5 things that prove you host a life group

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1. Mugs – yes, mugs – you have hundreds of them, in fact you have a whole cupboard full of them and none of them match. Also, you begin associating mugs with certain people in your group or you may commit the odd faux pas when someone asks which drink is theirs ‘You’re the cow…’

2. Beverages – for one you actually use the word. You have enough varieties of teas and coffees to stock the local cafe – decaf, filter, flavoured, caff, chai latte, hot chocolate etc. Oh and things you will never drink but you know others like – decaf early grey or lemon and ginger anyone?

3. Coasters – You have an inordinate amount of non matching coasters. These are not for your benefit but to prevent the mortified looks when you claim people can put their mugs directly on to a surface.

4. The 30 min dash – Half an hour before everyone’s designated arrival you run around hiding mess in spare rooms, re-cleaning the bathrooms for the 3rd time (just in case) realising you have run out of milk and that you are down to the ‘boring’ biscuits like rich tea (aaah, the quintessential Christian biscuit)

5. Slippers – You know you have definitely arrived as a life group host when people bring their slippers to wear to your group. You yourself should also wear slippers and perhaps have a few different pairs to spark conversation while everyone waits for drinks.

This is by no means a definitive list – please feel free to add to it in your comments.

Things are all a bit messy

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So I am currently in limbo. There are a few things I was expecting to be resolved by today and they aren’t.

There are a few loose ends that remain untied, a few extra things yet to be ticked off the to-do list, an a couple of big unknowns.

Funny isn’t it, how the unknowns seem ok to begin with but then they creep up on you at the last minute ( 3am if you’re like me)

The fact is, things are all a bit messy and yet, in the midst of it all I find myself straying into a place of stillness and peace. Maybe it’s the eye of the storm? Maybe it’s a mirage? A created oasis in this desert place. But, when I find myself there, even though I can’t make sense of it, I am calm, at rest, my soul quietens.

I found that place at the end of my Zumba class on Wednesday, as we warmed down and the last song began my eyes were drawn to the wooden cross at the side of the stage. My Zumba class is held in a Salvation Army building.

It felt poignant so soon after Easter to find myself staring at an empty wooden cross and to be reminded of the ultimate sacrifice and then this song began…

I felt tears form and realised that I was having a moment, that something was calling deep into my heart. That this was a message for me.

You could write it all off as coincidence, I was just reading too much into it all but there in that moment I experienced God more closely than I had in a very long time and had a renenwed understanding of it all… The Cross, the love, His sacrifice, my response and although I have no idea how, I knew it is all going to be ok but at a cost.

At life group last night we sang the following words:

‘And no matter what the cost I will follow you. Jesus everything I’ve lost I have found in you…’

There’s a cost, a cost to all these loose ends, the unknowns and there has been loss but there is hope and right now I will hold on to that and to ‘My Salvation, my my’

The 'I'm not good enough' mantra

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I’m currently lying in bed attempting to sleep and failing miserably.

My issue is I have the ‘I’m not good enough’ mantra playing on repeat in my head. I have managed to pause it for a while but then that wave of sickness hits my stomach and off it goes again.

I have always had it, ever since I can remember and I spent years believing I was the only one.

The fact is, we all have it at some point. In some way, about a particular part of our life or perhaps all if it. Sometimes it quietens for a period but then it rears its head once again and traps us in a spiral of self doubt.

Being a new mother mine currently stems a lot from my belief that I’m not good enough at it. I replay my labour, the first days and weeks of my son’s life and mentally berate myself – the ‘should haves’ fly around and are slowly fought off with the realisation that all is well and all was well. Just because I don’t have a hundred photos of me in those first days doesn’t mean I have failed. I did in fact cuddle my son enough, I do interact with him enough and yes sometimes I take him out of the house in his pyjamas but why is that even an issue? Why is it something I feel I have to explain, as if it even matters?

Before motherhood became my all consuming ‘I’m not good enough’ it was work, marriage, family, friendships, faith. They still arise sometimes just so I don’t get too complacent.

There are a whole barrage of thoughts that I wade through on a daily basis that seek to wear me down and sometimes they do, if I leave them in my head.

This post is raw, it is unadulterated vulnerability and it is scary to write but I have to. Fear tells me not to. Fear says to keep quiet.

I write this to dispell the lies I tell myself about not being good enough and I write this for you.
I write this for every single one of you who is hindered each day by a sense of not good enough.

You are good enough.

Whatever is playing on your mind right now, whatever you are in secret turmoil about, whatever pulls you down.

It’s a lie. The mantra is a lie.

You are good enough.

Making the most of your 'moment'

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This image popped up on my Facebook page a few days ago and it spoke exactly to where I am right now.

Today, I am 39 weeks plus 6 days pregnant. Part of me can’t believe it and another part feels I have been pregnant forever!

So my next ‘moment’ will be motherhood. The thing is, I have no way of knowing when this ‘moment’ will arrive.

At this point it would be so easy to just become static and wait. To count down the days and hours until I reach it.

I have been offered the common place advice of eating curry, hot food, pineapple, drinking raspberry leaf tea, walking and of course sex to kick start my labour.

There is a sense of expectation and excitement of what is to come.

The quote above got me thinking though. What about right now? Does the fact I am about to have a baby make all of this time pre baby redundant? Does this current ‘moment’ I am in not matter?

I have a choice here. I can believe that as I am in a transition, I have nothing to offer until I become a mother or I can do all I can, as I can right now.

I don’t want to miss out by rushing ahead. I don’t want to miss opportunities that I will not get to have again.

Maybe this strikes a chord with you? You may not be pregnant but are you rushing to get to a new ‘moment’ rather than making the most of the one you are in?

It may not be where you want to be. It may feel uncomfortable, difficult or dull but right now it’s your ‘moment’

Will you make the most of it?

A new season – no holding back

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On the eve of the first day back to school it seems only right to blog.

Usually, at this time of year there is a real sense of expectancy about what is to come over the next academic year – how will I engage the students, what ideas can I use, when will I hit the wall? This has been routine for me for over ten years.

This year however, things are different. Yes, I am going back and excited to see the students but this time it will only be for a week. After that, maternity leave starts and along with that a new season in my life.

I had never really entertained the idea of becoming a mother, mainly because a doctor felt it was a good idea to tell me at 15 years old that I would have trouble conceiving because of having X-rays.

This was a seed that planted in my mind and I believed I would not be able to have children.

Whenever people asked, I said I wasn’t ready yet but what I wasn’t saying was that I was too frightened to even consider the idea as the doctor’s words echoed in my head on a daily basis.

3 months into trying and I fell pregnant. Still now at 37.5 weeks it is so surreal to me.

This is a new season for me, I am moving from years of being very comfortable, having a career and a routine that worked for me. Moving on from knowing what to expect, planning, organising and feeling in control.

All of that is about to change…

I believe that this is part of me growing in my faith and going on with God.

I am to be taken out of my comfort zone, which is where we need to be for God to fully work in us and through us.

I am no longer in control. I don’t know when the baby will come or what my life will be like.

I have a choice, I can either wait in fear of what is to come or wait in peace, believing that God has plans and purposes for me.

I choose the latter. I am looking forward to the adventure that lies before me. I am expectant for what is to come and I truly believe that the best is ahead!

Are you heading into a new season?

Are you letting words spoken over you hold you back?

Are you expectant for a new adventure?

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?