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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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.

Kingdom Come

The past few weeks have been quite a ride.

A week ago during the evening service at church, as I was worshipping, I clearly “saw” a spirit from the kingdom of darkness leaving the room. A few moments later I realised with sudden, stunning, shattering awareness that the battle that had been present in my mind for the last 35 years had stopped. The mental torment, the sometimes overwhelming, never less than background noise, interference, hassle, confusion and negative thoughts had ceased.

I realised this first because my mind suddenly went blank. I realised it felt empty. (All this was whilst the worship was still going on around me). Then, just like when a computer restarts,  the screen goes black, then you see the system reboot, my mind “rebooted” and I saw it wasn’t blank or empty – just empty of the depression. 35 years is a long time to carry something, and the reality of its absence was just indescribable.

All of a sudden I had my mind back! It was SUCH a rush! I couldn’t stop smiling. In fact, every time now I close my eyes to worship, or to pray, or I am alone and therefore have space to think, I start grinning as – gosh this is so hard to explain – it feels so different inside my mind, so clear, so clean, and I am so present in my own thoughts.

Over the past  week I have filled my mind with God’s truth and presence, through reading Scriptures, praying, worshipping, singing in tongues… Wanting to renew my mind in Christ and clearly mark that space as His and seal the door against the enemy for good.

At the end of the week I was blessed to be able to attend a 2 days basic training in the Bethel Sozo Ministry, and oh boy did that all tie in! I had a series of lightbulb moments as things fell into place. I described it to several people as being like holding up two X-rays or transparencies and slowly aligning then until you could see they were identical.

God’s plan and purpose for me, the reasons behind giftings, personality traits, and the way He had used the negative stuff in my past to turn to His good and strengthen those plans became clear and brought comfort, respite, encouragement and excitement. I have begun to pursue God for one of His gifts, accepting it (only about 30 years after I became aware of having it!), wanting to understand it, grow it, train, learn, explore and use it – and seeking Him for more, much more. Yes I am aware that is a “dangerous” prayer!

At my own, first Sozo on 5th June last year, God did an incredible work and finally broke the lie that I had believed my entire life, reversing it seemed my whole being in the space of a few moments. It was simply life changing. Since that time a new “me” began to emerge. Ways of thinking have been changing. New neurone pathways being created every day and old ones dying out. Reprogramming. Redesigning. Using the original blueprint, God’s plan, and doing away with almost all the framework I’d built myself on over four decades. The depression left last week because seven and a half months later, there was simply nothing left for it to cling to. No wounds for it to use to have right of access to me.

My journey for those months has been charted by the worship songs that have grabbed me, a playlist of songs whose lyrics seem to have mirrored the path I have been on. Right now it is “When you walk into a room” by Brian & Katie Torwalt from the Kingdom Come album (no coincidence that is the title of our evening services..). They write “when you walk into the room everything changes, darkness starts to tremble at the light that you bring” – and that is what happened. His light and more specifically His presence filled my mind after all the vines of experience, incident and trauma had finally died after being cut down in June, and darkness simply fled.

Yesterday evening, at the evening service, one week round from the depression fleeing, I had a vision – as I had been seeking God for the increase in the prophetic – that just stunned me and brought me literally and figuratively to my knees.

I saw with my own eyes the room full of people through God’s eyes.

Father God looked on us and we were a crowd of His children, clothed in white, dazzling like some commercial for washing powder, brilliant white. It was beautiful, moving, uplifting.

Then the vision shifted, and I saw through Jesus’ eyes. It broke me.

Jesus Christ, our Advocate, our Ransom, the sacrifice that took away our sins, looked at the room and saw it full of His brothers and sisters, hurting, broken. He saw pain, sickness, suffering, depression, despondency, fear, and sin. Every one of the things in each of our lives – past, present and future – that He died for, was there for Him to see as He looked at us. Of course, He bore them so He knows them. He knows them. He knows us. Intimately. He didn’t just walk this earth in His own life but by taking all our sins and our unrighteousness He has in fact lived all our lives and so truly, deeply knows us. That’s why He is our Advocate. Because He sees us God doesn’t – Father sees our righteousness in Christ.

On my knees, sobbing, overwhelmed with the debt I can never repay, the vision cleared again to that of Holy Spirit.

As He looked at the room, Holy Spirit saw something totally different, something remarkable. Have you ever watched Doctor Who, one of the modern ones, where they do the regeneration scene? Or a similar scene in a film, where the person is filled or “zapped” with some power, some super power? Every person was a column of light, a pillar of fire. Some had it shooting up and out, some blazed – but we all had it. Every born again person in that room carried it. The power of Holy Spirit. His resurrection power. Himself. As God promised from ages past (Ezekiel 36:27) and as He fulfilled at Pentecost, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19, Galations 4:6… I could go on!)

What an amazing sight it was! It was nothing short of exhilarating.

Again and again that vision is touching me, changing me, challenging me, drawing me. I pray it blesses you too.

We finished the evening with an equally challenging testimony and exhortation from an incredible woman of God, and right at the end I was completely undone when she spoke a Word from God direct to me.

I sit here this morning, in my special place with God, shaken and stirred, incredibly excited. My mind is filling with images and ideas that I would never have entertained even a few months ago and never in the years before. I can’t wait for next Sunday when we launch a new, permanent dedicated prayer space in our church (did you knew barely 5% of UK churches have such a space?) and we begin a week of 24/7 prayer. I shall be moving my special place to that room for the week and I am hugely expectant of what God and I will talk about, what He will reveal, and where He will take me during those times.

No teaching here today for you dear reader, but I hope sharing my testimony and journey will encourage and challenge you.

“But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31 MEV)

Kingdom First

At this time of year people begin to feel conscious of their over indulgence during Christmas. It is a time to consider a change of diet. Reducing calories. Eating more veg.

It is also atime for reflection on the year as it ends, and a time to look forward to a new year, a new start, fresh slate.

For some people this is a positive experience filled with happy memories and bright expectation.  For others it is a very negative time full of regrets and hopelessness.

Following the principle of “Kingdom first” though, any reflection should first and foremost be spiritual.

What indulgences have I had this year? What worldly habits or temptations have I succumbed to? Things I know are “bad” for me, that make me “fat” in the ways of the world?  What harmful thoughts do I need to stop feeding myself?

Just as going on a diet is not the way to get fit and lose weight (we don’t really need the experts to tell us that they don’t work, don’t last, and don’t make lasting change!) but instead one must make lifestyle changes, tackle habits and triggers for poor eating choices in order to make changes that are permanent, so it is with our spiritual health. If you are making poor choices on what to feed your soul – who you hang around with, what you watch, what you read, what you are focusing on, the actions you take – then a “diet” of some guilt based fast, a “giving up” is not going to help.

You need to look at what makes you vulnerable to those bad choices. You need to look at feeding yourself with “whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report” (Phillipians 4:8 MEV).

Focus on the right things rather than trying to give up the bad. That’s the Kingdom way. The Holy Spirit convicts of righteousness not sin (John 16:8)

Look at your spiritual “activity” levels. Are you lazy? Do you make an effort to pursue the things of God? Are you active in your church? In your community? Do you use your gifts or have you buried your talents in the ground rather than take the time and energy – and risk – to use them and therefore multiply them (Matthew 25:14-28)?

What spiritual lessons can you take from this year and how can they guide you in the new year?

Look back on the ways God has worked in your life throughout the year. See how He has turned all things to your good – and be honest enough to see where you have stopped Him from doing that by your wilful actions.  Those times when, if you are honest, you knew you were going against His best plan and purpose and stepped out from under that covering promise.

Let’s before God over the next few days with our honest evaluation and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate any areas we have missed.

Lay it all before Him and just spend time with Him, letting the Holy Spirit minister to you, to the hurts, the pains, the disappointments.

Let God have those desires of your heart, the hopes and dreams for next year.

Lay down the burdens and let go of the things that have been holding you back. Write it out if that is it what works for you, or speak it out.

Instead of making New Year resolutions, make a list of Scriptures that proclaim God’s promises over your life and consciously purpose to start 2016 firmly holding on to them. Have a list of 10 Scriptures and resolve to confess them and stand on them in faith. I can promise you that that will be a far more powerful and effective way to make changes in your life that any resolution!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be given to you” (Matthew 6:33 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)

Make Your Requests Known to God

Waves are very complex.  Sitting every day by the sea watching the tides, and the waves as they crash against the seashore, one quickly gets fascinated by them and I’ve become quite a geek about the science of waves. This morning however their complexity resonated with me in the context of a discussion we had last night in our church community group.

Our church has small groups that meet during the week, mainly for the purposes of giving people a chance to connect at a real, “doing life” level with others in the body – something hard to do in a large church, or only once a week on a Sunday.  At the moment we are working through an excellent study on prayer from 24-7 Prayer and Alpha.

One of the things we were talking about was unanswered (or apparently unanswered) prayers.  We agreed often it appears we haven’t had an answer because we haven’t actually brought the real issue to God or not prayed specifically, so His “answer” doesn’t actually scratch the itch.

It is similar to when, in a relationship, one of the couple will ask something of the other (for example the woman asks the man to help with dinner) but when that request is fulfilled (he comes out into the kitchen and starts getting the plates out) the person is unhappy.  Probably in this example because what the woman REALLY meant was “can you do the dinner as I am feeling tired and it would be a great way for you to show how much you love me for doing this for me”.  She didn’t actually say what she meant however because she thinks “he ought to know what I really mean”.

It might sound extreme but we do this with God!  Our group discussed those type of prayers last night, acknowledging that most of us at some time or another have had the attitude “why do we need to ask God when, because He is God, He already knows what we need?!”

There is an even more complex aspect to unanswered prayer though.

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 MEV)

Have you ever stopped to think about our prayers from God’s perspective?

I have four children so, along with my husband, that means we are a family of six.  When we want to do something as a family it can get quite complicated and as the kids have grown and developed their personalities it has become even harder to find something we can all enjoy.  As a parent, planning things to please them all is hard!

I remember from my own childhood, family holidays (with just four of us) was all about accepting that we had to do things we didn’t particularly enjoy for the sake of each other. On a week long holiday one day we would visit a stately home (for Mum), one day a military museum (brother), one day a nature reserve (Dad) and one day something with a miniature railway (for me!)  plus a day on the beach and a day in the town. It isn’t that we didn’t enjoy the other days but we each had a special thing we wanted to do.

With our family now there are only a few things that please us all – eating out (I’m a chef so food is a “thing” in our family!), playing dominoes or having a NERF battle in the back garden (don’t ask….!)

What’s the point I’m making here? If I struggle as a Mum of four to work all things out, how much more complex is it when God is doing that for all of us?

His promises are true and He is the same today, yesterday and forever so when He promises to work things out, to bless us, promises His plans are only to prosper us – He means it.  Then I come before Him and ask for something.

Maybe what I’m asking for just won’t work out.  Maybe to answer “yes” to that prayer would mean breaking His promises to prosper me.  If I persist (ask and keeping on asking) and seek Him earnestly, to give me my “yes” now means a huge amount of work in order to still make sure the best comes to me – that this will work to my good.

Don’t forget too that we have free will. We are God’s hands and feet.  So in order to “work all things out” means restricting Himself to moving through those of us open to His guidance, His Spirit, whispering and nudging us to direct our actions so that they have the desired consequence that make the necessary changes that mean… He can answer someone else’s prayer whilst still making sure it is “to the good” for both the original asker and all of those involved in delivering that answer!

I don’t know that I’ve explained this very well but I hope you can grasp the essence of what I mean enough that you can stop and ponder this. Allow the complexity, the trillions of permutations, to blow your mind. How God balances it all in His Omnipresence keeping it all in line with all His promises…

Can you sense just a tiny fraction of how BIG that is?! That is even before you add in to the mix the influence of the ruler of this world (the devil) and take into account all the natural consequences of the fall (disease, decay in the natural world and the disasters it causes etc), sin that abounds in all mankind driving us contrary to God’s plans and purposes…

Does your answered prayer sudden suddenly seem less about God not answering you, not caring, and more about BECAUSE He cares and wants to give you the desires of you heart?

Be amazed today at how big, how great, how awesome, how loving and how trustworthy your God is.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 MEV)

Not By Sight

Today is a rainy day.  I parked up in my usual spot and checked the app to see what ships were out there. This morning there are apparently 5 ships out there close to the shore and, if it was a clear day, another 7 visible to me. However this is my view:

Nothing to see

The wind is blowing from the south east which means the rain is driving against the right hand window which I usually have open when I am parked here, so I can hear the sound of the waves and see clearly without the slight tint of the car window. That isn’t possible today in this weather!

There is an obvious parallel with our daily walk as Christians. Sometimes the direction we are looking in is the direction of the storm. More so than that, using the “ship finder” app to see what vessels are out there – and trusting in its accuracy even when my sight can’t provide its own evidence – sounds like a certain oft-quoted Scripture:

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 MEV)

When the conditions around us – circumstances, other people, the news, our health, our jobs – aren’t favourable to “clear sight” then we must, MUST trust in the accuracy of Scripture for our guidance.

His Word is our compass, our “sat nav”.  The Holy Spirit is our guide, and our comfort amidst the storm, His presence a reassurance that we will come through as long as we stay close.

Three of my children are on the autistic spectrum and they don’t do very well in crowds. In particular, when they were young if we needed to go somewhere crowded I was mindful of how this would make them feel. “Stay close” I’d tell them “keep hold of my hand, or hold on to my coat, don’t let go”. Sometimes they would close their eyes to make it bearable, clinging tightly to me and trusting not only that I wouldn’t let them go but that I wouldn’t let them walk into any obstacles or get hurt.

[There’s that childlike faith again]

How much more so is our Father in Heaven like that (Matthew 7:11)?  When I am overwhelmed, when it is too hard for me to see clearly, I just need to close my eyes and put my hand into His Hand.  Listen only for the sound of His voice telling me the way to go.  Rely on the comfort of His nearness, the assurance of His presence, to quieten all that is within me.

Rest.

Trust.

Peace.

When the fear has subsided and the way is clear again, I can open my eyes again and rejoice that He has brought me safely through the trouble.

See how the rain has eased?  How the visibility is clearing?  The ships whose presence I had to take on faith now visible?

After the rain

In a world where we rely on electronic devices and pieces of software to tell us about the weather, where we are, and how to get where we are going, it is distressing to see how little trust we sometimes put in the inspired Word of God.

Holy Spirit, help me today and always to use God’s Word as the only true compass in my life, the only true oracle, and for it to be the first (and never the last) place I turn for comfort.

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..