Faith

Set your sights in 2020

Sight is a gift. (Ask anyone who doesn’t have theirs and they will tell you so). To be able to see is something that we take for granted every single day. But there is a difference between having sight and seeing.

You have no doubt heard the term 20/20 vision a few times already this year, but do you know what it actually means? It is the term used to describe the clarity or sharpness of vision at 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at 20 feet. If you have 20/40 vision then you must be at a distance of 20 feet to see what someone with normal sight can see at 40 feet.

20/20 vision doesn’t equal perfect vision

It doesn’t take into consideration your peripheral sight, depth, ability to focus etc. You can still see without 20/20 vision, but your clarity isn’t as good.

I don’t have 20/20 vision, and I wear glasses every day to improve my sight. But physics sight isn’t the only thing I need improvement on.

Since becoming a Christian, I have wrestled so often with not knowing what’s ahead. As a believer I have given my heart to Jesus but my giving my head is not so easy. I want to trust Him while having complete control over the curveballs heading my way so that I can intercept them and manage them. I want to know where I am headed, so I can find the quickest, most direct route to get there.

But God isn’t in the habit of letting us see the full picture all in one go.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says that we should walk by faith and not by sight.

This has always been real hard for me. I like to be in control, but that is not my job it is God’s. It is therefore unsurprising to me that in my experience, that God has used the unexpected, the unknowns and the uncertainties to draw me closer to Him. More often than I care to admit, I have had to rely on the Holy Spirit showing me what is right and wrong. I have had to talk to Jesus and delve deeper into God’s word than ever before to find insight for the situation ahead.

Do you know that God doesn’t want you to have control?

Yep. That’s right. He doesn’t want you in control of your life anymore than you want your toddler in control of your car. In the wrong hands, a vehicle meant for driving can lead to our death.

God knows the plans He has for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future ~ Jeremiah 29:11

So does all this mean are we supposed to walk blindly? No. We are meant to walk with Jesus. He knows the Father’s heart, and He also knows the trials we face on this earth. Jesus wants to walk with us, to strengthen us and to equip us. He is not just a character in a book; He is the living breathing Son of God, who died for you and me and rose again from the dead.

We are not meant to walk blindly, we are meant to walk with Jesus

I am a recovering control freak. I like to know what’s ahead. I want to see what’s around the corner, but without spiritual insight I may as well be walking around with a blindfold on. Jesus is teaching me to trust Him, to take His hand and let His word illuminate the path. He didn’t say He would give me the road map, but He did promise to shine enough light for me to take the next step.

New Year is the perfect opportunity to change. But in order to see change you need to see things differently. It’s time to set our sights.

Can I encourage you today to get a spiritual sight test. Take off the tinted glasses that the world would give you. See things through the lens of the Holy Spirit and let Jesus be your guide.

R x

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Faith, Lifestyle

When the waves rise

The skies are clear but my eyes are clouded. A storm rages in my soul. I feel torn in a million different directions, my heart beats I am staring at the waves rising around me and I want to run for high ground.

They say knowledge is power but the more I learn the more I wish I didn’t know. My head is filled with questions and my heart reels.

We are en route to the coast and these few days away with my tribe couldn’t be more timely. I feel like we need time to ponder and pray; to recharge and refocus. At home I am so busy looking at the waves that I forget to look at the One who walks upon them.

When the waves rise, look at the One who walks upon them

Family is everything to me. They are truth, consistency and unconditional love. They are ‘home’. I have craved unity and togetherness my entire life, searched for a place to belong. But the generation that was supposed to nurture and build up chose to tear down and destroy. Those we were supposed to follow didn’t speak love or truth and our hearts were left wanting with unanswered questions.

When it feels like your life is flooded with doubts and disappointment, where does that leave you? With empty hands and a broken heart.

Jesus loves making something out of nothing.

When we have nothing to give Jesus pours in love and peace. When we are hurting He brings healing. He gave the blind sight and He raised the dead to life.

In the beginning the Spirit hovered above the waters waiting to make his move, ready to command the waves to surge and recede.

If, like me, you have unanswered questions, if you feel the storm surrounding you and the waves surging, simply whisper “Spirit lead me”.

Just as the Holy Spirit waited with anticipation when God spoke the world into motion, he is ready and waiting to move today. Let Him still the storm and hold your hand, as you walk on the waters together.

R x

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Faith

Finding me

All I have ever wanted is to belong. Isn’t that what we all want?

I grew up surrounded by abusive relationships, marriage breakdowns and bitter individuals. I have seen families torn apart by anger that was incited decades ago. I was fought over in the courts. I have never known, nor perhaps ever will know the full story behind the turbulent childhood I had. But what I do know, is that I have always sought to belong, to be accepted, to be approved of.

Thinking I could rectify the past with good works, I have always strived to be good – good at school, good at horse riding, good at art. I was always in the top sets and always pushing myself but this was never enough to gain the love and acceptance that I craved.

I went to university to study, one of the first in my family to do so, and I thought would impress, but it didn’t and I left without graduating.

I felt like a failure. But God.

He didn’t need me to do anything to impress Him or make Him take notice of me. God had watched me all along, He never took His eyes off me. He knew me inside and out, and He was insanely jealous for my affection. When I turned to Him, aged 21, He became the Cornerstone in my life, the anchor for my soul.

But I still strived. It’s all I knew to do.

I thought I could make up for the past by creating the perfect family. I pinned my hopes and dreams on creating the perfect home, the perfect family. I married an incredible man and we begin to build our family, but even so things began to unravel.

Sometimes it’s only when we are on our knees that we remember to look up

I found myself spiralling in anxiety and depression wondering where it had all gone so horribly wrong. I found myself floundering, utterly lost and asking Who am I? What am I here for? Do I need to be a Wife? Mother? Speaker? Writer?

I cried out to God and His reply was simple; You are my daughter.

Ever impatient, I asked, so what am I supposed to do?

His reply; Do what you love.

I sat back reeling, because I didn’t know the answer. What did I love? Jesus, family, friends? No the answer to finding me wasn’t in who I loved but what. And slowly over the last five years God has been peeling me back later by later, to rediscover my loves.

Do what you love ~ Father God

When we bought our first house, God whispered into my heart to get a piano. I found a beautiful vintage one on FreeCycle and arranged to collect it. My husband thought I had gone insane and that it was a fad that I would get bored with, but three years on I still play my piano almost every single day.

Our house is in a busy area and it wasn’t until we lived somewhere so urban that I realised how much I craved the great outdoors. We make an effort to get the children outside the city and into the woods, fields and mountains as often as possible. Both Dave and I grew up in the countryside and we continue to feel such a pull towards a simpler, rural way of life.

And then there is my writing. I have written as long as I can remember. Poetry, stories, songs and later blogs. But only in recent years have I realised the power in sharing my musings. I have always searched for a niche, not feeling that I fit into the usual parent blogger or lifestyle blogger categories. God gave me incredible tools in essential oils to support my emotional and physical health, and lately I have used this platform to share more about my wellness journey with others.

So what have I learned in all this? That God has given me gifts and talents. He has given me hopes and dreams. And He doesn’t need me to ‘be’ anyone or ‘do’ anything. In the same way that I take delight in seeing my children come alive in their giftings, so too does God delight in me. I don’t need a label, or a category. I just need to rest in the knowledge that I am a child of God and do what I love.

I am still finding ‘me’. But there are less layers to peel back and she is starting to peek through.

R x

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Faith, Parenting

Learn the unforced rhythm of grace

 

The words appeared to jump off the page straight into my heart. The impact was so physically felt that I had to sit down as I steadied myself for the realisation that I am HIS.

And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters
2 Corinthians 6:18

The truth is identity is something that I have struggled with as long as I can remember. My worth has always been found in my identity, in who I am, in what I do. If I fail at something, no matter how insignificant it may seem to others I take it so personally. I remember as a young girl of no more than 8, failing a spelling test at school. Now when I say failed, I mean I got 9 out of 10 answers right. Now to many this would be an astounding achievement; wow only one incorrect answer? Well done lovely! Yet I sobbed when I closed the door to my bedroom, away from prying eyes. This little girl was heartbroken because she had failed at the one thing that she could control in her life – her intelligence and academic success. She had let herself down, let her family down, those who were looking to her, willing her to do well, expecting her to succeed, relying on her to raise the bar.

And the word I got wrong?

Opportunity.

I can still see it now, written in smudged pencil marks in my spelling book. I had spelled it as oppurtunity not opportunity, and I remember being so distraught that I wrote that word out about a hundred times in the privacy of my bedroom to make sure I would never spell it wrong again.

Why? Because I craved the love and adoration of my parents. I so desperately wanted them to be proud of me, to want me. Because my daddy hadn’t been the man I needed him to be, because my  mom was busy raising two children single-handedly while I tried so hard to be a grown up girl. And grown up girls were good girls. They did their homework, they listened at school and they got good grades. So a bad grade meant I hadn’t lived up to the expectation, no matter how unrealistic that expectation had grown in my little 8 year old head.

24 years later and I still love words of affirmation. I still thrive in situations where I can succeed, where I can do good and where I am needed and noticed. That’s not to say that I do things just to get attention, far from it at times, however my love languages of words of affirmation and physical touch are the very same as that 8 year old girl sat in her bedroom all those years ago.

Perhaps this is why identity is so important to me. To me, what I do affirms who I am, my purpose, my usefulness, and I have spent years chasing dreams and trying to be the best I can be in the many phases of my personal life and professional career.

The truth is that I think that a lot of us are good at a lot of things. I have sought labels and titles, believing that once I achieve a certain position at work, a certain level of responsibility, a certain martial status then I will have ‘made it’. Only problem is that each time I reach the next ‘level’, the goal posts change, and along with it my capacity or my desires. All of a sudden I am not pigeon holed neatly into one box, I seem to fit into three and this does not sit well with my organisational OCD that likes to compartmentalise my life.

My daughter, don’t you know that your identity is not in who you are but in whose you are?

These are the words that caused my world to stop spinning just for a millisecond, as I held my breath, stunned at the truth being spoken into my heart by my Heavenly Father.

I am the Dad he could never be, I am the mother that you missed, I am the parent that holds you close on your darkest day, I never missed a single moment of your life. I was there at every precious milestone, when you first rode a bike, when you won a writing competition at school, I was there when you lost your loved one, I was there when you passed your exams, I was there when he betrayed you in the worst way, I was there when you made the decision to follow Me, I was there when you were baptised in My name, I was there when you married the man I created just for you and I was there when you gave birth to his children.

And I am still here now.

Still watching, still waiting, still listening.

So lean in close and hear my heartbeat.

Floored by the brand new revelation of God’s love for me, He gently told me;

Learn the unforced rhythm of grace. Matthew 11:28 (The Message)

Stop striving, stop searching and simply be. Stop trying to control your circumstances, stop trying to predict the future and stop trying to conceal your past. Stop trying to be all things to everyone, stop trying to fix broken things and embrace their new shape. What if the road ahead doesn’t look how you had envisaged? What if the dream doesn’t come to pass as you had expected? What if the path isn’t clear but is in fact blurry, with the final destination hidden from view?

Learn the unforced rhythm of grace. Learn to abide in Me, learn to trust in My plan for you my daughter. Learn to rest in my arms and enjoy the view. Learn to embrace a love you could never earn.

Because His grace covers every sin, every circumstance, every history and every hurt, every disappointment and every failure. Because it gently guides and never causes guilt. Because His timing is perfect and because you deserve it.

And so today I fall at His feet, fall in love with my Saviour all over again, and thank Him for loving me.

And I start to learn the unforced rhythm of grace in my life.

R

 

 

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Faith

Expect persecution for the promise

Persecution is not a word we like to meditate on. This isn’t a topic for discussion over a cuppa and biscuit, it won’t bring you light relief at the end of a long day and it won’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

But it is promised.

Jesus Himself warned his faithful followers that they would be persecuted;

“If the world hates you, remember that they hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”

This warning is as real and relevant to us as Christ’s followers today as it was to the disciples of the early church.

The definition of persecution is hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs; oppression. This means that anyone who receives negative comments, is the victim of malicious gossip, is excluded, or is subject to cruelty of any kind for their faith is persecuted.

There are many thousands of Christian men, women and children across the globe who have died or are dying for their faith right now. People who bravely stand up for their belief, refuse to surrender to extremist bullies and worship God in the face of the enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. May we never forget these precious people in our prayers, and may God rescue them from this world and bring them home to Himself.

But as I ponder their persecution, I wonder what this looks like for us, in a relatively safe western civilisation. Did you ever have a group of friends as school, college or work who took a dislike to you because you were different? Took offence at your impressive grades or rapid rise through the ranks? I understand that this playground style bad behaviour pales in comparison to the atrocities suffered by Christians worldwide as we speak… or does it?

What constitutes persecution or abuse in the Western world? Where do you draw the line of unacceptable social behaviour towards those who dare to be different? Because, effectively that is what we are called to be. As followers of Jesus we are called to be salt and light in a dark world, to preserve love, peace and patience, to promote good and extinguish evil. Like a struck match our faith is as the flame, bright and effervescent, burning in our hearts and casting a light around us for all to see.

But oh how quickly that flame can be extinguished, and not least when our light illuminates the darkness in another. Not least when our words convict those who know they should know better. Not least when our actions support the prompting of the Holy Spirit in another, making them uncomfortable. Because like it or not, we are all imperfect and we all need to change and grow, but this is rarely a comfortable process.

Our faith can waver as we face the loss of a friendship, a relationship or a business deal because we are different. Our steadfast feet can wobble as the persecution we are promised in the Bible is exacted upon us and the promises we read in the Bible don’t come to pass in our time frame.

But this is not how Jesus intends for us to live.

We need to remember that we are living in the end times. We need to cling to the hope we have in Jesus and remind ourselves that THIS IS NOT OUR HOME. We have an eternal home in heaven and we are merely passing through. When hopelessness hits, when financial ruin threatens and when health fails, don’t lose sight of all that God has planned for your life. The devil may think he has won the battle but we know who won the war. Hold you head up high, face your battle knowing that the angel armies themselves have got your back.

I love this quote. I read it earlier in the week and I think it is just so fitting for those who are in a battle right now;

An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus and keep aiming ~ (Unknown)

If you are in a situation at the moment that is dragging you down; a classmate who spreads malicious lies about you, a colleague that is making work a living nightmare, or the breakdown of a relationship because of your beliefs, stop and consider that God can and will use it to propel you in to your future.

He can work ALL things together for the good of those who love Him, and His promises are always Yes and Amen.

And then my friend, when we have battled our belittlers and prevailed against persecution, we will know and experience the very real promises of God.

R

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Faith, Parenting

Mental health matters

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If I had a pound for every time someone said to me ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me, don’t make a fuss or I don’t want to be a burden’ I would be a rich woman. In our modern day society that screams ‘I can do it all, all alone’, it is deemed weak or bothersome to require help, support or assistance. We are all supposed to be able to live blissful independent lives, juggle the demands of work/family/life, breeze through deadlines and ill-health and laugh in the face of adversity. Why? Because isn’t that what everybody else does?

Mental health affects one in three people in the UK each and every year, and perhaps because it is an ‘unseen’ affliction that is rarely talked about, it can cause the sufferer to feel even more isolated and misunderstood. To avoid being judged (or avoided) individuals often learn pretty quickly to stand on their own two feet, smiling wide in a defiant display of positivity and independence that belies the turmoil rising underneath their cool calm exterior.

I have always been fiercely independent, to a fault at times, and the first time that I truly realised I could not cope without help was after the birth of my second son. I am not talking about practical help, although this is beyond valuable to new parents who are wading through sleepless nights, sore nipples and soiled nappies, I am talking about mental, emotional support from others. Five weeks in to motherhood for the second time and I found myself sitting on my bed at my mother in laws sobbing as I stared at my new baby. I knew within a matter of days after having him that something wasn’t quite right with me, but I simply kept putting it down to long days with two boys and even longer nights with a newborn.

On the outside I was my normal, bubbly self. I got up, got dressed, put on my make up and went out to face the world with a smile on your face. But on the inside I was dying, confused that I wasn’t enjoying these precious first weeks and terrified as to why. I kept going to toddler groups with my then 3 and a half year old son, nodding and smiling in all the right places as friends cooed over my newborn, when all I wanted to do was to grab someone – anyone – by the shoulders and say can you help me? can you take my boys for an hour so I can get some sleep? can you explain why I just want to run away?

It wasn’t until five months in that I was diagnosed with post natal depression. The overwhelming relief I felt at the doctors words were overshadowed by the shame and stigma that I felt at being labelled as having a mental health issue. I mean, how would I tell other people? What would my family and friends think of me, bubbly, outgoing Rachel who had been going about her normal life without so much as a word of the struggles she was facing, suddenly announcing a mental health condition? So all of a sudden I had gone from capable mom to mentally ill mess that needed medication and support? Moreover, what did I say about my faith in Jesus Christ, that I could have my world rocked so completely whilst claiming to be clinging to the rock of my salvation?

Some of these days were my darkest, yet God never left my side once. As soon as I had been diagnosed He gave me peace about taking medication to rebalance my topsy turvy hormone levels, He showed me that my mastitis and subsequent failure to produce breast milk was necessary in order for me to take the medication that would help me rekindle that spark in my soul again. And rekindle it did. But God needed something else from me, He needed me to share my struggle. He told me right from the start that I need to tell everyone who would listen about my PND, in order to raise the awareness of depression and lift the taboo of talking about it.

Over 2 years on, I am completely depression free and passionate about talking about mental health issues, especially PND. I will happily recount my tales to new and expectant moms, not to frighten them but simply to help them know that PND is not a weakness, it does not make you a bad mom, it is no respecter of age or circumstance, and it can affect ANYONE. My boys were both planned and wanted, born into a loving family with everything they could ever need. I was a positive, outgoing Christian woman, supported by an amazing husband, my family and a network of beautiful friends at my church Renewal, yet I still suffered with it.

Why would God make me go through this you may ask? I have pondered the same thing over the last two years, and then I started to notice that God was bringing many people into my life who had suffered with or were still battling a mental disorder of their own. I don’t write this to glorify me in any way, or suggest that I had any expertise in the diagnosis or treatment of mental health, but what I did have to offer those who crossed my path was empathy. What I could do was understand to some small degree how hard and how lonely it can be fighting a battle in your mind, how embarrassed and ashamed you can feel when labelled with a mental illness and how draining it can be to endure the rollercoaster ride of emotions and feelings each and every day.

I don’t pretend to have any answers. I don’t claim to have the solution to your specific problems, but what I can offer is a welcoming embrace and a friendly face. Seeking professional help is essential, but I would also urge you to seek God. He created you. He knows your innermost being and this situation you find yourself in is no surprise to Him. Just as you would consult the Haynes manual for your car, we need to consult the human handbook, the Bible. You can find peace in God’s promises in the Bible. This book has the power to transform your life and is truly the Haynes manual for every human on the planet.

You are unique, exquisite and valuable. God has a purpose and a plan for your life and He can and will work any circumstance out for good. He can make beauty out of ashes, He can give you peace in your prison and He can give you freedom in your frustration.

For I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

The battle for your mind is a real one, and so we need to make sure that we fill it with God’s word, His truth and His promises.  Paul said in Philippians;

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:8-9 The Message

If you are battling depression or any mental illness, or know someone who is, then fear not my friend. God is with you, He has gone before you and He will bring you out of whatever situation you are facing today. Get into His word today and allow Him to shape your tomorrow.

R

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Faith

Strengthen your core

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Running is hands down (or perhaps feet down!) one of my favourite ‘me moments’. It is when I get to pull on my trainers, put in my headphones and tune out the rest of the world for 40 minutes or so, a time when I am no longer wife, mom, leader, writer but just me. In the past year I have taken steps to improve my health and fitness more seriously through running and I have come to love these moments of solitude, not least because in the absence of other distractions this is often the time where God meets me to drop some little pearls of wisdom into my journey.

Today was no exception.

As I ran up the hill alongside some shop fronts, I caught sight of my reflection in the window panes on my left and my reflection surprised me. I had not long started out on my run, and although heading uphill, I felt I was running strong, head up, arms and legs pumping but my reflection suggested otherwise. As I glanced across I saw that shoulders were sloped, my back rounded and my feet were far from flying high above the ground as I had imagined. I instantly pulled myself up, drawing my tummy in to my spine, rolling back my shoulders and lifting my knees higher to resume the running style I had mistakenly believed I was running all along, and guess what? It was much harder work!

You can run as many miles as you want, but unless your core is strong you are not using your muscles correctly to maximise your workout, God whispered into my spirit.

As this revelation dropped into my heart, I was quite stunned by the simplicity of God’s message yet its sheer importance in our lives. Sure you can run 10k, that’s great, but if you don’t engage your core muscles correctly then you will not engage the rest of your musculo-skeletal system, and will therefore not achieve the maximum fat burn and muscle growth you hoped for. In fact, not only will your fitness improvement plan take longer, but you can actually hamper it by running with incorrect form and posture as this puts additional strain on your body and can result in long-term injury.

That’s how it is with us in our spiritual lives. We can attend church, sing praises to God every Sunday and we can hang on the preacher’s every word during the sermon, amen-ing in all the right places, but unless we have a personal core faith in Jesus, strengthening us daily, we will not be running right. After the Sunday service, our posture will be gradually slipping a little more each day, those slumped shoulders struggling under the weight of our circumstances, those feet flailing as we try to find secure footing on uncertain paths, or the stitch of grief, depression or financial difficulties crippling us as we reach for the next milestone in our journey.

Faith in Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to our Father God in heaven. But it is not just enough to believe in Him, we need to know Him, walk with Him, talk with Him and read God’s word. God wants us to have a relationship with Him but He knew we could never live a perfect life, and this is why He sent His only Son, Jesus, to earth to die for us so that we could be made right with God and come to Him as His forgiven sons and daughters.

But there is someone else fighting for your attention. Someone else who wants you distracted, depressed, demoted during your time on this earth. Whether you like it or not, the devil is real, he is an enemy and he will spin you every line in the book in order to avert your eyes from the one who made you. God knows that we are weak, however He promises that in our weaknesses He is strong. Jesus himself was tempted by the devil and so He knows the power and pain of the enemies lies. But Jesus also knows the awesome power and sovereignty of His Father in heaven, and so He overcame the devil.

And Jesus knew He could rely on this power and authority in heaven because His core was strong.

From an early age Jesus devoured the scriptures until they were written on His heart, He talked with His heavenly father day after day and He was obedient and faithful so that He would always be strong. And we can do the same. We need to get fit and strong, both physically and spiritually to endure the twists and turns of life and not crumble every time a curve ball gets thrown at us.

Paul summarises this brilliantly in 1 Corinthians 9;

“So I run with purpose in every step, I am not just shadow boxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.” 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NLT

Each of us has a God-given purpose and destiny on this earth. We are not here just to enjoy the ride of life, we have a job to do during the race of life. If we want our physical bodies to be strong we need to train hard, bear weight and keep correct form and the same is true of our spirit. We cannot build muscle without putting pressure and strain on our muscles, and so to improve our core faith and relationship with Jesus we will have to endure hard times that force us to rely upon Him even more. In order to run the race of life strong, resisting temptation, overcoming hurdles and achieving all that God has set out for us then we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and keep His word fixed in our hearts.

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired and young men will find exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 NLT

Do you feel like you are struggling on your journey? Feel that the load is just too much to bear? Don’t panic and don’t give up. This is your core strengthening exercises and your mind, body, soul and spirit WILL come out of this stronger, fitter and closer to God than ever before.

Let’s start that core work and get ready.

R

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Faith, Parenting

Put your hands up

“Mommmmyyyyyyyy!!!!” came the urgent cries from my two year old today, whilst I was washing up the dishes. I dried my hands and hurried to the kitchen door to see what mischief he has gotten himself into and I was greeted by the sorry sight of a very tangled up little boy. We have a small goal post in our garden, that is more often than not used as a net to catch monsters or to hang toys off of rather than to field incoming goals. My youngest had been playing with his ‘arrow’ (tin opener… go figure) and had somehow managed to get his hi-top clad feet hopelessly entangled in the goal net and was now stood in the middle of the garden with tears of frustration streaming down his cheeks.

Goal

I ran over to him to assess the crystal maze-esque task of getting him out of the goal as he pulled at the ropes wound tightly around his legs. “Its OK baby” I soothed, “put your hands up and Mommy will pull you out”. Keen to escape the confines of the goal post, my son immediately put his hands in the air and reached out to me as I pulled him up, clear of the net without a struggle.

As I pulled my son close, God whispered into my spirit “If only you put your hands up to me so quickly. Daughter, I love you and always want to help you, I can see when you are struggling and if only you would reach out to me I would pull you out of every situation that you find yourself in.”

My heart quickened as I recalled the many times where I have inadvertently gotten myself in to a tangle, and rather than calling out to God and reaching up to Him to pull me out I have picked at the knots and strings entwined around my life getting more and more tangled and increasingly frustrated.

When my son was in his tangled moment, I had the vantage point of being above him, I could clearly see where the strings were wrapped and how to move him so that he would be freed. God has the ultimate vantage point in heaven, He knows all things and sees all things, and He can see the things that bind you right now. He can see the situation you are in that you think is impossible to leave. He sees the financial burdens that keep you locked in to place, unable to move forward. He sees the physical limitations that sickness and chronic conditions have over you.

But He wants to set you free.

He wants you to move freely, unbound, unshackled, moving forward into all that He has planned for you.

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb” Jeremiah 1:5

If only you would put your hands up. Put your hands up to the one who formed you in your mother’s womb. The one who created you and ordained every single day of your life even before time began, the one who loves you so much that He sent His son Jesus to die for you. If only you would realise that by putting your hands up to the loving Father, He will take your hands and pull you up and out of your situation. Just as we love, nurture, protect and rescue our children so too does our heavenly Father, but we must be willing to surrender, to reach up to God for His love, His help and His protection in our situation.

Friend, please don’t give in to fear, shame, guilt, debt, sickness, relationship breakdown, abuse or addiction. Instead give it up to God today.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Jeremiah 29:11

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Faith

Happy Dependence Day

a-declaration-of-dependence[1]Yes you read right, the title is not a typo on my part!

Across the pond, our fellow American friends (and many others scattered around the globe) are celebrating Independence Day, to commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776.

The 4th July is a date very dear to my heart but for an entirely different reason. You see on the 4th July I publicly renounced my independence and ran headlong in to the arms of my Father in heaven.

I was baptised on the 4th July 2004 after finding Jesus in the May of that year. I was a broken young woman, fresh out of a long term relationship break up, suffering with low self-esteem and such doubts about who I was and what I was doing that shook me to my very core. I was miles away from home (The Midlands) living in St. Neots, Cambridgeshire, unable to drive and much less able to afford rail fares to visit family.

It was in my loneliness and desperation that my loving God met me. He saw a fragile heart that couldn’t bear to be handled any more, and He picked it up with such tenderness and held it close. He saw the tears streaming down my cheeks and wiped them away with His gentle hands and He carried me in His arms until I felt able to stand on my own two feet again.

Miss Independent was something of a motto for me back then as I had always felt that I need to prove myself, to be fiercely independent, reliant upon no body and no thing, for fear of being hurt, betrayed, let down or disappointed. I put on the persona that I needed no one and wasn’t afraid to let the whole world know it, but in reality I was desperate for love, for affection, for relationship.

I first experienced God through the love of a dear friend and colleague, Beckie Gilbert, who saw in me what I could not. As we got to know each other better, I found out she was a Christian and held a weekly bible study group called a ‘Cell Group’ in her home. Being curious (read nosey) about such a young, cool chick who was so passionate about church, I wanted to see what the group was all about and I eventually asked to attend her Cell groups and my first experience has stayed with me for life.

The members of the group were a mixed bunch of singles, divorcees, couples and parents that you would probably never put together, but they had one thing in common; this tangible faith that I could almost see shining out of them. Even as they talked, and made tea, and passed biscuits around, there was just something different about them. They just had ‘something’. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but it was attractive and I wanted it. We met each week and sang some worship songs (that felt weird initially!), then shared the highs and lows of our week, discussed the word and prayed together. I was encouraged to participate whenever I wanted to or simply sit and observe the meeting, and I felt so very welcomed into this group that I quickly opened up to them. I have never felt so completely and utterly loved, accepted and embraced just as I am by any other group of people in my whole life.

After a few weeks of going along to the Cell group I figured I had better go along to church to hear the message first hand as that is what we were discussing each week, and so I first stepped over the threshold of Open Door Church in St Neots and was overwhelmed by the presence of God. There was a lot I did not understand, and some things that I found pretty unnerving, such as the gifts of the Spirit, but what I did know was that this was a place of love, a place of goodness, a place of healing and restoration and ultimately a place for family. Open Door was part of New Frontiers, and I went on to attend the Start course, which is very similar to Alpha, for new Christians or people exploring the faith. Four weeks in to the eight week course and I just felt the proverbial penny ‘drop’. I got it. I believed that this Jesus was real, that He loved me and that He died for me, and I wanted to know more. I prayed the prayer of salvation with three beautiful friends and leaders in the church on the lawns outside the school building where we met each Sunday, and as we prayed the clouds broke and the sun shone down in the most glorious moment. I was saved!

Shortly after the course finished, the church was scheduling a water baptism Sunday and I was all in. To some, this may have been to fast, but I knew that this was the right thing for me and that I needed to do it there and then. I felt so peaceful about it, so ready and most importantly so excited! From first experiencing the love of Jesus through a cell group in March, to completing my Start course and surrendering my life to Jesus in May, I then sealed the deal with a publication declaration to the world that I belonged to God, that I was saved through the blood of Jesus in the July.

So the 4th July was, and still is, a big deal for me. It is the day that I said to the world, I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to walk with Him, to rely on Him, to trust in Him and to serve Him with all that I am. I am no longer trying to do it all my way, but rather yahweh, I don’t want to be Miss Independent, but instead am proud to be dependent on the one who made me. 11 years on I am still learning, but wow, how Jesus has transformed my life!!

If you haven’t met Jesus yet, I encourage you to attend an Alpha course at your local church. Meet Christians, ask questions and most importantly ask God! Pray to him, you don’t need a theology degree to open you heart and your mouth and ask Him “God are you there? Are you listening? Do you care about me?” I guarantee He will answer you, He will speak to you through His word, through a song on the radio, through whispers in to your spirit. All you have to do is ask.

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Faith

Wear love out

We all want to be loved right?

That is the reason we get dolled up for a big night out, ready to impress a certain someone at youth club, the church social or an office party. We make an effort with our appearance, hit the gym regularly or maybe choose a fashionable outfit or statement accessory to make us feel good and get noticed by others.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel good. However your worth is not in what you wear or what you look like, nor is it in who ‘likes’ you on Facebook or professes to love you in the club. Grasping blindly at this superficial love is like trying to catch the clouds with your fingertips, we will always be just too far away to reach, and if we did catch it, the love that has no substance would simply dissipate like the clouds.

Jesus loves you exactly as you are. Right now. His love is substantial, real, tangible and life giving. It is there even when you don’t realise it, are at your worst, your least glamorous or least graceful.

Why? Because you are worth it.

You are precious and important. You are unique and valuable, so much so that Jesus died for you! That kind of love, that sacrificial, selfless, all encompassing love is unimaginably deep and wide, it covers every single person in this world, whether they accept it or not, but the greatest joy will be found by those who do accept it.

Jesus said that others will know that we are his disciples by our love for one another. John 13:35.

When a person accepts Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and invites him in to their hearts they are changed forever. For some it is an overnight change, but for most it is a continual process that develops as we grow in our walk with God. God is love, and as we get to know him better, and understand his love for us and for others we start to see the bigger picture.

We are called to love. Love your mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, friend and neighbour. Smile, pay compliments, offer lifts, take time out to have a cuppa with an elderly friend or relative, take meals to new moms and the sick. See the need around us, look at your world, your immediate circles through the eyes of Jesus and love them. You don’t need a big international ministry to impact the Kingdom of God, just take a few minutes out of your day to see your colleague or friend through Jesus’ eyes and be his hands and feet right where you are.

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.”
Colossians 3:12-15 NLT

That’s the kind of love I want to be display, I want to be known for my love for others, not for my appearance. I know that I am loved by my creator God, my Father in heaven and I want to crave his admiring glances and his approval, no one else’s. Find yourself in him each and every morning, wrapped in his loving embrace, then take that love with you and wear it out.

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Wear Love

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