Faith

Give me strength

Have you ever done Strengthsfinder? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it, even if only to use it to justify your individual quirks as qualities to be celebrated. My top five strengths read like this:

  1. Positivity
  2. Empathy
  3. Woo
  4. Achiever
  5. Activator

Sounds okay right? Well at first glance its pretty cool, I have always been a glass full kind of girl, happy-go-lucky, bubbly, and outgoing, so positivity wasn’t a huge surprise. Woo? Well lets face it what woman doesn’t know how to use charm to add gentle persuasion to a conversation. Achiever? Yep, I am the girl with the lists that only feels like she has a productive day if said list has at least three lines crossed through it. Activator? I have two children who are fed, dressed, watered and delivered to school (mostly) on time. Enough said.

But Empathy. Yep, that one smacks me right between the eyes every time.

You see, my other strengths are all forward thinking, go getting, lets-live-life-to-the-full kind of strengths. They require decision, motion, action, all of which my energetic caffeine fuelled self is happy to deliver – after at least one cup of the aforementioned coffee.

But empathy? Well that is an inward feeling, heart sinking, conversation stopping strength. Empathy is feeling another person’s hurt, disappointment, anger and betrayal as if it is your own. It stops you in your tracks and demands you to be still, to look at it, to touch it, to hold it, to feel it.

And some days I wish I didn’t.

Some days I wish I was unable to feel the incredibly cruel twist of fate suffered by my loved ones. Sometime I wish I could not feel the searing pain of a knife going through their back, I wish I could not sense the unbearable weight of grief placed upon their shoulders. Sometimes I wish the tears didn’t fall from my eyes as I watched them welling in the eyes of others. Sometime I wish I could be objective and offer practical solutions rather than stifling my own outrage.

But I can’t. Because that is not how I am wired. And if I couldn’t feel, then I wouldn’t be able to act out of my anger to see justice, I wouldn’t be able to cover the wounds of betrayal with soothing words, I wouldn’t be able to replace the heartache with healing love.

Even Jesus empathised. He wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus, He was moved when He met Jairus who begged Jesus to heal his dying daughter, He sensed the pain of the widow burying her only son.

And because of His empathy, Jesus acted.

Because He was hurting, He brought healing.

We are all given gifts, ‘strengths’ if you will, by God. Some of us are born leaders, able to strategise at the drop of a hat, some can teach, bringing a subject alive like no other, some can host, some can illustrate, some can manage, some can counsel…. the list is endless.

I love that I am positive, I hope that I am fun to be around, that I woo in the nicest way and that I encourage and equip others as well as myself. But I think that these strengths only seek to support my most challenging and yet my most rewarding element; empathy. I can only operate in my strengths because of the strength I find in Jesus, and in Him my positivity will help others to look on the bright side, my woo will persuade them to lift their eyes to the King, and my achiever and activator elements will encourage and equip them on their journey, holding their hand every step of the way.

R x

Standard
Faith

On my knees…

Yes I know it has been a few weeks months since my last post but my heart has been so full I worried that when putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) I might never be able to stop the out pour.

You see, my heart has been broken this year.

2016 did not start the way I expected to say the very least. Christmas came and went as an emotional blur as I was left reeling in the wake of revelations that my parents marriage had broken down. So too were others, who like me, didn’t see this split coming and we were left to pick up the pieces of broken promises and shattered dreams in the aftermath.

Relationship breakdowns hurt. A lot. And perhaps, naively, I never realised the impact of the separation of your parents, especially later in life. My parents had been married 20 years – what a feat in today’s society! Sure, their marriage had its nuances, but they both seemed blissfully happy and we were so proud of all they had achieved.

Then the bombshell came.

What can you say when one party isn’t happy any more? You can not argue with emotions and feelings. You simply have to nod and accept the decision then walk away to process the hurt privately. Having left home at the age of 18 and now being a happily married mom of two, a ‘grown up’ standing on my own two feet, surely the separation of my parents shouldn’t really affect me?

Oh but it did. The hurt, the anguish, the anger and the tears flowed thick and fast, surprising even me. I cried for the pain felt by my parents, I mourned the marriage that was sanctified by God yet had now been disregarded, and I sobbed for the separation already so apparent in our family unit.

I am blessed with an amazing husband who loves me completely, but if it wasn’t for the overwhelming, unshakeable love of God, the closeness of the Holy Spirit and the precious blood of Jesus covering me, I know I would not have been able to walk through the past few months. God has been my strength, my stay, my abba father who has kept my feet on the ground and my eyes looking up.

Humans are marvellous creations, we are created by a loving God to love, yet we are so very capable of inflicting the most terrible pain. It is because of our capacity and willingness to give and receive love, that we experience heartache, betrayal, disappointment and tragedy as such a physical pain. We are created by God who formed us in His own hands and not only knows us, but cares deeply about us. God cares when we are hurting and He wants to share in our suffering so that He can heal the heartache.

My story is still unfolding, I don’t know what the ending will be. But one thing God has prompted me on in all of this, is to get on my knees. To pray without ceasing, to lift up my parents, my sister and our wider family as we sail these stormy seas. I won’t let this family get dragged out in a rip tide, not on my watch, so I will continue to pray that God will restore relationships, heal broken hearts and soothe open wounds. I will keep praying, keep trusting, keep holding on to His anchor in the storm. And while I pray, I feel His love wash over me, His gentle correction as He guides my thoughts and actions and His peace takes up residence within my heart once again.

It is whilst on my knees that I discover who I really am, what I am made of, and more importantly, who He made me to be.

I don’t know if your story is similar, I don’t know if you are experiencing gut wrenching emotions that consume your mind and choke your voice, I don’t know if you lie awake at night wondering how to fix the mess that you find yourself in, or wrestle with anger at the injustice of what has happened. I don’t know if you are angry or afraid for your future, but I do know this; the God of heaven, the King of kings and Lord of lords sees you, He knows you, He loves you and He is fighting on your behalf but He needs you to engage. God has great plans for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, but you need to make the first step towards Him in order to move into victory.

My friend, can I encourage you to join me on my knees, pour out your heart to Him and let Him direct your words and your ways today.

R

Standard
Faith, Parenting

Enjoy the view from the harbour

Nowadays we are always in such a rush. We simply cannot wait to be independent; as children we can’t wait to walk, ride a bike, catch the bus to school alone, to start secondary school, learn to drive… the list goes on and on. It is human nature to want to be independent, to learn new skills and to survive under our own steam, and we fight against anything or anyone that holds us back.

I was reminded of this during our recent holiday to North Devon. We made a quick whistle stop at a gorgeous little harbour town to try to get some panoramic shots of the coast, and as I stood on the harbour walls looking out at the vast ocean the small stone harbour to the right of my view kept drawing my attention. The tide was in and the waves crashed against it’s rocky walls, creating great swathes of white froth fizzing around the base, however the waves within the harbour were lapping gently against the boats that were moored there.

“You feel so restricted sometimes,” God whispered to me. “Like those boats bobbing along in the harbour, my sons and daughters are full of potential, ready and raring to go on the next adventure on the wide open sea as they peek through the narrow harbour entrance and glimpse the promise of undiscovered territory. Yet like these boats they are held back by an anchor, hemmed in by a harbour and they feel impatient. I hold you back to keep you safe. Your faith in me is your anchor in uncertain waters. My Holy Spirit is the harbour that protects your bows from the crashing waves as the angels fight unseen battles in the spiritual realms.”

A smile spread across my face, as I thought of how many times I tell my own children that I am keeping them from harm when I tell them they can’t cross the road unsupervised or can’t play out alone.

If you feel like you are in a harbour, desperate to get out on the open waters, just stop a moment and consider that the waves rippling around your feet were buffeted by your heavenly Father before they ever reached you. Don’t be in a rush to move forward into what ever you feel God has put on your heart. If He called you to it, He will bring you through it, but first you must fix your eyes on him and wait for Him to say “Come”.

When the disciples were on their boat in the middle of Lake Galilee, I am sure they would have given anything to be back in the harbour, to have their vessel protected from the powerful tidal waves threatening to capsize them. But Jesus was there in the middle of the storm, and when He said “Stop” the waters stilled, when He said “Come” Peter was able to walk on the water. When the time is right and you are ready for that new venture or the next chapter in your story, Jesus will say the word. He will give the command and will direct your steps when it is time to walk out on those troubled waters. He will be your strength and your stay as you dive into depths you have never been to or swam out to unchartered territory, but just as Peter soon discovered, the key is keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus at all times. (Matthew 14:22-33)

But meanwhile, if you are in the harbour, just enjoy the view while you get ready, relax in the rippling waters and trust that God knows the timing for everything.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

R

Standard
Faith

Strengthen your core

runners-1176564

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

Standard