Convenience or The Cross?

Comment 1 Standard

20130413-200227.jpg

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?

Are you a 'what it could be' friend?

Comments 7 Standard

Image

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.

Don't write off the small things…

Leave a comment Standard

SAM_0049

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

Comments 5 Standard

blue-tear-wallpapers_13598_1600x1200

“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?

 

Enjoying God

Comments 4 Standard

image

I spent the morning listening to a preach by Judah Smith about Enjoying God.

http://thecity.org/message/enjoying_god

There was so much in it that really spoke to me about where I am at the moment. It follows on from my posts about Coffee with God and Walking with God

As I was listening, I tweeted some of the content because I couldn’t help but want to share it. I also emailed the link to some friends who I know will be blessed by listening to the message. 

I am so fired up and inspired by what I am learning and experiencing at the moment from changing my whole approach to my relationship with God and my Christian walk. I am seeing how God is moving and working in my life and the lives of others in such a short space of time.

Keeping a journal really helps – not in a strict, I must write in it everyday kind of way but in a Wow! I need to write this down – I need to remember this, I need to be encouraged by this and I will need this to keep me going kind of way. 

There were a few snippets of the preach that really struck me…

‘A lot of us treat our relationship with God like a formal living room, to be looked at and admired but we don’t live with him.’

I was immediately reminded of my grandparents house. They had a formal living room at the front of the house and it was never used apart from on very special occasions. It was beautiful and awe inspiring but we hardly went into it. 

How true can this be of our relationship with God? We acknowledge that he is amazing, awesome, wonderful but we don’t take it any further – an arm’s length approach. A head knowledge approach – we know how to describe him and all that he is but do we know him?

Abide – continue, stay, dwell, remain. Don’t treat God like an antique piece of furniture but an Ikea couch!

I have a carving chair in my house, it was my Granddad’s. When I first got it I didn’t want anyone to sit on it. It was just to be looked at. Now, anyone can sit in it, after all that is what it is for!

I love the analogy used here – you are far more free to let people live on your Ikea couch than your antique furniture – you recognise it is it to be lived on and in. The same is true of our relationship with God – it is to be lived on and in. 

You have permission to enjoy God. You have permission to let him love you.

How often do we reduce ‘relationship’ with God to :

Daily quiet time

Reading the bible

Praying

Nothing wrong with any of those things but God wants all of our life and that means the making dinner, sitting in the sunshine, going for a walk, having a coffee, relaxing on the sofa parts of our lives too. The writing blog posts, posting on social media and watching a film parts. 

We need to stop ‘doing’ and start ‘being’

We need to stop trying to earn God’s love and favour.

We need to accept – we are loved, we are loved, we are loved.

We need to enjoy God.

How are you going to enjoy God today? How are you going to give yourself permission to accept his love?

 

 

Coffee with God

Comments 7 Standard

20130705-113331.jpg

I started reading a book this morning ‘A life unleashed’ by Christine Caine and one of the suggestions she makes in the first chapter is to have a coffee with God.

This got me thinking about the way I often approach God – with a list of requests or some hurried thank you or a few rocket prayers. How at times, I can fall into the trap of over spiritualising my quiet times and over complicating them.

What is it about coffee? Coffee shops are springing up everywhere. Our language has been infiltrated with hundreds of descriptions of different coffee combinations. Our high streets are saturated with them, often next to and opposite each other and sometimes even more than one branch within a few hundred metres.

I don’t actually think it is because we have become a nation of coffee connoisseurs ( you may beg to differ) but more to do with the activity and act of going for a coffee. Common parlance is ‘Shall we go for a coffee?’ Let’s meet up for a coffee.’ This is rarely about the coffee itself but more to do with sitting together, conversing, enjoying each other’s company – sharing with each other. Coffee shops offer the opportunity to sit, watch the world go by, enjoy a hot drink ( which we all know makes everything infinitely better) and to talk, face to face.

I love to ‘go for coffee’. I find it relaxing and one of the best ways to catch up with someone.

So, the question is why, when faced with the suggestion to have coffee with God did it seem like a revolutionary concept? Why have I separated something I do so easily and commonly from God?

The conversation over coffee flows easily, it is not hurried, there are moments of stillness and silence that are not uncomfortable. There is a sharing, a bonding and an important part of relationship building and strengthening that goes on. Surely, it could also be this simple with God?

Conversations are two way – so today as I sit with my coffee ( decaf latte, no sugar) I am going to invite God along. There are a few questions I have for Him, a few things I need to say, some asking of why? about situations people close to me are facing. How are certain things going to happen and come to fruition? I also know there is going to be a lot of listening on my side too – moments of stillness and moments of silence.

Who do you most need to have coffee with today? When did you last have ‘ a coffee with God’ moment?

Maintaining momentum

Comments 3 Standard

20130703-083819.jpg

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?