Month: September 2020

Keeping it real

A real woman is curvy, ladylike, feminine, slim, beautiful, graceful, happy, does not like to be a bother, quiet.  REALLY?

A real man is strong, never cries, macho, tough, good at making things, out with the lads, like sports, a provider, the boss.  REALLY?

A real mother is nurturing, self-sacrificing, patient, a good cook, cheerful, provides a stimulating environment, caretaker.  REALLY?

A real Christian is always joyful and faithful, prayers all the time, knows all the books of the bible, never misses church. REALLY?

From a young age we are feed these types of stereotypes about what it is to be real.  These stereotypes vary greatly depending on where you live, your culture and your family beliefs.  The word ‘real’ means something that actually exist or occurs in fact; not imagined or supposed.  So, by definition these lists of characteristics are not real, but they are just an opinion. Who are these so called ‘real’ people?

As a backlash against this ‘to be real you must be this’ message, a new message was created, just be yourself.  And all though this sounds good on the surface, you do not have to look to far to see the cracks in this as well.  It is more be yourself as long as the ‘yourself’ you are being is the one we tell you to be.  Be yourself but use this product or buy this thing or go here and do this and then you will be yourself but an even better self. 

With so many contradictory and confusing messages and the pressure to be something we are not; we learn to pretend. Plaster on a happy face and smile a fake smile and pretend we are all ok even if we are not, pretend we are all the things that we think we must be, we exhaust ourselves fulfilling an imaginary image. 

The call is on us as individuals to be real, not a stereotype we have been feed but our real selves as God created us.  Having real, honest conversations with each other not hiding our weaknesses or our strengths but having courage and faith to show the real us to others and accepting others as they are, not forcing them to conform to a version that is acceptable to us.

It is time we get real, especially as Christians we need to be real.  The world needs us to be real. We need real churches talking about real issues and dealing with messy people. Christians who are truthful about who they are and the feelings they have and are not afraid of being vulnerable and open.  By presenting a perfect airbrushed version of Christianity we isolate and turn away those who are broken and flawed, who look at the church and assume they will never accept me or understand the struggles I am facing.  A broken world needs a real church, honest, raw and open to mess.

We serve Jesus and what we think is real is not important, the only opinion which is important is Gods.  Lets get real and keep it real.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

The Promise of Freedom

Over time, we settle for what is easy and familiar. When you have lived with stress, depression, or pain, you get familiar with it and it becomes your companion; a measure by which you judge your life. There was a time in my Christian walk I was hiding behind a ‘good Christian’ façade, but I believed I was too broken, too sinful, or too damaged to expect anything more from life. The freedom I heard other people talk about was for them, not me. This was my lot and I was going to try and be content with it.

In the middle of mental illness, emotional pain, addictions, or even physical illness, it can be nearly impossible to imagine what it would be like to be completely free and joyful. Freedom is so much more than just being out of captivity or having a slight improvement in your circumstances. It is embracing a future that God plan especially for you and growing as a person and following your dreams.

My captivity at the time had been a combination of my past; my depression, my comfort zone, my religious beliefs, my addictions, and my low self-worth. I was a slave to these things. I could not move forward, but instead was held back in every area of my life. I was worn down by the struggle and the fight against my own inner demons and this kept me from seeing my potential.

I spent so much of my energy and time fighting to ‘break free’ from my addictions, my past, and my sin. I was fighting to fix myself and to do it through my own power. I was trying to earn my redemption when it was a gift God had already given me freely. I was wasting so much of my life pursuing the past rather than striving forward.

If we are not free, then we are captive. The world keeps us captive by telling us that we’re not good enough as we are; that we need to have more or do more. Jesus wants to turn everything on its head. Instead of making demands, he offers rest and recovery and to live freely and lightly.

My past had clouded the message of the Gospel. I just had to be more of everything and then I would feel ok and enough. I didn’t understand that what I did had no impact on God’s response to me. Grace is unearned and undeserved and God’s love and grace are abundant. That was the point of Jesus’s sacrifice for me, because of the cross I was accepted and loved. I could not do anything to make God forgive or love me more.

True freedom comes from an understanding of the total undeserved acceptance we have through Jesus. I never felt accepted or loved growing up and I never felt good enough. Even as a new Christian, I felt that the love and grace of God was based on my performance, on the things I did for God and the church. If I was just more attractive, smarter or more knowledgeable I would be worthy of love and acceptance. It was not enough for me to be just good, I had to be the best or perfect.

The freedom Jesus offers doesn’t come with special conditions. You can come to Jesus just as you are now. We do not need to ‘get our ducks in a row’ or try to make ourselves better before coming to Jesus. He wants us just as we are, warts and all. God loves me, not because of anything I did but because He created me. He knows all my very worst secrets and hidden weaknesses and loves me anyway.

As Christians, we are not promised to be slightly free or less burdened but totally free.

That change can happen quickly. It doesn’t need to be a long-drawn-out experience, freedom is instant. Your moment can occur right now. You don’t need to wait until you are at the end of your own strength to accept the strength of God in your life. In the New Testament, as Jesus travelled, he healed many people in an instant. In an instant you can choose to take that leap of belief and in an instant Jesus can change your life and free you forever. The Bible puts it plainly and simply: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36) Jesus sets you free and you are indeed completely free without conditions. He knows you, He loves you, and He has a plan for your life, to give you hope and a future.

Hope, joy, peace, and freedom are all things that do not depend on our circumstances, unless we allow them to. We can decide every day to live in freedom and joy, because we hold on to the hope for the future as we trust God’s plans for us.

Except from book by Staci McLean ‘Soaring out of the darkness’

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1 

Happiness is not a goal; it is a side effect.

‘Don’t worry, be happy’ was a popular song in the late 80s when I was a teenager.  It became my manta and my main goal in life was to be happy.  But I was not a happy teenager, I had a difficult home situation and was emotionally unstable.  Due to this the ‘don’t worry, be happy’ movement for me became about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain at all costs.  Seeking short term pleasure led me to make loads of terrible decisions with long last consequences and did not make me happy, it made me more miserable.  Happiness itself should not be our goal and especially looking for it in a quick fix, but joy and long-lasting happiness is a side effect or by-product of a life lived well and with purpose.

The dictionary defines happiness as a feeling of joy, pleasure, or good fortune. Being pleased, content, glad and of good wellbeing.  It is a nice definition but I think the key to happiness is not what ‘happy’ is but what causes us to be happy.

If your happiness is dependent on external sources, it will be unpredictable and changeable.  If you rely on your family, your kids, your job, your successes, your house, your possessions, your holidays to give you feelings of happiness and joy, you will ultimately experience disappointment and unhappiness as those things can never satisfy us long term or they will let us down at some point. 

But if you focus instead of living a good life, a life with God at the centre, in service to other people, caring about yourself and looking after your physical, emotional and spiritual needs you will be happy and have a type of happiness that is not dependent on the circumstances of your life but a happiness that has an eternal perspective. 

Life is filled with a mixture of emotions and our happiness levels do fluctuate with our experiences. There will be special days when we feel delighted and elated with life. There are good days when we feel content and merry and bad days when we are stressed and sad. Sometimes these things happen all at the same time. There will be times when we suddenly feel sad at a happy event or have a moment of laughter in the middle of grief.  Our humanity allows us to experience a range of emotions, but a solid baseline of happiness unrelated to any situation you find yourself in, will keep bringing you back to a joyful and grateful wellbeing.

That baseline of happiness is the joy and freedom of a relationship with Jesus. The joy of knowing Jesus is what allowed the disciples to sing in prison and rejoice in hardship and under persecution. Their happiness was because of their knowledge of and their faith in Jesus. Happiness was never their goal but it was a side effect of their faith.

“I have neither tongue nor pen to express to you the happiness of such as are in Christ.”

Samuel Rutherford

‘I can’t handle it any more’

What to do when you feel overwhelmed

A wave of dread came over me, I could feel my heart starting to beat faster, my stomach twisting.  I felt like I was drowning and could not breathe, a huge weight rested on my chest. Overpowered and unable to think clearly or logically. Overwhelmed by the thought of the day ahead of me.

Have you ever felt like that?  Totally overwhelmed, lost and in over your head?   Sometimes it can be a huge task ahead of you that fills you with terror and fear or maybe it is just the normal day to day activities that just become too much to handle.

When we feel overwhelmed, it is because we are looking into the future and guessing what those future experiences will be like and we believe that it will be more than what we can handle. It is an emotional response from not being able to see a way through the current situation or not being unable to see a solution to a problem.

Overwhelm can feel like drowning in stress, being crushed or buried by the weight of your responsibilities and the people who are relying on you or your never ending ‘to do’ list. Swamped like this, your spirit and joy for life is extinguished.

The feelings of ‘overwhelmed’ shows themselves in many ways, it is different for each of us. Overwhelm might result in anxiety, anger, irritability, worry, doubt, helplessness, crying, lashing out or panic attacks.

With so much pressure, expectations, and busyness on us in this modern world, it is not surprising that many of us experience feeling of overwhelm and are affected by our responses to it.

The answer to overwhelm is not to do more or to run away and hide.  But as Christians, we have a unique perspective to feelings of overwhelm, that is not to fight it but to surrender. It does not matter if you cannot handle any more, God can handle it all for you. 

‘From the end of the earth I will cry to you whenever my heart is overwhelmed. Place me on the rock that’s too high for me’.  Psalm 61:2.

When we surrender our feelings of overwhelm and surrender our desire to be in control to God and trust God to provide and protect us, He can lift us above our circumstances to give us a more accurate perspective.  When we have a God led perspective and peace, we are then in a position to face our problems, make good decisions and cope with what is going on.

From this higher viewpoint, we can distinguish between tasks of necessity and self inflicted overwhelm from perfectionism, unrealistic expectations and over packed schedules. God is interested in your day to day and wants to help guide you to life a life of joy and purpose.

Practical tools to help with overwhelm

  • Ask for and accept help from other people

You do not need to do everything on your own. Often people want to help they just do not know how or what to do.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but understanding your needs is a part of emotional strength and health.

  • Be kind to yourself and challenge overwhelm thoughts

Thoughts like ‘I will never be able to do that’, ‘it is too hard’, ‘I can’t do it’, ‘I am useless’ are all unhelpful and unkind to yourself.  Be your own best friend and support yourself through positive words and encourage your best efforts.

  • Set boundaries on your time and workload

Saying NO is ok.  You don’t need to say yes to everything that is asked of you.  Set boundaries on your time and your energy to do the things that are important and also some fun things.

  • Action a few quick and easy items first

When you have a long list of things to do and you feel overwhelmed, choose one or two of the easiest and less time-consuming items to do them first and do it immediately.  By taking action and making a start you create momentum which will spur you on and motivate you to take action on the rest of your list.

‘The heart of God loves a persevering worshipper who, though overwhelmed by many troubles, is overwhelmed even more by the beauty of God’

Matt Redman

Are you the problem or the solution?

Take responsibility and find growth

Do you procrastinate and then get stressed when the pressure comes on? Or do you get angry with your kids because you are tired, but you are tired because you were up late watching Netflix? Or do you keep repeating the same mistake over and over, even though you know it is the wrong thing to do and has negative consequences?

How often do we struggle and face obstacles that were simply caused by our own behaviours or inaction or rebellious attitude?  It is easier to blame the world or everyone else, but to grow we need to take personal responsibilities for the difficulties we cause in our own lives.

Before I stopped drinking, I was a professional at creating drama and problems.  I did have a difficult childhood and struggles growing up but most of the pain and brokenness I experienced was not from other people’s actions but from my own.  I hurt people and caused problems through my drinking, through my out of control emotions and my self-destructive behaviour.  And I did blame everyone else. I blamed my parents, my siblings, genetics, my friends, the ‘system’, it was everyone else’s fault but mine. 

One of the scariest and the most liberating truths I faced in recovery was the realisation that I was responsible for it all.  I was responsible for the things I had done that hurt myself and others, I was responsible for the consequences of my behaviours and I was responsible for how I had responded to the actions of others. 

We are responsible for our actions and for own our lives, but we still mess up and do the wrong thing and, we also fail to do the right thing.  The challenge is to stand by the choices we make, without blaming others or making excuses but accepting accountability. 

To be able to change or to stop doing something that is hurtful or wrong can only come with admitting responsibility. Through acknowledgement and bringing your actions into the light, you can be empowered and strengthened by God to make changes and grow in your character.

Taking responsibility is not about judgement or guilt or shame or fault finding but facing truth and allowing growth.  God has given us the gift of forgiveness, but to be forgiven you must first acknowledge your wrong doing. By avoiding responsibility, you miss out on grace and the freedom that comes from God’s forgiveness and mercy.


‘Some people create their own stormsthen get upset when it rains’.