06/11/2018

The Beauty of Hell

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:06 pm by The Water Bearer

Aren’t you tired of hearing the warning and seeing the cartoons of “Eternal Burning Hell” as the place for those who aren’t righteous and ‘saved’? Those who know me know I get wildly angry around this threat!

Let’s at least agree to the fact that NO ONE actually knows what happens after we pass through death, except those who’ve died, but we can’t really ask them can we? Scriptures give us some hints, but it keeps its secrets hidden for a good reason. If we’re honest, all of us have an idea in our heads of what we would like to happen to the very worst of mankind, but we have to recognise that we DO NOT KNOW! Its not a good look, trying to scare people with some words in a book they don’t value.

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Ecclesiastes 11:5

To be frank, I prefer to leave the things I can’t possibly yet understand to God and trust Him that the end result will be fair.

FIRE & BRIM…… What?

While that fantastical threat of ‘Fire & Brimstone’ (what the hell is brimstone anyway?) has been a worthy motivator for conversion to Christianity for millennia, I find the afterlife less motivation than the “Hell on Earth” that we are all familiar with in the here and now.

In this life I’ve had a taste of how horrible Hell on Earth is without my Saviour by my side. That Hellish feeling where everything becomes overwhelming, and fear takes hold, that state of hopelessness and lack of feeling God’s love is unbearable. It’s the place of our crucible, which according to Merriam-Webster means; “a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development“. The truth of this Hell I speak of, didn’t become a distant memory once I asked my Lord to take hold of me and never let me go. Not at all, now He just goes to Hell with me, and because He’s been there before, He can show me the way out, time and time again. Hell still holds its usual bite, but these days I know there is much more than suffering going on.

Even the best of us will go to this Hell at some point, ‘saved’ or not, but the deciding factor as to whether you stay there, or find God and follow His guidance to get out, is not simply a religious act. It’s a conversion of the heart, a listening for His voice in the core of your being when everything around you is in turmoil. Its the very act of being able to identify your own sinful motives, find and trust God personally, gain the lesson and then see the beneficial evidence in the aftermath of that heart transformation.

Then you are resurrected out of hell and into hope, unity, love and peace with God.

Or in other words, you get a taste of absolute HEAVEN on EARTH!

From this perspective, sending someone to Hell is a divine and loving act, remember He sent His own SON there! For it’s the birthplace of freedom from sin!

Some of you won’t follow me from here on out, so before you leave me mid-paragraph, just know that there is no need to keep using your imagination and Scriptural threats to ‘encourage’ people to turn to God. You can use Scripture to confirm your own personal experiences of Heaven and Hell on Earth and share them, at least then your warnings don’t seem like idle threats you can’t back up with priceless tangible experience.

For those special few who grasp this and are hungry for more, lets dig into this together….

PACK YOUR CROSS & GO TO HELL!

Now that we’ve gotten rid of any fakers, let get real. Just because I said the sinner’s prayer and I completely believe that Jesus died for my sins on the cross, went to Hell, and was resurrected, (Yeeew AMEN!) doesn’t mean I have never again sinned or had to suffer the consequences for my sins. I may not need to worry about what comes after my death, but while I’m still here there is still plenty of work to be done, and plenty of unrighteous motives still hidden in my heart that need to be purged. And yours too…. even if you’re not aware of them.

Thankfully I know just the guy to help ‘burn off the dross’ Psalm 119:119 and purify my heart and yours. Please don’t fall for the illusion, it’s a life-long process, and while I more often experience Heaven on Earth since falling in love with Yahweh, than periods of Hell, doesn’t mean I don’t still need to go there from time to time and kill off a deeper level of sin.

“The Son of Man must suffer many things,” He said. “He must be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then Jesus said to all of them, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.…” (Luke 9:22-24)

I don’t believe Jesus was being facetious for dramatic effect or simply referring to the direction of our physical lives. There is a clear message in this Scripture that has helped me find comfort in my own personal experiences of Hell. That, regular awareness of my current and hidden sins will bring me to the cross in deep remorse, where I am willing to give up the sin I was poisoned by, which will take me into a season of Hell, in which I will depend completely on my Saviour to bring me out and then experience the wonderful benefits of the “Born Again” condition on the other side of it all. That’s exactly how I feel. I feel renewed, free from the burden and influence of that sin, a new creation, and deeply in love with my Lord more than ever before…. If that’s at all possible.

Most of you who have stayed with me thus far will know this isn’t a one-time event, and it hasn’t been done ‘for you’ so that you can ignore your sins or pretend they aren’t there. This is a systematic and vital part of the faith journey. In fact, the more sins you identify… THE BETTER! Sure, you’ll go through Hell, but there is no avoiding it, and you don’t have to stay there! You don’t have to go alone! And the Heaven on the other side is incredibly worth it!

“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10

HELL ON EARTH IS ENOUGH MOTIVATION

Perhaps those of you who value this process, will now be more comfortable using your own admission of purging sin, of Hell on Earth, and the brilliance of the Cross, to encourage others to connect with Christ.

Not because of the fear of some unfathomable place after you die, but because suffering here is real and it can be Hell: If its not a matter of if I go to Hell but when, I’d rather not go alone. Would you? We can carry our cross in one hand and hold our Saviours’ hand with the other. There is more than enough motivation in this to fall head over heels in love with our Lord once He meets you in Hell and shows you the way out. … because you never know, if you go alone you just may find yourself stuck there for what feels like eternity.

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05/10/2018

The Itchy Jumper

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 10:17 am by The Water Bearer


I’m struggling to put into words what is happening to me right now….. Trust me, this is not something I’m used to, I can always find some verbal acrobatics to wrap around what God is doing and how my soul is responding. Alas sometimes there are no familiar words.

Its just well ….. New.

And admittedly, not very comfortable.

Like wearing that tight itchy woolen jumper which your favourite Nanna handmade and watched with delight as you stretched it over your body. You can’t simply discard it, it is far too precious, but wearing it attacks your thoughts, constantly begging to be removed, to soften, to fit.

Over the years since my car accident and even since reuniting with my Dad some years prior, I’ve watched as God has unearthed secret inner enemies from my soul and given me opportunities to practice making new decisions without the influence of each one. Each was a strange and foreign experience; practicing life with a brand new insight, and deeper awareness felt just like wearing that jumper. I always felt extremely self-conscious.. I simply could not blend in!

Does that even make sense?

Let me give a couple of examples….

Once I realised the secret within me which believed in false versions of love, I was given opportunities to practice changing the way my emotions led me down that path… It was awkward to not rely on auto-pilot, or default to beliefs I’d held for decades. It took a forceful mindful effort to rethink my actions, and not to give way to old habits and old ways of thinking. After many years of practice I now recognise true love almost instinctively.

Once I realised the secret of my ‘Daddy Issues‘, I was given opportunities to build my security from faith in The Almighty, rather than expect it from human beings. It was uncomfortable to be watchful and ask the questions, what is my motive here, who am I relying on, am I doing it again? These days, I see security in every direction. Amen!

There have been thousands of these inner enemies over the past two decades.

And now I’m facing another one. The itchy jumper is back! Ugh!

This time, the secret is the deep archaic desire to please people, to be loved, be heard, accepted, understood, valued.

With the arrival of my new business/ministry venture it’s far too easy to be seduced into looking at the external landmarks, the number of clients, the evidence of connection, the potential, the expansion, as the gauge of its success. A powerful motivator isn’t it! Yet, I’m aware that this seduction may very well pollute the purity of my motives, empowering that secret desire and letting it push me outside of God’s will.

I refuse to go on allowing my deepest inner critic or the fault-finders in my life to misconstrue my value or success. I will not make another step towards that goal. It’s almost like an alter in the high places in Canaan which God warned His children to destroy. I wanted to burn Sanctuary Stretch to the ground rather than risk building an idol.

The itchy jumper is that I shall fail. Fail to live up to other people’s expectations. Fail to get through to those who aren’t yet ready for this message. Fail to be completely understood. Fail to be popular. Fail to be successful. I chose to fail because….

I’d rather fail, I’d rather see it all fall in a heap, than allow inner enemies to corrupt it. I aim to seek approval of God alone, His promises to me are not reliant upon what others think. People look to the outside, but my Lord, He looks to the heart! The deepest, truest part of the heart!

And so here I am, still helping my clients, still running workshops, still writing blogs and class programs and meditations, but without any of the potential to appease the inner desire or feed my inner enemies. I wait on Him, wearing that itchy jumper, expecting His promises will be kept without any help from my inner enemies.

I wonder if others out there know how this itchy jumper feels? Do you rip it off? Soak it in fabric softener? Wear a long-sleeved shirt underneath? Or do you tolerate it? Learn from it? Wear it in until it becomes your favourite jumper in the world!

03/09/2018

Accepting All the Seasons of You

Posted in Encouragement, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:52 am by The Water Bearer

I tend to think of moods and emotions as patterns. Perhaps this comes from my Cyclothymia diagnosis (a mood disorder under the banner of Bipolar). Those cyclic patterns of highs and lows are something I’ve trained myself to understand and watch for. The hardest part was learning to accept them and not resist them or be ashamed of them. These emotional patterns remind me of the seasons.

Our Father Creator knew exactly what He was doing when He created the seasonal patterns that encompass our lives on this planet. The earth bursts with life in times of productivity, and growth, we might think of these seasons in our own lives as basking in sunshine, but just like the earth, parts of us at times die off, we lose hope, and retreat behind the doors of our souls.  

People often call me Claire-Bear, which is pretty funny around winter, cause just like a bear I tend to hibernate. I find it so hard to be my best self in Winter. I’m more irritable, less motivated, unsure of myself and feel sadness easily. So I withdraw, stay inside, have early nights, limited social calls and have to work harder on my self-care… I’m so glad that Winter here in Australia is over!

How about you? Everyone is different. Some of you get more irritable in the summer heat, looking for any escape. Thank God for air-conditioning right! We all accept our seasonal physical life, but why do we struggle so much to accept the seasonal patterns woven throughout our emotional landscape?

We are all guilty of trying to “Cheer up” a loved one or acquaintance who’s voicing unpleasant emotions. It seems no one likes to be around a misery-guts. Fair enough if they do nothing else but stay miserable and don’t want to recognise it or deal with it, yes that sux to be around! My Lord! But it seems ALL periods of negative emotion have become stigmatised.

I know this all too well. It happened to me just after my car accident, when I experienced my first of many severe depressive episodes. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone tried to change me, or took offense to my low mood. So few people recognise the value of our low times. We tend to avoid them, supress them, numb them and hide them behind a veil of unhealthy denial, just to save face. Although, I found tremendous value from those lowest moments. Now please understand me, I’m not suggesting the low times should be our aim, not at all, but they are a season that is there for good reason and we need to stop trying to avoid that reality. We need to change the way we speak around those who are going through a low mood. We need to stop jumping to conclusions that those experiencing periods of unhappiness are guilty of failing at life or faith!

Sure of course it’s so nice to see those we love happy and bursting with motivation, but usually the best motivation and long-lasting mature faith is born from the seasons of emotional winter in our lives. Its time to change this stigma. Its time we accepted these patterns of life as the nothing more than reality and stopped placing unnecessary expectations on ourselves and others. We don’t look at the winter months and decide its a sign that the earth is doomed, or is less of a planet than Mercury which is always in sunshine. Remember that nothing grows on Mercury! We know that the seasons all have their purpose and we accept each season for what it is, temporary.

The most severe episodes I have been through over the past decade or so were pretty clear cut transformations. The person who went into them was changed for the better on the way out. I’ve killed off things like co-dependence, emotional manipulation, low self-worth, toxic relationships, limiting beliefs, generational curses and so much more! Our God knows what parts of us are ready to die off, and these emotional winters are just the catalyst for that purging.

I hope you accept whichever season you are in and not allow what’s meant to be temporary to become a permanent condition. Learn to ride it out, to trust God with it, gleaning the lessons, and benefitting from the death of the unhealthiest parts of your soul so you can burst with life once again, even better and brighter than before!


28/08/2018

How Healthy is Your Mind?

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:16 pm by The Water Bearer

I often wonder why some people aren’t as concerned about their mental health as others. It seems to me in this current age of high stress and constant busyness, more of us would be vigilant at ensuring the healthy condition of our minds.

I’ve seen too many people out there wondering why they are trapped in an unhealthy and unhappy life, who avoid assessing their mental health for fear of the stigma attached. I was one of those myself until my car accident forced me to take a closer look at the way my mind works and why.

That old saying comes to mind “Talking to yourself is the first sign of madness.” I actually believe the opposite is true. If we don’t ask ourselves questions we believe the first thing that comes to mind and stay the same without growth or reaching our potential.

Over the past decade or so I have noticed people tend to fall into one of the following three common categories when it comes to mind health. I wonder if you recognise these traits?

Group 1 – IGNORE their Mental Health

This category contains those who take no time to be curious about the motives of their hearts. They don’t ask “why did I do that or say that?” even if they are abusive and dysfunctional, because they seem to believe the first excuse that comes to mind. They choose not to investigate the condition of their emotional health. They never ask themselves “what is the universe or God trying to purge from the selfish core of my soul?” They ignore or deny the feedback they receive from the social cues of the world. Rather than wondering how they can change themselves to adapt to their world, they waste copious amounts of effort and emotion on fighting against it. I’ve come to notice the fear that controls this group. They are afraid of facing their flaws, everyone else is the problem, even God’s plan is wrong (in some way or another). They often hate silence and can’t stand to be still or alone. They are likely to fight against a sleepless night rather than accept the words of that still small voice within.

Category 2 – BLAME their Mental Health

This group are the ones who know that life is unfair and yet use it to their own reward. Having a diagnosis of mental health, physical pain or grief often becomes a label used to avoid getting healthy and happy. Its far easier to get sympathy and sidestep the difficult challenges and responsibility of getting back on track after each trial. This group self-sabotage, finding excuses to stay miserable, usually thriving on drama and stress and become addicted to contributing negativity to the world. Blaming the reality of life and God for their discontent comes naturally, rather than seeking to discover the hope, growth and fortitude that is born from trials. They may ask for help and yet follow none of the advice given. I’ve noticed the bitterness that drives this group. It is deep seated and poisonous to their souls and ours if we stay around them too long.

You may know someone who fits into one or both of the above categories, you may even be one yourself, I wouldn’t be surprised. I have been there too….. In fact they’re easy to waver in and out from time to time.

It takes wisdom to see that giving sympathy and attention as rewards is actually enabling these groups to stay miserable. Yet our culture has somehow forgotten how to voice the truth with tact and honesty, and so we choose not to say anything at all, while our loved ones stay trapped in their misery.

And yet let’s not lose all hope, for we still have the third group to go. These people are actually more common than we might think, they just don’t broadcast their self-care.

Category 3 – NURTURE their Mental Health

This group of people understand the difficulties of life, they take the hits, go through moments of weakness and low periods. Some have been diagnosed with a mental illness, some have not. The things they have in common are self-awareness, self-responsibility, and trust. They make no excuses for their mistakes and struggles, they focus on the lessons. They accept the dark times as opportunities to see the light again one day. Faith gives them hope and courage to push on. They direct their efforts to caring for and protecting their mental health by setting up certain guidelines to follow that won’t lead them into a pit of self-pity. They practice letting go of control and being grateful, they practice being still and appreciate silence. They aim for a good sleeping routine and have very few unhealthy indulgences. They choose wisely who they spend time with. They pay attention to their own emotional stability and listen to sound advice in order to arrange themselves in a way that steers their course closer to the person they hope to be. They are committed to learning the truth about themselves, and the impact they can have on those they come into contact with. They are humble enough to admit when they are wrong and assertive enough to stand up for their truth.

As I look out into the faces of Sanctuary Stretch clients I see these qualities being nurtured. Some have only just begun their journey and others are well and truly reaping the benefits after committing to the practice.

Perhaps like me, you realise you are ready to change groups? I did it, and you can too.

 

10/08/2018

Giving The Devil His Dues

Posted in Finding Faith, General, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:24 pm by The Water Bearer


We’ve believed for too long that evil lingers only in the shadows of the world and in wicked people, when the truth is far more difficult to accept.

My favourite quote from my favourite movie, The Italian Job, goes like this,

“I trust everyone, I just don’t trust the devil inside them” – Donald Sutherland.

This is my absolute favourite quote because it sums up so simply the hidden location of the enemy of God. A fact I’ve been intent on exposing ever since I can remember.

Whether we have figured it out yet or not, everyone has elements of divine righteousness within the fabric of their being, at the same time, everyone has elements of the exact opposite. Its in facing these elements within ourselves that we discover the problem with the world and the source of the solution. We can then direct the focus of our efforts in faith to the frontline of the war, instead of losing the war to ignorance and going about business as usual.

No longer can we sit by and point our finger out into the world, at the media, the terrorists, the dictators and the criminals and say “That’s the Devil”. It’s far too easy, and quite frankly its a cop out. Yes there is evil ‘out there’ but it’s in here too. Ignoring it, having a tantrum or complaining about it isn’t going to change the state of reality.

We live in a fallen world, and yes the enemy is doing everything he can to steer us into destruction, but since when have you been able to change the state of the entire world? So, why would God give us promises throughout the whole of scripture that we can overcome the enemy, if evil’s ‘out there’ and uncontrollable? Why would there be scripture’s reminding us that we can use the weapons available to us found in the Word to stand in victory and righteousness, if we are simply forced to be neighbours with ‘evil’ for our entire lives?

Fair enough, for those who haven’t found the gems of truth in the Word, I guess its easy to say “Its all a load of rot” and be done with it and go back to feeling helpless in an evil world.

However for those who have really experienced the amazing truth that God is trustworthy to fulfil His Word, then we have to stop passing the buck of evil onto others and finally give the devil his dues.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT) 

That urge to control others instead of yourself, that’s him. That desire to decide for yourself what you would do if you were God, him again! That decision based entirely on selfish motives, that’s him too. The idea that we can pretty up our outsides with rituals and religiosity to be seen as righteous, that is his allure. That whisper of bitterness that focuses on the faults in others instead of asking what our role in the saga might have been, that’s got his name all over it. That fear that tells you you’re not worthy, or the arrogance that tells you you’re worth more than others, that’s his calling card. And the presumption of knowing enough scripture to then condemn and manipulate others, that is his ace card.

Scripture is the scalpel, it will reveal the hidden intentions of your heart and mine, but it is a deeply private affair. Facing up to our motives takes more courage than I can muster. The awareness of my own inner enemies is what keeps me thirsting for truth, grace and strength at the feet of my Saviour. In spite of the evil within, I can think of no better place to be.

 

 

19/06/2018

Side-Stepping The Ego

Posted in Encouragement, Finding Faith, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , at 11:58 am by The Water Bearer

 

 


It was just a normal day when it revealed itself, nothing out of the ordinary. I’d just put fuel in my car and casually asked the cashier if she could break a twenty into two tens. She grimaced furiously and fumbled through her till, making out my request was a huge insult. Then I heard it. A voice from inside me, silent but powerful. It said “Don’t F@#* with me Lady! Either you can or you can’t!” Yet I just barely noticed it as I swallowed it back down.

She ummed and aah’d for a few seconds and I felt for a moment as if I could read her thoughts, she was assessing if helping me was going to hinder her in some way, and rather than just apologising and saying ‘Sorry I can’t help you’, she made damn sure I knew I was putting her out. The voice inside me spoke again, it said “I don’t remember ordering a side of guilt with my change!” As she reluctantly handed me my two ten dollar notes, she said “I will this time, but we don’t have the same facilities as a bank.” I had already thanked her and was half way out the door when I heard her final jab. I’ve learned over the years not to always voice out loud my inside voice, yet I still paused at the door, took a sarcastically curious look around the small fuel shop and said “Oh really! Why don’t you? How unusual!” and headed out the door, chuckling to myself a little. The voice said “Whatever lady. I won that round!”

Do you ever wonder, or is it just me, why deep down so many of us are extremely motivated by our self-importance, our self-worth, our self-image? In other words, our Ego….. We protect ourselves almost instinctively in these areas.

The ego is always trying to attach itself to things to try to form our identity, such as our image or status, our reputation, our relationships, our success, our career, our talents, dreams and even our trauma. It takes this job very seriously, plus its also quite an attention seeker, becoming the loudest voice in our thoughts. It can become excessive and out of hand when we fail to develop our true identity.

When I look to the cross I see none of that in Christ. I see total acceptance, no expectations, no defensiveness, no victim mentality and no identity crisis. How juxtapose I feel to Him in this state..

Still, I’ve had this feeling lately that I’m supposed to figure out how to adopt Christ-likeness into this area of my inner self.

I had a somewhat troubled childhood. There was an atmosphere of distrust, accusations and rejection. And as a way to protect myself from these ‘dangers’, I developed a specific ego-personality which my therapist and I have recently named, The Sargent Major.

The Sgt Major inside me is a powerhouse, and to be perfectly honest, she’s a little neurotic. If you’ve ever crossed her, you’ll know what I mean! She’s driven to protect me by standing up for myself, calling people out on their crap, magnifying my sense of authority and control, judging if the situation is safe or if I need to become assertive and defend myself or my loved ones. These aren’t necessarily “bad” traits, but rather inappropriate in some circumstances.

If we’ve come to recognise how untrustworthy our ego voice is, we may realise as we grow and mature, that there is no need to be so defensive all the time. Sure we need to have a level of control over our children, or those we are in charge of. We need to create an honest trustworthy social group to relax, enjoy and feel pleasure with others. And sometimes we may need to square up in the face of being bullied, threatened or falsely accused. But perhaps, like me, you’ve recognised that extreme defensive traits can be tamed, and have learned to control some of the outward reactions sparked by this ego-personality. We yell less, or avoid arguments, we stay out of violent situations, we apologise more, we learn to calm our ego and let go of some control and find more peace.

The trouble is that my Sgt Major has been around since I was a toddler, and therefore is very deeply woven into the fabric of me. So, even though I’ve learned to somewhat manage her more superficial responses, I am now noticing the subtle or unconscious ways she still surfaces. I’ve noticed this is usually in the places where I feel most vulnerable. In my roles as a parent or a sibling, when I’m explaining what my business/ministry is, or even in my writing.

It’s pretty useless trying to refresh faith and self-awareness or explain an amazing program that stretches out muscles tension, calms the mind and deepens faith when you’re unconsciously being anxious and defensive! (Sigh*)

The wonderful news is that I’ve seen this movie before and I know how it ends. Once I become aware, I fall at the feet of my Saviour. I recognise the way Christ dealt with rejection, false accusations, betrayal and criticism and I meditate on it. Through meditation we become more aware of the ego chatter in our mind and realize how little of it applies to our current situation. Paying attention to our subconscious self-talk gives us more opportunities to choose to deny ourselves, welcome the Holy Spirit and accept the cross we have been given to bear.

“Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

We have a meditation that we use often in our Sanctuary Stretch classes that soothes our inner child. We visualise going back to our child self and bring self-compassion, wisdom and reassurance to those deeply ingrained ego traits and allow God’s grace and mercy to gently ease our soul into acceptance and new levels of Christ-likeness.

It may take a while to subdue the Sgt Major to a more Christ-like state, and to teach her to know her place, yet I feel an amazing sense of understanding and awareness flooding out of me. No one said it would be easy, I may struggle occasionally but I will seek, I will surrender, I will grow, and I will share it all with you, so we can all grow together on this Crusade towards Serenity!

 

 


 

 

 

18/05/2018

To Heed or Ignore Advice

Posted in Encouragement, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , at 8:10 am by The Water Bearer

 

I can bet there’s not a day that goes by without someone giving you their input. Online, in person, strangers, family, teachers, neighbours, bloggers, Doctors and YouTubers. It seems almost everyone has ideas about how you should live your life.

Other people’s input can range from emotionally charged manipulation, to simply an opinion or perspective. It could even be prophetic insight, or plain profound guidance.

With so much rubbish chatter out there, we tend to ignore most stuff without much thought. But for those who value personal development and growth, how can you tell which advice needs to be ignored or what is wisdom that you don’t want to miss?

The other day I was driving home from school-pick-up with my daughter. We were discussing the feedback teenage girls tend to give each other. Now if you’ve ever been a teenage girl or spent any time with them, you will know that they are never shy about voicing their observations and issuing critical assessments of each other. My daughter was in the process of deciding how she felt about the most recent piece of feedback. She was just about ready to dismiss the comments as rubbish when I felt a wave of understanding come over me.

I asked her, are these comments only going to effect you temporarily, or could they have a long term impact?

She gave me a strange look, trying to figure out what I was getting at.

So, I reworded it.

#1. Will you care about this feedback in a year or five years time?

Then THAT look came over her face, you know the one, when a penny drops.

If someone says, “You’re too skinny, eat a cheeseburger”(teenage girl talk remember), Or even something nice such as “I like your hair like that” it’s a good chance that you are not going to care about this feedback in a years time. You definitely don’t want to wear your hair the same way everyday for the next year just because some girl at school likes it. You’re not going to start pigging out on cheeseburgers and be glad about it in a years time.

But if someone says, you haven’t practiced enough for our group assignment and we will fail, or you talk too much in class. Then in a years time when your grades are suffering and your teachers aren’t impressed, you may actually regret it. This is feedback that’s worthwhile considering and perhaps even doing something about.

I could give a thousand examples of how adults face similar feedback every day! You must breastfeed, but not in public. Take these supplements and that medication. Wear this, don’t wear that. Eat this, don’t eat that, and do these exercises but not those. Donate to this charity, join that group. Ask yourself, a year from now is there any chance I’m going to wish I considered this advice?

It’s actually a pretty easy question to ask and answer. Acting out how to apply the changes is the tough part, but the realisation that you actually care or don’t care is HUGELY significant to making positive changes.

Remember to give yourselves the freedom to change your mind even if you tried to apply some advice and found it wasn’t right for you. Just because you care about the result doesn’t mean the advice is exactly right for you. Consideration and self-awareness is vital, and a little confidence that you can make changes and steer your course in new ways.

And if that’s still not enough to help guide your decision, some other valid questions to ask yourself are…

#2. Is this going to benefit them at my expense or is this going to actually help me achieve my goals?

In other words, are they getting more out of this advice than me?

If you can assess that there is no hidden agenda and the advice is valid to you, you may have just earned a valuable piece of wisdom and understanding.

And how about this…..

#3. Are the risks worth the rewards?

Every new venture, and every decision leads to consequences, some choices are obviously riskier than others. Before making any drastic changes, weigh up the potential risks and the possible rewards clearly before you proceed. There is great value in simply pondering advice not just reacting to it (usually defensively). Get it straight in your mind before you decide if you should ignore it or if perhaps its right for you.

And finally…

#4. Does it allign with God’s will for me?

No-one else knows the secret conversations you have with God in the dead of a sleepless night. Nor do they know which scriptures God has brought into focus during your search for His will. Only you and God alone know these guideposts to your hearts purpose and path. So checking in with your position of faith is vital before swallowing any advice whole. Seek truth and it will set you FREE! 

So, as you go through life, wading through the deep waters of other peoples ideas and opinions, now you have a simple way to separate the rubbish from the gold.

These gems can reduce suffering, improve living conditions, encourage progress, increase inner peace, develop character, create a legacy and get you a little further along on your crusade towards Serenity!

We don’t want to go through life only ever valuing our own opinions. I’ve had so much terrific advice throughout my life that I’d hate to imagine how my life would be now without it. We always have more to learn and more to purge from the depths of our unconscious soul. To become complacent about needing sound advice could be the riskiest thing you ever do.

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.  The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:6-7 NIV

 

 

15/04/2018

Are You Getting in the Way of Your Own Serenity?

Posted in Encouragement, Family, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:44 am by The Water Bearer

Why is it that some people are able to take their suffering and turn it into something positive and amazing, while others go backwards towards a more negative and unhappy life?

I think it all has something to do with the level of respect each of us has for our thoughts.

Respecting your thoughts might be a strange concept, especially in our current ‘mindless’ culture, simply because many of us are still not aware of just how powerful the thought life is. Just ask Dr Leaf.

Yet if we fail to respect our thoughts, we fail to see how they can steer our lives towards more good and fulfilment, or towards more dysfunction and disappointment. Just as we understand that we must have a foundation of respect before we can negotiate with a hostile person, we must use this principle in order to negotiate our hostile thoughts.

RESPECTING YOUR THOUGHTS

In the last post we talked about renewing the mind, and how the first step is to dig deeply into understanding the fear and selfishness beneath our survival instincts, and beneath our unhealthy thoughts, emotions and behaviours. It really isn’t a one off practice, more like a life-long journey in search of truth.

This journey takes a certain type of awareness, an awareness that overrides our naïve thinking that our subtle negative self-talk is trivial, and has little to no effect on the course of our personal lives, let alone the world.

On the contrary, the power of one small thought can create a whole actual physical mechanism in your brain! Each mechanism dictates your goals and influences how you respond to various aspects of life. Every word, every decision has a significant ripple effect on your own happiness and peace. Which in turn effects those in your family, your workplace, and the world!

The awareness of this has to have enough seriousness to not be taken lightly, and enough humility to cut through the ‘good only’ persona we try to present to the world, but end up believing ourselves. Its time to take inventory of our thoughts, to assess them and recognise how much damage we are actually capable of. Then we must take responsibility for that!

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ― C.G. Jung

GETTING OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY!

Perhaps its time to ask yourself, Am I unconsciously or subconsciously sabotaging my own serenity?

Because those who are willing to excavate their thoughts and alter them towards increased serenity, will have a far better outcome than those who choose ignorance, or stubborn naivety. 

Are you ready to choose determination instead of defeat, to choose betterment over bitterness, to choose self-worth over self-condemnation, to choose to be a victor rather than a victim? Are you ready to turn your struggles into the very platform from which to build your purpose? Because in order to find serenity you must discover your purpose, and all that fuel that once empowered your pain, can now become the passion to drive you in a completely opposite direction.

Only then can you get out of your own way and chose to aim for serenity with far more success!

DON’T BE FOOLED

As a final point, if you are one of those who is convinced that you have no evil motives within, or that they are all behind you, then think again. Even Christ spent time listening to the evil within. In the wilderness we hear of how He became aware of the evil thoughts that offered him satisfaction for a selfish hunger that fed only His own body. He struggled with His identity in submission to God the Father, had to fight against the desire to take his own life. And He had to hold fast to His purpose despite the urges within to gain an easier tyrannical position over the universe instead of a painfully humble one.

Christ knew that before He could fulfil His purpose He must first spend time with His Inner Enemies, and learn how to transform them into fuel to push forward with the most precious and most unbearable purpose. So that, even at the very end when He wanted desperately to give up, HE SUCCEEDED! YEEEEEW! And aren’t we extremely grateful He did!! AMEN!!!

 

 

01/04/2018

Media Madness & Tips to protect your children from it

Posted in Family, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:18 pm by The Water Bearer

 

 

 

Warning: This post contains some explicit content.

I must admit straight out the gate that this is a topic I can get pretty passionate about. If you too find yourself throwing your hands in the air as a result of the current Media frenzy impacting our homes and our children, then this is the post for you!

CYBER-BULLYING, GET SERIOUS!

Today I saw yet another video of the horribly cruel things children have been exposed to over social media. Honestly, I say this with love and compassion that we know not what we do more than half the time. But some of the children bullied in this video were as young as 10 years old and all of them were under 16.

 

Please understand that I trust my teenage daughter as much as a trustworthy adolescent can be trusted, but I recognise she is not merely a small adult. She has not yet had chance to develop the maturity and sense of self-confidence required to withstand the impact such horrible comments can have on her mental health. She is still figuring out who she is and what place she holds in this world, and the negative effect of no privacy and constant peer pressure is not a risk I am willing to place on her shoulders.

 

For over 8 years I have held the stance that my children are not permitted on social media until they finish high school. Sure, I’ve heard the usual retorts that I’m too overprotective, that I don’t trust my child, that I’m preventing them learning life skills. These comments don’t sway me, because I’ve done the research. I’ve looked into the developing adolescent brain, and the stunted behavioural development that stems from online relationships replacing face-to-face ones. The reality is that I don’t usually go looking for trouble online either, but it sure as hell still finds me and impacts my soul. I’m very concerned about how many children need to suffer depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, self-mutilation, or become suicidal before we admit that Social Media is not appropriate for anyone under the age of 18?

 

I’ve come to realise that the parents who get really opinionated with me, are usually the ones who have little to no control or knowledge of their child’s online life. It’s hard to keep on top of, especially if you work full time, it’s far easier to give in, and to justify it. Trust me I understand.

 

I agree, it would be nice to live in a utopian society where people don’t treat each other in these heinous ways, but the reality is that verbal abuse is all too common. And yet its not illegal.. Probably should be, but sadly that’s not the case. We must accept the true condition of our world as it is, and protect our children until this kind of behaviour is but a distant memory…

 

Thankfully I am now hearing parents changing their tune and wishing they could protect their children from it, and yet have no practical ways to combat the tidal wave of pressure to comply. Keep reading cause those practical tips are coming…

 

ADULTS GET CAUGHT AS WELL

Even adults struggle with the more serious impact of social media, let alone the less violent concerns like wasting their precious time, creating a temporary false sense of joy, and replacing personal interaction with impersonal clicks and comments. So why would we expect our children to know how to cope? Even the simple addictive nature of opening the app, click click, scroll scroll, is causing actual physical damage to our nervous system, our brains, and our bodies. It’s so mindless!

 

Another point to consider is all the photographs of children plastered all over their parents Facebook pages. Does anyone else feel this is seriously lacking in self-awareness and self-discipline? My sympathy if you fall into that category, which the numbers show you probably do. But ask yourself, were these children asked permission? Were they informed enough to understand that their entire lives would be on display for all to see and judge? That some of those in their parents “friends” list are people they don’t even know, yet they’re able to see images of their personal intimate moments? Could this be more detrimental than the paparazzi? Because at least the law forces them to stay outside our homes.

 

The line in the sand has blurred so much that children are now sending unsolicited images of themselves all over Snapchat without being aware of the consequences to their reputations, privacy and self-esteem.

 

Why am I the one left feeling awkward when I ask people to please take down photo’s of my kids, that have been put up without my permission or theirs? It is ridiculously hard to monitor! So why is this even legal?

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Neanderthal, I understand there are some precious memories that warrant photo evidence, and the cultural call to share triumphs, and world travel, weddings and so forth. Inspiring stuff right! An occasional pic (with permission) is not completely without merit. But WOW, it has gotten seriously out of hand. Can we stop it? Is it too late to hit the brakes? Rewind? Delete?

 

EYES ARE THE DOORWAYS TO THE SOUL

Its not just social media causing all the trouble either. Other forms of media have a lot to answer for!

Want a couple of mind-boggling examples?

 

During a NEWS program at dinner time, an advert for the trailer of the new 50 shades movie came on. I was sitting next to my young teenage daughter when all of a sudden, we are watching two people, mostly naked, in the throes of some pretty intense sexual activity. It’s honestly no wonder the line between consensual flirting and sexual harassment has become so hard to define.

 

I recognise that we have allowed the lines of morality to slur closer and closer to the abyss of ‘FREE EXPRESSION’, but when will we actually stop and look at ourselves and realise that we are watching people have SEX for our entertainment?! Not hidden behind closed doors, with the saddest, depraved, and sexually warped individuals, but out in the open! With our children!!

 

Many years ago, I used to watch the TV show Law & Order, I love the law and detective work, but then Special Victims Unit came along and all of a sudden we were watching children getting molested and calling it entertainment! Actual real life children are being given scripts to read, and roles to play where this is the story! Am I the only one who sees something very, very wrong with this? And don’t even get me started on some of the twisted content available on YouTube and similar formats.

 

Yeah, you say perhaps I’m just too sensitive. But I wonder if we know what exactly it was that our Saviour came to save us from? And do we even see the value of it?

 

My tears fall for all those who can’t see what’s going on! For the children exposed to images and abuse that corrupts their innocence and depletes their self-worth. I’m not sure how much longer we can sit by and watch this happen! So in the meantime, while we wait for the world to change, here are a few practical ways you can protect your family.

 

TIPS TO PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN FROM MEDIA

Tip 1:

Be their parent not their ‘easy going friend’. It is perfectly normal for them to get moody and upset with you, you may feel fear at losing your ‘friendliness’ with them. But their tears won’t hurt them as much as certain forms of media can. When done right, you’ll end up all the closer for it.

 

Tip 2:

Exception not the rule. Set clear boundaries that Social Media is a unique privilege only for special circumstances, such as an overseas trip with school or sporting team or church. Refuse it if you can until last few weeks of high school.

 

Tip 3:

Prevention is better than the cure. It may be hard to hold your stance and you may want to cave under the pressure, but remember they never miss what they never have. Taking it away could be a far more difficult task. It’s much easier to stand your ground beforehand.

 

Tip 4:

Communicate. Explain your reasons and show them evidence of its toxic nature (they will also see the unwanted drama their friends experience). Regular communication is vital, listen to their side, and try to be compassionate. Yet stay the course.

 

Tip 5:

Consequences. If they do have social media and you see their behaviour, grades, or communication with you begin to suffer, use an app blocker to block certain apps as a consequence. Or confiscate their device for periods of time.

 

Tip 6:

Respect their Privacy. Create a private album for your Facebook photos of your children and only allow people they know and trust to see them. Remove any photo’s of them that they may not appreciate once they grow up.

 

Tip 7:

Value & Permission. Respect your child’s image by asking permission before you share photos of them online. Empower them to value images of themselves and not spread them mindlessly.

 

Tip 8:

Monitor & Follow Up. Monitor and put up firm parameters around your child’s use of internet and YouTube (Check the history regularly).

 

Tip 9:

Get Informed & Guide them. Use sites like IMDB to view the parents guide of all TV shows and Movies BEFORE your child has permission to watch them, and when something is rate PG or higher, (Parental Guidance is Recommended) Which means Parents watch with their child and guide them on how to think faithfully and healthily about any parts that are of concern.

 

Tip 10:

Fill Their Time. Find lots of good media content to fill the spaces so they still have the chance to enjoy a good movie, and the benefit of knowledge and research online, don’t go into cult mode. Have lots of physical activities planned for their spare time. Team sports, extracurricular subjects, and youth groups etc.

 

Tip 11:

Assess Your Child’s Growth. Be willing and open to discuss exceptions and pray for guidance on when the child is mature enough for the next stage, not just because “everyone else is allowed”.

 

Tip 12:

Outside the Home. Ask other parents to restrict their child’s access to social media and internet when your child is under their care. Inform your child’s friends that they are not permitted to share photo’s or information about your child online. Back this up with those awkward conversations. “Please remove that post and please don’t do it again”.

 

Tip 13:

Develop Trust. Teach your child to be able to monitor media content themselves and check in with you about it, and teach them to have the courage to say “I’m not comfortable watching this” or “Could you not put that photo of me online?”.

 

Tip 14:

Pray! Pray for the strength to hold to your stance! In spite of the possible hostility from your child, in spite of the looks of condemnation from other parents, in spite of the awkward conversations. Stand Strong!

Your child may not completely understand or agree right now, but they will learn to trust you more and more the longer you stick to your convictions, and they will thank you for it one day. I promise!

 


21/01/2018

Therapy & An Unexpected Result

Posted in Encouragement, Musings, Self-Awareness tagged , , , , , , , , , at 5:22 am by The Water Bearer

One of my clients asked me the other day, “What was the most valuable thing you gained from going to therapy?”

For those of you who don’t know my story, let me just say that I never thought I needed therapy. I thought I could trust my instinctive reactions and emotions, I valued my knowledge and principles. It was only when I had the car accident that my lawyers suggested I go to therapy, to help me regain my confidence on the road as panic attacks had begun to consume my time in the car.

That initial, seemingly isolated prompt, unearthed a deep curiosity, which led to over a decade of therapy. I found so many different perspectives to myself that I had never considered previously, and gained something new from each of a few different therapists.

So when my client asked me this question, in an attempt to better understand her own journey of self-discovery, I didn’t want to be rash, taking a moment to ponder. I have gained so many valuable things from therapy, if you break it all down into each break-through and each level of growth. But the stand out for me personally was so surprising!

Over time, therapy gave me the ability to value my own truth, regardless of how others see it. It gave me sense of belonging to myself that I never expected.. Something Dr Brene Brown talks about often in her research.

Before therapy I had very little tolerance for my own flaws, or the flaws in others. I had developed a system of manipulating myself and my surroundings, to protect myself from a world I had deemed unsafe since childhood. This meant, I not only manipulated others, but I had also managed to deceived myself in the process. The dangers of the world that I wrestled to avoid, were grounded in criticisms and rejections of people who I thought loved each other. I somehow managed to become a chameleon, adapting myself to whoever I was hoping to impress, as a way to protect myself from all possible and painful rejection.

Fear, hidden fear, can pollute our behaviour in so many ways that we are often, completely unaware of. It can cause us to not even know ourselves at all. We’ve all heard that we ‘can not truly love others until we love ourselves’, but how can we love ourselves if we don’t even know ourselves?

I was completely unaware that all these toxic fears and behaviours were hiding inside myself.

Therapy helped me ask myself some tough but honest questions. I began to build a relationship with my true self.

Therapy helped me figure out what was most important to me, which turned out to be, the ability to depend upon the unpolluted Love of my Saviour.  Also, to give more value to how God sees me, than how the world sees me. If it wasn’t for this epiphany, I would not be able to handle the constant stream of misunderstanding and rejection that goes hand in hand with creating anything, presenting it to the world, and realising how little some people actually care about the things that matter most to me.

Sadly attending therapy still carries a stigma, perhaps in my former uneducated days I too thought only “crazy” people needed therapy. But thankfully my understanding has grown, actually so much to the point that I believe therapy should be mandatory for everyone. At least once or twice per year to check-in with yourself. It is far too easy to convince ourselves that we must remain where we are, that needing help of any kind is weakness. My friend, be assured there was nothing weak about my therapy sessions. They were ballsy, vulnerable, courageous, honest, challenging and above all healing! Doing nothing to change an unhealthy or unfulfilled life, looks far more like weakness to me. 

The painful criticisms and disappointments, that come from all human relationships, never lost their sting, but they certainly lost their ability to steer my life towards more dysfunction and self-condemnation. Best of all , when we understand our fears we can overcome them, so that they no longer hold us back from fulfilling our dreams!

 

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