Transition

Where have I come from? Where am I now? Where am I going?

It’s been two years and seven months and twenty-nine days, but who’s counting?

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. It just didn’t make it on to my blog…

While living in Greece, I wrote a lot – journal entries, emails, messages, social media posts, newsletters. It was all personal work and necessary to keep the vital highways of communication open with our (my husband Ross and I) family, friends, and partnership support team. Added to this, there was my (volunteer) work of writing, compiling, proofreading and editing as a member of the Hellenic Ministries’ Media and Communications Team. Beyond all of it was the business of living in a cross-cultural context complete with learning a new language, adapting to driving on the ‘other’ side of the road / car, and moving apartments in Athens four times in two and a half years which also meant new shop, streets etc.

So that was Greece.

Now this is Australia.

Then there was Papua New Guinea.

When I scan memories of my 60-plus years of life, I see that transitions happened from early childhood with a frequency that didn’t allow any moss to gather under this rolling stone!

One evening during the three years my family and I lived in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the 1990s, I had a strong ‘aha’ moment. As if I was the first person to know this, I told Ross, “I don’t think Jesus likes our comfort zones!” We agreed to be watchful and prayerful in the hope of avoiding settling into those ‘familiar, safe, comfortable, confining and predictable’ zones in life where a dull, sleepy spirit might resist exploring an invitation…

In between living away from Australia during our years in PNG and Greece came a long list of international itinerant work-related and missional adventures. Ross and I travelled to destinations I had only dreamed about: Zambia, Hong Kong, Cambodia, China, Philippines, South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand and New Zealand.

It felt like I was on a fast-moving train that regularly paused at stations all called “Transition“.

The drama surrounding the move our family made to the PNG provincial capital of Mt Hagen after one year of life in the rural Baiyer Valley remains a strong memory. That transition, which came after months of serious law and order problems (23 people were killed around us in tribal conflicts), culminated in a third armed ‘hold-up’. This time it wasn’t Ross in the middle of it all – it was our six year-old son and I. This distressing situation was not what any mother would knowingly choose for her son. But Jesus, our redemptive God, had the final amazing word. But that’s a story for another time… 

How am I going to land this plane?

Transitions of all sorts have come and gone in my life, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: they will come again. How do I make sense of them? How do I live, and thrive, while I’m in the uncertainty and stress of transition?

Jesus is the answer! Our heavenly Father has promised that the Spirit of Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5b) There is no good reason why we have to make our way through life on our own, or on our own terms. The ‘Ancient of Days’ (see Daniel 7) always keeps His promises. After all, He is the Truth, so it is impossible for Him to lie. Jesus is a proven help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1), something which I continue to experience as I abide in His empowering Presence.

In a life-changing experiential encounter with Jesus in 2002, words that came to mind opened up a new space in my heart that I’ve been exploring with the help and guidance of His Spirit ever since.

“Think of the highest mountain you can!”

Going to my memories of PNG, I was just about to look up at the huge mountains that had made the little aeroplane in which I was a passenger seem even smaller when the Spirit of Jesus spoke again…

“But don’t look up. It’s too high. Take My hand, and we’ll walk one step at a time.”

More than a decade later, I was in a much larger aircraft flying at high altitude when these words came to mind as I focused my mind on to Jesus: “In every footstep of Jesus, there is so much to explore.

In every footstep of Jesus, there is so much to explore.

A transition might be just a word that describes the process of exploring the adventure of moving from one divine footstep into another.

I know where I have come from. I know where I am now. I don’t know what lies ahead of me, but I do know the One who holds me secure in the uncertainty. I can choose to keep hold of my heavenly Daddy’s hand (agree with and yield to God’s wisdom and will) freely extended to me by His grace with such love, always confident that He knows the way forward – one step at a time – viewed through the lens of eternity spread out before Him!

Points to consider:

  • Do you fear change and transition? Why?
  • Some of my transitions have been rougher than others. The smoother ones have come as I have connected with, and being surrounded by, a supportive and loving community, including the help of a professional counsellor.
  • You and I won’t usually know what is around a corner on the path of life, but God knows it all. And in Jesus Christ, we are secure. Turning to He who is Love – choosing to focus on Jesus and coming close to Him – gives me the freedom to explore life with joy, and in peace.

The path

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Imagine with me for a moment as together, we stand on the path…

Look! I see Jesus… He is standing there up ahead at the bend in the pathway! 

Of course Jesus has been with you all along! Did you know that? Or did you not recognise that it was Jesus who was with you all this time? Is it possible that you have been so intent on just getting to where you think you must be, that you paid no attention to Who it was that has been offering to equip you, help you and guide you on your journey in life?

Did you not know that if only you would come close to God, He promises to come close to you?

Or have you been so focused on the path itself—trying to work out how and where every part might fit in (does it even have a place?), that you lost sight of Jesus?

In perfect and loving harmony with God the Father, Jesus has not lost sight of you.

Did you notice the wonder and the beauty of the unfolding story contained within the path?

Did you see that even the smallest piece of rock has its own place and is held securely together in the cement?

Or did you think He did not care?

Did you think He did not treasure even the smallest part of your life that you thought would not matter? Did you think He was just watching—from a distance? 

You are loved by the Father-heart of God! He sees you. He knows you. Intimately. 

The Father’s plans are all about Jesus. He loves you with the same love He has for His Son Jesus! There is no other pathway to God except through Jesus.

Beloved, just like every one of your tears and sorrows is lovingly, carefully collected and treasured in the heart of God, so has every one of the steps you have taken this far in life been lovingly, intentionally and creatively brought together.

It is all there and there is more yet to come! 

Worked together. Held together in the embrace of Jesus who is The Way. The Truth. The life!

It is the only wise thing we can do. Leave everything to be where Jesus is. Go where He is going. Choose to partner with His Spirit wholly surrendered to God’s plans!

It is all for the glory of our redemptive and sin-forgiving God who is love and has the gift of life to freely give and invites us to join Him!

Through Jesus. For the fame of the name of Jesus Christ!

By the way… did you notice in the picture that the day is drawing to a close? The mercies of Godwho is I AMare new every morning.

“… we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing from the very beginning.

He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.

After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself.

And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.” (Romans 8:28-30 The Message) 

What else might the Holy Spirit want to speak to you about or show you as you reflect on my photo (taken in Athens, Greece)?

I see something different every time.

I see that there are gum trees and I am comforted by the grace of my compassionate God who has transplanted me into another land and gives me visible memories of my home in Australia.

I see the dry ground scorched by the summer heat and am reminded that by God’s grace, I am like a tree planted along a riverbankwith roots that reach deep down into the water. Such a tree is not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. The leaves of such a tree stays green and never stops producing fruit. (Jeremiah 17:8 NLTparaphrased)

God has so much to show you. Get your journal out. Take the time to be still with Jesus and listen to His Spirit and receive all that He has to give you. 

Peace. Hope. Freedom in Christ. Healing from the inside out.

To love God is to trust and obey.

All for Jesus!

Second-hand Shoes

The ‘year of the shoes’ stands out in my childhood memories. That year my mother passed on to me a secondhand pair of ‘Sunday-best’ shoes (‘hand-me-downs’) complete with the unspoken expectation that I would and could walk in someone else’s footprints. It was never going to work for me. Not only were the shoes too big for me but into them had been imprinted a legacy that did not fit me. Instead of taking delight in going to Sunday School, I became overly-conscious of my feet—anxious and fearful that I might fall down. I tried so hard to fit into those shoes…

Using this story (of the shoes) as a metaphor, have you ever been expected to walk in someone else’s ‘footprints’? What legacy has been handed on to you? Has it been a positive experience? Is it bearing good fruit? Have you been freely walking—taking delight in following Jesus—living the ‘rich and satisfying’ life that He came to lead us into? (John 10:10) Or… have you been so focused on maintaining your balance to avoid stumbling and falling down, that now you are beginning to recognise just how weary you have become?

Or was it you asking another person to accept something that no longer fits you or someone in your care? Maybe in that moment when you first tried to walk in those ‘shoes’ never designed with you in mind at all, you began looking around with a burning question in your mind, “Who can I pass this on to?” “How can I get rid of this…?”

What do you do with a legacy which you have inherited and are perhaps even now trying to operate under? What might be the expectations wrapped up in it? Has your identity been entangled or even somehow lost in it? How has your attitude—your stance in life—affected your behaviour? 

With the eyes of your heart (your mind), let God’s Spirit help you to re-focus on to Jesus. Who does God want to be for you? What does He need to do? Take courage! Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there really is freedom. Is today the day the Lord has made for you to surrender to Jesus and let the Holy Spirit fit you with ‘shoes’ lovingly, wisely created by Him—tailor-made for youwith a Kingdom of God calling and purpose.

Our gracious, merciful and creative Father God calls you to trust Him and follow Jesus walking in His footsteps. His grace means that His Spirit will help you to do this daily. Your footprint is unique to  you as it is to every single person, but we each discover in Jesus, a perfect fit—the ‘sweet-spot’! Freedom in Christ!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me (Jesus Christ). Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message —emphasis mine)

I wonder how God our Father through the work of His Spirit—the Spirit of Jesus Christ, plans to apply this in your life? Have a conversation with Him today. Ask questions. Be prepared to listen and watch for the answers…

Love, problems, opportunities…

What is written in blue (below) was something I wrote last week as I enjoyed time with God. It seemed like He was giving it to me as a gift. As Monday approached last week, it seemed right to share it in the ‘Monday Morning Minute’. Ross (my husband & MMM’s International Director) challenged me to ask God how it might be applied to our lives. I pray that as you read it, you’ll encounter the beloved Spirit of the Lord Jesus &… explore the Father’s heart.

I have loved you with an everlasting perfect love—untainted by the dust of the world. Pure & undefiled, this love brings life. This love has brought an end to the problem of sin & pain. This love builds up—it does not tear down.

My love is My character reflected & expressed in Jesus Christ. My love is good—all the time. My love has divine, eternal purpose. My love is like an oasis bringing hope & life in the desert. My love is a well watered garden that produces fruit in seasons & out of season. In my love there is no fear of lack, no anxiety of famine. I send My love to you & … I will perfect it in you. The world needs to know My good & perfect love.

My love sets you free—to be who I call you to be—for the glory of My beloved Son Jesus Christ. When you honour Jesus by recognising that He is My only begotten Son, righteous & holy, pure of heart… you honour Me.

Submit to the authority of Jesus in all things. In this way, you please Me. Through you, My joy will overflow & change atmospheres. Practice resting back into Jesus & you will be made whole by the work of My Spirit.

The process of you being made whole is a glorious one—enjoy it! I do!

What is our default ‘turn-to’ setting when we have a ‘problem’ in life? Some of us might want a problem-free life but what if God actually needs us to have a different mindset? What if He needs us to view our problems as ‘opportunities’? Opportunities inviting us to explore the Father’s heart in a new way. Opportunities where perfect love has a chance to flourish & drive out fear. Opportunities that are created where believing God & trusting Him displace doubts about who God is & wants to be for us. Opportunities to let God out of the ‘box’ & give Him the freedom to be God in, all around, through our lives. Opportunities…

I’ve noticed Jesus attaches the gift of a promise to each ‘problem’ that His Father permits to intersect with my life. Years ago, I was surprised by the voice of the Holy Spirit who seemed to say, “Heather, you’re an overcomer.” Of course He was giving me such a gift… being intentional, compassionate & eternally lovingly kind, my Daddy (God) needed me to be more than an ‘overcomer’ in Christ. Just as important as that is, He needed me to know & accept that I am who He says I am! The first step of this process becoming a reality was, by faith to receive His good gift.

Various ‘problems’ rose up to challenge His gift to me over the following year. But God was equipping me by His grace & goodness. Contrary to my former thought patterns, I began to exchange the (mindset) lie for the truth… “I’m an overcomer” & reflecting to God words like, “I will trust You. Thank You for making me an overcomer in Christ.”

By giving me a constructive, life-giving framework to which I could continually reference what was happening in & around me, the Spirit of Jesus helped me move through the problems in life rather than getting lost in them or disabled by them.

When you & I encounter a problem, it might be like arriving at a T-intersection on a road. We need make a decision & choose which direction we will take. Do we turn ‘left’ reacting as if we are orphans—all alone—not knowing who our Father is? Turning that way, we might find that fear, anxiety & worry have opened the door to other things like the need to be in control, relying on our own resources (or those of the world) & working to navigate a safe route through an unsafe land.

Or, do we intentionally choose to turn ‘right’ into the arms of our Father through faith in Jesus who has everything we will ever need (& is not reluctant or miserly in giving!). That would be like jumping into the River of Living Water in which we are gloriously out of our control & depth!

Submitted to the flow which is neither haphazard or without meaning, we are carried in & nurtured by the Water, whose Source never ends, will never be defeated, will never be overwhelmed & will never be taken by surprise. Nothing is impossible for HIM! Let us today & each new morning, surrender in trusting submission to the Lover of our souls.

Upon Him we can depend with certainty even in times that scream to us, “uncertainty’ ahead”.

Enjoying God—and the story of two birds.

Walking along a beachside track with Ross last week, I was startled by a brief flash of dark colour & the sound of something nearby. Hearing the sound again, its source still eluded me. Quickening my step around the bend in the path, I was amused to see a bird running for the cover of a bush! 

Another day & another walk… This time it was on the cliffs high above the beach. Perched on the fence, I saw a young magpie watching our approach. Despite Ross’ sudden & inexplicable attempt to make it fly away, the bird settled back & focussed its attention on me! The pleasure I felt in the moment of interaction brought a deep bubbling-up sort of joy from within!   

These two experiences led me to think about what might characterise our relationship with God. He makes no secret of the fact that not only did He decide to adopt us into His own family through Jesus Christ but it gave Him great pleasure to do so. (Go to the Bible & explore the book of Ephesians Chapter one to find out more.) 

Imagine. Jesus (He exactly represents Father God) is walking towards you. Hearing His footsteps before you even see Him, you take flight running for cover. Hiding, your heart is beating with a sense of anxiety & fear accompanied by something else you can’t identify & you wonder why… Why did you hide from He who is Love—from He who does not condemn you but comes to save, heal & deliver you? 

Imagine again… Sitting on a fence, you watch as Jesus approaches you. Something just tried to scare you off but this time… you’re determined not to give way to fear, anxiety & worry. Watchful, you sit even while poised to take flight.

But peace has come near, the atmosphere has changed & your confidence & trust develops moment by moment. More settled now, you listen to the sound of His voice—He might even have something to give you. Even as you wait, you’re becoming bolder & more courageous as you take joy in soaking in the life-giving pleasure & delight He has in you! Yes, you!

The Spirit of Jesus—our God—is calling us! It is time. It’s time to plunge deeper into a true heart-to-heart intimate relationship with our majestic, powerful Father for whom nothing is impossible! In this place (in Him), competing forces vying for His rightful place in our lives melt away recognising their defeat!

It is impossible to live the ‘rich & satisfying, abundant’ life that Jesus said His purpose is to give us (see John 10:10b) if we are habitually running or hiding from His Presence. It’s time to come down off the ‘fences’ straddling the high places of life & the sea of God’s radical, life-changing love, grace & goodness. His ways. His Kingdom.  

Come on! Let us joyfully & courageously choose to surrender & submit (all things) to our God whose good thoughts towards us outnumber the grains of sand on the sea-shore! His plans for us are all about Jesus Christ… establishing the life of Christ in us for His glory! 

We are in the process of learning to authentically live a life of glorious obedience to Jesus who calls us not to worry about everyday life & whether we will have ‘enough’. He says (See Matthew 6:25-27—NLT), Look at the birds. They don’t work or harvest or store food in the barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to Him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Let us joyfully, faithfully & courageously walk in a submitted, surrendered, trusting life of joyful obedience to partner with our God! Come on beloved of the Lord! Let us practice resting back into God, our Daddy—from this place of love—we lean forward & give out on life’s journey. Let us not give into intimidation or fear of that which belongs to the world because, the victorious Jesus Christ… He is our Lord! And empowered by the Holy Spirit, we will walk in His footsteps! 

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