Posts tagged ‘Christian Living’

September 19, 2013

God’s Chicken Noodle Soup

God's Chicken Noodle Soup

I had a beautiful and humbling experience yesterday. It was an experience that had me bawling my eyes out in the stairwell of our apartment building. Poppy and I have caught some random low level English bug, nothing special – runny nose, sore throat and dry cough. I really wanted to make some of my homemade chicken noodle soup for us but I have no pots. The boxes we sent from Australia are clearing UK customs now and are due to arrive in Halifax next week. My pots are in those boxes. I am loathe to buy one given their imminent arrival. I have survived 7 weeks without my pots and I am determined to wait just a little longer. I went to the shops regardless and bought all the ingriedients for my chicken noodle soup except for the pot. When I got home I knocked on the door of several neighbors. No one was home. I was outside looking high and low for anybody – no one was around.  Out loud I sighed heavily and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I said out loud to God ‘I really need a pot to make soup for Poppy and I.’  There was no reply so I started to walk sadly back into the building. I then had a vivid picture/vision of a black sports car driving into one of the car parks. It was familiar to me – it is the car driven by a lady I have met once in the next building – Valerie.  As I looked back outside I noticed her car park was empty – she wasn’t home. I walked up the stairs to our apartment and as I looked out the hallway window I saw Valerie’s black sports car pulling into it’s parking spot. I ran back downstairs and hid for a minute as Valerie got out of her car. ‘Hi Valerie’ I called out. I explained my predicament and she was more than happy to lend me a pot to make my soup in. As I carried the pot back to my place I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I was so thankful to God for caring about me and the pot for my soup. I was filled with His love and I thought to myself  ‘God is my friend and I am friends with God’.

I wonder what it would be like to be God. In the movie ‘Bruce Almighty’ they try to give a human being God like qualities. The limitations of his humanity become evident quickly as the character is overwhelmed by the millions of prayer requests coming in from all over the world at once. Therein lies the problem – we always try to understand God through our own mind where our thinking is limited by our experiences, our beliefs and our predjudices. Imagine if you were to try and explain the internet to an ant. You wouldn’t succeed. I think we are an ant compared to God. He is infinite in his thinking – he has no limitations, no boundaries and endless capacity. But that is what makes the ‘soup pot’ thing he did so amazing. If God is so big – why does he care about my stupid pot,  why does he bother answering such little prayers? Because He is my friend and that is what friends do for one another.  He cares about everything that is happening to me even if it is a situation of my own doing. He’s not to big or too famous or too busy to care about the little things in my world. In fact he wants to share every moment with me. Sometimes I just forget to include Him.

I spent the next few hours making my chicken noodle soup. I don’t know what I did different but it was the best I have ever made. It tasted amazing. I think God put himself in that pot of soup. I took the pot back with two containters of soup for my lovely neighbors. And for you dear readers my very precious recipe for God’s Chicken Noodle Soup.

God’s Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

Ingredients

Stock

1 whole chicken. Organic is preferred. (remove breasts. I am hopeless at doing this and sometimes have to buy one breast to top up)

3 Lemons

4 sticks of celery

1 whole onion

1 whole bulb of garlic

1 bay leaf

3 carrots

1 potato

Chicken Balls

2 Chicken breasts

2 Tablespoons of grated parmessan

1 Egg

Added Soup ingriedents:

2 fresh corn cobs

100g spaghetti

3-4 cubes of chicken stock or ½ litre of bought liquid chicken stock

Sea Salt

Method:

Roughly chop carrot, celery, potato and onion. Leave the skin on if not too dirty. Put all into pot.

  1. Break whole chicken apart. Cut breasts out and put aside. Discard gizzards. Put chicken legs, thighs and carcass into pot. (butchers will often sell you an extra carcass for $2 – add if you have a big enough pot)
  2. Break garlic bulb apart. Don’t skin each piece just throw into pot. Add bay leaf to pot.
  3. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over everything in the pot. Then cover generously with water.
  4. Bring pot to boil and then simmer with lid off for at least 2 hours. Stir occassionally. Top up with a little extra water or put lid on if you loose too much liquid. Strain entire pot keeping the stock you have now made – this is the base for your soup. I seperate all the vegies out and throw them away as their flavour and nutrition are gone – they are now in your stock. It’s the same deal with the chicken but I save that as it goes to making the soup look great.
  5. Pick chicken carcass clean. Chop up chicken into bite sized slivers.
  6. Return the stock you have made to the original pot. Add stock cubes or liquid stock,  juice of second lemon and a genourous pinch of salt. Add cut up chicken slivers back into stock.
  7. Take corn cobs and stand on one end. Run sharp knife down the edge removing the corn. Keep turning the cob until all sides are skinned. Put all the corn kernals into your stock. Throw cobs away
  8. Bring stock with added ingriedients back to a boil and then add spaghetti broken into 2-3cm pieces.
  9. Now make the Chicken balls. Take removed breasts and add one egg with parmessan cheese. Use food processor to finely mince ingriedients together into a fine puree. When your stock pot is boiling drop small mouth sized balls fashioned by hand into pot. They will cook quickly and rise to the surface.
  10. Stir gently and taste. Add more lemon juice if too salty or more chicken stock if too lemony. Enjoy with crusty bread!

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

June 25, 2013

Real Paranormal Activity

Godly encountersI was lying awake in bed the other night listening to John breathe, it was about 2.30 am. We had gone to bed late and my mind was still winding down from our busy and full day. I turned over to face the outer side of the bed and there were two people – a man and woman standing next to my bed. I didn’t freak out or yell out in fright because a week earlier I had experienced something similar. I had seen the shadow of a young girl about Poppy’s age beside my bed – in fact I thought it was Poppy. At that time I sat up and reached out but my hand went right through the shadow and then it disappeared. I gasped loudly and woke up John. I guess in some way that prepared me for seeing this couple standing beside my bed. I must be plain speaking here – they were very, very real. After looking at them for a moment the ‘couple’ disappeared but I prayed and asked God ‘What were they?’. I was thinking they could be angels. Suddenly the couple reappeared and as I was looking at them, the man’s jaw seemd to unlock and his teeth punched out of his mouth and came at me hissing, snarling and gnashing. Freak me out! Instantly I felt this enormous sense of fear. Not of the man himself but of going to England to start the church. Negative and fearful thoughts bombarded my mind. Thoughts that I have never experienced before or since!

As a Christian, my worldview contains a belief of not just God and the Angelic but also Satan and the Demonic. The bible says that when Satan (an angel) was kicked out of heaven (because he wanted to take over God’s job) it says he took a third of the angels with him. Over 25 years of ministry I have encountered ‘demonic angels’ regularly but I must admit in the last 5 years these kinds of experiences have occurred less and less. Why? I believe it is because I have come to know who I am. I am the daughter of the King of the Universe. He loves me, protects me and has given me His authority to tell them to rack off and I have done so. After God showed me who this ‘couple’ really were I had this outrage well up inside of me. I thought ‘How dare this demon couple come into my bedroom and scare me.’ The following evening John and I prayed over the house and our bedroom and I know that that yucky thing is now gone.

When you start recounting ‘paranormal experiences’ everybody has a story. Stories of lights flickering on and off, looking for something and finding it in a place you’ve already looked in, ghostly apparitions and noises etc. There used to be a TV show many years ago called the Twilight Zone and it would try to explain these types of experiences but sometimes they can’t just be explained away because there is really a paranormal realm that exists. In fact there are two. Two Kingdoms battling for the hearts and minds of all people. The Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness. The goal of the Kingdom of Darkness is to rob, kill and destroy. The goal of the Kingdom of Light is to bring love, freedom and eternal life.

When I have paranormal encounters from either Kingdom they have an ‘emotional feel’ that goes with them. Demonic experiences leave me feeling scared, hopeless, misunderstood, alone, rejected, confused and burdened and in contrast Godly experiences leave me feeling safe, encouraged, joyful, peaceful, protected, clear headed and light.

If you are experiencing demonic paranormal activity in and around your life – cry out to God to help you and He certainly will! The truth is the battle has been already won. Christ secured victory with His death on the cross. If you need to talk to someone most churches are equipped with people and processes to help and they are a far cry of those shown in movies like the exorcist and paranormal activity.

I am more than happy to help or guide you toward people in your area that can help you with this. Don’t hesitate to contact me via our blog email address:

blogsidebyside@gmail .com

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxox

June 25, 2013

One Husband’s need for Unconditional Respect

Respect

In almost a year and half of blogging the most popular post that I have written was my one about submission in marriage.  Here is a further post on the subject.

What the bible says about marriage is pretty simple.  It goes like this: wives, respect your husbands, husbands love your wives.  It is laid about by Paul in Ephesians 5:21-33.  Of course that one simple rule takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to put into practice.

In the Western world at present the part of that command that says, “wives respect your husband” is controversial.  But for those of us committed to living as Scripture tells us rather than how the world tells us we have to grasp with putting it into practice.  If you think that the bible shouldn’t say that wives must submit, obey and respect their husbands then your argument is with the bible authors, not me.  I’m just trying to do what is says (as is Catherine).

The problem that we come up against is that in our culture we believe that respect must be earned.  Not so with love, mind you.  Love should be unconditional.  But respect is only given when we see behaviour that we think warrants respect.  This cultural mindset makes it hard for Christians to have a biblical marriage.

What it means is that Christians, and Christian wives in particular, have to make a decision to not do what they would do naturally (which is give respect only when they think it warranted).  Instead they have to commit themselves to giving their husbands unconditional respect.

Just think about those 2 words sitting side by side for a moment – unconditional respect.  What a radical thought.

It’s radical because what happens in marriage is that we see the other person’s faults, weaknesses and sins far more closely than anyone else does.  If there is one person who knows your failings in the most detail it is your spouse.  As the saying goes, “behind every great man there’s a woman shaking her head”.  She’s shaking her head because she knows what he is really like at home.

Yet a Christian wife is called to respect her husband.  Not just when he is loving and Christlike, but all the time.  Men crave respect.  If you doubt this then try this experiment – tell your husband that you love him, and see what the reaction is.  The next day, in a similar context, tell him that you respect him, and see what the reaction is that time.  Men need respect from their wives more than they need love.

Now I don’t know about you, but for me there is plenty of times that Catherine has seen things in me that she could disrespect if she wanted to.  There has been no lack of selfishness and failure that she could point to if she wanted to keep a record of my shortcomings.  But she gets this, so she does her best to show unconditional respect, even when it is really hard to do it.  Thank you sweetheart!!

As for the male readers of this post, your challenge is quite simple – you are to show unconditional love to your wife, despite the fact that you may or may not receive unconditional respect from her.  People are sinful, men and women.  For all married people, God calls you to show grace and forgiveness when you are wronged.  If your spouse has failings, welcome to the club.  I’m sure your spouse is a member too.  All of us are called to show grace, mercy and forgiveness.  That is unconditional.

Unconditional love, unconditional respect.  These are the basis for Christian marriage.

John

June 11, 2013

Secret Diary of a TV Addict

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I love TV.  There’s no point trying to deny it.  When I was a kid I watched plenty of TV.  When I was a teenager I watched plenty.  Now that I’m an adult I watch plenty as well.  I like to think that I don’t, because there are not many shows that I make sure to catch every week.  But of course I do watch the news pretty frequently.  And I watch sport – lots of football of various descriptions.  There is even a soccer match on tonight (Tuesday the 11th) and this morning I have already been thinking about what I am going to have to do to be able to watch it.  And I watch the odd movie on DVD.  And those times that I just switch it on to see if there is anything good on because I have some time to watch it.  So when you add all of that up…I watch plenty of TV.

The average Australian adult watches perhaps three hours a day.  That’s a tricky thing to measure because it changes from year to year, and if you are doing a task but the TV is on in the background, does that count or not?  I found various figures suggesting how much TV people watch, and three hours a day came out about average.

The average child aged 5 and up watches perhaps a bit less, but not by much.  Our daughter, thanks to the super high quality parenting she receives watches none, ok, she watches an hour a day, ok two hours, hmmmm, alright, I confess she’s average.  She watches heaps.  In fact if the impressive DVD collection that is next to the computer that I am writing this on is any indication, if she’s not average then she’s above average in how much she watches.  And she loves it!

Before I met Catherine I was a bit of a snob when it came to reality TV.  I was too busy watching documentaries to go near all that rubbish.  However my sweet wife has changed me in that regard.  Reality TV is good stuff!  We have watched so much Survivor, The Amazing Race and various other ones together.  As for The Bachelor, I just want it on record that it was a COMPLETE COINCIDENCE that I was in the room for every single minute of seasons 1, 2 and 3.

Of course the problem is that you can spend your whole life watching TV.  We only have so much time on this planet and I intend to make as big as splash for the gospel as I can.  The bottom line is that I cannot reach my potential for Christ and watch over 3 hours of TV a day.  I will watch some – there’s nothing to be gained by a legalistic approach that says you can’t look at any.

It’s about balance.  There’s nothing new about needing balance in life.  Neither is there anything new about Christians who find entertainment options more interesting than serving God.  Back in 400 A.D. St John Chrysostom preached about the fact that too many Christians were spending time at the chariot races!

The reason that I know that I often get the balance wrong is because when I don’t watch TV I am simply so productive.  I get stuff done.  I read.  I call people.  I go out.  I meet with people.  I learn.  It’s great.  It feels so much better.  I could have that feeling every night if I wanted it.  So why don’t I?  Because it is so easy to switch the TV on!  The remote is right there, the couch is right there – what could be more enticing, especially at the end of the day?

Of course it’s a matter of rising above the temptation to crash on the couch and stay there once “the Eagle has landed”.

If you agree that you could indeed be more of the person that God wants you to be with the TV off, then don’t go cold turkey and make radical changes like some sort of fad dieter.  Just make gradual, sustainable decisions to watch less, and be with people more.  After all, who ever died wishing that they watched more TV?

John

June 4, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On – Now Panic and Freak Out!

Keep CalmIn May 2012 I was having my morning prayer time with God. This day seemed like any other day except that God decided to speak clearly and at length to me about building a Ministry Centre in Moldova. Its primary purpose would be to house, counsel, train, educate, support and offer spiritual guidance to woman who had escaped a life of sex trafficking or were potential victims of it. It was an enormous project. I shared this all with John and he started to pray into it. In June of 2012 God spoke clearly to John and said ‘Go to England, plant a church and that church will be the base for the missions work into Moldova’. When John shared that with me, my first response was ‘I could work with that’. Together we said to God – we believe you have spoken to us so we are going to start to take steps toward what you have said to us about this.

Meanwhile life went on as normal, I got a job and after being long time congregation members of Yarra Plenty Church we felt God clearly tell us to leave and go to Manningham Christian Centre. We carried the vision for planting a church in England in our hearts but it all seemed a bit of a pie in the sky.  On the surface we had so much to lose. The move to the UK would involve both of us quitting jobs we enjoyed, selling most of our possessions and moving to a place we had never been. Foolish as that may seem our hearts were on fire and we prayed and prayed that it would happen.

The steps we started to take involved everything from getting Poppy a passport to buying boxes to ship some of our stuff over to the UK. The two most expensive steps were buying the plane tickets ($4,000) and applying for the Ancestral Visa’s – a five-year working permit for both of us.($1300). The application is tedious and complex and as we read through the documentation we realised that they required a copy of your travel itinerary  to be sent with your application and they also didn’t want your application till you were 3 months out from the date of travel. This meant we had to pay for the plane tickets before knowing if we had the visas to work and live in the UK.

We worked on the visa applications for months. It was a long and arduous process. We argued about the ambiguous questions and shelled out the $12 fee to speak with a UK consulate officer 3-4 times who were surprisingly helpful. The application included 5 birth certificates, 3 marriage Certificates and 5 passports. There were 17 pieces of supporting documentation and a stamped confirmation that our biometrics had been completed. That is fingerprints and facial recognition. On May 10th we sent the whole lot to Sydney whereby it was sent to the UK processing centre in Manilla, Philippines. We were told it would at least three weeks. Eighteen days later we received notification that we had been successful in our application.

Since that moment I have been on an emotional rollercoaster. It’s real. We are going. The only step left is to get on the plane. Recently it was my mum’s birthday and as I wrote in her card I got all choked up and bawled my eyes out. This is possibly the last birthday I will celebrate with her in person. I love my mum. Now when I see friends I wonder – is this the last time?  If that is the low point in the emotional rollercoaster the high point is best summed up by a scene from The Hobbit. If you haven’t seen it picture this – the movie opens in the idyllic Shire inside a young Bilbo Baggins House. Gandalf and a large bunch of boorish Elves come uninvited for a meal and discuss a dangerous quest they feel called to go on. Bilbo is invited by Gandalf to join the group. He doesn’t really even consider the request seriously but when he wakes the next morning to a quiet house he has this enormous realisation that he is missing out on something very important – an adventure of a lifetime! And with that he grabs his Hobbit back pack and runs after the others. This is the high part of the emotional rollercoaster for me – the adventure, the call – not wanting to miss God’s plan and purpose for my life. That is awesome, that is what dreams are made of. That is really grabbing life by the throat and living!!

And then I cry because I am going to miss my friends, my life, my church and my family. I’m sure it’s just another season in the process of moving to the UK but for me right now the journey is bittersweet.

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

May 28, 2013

Confessions of a Christian Binge Drinker

binge drinkingI have an addictive personality and have struggled with moderation on all fronts my entire life. What ever I have done  – work, God, people – I have always done it with passion. The consumption of alcohol has been no exception. Being a ‘larger sized lady’ I could really put it away too. It was nothing for me to drink a whole bottle of wine or champagne to myself and not show any external signs of inebriation. I used to kid myself that because of my size it wasn’t a lot to drink.

Being a committed Christian I have come to understand that the consumption of alcohol while permitted is not always helpful. I used to say to people – I like to have a drink but not get drunk – but I think that was a bit of denial.  I loved to have a drink and I didn’t just want one or two, I always liked the feeling of getting a little tipsy.

On New Years Eve of 2010 I decided to fast the consumption of alcohol to pray for my church. I was particularly praying for a financial breakthrough. The church had done a massive renovation and the debt weighed heavily upon the leadership and congregation. I promised God I would not drink until I saw that debt reduced in a major way.  Eleven months later I ended the fast as God answered my prayers – certainly not in the way I imagined but nevertheless the debt no longer overshadowed the church. A good friend was getting married so I chose her wedding to break my fast and break my fast I did. With a well rested liver I drank like a fish and only experienced a mild hangover. In the next month I found a few other celebrations to have a few drinks with friends.

In the eleven months I had fasted alcohol I had a number of occasions such as my birthday, a going away dinner for Canadian friends and my anniversary that I would have liked to have had a drink. But once the celebratory moment passed I realised the next day that I never thought to myself  ‘Oh, I really wish I had drunk last night’. In fact I thought the opposite. I was so glad I hadn’t over indulged.   I loved not getting the sweats through the night as my liver struggled to process the alcohol or the thumping headache in the morning or that seedy feeling that only time and McDonald’s heals. I most certainly didn’t miss having to apologise for any stupid or immature behaviour and I loved that I could remember these events clearly and I didn’t lose the following day to a hangover. In fact I realised that I didn’t actually like drinking that much and I didn’t like the Catherine I became when I had too much to drink. I didn’t like her at all. She was loud, offensive and toward the end of the night – angry.

So after 3 weeks of ‘drinking’ I decided to give up the booze forever. I sent an sms to my close friends and family letting them know of my decision and that was it. I felt fantastic. It was the best decision I’ve ever made for my spiritual, physical and emotional health. It was an amazing feeling. I no longer wrestled with the drink or not to drink question  I just didn’t even think about it anymore. If I had known the peace that would be mine after making this decision I would have done it years ago.

I once asked God if there was anything I did that held me back in ministry – He said to me ‘Yes your drinking”. So now, after 2 ½ years of almost complete sobriety but for that 3 weeks in December of 2011 God has called me to be a Pastor. I feel absolutely honoured and totally unworthy of this call to lead God’s people. I am glad God is able to look beyond all my personal failures, all my other issues and all  my problems and use me to serve in his kingdom. Mostly when I think of myself as a Pastor I think of the verse that says ‘His grace is sufficient for me”. Oh let that be applied liberally to my life. I really need it with a capital G!

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxox

May 16, 2013

Real Blessing

The BeatitudesHave you ever had one of those moments when you thought, “wow I’m blessed”?  All the time people on facebook are saying that they are blessed.  I think it has sort of become a Christian word that non-Christians understand, so therefore Christians use in liberally.  We know what blessed is when it happens to us.  Who wouldn’t want to be blessed?

When Jesus spoke he spoke to people who thought they knew what a blessed life looked like.  The only trouble was that, well, everything that they thought was wrong! So he had to set them straight.  This is what he said:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

We call this passage the beatitudes.  When I first read it as a teenager I assumed that it meant that these are attitudes we are meant to be like.  Whilst that is kind of right the word itself means “blessings”.  The word has nothing to do with attitude. This passage is all about the blessing of God.

Jesus had to say to his hearers that the blessing of God looks nothing like what they thought it did.  If Jesus was walking around Christians today I think it would be much the same.

When you see someone poor do you think – wow, that person looks so blessed?  No, neither do I.  But Jesus sees it differently.  When you see someone grieving do you think that they are obviously walking in the blessing of God?  We actually think the opposite – we see someone who hasn’t grieved for a long time as the blessed person because all their loved ones are healthy.  Not according to Jesus.  When you read about Christians in China being persecuted and imprisoned do you reflect on how blessed we are to be able to worship freely in this country?  According to Jesus it’s actually the persecuted Christians who are blessed.

But why?  Why are all these people blessed?  They don’t look very blessed to me.  The answer is in verse 12 – because great is your reward in heaven.

Jesus is thinking eternally.  He is saying that blessing goes to the person who accumulates the most heavenly rewards.  Almost all of the “for they will…” promises are rewards that you don’t get in this life.  In Monty Pythons comedy The Life of Brian a person listening to Jesus deliver verse 5 – blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth – says, “Oh well it’s nice that they get something because they have a horrible time of it down here don’t they?”  The writers were trying to be funny but they have actually ended up making the very point that Jesus is trying to!  The writers probably assumed that Jesus is saying that being meek is virtuous and “virtue is its own reward”.  Jesus is saying nothing like that at all.  He is saying that the rewards of the next life are what we should be pursuing, and the more difficulty that you have to push through here the greater your reward is there.

Heaven is not the same for everyone.  It is great for everyone, but the rewards that each Christian get differ.  The greatest rewards go to those who are blessed.  Jesus is not saying that grief, meekness and persecution are fun and we should enjoy them. They are not “good for the soul” or some such nonsense.  He is saying that God sees them and God rewards them in the next life.

That’s real blessing.

May 1, 2013

‘Finding Yourself’

blog pictureTen years ago ‘finding yourself’ was common lingo. People would experience a major traumatic event which would cause them to question everything. Maybe it was the death of parent, spouse or child, the end of a marriage, an illness or injury, a loss of employment or income. I have just finished an 8 part series on Pregnancy Loss which details this kind of event for me. During this time, everything – especially my faith – came under scrutiny. I did a major assessment of myself, others and God. I went on a journey to ‘find myself’ as if somehow I had become lost. The problem is that when I did find myself I really didn’t like what I found! As a result I decided to tackle an issue that had dogged me for as long as I can remember – Rejection.

I have suffered some significant rejection in my life and as an adult I felt like reacted out of that emotional space no matter the relationship or context. For example if I was having a fight with someone and I thought they were going to reject me I would reject them first. I would often do what my friends call ‘the stomp out’ or ‘the hang up’. I would physically remove myself from the conflict. I wouldn’t fight fair either. I would verbalise my rejection with something like ‘I’m outta here, I want a divorce, this friendship is over, don’t call me I’ll call you’. I never meant what I said in those moments and would often be back apologising sometime later but the damage was often already done. How does one attack a life-long issue of Rejection? SLOWLY and with HELP (as required) is my answer to that.

Before I go into this further I want you to understand how the process of change occurs for most people. Major change comes to us via something called a ‘paradigm shift’. Think of a paradigm shift as a change from one way of thinking to another. Here is an example. You’re walking down the street and I pass you. You say ‘hi Catherine’ but I totally ignore you. You think ‘what a cow! How rude was that?’  This belief impacts on your emotions. You feel yucky because of the negative interaction and possibly a little bit angry with me. Then John comes running up the road and before you can speak he says ‘have you seen Catherine’. Still a bit upset you say ‘Yeah she went that way. Why?’. He says ‘our house just burnt down, we’ve lost everything’. Instantly your feelings change. You feel sympathy, understanding and concern – all your anger and negative thoughts are gone. Your emotions change because what you believed about the situation changed.

Often we try to change our behaviour and our feelings without tackling the underlying beliefs that produced them. To tackle an issue like rejection requires a more aggressive approach as the beliefs are often comfortable, strong and entrenched. Our life experiences have often re-enforced the internal belief/thought again and again. We often don’t even realise that we have them because ‘they are just a part of us’. We need to have one mighty paradigm shift in our thinking to change them.

There was never one ‘a-ha moment’ in which I experienced a big enough paradigm shift that everything got dealt with at once. Instead I started the process by recognizing the major core belief/thought that I held. It was:

‘I was unlovable and therefore no-one truly loved me.’

This belief created feelings of deep insecurity because I couldn’t trust people. I lived life in ‘survivor mode’ becoming a Jedi master at self-preservation. If my internal warning system perceived any emotional threat it would pull away. I would be ready to hit the reject button before others rejected me. In the event of conflict I would run because I couldn’t cope with my internal belief possibly being confirmed. If I did experience ‘true rejection’ I would literally implode with self-doubt and deep feelings of worthlessness. In the end it was easier to run away because then I could blame it all on the other person.

We develop beliefs through our experiences and while big beliefs are difficult to change there is great hope at doing so – I know because I’ve done it. The first person I ever believed loved me to this day is God. Over the past 25 years his enduring, unconditional love has given me the courage to believe that I might, just might be lovable. After accepting God’s love I had a measure of healing come into my life but it really wasn’t till I met John and was married to him that deeper more sustainable change happened. Marriage, if I wanted it to last, was a relationship that I couldn’t just run away from every time I felt exposed. I was forced to open up my heart and be vulnerable. Fortunately I have never in 14 years of marriage felt rejected by John. My marriage was a safe environment to begin to work through this issue. John was a great sounding board because his perspective of me and the issues were not clouded by damaging experiences. He could see things for what they were. As a result he was able to bring great truth, clarity and value to this journey for me. I have also experienced huge paradigm shifts through a course I attended called ‘Cleansing Streams’. The long-suffering love of friends and family has also bought freedom and acceptance in this area.

There is absolutely no right or wrong way to do this. Your journey is your journey. I do guarantee you that you will not be able to do it alone. While I’ve come a long way in the last 14 years I still find the ‘old thinking’ pops up when I get tired and emotionally run down but the paradigm shifts I’ve had renewing my mind and heart ‘hold strong’ and I pick myself up and move on quickly.

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxoxo

February 13, 2013

A Crisis of Faith

Sad Man

In the 25 years I’ve been a Christian I’ve suffered a crisis of faith – twice. Both times  threatened to derail my relationship with God entirely.  Once was in 1997 and the other time was 2004.  The two triggers that precipitated my crisis of faith could not have been more different.

In 1997 I was studying full time, living out of home and working part time.  Money was tight.  In July I submitted my tax return, and back then you usually had to wait 6 to 8 weeks to get a refund if you were owed one.  I was going to get a substantial refund which I sorely needed.  Looking at when I needed it, I prayed that it would come at 6 weeks.

But it didn’t.  Right now I can’t believe that I cared so much about such a trivial event but when my tax return arrived 8 weeks later I was outraged with God.  I thought, “How powerful are you if you can’t even answer the most simple prayer?”  I didn’t ask for the world – it was the most minor little prayer and yet it not being  answered in the way I wanted threw me into a total spiritual tailspin!  The reason was that almost everything in my life had not gone as planned in 1997, and this was the straw that broke the camels back.

I dealt with this crisis really poorly.  What I needed to do was just grow up and realise that God cares far more about His kingdom, His will and His name (to quote Jesus priorities in the Lord’s prayer).  I never really worked that out and just sort of dragged my feet through the rest of 1997 before finally getting spiritually going again in mid 1998.

Then at the other end of the seriousness spectrum, in 2004 our second baby died.  Catherine went into an early labour and gave birth when she was just 16 weeks gestation, far too early for a baby to survive.  That was one part of a long journey that ended with the birth of our daughter Poppy who is now 6.  Catherine has blogged about that journey in this post.  Whilst we lost 3 babies my faith was not rocked by the first and third losses, but when Catherine fell pregnant the second time my overwhelming instinct was to pray, “Lord let it be different this time.”  Far from being different it was exactly the same.  Same problem, same time in the pregnancy, same outcome.  A complete re-run.  That devastated me and I didn’t know what to say to God.  My faith was shaken to the core.

After a couple of months of working through these feelings the breakthrough came at church one Sunday.  During the music I simply made a decision that I would praise God.  That was the turning point.  It’s not as though all grief vanished at that moment, but from that point I was back on track with the One who gives true comfort.

Upon reflection I could have done things differently.  Some things help and some don’t.  These are two things which genuinely help you get out of a crisis of faith:

Take Communion.  If you are going through a crisis then it’s great to remember that whatever you are going through Jesus went through crucifixion, so that’s likely a fair bit worse than what you are going through.  If you are praying for a for a tax return to arrive then it’s definitely way worse.  Whatever pain is yours Jesus went through unspeakable physical pain all the way to death.  And he didn’t go singing and praising God as it happened either – he was crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Taking communion is where we get reminded that the cross is central to our lives and our faith.  Jesus knows what a crisis of faith is, he knows what pain is, he has been there.  Communion reminds us, and puts our own problems in perspective.

Praise.  Scripture commands us to praise God for who He is – He is holy, He is worthy, He is pure, He is sovereign.  When we are in crisis our focus turns to ourselves.  But praise puts our focus back on God.  Your praise can come from music, your own prayer time, or wherever.  But when praise comes breakthrough soon follows.

John

January 16, 2013

Potty Mouth

Potty Mouth

I don’t drink or smoke anymore but I still have a few unwanted vices left.  On the surface I look clean but just below a toilet flushes somewhere inside of me and out of it flows manure.  I have often marvelled that out of one side of my mouth I can bless and encourage and speak words of life to others and with the other side of my mouth I can curse and swear and pull others down. Maybe I am just human. I mean most people swear and curse but my bible tells me that ‘out of the heart the mouth speaks’. So what does my mouth then say about the condition of my heart.

Psalm 109:18 reads…

He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.

This verse makes me think of the movie Prometheus. That some ghastly snake like creature has slithered down my throat and died, its death seeping into my bones, giving off a foul stench. But how God? How can I do this, how can I love you so much, love your ways, your thoughts and be so dedicated  to serving you but have such a Potty mouth.

Verse 21 and 22 tells me why..…

But you, Sovereign Lord,
help me for your name’s sake;
out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.

For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is wounded within me.

My heart has wounds that no man can see. It contains curses and words that were spoken over my life, that literally went into my heart and broke it.  It doesn’t matter who or when or what was said. They are there, old, buried, rotting.

Last night as I lay in my bed, my thoughts turned to Poppy. She’s told me she has a secret but she is too embarrassed and ashamed to tell me what it is. I can see that it is eating away at her so I prayed for her and God gave me a strategy to help her talk about her secret. The next day I got her to hold a water bottle lid. No explanation, just hold it. I told her to get dressed while holding it and go to the toilet while holding it which was very awkward!  I asked her if she would like to hold it all day long and she said ‘no’. I told her that ‘holding on to a secret’ was like ‘holding on to that bottle cap’. While she holds on to it she is restricted because it takes away her freedom to move freely. While she is holding it she has this on going awareness that it is always there and that eventually it will become too uncomfortable to hold. That by sharing her secret with me she could let go of the bottle cap and be free. She finally she told me her secret about a terrible dream she had where she was made to do awful things.  I could literally see the weight come off her as she shared.

Now it is my turn to put my big girl pants on and share my secret. I have a Potty mouth. And yes I am talking about the F-word and its close friends. Before now I have only really used it around my nearest and dearest. How beautiful is that?  This is my prayer, God, can you go in to my heart heal the wounds of old  I don’t want to wear the ‘garment of cursing’ any longer. For the last 43 years I have let it flow like oil into my bones and now God with your help I want it to flow back out of my life as the ‘oil of joy, blessing and healing to others. Let me be a vessel of life and not death especially to those that I hold nearest and dearest. Let me throw my bottle cap away and be free….No more Potty Mouth for me. Amen

I am free, I am free, these chains have no hold on me.

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxox

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