A Childlike Faith

Children, especially young children, don’t get a say in what happens to them or around them.

A baby may express its desires (food, comfort, changing etc) but the when and the how of what happens in response to that is out of their hands.

A toddler is dressed by its parent. The parent chooses the food they want the child to eat. The parent decides to go out/stay in. Visiting friends, shopping, holidays – all decided by the parent.

A young child may get up by themselves in the morning, and get dressed. But the clothes were laid out by the parent the night before, and the child is told what is an acceptable time to get up (ignore the points where a child challenges these things – just bear with me here for the sake of a serious point).

By the time they are, say, 11, the child is choosing what to wear – but the clothes have still been bought by the parent. Even if the child gets taken to “chose” the clothes that are bought, it is still within parameters set by the parent.

What school to go to? Where to go on holiday? Moving house? Visiting relatives? All the sort of things that are still outside of the child’s control.

As we grow up, our involvement in the decisions that affect us grows. We learn consequences. We learn decision making.

When we are old enough to get our first paper round/Saturday job, we have money that we have a right to spend pretty much how we want.

By the time we reach 18, and certainly when we finally leave home, we are fully in charge of the choices we make. Even if circumstances remain outside our control (the flat tyre, the difficult boss, unrequited love) we are aware of the ability to chose how to react to them, and what steps to take in response to them.

This is how it should be. This is independence. This is maturity.

Christian maturity however is (like most things in the Kingdom of Heaven) completely back to front.

From the moment we are “born again” we start a new life. A new journey. However, unlike our physical journey and life progression, this is all about losing our independence.

Bear with me here.

Jesus said “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3)

Remember the child who is dependent on the parent?

Each morning, from a very young age, my boys would ask “what are we doing today?” Even as teenagers and young adults, they still come to us (only now it is last thing at night!) and ask “what’s the plan for tomorrow?”

When they ask this, they aren’t asking about the big things. They don’t want a 6 month or 5 year plan. This isn’t a philosophical question. No, they are asking about the plans we have made for the day so they know how they will affect them.

My 10 year old knows he will have clothes to wear each day and he knows they will be cleaned when they get dirty. He knows there will be food in the kitchen and a hot meal prepared for his dinner. He knows the bills are being paid which means there are lights, heat, water and (because he is a modern 10 year old) internet connection!

He doesn’t fret about those things.

When he asks me in the morning what the plans are, he wants to know if anything different is happening. Anything exciting. Anything that will give a structure to the day, give him focus.  He has an expectation that I will take care of the big stuff, he just needs to know about the day to day stuff.  That day.  Today.

When you give your life to Jesus, and you are born again, the single hardest fundamental thing you are likely to spend the rest of your journey grappling with is losing your independence. Becoming child like.

Surrender.

Not my will but Your’s Lord. Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done. Not my way but Yours. Not my plans but Yours. Not my righteousness but Yours.

Slowly but surely you need to learn how to give up the need to know, to be in control, in charge.

Doesn’t that sound tough? Weak? Are you feeling threatened and argumentative in response to reading this idea or challenged? I know I felt genuinely stunned by the picture God gave me earlier this week in response to some serious (and right motivated) prayer time over issues to do with our future.

There is a lot of stuff going on in our lives and the lives of those around us in the church that is making things seem “out of control”. There is a lot I currently don’t understand! A lot of seemingly unanswered prayers. In some cases, we seem to have had the completely opposite answer to the one we were seeking!

It’s tough. I don’t like it.

It seems right and correct to “seek His Will” for our lives, but sometimes we misuse this “seek ye first” attitude and, if we are truthful, it becomes an excuse to justify our constant drive to KNOW, to understand, to control.

That was what hit me – like a spiritual truck – when once more I cried out to God “Why?! What is going on?!”

I have to tell you, I did not like the picture I received.

But it made sense. Total sense. I have to abandon myself to Him. Surrender all. How often do we sing those words in church on a Sunday or listening to worship in the car? “You can have it all Lord!”

Really?

I challenge you to become more childlike this week. Go to your heavenly Dad in the morning and thank Him for the new mercies of the day. Be thankful for the clothes set out for you. For the food provided. For the material comforts around you.

Acknowledge that He pays the bills. I don’t just mean the obvious big one, THE price He paid for us, but also I recognise that the financial provision in my life – job or benefits – ultimately come from Him.

Chose to live this week as if you truly believe He has charge of the big things. He has a Plan. He has a 6 month, 5 year, 50 year Plan for you and all of His creation. He knows the beginning from the end and He can work ALL things together for our good – if we let Him, if we leave the big stuff to Him.

Ask each morning “what’s the plan for today?” Who does He want you to talk to? Where does He want to take you? Is there anything exciting on the cards?! Be expectant of the good Father has for you.

Don’t sweat the big stuff. Focus on the small things. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

This isn’t an unhealthy dependence. This is truly living.

Can I ask one more thing? Can you pray for me? You see, I’m trying to respond to what God has shown me, and I am purposing this week (surely I can manage one week?!) to be more childlike. However I am aware of my flesh rebelling against the very idea. I am a list maker. A planner. Organised. I like to be in control (oh BOY do I like to be in control). I like to be prepared.

At the moment I am none of those things and apparently that is how it is meant to be!

Even as I write those words though, Holy Spirit is whispering in my ear, reminding me that I CAN be prepared. That it is still ok to be organised. But, His ways are not mine. I can be prepared by reading His Word. By listening to Him. By trusting. I can be in control by subjecting my will to my spirit – which is partnered with His.

Guess you’ve been praying already? 🙂

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What is the Truth?

I live in a beautiful seaside town. The guide books describe its vibrancy, the quirky shops, the golden sands, the amazing vistas, and its incredible sunsets.

If you got off the train today however, guidebook in hand, expecting to see all those things, you’d find the “reality” very different.

Thick fog obscures everything. Despite the weather app showing full sunshine and 16c for the day, it is currently only 6c and it feels colder as the damp fog envelops you. It is early so everywhere is shut. What the book describes and what you are seeing are very different.

Which version is true? What is the truth? Is this a beautiful picturesque town or a grey uninviting one? Is the beach amazing? Are the sunsets beautiful?

According to what I am seeing, my experience, the book is lying.

I know many Christians who struggle with what the Scriptures say about life. They hear a preach on the promises of God or on His blessings. Maybe they become a Christian after attending a particular service and they start out with this great hope. Their friend who brought them, and the person who preached, described this fantastic life, full of prosperity and peace, free from sickness and worry.

The guide book to that life, that Kingdom, the Bible, is quite clear. You meet people who confirm that yes the Kingdom of Heaven is just like that. God’s promises are true.

But you are unwell. Your job is tough. Your husband is having an affair. Your friends never call. Life is hard. Financial worries, depression, loneliness… even at church you don’t feel connected. You feel as you listen on a Sunday and hear people saying “amen!” and agreeing with the preacher that you must be doing something wrong… your life doesn’t feel like they describe. Your relationship with God doesn’t match theirs. He doesn’t answer YOUR prayers. Your life isn’t life abundant.

You didn’t get the job you prayed for. Your relationship didn’t mend. The cancer didn’t go and your friend died despite your prayers.

Which is true? The Book or what you can see with your eyes?

You can’t pretend all isn’t grey. There’s no point lying and saying you can see a good future or even just a way out of this place. But just like this morning, despite the true and real evidence of my eyes that say otherwise, the truth is this IS a beautiful town and the skies ARE amazing.

I just can’t see that for myself today.

Will that visitor go home and say the guidebooks lied and there wasn’t a great beach and beautiful skies? Will they deny the truth? Or will they just accept that on that day, today, they didn’t get to see it for themselves?

It is all too easy to drag the Truth of Scripture down to the reality of our lives. When my Dad was dying and I prayed for his healing but he died anyway, I could have denied the truth that God heals. I could have blamed God. The evidence I saw was that God doesn’t answer prayers and doesn’t heal.

When we had no money, facing losing our house, as my husband couldn’t find work, and we were surviving on food parcels from my Mum, I could have doubted God’s promises to supply all my needs, to prosper me.

Those things seemed true. But they weren’t The Truth.

The sun is still shining just as hot in the sky now as it does every day. Yet the fog means I can’t see it and I can’t feel it’s benefits. I don’t blame the sun and say it isn’t shining but instead I recognise that the fog is obscuring it.

Today, identify the fog in your life. Recognise the reality of the things that are preventing you from seeing the Son, from seeing His promises. Determine in your heart that you will believe what the Book says, what the Bible says, about the life you have and all your heavenly Father has for you.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Use the Bible as your reference point and purpose to live according to what The Word says, declaring it as the truth over your life and in your life.

The enemy wants you to be grey, cold and miserable. Once you are saved all he can do is bring fog in your life. He means for you to miss the beauty around, to bump into obstacles, to trip up, to feel alone.

But rejoice for in Christ, by the power and wisdom of Holy Spirit, we can overcome those obstacles and learn to see through the fog. As you spend more time in His presence, as you seek His face, your vision will improve. You will be able to “see” the truth despite the fog.

Learning to walk with that spiritual vision is like having night vision goggles!

When we trust Him and not our own senses and understanding we get the opportunity to see His promises and experience His goodness regardless of whether or not there is fog around.

That’s the secret to being content in every situation (Philippians 4:11).

The fog will clear. I promise you.

Fog

Today’s quiet time at my favourite spot lacked the view. Thickening fog obscured the beautiful vista that normally soothes my soul.

As I am prone to do, I immediately saw the analogy between the fog and where many of us can find ourselves.

I know the sea is still there – I can hear it even if I can’t see it. I know the horizon is there somewhere. The sky. Ships. Intellectually, I know they are there even though my direct experience – what my senses are telling me – suggests they aren’t.

I’m sure you see the parallel. As Christians, especially if we read the Scriptures or listen to Biblical teaching, know the Truth. I know God loves me. I know I have value. I know He has good plans for me. I know nothing can separate me from His love. I know He can work all things together for my good if I allow Him. I know He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Sometimes though, my “direct experience” doesn’t match what I know. Sometimes I feel alone. Sometimes there seems to be no hope. Sometimes it seems He isn’t listening. Sometimes He doesn’t even seem to be there. Sometimes I’m scared.

If you find yourself in that place, remember the fog. Remember that it isn’t sensible to only trust what you can see. To place experience over knowledge. Circumstance over Scripture.

If you were out walking and the fog came in, what would you do?

Maybe you would stay still. Stay where you know you are – where you knew you were before the fog came – and wait for it to pass.

Perhaps you are the sort of person who would get out their phone (let’s assume you had signal!) and rely on the map, the blinking dot, to tell you where you are and show you how to get where you want to be.

Perhaps you have no phone (or no signal!) and instead decide to trust in instinct and common sense. Find a road, find the edge of the field, the shoreline. Find a feature and follow it, knowing all roads lead somewhere and sooner or later you will come to a road sign.

Those are all good options for us when the fog of circumstances or our feelings cloud our trust in God’s Truth.

Stay where you are. Rest. Remember it was ok before and it will be again. This too shall pass.

Take out your Bible. See what it says about where you are and where you are going and rely on what it says instead of what you see.

Find a truth you do still believe, that you can still see, and follow it. Stay with it. Keep confessing and clinging to it until the fog clears and you can see more of the Truth.

One other part of the analogy from today’s fog… The longer I sat in the car the less vision I had. Not just because the fog thickened but because the water condensed on to the window screen and obscured my vision.

When I turned the ignition on and used the windscreen wipers to clear the screen I saw that actually the fog wasn’t as bad as I thought! The lack of vision came from where I was positioned…..

Do I need to spell it out?

Sometimes where we are is what is causing us to doubt, to fail to trust in God’s Word. That relationship. That attitude. The influence of that friend. The TV show you watch. The book you are reading. The music you listen to. That wrong teaching.

Find a friend you trust, someone you know walks closely with God, and get them to be your windscreen wiper. Ask them to pray and seek God for what is blocking your vision or, if you suspect you know the answer, deal with it.

Move from where you are currently positioned and see if your vision clears. Take a break. Go for a walk. Take an afternoon off. Sit in the prayer room. Have a holiday. Go visit someone. Anything to break the position you are in.

If you wake up feeling down and sit around all day on the sofa watching daytime TV, by the end of the day you will feel more tired, more sluggish, greyer, than if you’d got out of the house and gone for a walk or done some gardening… Where you are will affect how you feel and therefore what you can “see”.

Remember I write these words as someone who has been in all those positions, battled mental health issues, fought clinical depression, fought spiritual fatigue, been to the depths of emotions, the edge of sanity… I’ve been there and back.

If you are struggling in a place where you can identify with what I have described, I pray this post has at least wiped the windscreen for you and given you a moment where things are a little clearer. If so, please grab that moment and use that clarity to reposition yourself.

Relax… You are in safe Hands

A child grows in the womb, wrapped, enclosed, touched and held on all sides in that snug place. At the moment of birth – wow is it any wonder they cry! Torn from that place and thrust into space – like free falling almost – a sudden sense of nothingness all around, released, uncovered..

After prods and touches, random movements, the baby feels itself tightly wrapped again as it is swaddled and then – marvelous moment! The baby is placed into arms that encircle it, and there is the voice, the heartbeat, that it has known from the very first moment of conciseness, held, safe, secure…

“I am humbled and quieted in your presence.Psalm 131 verse 2

Like a contented child that rests on its mother’s lap,

I’m your resting child, and my soul is content in you.”

( Psalm 131: 2 The Passion Translation)

When  the day is long, the circumstances tough, the pain great, the fear overwhelming, read that Scripture, ponder the image, and let it speak to your soul.

“So then, my soul, why would you be depressed?
Why would you sink into despair?
Just keep hoping and waiting on God, your Savior.
For no matter what, I will still sing with praise,
For living before his face is my saving grace!”

(Psalm 42:5 The Passion Translation)

Renew your mind, rob the enemy of his plan to harm you, and CHOSE to focus on the goodness of God, and rest in the knowledge that you are in safe Hands.

“The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath you are the everlasting arms”

(Deut 33: 27 MEV)

Hope Does Not Disappoint

“Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!” (Romans 5:3-5 TPT)

“Not only so, but we also boast in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces patience, patience produces character, and character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 MEV)

And….. Breathe…

I’m sitting here. Again. Finally. In my spot. Quiet. Alone before God.

I’m cold. I’m tired. I didn’t sleep longer than an hour at a time last time. I am battling the symptoms of a headcold and a week long sinus related headache.  The beautiful view is not here to soothe me: it’s raining. Did I mention it is cold?

But I don’t care. I’m here.

It has been a struggle lately. I’m just being honest. With a kind of horror I have seen the inevitable vicious circle develop where I am too busy to get out for my daily quiet time, too stressed, always too tired to get up early, too easy to make excuses, but thereby getting spiritually and mentally weaker without that space – which in turn leads to more stress and tiredness.

If the batteries in a child’s toy are running low, and the toy getting slower and slower, it is of no use to you that they are rechargable batteries if you don’t take them out and charge them up! It has been like that. A gradual inevitable slowing down until finally, here today, I’m plugged back in.

I don’t know how I am going to get back to a daily visit here but I know I have to try.

So what has all this got to do with the Scripture above? A Scripture that I actually put down as a draft post just days before it all went south, just before (it seemed) life, the universe and everything conspired against me? (Perhaps I should have recognised it for the warning it maybe was!)

This weekend, and coming week, we are blessed at our church to be hosting Pete Lyne who is part of the story of our church, a faithful friend to the eldership, a guide and inspiration to the body here, and a faithful servant of the Lord for fifty plus years. Yesterday evening at our “Kingdom Come” service, we all pressed in to seek God’s Word over our lives, with Peter prophesying over every individual, and with others in the church gifted, or learning to hear from God through prophecy, also ministering.

I was blessed by two Words. The first reminded me of two things God had previously told me over twenty years ago. He said that my experiences have built up an armour, built strength, spiritual protection. That instead of hardening my heart, my trials and tribulations had soften my heart each time, and that state of being soft hearted towards God and people, whilst secure in my “armour”, was meant to be. His plan, or rather His outcome (as He doesn’t bring the trials, just works things out to His glory and our good).

It reminded me of a Word from a dear friend when I was a teenager, and a standard bearer for the Royal British Legion. He said that I was called to be a standard bearer for God. The standard always marked the place of the King in battle and was the rallying point for the troops – and a target for the enemy. He drew me the most beautiful picture of myself, in full armour, on horseback and carrying the standard of Christ.

The Word I received last night also noted that I chose to put myself in difficult positions “for God” and that this was to continue. In fact the person said there were going to be new, tougher situations!

After sharing the Word with me, the person then prayed for me (I definitely needed it after that!) and one of their main prayer points was that God would make and protect a place for me, somewhere I could come in peace and safety, somewhere to withdraw and be with Him.

So here I am. I can take a hint! This place is special, sacred, set apart, God planned, needed. Without making it in to a religious action that obsesses over times and timing, I see I MUST withdraw regularly to this place.

Having been reminded (just before it all got too much) that I am gifted with discernment, words of knowledge, prophecy and mercy, and gifted so because I am called into a specific position of spiritual warfare, and now having God remind me, encourage me (and frankly shake me!), I know I need to make this place a priority in order to work out my calling faithfully.

Back to the Scripture therefore.  C H Spurgeon once wrote “Blessed be any wind that blows us into the port of our Saviour’s love!” I agree! As I sit here and can just make out the ships sheltering, moored, off the coast as they brace for the forecast gales, as I meditate on all God has spoken to me in the past 24 hours, I can only chose to rejoice in past and coming tribulations, with “joyful confidence” knowing that this Hope does not disappoint.

NB: It occurs to me that I should differentiate between the sort of trials and tribulations that are to do with suffering for Christ (ridicule, opposition, persecution etc) and what we tend to think of as trials ie having a bad day/hard time.  Scripture of course refers to the former as the sort that we are to “rejoice” in and NOT the latter.  I have chosen to take strength from this particular Scripture for BOTH kinds, as these past 6 weeks or so have been full of both and I have also been aware that some of the latter kind have actually been rather overtly from the hand of the enemy and not just the standard, every day, “living in a fallen world” kind of troubles.  For an excellent teaching on this point, I encourage you to read Roarke’s post over on The Father’s Heart.

Becalmed

It has been a while. I know.

Sorry.

The reality is – and I promised a while ago that I was going to risk being honest here – that sometimes life isn’t easy.  Sometimes it can all feel a bit much.

The past month has been a little bit like that.

I’ve gone weeks without my daily quiet time, sitting here on the sea front, and I became increasingly aware how vital it had become, as the days got busier, the challenges bigger, and my strength diminished.

Last week I got just one brief moment and snatched half an hour in my usual spot.  Ironically – and not coincidentally – that day was one in the middle of several days of thick, 24 hour fog so my beautiful, soothing view was obscured.  In addition, I didn’t have internet access to write (yet another temporary hitch that made writing this blog impossible in the usual way) so I recorded a voice memo on my phone instead.

This is the transcription:

“It might seem obvious sitting here with the mist around to talk about believing in things that you can’t see, but just because it is obvious it doesn’t mean it isn’t something we need to think about.  The last few weeks I’ve struggled to see the beauty in the situation around me; I’ve struggled to see where I’m heading and like a ship when the mist comes down, that left me with a couple of options.

I could chose can rely on the navigation aid that I have and fix my path according to the things that I know are true, the things that others have told me are true.  As a Christian that “navigation aid” is the Word of God.

However the truth is sometimes you can become fearful, or lose your way, become insecure or just plain tired and at those moments, the safest thing to do is just to drop anchor and stay where you are.  You know that the mist will past, and you know that when it does, when the fog lifts, you know that you will be able to see clearly.

I think at first, as things began to build up around me and “the way” became obscured, I was relying on the Scriptures and things I knew, standing on the Word and knowing that whatever happened those things were true.  Knowing that just because I didn’t feel them, just because I couldn’t see them, didn’t mean that they weren’t true.  I just kept confessing to myself,  and over myself, the promises that God had previously given me, the promises that His Word show me, and relying on those as my “navigation aids”.

Last week however, when my husband was away in Denmark on mission, I got to the point where even that was too much.  All I felt I could do was drop anchor and just stand firm where I was –  rooted still in the Scriptures but just standing still, not trying to seek Him particularly, not trying to learn, not trying to look around just really head down, rooted to the spot (securely rooted and knowing I was secure) but just staying still, waiting for it to pass.

Through God’s Grace there was no storm during that time.  Everything was just flat, like today.  The sea in front of me now is an absolute mill pond.  There are no ripples, the tide is coming in and yet you can’t see any evidence of the waves at all, not because of the mist but because the surface of the sea is still. There is no wind today and it is just a smooth expanse of water broken occasionally by the rocks which are disappearing  as the tide is coming in.

All is still.  There are ships out here at anchor and they are just waiting.

Even as we wait, even in the short time I’ve been here, the sun is burning strongly and the mist is clearing over the land.  I can see the blue sky from where I am, right above me, and out towards the sea I can start to make out some of the ships as their light is reflecting the sunlight.

Like those ships, I hope that this week and over the past few weeks, even once I’d dropped anchor, I was still able to be reflecting God’s light.  I hope that as I served through the week I was still in the right place, reflecting His Glory to those that I was working with, and those that I was serving.

I know that there is going to come a day when this mist is going to clear for me, that I’m going to see the path that God has laid out for me, and in the meantime I’m just sitting here, waiting.  I’m going to wait upon the Lord and I’m going to continue to seek Him. His word promises that if I seek Him with all my heart, I will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

So that is where I am this week, anchored down, becalmed, waiting for the mist to clear.

Taking Hold of the Blessings

My view today is different from usual.

image

Instead of the expanse and vastness of God’s ocean, I am surrounded by trees in the midst of woodland. Instead of watching ships at sea, I’m watching waterfowl in the pond near our chalet (a goose has just wandered up to my feet, accepting to have its photo taken but hissing when I moved).  Squirrels instead of cyclists race by. Instead of the crash of the waves, I have a cacophony of bird song and calls, even the sound of deer, and in the background the overhead planes from a nearby RAF base.

All very different but still very much a blessing.  These few days’ holiday were an unexpected gift to our family from someone and we are enriched by their generosity.

The holiday is a blessing – but we have had to take action to receive it, to get the best from it, and to accommodate it.

There is a spiritual parallel here that does not escape me.

Our accommodation here is paid for – but we had to pay to get here.  We couldn’t enjoy this holiday without going to where it had been provided. Often, like Elijah, our provision and blessing is provided by God, but we have to listen to Him and obey Him and MOVE in order to receive it.

Once here, we could just enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the free indoor pool however the facility has more to offer – if we are to pay for it ourselves.  Again, sometimes the blessings God provides for us can be multiplied by us putting effort in, not counting the cost. He can provide a harvest but we have to work to collect it.

With three of the four children and one of the adults in our family being wired uniquely (within the autistic spectrum) there are challenges involved in being in a new place, new building, new bed, new routine, different sounds, different experiences. It would be true to say the first evening and night have been tough! But we all know and recognise that if we push through the “different”, if we ride out the tough emotions, get a handle on the “newness”, then there will be great benefits.

Recieving all God has for us isn’t always easy.  The blessings of Abraham are ours now through Christ’s sacrifice but we need to press in and take hold of them.  Despite the challenges, despite the doubts, pushing through the obstacles, stretching our faith, until we step into the fullness of those blessings.

Today, wherever you are, don’t just stop to “count your blessings” but look to make sure you aren’t missing some, hidden because you are looking in the wrong place or need to move, failing to grasp what you need to do, to sacrifice, to make the most of what is at hand, or maybe failing to experience blessings because all you see are the challenges between you and them.

“Oh, how great is Your goodness,
which You have laid up for those who fear You,
which You have done for those
seeking refuge in You before people!”

(Psalm 31: 19 MEV)

Crossroads

This is not an easy post to write.  In fact I have spent the last week struggling more and more over the subject of this post.  I find myself at a crossroads with regards to having started this blog, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, praying, crying, wondering, arguing and generally getting quite worked up!  I’m still not 100% sure I want to share this but… here goes.

One night at the start of the week a number of circumstances combined in such a way that I found myself very vulnerable – mentally, emotionally and therefore spiritually.  I have hinted in my “About” page of the dramatic change that recently came about in myself and, well, suffice to say there was a bit of a battle going on over some old thoughts and attitudes.  In the midst of this angst I wrote the following note on my iPad which I share here, edited only to remove the anger/tear driven typos….

“A late night post. Not such a good idea.  Many reasons why it isn’t a good idea but I can’t share them with you.

You see, that’s the point. I can’t share.

I am at the moment totally captivated by Beauty beyond Bones.  My spirit – in tune with His Spirit – is completely overwhelmed with her beauty.  Her courage.  Her strength. The things that she shares are life giving to so many. Those lost in the mire of an eating disorder, as well as others caught in depression or addiction. Such a powerful ministry.

But you know what? She has chosen to remain anonymous for now and I don’t blame her. The sad, sad, SAD truth is that we judge.  Us humans.  Even us Christians. Maybe especially us Christians.

We who have been forgiven so much.  Who have “got it”.  Who have come to understand what we have been redeemed from.  We who have met our Saviour.  Fallen at His feet. Received forgiveness.

Still we judge.

Many years ago, decades ago, at another church, we met a man out on life parole. Saved whilst in jail.  He who had taken a life had received eternal life and forgiveness for ALL his sin.  Do you know something? We were one of the few in that church who truly welcomed him. Yes most said the right things.  Chatted to him.  Prayed with him. But not many offered him unconditional friendship as we did.  He house sat for us when we went on holiday. He even babysat for us. Others were shocked! How could we trust him?!  Didn’t we know what he’d done?!  Although he had become a Christian, didn’t we think it was a little naive to be so trusting?

Er. Hello? Saved? Forgiven? Redeemed? Justified? Sound familiar?

I might not have killed someone directly by my actions, but I’ve wished someone dead. My actions have actually been part of someone “dying” emotionally too. Jesus said that if I think it, it is the same as doing it in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:27-28). So who am I to judge?

Really, truthfully, we humans just can’t get our heads around the fact that all have fallen short (Romans 3:23). That it doesn’t matter how,  just the fact that we are unrighteous. We have no right to stand before God on our own merit.

Even the most “goodly” among us. The “saints”. The ones documentaries are made of. The ones whose stories we share on social media.

Not even them. They are hell bent without God. Unrighteous.

Only by God’s grace and accepting our redemption through Christ can we stand before Him (Ephesians 2: 8-9).  Any of us.  All of us.

Why am I writing this?  Because it occurs to me tonight that I could write of struggles and battles that I have had, and am having, that could help others.  In fact, I know that part of God working all things together for my good is to allow Him to use those experiences to feed my mercy heart, to allow me to stand in empathy, to bring encouragement and direction to others walking a similar road.

But I’m not.  Because I’m scared. Because I have linked this blog to who I am in the “real” world.  Because people who know me, whom I see every Sunday, may read it. And they may judge. They may never look at me the same if I share. If they know. If I am that open.

How sad is that? Scared how my fellow Christians may react to me if they “only knew”?

I need to think and pray over this more. I need to decide who I am wanting to please and what my purpose is in writing this blog.”

You see the dilemma?  This morning in my quiet time I argued again with God about putting this up.  I really wanted to know if this is what He wants me to do.  For Him, I am willing to sacrifice and to bare all (how could I not?) but for no other reason because, frankly, I know it could hurt and none of us intentionally cause ourselves pain.

An analogy came to me that has led me to to the decision to put this post up after all.

An amputee goes for physio to learn how to function with a prosthesis, or maybe how to function without one.  The physio is always “able bodied”.  We accept that.  There is a place for that (in this comparison, this is the Bible teacher we may follow who has a strength we don’t have, a position we can’t share, but one that can nevertheless bless us and bring us somewhere new).

However, if that amputee needs support, encouragement, understanding, inspiration, the programme or help group that will probably be the most beneficial is one made up of other amputees.  Yes they may sit there and think “huh, what do YOU know, you only lost ONE arm I lost TWO” but generally speaking, in their heart, they know and acknowledge the right of the person to speak into their life and say “it isn’t over, you CAN do this” because they are on the same journey – just a little further down the road.

A support group for people who have suffer a miscarriage is no use if run by someone who hasn’t been there.  Unless you have known the battle with an ED then you could never even come close to understanding and supporting someone else who is.  A cancer survivor offers more hope and inspiration to the newly diagnosed that any doctor, friend or family member can who hasn’t faced it.

So, basically, here it is.  I have decided to be as open and as honest as God calls me to be about my past, and about any present struggles, in order to encourage and support any out there facing the same.  I love to write.  I have been writing fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose since I was first able to write.  Writing for me comes straight from my heart so if I am to write, I need to be free to do just that.

I hope that my readers are ok with that..

The Evidence of Things Unseen

Today I arrived at my spot and parked up so I had the usual vista before me.  However, today the sky is grey, the wind is gusting, the tide is out and the visibility is poor.

But this is still a beautiful place to be.

I sit and watch the pattern of the waves breaking on the rocks, see them emerge as the tide goes out, watch the gulls settling into rock pools, seeking out trapped crabs for breakfast.

The windows of the car may be shut so I can’t hear the sea as clearly as usual but instead I have a symphony of wind whistling and howling around the side of the car, and a gentle rocking in my seat as the car is buffeted.

There are plenty of ships anchored to investigate too.  The usual dog walkers, children being dragged to school (and therefore my morning prayer of thankfulness that my kids are homeschooled!).

I spot little breaks in the grey cloud, snatches of blue sky, the promise of what’s there behind the gloom.

God doesn’t have to spell it out for me this morning! I can see the encouragement before me.

God is present all the time. His beauty, His power, His grace, His truth. Regardless of the time or season, regardless of the “weather” in my life – whether I am being buffeted by circumstances around me, finding it difficult to see clearly, caught on unexposed “rocks” of sin, feeling cold and bereft…. He is there, in all things He can work them to my good if only I will let Him.

Through free will I have the authority over my life – through His grace I can submit that authority to Him. Giving Him permission to guide, to teach, to show. He can reveal the “food” that will nourish me in the “rock pools” in my life, those sinful blocks I stumble on, but through which process I can grow and deepen my understanding of Him and His grace if only I will listen.

He can protect me from the effects of the wind, be my refuge, my strong tower –  Jesus is my “covert” (Isaiah 32:2). I shall still hear the storms of life as they howl by but I shall stand firm, unmoved, safe and warm in the security of His promises to me (Psalm 91 has been such a refuge for me over the years).

Though all around me may seem grey I can trust in His Word, know that the “blue skies” of the glories of heaven are still there even if obscured by the clouds of this world. If I base my mood, my happiness, my security on the “weather” in my life then I will be no better than the unsaved around me who moan and complain about the weather all the time (too hot, too cold, too windy, too dry..). No, may I be one who trusts in the glory of God, His truth and His promises, and bears all things for “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 MEV).

I read this Psalm this morning and it became my glorious declaration – may it be yours too:

Psalm 46

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a well-proven help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy dwelling place of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she will not be moved;
God will help her in the early dawn.
6 The nations roared; the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice; the earth melted.
7 The Lord of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8 Come, see the works of the Lord,
who makes desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts off the spear;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
11 The Lord of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Same Destination, Different Journey

The place where I spend my daily quiet time is on the sea front.  I park the car so that I can look out to see, a wide horizon my view.

The place is also part a cycle route, and I park the car  just where the path goes up a hill.

Many cyclists pass by.

I have noticed a difference in the way that cyclists approach this sudden step climb.

Experienced cyclists tend to speed up, change gear, keep going, reaching the top still on their bikes (even if some of them are barely moving by that point!)

Otherwise know they need a run up, know they need to change gear, get half way up (or a little further) but can’t quite maintain the pace – and dismount.

Others let their current momentum take them as far as it can – and then get off.

Many brake at the bottom and dismount. No intention of trying the climb.

All of them reach the top but they all have a very difference experience of that stage of the journey.

I don’t need to spell out the parallels to our Christian walk, do I?!