Monday, 9 December 2013

Giving it All to You



"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light".
Matthew 11 v 28-30

December is a difficult month for many. Stresses and worries seem to creep to the foreground and the temptation and pressure to over-spend can be suffocating at times.  As the advent countdown draws us closer to the 'big day', we can  feel increasingly squeezed for time and subsequently our energy becomes zapped.  Or is that just me?!

Today I took half an hour out to listen to some worship music and focus on God.  It's amazing how releasing it is to take this time away from the hustle and bustle of Christmas - putting aside the presents yet to be bought, meals still unplanned and the ever-growing 'to do' list.

Accepting His invitation to 'Come', I lay in the stillness of His presence and named every burden that was weighing me down and gave it over to Him. 

Why not take 30 minutes out of your busy day to do the same? You might find this song a useful prompt....




Linking up with My Picture: His Words over at 'Mummy from the Heart'

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Gate



 "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it." 
Matthew 7 v 14


It beckons silently, standing strong amidst the whispering trees,
enticing me gently with the promise of what is to come.
Uncertain of the future, fearful of taking the next step,
treading with care, my unsure footprints leave their mark.

Swinging open with ease, proudly displaying the beauty laid before me,
overwhelming at first glance and impossible to fully absorb.
Drawing innocently to a close, the latch bangs firmly shut,
as the noise echoes in the silence, bringing with it an air of finality.

Retreating from the darkness of the fenced in woods,
 splendour and vastness beyond my wildest imagination.
Wandering through to discover light, space and new growth,
thankful for the courage that drew me through to the other side.



I am linking this post up with 'My Picture: His Words' over at Mummy from the Heart.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A Safe Place


As a child I was a worrier, forever in search of a safe place, somewhere to hide.  I often plumped for behind my mum's skirt, a suitable shield to protect me from the big wide world and any adult who might attempt to make conversation!

For some reason, this morning I was reminded of those childhood fears.  I'm not sure why those memories popped into by head, but I used the opportunity to question whether I still harbour an infantile yearning for safety and security?  The answer of course, is yes.  Do we not all search for this in one way or another?

At times I've searched in the wrong places, only to be let down by people, a career, children, ambition, church, my own worldly desires.  It's then that the familiar, immature insecurities creep back in; the old echoes of:

"not good enough"
"outsider"
"everyone is better than you"

The difference now, I think, is my ability to channel those insecurities into a Father who loves me for who I am; a Father who meets my deepest needs and gives me the 'safe-place' that I crave. Instead of searching for it in the wrong places, I have found the One who is able to do immeasurably more; the One who requires nothing in return.  How amazing is that?!

And most of the time (I am human after all!) I am able to focus on His truths and the wonderful promises that He has poured over me....



We all seek affirmation and security of one kind or another, let's run to God for it.

Psalm 91 v 2: I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust"



Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Competition



From the moment our first sibling is born, competition comes into play.  Whether we are the youngest child, the oldest or somewhere in the middle, we begin to vie for top-spot in our parent's eyes.  We remember it from our own childhoods, battle with it in our offspring and see it in  the lives of many characters from the old testament - look at Cain and Abel for example, even on a bad day my children's sibling rivalry doesn't come close to that pair!

Throughout our school days, if we're not competing for class captain or the lead role in the end of term play, we are looking to be the most popular child in the playground.  As we move into adulthood, we are encouraged to compete for that promotion at work or to out-bid others in the quest for our perfect home.  We are bombarded and almost conditioned into believing that life is one long competition.

Competition quickly becomes second nature to us and in certain circumstances, a little bit of competition can be fun and even healthy.  But what happens when competition takes over? Jealousy, envy, bitterness and pride.  That's what happens.  All of these traits are ugly and ones that I recognise in myself at times.  If I think about it, at the very root of this ugliness, is the competition that I've inadvertently created with the other person.

Earlier in the year, I took part in a weekly bible study on James, written by Beth Moore.  On many occasions throughout this course, I was reminded that as Christians we are called to stand out; that God requires us to be different from the person the world would have us become.  It can be so easy to slip into being of the world, if we're not looking for the signs - the little hint of jealousy we've allowed to creep in, the snippets of gossip that we let whisper from our mouths.

So how do we put a stop to the unhealthy side of competition? 

Beth Moore encouraged us to consider the term 'yielding', dictionary definition as follows:

yield·ing  
/╦łyielding/
Adjective
  1. (of a substance or object) Giving way under pressure; not hard or rigid.
  2. (of a person) Complying with the requests or desires of others: "a gentle, yielding person".
Synonyms
pliable - compliant - pliant - supple - flexible

If truth be told, I look at this list of adjectives and synonyms and immediately think 'weak' - gentle, compliant, giving way under pressure?  My natural instincts are the opposite - strong, purposeful and full of determination.  Although yielding seems like the 'nice' thing to do, is this really what God wants of me?

This is a question I have mulled over a lot this summer and it's a notion that I have not been able to drop. I have started to see glimmers of what 'yielding' might look like in my life. 
  • accepting that someone else might have a point, even if I'm pretty sure I'm right
  • choosing not to pick an argument with my husband
  • 'letting go' of something that perhaps doesn't need to be tackled with my daughter right now
  • allowing someone else to take the reins at work even if I think I could do it better
  • being pleased for my friend when she receives that promotion/new sofa/new car/new home.... perhaps  even the one I was hoping for
  • putting my husband first
  • agreeing to carry out a task or take a back-seat role, even if it means no one may ever know the part I played
  • putting myself out for someone else, possibly to the detriment of my 'to do' list.
And I'm sure this is just the beginning....

If you're still unsure of what 'yielding' looks like, have a read of Matthew 27 v 50: 'And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit' ESV. 

Jesus - the ultimate example of yielding.  In the New Living Translation, it says that Jesus 'released' his spirit and I think that this is a great way to express what He did on the cross. He didn't give up, not in the sense that we see it anyway, He chose to give over His life to God and carry out His destiny. That's what 'yielding' is about and that's what we should be doing too.  

What might yielding look like in your life?







Thursday, 11 April 2013

Tick Tock

Why is it that when we're having fun, time seems to pass at an alarmingly fast pace, yet when we are longing for something to end, it ticks by so incredibly slowly? 

In my world, time is always of the essence - time to squeeze in that last job before picking the kids up, just enough time to enjoy a cuppa with a friend, is there time to make that phone call?  I am incredibly optimistic about what I can fit in to those 24 little hours which means I am usually pretty late to bed and running at least 10 minutes behind for everything!

Time is a tricky customer, one which should be handled with the utmost care. Once it has passed, it cannot be relived - you cannot simply press 'rewind' and have another go.  Our entire day - 24 hours, 1440 minutes or 86,400 seconds - is at our disposal. We have the power to choose exactly what we do with those hours.  In my experience, time has the power to lift up but also to drag down - even the word has two very different connotations for me.

When I choose badly, the days when I'm rushing, chasing and striving, 'time' looks and feels like this:

Wordle: Negative Connotations of Time

Choosing well is paramount to my personal well-being and to the way I relate to those around me.  When I've made a decision to use my time well, I feel entirely different about everything - my relationships, my lifestyle and most importantly, my walk with God.

A few weeks ago, I went on a day retreat called Fourteen, run by some ladies from our church.  Initially, the idea of spending 5 hours not talking to anyone other than God, made my palms go a bit sweaty - I'm just not used to it!  Whilst there, it dawned on me that like any child who thrives on time and attention from their earthly parent, it is essential that as children of God, we must spend time with our Heavenly Father - something He is desperately wanting us to crave.  At the end of that day, having chosen to spend my time well, I felt more like this:

Wordle: positive use of time

When was the last time you dedicated some time just to God?  It really can transform not only your relationship with Him but every other aspect of your life - try it!

"Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" Mark 6 v 31


Thursday, 21 February 2013

We had hoped....

Last week seemed to be clouded with disappointment...not mine, but other people's.  It is difficult to listen to a friend or family member's circumstance and not take on even a small element of the regret and sadness that they are experiencing.  We have all been in a situation where something we had hoped for with all our heart is snatched away in one phone call, a terse email or a letter landing on the doormat....I guess it's called 'empathy'.

It is at times like this when words of comfort seem empty and futile.  If you cannot change the outcome, what's the point?  I was pondering on this just last week, trying to conjure up the right words, when I was reminded of a little phrase: 
We had hoped.....then Jesus drew near.

In fact this short sentence was the theme for our wedding sermon, some 15 years ago.  A strangely depressing sermon title for a day that is supposed to be the happiest day of your life! But this sentence is one that we have revisited time and time again througout our married life, not because we are constantly disappointed in one another, but because this feeling is one that every human being will encounter on a regular basis: our seemingly "perfect" life partner might turn out not to be quite who he/she seemed, the longed for baby hasn't arrived when we had imagined, redundancy is forced upon us at a time when we need the money most or that fateful phone call with the news that our test results confirm cancer....

The reality is, disappointment is hard to avoid.

Luke 24 vs 13-35, tells the story of two of Jesus' followers, journeying back to Emmaus after witnessing the death of Jesus and His subsequent body disappearing.  They were downcast, perplexed by what had happened and ultimately, hugely disappointed.  They "had hoped" that Jesus was The One, the messiah, their rescue plan.  Interestingly, the person who they were explaining this story (and their feelings) to, turns out to be Jesus himself. After conversing with them throughout the 7 mile journey, He agrees to spend the rest of the evening together (they still have no idea who this man is!)  Later on that evening, He breaks bread and finally, they realise that He is Jesus....the person who has spent all day by their side, discussing scriptures with them, explaining all the events that have taken place in the last few days and how they were part of God's perfect plan.

And can we not look back on times of disappointment in our lives and say the same?  Is it not in these difficult times when we are downhearted, desperately struggling to understand why God would allow this to happen, that  He meets us right where we are, just like He met the people on the road to Emmaus? The truth is, He longs for us to tell Him our sadness, to lean on Him and pour out our disappointment.  And in turn He will draw near with scriptures and words of encouragement.  He will comfort us and be our constant - that's a promise!



And here it is, the inconspicuous picture given to us on our wedding day - a small but beautiful reminder that Jesus will always draw near, no matter what.



Monday, 11 February 2013

The gift of grace

If you read my previous post, you will know that I've been reading a book called 'Lineage of Grace'.  Apart from Mary, all of the women featured in this book were from Old Testament times. This book has sparked many questions in my mind, one of them being:  

Why do we no longer fear God like the people in the Old Testament?  

The people of Israel often made decisions and acted out of fear of the Almighty God, and rightly so!  Over the years, they bore witness to whole nations being wiped out as a result of sin.  God sent plagues to punish people for their wrong doing and  He even turned wives into pillars of salt (find the story in Genesis 18 and 19, it's a fascinating one!)  God never missed a sin.  Their actions always had catastrophic consequences.  If this was going on today, wouldn't you be fearful of Him?!  God tried everything, but this still wasn't enough.

And then along came grace.  Grace in the form of His son, Jesus Christ - God's new rescue plan.  Grace is a gift, an opportunity for us to experience forgiveness and acceptance.  Instead of receiving a punishment for our wrong doing, we find freedom - a gift lavished on us out of love.   As with most free gifts, we are bowled over by the offer and try to reject it at the start, it's just too much to accept. Eventually though, we take Him up on His gift and with a grateful heart, we bask in the freedom of forgiveness. 

Just like a spoilt child who is regularly showered with gifts, we can easily  become complacent to the generosity of God.  Over the days and years, grace slowly becomes something which we take for granted and if not careful, this can lead us into a situation where God's gift becomes a licence for us to do as we please.  We might not say it but deep down we know that God will forgive us no matter what we do: losing our temper, telling a white lie, judging others, adultery, deceit, fraud.  A quick prayer and God will forgive us - isn't that what the bible says?  The minute we lose site of grace, complacency creeps in, along with our old friend, pride. 'There but for the grace of God go I' - important words to remember.  And that's probably a topic for a separate blog post!

I have come to realise that actually a modern relationship with God shouldn't be born our of fear, like the people of Israel, or many other reglions today. It should be born out of thankfulness and a revelation of the grace that He has lavished on us by sending His son.

We should be thanking God daily for the freedom that we live in because of His gift of grace.  We should seek to fully understand the significance of the cross - that by sending His son to die, we no longer need to live under the crippling fear that gripped the Israelites.  Pretty amazing, isn't it?

This weekend I went to a women's breakfast at our church and we sang this song written by Hillsong.  Here are the words from the chorus, they really resonated with me:

And I find myself here on my knees again  
Caught up in grace like an avalanche 
Nothing compares to this love, love, love  
Burning in my heart



Monday, 28 January 2013

Are you truly satisfied?

"God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him" - John Piper 

 

I am currently reading a fantastic book by Francine Rivers, called 'Lineage of Grace'.  This book focuses on women from the Old Testament who, at first glance, appear to be fairly insignificant in God's plan to save mankind.  We quickly discover however, that God has in fact used the most unlikely women to bring about His purpose.  Some of the elements in each story are interpretations by the author, but every chapter is based on biblical facts.

One of the chapters centres on the story of Rahab and the part she played in enabling the Israelites to enter Jericho.  For 40 years prior to this moment, the Israelites had been wandering about in the desert, waiting for a way out, trusting in Joshua to lead them into the land that God had promised them.  Throughout those 40 years, God had faithfully provided for them through manna being sent from heaven. He had always supplied just enough, so that they would never go hungry.  The majority of Israelites had never known anything different, manna was the only food they had ever tasted and they had relied solely on God to provide for their needs.

On the other side of the wall, the people of Jericho were worshipping idols. They had come to rely on and get their self-worth and strength from these idols. The significance here is the difference between the two opposing camps - one was solely relying on and satisfied by the provisions of God; the other was unable to let go of the ungodly idols - eventually the cause of its demise.

So what little 'nugget of gold' did I take away from this?  I was challenged by two things:

1) Am I truly satisfied by Him?  By this, I mean do I root my everyday on His word and His promises or do I find myself focussing too heavily on worldly desires or being 'distracted' by other things?

2) Am I clinging on to 'idols' which could be hindering my walk with God? Idols can be anything which takes me away from spending time with God - be that my Facebook timeline or my latest obsession with having the perfect home!  It will no doubt be something different for all of us.

 'Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need' 

Matt 6 v 33 NLT