Bitter or Sweet?

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Taste and see that the Lord is good

Ps 34:8

Has your summer been fruitful?

I think for many of us, we don’t really think about being fruitful as we go about our busy lives. This evaluation comes more as a result of hindsight.

It also really depends on what ‘fruitful’ means to you!

For me, the summer, and so much of life, has been a wrestling match between work and business commitments and deadlines, vs kids, family, summer vacation and fun!

How do we determine if we’ve been fruitful or not?

How would you determine if a tree has been fruitful?

Is it quantity?

Or quality?

Last year my vine produced a SHED load of grapes, but this batch had skin that was really bitter, and we ended up throwing them all away because no one enjoyed eating them.

This year, we had a much smaller quantity of clusters. We had learned that spacing them out while they’re growing, and pruning them back as the year progresses is a better method for healthy and delicious grapes. Our harvest this year is unbelievably sweet, despite there being less of them.

One thing I noticed in our pruning experience, was that it wasn’t easy. My husband would have to climb up and do some sort of contortionist gymnastics to reach these premature clusters. They were hacked down and thrown into a trash bag. He would get down off the ladder dishevelled and sweaty, and with nothing to show for it.

I also noticed that I had uncomfortable feelings bubbling up, I felt guilty that I was wasting all these potential grapes and just throwing them away… When so many are starving in Africa! It felt like a waste. It felt like I wasn’t being a good steward of what I had been given.

I think the vine’s story is a beautiful commentary on life. Sometimes we try and cram so much in. We work hard to have a high output, but do we have a bitter taste in our mouths at the end of the season?

The act of pruning doesn’t always make logical and rational sense. We may be cutting back on something that looks like it’s growing beautifully. We may be giving something up that we have always depended on or needed. Maybe God has called you to step out of the boat, or to trust Him to calm the waves or provide for the 5000?

Life isn’t about doing as much as we possibly can, it’s about doing the right things, and finding ourselves in the riptide of his will.

Only then do we start seeing the quality of our fruit improving and bringing sweetness to our lives and those around us. Sometimes we beat ourselves up for not doing enough, or feel the need to cram our day to the max with ‘stuff’. But what is the quality of it?

Sometimes it's all about biting off less to chew, and savoring the moments that come our way. I've worked hard in this season at balancing, and often failed. But I think the taste at the end of the season, is more one of sweetness, even though there's been a few bitter seeds along the way!

How is your season tasting?

"Dare to Taste" Humming bird - Watercolor Painting Print
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Dare to stand - a shift in posture

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I'm spending a lot of time writing at the moment, about being 'awakened'. It's a journey many of us have been through, some of us are in the middle of, and some long for. Some don't even know this journey is available to them! Being 'awakened' is the process of 'waking up' spiritually, to who we are, what our purpose is, and how God wants to partner with us. 

When we are awakened, everything about us changes – our stance changes and our outlook changes. The position of our hearts change and our spiritual posture towards the day changes. This is what I want to write about today. 

Imagine a person trying to go against the flow during London’s rush hour. Imagine them getting tossed about, carried by the flow of people all pushing to get onto the tube. This person is an example of our sleepy state, pre-wake up. We may try and walk in the opposite direction, but we’re not really strong enough or alert enough to get past. We get jostled and shoved in the direction of the majority. 

So many of us are in this position. Our voice is stifled by the growing volume of the world, and often also, unfortunately, the church. We are so quick to betray our authenticity in order to conform to the box we’re surrounded by.  When we have our voices and strength sapped from us often enough,  many of us just allow our uniqueness to be extinguished, and we become another shade of grey, amidst the thousands of others out there. 

When we are awakened, suddenly a warrior rises up in us. Our position becomes more intentional, our feet are poised for holding ground. We are not easily swayed, we are alert and we don’t allow ourselves to be moved by oncoming traffic and pressures. It becomes clear to us that our voice is highly valuable, and we learn that while we may need to craft how we communicate, what we have to say is our gift. Our authentic, unique voice is one of our gifts. 

We have a heightened sense of attack, God’s Spirit in us opens our eyes to the activity that goes on in the unseen, making us able to prepare for attacks and pressures before they arrive. This gives us an opportunity to use God’s full armour (Eph 6), and not only hold ground that we’re standing on, but to take NEW ground. 

Taking new ground is something that can appear scary to us, like it involves becoming Wonder Woman or Superman. We look at our lives and think that we have been through so much and haven’t got the energy to move forwards anymore.  

When we are awakened, we start to see how the seasons we’ve walked through, the tests, the fires and the trials that we’ve faced, are all part of our training. Those smaller valleys and hills we’ve endured were preparation for mountains and gorges that God wants us to take for his kingdom. 

When Joshua took Jericho, he didn’t do it from a command centre, through comms, with other people’s boots on the ground. You cannot conquer ground you haven’t walked. It is by walking through things that enables you to conquer it, but not only that, it makes you able to navigate others through the landmines and dangers of that land. 

In the kingdom of God, nothing is wasted, and nothing is selfish. When we have put on the armour of God and stand our ground, it’s sometimes the right thing to turn around and see how far he’s brought you. Sometimes there may be people behind you who need a helping hand with exactly the thing you’ve just been through. Sometimes you look ahead and realise that the hill you’ve just conquered wasn’t Mt Everest after all, but what you’ve learned along the way will help you on your next quest. 

Stepping out and taking new ground requires obedience, determination, persistence in prayer and a grit to be able to stick to what you’ve heard God say. Joshua didn’t waver in his battle plan of marching around Jericho seven times. Not a single arrow was fired, or sword wielded, not even a shout was made, they obeyed, they were determined, and they silently prayed persistently as they walked. 

Sometimes we need to identify what our posture is, or has been, and adjust it. Maybe we are aware that we've been functioning in a 'half asleep' state. Maybe it's time to reallign our posture, to intentionally put on the armour, dig our heels in and walk the land that God has asked us to conquor. 

"Rise UP" - Hand written and illustrated wall poster - A4
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Raising kids who know who they are

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Raising kids that Dare 

I never thought I'd write about being a parent or having kids, but recently I've been really excited to have gained a clearer understanding of my kids and their destinies. Most importantly, what I have learned is applicable to everyone, not just those in a parental role.

I have been really challenged recently to think about how I can get my kids to engage more in my work and world. I've just written a devotional about dreaming with God - how do I get my kids to dream with God? 

One of the things I find my kids ask me is 'where do I even start'? The world is such a big place with so many possibilities it seems to boggle their minds! My mission as their mother is to make sure they understand the basics of who they are and what they're made for.  When we named our kids we made sure this reflected what we felt God was speaking over their lives. After a decade of parenting, we can see that those names (and their meanings) are a part of their identity. Interestingly, it is precisely those things which are the most severely attacked. 

At birth, we clearly knew we had to give one of our children a name that means "Godly Helper", yet for years we have battled with impulsive, strong-willed, determination that results in altogether UNHELPFUL behaviour! It was only when I had a stroke of genius (or more aptly, a divine nudge) to educate my child on the meaning of his name that we saw a breakthrough. When he began to see that the very reason God had made him determined and impulsive was so that he could BE HELPFUL and fulfill the call attached to his name, we saw a significant change in his attitude.

Suddenly, he realised that his choices have the ability to enforce who God has made him to be, or go directly against it. He recognised that the enemy is going to try very hard to make sure he makes bad choices which hijack his God-given identity. This understanding has truly transformed all of my children and their ability to see what's going on 'below the surface'. Suddenly the kid who's name means 'loved and laughter' understands that there is probably a reason why he is prone to feeling alone and grumpy, and with that understanding comes a deeper choice as to which feelings he decides to dwell on. The concept of choosing joy suddenly means a lot more!

In our house it is not unusual to hear me say "What's your name?" and with it comes that adorable facial expression of realisation and understanding. This has been one of the most significant shifts in our family dynamics that we have had. 

This brings a fresh understanding of what dreaming is! They understand and are more secure about who they are made to be, which helps them to 'dream' in line with God's already spoken plan. Suddenly the kid who knows that God has written "Godly Helper" over his life understands that his wish to be like daddy and take Bibles to unreached people, FITS!

This summer has become about cementing an understanding of their identity and encouraging them in adventures. Once you know who you are, you can step out in confidence no matter what the terrain! You are willing to try, to dream, to go wading in uncharted, muddy territories, no matter what your size, because you know who you are, and what God has written as the heading over your life.  

So maybe we should all be thinking about the words that are spoken over our lives, it may not be in a name, God has ways of speaking his intentions over us, even if we're not looking for it. 
Maybe we keep struggling in the same area, always in the same way - I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it many more times - the area of our greatest attack is often an indication of our greatest gifts. Maybe our child is struggling with speaking when her name is to do with having a voice? Maybe you are struggling with self-confidence when all the prophetic words you've had have to do with speaking in front of people... once we see there is a pattern, we are automatically equipped because we are aware of the enemies scheme to rob and destroy. 

So this summer, I've decided it's time to start daring to take it back, daring to see the attack for what it is, and being willing to engage in the warfare that is needed to take back the ground that may have been encroached upon in your life, your kids lives, or even your parents or friends lives. We have been doing family devotionals using the book below, but also many other plans that help set up kids for dreaming, adventuring and walking in security and an identity that is rooted in all the right places.  

'Dreaming' Bundle pack.

This bundle pack provides the perfect way to start each day! 

The 30-day devotional, Dreaming with God, takes you on a real and deep journey of rediscovery of who God made you to be, the things He buried in your heart, and His promises to you. The prayer is that you will have a perspective shift on why you have dreams, and you will embrace what you're walking through in life as part of the story of those dreams. 

The CD is the first in a set of 3 EP's and is a journey of dreaming with God through music and song. The songs are the ones written about in the book Dare to Ask, and inspire us to dream once again with Him. 

This long-awaited project has been a dream of Simcha's for many years and is a testimony to all that she writes and sings about. The prayer is that you will be taken on a journey of opening up, looking up and waking up! 

Dare to dance

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Not all of us like to dance. Some people go through all of life without ever giving it a try. Some make a lifestyle of dance and others of us pine for a time where we used to dance as a way of life. 

For me, I spent much of my life watching dance, teaching dance and dancing myself. It was when I was crippled by back pain that I started pulling back from the thing I so loved. Now if I see dances and dance movies that harken back to my previous life, I find it upsetting and saddening to think back to how my body used to feel and move. 

Recently I was really challenged to think about King David and how he danced before the Lord. It must have been quite a show to cause the level of embarrassment that we read about, to his wife Michal. But why was David dancing so extravagantly? Was he putting on a show? Was he trying to get a rise out of the people? Was he trying to irritate his wife?! Or was he making a statement about the victory he'd just watched being won? 

Clearly, David didn't drop a groove and start spinning on his head in the streets of Jerusalem, although this is what you'll find happening there today! He did something that was viewed to be undignified and shocked people because of how much he just did not care what the people thought. He danced with all his might (2 Samuel 6:14), and I think it would be fair to say that it was for an audience of One. 

It isn't recorded in scripture that David was a regular dancer, or had a profession as a dancer. Maybe he was a pioneer in the dance world, and was secretly busting a move or two to entertain King Saul! But we do know that his reaction to the ark of covenant *finally* being returned to its rightful place, was to burst forth with a dance that he could no longer contain. 

When my holocaust surviving grandma passed away, I played the song 'Heros' by Amanda Cook at her funeral, because the following line spoke of what she had done in her life; 

"You taught my feet to dance upon disappointment"

What does this mean to me as a retired, closet, wishful dancer? 

We all have disappointments in our lives, things that have let us down, or ended up being a destructive force. For me, the bitter disappointment of my back pain represented so many things and directly affected my ability to literally dance. But these things can be symbolic of so many things in life.  Disappointment in and of itself can be a debilitating thing that can dictate how we feel and easily master us without us noticing. It may not directly relate to our physical ability to dance, but it may represent a metaphorical (or literal) giving up of that joy that we see in David.  

In Luke 10:19 we are told that we have been given authority to tread, or stand on the evil one. I love this picture of being able to crush the evil one in a release of creative movement that represents a complete abandonment to the One who brings us victory. 

But David didn't accidentally stumble into a dance move (although that would explain a lot!) His dancing wasn't a mishap! It was intentional. He chose the level of energy and abandonment he put into his dance, and he chose to dance with all his might. He was intentionally choosing joy, and to press into that explosion of gratitude he felt. Years of disappointment and longing for the ark of the covenant to be returned, culminated in this beautiful expression of one man, before his God, without a care in the world. 

When we are intentional about dancing on our disappointments, we risk causing those around us offence or disgust at how we haven't held it together in the appropriate manner! But sometimes that enemy isn't going to be crushed fully or die completely unless you dance before the Lord with ALL your might. You can't tiptoe around the scorpion that is disappointment – you have to stamp and use your full body weight to land that victory on its head.

So dare to dance, dare to take back your joy and don't be afraid of how it looks! Own it! 

(Read my blog post "Own It" here!

Dare to Breathe...

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Breathing. 

It's an involuntary action that we do whether we're awake or asleep, thinking about it, or not, resting or running, happy or sad. We all breathe. Sometimes we are more aware of our breathing patterns than at other times. We may try breathing exercises or be intentional about slowing our breathing down for health reasons, but we all go through a large proportion of the day without thinking about our breathing. 

What about the breath of God? What effect does that have on my life? 

I love this quote from a song by Stefany Gretzinger:

"The breath You exhale sustaining me". 

I stopped to think recently about the meaning of this, and how often I consider the power of the breath of God. There are many scriptures that tell us about the power that the breath of God carries, For example: 

  • It creates (Psalm 33:6)
  • It clears the heavens (Job 26:13) 
  • It brings life (Ezekiel 36) 
  • It gives understanding (Job 32:8)

For me, the breath of God is exemplified beautifully in the dandelion.

I am this fragile plant, often viewed to be a weed. I am not a beautiful towering rose bush, I am small and weak and easily trodden upon.

But what happens when He draws near to me? 
I am drawn close to Him.

What happens when His breath is released upon me? 
Suddenly I can fly! 

At the right time, and in the right direction, I am released from all that has held me anchored and static, and suddenly I am flying, moving in a way I could never have moved myself. 
I am soaring, reaching heights and finding currents I didn't know existed, and traveling to places that I hadn't ever seen to be there. 

What happens when I land after His breath has directed me?
I multiply. 

You see, in the Kingdom of God, nothing is selfish. I may be blessed, I may receive gifts from God, but what is the point if I store it all up for myself? 

I believe there is a danger of becoming very inward thinking as believers. We like to approach God and store up his blessings for our own sakes. And there is, of course always a place for this! Our world and our society have become more and more insular and individualistic. The Bible says "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. " - John 13:35. It is by us being counter-cultural, and lovers of others that we will be identified as belonging to the Kingdom of God.  

But it all starts with the breath of God blowing upon us, freeing us, bringing us to life, and setting us up to multiply. It is a divine exchange that happens with His breath and our breath. When He breathes upon us, our gifts and dreams come alive, turn to color, and the hard parts of our hearts turn to life. In turn, as we are sustained by His breath, He inspires ours to pour out life and blessing to others, multiplying along the way.. Without breath, we cannot live, we cannot breathe, speak, move or function. 

It all begins with a breath... 

Watch the Video below for the full teaching! 
 

Simcha shares the devotional message behind the song 'Breathe' from her first of three EP project - 'Dreaming'. HIT SUBSCRIBE TO GET MORE LIKE THIS!! Simcha would love to connect with you! To learn more about the Dare to Ask project, hear MORE MUSIC, see Simcha's books AND artwork see below: Connect with Simcha: Subscribe: www.

Dare to Move

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It occurred to me recently how so many of us are essentially sleepwalking. 

We go through life, without really participating in it.

We're sat at the game and watching it unfold before our eyes, without ever rolling the dice. We walk through the garden without really ever stopping to see what is surrounding us, and we miss the scent of the flowers, and the feel of the wind on our faces. 

It hit me that in order to fully engage with what God has for us in life, we have to fully engage with life. We are so often asleep on the inside, going through daily, monotonous actions, without catching the joy in life, and without fully participating. 

We're afraid if we step outside, we'll get caught in rain, or it'll be cold, or windy. So we stay indoors, watching the day pass by.   

In letting the day pass by, and not engaging with what's going on, we miss out on experiences that are part of shaping us. We miss out on memories that make life rich. We miss out on feelings which keep us connected to others and to God. We miss out on adventures that God wants us to have! He's out there splashing in the puddles and having his hair blown in the wind, enjoying the elements that HE created, waiting for you to join him.

We are all afraid of those strong gusts of wind that we are afraid will knock us off our feet. Those events in life that cause us to lose our balance and our footing. But without that gust of wind, we won't ever see the new ground to the left of us, that is waiting for us to step into it.  You can read more about God's grest rescue here.

Obviously, I'm not talking about weather here. Those gusts of wind or rainstorms that leave us exposed and vulnerable are events and circumstances that happen to all of us. The question is whether we will allow these events to wake us up on the inside, and enable us to participate more in the life we've been given, or whether we let them shut us down and fall into a deeper sleep. 

Life is all about becoming more awakened to who we are, who we've been made to be, what God has put inside of us, and how he intended for us to partner with him. I've realised that the older I get, the less I know about myself, and the more there is to understand.  However I fear that many have fallen asleep during this process and never realise this, and so never wrestle with understanding the complexities of who they are. 

I choose to be awake, to engage, to participate in life, and to not be afraid of the feelings and consequences that come with that. The more I decide to stay awake, the more I understand the dreams God has given me, and the more I am able to see them in those around me. I do believe that staying awake is a choice that we must continually make. It's so easy to shut down, withdraw and close the door on life. We can slip into a daily routine and forget to live the day, and before we know it days, weeks and years have passed. 

I choose to get up, get out, move and step out into the wind, the rain and the day, and experience every element of the day. Who knows the journey you'll be taken on, the beauty you will behold, the boldness you'll discover you always had, and the destination you didn't know was there.  

But you have to move...

Overcome Me

Give me more of you,
Give me all of you.
I give all of me
Overcome me.

 

Being overcome by something doesn't usually have positive connotations. It implies succumbing to something, giving in to something that is too strong for us to withstand. It's not something that comes with choice, it's something that overpowers us and that goes against our will. 

This is a picture painted with the colour of fear, and doesn't appeal to even the strongest of us.

What if that is exactly what needs to happen? 

Isaiah 55:8-9 says that His ways are above our ways, His thoughts are above our thoughts. If this is true, then we are not always going to understand what God does in our lives and in those around us. That means that it may go against our will. It may take us into circumstances that we may not choose.

We have a choice. We can fight it, or we can succumb. 

When we fight it, it does us no favours, because the very thing we're fighting will end up lasting longer until we learn the lesson he wants us to learn through the very circumstance we're fighting! (Read my blog post 'Dare to fight' here)

When we succumb, we are acting on trust. We are choosing to not choose. We are succumbing to something outside of us which we've decided can be trusted. It's knowing that the strength of the one who is outside of us, is covering our weakness and giving us his strength. 

Choosing to be overcome by him is the only place that we are truly free from fear. The rules when it comes to God are usually the opposite of what we feel in the world. Having less of my will and less of my choice is the safest place to be. Succumbing to his strength doesn't mean I disappear and become invisible. It means that the truest version of me starts to emerge, and the things that I cannot bring forth in my own strength start to become possible. 

Once we start to train our eyes to see things from our limited version of his view, we see that what we should be asking for is to be consumed by him in our every thought, word, step and breath. We are trained by the world to think very highly of ourselves, and to never let anyone quieten our voice, and we all fight for centre stage because that's where we'll be seen and heard best. But what if this is a cheap, plastic version of the real thing? When I am consumed by him, I want less spotlight, less place to speak, less of me, because I am nothing compared to him. If he chooses to partner with me as a mouthpiece to share his voice through, then I should be sure that it is HIM speaking through me, because me in my strength isn't a good representation of him.

Actually, me disappearing into him and losing my voice in his is where true freedom is found. 

It results in our identity being rooted in the right place, Our steps directed in the right way, fear being cast out, security being found in the right place, and he shines through and is seen through me. And isn't that the point? 

So is it really so bad if we are overcome by something? To succumb to something, to give in to something that is too strong for us to withstand? Is it so bad that it's something that overpowers us?

I've found that those have become my prayers. 

Give me more of you
Give me all of you
I give all of me
Overcome me. 
Consume my every thought, my every word, my every step, my every breath. 

Simcha shares the devotional message behind the song 'Overcome' from her first of three EP project - 'Dreaming'. IT SUBSCRIBE TO GET MORE LIKE THIS!! Simcha would love to connect with you! To learn more about the Dare to Ask project, hear MORE MUSIC, see Simcha's books AND artwork see below: Connect with Simcha: Subscribe: www.

Dare to Delight

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"I will wake and delight myself in You, because You delight in me" 

For some of us, waking up and delighting in the Lord comes more easily and naturally than for others. I myself have struggled for years with guilt and a feeling of condemnation that I haven't found it easy to spring out of bed at 5 am in order to spend 2 hours with God. 

I am not a morning person. I do not like anytime before 10 am, and cannot really be held responsible for my actions prior to two cups of coffee. I know many like me, a group of nighttime people, who look in wonder at the morning people who surround us! 

It is not that morning people have been given a supernatural ability that the rest of us lack. We haven't been punished with nighttime creativity, we have been wired differently, and it has taken me a long time to accept that my wiring wasn't a mistake. 

However, I should still wake and delight in Him. I have come to accept that my version of waking is acceptable to the Lord, just as much the morning person who wakes at the crack of dawn with a spring in their step. I am done living feeling guilty about how I have been made! 

But what does it mean to delight? 

'Delight' is defined as 'to please someone greatly', or 'to find great pleasure'. 

Am I willing to believe that I, little old me, can please Him greatly? I can bring the maker of the universe great pleasure? Just by showing up and hanging out with Him? 

I have learned that by showing up and choosing to delight in Him, even when I don't feel like it, that He delights in me (even though I won't fully understand this, this side of heaven). I am currently in a season of life where I am needing much encouragement. I have felt pulled in many directions and am experiencing much shaking in all areas of my life. The one thing I have figured out is how to actually take some time to just sit in quiet, and push myself to delight. Even when I feel heartbroken, or anxious, or stressed, or down. The result is that I have heard the voice of God on an almost daily basis, in what I've taken to calling 'postcards from heaven'. 

I haven't ever experienced messages coming from so many diverse places, such encouragement from the most random places and people, all just being obedient and taking their own risks. 

The challenge here is to dare to make that first step to be determined to wake, whatever time we are wired to wake, ready to engage, and choose to delight in Him. It's not easy, and it doesn't come naturally for most of us. There is always a part of us that just wants to get on with the day, myself included. 

If you dare to delight in Him, be prepared that you will learn how much He delights in you, and that will change your world in ways you can't imagine. 

See the NEW MUSIC VIDEO for 'Wake' here!: 

Share in this beautiful new video brought to you from the Galilee region of Israel, as Simcha takes you on her own personal journey of waking and delighting in the Lord. HIT SUBSCRIBE TO GET MORE!! Connect with Simcha: Subscribe: www. SimchaNatan.com Instagram: www.instagram.com/Simchanatan Facebook: www.fb.com/daretoaskproject Contact or invite Simcha: www.simchanatan.com/contact/ .

Dare to fight

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My attention has recently been drawn to David and his confrontation of Goliath. We know this story, some of us have heard this story since we were small and have grown up with David being a hero to us. We've loved this image of a shepherd boy defeating a skilled, warrior giant! And so we should! 

There are elements of this story that I sometimes feel get overlooked, that we could really apply to our own lives. Firstly, the fact that David was a weak, probably teen or pre-teen, on cheese delivery duty. He wasn't intending to go and fight this giant on this particular errand. He was being a dutiful son, and delivering lunch to his brothers! The fact that he saw the opportunity to fight, shows two things. The extent of the fear in the camp of the soldiers, and the extent of the courage that David showed. 

We may look at ourselves and see a small, weak, pre teen of a spiritual warrior. Certainly, I have fallen prey to these thoughts. We think we are too small to take on the giants that we see, we think we don't have the tools or experience to take them down. So we sit at the back of the camp and, quake in fear and hope the giant doesn't notice us and passes us by. We chose NOT to engage. 

What about those five pebbles? To me, they speak of our gifts. When they are left to themselves, they are just rough, colorless, stones, in a collection of many many stones. They're not 'anything special'. But when these gifts are dusted with the fingerprints of the One who put them there, suddenly these pebbles become something unique, something powerful, something that can be used in a way that no one would have thought of. 

What if we chose to engage with the giants, and stop viewing ourselves as too small? What if we decided to use the 'pebbles' that God has deposited in us? What if we let Him direct those pebbles as we pick them up with the courage that He puts in us? Who knows what giants we will slay! 

 

Dare to Fly

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Excerpt from 'Dare to Ask', Chapter 2 'Dreams and Destiny'

A few years back, I went to a women’s meeting where the topic being spoken about was the desert. I remember that the speaker went into great detail explaining the extent of the process that a caterpillar goes through in order to transition into its new form – a butterfly. 

Two things about this process really struck me and have remained as strong reminders whenever I see butterflies and caterpillars. Firstly, once a caterpillar has built its cocoon, the process it goes through inside involves it being reduced down to a soup-like consistency of about 50 cells. It is literally taken apart and its cells self-destruct. The reconstruction of this creature takes on a completely different cell structure and transforms it into an entirely new form. The process of essentially being melted down to the bare minimum and then being recreated is a painful and seemingly gruesome one, and yet, it’s something that each and every butterfly we see, goes through. 

What a reflection of what we sometimes have to go through in order for God to truly bring us into the beauty of what He has for us. 

The second thing that hit me about this creature is the struggle it goes through to get out of its cocoon once its transformation has been completed. Not only has it been biologically remade into a new form, it now has to struggle to get out and live! 

The cocoon is made from a strong silk that the caterpillar prepares in its own body and spins around itself, which protects the caterpillar and keeps it safe and contained while undergoing the painful transforming process. However, the butterfly has to use all of its newfound strength to get out of its cocoon. What struck me most about this process is that if the butterfly does not struggle and free itself, it will never be able to fly.  

There will be times when this truth can be applied to our own lives. Times when we have to go through the struggle, pressing on and pushing through, so that we can ‘fly’ as a new creation. 

I encourage you to dare to fly! You have made it through the struggle, now you're ready to fly! 

Dare to be heard

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At the start of the year I set myself up for a personal challenge; 'To regularly post a video of me sitting at my piano, playing and singing'.

For me, it is a scary challenge, and is definitely a case of 'biting the bullet'. In my first video, I  explained that the reason for the challenge was to do something practical and to 'make a statement' to myself, in order to counteract a lot of negativity I had heard through my life about my voice.  Since I live in the zone of "Dare to..." I decided to hashtag "DareToBeHeard". I found myself really thinking about this statement recently when I was caught in a deeply theological and emotional discussion about the meaning of Israel, it's role in theology, and it's relevance today.  

We had completely opposing viewpoints, and although we were both open and soft in our approach, it really impacted me how nervous I felt to voice this often unpopular opinion. Something rose up in me, and I noticed that my expression of my opinions and beliefs were no longer apologetic, but rather, confident and bold. I don't know what caused this switch, but it was good timing, as I was in the UK, on a trip to record the first "Dare To Ask" EP! 

I found that this confidence carried through in my recordings (which was a huge answer to prayer). More thinking occurred. Why had so many people throughout my life, felt it necessary to comment on my voice? Why had so many found a reason to silence it? Why had so many insisted it wasn't good enough? Why had so many torn it apart and found it to be not 'what they were looking for'? 

Then I realized that I was no longer thinking about my singing voice. 

Then I realized that's probably how a lot of people feel about their voice, their opinions, their beliefs and their experiences. 

It baffles me that in this age when we are supposed to be free, enlightened, educated and inclusive, we all feel the need to conform. We all sense what 'politically incorrect' is, and although we might not always go along with the politically correct view, we feel the pressure to dumb down what we really think, in order to not offend. 

I've always been a person who's been told I'm too blunt, or too loud, or am clearly 'unenlightened' because of my views, and I've never really cared, because I have strong convictions about what I think, and am fairly confident in myself. 

So why does this not transfer to my musical position? 

I guess we are all on a journey of embracing more of who we are. Accepting more of what God made us to be, and finding a boldness to 'own' what we are, and to stop apologizing.   While we must always be willing to change and learn in regards to our views, there are things about us that don't change, that are intricately a part of who were are created to be. These are the things that we must learn are there for a reason, in the way that they're there. These are the parts of us that are a gift to the world because they are unique and will never exist again in history. These are the parts of us that were intended for the world now, at this point in time. 

Too many of us try to force ourselves into shapes we were never supposed to fit in. We silence our views because we're afraid of the backlash. We silence our voices because we don't have the same sound as the current favorite. We shut away our beliefs because they are not the same as the millennial pastor on Instagram. 

I don't know about you, but I am a little fed up of being silenced, and I am asking God for the courage to be me, to be who I was made to be, and to dare to be heard.  

Listen: "Awakened" - an original song by Simcha

Pressing on

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I hate cheesy New Years blog posts that try to convince you that the passing of a new day will somehow magically cause a reset in our lives, and that we get to start again come 00:01 on January 1st. 

So this won't be one. 

We don't get to hit reset. We have to live with all that went down in the previous year, and although we may have renewed hope that the next year will be better, there is no guarantee of this, and we don't always know how to make that happen. 

For many, the year that has passed has been difficult, challenging, gut wrenching, soul destroying and lonely. For others, it was been the opposite, finding fresh release, new life and excitement in life. It doesn't actually matter, because in either case, we all have to get up in the morning and do each day. We are all in the same boat in the mornings. We can choose how we engage with the day. Are we going to allow the circumstances to dictate how we feel and how we engage? Or are we going to choose joy? Maybe we need to 'dare to delight'! (You can read my blogpost on this here)

I do believe that God is prompting people to press in further, to listen harder, to worship with reckless abandon. We cannot drift, coasting along in life, assuming that everything we have done up until now must be the fullness of what God has for us. The scriptures tell us in Proverbs 29:18 that "without vision, the people perish". I believe that it is time for us to wrestle God for the vision He has for us. We are not created to aimlessly float through life without drive, without passion and without something to work towards, whether in secret or public. We are created to have hopes, dreams and things we long for. Yes, there is a tension of knowing when it is the right time to push these things through, but they should be there never the less. 

I keep meeting people who tell me they have no dreams. They have no vision, and they have no passions. To these people I say - PRESS IN! PUSH THROUGH! There is more! We're never done, not even when we're dead! He always has more! He always has abundance! We are made to partner with HIM, He isn't short on ideas on how to put our amazing gifts and abilities to use, with His hands. Sometimes I wonder if God isn't waiting for us to say to Him "Father - I really, really really want to do this!"! Maybe he's waiting for us to have passion about something, anything! You see, he made us with opinions, with thoughts, feelings and awareness of who we are. With that *should* come desires, ideas, and something that propels us forward through each day. 

While I don't like the concept of New Year, I do think it is a good opportunity to make adjustments, to really look in the mirror and make some new commitments. Maybe we need to commit to searching His heart, to hearing His voice that sings over us. Maybe we need to wrestle harder for seeing His ideas and dreams over us. Pressing in is tough. It isn't something we can do while sitting on the sofa with our feet up. It requires a level of physical fitness, determination and perseverance when it feels like we're failing. 

But isn't this what life is all about? 

Situations, circumstances and life, which tests us. How do we make it through? How much determination do we have to get through, and to persevere, and to come through triumphant? 

I find myself very determined to press in, determined to hear His heart, determined to dig deeper, to push my limits and to discover new life and fresh breakthrough. 

Who wants to join me? 

 

 

Designed for Vulnerability

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I just got home from 10 days away on the Ascend Carmel program, where I serve on the leadership team. Many amazing things happened during this 10 days, most of which are not my stories to tell. But the thing that most impacted me about this 10 days away, was the courage that the participants showed in being vulnerable. 

From the minute they walked through the front door, into a guest house full of strangers, they were all committed to each other, to walking through the journey they were on together, and to creating a safe place for each other to be real. 

It really got me thinking about vulnerability. We are programmed to view it as a dangerous place to live. It's a state that holds great risk, and in our minds, will end in tears. Throughout my life I have always been told one of my greatest flaws is that I trust people too easily or quickly, and that I'm too open with my heart. In other words, I live in a state of vulnerability. For many years, I tried to fight this, as I had been convinced that it was going to get me hurt, and actually - it did. But I realized a long time ago, that actually what I did, was deliberately turn my heart of flesh into a heart of stone, and undoing that was far more painful than the hurt I'd experienced in my vulnerable state.

Since going through the painful process of unfreezing my heart, I have come to see how this is one of my gifts, and to embrace it, and all that comes with it. Including the hurt. What I discovered is that this place is actually a welcoming place. It's a place that others feel safe, at home and taken care of. This is why all our participants on Ascend felt so able to be vulnerable from the get go. They felt welcomed, at home and taken care of, both by each other and by the leadership. 

I have witnessed the incredible strength that is exhibited in someone making themselves vulnerable to another, or to God. It isn't a place of weakness, it is a place of courage, of choice and of incredible healing and refreshment. It's where the truth is faced, accepted and love is exchanged.

When you deconstruct what takes place when a person is vulnerable, it begs the question why we aren't vulnerable all the time!
The problem is self.
When we see someone else's vulnerability as an opportunity to feel better about ourselves, that's when dangers arise. But if we were more conscious of the beauty of the exchange that can take place between two intentionally vulnerable people, we would all be better off. 

When people are vulnerable together, strength is found, courage is raised, love is given and relationships are made that will last a life time. And most important - We are real. 

Because actually, It is when we are vulnerable, that we are at our most real, raw, naked selves. 

 

You can read more about this in my blog post 'overcome me' here

 

The power of choice

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Recently I was faced with a choice. For me it was clear which was right and which was wrong, and my head never had to debate which the right choice was. It was obvious and clear.

What surprised me was how much my heart and emotions had to debate the choice. 

It really got me thinking about the fact that we're given free choice, God gave us free will. He doesn't bend our will to fit His, He lets us to choose. And He lets us choose in our own time. 

Our days are filled with choices, large and small, and many of them don't make any difference to the direction of our lives.  Do we have tea or coffee? Do we take a second helping of dinner? Do we have a bath or a shower? Laundry today, or tomorrow? Going for a run or watching TV? 

None of these choices really matter. 

But what if we kept making the same choice over and over..
If I drink coffee every day in the afternoon, I'll most likely start losing sleep. 
If I repeatedly take second helpings of dinner, I will gain weight. 
If I indulge in a bath every day, I will not be available to my family (and my water bill will bankrupt us!)
If I always put laundry off until tomorrow, I'll end up being naked tomorrow!
If I never go for a run, I'll never hit my targets, or gain fitness. 

Suddenly our choices have affected the direction of our lives.

Sometimes our daily, insignificant, mundane choices affect the direction our lives go in more than we think. They seem to creep up on us, and suddenly jump out at us, having been transformed into a huge issue. 

That second helping, in an of itself, is insignificant, we all do it! But what if after 6 months, or after 2 years, or after 10 years, of repeatedly taking more than we need, we are confronted with being massively over weight? Suddenly, that small choice has become a huge problem. 

The same can be said of many choices we make. It is so easy to suddenly find ourselves in deep water, because we hadn't realized how far out we'd been paddling. What is amazing is that in this situation, we have a choice again. We can continue to go deeper into the unknown, and potentially drown, or we can choose to return to shore. Put our lives in order, and continue life in a safe place. 

This isn't to say that we should never take risks. We should! I believe that God loves a trusting heart, who isn't afraid of risk! But there is always discernment in risk. 

Sometimes we paddle out just far enough that we feel those sudden butterflies in our stomach, when we know that we are about to enter a dangerous place. We can choose what we do. For me, when I hit this place, I probably stood there for longer than I should. I saw the attraction of playing in the waves, the thrill of the unknown, and the fun of the spray. 

What eventually got my heart and emotions to catch up with my head, was the gripping fear of the strength of the undercurrent. This wasn't a safe current that you can play in and have fun with. This was a rip tide, that you cannot go against, and probably won't survive. In that instance, I put my feet down, turned 180 degrees, and chose to walk away. 

What did I learn? 
The liberty of knowing that I chose the right thing. The conflict is gone. My heart is clear, and matches my head.  The path I've chosen I can embrace and appreciate it all the more, because I've chosen it. It's mine. No one forced me, no one talked me into it, no one convinced me. I chose it for myself. 

And this is why God loves choice. 

He wants us to choose Him in the same way. To have a clear heart. To embrace the path with Him that we've chosen, and appreciate it, because we've chosen Him. He's ours, and we are His. No one has forced us to choose Him. No one talks us into it, and no one convinces us. We chose Him for ourselves. 

That is the most powerful choice we can ever make. 

Own it.

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Recently I've been thinking a lot about how we have to walk through lessons and seasons more than once.  It's a shame we don't learn all we need to learn the first time we encounter a lesson. Like children, it seems that we need constant reminders and experiences that help us re-learn the lessons He needs us to learn. 

We spend so much of our time fighting the season we’re in, or apologizing for our struggle, wallowing in self pity or depression, and going to great lengths to cheer ourselves up. 

What if we decided to embrace where we’re at, and to trust that God put us there for a reason, and if we really do trust Him, then we can find joy in any season. What if we stopped apologizing for the rough time we’re having, and started being honest with ourselves and those around us, and just said “I’m struggling, but God is good”. What if we stopped feeling ashamed for the difficulties we’re facing, like it’s an indication of how in control we are, or how ‘good’ a person we are, and held our heads high and decided that if God is asking me to face this, He has something good to do, because He is good. 

Own the season you’re in. Don’t let it get tainted by fake and unrealistic standards of normality. Everyone goes through seasons of hardship, struggles, depression, anger, disappointment and isolation. It’s how we respond to these seasons that determines how long they will last. If we live in denial, and put on the polite “I’m fine” mask, then this season will last longer, as God will have to break the mask down to get you to be real. If we own the season, and approach it with honesty, expectation and humility, it will pass by faster, and you will learn and receive more from God than you ever expected. 

Those desires and dreams in our hearts are often just on the other side of these seasons. But it is during this season that they feel most far away, and most impossible. That is half the test - to chose to believe that God is good. To chose to believe that it’s not an accident that you’re walking through this season, and that He has not given up on the potential in you, He’s trying to bring it out. 

 

 

Just imagine...

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I've been thinking a lot about our imaginations. 

Why have we been created to imagine things as they are not? Or to imagine entire new things up? 

I heard this quote from Steven Furtick recently, that really challenged me; "God created our imaginations to be a play ground, but the enemy has made them into a battle ground. The enemy will try and attack your destiny, and the first thing he'll do, is try and put a stronghold in your imagination." 

It got me thinking about how actually, as adults, we view our imagination almost as a dirty word. As something childish. As something that is immature, and not something to be indulged. 

This is probably because most of us have got some sort of a stronghold in our imaginations, and not only us, but our children. Whether that is a pornography addiction by the age of 12, or the fantasy gaming life that has gradually become more real to you than your actual life. Maybe it's all the beautiful things you'd like to do in your house, or the latest fitness guru's instragram feed, or the beautiful teens you wish you looked like, on snapchat. Whatever it is, most of us have areas of our imagination that probably don't need feeding. 

So I got thinking, why is it that the enemy is so concerned about our imagination? Why attack it so consistently? What is so significant about the ability to almost 'pretend' things to be different to how they are? 

God is a God of dreams, he loves us to imagine, create, he loves us to think outside of our little bubble, because that is where He is found. He isn’t locked into a linear time line, with all the rules and constructs that we have created. He is outside of that, and longs for us to join Him. 

He created us with an imagination that can perceive things differently to the reality we’re in. He made us with the ability to dream things, hope for things that are ‘other’. Things that are not founded on our daily life, our daily routine, but transcend that, and make us 3 dimensional.

We’re created to be able to think stories up, have imaginary friends, play in an alternate universe, all the things that kids do, and we encourage! But for some reason we squash this and put a lid on tight, when we hit adulthood. 

Our imagination is pure creativity. And that is the image of God. 

Everything we see, every breath we take, are all a creation ongoing, continuing. 

And our imagination, dreaming, allowing ourselves to see things other than how they are, is how we partner with Him. 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” Ecc 3:11

We are not designed to live life aiming for the end date of our physical death. We are designed to live eternally. He has put eternity in our hearts, and I believe that our dreams, our imaginings, our deep passions and yearnings come from a place that echoes with eternity. 

Isn't it time we took back our imaginations, and used them to Glorify God? 

 

Nothing is wasted

“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” - John 6:12 

This verse is so powerful. Within the context of the story one could pass over this verse and think only of the left over food that the disciples were seeing. But if we dig a little deeper, it can transform how we view the events of our life. 

We are headed to a marriage feast with the Lamb (Rev 19:9), where He will be united with a pure and spotless bride who He has made worthy. I don’t believe that God will look back over our lives and say “those crumbs in his life - throw them away”. He takes all the pieces, even the left over, spat out, moldy crumby parts of our life, and says “Let nothing be wasted”.

How liberating! He can use all things, and He can make all things new (Rev 21:5). 

We often condemn ourselves to a life that is less than what He planned because of mistakes we have made, or poor choices we’ve made. Yet He knew every choice we would make along the way and is willing to use them, to not let them go to waste, if only we give Him control of the basket of bread, that is our life. Not only that, but the very things that we think have ‘ruined us’, can be redeemed and made to be the greatest tools for His Kingdom purposes. 

Nothing we do is a surprise to our maker. He has a habit of taking our greatest failures, and making them His greatest opportunities. If we would only invite Him in. 

No matter what I consider the ‘crumbs’ of my life to be, I have to decide to let God gather them and use them. He will not let anything be wasted if I give them to Him.

"Nothing is wasted" - Hand written and illustrated wall poster - A4
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Blind Obedience

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post, because the last time I wrote, it turned into a book! 

I never intended to write a book, and it was the last thing on my 'to do' list, but ultimately, for me, it became an act of obedience. Completely blind obedience. 

Blind obedience is really hard. I see if in my kids, they want to know why, when, what and a million other questions along the way, but don't often obey blindly. Actually I'm kind of glad, because it means they question things in a healthy way, but there are times when we do just need to plain obey. 

It says in the scriptures that "obedience is better than sacrifice" (1Sam 15:22) and what I have learned is that often it's the decision to obey that is harder. Once you've made the decision to obey, the sacrifices that have to be made along the way seem less of a sacrifice, because you're obeying the Voice One who called and there is no greater act. Also, if you're anything like me, the drive to see it through, and complete the task put before you, also makes some of the sacrifices pale to insignificance. 

When I wrote the book, I had absolutely no idea what God was going to do with it, if anything at all. I was stressed and desperately praying that God would show me His strategy, and reveal what I needed to do to 'steward' what He had given me. It never occurred to me to do nothing. But actually what I've learned is that actually, God doesn't need me to do an aggressive Facebook campaign, or pay a ton of money for paid advertising, because when He breathes on something, it's goes to places and heights that no money could have ever bought. 

Blind obedience is hard for humans, because we're programed to need or want more information, and we don't like trusting when we don't have it. I am in no way done with this lesson, but I feel like I was given an opportunity for God to fully prove Himself to me. 

But then I got thinking. We don't often give God the opportunity to prove Himself, because we don't like to blindly trust and obey. Actually, God will always be faithful and will always prove Himself, because it's in His character to be faithful, He cannot be anything else. He can only complete what He's spoken, because if He doesn't, then He's not God. It's actually us who are the problem in this test we put before God. We wait for God to do His bit before we are willing to do our bit. But that's not how it works.

How can we know He'll catch us, if we never jump?  
How can we know He'll open the door, if we never approach it? 
How can we know He'll bring things to life, if we never let Him breathe on it? 

Actually, our test of God, is really a test of us. 

God never changes. He's always faithful. He's always true. He will always surprise us. 
It's us who need to trust that our obedience will always be seen, always be rewarded one way or another, even if it's in ways we don't expect. 

Go on.... take the safety net away, and let Him catch you..

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The Desert Cry

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Desert Cry

"Speak tenderly to me, Be patient in your love. Speak words of hope, And free me, You are making all things new"

Today I was leading worship, and we truly had a wonderfully intimate time with God, where his presence was tangible in the room. For some reason my mind immediately went to Hosea and the amazing story of him and his wife, Gomer. This love story which dances between the story of Hosea and Gomer, and God and Israel, has so many facets to it, and so many things to be learned from it. Most famous is probably the verse "I will allure her to the desert and speak tenderly to her".  There is so much in that one sentence.

The word 'allure', means 'to woo'. It has romantic connotations, and is a word which indicates a deep and passionate love and interest.

Desert is a dry, difficult place to be, with little or no physical refreshment to the body. Hot sun, dry heat, no water, and dangerous conditions, it's not a place to get lost! But for some reason God wants to 'allure' us there.

Why?

He has great plans for us once we're there. He wants us to be in a place with no distractions, with no ability to depend on ourselves, and no people around to take our gaze off Him. He wants us to be in a difficult place, because it's only when we're in a difficult place that we can see him plainly. We can hear Him speaking to us. We can hear those tender words of love and affection that He is s0 desperately longing to whisper to our hearts, if we could only hear Him.

What happens when he whispers to us?

We are made new! It is impossible to be spoken to tenderly by the King of the universe, the Maker of all things, the Messiah, Saviour and Lord of all, without being changed. In an instant. This is a rehearsal for eternity! When we see him we will be changed in an instant! But we can begin the process now, if we'll only accept that alluring call into the difficult place.

We are so desperate NOT to enter the desert. We go kicking and screaming, and complain the whole way! But what happens when there is no one there to hear the complaints anymore, and nothing to remind you of what you left behind? You forget what was so 'great' about your life, and realise that most of it is plastic, and worthless, and you couldn't probably do without it!

When you're in the desert, you really deal with yourself. You realise what idols have been on your heart all along, which you hadn't even seen. You hear the way you talk which you may not have noticed before. You realise the way you've been looking at others, or the way you've been hoping others will see you. You see what's become your standard for life are so far away from what God's standards for life are. It's only when you're in a place where it's all taken away, that you realise non of it matters, and most of it was wrong.

You are truly free to see.

It's at this point that God gently whispers those words of hope, those words of truth, those words of love which set you free from all that bound you before, and makes all things new within you.

It's in the desert that we are most deeply refreshed, renewed and satisfied by Him. I love how God makes the places we most dread going to, the most incredible places of restoration.

I don't know about you, but I'd quite like to live in the desert.

Your Great Rescue

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"Grace abounds, In waves so strongI'm all out at seaI'm right where I want to beGrace aboundsEngulfing me all aroundI'm all out at seaRight where I want to beUntil you've done all you need inJust me and You..In your great rescue. "

Life is an ocean. It's full of twists and turns, currents pulling you in directions you didn't know existed, it can get rough in an instant, but can also be so beautiful and refreshing at times too. I don't believe there has ever been a person who hasn't experienced the choppy, tumultuous times life can throw at us, even the most sheltered and luxurious of lives have these times. It's not always circumstantial, it's out inner being that can encounter these waves crashing in, and that is universal.

Sometimes we're ready and waiting for these waves, because we know we're walking through a storm , we saw it coming, it started with a light drizzle, the winds picked up, and we were ready, with our coats, boots, umbrellas, and we're heading as quickly as we can to get 'out'!  Although we may not anticipate every wave, we are almost prepared for dealing with them because we know, we're living in a storm.

Other times we're happily enjoying a quiet, peaceful picnic for the soul, and in an instant we are being pounded with the lashing rain's of a storm that arrived with no warning. We're not ready, we're left outside in our summer clothes getting soaked to the bone! Our picnic is ruined, our food has turned to a soggy mess which is no longer appetising or satisfying. The rain stings our skin, and we can't see anything clearly, so we just sit there, getting drenched by the rain, hoping it'll pass quickly so we can get back to life!

But what if God had a plan in the suddenness of the storm? What if he meant to 'catch you unawares'? What if he didn't want that food to satisfy you anymore? What if he has things he wants to do in you during the storm? What if he wants you to stop fighting the tides, and give all control to his currents. Let Him carry you. Even if that means being all out at sea, with seemingly no hope, and no direction. Would you let him? Probably not!

God knows that he gets a lot less done in us when we're ready, and prepared to fix all the things which are going 'wrong' around us. We don't look to see if these circumstances are God's way of doing a work in us, we just get on and fix it. I believe that's why some storms come 'suddenly' and out of the blue. Because in His mercy - he saves us from ourselves, from our incessant need to fix everything and find the easy way out.

What if we're supposed to embrace the storm, and all it brings, and trust that He's good. He's always good. His grace abounds, engulfs us, surrounds us, it carries us in His currents to the places He wants us to be. If we stop fighting it, we might discover that we have been transformed, washed clean, renewed, restored and directed in ways we never could have accomplished for ourselves.

What if God isn't as interested in saving us from our circumstances, as He is in saving us from ourselves? What if the circumstances are his tools?

What if God is leading us right into the eye of the storm, and being in the storm with Him, IS His great rescue plan?