When fear sits beside me…

I’ve always struggled with fear. In fact, every big change in my life, even those that have been the greatest blessing, has been accompanied by fear. I was afraid to start University, and afraid to launch into my teaching career. I felt fear sitting beside me as I contemplated buying my first house and I still feel it niggling in the pit of my stomach every time I travel.

I know I’m not alone. Fear is part of the human condition, but let’s not believe that it’s unconquerable.

Carrie Fisher is quoted to have said “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action.”

Inspiring as I find this quote, the Bible does one better. It tells us that we do not need to be afraid.

The other night I was reading Psalm 27. This is the first section of Scripture that I ever memorised as a child, but this time it spoke to me in a new way.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

There are three clear reasons in this text that remind us why we don’t need to fear. First, the Lord is our light; he shows us the way. Second, the Lord is our stronghold; he anchors us with purpose and security. Finally, He is our salvation; the end-game is won and our eternity is sealed.

What can mortal man do to us?

What I would tell my student-teacher self

I’m working with a pre-service teacher at the moment, which has caused me to reflect on my own days as a prac student.

How far I have come!

My first teaching placement occurred in the fourth year of my degree, and I soon thought I’d made a terrible mistake. The enormity of the job overwhelmed me. I was staying at the school until after dark every night and then going home, anxious and feeling unprepared for the day to come.

I distinctly remember lying in bed one night, with thoughts and worries rushing chaotically through my head, praying for rest and sleep. I remember praying through Scripture, trying to get some rational perspective, reminding myself that the things of this world are temporary (lesson plans and unit plans would pass away!)

I didn’t sleep all night.

I feel for that young woman, all those years ago. I wish I could sit beside her on the side of the bed and tell her that I’m still in the job ten years later. That I can’t remember the last time I lost any sleep over work related issues, and that lessons flow out of me now with hardly a thought.

But I can’t tell her that. I can only remember, today, to trust Jesus better than I did back then. To take on the advice of Hudson Taylor, and, looking to the face of Jesus, determine that ‘whatever did not agitate the Saviour, or ruffle His spirit, was not to agitate mine.’

 

I’m 30, so I only do what I’m good at (or: Swing Dancing out of my comfort zone.)

jon-heder-can-still-do-the-napoleon-dynamite-danceI went to a swing dancing class.

I signed up a month ago in a moment of impulsive bravery. While learning to dance has been on my bucket list for ages, I’d never been courageous enough to take the plunge.

The night of the class crept up on me faster than I’d expected. Driving in, I could feel the nerves buzzing through my body and had to actively concentrate on calming myself.

I was surprised how scared I was. As a kid, I was the nervous type, wrapping my comfort zone around me like a fleecy blanket, but I’ve come so far since then! I’ve traveled the world and jumped out of a plane and I’m no stranger to arriving at a party by myself. And yet, here I was, ready to bail on a simple dance class.

My friend was surprised to see me so nervous, and I realized how protective we can be of ourselves as adults. I’m usually a fairly confident and self-assured person, because I usually only choose to do things that are in my comfort zone. Anything that requires coordination (or any kind of team sport) terrifies me, so for most of my adult life, I’ve avoided it. And here I was, about to clumsily step on the feet of a dozen strangers.

Turns out it was far less scary than I’d thought and I’m definitely keen to go back. I keep hearing the phrase ‘get comfortable with being uncomfortable.’ Maybe it’s time I did.

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(Apparently I’ll be like this in no time.)

 

 

I’ve got 99 problems…

IMG_603953887545918Unfortunately this meme is too often reminiscent of my life. In fact lately, I’ve come face-to-face with the fact that when my life feels like it’s spinning out of control, it’s usually mostly in my head.

Now my head is a very real and complex place, so it’s not like that realization suddenly solves all my problems, but it does help to put some things in perspective. It also helps to find my solution.

See I might have 99 problems, but I have one solution.

When I don’t understand myself or I’m anxious about other people or I can’t seem to control my circumstances, there is one place that is my quiet eye in the storm. There is one place where I’m the most real version of me; a place where the crazy woman with her 99 made up problems fades away.

When I’m alone, on my floor, with my Bible.

When I’m reading the words of my Anchor within the veil and remembering that I was not made, primarily, for here.

It’s a comforting thought to know that the wild, heady confusion has a resting place.

The anti-butterfly effect

UntitledYou know why I often find it so hard to make decisions? It’s because I have this innate fear that I could somehow screw up my life. It stems from something called the butterfly effect.

We all know it. It’s that idea that the smallest decision could potentially have life changing consequences.

What if I don’t go to that party and the love of my life was there?

What if I drive through the back streets instead of the main road and someone runs a give way sign and hits me?

What if I take this job over that one and it makes all the difference in my career?

What if I go on a mission’s trip?

What if I stay home?

What if I marry him?

What if I don’t?

We so often live in fear that our lifelong happiness could hang on our next decision.

But guess what?

It doesn’t.

We’ve been doing a series at church about decision-making and the will of God, and as I was sitting there one night I was struck by the amazing reality of what governs my life.

It’s the anti-butterfly effect.

I can’t screw up the end game.

And my happiness isn’t dependent on circumstance.

Sure I can make dumb decisions and they can have consequences, that’s just common sense, but I can’t screw up my life, because my life is hid in Christ.

He is my anti-butterfly effect because He’s promised to work all things for my good.

How ‘gay’ is killing creativity

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A while back I was horrified when one of my female students yelled across the classroom to one of the boys, ‘You should be gay!’ The boy, somewhat taken aback, asked her why.

‘Because you’re into music stuff and choir and all that,’ was her response, and a part of me cried inside for the ignorance and judgmental nature of teenagers.

A big part of my grief was this: that our incessant need to label people and define them by their sexuality is killing creativity in boys. Things that were praised in bygone eras, acting, music, composing and self expression through writing and poetry, have become defining symbol’s of a man’s sexuality. So many talented boys, growing into men, are afraid to express themselves lest their sexuality be called into question.

It is a tragedy for the arts, and a tragedy for humanity.

We’re reading To Kill a Mockingbird in year 11 at the moment, and Scout’s comment is really resonating with me: ‘I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.’

We need to stop defining people by their sexuality, and even more, we need to stop using these labels as a derogatory way to cut people down.

As Australians, we’re not great at celebrating talent, but we need to change that. Let’s start with letting boys be creative, lest we kill the passion of our future Mozarts, Shakespeares and Da Vincis.

How can I trust God when He gives no guarantee things will get easier?

cliff-drop-warning-sign--information_19-133742Anyone who has come face to face with the call to trust God in the midst of suffering will understand these feelings of trepidation.

The Christian, never having been promised an easy life, is still supposed to trust God, knowing that He may lead us into hardships. Sometimes it feels like you’re standing at the top of a cliff, fearfully putting your trust in someone who may well push you off, against your wishes and with no warning.

I remember wrestling with this during one of my most unwell times. ‘How can I trust someone who may allow me to go even deeper into this pit of suffering?’ It’s a very real question. If I can’t trust a God who loves me to protect me from what I fear most, then what can I trust Him for?

Sometimes I think we forget what it means to be a Christian. It means that we’ve been crucified with Christ. Crucified! We have given up all of our earthly rights in the hope that we can be restored to relationship with God; that we have a home in heaven; and that all things will, ultimately, work together for our good.

We do not chiefly trust in God to make our lives easier. We surrender our lives, to share in His sufferings, because we believe it is the greatest possible trade we could make. Our trust is in God, not for earthly pleasures, but for the glory that will one day be revealed.

Is there a Greater Reality?

dreaming-in-the-grey-reality-1136764-mThis is a question that has changed my life. I think most of us go through life defining our reality by what we can see and touch. We assign levels of reality. Tangible objects are the most real, followed by feelings and then ideas. That which is spiritual is often designated a position in the outskirts of what we deem true reality.

The Christian is called, however, through the renewing of their mind, to alter their perception of reality. We must perceive that which is spiritual, as described by the Scriptures, to be equally as much of a reality, if not even more so, as that which we see and feel.  We are called to live not by sight, but by faith.

This changed my life when I realized that the truth of the Scriptures must override my earthly perception of reality.

When my feelings tell me I’m afraid, they are intense. They claw for a prime position in defining my reality, but as a Christian, fear does not need to be my reality. When I read the scriptures I learn that the Spirit within me does not fear, and therefore, fear does not have to have a hold on me. Acknowledging this as a greater truth and ‘even more real’ than my feelings brings liberation.

Our reality must no longer be defined by what we see, but what we know by faith. It’s radical. To the unbeliever it’s absurd, but as they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.