Wednesday, November 26, 2008

All You Need Is Love ... la la la la ...All You Need Is Love ...

This is another devotion I did with staff (with my elementary colleagues) this month. It had really cool active visuals, I have taken still shots so you can still follow them.

Recently I was doing some writing activities with my Grade 2 students. They were creating flyers about themselves. One of the sentence starters that I gave them was, "I am a great person to know because ..." Have a look at the following pictures to see some of their answers.

I was actually quite sad when i saw some of these responses. I had some very interesting discussions with my students, trying to get them to see WHO they are. My friend Kathy always says the following - and it is so true ...

Jesus gave us two great commandments. The first was to love the Lord God with all our hearts. The second?

Often this is problematic because we don’t always love ourselves. We aren’t comfortable with the way that we are wired.

Some of you don’t know that I am a musician – I was a music major at uni and I written songs for years. You might know some of my songs as many well known artists have recorded them. They changed them a little so recently, I released a new album – sort of a greatest hits one.

I referred to these songs a while back in a blog but perhaps you have forgotten them. Here are some of the more well known ones (along with artists who recorded them):-

Always on My Mind – Willie Nelson
"I am always on my mind … always on my mind"

You are So Beautiful – Lionel Ritchie
"I am so beautiful … to me … can’t you see?
I’m everything I hoped for … and everything I dreamed ..."

You’re Beautiful – James Blunt
"I’m beautiful … beautiful …"

Saving All my love – Whitney Houston
"Yes I'm saving all my love for me ..."

You are the sunshine of my life – Stevie Wonder

I got me Babe – Sonny and Cher

You’re the One That I want … Olivia Newton John and John Travolta

So all joking aside, this brings me to the other side of this coin - narcissism. Fancy word – what is it exactly? One dictionary I looked in, defined it as, “excessive self admiration and self centredness.” It can also be defined as an overestimation of one’s appearance and abilities and an excessive need for self admiration. Hmmm … is that the sound of clanging bells I hear in the distance … ding … ding … DING! It seems to me that this is the way that popular culture is moving. The cult of SELF. Hmmmm.

Let me illustrate this one for you. American Idol auditions are a primary example. How many people have you seen who in no way, shape or form can get near to singing in just one key … in fact, they can’t sing – PERIOD. When the judges tell them this, they are shocked, outraged and furious. Some of them even have their singing coach with them telling them that they are brilliant and the judges don’t know squat! They storm out with loud protests about how rude and incompetent the judges are … with their family, friends or vocal coaches trailing in their wake saying, “that’s right. Yeah. You’re brilliant. What do they know? …” A wee verse from Timothy (2 Tim 4:2) springs to mind … how people will gather around them those who will tickle their ears with the things they want to hear.

How do we find our balance in all of this? Jars of Clay have a fantastic song called Art In Me. There is a line that keeps repeating throughout the song, “see the art in me”. I love this. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s workmanship. When I looked up the greek for the word workmanship, there is an implication that we are his art pieces. Don’t you love that? We are God’s art pieces. When I was in downtown Chicago this summer I saw this fabulous sculpture at Millenium Park. When the artist created this, they used normal, every day people like you and me.

People who know art can look at a Renoir or Picasso and identify it by style. Likewise, they could hear an unknown Beethoven symphony and say, “Oh yes. No doubt. That one is definitely a Beethoven.” How do they know this? It’s because the essence of the artist is impregnated in their art piece. People should be able to look at us as God’s art pieces and say, “oh yes. That one is definitely a God one. No doubt about it …”

Now I want you to imagine a priceless work of art. Imagine someone gazing upon one a Renoir and taking their pen out and deciding to make some corrections or write all over it. Unfortunately, this is what happens with the beautiful art pieces God has made. People get out their yellow stickies and they start to label … they use powerful words and they stick them all over. Words such as reject … ugly … etc

How dare we do this? How dare we muddy up and damage that which God says is good. We have the power of life and death in our tongues. What labels do you put on your children? Many of you might even be thinking, “oh no. I wouldn’t do that. I know the power of words in their lives. So, lets turn your gaze inwards. What words do you speak over your own lives? Working with computers, I get to work with many teachers and I hear comments like, “oh I’m so stupid” or “I am just a loser with technology …” Be careful of your confession.” Who does God say you are?

Often our greatest weaknesses, can also be our greatest strengths. It all depends how we are looking? The words you see above … are words spoken over my life. All labels I have been given at various times. But what does God say? Lets remember to keep his perspective and to try and help our children see that as well.

The way to keep a balance in how we see ourselves is to remember that we are created beings. In fact, we can stand in front of the mirror in the mornings, look at ourselves and praise god for his work. David says in Ps 139 that His work is wonderful. Do you hear that - you are wonderful? Why? Because you are God's craftmanship. You reflect him. Remember that today as you walk through life ... and live under His smile. Know you are loved.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Intrepid Journeys ...

This is a devotion I did with our school wide staff last month. Some of you may be quite familiar with the themes here, but enjoy anyway.

The town where I grew up has great scenery. I love to hang at the beach, but we also have the Otaki Gorge and hills. Often we would take drives up the gorge. The scenery was stunning, but as a child I would freak a little. If I sat on the wrong side of the car, I would look out the window and at times there were sheer drops into huge ravines. Sometimes I would hold my breath and other times, close my eyes, but we always made it through!

Our lives are a journey. The road winds through many different landscapes … some breathtaking and some quite scarey! I want to talk to you about part of the journey I have been on in the last 18 months. For me to share this is quite personal and not entirely comfortable, but there have been some great lessons that have come out of it.

First of all, let me describe the landscape for you and then, I will explain some of the things I have been learning along the way. Just under 18 months ago (March last year), I flew home to my brother’s wedding. I took an additional day’s sick leave as things were not quite right in my body and I wanted to have it checked at home. I ran around doing a bunch of tests and then headed down to the wedding. Not long after getting back to Korea, my Mum phoned me and said there was a message on her answer machine from my doctor saying I needed to contact them immediately and go in urgently. Basically my tests had returned some really high levels of prolactin. Mum took the test results to her doctor to see if it was something I could wait until summer to deal with and he said I needed to deal with it immediately. So I went to Severance and after a bunch more tests, was diagnosed with a tumour on my pituitary gland. The tumour is benign and I have been having treatment for that for the past 17 months.

Then, in September 07, my niece Ruby was diagnosed with Leukaemia. If she could have a good kind of leukaemia, she has it (ALL). There is high success rate with ALL - when the child is 2 or over at diagnosis. In Ruby’s case she was 13 months old. So doctors are very cautious about her prognosis. For our family this was devastating. Cancer is a scary word for all of us, but we lost my Dad at age 49 to cancer, so it was even more scary. Ruby is doing well … I always think of my Grandfather when I think of her journey. We used to say how much longer in the way kids do, and he would always respond with. “Up. Down and round the corner!” That describes her journey to a T! Up, Down, and round the corner. She pushes on and there is such an amazing peace and positivity in that house. Your prayers are definitely felt. Thank you.

This summer, my body was still off and things were not going well. While travelling in Greece I contacted my mother and asked her to book me specialist appointments etc during the 12 days that I would be in NZ. I got to NZ late on the Thursday night, ran around doing a bunch of bloodwork etc on the Friday and then flew down to my Mothers on the Saturday. On Tuesday I went in to the see the specialist. She told me I was the whitest white girl she had ever seen and said that my blood work showed I was seriously anaemic. This has been an ongoing issue for me but it was the worst it has ever been. Basically, my haemoglobin (which is the red cells that push oxygen around your body) was 75. Under 90 is normally grounds for a blood transfusion but because of flying in just a week, it would increase blood clot risks so we did not do that. In addition, my iron stores were so low they could not even get a reading. My specialist sent me for more tests. The next morning, I got a phone call saying that I had to go back to the hospital for surgery as there were growths that needed to be removed. I was frightened (I don’t deal well with needles at the best of times) and asked if we could leave it to Christmas. Her response was that she would be negligent, there was no way she could leave me in the condition that I was in and that I would be in hospital in Korea within a month or two if we continued the way things were going. So, I went back for surgery. She could not do a long one because of the shape I was in, but it was enough to get me through to Christmas. The ongoing part of that journey is that I have to go home for a hysterectomy before Christmas. I had kind of reconciled myself to the idea that as I was pushing 40 and not in a relationship, I might never have kids. But now I know, there is a gulf between “might not” and ‘never” and to have the choice taken from me was quite devastating. I went through a wee angry phase and the last thing I needed to hear was the word adopt! I am an adopted child and very pro adoption, but it is not an easy process and it is a very different issue to dealing with loss of your fertility and all that brings.

So … that is my landscape, lets talk about the lessons I have been learning along the way.

1. Acknowledge Where You Are
We have a tendency to compare our roads to other peoples and then we don’t deal with the issues on our road! When I was diagnosed with my tumour, my first response was positive. I celebrated the fact that it was benign, I rejoiced that I had a doctor here who understood my need to ask questions and could take time to explain things to me. I was thankful that I could get the medication of my choice.

What I did not acknowledge for a while (because I was being positive) was the impact that this tumour was having on my life and it was huge. There were nights I did not sleep because my body would get on an adrenaline kick and be buzzing. The drugs were hammering me, making me exhausted and dizzy. Normally I am a sharp thinker and my brain was just fuzzy, I would loose track of things I was saying in the middle of teaching. Between January and March, this all just hammered me and took a toll. I went to Cambodia and asked friends to pray with me to have an encounter with God. I needed to hear from him. I had the most incredible time and it really helped me get my feet back under me.

2. Share your Burdens
How many times do your hear, “a problem shared is a problem halved”. As I was being hammered by my tumor and the meds, I did not feel I could share with my family. The main reason was because of Ruby’s sickness. I compared myself to her and thought of all she and the family were going through. My thinking was that I could not add a burden to my family. What could they do? I was here, they were in NZ and so it would be selfish of me. Wrong thinking. Our suffering or pain is ours and it is what it is. We deal with the things we need to. They are not invalid because someone else is going through it worse. Someone else will always be worse than us!

3. Thorns Are A Gift!
Our natural reaction is to holler and say get it out! Paul says, "My grace is enough; It's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness .."

"Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and BEGAN APPRECIATING THE GIFT (caps mine). It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness." (2 Cor 12:7 - The Message)

What have I learnt about wrestling and thorns? We don't like thorns. We don't like pain. We shy away from them and we plead with God to take them from us. We struggle, we wrestle, we fight. People, our thorns are GIFTS. Yes, you heard me right. They are gifts. They teach us that we need God. They reveal that we are crippled. They remind us that our strength is not enough. Ps 20:7 says, "some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God." The word trust (as in trust in God) comes from a hebrew word that is also translated as "remember". The word is "zakar" and it means, "call to mind". Basically the message is clear. Our thorns are gifts because they help us bring to mind who we should be leaning on. They help us bring to mind that we are not all powerful, strong and in control.

One final thought about thorns, Psalm 103 says, "you crown me with love and compassion". It is so true. But think about this, what crown did Jesus wear? If he wore a crown of thorns, surely we can accept the ONE that we are honored with?

4. We Are Never Alone
Our journey has twists and turns and even long dark tunnels! Dark times come to all of us … those seasons where we can’t see God, we can’t sense him and we cry, as Christ did on the cross, “My God, My God … why have you forsaken me?” I have heard many a sermon that says Jesus cried out because God turned his back on him. If you look back at the three gospel accounts that mention this scene, we do not find scripture that supports this. Could it be that Jesus in a moment of humanity, with the weight of the sin of the world on his shoulders, in the agony of the cross, immersed in darkness, could no longer see God? Could it be that in our dark times, when we lose the awareness of God, and it feels like he is a long way away, that he is actually right there with us and has not forsaken us at all?

Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” Jesus knows what it is like to be overwhelmed in the darkness and feel like God is a million miles away. He can empathise and understand me, when I am in this place. He has been there and he came out the other side. Even though Jesus felt alone, God was still there. The beauty of this scripture is in the next part: “let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Who is this God that we worship in our dark times? The one who sits on a throne of grace. The one who has walked in our dark places and is the light that shines in our darkness.

5. God Always Provides Anchors
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.
Hebrews 6:17-20

As I have reflected over my life, I have noticed that when storms come that could shipwreck my faith, God has always provided anchors. They are there if I will just look around and SEE. Of course he is our hope and our anchor but, the anchors that I am talking about are the things he puts in place to help me see Him, and hold on.

When I was about 14 or 15, someone gave me Isaiah 54 to meditate on. This chapter has been an anchor for me many times in life, and God has spoken to me again and again in different seasons through this passage. For me, it is a "life scripture". When I got to NZ in the summer, I stayed with my friends Craig and Annette. On Friday, I had a full day running around in the car, running errands, shopping etc. Before I left in the morning Annette gave me a CD of a friend talking and said I had to listen as it was excellent. So as I drove I listened. My friend was talking about worship in hard times. She touched on Isaiah 54, and it starts, "sing, o barren woman ..." The scripture was a call to worship even in times of great difficulty and fruitlessness. Could I have had a more perfect scripture with the circumstances facing me? While in Cambodia, God spoke very clearly through scripture to me about fruitfulness and abundance. While my outward circumstances would appear to mock that, I choose to believe that I will be a fruitful woman!

I have to smile at the anchors God put out for me in this season. "SING o barren woman. SING. Worship me. Focus on me and not the storm. Don't be afraid. Be Still. Peace child." Once again, he has gone before me, putting in place the anchors for me to cling to ... he has provided safety in the storm. The timing of that CD was amazing. God was not caught by surprise by this season in my life. He knew it was coming. He provided me with something to cling to as the waves grew.

This summer I did a bunch of reading and one book I loved was Mosaic, by Amy Grant. There is one story in there that really moved me. Amy was talking with a friend who was dying. She asked Amy, "do you know what the most important colour is in an artist's palette?" As Amy thought through the possible colours, she continued, "Child, it's black. Black is the most important colour for an artist. You see, without black, there is no depth. Without black, everything appears flat. But mix black with any colour and you can paint an object so real you want to reach out and touch it."

Amy went on to say, "in our lives, the darkest times, the days that are bleak and black, add depth to every other experience. Like the dark bits of colour in a mosaic, they add the contrast and shadows that give beauty to the whole, but they are just a small part of the big picture."

There is hope for your journey. Even though you may encounter some long dark tunnels, you are not alone, there is one who has traveled the road before, who knows the way and who will travel with you.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Out of The Mouth of Babes

Last Friday I was on outside lunch duty with the Junior and Senior Kindergarten kids. About 10 minutes before the end of lunch, a wild windstorm started. Tree branches were whipping back and forth ... debris was flying everywhere and children were stampeding around the playground screaming, "it's a hurricane" ... and, "it's a tornado!"

In the midst of the screaming and the chaos, Jenna ran up to me. Breathlessly, she looked at me and said with the utmost confidence, "I can stop this storm. I know how." Of course, she engaged my curiousity, so I looked back at her and said, "really? How do you do that Jenna?" Her response was to press her hands firmly together in prayer pose and say, "well you just push your hands together like this and you send a message to God to stop it. Sometimes it takes a little while, but he always does."

I was sharing this with a friend and as I was retelling the story, the impact of what Jenna said hit me. Yes, sometimes the winds come up and things are wild. Stuff is flying all around us. What do we do in the storm? Why, take a moment, stop, focus and ask God to deal with it. He always does. Not necessarily in our timing and not necessarily the way we would like, but he always comes through.

We serve a God who walks on wild waves. We serve a God who says, look at me, get out of the boat and join me. We serve a God who says, "Be not afraid. I will never leave you. Have courage. Walk with me." We serve a God who reaches down from on high when we are overwhelmed, who lifts our feet out of the mud and mire we get bogged down in, and gives us a firm place to stand. We serve a God who calms the storms. What are you doing in the midst of your storm?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Just like the Sound .... of Silence ...

What can I say?

At the moment ... nothing ...

I have no extra energy for thinking ... to do that, I need to sit and be. I work ... and I sleep. Not a lot of "being" going on at the moment. Work has been crazy and will be probably until I leave for NZ in 8 weeks. I am completing training in being a certified Smart Board Trainer ... I have two batches of reports to write (so thats about 860) - first batch due in a couple of weeks and then I need to write the 2nd batch before I leave as i will not be around for the end of the 2nd quarter. I am presenting 3 workshops this Friday at a large Korean International Teachers conference. We are in the midst of a huge tech audit school wide ... budgets are looming ...

I have just spent both days this weekend in a workshop about 21st century skills. I am adjudicating IB Music recitals tonight or tomorrow (or maybe both ... better find out :) )

The weekend before last I had a fantastic time in Shanghai with my friends from Perth who were up celebrating Fiona's 50th birthday. I got back Sunday night and had a friend arrive that same night for 4 days for a quick visit. Great stuff, but all very exhausting!

I will comment on the picture above (taken in Shanghai) ... love, love, LOVE the joy on these kids faces. They are caught up in the excitement and scariness of rain and wind ... who cares if the umbrella is inside out ... laugh ... be ... and be filled with joy! Great wee lesson for us in life there eh?!

I continue to take my pills and try not to freak out about surgery approaching. You can pray for me in terms of hospitals and flights to sort out. The hospital my surgeon works at, won't work with my health insurance company (Aetna). Aetna only have one hospital in NZ - in Auckland - which is 8 hours away from my family so not suitable at all. My surgeon has put me on the surgical roster at Southern Cross Hospital in Wellington and my insurance has written to them guaranteeing to cover my surgical costs (apart from my copay). I have not heard from the hospital that they are okay with this, so that is this week's project ... chase down the finance person and find out. My surgery will cost between 16,000 and 24,000 NZD so I have to get this one resolved.

In addition I need to sort out return flights to Seoul with Singapore Airlines. I had flights booked for Christmas and had a nightmare changing to the beginning of December for the surgery. I need to find out where they are in Seoul and get in there in person to sort this one I think. Hopefully that will be next weeks mission if I get the hospital sorted this week.

So ... apologies for my lack of stimulating thoughts at the moment ... life is just about survival - hence the silence!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Seeing ...

Cast your mind back a few years to the movie, Billy Elliott. One of the most tragic scenes for me, was where Billy's father took the dead mother's piano, and chopped it into firewood. I was so grieved. To me it was not just that Billy had lost one of his last links with his mother, but the fact that life was so hard and survival so difficult, there was no room for art or beauty, only function. The piano was reduced to its basest elements - wood for the fire.

The world needs artists. As the old Apple slogan goes, these are the people who "think different". Artists come in all shapes and sizes: dancers, actors, designers, visual artists, musicians, writers, poets, sculptors ... Artists hear the sound within a sound, see outside the box, create something out of nothing, give vision, form or word to thoughts, feelings and emotions. Artists remind us life is more than existance. They remind us to take the time to live, to experience, to feel, to reflect and see, to dream of what could be that is not yet. Yes, the world needs more artists. Imagine a world without creativity.

Creativity is a wonderful gift. Most children start life with this inherent in them. After all, we are created in the image of the creator God, why wouldn't we be creative also? Sometimes, it is knocked out of children through discouragement. Sometimes, they do not get the opportunity to nurture their creative side. One of the saddest things for me as a teacher is seeing how our children are becoming so busy that they have lost the time to play. Play time is the nursery of creativity. It is where creativity is fed, nurtured and grows. If we do not take time to play, creativity will be stifled.

Often we have preordained ideas of what creativity looks like. We think if we are not an artist or a musician, poet or sculptor, that we are not creative. Many years ago, one of my good friends said to me that he wished he was creative like I was. I replied that I thought he was incredibly creative. He stared at me as if I had lost my mind, so I illustrated my thought with a few examples. He is incredibly skilled at welding and building things. When I was given a very expensive synthesizer (I was a student at the time with very little $$) he and a friend, designed and built a road case and a stand for me. Another time I had rust in my car and needed work on it to pass a warrant. I was living in Auckland and it was going to cost a lot. Brian said to bring it down and he would do it for me. I watched in amazement as he cut out the rust, eyed the hole, picked up some sheet metal and cut it to size, then welded it in place. Creativity for sure! There is no way I could have done any of the above things. Here was someone using his very practical skills, in a very creative way. Don't put creativity in a box! It doesn't belong there!

A visit to a Cirque du Soleil show is the opportunity to see creativity in action. Any time I can catch one of their shows, I do. It is money well spent. They demonstrate creativity operating at its highest levels. Every part of the show is art in action. Props are never just brought on and off, they become part of the show. The lighting, music, costumes and staging is all phenomenal. When I attend a Cirque show, I feel the magic of being a child all over again. I sit there with a sense of wonder and awe (and usually a big smile on my face).

There are moments that I have this same sense with God. These moments NEVER occur in the height of busyness. Sometimes it is when I am just still in his presence. Sometimes, it is when I am at the beach or in the mountains. Sometimes it is when I see someone doing what they were born to do ... sometimes it is a majestic sunset or just the simple design on a flower. We serve a creative God. He is the God that designs endless sets of fingerprints. He is the God that designs one-off, never to be repeated snowflakes. Best of all he is the God that created you and me. To quote my friend Kathy Koch, each one of us is "a unique, one of a kind, unrepeatable, never to be seen again, miracle." Yes, that's right. You. YOU. Jars of Clay sing a great song, with a wonderful line, "see the art in me". Like any good art piece, the artist is reflected in their work. Are people seeing the master artist in you?

Monday, August 25, 2008


Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.
Hebrews 6:17-20

Over the past couple of weeks I have been thinking about anchors. In particular I have been reflecting over life events and have noticed that when storms come that could shipwreck my faith, God has always provided anchors. They are there if I will just look around and SEE. Of course he is our hope and our anchor but, the anchors that I am talking about are the things he puts in place to help me see Him, and hold on.

I could give many examples of this and I will provide a recent one. When I was about 14 or 15, someone gave me Isaiah 54 to meditate on. This chapter has been an anchor for me many times in life, and God has spoken to me again and again in different seasons through this passage. For me, it is a "life scripture". Recently (about 3 weeks ago) I arrived home in New Zealand for a 12 day visit. I arrived in Auckland late on a Thursday night and stayed with my friends Craig and Annette. On Friday, I had a full day running around in the car, running errands, shopping etc. Before I left in the morning Annette gave me a CD of a friend talking and said i had to listen as it was excellent. So as I drove I listened. My friend was talking about worship in hard times. She touched on Isaiah 54, and it starts, "sing, o barren woman ..." The scripture was a call to worship even in times of great difficulty and fruitlessness. The CD was excellent and encouraging and Annette told me to take it with me. I thought it would be a great one to share with friends here in Korea.

On the Tuesday I had to go and see a gynnie in Wellington as I had been having some issues. I was not prepared for the outcomes of that visit. Firstly my iron has hit rock bottom again ... the worst it has been for me ever and I am severely anaemic at the moment. She told me I was one step out of hospital and as a result I am now a walking pill bottle - taking 15 pills a day (not counting the meds I take for my tumor). In addition, she told me that I would need a hysterectomy at Christmas. She went through other options and explained why they would not be suitable for me. I went for a bunch of tests and went home.

The next day I had a phone call saying I had to go back in that afternoon for surgery as there were growths etc. I was afraid, and quite upset. Long story short, I did go in. I had a horrific time with the IV needle - they could not get it in and there were 5 attempts before they did. I am a bit of a toughy but I was actually balling by the end of it - couldn't speak, just cried. Even more traumatic when you have a needle phobia to begin with.

So, here I am back in Korea and this event has really rocked me. At 39 and still single, I had started to reconcile myself to the fact that I might not have children and I had been told a few years back that fertility could be an issue. However, in the past couple of weeks I have learnt that there is a gulf between might not and NEVER. To have the choice taken from me is quite devastating. I have never defined myself as a woman by being a mother. It has completely come out of left field and knocked me for a 6. So at the moment I am dealing with all sorts of emotion over this ... fear of the surgery and needles ... grief at never being able to conceive a child ... anger at the fruitlessness and lack of payoff for something that has been a negative in my life since it started. If I allowed myself, I could get caught up in the thought of, "enough God. I have to deal with my tumor, Ruby and now you are asking me to deal with this as well?" Each one of these things could derail me.

And yet ... I have to smile at the anchors God put out for me in this season. "SING o barren woman. SING. Worship me. Focus on me and not the storm. Don't be afraid. Be Still. Peace child." Once again, he has gone before me, putting in place the anchors for me to cling to ... he has provided safety in the storm. The timing of that CD was amazing. God was not caught by surprise by this season in my life. He knew it was coming.

While thinking about anchors, I did a little research. Did you know that the earliest anchors were rocks? We stand on THE rock. He is our firm place to stand. And as the scripture says, "when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock ..." That's where you will find me at the moment ... clinging on ...

"Basic anchoring consists of determining the location, dropping the anchor, laying out the scope, setting the hook, and assessing where the vessel ends up." (Wiki) God has already done this. He knows my location and where I will end up ... he has already prepared the anchor.

Wiki also informed me that, "A good anchorage offers protection from the current weather conditions, and will also offer protection from the expected weather." Well, what can I say there. He is my shelter from the storm.

I will leave you with this beautiful song by Steven Curtis Chapman ...

I have come to this ocean
And the waves of fear are starting to grow
The doubts and questions are rising with the tide
So I´m clinging to the one sure thing I know

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

I´ve tried to hold many treasures
They just keep slipping through my fingers like sand
But there´s one treasure that means more than breath itself
So I´m clinging to it with everything I am


Like a child holding on to a promise
I will cling to His word and believe
As I press on to take hold of that
for which Christ Jesus took hold of me
Hold on for life

[Repeat Chorus]

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Back In The USSR ...

Well actually, it's back in Seoul but it doesn't have the same catchy tune as "Back in the USSR ..."

Sorry, not a lot of blogging going on at the moment ... Had a few biggies to deal with lately ... I look at my blog, read the last two posts and at the moment, I can't believe the timing of writing them. The last 2 weeks have brought some challenges and I really don't have much to add to those two posts ... just needing to meditate on them at the moment.

I will blog more later but can I leave you with one thought blog buddies? ... It's this. When people are going through dark times or hard times, its okay to come alongside them and just be. You don't need to say anything ... just be... Sometimes, life is hard and tough things happen. We don't know how to respond to loved ones going through stuff ... and sometimes, we try to make it better. Sometimes, it is just not going to be better. And you know what? Thats okay. We deal. Stuff has happened for me in the last two weeks that is a bit difficult to deal with. One of my dear friends rang me after I texted her and she said, "I don't know what to say. Its awful." And you know what ... she was right. It is awful. Nothing will change that.

What meant the world to me, was that she rang anyway.

Know that in the midst of our dark times, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. God is never caught by surprise. When you don't know what to say or do ... just be. It's okay. HE knows.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Never Alone

In Part One of this blog, I discussed the idea of whether or not God SENDS trials on his children to test our faith. In this blog I want to talk about where God is in the midst of our dark times.

Lets come back to the idea of Jesus on the cross. Jesus, overwhelmed with all that he is bearing, feeling isolated, cut off and alone. Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” Jesus knows what it is like to be overwhelmed in the darkness and feel like God is a million miles away. He can empathise and understand me, when I am in this place. He has been there and he came out the other side. Even though Jesus felt alone, God was still there. The beauty of this scripture is in the next part: “let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Who is this God that we worship in our dark times? The one who sits on a throne of grace. The one who has walked in our dark places and is the light that shines in the darkness.

Isaiah 54 is a favourite scripture for me … let these words from vs 11-12 soak into your spirit:
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord who has compassion on you. “O afflicted city lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and your walls of precious stones.”

Where is God in this? He is with us, in us, and working in the darkness to bring forth something beautiful.

Most of us know the scripture from Isaiah 40 – “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” Have you ever considered the context of this scripture? Right before this, God is talking to the Israelites. Basically they are complaining that God is disregarding their issues, that he does not see them and is not involved with where they are at. Wah wah! Ever been there? God’s response to them is, “do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth …” (whoa! What did we look at in 1 Cor 10:13? God is the creator God who can make something out of something! He knows and he has a plan. His ways might not be our ways, but he has a plan and he is involved.) He goes on to say, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…” Wow. Hope for the hopeless. Hope for those of us struggling in the dark, wondering where God is. This is the pattern all through scriptures … to just take a few:-

Is 41:17 “The poor and needy search for water – I will answer them – I won’t forsake them.”

Is 42:6 “I will take hold of your hand”

Is 42:16 “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth … I will not forsake them.”

Is 43:2 “When you pass through the waters I will be with you, when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you …”

Is 44:6 “he restores our ruins …”

Is 45:3 “ I will give you the treasures of darkness – riches stored in secret places …”

Is 45:5 “I will strengthen you …”

Is 46:4 “I made you, will sustain you and rescue you …”

I could go on and on but by now I am sure you get the point. Where is God is our darkness. Right there with us.

Who is this God that we worship in our dark times?

Jehovah – Our Redeemer

Jehovah Jireh. This actually means "the one who sees". God sees it all – as Alpha and Omega, he sees the beginning and the end. Nothing we go through is a surprise to him. Therefore, he has a plan. He will provide a way out.

Just like David realised in Ps 139, “if I make my bed in the depths you are there, if I rise on the wings of the dawn and settle on the far side of the sea, even there, your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (vs 8-12)

Are we all alone in the darkness?

No … we are never alone.


Group Singalong: All by myself, don’t wanna be … all by myself …”

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Dark times come to all of us … those seasons where we can’t see God, we can’t sense him and we cry, as Christ did on the cross, “My God, My God … why have you forsaken me?” I have heard many a sermon that says Jesus cried out because God turned his back on him. If you look back at the three gospel accounts that mention this scene, we do not find scripture that supports this. Could it be that Jesus in a moment of humanity, with the weight of the sin of the world on his shoulders, in the agony of the cross, immersed in darkness, could no longer see God? Could it be that in our dark times, when we lose the awareness of God, and it feels like he is a long way away, that he is actually right there with us and has not forsaken us at all?

All too often, those going through hard times hear well meaning words from other Christians … words designed to comfort, that instead inflict further pain … words such as, “well, God is testing your faith and won’t let you go through any more than you can handle.” When we hear statements such as these, sermons about God turning his back on his Son, or go through dark times, it can cause us to wonder, “Just who is this God that we worship?” Lets look a bit closer at this.

God Will Never Allow Us To Go Through More Than We Can Handle
Firstly, lets look at the scripture that this idea comes from. 1 Cor 10-:13b says, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

God won’t let us be WHAT? Tempted. This scripture is not about our trials and hardships. It’s about temptation! The context of 1 Cor 13 is Paul discussing the various temptations that the Israelites had succumbed to. Nevertheless, lets break down this scripture. In our dark times, we can be tempted and there are some principles here that we can take to heart.

Faithful comes from the Greek word “Pistos”. This means “worthy of trust”. We can take that idea into our hard times. God is worthy of our trust. I will deal with this idea more fully further on.

Tempted comes from the Greek word “Peirasmos”. This means, “a trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy – an enticement of internal temptation to sin.” It can also mean, “adversity, affliction and trouble that tests one character” but this is clearly not the context of 1 Cor 13.

Provide A Way comes from the Greek word “Poieo”. This means, “make ready, make a thing out of something.” I LOVE this idea! God takes something that exists and then makes something new! He is the creator God – endlessly creative. Not only does he create great things out of nothing, he takes something already in existence and can make something new out of it! We don’t have to be able to handle the situation. It is God’s job to handle it. It is our job to look to and lean on him. How full of hope and promise is that when are walking through tough situations?!

God Sends Trials To Test Us.
This idea implies that God is the author of our misfortune. This is not the God I know! My God is not a God who sends horrific tragedies on his children and watches impassively to see if we pass the test.

In The Shack, God tells Willy the following:
"Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colours."

We live in a fallen world … a world where there is sickness … a world where there is evil and a world where bad things happen to good people. Does this mean God sent these things? No! Do these trials and tragedies test our faith? I would have to say, “yes!” These are the very fires through which our faith is tested and proven … but not tested like a classroom test. Instead our faith is tested in the manner of precious metal. The fire burns away the dross and gets down to the core.

James 1:2-4 says that we are to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many different kinds, because we know that the testing of our faith develops perseverance. It goes on to say that perseverance must finish its work in us so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.

Be very careful about how you handle this scripture with those going through hard times. Do you get to tell the newly wed who just lost his wife to consider it joy? Do you tell the woman who just saw dearly loved friends shot and killed by evil men while she sheltered her husband and child, that God is testing her? No. Can God bring good out of this? Yes. He is the creator God. He can work good in all things and take that which was meant to destroy us bring good out of it.

If we break down this scripture, we get a little more insight:

Testing comes from the Greek “dokimion”, which means proving. Our trials do test and prove our faith, but as mentioned earlier, this does not mean God sends them.

Perseverance (sometimes translated patience) comes from the Greek word ”Hupomone” which means, “steadfastness, constancy and endurance.” It also means, “someone not swerved from deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings”. Wow. There is the idea here of choice. In our hard times, we have a choice to see God seated on the throne. We have a choice to lift our eyes up to our God. We have a choice to focus on him instead of circumstances.

Check back tomorrow for Part Two of This Blog: Never Alone

Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer Reading

Sorry about the absence of posts lately ... it's summer. I have been travelling (Greece, Korea, USA) and not posting! I am thinking and there is a blog post brewing ...

One of my favourite things to do in summer, is read! I love to read ... and fortunately (sometimes unfortunately) for me I am a fast reader. So often I will read a book a day - either one in the morning or one in the evening ... Since being in the States (a week now - not counting my conference) I have been reading! Some of my reading has been fluff but I have read some excellent books as well and I thought I would share with you the ones I think are MUST reads for everyone! I have included links for each of the books to Amazon in case you are feeling the urge!

1. The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine M.D
This book is a quick read and is a must if you are female or want to understand females. One of the best things from the 1990s is the advanced technology in brain scanning and the insight it now gives us in gender differences that are wired into our makeup. I found this book full of eye opening "wow" moments and will be buying it for a few people. Brizendine writes in an easy manner with lots of stories and humour, so it is an easy read and well worth the effort!

2. Mosaic by Amy Grant
This is a treat in writing. Basically, Amy shares a bunch of stories from her life and they have beautiful, thought provoking God moments in them. Some have made me think. Here is a quote from the introduction that really caught me. Amy is talking with a friend who is dying. She asks Amy, "do you know what the most important colour is in an artist's palette?" As Amy is thinking through the possible colours, she continues, "Child, it's black. Black is the most important colour for an artist. You see, without black, there is no depth. Without black, everything appears flat. But mix black with any colour and you can paint an object so real you want to reach out and touch it."

Amy goes on to say, "in our lives, the darkest times, the days that are bleak and black, add depth to every other experience. Like the dark bits of colour in a mosaic, they add the contrast and shadows that give beauty to the whole, but they are just a small part of the big picture."

Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax. M.D. Ph.D
There is huge concern in educational circles today about the failure of boys in schools. You cannot ignore the numbers. I must say that I picked this one up with a healthy dose of skepticism but Sax convinced me. He explores 5 factors that he believes are driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men. It is an easy read with lots of stories - and if you have a son or teach boys, you need to read this. The five points he covers in detail are video games, teaching methods, prescription drugs (and the huge amounts of misdiagnosis of ADHD), endocrine disruptors and devaluation of masculinity. Again, like The Female Brain, this book takes much of the last ten years of brain research into account.

4. The Shack by William P. Young
This is an amazing fiction story. Up front, I have to say that I was not too impressed with the writing, but the ideas in the book make it well worth the read. Basically, a man loses his daughter to a serial killer while staying at a shack. One day he finds a note in his letterbox. The note is from God (known as Papa) and it invites him back to the shack for the weekend. This book has beautiful ideas in it and is quite powerful. Here are a couple of quotes I really like (my favourite will be in my next blog as it exemplifies exactly what I am wanting to say!).

"faith does not grow in the house of certainty ..."

Here's another one - Jesus speaking:
"I don't want to be first among a list of values; I want to be at the centre of everything. Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the centre of a mobile, where everything in your life - your friends, family, occupation, thoughts, activities - is connected to me, but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being."

This next idea, I just love ... it's God speaking and takes the idea of "I am" - the idea that God is a moving, active force. He is a verb, not a noun! Check this out:
"I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving ... " " ... as my very essence is verb, I am more attuned to verbs than nouns. Verbs such as confessing, repenting, living, loving, responding, growing, reaping, changing, sowing, running, dancing, singing. Humans have a knack for taking a verb that is alive and full of grace and turning it into a dead noun or principle that reeks of rules: something growing and alive dies. Nouns exist because there is a created universe and physical reality, but if the universe is only a mass of nouns, it is dead. Unless "I Am", there are no verbs, and verbs are what makes the universe alive."

This book is a must read!

5. How Am I Smart Dr. Kathy Koch
Want to know about yourself and how you are wired? Want to know about your kids and how they are wired? This book by Dr Kathy is one of the best books on multiple intelligences I have ever read. One of the things that makes this book a standout from other ones (not counting the easy to read, lots of stories and illustrations etc) is that Dr Kathy goes through the characteristics of the different intelligences, the strengths and weaknesses, and also gives advice on how you can strengthen the various intelligences. Even better for Christian parents, Dr Kathy writes from a Christian world view!

You can get this book through the Celebrate Kids website (click link above) or Amazon.

So ... there it is people ... my current must-reads for summer. At the moment I am reading about the world superclass and how their use of power affects the world but I wouldn't recommend it. I also have read another 3 - 4 fluffy froth, mindless novels but again, I am trying to give you the books that I think are must reads!

Happy reading!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


But they that wait upon the Lord
shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
and they shall walk and not faint

Isaiah 40:31

I had coffee with a friend the other day. We are still getting to know each other and I love spending time with her ... she is a lady of grace and wisdom with a lot of depth. I come away from our conversations sparked and encouraged! This past week, we were sharing some life stories, and I shared about my experiences of this past year. She talked about travelling lightly and i was reminded of one of the threads that God spoke to me about in Cambodia. Eagles.

I think I referred to the Isaiah scripture in a previous blog but I can't find it so let me rehash it here.

When we first read this scripture, we have an image of strength. Perhaps you can picture an eagle flapping it's wings, soaring higher and higher. When we break down this scripture, we get a completely different image. Let's look at some of the key words.

this comes from the hebrew word "Qavah" which means, "to look for, lie in wait for, linger for, look eagerly for."

Comes from "Chalaph" - meaning "to pass through, change, sprout again."

Mount Up
Comes from "alah" - meaning "ascend, go up, meet, visit, spring up, grow, shoot forth"

The eagle is a bird that understands renewal. My friend talked about travelling lightly. She talked about how sometimes she stops and just clears herself of all the clutter. As she shared this, I thought about the incredible renewal process eagles go through. I researched this and found some very inspiring stories ... most on Christian threads! But, as I researched deeper, I found out that these are encouraging stories but urban myths. Eagles do not completely withdraw and pull all their feathers out, beat off their beaks and talons. However, this does not deny the power of the moult. Juvenile eagles are actually larger than adults. However, they go through a continual moulting process where they lose feathers and become more streamlined. This makes them more efficient in flight. Here is a thought ... in order to fly high, we need to be unencumbered. We need to be continually transformed. Romans 12:2 talks about being transformed by the renewing of our minds. When you look at the scripture, it is an ongoing thing. Like the eagle moult, our renewing is an ongoing process. It is part of growth.

Another amazing thing about eagles are their eyes. They are birds of vision. They see with great clarity and in full colour. Do we? Or are we black and white?! Eagles have two centres of focus. They can see forwards and sideways at the same time. There is a lesson for us there. When travelling through life, observing all that goes on around us, we need to keep our eyes forward and fixed on Christ as well. For blinking, they also have an inner eyelid called a nictitating membrane. Every three or four seconds, the nictitating membrane slides across the eye from front to back, wiping dirt and dust from the cornea. Because the membrane is translucent, the eagle can see even while it is over the eye. These birds constantly clear their vision. Are we allowing things to cloud ours?

The eagle searches for storms, it rides the updrafts and rises above them. Could it do this by beating its wings? No ... it just holds them open, catches the updrafts that accompany storms and rises, higher and higher, soaring above. It knows how to wait for the updrafts ... it lingers for them. It looks for them.

We see eagles as powerful, strong birds. They soar on great heights. Think about this: the strength of the eagle is not in it's ability to flap its wings and fly high. It's strength is that it knows how to hold it's wings out and soar. It's strength is that it is a bird of vision. And ... it travels lightly.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ground Control to Major Tom ...

Hi all

Just a quick note ... I am alive ... am out there somewhere ...

It has been an intense few weeks as we wrap up the school year ... I have been struggling with my drugs - so VERY tired ... it's about surviving the day at the moment which has not left a lot of time for much else.

Through all the major farewells (lots of those when working internationally) ... nearly done with reports (I write over 400 and then print everyones ... just the final print to go) ... nearly done with building the image for my computer lab ... travel arrangements nearly all in place ...

Very exciting things that have happened ... the new iphone is out! YAH ... I want one of those puppies ... but I might wait one more generation ... GREAT price! ... Our group (Chicks With Picks) recorded on the weekend ... rush job due to lack of time but we have recorded Ruby's song and another fun one that I wrote ...

Thinking ... not been a lot of time for anything much but surviving lately ... but I do have a blog post brewing ...

What has to happen this week? It's Tuesday ... so ... I need to travel to Itaewon and pick up a bunch of tailored shirts for my friends Dad ... I need to get to the post office and post Maggies birthday box (Bought her a very cool little case that has metallic corners and then is pink with glitter ... filled it with disgusting pink and glittery princess things ... as a 5 year old princess she should love it!!!) ... We have leavers assembly today ... I print report finals tomorrow (whole day job normally) ... have a haircut ... album cover to finish and print ... final mixes to listen to on the album ... a leaving coffee with a friend ... costco run (*thats a 4 hour marathon in Korea) to buy Hippos (moisture sucking things to stuff all through my house so the high humidity does not cause mould while away in the summer) ... wallpaper samples to check and decide on for my penpal coming from England (new teachers coming to Seoul get paired with old ones to help with transition ...) ... haircut ... going to Blue Man Group (the night before I fly ... I tell you, I HATE packing and will do anything to avoid it ... Blue Man Group is a great way to avoid) ... coffee with another friend ... bosses end of year evaluation ... write reflections and goals before the evaluation ... job list to make for my adjumonie (the cleaner over summer) ... clean out my office ... return overdue library books ... photocopy relevant travel sections ... final staff lunch and farewell ... sort out money and change currency ... finalise San Antonio hotel and airport arrangements ... laundry ... packing ...

Somewhere in the midst of this ... I continue to TEACH! We work a full day on Saturday and on Sunday ... I leave for Greece! Yah ... so what are my summer plans?

Fly to Greece with my friend Leslie ... we are going to Athens, Santorini and Rhodes. Fly back to Korea and the next day, fly to San Francisco. One night (and I have my shopping worked out ... as well a taking my camera down to play with the pelicans!) ... and then back to the airport to go to San Antonio where I have a technology conference for a few days. Following the conference, I am heading to Wisconsin for several weeks with my friends Jeff and Nicole (normally I stay with them in Phoenix). I then head back to Korea late July, have a couple of days downtime and then head down to Singapore for 3 days and New Zealand for 12 days. This will bring me back to Korea in mid August.

I am hanging out for my holiday ... and in no order these are the things I am excited about ...
Exploring a new country with a friend ...
Ocean and the beach ...
Seeing family ...
the beach ...
Seeing friends ...
the beach ...
great photography opportunities ...
the beach and water ...
great conversations ...
SHOPPING (Korea is no fun for shopping ... but the USA ... is shoe heaven for size 11 feet!) ...
Eating ...
New Zealand landscape ...
My beach ...

Oh ... and did I mention ... THE BEACH?!


Monday, May 19, 2008

Health Prayer Update

Hi All

Just a quick update on those of you that have prayed for Ruby or me!

Continues to have her up and down journey. She is a wee trooper and still smiling. The past month or so, she has been really neutropenic which means her immunity has been right down. They are just coming into flu season in NZ so are being really careful with her. Your prayers are definately helping and her family are in good spirits!

I had a meeting with my endo last week and my tumour has reduced in size by 2mm which is wonderful. I asked if this meant we would be reducing my meds (which my endo had mentioned several times) but she said I will probably be on them at this level for another few years. Currently I am doing way better emotionally but am still getting lots of headaches and very very tired. It's hard to explain tired because at the moment we are 4 weeks off the end of the school year and everyone is really tired. So the only way I can describe it is, take that tired, add another level onto that from my meds, and another level on that from anaemia!

Anyway, I am thanking God that my tumour is responding to meds and thanking him that I have the meds I want! Praise him with me.



Thursday, May 15, 2008

I am Woman ... Hear Me Roar!

Helen Reddy sang this song and became famous for it. Today, I am mulling over, "what does it mean to be a woman?" Over the years, I have seen many people try and define this ... it's been even harder to figure it out within the confines of the church!

Here are some of the things I have seen (and take this a little tongue in cheek ... no offense intended to anyone) ...
A Christian woman ...
- has long hair and wears lots of make up so she looks beautiful ...
- has long hair and wears NO makeup because her beauty should not come from outward adornment
- radiates with a soft glow
- is soft spoken and gentle
- wears dresses
- wears floral dresses
- home schools her children so that they are not influenced by corrupt cultures around them
- has long flowing tresses
- is quiet in church and does not speak ...
- keeps her head covered with scarves
- cooks all the meals for her family
- beats her own wheat to grind her own flour for baking her own bread ...
- never says no to her husband
- knows how to tie scarves 100 different ways to enhance her beauty
- surrenders all financial management to her husband (even if he is terrible at it!)

I could go on and on but by now you get the idea ... every single one of these, I have come accross as being held up by an ideal somewhere along the way in my christian walk! I am not someone who fits any of those moulds! And for a while it was a struggle for me. I asked questions, I challenged status quo and it made people uncomfortable at times!

So, why am I thinking about this? It's another thread that came through while God was speaking to me in Cambodia. Little things kept popping up and when I came home, it came up again. I was walking down the mountain and I sensed God speaking to me about getting more in touch with my feminine side. I actually got the giggles (anyone looking on, would have seen a crazy waygook (Korean word for foreigner) wandering down the mountain laughing hysterically!). My response to him was, "I don't know what that looks like!" I was thinking, "well God, you know!" I then sensed an immediate reply, "Go and look at the Proverbs 31 woman." I had a quicker response to that ... it went something like this: "I am not doing that! She is the woman that makes the rest of us feel completely inadequate. The ideal woman. The woman that half the Bible scholars say is a composite of all the characteristics people want in their ideal woman. Who can live up to that!?" And then I carried on down the mountain laughing even harder!

However, I did check her out again. And this time as I read, I tried to ignore the surface cultural context and take the character principles out of the text. I came up with the following list:
- she works hard
- she brings blessing to those around her
- she shows good judgement
- she is compassionate and generous
- she has strength and dignity
- she is free of anxiety and worry
- she speaks wise words and gives good counsel
- she is watchful and alert and guards that with which God has entrusted her
- she fears God

I also liked the study note on the epilogue of this chapter which says that this woman is almost a personification of wisdom. It says that like wisdom, she is worth more than rubies and that whoever finds her finds favour from God! The commentary on this chapter says that virtuous in this context literally means, "of strength and moral courage." The commentary also brought out a couple of things I missed ...
- diligently attends to expending and gathering wealth (vs 15)
- has strength and honor - good moral character (vs 25)
- wisely manages those under her stewardship (vs 27)

I like this. This Proverbs woman is not the image of the one that I have lived with for years. She is a woman that I would like to be and I don't think she is unattainable.

What does it mean to be a woman? Really, at the heart of it, I think it is about being free to be all who God made you to be - whatever package that comes in!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Toxic Wounds

When I was an intern at our church, I went through a season where I was a complete and utter mess. (I like to think I have moved out of that now! :) )

One morning, our wee intern group was having devotions together and we were doing a check on each other to see how we were doing. Most of us were struggling and a little discouraged. We were quite honest and upfront with each other in this.

About an hour later, we were up in the office of our pastor (who was away on sabbatical). We had our first mentoring session with Robert Fergusson, who at the time was the head of Hillsong Bible College, as well as a pastor at Hillsong church. Robert is razor sharp, a very wise and godly man and a gifted teacher. He is one of the few people I have ever met who truly marry truth and love. Anyway, we were sitting in the office, Robert looked around with a little grin on his face and said, “So guys. How’s it going?”

We went around the room (5 of us were there) and each person said something along the lines of, “oh praise God brother. It’s great. Just awesome etc.” You get the picture. I was mad! I am looking around the room, thinking of the discouraged conversation I was part of an hour earlier and thinking, “you pack of liars!”

Robert said, “So, are there any questions you would like to ask me? Anything.” As it was my turn to speak, I decided I was just going to say it as it was (no surprise to those of you who know me!).

I said (and note the third person here), “So, what do you do when you are a leader and you are a mess. You are such a mess that you would not be in church except it’s your job. You don’t want to pray for people because what are you going to impart to them. You are just a wreck but it’s your job to be on top of it, pouring out to others.”

Robert responded along the lines of, “and you just want to be left alone in the dark. Someone turn the light out and just leave me …” As he spoke, you could see the atmosphere in the room change. Interns leant forward on their chairs and you could see a sense of relief written on their faces. The thought was evident: “someone understands, someone knows.” Robert said a few more things and it drew people out more, and heads started nodding. Then, as he drew people in (like reeling fish on a line), he sat back with a grin and said, “Well, that’s just selfish isn’t it!”

It was like a verbal slap and was I mad! I came back with both fists flying (metaphorically speaking) and said, “Well no. I am serving. I am … (note the change from third person to first here?!)” Just as I got to the “I am… “ bit, God spoke clearly and sharply in a nanosecond to me. And this is what I heard: “and why are you serving Sarah? Because you don’t want to be alone with me. You don’t want to be still. You are serving me to avoid me. And that is selfish.” Whoa. Caught me completely off guard and I shut up. Robert went on to share some life changing things that day, and it was the beginning of me getting out of my pit.

Why am I sharing this with you today? It is because I have had a question running around in my head for the last week or so. The question is this:
“What happens when our giftings get entwined with our unhealed wounds?”

Selah. Which means, pause and think on it for a moment.

I have been thinking about this a lot. And before I share my thoughts, I want to clarify a couple of things from the start. Can God use us when we are wounded? Of course. To a degree, we are all walking wounded. Can God bring good from our wounds and our scars. Absolutely. But many of us are walking around with toxic, infected, pus-oozing wounds. We have not taken time to take care of these, or allow God to. It is these wounds that I want to talk about today.

So I ask you again. What happens when our giftings get entwined with our unhealed wounds? Or even more specifically, what happens when our wounds become the driving force behind our giftings and our Christian service. What happens?

I wonder if this is how we lose sense of personal boundaries. We give and give at the expense of ourselves and our families. We serve out of wounds that tell us we are not good enough – so we do more and more and end up martyring ourselves. Something drives us to keep giving – we never feel that it is enough. We feel guilty if we put up boundaries and say no while seeing other people serving. Or perhaps we are experiencing the flip side of our lack of boundaries, and we feel resentful, if we are serving and other people say no.

I tried putting this in a context of some of our giftings. Lets take a look:
Maybe we speak and do not listen because we feel validated by what we say and how its received. Maybe we do not feel like what we say matters if we are not heard by large numbers of people. Maybe we discount the impact of our words on those in our immediate sphere of influence such as family, friends and workplaces.

Maybe we teach but we do not learn because we are afraid to look within. Maybe we teach and do not learn because we are critical of everyone else’s teaching.

Maybe we give and are not able or comfortable to receive. Maybe we give, and do not take – time for God, ourselves, families and friends. Maybe everyone else’s needs are more important than our own.

Maybe we have the spiritual gift of prophesy and we are able to see. Maybe when we see, we are harsh and judgemental instead of the voice of mercy and grace found at the feet of God.

Maybe we are evangelists and we get caught up with catching souls and forgetting the person they belong to. We get preoccupied with numbers and do not follow up or disciple those we lead to Christ. We do not get involved with their life. We move on, leaving them floundering and feeling like a number.

Maybe we have the gift of serving and we serve and serve, ignoring the service that needs to happen at home with our families. But it’s okay because we are doing the work of God, and our families should understand that. Our families are also the work of God!

I am thinking about how Jesus said, “love your neighbour as you love yourself.” Read it again: “love your neighbour as you love yourself.” That’s right people, how can we love our neighbours if we do not love ourselves? It is not an excuse to be narcissists and make ourselves the centre of our universe. I wrote a post on this concept a while back, so take some time to refresh yourself on that if you have not read it. The thing is, we cannot love our neighbours if we do not love ourselves because it will be flawed.

Somehow, over the years at church, we have made self-love an unwritten crime. We equate self-love with selfishness. We feel we are selfish if we put our needs ahead of others. Perhaps a key here is our needs vs our wants! Have we ever stopped in our lives and marriages etc to consider what we need? Have we done this in our own personal lives? I think women generally are not good at this. I am generalising, but so many women are caregivers, they feel guilty when someone elses needs do not get met and their own do. Jesus had needs. There were times when he withdrew to pray or just be with his people. He did not go on a non-stop tiki tour of meeting everyone else’s needs and wants. He knew he couldn’t. Look at the sick man by the pool. Quite probably, there were lots of people by the pool. Legend had it that if you were first in when the waters were stirred, you would be healed. You can bet your bottom dollar … there were a ton of sick people hanging out there, waiting to be first in. The thing is, there will always be people needing us and wanting us. And lets face it, it feels good to be needed and wanted doesn’t it! But, think on this. If Jesus could not meet all those demands on earth, neither can we. And if we try, or are driven by our wounds, we will be sucked dry, miss our primary callings and in the end, be of no help to anyone!

I write this post today with a sense of concern. Take some time to be still. Ask yourself these questions and ask God to speak to you. Is your life in balance? Are you being driven by unhealed wounds? Do you have a sense of guilt when you say no? Do you have any boundaries in your life? If not, why not? If not, who is suffering near you? Who in your family or friends is missing out? If you do have boundaries, are they so rigid that they are unmovable walls? Why? Do you feel unappreciated and let down by those you have tried to serve. Take some time to reflect on these questions and where you stand. Do you truly love yourselves? Are you caring for yourself so that you can better care for those God has called you to?

Father, I pray that you would draw us aside with you and speak to us about the wounds in our lives. I pray that you would heal them and bind up those who are broken hearted, those who are suffering, those who are driven. I pray that you bring peace and the knowledge that we are loved deeply by you. I pray that you would help us to prioritise our lives and that we would walk in your footsteps, according to your ways.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Gift (s)

Today is my birthday. To be quite honest, I was a little upset about today as we have parent conferences tonight and it irks me to be spending my special evening sitting waiting for an occasional parent to turn up when I could be celebrating. I felt like my birthday was a bit of a non event.

So ... when I awoke this morning, I said to God, I want to start by sharing my special day with just he and I. I sat down with my journal and thought about the gifts that God has given me. Outside of the obvious (Jesus), the thing that sprang to mind as I wrote this morning, was the gift of LIFE. The gift of being born. Now, I know that might sound strange to you, as you might be thinking ... "well duh! We are all born!" But the thing is, some of us were a little more unexpected. And it's often the unexpected babies that are at risk of their lives. As I reflected, my heart was filled with gratitude to God for protecting me. You see, I am not an accident. I was not a surprise to God. I was made on purpose, for a purpose. Ps 139 tells me that his eyes saw my unformed body when I was woven together in the secret place. It tells me that all my days were planned out before one of them came to be. It tells me that he laid his hand upon me. You see God had a plan.

39 years ago today, a mother pushed a baby into this world. She held the baby in her arms - loved it and then had to let it go - giving it up and surrendering it to the unknown. What tremendous love and courage that took. Today, 39 years ago, a mother loved the way that only a mother could, and then had her heart ripped with grief as she surrendered the baby she had carried over 9 months. She did not know then that God had a plan. That there was a purpose and it was beginning to unfold. She did not know that there was a family specially chosen, who would love her gift. Who would cherish her gift. Who would discipline it, guide it and see it become a woman with character. She did not know. But God did.

Today as I pondered on this, I thought of my family. I thought that is my second gift. I am grateful for their unconditional love, their patience, their perseverence in the face of adversity (I was not an easy child). They did not know what they were bringing home, but God did! Today, in large part, I am who I am because of them.

The third gift I am grateful for today is my friends. I can't even begin to describe how truely blessed I am with the friends I have. They have loved me, are honest with me, walk beside me, speak into my life and laugh and cry with me.

As I sat with God this morning, I wondered what I would say if he said to me, "what would you like for your birthday this year Sarah?" Outside of him, the thing that immediately sprang to my mind was beautiful Ruby. I want her to have the gift of life. That she would live and love and have life abundantly. That she would walk through life and not just live it!

I have had a marvellous day today ... I have skyped with friends from afar, I have had emails from family and other friends far away. I have been blessed with friends who sought me out today with cards and gifts. I had a class come into my office and sing to me. My last class of the day (7 year olds) brought me in the most beautiful box of handmade cards they had each made. Lots of love, thought and care.

I have decided that a new birthday tradition will be to start my birthday with God and my journal, reflecting on the gifts of the past year that I am grateful for. Today as I write, I am grateful for LIFE. Be blessed in yours. :)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Autumn's Story

Okay ... this one is posted with all you Southern Hemisphere people in mind. My last blog was in tune with Spring, but in some parts of the world ... its Autumn! A little background for you. We had a stunning fall last year. The colours were fantastic and I went out shooting with my camera. I was pretty rapt with some of the results. About a week later, the temperature dropped and one night we had a big wind. In the morning when I woke up, most of the leaves were stripped from the tree and scattered as far as the eye could see. My eye was drawn to the bank outside my house. The sun was backlighting the leaves and it was magical. I dived inside for my camera and began to snap. I lay on the ground and snapped. I froze ... it had plummeted to -10C and my hands were so cold and frozen at the end of it all ... they were in pain warming up! However, these leaves caught me. What caught me was the unbelievable beauty in nature's discards. Something thrown away had beauty. I was caught up in the magic of it all and started to write. Today, I was able to pick up the story and complete it. I hope you are blessed. Why don't you grab a cuppa, sit down and let me tell you a story . . .

Autumn's Story

From her perch high up, Autumn peeked through the crowd. They were dressed in vibrant colours of the season – orange, gold, rust and red.

Autumn shivered as a cool breeze gently tickled her. She felt a little drab in her green coat. Sure, there were hints of beauty with the splashes of red, but she just did not glow like the others. Many people came by with cameras. Again and again lenses focused and shutters clicked. Those leaves front and centre, preened and glowed. They swayed in the breeze and basked in the reflected admiration of the viewers.

Oh how Autumn wished for just one moment in the spotlight. People loved the beautiful … admired their dress and their ability to glow. Never did Autumn feel so alone, unnoticed and worthless.

One morning Autumn awoke to the gentle caress of dawn. She gazed down at herself in wonder. Her coat of green was transformed into glowing red. But not like all the other reds. Autumn was special. Her coat was two-toned. Not only did she have a great new coat, but the crowd had thinned out. She was centre stage. She was somebody! Autumn smiled. She shone. She swayed to the beat of the breeze. And when the crowds came, they saw her. Paparazzi moments … lenses focused, shutters clicked … people exclaimed in wonder. Autumn had arrived. This was it. This was the moment she was born for. No longer hidden from view, looking on with the green of envy. She was born to shine!

Crisp sunny days came and went – each day drawing more and more people with cameras. Autumn shone and at night, she smiled to herself as she drifted off to sleep.

One night, Autumn awoke to a flash of searing pain. Icy fingers were tearing at her. Ripping, tugging and twisting …they teased and tore until poor Autumn went tumbling and rolling to the earth below.

When the first light of morning peeped over the hill, Autumn found that she was just one of many discarded leaves – all of whom had been beautiful once upon a time. These leaves had coats that were tatty and worn. Their colours were faded mementoes of glory days gone by. She heard a faint rustling noise and as she glanced around, Autumn realised, to her horror, that she had fallen into a leaf graveyard. The faint rustling she could hear, was the dying murmour of leaves breathing their last. Autumn was stunned. Was this her destiny? To die discarded and unnoticed? Surely somebody cared. Surely somebody would notice her and lift her from where she had fallen. She did not belong here. She was alive. She was vibrant … She was Autumn! People loved her. They took photos. Her coat was unique. Somebody would remember.

As the morning wore on, a new sound reached Autumn’s ears. There was a crackle and then a very ominous crunch. This was repeated in sinister rhythm, growing louder and louder. To Autumn’s horror, a huge pair of feet came crunching across the piles of discarded leaves. In their wake, dismembered, shattered bodies were tossed carelessly to the winds. The trail of carnage stopped next to Autumn. As she looked up, a sense of hope stirred within her. The owner of the feet unzipped a large blue bag and drew out a camera. “Finally,” Autumn thought. “I am found. I am remembered. I will be rescued.” She did her best to perk up … to be noticed … to be worthy.

The feet moved. The camera pointed … up … away from Autumn.
“Hey!” cried Autumn. “Here I am! Down here.”

A voice above muttered, “wrong angle … if I can just …”


“Ow,” cried poor Autumn. “It hurts. You are hurting me. I can’t breathe. You are killing me.”

The pressure eased off, and poor wounded Autumn could only lie whimpering in pain, as the camera was put away and the feet moved off into the distance, taking her hope and dreams with them.

Many days went by, and Autumn now lay numb, broken and in despair. Her beautiful coat was tattered and spotted. The colour had faded to a nondescript brown. Autumn was dying. She was alone. Discarded. Forgotten.

As she lay still … waiting for her life to end, a faint gleam caught her eye. Autumn gazed around, and as she did, a sense of wonder stole over her. The sun was sliding up over the hill. And as it slid higher, an incredible thing was happening on the bank. Discarded leaves, broken leaves, leaves that were dead and dying, started to glow.

Autumn’s eyes widened, as sun’s long golden fingers gently caressed fragile, broken leaves. And everywhere they stroked, life appeared. Beauty emerged. Hope bloomed. Things forgotten, things discarded, were renewed with a loving touch.

Autumn hardly dared breathe. Was it possible that light might find her? She looked down at herself and a small dark voice whispered into her ear. “You are not beautiful Autumn. Your coat is dull. You are dying. You are forgotten. You are one of many. There is no hope for you.” Autumn wept.

A gentle voice spoke into her darkness and she felt the warmth of light creep across her broken body.
“Hello Autumn.”

“Who are you?”

“I am the sun. I am light. I am life. I am.”

“You know my name?”

“Yes, Autumn. I know your name. I know you. When you were on the tree, I knew you. When you fell, I knew you. As you have lain here dying and thinking you were forgotten, I have known you. I knew where you were and I have watched you. You are beautiful Autumn.”

Autumn looked down at her tattered, faded coat and turned her head away in shame.

“Please do not look at me. I am not beautiful. I am ugly. I am unworthy of your light.”

“Autumn. I created you. You are beautiful. As I am, you are. Your beauty does not come from your outward appearance. It comes from me. I am in you. Let me shine my light on you and through you.”

Autumn looked down, and as she stared at herself, she felt a golden warmth start to radiate through her body. As she watched in amazement, she was transformed. Her old tattered coat, took on a new beauty. Light started to emanate. Once again she was glowing.

“How can this be?” marvelled Autumn.

“In order to see my light, you needed to die, Autumn. There is depth to your colour now. The beauty that we see is because you are reflected in my light. This is true beauty.

Autumn smiled to herself. “What a wondrous thing it is to be loved. I thought I was loved on the tree. I felt worthy. But the people I thought loved me, discarded me. They did not know me. They did not care for me – just my coat. They trampled on me when I was broken. They tossed me aside for prettier coats. Sun, I have learnt what it is to be loved. I am somebody, because you touched me. When I was broken, and dying, you shone on me. I live, because you love.”

Sun just smiled.
“I love, that you live.”