October 2020

A clear pattern amongst bible characters is that they experienced hardships, difficulties, struggles and obstacles before they eventually reached their desired destination. Likewise, we experience seasons which may break or throw us off our course, however, God uses such seasons to our advantage. God uses our brokenness as a precursor to the filling. Despite how broken or exhausted, you may be feeling make this declaration: My filling season is approaching. God will fill me with the very best He has for my life. God will satisfy my physical, emotional, spiritual hunger & thirst. I will be filled with complete joy, peace & hope! My cup will overflow; I shall lack no good thing.

Have an October that overflows with blessings!

Dara x

September 2020

Too often we allow many things happening around us to take up our central vision. As a result we are unable to see what’s in front of us such as God’s providence, love and faithfulness. When we place our cares and concerns first we push God to the periphery; thus inviting fear, doubt, despair and anxiety. In this month, Don’t let your problems eclipse God. Let God eclipse your problems.

Have a Centrally-focussed September!
Dara

February 2020

No matter what stage you’re in right now don’t underestimate its potential by obsessing over where you want to be or what you want to achieve. Don’t be fixated on the seemingly insurmountable mountains ahead that you end up missing the current blessings & lessons from God. Don’t focus on the storm ahead and miss the learning opportunities amongst the waves. 🌊

Have a Fulfilling February!

When Specsavers isn’t good enough

We are more than halfway through January but I still want to wish all my readers a Happy and Blessed New Year!

A random fact about myself is that I used to wear glasses when I was younger (probably at the start of last decade 😜) however after a few years I was told I didn’t need them anymore as my eyesight had been corrected. I was so happy because I hated my appearance with glasses. 🤓

I was diagnosed as being long-sighted. For those who aren’t familiar with that term, a long-sighted person can see objects at a distance but closer objects are usually out of focus. The opposite is short-sightedness; a condition where distant objects appear blurred while nearby objects are clear. These conditions of the eyes amongst several others can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses and even laser eye surgery. Without adequate correction, a person will continue to have blurred vision.

So what happens when Specsavers is not enough? – you are stumbling around, confused, unaware of what is happening and what is to come. May I propose to you the idea that some of us Christians are suffering from spiritual short-sightedness. Our vision does not have the clarity that is needed to successfully navigate through life’s circumstances. So where do we go from here? Hold that thought.

I’ve recently gotten into one of my favourite hobbies again: reading. In the past 3 months, I’ve read 6 novels; 5 of which were written with multiple narratives. This a writing style in which I’ve grown to love. In the past when I’ve read a book with a single narrator, I could not help but feel as though I was not getting the whole truth. With a single narrator, there are unknown aspects of the story that do not come into the light until later so for the majority of the time you are kept in the dark. The truth of a story is made up of a variety of viewpoints. The more perspectives you have the closer you are to having a better overall understanding of what is happening. Come to think of it the person who probably has the greatest advantage is the author because he or she has a bird’s eye view of the sequence of events from the start to end. Similarly to the novels, our lives also have an author who knows the end from the beginning, He sees the bigger picture, I’m sure I don’t have to spell that out to you.

The new lens I want to encourage you to intentionally use is God’s. This omniscient being says:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways,

And My thoughts than your thoughts

Isaiah 55:8-9

This text clearly states that our thoughts are not compatible with God’s thoughts. It would be foolish to assume that we know God’s thinking and planning. How can we know more than our creator? As humans, we try to fit God into our mould of thinking but this is the wrong way to approach life, we are to conform to His perspective. This distance between God’s thoughts/ways and our thoughts/ways is constant; God will always remain God and us mere humans. Isaiah 55 reiterates the fact that God sees things from a higher perspective, like an author who has the overall picture of a book, like a bird soaring high in the skies. This higher altitude allows things that would not be otherwise seen whilst on the ground to be seen clearly: So why not trust His perspective?

An unbeliever judges events and things by worldly standards, by his or her senses; this lens is defective as it is doesn’t reflect God’s perspective and it often leads to frustration, discontentment and disappointment. A person who wants to view life from a perfect perspective needs to consider God’s views and values in everything.

A person who wants to view life from a perfect perspective needs to consider God’s views and values in everything.

I’m currently reading ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren and there’s a chapter solely dedicated to ‘Seeing life from God’s view’. Pastor Rick says ‘The way you see your life shapes your life. How you define life determines your destiny” (p.41). I will share more from this book in a future post but a key point that was made is that ‘life on earth is a temporary assignment therefore this should alter our values’. The deciding factors for the decisions we make should be based on eternal values and not temporal ones. Earth is not our final home, we are just passing through so we will experience things that do not make sense to us and sometimes only in hindsight will certain scenarios in our lives make sense.

Life is a test. This metaphor for life can be seen in various biblical stories. God tests people’s character, faith, obedience, love, integrity and loyalty. In the bible, we have examples of those who failed God’s tests (Adam and Eve in Eden, David) and those who passed God’s tests (Joseph, Ruth, Esther and Daniel). One thing we know about God is that He is interested in our character and not our earthly achievements or possessions thus He uses tests to develop and reveal our true character. The specific tests God may put you through this year can’t be listed however we can predict how God may test us through what has already happened in the bible; major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism and even senseless tragedies. Personally, in hindsight, I notice ways in which God has tested my character; during those periods I was frustrated, angry and confused but when I decided to switch my basic inadequate ‘human lenses’ to God’s perfect perspective, I understand that God is developing and testing my character. Therefore this year when you are going through a trial or you’re faced with confusion seek answers from God: What do you want me to learn?. The best way to seek these answers is to communicate with Him and engage with His Word. When you know that life is a test you realise that nothing is insignificant in your life, you just have to use the correct lens to comprehend what is occurring.

When you know that life is a test you realise that nothing is insignificant in your life, you just have to use the correct lens to comprehend what is occurring.

To conclude I want to share the lyrics of a song I came across last year called ‘Perception’ by a group called Livre’:

one may see a storm

another might just see rain

it’s all a matter of ones perception

Perception by Livre’

I’m sure I don’t have to stress the importance of positive thinking once again but knowing that our thoughts are often flawed and unreliable should prompt us to observe how this affects our perception. Being aware of God’s perspective is vital in navigating the world around us. Without trying to adapt to a glimpse of God’s perspective there is a high likelihood that we wander with negative emotions and dissatisfaction associated with a lack of understanding our experiences.

Finally, remember that “every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” James 1:17. This ultimate goodness of any gift must be measured in light of eternity, so some things that appear good now may lead to our destruction – I pray that we put on an eternal God-given lens/perspective on all that we encounter: Life is a test & Life on earth is temporary.

Stay blessed,

Dara xx

P.S – Please share and bless your friends & family.

How to Shaku Shaku in the Storm

Let me start with a Disclaimer: I am not here to actually teach you how to Shaku Shaku. And if you do not know what that is, it’s the latest Nigerian dance style that has stormed the internet over the last few months. In an attempt to jump on this new dance wave I have watched endless YouTube tutorials and music videos, let’s just say there’s a very small glimpse of hope. 😂

If you are a student like myself you are probably in a storm or about to encounter one, and by storm I mean the long-awaited exam season. Stress levels are high, deadlines are fast approaching, exam dates creeping up not so slowly. And for those who aren’t students, I am sure you can agree that there are some storms that you may or may not be currently in. Each gospel has the account of the Jesus calming the storm, here it is in the Gospel of Matthew 8:23-27 :

23 Then he [Jesus] got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Do we sometimes feel as though Jesus is sleeping in the midst of our storms? Whilst the waves were raging Jesus was sleeping!! He was cool, calm & collected. Imagine that. When Jesus wakes up he rebukes their fear and unbelief. That same rebuke may apply to us right now Jesus is asking:  “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” When we trust God correctly, there will be very little room left for fear.
The thing with the disciples is that they had reasons to have faith despite the raging sea; they had seen Jesus perform wonders in the past, they had seen people like the Centurion who displayed a big trust in Jesus and most importantly Jesus was on board. It takes great faith to trust that a “sleeping Jesus” cares about us even when he seems very silent. A bible commentator says: “There are many Christians today who seem to think the boat is going down! I am tired of the wailing of some of my friends who take that view. The boat cannot go down. Jesus is on board.” (Morgan)
The boat cannot go down: Jesus is on board.
 Key points to take from this story:
  1. Jesus is Lord over all; He has full authority & power over the circumstances that we face. Jesus appeared to have left them in the midst of their chaos but in reality, he was always with them – the same way he has never left our side.
  2. We Must trust Jesus in the storms of life
    • Storms often reflect our lack of trust in God – Sometimes we need to become weak so that we will learn to rely only on Christ’s strength
    • Not all fear is wrong, however, when our fear is excessive and causes us to panic & not think of God’s control over our problems – it is.
    • If we are so focused on a problem & can’t see God’s control over it, we are not trusting him.
  3. Storms should drive us towards God; One thing I have learnt about the storms of life is that the more we trust Him in our current storm, the more we will know Him and be able to trust Him in the upcoming storms.
  4. Storms hit us unexpectedly and without warning; thus in order to survive we must be prepared in advance. NOW is the time to prepare for the storm, if we don’t learn to trust God in the calm of life we will not be prepared to trust him when the storm hits.

Once upon a while ago, I heard: life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. A bad habit I have adopted whilst at Uni is playing music whilst revising and recently because of this new dance style – Shaku Shaku I find myself getting up every time a suitable song comes up to practice my moves. 😂😂 I’m literally dancing in the storm, my revision (which is driving me crazy) is there but I’m dancing instead.  What am I trying to say? This is the attitude we should have whilst in a storm. The reason we should be able to dance in the rain is that we understand that we have a firm anchor – God. I am reminded of the hymn:

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.

So there’s only one main step on how to Shaku Shaku in the storm and that is to anchor our faith in God’s promises and presence. The purpose of an anchor is to prevent the raging waves from smashing the boat into the shore and to stop the boat from drifting or being swept away. And so the same applies to God’s role when we encounter storms, He keeps us sane despite the adversity around us, He gives us serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of life.

Here are some of God’s promises to claim as we encounter storms in our lives:

  • God will keep me in perfect peace because I trust in him and my thoughts are firmly fixed on him. (Isaiah 26:3)
  • When I pass through deep waters, God will be with me, and when I pass the rivers of difficulty, I will not drown. When I walk through the fire, I will not be burned, the flames shall not consume. (Isaiah 43:2)
  • The Lord’s loving kindness never ceases. I am not consumed, for his compassions never fail and they are new every morning, Great is His faithfulness. The Lord is good to me because I seek Him and my hope is in Him. Therefore I will wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentation 3:21-26)
Fully trusting and relying on God & His promises means that in spite of the circumstances you can dance in the middle of the storm because you know; God will be with you, you will not be consumed, you will not drown and you will come out better and stronger to face the next storm. Faith is not an automatic thing, we must choose to exercise it daily, and sometimes you have to recall previous storms and remind yourself of God’s faithfulness. He hasn’t failed you in the past and he would not start now.
So I urge you today to drop your anchor and stand on the Rock of Ageslay a firm foundation in God and His Word and you will be able to Shaku Shaku in the Storm.
To all my fellow students, Go smash those exams and remember the same God that brought you here is still on board with you and will take you even further.
Stay Blessed
Dara xx
P.S: Students check out my previous blog posts for exam season for more encouragement & prayers :When fear creeps in… (for those who become very fearful & anxious during exam season), Do your BEST and He’ll do the REST (has a prayer especially for procrastinators) and Commit it to the Lord (a revision tool that works for EVERY & ANY subject).

…as yourself

You may or may not recognise that the title of this post is the end of a verse that is repeated in several portions of the Bible (to be exact in 10 separate passages). Here is the full text as it is found in Mark 12:30-31:

30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’This is the first commandment.31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Whilst preparing for this post I was certain about the points I wanted to raise with regards to the topic of self-love, but after researching and studying more of the Word there is an additional angle I will be presenting. Over my teenage years, I have come to realise that the relationship I have with myself sets the tone for every other relationship I have. If I love and appreciate myself those around me are more likely to do the same. If you don’t love yourself whether it be your appearance, qualities or characteristics it would be a lot harder to appreciate and love the positive aspects of those around you.

What is self-love? The dictionary says it is “regard for one’s own well-being and happiness”. Now self-love can be seen as both a negative and positive thing, as with all things in life one needs to strike the right balance. On one hand, a person can be prideful, arrogant and believe he/she is better than everyone else, which is a sin. And then there is naturally loving yourself. Naturally loving yourself is to be thankful for how God made you. Whilst searching for bible verses about loving yourself there isn’t an explicit command to do so and I reckon it’s because it is something that naturally occurs in humans. However, what I did find was the connection made between loving your neighbours as yourself and warnings against certain types of self-love.

So going back to the key text about loving your neighbour as yourself, it is not explicitly a command to love yourself, as this is our default position. The society in which we live in doesn’t lack self-love. The command is telling us to love others as we would ourselves. Our actions and attitudes towards others will be motivated by love, specifically the one that we display towards ourselves. As believers, if we lose the motivation of love, we become critical of others. We stop looking for the good in them and only see & focus on their faults. The real problem in our society is the excess of self-love. If we cast our minds back to the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, only one of the men that passed the injured man was a true neighbour. The Levite and priest failed to help the man in need not because they loved themselves too little but because they loved themselves too much and as a result put their interests first. However, the Samaritan showed true love, he gave his time, resources and money with no regard for himself. His focus was outward and not inward. Now loving your neighbour as yourself doesn’t mean that we must love ourselves before we can love anyone else; it means that in the same way we take care of ourselves and are concerned about our own interests we should do the same towards others.

We are reminded in Philippians 2:3-4 – “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others.” From this passage, I have learnt the following:

  • We don’t tend to do things out of love, but rather for our own desire for benefits or praise (selfish ambition) | the bible warns against this
  • Doing something through conceit is to have excessive pride in oneself, self-interest and self-preoccupation
  • When we put away our selfish ambitions, our conceit and tendency to be self-absorbed we will naturally have more concern for the interests and needs of others
  • Paul isn’t saying it’s wrong to look out for our own interests, but that we should NOT only look out for our own interests
  • Loving others requires humility, valuing others and always making an effort to put others’ interest first. Anything other than that is selfish & vain and far from God’s standard.

Now I am not saying that we should see ourselves as worthless because after all we are made in God’s image and that makes our net worth veryyyy high. The balance that we need to strike is that you and I are God’s unique creation, loved by God in spite of our sins (& many flaws), and redeemed by Christ. We should respond to His love by sharing it with those around us.

As I mentioned above loving others requires humility. I probably haven’t finished a post until I’ve included a thoughtful quote so here is one by Rick Warren: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less”. True humility is service to others, service to a cause greater than your own personal ambition.

My prayer is that the Lord will fill us all with a humble spirit. A heart of flesh that sees the best in others and doesn’t focus on their flaws. May the Lord remove the spirit of pride, jealousy or boastfulness from our beings. May God also help us to remember His great love for us, and as we remember this may we be able to share this love with those around us.

Key Undilutedword points to take away;

  1. Focus on the strengths of others and don’t point out their weaknesses & flaws
  2. When we as believers lose the motivation of love, we become critical of others. We stop looking for the good in them and see only their faults.
  3. Focus more on how you can share God’s love for you with others
  4. True humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less
  5. Love yourself but don’t let that stop you from putting the needs of others ahead of yours

Stay Blessed!

Dara x

Living our best life in 2018

First and foremost – Happy New Year!

New Year New Me? Does that sound like a phrase you are familiar with? Some people detest hearing that phrase as it seems unrealistic for one to completely change and be a new person after the clocks strike midnight on the 31st of December. Okay, so if it’s not new year new me, how can we make this year different from the last? A phrase that was thrown around a lot last year was “I’m living my best life”. For those of you who have never heard it till now – it’s a statement made at the end of a sentence declaring the actions you are doing are causing you to live your greatest life possible. 

I don’t know about you but I want to live my best life, not many of us would want to settle for a mediocre life. Towards the end of last year I noticed myself saying the phrase “I’m living my best life” more and more. Examples of when I believed I was living by best life included; travelling to France for my 20th, going to Disneyland, travelling to 5 different American states within 15 days, eating out and eating good good food, crossing things like golf, pottery and going to a west end theatre show off my bucket list. Even though those are all valid examples of living my best life, after coming across a tweet on twitter (see below) I believe there’s more to living your best life.

After seeing the above tweet I couldn’t help but consider the truth behind it: If I am not living for Jesus am I truly living my best life? I am reminded of Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Here we find a call for Christians; to represent Christ at all times – wherever we go and in whatever we say. The bible goes on to say in Psalm 37:4 – delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heartTo delight in something means to experience great pleasure and joy in his or her presence. This can only happen when we know that person well. Therefore if we are to delight in the Lord, we must get to know him better.

Earlier on in Psalm 16:11 David says; you make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermoreIt simply states in the Lord’s presence there is fullness of joy. David had full confidence that his life with God-both now and forevermore – would be marked by the highest and best pleasures. This is a life lived above shallow entertainments and excitements.  Thus to truly live our best lives we must actively seek to remain in the Lord’s presence.

I came across another tweet which stated: Our best life is in obedience to God’s Word! – not far from the truth is it. In Matthew 6:33-34 we are admonished to: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. What I then concluded was that in order to live our best life possible we need to be obedient to God’s word and a prime example in which we can show obedience to God is by seeking his kingdom above all else – Above all the trivial things this world fools us into being preoccupied with. Only then can the aspects of “living our best life” be our portion.

Now my final verses to share with you; Psalm 34:12-14

12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

Here are some Undiluted words to take away from that passage. If you want to live your best life;

  1. Keep your tongue from evil 
  2. Keep your lips from telling lies 
  3. Turn away from evil 
  4. Do Good
  5. Seek & Pursue Peace

I would say those are all pretty self-explanatory points and essential keys to follow in order to live our best life in 2018.

Now I leave you with Joyce Meyer’s words:

May your 2018 be filled with nothing but the BEST that God has in store for you. Go forth and  seize every opportunity to live your best life possible for God and yourself.

Stay blessed,

Dara x

P.S – Hope you’ve stopped collecting Ls, if not I guess you need to be reminded of last year’s New Year Post – https://theundilutedword.com/2017/01/05/a-year-without-ls/  😜<<
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