Can You Teach Compassion?

23 02 2015

At Flourish last year I chose a sponsor child for my almost-four-year-old son. He’s from Mexico, has the grandiose name of Giovanni Gonzalez Velasquez and is the same age, which was strategic.

I want them to grow up together.

I want my privileged, white, Anglo, middle class boy to be aware that his lot is not the status quo. That just as he had no control over the fact he was born into a family rated in the top 10 per cent of the world’s wealth (Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, 2014), Giovanni had no control over the fact he was born into poverty.

I know. These are grand concepts for a toddler, but that’s the great thing about sponsoring a child – it’s a journey. Here are two boys who will learn about each other and themselves during that impressionable conduit to adulthood.

Giovanni

Giovanni’s photo is propped beside my son’s bed and we talk about him, explain the differences in culture as well as the similarities in interests, and we pray for him; for health, safety, provision, family and faith.

Master Nearly-Four dazzles us with his heartfelt pleas on Giovanni’s behalf.

“Please keep Giovanni safe and give him food and make him healthy and give him lots and lots of treats and lollies…”

As hubby and I hold his hand and let him prayer-ramble, we share gooey-eyed smiles at the sincerity of his requests.

Truth is, they are learnt prayers, the product of our own examples and instruction.

Which has led me to question: Can you teach compassion?

We were sitting at the dinner table with extended family recently, spinning the dream of spending time in a third-world country during hubby’s long service leave. We were waxing lyrical of the benefits to our offspring’s character development and hopes that such an experience would instill compassion in a relevant and tangible way.

Then someone said, “You can’t teach compassion to a child.”

We bounced the statement back and forth for a bit before the conversation moved elsewhere. But that proclamation stayed with me and hasn’t let up.

Can you teach compassion?

Various studies have shown that compassion is like a muscle. Yes, some of us are born with good muscle/compassion tone but those of us who weren’t so lucky can still improve with hard, dedicated exercise.

The word comes from the Latin ‘compati’ meaning to suffer with (com- “together” and pati “to suffer”) or to take pity.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you,” Luke 6:31 reads as a compassion imperative, if rather brief. After all, isn’t that what compassion is: putting yourself in another’s shoes, feeling with them, suffering with them, laughing and crying with them?

We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. Perhaps it’s not so well known that the narrative belongs to Jesus, as detailed in Luke 10:30-35.

A man was robbed, beaten and left for dead by the side of a road. The first two people who passed by ignored him and continued on their way. The third, a Samaritan, “took pity on him” and not only bandaged his wounds and helped him to safety, but paid for his accommodation and care.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Jesus concluded.

The “expert in the law” who Jesus was telling the story to replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

And Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”

Can you teach compassion? I think so. Jesus obviously thought so. Compassion, after all, is the language of community.

Claire.

Did you sponsor a child at Flourish last year too? Love to hear how it’s going, either in the comments below or on our Facebook page!
If you would like to sponsor a child, we can recommend Compassion Australia: www.compassion.com.au

compassion
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday February 23, 2015 and also on the Faith Like a Mushroom blog.



10959652_726672440765294_148939355798621411_nPssst! Don’t forget that the Flourish Early Bird Special registration fee of $45 per person runs out on February 28. We’re expecting record numbers this year, so be sure to sign up. Click HERE to register.

 





Is There a Thief in Your Home?

12 02 2015

I stood in our lounge, my eyes scanning the room, and let out a sigh. It was neatly furnished and comfortable but discontent filled my soul. “I wish we lived somewhere bigger,” I thought. “If only we could have nice things like other people do.”

We’d just returned from a week at a friend’s ‘shack’, a spacious, beautifully decorated retreat on the east coast. While we were in awe of their generosity and had been deeply refreshed by our time away, now we were home it felt like our cosy unit was shrinking before my eyes. “When will we ever have a nice home like other people?”I grumbled.

Immediately a phrase dropped into my mind: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It came with such clarity I knew it wasn’t my own thoughts. God had spoken. He could see there was a thief in my house.

9aabc38812620a2dde3541817c3f2a82I first heard those words twelve years ago, yet they continue to ring true. No matter which side of comparison we come out on, it steals from us. It leads either to pride and judgement or frustration and dissatisfaction. None of these equate with joy.

Comparison has tried to rob me many times through the years. In my late teens, I strove to be as slim as my long, lean friends – to the point of anorexia. When my children were little, I often battled inadequacy and despair as I watched ‘better’ mothers interact with their families. Even in the past week, discontent stealthily crept in as I watched lavish renovations on a popular reality TV show.

chibirdcompareComparison seems to fuel a restless agitation in me, an uncomfortable sense that all is not well. It tells me I am not enough; my life circumstances and achievements are not enough and unless I reach the standard I see before me, I cannot be happy. Many times it has sent me on determined, exhausting pursuits of an ideal which was unattainable.

In truth, seeking after fulfilment through earthly things is, as one wise man said, “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). Even when we grasp what we think we so desperately need, it’s as empty as a handful of breeze. It doesn’t contain life. It may bring temporary happiness, but before long, we’ve seen something else we want and off we go again.

We were made for more than this.

The only place I’ve found deep joy and lasting fulfilment is in connection with my Creator. He is the deep well that quenches my thirst. He is the lover of my soul, regardless of how I measure up by others’ standards. When I sit in His presence there’s an ‘ah’ that takes place – a deep sense that, in fact, all is well.

No amount of failure or inadequacy on my part can make Him reject me. He has dealt with all my shortcomings through the sacrifice of His perfect son, Jesus. Now I am not only accepted, but treasured – a beloved daughter of the Most High God.

That brings such security, freedom and contentment. I don’t have to perform or measure up any more. Those things I thought I needed to be happy suddenly fade into the background. I am released to live life open-handed, aware that I’ve been handed a bounty with more than enough to share. No longer is my joy being stolen, rather it’s overflowing. All is well.

“You will show me the path of life;

In your presence is fullness of joy;

At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm 16: 11 (NKJV).

 Sue Brown.





Flourish 2015 Speaker Announced

9 02 2015


If you’re not a social media nut (and frankly, I don’t blame you!) then you may have missed our most exciting latest news…

Flourish 2015 is locked in.

Saturday August 22 is the date.
Door of Hope Christian Church is the place.
Michelle Mitchell is the guest speaker.

This is a bit of a coup for us. We’re more than a little bit excited to have an awarded speaker of Michelle’s calibre lined up to impart some of her wisdom and experience on us all.

CSA
Please, head to her website and read her extensive CV or check out some of her material. Otherwise, here’s Michelle in a nutshell:

– Inspirational Speaker award, 2013 (Queensland)
– Author of ‘What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents’ as well as a series of five life skills programs being used in schools nationwide.
– Registered teacher.
– Founder of Youth Excel, a charity that delivers life skills education and mentoring programs to schools throughout Australia.
– Her work has featured on The Today Show, Today Tonight and Channel 10 Morning News as well as countless print media including The Age, The Courier Mail and Dolly Magazine.
– Lives in Brisbane with her husband and two teenaged children.

1797369_716494495040110_703048275_nImportantly, Michelle is a down-to-earth, energetic and passionate speaker who has a way of speaking on life issues so that the relevance extends from girls to grandmas. For this reason we’re expecting to break new ground and reach more women than ever this year – especially our younger girls and teenagers.

If you’re aged 13-103, this is for YOU.

We would be so grateful if you helped us spread the news. Tell your family. Invite your friends. Book your daughter/s in, your nieces, your grand-girls. Share with your work colleagues. We each have the very great privilege (& responsibility) of impacting their lives and leaving a lasting legacy.

Early Bird Registration Extended
We’ve extended our Flourish 2015 early bird registration until February 28. Until then, regos will be $45, so be sure to book in early and take advantage of this super duper price.

CLICK HERE to register.





Carpe Minutam – How To Seize The Moment

27 11 2014

I wonder if any of you smouldered with annoyance as you read my entry last month on ‘breathing time’.

“It’s easy for her to say,” you thought. “She doesn’t carry the workload I do or face the challenges I face.”

just-breatheMy life is less hectic now than it used to be, but I have been through some intense seasons. Eleven years of home schooling four children while carrying several other responsibilities reminded me, daily, how desperately I needed God’s help. It was those out-of-my-depth times that taught me how vital it was to breathe.

There are chapters in our lives when finding big chunks of time is near impossible. That’s when taking hold of the little moments is a more realistic aim. You’ve probably heard of ‘carpe diem’, which means ‘seize the day’. How about ‘carpe minutam’, a close translation of ‘seize the moment’? A moment is better than nothing and a lot can happen in those precious seconds.

I don’t profess to have everything figured out, but here are a few ways I’ve found helpful in seizing moments of stillness in the midst of hectic times:

  1. It sounds obvious, but it’s so easy to hold our breath when we’re pushed for time. Just stand still, take ten seconds to breathe deeply and appreciate the oxygen that’s available to you. It’ll help your brain function better too.
  2. Look out the window. When the walls seem like they’re closing in, gazing beyond them helps bring perspective.
  1. Venture outside. Stroll around the garden or go for a walk. Immersing ourselves in God’s vast creation reminds us that He is big enough for whatever challenges we’re facing.
  2.  Start a journal. Writing can help clarify our thoughts and fears. It’s also a useful means of recording our journey through life and how God speaks to us.
  3. Surround yourself with good fuel. When I was a busy mother of three littlies, I kept a Bible next to my breastfeeding chair, stuck favourite quotes on the walls and kept a stash of parenting mags in the toilet. Even a momentary glance often brought fresh hope and enthusiasm for my role.
  1. Carpe diem. Invest in a day away. Yes – a whole day; a rare treat that can bring deep refreshing. When I was single and worked full-time, I discovered the value of having an ‘adventure with God’ every few months. I’d grab my Bible and journal, jump in my car then drive somewhere I’d never been before. After a long walk through lush bushland or along a golden stretch of sand, I sat with my journal and wrote down any pressing needs or questions. The stillness and solitude quieted me so I could hear God’s gentle whisper.

My husband and I now take separate ‘retreat days’ when we can, with the year’s beginning a particular priority. We reflect on the previous 12 months then ask God for His heart for the year ahead. Everything gets written down and later shared with each other. Those notes become a great source of inspiration as the year unfolds, with all its twists and turns.

Whether for a fleeting interlude or a leisurely ramble, connecting with God is vital for us to function as the women He created us to be. Sometimes that breathing time can be like buried treasure – hard to get to in the midst of all the rubble. Just like treasure, though, the more we have to battle to reach it, the more precious it is when it’s in our grasp.

9622-ea_be still and know that I am God.png

(Psalm 46:10)

Sue Brown.





Breathing Time: Necessity Not Luxury

22 10 2014

Anyone strolling past my window would have thought I’d gone absolutely nutty.

There I stood in the middle of the kitchen, casting track pants and socks to the right and left, wriggling into my jeans, pulling on my jumper, all the while hurriedly making lunch and texting a friend to find out her address. Crazy, I know, but somehow I thought doing it all at the same time would save precious minutes.

You see, I was in a rush.

I had packed that particular day full with events, scheduled right down to the minute. When a few unexpected extras were thrown into the mix, I went into a spin.

Do you ever have days like that? Days where you feel like you’re rushing around in a mad frenzy?

As women, young and old, the list that can get us running is endless: study, work, family, home, school, church and community responsibilities. Being busy can be satisfying. Too much activity, however, can be our undoing.

Five years ago my over-loaded life led to multiple bouts of stress and sickness. I was the striving super-mum, desperately trying to juggle too many balls. God spoke firmly, directing me to lay down all the involvements that I held with passion at that time. All of them. I felt naked, void of identity and stripped back to bare bones.

Over many months, though I fought it, God gently taught me how to rest. I learnt that He loved me even when I didn’t achieve anything significant. His constant encouragement released me to enjoy taking life slowly and appreciate the littlest things. Gradually, my health and frayed emotions were restored.

Through that intense time, my approach to life had been transformed. Like a butterfly finally emerging from its restrictive cocoon, I was able to unfurl my wings and launch into the world again, this time choosing to rest regularly. I’d discovered that taking time to breathe wasn’t an optional extra. It was a vital component of a life well-lived.

 

Source: A Spacious Place blog

Source: A Spacious Place blog

God created us to work, play and rest. He understands our need for space, both physical and emotional, because He planted it in us, right from the beginning of humanity. He is not a hard taskmaster. Though we push on in our driven lifestyles, He longs to rescue us, quiet our hearts and renew our souls. Those moments of stillness with Him give us opportunity to reflect, count our blessings and gain His perspective. Insights come that give us new vision and enthusiasm for our tasks. Most importantly, times of rest sift our motivations. They help us see clearly why we do what we do, and whether we should continue the way we have been.

I read a quote in my teens that has been a comfort to me many times since. “There is time for us to do everything God wants us to do.” In other words, we won’t run out of time if we’re walking with God. Above everything else that screams for our attention as women, our primary task in life is to find out what He is asking of us and do it wholeheartedly. Nothing more. It could be something as simple as loving our family. It could be something which has worldwide impact. Either way, we can be confident that if we follow His call, our life will be fulfilling and He, knowing what we need, will bring the right balance between work and rest.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23: 2-3a.

Sue Brown.





Setbacks. Are They Really Setting You Back?

10 09 2014

“Live life large.” Isn’t that an inspiring statement, a call to go beyond the ordinary and enter into the fullness of life that we were created for? When I reflect on those words spoken by Karen Wilson at Flourish last month, excitement stirs.

You see, I’m a dreamer. I’m already on this journey of seeking to live a meaningful life. When I finish my time on earth, I want to know that I’ve fulfilled my God-given purpose. I want to have enriched other people’s lives.

Many dreams reside in my heart. Some are grand, some are small. Some are just a tiny seed, waiting for an appointed time to burst forth. Some are broad – I want to be a nurturer of people, particularly women. Others are specific – I’m longing to complete the book I’ve been working on for five years.

Those dreams are like a fire inside me, constantly pulsing and urging me to press on and see them fulfilled. Momentum grows as I take each step forward and with it, expectancy. Maybe this is possible. Only one thing threatens to quench the flame – the setback – that unexpected occurrence that brings my passionate pursuit to a standstill.

Setbacks come in many forms – weariness, sickness, family crises, the highs and lows of life in all its unpredictability. Discouragements come too, both from my own self-appraisal and from the words and actions of others. Those disheartening thoughts and words hit hard, telling me it’s impossible to reach my goal, that I just don’t have what it takes.

When setbacks come, I seem to be lifetimes away from doing anything close to large. The dreams appear out-of-reach, unachievable. I feel very, very small; fully aware of my own inadequacies and the impossibility of the task.

Perhaps, though, that’s where I’m supposed to be.

dealing_with_setback

Here’s what I’m realising: If it’s God Who has made each of us unique and planted His dreams in our hearts, surely we’re supposed to pursue them hand in hand with Him. Living life large requires the support of someone ‘larger’ than ourselves. Someone greater, who never tires, never doubts and never gives up. With Him all things really are possible. All through history there are stories of ordinary people who did extraordinary things by living with their trust firmly in God: Wilberforce, Captain James Cook, Mother Teresa and numerous others. Normal people, frail and limited, who stepped out with their confidence in God’s ability to do what they couldn’t. I can learn much from their examples.

I’m also discovering that setbacks can be the making of us, depending on how we respond to them. God uses difficulties to provide internal preparation for the external fulfilment of our dreams. Though I often view them as an unnecessary hindrance, they have the potential to help me get closer to where I want to be. Like a chisel in the hand of a master craftsman, those apparent setbacks chip away at my self-centredness, impatience and pride. They show me what’s really in my heart and help to clarify my direction. Perhaps living life large is less about achievement and more about transformation. It’s not purely about what goals we accomplish. It’s also about who we become on the way.

If we want to live life large, we must expect setbacks. But perhaps we don’t need to see those challenges as obstacles. Maybe, just maybe, setbacks aren’t setting us back at all. Maybe, in the crucial areas of the heart, they’re moving us forward.

by Sue Brown

Sue is our newest contributor to the YourFlourish blog and we’re so chuffed to have her on board.  Please join us in celebrating her obvious gift for expressing truths through the written word by sharing her posts with your friends.  Here’s a little more about Sue:

image“Originally a Sydney girl, I have lived in Launceston for 20 years. I met Mark, the love of my life, while attending Bible college here and we now share our home with four children, aged eight to 18. 

I’ve had a desire to encourage women since my early twenties, particularly in breaking free from the crazy stereotypes the world tries to put on them. I delight to see ladies of all ages grow secure in God’s perfect love and flourish (yes, flourish!) in their uniqueness. Being a woman on the journey myself, I gladly share my struggles in the hope that what I learn will encourage others.

Aside from keeping our busy household running, I love to potter in the garden and visit hardware stores. I’m also writing a book which shares the story of my anorexia at age 20 and the healing I’ve experienced since. Life is an amazing gift and I have much to celebrate.” 

 





Intermission: Between the Cancer Death of One Child and the Birth of a New Baby

28 08 2014

Originally posted on Claire van Ryn:

If you were to ask me, “Who is the most inspiring person in your life?”, chances are I would name Rebecca Fogarty.  She is a dear friend, one who has navigated extreme hardship with Godly wisdom, dignity and courage.  I want to be like her!  She’s also extremely eloquent, so I won’t rabbit on. These are her words, another This Little Life story that demonstrates the inherent value of life.

(Rebecca first shared this story at the 2014 Flourish women’s event in Launceston)

“Intermission. The break in the middle of the show that allows you to get something to eat, go to the loo or talk to the person next to you. Intermission is also the name we have given the last nine weeks. It has been a time without children…between children. While excruciatingly painful it has also been a valuable chance to rest, to talk and to think.

What…

View original 954 more words








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