He loves me enough

This has been one of those trying weeks.

Emotions seriously out of whack, crying unnecessary tears of disappointment.

But in the midst of the pain and anguish, God’s shown that He does know what is best for me.

And He loves me enough to withhold from me something that I thought I wanted but was completely out of His plan.

Sometimes we place unrealistic expectations on those around us, whether it be our friends, colleagues, spouses.  We put them up on a pedestal  and we begin to link our happiness and sometimes our contentment to how they treat us or respond to us.  I know I did.

And how loving is He to care enough that each time I begin to ground my happiness on whether or not someone meets my expectations, He withholds that relationship from me.

Once I refocus and get my head on straight again, once I go to Him as my source of joy and satisfaction, it’s like He allows me to have it back again, keeping an eye on me and making sure I don’t let my own flesh get in the way of something He has gifted me.  He is after all a jealous God – when things or people start to take His place in our lives, He has the authority, power and love to take those things/people away.

You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name.  

Lord, thank you for clarity like never before.  Forgive me for abusing what you had gifted me.  Help me to value and treasure what is presently before me and respect and love those around me within the boundaries you’ve already laid out for me.  Thank you for giving me insight to your grand plans for me and thank you for your patience with me.

“Keep my commandments and live, and keep my law and teaching as the apple of your eye.  Bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Say to skilful and godly wisdom, you are my sister and regard understanding or insight as your intimate friend.” – Proverbs 7:2-4 AMP

– Ames –

P.S. Enjoying this song right now…

God’s best

One of the lessons that I feel God has been impressing on my heart is that His best for me may not look like what I, my parents, my friends think is best for me.

His ways are higher than my ways afterall.

He has given me countless examples of this in my own life already.

My parents thought the best way for me to stay in private school was to get a scholarship and somehow pay the rest of the way. God closed those doors because He had a trust fund arrangement in place already.

I thought the best way for me to do my tertiary studies would be through a double degree at my preferred university. God closed the door on that because He knew I probably would have dropped law had I done it straight out of high school.

Friends, family and I thought it would be best that I get a priority job offer from the firms I’d worked in. God closed all those doors because He had a better fit in mind.

In all these and other examples, He has shown himself faithful and He’s not about to change now.

So when it comes to the area of relationships (the serious forever kind) I’m trying to keep an open mind knowing that who He has in mind, may not look like who I have in my mind. The circumstances in which I hope we will meet may not meet my expectations but what He has planned and in store will be even better than I could ever plan or fashion for myself. 

I am committing once again the pen of my love story to Him. Each time that I’ve tried to manipulate or push the friendship boundaries out of impatience (lack of trust in God really), I have fallen flat on my face lol.

God’s been gracious though each time and given me back the friendship that I’d abused and gently reminded me that it was a gift from him that I shouldn’t read anything more into at this point in time, if ever.

Not going to overthink it or assume anything.  Just gonna enjoy the journey He has me on and relax in the knowledge that He’s got this ;).

– Ames –

Enjoying moments

I’ve told this story a number of times in the last few weeks. Too many times I think because I feel like a broken record each time I relay it. Yet the revelation given, the perspective that shifted was a turning point for me – one that I want to always remember and look back on when I start to get caught up in the rat-race.

I was having lunch with a friend I’d only just got to know better in the last 6 months. I think it had been a month since I had last seen her but because we seemed to be on the same wave length on so many topics, there was too much to catch up on in the maximum 1 hour lunch break I had.

Even as we sat down to peruse the menu before ordering our food, I was figuring out what was the most urgent thing on my mind to share in the limited time we had. I still felt a bit on edge and in a rush until my friend said grace over the food. I can’t remember word for word but it was something along the lines of: “God, I know that we’ve got lots to catch up on but help us to just enjoy the moment, enjoy each other’s presence and your presence with us over this lunch break.”

Nothing supremely profound but what I needed to hear in that moment. It was like a light bulb went off in my head and all I could hear was, “enjoy the moments I give you” and my mind was flooded with verses like “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” and “do not worry about tomorrow (Matt 6:25-34)”. And all of a sudden, I felt my stress levels decrease. I felt myself relax for perhaps the first time in months.

I only recognised this after a week of this newfound state that I’d most likely been living at a consistent level of hightened stress since I had started full time work. Not cool. I had had nights where I would just cry out to God, complaining that it was too hard to balance all I had on my plate, that I just wanted to give up. It was only once I stopped trying to micro-manage my life and relax in the knowledge that I didn’t need to be in control of everything coz God was/is, that I started to feel alive again. I felt able to give of myself without feeling so drained all the time. I felt like I could in fact enjoy the moment with the people I caught up with, without stressing out over the things I had to do in the next moment. It was incredibly freeing and I’m so glad God used the unassuming prayer of a new friend to give me my wake up call :).

Now I’m not saying I’ve reached a stage where I no longer stress about things. What I am saying is that when I feel my stress levels rising, I know how to counteract them by surrendering those feelings and stressors to God and acknowledge his sovereignty over that particular situation – knowing that each stressful moment is an opportunity to experience God’s grace in my life. And when this shift in perspective happens, that’s when real peace and freedom is found :)

– Ames

life investments

Over the last week or so, I’ve been slowly making my way through the book, ‘The Invested Life,” by Joel C. Rosenberg and Dr. T.E. Koshy.  The subtitle to the book is, ‘making disciples of all nations one person at a time’.

The book is based around two simple questions:

  • Who is investing in me?
  • Whom am I investing in?

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about this book are the personal testimonies that pepper the chapters of how the lives of men and women have been transformed because of those who took the time to invest in them and disciple them.

In Chapter 2, the authors highlight three characteristics of a disciple that really come in the form of the people they have around them.  Dr Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary puts it like this:

  • a “Paul” – an older and wiser believer to invest in your spiritual growth;
  • a “Barnabas” – a friend who encourages you, teaches you and keeps you accountable; and
  • a “Timothy” – a younger believer in whose life you can invest.

– mentioned on pg 29, The Invested Life

Lately, I’ve come to better understanding of the role I’ve been given to mentor the “Timothys” under my care.  I know that my life is not my own – in the sense that whether I like it or not, these guys and girls watch how I live and potentially will follow the example I set in how I approach ministry, my work, relationships, my prayer life… it’s an incredible responsibility but at the same time, such a privilege to be a positive influence in the next generation of leaders.  It’s how we leave a legacy that outlasts our earthly lives – we can do a good job of it or just float through life accumulating things and investing in things that have no eternal value.

I’m also so thankful for the “Barnabases” that God has sent my way in the last year or two.  After I moved into my current church home, I thought I would need to join a life group at a slightly bigger church to get the support and encourage I needed to continue serving faithfully at the place that God has placed me.  But, God had other plans :).  Soon after, people I’d met over the years but had not really formed strong or sustained friendships with, started to come out of the ‘woodwork’.  He has pinpointed some individuals who have spoken faith and truth into my life and continues to bring people in to encourage me in my walk with Him.  I’ve recognised that I’m not the kind of person that needs that constant daily contact to keep me on track but every once in a while, a good D&M over coffee/food with a sister in Christ is enough to carry me over for a few more months before I need my ‘hit’ of inspiration so to speak :P.  God is good.

I guess right now I’m still praying for God to highlight the “Pauls” in my life.  I definitely count my parents as my “Pauls” who have invested copious time and effort into my spiritual growth but I know that it’s important to have someone outside of the family context to speak into my life as well.  There is someone I have in mind but I think more prayer is needed before I approach them.  Afterall, life investments shouldn’t be taken lightly…

So, who is investing in you?  And whom are you investing in?

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

– Ames –

content

That’s the word that comes to mind as I reflect on the day… though not everything went to plan, they worked out perfectly because of Romans 8:28 –>

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I love to picture it like a jigsaw puzzle… We pick up a piece and think it’s supposed to fit in a certain place, but then God picks up another piece and says, ‘Here, this is the one that’s meant to go in next.’  He reveals it to us step by step, enough that we know which piece to put in place, but not enough to see the full picture yet until the masterpiece is finished.  Then we’ll be able to stand back in awe of the wonderful picture that he was putting together for us, for our benefit, for us to enjoy… for His ultimate glory.
God, you are so good.
– Ames –

no regrets

I had someone ask me recently whether, in terms of relationships/dating, I had any regrets.

If I had my time again with the benefit of hindsight, would I have done things differently?  Absolutely.

Would I have stopped things in their tracks before launching into something that was not of God? Absolutely.

Would I have listened to the godly counsel and wisdom of my parents and those around me?  Absolutely.

However, am I glad for the lessons that I’ve learnt from my past experiences?  Absolutely.

For whatever happens in the future though, I want to approach relationships with the question:

How can I maximise the glory given to God in this relationship?

Inspired by this video:

“You’ll never regret the things that you didn’t do.”

So here’s to a future of no regrets.

– Ames –

put on love

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

– Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT)

I firmly believe that God’s heartbeat is for unity, not against it.  To bring about unity requires love.  Because where there are people, there are problems.  Why problems?  Because in every situation, we bring along our own set of views, opinions and baggage which most likely will differ at least to a certain degree from the person that we are in conflict with.  What do we do then?  Do we stand on opposing sides, demanding the other to back down, else they will suffer the consequences that we believe they rightly deserve?

My question is always, “What would Jesus do?”  What would the people who are chosen by God do?  The answer I think is clear in the above passage in Colossians.  Clothe yourselves with love or as the NIV reads, Put on love.

“If I take offense easily; if I am content to continue in cold unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” – Amy Carmichael

– Ames –

back into wholeness

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free —and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

– 1 Corinthians 12:12-20

Having sprained my ankle a few days ago, I made two key observations about how the body works when one part is injured….

1 ) Straightforward tasks take so much longer – the rest of the body has to work so much harder to compensate for the part that is not functioning as it should.  The body gets tired quickly and other people have to be called in to do tasks that should have been effortless for you.  The assistance that you call in may end up hurting other parts of the body i.e. getting bruises under your arms from crutches.

2) However, just because it was difficult, didn’t mean that I gave up on my ankle.  Just because it was causing me pain and slowing me down didn’t mean that I just cut it off, thinking I’d be better without it.  Nope. I know I still need my ankle if I’m going to function properly and reach my full potential.  Hence, I’ve done my best to rest it, giving it time to heal.  Accommodating it as best I could to reduce the swelling, bandaging it up during the day and then giving it room to breath at night.  Slowly and surely, there are signs of improvement and I should be back to 100% by early next week.

If this is how we look after our physical body, why is it that sometimes when members of the body of Christ are being difficult, our first reactions tend to be, “Oh we don’t need them, they can leave” or sometimes we attack others when they are hurting?  Sure, they may be a drain of our energy and resources but as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, we each have a unique role to play and none is more important than the others.  Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t stumble and fall.  We’re still imperfect beings in the process of being perfected by the grace of God.  However, instead of picking on the weakness of others, we should be looking for ways to nurse/love each other back into wholeness in Christ.

I feel like this also applies to the relationships between churches and other churches too.  If a pastor or a church has fallen into sin, I don’t think it’s our place to go around condemning them or speaking badly about them.  It’s not that I think you condone the sin – I believe God is a just God and will judge them accordingly and there will be consequences for the sin – but just like we wouldn’t cut off a part of our body when it’s injured, I don’t think we should just leave our fellow brothers and sisters to ‘rot away’, but encourage them to repent and love them back into wholeness as well.

It’s unfortunate that there have been many stories of those that have been ‘burnt’ by the Church, but Jesus came to reconcile man to God and as Christ’s ambassadors, restoration and healing should be our priorities rather than deciding who is right or who is wrong in a conflict.

– Ames

chased by grace

Surely goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life. – Psalm 23:6

…the Hebrew word for ‘follow’ is radaph’ and it means to “to pursue, to run after, to chase” or, quite literally, “to hunt you down”. The word radaph, that one that goodness and mercy is doing in Ps. 23:6, it is first found in Genesis 14, when Abram discovers that his nephew Lot has been kidnapped and Abram gathers an army of 318 men and “pursued them unto Dan” (Genesis 14:14). The word ‘pursued’ there? It’s is ‘radaph’.

God is so bent on blessing, He chases.

God’s not out to get you — He’s out to give to you.

And God’s blessings don’t pursue temporarily — but relentlessly. It’s right there in His Word: His goodness and mercy pursue me not just some days — but all the days of my life. When I’m in a wilderness, His mercy and goodness run after me. When I’m hurting, His grace hunts for me. When I’m plagued by problems, His goodness pursues me.

No matter where I go, He has his two blessing men right there in hot pursuit: goodness and mercy, and no shadow of death can overshadow the goodness and mercy that shadows the child of God.

Even the discipline of the Lord can be a grace of the Lord and all the interruptions of a day can be the intercessions of Christ.

Whatever is chasing you — no matter what it looks like — it’s grace.

– read the rest at A Holy Experience

Over the last week or so, I began to start feeling overwhelmed once again with the tasks that are at hand.  There was always something to be done, another thing to be checked off the never-ending to-do list.  I felt like I was constantly behind, trying to jump from one thing to the next… it wasn’t a nice feeling.

So when, I sprained my foot late last week, I just thought, ‘Great.  This is what I need.’ [read: sarcasm]

However, having taken a few days to rest, I’ve come to view it more like a blessing in disguise.  This is what I needed.  Time to rest the body, rest the mind, rest the spirit.  Still many things that I’ll continue to do (i.e. catch up on uni work) but at the same time, taking it slower, breathing deeper and letting His love wash over me.

I love that He knows me better than I or any other human being could know me.  And He knows all my needs and chases me down with His goodness, mercy and grace.

Credit: A Holy Experience

– Ames

It’s all about perspective

Priscilla Shirer tells the story of how her parents once took their extended family on a trip to New York.  For some reason, her brother-in-law Jesse, who was a very big footballer build kind of guy, was always eating very small meals for the first few nights that they went out for dinner.

She asked him [paraphrased of course], “Jesse, are you alright?  How come you are eating so little?”

Jesse said, “Oh yes, I’m fine.  It’s just that these fancy restaurants are so expensive and I have a whole family to feed so I just eat a little something at the dinner table and then I go outside afterwards and get me a hotdog.”

Priscilla: “Didn’t you get the memo?”

Jesse: “What memo?”

Priscilla: “Mom and Dad sent an email before the trip that each family covers the meals for their family for breakfast and lunch but then for dinner, they will cover the tab.”

Jesse: “WHAT?!!!”

Jesse then motions to the waiter to bring the menu and orders the biggest steak and potatoes he can find.

Lesson: When you have access to the resources, the way you look at the menu changes.

This simple story really spoke to me this morning.  Though there is no job yet lined up for next year, I know that I have access to the God who provides all my needs according to His riches in Heaven.  And not only do I have access to Him, but He’s proven Himself faithful over the years to give the very best to those who love Him.  So, why worry?

You can have access to this awesome God too.

It’s simple: “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Saved – not just for Heaven but for this life  – He came to give us life and life more abundantly! (John 10:10b)

– Ames