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?

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?

Maintaining momentum

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Yesterday, I spoke my big dreams aloud, put them out there for the whole world to see – what now?
How do I ensure that I am maintaining momentum?

The key thing for me is to ensure that I don’t push things too hard or too quickly – this is a journey and the destination is not one that can be arrived at in a few days, weeks or even months.

Therefore, I could just sit back and wait for it all to happen but that isn’t how it works. There needs to be activity day to day that ensures I keep moving forward, however small the steps, and don’t stagnate.

I read a book yesterday ‘The Grace Outpouring – blessing others through prayer’ This is the story of God’s work at Ffald-y-Brenin, a retreat centre in rural Wales. It raised a few thoughts for me :

1. The ‘Grace First’ approach. One that Christians and churches claim they have but do we in practice?

2. Praying blessing over people, the local area and the nation. This is something I want to explore further. Is there a tendency to over complicate or to try and force things?

3. Building houses of prayer. This concept really moved something within me and has got me thinking about how it could work practically in my local area. Where would it be? Who would be involved? What impact could it make?

These seeds of ideas and inspiration being sown because I focused some time on reading about what others have done – what worked and what didn’t. How it all began and grew.

These are things I need to think further about, pray over and seek God for. The important thing is doing the seeking.

Friends contacted me about my post yesterday with encouragement and words that I need to spend time weighing and meditating on.

What if I hadn’t written the post? What if I had kept everything internal?

There is a momentum and it all began with speaking aloud the desires of my heart but I can’t stop there.

When you have felt stirred, moved or inspired to act, what have you done to ensure you have maintained momentum?

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-22057246

This story has been all over the news. There have been a number of responses. Some calling for her to be sacked, some raising questions about social media and whether teenagers understand the potential ramifications of what they post, some stereotyping ‘teenagers’

This got me thinking back to when I was 14-16 and all of the silly things I said and did, which are not recorded on any social media sites as they weren’t around then. Lucky for me I would say. Social media can be a mind field. If you don’t have a full grasp of privacy settings or the true public nature of what you post. Facebook can be used to document moments of life, rather like a diary used to. The difference is a diary was kept hidden under your bed and Facebook is there for all to see.

Twitter captures 140 characters of thought, links, opinion. How many of us think through our tweets every time before we send? At times, the timeline becomes a battle ground and everyone is exposed to the argument or disagreement.

Do we hold ourselves as accountable as we are holding Paris Brown?

I do believe that a new type of parenting has evolved through social media, digital parenting. Children and young people do need help and guidance with navigating social media as they do in all areas of life. I feel for parents who have suddenly had to try and get their heads around Facebook and twitter, cyber bullying, trolling, giving their children a long view about the permanency of what they write.

I also believe that we have a tendency to vilify teenagers for their behaviour. We are quick to judge and write them off. We are happy to lump them all together and see them as a group to be avoided rather than individuals who deserve to be given a chance.

Recently, there have been a number of programmes about improving opportunities for disadvantage young people. Secret Millions is a good example of this. We are at last exposed to the truth of the situation. Many young people do not feel valued, do not feel they have opportunities and don’t have people around them willing to work with them and build them up.

This is not a post about parenting, we all have a responsibility for the young people in our communities. We can all speak into and affect a young person’s life for good. We are often quick to judge parents and blame them for all the problems, the same way we do with teachers and schools.

We are all accountable.

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Tonight I am thankful

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Image courtesy of [federico stevanin] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, I spent some time in the office, managed to get some paperwork done and had some positive conversations.

I realised how little I do it, as when I went to do my lunch duty the students exclaimed ‘Miss! We haven’t seen you all day!’

There have been a lot of good moments today. I have spent a lot of time laughing with the students, talking to them, listening to one of them in crisis, allowing them to vent and then bringing them back to a point of being able to smile.

I think my students are the best people I know, they teach me so much about myself and about life and what is important.

After work, we visited some friends. It was a proper catch up and really good for the soul. We chatted and prayed for each other. It is great to be able to share my worries and the things I am struggling with.There is something releasing about talking it out.

We were then asked to be godparents, one of the best moments of my life. I am completely overwhelmed and touched.

Tonight I feel refreshed, renewed and full of purpose.

Tonight I am so thankful.