How are you dealing with stress and worry?

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Last night at life group we were discussing ‘Jesus on Stress’ from Phil Moore’s book ‘Gagging Jesus.’

It was interesting to have a frank discussion about the things that we get stressed about and how we deal with stress. For many of us prayer was last on the list. 

That is often the case isn’t it? Prayer is our last resort – when we become desperate, when we get to our wit’s end and there is nothing else we can do to sort out what is worrying us and causing us stress.

What’s interesting in the book is that it explains that Jesus teaching on stress:

It tells us that stress is the chief symptom of our idolatry and self-worship

Read that sentence again. Quite hard hitting isn’t it? Few of us would care to admit that we partook in idolatry or self worship. The truth is, many of us are.

“I’m worried” is just another way of saying “I’m not convinced that God will do his job without me… I’m feeling stressed” is just another way of saying “I’m trying to do God’s job for him and it’s not working out for me.”

How often do you use those phrases in your everyday life?
How often do you attempt to do God’s work for Him?

In our human nature we like to be in control and the truth is we can’t be. We need to fully rely on God.

Our stress and worry draws our focus away from God and puts it onto ourself. We do all that we can to solve our own problems. We forget about prayer, talking to God. We lack faith that God will come though for us.

There were a number of contemplative silences as we discussed this last night. As the realisation sank in.

It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, in the issues that arise, in the striving and problem solving and desire to force things to work themselves out.

It is so easy to become self reliant, to feel that we are masters of our own universe and that we can do as good as or even a better job than God. We will sort it out faster, we know what needs to happen and we will fix it all.

The thing is, we are not called to go it alone. We are not created to be our own personal saviour.

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

So, today at the end of the week how about taking Jesus up on his offer?

Go to him, find rest for your soul. Free yourself from the weight of worry and stress.

Convenience or The Cross?

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I’ve just got in from my friend’s flat. I was waiting for a delivery from Ikea. I am so thankful that delivery drivers now call an hour before – this meant I didn’t have to sit there all day but could just pop up the road about ten minutes before their arrival.

I am now waiting at my own home for another delivery within an hour window. How convenient!

That can be the problem sometimes can’t it? Convenience.

The quality of being suitable to one’s comfort, purposes, or needs

This is how we would like life to work all of the time isn’t it? Being suitable to our comfort, our purposes and our needs. But it’s not.

The life we are called to says different:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Not much about convenience there. Comforts, needs and wants don’t seem to feature.

Now, if you are like me then the concept of denying yourself doesn’t really come naturally or seem all that appealing. Our nature is to be ‘all about me’ to think about self and ultimately be selfish. Jesus came to counter that – the Holy Spirit works within us to counter that. Thank God! There is no way I could do it alone.

In the UK at the moment we are having what we like to call a ‘heatwave’ and the rest of the world looks at us funny and quietly suggests the word ‘Summer?’

We have been through months of cold, wet, rainy weather and months of moaning and now we have sunshine and heat – it isn’t exactly convenient. We love this weather when we are abroad, when we are on holiday and relaxing but put it alongside stuffy office and tube journeys and we struggle.

Oftentimes we actually don’t know what we want. We think we want hot weather but the reality isn’t quite right. We think we want the latest gadget but it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. We think we want to be in control but in reality we realise we can’t control it all.

So we are offered an alternative : to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow. Now it doesn’t sound logical, or easy or appealing at first but if you look deeper there is a freedom within that.

We can be free from ‘self’ and selfishness.

We can pursue sacrifice -giving up the things we think are important for things much more important. Be free from collecting possessions, putting others down or not seeing their worth.

We can follow – we don’t have to be in control, in charge, have all the answers. There is someone else to take the burden of leading.

I host a life group with my husband every Thursday night. Is it convenient? No, not always. Having up to 15 people in your home, making drinks, using all the milk and tea bags.

Do I always want to do it? No, sometimes I am tired and would rather put my pyjamas on watch television and have an early night.

Do I do it? Yes. Out of duty? No. So why?

I do it because despite being tired, sometimes grumpy and often staring at the milk wondering if it will last, I know that I will get far more out of it than sitting in my pyjamas watching television.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.

There is a reason we are told that. It is so easy to do. Miss a life group, miss a Sunday morning and things are all ok but we slowly become more distant and more about self.

Life group is often the highlight of my week. I love my beautiful, messy group. I say that because our lives are often messy and we bring all that together and it becomes something beautiful because we share, care, pray, comfort and show love to each other and in that beautiful things happen. People are uplifted, God is glorified, we gain a new perspective.

We share and invest in each other’s lives and it is often far from convenient but it is amazing.

So how about you is your Christianity, your faith walk about convenience or is it all about the cross?

One of my favourite songs by a band called Gungor has the lyrics ‘You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of us.’

How about turning your back on convenience, facing the cross and becoming a beautiful thing?

Who are you listening to?

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I had a wobble this morning. The heat and being pregnant just got to me and I was crying in the kitchen before 8am and feeling I had really lost the plot.

You see, I was suddenly overwhelmed with everything that is going on over the next week and just couldn’t cope. I couldn’t manage the fact there was a delivery due today, that there is furniture being delivered to a friend’s flat over the road that I need to collect tomorrow, that our bathroom door is due to be fixed, that I am due back at work next week, that the summer holidays are coming up and we need to get the house organised for our new arrival in September.

It was like a wave hitting me all at once and I felt condemned, as if I was a failure.

A glass of water and a hug from my husband helped, as did him popping back in just after he had left for work for another hug and just to check I was ok.

As I had my shower this morning, I prayed and felt that sweet release of the perfect peace that passes all understanding wash over me and a real sense of calm.

What had happened? Yes, partly hormones, partly heat, partly pregnancy but a lot of it was to do with listening to my fears and anxieties and allowing them to take hold. Hence a rather unhealthy and demoralising response.

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law

My initial response was to beat myself up about it. To condemn myself for my reaction, to berate myself, to remind myself what a failure I was for my reaction and to feel guilty and as though I had messed up all my progress with God.

Then, I opted for prayer.

It made me think about how easily we fall into the trap of believing the worst about ourselves over little things. How easily that sense of guilt can creep up on us and hold us captive.

This is not the life we are called to, this is not the freedom that was bought for us on the cross.

Freedom – something we all agree is a good thing. Something we all crave and aspire to feel that we have achieved. The issue is, we try to attain it alone and that doesn’t work. It cannot be earned through human effort but it has been earned for us though the work on the cross.

It is finished. It is completed.

I could have let the incident this morning affect my whole day. I could have given up, decided I was too unworthy to blog about faith and the Christian walk when I had so obviously failed. I could have become consumed by negative thoughts and feelings and just remained silent.

But, I didn’t. I was transformed by the renewing of my mind. Remembering that all have sinned and fallen short. Remembering that there is grace for us in our failures. Reminding myself that we are not perfect and that we will have moments of weakness and difficulty but it doesn’t have to consume us.

I chose to listen to the truth rather than the lies. I chose to pick myself up and start again rather than keep dwelling on what had happened.

How did your day begin? Did it have the start you anticipated?
If it did – great.

If it didn’t – who are you listening to right now? Are you in a place of guilt or a place of freedom?

Who are you focussing on? Yourself or the author and finisher of your faith?

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Be free today.

Free from guilt, free from negative thoughts and emotions, free from lies.

Be free to be you.

Are you a 'what it could be' friend?

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http://thecity.org/message/better_together

As is my current routine, I have begun the morning listening to the above message. I like to start my day listening to truth and focussing my mind on God. It would be so easy just to turn the television on and get lost in the plethora of daytime shows but I have intentionally avoided this.

This message talks about the fact Jesus was fully grace and fully truth. 100 per cent truth and 100 per cent grace. It speaks of our struggle with this – that we tend to favour one over the other.

One quote that stuck with me today and got me thinking:

Everybody needs a ‘what it could be’ kind of friend in their life.

What does that mean exactly? We are often good at listening and supporting, we are probably better at offering advice and explaining exactly where they have gone wrong. We may even get to a point of frustration when they keep doing things that are detrimental to them and their life.

We look at the ‘truth’ that we know about them and we want to use it to judge them and call them out on it and say ‘stop!’

Many of us will not want to admit to this but if you really think about it , if you are really honest with yourself – you do this. We struggle to be gracious to people when we know a lot of the truth about them and their life. it makes it difficult for us.

Yet…

He sees and knows the truth about you fully, yet he fully extends grace. What you have done, what you are doing and what you are going to do.

We have access to one hundred per cent grace in spite of the the truth about us. How often do we offer the same to those around us?

  • How often have we focussed on the journey that someone has made instead of the mistake?
  • How often have we given someone hope – ‘It doesn’t have to be what it is’ instead of ‘It is what it is’
  • How often have we in spite of knowing the truth – offered grace

My guess is not too often, my guess is like me you have read those questions and they have made you think, maybe they have convicted you.

So what now?

As you have read this post has a name come to mind? Has a recent encounter come to mind?

To my friends and those who read this:

I want to say, I am sorry for the times I have said “It is what is.’ when I should have said ‘It doesn’t have to be what it is.’

I am sorry for the times that I have let the truths I have known about you cloud my ability to show you grace.

I want you to know that just like me you are not who you should be but you are not who you used to be.

I want to be a ‘what it could be.’ friend

I want to socially and relationally function full of grace and truth.

And… when I get it wrong, I hope there will be grace there for me.

What's on your mind?

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what's on your mind

Today, as I sit writing this post looking out of the window at the sunshine, I want to ask you a question: What’s on your mind?

Before you saw the image with this post did you realise that is what Facebook asks you every time you update your status?

Why is it that we happily post on Facebook and Twitter about our thoughts but if I were to ask you that question right now I am guessing the initial answer might be ‘Nothing.’ or ‘Not much’ but is that true?

Even discussing ‘What’s on your mind?’ on social media is somewhat of a facade – no one ever really posts exactly what is on their mind. We post modified thoughts, acceptable thoughts, things that will appear funny and engaging. Things that will will portray what we want them them to.

What about with God? What do you say when God asks you the same question? Do you modify your answer? Go for the ‘acceptable’ stuff?

We are often carrying many thoughts in our mind, it is often full of questions, concerns, worries, to do lists. We can lose ourselves in it all sometimes. 

I really feel that today God wants to free you from all of that. Free you from your ‘thought baggage’ the things  that play in your mind over and over again that you have just accepted and learnt to deal with. The things that wake you up at night that you have never shared. The worries that you can convince yourself you have overcome but that catch you unawares when you are least expecting it. 

We are told in the word:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Are you experiencing the freedom of a ‘sound mind’ today?

What are the things that are plaguing you, keeping you captive, holding you back?

Are you afraid to speak them aloud?

I believe today that God is calling us to speak them aloud so that he can deal with them, so that we are not held prisoner to them, so that they do not have control over us.

We do not need to be fearful – we do not have a spirit of fear.

We need to remember we are loved. We are love with an unconditional, everlasting love.

Perfect love casts out fear…

Will you tell God what’s on your mind today? The unmodified version?

 

 

Don't write off the small things…

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Hearing His Voice

I got a tweet yesterday in my timeline from @lisabevere with a link to the above message. I favourited it but did not listen to it until this morning. It is about the Holy Spirit and hearing from God. It feeds into exactly the journey I have been on recently. 

While listening I got emotional with God. I had tears. It really spoke deeply into my heart. 

Hearing from God is an odd phrase – often it is met with consternation and skepticism. It can fall into the weird category and can frighten people. We can build it up into something so big that we avoid it at all costs. We shy away from it and often times ignore it. 

For me, promptings from the Holy Spirit are not big booming voice encounters – it comes from within a nudge, a sense that I should do or say something. 

One part of the message really pierced my heart…

There are so many other things I said to you and you second guessed them.’

I know this is true in my own life – that I have felt promptings, to pray out, to sing out, to pray for people, to encourage, to acknowledge, to speak a word and I haven’t because i have second guessed myself. I have allowed fear and doubt to prevent me from doing what I have been called to do. 

I started a journal a week ago – I can see evidence of hearing from God, of being prompted by the Holy Spirit and I have been following those promptings. It hasn’t been anything ‘huge’ just small things. Sending a tweet, an email, writing a blog post but there has been fruit. There has been a momentum building. 

How often do we write off the small things? Does the word not say:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin… Zechariah 4:10

The problem is that in our humanness we don’t want small, we desire big, we want more, we want fireworks and lights and fanfares. We go from following a prompting to wanting to build a ministry. We don’t want to start small but that is how it all begins. 

Starting small is exciting and we need to recognise that. Do you want your faith life to be a journey, an awesome adventure? Do you want to be able to see how God has worked in your life? It doesn’t happen overnight, as much as we would like it. It is about the small steps towards greater obedience. 

I love to praise and worship God. I have a real heart for worshipping. There is nothing better for me than singing my heart out to God. For me, it is through worship that the Holy Spirit stirs within me. It is through my recognition of who God is, of His love for me, of his amazing faithfulness that I feel the spirit stirring me and moving me. 

On Sunday, I went from dancing around my kitchen lost in wonder, love and praise to praying fervently for the church and weeping. That was a prompting – it came out of my worship. 

On Sunday, I was prompted to pray for a friend and I walked all the way to the back of the church, took them by the hand and said ‘Can I pray with you?’ Turns out they really needed prayer but wouldn’t have asked. 

As I listen to preaches and talks, I often hear passages read and the Holy Spirit will speak a name to me and I know I have to send them that passage. I don’t always get a response, or know how that has spoken to or affected them but does that mean I should stop?

Following promptings is not about our glory but God’s. It should not be done to get recognition for ourselves but for God. So it doesn’t matter about the response to me, it matters that I have been obedient. 

I don’t want to write off the small things. I want to make sure i don’t miss out. I want to follow every little prompting I get. 

How about you? Have you been prompted recently? Have you been too busy second guessing that you have missed opportunities? 

 Can I challenge you to follow a prompting today and see what happens? 

I want to finish with a video of a worship song that is constantly on my heart at the moment. It is about God’s faithfulness and the fact we are never alone.

Why not start from a place of worship and see where the Holy Spirit leads you today?

Getting emotional with God

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“What is it about tears that should be so terrifying? the touch of God is marked by tears…deep, soul-shaking tears, weeping…it comes when that last barrier is down and you surrender yourself to health and wholeness” David Wilkerson, The Cross and the Switchblade

I read this quote today and it really struck me. It spoke to me deeply about my own reactions to tears, it brought to mind many instances when I have experienced exactly the above. 

I would describe myself as an emotional person, I cry at adverts, I cry at new stories, I cry when I am angry, happy, frustrated. It seems to be a bit of a default and I suppose that is why when I experience tears in a spiritual context, I tend to write it off. 

I have said on many occasions ‘Why do I always get tears? Why can’t I get laughter?’ Belittling in a way the experience, the deep work that is taking place within me. But why?

In society, crying or tears are seen as weakness. A sense that you have lost control or have become ‘over emotional’. People who cry are often written off and not listened to – they have shown themselves to be fallible and incapable of maintaining their dignity.

I have sadly bought into this perception all to often and in the process been happy to write myself of as ’emotional’ as if it is a dirty word, not to be seen as a quality but to sneered at and embarrassed about. 

I believe that God is doing a work in me about this. I believe He has started gently with the quote above but I know need to accept it is a big part of who I am and who He created me to be.

On Sunday, as I prayed in my kitchen before church, I was overwhelmed by emotion and I cried. Thinking back to this now, this was about sensing God’s heart and I wiped my tears away and ‘pulled myself together’ ashamed, feeling silly. I repent of that now. 

After the service, when I prayed for friends again I was overwhelmed by tears and it was again God’s heart – I realised it more then, I did not allow it to hinder me but to spur me on and I felt that God was working, that he was moving. I accepted the tears.

Who am I to deny attributes in myself when ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made’? I have not been called to write myself off. There are plenty who will, there is an enemy who will make sure of it but I am not to join in with that – to belittle God. 

Can we reclaim the word ’emotional’? Can we accept tears as the touch of God?

How often do we sing or pray ‘break my heart for what breaks yours’ and then berate ourselves for feeling the emotion and weeping? How often do we ask to see the world and people through God’s eyes and then put ourselves down for getting ’emotional’?

Will you join me from today and accept that tears are not a weakness but a sign that we have experienced something of the heart of God? The heart of God for those we are praying for, for our current situation, for the stories we read about and watch on the news.

Will you join me in recognising that compassion is something far more than just thinking ‘Oh that’s sad.’

Will you join me in getting emotional with God?