Monthly Musings – January

Port Elliot It’s a new year, and I’m trying something new here with a monthly round-up I’m calling Monthly Musings (unless I – or you – come up with a catchier title). So what did I discover, experience, try, or learn in January? Here are a few things I’d like to share with you:

  • #OneWord365 – my word for this year is TRUST. I’ve felt the Lord whispering in the quiet corners of my mind, nudging me when the muscles in my neck, shoulders and back have begun to tighten with worry or stress.  Being naturally inclined to want things under control, trust and I don’t have a good history. One of my prayers for this year is to walk more closely with the Lord, learning to trust him with the large and the small things of life; to rest in him. Let’s face it, rest is not really an option without trust. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
  • Frozen (the movie) – Granted, I’ve been a little slow to discover this one, but better late than never. Along with the music (and Olaf the snowman), I loved how it dealt with the theme of fear creating barriers that shut people out, isolating us from those we might love instead. As an introvert who struggles with fear, it was good to be reminded that isolation is not the answer.
  • The One Year Hearing His Voice Devotional by Chris Tiegreen. I’ve been appreciating the wisdom in these pages all through January. Here’s a little taste from the entry on 15 January: “…listening to God’s voice moment by moment is necessary for our spiritual lives and growth. If we don’t hear Him, we don’t thrive.”
  • Bethel Music has just released a new worship CD/DVD: We will not be shaken. I’m currently playing it on repeat at home and in the car, so it’s safe to say I’m loving it. The opening lines to the title track (which is also the first song on the CD) are: “For we trust in our God, and through his unfailing love, we will not be shaken.” That’s a good start right there.

What did you discover in January?

Standing on solid rock

Great Ocean Road coastline

Standing on a rock – a cliff really – looking out to sea. It’s wild and beautiful, and cold. The only thing between this cliff and Antarctica is several thousand kilometres of ocean.

And the waves of that ocean lick and bite and crash into those limestone and sandstone cliffs every moment of every day.

Travelling along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria recently, we appreciated the rugged beauty of that coastline. We visited ‘London Bridge’ and the Twelve Apostles, pillars of ocean-sculpted limestone. They are beautiful, but they are no longer what they used to be. Year after year a little more of that limestone succumbs to the wind and the waves, and disappears.

Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road

London Bridge, Great Ocean Road

Part of ‘London Bridge’ collapsed years ago, stranding some tourists standing on the remaining section, now separated from the coast. The tourists had to be rescued, but fortunately no one was killed.

Nothing on this earth lasts for ever. Not even rock.

But there is one rock that does last. One rock on which we can stand secure. When we trust in the Lord, no matter what oceans come to beat upon us, God our rock will not be moved. He will uphold us, so that we can stand firm.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
Isaiah 26:4 

The Jigsaw Puzzle of Life

My brother Craig and I went through a period when we bought each other jigsaw puzzles for Christmas and birthdays. The best part of the game (for him at least) was to find the most difficult puzzles. One year he gave me a puzzle comprising dozens of goldfish on a blue background. A little challenging? Try it with no straight edges and five extra pieces that look like they belong but don’t actually fit in the puzzle. I was making as much progress as a mouse pushing an elephant uphill until my friend Megan helped me out.

Another puzzle my brother gave me consisted of dozens of emperor penguins, so it’s largely black and white. This one at least had edges. The kicker was that it’s square, double-sided, with the same image printed on the reverse side – and rotated 90 degrees!

Megan and I have also enjoyed putting numerous jigsaw puzzles together, including a puzzle with no picture on the box lid, one almost entirely composed of black animals, and a photo-mosaic map of the world. The map was actually the hardest. It was definitely a two-person puzzle, needing each of us to encourage the other as enthusiasm and energy ebbed and flowed. If I’d just been on my own, I might never have finished it.

Jigsaws have the ability to drive you crazy with frustration and lack of progress, and yet every time you set a piece in the correct location, fitting snug with its neighbours, there’s a sense of satisfaction.

Have you ever noticed how life can seem like a jigsaw puzzle? So many things happen in our lives that we can’t seem to make sense of, that don’t seem to have a place or purpose. We can’t see how they fit together, and there’s no picture on the box showing us exactly what the whole puzzle is supposed to look like.

Sometimes we manage to fit a few pieces together, and we get excited because we think we know what we’re doing now. We think we know what to expect. Until we try to fit the next piece somewhere and discover that we have no clue.

When I started writing this post, I wanted to focus on God as the Master puzzle maker. The one who knows every piece of the puzzle and how it fits together. He knows how beautiful they all are because he designed them with care and love. I wanted to talk about how we can trust him with the pieces of our life even when we don’t understand how they fit together. And I still think that’s true, but something else emerged while I was writing, something else I needed to see. Perhaps you’ve already noticed it?

Puzzles are easier and generally more fun when I tackle them with someone else and not just on my own. When it’s getting tough we help each other out, lift one another up when we’re getting discouraged. That photo mosaic map of the world? At times that got so tough that we’d need to take a break from it. One of us kept going while other had a rest, and soon energy and enthusiasm would return and we’d make some more progress.

And that’s how we’ve been designed to do life – with each other. Each of us helping each other and spurring one another on. We need each other, especially when life hands us the pieces that don’t seem to fit.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

(And Megan, if you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you for the many hours we’ve enjoyed together on those puzzles, and thank you for showing me this truth about life.)

Image courtesy:

Finding the answer between Yes and No

I don’t like saying “No” to a request. I don’t always like saying “Yes” either. But I do like to help, and I tend to reason that if I can do something, I should do it. Like the Optus commercials, I say “Yes” – a lot.

And once I’ve said “Yes” I’m committed. I need to follow through. I hate to let anyone down.

Yes and No

Photo Credit: photosan0 via Compfight cc

Here’s the thing with always saying “Yes.” I get really busy, I do more than I should, I end up doing a lot of things that other people should be doing, and the things that are really mine to do get pushed down the priority list.

Worse still I end up on the bottom of the priority list because I don’t look after myself.

Sooner or later, the smile fades, I get weary, stressed and resentful, and if I don’t do something to address it, I burn out. I know this because I’ve been there more times than I’d like to admit.

Confession time. I am a serial offender when it comes to over-committing. I over-commit, over and over again.

Sometimes I’m a slow learner.

Friends, family and colleagues have told me that I need to learn to say “No.” And that’s true. At least some of the time.

However, for those of us who find saying “No” difficult – for all kinds of reasons – it doesn’t always feel like helpful advice. We may just nod our head in agreement, and then carry on saying “Yes” because it seems easier and we don’t feel so guilty. Because saying “No” can feel selfish, even when it’s the wisest, most loving thing we can do.

Sometimes I discover that I’ve said “Yes” before I’ve even realised the full extent of the request, or considered my existing commitments and priorities. And the number of times I’ve immediately dropped what I’m doing to help a colleague with a request are countless.

Yep, when it comes to changing habits, I’m definitely a slow learner.

Of course there are also plenty of occasions when it’s good and right to say “Yes.”

One thing I have learned recently though, is that “Yes” and “No” are not the only answers available. Sometimes the best answer lies in between “No” and “Yes.”

“No, I’m sorry, I can’t do that, but here’s what I can do.”

In betweenPhoto Credit: Valerian Gaudeau via Compfight cc

I’ve discovered that sometimes when I need to say “No” to a request, it doesn’t always need to be a flat-out no. I may be able to do part of what’s been asked, or even offer a different solution.

And that can be just as well received as an unqualified “Yes.” That’s good news for someone who finds it hard to say “No.”

Are you wrestling with how to respond to a request? Perhaps your best answer is somewhere in between Yes and No.

The rainbow invitation to rest

It wasn’t news I wanted to hear. But there wasn’t anything I could do to change it.

I walked back to my desk. Overwhelmed. The waters rising, threatening to close in over my head. Sinking.

Too much. Too much.

Struggling, trying to float instead of sink. Except that struggling usually sends you downward. Floating requires trust that the water will hold you up.

I didn’t see it at first. Someone else drew it to my attention.

A rainbow – bright and glorious against a charcoal sky. It hung in the air outside my window.

Light in the darkness

Suddenly the waters receded, the darkness lifted and hope took its rightful place.

I love rainbows.

I love the colours; love their glorious beauty; love their elusiveness and the unexpected joy they bring.

I love that they remind me of God’s presence.

They speak to me of his faithfulness. They remind me that God is someone I can trust. Even in the storms of life.

Especially in the storms.

I’ve seen several rainbows in the last few days. A profusion of rainbow gifts, reminding me again of the Lord’s faithfulness as I choose to trust him and rest.

Rainbow at rest

Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. ~ Psalm 116:7