30 November, 2016

Spring's End

A couple of weeks ago, we went to this place pictured above. My brother was working away for a couple of weeks, and we met him and a couple of friends there. It was nice to sit around and talk about lessons from the Bible, and have lunch – quiche, stir fried vegies from the garden, and the best salad I’ve had in months. Then we went for a walk to the waterfall; to a viewing platform, to the bottom of the waterfall, and then my siblings and I went off-track to get to the top of the waterfall. It was sunny and bright, but still cool. It amazes me the views hidden away at the end of back roads. Somehow the fact that we had to bump over a track made for vehicles more rugged than ours made the view even more spectacular. 

It’s ironic typing ‘spring’s end’ as a title, because it feels like spring has barely begun. We’ve had a few warm days, but nothing suggesting that tomorrow is the first day of summer. This year, spring ending means the beginning of a new season of activity for me.

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be en route to the other side of the country to join in with a group of young people for five weeks of canvassing – sharing Christian books door-to-door. It’s a new beginning because I’ve never been away from home for that long, I’ve never canvassed for that long, I’ve never been to the other side of the country. It’s overwhelming to think about, but I’m excited. I’m looking forward to being part of a team of young people passionate about sharing the hope and peace and joy and love of Jesus. I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in mind for me on this trip.

So, all this to say: I won’t be appearing around here until January sometime. Hopefully I’ll be able to reply to any comments, but I can’t promise. I’ll miss you guys a lot – miss reading your blogs, being blessed by your comments, and interacting in this wonderful community. But I’ll be back, and in the meantime, I hope you all have an excellent break, and enjoy your summer, or winter, wherever you live. :) Thank you so much for giving me something to miss; I’ll be thinking of you all. 

This spring's end, I think it comes back to this quote my Grandma gave me to remember for my trip. It says, Dear God, please help me to remember that nothing will happen today that You and I cannot handle together. Keep that in mind, friends – He has all power, and with Him you can conquer anything.

Jessica xxx

22 November, 2016

Nothing to Lose - Thoughts on Bravery

At the beginning of the year, I decided I wanted to live by the word ‘brave’ for 2016. I wanted to overcome fear, and meet life’s opportunities head on; opportunities to learn and grow, to explore and have fun, but mostly to share Christ and be a witness.

I printed out inspirational quotes as reminders, such as “I don’t want to be part of something that can be explained by my own power and ability. I want to be part of something that can only be explained by the power of God.” David Platt and “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire,” and “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a ride!’” Hunter S. Thompson. I bought a journal full of motivational quotes and prompts called Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You. I wanted to live without boundaries, push that comfort zone into non-existence, and go for it. Be brave and live.

I started off enthusiastically. I lived with the word ‘brave’ in my mind, shoved fear back, and widened my witnessing comfort zone. But, I did it. It was in my own determination. And that fizzled out with time. I’ve lived the second half of the year remembering my one-word-motto as some distant desire I once had. I’ve retreated, and where earlier I was talking to strangers about God, now I don’t want to answer the phone. What happened to brave?

Near the beginning of the year, I read through the book of Acts, and the disciples were a huge inspiration for me. They seemed to have no end of bravery, boldness, and courage. It says “and daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” Acts 5:42. They faced trials, opposition, threats of punishment and death, and yet they kept going with zeal. My favourite description of their work is in Acts 17, where the rulers of the city they were in accused them of turning the world upside down. They were brave. But what was it particularly that gave them courage and made them unstoppable in the face of fear? 

I had that question back in February, and without looking for it, I’ve just noticed an answer. (That has to be God. :) I recently read The Robe by Lloyd Douglas, and began listening to David Platt’s Threads series (thanks to this conversation!), and suddenly Jesus’ time here on earth acquired an impacting depth.

His sinless life gives us the assurance we can have victory over sin, relying on the same source of strength as He did. His death paid the penalty for our sins meaning we can be forgiven, and stand before God in Christ’s strength and righteousness. But here’s the exciting part: what does Jesus’ resurrection give us?

Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” 2 Timothy 1:10 says He abolished death.*

Jesus resurrection is tangible proof of the infinite power of God. He conquered death, the greatest thing the devil had to hurl at Him. His resurrection proves that He is Lord: all-powerful, undeniably conqueror, and absolutely victorious.

The disciples ran for their lives when Jesus was arrested. Simon Peter said he never knew Jesus. They were ashamed, afraid, weak. But after Christ came back from the dead, and they saw Him and believed, they turned into the passionate, unstoppable army we see in Acts. Because, they realised that Jesus’ overcoming death meant they had nothing to lose, nothing to be afraid of. Nothing was more powerful than fear and death, and Jesus had conquered that completely. Working for Him, they could be bold, brave, daring, outspoken, because they knew Jesus had the power to keep them where He had placed them.

As a character in The Robe explains about the disciples’ work and why it was difficult to eradicate them: “It is a strange movement, sir. It has only one weapon; its belief that there is no death. Cornelius Capito is not equipped to crush something that refuses to die when it is killed.” 

And Jesus still has all power today. Death hasn’t made any advances on Him in the last couple of thousand years. We have exactly the same assurance the disciple of the New Testament had. We can be bold and brave for Christ, because He is conqueror and we have absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

It feels like I’ve come a full circle. I began by trying to be brave myself. I realised it takes a lot of effort, and almost forgot about my resolution in the mid-and-later-year busyness. Now God has brought to my attention that true bravery is found in faith in Him, resting in the knowledge that He has conquered my greatest fears, and in Him I have nothing to lose.

“There’s more than one kind of courage, my child… and the most potent of all is the reckless bravery of people who have nothing to lose.” The Robe, page 405

*That’s only two of the verses I found in my study of this. If you want more references, contact me and I’ll be happy to pass them on. :)


What are your thoughts on bravery? Why do you think the disciples were so bold and courageous? 
What have you been thinking/studying/pondering recently?

09 November, 2016

On Vulnerability

It started with a statement from my music teacher. We were sitting at her piano, in the throes of exam preparation, discussing a couple of pieces which required deeper expression and interpretation than I had been playing with. My teacher told me she knew I had the place to draw from because I always pick the most soulful of pieces. Her solution answered so many questions I didn’t even know I had. She said, “You’re shy.”

Looking back, I can see it cropping up often. I had the feelings, the desires, even intentions, but I was too shy to let it out. In order to give music the depth it required, or share my deepest feelings and express my desires as in the other situations, I had to open up. I had to be vulnerable.

I don’t like that word. It makes me think of some poor animal, a fawn perhaps, exposed and powerless before an enemy. It seems synonymous with weakness, helplessness. That’s not something I want to be. 

But since that conversation with my teacher, I’ve realised art and creativity require vulnerability.

If I wrote a song, my story would come through lyrics; my soul would be in the melody.

If I wrote a book, my heart would be in the pages, my ambitions in every character.

If I painted a picture, my concepts would be on the canvass.

If I designed a garment, my tastes and preferences would be reflected. 

If I cooked a meal, my style of food, and my mood of the day, would be conveyed.

All creativity requires vulnerability. It’s taking something hidden inside us, and giving it a medium to come out. Suddenly, we’re exposed. 

Even creativity in the simplest of ways: every time you put on an outfit, pick a new item of clothing, do your hair, you’re being vulnerable. Your style and taste is in front of everyone, open for their evaluation.

Vulnerability brings us together too. By being open before God and open before others, we can encourage, inspire, influence, and prompt change. It draws us together, forms bonds. It takes us from being introspective and self-centred to realising we’re closer to each other than we thought, and having opportunity to change lives.

This is the tiniest example, but in my post Springs in the Wilderness, I began by stating I had been spiritually dry. For me, that was being vulnerable. I didn’t want to tell everyone my relationship with God isn’t where it should be. I didn’t need everyone to know I have doubts. I didn’t need to give people an opportunity to judge me as a hypocrite. But as a result, others opened up and shared their own struggles, and we were able to encourage each other. We were brought closer together, and though I may never meet those girls, we have helped each other trust God’s promises. How amazing is that?!

I was thinking about why Psalms is one of most read books in the Bible. Is it because there’s a prayer for every situation? Is it because the poetic beauty captures our attention? That must be part of it, but I think the real reason is that Psalms is one of the most vulnerable books in the Bible. David opens every part of his heart in the psalms, and expresses His desire for God, his rage against his enemies, his doubts, his fears, his hopes, his failings. When we read it, we relate. The exposure brings us closer. It impacts our lives. We feel David’s pain, experience his victory, and draw closer to his God.

God Himself is vulnerable. He exposes His character for everyone to see; opens Himself up for our ridicule and misunderstanding; and reveals Himself through creation, His word, and personal experience. I think He’s the definition of true vulnerability.

But something stands in the way of being vulnerable: fear. It’s scary revealing parts of ourselves, and opening up to others' judgements.  It’s safer wearing masks, staying behind bounds, being someone else, hidden, buried, trapped. People’s comments hurt less; people’s criticisms aren’t so personal. No one can intentionally hurt my feelings if they don’t know what they are. But fear is a trap.  It’s a barrier that closes around us, and stops us from being who we were created to be. God says “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18). He wants us to be secure in His love, and live unashamed, unbound; free. 

I’m not suggesting a life of total exposure where everyone knows everything, or sharing emotions to manipulate others. I’m not saying this world needs more bed-head selfies and breakfast photos. It needs more heart, more soul. It needs more art. It needs more honesty, more genuineness, more humility. It needs vulnerability. 

Our heart is a muscle. It hurts to open it up, stretch it. It’s not always going to be comfortable being vulnerable. But a heart emptied equals a heart filled. If it can bring a little hope to humanity, bring people together, let someone realise they’re not alone, draw us closer to God’s ideal, I think it’s worth the risk. God’s opinion is more important than what others think. Being who God made me to be is more important than being who others want me to be. Being uncomfortable for the cause of God is more important than living life protected in a hard case. It goes against everything in me, but by His grace, I want to be vulnerable.

P.s This blog is where I share most openly. Admittedly, it isn’t much, but you guys have seen more of my heart and soul than I reveal to a lot of people, and I want to say a huge thank-you for making this a safe and supportive place.


Is there something you have been ruminating on recently? What are your thoughts on vulnerability? And how do you think we can use vulnerability to bless and encourage others? I'm eager to hear!