New Year, Same Me

I love the anticipation of a new year. When the clock strikes twelve on the 1st of January each year, it’s always exciting to imagine what things are going to happen in the next 365 days. What new friends am I going to make? What opportunities are going to come my way?  What if this is the year I will meet ‘the one’?  What new places will I travel to?

There are a lot of people who see the 1st of January as a good excuse for ‘New Year, New Me’. The beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to wipe the slate clean, as it were, and make some decisions to change unwanted traits or behaviours that will ultimately result in becoming a ‘better person’ by the end of the year. In previous years I have made new year’s resolutions, only to find myself in December feeling guilty for not following through with most of them. We often give ourselves unrealistic benchmarks of what we aim to achieve by the 31st of December – lose weight, eat healthier, save money, sleep more, spend less time on social media – to name a few.

Many people make resolutions and come into January thinking, ‘New Year, New Me’, only to find themselves a few days into the year having broken several of them already. The reality is, we’re exactly the same person on the 1st of January that we were on the 31st of December. As much as I agree that making choices for personal change is a good idea, transformation only comes with great determination. It is important to have a vision behind each decision for change, otherwise it’s tempting to give up when we don’t meet our desired goals.

Of course I want to make changes to the person I am now, but above all, I want to seek Jesus first. Matthew 6:33 (NLT) instructs us to, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”  When we make the Kingdom of God a priority in our life, it’s only natural that the changes we want to see will follow as a byproduct. We will be motivated to honour him in our lives by putting him first in our finances, our health, and our relationships.

I’m determined to put God first in my life this year and seek to be more like Him each day. He’s blessed me with this beautiful life, and I want to live it to the full. As Colossians 3:23 says, I’m going to work at everything with all my heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.  And if I fall short here and there, that’s okay! After all, I’m in the pursuit of holiness, not perfection.

Here’s to 2017, the best year yet.

Rachelle xx

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From Fear to Career

This year I have finally entered the workforce, after being a full-time student since I first started primary school.  Coming towards the end of my studies last year, I had no idea what the next few years of my life would look like. When my pastor asked me what I was looking for in a job, I said that I wanted something where I could utilise the skills that I learned while studying, yet be challenged at the same time.  And that’s exactly what I got. I was blessed with an amazing job with just that, as well as great hours, great pay, and a great work environment.

My job, which pretty much fell into my lap (thank you Jesus!), is in a contact centre, answering inbound phone calls full time. If you had told me last year that this would be my job, I would never have believed you. When I started interning at my church, I had the biggest fear of phone calls.  However, due to the nature of my position as an intern, it was an unavoidable aspect of my weekly tasks.  I could easily call people I knew, but when it came to calling people who were new to church, or answering the phone on reception, a wave of anxiety hit me.  To give you an idea of my level of fear, sometimes when I had to call someone at church that I didn’t know, I would enter their phone number, but couldn’t bring myself to press dial.  Sometimes I felt physically sick, and I often stumbled over my words when I was talking on the phone.  In some cases it was so bad that I had to get someone to press dial for me so I was forced to talk to the person on the other end.

By the grace of God and with the encouragement of the people around me, I gradually faced my fear. By the end of the year I was so much more confident on the phone, actually enjoyed calling the new people at church, and I was able to encourage other people who were in the first contact calls team.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT) says, 9“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I love that! As humans, we hate to admit our weaknesses, but God sees them as an opportunity to display his power through us. When I submitted my fear to God, He used it as a vessel to work through me and bless other people. Some of the phone calls that I made during my internship came with such God-timing, and I had several significant conversations with people over the course of the year. What if I had stayed in that state of fear? How many significant encounters would have been missed because I was bound by fear? What opportunities would I have missed out on? Would I be in my job today?

This year I wanted a job where I could “utilise the skills that I learned while studying, yet be challenged at the same time.”  Now I’m literally spending 40 hours per week doing what I used to be terrified of. God knew exactly what He was doing last year when He got me to push through my fears in my internship. I’m constantly being told by customers at work how helpful and friendly I am over the phone, and I’m often getting good feedback from my team leader. I can only use this as a testimony of God’s grace, and His transforming power.

Don’t disqualify yourself from the things that you can’t do, but allow God to take hold of your weaknesses and turn them into something that will glorify Him. It’s amazing what God can do when you submit your weaknesses unto Him. What are you looking at as a weakness now that God wants to use in the future to display His power?

Rachelle xx

Ambassador

I am constantly looking around at the situations I find myself in, and can only respond with utter thankfulness towards God.  When I applied for Bible College I knew that I would be going to class, working in the church office, writing assignments, and serving at church and other church-related events.  Never did I think that in addition to these things, I would be leading teams in church, organising (and prophesying in!) prophetic spaces at major church conferences, supervising a Bible College student, writing discipleship curriculum, establishing a ministry in rest homes, the list goes on!!

I sometimes questioned whether God was actually using me, but when I look at that list, there’s no arguing the fact that He is.

One of the places I have found myself in recently is at a resthome once a fortnight.  Each time I go in, I speak to the same people, and sometimes I have to ask the same questions because they don’t remember the last conversation I had with them, or even who I am. But I’m okay with that.  I’ve got a conviction that I need to be in these spaces, and if it takes several repetitive conversations in order to build a relationship with them and show them God’s love, so be it.

Last time I visited I got a call from the activities coordinator afterwards.  She left a message on my phone, and said, “I just want to say thank you so much. You don’t know what a difference you guys are making. One of the co-managers got hold of me today and said that they saw some young people here today, and people talking and laughing and engaging, and normally they don’t. So you’re making a huge difference and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”  I was blown away, because although I was doing something so simple, it was making a huge impact in these people’s lives.  I had organised it all, and was already beginning to see the fruit!

“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.”  2 Corinthians 5:20.

That’s a pretty big responsibility if you ask me.  God could have let Jesus walk the earth forever to carry out His mission, but He chose humans to continue His work.  Broken, sinful, messed up humans.

He created me so He could use me for a greater purpose.  He is using me!

An ambassador is an authorised representative of a sovereign.  In this verse, Paul refers to himself as an ambassador because he had been given the authority to preach the Gospel by the sovereign God.  He makes his plea not by his own name, but by the name of the One he is responsible to.  Paul knew that he had been given the authority to represent Christ, and made sure that he remained faithful to his commission and didn’t exploit his position.

When people get saved, God automatically authorises them as Christ’s ambassadors.  If we have experienced God’s love, we should be compelled to share this love with others.  It is not a responsibility given to a select few; it’s given to everyone!  It is not some burden that we have to face; it’s a privilege!  It is the greatest calling that any human being could ever be given.

You are an ambassador of Christ.  Have you accepted the responsibility that comes with that position?

Rachelle xx

Creating Space

Up until last week, this year’s weekly schedule for me has been as follows:

Monday: Internship

Tuesday: Internship // eGroup

Wednesday: Internship half day // Down time half day

Thursday: Study day

Friday: Work half day // Study half day

Saturday: Work

Sunday: Church

I kept finding myself tired and stressed, and struggled to find enough time in the week to put into my studies.  My relationships with my family and friends were also suffering because I could barely find time to squeeze them in, and even when I did I couldn’t fully invest into them because I was tired.  There were so many things that I wanted to be able to do with my time but was restrained by my busy schedule.  It was not a healthy lifestyle to be living, and I could feel myself burning out by the day. Something had to go.

After complaining about this to my flatmate, she suggested that the thing that needed to go was my job. “No, I can’t leave,” I said. “I need my job to be able to survive financially, plus they need me!”  However, after praying and talking to my parents about it, I felt convicted that this was the best thing to do.  It was hard for me to let go and trust God that this was the right decision to make, but as soon as I did it, I felt such a huge weight lift off my shoulders.

What is this freedom?!  There’s such a thing as a weekend?!  What am I going to do with all of this time on my hands?!

One of the definitions of the word ‘busy’ is, “having a great deal to do.”  I was so busy doing things that I didn’t have any time for simply being.  Life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured.  God didn’t create us so we can try to cram as many things as we can into our weeks.  No, He created us so we can glorify Him in everything that we do.  If we are constantly on the go we will not be able to put our best efforts into everything, and therefore won’t always be able to glorify God.  He is not impressed by the things that we can do, He’s already impressed by who we are.  We are the crown of His creation!!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG).

This decision has been a huge step of faith for me. Even though it doesn’t make much sense financially, I know that as I create space for God to move in my life, and learn how to truly rest in Him, He will fill that space with so many blessings!

I now have space to breathe. Space to dream. Space to live!

Rachelle xx

It’s In Your Hands

Recently I purchased my first car. One of the additional costs that goes with owning a car is insurance. When I found out how much my excess would be if I had to make a claim, I was suddenly put off driving my car. Because it was such a large sum of money, part of me was tempted to give up driving altogether to avoid the risk of an accident.

It would be stupid to keep your car in the garage for fear of crashing it. No, you are supposed to get in the driver’s seat and take it on the road to get yourself (and others!) from one place to another. It’s the same with our gifts. God has given us gifts for us to take ownership of and use, not to hide them away because we’re scared of what may happen if we use them. Just like driving a car involves some level of risk, so too does using our gifts. In the same way that we learn to drive a car, in order to understand how to use our gifts, we need to practice them to gain confidence. We need to listen to our Instructor (God) for direction. We need to fill our car with petrol (the Bible) for the power to keep us going. Once we have the confidence to know how to operate in our gifts, they will come as a blessing and will take both ourselves and other people to new places.

At our annual church conference this year, I was in charge of running a prophetic space where people could come and receive a prophetic word from the people on my team. At the beginning of the conference, I had no intention of prophesying. Sure, I had prophecied before, but only in much smaller settings such as Bible College and eGroup. During the week, however, a few people challenged me to step out on this gift. The thought scared me so I tried to avoid it, until God gave me a word for my friend and I felt a very strong prompting to share it with her. She said that it was extremely accurate and exactly what she had been waiting to hear from God, then she encouraged me to keep practicing prophesying in the space. It was difficult, but I gave it a go. When I prayed for people, it was amazing how many of them told me that my prophetic word was so relevant to what they were going through! By the end of the conference I was prophesying over people in every session. God had already given me the gift, I just had to gain the confidence and courage to practice using it.

The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 tells the story of a man who gives each of his servants a different amount of talents (money), based on their abilities. His response when he comes back to see what they’ve done with them is quite different:

To the ones who invested/worked and acquired more talents: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (Matt 25:23).

To the one who dug a hole and hid his talent: “You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver.” (Matt 25:26-28).

I’ve been reading the book ‘Boundaries’ by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, and I love the way they explained this parable: “The parable of the talents says that we are accountable – not to mention much happier – when we are exercising our gifts and being productive. It takes work, practice, learning, prayer, resources, and grace to overcome the fear of failure that “the wicked and lazy” servant gave in to. He was not chastised for being afraid; we are all afraid when trying something new and difficult. He was chastised for not confronting the fear and trying the best he could. Not confronting our fear denies the grace of God and insults both his giving of the gift and his grace to sustain us as we are learning.”

I don’t want to be like the servant who was too scared to do something with his talent that he ended up hiding it. I want to embrace the gifts that God has given me and discover new ways that I can use them. The man gave the servants who invested their talents more responsibilities when he saw that they were capable of developing what he gave them. God celebrates with us when we make progress, and loves to bless us with more when we do!

Everything that we need to succeed is already in our hands. We just need to get in the driver’s seat, take the steering wheel, learn how to operate in it, and get moving! It involves risk, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Rachelle xx

The Importance of Community

I’m a very strong introvert, which means I spend a lot of time by myself without getting bored. My favourite nights are when I’m home alone, and I could easily spend a week by myself.  However, sometimes I think that because I enjoy spending time by myself so much, I don’t need to spend time with other people.  Recently I’ve realised that I’ve made being an introvert an excuse to not talk to people I don’t know well.  I love using self-checkouts at supermarkets to avoid human interaction. I’ve even caught myself avoiding people I know on the street because I don’t want to talk to them for fear of having an awkward conversation.

Talking to new people used to be a huge fear for me, but since interning with Care and Connection, where a large part of my role is talking to new people each week, I have had to quickly overcome this fear.  Every week I am placed in various situations where I have to talk to people I don’t know. I’m part of the first contact calls team, where I am required to call people who visited church on Sunday and see how they enjoyed the service/try to get them more connected into church. I also serve on the New Christians team, where I approach people who lifted their hand during the altar call, talk through the decision that they just made, and pray with them. I’ve come a long way in my confidence already this year – six months ago I literally could not pick up the phone and dial the number of someone I didn’t know, and if emailing or texting was an option, I would always take that road.

A big part of my journey of growing in confidence came from learning about the importance of community.  1 Corinthians 12:12-27 is one of my favourite passages about this:

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

I am not excluded from this body. If I were to say, “I’m an introvert and don’t need people”, then what role of the body am I preventing from functioning by excluding myself? People need meGod has given me unique gifts that I am to use to help in the functioning of the overall body. I am part of the body whether I like it or not. In the same way, I am not to overlook people because they appear to play a weaker role. The bible says that these people are indispensable and should be treated with special honour.

Comparison is a thief. It’s so easy to view yourself as insignificant when you compare yourself to someone who’s role is more obvious. Just because I may not be on stage where everyone can see me, I know that the work that I am doing behind the scenes is still significant in the functioning of the body. It’s just like comparing the heart to the rest of the body – just because it’s hidden away, if it weren’t beating then the entire body would shut down. It’s so important that we become content in the way that God has created us, and play our part to the best of our abilities.

What would happen if every person realised that they are an indispensable part of the Body of Christ, and in order for them to function best, they are required to use their gifts in conjunction with other parts? No part of the human body is there on accident, so why should we view people as if they are?

Rachelle xx

A Forgotten Generation

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words ‘old people’? Is it a dear old nana drinking tea and knitting? Maybe you think of your grandpa making jokes about his false teeth? How many of you imagine the forgotten widow sitting in a rest home, separated from their friends and family? Unfortunately for many people, the latter is their reality, and society has become oblivious to the fact that this is happening around us.

Last year I had the privilege of being part of The Revolution Tour as part of my time at Bible College. For those who don’t know, The Revolution Tour is a nationwide tour that travels around New Zealand, primarily going into schools with a message of anti-bullying.  They also put on night rallies in the main cities around the country, with a bunch of different acts, as well as the incredible Reggie Dabbs (USA) who shares a Gospel message. It is the biggest schools tour in New Zealand, and there have literally been thousands of youth that have responded to Jesus over the ten years that it has been running.

During the tour, I was placed in a team that went into rest homes and elderly hospitals around Auckland for a week. I wasn’t sure what it would be like, but I was excited to find out. There were 8 of us in ‘Team Ethel’, and we went into a couple of rest homes each day, sang some songs to the residents, shared with them a brief message about what we were doing as part of the tour, including a short Gospel message, and then we spent the rest of our time together connecting with the residents and showing them some love.

This year in April, a new group of students were sent out on tour, and this time a team spent two weeks travelling around the North Island visiting rest homes. So many more testimonies came out this time around, including incredible stories of healings, and the team saw 63 salvations in the rest homes that they visited!!

Ever since I was part of the tour last year, God has really put a burden on my heart for this forgotten generation. We only went into a few places, but that was enough to see the hurt that so many elderly people are experiencing.  It broke my heart to see how lonely a lot of these people are. I spoke to a few of them and asked about their families, and many don’t even see their own families any more – they literally only have the workers and their fellow residents to communicate with – but a lot of the time they just sit by themselves in their rooms.

I found some of my journal entries from that week and all the feels came back!

“A lot of them were non-responsive and could only watch you. It breaks my heart to see them like that! What was once a life full of adventure is now a somewhat monotonous life with not much attention.”

“I can’t get their smiles out of my head. When I shook their hands I didn’t want to let go – and neither did they. I’m overflowing with love, and will be all week – and hopefully all my life.”

“They have played an important role in the history of New Zealand but are all too often forgotten about. Society today is constantly focused on the younger generation – getting technology that is faster, easier to use, better quality – and the older generation seems to get forgotten about. We honour the veterans once a year and spend the other 364 days of the year so consumed in the now and the future of the next generations. That is important, but why should we disregard past generations? Jesus didn’t. Jesus loved hanging out with the widows, the weak, and the sick just as much as he loved hanging out with the children.”

One of the verses that I read that week was 2 Corinthians 2:15: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” I could really relate to this verse because we actually saw this happen in every rest home that we entered. When we walked into some of these homes, the elderly were unresponsive, and they looked so bored and unhappy with their lives. As soon as we started singing and chatting to them, we saw the atmosphere change from quiet and dull to loud and lively within minutes. We carried the presence of God with us everywhere we went and saw amazing things happen.

I’ve been challenged recently to take a solid step towards this exciting ministry opportunity. I am making plans to regularly visit rest homes and develop friendships with the residents so they can have something to look forward to in their week, and know that they are not forgotten. It’s not often that you hear about people with a heart for the elderly, but I am so excited that God chose me for this! I know that now is the right time, as God has been developing me over the past nine months in my leadership, confidence, and passion to see His people saved. I’ve got a team who is ready to start making some progress and I am anticipating many changed lives as a result of my obedience.

I could talk for hours about the way my heart aches for this generation, but I pray that the words that I have written have been sufficient to capture some of the vision that I have for the future of the old people of New Zealand.

Watch this space!

Rachelle xx