Faith, Parenting, Personal Growth, Reflection

The First Pour

coffee pour by mark on flickr

We have this little ritual, West and I, of making coffee for one another.  Sometimes he makes it (usually after lunch), and sometimes I do (our morning cuppa, following the school run); but the process is the same for each of us:  rinse out our little Bialetti espresso maker, fill with fresh water, spoon the coffee grounds over the metal filter, screw the top back on, and place it on the stovetop to heat up while we microwave the two cups of milk for our lattes.  Mmmmm.  Rich, delicious, and – most importantly – caffeinated!

The coffee-preparation process is the same, but there’s one slight variation in the finished product each of us receives: whoever gets the second cup also gets a bit of ‘sludge’ from the coffee grounds.  It’s a very slightly finer cup for whomever gets the first pour.  Knowing this is the case, I make sure that West gets the first pour.

Oh, I know I could make it even.  I could do a little pour into each cup, back and forth and back again, to make sure that neither of us gets the dregs on our own.  I could.  But then neither of us would get the pure ‘first pour’, either.   And, in truth, I don’t really mind the dregs.  I know, too, that when West makes the coffee, he reserves the second pour for himself and gives me the finer cup.  It balances out.

When you think about it, it’s not just with coffee that there’s a ‘first pour’ and ‘the dregs’; our time, our energy, our families – with each of these things we have a choice to make, whether we realise it or not, about where we’re going to bestow this superior ‘first pour’.

If I’m working on an article or some other writing, it’s easy to be consumed by it; so focused on the words and ideas swirling around in my head that every other bit of input is a frustrating distraction.  In truth, it’s like that anytime I’m wrestling with ideas – even if I’m internally trying to figure out how to better nurture my children and be more patient with them, I’ll be swatting them away and growling at them while I’m trying to think it through.  How’s that for irony?!  There are definitely times that I need to lock myself away to sort out the ideas, set down the phrases, and complete a writing task; but at other times I really have to train myself to view the thoughts (and worries) as a distraction, rather than seeing my kids that way.  Sometimes, at the very least, my kids should get the ‘first pour’ of my energy, focus, and attention; my children as individuals and my family as a group – not just concepts, ideas, theories and debates about the concept of ‘parenting’.

Likewise, when life and lists crowd in and there doesn’t seem to be time for anything, let alone a sacred, quiet space in time to read the Bible, pray, or meditate, where does my ‘first pour’ go?  Likely, every little thing gets a drip of my best; the dregs, if anything, are what’s left for the pursuit of spiritual growth and nurture.

And although when I make a coffee I put myself second – with little to no detriment – I can see that it’s not healthy for us to always leave ourselves just the dregs of our time and energy.  Sometimes we need to make sure that we get the sustaining, superior, beneficial ‘first pour’ as well – not to short-change those we love, but to ensure that we function as healthy, fulfilled, and functional human beings.  When I start to feel like I’m pouring into too many cups, I know that the result will be unsatisfying – and unsatisfactory – for all of them.  I need to give myself the first pour – step back from things, renew my energy, regain my perspective, and then I’m fresh to make a new batch.

This isn’t a new idea.  In the Bible, one of God’s requirements of the Jews was that they would bring Him their ‘first fruits’ as an offering.  He also required them to sacrifice their best before Him; an unblemished lamb (sound familiar?), amongst other things.  Sure, these are Old Testament practices, but they’re ones whose essence remains useful to observe today:  what we do for God should be what we do first; and what we bring to God should be our best.  It shouldn’t be that church is what we fit in if we haven’t got anything better to do on a Sunday.  It shouldn’t be that sleep, activities, and TV crowd in and replace our time praying and reading the Bible. (It shouldn’t be the case, but I’ll raise my hand first – I find time to vege in front of Netflix almost every night, and yet I can’t seem to establish a regular quiet time routine for reading the Bible and meditating on God’s word…).

I think it’s worth considering, from time to time.  Who’s getting the first pour in your life?  Do you need to change the order of cups?

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Death, Faith, Grace, Life, Suffering, suicide

Falling

Falling

Did you ever have one of those days in which the sum of your deficiencies adds into one huge indictment against your worth?  Or perhaps even a whole phase in which the negative side of your personal ledger seemed so disproportionately stacked against the positive that ruin/shame/disgrace must be the logical conclusion?

I’ve definitely had those days – and even longer phases – but I have always survived them.  I know a girl who had one of those days – maybe even weeks, months, or years – and she did not.

Anna* was a lovely, quirky, wry girl.  She had grown up in our church and remained connected for most of her twenty-seven years.  Sometime after high school, she took on the job of managing our church nursery – I’m told that she was giddy with excitement every time she heard of a pregnancy, and she’d begin the countdown until the next baby was due to arrive into her care.  She was a beloved part of our church family.  She was our kids’ first real babysitter, too, and the boys would look forward to her visits and the fun books she’d select from her Mum’s daycare to bring and share with them.  Although ‘quiet’, Anna was not devoid of character; in fact, she had a large group of friends, plenty of flair, and an awesome secret identity as a roller-derby queen.

April 12th, 2013 was a cold, dark day.  The wind howled and the rain lashed the streets.  I was in a melancholy mood, because that day one of my dearest friends was leaving Vancouver and moving all the way across to the East Coast.

But nothing – not the foul weather, not my own sadness, not the malaise we sometimes feel on those somber, wet days in early spring – could have measured the depth of Anna’s grief; because that day she took her own life.

I have had few real shocks in my existence.  But that night, as we got ready for bed, West’s iPad indicated an incoming email and out of habit he flicked it on and had a look.  When he gently guided me to the living room to sit down, I knew that the news couldn’t be good.  My thoughts flitted between friends and family members here and there, wondering what had happened, and then I read…

The words I saw were beyond my comprehension. I struggled to make meaning of the news, begging West for answers he didn’t have, asking with broken sentences about how, why, and were they SURE…  I wondered, pleaded, prayed that it might be possible for her to have survived the fall…

I tossed and turned that night, praying endlessly for her, for her family, for meaning…  I felt trapped in a living nightmare, and I could only imagine what those nearer to her must have been going through.  And of course I wondered:

Did I miss the signs?

Was there any small way in which I made her feel unloved, unlovely, unimportant?

What could I have done that might have prevented her from such a drastic and final step?

I was haunted by the thought of her falling, her long dark hair trailing behind her, feeling the vast and frightening emptiness surrounding her…

The next morning, the sun rose – how strange it felt to me that this should be the case, that something was still normal.  And we had to sit our kids down and tell them that we’d lost her.

West and I had discussed the daunting task of informing our kids and concluded that we would tell them only that our sweet Anna had fallen.  They were just too young to know more, and we wanted to spare them some pain and confusion – it was enough that everyone around them was reeling with the news.

Two days later it was Sunday, and we entered a church that was – appropriately – utterly unlike the sanctuary we’d entered just a week before.  The atmosphere was hushed, funereal; our collective grief was palpable.

I don’t remember the first part of the service; all I remember was feeling numb.  That surreal sense of being stuck in a bad dream made it difficult to focus, and around me I could hear that others were struggling.  I kept praying for her closest ones, who were in our midst that morning as they were every Sunday – praying that they were feeling buoyed by God’s love and comfort during this darkest time.

And then the sermon began.

Our pastor spoke of this loss and our grief, and gave voice to the anxieties we were feeling. And something amazing happened.  His words, undoubtedly chosen carefully and prayed over, transcended the bitterness of our anguish – and those words poured a healing salve over our raw and broken hearts.  All those thoughts and worries and sorrows that had been reeling in my head were quelled and soothed and comforted. The oppressive atmosphere lifted and Truth breathed hope into a room that had, just moments before, been filled with despair.

We were reminded of the girl we knew and loved, and we were counselled to remember her as such.

We were assured of God’s presence in her life even in her darkest hour when she must have felt far from the truth of it.

We were woken from the nightmare and encouraged to take shelter in the wings of our Lord.

The truth is this:  there’s no such thing as an ‘unforgiveable sin’.  If there were, grace would be a lie.  Even when we would forsake the world and the pain therein, God never forsakes us.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house there is more than enough room.”

-John 14:1-2a

Anna had made, our pastor told us, one terrible, fatal mistake.  She had been blind to the love and care that surrounded her, or so overwhelmed by her internal suffering that she lost sight of the Truth.  But God never lost sight of her.  She let go – but God never let go of her.

Were all our questions answered?  No.  How could anyone measure the depth and breadth of the suffering that would drive a beloved friend, daughter, and sister to take her own life, or give full meaning to it?

Were we immediately free of the pain and grief that had so ensnared us since hearing the terrible news?  No.  We have all been indelibly changed by it.  Four years on, the scars remain. The scars will always remain.

But the Truth remains, too.  Grace saves us.  Grace saved Anna; death does not hold the victory in her story.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

-John 3:16

We all have times in our lives when our sadness, guilt, or shame consumes our thoughts – and sometimes threatens to consume our souls – but God has the final word.  And that word is grace.

God said: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

-from 2 Corinthians 12:9

God’s grace is sufficient for us.  God’s grace is sufficient for me – and it is sufficient for you.  God’s grace was sufficient for Anna.

When we fall, we are not lost forever.  God catches us.

 

 

 

*Not her real name

 

Please know – if you are in the trenches, He may feel far, but God is there.  He loves you, cares for you, and he wants LIFE for you.  Find someone to talk to – call your local Crisis centre, a friend, even your doctor, and tell them how you’re feeling.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

With Love (Truly),

-Trix x

 

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Life, Philosophy, Relationships

The Importance of Yes

yes-by-jose-picardo-on-flickr

Given the recent controversies in the States with the Brock Turner trial and the latest allegations against Trump – global news thanks to the media – you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m going to be writing about sexual consent; however, I’m going to assume that my readers would already understand the importance of ‘yes’ in that context(!).  Here, we’re going to examine the importance of ‘yes’ from a Christian perspective – the value of agreeing with what’s proposed; signing up; raising your hand; and being willing to both give and receive.

We’re so busy these days; we guard our schedules so closely.  Every blog, magazine, and opinion piece I’ve read lately seems to have proclaimed the necessity of learning to say ‘no’ – and here I am proclaiming the opposite!  It’s true – I agree with that other proclamation in this: we do need to be careful not to just agree to do whatever is asked of us regardless of the cost to our sanity, our dignity, and our felicity – but we also miss amazing opportunities when we’re too quick to say ‘no’ or to push aside a vision for something we’d like to be involved in.

So often, I think, something is asked of us, and our immediate instinct is to turn down the opportunity.  We think, “I’ve already got too much on!” or, “This is WAY out of my comfort zone – NO, THANKS!”  But when we resist that urge to say ‘no’ and instead jump in – boots & all – the results can be amazing.

Yesterday at church we examined the idea and practice of prayer.  At some point, around the middle of the service, we were asked to gather with those around us and pray together.  We were also encouraged to separate from our spouses for this purpose, so that we’d be a little further out of our comfort zone and meet a few more people (it’s a fairly large church).  I love to pray, but my immediate thought was, “Uh – do we have to?”  Just the idea of having to introduce myself to people I didn’t know and then pray – to share the intimacy of our hearts’ cries to God – was daunting.  But I ignored the impulse to just huddle with my hubby in a prayer-group-for-two and instead headed to a few pews ahead to pray with some people I’d never met.

I discovered through our prayers that they were a family group, and they were dealing with some tough stuff; they were a bit emotional and one of them even apologised to me, as if she felt badly that I’d ended up in the middle of what they were going through.  But I was delighted to be there.  It was my joy and my privilege to pray for healing; I was happy to share prayers for our community and our church with these godly women, even in the midst of their own trials.  God knew where he wanted me, and that’s where I ended up – but only because I said, “Yes.”

We need to be ready to say ‘yes’ in the moment – to ‘let go and let God’, as those in Christian circles are wont to say – because when we ignore our fears, push aside our doubts, and give our anxieties to God He will more than meet us in that moment.

We also need to overcome our reticence to say ‘yes’ when someone’s offering to do something for us or to share our burden.  The women I prayed with today – they did that.  They shared what they were going through; they welcomed me into prayer over their burden, delving into what really mattered to them, when they’d undoubtedly have found it easier to just stick to the script and pray some general prayer with me to get it over with.

I’ve just spent three weeks in virtual quarantine; our family’s been through a bad flu (high fevers, chills, and then colds) and conjunctivitis.  Several kind friends offered to help in some way, but I was generally inclined to just soldier on as best I could.  This was partly because there’s always someone who’s got it worse and partly because, what could they really do?  What you really need when you’re in the midst of a family-wide flu is either (a.) a housemaid with a strong constitution (so she could clean up the inevitable tsunami of mess that accompanies a family of six being cooped up in a house for several weeks without, herself, succumbing to the bugs that had laid us so low);  or (b.) a magic wand that would make me well enough to escape the confines of the infirmary (alas, with a grossly swollen eye I was fit only for the most desperate of forays into public for the purpose of gathering supplies!).  Finally, though, a friend on her way to the supermarket offered to pick something up and – light bulb moment, here – I said, “Yes!”  Well, after first saying ‘no’…  I realised that we were out of oranges – and oranges were what my feverish ones were begging for – so I texted her back and said, “Yes, please – we’d LOVE a few oranges.”  And *wow* – those oranges were such a treat (thank you, A, if you’re reading!)!

We’re so independent, most of us.  We are so reluctant to let others do something for us – so hesitant to accept help.  It’s pride, sometimes, that makes it difficult for us to say ‘yes’ to help; sometimes it’s more a sense of being undeserving of their kindness.  Whyever it is that we’re reticent to accept help, we need to overcome that instinct, because relationships are built and strengthened by this give-and-take.  I want my friends to accept an offer of a meal if it’ll make their lives easier for an evening when they’re dealing with illness, a new baby, or grief; I want them to let me fetch something when I’m doing my own shopping, or loan them something they’re short of, or collect their kids from school with mine when they’re running late for pick-up.  And I know that they want me to say ‘yes’ to their offers to do the same.  Saying ‘yes’ to involvement in the lives of those around us is key in building relationships.

I’ve got a few things going on, between our boys’ activities, church, writing work, and so forth.  There are some new opportunities for involvement at church and school, too, and I’m having to consider each one before just leaping in and finding myself swamped.  At the same time, I’m also working to avoid the trap of just saying, ‘No!’ to one more thing.  I have to fight the urge to shut down and say, “No WAY can I take on more – have you seen the state of my HOUSE??!  I can barely find energy to make lunches on school nights – how on earth will I find energy for something else?!”  Because I know – as you probably do, too, in your heart of hearts – that when I’m doing things that I love, it energises me.  When I make time for things I believe are important, I feel fulfilled; my time is reduced but my sense of accomplishment grows to more than compensate for what I’ve given up.  It’s true that we have a finite amount of time and we need to be careful what we spend it on – but it’s also true we waste a lot of the time we have; perhaps even more when we haven’t said ‘yes’ to things that demand inclusion in our schedules.

It’s so easy to get into the habit of saying ‘no’.  It can become our default method of self-preservation – but it can also prevent us from truly living up to our potential.  It can hinder us from receiving a blessing; and it can prevent us from being a blessing to those around us.

Really, what it boils down to is this:  Your ‘yes’ is important.  It’s essential, really.  So don’t be too frugal with it.  Seize those opportunities!  Bite off more than you can chew!  When we open ourselves up to opportunities for service; avail ourselves of the kindness of others; and follow our vision with passion, we realise that none of the reasons to say ‘no’ really mattered at all.

 

NB:  This post is dedicated to the memory of H.R., a wonderful brother-in-Christ who is now more than ‘resting in peace’ – he is living in Glory!  He said ‘Yes!’ to God a long time ago, and his life was a tribute to the power of that commitment.  He had a special gift for greeting and welcoming others, and I pray that I’ll always honour his memory by putting aside my shyness and greeting those around me – even those I don’t know – with warmth and compassion.

Thanks for reading!

-Trix  x

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Faith, Grace, Life, Philosophy, Reflection

Growing Old Graciously

Folded hands by Horia Varlen on flickr.jpg

There was a series of ads for a popular anti-aging cream a while back that ended with this tagline:

“I don’t intend to grow old gracefully.  I’m going to fight it every step of the way!”

The line was delivered by a beautiful, feisty woman; one who didn’t look her age and one who, by her own admission, had no intention of allowing her beauty to fade as she grew older.  This was ostensibly her main goal in life.  As if wrinkles somehow negate a woman’s beauty.  As if youth were a commodity more precious than experience.

But is it truly a measure of ‘aging well’ that we should remain unchanged by the passage of time?

Aging, and how (or whether) we change as we grow older, has been on my mind lately because I’m on the cusp of a milestone.  As I’m a sentimentalist, this birthday feels like a significant event in my life; and, as with all such things, anticipating this milestone has caused me to evaluate the past and make plans for the future.

To me, the mirror isn’t the only place we should pause for reflection.

There’s so much to celebrate about the decade I’m leaving behind.  In the past ten years I have borne children (I had only my eldest in my twenties); I have moved countries (twice); I have travelled (with kids!); I have studied (and I’ve been a student in the school of life); I have written (and been published!); I have served (and been served).  I’ve grown.  I’ve matured.  And, most of all – I’ve softened.

I’m not just talking about the physical softening and the extra exertion of gravity on a body as it ages; I’m talking about a softening of the heart.  The years have had a tenderizing effect on me; many times when my heart is full, so are my eyes.  I no longer contain my emotions as carefully as I once did; I am no longer in such firm command of the inconvenient welling-up of love, or sympathy, or heartbreak.  And yet – I’m stronger, too.

I’ve seen more death, so life is more precious.

I’ve seen more life, so death has more significance.

I know more about people, so I can relate better and sympathize more.

I know more about myself, so I can play to my strengths and work on my weaknesses.

flaws quote

And there’s more to come.

In the decade ahead, what will I learn, and how will I grow?

This is what I’m hoping for:

I hope that I will grow more tender – and yet stronger, too – with each year that passes.

I hope that I will reach out more to those around me; to shake off the guilt over what I haven’t done in the past and embrace the opportunities that present themselves in the future.

I hope that I will honour my belief in the paramount importance of Relationship by nurturing the relationships I feel privileged to enjoy, while also opening my heart to new friends.

I hope that I will be quick to listen and slower to speak; I hope that the perspectives of others will always inform and interest me.

I hope that I will continue to listen and heed God’s call upon my life; my time; my service; and my heart.

I hope that, while my body ages, I will continue to be renewed by His grace.

Lamentations 3

I hope that, whether or not I grow old gracefully, I will grow old graciously.

 

Maybe my reflections will give my friends pause to consider their own.

How do you intend on growing old?

 

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Faith, Life, Philosophy

Walk in the Light

Man in fog by Ben K Adams on flickr

Winter’s on its way in this part of the world, and with the season comes the shortening of days.  It gets pretty dark in our neighbourhood once the sun has set; there are dim streetlights dotted along one side of our street but some of the side streets are unlit.

I walked in the dark to a PTA meeting the other night.  The school’s not far, and I left home at around seven, so it was hardly a dangerous hour to be walking the streets alone – and yet I still found myself on guard.

One of the curses of completing a degree in Criminology (aside from the obvious – unemployment) is that I have been exposed to the very depths of human depravity; I have witnessed enough of evil people’s perversions to make me very keen indeed to avoid the clutches of any such perpetrator.

Towards the end of my studies, I took a course in forensic science.  It was fascinating and I loved it except for the fact that it fell just before lunch; who wants a bologna sandwich after staring wide-eyed at a slideshow of gruesome crime scenes?!  Viewing the result of foul deeds in technicolour whilst receiving a blow-by-blow account of what preceded the unfortunate victim’s demise was enough to keep me clutching my personal safety alarm and eyeing my fellow transit-passengers with suspicion as I travelled home from university on dark winter evenings.

Those same feelings of raw vulnerability and alert defensiveness returned as I headed along a particularly dark stretch of road the other evening.  All the tips I’ve heard about maintaining personal safety began to flood back into my consciousness, beginning with this one:  “Walk in the light.”

As a Christian, of course, ‘Walk in the Light’ has a whole other meaning.

It doesn’t just mean, “Stay visible to stay safe” – it also means something like Live your life through the Light of the world – remain in Christ as you walk the path set before you, spiritually-speaking (or possibly something quite a lot more succinct than that).

So as these words Walk in the Light (and the phrase’s dual meaning) popped into my head, I automatically began compiling the other tips I’d heard for maintaining personal safety; by and large, I found that most of them could also be applied towards navigating the journey of life as a Christian.

Here’s my list:

Walk in the Light

Seek illumination; avoid dark places.  Not only does walking in the glow of the streetlights allow you to see any dangers lurking around you, but it also allows onlookers to provide informal surveillance for lone pedestrians; this also acts as a deterrent to potential offenders.

”Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”          -Philippians 4:8-9

Jesus is the Light of the World.  Through his example, we know what a good life looks like.  Walking in the Light involves keeping our hearts and minds fixed on holy things; keeping our hands involved in righteous work; keeping our eyes fixed on God.

“Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says,  “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”     -Ephesians 5:7-14

Stride Forwards (feign confidence if necessary)

Personal safety experts advise taking firm, determined footsteps to send the message to potential attackers that you are not an easy target.  Avoiding victimization can be as simple as walking confidently, with your head held high, even if you feel fearful.

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”

-Ps.37:23

There will always be times in life that we feel hesitant about moving forwards.  Maybe we’re in a state of uncertainty over something major, or maybe we’re just plodding along without feeling like we have much of a sense of direction.  But the Bible makes it clear that we are to walk confidently on the path set before us, even when we feel unsure; we are not to be mired in place by guilt over past regrets; we are not to be bound by fear and indecision.  Instead, we are exhorted to look forward with hope to the promises of the life to come, and to trust that God walks with us on the journey.

Choose Victory:

Attitude matters.  Experts point out that some people’s body language automatically casts them as a potential victim.  Slumped shoulders, shuffling gait, arms swinging limply by their sides or clutching an armload of things – these are the marks of an easy target.  Thinking that you’re weak and vulnerable can make you weaker and more vulnerable; acting confident, even if you have been victimized in the past, can help you to avoid becoming the target of another’s aggression or ill intentions.

“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”          -Matthew 5:45

There are many people who, because of past hurts, continue to view themselves as victims.  They go through life expecting others to treat them badly, and they do.  They expect the worst, and the worst happens.  They remember the rainy days and forget about the sunshine.  And they forget that ‘the rain falls equally on the just and on the unjust’; being a child of God doesn’t offer us blanket immunity from the pain and sorrow of this world.

In life, we have a choice.  We can choose to be defined by our failures and the things others have done to hurt us; we can live in a mire of bitterness and envy – or we can choose, instead, to claim victory over our life.  We can choose to find fulfillment in the promises of faith and the relationship we have in Christ. We can choose hope. 

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”      -John 16:33

Beware of Stumbling Blocks (and Distractions)

Knowing your route is key to navigating in the dark.  Being aware of impediments to your progress will help you avoid injury and allow you to get to where you’re going quickly and safely.  Keeping your wits about you and avoiding distractions like loud music and cell phones helps you to stay focused on your destination and mitigate against potential hazards.

We all have our weak points.  Pride, envy, lust… You know the list – and you probably know which boxes you should tick next to your own particular vices.  These are all stumbling blocks to truly experiencing freedom and joy.  They are all impediments to living successfully.

“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.”  – 2 Peter 1:10

Similarly, it is easy to get distracted.  Chasing happiness, following our own desires instead of pursuing Christ’s purpose for our life, and indulging in fleeting pleasures of worldly things pull us off course and divert us from the goal of walking wholly in relationship with God and our fellow man.

“But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” – Matthew 16:23

Face Your Fears

If you feel like someone might be following you, experts advise turning around and acknowledging them.  This doesn’t mean that you have to be confrontational all the time; in fact, crossing the street or taking other evasive measures would be preferable – but in the event that you can’t outrun a pursuer, it is advisable to turn around and face him head-on.

There’s a lot of ‘take heart’ and ‘don’t be afraid’ verses in the Bible.  Pretty much anywhere you encounter fear in the Bible you will see it in the context of being courageous in spite of your fear.  Fear and anxiety, as most people who have experienced phobias will tell you, can be crippling; but God doesn’t want us to be bound by fear.  As the Bible says, we can ‘call upon the Lord’ in times of trouble – he makes his own strength available to us.  We don’t have to cower.  We needn’t be frozen by fear.  We can be courageous in facing our fears because God will act in us and through us in spite of our human weaknesses.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Be Bright

As a safety measure, this just makes sense: wearing bright colours and some form of illumination when you’re walking at night can help prevent you from being hit by a car or bike – and it helps other pedestrians to notice and acknowledge you, too, which is a deterrent to anyone who might be on the lookout to rob or otherwise assault a lone traveller.

“Always look on the bright side of life…” – Monty Python said it best!  But it’s not some sort of Pollyanna-esque attitude of cheeriness that I’m advocating here.  Being positive and optimistic in your life is a natural by-product of a deeply ingrained sense of hope.  Contentment, too, leads to a joyful demeanor.  So, as we’d choose bright clothing to reflect the light of traffic and help us to be visible for personal safety, so should we choose a mindset of hope to reflect our faith in God’s perfect plan.

“The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” – Psalm 147:11

Keep Company

There is strength in numbers, as the saying goes.  Connecting with others along your route – strolling alongside a buddy or calling out greetings to familiar faces as you go – can help you to stay safe as you walk at night.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and again, and again): life is about relationship.  Fellowship is crucial for authentic growth; we might gain great spiritual insight through solo communion with God, but it is in putting that wisdom into practice as we walk alongside others that we truly grow in faith.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25

Put Your Sneakers On

Be prepared.  Tottering around in high heels may be fashion-forward, but it’s a foolish choice if you have to take a walk alone in the dark.  You need to be ready to run or even just to stand firmly in case of trouble.

There’s a lot of practical advice in the Bible.  The Ten Commandments, for starters, are not just ‘helpful suggestions’, but rock-solid instructions for enjoying God’s goodness in this life.  God’s Word is the bedrock on which we can build our lives; it provides a firm foundation.  Knowing the Word, we can then be ready for action – ready to face whatever life throws at us.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”  -Matthew 7:24-27

Don’t Be Shy About Calling for Help

When people feel physically threatened they are sometimes reluctant to call for help – they’re hesitant about drawing attention to themselves, or causing a scene in case they’ve read things incorrectly and they end up ‘making a big deal out of nothing’.  But the best advice is to seek the assistance of others or call the police emergency line whenever you feel that your safety is at risk.  Better safe than sorry!

The Bible reminds us, time and again, to help one another and to be willing to let others help us.  God’s Word also reminds us to lean on Him in times of trouble, and to call to the Lord for strength in times of need.

“In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”    -Psalm 18:6

Trust Your Intuition

If you have a feeling that you’re being watched or that you are in danger, trust your instincts and act accordingly.  Personal safety experts advise you to always trust your intuition about people and situations.  If you don’t feel safe, it’s possible that you aren’t safe.  Go with your gut.

Intuition, spoken of in the Bible as discernment or ‘understanding’, is the ability to sense the presence of good and evil.  In the secular world, it is hardly spoken of as such, but the Bible makes it clear that this ability is a gift bestowed by God; it is a gift given to us in order that we might distinguish things that are from him (good) or things that will harm us (evil).  Christians must understand that to exercise this ability to its fullest extent we are required to be rooted in the One whose counsel admonishes us to ‘flee from evil’ and to ‘seek good’.

“But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”                      -Hebrews 5:14

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; Whoever is discerning, let him know them For the ways of the LORD are right, And the righteous will walk in them, But transgressors will stumble in them.” – Hosea 14:9

So there’s my list – it’s my best advice for keeping safe, and for thriving in your spiritual life as well.

Walk in the Light!

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