No-Man’s Land

Spring is here!

There’s a place I remember from childhood that is approximately a metre squared and can be found at the end of two adjoining roads. Amongst friends we used to refer to this small section of real estate as ‘no-man’s land’. Whilst it lay between two street signs it belonged to neither one. If we straddled our legs from one side to the other we would proudly declare that finally, we could be in two places at once. However, being neither fully in one street or the other turned out to be more novel than practical as having one foot in both streets allowed the opportunity to do little other than stand still.

Perhaps the absence of regular blog posts over recent months can be accredited to the navigation of our own ‘no-mans land’. We’ve made some key decisions as a family over the past year that have propelled us into a transition period. Reaching an ambiguous crossroads we have had to redefine, rethink and revaluate what’s important to us as we move forward. A process which takes time and is easier to type than do.

It’s an odd feeling to find yourself in life’s ‘no-man’s land’. To a soldier, the term ‘no-man’s land’ refers to a piece of unoccupied territory that few dare to enter for fear of the uncertainty that lies within. Stepping out in faith often sounds more glamorous and adventurous in concept than it actually turns out to be when walked out, and almost always leads to some kind of ‘no-man’s land’. To venture into unchartered territory is daunting and inconvenient and sometimes lonely. To leave the comfort and perceived safety of the known takes courage, and not everyone will understand the reasons for your venture, or be willing to come with you. As is often the case when daring to step into the unknown, our own in-between season came with neither clear direction nor defined timeline. Living in a culture that is constantly bombarded with information and glorifies busyness, it can be disarming to find yourself temporarily at a standstill whilst in search for clear direction.

What I’ve discovered is that ‘no-man’s land’ can be an uncomfortable place to inhabit. Yet, as uncomfortable as it may be, I believe it is necessary to enter if we wish to make any type of change for the better of ourselves or others. As disruptive as it may be, it can be significant, as lonely as it may feel at times, it can be illuminating. On the other side of ‘no-man’s land’ lies new territory to be taken and new freedom to be attained. If we commit to the process of allowing ourselves to temporarily belong to nowhere, we can find the freedom to choose where it is we wish to eventually settle.

We’ve been navigating this area for a while now, and are hopefully nearing the end of this particular journey through the unknown. There have been lots of things learnt, some ideas challenged, a few things left behind, and much gained. At times it’s been exciting and full of hope and at others, it’s been confusing and overwhelming. The intricate details of our expedition are personal to us and no doubt mostly irrelevant to you but there are some anchors that have kept me going. The following nuggets have lifted my head and helped me to travel through the void rather than get lost in it.

  • Find joy, it brings strength. Amongst change and uncertainty, it can be difficult to find joy and easy to see chaos. It requires practice. Joy is a plumb line and perspective giver. I try and think of three things daily that I’m grateful for. This keeps my eyes up, my focus forward and my heart grateful. Each day is a gift and I’m learning to treat it as such. See my previous post written about joy here.

         “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8 v 10)

  • Deal with what you know and don’t dwell on what you don’t. Overthinking and over-talking allow worries to fester. Worry blocks faith and feeds anxiety.  Plan for what you know and have faith for what you don’t. 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What        shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6 v 31 – 33)

  • Take one bite at a time. An ancient African proverb asks, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite a time.” When our only focus is the large elephant ahead of us, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and want to walk away. Any change, of lasting significance, has to be dealt with one small bitesize piece at a time. Jesus taught us to ask for daily bread because He knows better than we know ourselves. Tackle ‘no-man’s land’ one bite and one day at a time.

“Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6 v 11)

  • Trust is a doing word. Trust isn’t passive, it requires courage and practice. When all else is swirling in the storm, there is one in Whom our trust will never be misplaced.

LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” (Psalm 84 v 12)

  • Sometimes you have to lose to gain. Not a weight loss slogan, although it could be. Transition requires moving from one thing to another which often means leaving something or even someone behind. Fear of letting go is possibly one of the greatest inhibitors to change but a closed hand is not able to receive a new gift. It’s not always easy and it shouldn’t be taken lightly, but with wisdom and care shedding some things can be the greatest liberator.

 

 

When You Feel Like Your Hands Are Tied

WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR HANDS ARE TIED.png

Sometimes in life, we can find ourselves feeling enslaved by circumstances that seem impossible to control or influence. Whether it’s at work with a boss, peer or colleague that we don’t see eye to eye with or an unexpected health diagnosis that comes out of the blue. Life can present many situations which leave us feeling uncertain about our future. Difficult relationships, financial struggles and dreams lost can all leave us feeling like the future is hopeless with no escape route in sight. 

It’s not just negative circumstances that can present obstacles to us moving forward. Stepping out in faith, whilst exciting, can also be daunting and overwhelming. Although we may wholeheartedly believe in the decisions we make, inevitably we don’t have the full picture of how everything is going to work out. A life lived by faith sounds inspiring and adventurous, but it often requires walking into a future we believe for, but don’t yet possess. What can start as a positive move in the right direction may quickly feel like venturing into a dusky wilderness rather than following a clear and steady road and weariness sets in. 

Since a personal loss in my own life, I have developed somewhat of a holy dissatisfaction; a longing to see God move more. Loss, unfortunately, is an inevitable part of life this side of eternity. Disappointment, failure, pain and weakness are experiences we all face. However, despite the fragility of this life, and even because of it, God still can step into our daily lives in miraculous ways if we can just keep persevering in our faith and fix our eyes heavenwards.

As I grow as a Christian, I am increasingly challenged to exhibit my faith in the good, the bad and the ugly seasons of life. Either God is Who He says He is and can do what He says He can do, or He isn’t and He can’t. In “God is Good, He’s Better Than You Think” Bill Johnson puts it this way…

“If He is as good as many claim, how we respond to this truth will require a massive change in how we do life. Instead of creating doctrines that explain away our weakness and anaemic faith, we’ll actually have to find out why ‘the greater works than these’ have not been happening in and around us (see John 14:12).”

When I read the accounts of some of the great influencers and leaders in the Bible, I see that their success was in spite of difficult and challenging circumstances. Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah for example, all influenced some of the most tyrannous world leaders of their time and yet they were all slaves. Slaves! In the natural, they had little influence and significance according to the hierarchy of the day. They lacked a title, resource and freedom of choice. It’s easy to forget these important details. The conditions of their lives saw them outwardly enslaved and in many ways lacking. Yet, in spite of their slavery, they experienced breakthrough and change, not only personally but also for their nation. Their courage in the face of adversity was not based on the outward condition of their lives but rather their inner conviction about Who their God was and His promises to them. Knowing and believing in God Almighty caused them to pray and believe in their time of need. God miraculously saved their lives and opened doors of opportunity as He responded to their faith. They weren’t passive in their actions but they did seek God first.

Another great account of God responding to faith-filled prayers in a time of need is found in Acts 12. Here we read that Peter has been thrown into prison by Herod. The opening sentences describe how James and his brother John have recently been put to death at the hands of this same Herod which heightens to us the severity of Peter’s present situation. The passage continues to explain how he was bound with not only one, but two sets of chains and guarded on both sides. There was no escape route in sight and his future looked bleak. Yet, despite his seemingly slim chance of survival beyond this imprisonment, verse 5 states that the “church was earnestly praying to God for him.” When it appeared that this could be his end, that there was no way out of his circumstance, the church prayed anyway. They believed anyway. Miraculously Peter was rescued from the prison by an angel of the Lord and “the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.” (Acts 12 v 7). 

God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. If He could come through for Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah and Peter in answer to prayer, He can for us too. Not only did he rescue them and provide for them personally but His greater purpose was fulfilled through them.

Just recently I was reminded again of how God feels about me as I looked on at my daughter Sienna. As her mother I so want her to do well, to be healthy, to succeed, to nurture and grow all that God has placed within her. I am biased towards her because she is mine and I’m invested in her doing well. I will do everything in my power to ensure she grows up knowing my love and belief in her. Rich and I will do our best to practically provide for her in whatever way possible to help her to flourish. In the same way, we are His. He loves us, He provides for us, He is invested in our wellbeing, in our success and our future. He wants you and I to find freedom from the entrapments of life and to flourish into all He designed us to be. 

Whatever circumstances we may be facing right now, even if our hands feel tied like Peter’s, we can remember that our heavenly Father is on our side ready to lose the chains that are holding us captive. Sienna has to take her own steps and build her own life but all she has to do is ask and Rich and I will be there to help. As we remember God’s love for us we are emboldened to pray earnestly and in faith see His breakthrough.

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.

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7 v 8 – 11

 

 

Radio Silence

RADIO SILENCE

Radio Silence –  “A period during which one hears nothing from a normally communicative person or group” (definition found via Google)

There’s an attack on our senses in modern western society with so many media vying for our attention 24/7. A world of organised chaos ready to sell us the latest products or opinion as they lure us in with well-executed campaigns. We don’t even have to leave our beds to be up to date with the latest trends and information, we just check our smartphones. It can be difficult to find quiet amidst the noise. This noise on the outside can often perpetuate a noise on the inside as we find it increasingly difficult to switch off our over-thinking, over-planning brains. We become quickly frustrated if we wait longer than a minute for anything, a coffee, wifi, phone signal, a text message. We import and export food and goods so that we can enjoy them all year round as it would be unthinkable to only have access to them once a year. Online shopping and next day delivery add to the message of instant gratification.

It’s easy to let our present culture dictate our view of God and our relationship with Him. We can rapidly become frustrated at an apparent lack of haste in His dealings with us. Have you ever been waiting for an answer to prayer or hoping for an open door only to feel like God seems to be transmitting nothing but radio silence? To counter our impatience we keep going, we build anyway, strive anyway. We create events and empires, products and programmes, always looking for the increase as we perpetually tick off our weekly and yearly to-do lists as we navigate our increasingly full calendars. We figure we haven’t heard anything contrary to what we’re doing so we’ll just keep going at an accelerating rate, according to whichever voice, trend or structure we are currently following. We struggle to carve out meaningful time to sit, listen, pray and worship outside of our Sunday experience as we assume that stillness and silence mean wasted time. We want drive-through healing, provision and relationship, “I’m just stopping by, but you know I love you right?” If we have to pray and wait for anything longer than a week, we give up the fight and get back to doing. Desperate to keep up with the fast-moving world around us we become frustrated at having to delay what we believe will satisfy us. If we could just do this, see that, be there or achieve that by yesterday we’d be happier, more fulfilled, full of a sense of purpose. We’re constantly looking for new ideas and innovation, never letting anything take root long enough to have a significant impact and see if it actually works. We think a year is a long time and if we haven’t seen our preferred results by then, everything must change.

I’m not an enemy of progress and I enjoy many of the benefits of the forward-thinking culture we live in. I’m also a big believer in getting on with things. We don’t want to swing too far in the opposite direction that we never do anything because we believe waiting for God to speak is passive. No, Psalm 37 v 23 remind us, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:” This infers movement on our part. I’m also an advocate for necessary change which enables us to grow individually and corporately. Change for the right reasons is good. Change that benefits our lives, our communities and the world around us is needed. I just wonder if we pause long enough to check that we’re still tuned into the right wavelength so that our steps can be ordered correctly. So that the change we seek is built on well-thought-out, prepared plans that have been carefully considered and founded on the right principles. Change for change’s sake is exhausting.

What if the radio silence we felt was distancing us from God wasn’t actually silence at all? Rather somewhere along the journey, an interference with the signal occurred and He’s waiting for us to take the time to tune back into the correct channel. What if we are moving too fast to notice the white noise ringing all around us? What if God is transmitting but our spiritual antennae aren’t correctly positioned to receive what He’s putting out?

If we ‘do’ more than we pray, there’s an issue. In our jobs, we regularly connect with our boss to ensure that our work is on track. We have weekly meetings with colleagues to give updates and check workflow. We regularly converse with spouses, friends and family to make sure our schedules for the week allow space for meaningful encounters. How much more then do we need to connect with God to ensure that we’re correctly aligned with His vision and will? To check that the right things are important to us, that His desires are our desires. That we are loving Him and others correctly. That we’re not moving on until we’ve healed, not changing direction until He says so.

We need to make sure we’re defining culture and not chasing it, always struggling to catch up. We can utilise the good without succumbing to the bad. Sometimes it requires the courage to be misunderstood to make the right kind of changes. To pioneer, we have to do something never done before, not add on to what’s keeping us on the treadmill of misguided success. We need, and the world needs us to stop, tune in and check the transmission. Often. In fact, this more than anything else needs to be the top priority of our weekly agendas.

Despite the fact that we’ve never been more enlightened, had more tools and opportunities to succeed with plentiful available resources, figures show that anxiety and mental health issues are on the rise with not much difference between those inside and outside the Church. This is sad. Our perpetual want for more stops us from failing to see, feel, talk with, linger a while with an amazing Saviour who can lead us on our daily salvation journey.

I don’t know who needs to hear this today but if it resonates with you, please stop, talk to someone, tune in and drown out all external noise so that you can focus in on the one voice that matters.

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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Stop, Look, Listen

stop look listen

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

 

The Rose

the rose pink

In the “Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, a spell is cast in the magical land of Narnia by the Wicked Witch making it always winter, “..but never Christmas..”. A relentless season of cold and frigid weather. Sometimes if we’re honest life can feel a bit like that. Have you ever felt disappointed or discouraged with life, people, yourself or even God? I know I have. Sometimes you feel like you’ve waited long enough for your promise; your spouse, a child, a job, a ministry, a career, a friend, approval.

There’s a beautiful song called “The Rose”, sung by Bette Midler and written by Amanda Mcbroom. It’s a song I was introduced to by my Father, and the lyrics have always resonated with me. At the start, it sounds like a sombre song as it recounts pictures of love that are close to heartbreaking. The final verse continues to seem like a woeful picture of lost potential within us, due to the weathering of life and the bitterness of a winter season. However, it doesn’t end there….

“When the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long

And you think that love is only

For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed

That with the sun’s love

In the spring

Becomes the rose”

Lyrics are taken from “The Rose” written by Amanda Mcbroom © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc and sang by Bette Midler

Whenever I hear this song, my heart smiles at the lyrics of the above verse. I can’t help but imagine my Saviour’s; The Son’s love beaming down on me. If I close my eyes, it’s almost a tangible feeling of warmth as I accept once again His countenance towards me and allow His love to flood over me.

Within each of us, there are thoughts, feelings, desires, hopes, disappointments and aches that are buried at the bottom of our soul, only to be fully known and reached by God. There is no counterfeit for His Presence and Grace. Only His love can bring life to that which feels dead or broken.

Too often I’ve focused on the bitterness of a winter period and not sought the Son’s love which only leaves me feeling empty and frustrated. In my recent prayer time, I have found myself returning over and again to 1 Corinthians 13, which I used to illustrate a point for, “Why Mums Make Great Leaders”. When repeatedly drawn to the same passage of scripture, I know God is wanting to reveal something more of Himself through it. The Message interpretation at the end of verse 7 states, “I’m bankrupt without love.” What a powerful statement of truth. The previous verses speak about love being paramount above all things, we can do a number of great exploits but if we don’t have love, we are nothing.

Bankrupt; spent, empty, lacking, void.

The truth is we all need love. The Beatles were onto something when they sang, “All you need is love.” I am blessed to have a husband, family and friends who love me dearly and wholly, and yet none of their love, as precious as it satisfies the depths of my soul covered by a winter’s snow, like that of the Son’s love. He is able to melt away all that clings onto the essence of who I am, good or bad, to penetrate even the parts of myself that I don’t fully know or understand, and am therefore unable to change. Within all of us lies a thirst that can only be quenched by His love. A love unexplainable, inexplicable, abounding and all-encompassing.

As valentines day creeps up on us, I pray that you will know that there is a love for you that satisfies beyond romance and human affection or adoration. I hope you feel the tangible warmth of His love this Valentine’s week, and always. I encourage you to read again, or for the first time, 1 Corinthians 13. Steal away some time with the ultimate Lover of your soul, and rather than see the scripture as a list of things that we have to do in order to love others, read it as how He loves you. 

“…God is Love.”

1 John 4 v 8

Happy New Year!

 

 

This is going to sound a bit cliché and like I’m quoting a song lyric, but this year has been somewhat of a rollercoaster! I’ve lived through fear and faith, success and failure, joy and despair, growth and stand still, birth and endings, new and old, comfort and loneliness, confidence and doubt, excitement and monotony. Often it’s happened simultaneously or in a pendulum like fashion, swinging from one extreme to another, sometimes in the same hour! 2017 has seen some of the highest points and some of the lowest points I have ever had to deal with. That said, I made it, and not only did I make it but I’m excited to step into 2018. I’ve been stretched and tested in every way, physically, mentally and spiritually….. would I change anything? YES I would… ha! But that’s what a new year is for, a new page, a chance to apply all that I’ve learnt and grown in 2017. I never arrive, but I journey forward and hopefully leave behind what I don’t need, and take up what will nourish me and help me to build in 2018.

I’m grateful for every experience, everything has taught me something, good, bad or ugly and that is valuable! Grace has sustained me, and whilst my faith has been challenged, questioned and strained at times it is still the thread that weaves everything together, and ultimately brings me out on top. It resets my failures, informs my best decisions, gives me another chance and drives my passions. Without it I wouldn’t be me.

2018…. let’s go!

Fruit Is Best Enjoyed In Season

strawberry

We live in an age where most things are available at most times. This can be a great thing. The opportunity to Facetime my husband when he’s away due to 24/7 wifi. The ease of buying and sending gifts to loved ones who don’t reside in the same city or even country as myself. I do wonder, however, if the constant access to things, and the incessant busyness that we so often find ourselves in, has undermined the necessity and pleasure of waiting for things, and truly enjoying them. Like a fine wine that needs to mature, some things in life need time in order to produce the best results.

Now I’m no gardener, both my Dad and husband can attest to that, but I am an accomplished eater (hello), and I do have a rudimentary understanding of the gardening basics. Over the summer I was enjoying some delicious British strawberries, when my mother-in-law stated how much better they tasted in comparison to the imported ones sold during the rest of the year. This got me thinking, “fruit is always best enjoyed in its correct season”. According to Jamieshomecookingskills.com (fount of all knowledge obviously, thanks Google), “Fruit and vegetables naturally grow in cycles, and ripen during a certain season each year. When they are ripe, they are at their best nutritionally and taste-wise …. If you eat ‘seasonally’, you are eating fruit and vegetables during the time of year they are naturally at their best”. Makes sense. To apply this logic as a metaphor for life, I wonder how many times I have tried to rush through a season and wanted something to be “ripe” before its time; a job, career or dream before it was ready, a relationship, position or gift before it was mature.

In the Bible, we see that Moses had a natural desire to see justice for his people, the Hebrews, who had been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years. This was a good desire, in fact a godly desire. However, out of season, and acted on before the correct time, this inner passion turned into anger, and resulted in him committing a terrible crime and fleeing for his life (see Exodus 2). In the correct season, after growth, pruning and nourishment, and a lot of time, that desire matured and was correctly planted in God where it was “naturally at its best”. This allowed him to finally lead his people to freedom in the most epic way (see Exodus 3-14).

When we desire things to bud straight away in our fast microwave culture, we don’t allow the soil of our lives to settle and replenish the “nutrients” we need in order to harvest the best crop. When we look for a quick fix; import in foreign goods rather than wait, perhaps we lose a sense wonder and excellence that comes from pursuing the real deal. Maybe we miss out on the lesson of the current moment by trying to fast-forward to results not properly earned.

In John 15, Jesus reassures the disciples, and us, that we were created to bear fruit, fruit that will last. For me, this takes the pressure off trying to see results prematurely, as it implies that it’s part of who I am in Him, to produce good things in life. Sometimes I may need a little pruning and nurturing, but this is all benefit as it helps produce ripened mature fruit.

Just like eating fruit before its ready can cause issues, (say hello to the toilet!), trying to push a relationship, gift, ministry, career, desire or goal before its time can be detrimental. I hope I can discern the season, embrace the wait, replenish the soil, trust that I’m designed to bear good fruit, allow for some pruning, and best enjoy fruit in its season.