Tank Life

So You want to Leave the Tank?fish tank

Living with a Conservationist Animal Rights Extremist has its interesting moments.  Like when we had to explain to our then, nine-year-old that there are critters in America that can eat you, and that we aren’t in England anymore where the most dangerous thing is a badger.  Or when we found a Black Widow nest in our yard, and we debated the pros and cons of allowing them to live in a specially designed (by said nine-year-old) shoebox enclosure in our house.

No they can not come in the house.  Why not?  Because bringing them inside the house would not help them fulfill God’s purpose for their creepy little lives. (And Mom would likely pulverize them upon entry.)

Children have a way of thinking that is different to adults.  They are still in that phase of life where they believe that all things are possible, where they really can achieve anything (including personal flight so keep the windows closed;) when their dreams can be a reality, when obstacles are just there to be overcome, and vision is not limited by lack or impracticalities.  They are masters of thinking outside of the tank. That sense of wonder and imagination is what sets apart the exceptional from the average, millionaires from minions, inventors from wanna-bees, victors from victims.

Matt 19:26 Jesus looked at them and to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’.

What does life beyond the tank look like? 

You wont know until you leap. Leaving the tank, that place of comfort and safety where everything is ticking along just fine, to chart a course into the unknown is potentially terrifying.  The truth is though, that many have gone before you and survived the walk of faith.

We have had our share of Christopher Columbus moments. England is a very small country compared to most and traveling is arduous to us.  If we have to drive more than an hour or two then that requires an over night stay, and any daily commute exceeding 45 minutes would necessitate you moving house.  So moving country was a huge step into the unknown for us.  What enabled us to make that move was a baby step.  We knew that God was calling us to this big adventure, but it took a while for our flesh to get brave enough to move in the right direction.  Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient for us and His plans are not that fragile that time, or wrong turns can shipwreck them.

 Beware of small tank mentality.

What if it doesn’t work out? What if its not really God? What if you aren’t ready?  What if you are wrong about this?

All of these are great questions.  The real question though is, Is God big enough to cover our mistakes? Can we trust Him to do what He said He would do?  Is He our source of happiness, provision, health, peace and protection? Do we really believe that He is the God of the possible? Are we allowing fear to make decisions for us?

Leaving the tank will challenge those around us.

 As people move on there are always those who get left behind because they can not or will not make the journey with you.  This is the probably the hardest part of pursuing our God given destiny.  Remember though, that like when the Children of God left Egypt, they all were given the opportunity to enter the promised land. Not all of them could see past the giants and it hindered them receiving all that God had for them.

Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things ae possible to him who believes”.

Confessions from a previous tank dweller:

-Life is full of unknowns, stick with the one thing that you can know: Jesus, who always leads us to triumph (2 Cor 2:14)

-Be moved with compassion rather than motivated by fear.

-Know that God is bigger than any mistakes we have or will make in the future-in fact He knows them ahead of time and picked us anywayJ

-Believe Big- God is not up in heaven worried that you will over commit Him to a promise of His that He can’t deliver.

Take the plunge today, believe God for something outrageous that only He can do!

#youarehiskid

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Making a come-back!

Making a come-back.

come back

Everyone loves to see the underdog make a come-back and win don’t they? Whether it is an unknown soccer team from the lowest division winning the league, or a tiny country from the back side of the globe grabbing gold at the Olympics, something about this warms the heart.  That feeling of elation and relief when an insurmountable obstacle has been overcome is something that we can all relate to.

The determination to overcome, the will to live, the desire to succeed and press on, and the sheer stubbornness to prove life wrong when it says you can’t is in us all.  Science may refer to this as the laws of nature or natural selection, but human kind has something distinctly different on its side that nature does not account for: faith.  By faith we overcome the world. (1John 5:4, Phil 4:13)

When I became a follower of Jesus, I was not wholly prepared for the challenges that were ahead of me. Life until that point had been a series of obstacles emotionally, physically and spiritually, there were several Goliath’s that I had learned to live with and which the Lord would show me needed to be slain.  This process was not a comfortable one, and as He began to gently show me the parts of my heart that were broken, that felt more painful before it felt better.  Today though, I can see that killing those giants was essential, and has it has changed how I now approach life’s challenges and disappointments.

Jesus did not promise us that we would not face problems in this life, quite the opposite, but he gave us the solution to overcome them:

John 16:33

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will[d] have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

This came from a man who knew the enormity of the challenge ahead of Him.  He knew of the persecution, the torture and torment, the pain that was to come when he said these words but he was not focused on it.  He was looking to the victory that lay beyond that situation. The difference; Jesus was viewing life from the other side of the cross.   Jesus is the ultimate come back King!

There are two keys that the Lord showed me, that I remember anytime that life presents me with opportunity to get into the flesh.  These have helped me keep focused on the finish line rather than the hurdle ahead, and to trust God to deliver me in the midst of adversity.  Ultimately these two keys have set me back on track when I needed help to overcome.

The Come-back Keys:

  1. Three days changes everything.

Jesus was celebrated, paraded as a king through the streets on a donkey, and honored.  Yet this was short lived, because a short time later he was crucified.  Our confidence has to be in God alone, not in the circumstances or even those around us.  People fail, even with the best intentions, but God is always on our side.  At the crucifixion, it looked like all was lost and the devil had won, but three days later Jesus rose from the dead and changed the course of history forever.  Whatever the situation, however bad it looks today, wait three days and it will look different.  Responding hastily, out of reflex or fear often causes us a bigger mess.  Time helps us see things in perspective, it allows us to refocus on the Lord and hear Him above the noise, and all the while the Lord is intervening on our behalf.  I have seen situations that appeared hopeless completely turn around as I took time to seek God rather than respond in the flesh!

  1. He is big enough to handle our emotions.

In times of tragedy, betrayal, confusion, helplessness, or just pure emotion, we do not think clearly.  Our decisions are not always the best ones as we struggle to be objective.  In those moments of whirling thoughts, the Holy Spirit is our Comforter.  He is our voice of reason, our guide, our protection, our best friend.   He alone can heal broken hearts, show us how to love our enemies and what forgiveness really looks like, but we have to participate.  Ultimately we are the ones who hurt the most when we hold on to hurt, anger, pain, and unforgiveness, not the person who wronged us.  These things become like a cancer in our bodies and will spread to other areas of live if we don’t deal with them.  So how do we deal with these feelings? How do we stop feeling them?

This is what works for me:  I see a box, and in it I place all of the emotion, the thoughts, the confusion, the drama, the whole situation in that box.  I close the lid, and address it to Jesus. In my mind I mail it.  I ask to Holy Spirit to be my comforter and place my trust in Him .This is casting my cares upon the Lord!  If at any time I begin to dwell on those thoughts, and start to feel that emotion, hurt rising up inside of me again, or fear creeping back, I picture that box again.  I remember that those feelings are no longer mine to deal with; I already gave them to Jesus so I’m not taking them back.

Phil 4: 6 -9

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Jesus is the original come back King, and He lives in us.  Jesus in us is greater than any defeat; He always leads us to victory and causes us to triumph.  Be encouraged today that you have everything you need inside of you to be who He called you to be.  And if that devil tries to send any of his junk your way, just label it ‘return to sender’!

 

By Royal Appointment

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Growing up in England, I didn’t realize the significance of the Royal Crest that appeared on our favorite brand of ketchup and jam.  It was a sign that signified quality; a Royal stamp of approval. It is good to know that the Queen is stocking her pantry with the same things I’m feeding my family! After all, we are royalty too:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, 1 Peter 2:9

We may not have all been born into a life of privilege naturally, but we have all been born-again into a Royal family.  Adopted into the family of God, Ephesians 1:5, and chosen by Him and set apart for great things, John 15:16.

Recently Prince George was born into the Royal household.  He did nothing himself to deserve such opportunity, or favor.  The benefits he will enjoy growing up are based on his birthright not on his performance.  Yet as a member of the Royal family he will be raised differently, not just because he lives in splendor but in the way that he thinks.  He will be raised with the knowledge of who he is, that he has a defined purpose, that he is a leader, and as such it will influence his choices – the relationships he engages in, the career path he pursues etc.  His lifestyle will reflect his calling and identity.

As children of God, we have been given a new identity.  This was nothing that we earned, but it comes with all the benefits of a Royal birthright: favor Luke 2:52, Romans 8:17, provision Psalm 34:10, protection (Mark 16:18, Ps 91) and purpose, Ephesians 2:10!

The challenge is when we look around us and our situation doesn’t match up to what we believe.  It is easy to become discouraged and start agreeing with the world’s view of us rather than Gods.

King David had to overcome this very thing.  When Samuel the prophet anointed David as king, he was the least likely of all his brothers to amount to much.  As the youngest he was not even invited to the king picking party, they had to go get him in from the sheep field!  It must have been an awkward moment, Samuel made them all remain standing while they waited on David’s arrival! (You can read this in 1Sam chapters 16,17)

Anyway, David was anointed king. What happened next was not a gold chariot, robe or Royal feast, no he went back out to look after the sheep!  It took a while before anything in the natural changed.  Yet inside David knew that God had set him apart for great things and He was with him.  It was this identity and confidence in his relationship with the Lord that produced the boldness that he needed to defeat Goliath!

In the face of adversity, David killed that giant first in his thinking as he saw himself as the victorious king that he was appointed to be.

Be encouraged today that the Goliath’s in our life may look huge but they are there to be defeated, and inside of you is everything it takes to win in Jesus name! It’s time to get our ‘Royal’ on, and live as heirs to the King of Kings!

Stop the madness!

frustration-little-girl-pulling-hair

Parenting is a wonderful opportunity to learn ‘chaos control’, or crisis management as it’s often known. Parents have usually refereed more games by dinner time than their kids will ever compete in on the field! The business world has given the skills that we teach our children intellectual names like ‘conflict resolution’, but it’s really no different from the sharing lesson that we learned in the sandbox! Valuable life skills are passed on through that parent child relationship. The more a child can listen to the wisdom of those who love them most and have lived life a little longer, the greater success and happiness they find as they learn from others challenges and victories.

If only we could sit still long enough to listen though right? Anyone who has any emotions or has been around someone who does has had the opportunity to experience the effects of drama on a person’s ability to listen. Toddlers demonstrate this perfectly.

When our children were very small and threw a fit or hurt themselves in some way, we knew we were in trouble when no sound came out. The silent red faced scream as they inhaled ready to burst ear drums with their piecing wails. With our first child Zachary, we tried to talk him down, reason with him, explain that life isn’t always fair, and show him the error of his ways. By child number three the resolution was much swifter! We found that reasoning in the moment of crisis was hard for children to receive. This is true for adults too; in the midst of emotion it’s hard to hear the voice of reason. Yet listening is the very thing that will help us the most.

By the time Hannah was around four years old, we were half way through our Bible college studies. We had learned powerful lessons and were pumped full of the scriptures, ready to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out devils. I guess we must have missed the class on binding the midnight madness though because we were woefully un-prepared!

At the point where we were in the deepest sleep of the night, we were awakened by a shrieking child. One of those ‘I’m really hurting’ cries that knots a parent’s gut. I rushed into Hannah’s room and scooped her up to comfort her, but nothing seemed to work. She was holding the back of her neck in pain and would not let me look at it. We did everything we knew to do-prayed for her, spoke to the pain, begged God; we bound the powers of darkness and even took her into our bed! Nothing. I was convinced that she had something serious going on, my mind checking off all the symptoms of meningitis. Finally, after running out of ideas I listened. Not to the ear piercing screams but to the Holy Spirit.

He said to look at her finger. Odd I thought but ok. Sure enough her little finger was caught up in her hair under hand at the base of her neck. She had fallen asleep twiddling her hair around her finger and it had cut the circulation off. When I pulled her hand away from her neck it hurt more so she screamed louder. One snip with the scissors was all that was needed!

I learned that night to listen first rather than after trying everything else! Often there is a simple solution, one that can easily be overlooked in the middle of the chaos. Listening skills are easier to practice when it’s quiet, rather than like me, and waiting until the storm was in full force.

John 10:27

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Sometimes it’s hard to hear the Lord about the noise of life, and easy to assume that He is not hearing us. Be encouraged that He is always listening and that we can always hear Him, when we listen. Take some time out today, just to be still and listen for the answers that you have been looking for. There are many ways that God speaks to us, and we explore some next time, but listening and expecting to hear is the key!

Keep it Simple, Stupid!

storm_in_a_tea_cup_by_terry19641964

Keep it Simple, Stupid!

Making life complicated is a special ability commonly exercised by adults of all ages, especially prevalent when under pressure. Otherwise known as ‘storm in a teacup syndrome’. This condition presents itself primarily as a situation with a simple solution, that is quickly exacerbated until it reaches a storm size of epic proportions, of which magnitude the world has never seen, and all outcomes point to certain disaster.’

Does this sound like you? We may not all operate on this level of drama, but I am convinced that the ability to is in us all! Often it is in these moments as our emotions are spiraling out of control that the simple solutions evade us.

Both my husband and I started out in ministry as children and youth workers. One of the most valuable lessons that I learned during those years was to keep things simple. There is only so much information that a person can receive at one time, and the simple solutions are usually the most effective. In our zeal and enthusiasm, the temptation was there to teach everything we knew in the 30 minutes we had available. Not only did this not work well, it was boring, and bored kids stop listening. After a baptism of fire (being thrown into the deep end on the mission field), and ‘trial by teenager’ (finding out that you aren’t as prepared as you thought you were), we scrapped the carefully laid out curriculum that our team had spent months preparing and sought the Lord. What did the Lord say? ‘Keep it simple, stupid’. In other words, refocus and have fun.

Our ten step discipleship plan went out the window, along with the crafts, dramas and coloring activities designed to reinforce the key scriptures we wanted to emphasize. Hopelessly out numbered and overwhelmed, it didn’t take us long to realize that the kids sitting on the dirt floor in front of us were not going to behave in the same way as our Sunday school class back home. They climbed the walls, the tin roof above us, devoured the weeks supply of candy on the first night, and couldn’t read regardless if we had light to read by or not because they were unschooled and hungry. What they needed most was to be loved and fed. That week we learned from those children, that the love of God changes lives through the simplest acts of human kindness.

Keep it simple, stupid! Have fun, eat candy, play games, laugh a lot. When we keep Jesus at the center we are keeping the main thing, the main thing!

Matt 22:37-40

 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Our relationship with Jesus is what enables us to love and live with those around us. The love of God is still the most simple and profound truth. As we start to grasp this we begin to take ourselves less seriously. God’s love for us, and in us eventually finds its way through us to others. We become the channel of peace in a world of craziness.

Isa 26:3

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.

As I am writing this today, I know that there is someone who feels like their life is out of control. Turmoil, uncertainty and drama have followed you and there appears to be no clear way forward. This word of encouragement is for you. Jesus, is the peace that you are looking for. It’s a good day to refocus and refire! Keep Jesus the main thing. Keep it simple, stupid!