Poison Or Fruit?

poison or fruit

“Words kill, words give life; 

They’re either poison or fruit – you choose.”

Proverbs 18 v 21 (The Message)

Powerful statement.

If I were to give you the choice between ingesting poison or fruit, you’d (hopefully) pick fruit. Rarely in our right minds do we set out to intentionally sabotage our own wellbeing. Yet, often, on a daily basis, we unknowingly allow the deathly taste of poison to creep into our hearts and minds.

As I’ve grown older I’ve realised the childish rhyme sang in innocent youth, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” is only partially true. Nasty names, labels, harsh words, negative reports, gossip and slander all act like poison to our soul. So much so that according to the above scripture, such words can kill. They kill dreams, passions, hopes and desires, destroy relationships and etch away at our identity and self-worth.

There is good news though. The right words can also breed life. In the film, “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”, there is a powerful scene in which Gandalf the White Wizard draws out an evil curse that has been placed on King Theoden. The curse, cast by the evil Lord Saruman, has turned the king into an incoherent, disengaged and weary shadow of his former self. In this particular scene, the king sits on his throne looking tired and dishevelled. His aptly named ill-advisor and co-conspirator to Saruman, Grima Wormtongue, crouches by his side and whispers into his ear before speaking on his behalf. Gandalf the great wizard approaches the throne, directs his staff towards Theoden and rebukes the evil Saruman out of the disillusioned king. As Gandalf speaks life and power back into the king he begins to gradually return to his original and correct self. A life which had once withered is now revitalised. Watch the scene here:

https://youtu.be/ckq-4Y6a87s

(Video found on YouTube to help illustrate this post, it is published by TheLordoftheRings Fans, any associated views not my own)

This scene paints a beautiful picture for me of the reality of  Proverbs 18 v 21. The whispers we allow into our soul are of utmost importance. Sometimes like the king, poison has been spoken to us or over us and it’s taken root in our hearts and manifested in our lives. It’s been allowed to help structure the belief we hold of ourselves and others and has tainted the way in which we see the world and our future in it. Maybe careless and ill-intended words have for too long invaded your inner space? Maybe you can still hear the disappointing tone, the angry word or the spiteful insult when you attempt to move forward? If this is true, I’m sorry. Maybe you’ve read magazines, newspapers, blogs and social media posts that have spread negative reports or unkind words. Perhaps gossip is ringing in your ears. Whatever misinformation springs to mind as you digest this post, there is hope, a way to combat the impact of this poison. Freedom is available. As Gandalf came to rescue King Theoden, so God came to rescue us. Some wounds may be years deep and seem impossible to repair, but God’s promise to us is that His word is, “living and active, and sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;” (Hebrews 4 v 12) His truth offers us a powerful antidote which is able to set us free from that which has held us captive. It can reach even the darkest caverns of our soul.

John tells us in scripture that Jesus is the Word of God (John 1 v 1) and Jesus Himself declares that He is, “The Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14 v 6). He is the greatest antidote to any poison trying to kidnap our beliefs which in turn dictate our actions. He is our Redeemer, our Saviour, our Healer. He is able to gently and lovingly draw out any poison residing within us.  The more we inject His good news into our hearts, the more healing can take place and His restoration begin to invigorate that which was once withered.  

Choice is also a powerful force and a beacon of hope offered in Proverbs 18 v 21. Daily we can choose life. Choose Jesus. Choose the good news. Choose grace. We must choose to profess it and to listen to it for the responsibility and the stakes are high, for ourselves and others. I once heard it said that our power to choose is like catching a ball. Many words and opinions will be thrown at us but we get to choose those we catch and those we let drop. So let’s catch truth, catch wisdom and drop poison.

As we start our week let’s assess what words we are listening to about ourselves, our careers, our bosses, spouses, family or circumstances. What are we allowing to be spoken over us by others or by the things that we watch, read and listen to? Are they poison or fruit? Do they inspire life or bring death? Do we profess faith or fear? Do we listen to hate or love, gossip or grace? We can’t change the past but we can create the future and choose what foundation to build it on. What will you choose?

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”

Messy Faith

messy faith

Messy play, a phrase that fills me with a little dread. Not because I’m so OCD that I can’t handle Sienna getting a little grubby, in fact I know it will be super fun! It’s just I know that the joy of cleaning up the aftermath of her experimentation will be bestowed upon yours truly! I absolutely see the value in it and I understand that it’s an important part of her development. I want her to be free to explore and express herself, but if I’m honest, it would be far easier (and tidier) to pass on this responsibility to someone else, maybe when she starts nursery or visits the grandparents! That said, the benefits to Sienna far outweigh my desire for a tidy house (remind me of this when I’m in the midst of chaos!) These include the fostering of imagination, creativity and curiosity. If you could see the state of my living room on a daily basis, you’d see that unfortunately mess, development and curiosity often go together!

Recently I’ve been re-reading some passages of scripture which I find difficult to wrap my wee finite brain around. Whilst I’m aware that His thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55 v 8-9), I don’t feel I can use this scripture as an excuse not to delve deeper into His word and ask some tough questions. Don’t get me wrong, at times this would definitely be a preferable escape route. There are certain things in life it would be easier to brush over because they don’t make sense or they’re uncomfortable to navigate. Maintaining faith through confusing topics, scripture and circumstances can be messy. Even if faith is at the core of how we process things, it’s not always straightforward. My faith is pretty well established in that I’ve been a Christian for many years and have seen God’s undeniable hand at work in my life and that of others. However, I still have enquiries for God regarding personal experiences, His word and theology that I don’t yet have answers to. It would be much more convenient for me if somebody else could tackle them so that I can maintain a nice neat and tidy faith. But if I choose to ignore the deep and difficult conversations I miss out on the opportunity to discover God in new ways. If I remain afraid of the clean-up operation on the other side of my exploration, I may miss out on potential peace and new levels of intimacy with my Heavenly Father. Besides, what really is my faith if it doesn’t involve some risk and curiosity and a little bit of mess? 

The good news is, I’ve realised that God can deal with messy, in fact, I’d go as far as to say that maybe He prefers our mess to our ‘pretence’ that everything is ok. I had a conversation this week with a dear friend whose opinion I love, trust and respect. We were discussing some aspects of scripture that can be difficult to understand and we each have a slightly different viewpoint on at present. What I loved about the conversation is that we were both open to listening to the other’s point of view as our united goal is to better understand God through His word. One thing we both strongly agreed upon is that it’s in the times where we grapple with scripture and life the most that we feel the closest to Jesus. Ultimately we hold onto the promise that the truth will set us free (John 8 v 32) and that Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life (John 14 v 6). So whilst we don’t hold the keys to full knowledge and understanding we know and trust someone who does. 

A few years ago I came across something called “The knowability of God” by Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology) which makes me sound way more intelligent and informed than I actually am. His theory has enabled me to tackle difficult topics of scripture and life from a fresh perspective. In brief summary, Grudem states that we can only know God because He first chose to reveal Himself to us. This means that the very fact that we have an opportunity to know Him is due to our infinite and unfathomable God wanting us to. This encourages me that we don’t need to fear our curiosity about God and His word because He actually wants us to know Him more. That takes the pressure off any guilt or shame we may feel in not having all the answers or feeling uncomfortable with certain texts because God wants to reveal Himself more clearly to us. Grudem also states that whilst we can never fully know God, we can still truly know Him. If He was completely comprehensible, He would cease to be God. Being God indicates that He is greater than man. This, however, doesn’t make Him distant. I could never fully know Rich, my husband because there are parts of his inner man known only by him and God and yet I do truly know and love him. If we don’t give ourselves space and permission to get a bit messy with scripture and God, we miss the opportunity to know Him better.

Jesus is our reminder that God made the first move in wanting us to find Him. He is our clearest example of God’s character, principles and love. This means that we can weigh up everything we don’t understand against our knowledge of Him. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1 v 24) This reassures me that as long as I continue to walk with Him, there is wisdom to be found. Rich puts it like this, Jesus is the lens which brings into focus a God that would otherwise be too huge to recognise. Despite not being able to fully comprehend God’s magnitude He is both knowable and recognisable through Christ. Jesus is the “image of the invisible God..” (1 Colossians v 15).

So, if you have tough questions, be encouraged that God is able to deal with our messy faith and is, in fact, the best person to take it to. He wants to be known. 

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Matthew 7 v 7 – 8

Why Mums Make Great Leaders Part IIII

you are lovely

For those new to this theme, let me explain. Last year I started a conversation entitled, ‘Why Mums Make Great Leaders’ Initially, this was mostly due to me becoming a first-time mum and navigating the new territory and title of Mother against the backdrop of leadership. The aim of the conversation is to encourage Mothers that they can make great leaders despite a historical context of being overlooked for leadership, by themselves or others due to their motherhood season. Sadly women and mothers still face discrimination within the arena of leadership today. Despite the fact that in Western culture we have made good progress and are moving forward, there is still work to be done. I am however grateful to live in a country and era in which we are free to address the topic. Women in different cultures and countries to my own still aren’t afforded the basic human right of freedom of speech and so we must help to fight for them.

With that said, this isn’t a political or rallying post, but rather one to inspire and encourage and bring hope to another. Whilst it’s addressed primarily to mothers, the message of positive influence transcends title and is the privilege and responsibility of all.

Good leaders influence well, they inspire greatness in others, they believe in a better future and they pioneer into the unknown. Today as I was scrolling through my Instagram stories, I came across an incredible example of great leadership by a mother posted by a friend who is herself a great leader and mother to five children! She posted a tale about Thomas Edison and his mother that reads as follows:

One day, as a small child, Thomas Edison came home from school and gave a paper to his mother. He said to her, “Mum, my teacher gave this paper to me and told me that only you are to read it. What does it say?” Her eyes welled with tears as she read the letter out loud to her child, “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have good enough teachers to train him. Please teach him yourself.”

His mother did just that until she fell ill and passed away.

Many years after Edison’s mother died, he became one of the greatest inventors of the century.

One day he was going through some of her things and found the folded letter that his old teacher had written to his Mother. He opened it… The message written on the letter read, “Your son is mentally deficient. We cannot let him attend our school anymore. He is expelled.” Edison became emotional reading it and later wrote in his diary, “Thomas A. Edison was a mentally deficient child whose mother turned him into the genius of the century”

Source unknown

Thomas Edison was a famous American inventor, probably best known for creating the first electric light bulb. If you google the above story, there is speculation around whether it is based on fact or more allegorical in style. Some believe that there was actually a conversation between the teacher and mother rather than a note, but whatever the truth of this particular report, the message is still important, words have power and mums have influence.  

Fact or fiction, reading about the courage and tenacity of Thomas’s mother reminded me once again of the power of leadership within mums. What a responsibility we have as parents to lead and influence our children well. Mrs Edison was unwilling to settle for a negative diagnosis of her son’s abilities. Believing in his potential and motivated by a mother’s love, she decided to set about creating an environment in which she could forge a better future for Thomas than that prescribed by his teacher. I doubt she could have foreseen the scale of impact that her decision and effort would have. What a great example for us all, whatever title we hold, mother, father, grandparent, friend, neighbour, work colleague or stranger, we each have the power to encourage or discourage. It’s a sobering thought to think that because of the nurture, influence and leadership of his mother in his early years and the guiding of his potential, his and her legacy continue to this day. If you’re reading this with the help of an electrical light, you are sitting partly under the fruit of Mrs Edison’s labours. A leader in her own right. 

I am blessed with two lovely sisters-in-law, one is my brother’s wife and the other Rich’s sister. Both are people who you could comfortably introduce to anyone because not only are they lovely, both can also hold a conversation with pretty much anyone. Interestingly, however, Rhiannon, Rich’s sister, as a child of about 18 months old wasn’t correctly finishing the end of her words. The Health Visitor wanted to refer her to a speech therapist, believing there to be further issues with her communication. Her mother Amanda, refused. Amanda knew that this developmental phase wasn’t due to a lack of intelligence or understanding on Rhiannon’s part as she was using language appropriately. Amanda believed that Rhiannon would eventually get there in her own time as long as her and Andrew (her Dad) kept regularly speaking to her. Today Rhiannon is a Cambridge medical graduate who went on to become a GP and is now a pastor who teaches and preaches as part of her job. Although Amanda didn’t know what Rhiannon would become, she believed in her future and influenced her present to help ensure her greatest potential could be fulfilled. 

Whatever season we may find ourselves in and whatever influence we may have or however we view that influence, big or small, whether it’s over one person, ten or multitudes, we have the ability to make a difference for good. We have an opportunity to create change and to speak hope and life into desperate situations. Never doubt the importance of who you are to someone and the power that your words hold. This post sits within the category of, ‘Why Mums Make Great Leaders’ but it’s really a message to anyone who is willing to love another and be brave enough to lead, even against the odds and at the risk of being misunderstood.

What legacy will we leave?

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18 v 21 (NIV)

To read more of this conversation click here 🙂

Have A Little Faith

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH copy

Do I allow space in my life for faith? If you follow my blog regularly you may know that I’ve felt challenged over the past year to pray more. Not only to pray more but to be intentional and focused as I pray. I’ve been inspired afresh to persevere in the pursuit of breakthrough through faith as I use the free gift of communication and power that is prayer to connect with God. I’ve also felt convicted that I have too many get-out clauses available in my comfortable first-world life that soften the blow of seemingly unanswered prayer. There are many opportunities daily to rely on my own strength or the strength of my privileged society. These things have become crutches to rely on rather than a springboard that propels me into daring to believe for more. They aren’t necessarily bad things but they can cause a distraction averting my eyes away from a big God who is able to reach into my circumstances and do a miraculous work. I reach for the paracetamol before I pray for a headache. I go to the opticians before I pray for my sight. I ask for provision and then borrow from someone else. If I don’t get an immediate answer I search for the next best thing, but second, best is never best.

Do I know Him and His heart as much as I could? Have I become too accustomed to my comfortable bubble? Do I feel more at ease with religious tendencies which allow me to do lots of stuff and so appear to be walking in step with God’s heartbeat? If I just open my eyes and look beyond my four walls there is need everywhere, situations desperate for the miraculous and lives to be reached with the love of God. What situations, illness, discomfort and dysfunction have I learned to live with because they are ‘easier’ to manage?

Great innovation has allowed us to develop and create many inspiring things. We’re made in God’s image. It’s in our nature to create.  I believe it pleases Him when we excel in art, learning, social change and more by using the gifts He’s given us. I also think He works through many a great endeavour and even planted the seed of their conception. However, rather than use these great inventions and strategies and pillars of society as inspiration to aspire to more, perhaps I’ve let them become convenient excuses for self – sufficiency. I don’t know. There have been times in my life where I have been indignant in faith and seen incredible answers to prayer and others when I’ve struggled or felt disappointed. Faith is a key component to a life lived in Christ and it’s a shame that I can count the number of encounters of personal radical faith on my hands. 

Faith pleases God, in fact, scripture goes as far as to say, “Without faith, it’s impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11 v 6) I used to feel a pang of anxiety as I read this verse and wondered if my faith was enough, would it ever be enough? Scripture tells us however that God does not delight in our sacrifices or offerings (Psalm 51 v 16) Perspective changes everything. Now I believe it pleases God for us to have faith because He wants His power to be released into our lives and the world in which we live. Sienna becomes easily exasperated when things don’t seem to be panning out exactly as she envisioned, especially when attempting to build stable towers with all sorts of unstable objects. Rich and I have been trying to teach her that all she needs to do is simply ask for help and it is our pleasure to step in and build alongside her. I believe that faith pleases God because it is our way of stopping to ask for help and put our trust in Him.

According to Romans 10 v 17, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” The knowing of His word and therefore Him are inextricably linked with faith. How much I know of Him and experience Him relates to the amount of faith I will possess and express. God isn’t wanting something from us given from an empty place of duty but rather He asks us to know Him and then to trust what we know of Him and so act accordingly.

God is “slow to anger and rich in love” (Psalm 145 v 8) He patiently and graciously waits for us to catch up. The beautiful thing I’m still learning about faith is that it’s not so much about the quantity we have but rather where we place it. We couldn’t even begin to fully comprehend what He can do, Ephesians 3 v 20 tells us that He is able, “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” This takes some pressure off my imagination to try and conjure up a mystical faith. Rather, by placing faith in Him and not myself, duty, self-sufficiency or the advancing world around me, He is able to take what little I have and do the impossible with it. Whatever I dare to imagine or dream He can still do more. He simply wants us to come to Him, and come often, with prayers, hopes, dreams and seemingly impossible situations.

Friendship, counselling, practical help and advice, love and belonging should all be attributes that God’s people should be known for, but the miraculous I’m convinced should be in there too. A real God, motivated by love and full of grace, changing our lives and that of others in ways that no man could conjure up, no positive thinking or team effort could compare with and no logic explain. Only God. There’s little more powerful than the personal testimony of what God has done in people’s lives through faith.

I’m challenged anew to speak faith, think faith, persevere in faith and accept nothing less than what faith has to offer. I’ve failed often, but I’m determined to leave a legacy for Sienna beyond what Rich and I can make happen. We will do our best to provide for her with all the grace that God gives us to do so. However, it would be one of the saddest things for me to give her every opportunity possible to excel in her gifts, talents and skills, draw out all of the potential that we are able to see, and yet fail to show her the adventure that lies in a life lived by faith.

What’s your journey of faith?

 

Faith Is For Life Not Just For Christmas

FAITH IS FOR LIFE

The purpose of starting this blog was, to be honest about my own faith journey and to hopefully encourage; bring courage to another. What better way to do that than with personal testimony. Here are three reminders that have helped to keep faith alive for me.

Start With Faith

We intentionally gave Sienna the second name of Faith because we wanted it to be a defining characteristic of who she is and how she approaches life. Faith is the substance of things not yet seen but hoped for (Hebrews 11 v 1) and she is the tangible gorgeous fleshy substance of renewed faith in God after a tricky start in the pursuit of having children.

You can understand why Jesus commends childlike faith because a child growing up in a healthy environment of love should have an abundance of faith. Faith in their parents and carers to attend to their needs, faith that the chair/tree/settee they’re about to climb will sustain them, faith that the person on the other side of the ledge they’re about to jump off will catch them and faith that they’ll just bounce off the floor just in case they don’t! Granted – sometimes it’s misplaced. Nevertheless, it’s not a chore for children to believe. Children forgive and forget quickly and hope easily given the chance to. They start with faith.

Sienna was born with a small hole in her heart which can be fairly common and unsurprising given our family history. As I drove to the hospital this week for her yearly check to see if it had closed up I prayed for her once again. My prayer went something along the lines of, “Help me God with my unbelief, I know you can heal but I don’t know if you will. Despite my little faith do this for her God because I want to tell her of your faithfulness, the reason behind her name. I want her to have a personal testimony right from the start”

After a slight stress inducing 10 or so minutes of trying to get her to sit still so that a complete stranger could prod her chest with an ultrasound, food won and we managed to keep her stationary just long enough to have the heart scan. Many times I’ve been to that hospital over the past few years with both good and bad outcomes. It was such a relief to hear that all of the snack bribery was worth it as the doctor informed us that the hole had closed up. I couldn’t help but feel a little emotional as I rang Rich to tell him the news. Obviously, because her heart has healed but also because I can’t wait to tell her the story of God’s faithfulness when she’s old enough to understand. She can begin her personal journey with God full of faith in the knowledge that He hears and answers our prayers. Inevitably she will face challenges but if her foundation is faith, how she attacks them and gets through them will be infinitely better.

She can start with faith because we started with faith when we named her and even before that when we hoped for her before her conception.

Step Out In Faith

Currently Rich is the sole earner of our household as I look after Sienna full-time. I recently received a bill asking for tax owed due to calculations made based on our charitable giving donated over the past year. Mr tax man made the fair assumption that because the gift aid for these donations was in my name I am required to pay tax on it. Admittedly this was a mistake on my part and I had simply forgotten/not been aware that we needed to change the gift aid into Rich’s name as the current sole earner of the household. On ringing to discuss our predicament I was told that as it was already in the system absolutely nothing could be done to reallocate the contributions to Rich’s account and even though I haven’t earned any money I was still expected to pay a bill that shouldn’t exist. Not satisfied and requiring some grace for my error I appealed this decision via a letter. I explained the situation and prayed that God would cause us to have favour. This week I received a letter to say that the bill had been cancelled! Something I was told was not even a possibility. (I should point out I have nothing against the tax people, they were just doing their job)

Faith requires us to act in accordance with our beliefs and step out in the direction of our prayers.

Stay In Faith

I have so many testimonies like the above story, what I call kisses from heaven, as I’ve placed my trust over and over again in God. I’ve seen more provision than not and I’m still here and still going as a testament to it. Had we given up on faith Sienna wouldn’t be here today. Staying in faith isn’t always easy and convenient, especially when life throws some punches but it’s so worth it. Faith for tomorrow sustains your today. Faith is the key to unlocking the future. Our beliefs and prayers have the ability to create, to speak forth life, to give purpose and renew hope as we align our hearts with His word and boldly declare His promises. If we don’t make room for faith, life happens to us rather than flows through us.

Remaining in Him and consistently renewing and investing our hope in Him bears eternal consequences beyond ourselves. As we stay in faith we allow others to start in faith as they see His hand at work in our lives.

So I pray we start with faith, step out in faith and stay in faith.

 

Rest In The Desert

rest in the desert

Last week I found it particularly difficult to write my blog post. Sometimes it’s hard to write weekly. There are some things God does that are so deep and tender, it’s difficult to put words to them. God gently works on my heart and spirit, but often my brain takes a while to catch up and so trying to articulate this process can be difficult. The building reserves of God’s grace need to remain in my tank for while and first do a work in me before I attempt to encourage another.

Sometimes we can be so eager to rush, to process things quickly so that we can move on to the next thing, but for what purpose? To what avail? What good is it to go from one event to the next, one Sunday to the next, one book, one service, one thought, one moment without actually allowing it to change us? It’s all too easy to try and live up to Western ideals as we build into our lives with the illusion that just because we are constantly on the go we are automatically moving forwards. What would it cost us to stop for a second? Worse maybe, what would it cost us to not? Are we actually brave enough to stop in the Presence of God long enough to allow Him to truly change us? To face what has been flying under the radar for far too long. The emphasis is always on doing more, getting better and achieving success, but does continuous movement offer a sustainable and substantial foundation on which to build?

We need to give ourselves the permission to stop, to rest, to heal and to learn as we remember that the current culture we live in is transitory; here today and gone tomorrow. It is not the master of our lives and we can choose what to embrace and what to disregard. Life is precious and short which can often be misinterpreted to mean that we need to zoom through our checklists and accomplish everything by yesterday. I would rather accomplish one significant thing that has eternal consequences than many that don’t.

Building a legacy that remains beyond our lifespan requires time, preparation, careful and thoughtful precision. Many of the most beautiful old buildings that have withstood the ages of climate and social change have firm foundations that took time to construct. Years of labour went into their building and it required careful craftsmanship to put them together. Beautiful and worthwhile pursuits take time. We have promises of restoration and hope offered in a life connected to Jesus (Isaiah 61 and Luke 4) that are too important to miss out on. The good news is we don’t have to wait until heaven to start to engage with them. He Himself taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven” Matthew 6 v 10. What I’ve noticed about my own life is that unless I allow God to attend to my needs, I am less able to give to others. I’m not inferring the need to wait for perfection to serve or help or engage if that were the case we’d never do anything! Rather, there is more God has waiting to entrust us with, but He offers us restoration first. If my heart is full with the issues of life, there’s not much room for anything or anyone else.

What time in our day and week is actually carved out for spending time with God and not ‘doing’ for God? Yes, sometimes they can be one and the same thing, He is omnipresent, but I would hate to be journeying alongside God and missing the point of His comfort. I don’t want to travel through life but not ‘arrive’ anywhere because I’m too stubborn to learn and allow God to do a deep work within me. The Israelites, despite seeing the great red sea part before their very eyes after being miraculously rescued from captivity and experiencing God’s daily provision and faithfulness, still grumbled and questioned God’s care and power. Despite God providing them with resources every day of quail and manna, they still doubted His provision. God’s Presence was visibly before them and yet they failed to allow Him to truly be their God and continue to be their Saviour every day. To appease and please God and atone for their mistakes they offered sacrifices over and over and over again. As I read their plight and see God’s continual faithfulness to them I see mirrors of my own life. What sacrifices do I offer with well-meaning intentions thinking that it will please God? What desert have I wandered in for too long because I have failed to see the purpose of my rescue? In their haste to enter into their promised land, they were delayed in actually arriving there. Ironically, learning fast means stopping often. Had they rested in His goodness would they have arrived sooner? We don’t have the answer to that but we can learn from their story.

Stopping in His Presence means dealing with some stuff. It’s uncomfortable and inconvenient and it means being vulnerable and showing weakness. Something that no one really likes to do. Yet we must learn that God is the author and finisher of our faith, our redeemer our comforter, King, and friend. He’s waiting to help us through to His promise so that we help others too. After all, we can only lead people through where we’ve been or as far as we are willing to go. Jesus has once and for all atoned for all our sins, past, present and future (Hebrews 9 v 25 – 28) and so we no longer have to attempt to appease or please God. We simply have to accept His kindness and come to Him to receive His grace. As odd as it sounds maybe we should learn to rest in our desert and allow Him to be God and maybe we will find our deliverance sooner. He is the lifter of our heads. As we allow Him to do the miraculous in our lives, not only will it benefit us but it will be a testimony of His goodness for others to see. His power will always produce results quicker than my best striving.

Psalm 34 v 6 – 7 (TPT)

“Gaze upon him, join your life with his, and joy will come.

Your faces will glisten with glory.

You’ll never wear that shame-face again.

When I had nothing, desperate and defeated,

I cried out to the Lord and he heard me,

bringing his miracle-deliverance when I needed it most.

The angel of the Lord stooped down to listen as I prayed,

encircling me, empowering me, and showing me how to escape.

He will do this for everyone who fears God.”

 

Psalm 40 v 1 – 3 (NIV)

“I waited patiently for the Lord;

he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord

and put their trust in him.”

 

 

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Love Beyond Reason

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This past week I attended Hillsong Conference Europe as I have every year for the past seven. In one of the evening sessions Carl Lentz, Hillsong New York lead pastor, preached a powerful message about God’s love. It was so significant that I think many were deeply moved and changed, myself included. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you will have seen I’ve returned to the subject of love in the scriptures often. Clearly, God is stirring something within me. This stirring should be an obvious expectation for a Christian, to linger on and develop in love, and yet sadly it isn’t. Carl’s message was based on John 13 v 34 – 35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples”. Interestingly, this passage is one Rich and I have talked a lot about over this past year as we’ve processed life’s changing scenery. I was reminded once again by his preach that there is no reasonable excuse not to love. Even when it hurts, when it’s messy and when it’s undeserved. When I look at Jesus and how He lived, and all that He has done and continues to do for me, I have no foundation to stand on that allows me not to love. To remain in Him and on this journey with Him, I must remain in love (see previous post, Remain In Love). God is love. If I say yes to Him I say yes to love, there are no grey areas surrounding this subject.

What resonated most was how important the stakes are when considering love. People will see Jesus if only we love one another. We so often focus on our ‘calling’ or purpose, our work or the gifts and talents we have and how to develop them as we pray ‘me-centric’ prayers to satisfy our desires and yet we live in a world desperately crying out for love. God delights in us fulfilling all of our potential but not at the expense of love. Carl reminded us that love is easily defined – just look at Christ, it’s simply developed – follow Christ and it’s dangerous when demonstrated – Christ changed the world forever with His ultimate act of love.

So why do we make Christianity so complicated? At what junctures, in our well-meaning efforts, have we missed the mark and gone off track? I don’t know all the answers to those questions, but I do know the simple solution to realignment and the ultimate purpose of the Church – Love; to receive love, to have love and to give love.

To love is to show grace and mercy, to forgive without receiving acknowledgement or apology, to show kindness where others haven’t and to give second chances where most wouldn’t. Love gives with no hope of return. It goes further than one has asked and extends considerably beyond the limits of worth. There’s no way we can do any of this in our own strength nor should we try. When we misunderstand or misplace love it causes problems. Our own reserves are finite and easily wasted. True Love does not exhaust us until we are dry, empty and weary. It doesn’t cut deep and leave us broken, but it does penetrate the deepest recesses of our souls. I can’t love undeservedly and even deservedly of my own accord consistently and faithfully. I must place my love in Him and look beyond the reality of the circumstance towards Him.

His love is infinite and abundant, it never runs out, it encompasses all things if we allow it. Our hurts, disappointments, misplaced hopes and unfulfilled dreams all wash away in the ever-flowing stream of His love. Not only that but this plentiful and refreshing flow allows new things to be seeded and grow, joy to replace grief, life to replace death, peace to replace anger. His love knows no bounds and it waters even the darkest and most lifeless parts of our soul if we allow it.

There’s no situation I can face that Jesus does not understand. He was grossly misunderstood by his own people, falsely accused, rejected, beaten, abused and tortured. He acutely feels our pain. He asks us to forgive not to exonerate bad behaviour, but to set us free from the bondage of bitterness and hate. Love is the better way. He doesn’t ask us to pretend that things didn’t happen but rather He offers us healing. He doesn’t excuse poor behaviour, but rather teaches us to see the brokenness in others. He’s not asking us to try and love because people deserve it, He’s showing us how to receive His love so that we can move beyond our past.

True Love is unreasonable. Reason informs me that because of this they deserve that. Reason is a good thing and applied well can carry great wisdom. But love trumps reason.

Love melts away anger and offers comfort. It has the ability to bring us to our knees because we choose it not because we are forced and then it gently lifts us up and restores.  

Love doesn’t offer us behaviour modification as prescribed by self-help gurus, although that may be a fruit of its tender embrace. Rather it offers hope, belonging, faith and security. It first pours in and only when we are full to overflowing is it required to spill out into our lives. Really God isn’t asking us to do too much more than allow Him to first love us and see what happens. To quote an old hymn, “love changes everything”. I’ve written it before and no doubt I will again because I personally need reminding of it daily, “Love NEVER fails” (1 Corinthians 13 v 8).

There’s an old Aesop fable I remember hearing as a child about a dispute between the North Wind and the Sun. As they discussed which of the two was stronger, a traveller passed by wearing a cloak. They agreed that whoever would be able to strip the man of his cloak would have the greater strength. The North Wind went first and blew and tore angrily at the cloak but this only made the traveller hold onto it all the tighter. When the sun had its turn, the warmth of its rays offered much relief and as the heat gently grew stronger, of his own free will the traveller removed his coat. This old tale reminds me of the love of God, it’s strong and powerful like the heat offered by the sun but it doesn’t force itself upon us and demand we let down our guard. Rather it warms and shines and gently nudges us to let go of our burdens.

Give Love a chance, your life and others depend on it.

Stop, Look, Listen

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We live in an age of information. Never before have we had such access to knowledge and never before have we had as much freedom to think and express our opinions as we do now in the Western world. This is a wonderful thing, it provides opportunity, education, learning and discussion. It allows us to learn from our past and dream for the future. We have tools and studies, media and guides, facts and figures. There are podcasts, blogs and vlogs, groups and churches, programmes and courses. As soon as we start to type something into a search engine, multiple possible outcomes to the end of our sentences are quickly and freely offered.

Yet, sometimes there is an aching within, a deep longing or questioning, a hunger that can only be fulfilled by stopping and waiting in His Presence. A place where all other voices fade away, a place of peace and stillness, a place to find the truth, a place where we are unable to give but only receive. A place where only His answer and opinion will do, His kindness can heal and His love will restore. It’s a sacred place, a holy space. It can’t be found in the busyness, in the hustle and bustle, in the toing and froing. It’s not in the devotion or the service or the worship or the conversation, although all of those places lead us to Him. It can be difficult to find when life is full, but it’s harder still to live without it.

It’s an undefinable space in one sense, as it’s more a state than a physical destination, for some it’s found in nature, for others a special chair or a long drive, wherever it is and whatever it looks like for each of us it must be sought. It’s a place uninhabited by everyone but Him and you. A place to be real to the core of your being, to weep, to laugh, to declare, to be silent. We can’t sustain our faith by grabbing at snippets of truth like they are snacks that keep us going throughout the day. Sometimes we must be still and feast.

Jesus had the greatest mission on earth, the highest responsibility and the highest call and yet He was still with the Father. It was this stillness and this connection that gave even Him strength, direction and peace.  

There aren’t words of encouragement that I could give that even scratch the surface of what can happen in this place. It can be found only by you if you want it if you seek it and if you desire it. It restores, it levels, it refines and it injects life. The best prayers are uttered here and the greatest honesty is found here.

Were you ever taught as a child to stop, look and listen before crossing the road? Imagine if we applied that to life in general. Roads need to be crossed and paths walked, we are required to move, but imagine if we engaged our spiritual senses before we stepped out, what disaster could we avoid? What worry might subside? What clarity might be bestowed? What healing could be found? I believe there are secrets and mysteries only revealed in the stillness, only available to those that will stop long enough to hear. 

How do we find this rest, this stillness, this peace, His Presence? I’ll be honest, I’m still learning, but here are some things I know must happen before I can even get close to experiencing this wonder.

Stop – Let’s put down our phones, turn off the TV, step out of the room, leave the laundry, stop browsing the internet, at least for a moment, although He deserves and we need more than that. So often we want to relax, to wind down, to escape, I get it – me too! Hello Netflix. There’s nothing wrong with those things but they don’t compare to the miracles found in His Presence. It requires us to stop and there’s just no excuse that’s a good enough reason not to stop and be in the Presence of God. I’m preaching to myself. You’re too busy not to do it.

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word, I put my hope.”

Psalm 130:5

Look – We need to focus our eyes. Really look, really seek and really see. Look and earnestly desire after God, with open or closed eyes for it is the heart and soul that need to observe His goodness.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Matthew 7 v 7 

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…”

Jeremiah 29 v 13 – 14

Listen – Pour out your heart, empty your mind, speak, cry, shout, pray, write and then linger. Be still and linger some more, switch off everything external and listen for Him.  There are things only He can clarify and life only He can give. Be reassured, “It’s the nature of God to speak” (A.W. Tozer). 

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?””

1 Kings 19 v 11 – 13

Finally …

“Be still, and know that I am God;”

Psalm 46 v 10

 

How I Create My Blog Content

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Just a quick little post about how I create content for anyone out there wondering or needing some encouragement in getting started. So here are 5 ways in which I create content:

LIVE – Simply, I just live! I believe that every day I wake and have breath still in my body, I have a purpose. Most days can seem pretty mundane and monotonous if you look at them purely on face value but God can move, whisper and nudge through anything! Most of my thinking time is done when cleaning or doing an everyday task and I’m often inspired by simple things and my day to day comings and goings. 

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” James 4 v 8

KEEP MY EYES AND EARS OPEN – I try and follow, watch, read and notice things and people all around and allow myself to be inspired by most things. Something or someone may trigger a train of thought that leads to a completely different outcome from where it was conceived. My husband might call this one nosey, but I like to think I keep informed about things that are important to me. I also listen to my inner voice for recurring themes or phrases.  

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein

MAKE NOTES – Most of what I post starts as a phrase or thought. As soon as I have one I jot it down, usually on my phone for ease and speed as I’m often in the middle of something or about to change a poopy nappy. I have many notes on the go at any one time and I just leave them on my phone until I’m able to sit down and read through them.

PRAY – Often I pray a simple prayer before I delve into my notes to ask God what if anything to expand on. Often specific scriptures drop into my mind and I write them down, read them and mull over them.

WRITE – I open google docs, import my thought or phrase and start to type and see where it leads. Depending on the time of day and the type of day I’ve had, I could finish it in one sitting, other times I may start one and leave it overnight to settle in my head and heart and approach it with a fresh mind the next day.

It’s easy to feel limited in terms of resource, for me time is of the essence being a full-time mother, there’s no way I can write with Sienna around. Discipline and goal setting have been key to me prioritising space to get things done. Sometimes I start during her nap time and finish in the evening depending on the week and what else needs to be achieved and when. Because I’ve committed to doing it, I always make time. It’s funny how we find an opening to do something that we deem important.

I’m not an expert writer but I try and learn each time I post and I definitely have very limited IT skills. I use WordPress to host the blog which provides super easy template options for beginners like myself as well as more advanced ones for those in the know. For all images used on the blog and social media, I use Canva which again me is amazing for a novice like me in all things graphic design.

I’m a work in progress and so whilst difficult to accept I realise that all content isn’t going to be perfect. For me, it’s a collection of thoughts and encouragements based mostly on my faith and because of that, I expect the blog to grow as I do. Recognising this allows me to do my best now and know that that is excellent for this season. I also play to my strengths. As silly as it sounds, thoughts are my strength, photos, theology, graphic design are not my strength, I just try and stick to being and me and commit to being better. 

So that’s me! How do you create content or capture your thoughts? Do you journal or take photos or simply have conversations with others? How do you find inspiration in your everyday life? 

You can also read why I write a blog here 🙂

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Why Are We Waiting?

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Deciding when to have children was probably a bigger decision for me than it was for Rich, although it affected us both hugely. I was acutely aware of how much my life would have to change in order for us to become parents. It was something we always planned on doing but the timing was up for negotiation. There are many reasons as to why we waited for as long as we did to start trying, but they really all boil down to the fact that we thought we had life to live before we took the plunge. Reasons that felt justified and I’m sure some were. I had trained as a dancer and didn’t feel I could pursue that to the best of my ability physically with a child. We wanted to become more financially stable so that we could support our child. Good reasons and sensible decisions to many.

On having Sienna, I admit that some of the concerns I had about having children most definitely came to pass, lots of sacrifices, limited availability for other pursuits, tiredness, but all of them pale into insignificance in comparison with the pleasure of being her mother. It’s not an easy journey, I’d be lying if I said I’d loved every second of it, there have been really tough moments, but it is by far one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever done. Despite the fact that I don’t think it’s my only life calling, it’s already given me more fulfilment than other things I’d chased. 

We were so concerned about losing out on life, or at least I was, that at times we failed to recognise all that we’d gain. There’s definitely a cost to being a parent and for me personally in many ways, it’s cost everything. I’ve had to work hard to regain physical strength after a less than ideal birth, I’ve had my faith and patience stretched to the max, I’ve let go of many things and it has pretty much turned my world upside down. There is good news though! I do love Sienna inexplicably, and challenging as it may be, I can’t imagine a better life without her.

Being able to experience the joy of parenting requires dealing with a lot of unpleasant stuff. Just meeting your child requires labour, aptly named as it’s no walk in the park. Before you become a parent you can only imagine what it’s like. I believe God took us on a journey of excitement and expectation to prepare our hearts for the gorgeous munchkin that we now call ours, yet still, we couldn’t have imagined the joy we would feel, we only hoped for it. We had to make the choice to surrender what we had known and go through the process of discovery to find it.

In an encounter with His disciples, Jesus outlines a tough decision that they and all followers of Christ must face if we are to fully embrace salvation. It’s not a pretty scripture, it’s one of those grin-and-bear-it reads until you turn to another more pleasant and palatable text about all of the inheritance and good things we attain as children of God. Yet on the other side of the decision, although it requires loss, is inexpressible joy and eternal abundant life.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life, will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

Matthew 16 v 26

It sounds like a pretty big deal, and well, it is, following Christ requires letting go of a lot, your whole life in fact, but I want to encourage you, the gain is far more than we could ask or imagine (reference to Ephesians 3 v 30). Since having Sienna, yes I’ve laid down and let go of some things but it’s afforded me so much more than just the overwhelming love of a mother. It’s allowed me to pause and reassess certain aspects of life as well as gain a greater perspective. It’s forced my hand in discipline because I want to be the best mum to her and provide the best as much as I’m able. It’s heightened my senses to His purpose and given me a greater appreciation of others and a deeper level of empathy. Time and how I spend it has become ever more precious and I’ve found the ability to dream again in more ways than one. I’ve been surprised at new passions and ideas that God has given me. I’ve pressed into God further and upped my prayer game. On the other side of the decision to lay down my life for another; all my hopes and unfulfilled dreams, doubts and struggles, the need for control, I’ve found so much more than I lost.

If only we could have a taste of the abundance before we make the leap of faith right? Maybe then we wouldn’t deliberate or procrastinate for so long before taking the plunge. But faith requires us to hope and have confidence in things not yet seen. One thing I would always encourage those under my leadership with is that you can’t trust someone you don’t know, so I the first step to letting go, is getting to know! Get to know God, Psalm 34 v 8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” This verse is an invitation to experience the Lord’s goodness, but it requires us to first take a bite, to trust, to seek, to act. Jesus moved heaven and earth to display His love for us, He’s laid it all out for all to see, but the issue with merely seeing and not tasting/doing is that we can look away. Tasting is an experience, it leaves a flavour. Give God a go and see what flavour you’re left with.

So I want to ask you what are you waiting for? What’s holding you back from laying down everything, that issue, the pride, the hurt, your past? Like the scripture in Matthew says, what do we gain by holding onto things? Let us not sacrifice our wholeness on the altars of being right, unforgiveness or temporary pleasure. Hope and promise await in a future where we let go and let God. I had to lay down the life I had come to know, and even though it wasn’t perfect there was comfort in its predictability. One can only hope that the investment into Sienna pays off, but investing all that you have and everything you are, past, present, future, dreams and hurts into Christ has the best and most secure payoff, not only in eternity but also in the present. So let’s let go and let God.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”

Psalm 37 v 4

 

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