advise them, to guide them and then to let them have the freedom to manage and own their emotions.

All of these gifts can be summed up in one word – Love.
Our children need to grow up believing and living the second greatest commandment that Jesus gave us. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:3)

Our children need to be able to love themselves in order that they can show love to others.
We need to be able to love ourselves in order that we can show love to others.

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