Monday, March 30, 2020
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Donna Burke

Finding your confidence

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Insecurity: an uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; a lack of confidence; feelings of self-doubt, self-consciousness and instability.

Ever found yourself questioning whether you really have any skills or talent? Feel disappointed by your own reflection? Have a mental list of all the things you’d like to change about yourself? Perhaps you’re scared to find yourself in a large group, and if you do, you’re sure the crowd is silently passing judgment. Do you compare what you have, and what you don’t have, to those around you? Feel unwanted, unpopular, different? Are you hoping, and maybe even striving, to be someone other than who… you… are?

Of course, I want to confidently shout, ‘no, not me!’, to each of those questions, but the truth is, I’d be lying.  And if you are really honest with yourself, I’m sure there are one or two that make you whisper ‘yes’ too.

Why? Because insecurity is the most common, undiagnosed killer of dreams, potential, hope, and sadly – many relationships the world over. And its roots run deep.

Past traumas, abuse and family unit breakdowns can lead to present day insecurities, as can rejection by a loved one, role model or authority figure. Even something as small as a miscommunication, an unresolved misunderstanding of something said or implied, can cause a person’s confidence to quickly fade.

My self-doubt resulted from my childhood. Combine an overly critical parent who always expected me to do better despite my best efforts, with the fact that I was an underprivileged, skinny, acne faced, teen’ with wild hair, thick glasses, crooked teeth and braces, and you can imagine my school years were hard.

Your experience may have been similar, or maybe you were on the other side of the equation? You were popular – always defined by your looks, your grades, your brand-name clothing or your sporting prowess. Yet this success became your identity, created an obsession for perfection within you, and you now battle a fear of failing to meet everyone’s expectations of you and your future.

Can The Battle Be Won?

It’s natural to be filled with a whole host of insecurities, especially in a modern world that thrives on pushing dieting techniques, anti-ageing solutions, get-rich-quick schemes and online self-help courses. There are magazines, television shows and an overload of social media that will happily encourage you to be anyone other than who you are. But is this overwhelming access to information and photo-filtered images really our downfall, or has mankind been desperate to be more, acquire more, conquer more, since the beginning of time?

If you take a quick look through the Bible or ancient texts, it won’t be long before you find story after story of people cheating and deceiving one another or falling short of their potential, because they were filled with insecurity.

Look at Cain, one of the first inhabitants of the earth. Comparing himself to his younger brother, Cain felt ‘less than’ and murdered Abel in a jealous rage.

So, if insecurity has always been part of our human story, can the battle really be won?

Being Confident In Who You Are

Yes, it can!

Look at the lyrics of this beautiful song by musician Lauren Daigle: 

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know
You say I am loved
When I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong
When I think I am weak
You say I am held
When I am falling short
When I don’t belong
You say I am Yours
And I believe
What You say of me
I believe
The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity

How true this is! While the world shouts at us from all directions, demanding we define ourselves by our every success and failure, there is another voice, a quieter voice, that calls out something different.

When I am disappointed by who I see in the mirror, He says I am beautiful, hand-crafted and one of a kind [Psalm 139:14].

When I feel unworthy and useless, without any gifts or talents, He says I have been given everything I need to thrive, all I must do is believe it [1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Romans 12:6-8].

When I begin to look at what others have and feel so small and out of place, He reminds me that He has good plans for me too, I just need to love Him, trust Him and let Him lead [Romans 8:28].

He is Jesus. He is our Father, our Friend, our Wise Counsellor and our Sovereign King.

Find Your Freedom

Although I’ll still have the occasional moment of self-doubt, it is fleeting. For when I take my eyes off myself and place them on Jesus, the only One that is without fault, I recognise the insecurity for what it is. It’s my voice, not His. Then I remind myself of who I am and whose image I am created in, and I get on with it. As simple as that.

The plans He has for me… and YOU… are grand, and I don’t want to waste a moment entertaining lies or thoughts of things I can not change. I want to be confident, I want to be brave, I want a life of adventure and freedom from negative thinking. And I can have it because He said, and I now believe – that I am gifted, I am purposed, I am unique, and I am wonderfully made! And do you know what… SO ARE YOU!

If you’d like to learn more about Jesus, the one who can free you from the weight of insecurity, click on the link below and we’d love to share with you.

How do you forgive yourself?

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Have you ever walked through an airport after a long flight, made your way through to customs and even though you had nothing to declare that you shouldn’t have, still felt guilty as if you had? You’re not alone – many people feel the same way. The question is why do we feel this way? I think it has something to do with us needing to feel like we have a clear conscience. Just as we desire to have happiness, a purpose and to feel loved, we want to feel blameless too. Guilt is an emotional response that tells us that something isn’t right! The good news is, we can fix it and feel better about ourselves again. Whether we feel we have done something, said something or just witnessed a cruel act and did nothing – we all long to feel unburdened by such things. Before we look at how we can do so, here are some symptoms of guilt that you might recognise.

Shame

Embarrassment or shame are generally associated with symptoms of feeling guilty about something. This can be experienced privately or publicly. Some people carry it because of shame (privately) and/or embarrassment (publicly). Often, we are in desperate need to be forgiven by other people, God or maybe both. Here is some good news though – by talking to God you can begin the process of being free.  When we need to seek forgiveness, we should ask for it; what is the harm of that? The bottom line is – dealing with our feelings intentionally is the only way that we can truly feel lighter in ourselves.

Punishment

When I was a child I once played with firelighters that I took from my mother’s house. At first, I’d light them away from where I lived, and I wasn’t caught. Even so, I still felt guilty on two levels. Firstly, for stealing and secondly for playing with fire. On one occasion I got caught for lighting them on the doorstep of where we lived; you can guess what happened. When my mother discovered me, I was punished and unable to play-out for a month. Looking back, I deserved everything that I got, but now the guilt had turned into something more terrible. I think there is a lesson for us all here: if what we do makes us feel guilty, we should stop it right away because the consequences could be far worse.

Sickness

Several years ago, I learned of a woman who for 30 years had held her hand in a fist so tightly that it became normal to her. Just as she would walk, eat, or drink – holding her fist closed was an ordinary, all day, everyday thing that she did without even thinking about it. It emerged that she was in an emotional prison caused by giving away her baby son to be adopted when she was much younger. When the boy was an adult, he found his maternal mother and gave her a loving embrace. Unknowingly, to the clenched fist woman, her child had grown up happy and had had a good life – only possible because he had been given away to another family. There were no regrets, no tears, only gratitude and love for the mother he had been reunited with. The reunion changed things dramatically; within days the woman’s hand relaxed and was normal again. The guilt she had carried for years and years was gone.

Taking action

Guilt is an emotion that is rarely positive. If this is true, then why do we do we carry it when we could lay it down. The story of the woman with the clenched fist serves to remind us that love, forgiveness, acceptance or any combination of these is often all that we need to have a clearer conscience. Jesus offers all these things to those who truly say sorry with an honest heart.  Jesus said:

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Jesus understands us. He knows how we function, after all, He made us. He can certainly cope with anything that we may be feeling. Jesus can even help you to be at peace with matters that are even out of your control. If you are struggling with guilt, no matter what it is, Jesus can comfort us. When we are open to Jesus, the whole atmosphere of how we feel can shift.

If you would like to know more about how you can forgive yourself and live a life free from guilt, please click on the link. We’d love to help you.

You don’t have to be afraid

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What are you afraid of?

Fear surfaces at an early age. Initially, at around six months old, we become afraid of being separated from our mothers or primary caregiver. Later on, we become afraid of strangers or maybe the dark. Fear is not an unusual phenomenon; in fact, I think that everyone at some stage experiences being afraid. Sadly, that doesn’t make fear any easier to deal with.

About a year ago, I arrived home from a midmorning trip to the supermarket with my two youngest children. I’d been out just under an hour and was popping back to drop off my shopping before heading out to collect my eldest daughter from school. It was a ‘run of the mill’ kind of day but as I turned the key and walked through the front door, I heard a noise coming from inside the house. At first, I couldn’t quite grasp what I had heard but then I realised: Someone was in my home.

Not being sure what to do and suddenly filled with dread, I yelled. I obviously scared whoever it was because as I ran back to my car I heard a commotion inside and by the time I’d called my husband and the police had turned up, the house was empty. We were fortunate. It was a minor incident, and miraculously nothing was taken, but the intruder who broke into my home left something behind. They left fear.

The Fear Factor

Fear is a powerful force. It has the capacity to control and colour every area of our lives. Fear can impact our relationships, our careers, our self-esteem, our finances. Living from a place of fear is never a healthy place to be. Your fear will distort your view of life and your circumstances. It steals all sense of joy and destroys any peace of mind. If left unchecked, fear can spiral out of control and build walls that limit and restrict you at every turn. A life of fear is only ever going to be a half-life, not an experience of fullness or abundance.

Thankfully this is just one side of the coin. Fear is really only as powerful as we allow it to be and can be the motivation for good things. Fear can be the catalyst we need to affect change because it indicates that something isn’t right. Fear also reminds us that we possess something of value that can be damaged or lost, whether it be material possessions, loved ones or our own lives.

Following our break-in I had a choice to make. I could choose to be afraid, allow the fear I felt to convince me that we were helpless and vulnerable and that even though we were spared any damage or loss the first time around, next time we wouldn’t be so fortunate. Or I could realise that even though break-ins happen and we may suffer loss or face difficulties, we are not alone.

The root of the problem

So why are you afraid? Regardless of the nature of your fear, the fact that fear is present suggests a lack of confidence in the things, circumstances or relationships that your fear relates to. Maybe the source of your worry is less about the world you live in and more about where you are placing your trust?

The words, “Do not be afraid,” or, “Fear not,” appear 365 times in the Bible. The context of this encouragement varies but the frequency of those words tells me that God knows something about fear and its ability to affect people. While our trust is placed in things that are uncertain or capable of failure, fear will always be a part of the equation. If, however, our trust is in something that is unchanging and sure then fear loses its foothold.

The Bible encourages us to place our hope and trust in God. It tells us that we can take all our worries to Him because he cares not only about our fears but about us as well. The promise given isn’t that you won’t ever face hardship or that you will be immune from loss or pain but you are assured that everything you face will be used for good if your hope is found in Jesus. This is why in the Bible many times the words, “Don’t be afraid,” are closely followed by, “because God is with you”.

It’s easy to see why you are afraid when you are facing life and its challenges alone, but when you realise that you can face life with Jesus on your side, there is less uncertainty to feed the fear.

Losing your BFF

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Relationships are an important part of life but sometimes they can be as temporary as they are vital. It’s crazy how someone can be in your life for a really long time and then all of a sudden, they’re not. But I’m not talking about romantic relationship break-ups, I’m talking about friendships. When you’re used to always having someone around – that person you can always depend on – then all of a sudden, one day they’re not there anymore. It can hurt a lot. The reality you knew has now changed and you’re forced to adjust.

Life happens

I had a best friend for thirteen years. We did everything together and were completely inseparable. You never really saw one of us without the other.  We attended the same primary and high school and only stopped seeing each other daily when we started attending different universities.  As life sometimes goes, we became extremely busy and started making less time for one another because, well just because.

The truth is that we stopped prioritizing our friendship and started prioritizing everything else above it. It’s sad to say but there’s no other meaningful explanation for the end of one of the most important friendships in my life. We just went longer and longer without talking and then longer, became forever.  Sadly after 13 years of friendship, neither of us could swallow their pride and message the other first.

Live and learn

As hard as this journey was, losing a sister-like friendship, taught me a lot. I’ve learnt that not everyone is meant to be in your life forever, and that’s okay – some people are just in your life for a season.

It’s taught me that even though people aren’t going to be in your life forever, you shouldn’t treat them as if they’re temporary. You should still love them and care for them the same.

Best Friends Forever

It’s not easy (nobody said it would be) it’s actually quite difficult to give yourself to people.  Friends play important roles in our lives – they care for us, support us, nurture us and are there for us as we hurt, heal and grow.  A friendship breakup can make it so difficult for you to trust a friend again but thankfully, the Bible tells us that there is a friend who can be closer than a sibling and who will never leave us.  His name is Jesus.  Don’t get me wrong, a friendship with Jesus doesn’t take away all the pain that you experience in life.  He’s not an insurance policy against hard times or difficult circumstances but when you include Him in your life, you don’t have to go through things alone.  He can fill the void and ease the hurt that you’re going through.

If you have been carrying the pain of a broken friendship or would like to find out more about how you can know Jesus for yourself, please click on the link.  We would love to talk to you. 

What makes me a strong woman?

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The STRONGEST is the WEAKEST

“How am I ever going to be able to do this parenthood thing?” I asked with a tinge of emotion in my words as I said it.  It was such a loaded and sensitive question that I couldn’t believe it was even coming out of my mouth.  To say out loud that I was terrified of parenting my own children, terrified of becoming a mother, terrified to raise my own children, was something I had thought so many times but never said out in the open to anyone.  And in an instant the fears were out there, sitting in the air.

The crazy thing was that I was always incredible with kids.  I grew up helping to care for my younger sister, I babysat from the time adults would allow me, I worked in a preschool and then was a youth pastor for many years as I spiritually moulded other people’s children.   I loved other people’s kids and found great joy in caring for them.  I truly didn’t lack an ounce of confidence when it came to others’ children and youth and loved watching them grow and mature.

But the thought of MY OWN children created an inner panic that I had never felt before.  We had weathered years of people bugging us about when we were going to have our own kids but now the question was nagging at my own heart and soul.  I was completely uncertain about how we could possibly mould the mind and souls of our own children when we ourselves were so broken, so damaged, so incomplete, so lacking.  The longer I went on in life and faith the more I realized I still had to learn.  I was okay with that reality in my own journey, but to then bring my baggage into the life of a child was unthinkable.

So I sat at the table, sipping a coffee with my friend, a beautiful and spiritually alive woman with two kids herself, and asked the question that had been gnawing at me for so long.  HOW DO I DO THIS?

How do I raise my own kids when I myself have so much still to learn?

I continued with my inner fears and said, “I am just so terrified that I am going to mess them up!”

My friend laughed and said without a pause, “Well, of course, you will mess it up!  Of course, you are not enough!  That is exactly why we have Jesus and always point our children to Him.”

It was a lightbulb moment.

I was so in touch with my own feeble heart that I didn’t even recognize that our strength comes exactly from that place of fragile necessity for God.  It is because I am weak, and know I am weak, that I am strong.  What makes me strong as a mother is that I know I am nothing without Jesus and my strength is only moulded when it’s surrendered to Him in weakness.

This conversation changed my life and the revelation of it continues to change my heart again and again when I remember it.

We are strong mothers only because we realize, recognize and surrender our weaknesses to Christ.  We are strong mothers because we know it’s never about us, but always about God.  We are strong mothers when we let go of the idea that the answer is within us and point to the cross.

The strongest is actually the weakest.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

If you would like to learn more about this Jesus who can take your weaknesses and transform them into something of strength, then click on the link below.  We would love to share with you.

My mental health matters

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One evening in late 2014, I was sitting on my bed about to start watching my favourite show when I promptly burst into tears. Despite the fact that I was safe at home, surrounded by loved ones, my mind was full of fear. For years I had been unable to stop the “what if’s” rolling around in my head and on this particular night, I had had enough. I cried out to God, asking Him why He was allowing me to continue to live bound up by fear when He was more than able to bring me His peace. I felt angry, confused and frustrated.

Clear as a bell, the thought “you have OCD” popped into my head. Knowing that there was absolutely no way that I would’ve come up with that idea myself, I believe that God was prompting me. I thought, like most, that OCD meant being excessively tidy and incredibly organised, of which I am neither. But I was desperate, so I decided I would google it anyway. To my surprise, I suffered from almost every single one of the symptoms mentioned. This realisation had two effects on me, 1) great relief because finally I understood what was wrong with me and 2) an intense rejection of the idea that I had mental health issues.

It’s not just me

Mental health is vastly misunderstood, and the stigma runs deep. So deep, in fact, that even though God had directed me towards identifying my problem, it took me almost a year until I decided to actually go and get help. So many factors came into this, but the main ones were shame, fear, misunderstanding and lack of education. Even the fact that I thought I knew what OCD was, a hugely mistaken and harmful stereotype, had a role to play.

According to the World Health Organisation, depression has been found to be twice as common in women as it is in men. There are multiple reasons for this, such as that women face more sexual and domestic abuse than men, and tend to have less autonomy over their lives and their bodies. Though I have not faced abuse, I have still found myself susceptible to depression, usually due to the anxiety caused by OCD. In the Bible, we read that

“The thief (meaning the devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (NIV). – John 10:10

Finding peace in the chaos

During the years that I suffered severely from OCD and depression, it felt as if my peace and my ability to flourish and grow had been stolen and destroyed. I struggled with school work, social events and just getting up in the morning felt like a huge achievement.

Over the last couple of years, I have found tremendous healing and peace. The doctors say that OCD never goes away, that it can’t be healed or cured, but only managed. I believe that God has other plans! The Bible tells us that God IS our healer and that through Jesus we can be made completely whole again. Sometimes we forget what the rest of John 10:10 says,

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NIV).

Currently, I am down to half the medication I was previously on, and I have no symptoms of OCD or depression! I truly believe that Jesus has given me freedom and I believe that nobody needs to live in mental distress.

A helping hand

My story included both prayer AND doctors. Each story and walk with Jesus is profoundly unique, and I have heard from people who were healed in an instant and others who found healing through prolonged medical help and, of course, prayer. Stigma can often stop us from reaching out to doctors or professionals, but I believe that God is able to use various different resources to do His work within us, and that fear or stigma should never keep us bound in fear and pain.

The first step to an abundant and full life is a life with Jesus. There are some types of healing, deep and personal, that only He is able to do. There is a peace that only He can bring, as mentioned in Philippians 4:7

“the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

Allowing Him into your heart, to do the work and bring the peace that only He can bring, is where true healing begins.

If you would like to know more about healing through Jesus or have questions about knowing God, we would love to talk with you.  Please click on the link below.

Why I don’t carry the shame of being raped.

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How do you forgive yourself for something you didn’t do?  I’m a middle-aged woman now, a grandmother with enough years to look back on so that my perspective has truly changed.  It’s a perspective I wish I could take back in time to my much-younger self, a scared nineteen-year-old, the day after she was raped.  If I could do that, there’d be a whole lot I’d want to tell her, starting with, “You really are going to be okay”, but since that option is not open to me, I’m grabbing this opportunity to tell someone else instead.  Maybe that someone is you.

I have my own story of sexual violence, and it has two rapes in it, one at the age of 19, and one at 29.  I’m telling you so that you know I’m speaking from experience, not from imagination.  Sadly, all too many people have similar tales, and whether you’ve suffered abuse as a child, been attacked or raped, or anything like this, the effects are much the same.  This is something that hurts at a very deep level, at a spiritual level, and that’s why we need to talk about it in a spiritual way.  I want to talk about unmerited shame.

Hiding in the Garden – the problem of shame

In the Genesis story, when Adam and Eve become conscious of their sin and their nakedness, they immediately hide from God – futile – and make themselves coverings of leaves, which sounds hilariously futile.  Can you imagine trying to sew leaves together?!  But there they were, hiding from the One who made them, with whom they were perfectly comfortable – naked – just hours before.  As funny as the leaves seem to me, I recognize the feeling that made them do that.  That feeling is shame, and I am intimately conversant with it.  Shame is the feeling that overcomes us when we see our own sin – but it is also the emotion that overwhelms us when someone else sins and uses our bodies to do it.

And even when we know and love God, and have been comfortable with Him “in our nakedness” previously, sexual violence has a terrible way of pouring shame on us.  Normally, when we feel the conviction of sin, we bring that to Jesus, and we ask forgiveness, but how do you ask forgiveness for something you didn’t do? It’s easy to say, “You don’t have to – just forgive the perpetrator”, but anyone who has experienced this knows how very hard that is at the beginning.  Instead, faced with an overwhelming burden of shame, our human instinct is to go right back to that old Garden of Eden way of coping…  Hide, cover, be silent.

Turn on the light

Unfortunately, it is in the darkness and the silence that shame really thrives.  Even when we bury it, refuse to look at it, pretend it isn’t there, it grows under the surface, and one day, sooner or later, it breaks ground bigger than ever.  Don’t stay quiet (I would say to my younger self), tell your story to someone you trust, someone you can pray with.  Unbury it, let the light in, look that shame in the face and disown it because it is NOT yours.

It took me a decade to tell my mother what had happened to me – don’t wait that long.  Healing doesn’t begin until you start bringing this painful thing into the light.  Speak up, and speak as often as you need to.  Speak to yourself as you would to your best friend.  Acknowledge that the feeling of shame is just that – a feeling, and not a fact.  Recognize the enemy’s deception for what it is – a way to keep you in the dark and in the silence.

Nothing is wasted in God’s economy

With some things we go through, especially horrific things like rape and sexual abuse, it can be difficult to believe that all things really do “work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes”.  But I‘m a living witness to the life-changing, awe-inspiring ability of God to transform everything – yes, EVERYTHING – when we surrender to Him.  Who I am, what I am, and where I’m going, can never be again be defined by anything any man has done to me or ever could do to me.  I’ve discovered that it’s not my job to forgive and accept myself.  That’s God’s job. I just need to bring myself into alignment with what He says is the truth about me… that I am made in His image, that I am His child.  That He has my name written on the palm of His hand and that through His Son Jesus, I can live in a place of perfect relationship with Him.

It’s also not up to me to condemn or forgive the men who hurt me.  I’d like to forgive them, and I mostly think I have, but when it’s too much for me, I remind myself that ultimately, this is not on me, either.  There is no pain, no betrayal, no shame too big, that Jesus cannot shoulder it for you.  If you’re struggling with the aftermath of sexual violence, then I encourage you to start talking and ask for prayer.  Don’t try to carry this alone. God has a plan for you, and it includes healing and joy and restoration.

If you have experienced the abuse of rape, or are living with shame, and would like to find freedom from that burden through a relationship with Jesus, we would love to chat with you. Please click on the link below.

 

The women who shape me

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What a sacred thing it is to say I am surrounded by women who inspire me.

My grandmother, 92 years young with a lifetime of soulful wisdom to impart. My mother, a quiet and selfless hero who has walked a hard path but is using her scars to uplift others. Not to mention my girlfriends: the single ones full of zeal and ambition; the married ones striving to keep the romance alive after fifteen years of faithful matrimony; and the mothers tirelessly battling the strong wills of their toddlers. The middle-aged colleague who made the daring decision to leave her secure job of twelve years to pursue her dormant dreams. The close friend with majestic waist-length hair who shaved off every inch to raise money for her young nephew who is fighting a war with Leukemia, and the other who has been silently overcoming hurdle after hurdle as she lives and parents under the weight of a debilitating incurable disease. The Pastors wife who saw my struggles and has taken me under her wing. The mother of four from my hometown whose approach to parenting never fails to challenge me to be more present and intentional with my own three children. My dear sister of heart who frequently sells items from her own modest home to bless those who have even less, and not to forget Monica, the fuel station attendant whose beautiful daughter suddenly died of cancer six months ago, leaving her to raise her grandchildren in a township community while working gruelling twelve-hour shifts.

These women span different generations, cultures, countries and communities, but they are bound by a common thread – their trust in God to give them all they need and their outward love of others in response.

The women in my world

To my grandmother, who was born into the Great Depression, raised during the Second World War, and endured the loss of her beloved husband long before his time – God has granted her profound wisdom and endurance. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” – Galatians 6:9 (NIV).

To my mother, forced to work long days and forgo all luxuries to cover the debts of her wayward husband, wounded by his bitter words and adultery, yet faithful and sacrificial in nursing him in his dying days – Christ has gifted her strength and immeasurable compassion. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” – Isaiah 41:10 (NIV).

To my precious friend, an emergency nurse who works to restore life to those who have attempted suicide, burdened by the knowledge that her own teenage family member felt so deeply disappointed by life that he ended his – Jesus gives her courage and conviction. She is the very one who valiantly shaved her golden locks in support of her nephew and is a rare beauty inside and out. “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of … the Lord is finished” – 1 Chronicles 28:20 (NIV).

To the other, so generous with her limited time and money, so mightily in love with her husband and children, working and caring daily for others despite the degenerative disease that makes it painfully hard for her to see, talk and breathe – God gives her peace and assurance that He is indeed in control. “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” – John 16:33 (NIV).

To Monica, whose bright light cancer has tried to extinguish, so saddened by her loss and inability to pay her grandchildren’s school fees – Jesus bestows on her hope and comfort, using strangers to bless her with prayer and gifts. “Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you” – 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV).

The source of their strength

Through these women, and many more, I see the full, multifaceted reflection of Jesus Christ. I see His love, mercy, kindness, humility, parental heart and promises fulfilled. In both the small often overlooked details of their lives, and in their unmistakable trials and triumphs, I see Him. I see Him in their steadfast perseverance, in their refusal to give up despite their own circumstances and inadequacies. In the way they care far more about people, than they do about position or profit, I see Him there. I see Him in the tears they shed for others and I hear His voice in the prayers they cry out loud.

He lives in them and works through them, inspiring me every day to stand up, push on and be the change I want to see in my world.

Will you stop today, look left and right at the women around you, and admire them. Don’t compare them to one another or to yourself. Don’t look for their faults or failings in order to make them seem less and you feel more because that is something the fallen human heart will do naturally. But rather look with fresh eyes, just observe them without pretence or prejudice, and you’ll see His face.

Then will you turn to a mirror, look at your own reflection, smile wildly and don’t ever doubt it – Christ wants to shine through you too.

If you would like to know the strength that these women have found in a relationship with Jesus.  Please click on the link, we would love to talk to you.

Do your feelings matter?

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I don’t feel like it

We’ve all been there. Waking up on a Monday morning with a groan and realising that the last thing you want to do is go to work; or waking in the middle of the night to a crying child and despite knowing you need to get up and comfort them, feeling like you’d much rather stay warm in bed. Life is full of circumstances where your feelings don’t line up with actions you know that are right.

Feelings and emotions are an important part of life. We are created by God to have emotions and without them everything would be grey, dull and decidedly boring. Imagine never feeling happy or excited or loved. Even seemingly negative feelings, although not always comfortable, can drive us forward and motivate change when harnessed correctly. Today’s society has embraced the idea that feelings and emotions are necessary and should be considered important but there are those who feel that the emphasis on how we feel has become too pronounced and is causing more problems than it is solving.

Feelings, nothing more than feelings

Here’s the thing about feelings and emotions: While in many cases they are very real and valid, there are occasions when our feelings are nothing more than, well, feelings. We are emotional beings; we feel, sometimes deeply, but our emotions are influenced by our insecurities, our upbringing, our interaction with others, past experiences, and pretty much everything. Our feelings can also be fickle and over time can be subject to change. The fact is that just because you feel something doesn’t always make it true or right.

It’s important when dealing with how we feel that we are able to be objective, take a step back and measure our emotional response against something that is absolute. A person may feel that they are entitled to steal another person’s property because they need or want it, but the law of the land states that regardless of the feeling of the individual the action is wrong. It’s an absolute.

Feel the love

I know my husband loves me. He tells me often, shows me with his actions and is still hanging around after 11 years and 4 kids, so I reckon he probably does, but there are occasions when he may be quiet or withdrawn or just hangry (angry because he’s hungry) and I could feel less loved as a consequence, but I know that my feelings are based on a misconception and not the truth.

What are the facts?

Many people have a similar response when they consider God. They feel that He is disinterested or angry with them for some reason. They may feel that of all the attitudes God could have towards them, love is the last thing on the list. The Bible tells us that regardless of how we may feel, the truth about how God views us is very different.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again”

God loves you! He loves in a way you will never fully understand but it’s all-encompassing, far-reaching and completely unconditional.  Whether you accept this love or not, it’s still there, just as strong and deep.  But our choices can block us from experience this love for ourselves.  Unless we choose to accept the love that God has for us by embracing a relationship with Jesus, we can never fully know God’s love.

If you would like to know more or have any questions, please click the link below.

Jesus in the midfield

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In this world, there is a deception that teaches us that to be important you must be somebody in a position of leadership and influence; that you can’t be someone with any real worth or use unless you are a high-achiever or popular. This is simply not true. During the last month, we have witnessed an amazing World Cup made up of many football players, who may have been quiet on the pitch, but who still retained a level of respect from other players and fans by doing what they were called to do – and doing it well. There are held beliefs in our society that promotes this idea that you must be outwardly confident in your abilities if you are to be recognised also. However, there is merit from walking quietly, humbly and reaching for excellence in every task we are asked to complete.

Why should the goal-scorers get all the glory?

To win a game of football you need goals, and preferably, to score more of them than your opponent. Often it is only the Strikers that receive all the glory and all the attention.  A good team still needs a strong defence to smother any opposition goal opportunities, but how often are defenders celebrated? The point I am trying make is that we all have a part to play and no matter what part you play – you can still make a huge difference.

Today, there are ample opportunities for us to have an impact without having a high-ranking position. In work, in life and at home we can all be influential by being determined to take our responsibilities seriously. If you focus and are always stretching for excellence, you’ll always meet with success. The truth is that we all need to stop trying to be better than other people all the time but just focus on being better than the person we were yesterday.

Not all champions, seek after their own glory?

When Jesus walked upon the earth, he would only do what His Father in Heaven showed Him. He neither went after position or power, but instead, as it says in the bible – “he came to serve and not to be served.”

If you think this a bad deal for someone who Christians consider to be God, it doesn’t get any better for Jesus, as it says in the book of Isaiah that Jesus, “had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. “

Jesus does more than save.

If you had to play Jesus anywhere on a football pitch, apart from the Goalkeeper, which position would he best suit, do you think? I don’t believe he would have played as a forward, he would certainly not have been on the substitutes bench either. I believe his best position is a defensive midfielder where he would selflessly work hard without wanting any acknowledgement or glory for himself. And yet, his example and his excellence would be felt by every player and every fan in the stadium.

Jesus only lived for 33 years. In fact, only the last three years of his life are recorded, but what He achieved in that time is breathtaking when you consider that he walked humbly and by his own admission – came to serve. His life achievements can be simply summed up by the following verse, also found in the book of Isaiah:

“…he bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, was afflicted and as he was put to death, he was crushed by our sinfulness in order that we could have peace with God. And, by his wounds, we are healed.”

No drama, no dribbling

What should our response be toward Jesus, who died on a cross in the single, biggest act of love in history? The Bible says that it was for His pleasure that He gave His life so that ours could be saved and so that we could be made right in God’s sight again.

“We, all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned – everyone – to his own way and the Lord laid every sin on him [Jesus]…he was led like a lamb to the slaughter…and even poured out his soul to death so that He could make a way for us to re-connect with God. “

If you would like to know more about how you can be on Jesus’s team, please click on the link below, we’d love to have that conversation with you.

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