Do you want what’s good for you or not?

I took a sick day last week. It was a beautiful day outside, blue sky and sunny, with birds chortling, even though it was the first day of winter. I sat in bed with a stuffy nose and my cup of tea, and as I looked out the window I realised how full and whirring my mind had been over the last few days. What I really needed was to re-centre, to lay out several aspects of my life before God and work out what He wanted.

As I reflected on something in my life that I’d promised, only days earlier, to lay down before him, I found myself praying ‘Lord, you and I have been at cross-purposes on this one…’

Almost immediately, the thought hit me: If you and God are working at cross-purposes, then you’re working against yourself.

How is it that I consistently forget that God wants only good things for me; that His ways are perfect and that His burden is designed to be light, not heavy?

Only minutes before this thought, as I looked out into the bare branches of the tree outside my window, the song had come to mind, ‘be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.’

What a deep comfort this should be to me. How quickly I should hasten to line my will up with his knowing that he asks for no sacrifice or step of obedience that will not ultimately lead to my good.

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But I’ve been patient for a long time!

573785_35739861950403bcce628b84f7b54513_largeDoes anyone else have things that they’ve been praying about for a long time?

For ten years I prayed that God would heal me from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For even longer I’ve had a desire to get married. For a lifetime I’ve been praying for unsaved family members.

Sometimes God answers prayer quickly, but sometimes, as I found yet again the other day, the Still Small Voice says to me ‘Sarah, be patient and trust me.’

I must confess, I responded with an indignant lament: ‘But God, I’ve BEEN patient… for a really long time!’

It felt like a valid point. How could God still ask for patience when I had already waited so long. And therein I discovered my error. Patience and waiting are not the same thing. It was quite possible that I could have waited for something for ten years and yet never actually been patient.

I looked the word up:

Patient: bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger or the like.

It turns out that patience is an attribute that still needs great cultivation in my life.

It’s funny how God reminded me to be patient and trust. For the Christian, the two must go together. How can I bear hardship and delay with great fortitude and calm? Because I know that my God, who holds and ordains all things, can be trusted to bring me that which is good, in His perfect time.

Do we even know whom we voted for?

2016-07-04 20.14.47Australia is awaiting the drawn-out verdict of our election. The probable hung parliament is an unsatisfying result confirming fears that Australians either don’t know what they want, or don’t have confidence in anyone to deliver.

A big part of the problem is that most of us don’t really know whom we’re voting for.

This became mind-twistingly clear to me chatting to both my ‘leftie’ and right-wing friends and trying to reconcile all of their opposing views based on contradictory evidence.

It was daunting to think that as an educated person, I had next to no chance of figuring out what would be good for our country. I wasn’t sure there was any information I could trust.

Were the candidates really whom their websites portrayed? Could party policies be taken at face value or were there hidden agendas that I could never support? Was there truth or merit in any media reports? Do any of us have any idea what is actually going on behind the scenes of our country in defence, or international relations or economics or anything?

As I watched the election count ‘barracking’ for the party I thought I wanted to win, a friend jokingly reminded me that it probably didn’t matter anyway:

Whoever the Illuminati want to get in will get in.

Let’s hope that’s not the case, but either way one thing is still true: God knows who will get in, and whether the world goes to pot or not, He’s got the end game covered.

When I don’t get what I want and it feels like an existential crisis.

fussing-crying-complaining_2397598There’s something I want. I don’t need it, but the more I think about having it, the more I want it. It costs a lot of money, but last night, it looked like God was going to let me have it. It looked like I was going to be blessed with a really good deal, and like the spoilt child who suddenly finds a lot of love in their hearts for their parents when they’re getting what they want, I found it easy to praise God for His goodness to me.

Suddenly life was looking good. I felt myself basking in God’s favour. I saw God blessing me even though I didn’t deserve it.

And then this morning, it was all gone, and sadly so was my joy; and tragically so was my trust in God’s goodness.

It reminds me of this quote from the funny clip below by Louis CK, which is sadly far too relevant for my generation: ‘How quickly the world owes us something we knew existed only 10 seconds ago.’

How quickly my hope in God becomes dependent on Him doing things my way.

How quickly I allow material goods to have a defining influence on my happiness.

God has blessed me abundantly. But sometimes I don’t get what I want, even when it does seem that He has orchestrated all the stars to align to give it to me. How long will I allow my relationship with him to be dependent on His gifts to me?

Do you keep promises to yourself?

little-boy-on-bike_19-129712

We all love people we can trust. As a kid, I could always trust my dad to keep his promises. He’d even keep promises he hadn’t officially made. Sometimes in the morning, we’d ask him, “Dad, can we go for a bike ride tonight when you get home from work?” He’d inevitably respond with some variant of “We’ll see” but more often than not, when he got home, he’d tell mum “I promised the kids I’d go bike riding with them tonight.”

Things like that have a lasting impact on kids. You respect people whom you can trust. But can you trust yourself?

I was talking to my class this week about goal setting. It is often the case that in order to get to where you want to be in life, you have to have a plan. But more important than having a plan, is having the ability to stick to it.

I asked the students: If you promise yourself that you’re going to do something, do you actually do it?

Making promises to myself is something that I take pretty seriously. It’s hard to respect a person who doesn’t deliver on their word, so how can we have self-respect if we’re constantly letting ourselves ‘off the hook’ when we’ve previously determined to do something?

If you want to be a trustworthy person, you’ve got to keep your promises, and not just those you make to other people. If you tell yourself you’re going to do something, do it!

Ducks Don’t Need Satellites

smallThere’s a song I really like by Kate Miller-Heidke called ‘Ducks Don’t Need Satellites.’ Weird name for a song I know, and the lyrics don’t do much to redeem it from obscurity, but despite that, or maybe because of it, it really resonates with me.

She croons that ‘ducks don’t need satellites… they probably don’t know they’re up there… they most likely think the sky ends blue.’

When I need to pray about something that is really weighing on me, I take a walk down by the river near my house. I sit on a footbridge and look out at the water and the trees and the ever-present ducks.

While my life is in turmoil, theirs never is. They are not bored, or lazy; they’re busy but it’s a calm rhythmic type of busy. I look at them, and I wonder if, somewhere in the simplicity of their minds, they believe in God

Matthew 6 says  to ‘look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.’

I feel a sense of calm as I look at the ducks, who are provided for daily by a God they likely have no capacity to conceive of. I see the trees which stand tall and strong, roots deep in the earth, nourished by a system set up by their creator… and it makes me wonder if we might be better off if we didn’t need satellites either.

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.