It's in the small things.

[Originally posted on Feather and Fire in August 2014] I hate food shopping; it is my least favourite part of the week. Unfortunately it is necessary. But is doesn’t change the fact that I am always in a hurry to leave the supermarket.

Every time I leave I am confronted with the decision of whether or not to return my trolley to the trolley bay or to abandon it in the vacant car park next to me. I don’t really want to, but no matter how much of a hurry I am in and no matter how far away I am parked, I always return the trolley.

It’s weird, I know. Yet I often wonder: if I’m not willing to make the right decision when no one is watching, no matter how small or silly it seems, how long before I am willing to compromise on bigger things?

For me it is a matter of integrity. Integrity means to be exactly the same person when you are by yourself or in private as when you are leading a large group of people or in public as what you present of yourself on your social media platform. Integrity is when there is no difference in who you are no matter where you are or who you are with.

At the end of the day, no one I’m leading would know if I didn’t put my trolley back. But putting the trolley back is one of the small every day decisions I make that helps build my integrity and character. Pastor Craig Groeschel says: “It’s often the small things that no one sees that results in the big things that everyone wants.”

We can look at leaders doing great things and wish we had the same kind of influence, but what we don’t often see is that it has been the small things they have done to build integrity and character that got them there. You may not realise it but each choice you make shapes your character and integrity. Small decisions can either slowly build your character or slowly corrode it.

Integrity is essential for a leader. Dr. Robert Clinton says that a leader without character and integrity is not trustworthy and will only be followed if the leader has coercive power (fear tactics and threats) to convince people to follow them. I know I can be a leader without integrity, but I won’t be one worth following.

What I realised is that before I lead others I have to learn to lead myself first. Good leadership is built in private not on a platform. It is built in the small everyday choices. And results in the person I am when I am leading and the person I am when I am in private becoming more alike. I still haven’t perfectly worked this out in my own life and leadership, but I have noticed that the more I have worked on my integrity the easier people have found it to follow me as a leader.

What are some small changes you could make to your everyday life to help build integrity?

Life in the library

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset I spend a significant amount of time studying in the library each week. Recently this has caused a lot of comments about my study habits. Words like “crazy”, “nerd”, “weird” and “great student” have been thrown around. On one level I find it funny because I'm simply doing what I need to in order to get everything done (and especially to understand what the heck is going on in my theology classes!). But as I was sitting at home on Saturday night reading articles about the gospel of Luke, I started to wonder why I'm the weird one and why more people don't care or aren't passionate about their education. Why do I feel as though I need to continually justify my decision to study over other activities? And why are study and education and those who enjoy learning regularly shamed?

The answer to those questions could probably be the topic of a research project, but here are a few thoughts I’ve had for those of you who think I’m crazy for spending so much of my time studying.

  1. Don't take your education for granted!

Whatever shape or direction your learning takes- whether school, university, trade or on the job training- remember that it is a privilege to learn. According to the UNESCO, 263 million children and youth between the ages of 6 and 17 are currently out of school globally. Many do not have access to education because of their sex, location and wealth (or lack there of).[1] This is just with reference to primary and secondary education, not factoring in how those numbers would decrease again in tertiary or higher education. Living in the relative comfort of white, middle-class Australia, it can be easy for me to forget that in many places around the world education is not easily accessible. I often have to pause and remind myself that doing post-graduate study is a privilege and one I should not take for granted. I take my study seriously because I recognise that had I been born in any number of places around the world- especially as a woman- I would not be afforded this incredible opportunity.

  1. Don’t just live for right now.

A dangerous cultural trend has emerged that says it is acceptable to live for the experience and pleasure of right now, while disregarding anything that might not immediately feel good, even if it will be beneficial in the future. Let me be clear, I don't always find study enjoyable and there are days where I feel like my head will explode. But I’m not living for instant-gratification or for "feel good" experiences all the time. I'm living with the end in mind. I know that what I am studying, although it sometimes seems like a sacrifice of time and enjoyment now, will be incredibly useful for myself and others in the years to come. I am committed to my study because I can see the long-term gain of being focused and dedicated in the short-term.

  1. Don’t settle. Don’t strive.

It's pretty easy to get caught up in striving for good grades (and to some extent doing well should be important). But I’ve come to realise that study is about learning and growing, not about accumulating good grades or just scraping by. In my many hours in the library, I overhear a lot of conversations of students who are doing the bare minimum and are proud of it. The phrase “p’s get degrees” might be literally true, but I don’t want to send children to a school where this was the attitude of the teachers, nor do I want to go to hospital and have surgery performed by a surgeon with this attitude, nor do I want to go to a church where this was the attitude of the pastor. I think the same could be said of any profession. On the other hand, I hear students with ever-growing anxiety about doing well, who are basing their self-worth on their grades. Some settle for P’s, others anxiously strive for HD’s. Neither extreme is helpful. Study, for me, is simply about learning. Sometimes that means I do really well, other times it means I completely miss the point of the assignment because I get sidetracked on researching something I want to learn or understand. But the point is always that I have learnt something and that I have grown. I am passionate about my study because it is stretching and growing me and I am passionate about my study because what I am learning also has the capacity to help stretch and grow others.

It helps that I have found something to study that brings my soul to life. But you can too! And when you work out what that is, don’t be ashamed or talked out of spending time in the library, learning and growing!

Sophie xo

[1] United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Leaving no one behind: how far on the way to universal primary and secondary education, July 2016, http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Documents/fs37-out-of-school-children.pdf

The girl with two passports. 

Earlier this year I received a European (EU) passport, which means I now hold two passports. My mum was born in England and as a result I am entitled to a EU passport. I decided to apply for one and I got it no hassle. I was surprised at how quickly it happened and how “no questions asked” the process was. Within two weeks of sending the paper work off to England, my EU passport arrived in the mail. I was, and still am, really excited about the possibilities now open to me with an EU passport. I can live and work in EU countries without needing to worry about visas. My new expanded freedom was put into perspective while watching the most recent season of Go Back to Where You Came From (if you haven’t watched it you can do so here). There is a scene where a stateless man from from Palestine tells his story of arriving in Australia. He proudly, with tears in his eyes and a wavering voice, shows the Australian participants, and the camera, his documents that allow him to live as a citizen in Australia. He held the document like it was made of gold, his most prized possession.

My heart broke. In the excitement of getting my EU passport I failed to remember the many people around the world who do not have the freedom to move around the world. Where the borders will be opened for me, they will be closed for many more.

Our white privilege is showing (or maybe its just mine?). We are willing to close our borders to others (I get its not that simple), but expect to be able to travel wherever we please without any hassle. We get frustrated when customs takes longer than we would like, if our train or plane is running ten minutes late or if people don't speak English.

Being overseas has given me a fresh perspective and I am more ashamed than ever of Australia’s response to the refugee crisis. I’m not sure if you have been following European news, but the response of Germany to the current refugee crisis is overwhelming. It is predicted that this year alone Germany will see between 750,000 and 900,000 refugees on their doorstep. I have had the chance to speak to Germans here and they have said, “we want all of those refugees to have the same standard of living that Germans have, it is not okay for them to be living in tents”. Germany is not going to be able to cope with the weight of 750,000 people and yet their response is one of compassion, welcome and generosity.

More than 60 million people are displaced around the world. Australia’s acceptance of only 6000 people seeking asylum is pathetic (and don’t even get me started on offshore detention centres). I am not naive enough to think that opening our borders would be a simple solution. I am aware of the huge implications for accepting a large number of people. But when you compare 750,000 to 6000 and the relative sizes of Germany and Australia you can’t help but think that Australia could be doing more to help settle refugees within our borders. This is a problem that every country in the world will need to pitch in on in a sacrificial way. This issue is not going away any time soon.

“You don’t become a refugee by choice” | Marie Renaux

“I was hungry and you gave me something to drink, hungry and you gave me something to eat, a stranger and you welcomed me in” | Jesus

Workshop Wittenberg

The countdown is on! In less than 12 hours I will be jumping on a plane, heading off on an adventure that I still know relatively little about. My feelings keep shifting from super excited to extremely nervous. I thought I'd stop (writing an assignment) for a moment to let you know what I'll be doing for the next few weeks. 12 months ago I didn't even know the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) existed and now I am heading off to Wittenberg in Germany (home of all things Luther) to participate in a conference they are hosting. A young adult representative from every country within the Lutheran church network has been invited to participate in this conference, which will be a two-week workshop. There will be around 140 representatives. I am attending on behalf of the Lutheran Church of Australia (and New Zealand). It is very humbling to be asked to attend. Only in the last few weeks have I come to fully appreciate the weight of what I am about to do and I want to do the best job possible of representing the LCA with honesty and most importantly with honour.

It is going to be a crazy big learning experience for me about so many different things: other cultures, the political, economic and spiritual states of other countries and how the Lutheran Church operates around the world. Saying this could get me in trouble but, from my perspective, living in the relative comfort of Australia has made the church (myself very much included) complacent. We complain a lot about trivial things and spout big, often misinformed, opinions on matters that don't directly affect us. I'm excited to set my "white western privilege" aside and learn from those who are facing situations we in Australia cannot even fathom.

The aim of the conference is to talk about many of the big issues the church is currently facing around the world. Among the agenda items are: Lutheran theology, how we can better work ecumenically, human rights, climate change, gender justice, social media and communication, and the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

Part of my preparation has been to think through how the LCA works with and includes young people in meaningful decision making. This has forced me to reflect on whether or not we, as the LCA, are doing a good job including young people in decision making at all levels or if we simply see young people as "the future of the church", rather than as people who can participate meaningfully now. There are a few places where we are nailing it (pardon the Luther pun) and many places where we have a LOT of growing to do. I'm excited to see how the Lutheran church around the world includes young people and hopefully I can bring back some suggestions on how we can better listen to the voice of young people in our context.

It is going to be a massive few weeks so I would really appreciate your prayers!

Some things I would love prayer for are:

  • Safe travel
  • Security in my identity in Christ to be myself
  • Clarity and wisdom about how to share the information about the LCA with honesty yet in a way that honours others
  • Humility to listen and learn
  • God’s sustaining power to get my introverted self through two weeks straight with 140 people (with few breaks) without freaking out and that any down time is supernaturally restful

Sophie xo

An open letter to my youth leaders.

Dear youth leaders, I want to take a moment to honour you. I have been in my job at Para Vista Lutheran Church running the youth ministry for almost 5 years. Next year I am facing a transition. Not because I am leaving, but because a number of you are finishing up university and heading into the full time work world. I am excited for you and also excited for the changes it will force us to make to the youth ministry. I have never transitioned a ministry so it will be a cool new challenge for those of us who are sticking around next year.

In thinking about the changes that are to come I have reflected a lot on the role you have played in the youth ministry at PV. Some of you have been with me since I started which, in and of itself, is amazing and deserves a medal. Looking back now I know I wasn’t ready for the role. The fact that you wonderful guys and girls have stuck with me while I found my feet in leadership has been a blessing.

Whether you have been there since the beginning or since the beginning of this year and whether you are leaving or staying, I want to publically honour and thank you. I have taken our team for granted too often, but when I stop and think about it I am overwhelmed by all you have done.

I think about the ridiculous amount of hours you have given and I can’t help but smile. I often hear people say: “young adults just aren’t serving or giving to the church”… if only they knew the sacrifices you have made. But I see it. And so does God.

I think about the way you have learned to love and care for the young people (even the most challenging ones) and are now giving it your all to show them the love of Jesus. I know that you pray for them, encourage them and even worry about them. The mental and emotional energy that takes can be a exhausting but it doesn’t go unnoticed.

I think about the way you have followed me even when I haven’t been worth following or when I have lost vision and focus. You have stood by me as I have made stupid mistakes and learnt leadership lessons the hard way. Knowing you had my back made leading easier. You have taught me so much about leading people and building teams. I will be forever grateful.

I think the thing I appreciate most is that you have stuck in there when you have felt like you weren’t making a difference. Continuing on after those nights where you feel like you can’t get through to the young people and want to give up is tough, but you did it!

Here are a few (of the many) things I have learnt from you over the years:

  1. Honouring leaders even when they aren’t being honourable helps them get better quicker. There have been times when I haven’t be a leader worth following or honouring. But it was your support and how you honoured me that meant I could pick myself back up and keep going. In teaching me this you have given me a passion to do the same for those in leadership above me.
  1. Ministry is better with a team. Ministry is tough and there are days where it feels like it would be easier and quicker to do things on your own. You have proven this wrong. You take my half thought out ideas and made them 100 times better than I ever could have on my own. Your ideas, creativity and passion for shaking things up stopped me slipping into what is easy and comfortable. Now I can’t imagine doing ministry without a team. Even the toughest days in ministry are bearable when you know you aren’t in it alone.
  1. Laughter is the key to a healthy team. No matter how tired I was the next day, it was so worth all those nights I only got home around 2am after youth events or meetings when we would sit around joking and laughing. Nothing builds relationships and teams better. I don’t think anyone has made me laugh more than you!
  1. Every brilliant idea and decision made at 2am should be reassessed after a good night’s sleep. Enough said.
  1. Jesus love, forgiveness and grace are most on display through His people. We have faced challenging times as individuals and as a community. It has been my privilege to watch you face those difficult situations and people with the same love, forgiveness and grace that Jesus has shown you. You have taught me to love more deeply and forgive more quickly and that is the most precious gift!

At the risk of getting too sappy I will end with this: I appreciate you all more than words could ever say. (Writing this is just a small gesture to try and show how grateful I am). For those of you who are leaving- whatever the future holds for you I pray God’s blessings and provision for the next season of your life. For those who are staying- strap yourselves in. I have no idea what next year will look like but let’s keep seeking God together.

Much love.

Sophie xo.

beating the church.

Every day it seems I am reading more and more articles, written by well meaning Christians, about how much the church sucks. The pastor of a big church beating down the pastor of a small church because the church isn’t growing. The pastor of a small church beating down the pastor of a big church because all he wants is power and fame. The attendee of a house church beating down all other expressions of church for being a part of “organised religion” and on and on it goes. I read these things and think ‘you’re right, the church- in all shapes and sizes- does suck’ (Am I allowed to say that?)

It was always going to suck. Want to know why?

Because you are a part of it. Yes, you.

Sounds harsh doesn’t it? But I am also to blame.

Want to see a perfect church? It will be the one with no people in it. The minute people get involved in church sin and dysfunction enters the picture. The only perfect church would be the one where there were no people around to mess it up.

But the church is people and is for people, right? So it’s always going to have problems, because a church without people isn’t really anything at all.

Perhaps we have missed the point.

As someone who works for a church I see its flaws probably more than most. Some days it is really hard to be positive about the future of the church. But I also see its potential. The way God uses it to change lives and help those who need it. Funny how very few people are writing about that. I must admit that I fall into this category as well – often because I simply find it easier to criticise. Mark Driscoll says, “it’s easier to be a critic than a pastor”. So often, without realising, we continue to take the easy road, writing negative things about our family and creating more divides between those who we think are “right” and those we think aren’t.

Erwin McManus says: "living within a Christian context, it becomes easy to divide according to theological distinctions. The difference between a Baptist and a Methodist actually used to matter to people. In many ways we seem to have had too much time on our hands... While we were dividing among ourselves, we missed the growing divide that really mattered. We were losing the battle for the lives of people who were without Christ".

The more time we spend divided amongst ourselves, the less time we have to accomplish the mission that Jesus left the church. I mean, isn’t our goal at the end of the day the same? If we spend all our time fixating on how people are doing church “wrong” we will lose sight of our core focus. Is it really worth spending so much time writing things to put “different” Christians down? Don’t we get enough of that from the world already? In fact I would go so far as to say that adding another voice to the negative barrage of church publicity only gives the world more fuel for the fire.

While I completely agree that, within the proper relationship, it is good to call people out on sin and behaviours that aren’t fitting for the people of God; I’m just not convinced that the negative and critical blogs from the church about the church are helping. Dr Larry Crabb says, ‘never speak hard words to someone unless your love for that person is formed by a vision of who that person could become, a vision that generates tender feelings for the other.’ We need to keep who we are writing to in mind and think about whether we are speaking hard words out of a vision to see things improve so that we don’t just join in the mud slinging.

My dream is to see the church- all expressions of it- healthy and on mission in the world. I know there are lots of churches that aren’t there yet, and quite honestly I think a lot of them know it too and are struggling with not knowing what to do next. There will always be exceptions to this, but most pastors and churches are humbly and faithfully doing the best they know how. Somehow I don’t think that berating them on social media is going to help them reach their God given potential.

If you are one of these people writing blogs about other churches, I am going to assume the best in you and guess that your goal is not to see these pastors and church leaders give up because they can’t do anything right? You may not know it, but pastors are reading your blogs and being discouraged by them. So why continue to put them down? What about building up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12, 29)? Notice that Paul didn’t write “only for the building up of people in the body of Christ who you agree with”?

We don’t need more division; we have enough of that already. I think the devil is having a field day watching us argue amongst ourselves while the rest of the world goes on not knowing Jesus. Unity and peace doesn’t mean compromising your convictions but it means holding these views with humility and being willing to work with and love people that aren’t the same as you.

In our culture, putting the church down is easy. Standing up for it is hard. Standing up for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, even when you don’t agree with their methods is the hardest. But can you imagine what the church could accomplish if we learnt to stand with those who, while their approach to worship or how to take up an offering or the ideal church size may differ to yours, believe that Jesus is Lord and that he is what the world needs most. (And let’s face it, most of the time we aren’t arguing over theological issues, we are arguing over practice. What a waste of time.)

There are days in ministry where I just want to pack up and quit. What I need on those days is not someone to come along and point out all the ways I am doing a crap job. I need encouragement and a reminder of why I am doing this crazy thing called kingdom work. I need someone to remind me of the bigger vision. And if I am in a bad place because I am doing something wrong than I need to read something that shows me another way to do things. There is a place for admonishing and correcting, but I don’t think it is on social media. Particularly when you can’t control who sees it and what season they are walking through. I think we owe our brothers and sisters more than that. (“They could just not read it” is not a good enough excuse either. Don’t abdicate your responsibility in this.)

So what’s the alternative you ask? Good question.

Surely the time has to come where we stop tearing other Jesus followers down. Especially with all the stories in the media at the moment about Christians being persecuted, now more than ever, we need to set aside the negativity over our differences and stand together.

By all means disagree, I do it often. But does it need to be posted? I find these are some handy things to ask myself when deciding what to post about.

  • Does it honour God? (Not “how much can I get away with before I dishonour God?”)
  • Is it best?
  • Can I do it with a clear conscience?
  • Is it helpful or harmful?
  • Does it build others up? (Ephesians 4:12, 29)
  • Does it set a good example? Does it represent God well to others? (1 Tim 4:12)
  • Here’s a good way to check what you are saying. Add “…and that’s the way I want it” to the end of sentences. For example “the church sucks… and that’s the way I want it”. If that isn’t what you believe then either find a new way to say it or just don’t. (Try re-phrasing: this is not operating the way it could but I believe it has the potential to reform and make a big difference. Here’s how…)
  • If you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all- Ephesians 4:29
  • If you think something good- say it! Proverbs 16:24

Encouragement and positivity aren’t as easy as ranting and criticising and it is a lot harder to find people to agree with you when you present an idea positively rather than point out a flaw but as Christians we are called to a harder road. And I seriously believe that it is our responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ to stop tearing them down, but rather use our time to build them up. What does that look like exactly? I’m still figuring that out myself (I'll keep you posted). But I know that it starts with stopping the negative posts about the church.

Sophie xo

guiding light.

Image

I was talking with one of my young people recently about the stresses of Year 10. She shared that at the beginning of the year the teachers sat them down and told them every piece of work- every test, assignment, essay and exam- that they would be doing over the course of the year. She said it was overwhelming and that it would have been nicer if the teachers told them about the work load step by step rather than all at once.

I started to think about all the times I have asked God to give me a detailed plan of my future. I often find myself wondering where God wants me to be in 10 years and praying that He’ll tell me right now every step I need to take to get there. I'm guessing I'm not alone in my frustration when it doesn't happen. But this conversation made me consider how overwhelmed I would be if God actually did what I asked Him to, if He told me everything that was going to happen in my life or even if He told me everything that was going to happen this year. I still wish God would give me a little more to work with.

Psalm 119:105 says that God’s word is a lamp unto our feet. Did you catch that? The Word of God is a lamp unto our feet. It doesn't say it is a beacon into the future. It doesn't even say it is a street lamp that will help you get to the next corner. It says a lamp unto our feet. This means that it will illuminate our next step or two but not much further. Following a light that only allows you to see the next step may not be the easiest way to get to your destination but it is possible to make the whole trip this way.

I was driving in the Adelaide Hills one night and it was unbelievably foggy. My headlights were barely lighting up more than a metre in front of my car. I hate this kind of driving, it scares me. I like to see further into the distance. I like to see any obstacles or bends in the road so that I can safely navigate them. But with teeth gritted and knuckles white on the steering wheel, I made it to my destination. I could only see a metre in front of me the entire time and, although I didn't like it, I made the whole trip that way.

My journey with God is often like that. I find myself wishing I could see further into the future or see any obstacles that are coming my way. But I know that I can make the whole journey with only enough light to see the next step. This way I am depending on God for each step and not getting overwhelmed by the things that He has for me far in the distance. Let’s face it, if God gave me enough light to see even the next month’s worth of steps I would be very tempted to do it without Him or maybe to go a different way.

It can be pretty scary feeling like you are walking into the unknown. Thankfully we have a God who not only gives us a light unto our feet, but also offers to guide us every step of the way.

For this God is our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end. Psalm 48:14 

those voices in your head.

Did you know that on average a person has 60,000 thoughts a day? That's a lot. The craziest part is that around 80% of those thoughts are negative. That’s 48,000 negative thoughts a day. And I bet that most of the time we don’t even realise it’s happening.

Our thoughts are powerful. They can direct the outcome of our lives. You may think that is an overstatement, but think about it like this: if I believe I am useless and will never amount to anything then this will have an impact on how much I try and therefore what I achieve or amount to.

Everyone has different thoughts that torment them. Perhaps you have thoughts like these: you’re not good enough, you are stupid, you will never make anything of yourself, you sounded really dumb when you said that, why would anyone want to be around a person like you, you will never be as skinny as her, you’re hopeless, everyone else has it all together- why can’t you, you will never be as tough as he is, they will never like you for who you really are, God must be awfully disappointed in you, God could never love a screw up like you.

Perhaps someone has actually said those things about you, or maybe you came to believe them over time because of different circumstances in your life, or perhaps you believe what the bible says about Christians having an enemy who is the father of lies who has planted these thoughts.

Who knows where these thoughts come from in the first place- it will be different for all of us- but nothing will get you more off track from God’s plan for your life than believing the lies in your head. Regardless of how the thoughts got there, one thing is certain: it will be very difficult to do what God has planned for you if you listen to the negative thoughts.

It would probably shock you if you knew the thoughts that run through my head on a daily basis. Only recently have I realised how many negative thoughts I have about myself.

I have never believed that I am smart. I had some really smart friends at school and I was always the kid who was failing maths and science. As a result, I got the impression I was dumb, that I wasn't good enough. And it has stuck with me. This means that I now am constantly reminded that I am stupid – this thought goes around and around in my head all the time.

I don't know about you, but the negativity in my head is relentless. It never stops.

It says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that we need to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. We need to recognize the lies for what they are. Because when lies are not confronted callings are not fulfilled. The voice in your head has the power to lead you off track. If I listened to the voices that tell me I'm not good enough on a daily basis I would never do half the things God has called me to. I would never have written this blog.

A few weeks ago I was leading worship in church and during the sermon all these negative thoughts came into my mind. I started thinking: you're not good enough to be leading worship, you’re such a hypocrite, do you really think that God can use you to lead others when you can't even get your act together? All these thoughts were going around in my mind. I could hear that the pastor was just about done with the sermon and I started panicking. There was no way I could get back up there to lead people. Then I stopped and thought: hang on, God’s word says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, it says that God has chosen me and called me according to His purpose. So I just kept repeating those phrases in my head, over and over. Until I was able to get back up there and finish the service.

We can overpower the negative thoughts in our head by launching a counter attack with the Word of God.  We can leverage the advantage that we have because we are God's children. This doesn't necessarily mean the chatter in your head will end. It just means that we have something stronger- and louder- to override the negative thoughts every time they start.

If we want to do all that God has called us to, we have got to learn to preach to ourselves. It is great to go to church on Sunday to hear someone preach to you, but what about during the week when no one else is there to tell you what God says. This is where preaching to yourself comes in. The only way you will know what to preach to yourself is to get into the Word. The only way to overpower the lies of the enemy is with the promises of God. Replacing the lies will take time but unless you make a habit of it, the lies of the enemy will win out.

Knowing the bible isn't just something that pastors suggest you do for some kind of cruel and boring punishment. The Word of God is the key weapon that we take into battle in our minds, the battle against the destructive thoughts. Jesus did the same thing in the desert when Satan was tempting him. Rather than fighting back or giving in to Satan’s lies, Jesus used the bible to stand up to the devil. He said: “it is written”. We need to do the same thing.

It will feel a bit strange at first but here are some of the phrases you can preach to yourself…

God says I am- fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37), chosen (Ephesians1:4/ Jeremiah 1:5/ Galatians 1:15), redeemed (Isaiah 43/ Ephesians 1:7), the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16), his masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10), established in love (Ephesians 3:17), strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9), healed and whole, forgiven and free (Romans 6:18/ Ephesians 1:7).

God says he will- be the cornerstone of my life (Isaiah 28:16), protect me (Psalm 121:7), lift my head high (Psalm 3), restore my joy (psalm 30:11), give me peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7), catch me when I fall (Psalm 37:24), hear my cry (psalm 18:6), draw me close (James 4:8).

God says he has- conquered sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57), washed you white as snow (Psalm 51), forgiven you (Ephesians 1:7), saved you (Titus 2:11), called you (Galatians 1:15), rescued you (Psalm 18:19)

God says I can- do all things through His strength (Philippians 4:13)

Learning how to think the thoughts of God is the most important habit you will ever develop. It’s also the most important battle you will ever fight. Learning to speak God’s promises over yourself will ensure that God’s voice is louder than any other in your life. If you want to live for God you have to learn to overpower the lies of the enemy with God’s promises.

Sophie xo.

Ps. If you want to read more on this subject I strongly recommend getting yourself a copy of Steven Furtick’s book “Crash the Chatterbox”.

anointing and appointing.

Recently I have heard a lot of young adults saying things like: “I just don’t know where God is calling me”, “I don’t know if I am where God wants me to be now” and “can I be called to be where I am now and still have something God is calling me to later in life?” I have also heard people questioning: is this job right? Is this relationship right? And is this uni degree going to get me where God wants me? The whole topic of calling, direction and the right path to take is a tricky one and every Christian seems to have a different opinion on the topic. Some say you are called wherever you are now. Others say your calling is that “one thing” that God is preparing for you to do. And others fall somewhere in between.

I have found it useful to explore this topic through the life of David. His story presents some interesting ideas about calling.

David’s story begins when God sent a prophet named Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel. Israel’s current king Saul had initially ruled well but eventually he disobeyed God and God rejected him as King (1 Samuel 15). Although an unlikely candidate, David was anointed king by Samuel. 1 Samuel 16: 13 tells us that: “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.”

So David was anointed king over Israel. There was only one problem: Saul was still king. In the very next chapter, 1 Samuel 17, we find David, after he was anointed, back out in the fields tending sheep. Not work usually performed by a king. Scholars believe it was at least 20 years between the time David was anointed and the time he was actually appointed as king.

God used this time to develop David into a man who would have the character and integrity to be king over Israel. There were things that David had to learn in that time, that he could not have learnt if he had have demanded the crown from Saul the minute he was anointed.

Here are a few things David needed to learn in the time between his anointing and his appointing. As you are reading them, consider if God could be teaching you something similar.

  1.       Trust in God’s timing and dependence on God’s provision

David’s time as a shepherd fighting bears and lions prepared him to face Goliath and the many enemies that faced him once he became king. After David was anointed he went back in the field which meant he had to trust that even though he had a new call on his life, God was doing something in him in the same occupation he had held previously. In this time, David learnt to trust in God’s timing. Imagine the amount of trust it would take to be anointed as king but not to know when you would actually be king. I bet David had days where he doubted God’s calling. And David also learnt to trust that God would provide what he needed when he needed it.

  1.       Developing skills and a heart for worship

While David was waiting to step into his calling as a king he was obviously developing his talent on the harp because sometime after David was anointed he became the harp player to Saul. Only the best in the land would be asked to play in the courts of the king. David used the time between his anointing and appointing to develop his skills. Through the Psalms we can also see the passion for worship that David discovered in this time. Some of the most real, heart-felt cries in the Psalms were written in the hard times David faced between his anointing and appointing.

  1.       Submission to authority and integrity.

After receiving his call, David had to live under Saul’s authority for quite a while. This time was not easy for David. Saul became very jealous of David’s military conquests and this jealousy caused Saul to attempt to take David’s life multiple times. While on the run from Saul, David had a number of opportunities to take Saul’s life and step into his kingship. But he didn’t. He chose to honour the authority of Saul and develop his integrity.

You could look at those 20 years between his anointing and appointing and see them as wasted time that David could have been reigning over Israel. Or you could look at it from a different perspective and see that God doesn’t waste a single experience. David would have been lacking all these things had he stepped into kingship before God’s appointed time. This was a time of training and development for David, preparing him for the greater calling that God had placed on his life.

It is easy to look at our lives and think this job, this degree or this situation is not perfectly tailored to my skills, gifts and dreams. Yet do you ever stop and ask: “God what are you trying to teach me in this season? What do I need to learn now to prepare me for what have called me to do later?”

I believe that everything I have experienced, both the good and the bad, has been preparing me for what God has planned for me.

You may be feeling a little directionless or unsure if you are where God wants you to be. But I encourage you to remain faithful where you are and in what you are currently doing. Until God shows you the next step, be faithful where you are. Then when he shows you the next step, which may not be “it” either, be faithful there too.

Don’t assume that just because you are anointed you are ready to be appointed. When David finally became king, he still messed up, but he was more ready than he would have been when he was first anointed. Be patient and allow God to develop you for your appointment.

One of my favourite communicators, Christine Caine, says it like this “Don’t confuse your due date with God’s appointed timing”. Don’t confuse the date you expect God to fulfil your calling with the timing he has planned.

The time between your anointing and appointing can be a time of real growth and preparation if you allow it to be. In the waiting remember, God’s timing is perfect and he works all things together for his purpose.

Sophie :)