The Equalizer.

I just love my friends. All of my friends. My in real life friends, my social media friends; the people I know from all walks of life, they are all really important to me. I’m even Facebook friends with my OB/GYN from America. That’s not at all weird, right?

Maybe just a tad weird.

But he’s a great guy.

Somehow though, even in the midst of having fantastic real life friends, some who are geographically close and others who are miles and miles away, and plenty of amazing online friends……..there are times when……truth be told…….because of circumstances and situations that I’m in, I can still feel really alone.

Now that’s REALLY WEIRD.

Because I’m not alone.  I know I’m absolutely loved and dare I say, even cherished and fully supported in all I do, and even more importantly, supported in who I am…..but….sometimes I feel a chasm between myself and others…..

And because I’m relatively stable as far as my emotions go (‘relatively’ can be open to interpretation…), and because I wasn’t born yesterday…….I reckon that if I can acknowledge these feelings…….if I can shine the spotlight on the fact that I feel this way…..then I figure that there’s a high likelihood that there’s even something going down in your life, that causes you to feel alone in a crowd.  Something causing you to feel like you’re not quite ‘enough’ or  making you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb….

Maybe you’re the only divorced one in your circle of friends.

Maybe you’re the only one in your inner circle of friends who has a child currently testing the boundaries.

Maybe you’ve just recently made a major lifestyle change, a radical step of faith, and your life is a about to look a lot different to that of your peers.

Whatever your point of difference is……..while it may seem like your life is majorly different to you, I’m pretty sure that these points of difference aren’t even blips on the friendship paths in front of you.  And even while there may be times when you really feel this isolation, stemming from whatever your point of difference may be….I can say with absolute authority……this isolation is 99.5 % self-imagined and 99.5% self-imposed.

We humans are such weird creatures.

Our over-active brains can do so much damage to us.

Ya wanna know why I know this and why I feel I can lay my wretched heart right open in front of you?  Why I can tell you there’s absolutely no need to feel this way?

It’s because of Easter.  Because of what we celebrate this glorious weekend.  It’s because I believe that a man, who lived a blameless life, was nailed up on a cross and died a horrendous death.  This man; Jesus, had his body taken to a tomb, but rose to life again, all because of us.  So that we might have eternal life.  We who choose to believe in Him, will not perish, but have eternal life.

You see Jesus didn’t just die for the educated people.

And it wasn’t for the prettiest of the people.

And it wasn’t for the most popular of the people.

And it wasn’t for the wealthiest of the people.

Nor the happily married ever after people.

Nor the double income, with two point four kids, and a white picket fence people.

No.  At Easter we remember that Jesus died and rose again, for ALL people.

Jesus was the ultimate equalizer.  

Whoever we are.  Whatever we’ve done. Or not done.  Whatever we have or don’t have. All of that is irrelevant in the face of the cross that Jesus died on.  

Whatever my hang ups with life might be, whenever I feel alone because of them, I need to remember that’s just dumb.

Plain dumb.

Whatever your hang ups with life might be, whenever you feel alone because of them, you need to remember that’s just dumb.

I’m worthy.  You’re worthy.  We’re all children of the most amazing God.  Let’s remember that this Easter.

We are not alone.  

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The Spotlight of Hope. 

Last week we all celebrated having an extra day in the calendar year. The 29th of February. Leap day. It’s a cool but weird thing, right?

Dear friends of mine both celebrate their birthdays on leap day, and one of the many special things about these friends is that they are Mother and Son. Apparently the chances of a Mother and Son both having their birthdays on a leap day are two million to one. Groovy.

Anyway, I was chatting with someone on leap day, about leap day. Let’s call that someone ‘Mr X’.  Mr X was kind of befuddled about the whole leap day thing. He couldn’t work out if having this extra day was in fact a blessing or a curse. Something to be celebrated or something to endure. He came to the conclusion that to him, that extra day we get every four years is really just another day to go through the machinations of life.

And I could see where he was coming from.

Because although Mr X is a great guy; he’s a devoted husband to his wife, and a present and caring Dad to his kids, as well as a good son to his parents and a great buddy to his mates, he is all of this, but, by his own admission he’s living a life with no huge purpose. Just living to get by. Living to provide.

So one extra day, to carry on, carrying on……..that’s a little depressing, right?

Believe it or not our conversation was light hearted, and we both ended up having a bit of a laugh over this extra day weird weird weird business. But I’ve been thinking about the conversation ever since.

I think the biggest difference between my view of an extra day to live, and Mr X’s view, comes down to the very fact that I live with a greater sense of Hope. To me it’s a cool thing to have had that extra day, because it’s another day to be alive. Another day to admire God’s creation. To adore His creativity. To embrace the fact that I get to love my family and to reach out to others I see, to offer encouragement, and speak and write words of life.

Hope. It makes all the difference in the world.

And so, this is my heart’s cry, because I’ve seen Gods fingerprints of grace and I’ve seen the spotlight of hope beam in front of my path, time and time again.

I’ll never forget the time I was driving at night and a man stepped out in front of my car, forcing me to stop, and then he tried to climb in to the car. Being a Christ follower doesn’t mean that the world is never a scary place.  But it does mean that when we walk through the waters, God will be there.

I’ll never forget the anguish and heartache I felt at having to have my unborn, life-less baby taken from my body, and the recovery process that my weakened then forty kg body had to go through. Yes I suffered through thoughtless words from some but I was also offered plenty of hope, through those who were present, and as the Father heart of God became truly alive for me. As I learned first hand that God grieves when we grieve. Christ followers are not immune to hardships in any way, shape or form, but we have do have a blessed assurance in the form of a ‘peace that passes all understanding’. We learn that things don’t always have to make sense.

I’ll never forget the utter loneliness and all the feelings of self-doubt and self-criticism that came with being ‘new’ time and time again. But paired with that, I also know the freedom of finding my tribe, finding my people. Of relaxing into who I am, and knowing that is enough. Of being offered hope in the forms of being loved and accepted, just as I am.

And because I know what real hope is, I know what it is to be loved with an everlasting love. I know that this gal, who still second guesses herself way too much and says all the wrong things at all the wrong times, and feels vastly inadequate for all the things she dreams of doing……this girl has hope. Hope that enables me to smile genuinely even when the going is tough. Hope that comes in the form of energy when there really by all accounts should be no fuel in her engine. Hope to offer love to all.

And so the leap day we had last week was the gift of an extra day. An extra day to spread a little Hope.

Today was another day to speak words of life, words of hope.

And tomorrow will be another day, full of opportunities to breath life into dry bones.

If you don’t truly feel this way, if you feel a little like my friend, Mr X, I get it. Life is a messy and hard thing. But for me, the messy and the hard becomes tidier and easier, when I choose to believe that God grieves when we grieve, that His presence is for accessible for all, and I’m loved and accepted with an everlasting love. People say to give peace a chance, I say ‘give hope a chance’. Read a bible. Talk to a friend who is a Christ follower. Reach out to God. He’ll meet you where you’re at. This I know.

Hope changes things. It gives purpose and adds value. What an incredible gift.

~ In loving memory of a friend who lived a hope-filled life, and embraced each day as the gift that it truly is ~

The stuff that changes things. 

 The above wee ditty……it is a little (or a lot) cheeky, right?  I’m not sure I’ve ever done that to complete strangers….but if you promise to not tell the PC Police,  I’ll admit to saying it to family members on the odd occasion…..all in the name of teaching manners. Of course.  You’re welcome.

The above wee ditty got me thinking.

That’s almost always never a good thing.

You see I often tell my boys that ‘manners maketh a man’ and that ‘manners make the world go around’.  With my work in customer service I’m on the front-line as far as manners goes…..and I’ve noticed that most people respond really well to being thanked and spoken pleasantly too.  That’s nice.  Of course there are always some members of the public who make a memorable impression for all the wrong reasons, but I honestly think that if you’re proactive with your pleasantries, then there isn’t a lot of room left for nastiness.

I’ve also been thinking about culture and those things that are buried deep down in a people group.  I’ve lived in four different countries and have found that each place has had many cultural differences from what I had previously known, and these cultural differences take years to learn, understand and sometimes even appreciate.  But they are exciting, and valuable and each play an important role in their people group.

Just as people groups do have cultural ‘things’ that are intrinsically theirs, I do wonder if sometimes we accept certain behaviours and happenings that we don’t agree with, because we label them as possibly being a ‘cultural thing’ or a thing that just can’t be changed.  When really maybe we forget that we, ourselves, have the ability to change a situation by how we carry ourselves and by what we carry in us.

I think we can easily forget that we can change the atmosphere in a situation.  We can set the thermostat in our homes and workplaces.  We don’t have to settle for less than pleasant.  Sometimes this isn’t easy, sometimes this means we’re reacting in a polar opposite way to a situation than how we’d naturally like to react, but we have this uncanny ability to do so.  If we choose.

As a person who chooses to follow Christ, I do believe that I can pray to God and ask for wisdom when I need it.  And I always need it.  I can pray for patience when I need it.  And I always need that too.  More love?  More peace?  More self-control?  Yep, yep and yep.  I’m a work in progress for sure, but that ‘work’ means that I can change situations, I get to set the thermostat.

And that ‘work’, that’s the stuff that makes life all that much better.  All that much more peaceful. All that much more rewarding.

Today I was with some friends and we had the privilege of singing some worship songs with a dear soul who doesn’t have much longer here on this earth.  I’m certain that as we sang (thankfully the others can really SING, cos I certainly can’t), the atmosphere in that room changed.  Comfort entered in. We changed the thermostat.

This afternoon as one of my little boys sobbed his heart out because of a disappointment, his teacher was able to reassure him of his value as she gave him genuine words of encouragement.  She was able to speak hope into that troubled little heart, because of what she carries in her, because of WHO she knows. She changed the thermostat.

Tomorrow, as I deal with Joe Public all day long, I can offer him more than what he came into my workplace for: I can offer him a genuine smile, a listening ear and a heart that cares, because what I have to offer him is the stuff that changes things.  Its the stuff that brings hope to the hurting and relief from the striving. Its that stuff that’s called the presence of God. And the presence of God can change situations.  Big and little situations, all day and every day.  This I believe, because this is what I know to be true.  I can set the thermostat.

That’s the ticket, that’s the stuff.  What a holy privilege.