Faith, Lifestyle

HIIT with Habakkuk

Do you love HIIT? I do because I don’t have time for hour long workouts and need something that is going to give me the most impact. I have discovered that approaching my Bible as a HIIT workout right now is super helpful too. Let me explain why.

I have been studying the book of Habakkuk in the Bible and learned so many lessons about life in lockdown. Habakkuk had to wait. A LOT. Much like us right now.

Here is a recap; In chapter 1, Habakkuk complained to God about the Assyrian takeover that was causing chaos all around him. He waited for God to respond but God’s reply was to send an even crueller race – the Babylonians – to sort the men from the boys. Habakkuk was horrified, and complained a second time, before watching and waiting to see what God will do. In Chapter 2, God responds to Habakkuk and says that the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God. Another way of saying this would be that those who remain faithful while they wait, who don’t give up or give in, will survive this season. Why is this important? Because being faithful requires hard work.

Being faithful requires hard work.

I don’t need to tell you about hard work. You are already doing it. From navigating social distancing in supermarkets to teaching kids a curriculum, while managing businesses, keeping in touch with relatives, and trying to hold it altogether, you are already doing a lot of hard work. But I believe that above all this, God needs us to keep our eyes fixed on Him while we wait this out.

Right now, we are under pressure. We are facing a global pandemic, a crisis like the world have never seen before. People are losing their lives, their loved ones, their jobs, their homes. There is utter chaos all around us as everything that we took for granted now slides into uncertainty. While under pressure, it can be so easy to cut corners, to compromise, to let standards slip.  But God tells us that the righteous live by faith, so we need to exercise our faith while we wait for God to move.

We need to exercise our faith while we wait for God to move.

The best way I know to get to know God, and find out what He wants us to do is to spend time reading His Word. Time is precious right now, especially if you have a tribe of toddlers or teens in tow, and this is where HIIT comes in.

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training which shocks your mind and body into action. HIIT workouts increase your metabolism and your energy levels, while strengthening your muscles and cardiovascular system. Each workout typically takes 15-30 minutes max and are designed to repeated daily.

I believe that God wants you to approach your Bible like a HIIT workout, getting the maximum impact each time. He wants His word to shock your mind and body into action in order to strengthen your spiritual muscles. How can we do this? Here are some tips:

Be Intentional. Create a welcoming space somewhere in your home, with a candle burning, essential oils diffusing, coffee brewing, music playing; whatever works for you. Grab your Bible, a notepad and pen then set a timer for 20 minutes.

Bring Intensity. Pick a book and begin to work through it one verse at at time. Don’t just snack on the Bible or skim read through passages. Take your time and use different bible translations or commentaries online to help you draw the most out of each verse in a chapter. If you don’t know where to start the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are a great place!

Show Integrity. Make a commitment and stick to it! By choosing to show up with God each and every day you will discover the transforming power of God’s word for yourself. Because when we do the hard work, He does the heart work.

When we do the hard work, God does the heart work.

I believe that by bringing our intentions, our intensity and our integrity, each day, even if only for 15-30 minutes, God will reveal Himself to us. As we stretch ourselves He will strengthen our hearts. As we get into the Word, God will give us insight in to His plans and this will get us through the next few weeks of waiting.

It’s time to dig deep into the Bible so we can start flexing those muscles of faith.

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Faith

Hold on with Habakkuk

The UK has been in lockdown for three weeks and we have just been told that this will be extended by at least another three weeks. Halfway can seem like such a hopeless place. Not at the beginning, no where near the end, and it can leave us asking where is God in all of this?

The good news is that we are not alone in thinking this. Habakkuk had a pretty hard time understanding God’s plans back in 7th Century BC. The Assyrians had overpowered the Israelites and corrupted the Holy City. The prophet, Habakkuk, was distraught and couldn’t understand why God hadn’t intervened.

There are a couple of things that you need to know about Habakkuk. Firstly, his name meant ‘someone who embraces’ or in more informal terms a ‘clinger’. Habakkuk was clingy, and he chose to cling to God. This is important, because you don’t cling to just anyone. (If you do, the chances are you will be thrown right off). To cling to someone, you must know them really well, know them intimately, therefore the fact that Habakkuk clings to God shows that he knew God.

Habakkuk clung to God because he knew God.

Because he knew God, he could get close to God, and bring complaints before Him in confidence. My kids don’t whine at their aunts, uncles or adults in the shops or at church about what isn’t fair. They whine to me (unfortunately!). Why? Because we are close, we have relationship, they know me and they trust me. My children can be real, honest and authentic with me, bringing me their deepest concerns because they know I can handle it, and I will love them regardless of what they say or do.

God is big enough to handle your complaint. Furthermore, He wants you to bring them to Him, because He is your heavenly Father. He wants you to take your problems to Him so He can fix it, because thats what Dad’s do.

God wants to take on your problems, because that’s what Dad’s do.

So Habakkuk brought his problems to God, and God said “Don’t worry, I am sending the Babylonians in to take care of it”.

This horrified Habakkuk even more! The Babylonians were know for their idolatrous ways, their injustice and their inhuman treatment of others. If the Assyrians had overpowered the Israelites, then the Babylonians would straight up obliterate them.

It is not always easy to see God’s hand at work. Right now we are int the middle of a global pandemic, a crisis such as the world has never seen. We have endured lockdown, but things aren’t getting any better. We have isolated from our loved ones and practiced social distancing but still jobs and lives are being lost.

Where is God? Habakkuk asked the same thing. But he didn’t do it from a place of fear and frustration. He put his problems before God, then he climbed into his watchtower and waited.

We need to watch and wait to see God move.

While the storm is raging, it is not clear how God is going to use or control this situation. But just like Habakkuk, we need to put our problems before God, climb into our spiritual watch tower and wait for the dust to settle. God wasn’t finished then, and He isn’t finished now. There is an unseen battle happening all around us, God is at work even when we can’t see how, or don’t understand why.

It is in the stillness that God speaks. It is when we come before him in quiet confidence, clinging to our Father that He whispers into our situation. We have access to God through Jesus Christ, we are His kids, and He wants us to climb into His lap and hold on to Him.

What are you holding on to? The news bulletins? The bank balance? The Doctors report? Whatever you are facing right now, at this halfway point, I pray that you would take a leaf out of Habakkuk’s book and choose to hold on to God and hang on His word.

 

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Faith, Lifestyle, Parenting

You are not alone

“Are you scared Mommy?” My wide eyed ten year old looked up at me from the sofa, where he has been watching the latest news unfold. I thought for a moment and took a deep breath before I answered him. I am a firm believer in telling our kids the truth, where appropriate, and I wanted to honour that while protecting my 6 and 3 year old who were also listening in.

Here is what I know; Covid-19 is gathering pace. The global pandemic is far from contained, and there is no telling what the true fall out will be in months and years from now. People are dying, grieving families are unable to mourn properly, and the elderly, infants, pregnant women and the infirm are facing months of solitary confinement. Right now we are facing some of the most challenging times in world history, with the government response being likened to a country at war. Only we are fighting an unseen enemy. The truth is, we have been fighting an unseen enemy since the beginning of time.

We have been fighting an unseen enemy since the beginning of time.

When the Devil was cast down from heaven, he made it his life’s mission to take us all down with him. He has been fighting tooth and nail, summoning all the powers and principalities to wage war against God and His children.

That means you.

You were created by God, for relationship with God and He loves you with every fibre of His being. Whether you believe in God is irrelevant, but you better believe that Satan believes in Him. The Devil is busy whipping up a perfect storm right now; stealing people’s joy, dripping doubts and fear into their every day and distracting them from God.

So what can we do? We need to be on our guard and we need to know what God says about adversity. Get in to your Bible, because lets face it the early Christians had their fair share of persecution, plagues and pestilence. We need to keep pressing in to Jesus, asking for guidance, praying for protection and resting in His peace.

Knowing Jesus isn’t going to guarantee you an easy ride. But when the storms come, it is far easier to keep putting one foot in front of the other when you fix your eyes on Him.

Peter and the disciples were facing the perfect storm; the waves rising, the boat capsizing. At first glance it looked like Jesus was doing nothing – He was asleep in the back of the boat! But when the disciples turned to Him and woke Him, He stood up and spoke to the storm. (Mark 4:35-41)

Jesus is in your boat, you just beed to ask Him to speak to the storm.

You may feel surrounded on all sides, you may see the water pooling at your feet, you may even feel the waves pulling you under. But look up, fix your eyes on Jesus and ask Him to speak.

Why did He let the storm happen? I believe that Jesus was giving the disciples a wake up call. He needed them to be shaken up to get their attention, and when they finally turned their attention to Him, His power could be revealed.

When our lives are shaken, our focus shifts.

Friends, Coronavirus is here and I believe that God wants to get our attention. The whole world is being shaken and we need to turn our attention to HIM. Am I scared? No, but we are facing scary times. We are fighting an unseen enemy, but please know that we are not fighting alone.

“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14

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Faith, Lifestyle

Christians and Climate Change

Yesterday I had the greatest privilege of attending the Live Lent launch at Lambeth Palace. I was invited by The Church of England to learn about the climate crisis and how we can step up to make a change.

As a family we actively work to reduce our waste and recycle wherever possible, but I have never thought about the importance of bringing my faith into the future of our planet.

Faith and our future

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby chaired a panel discussion with Christians who were passionate about sustainable living, serving Jesus and preserving the planet that God has given us. This Lent, he urges the wider church to step up and start fighting against climate change.

The climate crisis

I was humbled and challenged to learn that our world is heading for a three degree climate change by 2050. This rising temperature will lead to heatwave summers as standard, increased flooding due to hotter, humid conditions and catastrophic conditions for millions of people. Those in already warm climates face prolonged extreme weather, which can lead to failed crops, lack of food resources and adversely affect geopolitical systems.

This is more than just being a degree or three hotter, the climate crisis is a global emergency that we must take action on now.

Justin Welby shared how The Church of England will lead the way in the net zero campaign, to end carbon emissions, by reducing carbon emissions across their churches by 100%. He stressed the importance of climate prevention rather than church preservation, and it was encouraging to hear that The Church are tackling the climate crisis head on.

Creation and the Creator

Perhaps one of the messages that struck a chord with me was the passionate speech given by panel member Ali Angus from St Leonard’s, Streatham. She implored is to take our faith into conversation into the climate crisis because loving our neighbours looks like loving the environment they are in.

Loving our neighbour looks like loving the environment

We are made from the earth, formed by a Creator to live in and live off the land. Without the planet, we cannot survive and we need to look after the one we have been given.

After the panel discussion, we had an eventful Eucharist, which, due to a fire alarm, was finalised on the law a of Lambeth Palace. Ruth Valerio spoke warmly of her revelations when writing her book Saying Yes to Life, sharing how in scripture, God is in every single detail of nature, from the birds in the air to the deer crouching down to give birth.

We were challenged that as Christians, maybe we have separated the creation from salvation, yet the Bible is actually a huge nature book. With so many details of creation recorded in scripture, it makes sense that as His children, God would call His sons and daughters to protect it.

What can we do?

This year we will see the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) where decisions will be made for our planet’s future. What we do now as a people will determine the kind of life our children lead, and the kind of world they grow up in.

Now is the time to petition and pray for our politicians. We need ambitious and bold plans from the UK government on climate change. Current plans still lead to a 3.2 degree increase across the world. Aiming to halve this at the very least could help, but will still be disastrous for many.

The only real solution is to end carbon emissions and stop global warming.

This seems like an impossible task but we can all do something.

We can rise up as the Church, with one voice, to pray for our MP’s.

We can implore and encourage our government to bring forward policies on transport, heating, energy and diet.

We can vote with our feet by not using plastics.

We can choose zero carbon travel to reduce our footprint.

We can reduce waste and recycle wherever possible.

We can restrict consumption of animal products.

We can buy ethically sourced and fair trade items.

We can educate our children on the beauty of God’s creation and why we must do everything in our power to protect it. This Lent why not take time to prayerfully consider Gods creation and pledge to make a change? There are some incredible resources available including Live Lent 40 day challenge booklets for adults and children.

We all have different spheres of influence and can each share what we are doing to change the climate crisis. Love is the greatest commandment, so let’s love our selves and our neighbours and the environment we are in, in order to save our precious planet.

Are you in?

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Faith

Don’t Fade; Flourish

  
I love fresh flowers in my home. I love the scent that welcomes me as I walk through the door and the sight of the delicate petals unfolding day by day. 
Flowers evoke a sense of home for me,  they suggest thought and consideration of a homemaker who has a love of the outdoors and a desire to appreciate beautiful things. 

I am a proud homemaker. I love nothing more than when people enter my home and comment on my interior decor or the warm welcoming atmosphere that I have  so carefully crafted. 

But sometimes an atmosphere in a home can be just that. Crafted. 

Sometimes we work so hard to make our lives look perfect, seem attractive and smell fragrant. But there comes a time when the flowers start to wither, the dying petals crispen and the once clear water becomes discoloured and pungent. 

There is only so long that the flowers can look good and smell good before they die. And it is no use stripping the dead leaves and keeping the blooms in the vase in the hope that the dried buds will  have the same allure as the fresh floral offering that was once so proudly displayed. The stagnant water will belie the beauty, and just like our lives there is only so long that we can keep up appearances before the fragrance of our frailty follows suit.

There is no harm in wanting to create a beautiful life. There is no shame in being a little proud and not wanting to wilt in full view of everyone. But there is a fine line between displaying beauty and masking the truth. 

If you have struggles, dark days or simply areas of your life that you can’t seem to shake off, please know that you are not alone. The Bible says that we are fragile, that our lives are like the flowers blowing in the the breeze, whose petals bloom and fall with the seasons. 

Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. Psalm 103:15

There are seasons in our lives when we will bloom and some when we will go to seed. There are seasons for planting and seasons for pruning. Embrace the season you are in, don’t fight the circumstances around you but instead focus on the fight working you. 

There is a battle being fought for your soul each and every day. God has His angel armies warring in the heavenlies for you, His Holy Spirit is desperate for your heart. He wants to bestow blessings on you, He wants to lavish you with love and affection and He needs to both plant and prune you in order for you to fulfil your potential.

Flowers flourish best when they are planted not placed in vases. It is in good fertile soil, that is well watered that they become nourished and bloom brilliantly over and over again. 

Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish. Psalm 92:13

Furthermore, flowers that are planted continue to bloom. Over and over again. Every time they flower and fade, they are cut back and carefully nurtured in order to facilitate their floral return, bigger and better than before.

Wherever you are at right now, don’t panic, simply plant your roots in Gods word and in His house and you will flourish.

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Faith, Parenting

Where does your report come from?

going to schoolSo we had our annual end of year school reports home this week. It hardly seems five minutes since our eldest started school!

I am pleased to say that ours was very good, although my son eyed me warily as tears (of pride) began to fall whilst I was reading it! He has come on in leaps and bounds over the past year which was his very first in formal education. I was quite overwhelmed by just how well the teachers knew my son, which sounds silly when you think that they spend each and every weekday with them for 40 weeks or so! I don’t think I fully realised or appreciated the lengths that teachers and teaching assistants go to in order to build relationships with and meet the needs of their pupils. I am one very thankful mama and I love that these special teachers have taken the time to know my son as well as I do.

Whilst reading the report, I was reminded of how much my school reports meant to me as a child. I was what you would call a very conscientious (read geeky) student who just loved to learn and loved to please. I was so desperate to make my teachers and parents proud of me, and their comments in my paper report had the power to enlarge or destroy my spirit. I would take negative comments and criticism so personally, and beat myself up over the smallest error such as a spelling mistake or an A- grade.

I have since learned that my top love language is words of affirmation (no surprise there then!). I have realised that words are weapons that can wield great power in my life and the lives of others. My careless comments or the whispered words of others can penetrate the very soul of a person, piercing their heart and causing irreparable damage that can last a lifetime.

I have often based my worth upon what people say about me, on what their report of me is. This can be so incredibly dangerous though, as our thoughts and opinions can be influenced my mood, tiredness, anxiety, illness or previous experiences rather than the truth. The best person to report on another is one that knows him inside and out. Perhaps this is why I was so surprised that my son’s teachers knew him so well, surely as his mother, the one who bore and raised him, both his father and I would be the only people to really know what makes him tick?

There are of course many things that a parent will know about their child better than a teacher (and vice versa in some cases!) and since becoming a Christian I have learned that the only person who could know be better than I know myself is my creator God. He knit me together in my mother’s womb, He watched me take my very first steps in this world, He leaned in when I learned to talk, and delighted in me when I started to discover my giftings. He was heartbroken at my tears when I sought love and acceptance through people and things that could never offer me what my heart craved. He was overjoyed when I found Jesus and gave my life to Him. He reassured me that He would never abandoned or betray me, but His love would envelope me, encourage me and equip me for the good report He had already written for my life.

I am still learning each and every day, and pray I will never cease to do so, but the difference in me since becoming a Christian is that I no longer look for the reports of others but for my report from God. I find my identity, my value and my worth in God’s word, not through comparing myself to others, grasping for worldy status and approval through achievements and material gain. I find my worth in the scriptures which declare

‘…I am fearfully and wonderfully made’. Psalm 139:13-15

‘ For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ Ephesians 2:10

‘For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus’. Galatians 3:26

‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.’ Luke 12:6-7

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.’ 2 Corinthians 5:17

‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ Philippians 4:13

“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

‘Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect’. Romans 12:2

Yes it is good to please others, your parents, your boss, your friends or your spouse, but don’t rely upon a good report from them in order to know who you are and feel loved and valued. Find the glowing report created by your creator in the Bible, who states that you are His creation, His masterpiece, His treasure and let this truth transform you today.

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Faith

Bindweed and the Bible

The devil loves nothing more than to see lukewarm Christians bimble through life.

He loves it when he see’s God’s very own children pay no regard to the power and authority that is in them through Christ Jesus. The devil needs to do very little to keep the Kingdom from growing, other than to distract us from the truth of our true calling and bombard us with lies, lusts and to do lists, because as long as you and I are busy doing the demands of life then we can’t be busy being in the presence of God.

God reminded me of this today, as I was pottering around tidying up my garden. After a spot of lawn mowing and fence painting I went to empty the grass cuttings at the back of the garden when I discovered my son’s tricycle completely smothered in bindweed.

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The tricycle couldn’t have been there for more than two or three weeks and I was quite taken aback by the rate at which this plant had taken over the whole frame, winding several of its vines tightly around each handlebar, each pedal, each wheel. As I tugged at the tricycle in order for my son to have a ride, the vines held firm and that’s when God spoke to me.

“The tricycle represents your freedom Rachel, this is the vehicle given to you through faith in Jesus that enables you to move forward, to travel further than you could imagine to experience more of your God-given life and destiny. The bindweed snaking its way around every part of the tricycle represents the things of this world that distract you from Me and My Word. These things stop you from reading the Bible and exercising your faith by keeping you busy doing other things or causing you to doubt your freedom in Christ.”

In the Bible, Jesus himself said; “If the Son sets you free then you are free indeed” John 8:36 NIV. 

Freedom in Christ means that you are no longer bound by circumstances or bad habits, you are no longer trapped in sin or repetitive patterns of destructive behaviour, and you are not deceived by the lies of the enemy. He no longer has the power to twist his vines of self loathing, self-pity, selfishness or sinfulness around the handlebars of our lives because “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

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Interestingly, most of the things that limit us from discovering and exercising our true potential in Christ are everyday habits, thought patterns or recurring sins that we deem harmless or think we have under control. I knew that the bindweed was there, yet I didn’t expect it to take over the tricycle quite so fast nor so completely. The Bible warns us that out of that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45 NIV and so we need to be so very aware of what we watch, read, and fill our minds with as before we know it, it can invade every area of our thinking, attitudes and actions.

The Bible says that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, (John 10:10 NIV) but he often creeps up oh so quietly, and wearing such a clever disguise that we never even see him coming. He will use that obsession over the latest celebrity news, or that desperation to fit in one more episode of Eastenders before you go to bed. He will delight in those hours you spend poring over Pinterest and Facebook, he will relish the extra 10 minutes snooze in bed, because as long as your focus is on these things it is not on the Word of God. Please don’t misinterpret me, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with these things I just mentioned, however when they start to take precedence over your time with God and reading His word, then you could have a potential problem.

The Bible is frequently described as a mighty double-edged sword and whether you realise it or not, the devil knows that God’s Word is powerful. He also knows that as a Christian, who has invited Christ in to your own heart, you have the authority in Him to wield this sword for yourself and do lasting damage to the devil’s schemes as you speak truth in to situations in your world. With a Bible in your hand, and God’s promises in your heart, you have the power to change the world, one person at a time, and the first person to change is you. Let God’s Word penetrate your heart, ask Him for a passion to read the Bible so that it would become the first thing you read and the last thing you think about each and every day. Allow His words to wash over you like a soothing balm, to correct you when you need discipline, to guide you when you feel lost and to restore your faith when you feel out of control. But most importantly, allow it to give you true freedom, so that you move forward into your God-breathed destiny.

If you are feeling trapped by the bindweed of sin or unhelpful habits in your life, use the Bible to cut it down. Cut back the vines of obsession, coveting, jealousy and distraction, pull up the roots of bitterness and unforgiveness that are holding you back, and cling to the promises of God

“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 a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 

Clearing the vines away from your life to free your heart and mobilise your faith is not always easy, but a problem shared is a problem halved, so talk to someone and ask them to pray with you. When Jesus said that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, He also added the following beautiful statement:

But I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV)

If you don’t know Jesus yet and you would like to know more about having life and living it to the full, then please know that He is just a prayer away. Contact your local church for more information and if you prayed that prayer for the first time today please comment so I can congratulate you, welcome you to the family of Christ and most importantly pray for you!

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