All You Need Is Love

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

In a world and political landscape that increasingly seems to highlight division and is more interested in being known for what it’s against rather than for, it’s especially important this Christmas to remember love. Whilst others are set on fighting against each other we have to remain set on fighting with each other. With so many opinions that wish to divide, we have to find a cause that unites.

Jesus told His disciples that people would know that they are His disciples by the way in which they loved one another (John 13:35) He didn’t say we should always agree although scripture instructs us to work for peace and unity (Ephesians 4:3-6) He didn’t create us to look the same or have the same interests but He did command that we should always love, love God and love others (Luke 10:27) There’s definitely room for healthy debate as we work towards finding solutions and answers. There’s also room for differing opinions and preferences as we aim to live peacefully alongside each other but there is definitely ‘no room at the Inn’ for our misplaced hate, we have but one true enemy and whilst we fight against each other we miss the bigger picture.

Love undoubtedly is hard, it requires us to forgive when it’s undeserved, it requires us to show grace when we want to point fingers and place blame. It’s so easy to bulldoze our way through life and people as we each champion our individual causes, but it’s so much harder to do it in love. Fortunately, it’s not something we have to try and conjure up in our own strength by striving to be right or better. Rather, God is love. He gives love and He is love and His love freely flows through us as we allow it.

Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birth for the Christian, isn’t the start of the account of His incredible love for us, but it’s a special reminder of the kind of lengths He and those chosen by Him went to on our behalf. It’s the love of a courageous young virgin. Due to her devotion to and trust in God, she risked her life to bear His holy child despite not seeing all that was to come. It’s the love of a carpenter who put aside his pride and the shame of marrying a woman already pregnant to allow her to bring God’s presence into the world. It’s the love of wise Magi who travelled far from a distant place, leaving the comfort and elegance of their homes in order to bow their knee to an infant dwelling in humble circumstances. It’s the love of a group of Shepherd’s willing to leave their night watch, their livelihood, to worship at the feet of a tiny babe born in a lowly stable. It’s the love of a Father who willingly gave His own son so that we might see the error of our ways and receive forgiveness and grace. It’s the love of a Son who gave up His position, His rights, everything, in order to walk alongside us so that we could have His friendship and guidance forever. It’s the love of the Holy Spirit, the Presence of God to dwell in a broken temple of flesh in order to deliver to us our saviour.

The time and circumstances in which Jesus was born were tumultuous, the Roman rule was oppressive, the greed of kings murderous, the plight of God’s people seemingly forgotten …. but God. But Love. Love risked it all for you, for me, to know Him, that we may find peace and unity in Him. Love persevered as it nailed Jesus to the cross for the sake of our mistakes, anger, jealousy and self-interest.  Hate and prejudice didn’t nail Jesus to the cross, it was love. His love for us.

I pray that as we enter into the festivities and fun of Christmas, the games, the presents, the protruding bellies, we would stop and remember love. Amidst the many issues and uncertainties of life, there is always something, more importantly, Someone to be grateful for. As we meditate on His love for us and others over Christmas may it see us into the new year also. Maybe just maybe, then, we can change our worlds, impact those around us and show the world that despite our differences love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Merry Christmas All!

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. “

Luke 2: 9-11

To keep up to date with weekly content check my Instagram page 🙂

Love Beyond Reason

love beyond reason.png

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.

You Do You Boo

YOU DO YOU BOO copy.png

There’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing a garden start to bloom, especially when it started out as a wasteland. Unfortunately, the previous owners of our house hadn’t taken much interest in anything beyond the back door and so what we inherited was their personal dumping ground. I’ve admitted before, I’m not the avid gardener in the family, but I am slowly becoming more interested and most definitely enjoying the fruit of Rich’s hard labour (cheers hubby).

Each plant in the garden is unique and beautiful in its own way and serves a purpose within the greater ecosystem. Some have heavenly scents, others provide shelter for wildlife, some provide pleasure as they flourish in bright and beautiful colours. All require care and planting and all have similar fundamental properties important for their growth. All are established in the same soil in our backyard and must form a solid root system to remain healthy as they grow upwards towards the sun. Each element of nature in the garden is connected and compliments the overall masterpiece (you’re welcome Rich – in faith ;)) that is our garden. The beauty and purpose of one flower doesn’t subtract from the beauty and purpose of another, but rather it adds to the overall picture and essence of the landscape.

There’s something about the snapshot of our garden that speaks to me about life as a Christian. We also require planting and care to grow, including the occasional pruning (ouch). We have many similarities and our fundamental needs as people are the same. Together as His church, we should create a magnificent landscape alluding to the wonder of God. As individuals we are spectacularly unique and yet can unite together to contribute to the common goal of His will. The essence of our Creator is reflected in many finite beings who each have different desires, gifts, preferences and purposes, like the essence of the gardener is reflected in the variety of his masterpiece.

When we say yes to God and grow as Christians – the aim is not to become clones of one other but to be released into the freedom of who we were always destined to be. We’re inextricably linked by the Source of our creation, who provides our planting and nourishment. Whilst we have similarities, individually we have permission to bring our unique beauty to the garden of life. All of us are designed to glorify the creator and together unified all add to the form and strength of His garden. Too often it’s easy to misinterpret salvation and belonging as changing to become carbon copies of one another. God is the one that connects and aligns, not a sterotype or set of behaviours. He unites us with some non-negotiable truths, such as love, grace, mercy, faith and of course Jesus to name but a few. Our commission is the same, however, if we’re not careful we turn unimportant man-made beliefs into obligations under the guise of faith and in doing so try to squeeze people into a mould they were never created to fit.

When you envisage the garden, each plant can only be what it was created to be, nothing more, nothing less, its purpose is set from the beginning. The rose bush fails at producing apples, whilst the lilly will never be evergreen, but that doesn’t make them lacking, it makes them different. To expect them to bloom in ways other than what they were created to do is a course set for failure and misses the opportunity to cultivate the personal beauty within each of them.

Without negative intent, I think at times we Christians, unknowingly guide people into discipleship with a slightly skewed understanding of what it is. The goal of discipleship is not to produce mini ‘each-others’ that all think the same, speak the same and act the same, but rather to point others continually to the ever careful and faithful Gardener. In Him, we find true purpose, kind pruning and continued sustenance. Guided by Him, we find our true place in His garden and learn to love our unique expression of Him whilst still remaining planted in the greater landscape.

We must also guard against comparison amongst ourselves as we step back to view the greater perspective offered by eternity and our relationship with Him. This allows us to dig deep into what it is He has for us to fulfill in this ministry, privilege and opportunity called life. There isn’t only one way to serve, to minister and to be. We all have an important part to play in making the Earth a better place and Heaven more full. 1 Corinthians 12 puts it another way as it likens us as Christians; Christ’s body to a human body made up of different parts, different in function, capacity and size but every part important to the overall purpose.

Let us all celebrate our differences, encourage our unique qualities and embrace each other’s gifts so that we may flourish in our respective patches of the garden. Let us get to know the Gardener who provides all that we need as we grow alongside and compliment one another. Planted in the same ground, watered by the same Source but flourishing in our unique ways. He will guide us into Truth so that we are always growing towards the Son.

PS – blog followers, there’s more bits and bobs on instagram

PPS – insta followers, there’s a teeny little follow button on the bottom right hand side of the page which means you can get new posts straigh to your inbox 🙂 

Remain In Love

REMAIN in love (1) copy

This post is just some thoughts I had on John 15 today, rather than my usual style of blog post. The next ‘official’ blog is coming shortly, so disclaimer if it’s not what you expected and there’s an undeniable multiple and heavy use of the word love!

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”

John 15 NIV

Yes, I’m still on the love vibe, riding that love wave like a Jesus hippy. Not always intentionally if I’m honest, nevertheless, I guess God is drawing me into something.

So many times I have read the above scripture and missed some of its beautiful truth. There’s so much to glean from this one passage. I must remain in Him, the possibilities of my eternal fruit-bearing potential depend on it in fact. I draw my strength from being connected to Him, there’s no doubt about that. I recognise that pruning is for my benefit however uncomfortable, it fortifies me, deepens my roots and ultimately produces greater fruit. Without Him I am nothing, that’s clear. Yet all the while I’ve missed the blatant and glaringly obvious command given right in the midst of it. I’ve understood that I must keep his commands and perhaps without realising have thought this required some sort of dutiful compliance on my part. Obedience isn’t a bad thing when you know the intent. 

However, as I have read it afresh this week, what has leapt off the page at me, is that remaining in Him and keeping His commands look like loving others. Jesus Himself reminds us in Matthew 22 v 37 – 40 that all of the law and the prophets depend on the greatest commands of love – to love God and to love others. And yet at every turn it’s so easy to miss in our religious ways. It’s no small and easy thing to love others, especially when they aren’t easy to love, but really it is what most reflects Him and what truly bears precious fruit. What empowers me with the ability to do that again and again? Through ease and discomfort and all of the sometimes seemingly painstaking list of loves attributes noted in 1 Corinthians 13? Remaining in His love. His love is my source, His love bears fruit through me and gives strength and purpose to my love. The fruit of His love is more love, love that changes things, that messes things up in the right kind of ways. When we lead with love, look with love, start with love, forgive with love, atmospheres are changed and strongholds are broken. God doesn’t want our sacrifices of time and hard work, loyalty and striving, He wants our love. He doesn’t want us to do better, to do more, to be more, He wants us. Love is key. Love is the way, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life; God IS love!

Love does, love acts, love serves, love calls out injustice, love goes the extra mile, love is patient and kind and keeps no record of wrongs. The receiving of love breaks down walls, it makes one trust, it draws people out and it embeds security. It makes us stand taller, believe harder, dream bigger and most of all, love never fails (1 Corinthians 13 v 12).

My perception of this verse has changed and deepened, my revelation of the constant need to receive and make use of His love has quickened. His all-consuming, abundant, heaven-come-to-earth kind of love.

So much I could write, so many scriptures I could use but all I choose is this – Lord let me remain in you, in your love. To truly know it, to feel it, to be wrapped in it and to exude it to others. Help me to love others how you love me, the good, the bad and the ugly, teach me to remain. Help me to know what’s important. Love.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

1 John 4 v 7 – 12

 

Love Thy Neighbour

LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR copy

London is a beautiful City full of history and innovation that sees rapid growth and change and has the obvious hustle and bustle of a Capital City. It’s bursting at the seams with people and is often a place in which many live but don’t necessarily dwell long term. There are lots of rentals and students and people passing through for a season. We ourselves have been here for only 7 years and have moved 4 times during that period due to rental contracts and differing jobs. Having a community in a busy and large City, with such a migrating population can be tough, and for us, we are lucky to have found one through Church. However, we don’t all live in close proximity to one another, and so some of the places where we’ve lived have provided more of a base rather than a home.

Last year was a busy year full of lots of change for us. We welcomed our first child, transitioned into new roles and found ourselves once again in a different area of London. This time, however, we had the opportunity to purchase a house as we were blessed with some inheritance which we used as a deposit. I think there’s a saying in property that reads along the lines of, “buy the worst house on the best street”, that way you will add value to your home in a sort after area and it’s still affordable to buy. The London housing market is in a league of its own and as we looked for a property it soon became apparent that our money wouldn’t stretch as far as we’d thought. No matter, we were still fortunate enough to own our own home, it just turned out that it was the worst house on not the best street! Regardless, we have a nice little two-bed end of terrace with an amazing 60-foot garden. It wasn’t left in the finest of conditions from its previous owner and so it was what you’d have called a ‘fixer-upper’. Nevertheless, whilst we haven’t viewed this as our forever home, it is a good start on the property ladder and a place to establish our little family together. A home that we can raise our young child in and be hospitable with, a safe haven to come back to and the start of building a legacy for Sienna.

Recently I was challenged at Church as our pastor addressed the issues and growing concern surrounding young people in our City and the increased levels of violence amongst them. As a Church, we want to be part of a long-term solution. This is, after all, our City. In his message, he said something along the lines of, “Don’t pray to God for something if you’re not prepared to be part of the answer.” Inspired by this but not knowing where to start, I consciously made a decision to pray not only for our City and Country but also for my street, my neighbourhood and my community. I felt challenged to be present in this community for as long as we live here and not just see it as a transitional place. I realise that it’s not yet the most sought after area, but the majority of people that live here are normal, hard-working every day decent folks. I prayed my prayer and got on with my day.

Then something happened which made me want to rescind my previous thoughts, challenge my prayer and make plans to leave the neighbourhood as soon as possible. Someone walked into our house in the middle of the day, assuming everyone was out and took the easiest things they could grab in an instant. On realising someone was upstairs they made a quick exit. We only realised we had been burgled when we noticed our visiting family’s car was gone from outside! They’d taken the keys!

As if it wasn’t enough that someone had broken into our private property, the very next day, I noticed something across the street that appeared suspicious. With a heightened sense of awareness, and despite feeling nervous as I got our daughter ready for bed, I called the Police. The short version is they responded quickly and efficiently and so the criminals were caught and arrested. In that moment I had a choice, do I still love my community although it’s hard or do I close the curtains, let the world pass by and hope for the best as I plan my departure? I thought if I really want to pray for my City and see a change it must start with me. As the title of Bob Goff’s book states, “Love does!” Love does even when it’s uncomfortable and love loves even the bits that we don’t like as much. If I don’t care about my street and if I don’t take action how can I expect anyone else too? It’s easy to point fingers or step back but if this is now my community, it’s my responsibility.  Getting involved in things at arm’s length not having to get my hands dirty feels better, but there are needs right on my doorstep.

The enemy would have us stunted from moving forward because we feel intimidated or fearful. However, as my dear friend, Ope always says, “the devil is a liar!” It’s true he comes to kill, steal and destroy but what’s also true is that Jesus is, “..above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1 v 21. He has the final say, He is our provider, protector, redeemer, saviour, strength, peace and victor – AND the list goes on. The devil has nothing on Jesus. It’s an uneven match.

We were blessed to buy this house and therefore blessed to be in this area and so we must not let those who wish to destroy our blessings have the last say. There are so many exhortations in scripture that remind us of the goodness of God and the protection we have as his people. I need to believe that whilst we are here our prayers and our actions can make this a better place for not only ourselves but also our neighbours. My neighbours need to know a loving and very real God who is able to reach down and infiltrate their lives and situations. This starts with me; with me showing them the evidence, showing them His favour and the power of prayer. This means not being afraid to do the right thing. Of course, it’s easier to type than to action but if ministry truly is life, then this is my life and therefore this is my ministry and our neighbourhood is our responsibility.

A few quick things I have learnt or been reminded of this week:

  • Light casts out darkness – ALWAYS! “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1 v 5
  • God is on my side, He’s my protector  – Psalm 91
  • Jesus taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as in Heaven,” so He’s invested in the outcome – Matthew 6 v 9 – 13
  • Ministry is life – Romans 12
  • God loves my neighbours and so should I – Mark 12 v 30 – 31
  • Jesus has all authority Matthew 28 v 18 and He gives us authority – “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Luke 10 v 19
  • Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to attack – put on your armour – Ephesians 6 v 10 – 18

Busy Is Not A Badge Of Honour

Busy Is Not A Badge of Honour

It seems like busy is a badge of honour we wear with pride these days. “How’s your week been?” “Busy” “How’s work?” “Busy” “How’s life?” “Good, busy, but that’s a good thing right?” I know I’ve said it before and no doubt meant it.

Being a parent, in some ways, brings a new level of busy into life with increased to-do lists. However, it’s also afforded me the ability to streamline, as I now weigh the importance of what I give my time to against caring for another human, Sienna.

I’ve realised busy doesn’t make us good or better, and it doesn’t always translate into significance, although it can give a false sense of purpose as we exert ourselves on a never-ending treadmill. There are definitely times and seasons that require more of us and these allow us to grow in capacity and get more done, but after a push must be a rest. In order to allow the soil of our soul to replenish and grow new things, we need a chance to rest.

Busy was a constant pace of life for me, pre-child. When I slowed down in order to care for Sienna, and at times struggled, I had to question why I struggled, or why I had placed so much value in always having a project on the go. When I was just left with myself, was I happy with the person I had become and the things I had built? Even though built on a foundation of good intentions, were they important? Did anybody notice I wasn’t on the treadmill anymore? Had I, in turn, noticed others that weren’t as busy as myself or doing the same things as I? Had I been present in moments or just busy through them? Were people truly important to me or was the task always more pressing, under the guise of it being for others? They were tough questions to ask and although the answers weren’t all negative I did come to the conclusion that moving forward I’d rather be present than busy.

God’s treasure is humanity, He died for people, He overcame hell (literally) for people and so they need to be my greatest treasure also. I’ve realised that when we are busy, despite good intentions, people and their needs can often become overlooked. Caring for others isn’t convenient. It means stopping, listening, waiting, making time and going out of our way for others. When we’re busy we have less time to activate our care. I worked for a charity and I’ve always served within the church. It was easy to think that because I was doing roles and tasks that essentially were for the betterment of people that I was caring for others. And I was for the most part. However, if truth be told, sometimes the mission overtook those I was doing it for. An easy thing to happen for any of us if we’re honest. When we become so busy doing, we can forget all about ‘being’, as well as those that we are ‘doing’ it all with. Ultimately we won’t take what we did with us into eternity but we will take who we are and hopefully that which we’ve truly invested in other people.

Within all of us, I think there’s a hunger to live a life of significance. Incessant busyness can be a facade of significance and we must always re-assess what we do and why we do it. This requires stopping to think. For me, I want to have a positive influence and impact on the small section of eternity that I have the opportunity to reside on this earth. If people are in eternity, then it is people I must invest most in, and they must be my main priority in whatever endeavour I pursue, in every sphere of life. Whether they be family, friends, colleagues or neighbours, the way I treat them and interact with them has greater consequences than surface level human decency. In John 13 v 35, Jesus puts it this way,

By this, all people will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another.”

People will know that we belong to Jesus by how we love one another. Not what we put on for others, not what we work towards or the tasks we produce, but how we love one another. How we go out of our way for others, care for others, forgive each other, provide for each other, treat each other, LOVE one another.  

1 Corinthians 13 v 1 – 7 (The Message version) expresses it like this,

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. “

Basically, if I’m busy doing lots of ‘good stuff’ but I don’t have love, I have nothing. Quite sobering.

There are many great books available about time management and priorities in which we can learn from the experience, mistakes and corrections of others. But knowledge is no good unless it’s applied; application equals wisdom. Having some time to think has made me think again about some questions that I should regularly ask myself in order to recalibrate to being present over busy. In order to “change the game”, we actually have to CHANGE the game. Doing the same things as before but harder and faster or even more efficiently does not change the trajectory of our lives, our organisations or our families. In order for things to be different, we have to do things differently and actions speak louder than words. There’s a saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you’ve always been.”

Do you like me, need to reassess anything in your life? Here are some of the questions I have asked myself, what are yours?

  • Is this pursuit valuable; in alignment with my core values/convictions?
  • Is what I’m doing sustainable long-term?
  • Does the trajectory I’m on lead to the life that I want to live now and in the future?
  • Is what I’m sacrificing worth the outcome? I have to spend my energy on something, so is this worth the cost?
  • Can I make decisions about my own life?
  • Am I stewarding well what God has given me?
  • Who’s agenda am I fulfilling and do they care about me?

 

Delete Forever

DELETE FOREVER

Unfortunately, I’m one of ‘those’ people when it comes to computers! Quite often mistakes are down to user error rather than a computer fault. There are others in the family who are far worse than me but they shall remain nameless so that I don’t get in trouble! One thing I have accidentally done before is pressed the ‘delete forever’ option. It’s great when freeing up space on my computer and I mean to erase that which I have now deemed as ‘trash’. However, it’s not so good when I didn’t mean to remove a file in the first place and in an attempt to retrieve it, I again erase it and banish it forever!

It’s interesting that my computer was designed in such a way that I’m able to resurrect things that I’ve scrubbed out. To undo that which I have done. It’s also interesting that it doesn’t completely delete things the first time even though that’s my intention. This is great when I’ve made a mistake and need to get a piece of work back. Other times it’s frustrating that I have to delve back into my ‘trash’ and choose again to delete the things I thought I’d already erased to ensure that they are completely gone! I wonder if whoever designed it knew that as humans our nature is to hold onto things unnecessarily, or second guess our decisions, or feel the need to drag back into the present that which is belongs in the past. Who knows, they probably didn’t think too philosophically about it, but hey it works for my post.

“Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

1 Corinthians 13 v 5

Yep, I’m still mulling over the words of 1 Corinthians 13. Perhaps it’s due to an increased hunger to experience more of the Presence of God who is Himself Love (1 John 4 v 8) and so I have a heightened awareness of Him and therefore It.

As I read verse 5 through the lens of His love for me, evermore so because it’s Easter, I feel humbled, grateful and undeserving that He chooses to keep no record of my wrongs. To wash them as white as snow and delete them forever as though they never happened. It’s not just forgiveness I receive when I accept His love for me, and that would be more than enough, but it’s no kept record of the dark parts of myself that nailed Him to the cross. That’s pretty mind-blowing. I could thank Him for that forever.

What challenges me is to love likewise. How do we keep no record of wrongs when we are hurt, we are grieved or scarred deeply? To forgive is one thing, and that in itself can take a lifetime, but to keep no record, wow that’s a tough call. Sometimes we might think we are ‘over’ things and perhaps have told ourselves such, when in actual fact we have buried the pain deep within, pushed it aside or tried to close a lid on it. The issue with that, however, is that when you bury a seed it has the potential to grow. Although day to day we may seem ok whilst getting on with life, a root of bitterness may be waiting to spring forth and rear its ugly head. Like a weed, it wishes to sap energy and choke future possibilities to love, have meaningful friendships and relationships, dreams, hopes and purpose. Understanding that the personal stakes are high is not the hard part, the difficulty is in actioning this aspect of love.

There are times when we are right to be angry, when we are victims and when we want to learn from circumstances and guard our hearts for the future, but how do we really find the courage to forever delete the records of those that have hurt us?

I’m not sure the answer is instant, in fact, I think it’s a lifelong pursuit. I guess we would have to start with the cross, for that is where the debt of our wrongdoings has painfully and undeservedly been paid for. I know when I truly think on the love that nailed Jesus to the cross, the last thing on my mind is what others have done to me, but rather what He has done for me. In those moments, all I feel is the warmth and overwhelming sense of His grace. When I know His grace and it penetrates the depths of my soul, it’s abundance seeps out. It’s so important to visit the cross and linger often, to pause and pray, to worship and repent, to cry and to be grateful. But our journey doesn’t end there. We need to look up and look on and see the resurrected Christ, Who draws us unto His life-giving self, full of hope and promise and future and love.

From a place of accepting and knowing His love, we can start to heal and move forward. Embraced by His love, the hurt inflicted on us, intentionally or unintentionally, becomes harder and harder to see as it fades into our past as He leads us heavenward.

One thing I am learning is that there is no limit to the depth of His engulfing love, the more I ponder on it, experience it and sit within its healing, it becomes more and everything else becomes less.

So how do we delete forever and not keep things stagnating in our ‘trash’ file? Well, it’s not so much a case of press this button and it’s gone, but rather the answer is simply, Him. To be in Him, to walk with Him, to allow Him to love us. I imagine it will transpire a little differently for us all as He knows us individually and personally, but the answer is still Him. The many depths and wonders of Him, His love, His grace and His peace.

I pray this Easter as we remember its significance and continue to draw ever closer to Him, the painful things stored away in our memory bank, the insecurities, regrets, hurts and losses will fade evermore into the distance.  

“Love NEVER fails.”

1 Corinthians 13 v 8

Happy Easter 

Tunnel Vision

TUNNEL VISION

This week we did the grocery shop as a family. When we’re all together, I’m aware that Rich isn’t a huge fan of shopping so I try and be as efficient as possible. I sent Rich off with Sienna to get an item off the list whilst I went in the opposite direction to fetch another. On my return, I spotted them both a little before they caught sight of me. Suddenly, Sienna, who was sitting in the trolley, looked up and saw me walking towards them. This was much to her delight and she responded by gleefully waving and saying “hiya” – that’s the Stokie in her! As soon as I realised she had seen me, I joyfully waved back and continued to make a beeline for them both. With my eyes fixed on her as our gaze locked, I ploughed through the other customers to receive my prize – a cuddle and a happy wiggle. However, in doing so I almost had a collision with a trolley and nearly mowed down an older person. Oops. Fortunately for us all, I caught them in my peripheral vision just in time to avoid chaos! What can I say? I was so happy to be reunited with my family, even after only a few minutes, and more importantly, I was delighted to see the excitement on Sienna’s face that I didn’t want to disappoint. I became headstrong in my pursuit of fulfilling that happy longing of hers to see her mummy.

It’s a cute small tale from an ordinary part of life, but it did pop into to my memory and make me smile as I got on with my day today. It made me think of how perhaps God must view us. Being a parent has definitely expanded my view of my relationship with Him. When you see the cogs turn behind the eyes of a toddler who’s just been told not to do something, you can definitely understand how Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Despite having access to all of the other wonderful gifts God had given them, they wanted the one thing they couldn’t have. Not too dissimilar from my little tinker! But more than that, the ways that I love Sienna, despite all of these things have given me a whole new revelation of God’s love for us. When she turned to see me and was filled with joy, my mummy heart wanted to respond as quickly as possible so that she knew her feelings were reciprocated.

How much more does God long for us to look up and notice Him so that He can respond in kind? We are created in His image, so we carry aspects of His nature and qualities. Yet they are but a shadow; a small reflection of Who He is. His Father heart must ache much more than mine for all of His kids.

In determined and unrelenting pursuit of us, motivated by pure love, despite ourselves, His tunnel vision for restoration lead Him to the cross. So desperate for us to know His heart, He put on human flesh and left His high position to become nothing to serve us, His creation, His children,

“..rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

Philippians 1 v 7-8

I saw a beautiful line this week in, “God is Good, He’s Better Than You Think”, by Bill Johnson. It reads like this, “Jesus Christ is perfect theology – He is the will of God personified.” Basically, if you want to know what God thinks, how He acts, what’s important to Him, look at Jesus. Jesus Himself said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5 v 19). What Jesus taught, when He healed, when He had compassion and when He placed value on those that society outcast, you see the true heart and nature of God for humanity, for you and me.

I don’t know where you find yourself this Easter week. Up to your eyeballs in eggs and bunnies, busy at work, enjoying a holiday or feeling lonely or lost. Whether on top of the world, at rock bottom or somewhere in-between, it’s always good to be reminded that there is a Father in heaven with tunnel vision gazing adoringly at you. Since the beginning of time, He has pursued a relationship with us. When we messed up He set about embarking on His recovery plan. He’s not far off or distant, aloof or callous. He eagerly awaits us to notice His face looking intently and lovingly at us. He sent His Son to right our wrongs once and for all so that we would never have to doubt His feelings again.

Happy Easter week!

Safe Place

safe place

Everyone is entitled to a safe place. A place to find shelter that offers comfort, a place to return to often, that feels like home. A place that brings familiarity when we feel lost or lonely, and a place to just “be” when we have nothing to say. A place that brings warmth, love and rest to a weary soul, and a feeling of protection in an unknown climate.

Sienna has just turned one and she becomes more independent with each new day. She has courage and curiosity to try new things and explore new adventures alongside an endearing belief that everyone will love her just like we do. It’s fun to watch and I feel proud and relieved that she feels comfortable enough to do this. However, she’s still young and when she’s tired, afraid, unwell, hungry or just wanting some familiar comfort she returns to her safe place; us, her mum and dad. If she wakes before she’s fully ready or her teeth are causing her pain, or there’s something she’s a little unsure of, you can be certain there is only one place she wants to be, and that’s firmly in our arms. The familiar rhythm of our hearts, the smell of our skin, the ease of our voices and the warmth of our hold bring her peace. Sometimes if we’re lucky she just wants a cuddle because she finds enjoyment in being with the ones who love her the most and we have a playful and loving exchange.

When she places her head on my shoulder, it’s one of the greatest feelings to know that she feels secure, loved and at home at that moment. No matter what else is going on in her little world, in our arms she finds a place that she knows and is fully known. Sometimes she may be silent, other times she may “talk” (baby babble), but on any occasion, she will never be rejected from our loving embrace, regardless of her circumstances, mood or behaviour.

I wonder do you have a safe place? Or are you in need of a safe place? Do you need reminding that one exists for you too? Do you know that there is a Person Who is to you like I am to Sienna, in fact, more than and better than I could be, even as a doting mother? 

David, in the Bible often found himself in risky and lonely situations and in need of a safe place. Sometimes due to external factors, other times due to his own decisions. Whether in despair from trying to avoid a delusional king hell-bent on murder, the anguish of his own sin or the elation of promises fulfilled, there was one Person he always turned to, his King, Saviour, Father and Friend; his “Safe Place”, God. Well known for his poetic Psalms, read one of his revelations of his “Safe Place” below…

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters,

He refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths, for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Psalm 23 (NIV)

When Sienna feels safe in my arms, and I feel the love that swells in my heart, I’m awed to think of how our heavenly Father must feel when we consider Him our home. It thrills me when her little tiny arms wrap themselves around me, I want her to know that she can do that always. Yet I know that I am but a poor reflection of the shelter found in the Presence of the Almighty. It is His will to be our ever-present place of refuge. As Psalm 23 conveys, there is no need or circumstance that God is overcome by, He provides peace where there could be fear, provision in our lack, guiding in our wandering and goodness and love (mercy in some translations) in abundance.

If you’re wanting to find a safe place today or just need a reminder of one that awaits your return, I leave you with one of my most recited Psalms. Full of truth, my heartfelt prayer in every season, Psalm 91. It speaks of comfort, promise and truth found in the shelter of The Almighty, and like Sienna to my arms, it’s a place we can always return to. Our safe place.

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him;

I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call on me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble,

I will deliver him and honour him.

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.’”

Psalm 91 (NIV)