Friday, 15 January 2016

If you want something done, ask a busy person.

We all know the story of Mary and Martha, right? Let's just say that Martha and I would get along famously....assuming we could find the time to meet!

My default programme is to be busy. I'm not good at relaxing or allowing myself space to breath and permanently have a 'To Do' list as long as my arm; a mental one that swirls around in my head 24/7.

Are you familiar with this quote? There seems to be some debate on Google as to whether it was said by Lucille Ball on Benjamin Franklin, but I would prefer to go with the latter!

Largely due to my own obvious frantic nature, that 'person' is often me and for a very long time, I didn't given myself permission to say 'No'. To anything. Without getting too deep, I think the reasons are probably a complex mix of duty and flattery. 

What changed in 2015?

Two things changed for me last year:

1) I began considering my response before giving it.
2) I started to recognise that 'no' is a perfectly acceptable (and often vital) response.

Not answering immediately has given me space to think and time to consider if this 'opportunity' is something God really wants me involved in (yes I know I've been a Christian almost 40 years, some of us are quicker on the uptake than others!).

Understanding that by saying "No" I might disappoint the other person but I would never disappoint God, has been hugely releasing. Remembering who I am serving, is a key part of that. 

In 2015 I was asked to get involved in a number of different things, both inside church and outside. One of the key opportunities was to volunteer at our church on a Tuesday, taking on the role of Communications Manager. 

I am passionate about communication. It came out as my number 1 strength on the Strengths Finder course and I spend my whole day communicating with people both online and in real life. I love it! 

An obvious "Yes" then, surely? 

My instinct said "Yes" but I still needed to weigh up the pros and cons. The old me would have jumped straight in without discussing it with my husband or considering the implications. The new me mulled it over for 6 weeks and agreed to trialling it for a term. 

I'm pleased to say that it's going well and I think I am in a place where God wants me right now. Of course it has had a knock on effect in a few areas of our family life and I've had to learn to set clear boundaries so that it doesn't encroach too much on other commitments, but on the whole? I feel very positive about it.

But what about Mary? 

I think most of us are either a clear Mary OR a Martha. However what God really wants from us is to strike a balance between the two. I realised earlier in the week that unless I am disciplined, Martha always takes over. Almost without noticing. I read the following verse in my bible notes this week and it hit home again....

'Martha was distracted with much serving...."Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

In his commentary, 'Grace for the Moment', Max Lucado goes on to write:

Martha's aim was to please Jesus. But she made a common, yet dangerous mistake. As she began to work for him, her work became more important than her Lord. What began as a way to serve Jesus, slowly and subtly became a way to serve herself....She has forgotten that the meal is to honour Jesus, not Martha.

Perhaps like me, you fall into this trap without really noticing it. I think it can be a huge stumbling block for anyone whose work is primarily in a church environment. Last year I learnt to say the right kind of 'Yes'. This year I'm going to remember why I said 'yes' and who I'm doing it for. Will you join me?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

You're My Favourite

Are you a Strictly fan? Remember how dear old Brucie would turn to every couple after completing their dance and say "you're my favourite", in a slightly patronising but endearing way? One that only Brucie could get away with! It became a bit of a catchphrase, an 'in' joke and everyone began to recognise it as just that - a joke.

As human beings, we look to be accepted by others. It's not nice to feel outside of the gang or the butt of everyone's jokes. It doesn't feel good to come last or be the one who doesn't get invited to the social gathering that everyone is talking about. But if we're not careful, these negative feelings can drive us into a constant habit of seeking approval from those around us and even worse, seeking approval from people over God.

I know that this pattern of behaviour is a weakness in me and a trap that I fall into very easily. Over the years, I've come to recognise when I'm on that road to destruction - because that's what it is, after all - a few nasty habits creep in and certain undesirable traits begin to dominate my life. 

Here are a few symptoms that rear their head, when I am putting people's approval above God...
  • an over-scheduled diary.
  • a reluctance to share my views, particularly my faith.
  • keeping quiet when I should be speaking out.
  • speaking out when I should be quiet!
  • over-sensitivity and a tendency to mis-read people.
  • acting out of the wrong motives (including saying 'yes' to everything!).
  • puffing up on receipt of compliments and getting down if there are none.
  • changing myself into the person I think that I should be.
  • feeling guilty a lot of the time.
  • over-analysing conversations and wondering what others think of me.
  • neglecting my loved ones, in favour of seeking someone fairly insignificant's approval.
  • spending far too much time on social media.
  • taking it personally, if someone else is chosen over me.
  • feelings of inadequacy stop me from doing things that God is calling me to.

If all of these symptoms collide at the same time, you can imagine what kind of mess I get myself into! Perhaps you recognise yourself in one or two of these?  

Seeking man's approval is exhausting, it really is. We can spend our waking hours striving to meet everyone's needs, to please people, and to end the day feeling like we've done just that. But does it make us happy or satisfied? Perhaps momentarily, but not deep-down and not for very long either. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul puts it a bit stronger than this....

Galatians 1:10New International Version (NIV)

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Quite sobering isn't it? As children of God or 'servants of Christ', we should be putting Him first. Every time. The good news, or should I say GREAT news? Is that God does not require any striving on our part. He loves us unconditionally and without exception. There is no 'pleasing' involved, He requires nothing from us, other than a willingness to follow Him. 

Some people say that God doesn't have favourites but I think he does. In His family, we are ALL his favourites! The difference is, He genuinely means it. Imagine what our lives would look like if we chose to seek His path and listen to what He says about us, over the confusing voice of man? Liberating. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Perfect Gift

Has Christmas got the better of you this year? I honestly feel that for me, it has. I've stressed over making memories. I've worried about what everyone else is doing and what perhaps I should be baking/making/buying.  I've got angry with courier companies who have not delivered presents when they promised to. 

I've overlooked the real meaning of Christmas.

Christmas was never about presents. Well not ones bought from John Lewis and wrapped in beautiful brown paper with hand-made gift tags (just to clarify, mine don't look like that!). It was never about a lavish meal, with turkey and all the trimmings. It wasn't about making sure that everyone had enough to drink and the little star on top of the tree was perfectly symmetrical.

Christmas was about THE perfect gift - Jesus - sent to this earth as a rescue plan. If it weren't for that little baby in a manger, the one that we sing about on Christmas Eve, our lives would not look like the ones we enjoy today. We would not be living in the light of salvation, freedom, the best gift anyone could ever wish for.

But it's not too late. Today is Christmas Eve and I'm going to spend some time with Jesus. As we watch the last number on our advent candle slowly melt away, I am going to thank Him for obeying His Father. Thank Him for living a perfect life on earth and for dying so that we might have life.  Life in all its wonderful glory. 

Jesus IS the reason for the season. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Taking Risks

Are you a risk-taker? This question takes no amount of deliberation for me - I am not a risk-taker in any shape or form. I married one and that's about as close as I am every going to get! 

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending some time with a family from within our church community. For me, Sam and Hannah Fairs-Billam are the ultimate risk-takers - moving out to Zambia with their two young girls, in response to a dream that they believe God placed on their hearts two years ago - to be change-makers and bring hope to a broken part of the world. 

Listening to their story, I was completely blown away by their faith. They are living and working in the black African community in Zambia. As you can imagine, they face daily challenges, but one of the biggest is waiting on God to provide enough money for the following month. For them, every day is about leaning on God and His provision for them as a family, both practically and spiritually.

These people are true risk-takers. But instead of just 'winging' it and doing it for the thrills, they are content in the knowledge that God is their provider. They trust Him 100% (with the odd human wobble every now and again!). 

So here's the challenge......are the rest of us prepared to do this? God might not be calling you or me to move our family out to another part of the world but He definitely has a purpose for each one of us. One that we cannot fulfil if we aren't prepared to take risks. It takes bravery to step out and offer to pray for someone, to follow a prompting and take on a new area of ministry at church, hand in your notice at work because you feel God is calling you somewhere else but the path doesn't look clear yet. 

Unless we are prepared to live life on the edge just a little, then we will never know what it means to completely be at God's mercy in the way that Sam and Hannah are. I was so challenged when at the end of our conversation, Hannah said to me: "Life isn't easy, but I've never felt more fulfilled in my life. There's a satisfaction in knowing that we are in God's will, His plan for us"

Do you want that? Are you prepared to step out in faith and take risks? 
I think it's time the rest of us started.

Friday, 18 April 2014

A Simple Story

Do you know the real meaning of Easter? Not the bank holidays, the cute little chicks or the giant bunny (what exactly is that all about anyway?!) who delivers our chocolate.  But the message of new life and hope, that comes as a free gift?

Do you know why Jesus, the son of God came to this earth? 

Jesus didn't come in order to remain a tiny baby, born in a stable for us all to cherish and coo over. Although I'm sure he was cute, babies don't exactly do a lot do they?! No, Jesus came to earth so that he could become a man, one who was later despised, tortured and eventually left on a cross to die. 

That was just the beginning of this incredible but true story. It ends with a beautiful message of hope and restoration, as God fulfills His promise of providing new life for us all, an eternity with Him, through Jesus' resurrection.

You are chosen, unique and blemish free;
I have a purpose, one that you have yet to see.

You are restored, redeemed and justified; 
Stop being controlled by the hurt of satan's lies.

You  are perfect, a cherished child of God;
Come to me and I will reveal the power of my blood.

Open up your eyes to see my promises are true;
This gift is for the taking, that's all I ask of you.

It's a simple story of love. Will you accept the gift this Easter? 

If you declare with your mouth "Jesus is Lord", and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10 v 9

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Playing God

Bruce Almighty is given the power to answer prayers.

I am a fixer. Tell me a problem and I will always try to find a solution. I know it's supposed to be a male trait (a rather irritating one at that!) but somehow I ended up with it too.

I am not sure why I do it, I've examined myself over the years and still haven't come up with a conclusion. Partly, I think, it's because I don't like to see people unhappy - who does? If I think I might be able to come up with a way to put a smile back on their face, then I will try with all my might to engineer it. The problem with this, is that it doesn't always end well. Mainly because I am not God.

Have you ever tried to play God?  

He doesn't seem to be performing the miracles as quickly as I would like, so perhaps I'll have a shot. In a sense, it's just another way of undermining God's timing and trying to take life into our own hands. Yes the motive is a good one - wanting to help others - but it's unlikely to end well because essentially we could be mucking up the perfectly orchestrated plan that God already has in place. Stepping in could actually mess things up!

I'm not saying that we should quit trying to help people, that would definitely not be a successful alternative but as I pondered on my over-zealous desire to fix things for others, I realised that I very rarely offer the number one solution: God. 

God is the ultimate answer to every problem - right? Not that He will necessarily fix things in a 'magic wand' kind of way but He will provide the person in need with the tools required to cope with their present circumstance: strength, comfort, hope, everlasting love, wisdom, peace. None of these are things I can provide. What I can do however, is point them towards God, then let Him do the rest, in His perfectly planned way.

  And my God will meet all your needs, according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4 v 19

Friday, 21 February 2014


Earlier this week, we sat down as a family to pray. Our church has committed to praying 24/7 for the month of February and I thought it would be good for us to go as a family.  The idea was met with some protest but not downright refusal, so that was a bonus!

I decided to take a large piece of flip chart paper along and a couple of marker pens, to aid us (or at least pass some of the 60 minutes, which suddenly seemed like an awful long time with a 9 and 12 year old!). We began by writing some of the things we were thankful for....our home, money, job, school, friends, holidays. Quite easy really, we are very blessed.

Then we turned the paper over and decided to write some 'asks'. We took it in turns to pick up the pen and as time went on, we got a little more personal in our requests. My daughter prompted this by writing things she would like to change about her behaviour. As she wrote, she said: "I guess in a way, this is down to me, not God but I'll write it anyway".

Do you ever feel as though you're striving? To be fitter, to be more patient, to stop swearing, to be a better spouse, to be kinder to others? I know that I do and I often attempt at doing this in my own strength, instead of turning to God who is more than able.

I honestly think that God honours the recognition of failure on our part; when we admit that actually we are not doing a great job of being a decent human being and need help. Isn't this what the Holy Spirit is for? I reminded my daughter that the bible promises that if we ask for it, we will be given the fruits of His spirit:

Peace, Joy, Love, Patience, Self-Control, Faithfulness, Goodness, Kindness, Gentleness.(Galations 5 v 22)

All the ingredients needed for a perfect human being. Of course we will always fall short of Jesus' perfection but if we would only ask for it, He will help us. And that's what I told my daughter: that Jesus longs for us to ask for His help in the everyday and that little by little, if we admit defeat, He will change us from the inside out.  A great reminder for us all, I think.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 
1 Corinthians 12 v 9.