Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Finding contentment in suffering

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 

(1 Peter 4:12-13)

It is so easy to be happy and contented on a sunny spring day when everything has gone smoothly. It is quite a different story when the children have been naughty, you are feeling sick, the bills are pilling up, dinner has burnt and you have heard bad news. 

Suffering is unavoidable. 

Everyone experiences suffering at some point in their lives. Some more than others. 

Suffering is universal across the globe and through history. 

Being a Christian does not prevent suffering nor does it reduce or limit it. 

Can you imagine a life with no suffering? No more headaches, no more rebellious children, no more crime, no more cancer, no more overdue bills, no more pain, no more broken relationships, no more wars. No more anger, stress, frustrations, depression, anxiety or panic. With no suffering would we ever asked God for help? What would we learn, would we grow in Christ? The truth is, we would only ever be superficial christians and would forget to give thank God for all His goodness and care. There are some lessons in life that can only be learnt through pain and therefore we need to look at pain and suffering as a gift rather than a curse. 

No matter the magnitude of our suffering, God is ALWAYS at our side. He never leaves us even when we complain and grumble. 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

God is very aware of our suffering and He understands it completely.  We cannot hide our suffering, we might be able from friends and loved ones, but NEVER from God.  No only does God understand our suffering, He knows why we are suffering and what we will learn from it.  In the end, we learn that we may never know the specific reason for our suffering, but we must trust in our sovereign God. That is the real answer to suffering. 

Through our suffering and pain, we must find contentment. This sounds extraordinary. How can someone with a terminal illness find contentment? How can someone who has just lost a child or a mother find contentment?  God isn't asking us to decide if we want to be content, He is expecting us to find contentment in ANY situation we find ourselves in. 

The bible provides a number of examples of suffering  — Job suffered and suffered badly — he lost everything that was precious to him and then endure open sores and incredible discomfort and had no idea why he was suffering. Like us, Job did complain and said things he should not have and his confidences wavered but he never gave up and he learnt that when all is lost, God never leaves us and we can rest in His faithfulness. In the end God blessed him. We can learn a lot from those in the bible who suffered—Joseph, Paul, David to name just a few.

* Firstly, we need to share our suffering. Many people who are suffering are alone and scared, they isolate themselves from friends and family or simply keep quiet about their troubles. They suffer in silences and God doesn't want us to suffer in silences. We "must bear each others burdens" (Galatians 6:2) and to "mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15). We need to remember that a trouble shared is a trouble halved! Sharing our problems does help reduce our suffering and can make the load so much lighter. It can also lift our spirits, make us laugh and smile — these are all good for us which is why God wants us to share our troubles with others.  

Secondly, we need to thank the Lord for giving us this blessing, for getting to know Christ even more intimately. We need to "count it all joy when we fall into various trials" (James 1:2), even those trials that are difficult and painful. And we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Roman 5:3-5).  We need to thank the Lord and be joyful as He is in the process of doing something amazing, even though it may not feel like it at the time. We must thank Him as what might feel like being torn down is in fact, building us up. By the end, we will be stronger, deeper and closer to Christ than ever before. 

Thirdly, don't waste the lessons learnt. Do not come out of your suffering having learnt nothing. God takes us through these journeys so we can learn and grow. We don't choose to suffer, but we can learn from it. Once the darkness clears, we will have more strength, sensitivity, patiences, understanding of others, maturity, depth, compassion, fortitude and thanks than before. No one says suffering isn't painful but if we all embrace the lessons learned, then our suffering is never in vain and finding contentment is so much easier.

Contentment during suffering doesn't mean you won't feel sad or in pain. Contentment doesn't stop the pain. Contentment doesn't mean you can't cry out out to God. Being content does bring you peace during a storm, it does give you strength and it does bring you joy. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ways to help those who are dying or sick

A few months before Ruth Terracini died she wrote a letter (link) to others so they could better understand death and dying. In her letter she included ways that we can help those who are dying, including the carers (may that be a husband or wife, siblings, extended family or friends). 
"It takes energy to ask for help, and it somehow makes the situation seem even more hard to bear … "not only am I sick, and a burden too, now I have to think of jobs for people to do!" I truly appreciated it when people took the initiative. When people offered specific help and followed through I could relax, be grateful, and feel loved. 
It is hard to ask for help. Imagine for a moment, that a friend or acquaintance has said to you "Oh, that's terrible, let me know if there's anything I can do"…and you respond "Oh well, um, our front lawn is around knee height, and my husband is exhausted from taking me to the emergency department, worrying about me, cooking for me, caring for me … so if you could pop over and mow it or organise someone to, that would be great". I could never say that! It feels like an admission of not coping, of having to rely on other people. It feels awkward and wrong. It feels like I am being lazy and asking them to do something that I should be able to do myself (how hard is it to pick up the phone and call a gardener!). Maybe I'm too proud, but I'd rather settle for a garden that has the unkempt look."
It is so important for us to reach out and help those in need. It doesn't need to only be those with chronic or terminal illness, it can include helping an exhausted mum who needs a break, a family who have the flu, someone elderly who is struggling to mow the lawn or someone in a dark place at present that just can't manage day-to-day. Helping makes all the differences and that is what is most important. 
"I know now that the phrase "Let me know if there's anything I can do" is well meant, but impossible (for me at least) to respond to. It is much easier to be grateful for something that somebody did without having to be asked. If you are thinking about how to help someone who is facing cancer or something challenging, my advice would be to:"
  • Understand that it is hard, and energy sapping, for the person to ask for specific help. Try not to put the person who is unwell in the position of thinking of jobs for you to do, and asking for help.
  • Don't do anything out of a sense of obligation. Do it out of love, or not at all. Be truly happy to help.
  • Understand that cancer can be an experience that is long and drawn out – and that help in various forms is just as much needed down the track as it is in the shock of the first few weeks after diagnosis.
  • Realise that although a cancer patient may actually look well, they are, in reality, dealing with all sorts of things you may not be aware of. These can include regular blood tests and scans (and the nerve racking wait for results), pain, fatigue, appointments with the oncologist, bad news/good news (and what to tell people), medications (and their side effects), hospital visits, coming to terms with death, difficult decisions.
  • Accept that doing something for someone does not have to be a grand gesture. You don't have to be a close friend or family member to reach out to someone that you know has been handed a desperate diagnosis or a very challenging situation.
  • Remember the caregiver. They are bearing many burdens – working, as well as caring, housework and dealing with the incredible stress and worry of having a very ill partner. Much of what is written below could, and should, equally well be done for them.

Practical things:
  • Mow our lawn
  • Make me dinner
  • Clean something around my house
  • Invite me along to something fun or nice that you are doing
  • Take me to a good movie
  • Meet me for coffee
  • Send me a card of encouragement
  • Shop for some organic fruit for me
  • Share something out of your vegie garden with me
  • Plant something in my vegie garden
  • Send me a text when you are doing your grocery shopping and ask me if I need anything
  • Find out when I have to go to the hospital for treatment, a blood test or a port flush, and offer to come with me or visit me there
  • Visit my elderly parent(s) when I am too tired or sick to go to see them
  • Take my dog for a walk to tire her out and keep her happy

Kindnesses that take little effort but that can be powerfully uplifting:
  • Tell me that you have said a prayer, or sent positive vibes into the universe for me
  • Write me a note to tell me why I matter
  • Send me an email or text every now and then just to say you are thinking of me…and don't expect an immediate response
  • Share a memory that you have of me that is special to you
  • Talk to me like I am a normal person, not a diagnosis or a problem to solve. Let me enjoy some time with you when cancer is not the main topic of conversation
  • Let me know that you care – I don't need (or want) to talk about my disease or treatment all the time, or for it to be the first thing that you ask about, but I'd like you to acknowledge the reality of what I am going through, and not pretend it isn't happening
  • Do something challenging and tell me that you were thinking of me when you were doing it (the Relay for Life, a long distance event, a hike up a mountain)
  • Do something for my husband, who has been supporting me in every way since our ordeal began
  • Give me a hug and tell me that you love me

Whilst not mentioned in the letter from Ruth Terracini, as Christians we should understand the importances of praying for those who are dying and especially those who are caring for the sick. And there many things we can do that take little effort but are profoundly important and comforting: reading the bible, play hymns, create prayer groups etc.. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Art Friday: Chris Wormel

Artist: Chris Wormel

Chris Wormel was born in 1955 in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire (UK). He had no formal training as an artist, working as a road-sweeper, rubbish collector, postman, and a factory worker. An interest in landscape painting led him to buy a set of wood engraving tools in 1982, and to teach himself how to use them. His first commercial book, An Alphabet of Animals, published in 1990 won that year's Graphics Prize at the Bologna International Children's Book Fair. 

He has published some 14 illustrated books and acted as illustrator of others' work on at least 18 more. His work has also been published as greeting cards and he designed the artwork for a series of advertisements for Adnams, a regional brewer based in Suffolk.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Truly beautiful homes

"Home was intended to be so much more than just a place of bare essentials" Sally Clarkson

To make our home truly beautiful one must have God as the centre of all activities. Guest must feel welcome and there is an air of generosity, peace, calmness and love. Your children will grow up to remember their home as a place of warmth and kindness, where all those who visit felt comfortable to gather and talk about things that mattered to them. In all likelihood, these children will grow into adults who will create the same sort of home.

A beautiful home must also be free from influences that can pollute and disturb the tranquility — today this is much harder than yesteryear as we are surrounded by bad influences such as television, trashy magazines and social media (via our phones and computers). People today recognize the damaging effects that television and social media have on impressionable children, and, for that matter, on teenagers and adults.  Neither the television or smart phone should be allowed to rule the home. 

Through wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established;  By knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches. (Provers 24:3-4)

The next time you are sitting in your lounge room or sharing a meal with your family, ask yourself:  Do I truly feel at home? Am I doing everything possible to build a healthy family and household?  Do guests feel welcome here? And, above all, does God feel comfortable in my home?

Homes today are often seem to operate on an ad hoc basis. . . they are simply bus interchanges where people meet to grab a bit to eat, sleep or get change and go off to do other activities. Homes are no longer the gathering places for friends and family and for some families it is a rarity to sit down and enjoy a meal together let alone a conversation of any substances. 

"If we look at the lovely world that God designed, we can see a pattern for what He has intended for us—a home environment filled with colour and creativity and order, a welcoming provider of lighter and refuge, a pace where memories are made and shared. Instead of creating us to live in a house of weariness and colourlessness, God has made us to live in a home full of soul-beautiful elements" ~ Sally Clarkson (The Life Giving Home)

Importantly, your home doesn't only provide a place of comfort to your husband and children you are also role modelling to your children what "home" looks and feels like so they too can create their own home once they fly the nest. 

Even if you haven't done a great job thus far, it is NEVER too late to make changes in your home. Look around, what can you do to make it more friendly, welcoming, more Godly?  Look to the bible as your manual – check out these verses Proverbs 9:1, Proverbs 14:1, Proverbs 24:3-4 and Proverbs 31:27 as they are a great help. Remember, building one's home has nothing to do with money, rather wisdom, understanding and knowledge. It is through skillful management with intelligent and biblical principles that one builds a solid home on rock. 

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Be still

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10)

We no longer know how to be still, as I wrote a few months ago, busyness has become the new norm and for some women they create busyness so they look successful to others.

But God wants us to "be still", to stop what we are doing so we can hear His voice.  Sadly in this modern age, we make so much noise and distracted by some much turbulences we can't hear God when He calls out to us.

We need to hear His voice as it is our guide throughout our day.

The word still is a translation of the Hebrew word rapa, meaning “to slacken, let down, or cease.” We need to be still, to let go and surrender our lives to God.

We need to come to a place where we are willing to submit ourselves to God and acknowledging that He is in sovereign control and admit we are incapable of controlling our own lives and only God can be in control.

Most people are too arrogant to admit this and we think we are highly capable intelligent people who do not need God—how wrong we are. We must know that He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere), omnipotent (all-powerful), holy, sovereign, faithful, infinite, and good. Acknowledging God implies that we can trust Him and have surrender to His plan because we understand who He is.

When we are still and surrendered to God, we find peace even when the earth gives way, the mountains fall, or the nations go into an uproar and kingdoms fall. When life gets overwhelming and busyness takes precedence, remember Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Run to Him, lay down your weapons and fall into His arms. Acknowledge that He is God and that He is exalted in the earth. Be still and know that He is God.

For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30-15)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Too many shoes?

Can a girl have too many shoes?

Do you wear all the shoes you own?

Do you want more?

Do you buy a new pair every season?

Due to a foot problem, a young woman was required to buy a comfortable pair of shoes that would help her feet recover and due to the price, bought only one pair. This is what she discovered after wearing one pair of shoes all year:

Ultimately, my year of wearing one pair of shoes taught me a few things: that you can learn to enjoy having fewer choices and that, truly, no one really cares what's on your feet. Unless it's especially bright, interesting or ugly, it's background noise. How do I know that? Not long before the shoes finally died, a colleague who'd seen me almost every working day for the past year stopped me in the hall and said: "Cute shoes! Have I seen those before?”

Only being able to wear one pair of shoes has changed the way I dress as a whole. Because I physically can't follow some fashions that rely on certain footgear, I'm less interested in being on trend and more interested in wearing things I like. I buy fewer clothes and like what I buy more. Now, I dress less to suit my shoes, and more to suit the activity I'm dressing for. Kind of like most men, I guess. (source)

We spend a lot of money on shoes —American women can spend up to $20,000 on shoes in their lifetime (source), many will never be wore. 

Most women own around 20 pairs of shoes, but generally wear only 5 (source). The reasons for not wearing the other 15:

1. Too uncomfortable (too tight on feet/too high heels) (64%)
2. Hard to match with an outfit (55%)
3. Scared to damage/were very expensive (41%)
4. Were given as a gift and don’t like them (37%)
5. Didn’t like them as much when I got them home (21%)

The message — we don't need to fill up our wardrobes with many different shoes—its true ladies, we don't need lots of shoes—and just imagine how much we will save and how much space we would have!!!

We need to think wisely when buying shoes—how comfortable are they, what will they be wore with and how often will I wear them. 
  • We need our Sunday best shoes—often a nude or classic black as they go with everything, these can be wore for formal occasions, weddings, to church, not wore often but still important. Perhaps a court shoe and a smart sandal. 
  • We need shoes that are suitable for work or smart outings—once again go for a  colour that will match everything in your wardrobe. If you are on your feet all day in your job, look for comfort over looks. 
  • Shoes for around the home —something flat and comfy that can be slipped on and off during the day. You may need another part for outdoor activities such as garden.
  • Shoes for walking—something sturdy and comfortable, often it is better to spend more to gain support and durability.
  • Shoes for popping down the shops in—ballet slippers and flats are great in all seasons and can go with any outfit. 
  • A couple of good pairs of sandals are also very useful in hot climates. 

We might need some variation for summer and winter, but to be honest, many shoes can be wore in both seasons, in particular in Australia. Boots are well worth purchasing in cold climates.

Ultimately shoes are to get us from A to B comfortably without hurting our feet. Shoes are to keep our feet warm in winter and give us protection from the elements. Shoes are important and we do need to wear them, but we don't need lots of them. As Christians, our focus shouldn't be on the latest fashions or or trying to impress others with our fancy shoes—we should be careful with our money and buy wisely, we should not be wasteful, therefore any shoes we do buy, we should wear often. 

So the next time you have an overwhelming desire to buy shoes, remember the verse from Matthew 6:19-21 in regards to earthly treasures and ask yourself — do I really need these shoes? The answer is probably no. 

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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