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Sunday, 29 July 2018

It’s Already Dry

It’s bright and sunny outside today. Beautiful blue sky, barely a cloud, perfect for playing, going for walks, drying washing. No doubt if you’re reading this, you’re old enough to know that not every day is like that. Some days, it rains. Some days, it storms. Some days it’s freezing and other days you burn just walking outside.  

And then, there are those days that are just overcast. My least favourite. I love the sun. I love the rain. Like most Aussies, I love a good storm. But overcast days? It’s like they can’t quite commit. Not clear, not hot, not rainy, just annoyingly muggy and indecisive. 

And, among other things, terrible for washing. 

They’re the days when I hang washing and then spend the whole day second-guessing myself, checking the radar to make sure the dark clouds above my house aren’t about to bucket down rain and forcing myself to trust it despite how dark the clouds are. (Another story in itself!) Balancing the likelihood of rain with the likelihood of the washing drying if I bring it inside. 

But the other day, as I was once again going back and forth between the clouds and the radar, I suddenly realised how ridiculous I was being. There I was watching the darkening clouds and stressing over whether to get the washing off or leave it and risk the rain – something I seem to do all too often – and it hit me. 

The washing was already dry. 

It didn’t matter whether it rained or not while I was out because the washing was already dry. It didn’t need to be out on the line. I could bring it in then. 

I do that a lot with hearing God too. I stress over whether he wants me to do something or not, or whether I’ve heard his voice clearly or it’s just my own thoughts, only to come back to the fact that I’ve missed the point. He’s already made it clear. For example...

Should I encourage that person? 

Encourage one another and build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)

How am I going to sleep tonight, knowing my child’s not well/I have that big exam tomorrow/I’m don’t know how I’m going to fit everything in/my friend is heartbroken…?

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? … Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:30-33 TM)

Do I have to forgive that person? They hurt me and I didn’t do anything wrong! I’m in the right here…

Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 NIV)

Can I really trust God? Does he realise life is spinning out of control? Does he even care?

But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! (Isaiah 43:1-3 TM)

But even if I did go talk to that person, what would I say? Why would they listen to me? Not that I hate myself or anything but I'm just me. It's not like I'm a pastor or someone in authority or anything.

Each person is given something to do that shows who God is... (1 Corinthians 12:5 TM)

But the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength, so that through me the Message might be proclaimed... (2 Timothy 4:17 NIV)

There are so many more instances. Things I pray for and stress over when God’s already answered – thousands of years before I was even born. He’s always going to choose to love someone over shunning them, to forgive rather than hold on to bitterness. He’ll always ask for faith over knowledge and for us to trust because he knows what he’s doing. 

The Bible is full of answers. Sure, the specifics of our day to day change but God’s character never will and neither will his promises. Don’t make the mistake I make all too often and get so caught up in the questions and worries that you miss the fact that he’s already answered. 

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Not What I Expected (but exactly what I asked for)

Last week, I put a fairly specific prayer point up on Facebook and asked many of you to pray. I was going into a big week of writing and certain that, like every other time I’d tried to do so, every attempt of mine to write would be thwarted. Sickness, kids turning nocturnal, broken bones, swollen fingers, migraines – they were the usual culprits. So usual, in fact, that they’d become predictable. And felt like a direct spiritual attack against my writing. The closer I got to finishing a book, the harder they hit. Though I’d prayed my way through it for months, I knew this week I needed a bigger army of pray-ers on my side. 

I was so, so encouraged when many of you told me when I posted it, and throughout the week, that you were praying for me and my writing. 

And a little confused when - despite the fact that I knew people were praying - my toddler was awake almost all night the night before my first full day’s writing. I managed a whole three hours sleep in my bed and spent the rest of the night sitting napping on the couch with him beside/on/on top of me. Turned out he couldn’t breathe properly because of a blocked/runny nose, which plagued him all week. Wednesday, a family event came up cutting my writing time short. Thursday (a planned half-day), my hands ached too much to type more than an hour or so and by Friday (my last full day), I was panicking that I wouldn’t reach my self-imposed deadline – and then, of course, being bombarded with doubts that I could ever have the strength to do this writing thing full time. 

Sick child, tick. Sleep deprivation, tick. Sore hands, tick. Doubts, tick. Unexpected family commitments, tick. All the things I thought I’d asked God to banish so I could write.

But then, it hit me. I’d been writing all week. Hours and hours of good writing. Despite a lack of sleep and all the other physical factors which would normally slow me down, by Friday afternoon, with an hour or so to spare, I’d gotten to the end of the manuscript and reached every goal I’d set for the week. 

And what’s more, I’d done it freely, without having to fight for each word. For months, every time I pulled out my laptop, it was like I had to fight and pray my way through a heavy, dark cloud to write a single word, and by the time I’d fought my way through it, I was too tired to put sentences together, let alone good ones. But as I sat there, feeling surrounded by prayers and the promises of scripture Mum had put up all around my desk, I could just write. 

I’d asked for prayer that I’d be able to write and God answered that. Amazingly so. He didn’t answer the prayer the way I’d expected – I still lost sleep and had to work through the doubts – but he gave me exactly what I needed. Not taking away the storm but instead holding my hand and giving me the strength, motivation and courage to walk through it. 

I sent that manuscript off again this week. Off into the big scary world of publishers. But the thing was, I wasn’t scared this time. Far from it. I was actually really excited. I have no idea whether this time it will be just what they’re looking for or whether I still have years of work, patience and hope to cling on to before my stories catch the eye of publishers but, these past two weeks, I have seen God champion my dream and encourage my writing time and time again. He’s got this. And he’s got me. And even when he’s not answering prayers the way I expect, he’s answering them exactly as I need. 

There’s a line from a song (Still, by Hilary Scott, one I shared on this blog earlier this year) which has been playing in my head lately, echoed by my heart. 

I rest my heart on all Your promises cos I have seen and known Your faithfulness.

Over and over, God proves that he is still in control. I know this, I’ve seen him do it before. Times when life felt out of control, only look back later and realise how tightly God held me and my situation. Times when I thought I had nothing left only to have God show me how strong he is. Times when it would have taken a miracle for something to happen, and a miracle showed up. I’ve seen this. I know God can do this. I have seen and known firsthand his faithfulness. 

God rarely answers our prayers exactly how we think he will but he always answers them. With just what we need. Even if sometimes (often) it takes a little looking back to see it. He hears your prayers, he knows what you need, and he is always faithful. 

I feel like more people than just me need to hear this message this week. Maybe you feel like you're fighting and fighting and praying and praying and God just isn't listening. Maybe you prayed and got an answer but it's not what you wanted and certainly not what you expected. Maybe you prayed in hope, full of faith, and nothing happened. God's not done. He heard you. Every single time.

Whether he's answered your prayer yet or not, he's with you in the storm.
With you in the heartache.
With you as you cry.
With you as you beg for things to change, knowing that what you ask lines up exactly with God's will.
With you as you pray, day after day, with all the faith you can find.
He's listening, he's faithful. He's peace in the storm and an unmovable rock you can lock on to. He's never broken a promise and he never will. 

Rest your heart. God’s got this, and God’s got you.