Wednesday, December 26, 2012

To use Thought Replacement Therapy (TRT) in the new year.

I'm interested in the science behind thoughts. It's fascinating the way certain areas of our brains ignite when we're experiencing different thoughts, whether they're nourishing or depleting. Their impact begins in our brains and spills over to the chemistry of the rest of our bodies. One individual's brain map can look totally different to another person's. Just as there are various types of forests on earth, such as pine or eucalyptus, the plantations in people's heads look different, depending on how they've let their thoughts cultivate the dendrites and synapses in their brains. There are forests of pain, self-pity and resentment, like horror movie settings we'd prefer to stay out of. Then, there are other fragrant forests of peace and happiness like the Garden of Eden.

Some people have assumed that I'm a fairly happy type of person, but I'm aware of a wilderness area I prefer to keep hidden. It saps my strength and enthusiasm and becomes difficult to prune. Razing this forest to the ground is my aim for 2013. I'm aware that it's a pretty thick forest, as I've been nurturing these suckers for years, but I just need good tools to demolish each tree. The word of God, which I believe is a sharp, gleaming double-edged sword of purity, will be the main tool in my box. The others are an assortment of other healthy thoughts. The plan is that whenever any of those bad thoughts pop up their dense, weedy heads, instead of pondering them, I attack them by replacing them instantly with thoughts I prefer to choose.

I guess we all have our individual toxic thoughts in our forests. I'll mention just a few of mine.

There's this one. What I've tried to do isn't really working and we have no money. I'll attack these with thoughts and memories of good things which have happened and remind myself that we've managed to cover everything we need.

Then there's, Poor Blake. We can't take him on holidays as we used to do with Logan and Emma. He'll be narrow and impoverished in his outlook and it's all because of our stupid, selfish choices. This can be attacked with reminders that his life is full of other enriching opportunities and he's had the homeschooler's privelege of growing up with his brother and sister always around.

I've battled health related negative thoughts over the years, but without going into a lot of detail, I've learned to snuff them out by topping up with one of the major themes of my latest novel, "Along for the Ride."How's that for a tantaliser? 

There's the one that goes, I don't get enough opportunities to share my writing and I wish I was famous. My daughter said recently, "I didn't know you wanted to be famous, Mum. I'd hate to be famous. I explain, "I don't mean the Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga sort of fame. I'd love the prestige of other Christian authors who can walk around shopping centres without being swamped for autographs and enjoy normal lives with their families, yet they know full well that fans all around the world are eagerly awaiting their next books and their in-boxes are full of invitations to speak at interesting venues. They don't have the hassle of being told they have to move house and look at the mountain of unsold books in their garages, apparent monuments to their failure." That horrible, jealous tree drops nuts that spring hastily into other toxic saplings. "I'm sure I write as good as (insert some name) so why can't I get the breaks?... why don't more people want to read my books and blogs?... what's the point of even going on?"

Well, I'll attack all them with a spray bottle I've heard called, "The Elijah Complex." Do you remember how he sat beneath that box thorn tree on the heels of a stunning victory? He'd have welcomed the acclaim of a hero, but found it easier to focus on the queen's threat to annihilate him as soon as she possibly could. His brain was full of a forest of trees I can relate to. "Nobody else cares about the things I do... I'm all alone in my passion... They've killed all your prophets and now they're after me too." That was shown to be a gross exaggeration, as there were several godly prophets eager to stand up and be counted, but in Elijah's mind and heart, his "Poor Me" statements were true.

I can attack this style of thought by bringing those other truths directly to mind. These are the times I can re-read reviews and warm feedback letters and think of praise about how my stories have positively impacted people. I have had some excellent breaks. People all around Australia have heard of me and read my books. That'll get those poisonous trees falling.

I guess I want to be like Eleanor H Porter's character, Pollyanna. My thought replacement therapy is similar to what she called her Glad Game. It all started in the first book when she received a Christmas relief basket containing a set of crutches instead of the doll she'd hoped for. Her impoverished pastor father told her, "Be happy because you don't need the crutches." He gave her a gift of attitude and perspective that changed the course of her life. I've heard Pollyanna given a bad wrap-up by modern 'smart' people who miss the point entirely. They assume she's a sugary-sweet optimist living in denial, but they're mistaken. Pollyanna never denied the crutches. She simply chose not to focus on them. That made all the difference and no matter what detractors say about her, she's the one whose attitude shone through many best-selling books by a string of authors after Eleanor H Porter. (Sadly, several of them are now out of print.)

So Pollyanna is my literary example and I have a scientific one too. I want to be like Pavlov's dog. He came to a point where the sound of that bell made him drool as he anticipated the arrival of some succulent meat. Perhaps if we practice TRT, we'll find ourselves at a stage where just the whiff of a negative, upsetting thought will make our spirits leap as we anticipate the cheery, positive, happy-making counter-thoughts we've trained to follow immediately on their heels. That will make a fool of any malevolent thoughts we're given to ponder. It'll chase them away for good. That's my hope for this year.

Do you think it may be worth practicing HRT too?  

Friday, December 21, 2012

That creativity can't be hurried

I am currently at the end of a writing project, "Along for the Ride" my ninth novel. It's been edited and is now with my publisher, awaiting a few more finishing touches for publication in 2013. I'm keen to get started on a new idea for number ten. Ideas are bouncing around in my mind, but haven't crystallised into a smooth plot yet. At this stage, it's easy to get a bit frustrated when they are pushing each other around and not coming together quite as quickly as I'd hoped. I'd really like to commence the writing part, when I'm knocking off chapter by chapter and growing a pile of A4 pages.

But I've learned a few lessons this week. The first was from an interview with John Cleese. He said that one of his secrets of creativity is to take all the time necessary to ponder or ruminate over an idea without rushing it. Another member of the Monty Python team who he considered more naturally gifted than him (and he didn't say who), never seemed to come up with the unique ideas that Cleese did. One day, the reason dawned on him. His friend wanted to feel as if he was a productive worker so when he was focusing on script writing, he'd leap on the first workable idea that occurred to him with a "that'll do" sort of attitude.

John Cleese, on the other hand, would take as much time as he needed to make his scripts as polished and original as possible. His advice struck a chord with me. I thought, "That's it!" Daydreaming doesn't look productive because we have a lot of ground-in attitudes erroneously programmed into our cellular make-up. First, there's the Protestant work ethic, which convinces us that we need to work hard and have something tangible and admirable to show at the end of each day. Secondly, to reinforce this, we have the 'instant' culture of the 21st century to contend with. Labour-saving devices, fast food drive-thrus, bombardments of blogs, emails and media press releases telling us how to be more productive, not waste a moment and get things done in a snap as soon as the thought occurs to us. We even get into the habit of speed reading the interesting articles that come up on our computers because our subconscious minds tell us that we must rush back to producing, impressing, working hard, having something to show for ourselves.

So I've decided to change my attitude. Even though I've got the slower-paced lifestyle of a writer/homeschooling mother, I've still fallen in the fast racing, rat-race style way of thinking. Of course, it's not entirely my fault. It's been drilled into all of us from our school days. We have a blank exam booklet placed before us and are told to come up with essays and stories which will wow a teacher's socks off within a time limit of 120 minutes. Didn't we used to get in trouble if we handed up just a paragraph or two because our ideas wouldn't come together? Didn't I personally, used to get scolded by my teachers for staring into space? We take on board what we're taught from those who are set over us as our guides and mentors.

It's great to get a grasp of the real truth. Daydreaming may not look productive, but when I'm doing it, I'm really working just as hard as I am when those chapters are flying out of my printer. Lying in the bath and thinking about story possibilities isn't time-wasting at all. Neither is going on night drives with music on, just because I know it gets my creative juices flowing. Even though it may look to the world (and myself) as if this is just wool-gathering and pointless, nothing could be further from the truth.

In the book of Nehemiah onwards, we read how our hero heard about the plight of his beloved city, Jerusalem, and decided to take his life into his hands by appealing to his master, the Persian king Ataxerxes, to let him return with a retinue of followers to rebuild the city. In my mind, the short chapters of this biblical book moved quickly enough for me to imagine that he had the idea one day, went out to approach the king the next, and had his group and supplies set up and ready to leave at the end of the first night. Not so at all. I read that scholars have figured out that Nehemiah took three to four months before he decided to approach Ataxerxes with his creative idea. During that block of time, he pretty much sat silently before God, fasting and praying the whole time. That's because a grand, creative idea takes time to germinate.

In 2013, I want to be the sort of creative gardener who understands these things. I challenge anyone reading this to do the same. It's not easy in a world where ideas are zapping around the globe, bombarding our in-boxes and Face Book walls while I type. We don't realise that when we fall into the 'success' traps of being productive, speed reading, multi-tasking and having something impressive to show critics and admirers alike at the end of each day, that we're actually pulling back from a life of creativity.

It's liberating to realise that instead of getting frustrated, I actually have it right. As I take my time and scribble notes into my scrap book, I've no doubt a tenth novel will bear fruit in its perfect time.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Not to let lack of intelligence stop me

To help research the current novel I'm working on, I was delving into a few books about quantum physics and the wonders of scientists who are discovering the most minute, tiniest particles. I've also tried to read a few biographies of great scientists through the ages. I find it very humbling because so much of it is extremely hard to understand. I persevere because what I do manage to wrap my head around is fascinating. So much of it also matches what the Bible said 2000+ years ago. I find that very exciting.

A book called, What the Bleep do we Know? outlines the old paradigm people have been taught for centuries. Here is my paraphrase. The universe is a mechanical system composed of solid material and elementary building blocks. What we call 'real' must be measurable and also needs to be perceived with our five senses and any mechanical extensions thereof. It assumes that the only valid approach to gaining knowledge is to banish all feelings and subjectivity to become entirely rational and objective. Matter is solid with tiny particles at its core which move according to laws of nature and forces which can be explained with mathematical precision. This enables us to make predictions with certainty. So this is how we've been taught to view the world we've been brought up in.

That old familiar paradigm brushes off subjects I've always been interested in, such as emotions, prayer, mental healing, extra-sensory perception, words of knowledge and prophecy. And as I said, I'm finding some of it hard to wrap my head around, but what I am grasping is amazing. I decided I have to put up with the feeling of being limited and ignorant in my brain power, because it's worth it for those moments I can say, "Wow!" at those things I do get.

Perhaps clever people don't always get it all anyway. I remember reading in the Bible how Paul, the Apostle, went to visit Athens. He tried to convince those intellectual city folk to listen to his message about Jesus, who they might have already worshiped as their 'Unknown God' (Acts 17:22-27). The place was full of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who liked to spend most of their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas (verse 21). Smart, educated people. According to the record, not much happened in Athens after his address. There is no evidence that a Christian church was ever started there. There is certainly no 'Letter to the Athenians' included in the Bible. We can only assume that Paul just added fire to the philosophical and intellectual debate that was always sizzling away over there in ancient times. It seems even Paul couldn't impress the intellectual elite of ancient Athens.

I appreciated the following quote by Dr Cindy Trimm. "There are many scholars who never do anything but debate the finer points of theology and religious thought and there are simple saints who don't know a hundredth of what those people know, but they act on it and miracles happen around them regularly."

So I plug on trying to learn as much of this stuff as I can for my own interest, even though I know before I open the covers that my limited brain won't take it all in. The fact is, not only does my lack of intelligence not matter but it may even be a good thing. Ironically enough, this is one of the great surprises I'm talking about.

 I also try to weave all that I manage to understand into my stories. My theory is that as my brain power is limited, I automatically word it all into concepts that others like me can understand. I can't make it too difficult to comprehend because my brain is not that smart. People like me, after all, make up a far greater portion of the population than the occasional stunning genius who can easily grasp all that intelligent stuff. I'm quite pleased with the novel I'm working on, Along for the Ride. I think I've grappled with some interesting scientific and psychological insights, as I also attempted to do in Best Forgotten. I like to think that if someone like me managed to put it together into words, then others like me may also catch the excitement and vision that I'm getting when I read these heavy books I can't quite understand.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

That hassles might be part of favour

Like many of us, I've often been asked to cite my favourite Bible verse. However, I've never been asked to share my least favourite, and I've had a few. High on the list was James 1:2 - 'Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.' I'd flick really fast past that to something I liked better. Endurance wasn't a quality I was interested in developing, because it suggested that I'd be having to put up with unpleasant things. If all my hopes and plans fell into place, I wouldn't need endurance anyway.

I always chafed at being told to put up with hassles, let alone consider them pure joy! Hassles are annoying, nasty and often sad. Favour is what I wanted to focus on claiming. I wanted the blessings of Abraham, passed down to his spiritual descendents. I wanted to claim the promise that when we rely on Jesus' sacrifice for us, we have been redeemed from the curse of the law. Surely, I reasoned, the curse of the law must include all these annoying hassles. Get them out of my life.

Whenever I heard James 1:2 quoted, I'd listen politely but close my mind. It was a bit of a hassle that it was even in the Bible at all. Count it all joy indeed. It seemed to go against the way God wired the human brain. We automatically like nice stuff and shun bad stuff.

But today got me thinking. I was reading a story that made me realise there really is back-up in nature for James' advice. It was a reflection written by Napoleon Hill (the "Think and Grow Rich" author, but this was a different book). His grandfather used to be a wagon maker. While the neighbours were cultivating plantations of protected oak trees, Napoleon Hill's grandpa used to make sure he had a few oaks standing in open fields where they were exposed to the full force of blazing sun and blasting storms. As a result, timber from them was undoubtedly superior quality. It had struggled to hold its own against the elements, making it tough, flexible and valuable. It could be bended into arc-shaped segments for wagon wheels without breaking, and could also bear the heaviest loads.

What if the same is true of us? Not every unpleasant experience breaks us at all. They might be the sun and wind that strengthen us, fill us with beauty and make us stronger and more valuable.

I took my children out of school determined they would never had to deal with the physical and emotional pain I experienced year after year from bullies. It was treatment I believed had permanently damaged something deep inside of me. What if it made me a stronger person instead? Maybe the times my kids have gone through worrying, anxious experiences which I couldn't prevent have made them stronger too. Maybe I should stop feeling bad that I can't shelter them from all trials.

I've just finished writing a new novel, named "Along for the Ride." I'm hoping it may be one of my most potentially helpful one for readers, and I'm proud of it as I read it over, but I see that I'd never have been able to write it if I hadn't gone through some bad personal experiences, which I drew upon as I wrote it. It's been my way of creating a thing of comfort and beauty out of lots of pain. (I never went through a fraction of what my hero goes through, but I had enough other things happen to shape me so I could understand him.)

For so long I'd assumed trials and favour must be entirely separate and incompatible, like water and electricity, but what if they go together at times? What if some hassles are even part of favour? Perhaps instead of whining, we should be grateful to consider that we've been planted out in the open fields for a particular reason. I used to react to trials by saying, "I can't be in God's favour at all. I'm getting battered and bruised and I want it to stop." Maybe a more appropriate way to respond is, "Okay, these must be some of the heatwaves and storms that are making me stronger and more valuable for some purpose."

Having said that, I do believe the wisdom is in discerning which trials fall into this category. I do strongly believe that some things should be actively resisted. It all keeps life interesting.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

that beliefs can set as hard as concrete

Exodus 9: 20-21 tells us, "All of Pharoah's servants who had respect for God's word got their workers and animals under cover as fast as they could, but those who didn't take God's word seriously left their workers and animals out in the field." The Message.

Perhaps your reaction is the same as mine. "What? They must have been crazy. At this stage, this goes beyond taking God's word seriously. Could they really be that stupid?" The hailstorm that was being predicted through Moses and Aaron was strike #7 in Egypt. The Nile River had turned blood red, the land had teemed with frogs as a result, gnats and flies swarmed over everything and then the poor livestock succumbed to a fatal disease. After that, the people themselves were covered with sore, festering boils.

If it had been me hearing the hailstorm prediction, I like to think I would have hurried to get every living thing under cover as fast as I could. "They've been right about six other plagues. There's a good chance they'll be right about this too." Could anyone really be stupid enough not to say the same thing? It seems the answer is yes. Can stupidity sound a bit like intelligence? The answer, again, is yes. Would you have listened to this sort of reasoning? "It's just one very bad natural disaster. The terrible thing with the river water made the frogs surge up and then their dying carcasses attracted the insects, which attacked the stock and made them sick. No wonder we got sick too. It has nothing to do with those Hebrews and their predictions about their non-existent God. Don't give in to them and let them see we're afraid."

It might've been the sensible sounding response of people who desperately didn't want the Hebrews' words to prove true, but in their zeal to keep believing what they'd always believed, they turned blind eyes to several things they shouldn't have. Moses and Aaron predicted each of the plagues before they occurred, so taking the seventh one as a warning should have seemed reasonable. Also, several of the plagues could have been taken as direct affronts to the gods the Egyptians had worshiped for generations. For example, they depended on the god Hopi for the life-sustaining waters of the Nile. But the people didn't want to think that life was any different to what they'd always been taught was true.

We see this sort of stubborn clinging to set beliefs, which looks like stupidity in retrospect, has been happening throughout the centuries. Nicolaus Copernicus was treated like a heretic for daring to suggest that the sun was the centre of the solar system rather than the earth. His view was greatly at odds with the Medieval Church which declared that the earth must be the centre as God's most favoured celestial body. Then down the track, Christopher Columbus was treated similarly by people who thought he couldn't possibly discover land across so much water and that it would be unsafe to travel as far as he intended in that direction. (I'd been taught to think that he was ridiculed for thinking the earth was round instead of flat). And I remember reading about the ridicule experienced by a man named Semelweis, who dared to suggest that medical mortality rates would go down if hygiene methods such as hand-washing by the surgeons, were put into place.

Well, we're living in the 21st century now. Can anyone in our day and age be so blinkered and stubborn? I have observed the answer may still be yes. In researching the novel I've just finished, I was reading up about miracles. Many Christians (including me) declare that God has worked on their behalf in miraculous ways and even non-Christians and secular scientists call it the force of belief. Either way, there are thousands of recorded cases of those who have been cured, healed and prospered, yet so many others are still paying no attention because it goes against what they've always believed and experienced.

I wouldn't be a bit like this myself, at times, though, would I? Would you? Have you ever had a friend or family member of whom you've said something like this? "I can talk to ---- with proof until I want to explode with frustration, and they still refuse to listen." Well, aren't we being the same as them, when we keep browbeating them with our opinions, wanting to keep believing that, one day, they might listen? This attitude of wanting to keep comfortably believing what we want to believe is even making its way into popular literature. At the start of the fifth Harry Potter book, "The Order of the Phoenix", Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, tells everyone that Harry is being a silly alarmist when he insists that Lord Voldemort has returned and not to listen to him. It turns out that Fudge is the silly one. It gets me nodding with interest when stories reflect life. John Kenneth Galbraith said, "Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof." Why are we so resistant to changing our minds about anything?

I never want my mind to get so closed up that it resists and creaks whenever anyone tries to prise it open, so they have no choice but to give up and walk away. I don't want to be like those Israelites who said, "The giants are too big for us and nobody can ever talk me into going in to take the land." Nor do I want to be like the ones who shrugged and said, "The hail stones won't hurt us." I want to be like David, who said, "Even though that Philistine is huge, brash and covered with armor and everyone believes he'll murder me, I'm covered by the promises of God and he isn't." Or like Mary, who knew that her pregnancy would be highly unusual and the people would surely talk, but still said, "Let it be done to me as you have said." Or like Jeremiah, who said, "I'm going to buy real estate here in Jerusalem, even though every one believes it's hopeless and wants to sell up."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Not to fiddle around with the truth

Image by

Early in our homeschooling career, I was expecting a visit from the home education officer and had to fill out loads of paperwork. By then, we'd been living our dream long enough to have acquired a laid-back, interest-driven, passion-led approach which suited us. However, I thought it very dissimilar to the education mode I was used to and brought up in. Our former education officer had recently retired. This lady would be new and I was nervous to think that we might come across flaky and scatter-brained. I didn't want to be rebuked and the possibility of the kids being sent back to school was enough to give me cold chills. Logan had just shed his anxious persona and seemed content while Emma had the space to pursue her varied interests. All the while, the new baby, Blake, had the benefit of having his siblings always around, bonding with him at all hours of the day. I didn't want this threatened.

I resorted to a dishonest tactic I'd sometimes used at school or uni when I had a tedious assignment to work on. I call it "Give 'em what they want to hear." In other words, I fudged some of what I wrote. Shame on me. I preferred to call it exaggerating. I assumed she'd probably want to think that we did lots of bookwork and formal lessons. This is what I wrote spades of in the report. My intention was to mislead her to think we did far more than we actually did.

When she came, she sipped her cup of tea, read the report and said something I never saw coming. She rebuked me for working them too hard! Yeah, me! "This is all very commendable, but don't go down the track of taking all the fun and joy out of learning. In my opinion, that takes the gloss off what homeschooling should be all about. You seem to be taking it all far too seriously."

I was mortified. By then, I'd written the report. I was committed to the truth-stretching I'd told. I couldn't retreat and tell her that, in fact, I was as big an advocate of the natural learning approach as she could hope to find. I wished I'd been honest and open in my true feelings. It was a major backfiring of what I'd thought were good intentions. That was a good lesson that being true to ourselves is the only path we should take, no matter what benefits the less-than-honest approach may seem to bring.

At least I wasn't punished as severely as that poor young messenger who ran to report the battle deaths of King Saul and his sons to David. His story is found at the very start of the Book of 2Samuel. David pressed him for details, asking, "How do you know for sure that Saul and Jonathan are dead?" On the spur of the moment, this young soldier decided that a bit of opportunistic embellishing of the truth might be to his own advantage. "I just happened by Mt Gilboa and came on Saul, badly wounded... 'Come here' he said, 'and put me out of my misery'... So I did what he asked and killed him. Here's his royal headband and bracelet for my master."

Anybody who's read the real story will blink at this point, and think, "Hey, what? He did no such thing! Saul fell on his own sword when his armor bearer refused to kill him. What's this fellow going on about?"

I understood his thinking. He'd hoped to gain. Telling David that he'd driven a sword through his nemesis was intended to be a sound move earning him respect and promotion, however undeserved. He'd probably intended to use it as a harmless stepping stone. Little did he know how horribly this would backfire on him. He had no idea of David's history with Saul and his family and his true feelings about them, much less what was in his heart. Horrified, David demanded, "Do you mean to say that you weren't afraid to kill God's anointed king?" He ordered one of his soldiers, "Strike him dead! You asked for it. You sealed your death sentence when you said you killed God's anointed king." So he never had the chance to regret his mistake.

Much better to be straightforward at all times, showing the world the same person who we are in our own homes and deep inside our own hearts. Second guessing people is a risky game, because only God and they themselves know for certain how they are going to react. When we show our true faces, we may earn the unpopularity and rebukes we are hoping to avoid. This has happened to me, but I've decided it's preferable to living lies. I got sick of knowing deep inside that the person who is being smiled upon is not the real me but a mask I'm wearing. It's much more peaceful to know that when we being approved of, it is for the truth. I prefer saving my inventions for my fiction these days. I think embellishments are a bit like egg yolk when you're making pavlova or macarons. Only a tiny bit can ruin the whole thing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

That my lock is secure

I like the luxury of an occasional soak in the bath tub. We have two at our new house. One is a normal tub and the other is a proper spa bath which will hold four people. The spa takes ages to fill and is a real treat for special occasions when a few of us get on our bathers. Most times I just hop into the standard bath. With a good book, a nice drink to sip, a few drops of lavender oil and some Radox or bubbles, it makes a pretty good poor-woman's retreat.

I always lock the door so that other family members don't burst in on me, particularly my 22-year-old nephew and 17-year-old son. This precaution is as much for their sakes as mine, I assure you. Occasionally I'll hear them rattle the door, realise it's locked and then head off elsewhere.

So it occurred to me that although the lock is just a tiny piece of metal I slide across, I completely trust it. I can lie back and relax. If it was at all dodgy or unpredictable, I wouldn't bother having baths at all. (I'm not suggesting I wouldn't be clean. I'd just have showers in my en-suite where the boys never go.) Even a placard warning, KEEP OUT! I'M IN HERE, wouldn't give me as much peace of mind as the lock. I'd be on edge all the time, ready to swoop a towel off the rack and cry out, "I'm in here! Can't you read?" What would be the point of trying to relax if you can't relax?

I began thinking about other things which I declare I put complete trust in. Especially God's love and care of me and the promises I find in the Bible, which I believe is His unbreakable contract with anyone daring enough to take what they read at face value. We are told that He cherishes us as individuals, has provided for us to be blessed and healed and has unique paths marked out for each of us which He will guide us onto. Furthermore, when things appear pear-shaped in the here-and-now, we are promised that it's not the entire picture and that all things will be made to work out for good.

In years gone by, I used to 'talk the talk' without believing it deep enough in my heart to 'walk the walk.' I'd get stressed out, do my block, cry and worry that I'd come to a bad end, or that horrible things might happen to the people I love. My body would show signs of stress such as excessive fatigue, tight muscles, internal disorders and hormonal problems. It's different now. I've figured out that when God says something is true, my job is to accept this without doubting. My 'lock' is secure. Instead of living life as if I'm in the bath tub and somebody is going to burst in on me at any moment, I can trust that His promises will remain secure and enjoy the journey.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

To not break my toys

I often hear this statement from honest people and have wondered about it myself at times. "Christians state that we live under freedom now, instead of the law. That's hypocrisy because there are still so many laws given to us that we must obey. Don't look at this website, don't listen to that music, don't have a relationship with this person and don't dress in those clothes. We call ourselves free but we're still under the thumb and that's just delusional and crazy."

I understand where they are coming from because in the past, I've been made sad and confused by people who sweep into my place and say, "You shouldn't let your son watch these popular cartoons because they're evil and God will remove His blessing from your family," or "You shouldn't write fiction because it's vanity." (Little do they know.) I think these people, who honestly have good intentions, don't realise that they are misrepresenting God's nature and plans for us. These Ned Flanders type of Christians may drive honest seekers to say this sort of thing. "God is the same as the Pharisees. He's a killjoy who wants to sap our fun and freedom. What's the point of moving from one boss to another? I'm my own person."

I've grappled with all this and decided that the confusion lies in the fact that the word "rules" is one of those with two different meanings. First, there are "rules" which some dictator imposes, Hitler style, with the message, If these aren't adhered to, I'm gonna punish you big time! But the second meaning is more to do with principles and the natural laws of cause and effect. If this action happens, this result will transpire, so it's in your own best interest not to do it. That meaning takes all the bossiness out of it.

Say I make a little toy car for my son, Blake, out of scraps and remnants, then give it to him to play with. I may say, "Hold on, don't turn it that way or you'll break it. It's only designed to be turned the other way."
Then, he could choose to take my words as imperial and demanding and say, "You've given it to me and I'll use it the way I want to." Or, he could understand that I'm not criticising him but giving him the instruction for his own good and for the long-term benefit of the car.

Thinking this way, I find it easier to conclude that it's the same with God's rules and laws. He's the designer of this thing called "life" that we're living. Paying attention to the way He tells us it's made to be used is common sense. We may ignore Him and say, "I'm a free agent and you've given this life and body to me. I'll play with them the way I feel like." In this context, that seems by far the sillier reaction.

So I'm challenged to listen to Him when He says, "Hey, you're not supposed to put fear, unforgiveness, greed, adultery and anger into that thing. It'll stop it working properly because that's not the way I've designed it. You'll break it if you keep going." It makes perfect sense. Perhaps our biggest challenge is to have the wisdom to know what we're looking at when we come across it. Is it one of God's genuine laws and commands that are straight from Him and for our own good? Or is it the silly, judgmental notion of some petty-dictator who honestly thinks he's doing God's business but is really operating with the mind and heart of a Pharisee?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

To push past small truths to get to greater ones

We've had a wet and woolly winter here in Adelaide, South Australia.  My 8-year-old son, Blake, was upset because he'd been sick twice within the same few weeks. First he had a stomach bug and then a cold, which developed into a hacking cough. Being a healthy fellow normally, he asked me why he got unwell.

I told him it was because he'd been in contact with bugs from other people that had obviously spread to him. We spoke about the fact that they create a 'pass-it-on' sort of effect from one person to another.

That got me thinking. What I told Blake is definitely what doctors tell us is the truth, but perhaps some truths are more shortsighted, or 'lesser' truths than others. For example, I read a powerful testimony about Dr John G. Lake ministering in a typhoid infested area but perfectly confident that he wouldn't succomb to the disease because he'd prayed about it. How many of us pray about such things and then still worry and talk about them? Others carried out an experiment in which they placed a live typhoid germ on some of Dr Lake's skin tissues and watched it die on the spot beneath the microscope. He did have a supernatural immunity. It seems Dr Lake was operating under a higher truth than the truth about typhoid germs being contagious.

He simply accepted with complete belief the true premise that as he'd prayed, asking to be shielded from disease, he could completely trust God's care along with the power of his own body's subconscious workings to shield him from all traces of typhoid.

It excites me when I begin to wonder about the implications of this. If people like Dr Lake could put higher truths into motion, then there's no reason why we can't do the same. Why should we limit ourselves to the restrictions of the lower truths we see everywhere, when higher truths are a possibility? I've read many, many stories similar to the one about John G. Lake. They all suggest that God's best plans and care for us will be ignited by our faith, and that fear and disbelief will actually block this good from manifesting.

I aim to try and foster a higher truth mentality in my family. It's been proven many times that a person's deeply held beliefs will work out for him in the natural arena simply because like attracts like. It's a law for all humans. Reading out passages such as Psalm 91, thinking of that shield surrounding and protecting us from all manner of harm with no thought that it won't be done, is a great thing to do when we let the higher truth of it soak deep into our minds and spirits.

The novel I have just finished writing, called Along for the Ride, is about this very thing. I've been researching this sort of occurrence for a long time and it truly fascinates me. There have been enough cases of spontaneous healings, apparent miracles and incredible answers to fervent prayer to make me certain that this higher truth is a solid reality. I think the reasons we succumb so easily to sickness, lack and other adverse circumstances is that they actually are 'truths' in themselves rather than outright lies. I've had many battles with these areas by simply accepting them. Now, I want to be well grounded in all the higher truths that are available to me so that I can find it easier to declare, 'This is just a lower truth.'

Have you any experiences of higher truths in your own lives or those of anyone you know? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

That good things are chasing us down

I remember the school science experiments I used to do with magnets and iron filings. These tiny bits of metal dust follow a magnet around, making it look like some sort of hairy critter. If iron filings had thoughts, resistance would be futile. There is no way one of them could possibly break from the crowd and say, "I don't think I'll follow the magnet today. I'm happy right where I am." I thought about these iron filings today when I read about the great blessings God has in store for His people.

For most of my life, I've had entirely the wrong idea about blessings. I've had a "blink and you'll miss them" sort of mentality. I was like a girl chasing butterflies with a net. Or if you're a fiction reader, they're like those cheeky little flying keys in the first Harry Potter book. Remember how Harry and his two friends faced the seemingly impossible challenge of racing around in a room amid thousands of tiny flying keys, trying to snatch the one which would open the door to the next chamber?

When I was a Primary School student, the teacher used to hide a few objects around the classroom and reward the two or three people who found them. While I was searching high and low, a few other voices would cry out, "I found one." My heart would sink because I'd missed out. This sort of scenario followed me into adulthood. Just a few years ago at a conference, I shifted from the spot I'd been sitting all morning, thinking that if my daughter, Emma, came through from her scrapbooking activity I'd be easier to find in the aisle. No sooner had I moved than a lady announced that five beautiful CDs had been hidden beneath random seats around the auditorium. You guessed it; the lady who'd been sitting for five seconds where I'd been for four hours gave a shout of joy.

Roald Dahl wrote about a similar situation in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The golden tickets have all been found. Augustus, Veruca, Violet, Mike and Charlie are the lucky ones. You've missed out. That's how I unconsciously imagined blessings; glittery and scarce.

But Deuteronomy 28 tells me, "All these blessings will come and overtake you." Then it goes on to list every area in which we may expect to be blessed, including our offspring, our transport, our work, our provisions and our reputations. I think, Wow, that's a different way of looking at it. It requires a total change of mindset. I am traveling along the road, oblivious, and blessings are pursuing me. Instead of the desperately hopeful customer who goes into the deli, clutching my hot little coin, to buy a Wonka Bar, I am actually the golden ticket. Blessings are looking for me.

What a bizarre concept, but when I think about it, it's often turned out to be the case. When I've bothered to stop running for a while, blessings have perched on me like those birds in princess stories, taking me completely by surprise. Babies, houses, prizes, money, new friends. My first thought is, That hasn't happened very often, but then I have to admit that the occasions when it has happened coincide with the times I've paused to reflect and simply enjoy life. When I'm busy tearing around like those little winged keys, looking for blessings, little do I know I'm actually fleeing from them, making them harder to catch up with me.

Hmmm, interesting thought. I'm going to appreciate every good thing, large or small, treating it as one of those iron filings that can't help following me whenever it's anywhere near. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with unexpected blessings.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

To revisit my past

Yesterday I took my two youngest children, Emma and Blake, to visit my old childhood stamping ground at West Lakes. We looked at the two houses my family lived in while at that suburb, one right on the lake front with a pontoon. That was the house of my teens. I also drove around to see a couple of schools I went to.

The whole place seemed more compact with less space between each destination than there used to be. I found I could still follow my nose to get to each place which I used to think had so much of my personality invested in it. I could tell the kids stories of escapades that happened in certain parks and reserves and different houses, but now new folk have long taken over and there is no trace of me left. It made me feel melancholy and I realised it must be a bit like death. The same thing surely happens when we leave this planet altogether. The places you think you're influencing fill the gaps you leave with other people.

The lake was beautiful. It's such a huge and wonderful feature, serene and lovely. We were still driving around when the sun started to set on it. If I lived there now, I'd enjoy sitting out the front to ponder, meditate, still my thoughts and reflect. I never used to do that much as a kid. I was either too busy reading books or had my head ticking with ideas and future plans to change the world. Maybe adult cares and
 responsibilities have changed me more than I thought.

The kids enjoyed themselves. There's a new playground at the little reserve where I tried learning to swim and Blake loved playing with the diggers on the sand. Emma, as I expected, was greatly impressed by the lake, palm trees, flash resort style buildings and big shopping centre. "Why did you ever leave? I would've been in tears to leave a place like this. We have nothing good in the Hills. If I lived here, I'd be out swimming every day." She couldn't believe it when I told her how elated I'd been to think of moving to the Adelaide Hills, where I thought everything looked like a storybook scene.

I can remember the first day of waking up to the sound of rural bird calls, nothing like I was used to at West Lakes. Yet, now I could understand the appeal of my old area, liking the fresh sea breeze I must have overlooked when I lived there. I told Emma, "It seems like a mini-holiday day out today, but when you live here every day trying to work and study like I used to, it's a different story."

We had a bit of a walk around the lake. There I was with Emma and Blake, not knowing whether I felt like a success or failure after all this time. I was supposed to be successful as an adult, wasn't I? I always wanted to be a writer but I was supposed to have enough money to afford more comforts than my family enjoys.

Interestingly, I am 42, the same age my dad would have been when we first moved to West Lakes (when I was 5). He was a success, when I look at my own life. He had the money to build houses and take holidays. I'm a crashing failure who's done nothing to compare. It helped me put all my stepping stones with the books I've written into perspective; getting published, winning this prize, hearing from that reader etc. They excite me but do they mean much? But then I remembered all that Dad used to go through to get all that. He had stressful work which annoyed him, while I enjoy what I do. Success and failure really are relative.

I came back up to the Hills tired and a bit sad but not in a really unpleasant way. The trip shows me not to take myself so seriously because nothing is permanent anyway. The best idea for anyone is to live each day to the fullest, appreciating what it brings. Perhaps the most ironic thing is that I seem to have come full circle. As a kid, we used to take day trips into the Hills to get away from it all and gain a fresh outlook. Yesterday I did the same thing with Emma and Blake but the opposite way around.

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