Bible

A challenge to trust, remember the dance floor

the-sea-in-december

Mum challenged me with a question when I was worried about something over the weekend:

“How can you tell others to trust God when you can’t trust him in this circumstance?”

Snap!

She said it very nicely, but hit the nail right on the head.

It reminded me of this part of the Bible:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:25-33 NIV

 

I have to admit, I start sinking all the time, so Mum’s reminder is a good one. If I’m telling others to trust, it’s nothing less than hypocritical to not trust God myself. Understandable, in some circumstances, but still hypocritical.

So, how do I trust?

For me, it always helps to listen to the song ‘Oceans’, by Hillsong United. This is the song that got that critical draft of my book done in just 10 weeks before the writing conference last year. Every time I freaked out (happened on average every 3 hours), I listened to it. And it reminds me that God is bigger than whatever problem I’m focusing on.

I also have some go-to Bible verses, (Is 40, Phil 4:6-7, Ps 139 and Ps 55 are favourites) and I remember what I learned from Daisy: whatever’s happening, God can and will use it for His glory.

And prayer makes a difference. On Sunday I remembered this post from 2014, and how I used to spend time with God on the dance floor. That post really defined my prayer life for at least six months, but in the two years since I slowly forgot about it.

I’m glad God reminded me. 🙂 It was a really special thing, still is.

What about you? What do you do when your trust is challenged?

Share in the comments below!

 

How To Look Intensely Attractive

Courage. It’s one of those awesome qualities that instantly transforms you into a babe.

 

Captain America is courageous, and a babe.

Captain America. Courage has never looked so good.

 

Tim and Olive Chan are exploring the whole idea of courage in their blog series, ‘Courage Is…’, and they’ve kindly let me contribute. Click this link to read my article, Courage Is: Being OK with Insignificance.

I wrote it a while ago, just after Easter, so lots has happened since then but the message is still the same.

The series also covers singleness, body image and more, so check out what the other authors have contributed too!

 

 

 

God’s Not Using Me: A Journey of Faith Part II

I feel like God isn't using me.

Everything is about to change.

Two weeks ago, in the third post of my series on contentment, I wrote that I had another decision to make regarding my career.

Usually this is where I stress and panic, unsure of which direction God wants me to go and worried that He won’t clue me in.

This time I prayed about it with faith. I did my best to be confident that God would come through and guide me. But as each day passed without a word from heaven, my confidence slipped.

I realized this on Monday, after I read the story of David and Goliath in my morning devotions. David’s confidence in God really struck me. A whole army was quaking in fear, and David said, ‘What’s the problem guys? Impossible odds are nothing when God’s on our side!’ (Okay, that’s my paraphrase, but you get the gist. The whole story’s in 1 Samuel 17)

Then he grabbed a few pebbles and went to face the giant alone. Just him and God.

That’s what I call confidence.

So I prayed for confidence. I realized that if God was happy with either path, they must both lead to fulfilling his purposes. Neither would be a mistake. And I decided that if it was offered to me, I’d take this new opportunity.

On Tuesday, I did get an offer. I took it. Now I’m saying goodbye to my kids at the boarding school (which is very sad) and preparing to start a new job as a training content developer (which is exciting!).

Even though I believe God led me to this decision, after making it I’ve been attacked by fear. The change back to full-time work means I have to give up being a mentor at a local youth program, give up working with the boarding students at school and I won’t have as much time to write my books. It seems all the places where I thought God was using me are disappearing. And with them, so is my David-like confidence.

It all adds to an old fear I’ve had that God isn’t using me. This one goes back a few years, and stems from a general frustration that I can’t see much good happening in the world because of anything I do. My childhood church never grew. My youth group kids backslid. The first girl I mentored dropped out of the program and stopped talking to me. I often get frustrated that no matter what I do, my life seems completely ineffective.

Yes, some positive things have happened. I saw dozens of people convert on my mission trip to India. Some of those youth group kids stopped backsliding and turned to God again. But it feels like my list of positives should be longer than that.

I have a friend who gets used by God all the time. This person is a leader in the church, also runs effective independent ministries and always seems to be getting really specific instructions from God. No one would ever doubt that this person is getting used by God.

Why does that never happen to me?

While mulling this over, God’s revealed several possibilities.

  •  If God uses me in an obvious way, that doesn’t require much faith. It’s easy to have confidence when you can see everything going right. This situation could be designed to grow my faith.
  •  If this isn’t some type of faith-building exercise and God really isn’t using me, there are three other options:
    1. God doesn’t want to use me. For some reason He has decided that He will have plans for everyone else in the world, except me. (I’m starting to see how ridiculous my thoughts are.)
    2. I have some sin stopping God from using me. This could be a possibility. Have I been jealous of someone? Arrogant? Or is my sin just a big fat lack of faith? I’m going to pray that God will show me if there’s anything that needs changing, and that He keeps helping me with the faith thing.
    3. I am not obeying God, so He’s not using me. I don’t see anywhere in my life where this has happened (except for sometimes not obeying his command to have faith), but again, it can’t hurt to pray that God will show me if there is something that needs fixing.

The idea that God has decided I will be the only Christian left out of His plans is clearly a silly fear being thrown at me by the devil. But it’s one that’s been effective for a long time.

But let’s look at the truth. The truth is, God loves me and has included me in His plans. However, I don’t always see His plans or understand them. I can also be held back by sin, fear, faithlessness and disobedience.

So it looks like the answer’s pretty simple: Have faith that God’s plans will prevail, and that I am a part of them. Pray for help in clearing my heart of disbelief and sin. And then have some more faith while I keep moving forward!

What about you? Have you ever struggled with this issue? How did you deal with it?

 

Oh, and did you want to hear the end of last week’s story about the person breaking into my house?

Turned out, it was our housemate. We’d gotten home late, seen her bedroom door shut and car in the drive and assumed she was asleep. She had actually been picked up by friends and we’d locked her out.

Next time, she knows to call out loudly and let us know who it is!!!

 

 

Enjoy this article? Hit the ‘follow by email’ button on the right sidebar and you’ll get every post delivered straight to your inbox.

If occasional updates are more convenient, sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get an exclusive sneak peak at my novel-in-progress, Hating Jeremy Walters

 

NO MINISTRY, NO CAREER, NO MAN. GREAT PLAN? PART II

 

God's been teaching me about contentment.

Photo by Tom Black, sourced from CreationSwap.com.

 

“Thank-you for where I am, because it’s where You want me to be, God. And that’s more important than my own plan.”

This is my new motto for contentment.

Even before last Tuesday happened, I’d been thinking about contentment. Whenever I had a less-than-awesome day I worried that I wasn’t living life the best that I could. Should I go work in America for a year? Move across the country to get back into journalism? And so on.

I also spent a lot of time day-dreaming about the day I become a published author or get married. It even affected my motivation for getting closer to God. There wasn’t a Christian event I went to where I wasn’t subtly scanning the audience for husband material or mentally plotting my next book. While I did want to be closer to God for God’s own sake, I also figured that the closer I got to Him, the closer I got to His purposes for me (i.e. marriage and novel-writing).

God showed me this attitude wasn’t helping my life, and gave me that prayer at the top of the page. For a few days, each time I wished I was at a different stage, or worried that I wasn’t grabbing life by the horns, I prayed that prayer. I remembered that I was exactly where God wanted me. And the day He wanted me somewhere else, He’d tell me.

Then last Tuesday happened. The rubber really hit the road. I didn’t react well.

But the prayer still stands true.

I might want a good job, a writing career or a family, but that might not be in God’s plan. And was I designed to live a pleasant life on earth, or was I designed to live in relationship with Him forever and accept His purposes over mine?

I hope that God’s plan does include a family and some form of writing. But my contentment can’t be dependent on that happening one day. God asks for my ALL my heart, ALL my soul, ALL my mind and ALL my strength. (Mk 12:30) My contentment should depend on Him alone.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not good at this. If I get tired, hot or hungry, contentment flies out the window. Yesterday I was stressed about my job, so I got mad because my housemate ate my cheese.

Yep, I got angry over cheese. And there was other cheese in the fridge, it just wasn’t the one I bought.  So I’m certainly not perfect—not even close!

And once I do get good at this contentment thing, what if my life gets easy for a while? I’m afraid I might slip back into the same bad habits when everything goes my way.

But God will be with me. I’m asking Him to remind me of what I’ve learned, to keep me accountable and to keep me moving forward. If I keep my heart open, He’ll keep the relationship developing.

And that’s what we were created for.

 

Thanks for reading! I’ve also got a guest post up today over at Ritty’s Adventures In Writing.

Here’s a peek:

Writer’s block, deadlines, falling sales, rejections, blog statistics, criticism…there’s plenty of things to freak out about in a writing career.
My recent concerns? 
I’m worried my marketing skills are inadequate and I can’t write fast enough to please myself.
A few weeks ago the self-inflicted pressure built till I resented any interruptions to my writing. But even when I was left in peace, I just couldn’t get everything done that I wanted to. It was taking me too long to achieve ‘success’. With my stress levels skyrocketing, I read this verse…
You’ll have to visit Ritty’s blog to see the rest!

Enjoy this article? Hit the ‘follow by email’ button on the right sidebar and you’ll get every post delivered straight to your inbox.

If occasional updates are more convenient, sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get an exclusive sneak peak at my novel-in-progress, All I Am. 

I Don’t Get the Point of This, God

I don’t understand the direction my life is going.

Photo sourced from EveryStockPhoto.com, by KellyB. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo sourced from EveryStockPhoto.com, by KellyB. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

I don’t want to sound like a whiner, but…I’m about to.

My job is not a career, my writing will take forever to become a career, I can’t see God working through me and things just aren’t turning out the way I expected. It drives me crazy that I can’t see which way I’m going.

I’m the kind of person who likes to set goals, then work hard to achieve them. I hate drifting, I hate aimlessness and I hate waiting without knowing what’s going on. I guess ticking goals off my list makes me feel in control and successful.

So this time of my life—while I love many parts of it—is sending me bonkers.

But as I studied the Book of Luke yesterday I got a bucket of cold water thrown over my soul.

As I read through Chapters 7-9 I took note of patterns in what Jesus said and did. And I found one theme coming  out stronger than all the others: faith.

©CreationSwap/Tonya Christner

©CreationSwap/Tonya Christner

Jesus praised the faith of the centurion, the sinful woman and the bleeding woman. All three trusted Him when they were in desperate circumstances. Jesus also taught people to have faith through the Parable of the Sower, and he told Jairus to have faith when he raised his daughter from the dead. And when the disciples freaked out at a deadly storm, he questioned why they didn’t have more faith!

Let me tell you, if I was in that boat I would have been screaming my lungs out along with Peter.

As I read, I remembered how the nation of Israel had to wander the desert for 40 years because they didn’t have enough faith to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14). And how Jesus later showed Peter that he could even walk on water if he had faith (Matt 14:22-33). I thought to myself, “Wow, where is my faith?”

If Peter can walk on water, I can choose to trust that God knows what He’s doing with my life, even if I don’t. I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to be able to see where my life is going. I just need to have faith.

I have to admit, up until yesterday I didn’t grasp how much of a big deal this was to God. Faith isn’t just a nice little Sunday School lesson we learn alongside, ‘Play nice’, and ‘Don’t hog all the cake’.

Going by the amount of times Jesus mentioned faith, the pivotal role faith played in Israel’s history and 1 Corinthians 13:13, I’d say that from God’s perspective, faith is the second most important thing in our lives.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

Love is obviously number one; Jesus was pretty big on the whole, “Love God with all your heart” thing. But I’m pretty confident that faith is number two. (Okay, so maybe it ties for second place along with obedience, but you get the idea.)

This is a big deal. And I have been totally content to do nothing about it. I don’t want to miss out on a Promised Land and wander the desert because I refused to believe.

So I prayed, asking for God’s help. And as I prayed I realized how silly I had been. God was powerful enough to design DNA; I’m pretty sure He can handle my life.

So thank-you for your help God, and please remind me of this when I start to worry in the future.

What about you? What trigger points are in your life that cause you to lose faith? How do you combat them?

 

Enjoy this post? Hit the ‘follow by email’ button at the bottom of the page and you’ll get them all delivered straight to your inbox!

Or if social media’s more your style, follow me on Facebook. 🙂

 

 

 

God’s Not Disappointed With Me

Photo by Ramzi Hashisho, sourced from freeimages.com.

Photo by Ramzi Hashisho, sourced from freeimages.com.

Do you know, I felt a little weird writing that title?

That’s how ingrained the thought process is in my head. And up until last week, I didn’t realize it.

Lately I’ve posted about what God’s teaching me in the areas of stressjoy and my theory that just because you feel something, doesn’t mean you have to believe it.

A big part of combating stress and seizing joy has been sniffing out the lies in my head and replacing them with God’s truth.

I already knew there were triggers that made me feel blah. The big ones were:

  • A feeling that God’s given me an amazing life and opportunities and I’m not giving enough back.
  • Stress that I’m making the wrong decision (not wrong as in sinful, just wrong as in ‘this other one would work better’).
  • Worry about money/career/future/house, etc.

The first two things on this list especially contributed to a general feeling that God wasn’t happy with my efforts, but I didn’t know how to fix it. A feeling that He was disappointed.

Since I decided to stop stressing and instead actively pursue joy and peace, I’ve been on the lookout for this yucky feeling. It’s been an eye-opener—not even I realized how often it was getting me down. It was all the time! But I’ve found some important truths to fight it:

  • Yes, God has given me an amazing life. But I have been on the lookout for opportunities to join Him in His work. I’ve been obedient, I’ve been faithful. I’ve taken action when the chance arose. And I’m asking for His help to further improve. The only reason I think I’m not giving enough back, is because I can’t see churches full of people I’ve converted.  But last week I posted about how God doesn’t measure success by numbers. What matters is faithfulness, so if I’m faithful, I’m all good.

You worry every time you must take a turn. You often freeze up and cannot make a decision.

  Yep, that’s totally me. You know what Henry Blackaby was describing here? People who don’t trust God to lead them one step at a time.

  It’s a common pattern throughout the Bible—God often called people to action, but only gave them one piece of the puzzle at a time. If I trust        Him and make sure I’m obedient one day at a time, then each day I know I’m right where He wants me.

  • Worry about the future is basically a lack of trust in God—something I’m very aware of, have posted about before and am dealing with.

And just like that, the foreboding feeling that I’m a disappointment to God is disappearing. It’s being replaced with a desire for more of God, and the knowledge that if I’m listening and obedient one day at a time, I’m okay.

Actually, I’m more than okay. 🙂

Can you relate to my story? How has God addressed your fears or worries? Comment below!

 

 

Enjoy this post? Click the ‘follow by email’ button at the bottom of the page and you’ll get future posts delivered straight to your inbox!

God, What Do You Call ‘Success’?

If everything in life went as planned and you achieved your idea of ‘success’, where would you be in five years’ time?

Photo sourced from Every Stock Photo by familymwr, used under licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo sourced from Every Stock Photo by familymwr, used under licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

In my Day Dream Land, by 2019 I’ll be 27 and a well-known author of several novels and maybe some Christian living books. My writing career will be financially stable and growing, my readers will write to me and tell me how I’ve changed their walk with God and newbie authors will look to me for advice (which I will benevolently bestow).

Like I said, this is Day Dream Land.

God had me thinking about motivations the other day, and a possibility smacked me in the head. What if God asks me to keep my day job forever and release all my writing as free eBooks under a pen name, eliminating any money and recognition?

Yikes. I’ve never thought of myself as someone motivated by cash or fame, but that scenario sure took the shine off my ‘success’.

I’m not saying I will publish everything I write anonymously and for free. But all options are on the table; I’m following God’s leading here, not my own. Would I be happy if I had to let go of my definition of success for His? What is God’s definition of success?

I found it in the examples of David, Ruth and Joseph in the Bible.

David spent years on the run from King Saul, wondering why God promised to give him a kingdom only to make him a fugitive. Ruth left her family and country for a life of poverty in a foreign land. And Joseph was sold as a slave, unjustly imprisoned and then forgotten about for years. All three endured circumstances that they didn’t expect, and that no one would call ‘successful’. Yet all three remained faithful in the midst of their difficulties. And today they are some of the most highly honored people in the Bible.

If you read the rest of these people’s stories, their lives did come good in the end. But they weren’t honored as Jesus’ ancestors because of their eventual promotions. No, they were honored because they were committed even when life sucked. They were available to God at all times and they were obedient in all circumstances. They loved God above money, status, comfort and even family.

Because of that, Ruth has a whole book of the Bible written about her. David was called ‘a man after God’s own heart’. And Joseph saved his family and the entire country of Egypt from starvation.

So what if I never earn the admiration of readers? If I never make a living from my passion? The greatest names in the Bible achieved astounding success—though it wasn’t always recognized by the world—simply by being faithful.

 

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Mark 8:36 NIV

To read the stories of David, Ruth and Joseph, look up 1 & 2 Samuel, Ruth and Genesis 37-50 in the Bible.

Who else do you know of who didn’t fit the usual definition of ‘success’, but pleased God anyway? Leave a comment!

Enjoy this post? Hit the ‘follow’ button at the bottom of the page. 🙂