Riding the wave

A while ago I found my mind drawn back to a text message sent to me some 14 months ago. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this memory. But i felt that God had placed it there for a reason.

For the first few days I would think back to it but not really take the time to investigate it. Kind of like procrastinating. We know we want to or would like to do something but just never get around to doing it. The thought stays there but it remains a thought, and that’s exactly what happened.

About a week later things had not really progressed but if I knew one thing it was that God has a habit of doing things in his time. So I asked myself why would God bring up the text message in my mind out of the blue? There simply had to be a reason for it and I knew it!

The text was from my pastor Matt. He had been spending time praying for me and during that time had seen a vision that represented God calling me in to a deeper place of intimacy with him. In this vision I had been in the water wanting to catch waves but not having the courage to do so.

I knew full well what that meant, but to be honest, what did that look like? I had no idea.What was i to do? How was I meant to go about it?

The waves represented the Holy Spirit. Essentially I needed to be bolder and catch those waves. Because in the vision the moment I did catch one I was overjoyed. I was ecstatic!

I wanted that SO much! I wanted to know I could do it. I wanted to experience what that reaction was.

So I prayed.

I prayed and meditated on those questions. On what it meant? And how I would go about it? I started looking intentionally for the answers and the truth was I found them right away. They weren’t ground breaking answers. They didn’t change many things at all but what I see now is they got my mind searching deeper and got me in to a routine of doing this.

Almost like my mind was being retrained – to look at things from a slightly different perspective. If I felt curious or unsure on something I began to see that this was my mind expanding.

A lot of what I was writing on in this period was from that initial perspective. A perspective that focused on encouraging and loving. A perspective that knew that in that place of honesty and vulnerability there were people out there who felt the same things or needed those words for themselves.

But as i started searching deeper for God’s intimacy I realised that I had stopped writing. That even though I had a lot on my heart, I wasn’t feeling moved to write things down. Instead I was being called to stop. To listen. To rest. To seek and find these reasons for the pause.

Even as I write this now my latest piece sits unfinished and here now is another piece put together so easily, almost as if God has placed it all on my heart right now, for this moment, this purpose.

The purpose is not just for me. It’s never about me. It may involve me but it’s never about me. It’s about God. It’s for God and it’s done with our Father, God.

What I realised when looking back at this text message was that what was spoken in to me that day is what has indeed happened since then. It’s been gradual and it’s been consistent and it has blessed me time after time again.

I still think about a time when I found it challenging even to write things that provided just a small window in to my thoughts and feelings. As introverted as i can be at times, this was a wild and yet bold step to make.

That feeling quadrupled in intensity when writing about thoughts became writing about deeper, more intimate matters such as what God has been doing in and around me.

But by this point it felt almost a necessity that I stepped in to that place and in some ways was actually an easier step to make because the words almost always come easier than when I write about other matters. Almost like God just laid it all out for me and I just needed to put it together.

The revelation in this experience for me was found in the way God had used that text message to show me what he had been doing since that day. At times we lose sight of some of the things he does for us, so to pull it back in and focus on things in hindsight was amazing! Because I could see HOW much he has done during this time.

I look at the way a COVID world has impacted this too. The routine of a Sunday spent in church, as good as it was, was changed. My focus – shifted, again.

Church has still been a big part of my Sunday just via Zoom and to be honest. I love it! Why? Well funnily enough it feels more intimate, it takes us deeper via the conversations we have. There is openness, vulnerability, honesty, love, kindness and inspiration. But perhaps the one thing that stands out most is that despite a world where isolation is a common theme now, it is community and family that are growing in this space.

Zoom has also challenged me to continue down this road I am on. I get to be Inspired and at the same time hopefully inspire and encourage others.

It’s also a proposition for the future. It’s a bold invitation to continue down this road. That as I step deeper in to him that there is a purpose that I will understand far better on another day.

The challenge today is definitely found in the connection we establish with others. Life has been altered. The opportunities are still there but they look different. They occur differently, none the least they are still there.

However I am so encouraged that I was drawn back to the original message so that I could see what God has done, and I’m eagerly awaiting what he wants to show me next.

The beauty of God is that he crafts us so intricately, so uniquely that we can have no idea what he is about to do next. But we can be safe in the knowledge that he’s always working within us.

I feel like the only thing left to say now is to encourage. We all have our own story. It is unique, it is something worth sharing and you can. But it is our story and what God has planned for each of us is going to be different for each of us. That’s what makes it unique.

But find encouragement even in the little things he does. A thousand small steps is a lot of steps In the right direction. So even if when it feels like he’s doing little, be encouraged that he’s doing something and piece by piece it will all make sense and you too will look back and see HOW much he actually has done.

As for me the shift is obvious. The fork in the road, long past. Those thousand small steps have left me in a place where I am ready for that next thousand steps as the journey continues

Encountering God

I’ve found myself lately focused on the ways in which I encounter God. For a few months I’ve been leaning far more intentionally on the ways in which I encounter him and then choose to interact with him. He’s taught me to listen more to those around me. To remind me that he uses every one of us as a means to speak to us.

I’ve always known that there’s an intentionality behind the people that God provides in our lives. They are there for a reason. They are there because they provide us with tools or gifts that we are open to receive. These people are our encouragement, our kick up the backside and they are the ones who watch out for us. They are many things. They are also the tools that God uses to equip us with what we need.

Originally this blog was entirely centred on the ways we encounter God and at a later point it will again. However i felt it was perhaps necessary to think about it in a different way. A way in which it affects us in a world that is now changing by the day. Why? Because things are changing quickly and the world we live in has a reality that is very different to the one of how we spent Christmas Day. So much has changed!

What’s clear is that this world is a very different world now. Our freedom is being challenged. Our simple, every day routines have been compromised. What we took for granted all of a sudden seems more valuable. Life feels a little more a gift than an entitlement. We’ve been reminded in the most brutal way that life is fragile and that it isn’t assured.

All those thoughts are just a little confronting to think about. But equally it’s a time to remind ourselves that God is still near. Things are still the same between he and I. They are still the same between God and yourselves. And it’s those encounters with God that we should be dearly looking for. He is there. He’s not gone anywhere. Right now I feel an encouragement to be more actively seeking him. To be mindful of the ways in which he is presenting himself to me.

There’s little doubt the feeling of seeking God more is a thought that has crossed all our minds lately. This is a world now that needs resolution. It needs restoration and healing. It is a world that is crying out for authority and there is none better than God.

Coronavirus has us all feeling a little anxious and concerned. Our daily lives aren’t just affected they are altered. We are learning to do things differently. We are learning to keep our space from people. We are learning to be mindful of the things we do and the way we go about that. We are retraining ourselves in our habits. It’s all a bit unique and different, and we as creatures of habit never like change.

There is though an encouragement. Because even amongst the fear we feel on our streets, our shopping malls and transport network there is something far greater than the strongest fear we can entertain.

God.

He’s not just our creator and father. He is our healer. This is the same God who moved mountains, parted seas and broke droughts. He has an infinite amount of power over this world.

So of course we should continue to ask him for healing of the sick. We should ask him for protection. We should ask that he will bring wisdom and clarity to our political leaders. We should ask him to provide strength and precision to our doctors and their teams, including nurses.

That is the God we encounter when we actively seek him. It is the God we know and have faith in. Even in these challenging times his promises are still so real. He has reminded me so much of that fact in recent months. That all it takes is a genuine heart that seeks him out and one that is willing to receive what he is offering.

So friends. Be open. Be open to the things he places on your heart. Be mindful of the ways in which he speaks to you. Know that there are people in your life for a very specific reason. Challenge yourself to be more open with them. Have a conversation with them, even if you’ve never done so yet. Just know that God has a reason for that moment. It’s all part of his design. And now perhaps more than ever his design needs you working towards it.

The mindset

I often wondered what it was like to find a level of peace that existed beyond what I initially knew. It’s easy to say to someone “Cheer up!” Or “Look on the bright side dude!”. But when you feel that way it’s not always easy to simply pick yourself up and feel better about certain things or situations. On occasions there are but what’s more likely is that you will put on an act to look as if you’ve moved on, all the while you feel a sense of carrying that burden with you, it remains. It just sits in your back pocket waiting to come out again at a later point.

We’re really good at storing unnecessary things within us. We hold grudges. We hold disappointments. We hold bad experiences. We hold a lot of things that carry negative weight within us. It’s crazy that we do!! Why do it!?!? It’s doing no good for us so why focus on it? Why let it absorb so much energy? It would be so much better if we could just flush it away and know that it’s done with.

So how do we do that?

The truth is we’re flawed characters. We don’t have all the answers. That is how we end up where we are in the first place. We make decisions emotively. How we feel determines how we react. It feels as if we are built with defensive mechanisms within us. They seem to stem from our flawed personalities. We react in a imperfect manner. It’s proven in those moments we look back on and realise we didn’t react the way we should have or even would like to have.

I believe the key to difference starts in a similar place. It’s starts within us. It starts with our mindset. Our mind is our biggest weapon yet our most dangerous adversary. It can do both. Both brilliance and destruction. But there lies a real force in a mindset that is positive. There comes with it a real belief and determination to wherever you find yourself. A positive mindset is more proactive. It is more productive and it is far more healthy for us. I guess it stems from knowing what we want in life, or in that day or moment.

Ultimately though a positive mindset is the ability to think in a manner that chooses not to worry. It chooses to think in a forward thinking space. It determines a mindset that doesn’t let things get in the way. It focuses on a way and shuts out all thoughts around it that could unsettle those thoughts. It’s a mindset that requires strength and discipline because it’s obviously far easier to let our emotive selves control the way we think.

The level of peace I carry now stems from a shift in my mindset.

What did I do exactly?

Well first you need to identify your mindset and what dictates it. You need to figure out what it is that controls your thinking. Is it your job? Your family? Perhaps it’s your wealth or even your health?? But deep down there will be something that feels central to dictating the way you think and feel.

When you figure out what it is that dominates your mindset you have to ask yourself.

Is this a good thing? Or

Is this a bad thing?

I think it’s so important to fixate your mind on the good things in life . Things that make you happy, things that bring value to your life. Things that deep down inside of you feel right.

Equally though it is time to rid yourself of the things that you feel drag you down in life. This is your life, you decide what is good or bad for you in your life. Rid yourself of it. Don’t allow yourself to invest the time even thinking about it. Choose to say “No! I’m not going to focus on this.”. Choose to rid yourself of the negative energies in your life. Focus on the good and allow your mind to feel at peace. Your mind can have you sinking deeper by the day if you allow it to do so.

A healthy mind is wonderful basis to build upon. A healthy mind is a mind at peace, and a mind at peace is a mind that is making choices that deep down feel right and do good for you.

My mind feels at peace most of the time now, but I am human. That default mechanism has me emotively thinking some days but I am usually quick to slap that in the face and think with a mindset that is more positive for myself.

Perhaps a lot of that is to do with my Christian faith………….

Actually, it probably has a lot to do with that. Maybe faith has a lot to do with instilling a positive mindset?

If faith is the ability to trust in something you cannot physically see then that right there is a mindset that chooses to think outside our usual emotive ways. Instead it chooses to believe in a higher power greater than myself. It chooses to believe that what I feel or fear is merely my emotive state telling me otherwise. The challenge is always to trust the process.

Having God there helps a lot with this. I choose not worry about things that I can’t control. Instead giving them to God, and knowing that if I focus on what’s important then the rest will fall in to place. And it always does.

The old me would’ve let that fear or negative thought take control at some point. It would’ve highlighted to me how my reaction was always a certain way. A way that didn’t really help me with anything. Now though it is different. It starts with the mindset that sees me looking forward and positively. And with it a reminder every time of how much better, easier and enjoyable life is when you look at life through a positive lens.

So friends it’s a simple equation. The choice is yours. It’s like a fork in the road. Your mindset will control you. Which direction you want to send it is up to you.

Left or right? East or West? In the dark or the light? It’s your call. Even if you feel you’re in a good place right now let it reinforce the value of a positive mindset and be thankful you’re able to enforce it.

But perhaps it’s best put this way. Don’t think of it so much as a case of simply trying to find the good in any situation. But rather learn to look for the good. Even in situations which leave you feeling bummed or hopeless. Desperate or sad. Try and find something of value, something of good. It will help. It will help even if all it does is encourage you to think and react differently.

Understanding your heart

I have learned a lot from my own heart in the last 18 months. I feel like there was a journey that needed to be taken. I felt like soul searching wasn’t a cliche or throwaway line to be used, but more that it was a path that was in front of me and that the choice was mine. To go down the path. Or to watch from afar.

To go down the path was just a start. It was nothing more than a choice.

What was down that path?

What things would I see?

What things would i learn?

What lessons would impact me?

And perhaps most importantly what would I become of the impact?

Who would i discover inside of me?

Was I someone new? Different? A better person? Or just a better version of the one who already existed? Like a refined version.

The thing about the path, or rather the journey of my own heart is that you do learn a lot about yourself. Like any path you see things. You experience things. You feel things. It’s a journey that makes sure it impacts you. Hopefully for the better. For me i feel like it has definitely been a good thing.

A valuable thing in fact.

Not everything you learn is a good thing. There are things that seem hard, or harsh. There are things that will challenge you along the way, but those things exist to better you because by now we all know that we can overcome all things.

See, we are stronger than we realise. Our minds doubt what we are capable of. They tell us lies, they slant the truth or lead us to perceive things differently to how they really are. But it’s that same mind that holds the key. The key to whatever it is we’re searching for.

Perhaps that thing is our heart?

One thing I’ve found and learned is that it’s one thing to feel your heart but it is entirely another thing to understand it. Our heart is more than just a heartbeat that allows us to live. Importantly it’s an expression of who we really are.

When you begin to understand your heart you begin to understand yourself. I now see that. Your heart can be hidden if you let it. What people see of you isn’t always your true self. It kind of bugs me that we do this. That we reflect an image of ourselves that isn’t really us.

Why? Why even bother with the stupid smokescreen???

I wish i knew. I suspect it’s got a lot to do with our flawed personalities. That we’re too easily controlled by insecurity. That the image we present is just as valuable as the real us. It’s a crazy lie.

The search for one’s heart, our own heart – is a journey that forces you to critique yourself. You only find it when you reach a point where you discover who you really are and what it is that makes you tick. Only when you identify with your identity do you really understand yourself and therefore – your heart. When you reach that point life feels easier. It feels secure. Life feels as though you finally found the map to the trail that your life is.

The challenge therefore has to be to stay true to yourself. Forgetting the expectations placed on you the challenge is first to seek your heart.

To find it, reflect on it. To ask questions of it. To spend time alone just meditating on wherever the process takes you. Find places that relax you. Find places that don’t distract you. Take a walk or a drive and just find a place that allows you to switch off.

I’m reminded of a quote from author John Eldredge who said;

There is is something else I am after, out here in the wild. I am searching for an even more elusive prey….something that can only be found through the help of the wilderness. I am looking for my heart. ( Wild at Heart – John Eldredge)

The bottom line is that our hearts are more vital, more influential and more defining of ourselves than we perhaps ever realised. If our heart feels good, we feel good. If we understand our heart, we feel a sense of peace within us. It’s that vital!

But damn! It is elusive. Like in John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart” the experience of finding your heart, and therefore yourself isn’t an easy one. It isn’t about any one moment. No lightbulb moments here.

If anything the experience tells me that it’s more likely to be a journey. It’s more likely that a combination of time, experiences and reflection are going to help. But the journey probably will be wild. Not least because in order to learn about yourself you need to confront yourself.

That’s not the easiest thing to do. But it may just be the best thing you do. So friends – be bold, be strong and remind yourself that you carry something so special, so desirable within you – your heart.

Learn to seek your heart. To listen to it, to understand it better. Take the time. Be patient with it because if you do will discover something magical of it.

Fears

So a few months ago I was asked whether I would like to give a short speech on Sunday at my church. Just a short kind of thing that lasted perhaps 2 minutes.

It was basically an opportunity to speak on what God has been doing within me. The truth is that God has been doing a lot inside me this last 12 months. Not all of it is groundbreaking. Not all of it is even that important to anyone outside of me. But it’s been undeniable that he’s been working on me, ”Project Pete” in this time.

Unfortunately on this chosen Sunday, I was not to be around. I was out of town. I was disappointed to not have a chance to talk about it because I believe the opportunity was a good one to be honest and real with a group of people.

That last line there is a strange one because anyone who knows me would know that I’m far from comfortable with the idea of speaking in front of an audience. Most of us have felt this way. I used to dread, fear, loathe and even hide from the idea of doing so in high school.

My mind goes to places where it thinks about what I could possibly say and how insignificant it would be. How something big for me is simply for me. That my highs aren’t shared in the same light for others.

Even today the idea of sharing or speaking still gets me slightly uneasy but I feel at piece with the idea of doing so now. You learn over time that the reality of anything is never half as bad as the fear of the unknown that you feel beforehand.

Fear is one of, if not THE greatest foe of man of all time. It plays on us like a kid with a nasty streak who just can’t stop. If allowed to continue it will persist.

Fear is something we all feel at different times. Sometimes it comes and goes. Sadly it can often hang around and dictate life if you let it. But what is fear? And why does it have such a powerful effect on us??

The truth may well be that fear is simply nothing more than an illusion but then why is it so hard to sweep it aside? What is it that lets fear dictate the way we feel?

Sure, there is the reality that we do worry about how others perceive us. So that quite often can be a reason not to do something. But the fear of the unknown is probably an even greater reason. If we knew the outcome of doing something then we would do it right away, especially if we knew it could be a good thing.

The fear of the unknown is a funny one. It has the ability to paralyze us because we simply cannot see what will happen next. But why do we automatically assume the outcome will be negative? It’s human nature i guess.

But what would it look like to assume that the outcome will in fact be a positive one? The right one! It comes back to a couple of things for me. First it requires you to believe in yourself and the person you are. You need that quiet confidence in yourself to believe that this next step is one you’re ready to make.

The other step required is to show some faith. Faith not only in yourself but that the direction you’re heading in is the right one. You need to trust that you’re in this position for a reason, that it’s no mistake that you’re in this moment.

I know it’s easier said then done. It’s a hell of a lot easier said actually!

You’ll probably only fight with yourself for longer than you need before convincing yourself you should do it. Why? Because that’s how fear works. Things are always harder than they should be when fear is in the way.

Faith is actually a key component in overcoming fear. Faith is believing in something even when you don’t see it yet. Fear will try block your faith and keep you right where you are. Overcoming those fears is a big part in how we grow as people.

What I’ve learned is there’s no easy way to overcome it. You have to look it in the eye and just do it. You have to be strong enough to look past the things you fear. You have to realise that in order to keep growing you need to be able to believe that you are bigger and greater than what your fear tells you.

Fear will tell you many things. All of them negative. Obstacles though are meant to be overcome. Fear is exactly that. An obstacle.

I saw a great exercise in overcoming your fears a few years ago. The non profit community ”To Write Love On Her Arms” (TWLOHA) launched a campaign back then where people were photographed holding a card which listed their ”Fears vs Dreams”.

On that card they listed a fear and then below it a dream. The idea being that it highlights its okay to have things we fear, we are all human. But that place of fear doesn’t define us. Our dreams are in part what defines us. The things we hope for mean something greater & deeper than any fear could ever be.

Fear is an obstacle. Our dreams are….our dreams, our hopes, our desires. Deep down they are things which mean something to us. They are significant to us. Below is a video which captures the idea of the concept TWLOHA were aiming for.

Fears vs Dreams concept video

TWLOHA – Fears vs Dreamshttps://youtu.be/NAJQttIy_vQ

The idea of promoting people listing their fears and dreams is one that encourages people. It can also empower and show people that what they feel is something others feel too. That they are not alone in feeling this. We all need encouragement to press in to things from time to time because too often we feel as though we’re doing this on our own.

As for me?

Well, fear is always going to be there. But the key is to remember that I am greater and stronger than it. That I’ve already overcome it previously. It doesn’t define me, doesn’t control me and certainly it is not my companion. For the most part I do okay with this.

When I live in this mindset I not only believe that it’s true but I see the evidence of it too.

Friends,

If fear is nothing more than an obstacle created by illusion, the challenge then must be to overcome it like you’re meant for this moment.

Godspeed!

The think tank in me + you

So. I’m a thinker. I think about a lot of things. I probably think about things too much, sometimes without doing too much. I’ve been told that it’s kind of a habit somewhat normalized by plenty of us in the world today.

It’s an odd thought though to think a lot yet to do little about it. The truth is I’m getting better at doing things with those thoughts. What I’m discovering is that there’s actually a useful purpose behind some of those thoughts. One of those thoughts has been where writing steps in and creates something of those thoughts.

So the other morning an Instagram post from Jedidiah Jenkins @jedidiahjenkins got my attention. Jed is a guy who I found out about via my brother Andrew. Jed is a writer and Instagram personality. His book ”To Shake The Sleeping Self” sits here at home.

I’ve not read it yet but I see it sit there every day waiting to be read. I so badly want to read it because I can tell that from what Jed says on his Instagram feed that his words and indeed his thoughts are going to be so worth tapping in to.

So I mentioned Jed today because his latest Instagram post was something eerily similar to the things that I’ve been seeing in the past 4-5 months. Writing has been fun. Jed questioned how we know we should be writing?

For him and to a lesser extent I, it comes back to how your stuff is received. It’s one thing to put it out there and be brave enough in doing so. It’s another thing entirely to have it out there and creating any sort of impression on people. For it to make ANY sort of difference on just one person makes it a worthwhile experience and a purposeful exercise.

To have seen the ways in which things I’m writing have affected people has been an eye opener. Generally a lot of the feedback has been positive and the encouragement written about has been appreciated. I’ve also found that my words have been timely for others. Something that was needed and sought after.

I’ve learned within this time that these words aren’t just my words, they become your words and your friends words. Essentially they are words that are there for anyone they connect with.

The power in the words we write or even speak is not lost on me. It really does bring home the importance of the saying ”choose your words carefully!”.

My journey has only been 4-5 months long. It’s only just begun. I have no idea where the journey takes me or what it means but the lessons I’ve learned along the way already have been valuable. They have taught me deep, profound things about life.

At this point today I feel encouraged. I feel as though I simply need to remain focused on the things that I am doing. As a thinker, this is not easy.

Why?

Because my mind wants to think about what happens next? Next week. Next month. Next year. But I’m learning the value of simply letting things happen and embracing them. God tells us so often not to worry about tomorrow. I’m always drawn to Matthew 6:25-27

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Matthew 6:25-27 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Matthew%206:25-27&version=NLT

It’s a reminder to me, and if not all of us that we shouldn’t give too much concern for what tomorrow holds, instead focus on today and put all your efforts in to today.

When I look back on time I see the ways in which things usually do work out. When I look ahead all I see is the unknown but then when I look back i see a path which was created.

Like climbing a mountain – the road up looks daunting and slow but then from the top you see where you’ve come from and the view from where you now sit. It’s so much worth the effort and the determination to get there.

And it’s there that maybe the lesson is found?

The challenge is to worry less about where you’re going to end up and more about where you are right now. I believe God’s got me where I’m meant to be right now.

My challenge is to dig into that place and find the purpose for my situation. To worry less about what comes next and more on what I’m going to do now. I’ve seen the evidence of what happens when I follow the idea that this life is a story created and I just need to play my part.

So it’s a nice thing to see that my own story has similar episodes to others. It encourages me. It encourages me to keep doing the things that I am doing and know that there is a purpose in them.

It’s also kind of quirky the way that things can inspire you. The thought of an Instagram personality inspiring anyone is so modern day. If anything it shows you the value that does lie within social media when it’s used for good.

So when this ”thinker” thinks back over recent months he begins to see that it’s those thoughts that are coming alive – one tiny spark at a time. The challenge though is constant; to continue pressing in to those thoughts…..one day at a time.