Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A Night To Remember

Last Sunday night, my husband was given tickets for our family to attend a live match of the ANZ Championship 2013 between LG Mystics (Auckland team) and Central Pulse (Wellington team). These series of netball matches pit the top five regional teams from New Zealand against the top five regional teams from Australia. 

Before the event was scheduled to begin at 7pm, my husband, daughter and I were to meet the Relationship Manager of his company's bank for dinner at a restaurant-cum-bar nearby the stadium. It was a pleasure to meet our lovely hostess for the evening, Sharon, as well as her other clients.

What we had thought would be a fun and interesting evening turned out to be more than we had bargained for, with a totally unexpected twist right at the end!

We ordered our drinks at the counter and proceeded to our table to decide what we wanted to have for dinner. My husband and I both ordered the good ole Kiwi fish and chips while our daughter opted for a beef burger with chips.

As we were waiting for our meals to arrive, we chatted with Sharon and her client friend, Fiona, who both played in the same netball team. My husband nipped across to another table to meet Sharon's other client and his family.

We chatted and waited. Then we waited some more and hoped our meals would arrive soon so we could make it to the game in good time. Sharon went to make some enquiries and was asked if either my husband or I could change our order as the restaurant had run out of fish. My husband promptly changed his order to honey BBQ pork ribs and chips, bless him!

Eventually, Sharon's order made its appearance first at our table. Fiona's burger followed shortly after, and Sharon's client and his family at the other table soon received their meals. However, the three of us continued to wait.

Finally, one of the waitresses came over to us and apologised for the delay, explaining that there had been a mix-up with the orders and it would take another ten minutes or so. Furthermore, the mix-up meant that they had totally run out of the fish they usually used for fish and chips. So, I would have to settle for something that sounded like bar fish. I had no idea what to expect!

Another ten minutes of waiting meant we wouldn't have enough time to eat if we wanted to be in time for the game. By now, we had waited a full hour and the others had all finished their meals. So we asked for our food to be packed to go. Hopefully, the stadium would allow us to bring in outside food.

I looked thoughtfully at my handbag and it seemed big enough to accommodate the food if the restaurant could pack it in small containers and put them inside a plastic bag to prevent any spillage. Maybe we could sneak the food in at the entrance.

Alas, the containers were BIG! I might be able to fit one and a half of them in my handbag, if that was possible. And believe it or not, the restaurant didn't have plastic bags! Not a single one! Neither could they provide us with plastic cutlery. At best, we could borrow their real cutlery which we would need to return later.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing - the restaurant had neither plastic bags nor takeaway cutlery! It was hard to remain calm when we were racing against time. I almost felt sorry for the flustered waitress who was trying to apologise. I said almost. It was a good thing Sharon was handling the whole situation because I wasn't sure if I could have handled it as professionally as she did.

When we stepped out of the restaurant to start our five-minute walk to the stadium, it was beginning to rain again. Upon reaching the stadium under our rain jackets and umbrellas and with our containers of food in full view, we were told at the entrance that we could not take commercial food inside and had to either leave it in our vehicle or eat it before going in.

The former wasn't an option as our car was parked back at the restaurant. Besides, we were ravenous by now! So, we sat ourselves down on a dry spot next to the entrance and tried to wolf down our dinner, pretending that no one could see us while they were queueing up to go in. The bar fish or whatever it was, was a real disappointment. It was rubbery and had a strange taste. However, I didn't have time to mull over it as I was concentrating on trying to chew as fast as I could.

At one stage, Sharon came to check on us. I was aghast to realise that she and Fiona had been waiting for us at the entrance while we were having our dinner! I thought my husband had told them to go in first so they wouldn't miss the game.

Regretfully I closed the lid on the rest of my chips, binned it and hurried inside the stadium with the others. We went up the stairs and passed one block of seating after another in search of a row of five empty seats. Spotting lots of vacant seats at the second-to-last block, we settled down to watch the game that had already begun.

The game proved to be really exciting. Even though Central Pulse appeared to be the stronger team and was ahead by an average margin of five points, LG Mystics somehow managed to close the gap till extra time was called to decide the draw. It was a nail-biting neck and neck race between the two teams throughout the entire extra time of fourteen minutes. The crowd roared and cheered wildly when Mystics finally won by 69-68! A mere one point; its first win of the season!

It was an unbelievable victory for the Mystics! But the highlight of the evening for us had yet to come.

It was Sharon who spotted him first.

Standing in the vacant last block of seats next to ours together with a couple of people was Piri Weepu, one of the rugby players for the NZ All Blacks. Weepu agreed to a photograph when Sharon approached him and my daughter joined them for the unexpected and once-in-a-lifetime snapshot. Well, two, to be exact, but one of them didn't turn out well.

Despite the frustrating start with the dinner, it had turned out to be an exciting and incredible evening with my family and new friends.

An interesting and memorable break from doing anything related to pursuing my God-sized dreams while I watched others pursue theirs.

And a good reminder that when we make the best of a less-than-ideal situation, sometimes there's an unexpected bonus at the end!

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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Leaning In To Hear Him

I love my alone time with God. Time when I bask in His presence and let His love refresh and rejuvenate me as I discover the joy of yielding to Him. I especially love it when I receive some nuggets of insights that open my spiritual eyes and make my spirit soar. Like the time when He sat with me out on the deck and gave me His fresh manna.

As I've been trying to hear what God is speaking to my heart to write in my blog for this week, this well-known prayer known as The Serenity Prayer keeps coming back to me.

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

This prayer has been so close to my heart for the past few years that I have practically adopted it as my own! 

Trying to change the things that either cannot be changed or are not meant for me to change only brings about frustration and discouragement. The ability to accept things for what they are is key to peace being restored to my soul.

As for things I can change, oh how I need the courage to do so!

But what makes it tricky is the ability to tell if something can be changed or not. Or whether it is the time to push for things to happen or to wait. This is where I need God's wisdom. And I need His grace to help me do what I cannot do in my own strength.

For a season of time, I've been taking comfort from the following scriptures and letting God fight my battles for me:

"But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord's victory...." ~ 2 Chronicles 20:17 (NLT) ~

"'Be strong and courageous! Don't be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!' Hezekiah's words greatly encouraged the people." 
~ 2 Chronicles 32:7,8 (NLT) ~

"When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!" ~ Nehemiah 4:20 (NLT) ~

Knowing that God fights for me takes a huge load off my shoulders. 

Recently though, God has brought me back to the story of Moses leading the people of Israel across the Red Sea not once, but a few times. When God speaks a few times, I really need to listen!

The story is picked up in Exodus 14 where the Israelites found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. There was the Red Sea before them and Pharaoh's army chasing them from behind. It was an impossible situation! Trying to prevent the people from panicking as they cried out to the Lord to save them, Moses told them not to be afraid but to stand still and see the salvation of God as He fought for them. However, God had one more thing for Moses to do before He miraculously saved them. He told Moses to pick up his staff and raise his hand over the sea so as to divide the water for the Israelites to cross over to the other side (verse 16).

I think God is reminding me that often times, there are things that I need to do before He can do His part. Like Moses had to stretch out his staff over the sea in order for it to part. Or that the people of Judah and Jerusalem won the battle not by fighting but by singing and praising God. Something that has to be done on our part to win the battle, but which may be different each time.

Last week while writing about the chihuahua of fear, a sense of warfare came over me and I felt liberated by addressing my fear in the way that Holley asked us to. It felt so good!

In order to know what to do and when to do it, I need to lean in to God to hear what He's saying. Because often times, He speaks through scriptures, circumstances, other people, or He whispers softly to my heart. When I don't take the time to listen, I miss it.

If I may, this then is my humble rendition of the Serenity Prayer:

God grant us the wisdom and serenity
to know what to do and when to do it;
to not rush ahead of You and trip over ourselves;
or to get stuck in our comfort zone or sense of helplessness.

Give us the ears to hear what You're saying,
and the courage to obey what we're hearing.
Give us the faith to believe You for more,
and the grace to wait when You say so!

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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Get Ready To Roar

I like what Holley says about fear: Fear is nothing to be afraid of - it's just the door we push through to get to the other side. And we never have to be ready - only willing.
In her recently released book, Holley writes:
“Fear hangs out right next to whatever it is you’re most called to do. That means the closer you get to your calling, the louder fear sounds. Keep going–fear is a chihuahua that sounds like a Doberman.” — You’re Made for a God-sized Dream, Chapter Five
This week, our assignment is to write a letter to the chihuahua of fear in our lives. When I think of a chihuahua, immediately I see a picture in my head of Reese Witherspoon in pink with her inseparable chihuahua in a colour-matching outfit, as seen in the movies, Legally Blonde and Legally Blonde 2!

A google search on chihuahuas led me to discover that they're the smallest breed of dogs and they bark at the slightest thing, be it out of fear or excitement.

Well, my chihuahua of fear has certainly been making a lot of noises despite its size. Fear has been a huge part of my entire life. I battle it constantly, particularly so as I recover from stress and burnout. No doubt, I have played a major role in lending it more power than it has, thus making it appear larger than it actually is. It reminds me of this cartoon drawing that I once saw of a little mouse speaking through a loudspeaker behind the curtains. He got caught out when the lights came on! Ha!

So, here goes my letter....

Hey you, chihuahua of fear,

I have some things I'd like to say to you. You've been making way too much noise and I've been intimidated for far too long. Now that I can see you clearly for what you are, I'm sending you packing.

You've been lurking in the shadows and around the corners, trying to trip me up at every opportunity. You've made me believe your lies and had me literally eating out of your hands at times. Now don't start sniggering. What? Now you're rolling on the floor in belly-aching and side-splitting laughter, pounding both fists on the floor with tears streaming down your face! Why, you no-good little ........

I'm glad I found the switch to put the lights on so I can see you for what you are. You're nothing but a liar working to steal all the dreams that God has for me, kill my hopes, and destroy me totally. I mean, look at you, you're just a little thing while my God is so big!

You know what? I'm going out to buy me some ear plugs so I won't have to listen to your lies anymore. And I'm going to renew my mind with the Word of God and meditate on what He says instead.

Every day I'm going to put on the armour of God as described in Ephesians 6: the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.

I know you're going to come knocking on my door again, but I'm going to be extra vigilant to be sure I'm not letting you in. You've managed to sneak in too many times and even wormed your way to join me at my dining table. I've fed you so much that you actually need to lose some weight! In fact, I didn't even realise that I've let you sleep over so often that you've practically moved into my basement!

Now see here, this is the door, so go! SHOO! Take your other relatives with you! And don't come back! You're not welcome here! ROAR!!!


Your enemy,

My, doesn't it feel good to evict unwanted tenants! The key is not to let them in again!

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." 
~ John 10:10 ~

"Finally, brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." 
~ Ephesians 6:10,11 ~

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