Faith

Love isn’t pretty

I am writing this blog from the foot of my son’s bed. He has a particularly bad case of chicken pox and is having a very fitful restless nights sleep. I try to sleep myself but am so aware of his every move, moan or murmur that I flit in and out of consciousness so that I am immediately present when he needs me. He wants me close, wants company and asks for me to stroke his arms. I see the sore spots and I swoop in with virasoothe and piriton, gently massaging the angry areas and praying over his little body.

In amongst his suffering, struggling to ignore the itchy blistering skin across his body, my beautiful boy turns his feverish flushed face to me, and whispers “I love you Mommy”. As my heart bursts with sadness at his visible discomfort yet tender thoughts, I whisper “I love you too baby.”

You see love isn’t pretty. It isn’t instagrammed perfection, it isn’t neatly presented. Sometimes it is picking your way through the sore spots, sometimes it involves sleepless nights while we watch over each other and sometimes it is applying healing balm to open wounds.

The cross wasn’t pretty. It did not behold beauty, it displayed horror, it displayed suffering that no man should see nor experience.

Yet one man did, and in doing so He saved the world. And that is love.

Jesus saw our restless spirits, He saw our open wounds and aching hearts, and He took our sin upon His shoulders in order to take away our pain. As Jesus sits at the right hand of His Father God in Heaven He still sees us, He instructs the Holy Spirit Himself who sits at our bedside, watching us as we sleep, waiting to rush in and soothe us if only we invite Him in.

And the most beautiful thing we can do in return is to turn our own feverish flushed face to Jesus and whisper “I love you” out of our suffering. Because He whispered it over us before time began.

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Faith

Let’s keep running the race

inclinetraining

I love running. The fact that I even profess that has come as something of a surprise to me however. I have never been what you might call a natural athlete, always the curvy girl (or downright fat in my university days), however I have always been fairly active and enjoyed the great outdoors.

Exercise and I have had a somewhat tumultuous relationship in the last 30 years, with spurts of activity before my wedding and after the birth of my first son when it was clear that breastfeeding and healthy eating was not going to get me back to my pre pregnancy state. However I really got into fitness and running in a big way last Summer and have been particularly committed to getting fit in 2015. Taking the obligatory pre-fitness regime photographs was painful, but I was ready and raring to go with 5k runs, regular workouts and a moderate nutrition plan all mapped out for the next few months. However only a few weeks in I was already getting despondent. I couldn’t understand why the scales still weren’t telling me something different, why my clothes didn’t feel any looser yet. Worse was yet to come, when after three months I still didn’t feel that there was anywhere near a significant enough change in my appearance to match the discipline and effort that I had put in.

My CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) and hubby, Dave, was super supportive, telling me how great I looked and how he could really see a difference. He reassured me that I had shaved inches off my face, arms, back and hips (that troublesome mum tum appears to be the last thing to go!), but the most vital thing he kept telling me was that I was embarking on a lifestyle change, not a four week wonder diet to shed weight only to regain it shortly after. Dave also reminded me that if anything, I was likely to put on weight initially during my fitness programme as I was asking my muscles to hulk around my excess weight on all these runs and work outs, therefore the muscles would have to bulk up to accommodate the additional load. In time, when they were larger and stronger, and burning more calories, these muscles would then start to burn the fat away and begin to reduce in size and elongate, giving me the strong, toned physique I was longing for.

I think that our journey through life can feel so much like a workout programme, especially when we are walking with God and testing new boundaries and developing new skills. It is only when we are physically pushed that we learn, grow and strengthen. Our muscles must first bear weight and pressure in order to grow. During the workout itself the tissues will endure injury and tearing in order to knit back together and grow larger and stronger.

When we are going through tough times at home or at work, or simply turning away from our old ways, the physical pain and despondence we feel can seem unbearable and endless, and everything within us screams run back to the beginning, to the familiar ways, to our old self. God promises that He will never give us more than we can bear, (1 Corinthians 10;13-14) but he also tells us that living a faithful life is like running an endurance race. There is no sprint finish, we must run, and run, and run, through traumatic childhoods, through failed relationships, through abuse, through addictions, through dysfunctional families.

“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT

When I run uphill, my legs burn incessantly as my muscles bunch together and force my legs to continue pounding the tarmac. It is only my sheer will and determination that stops me from walking, because I know the elation that awaits as I reach the summit and start to go downhill. Ah yes, the stretch is my favourite part of running uphill. When your legs are screaming at you to stop, your lungs are burning and the sweat is running down your brow, you suddenly start to descend. As gravity pulls you faster, the cool breeze fans your face, rushing into your thankful lungs and your legs stride out, stretching and elongating your bunched up muscles with each footfall.

In life, faith in God is the driving force that will see us up and over that obstacle. Faith in the fact that Jesus loves you, He died for you and He is with you every single step of the way will push you through the pain barrier, help you to press in and run on with endurance to reach the summit. And then, when you have fought with all your might to get there, God’s abundant, immeasurable grace is like the gravity that will remove the pressure, ease your struggles and speed up your journey.

God knows where He wants to take you in your life, but He also knows that you need to do some learning and growing on the way, and the only way that our faith muscles grow is by bearing weight. If you are under pressure today, carrying a heavy burden or desperately trying to run from a past, a sin or an addiction that keeps catching up with you, don’t despair. God sees you clenching your fists and pressing on, and He will guide you and strengthen you as your muscles begin to repair and rebuild during the uphill struggle. But the most beautiful miracle awaits you on the other side of that hill. Rest assured that when you reach the summit post workout your once flaccid faith muscle will now be strong, and your toned limbs will be able to stretch further than you could possibly imagine in to all the things of God that are awaiting in your future.

” I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.”
Philippians 3:12-16 The Message

The best is yet to come. Stay strong my friend, as a son or daughter of the King you are in training for reigning.

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Faith

Don’t be deceived

This was my run buddy on the canal this morning. A familiar site on my route that got me thinking as God whispered into my heart today.Heron

The heron stands so still that you would be forgiven for mistaking it for a statue, so majestic you would think it was a peaceful non threatening bird, however when the time is right he strikes. That magnificent beak becomes a terrifying sword piercing the unsuspecting fish below, his slim smooth body unfurls to reveal a vast wingspan that can outrun and overwhelm its prey.

The devil can be heron like in our lives. He stands very still watching and waiting while we rush by getting on with every day life. If we aren’t vigilant the devil will sneak in and stand on the sidelines of our life, ready to pounce when we least expect it or when we are at our weakest. Perfectly camouflaged, he will tempt us away from the narrow path of following Jesus with sin and deceive us with distractions. You may think you are ‘doing good things’, busy doing every day life however your busyness is taking your focus off the one who made you, and if there is one thing that the devil delights in it is distracting Christians’ attention away from Christ.

How do we keep from becoming his next target? Keep our eyes open and get into a connect group, home group or life group where others can watch your back. The Bible states:

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (‭Philippians‬ ‭2‬:‭4‬ NLT)

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

We will all trip up, wander off the path slightly during our walk with God, which is why God designed humans to be in relationship with one another. Jesus said we as the church are the body of Christ, all with different roles that must operate in unity to function properly, and if this is the case then we need to be concerned if the hands or feet or mouth start heading in the wrong direction.

Watch out for your friends and examine your own walk with God. Don’t let sin slip in unnoticed in your life, what may seem harmless can become an obsession or an addiction that draws you away from Jesus, not closer to him. Don’t allow the devil to distract you with worldly attitudes or attributes that take your focus away from Jesus. Get connected with a group of like minded believers who will have your back and help keep you on the straight and narrow.

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