Bring it all to the table

Have you ever felt like what you bring to the table is not enough? It could be any table, like at your workplace or in your family or in your contribution to society. Have you ever felt like your efforts are unappreciated and you feel like you’re not even causing a ripple in the great ocean of life? 

One of my big inadequacy moments happens to be the potluck at church every week. I must confess that I have dreaded having to cook something for that weekly meal together for a few years. Now, don’t get me wrong! I love the fact that we get together as a church and have a meal together. It has a special way of bringing people together which is awesome! But you see, my inadequacy comes from feeling that I am not a very good cook. I have so many moments that I look back now and laugh about burnt dinners, mushy soup, gooey-half cooked desserts and many more kitchen failures. I have oversalted, under salted over flavoured, under flavoured, overcooked, undercooked everything that you can possibly think that one shouldn’t do to food, I have done it. So, you can imagine my hesitancy when it comes to the kitchen. No, my creativity ended at lunch and dinner and definitely improved with dessert. Now that is where my cooking niche lay, and I knew it! I loved making desserts that I would carefully follow recipes for and loved to surprise my family with. No, for all other cooking, I was more cautious and when we were children, I struck a bargain with my sister that if I would do all the big cleaning chores then she would do all my kitchen chores and this arrangement worked quite well for a while. Over the years however, I learnt to cook certain dishes that I really liked and knew I could cook well. 

When I moved out on my own, I began to quickly realise how my repertoire of dishes diminished significantly when I no longer had my sister or mum to rely on for food. But I still had not realised the underlying issue for why I did not enjoy cooking. When we began a project to feed the homeless in the city, there was a lot of food planning that I had to start and so, feeling completely inadequate, I began going to the ladies who’s cooking experience and amazing food I really loved. They planned menus and helped me work out quantities and so I began learning and adding more recipes to my repertoire of dishes. But still, even after having all these wonderful experiences in the kitchen, I still felt inadequate. I still would not bring a dish to potluck at church because I felt that whatever I would bring would never be good enough. It was so easy to compare to all the other amazing cooks in the church and they prepared healthy, vegan food too! Comparison is truly the killer of joy and I hadn’t realised that I was falling for the oldest trick in the book. 

You see, the devil knows that one of the easiest ways to get us to put up a ceiling on our potential and growth is by placing comparisons along the way and have us believe that we will never come into our own identity because there are enough people doing great things in this world. And if that is not enough, he has us fear trying and failing more, than never trying. That was the issue with my hesitancy in the kitchen and one that God chose to show me quite simply that I had to overcome. 

This is how it happened. This year, I decided that I would bring a dish to church every week and contribute rather than avoid doing so for fear of my dish not being good enough. Still, I failed to keep that end of the bargain for the first two church days in the year and nearly missed out in the third week but instead, God showed me that my little bit was needed, in fact, required of me. I had brought a few things to make a salad that day. I knew that I should go and make that salad but I got involved in a music practice and so when lunchtime rolled around I ignored the voice of guilt in my head for not preparing my salad and reassured myself that it was only a ‘little’ salad anyway and that next week I would bring a better offering. Well, as I began to plate up, I noticed that the salad table was looking quite low on salad and that was a loud enough message for me. I went to the car, took my salad things out and proceeded to make a salad. Turns out, that small salad fed a few people who had missed out and I realised that my problem with cooking and contributing was rooted in nothing more than comparison and fear of failure. And that brings me to the last thing I wanted to share…

Friends, God has not created you with the current abilities that you have or don’t have in order to keep you from succeeding. Let me say that again but differently. 

God made you just the way you are in order to contribute in your unique way to a world that needs as much light as it possibly can get. Right from the beginning of the world we see that God takes the light and divides it from darkness so that both the light and the day can be distinguishable, so that we know where to go. Genesis 1:4 says “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness”. God wants us to choose the light every single time and to walk in the assurance and confidence that one has when the path is clearly lit. Jesus said (John 12:46)  “I am come a light into the world, that whoever believes on me should not live in darkness”.

That light is so powerful that the dark cannot live where that light is. How do we throw out the darkness that overpowers us and threatens to engulf us? With light! The light of God’s word tells us that if we accept the words that Jesus speaks to us, then we will continue to walk in an ever-growing light. What does it mean to walk in light? The definition for light is the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible or understanding of a problem or mystery; enlightenment. Light makes things visible that otherwise would be impossible to see and, in another sense, it provides understanding of a problem or mystery that we have been dealing with. In other words, when we ‘walk in light’ we are making actions on the problem that once was unsolvable. We are moving forward in the understanding that the ‘light’ has brought to us. The mystery that Jesus came to bring light into was sin, to show us that this thing that keeps us trapped in an ever-repeating cycle of wrongdoing, pain and addiction is sin. An inherited heartsickness that only Jesus, his love, forgiveness and sacrifice can make us healthy again. In Jesus, we find the answer to our problems of self-worth, addiction, hate, selfishness, self-protection and self-abuse. The light that Jesus declares into our life, is the life that he desires to give us and be for us. John 1:4 says that “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

When I focus on that light, I no longer see my small offerings as insignificant and pathetic, I see them as a stone in the road that we are all paving towards spreading more light in this world. When I try and fail in my cooking or anything else I do, I don’t have to give up and decide that I will never be a great cook or that I will always fail at what I really want. That’s just part of the process of learning and growing. What I can see it for, is finally testing my faith boundaries, and realising that if I work consistently and bravely, then I will see the results that God knows I will find. It is placing my hands, my inadequate, and small hands and allowing him to feed five thousand through me (this is such a cool story, you can find it in Matthew 14:13-21). All I have to do is believe that Jesus loves me so carefully and wonderfully that I can give up my pride and my self-protecting mechanisms and allow him to lead me through my hang ups and trust in his coaching program for my life. It is not easy, as I write this I am struggling with the thoughts of, what if I can’t follow through on what I have written here? For every what if, there is a greater reason for success that I will find in the words of Jesus. We can bring it all to the table, no matter how big or small and trust that Jesus will do what he will with it, he may choose to feed five thousand with the offering or it may feed one. The important part is that, the offering was there, it was available, the rest, is up to Him.

Bold Confidence

At first glance, these two words together might sound redundant. As a friend of mine pointed out during a worship study she conducted with the same title (This post is based on my notes from her study… it was soo good!).

The thing is, I have been toying with the idea of those words since I heard another person that I admire greatly, put them together. As an adjective, bold means ‘(of a person, action, or idea) showing a willingness to take risks; confident and courageous’ while the word confidence means ‘the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.’ So really, when we break it down to the definitions, maybe these words are actually more powerful put together than apart. I really believe in the power of the word. Whether it is written, spoken or thought, words either hold the power to build us up or to tear us down! But before I begin a grand soliloquy on the power of words, I will continue the thought I had about bold confidence. If confidence is the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something, then that will fuel our boldness, which is the willingness to take risks; confidently and courageously. I believe more and more that this is how we are to live out our faith and the things that we are most passionate about. The thing is, that Jesus Christ is the one to study and learn from and when I see Him, I see a strong, courageous and risk taking, loving leader. One of the reasons for why I see that is by reading verses like the one in John 15:13 which says ‘Greater love has no one than this, that a person lay down his life for his friends’. Now that is what I call a great friend! A person that loves you so much, he/she would put themselves in harms way rather than allowing you to suffer! And the key to being able to deal with so much suffering is found in that four letter word that everybody loooooves to talk about or sing about. Yes, you guessed it, it’s food! No, just kidding, I was going to say love.

Love is the force strong enough to put others first and even to throw yourself in front of a moving bus in order to shield the person or people that we love. What sort of power does boldness and confidence give us? (Hebrews 4:16) ‘Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need’.

This confidence, fueled by love, burning within us from Jesus himself is what gives us that bold confidence.

The confidence to come to Jesus no matter what we have done, or what we haven’t done, is what we each need to develop. Rather than doing something wrong and hiding it, our God actually asks us to come to him so that he can heal us and free us. We have to believe that the freedom that we are given and asked to take, is an act of faith in itself. John 8:36 proves this by saying that “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Another verse confirms where our true confidence should lie no matter what happens around us, or in our own homes…

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

This is where our confidence lies. Not in what skills and talents I can bring to the table but in what Jesus brings and from what we know of the stories in the bible, we know that he never comes empty. When we daily lean on the Word of God and absorb and believe what we read then our faith and confidence will grow and it will grow until we will find ourselves being a bright light wherever you are.

Hebrews 10:35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.

A promise that sparks change…

Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Psalm 37:4 

God never gives us empty promises, there is truth and power in his words if we choose to believe them and apply them in our lives. What if we try and see what God is all about? What if we dare to trust what he says and believe his words? 

How can I delight myself in the LORD? This is a question I keep asking myself and today I came across another verse. 

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law shall he meditate day and night.” Psalm 1:2 

God’s law is simply him revealing his will for us as human beings. If we take the time to find out what his revealed will is in my life, I will take delight in that because all he wants for us is found in Psalm 1:3,

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he forth shall prosper. Psalm 1:3 

I want to grow so much and I know you do too! So let’s take delight in what these beautiful words say and apply them by asking these questions. 

How can I take delight in the Lord? 

What can I do right now that will lead me in that direction? 

How can I find more time to spend with Jesus each day?

The answers to these questions are very revealing and will help guide you.

I am the only One: A poem

“I can’t breathe…. I feel like my stomach is churning at a hundred k’s an hour and my vision is blurred.” 

This is just one example of the many times that I would experience panic attacks and deep feelings of anxiety. This was a daily experience for many years and I wondered if it was possible to live any different. Could I really break free? Was there hope? Often, I find that the biggest problem with mental illness in children is the lack of information or education about it. Contrary to the popular belief that a child should not and could not have a care in the world, statistics show that 1 in 35 young people between the ages of 4-17 experience a mental health disorder. Often, the young person may not realise that they have a mental health issue and often withdraw into thinking, “I am the only one.” I wrote this poem as both to raise awareness of mental health in children and also to share the hope that it is possible to heal.

I am the only one

Breathe short. Mouth dry.

Don’t know which one’s worse, it’s a tie.

Pain in my stomach and pain in my head.

The never ending cycle of fear and dread.

It was an intruder that lived in my mind, 

how it all started is even harder to find. 

But the day it got worse I felt that I died 

And then there was silence and finally peace of mind.

See, it didn’t come by mind over matter

Cause every time I did that I’d come back worse, 

always the mad hatter.

And saying I’ll do better tomorrow was more of a grim joke

A product of yesterday, one big ugly hoax.

But then in my lowest of lows,

When I finally rolled over from laying face down.

There right beside me, was a familiar face,

There, on the ground, was the Son of man. 

His face so familiar, I was sure I’d seen it before.

That’s right, I had! through a tiny window, while behind a tightly closed door

What would he say to me, I wondered 

As conscience became alive though my thoughts blundered. 

But no words escaped his lips. He sat with me in my darkest moment. 

never condemning, just sitting.

I didn’t feel anything. I had felt so much until I was numb

But this man stirred something in me, the face of the One.

Who endured so patiently, suffering and pain,

Who lived a life of toil, without material gain.

He knew what it was like, to suffer with excruciating pain,

All through the night. 

He’d sweat drops of blood, and prayed alone

He knew it all, but without a single moan

No complaint, no lashing out, no turning back

He submitted to the Father

‘Cause his pain was to remove mine. 

His suffering was so that I would have more time

To turn around, to make a change 

To have peace of mind and true love.

As he sat by me not only that day, but as long as it took

Till I was able to lift my head, even just a little.

Until finally I was able to say “Lord, I surrender” 

and he changed me that day.

I am still tempted by fear and despair

I sometimes feel it, tugging at my hair

But the truth of God’s word keeps shining a light

Even though the dark is too dark and the night, too-night. 

The man Jesus, traded his life for mine

All I did was believe, I knew it was real this time

Truth reinforces, the mind enslaved

The mind that resorted to avoiding, 

a side effect of the relief I craved. 

The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,

He repeats to me daily and I sit amazed and listen,

Eyes closed, quiet mind, 

breathe is calm, a new normal, I find

Heart restful, words of life,

He speaks and I hear,

Nothing but love.

Jump in the deep end! It’s worth it…

I was recently chatting with a friend about the joys and in their opinion, mostly woes of canvassing. If you have not heard of canvassing before, it is basically going door to door in a neighbourhood selling, in this case, books. It is a very challenging and exciting way of working and if the idea of knocking on stranger’s doors while having 30 seconds to explain why you have knocked on their door and quickly think of how you would sell your books to that particular individual sounds awesome to you, then my friend, you are a canvasser! If the idea of knocking on a complete stranger’s door while having to juggle all the aforementioned things sounds completely terrifying as well as possibly death incurring then you my friend, are not alone. Although not exactly public speaking, the fear that is often associated with the act of door knocking can be that akin to public speaking which is a common phobia ahead of death, spiders or heights. As my friend and I spoke about this, they mentioned, “Why would anyone subject themselves to such an activity that places you so far out of your comfort zone?”

This question got me thinking a little bit more on why we do venture out of our comfort zones. Why is it that we knowingly place ourselves in difficult, scary or overwhelming situations knowing the discomfort that will come from them? We are rational beings after all with the ability to exercise our free will. Is it because those who do venture out actually find something that is greater than all the perils, dangers and fears that they could possible experience? The answer, as you would probably have assented to is, yes. After all, we love hearing of daring adventurers, death defying feats and the prince overcoming the dragon to rescue the princess in the tower. The fact is that on the other side of our comfort zones, we find the answers to our questions and our purpose in life. We find new energy, joy and others who are also on a quest for personal growth and expansion. The leap outside our comfort zones and the daring attitude is what has brought innovation and the greatest of discoveries because people have seen the incredible value that comes from laying aside oneself and venturing out into the unknown.

My first experience canvassing went something like this. We learnt about canvassing one morning and then were sent out with our books and a somewhat memorised script for what we were going to say at the doors. For a person who had only recently begun getting used to public speaking, in small audiences mind, this was definitely taking it up a notch. Make that ten! I mean, the possibilities for utter and absolute embarrassment, rejection and failure were enormous! The more I thought about all the possible things that could go wrong at someone’s door the more afraid I became. How badly could I really mess up or worse, what if they rejected me? What if they slammed the door in my face while yelling at me? I think it’s funny now how scared I was back then about doing canvassing but believe me, it was not funny then. Considering the canvassing activity was a required component of my studies and that I had knowingly signed up for this experience, I knew I had to keep going back. So how could I deal with being afraid every day? The only answer for me was to pray and to start believing that I was capable of doing canvassing. I had to start believing that it was not about me and how I felt, but about truly caring for the people who would buy our books and for who we would be praying for and with. I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in this way, so that I could actually learn about canvassing and improve. A lot of prayer went into canvassing that first month. Every day I would decide to go canvassing but the fear was still there. Every day I had to pray for courage and strength to be able to see past my fear and focus on the task at hand.

I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences of my life and improved my confidence, ability to speak and taught me a valuable lesson in trusting in God. The experiences that I had every day, the people I was able to meet, all worked together to bless me and my canvassing partner in some way.

Three years down the track, I continue to canvass when I get the opportunity and nowadays, I assist with coaching youth on how to do it. I am able to stand in front of them and say, “Yes, you might be thinking this is not for you, but if you will give it a real go, step out of your comfort zone, face your fears, I know, it will be worth it. I know, that this will be valuable to you.” Like I said in the beginning, not everyone is afraid of canvassing. It comes easily to some and to others, it is a way of quickly learning lessons that will be priceless in life. Being able to place ourselves in situations that we know are healthy but will require stretching is one of the most useful abilities that we should cultivate. Because the truth is, that we were created for more than what we currently think or feel. We are capable of the most amazing things if we will believe that we have the best help by our side and jump in the deep end. We both know, it’s worth it.

Phillipians 3:14 “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

 “One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” ―Abraham Maslow

“Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not. When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it’s almost always due to personal growth.” ―John C. Maxwell

Autographed

Have you seen Leonardo Da Vinci’s autograph on paintings? Or Elvis Presley’s? The fact that such a famous or talented person signs something makes the object full of value and often worth a lot of money. These works of art are usually called masterpieces and placed in beautiful museums for all to enjoy.

We ourselves are also works of art! But not only are we works of art, we are signed by the greatest, artist the universe knows! The signature goes something like this… “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” Jeremiah 31:33. What is God’s law? If we take a few moments to search this out we will find that God’s law is his signature, not as an arbitrary rule book that he commands us to follow but with it, he tells the universe who made us and to whom we belong. When God’s law speaks love, mercy, goodness, freedom and respect towards others, we know and understand that this is the character of God. We know that we are sons and daughters of God and therefore, we have infinite value. Knowing God’s signature and being able to recognize it allows us the freedom to trust that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and that God wants to be intricately woven into the daily fabric of our lives (verse 16). 

We are God’s masterpieces signed by his own hand. This is a forever reminder that the one who placed that signature on us is also able to reach in and heal, restore, rebuild and energise with love and power from the Holy Spirit. We are described as a temple that holds the most precious gifts that God has given us. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) As a signed masterpiece, it is no wonder that we are told that we are temples, houses for the gift that produces the best results in our lives. Results such as ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;’ Galatians 5:22. 

God’s signature on ourselves is a fact, like knowing that $100 is still $100 even if you found it in the mud. But recognizing that fact, is our choice, and allowing God’s spirit to work in us and through us is another choice that we need to make because that is one of the reasons we are wonderfully made. Let’s choose to believe that we are precious in God’s eyes, choose to believe that we were created for more than we can possibly imagine and choose to believe that God is closer to us than we know for he wants to live in us.

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself 

any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go. …. “Oh the Places You’ll Go” Dr. Seuss

Is your house on fire?

I think many of you can probably relate to what I’m about to share. When life gets busier and more rushed, I tend to cull things from my life in order to make more time for those things that are scrambling for attention. The problem is that many of those things tend to be the good kind of things that are not urgent…. but soooo important! One of those things that I cull include meaningful catch ups with friends, exercise, getting enough sleep (can you relate? lol) and bible/prayer time. I wish the last part was not true but it is. I’ve wondered so many times how the best things that I should be doing end up being pushed over to accomodate something that ‘needs’ to get done because it is so ‘important’. I add the inverted comas because, normally the things that stress me out or are clamouring for my attention happen to be demands that come from outside sources like work, school, uni etc. 

Now, the normal thought process to me sometimes goes like this, metaphorically speaking…

 “If I don’t turn off the fires that keep popping up, then the whole house will burn down.”

And so, I continue to take my little bucket and run back and forth between the faucet and the house. This soon gets exhausting and I become more and more tired and I wonder if the house will burn down anyway.

But then, (and it’s a miracle how this one thought pushes through the rest) another thought manages to softly come through, “Ask for help”.

What? “But I need to save the house, if I stop, it will burn down!”

Again comes the gentle thought, “Ask for help”.

What a simple, yet often counterintuitive idea! I have a million things to do and the one most important thing to do, the thing that will bring comfort, strength and back up is to ask for help.

That is one of the ways that I have begun to slowly see prayer and bible study, especially in the middle of the crazy, busy schedule, or the difficult, internal battle that happens to be in every ones lives at one point or another.

I am so quick to ‘help’ myself that I miss the bigger help I can get from my Heavenly Father. He calms fears of failure, and refreshes my heart and mind when I feel overwhelmed and overworked. It doesn’t happen straight away sometimes. I usually have to stop and think carefully as to where, and why I am headed the way I am. And then, God asks me to confide in Him. He asks me to give him my plans and if I am willing, he will either give me a completely, new, upgraded plan. Or, He will tweak mine so that it is better or so that I learn something from it. Either way, I am trying to learn, I am trying to have courage despite my doubts, I am trying to speak faith when I am struggling and lean on God each day a little more. I want to be able to immediately trust that when I do the things that are ‘most’ important, they will carry me through the urgency and out of the spin.

Proverbs 3:5, 6 (ESV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.