Earlier this year, my friend Kath inspired me to embark on a two month challenge of not spending money on myself (with the exception of essential items) until my birthday. The goal – to think less about me and my wants and more about… God and other more important things. She was doing a three month challenge and is still going strong!
Today is my birthday, so I’m happy to say that I made it!
The shops were essentially off-limits, except for buying gifts for others. I was liberated from being lured into the clothing and accessories shops that lie between the office and the train station. I’d like to say I didn’t do any net browsing for pretty clothes and shoes but I mostly blame joining Pinterest for that! I have spent most lunch times outside, often reading my Bible, instead of in the shops.
We’ve always channelled some of our income into separate ‘spending’ accounts, since we got married. As a rule, he likes to spend, I like to save. It has worked a dream for us. So Adam challenged me to consider giving the money I saved by not doing any spending, to someone else. Good challenge. I prayed about it and I’m eager to do this.
But there’s more. Going to the Hillsong Colour Conference last week has left me pondering whether I could make this challenge not just a one-off thing, but a way of life. I’m so thankful for all I have received, from education to jobs to friends and family – I’m very blessed – so how could I be more generous and help others? Stay tuned! If you pray, pray for wisdom and guidance from God about the ideas and stirrings on my heart.
The Christian principle that needs to be at work is Spirit-generated selflessness – not thinking less of yourself or more of yourself but thinking of yourself less. (The Meaning of Marriage p.66)
I’ve been thinking about these words a lot in the last few weeks. How do I think of myself less?
In a recent sermon at church, I was challenged by the passionate words of David in the first verse of Psalm 18. David declares, “I love you LORD.” It is something I have wrestled with for many years – in my mind I think, well of course I love God! But when I examine my heart and I look at the rest of my thoughts, actions and the way I spend my time, I wonder…do I really love God? Heart, soul, mind, all?
Every day I let the small things weasel their way in. Through the Spirit, there needs to be a “find and replace” edit of my thoughts and attitudes. From the concerns and obsessions fueled by fears and wounds from the past (Keller says it’s primarily our wounds which make us self-centred), to the foot of the cross. To Christ. To the fear of the Lord. To loving God.
Five years ago as I went to Uganda on short-term mission, my prayer and heart’s desire was that my love for God would grow. In the space of a few weeks I witnessed God powerfully at work in the lives of my African brothers and sisters, despite the poverty and hardship they faced. They taught us a simple African chorus called “My God is Able,” and we sang this many times over. Oh how my passion for God grew. He is so big and yet he loves, knows, cares forgives me! My prayer was answered.
My mission trip to Africa was wonderfully life-changing but I can’t take a trip to Africa every few years to get a boost of excitement for God. I struggle day to day to feel excited about God, but I want to have an enduring, passionate love for my creator, Lord, redeemer, saviour, friend, Father, comforter, refuge.
Two small steps for now…
1 – God above all
I’m convinced that the only way to truly fill my heart with God above all, is to spend more quality time with him – whether the desire is there or not. Last year I borrowed Shopping for time, by Carolyn Mahaney et al., from a friend. It’s a little book with big challenges and comes highly recommended! Through it I was challenged to prioritise spending time with God by doing it first each day – no matter how early that meant getting up. (I know, yikes, right?!) It was great when I did it, but unfortunately it didn’t last. I’ve decided to order my own copy, with the hope of getting (back) into the habit of regular quiet times.
2 – Devoting less brain space to consumer decisions…
Another friend’s decision to spend less money on herself, by not buying anything except essential items (so no clothes, shoes, homewares, jewellery etc) has inspired me to do the same thing for two months, til my birthday. So I am trying to think about myself less by pre-making the potentially daily consumer decisions I am blasted with every day as I work in the CBD. It’s been 12 days so far!
As I close, it would be crazy of me to think that in the doing or not doing of things that I would be come instantly less self-centred. But I pray that these little steps and challenges help my heart to change in a lasting way and that my love for God deepens, as I look away from me and look up.
This time in two weeks I will have just finished my first day at my new role as Editor/Writer at CMS Australia. Not quite what I had planned to do two weeks before Christmas, but it seems God had other plans. Typical.
I have been quite content in my role as Executive Assistant at International Teams. It has been an incredible time of growth in faith, of being humbled daily and has opened so many doors for me to go deeper in my passion for mission and to really help make a difference – just exactly what I had hoped. I have been contentedly plugging away at International Teams and wasn’t looking to leave anytime soon.
One of the things I have really loved at International Teams has been writing stories of God at work, developing the website and publishing. I get a certain pleasure out of seeing things that really matter (especially in an eternal sense), communicated well. And I rarely just read. I proofread.
When I saw a tweet about the position at CMS Australia back in October, I was curious. The job description sounded a bit like my dream role… writing and editing for a mission organisation full time? Really? With the bonus of one quick train ride to the city. So I applied, still unsure if I even wanted to leave, but trusting that God’s purposes and plans would prevail.
Just a couple of days before I submitted my application, I saw a profile I’d written of myself in a Year 12 ‘memories’ book, which had been brought along to the reunion. One of the questions asked what would I be doing in 10 years time? I said something like…
Married; working as a journalist and involved in making a difference in the world.
Wow. I had forgotten how long I’d had this dream.
As I went through the Application process, God just kept opening the doors and one week ago, I accepted the offer of the position and resigned from my current role. God has taken me on an incredible journey over the last ten years to get to this (from media/law studies, short term missions, planning lawyer, Executive Assistant and soon Editor). And the exciting thing is, the journey continues.
I’m looking forward to sharing new stories of God at work through His people all over the world and how Aussies can be involved in what He is doing and learning from the team I will be working with. I am especially looking forward to all God has in store for this new season as I continue to grow in trusting Him and His plans for my life. They are always much better than mine!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I have peace knowing also that God will provide for International Teams in my absence also. Already there is someone to work a couple of days doing my job and I will keep championing for RenovArte Café, Mexico too. It’s all His work after all.
I have only just tonight finished watching this three-part series. I had things on last week when the series screened on TV and the public conversation was in full flow.
It is hard to put into words how I feel. Deeply thankful. Undoubtedly blessed beyond reason. More questions than answers.
It is very difficult to comprehend why I should have food enough every day, warmth, flowing water and a comfy bed, let alone safety and hope for the future, when millions every where don’t and never have had enough of these things.
Some truths I must hold on to as I wrestle with this question, and others…
God cares deeply about the alien and the refugee. He always has. And always will.
This world is broken and humanity’s greatest need is to repent and believe in Jesus.
Jesus himself, as well as so many people in the bible, were refugees.
17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:17-19
The footage I watched tonight of Rod and Raye in the Democratic Republic of Congo, got me thinking again of the family from DRC whose asylum application I read a few months ago. I don’t think I’ll ever forget their story and the suffering they endured and the pain with which the husband and father recounted to me what had happened to them, even outside the DRC as they sought refuge. They are waiting for the appeal against refusal of their asylum application to be processed.
There can be no doubt that as a Christian and also as an Australian, that we must respond. To do our best to put ourselves in their shoes. To help. Listen. Speak out. Give. Befriend. Change.
Disclaimer: I wrote this almost a week ago but hadn’t come back to post it. Let’s just say that the ante has been upped since I wrote this. Stay tuned.
Sore throat. Late night. Plans change. Late night. No exercise. No space. Late night. Can’t think. What to wear? Can’t write.
I’ve posted about resistance before. This week and to some degree the last few weeks, we have felt increasing resistance to doing the particular things we feel called to. I guess this should not be a surprise – Jesus said somewhere ‘in this life you will have trouble.’ Resistance is always going to come – weekly, if not daily if not hourly.
Resistance really got to me on my Monday off work last week. I had set aside some time to reflect on my heart for missions in our church and to seek God’s wisdom and guidance – I was hoping for half a day. As I sat in the car for the second time, trying without any luck to reach Adam to sort out car logistics, I lost it. I felt so angry, sad and guilty too that for various reasons I was only going to get an hour.
On Saturday, as he prepared for our friend’s live recording, I think I was a channel of resistance to my husband. I was deceived into thinking that what I wore mattered more than anything, expressed in tears and obsessive worrying. Adam was amazingly patient but firm with me. And this helped me crawl out of the sorry pit I had fallen into
Resistance can take many forms, and it probably differs person to person, but in my life it’s generally either some form of spiritual attack or area of sin BUT it can also come in the form of very good and worthy things too. In the latter case, I feel that trying to make priorities and establish some boundaries on our time is part of the key. Discerning where to draw the line can be really hard. When it comes to the former type of resistance, on the upside…
If it is attack, then it is my hope that I/we must be doing something right to be worthy of attack; and
Whether it is sin or spiritual attack or a bit of a combination, then it is an opportunity to repent, grow in faith and trust in God.
The real test is – how do I deal with it when (not if) it comes? Often I don’t realise that I’m succumbing to the temptations that resistance brings with it – especially the negative personal attacks. I think I see it more clearly than I used to – but there is still endless potential for growth – towards not giving in at all. Perhaps the best battle plan is constantly praying against attack and asking God to help me see it for what it is when it comes, and then resisting it with words of truth – like “God loves me. Nothing can change that.” or “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.” Even declaring them out loud if I can. For I must remember that God is victorious over all my resistance.
Life is hard. Learning to believe and accept this more deeply is one of the biggest lessons I have learned in the last twelve months or so.
There was literally a day last year when my husband and I were having a bit of a fight and as we chatted through the stuff that was going on, Adam challenged me on this belief I had that life was ‘supposed’ to be easy. For as long as I can remember I thought, spoke and acted as someone pursuing ease. Sure sometimes I did hard things, but I would always try to do what I could to make the hard thing as easy as possible.
On Tuesday last week I was sharing this lesson with one of the girls who I was at training with.
A few days later on Saturday I was fighting this lie all over again. I had to have this nasty boil on my back ‘lanced’ by the doctor in the morning and throughout the day as I tried to get chores and things done, I just felt so sorry for myself. For me, this is one of the major symptoms of the life is easy lie. Then I was tripping over things and bumping my head on other things and feeling a little more sorry for myself. So you get the idea, bandaged back, stubbed toe and a bruised head. And a whole lot of tears.
I have found there is only one reliable way to be lifted out of this – and it’s usually not where I turn first (silent tears, angry thoughts) or second (that tends to be Adam – who is super patient and comforting – but ultimately not the solution).
Adam now regularly asks me “Have you prayed?” when I tell him I’m feeling overpowered by lies and spiralling into self-pity. Even as I write this, I regret that I am not more faithful in taking my troubles to God first. Although I can’t dwell on a thought like this – or it will become another one of the accuser’s ammunition against me.
Spiritual attack is the everyday reality of a life of faith. I see this at work in our church, with key people seriously ill, in my precious friends as they battle against huge work pressures or constant sickness. God is teaching me that shying away from the fight is not His answer – He wants me – and all His people to fight. For through struggle comes growth.
And so I try to pray as often as I remember to for protection of me and my family, friends and church against the evil one and to remind myself that it is ok if I face trials…perhaps even a good sign – that I’m dangerous enough to be worth attacking.
God is faithful to those who pray…
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
What an incredible promise.
Like little Annie the orphan sang, it is a hard knock life. And that’s ok. My life is nowhere near as hard as that of many others around the world…having perspective also helps!