Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Although I believe that EVERY day, not just January 1st, is a new beginning, New Year is still a great time to take stock and evaluate. As a family, we each write a New Year's Prayer, put them away in a special jar and then get them out in a year's time. It is wonderful to read of God's faithfulness to us.

However, I like the idea of writing a prayer to begin the year which I can then look back on frequently as the year progresses, as an encouragement to keep on going. Wendy Blight talks about how to do this on her blog. I'm starting to read the Bible in a year, so I'm writing it here as a sign of that commitment - it'll be harder to get out of now! Maybe I should pray for some self-discipline here...

Another book review...

As well as joining the NavPress Blogger Review Program, reading and reviewing some wonderful books - primarily on discipleship, my passion - I have also joined Booksneeze. The first book I have to review is 'Outlive Your Life' by Max Lucado. All the author's royalties go towards work supporting children and their families through World Vision.

I never read anything written by Max Lucado without feeling that I am eating a tasty treat: an echo of the Psalmists who say 'The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.’ (Psalm 19:9-10, New Living Translation) and ‘How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!’ (Psalm 119:103). His happy style of writing slips down so easily that I was able to read this book before bedtime all in one go: and then re-read it to let the truths he illuminates sink in.

The message is simple, the truths nothing new.  Yet with inspiring examples of real people – both modern day and from Bible times, predominantly the book of Acts – Max leads us through the Christian life: what it means to come to Christ and to live as His follower. I am stirred anew to embrace concepts of caring, compassion, boldness and, above all, being open to Jesus’ call to help the lost, the lonely, the poor.
Read this book. I hope it will inspire you, as it did me, to look at your life anew. To recognise the many blessings God has gifted you with, and to take action to use them. Even something as simple as the gift of a smile, an encouraging word, a cup of water... Just give.  As Max says, at the end of Chapter 1: ‘Here’s a salute to a long life: goodness that outlives the grave, love that outlasts the final breath. May you live in such a way that your death is just the beginning of your life.’

Imagine living a life of such goodness and love. We can do it.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Real-life Discipleship

I have just read a book which has made me so excited that I have underlined scores of sentences, jotted notes in the margins and bookmarked numerous pages with tiny post-it notes. Real-life Discipleship, by Jim Putman. Having said that, the ideas the book offers of living out the Christian faith are nothing new. Biblically based ideas of developing the Christian life have not changed much over the ages. Yet this book is one of the most encouraging I have read for some time. Becoming and making disciples is essential to the Christian life and so Jim shows, and reminds, us of how we should do this.
The book summarises the key features of the discipleship process: this is not only intentional and relational but also strategic: we can all learn how to make disciples. While being familiar with the idea that spiritual growth leads us from being like children in the faith to becoming adults, Jim shows these in a spiritual growth wheel, elaborating on the typical characteristics, beliefs, behaviour, attitudes and actions of each stage in the discipleship process. This was extremely helpful: not only was I able to identify where others are in their spiritual journey, I was also challenged as I recognised immature characteristics in myself, which I had thought were long gone.
One idea, new to me, is that of Bible storytelling: a highly interactive method of studying the Bible which, along with learning Biblical truth, helps develop disciples into leaders.
This is an intensely practical handbook. It has encouraged me to continue seeking to help others grow through the context of small groups and, were I a church leader, I would want to adopt the ideas suggested. Being part of a small group which seeks to grow disciples into mature believers is not necessarily the only way to maturity – witness the lives of some of the great saints – but, for many, it is an essential part of the Christian life. Real-life Discipleship is a superb resource.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, 27 December 2010

Keep on

Keep praying. Keep thanking God. Keep on the watch.

Colossians 4:2, 

Mark 11:24

For this reason I tell you: plead for anything you like, and
believe that you will surely get it; and it shall be granted to

Kleist and Lilly
Romans 4:21

He felt assured that what God had promised him, God
was able to fulfill.

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Without a break let your prayers continue to be made.
Matthew 21:22

And whatever you ask for in your prayers, with faith,
you will receive.'

Hebrews 11:1

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we
hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at
present remain unseen.


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

My life as a home...

Notes from the most recent ladies breakfast...

The Home: an analogy  
Theme: a house symbolises each of us.

Roof: covering, protection.
The name of the Lord is like a strong tower – the righteous shall run unto it and be GLAD!
 Proverbs 18:10  10 God's name is a place of protection—    good people can run there and be safe.
May our homes be roofed with God’s name and His protection.

Walls: represent safety  and security.

Door: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.   Matthew 7:7-8 (New International Version)
As we think of the Door, let’s also of the door of our hearts, praying that it may always be open and welcoming to God.

Windows: Open to the fresh air of the Spirit

Chimney: Smoke is a sign of life. May my life show signs of the true Life which is Jesus who says I AM the Way the Truth and the Life

Is Jesus welcome in every room in our lives? Is he welcome in the room marked ‘Work’? The room labelled ‘Self-worth’? The room – maybe the attic – where we keep our failures?

May my life be a home
whose roof spreads God’s love
over all who enter it;
whose walls offer
God’s protection
whose chimney breathes
signs of warmth and life
whose door is always open
to the lost and the weary, and
whose windows are thrown open to the Spirit’s
gentle whispers.

Preparing for Christmas
Tidying  away the rubbish. Impatience, keeping the peace for the sake of it
Cleaning up having the honesty to face up to mistakes, failures
Decorating  doing the ‘extra’ stuff – inviting others round, going to an event to support a friend... 

Sunday, 19 December 2010


The Christmas story, retold by a little girl. And Christmas retold as if Mary and Joseph used our modern networking sites

Monday, 29 November 2010


Advent services. Look at this - so beautiful.

I Cannot Tell

I cannot tell why He Whom angels worship,
Should set His love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary
When Bethlehem’s manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and labored,
And so the Savior, Savior of the world is come.

I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace He graced this place of tears,
Or how His heart upon the cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the brokenhearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
For yet the Savior, Savior of the world is here.

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage,
How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of East and West, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendor
When He the Savior, Savior of the world is known.

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,
Or who can say how great the jubilation
When all the hearts of men with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
And myriad, myriad human voices sing,
And earth to Heaven, and Heaven to earth, will answer:
At last the Savior, Savior of the world is King!

Words: William Young Fullerton, 1857-1932
Music: Londonderry Air (aka "O Danny Boy")

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Create in me a clean heart

Some notes from breakfast this morning: 8 of us gathered round my table in the conservatory:

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

A blog entry by Karen Ehman over at Proverbs 31 entitled Getting Cleaned Up  (5 Nov 2010), talks about our urge to ‘clean up’ before we have visitors: the expectant mother who cleaned her house just BEFORE her mother arrived to help her clean it ready for the baby’s imminent arrival; those of us who cut our toenails BEFORE we go for a pedicure; clean our teeth better than they have been for months BEFORE we visit the dentist.  She says it’s not just a matter of ‘house-cleaning and hygiene’ – we do it on a grander scale. 

An innate urge asserts we must somehow "clean up our act" before we can come to Jesus. We feel it when we meet Him for the first time. Our bulky baggage of sin burdens us down. So we try to "clean up our act" so we can then come to Him.’

But as David said: "Create in me a clean heart O God."

Yes, we do the pleading.  He does the cleaning.
Even those of us who have walked with Him for years sometimes surmise, when wading in the swamp of our sin, that we too must surface-clean the tarnish so very hard before He will ever want to use us again.
So yes, we can remember anew that Jesus doesn’t want to wait for us to clean ourselves up before we come to him, because we can’t.  We have to approach him ‘warts and all’ as Oliver Cromwell said when he was to have his portrait painted: we can’t just polish up our attitudes, refurbish our good deeds, and brush our misdemeanours out of sight. We have to come to him honestly, just as we are:

Just as I am without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - though toss'd about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Brian Doerksen has a beautiful rendition of this lovely old hymn.

Just as confession – which I like to think of as honesty before God – is private, I think there’s a public face to this mindset as well. There is great healing and refreshment in not ‘putting on a clean face’ to others, whether these are friends, neighbours or colleagues. The world sets great store by appearance; we can offer a reality that does not paper over cracks, so that we don’t pretend to be something we are not. Often, people who perceive us as ‘religious’ because we ‘go to church’ also put us in the ‘good’ box. We’re not ‘good’ – we’re human.  I think it’s really important to be clear, transparent about our faults and failings. Or is this too dangerous, if we are to survive in the world of work and difficult neighbours?!

Some questions:
How best to keep ‘honest’ with God?
What are the ‘dangers’ of being ‘honest’? With God, with others – especially at work.
Do we admit to faults and failings, mistakes, things we forget to do…?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Let hope keep you joyful

Romans 12:12: Let hope keep you joyful; in trouble stand firm; persist in prayer.
Psalm 25

Unto Thee O LORD, Unto Thee O Lord

Do I lift up my soul
Unto Thee O LORD, Unto Thee O Lord
O my God, I trust in thee
Let me not be ashamed let not my enemies triumph over me.

Remember not, remember not,

The sins of my youth, the sins of my youth,

Remember not, remember not,

The sins of my youth, the sins of my youth,

O my God...

Teach me Thy ways, Teach me Thy ways,

Thy ways O lord, Thy ways O lord

O my God...

Do I lift up my soul

1 In you, LORD my God,

I put my trust.

2 I trust in you;

do not let me be put to shame,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

3 No one who hopes in you

will ever be put to shame,

but shame will come on those

who are treacherous without cause.

4 Show me your ways, LORD,

teach me your paths.

5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,

for you are God my Savior,

and my hope is in you all day long.

6 Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,

for they are from of old.

7 Do not remember the sins of my youth

and my rebellious ways;

according to your love remember me,

for you, LORD, are good.

My head is high, God, held high; I'm looking to you, God;

No hangdog skulking for me.

3 I've thrown in my lot with you;

You won't embarrass me, will you?

Or let my enemies get the best of me?

Don't embarrass any of us

Who went out on a limb for you.

It's the traitors who should be humiliated.

4 Show me how you work, God;

School me in your ways.

5 Take me by the hand;

Lead me down the path of truth.

You are my Savior, aren't you?

6 Mark the milestones of your mercy and love, God;

Rebuild the ancient landmarks!

7 Forget that I sowed wild oats;

Mark me with your sign of love.

Plan only the best for me, God!

8 God is fair and just;

He corrects the misdirected,

Sends them in the right direction.

9 He gives the rejects his hand,

And leads them step-by-step.

10 From now on every road you travel

Will take you to God.

Listening to God

Renee Swope has just posted about this was my comment. Brief.

She says ' God’s purpose for our lives through dependent hearts that seek to listen to His...'

I know God's purpose. It is to trust him, regardless of the circumstances. It is only when I truly trust that I can begin to hear what he is saying to me.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Mom I Want to Be

Suzie Eller very kindly sent me a copy of The Mom I Want to Be. I won it in one of her giveaways and she generously posted it all the way to Guernsey!  I wanted it to share with a friend who finds parenting her  children quite overwhelming at times. And another. And another. Don't we all feel like that at one time or another? So I read it before giving it to her, just to make sure it wouldn't overwhelm my friends with even more inadequacy! Do you know what I mean? Some books just send you on a guilt trip!

Anyway, Suzie's book is anything but that - it is hugely encouraging. My children have graduated - they are awesome, dedicated Christians, both volunteering in full-time Christian ministry, barely making it financially but earnestly pursuing God. I am immensely proud of them and thankful to God - I KNOW they haven't turned out so good because of my parenting skills.  I think I should say they've turned out the way they have IN SPITE OF my parenting - God is awesome indeed!  So reading this book did bring some regret - there is no such thing as perfect parenting and there are many things I would have done differently. However, Suzie's honesty encouraged me at the same time.

I'm still struggling to be 'The Mom I Want to Be' - being a 'mom' to adults - and can't wait to get the book back from my friend once she has read it as I have found the questions and suggestions for personal growth at the end of each chapter really useful. Thank you, Suzie!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

How can this bring me closer to God?

Read a thought-provoking book recently. By a Christian, it was about responsible stewardship of the earth's resources - caring for the environment and so on.  Reminders about thinking of the impact of our actions, being careful, eschewing greed in all its forms - radical living.

I like being radical - in theory. In practice, it can be hard. Hard to make radical choices and harder still, quite often, to live with them. As far as recycling, conserving water, avoiding profligacy goes - not too difficult. Living in Africa does, unless one is extremely hard-hearted and selfish, sensitize one to the injustice and unkindness of living extravagant lifestyles in the face of extreme poverty.

Yet one of the most useful questions I came away with was: How can this (proposed or current) action bring me closer to God? I've begun to try to apply this to everything I do, think or say. Being intentional about my actions.

Drinking a cup of coffee - being thankful
Hanging out the washing - caring for the family
Going to work - praying for opportunities to share Jesus
Relaxing in front of the fire at home - sharing 'heart time'

My challenge is to see how much I can 'bring God' into my daily life. Which reminds me: it's just 'Practising His Presence', as Brother Lawrence has modelled for us.

Blogging here most definitely brings me closer to God: thanks for the time and the reminders, Lord!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


I've had a bad cough for a couple of weeks, so once I woke at 5.30 today, I knew there was no chance of going back to sleep again. So, what a blessing this morning has been!  Just checking my emails before going to work, I found a wonderful devotion by Lynn Cowell over at Proverbs 31 ministries.
Teaching the truth of Jesus' call to 'Follow me' -which we can only do one step at a time rather than planning out a whole itinerary of Planes, Trains and Automobiles - is a timely reminder. I am the original Mrs Worry (though better than I used to be). I could say much more, but it's probably better just to read Lynn's words!  I'll ask my prayer partner to keep me reminding me 'just one more step' when I'm sharing the current load of anxieties!

Looking at Lynn's website had the added benefit of a previous post 'How far is too far?' where she said: "There is a problem with that question. It's the wrong one. The real question should be, "How close can I get to Jesus so that all that is around me, all the temptations, fade?"
That is a message which isn't just to do with teen sex but resonates in all areas of life: just this week I have been challenged that everything I do should be a 'good' answer to the question: how can this bring me closer to God?

Lovely start to my day. I just hope all these links stay working - an easy reference library rather than trying to rely on my memory!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Of mentors...and discipleship

I was trawling through my documents, trying to work out which I really really really need to save, coming to the conclusion that most of it needs a permanent visit to the recycling bin, when I came across this. I think I must have written it in response to a blog...

Friends have been vital to my spiritual growth. Even before I became a Christian, I found myself seeking to draw nearer to God through relationships, questioning and discussing to find out more about living a life pleasing to Him. Since then, even though I have a relationship with Jesus, people have played a huge part in shaping my life – ‘God with skin on’.

My mentors have been girls younger than I, girls my age and ‘girls’ 30 or more years older. They have been friends I meet up with occasionally for a coffee; friends who live many miles away, so we rarely meet except over the phone or through emails; friends in my small group who I meet with weekly; my prayer partner. Some are still key in my life at present; others have been key in the past, yet I know that I can still call on them for help when I need it. All have been spiritual mentors. Just yesterday I needed wisdom over an issue I was struggling with. It wasn’t to a pastor or other spiritual ‘leader’ I went, but to a dear friend who has more wisdom in her than I can ever hope to gain. She encourages me in the very best sense: affirms me, names good gifts in me, builds up my confidence while asking probing questions. Where others would ‘tell’ me what to do, she asks gently “Have you thought of…? What about…?” I leave refreshed, invigorated, equipped to walk the Way – and never without us praying for each other. This friend’s encouragement is absolutely key and I bless God for her every day.

Friends. Where would I be without them?

Expect the unexpected...

Sometimes being open to what you weren't expecting is the best way to find what you were looking for all along.

From MarybethWhalen's blog over at Proverbs 31 Ministries...

Magnetic grace and iron bars

I have just read a lovely blog entry over at Discipleship Network: simple, yet so clever. The writer, Kathy Beagles, gives the analogy that we are like random pieces of iron which can only be magnetized when in close contact with a powerful magnetic force. Similarly, we can only draw others when we are 'magnetized' with Jesus' power and grace.

That's it, in a nutshell. Kathy explains it much more clearly than I have, though, so I'm glad I have the link up there!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Church and discipleship again!

This is what Jim Putnam (page 23, Real Life Discipleship, published by NavPress) says: A worship service (show) can supplement the discipleship process, but it cannot create disciples alone. Discipleship demands intentionality and relationship — by which each person is invested in specifically. This cannot happen in the worship service.

For worship service, read: attending church.


Tuesday, 2 November 2010


Sunday, 31 October 2010


Bible study for Women in the Workplace: some thoughts I shared at our recent breakfast on 'Joy'.

I realised a long time ago that I need to be constantly on the move with God. That it is not enough to ‘sit back and enjoy the ride’ of being safe and secure as a Christian. There is in all of us – whether we are committed followers of Christ or not, and where we may not even be aware of it – a thirst for God, a desire to know God better. So we’ve been looking at the fear of God – the beginning of wisdom; the love of God and a little of what that means. Today, using Jerry Bridges’ book The Fruitful Life, we’ll look at JOY.

JOY. What do you think that means? Examples?!

The Fruitful Life

The Fruitful Life (The overflow of God's love through you) by Jerry Bridges, NavPress, 2006.

Devotees of Jerry Bridges’ well-known books The Pursuit of Holiness and The Practice of Godliness will be familiar with his encouraging words to modern day disciples of Jesus. I devoured these books when I first became a Christian, finding them essential tools as I began walking with Jesus. I thought this would, therefore, be an ‘easy read’.

Far from it. The style is easily accessible but the content is so thought-provoking that it is impossible to skim quickly through this lovely book. Bridges first takes the reader through the implications of taking on God’s character and becoming devoted to God. Gaining an understanding of this alone could be years of Bible study, but Bridges gives six principles for us to consider. One particularly useful reminder was that our conduct develops our character just as our character informs our conduct: what we are and what we do are intrinsic to each other. This understanding is essential to gaining an appreciation of the gifts of the Spirit. It is only then that the reader can begin to study, with a humble heart, what it means to develop the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Each chapter ends with thought-provoking questions for practice and discussion – ideal for a small group.

I am using this lovely little book with a group of friends who meet regularly for breakfast. Already, they are telling me how the topics we discussed have cropped up in their lives. And how helpful the discussions, based on The Fruitful Life, have been as they endeavour to ‘be Jesus’ in their workplaces. I imagine this is exactly what Jerry Bridges desires: that we can be encouraged to live more fruitful lives.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, 29 October 2010

Church - and discipleship

I have just recently joined Discipleship Network. Margie Williamson has begun the blog with comments about Matthew 28:18-20. She challenged me to think – to REALLY think – about what it means to be a disciple.

She says: “The disciple lived with or near his teacher and spent all his time with the teacher, even when the teacher traveled.”

After Richard and I joined a small church with the aim of supporting the pastor, we soon realised that we needed to spend as much time as we could with the folk who go there – in home groups as well as after the services. The challenge of discipleship in our modern, individualistic society is being able to find – and fit in – enough opportunities to be with the ‘disciples’ in a Jesus context: not just socializing, but intentionally turning hearts and minds towards God.

There are other – like-minded – friends we enjoy spending time with. We intentionally disciple each other, building one another up and encouraging each other ‘in the faith’. I guess the first disciples just wanted to hang out with Jesus: our challenge is to motivate those in the church we attend to do the same.

So, now: is that discipleship – or evangelism?


Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Church is a journey...

Journey. A common Christian concept. Jesus journeyed throughout Galilee and Judea - even Samaria. Christians have been going on pilgrimage ever since. Life is a journey.

Church, too, is a journey: of discovery, exploration, adventure. Longing. Living out our faith is a personal journey, yet best done in the company of others. In church, as Church, we journey together.

Yet church in itself is a journey, as we discover and explore life in Christ together. We marvel at the scenery - at dedicated octogenarians who glow with a lifetime of obedience; at love lived out in families; at the joy of children. We climb the hills of discord and resentment, pass through gorges of misunderstanding, rest in the valleys of rejoicing. We arrive - for a while - in the plains and meadows of peace and harmony, as we experience real connection with each other.

So what's the point of going to church on a Sunday?  Many reasons, but if that is all we do, then we are still at the bus stop and have barely begun our pilgrimage. Meeting on a Sunday does, however, give us starting points. It is where a song, a word or a prayer speaks to our hearts, ready to continue a conversation throughout the week. It is where we can meet with like-minded souls who can encourage us to walk further, stronger, better, more nimbly, with greater cheerfulness...It is a place - like a bus terminus - where we can arrange to journey on - together.


Thursday, 14 October 2010

God is faithful!

Psalm 89:34
No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back one word of what I said.    Living Translation

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Here are just a few thoughts which I shared over breakfast last week: on the fruit of the Spirit, and how to grow it at work.

Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…
this is the work of the Spirit and not of human origin (John Owen, Puritan writer). We can’t manufacture them, but we are responsible for acts of obedience by which this fruit is ‘preserved, increased, strengthened and improved’ (John Owen, in ‘The Fruitful Life by Jerry Bridges, p9)

Jonathan Edwards said ‘Love is no ingredient in a merely speculative fiath, but it is the life and soul of a practical faith.’
In a nutshell, for obedience to happen we need to begin to take on God’s character, be devoted to God and be humble.

‘our devotion to God is validated by our love for other people’ (Bridges, p61) Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Love is not so much a character trait as the inner disposition of the soul…which results in action. Love inclines us and directs us to be kind, to forgive, to give of ourselves to one another. I Peter 4:8 says:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

You could paraphrase the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 13 (Love is patient, love is kind…) as:
I am patient with you because I love you and want to forgive you.
I am kind to you because I love you and want to help you
I do not envy your possessions or your gifts because I love you and want you to have the best
I do not boast about my attainments because I love you and want to hear about yours
I am not proud because I love you and want to esteem you before myself
I am not rude because I love you and care about your feelings.
I am not self-seeking because I love you and want to meet your needs
I am not easily angered by you because I love you and want to overlook your offenses
I do not keep a record of your wrongs because I love you and ‘love covers over a multitude of sins’ (Bridges, p62)

YES, BUT HOW? It’s not easy.
What are we told in:
John 3:16 This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son and in the Message: This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God's love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

We should give, even at great cost to ourselves. Some key thoughts:
• Love is longing. We need to want to love – and, when it is difficult, we can only do that through prayer and the Spirit.
• Love is a choice. Make a decision to love, even when – especially when – we don’t feel like it.
• Love is action. Acting ‘as if’ we really loved the person. Feelings WILL follow – in the end!
• Love thinks of the other person – when I am able to stop myself from doing something unloving, it is by prayer and thinking ‘how would I feel if someone did that to me?’
• Love is patient. The fruit of acting ‘in the Spirit’ – because it’s not our natural character - takes a while to come.
• Love is a fruit of our obedience.

I then read this devotion: Friendly Not Feisty – Proverbs 31 Ministries: 6 Oct 2010, by Karen Ehman which began with:
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." I Peter 4:8-9 (NIV)
This quote resonated with me: Why is it so easy to snap at our kids, give our husbands the cold shoulder, or roll our eyes at a dear family member, but remain gracious with those we meet in public, even when they do something that really grinds us?
And I realised that this can also be true of us when we are at work, with familiar colleagues or people we don't want to impress, or folk we just plainly don't respect enough or take for granted.  When we are so task-oriented that we lose sight of relationships. We lose sight of Jesus, who IS love.

So yes, be loving. As Karen said: Perhaps it is time to offer some friendly hospitality to the members of our own home; to keep our tempers in check and our grumbling at bay; to let perfect love wash over a multitude of sins....

May we choose to hesitate before we hurl. Be friendly, not feisty. Be love.

A lovely thought about prayer..

How about this - isn't it lovely?

1 Thessalonians 5:17  Don't let anything interfere with your prayer life. (Lovett)

Don't let ANYTHING interfere with talking to God!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Church - the ongoing saga...

The debate in my head about ‘church’ just refuses to go away. Many a conversation worms its way around to pulling at the knot in my thinking. I follow one thread, only to cause others to tangle and tighten further. I never was much good at knitting…

So here is the latest. I long to ‘go’ to ‘church’ to praise and worship God…BUT, if the music isn’t lively or feet-tappingly good, I don’t feel I am worshipping. I don’t even WANT to worship. So, going to a church where traditional hymns are sung, or where an organ belts out a hymn, that means I am going under sufferance rather than to worship.

How wrong is that? Very.  A friend has just sent me an article about praise and worship. I don't know where it's from, but I'm going to quote from it. Lavishly.

There cannot be true worship without praise, praise produces worship. Praise means to speak well of God, praise is to acknowledge what God has done. Praise invokes God's presence. It gets God's attention, it creates an atmosphere. Praise is to the new Testament what sacrifices, and offering was to the Old Testament, praise is sacrifice. Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of His people, so when God's people praise Him, He draws near and worship results. God has given each of us a praise ministry with a worship "team" that is never any farther away than an inch below our noise: our lips, mouth, and tongue...

...When we praise God, His presence comes near, and in His presence all His true glory can be released.  Praise is something we can do anytime, anywhere. As we learn to exercise our personal praise ministry, we can create "islands of Eden" around us wherever we go. There is an inseparable link between our praise and the manifest presence of God...Praise attracts the presence of God. True praise is an exercise, a discipline that flows from a pure heart and a humble spirit. When we brag about God we are acknowledging His sovereignty and Lordship as well as our own dependence on Him. That spirit of humility is just what God is looking for in us. If we approach God with a humble spirit He will do two things: When we come near God, He will come near to us; and when we humble ourselves before Him, He will lift us up....

worship results when God accepts our praise and manifests His presence to us....Worship: Comes from the word; (Worth) which means, the quality or value of something. So what is of most worth to you?
Worship is the ultimate intimate experience....You know you have been in true worship when you started worshiping with a heavy load, lot's of hurt, heart ache and pain; and then when your finish. You've left that behind on the altar because you get up, light and worry free. Better yet God took it away from you because He was (worth) more to you than your problems and pain and you said to your self no matter what I'm going to press my way into His presence!
Worship is an outward experience of an inward change.
The purpose of worship is to bring us closer to the Lord, to change us, make us like Him, and to get to know the Lord.
The place of worship is created in praise, Judah means praise....
What happens when you are in worship?
1. Things change.
2. You get instructions.
3. You get direction.
4. You get revelation.

Worship Is What God Releases When You Praise Him
Praise is both a precursor to and a part of worship, but the two are not the same. For praise is something we do, while worship is something God releases. We initiate praise; it comes from within our hearts. As we perfect or mature our praise, as we come into one accord with one another, and as our spirit aligns with God's Spirit, He releases His presence into our midst. That mingling of God's presence with our praise is called worship.
Worship, then, begins with us as we lift up our praise, but it ends with God as He releases His presence among us. True worship requires both. ...
To "worship in spirit and truth" has the idea of mingling with God spirit to Spirit with our hearts attuned to His heart and our thoughts attuned to His thoughts. In fact, the Greek word for "worship," literally means to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand; to prostrate oneself in homage. Worship then means to show honor, worth-ship, and obeisance to royalty. It is also a word suggestive of intimate contact, of being in the very presence of someone of great importance, and of a companion who is always at his master's side. Worship involves intimacy; in-to-me-see; see-in-to-me.

True Praise and Worship Requires A Pure Heart
Worship takes place when God dwells in our praise and begins to mingle with us. In a sense, we get close enough to God to kiss Him. Ultimately, worship depends not on us, but on God. God wants nothing more than to mingle with us in unbroken and unhindered fellowship, but it is not automatic. He requires that we desire Him and seek Him with all our heart, but He also promises that when we do that, we will find Him. "You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).
This is why pure-hearted, wholehearted praise is so important as I spoke of before. Because without praise there is no presence, and without presence there is no worship. Tragically, this is exactly what happens week after week after week in thousands of churches all over the world. Many churches have not experienced genuine worship in years. They follow the same format every week, sing the same hymns or praise and worship songs the same way all the time, hear the same kinds of powerless prayers and the same insipid sermons every week, and the spirit is as dead as a doornail because their heart is no longer in it. Sad to say that this is true not only in many "mainline" churches, but in many evangelical and Pentecostal/charismatic churches as well.
God doesn't want it to be this way. He wants to bless us with His presence. The critical issue is the condition of our heart. If we seek God with a humble, hungry, and whole heart, lifting up sincere, heartfelt praise, He will respond by drawing us into His presence. In this way, we can recreate "Eden" through praise.
This whole matter of praise and worship also relates to exposing our hidden glory. When we praise God, He sends His presence, and His presence releases the glory. When we live in "Eden" our glory will come out. That's the way God designed things from the beginning. What this means is that worship involves much more than just praise of our lips. It also involves the meditations of our heart and the work that we do. Our worship consists not only of acknowledging God's nature, attributes, and character with our praise and thanksgiving, but also in our work, our good deeds, our service, and our lifestyle.  

When we live and walk in "Eden," everything we say, think, and do becomes an act of worship.

Everything. Even - especially - going 'to' church.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Church: what Max Lucado thinks about it...

Church. Everywhere I turn, it seems that something else about church crops up. This is the latest article which dropped into my inbox, courtesy of a subscription entitled Up Words With Max Lucado. This is what he says:

Open Your Door, Open Your Heart
by Max Lucado
Long before the church had pulpits and baptisteries, she had kitchens and dinner tables. "The believers met together in the Temple every day. They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts" (Acts 2:46 NCV). "Every day in the Temple and in people's homes they continued teaching the people and telling the Good News—that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 5:42 NCV).
Even a casual reading of the New Testament unveils the house as the primary tool of the church. "To Philemon our beloved friend and fellow laborer . . . and to the church in your house" (Philem. vv. 1-2). "Greet Priscilla and Aquila . . . the church that is in their house" (Rom. 16:3, 5). "Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house" (Col. 4:15).
It's no wonder that the elders were to be "given to hospitality" (1 Tim. 3:2 KJV). The primary gathering place of the church was the home. Consider the genius of God's plan. The first generation of Christians was a tinderbox of contrasting cultures and backgrounds. At least fifteen different nationalities heard Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Jews stood next to Gentiles. Men worshipped with women. Slaves and masters alike sought after Christ. Can people of such varied backgrounds and cultures get along with each other?
We wonder the same thing today. Can Hispanics live in peace with Anglos? Can Democrats find common ground with Republicans? Can a Christian family carry on a civil friendship with the Muslim couple down the street? Can divergent people get along?
The early church did—without the aid of sanctuaries, church buildings, clergy, or seminaries. They did so through the clearest of messages (the Cross) and the simplest of tools (the home).
Not everyone can serve in a foreign land, lead a relief effort, or volunteer at the downtown soup kitchen. But who can't be hospitable? Do you have a front door? A table? Chairs? Bread and meat for sandwiches? Congratulations! You just qualified to serve in the most ancient of ministries: hospitality. You can join the ranks of people such as . . .
Abraham. He fed, not just angels, but the Lord of angels (Gen. 18).
Rahab, the harlot. She received and protected the spies. Thanks to her kindness, her kindred survived, and her name is remembered (Josh. 6:22-23; Matt. 1:5).
Martha and Mary. They opened their home for Jesus. He, in turn, opened the grave of Lazarus for them (John 11:1-45; Luke 10:38-42).
Zacchaeus. He welcomed Jesus to his table. And Jesus left salvation as a thank-you gift (Luke 19:1-10).
And what about the greatest example of all—the "certain man" of Matthew 26:18? On the day before his death, Jesus told his followers, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: The chosen time is near. I will have the Passover with my followers at your house'" (NCV).
How would you have liked to be the one who opened his home for Jesus? You can be. "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matt. 25:40 NIV). As you welcome strangers to your table, you are welcoming God himself.
Something holy happens around a dinner table that will never happen in a sanctuary. In a church auditorium you see the backs of heads. Around the table you see the expressions on faces. In the auditorium one person speaks; around the table everyone has a voice. Church services are on the clock. Around the table there is time to talk.
Hospitality opens the door to uncommon community. It's no accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word, for they both lead to the same result: healing. When you open your door to someone, you are sending this message: "You matter to me and to God." You may think you are saying, "Come over for a visit." But what your guest hears is, "I'm worth the effort."
Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. (1 Peter 4:9-10 NLT)
Heavenly Father, you have given me so much—every breath I take is a gift from your hand. Even so, I confess that sometimes my own hand remains tightly closed when I encounter the needs of others. Please open both my hand and my heart that I might learn to delight in taking advantage of the daily opportunities for hospitality that you present to me. Help me remember, Lord, that when I show your love in tangible ways to "the least of these," I am ministering directly to you. As you help me open my heart and hand, O Lord, I ask that you also prompt me to open my door to those who need a taste of your love and bounty. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

From Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 2010) Max Lucado

Sunday, 3 October 2010


Church. What’s it all about, then? This is another post on the same topic. I might be repeating myself. It's a question which is occupying a lot of my waking thoughts.

In the last year we have been attending ‘our’ church less regularly on a Sunday. And no, we have neither been staying in bed, sleeping off the excesses of the night before nor spending the day at the beach.

We’ve been attending a tiny, elderly church. Elderly in every sense of the word, as it is the oldest church on the island.  The congregation on a Sunday morning numbers between 30 to 60, depending on the type of service and the day. In the evening, upwards of a dozen or so. We lower the average age considerably.

So what are we doing?

We became friends with Phil, the rector of the church, a couple of years ago when he and his wife Sarah and 5 children moved here from Kenya – a country we know well, having lived there for decades. We, too, know the realities of culture shock and adjustment to a very different way of life.  We wondered how best to support them, gradually realising – until God’s gentle nudges had begun to feel more like shoves – that we needed to become more involved with Phil’s church.

We didn’t want to ‘leave’ ours.

So we decided, tentatively testing the waters, that we would offer to help Phil with the Alpha course which was due to start. We knew that there were over two dozen people from the church signed up to do it, so he extra table ‘leaders’ would be needed. We thought that getting to know members of St Sampsons this way might be a good start and still allow us to attend services at Trinity.  We asked our home group for a temporary leave of absence , as the group met on the same night. They agreed, though they weren’t too happy about it. We went to see Phil and offered to help. He agreed, though he didn’t seem particularly surprised. We told our own vicar, Jon, what we were doing. He then told us that he had asked Phil how the church could best help. “We don’t need money at the moment, thanks to a generous bequest” Phil replied, “but we do need people.”
“Like Richard and Angie Pollard?” suggested Jon. It turned out that they had had this conversation the very same day that we had realised we could no longer ignore God’s prompting!

So we joined the Alpha Course and had a wonderful time.  Then folk continued meeting to study the course ‘Christianity Explored’.  We are part of the evening group which has up to 14 or 15 people.

The situation is  further complicated as there are two churches in the parish, so on the Alpha Course  we found ourselves in a group with people from both churches. In practice, this means that we would never see some of them on a Sunday unless we alternated churches. It is easy to go weeks without meeting up with people.

This has led us to re-examine what we mean by ‘church’.

In those wonderful ways in which God leads and reorganises our lives, we have had meetings and conversations with many people, ranging from old friends to new acquaintances who we barely know. Gatherings with Christian friends – over coffee, over meals -  seem to lead to the same topic of ‘how do we ‘do’ church?’ without, I may add, any help from us !

We're learning more about what 'church' isn't, than what it is.

Church isn't just about turning up to a building on a Sunday, singing some songs, saying a few prayers, listening to a talk and then going home, forgetting all about 'church' until the next week.

Church is about meeting with people. Yes, after the church service over coffee.  No coffee served? Go to a coffee shop together, invite folk home for a cup of tea...but church isn't JUST a social time. Being 'church', doing 'church''s spiritual, intentional.

Church is about getting to know people, more than just briefly after the service. Because you can't. So church means meeting others at other times than Sundays.  Church isn't JUST a catch-up on the news - and definitely NOT gossip. 'Church' goes deeper than what lies on the surface of our lives.

Church is about getting to know people well, more than as just brief acquaintances. It is about understanding others, appreciating their lives, listening. It is about intimacy, accountability. We have found the best way to do this is to talk about Jesus. What he said, what he did, how he lived, what his friends said about him.  So we study the Bible together. We find out what it means. We wonder how we can apply it to our lives. We talk with each other upon the way, as the two disciples did on the road to Emmaus. And many other dusty Palestinian roads as well.

Church is about spending time. Giving time. Helping one another. Encouraging.


Looking at the Bible in one year blog, I found this beautiful song. Worth listening to.

Monday, 27 September 2010


Rachel Olsen over at Proverbs 31 has a big giveaway I commented this on her blog:
Perfectionism rears its grotesque head in my relationships. I want to get on with everyone, be liked by everyone, be loved by many and have NO CONFLICT WHATSOEVER in my life. I just, quite simply, want all my relationships to be perfect.
Life isn't like that. It's messy. Imperfect.
I just need to realise that...easier said than done. Help Lord!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Church - what's it all about, then?

It’s over a year since we felt we had to ‘leave’ our church and go to help a friend who is in charge of a tiny elderly Anglican parish church. (How we came to do that is a story in itself, but there is no doubt about what we had to do.)

The problem is: HOW?

We began by attending an Alpha course with some of the members – well over two dozen in a church which must number between 50 and 100 regular attendees. We’d go to a service occasionally – usually once a month, when there was an alternative evening service.

Then we joined the follow-up home group. And started to realize we needed to attend services more often. Our friend’s leading is evangelical, focused, alive. The service is Anglican, fixed, intent on ritualized prayers and ceremony.

We’re struggling.

We’ve only really been attending Anglican church services in the last ten years and even then, up to a couple of years ago, they have been more non-denominational in flavor than Church of England. Before that, we worshipped wherever we could, but mostly in non- or inter-denominational settings. Fortunately, we have both been brought up with the rituals surrounding the catholic traditions – both Roman and Anglican – so it’s not so strange as it could be.

But we’re still struggling, missing the liveliness of modern worship. We feel as if we're in danger of shrivelling up.

So now we’re having to reassess what 'church' means, why we go, what its purpose is, or our purpose in attending the services...a major reason seems to be just to keep in touch with people! And yet ‘a sacrifice of praise’ comes to mind. I take comfort in knowing that much of the ritual and liturgy is steeped in the Bible, that the rote prayers we say are the living Word of God and that He will accomplish what He wants through our obedience when we gather to worship him, even if it’s not in a way we feel comfortable with or which feeds our emotions.

It's good to review our faith and what it means in practice - just rather a shock after all this time of 'going' to church as well as 'being church'. We are seeing changes in people, though, which is encouraging - but certainly not new people coming along. It's as if God wants to grow IN people rather than increase numbers. We go to the home group at the vicarage which is every fortnight and now try to be more intentional about meeting up with folk in between as well.

It’s certainly much easier just to ‘go’ to church, rather than work out how to ‘be’ church. But I don’t want to be a ‘tick the box’ Christian. I want to help disciple the dear friends we’ve made this last year. I want to be involved…I suppose that is what ‘church’ is all about…

Saturday, 25 September 2010


I've just read a quite totally inspiring blog entry from Can't Cook a Lick.  I loved this. I'd just been thinking about blogging on honesty, and being real, thinking specifically about how unwittingly I present myself as 'together' on my blog and in my life when in reality there is a lot of mess:  those who I've loved and lost; those I have hurt and have hurt me; those whom I have judged...I could go on. And on.

It's quite hard to live with relationship failure, isn't it?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Simple pleasures

I was so inspired by Rachel Olsen’s blog carnival title ‘Simple Pleasures’ that I blogged immediately on my home page. I thought of so many! But my main focus is a simple pleasure that means a great deal to me – and, I hope, to my friends.

I’ve blogged before about my monthly breakfast meetings. I’m inspired by Hebrews 10:25 (New International Version): Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another… or, as The Message puts it: Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love…

There is nothing that energizes me as much as meeting with like-minded friends round the table, with even the simplest of meals, talking and living with Jesus. I just love ‘God-talk’. Whole-hearted, open-hearted, tender-hearted discussion about what it means to be a friend of Jesus.

So once a month I get up at ‘work time’ on a Saturday. I lay the table with a pretty tablecloth, china, a few flowers, cutlery and napkins. I serve croissants or home-made fruit bread or buns. I cut up fruit, arranging it on a platter. Around 6 – 12 women gather for breakfast. We all have very busy lives and work full-time outside the home. So this is a little oasis for us as we meet for a couple of hours, sharing our struggles as we work out our salvation in our work places. We talk about serving Jesus through serving our colleagues; about prayer; about witness; about being REAL.

Simply a pleasure.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Approaching God.

I have just written a review on Amazon of my friend Lisa's book, Approaching God. I am so proud to know her. I have long envied her lineage of solid Christian family, large home church and extensive Christian network. Yet her life is not in the past: she makes friends continually, loving everyone she meets. This book has arisen out of her involvement with the 24-7 prayer movement.

I still envy her, but in an intensely proud way: I appreciate her many gifts and talents. It's a little like being a friend of Jesus. Hugely beneficial.

Read the book.

Here is a review of it:
'Approaching God'  is a brilliant little book. The warmth seeps through its pages, encouraging us to approach God in prayer. Using a mixture of personal anecdotes, beautiful photographs and relevant Scripture, Lisa Borden encourages us to approach God in prayer as she invites us to consider different aspects of God. We may not have considered God as 'Mother' or 'Artist' before, but Lisa shows us how we may do so, along with more conventional ideas of God as Friend, Father, Healer and Guide. These all help us to approach God in prayer. A great gift for believers of all ages and spiritual maturity.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Challenges for the Working Gal: practising His presence

Everyone knows that teaching is not a ‘proper’ job – we start our day late, finish early and then have all those long holidays... ha ha ha! I’ve had 7 weeks ‘off’ work! Yet I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that I have been busy. My family eat better, the house is cleaner and jobs which have been stacked up for months have finally been done..and of course there has been more time for them.

Yet I am conscious that I have been too busy for God. That, sometimes, ikt is easier to be in touch with God during a busy term than it is throughout the long summer holiday. I know I need to get back to living my life more from the Inside Out – letting my spiritual life come to the fore rather than let my outer life – my thoughts, my emotions, what happens to me – ‘dictate’ my spiritual health. I want to ‘glow’ with God’s presence.

This is REALLY important at work.

Yes, but how can I live more ‘naturally’? ‘Practicing the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence seemed like a good place to start.

Br Lawrence had 6 practices which are, in brief:

1. Find joy in God’s company. Talk to him. Yes, but how?
2. Every action is an opportunity for fellowship with God: for being with him. How do we do this?
3. Everything we do should be thoughtful, considerate and disciplined, done to seek God’s approval. How can I remember? How can I stop being too impulsive?
4. We should stop to inwardly worship God in the middle of our busyness, whatever we are doing. Praising, asking, giving of ourselves, thanking... What effect does this have? (Turning our focus on God turns our focus away from ourselves and we become less self-centred)
5. Believe that God is in our hearts and that he sees and knows everything. Know that our Creator is infinitely perfect: what is the implication of this? (God is just, and we owe him justice in all our thoughts, words and actions.)
6. Recognise where we need God: know our weaknesses. We need to turn to God, worship Him humbly, be honest about our weaknesses and ask for His help. Yes, but how? We know we can’t do it alone, but....??

The Holy Spirit helps us. Mark 13:11

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know how you imagine receiving the Holy Spirit. John 20:22 says:
And with that he (Jesus) breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.” ,and in Acts 1 Jesus gave the apostles instructions through the Holy Spirit.

I had an odd revelation a while back. I’ve never really quite grasped how the Holy Spirit – who is a person, one of three in the Trinity – can be ‘in’ me. If I’ve thought about it, I would have envisaged the Holy Spirit as a little elf or sprite, flitting around my head, whispering good advice. Yet, when I read again recently that the Holy Spirit is a PERSON (yes, I’m a bit slow, need things repeated several times) and that He is JESUS here with me on earth, I now envisage the Holy Spirit as something that I can only describe as like an inner bodysuit. It’s almost as if, in a good way and without ‘taking me over’ the Holy Spirit has landed on me (as you see sometimes in science fiction films where an alien takes over a human’s body!) and then invaded every cell, living in and alongside me as a complete person within me.

And so how can we benefit from Brother Lawrence’s example and advice? He read the Gospels; occupied himself with continued acts of worship and of love, asking God’s help in everything he did. Then he would thank God when he had done it, and confess his shortcomings.

And how did he perceive God’s presence with him? He called it
A simple act or a clear and distinct knowledge of God;
A hazy vision of Him;
A diffuse and loving gaze;
A remembering of God;
A wordless conversation with him;
Confidence in God, the life and peace of the soul...

(from the chapter entitled ‘Concerning the Presence of God’)

Isaiah 57 verse 15 says:

For this is what the high and lofty One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
"I live in a high and holy place,
but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

So my prayer is from Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV)
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Facing up

Facing up to…failure; grief; problems; disappointments
Facing up to…God: turning one’s face up to God

These are Max Lucado's thoughts, from Facing Your Giants

David: David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem: the officers over the tribes, the commanders of the divisions in the service of the king, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of all the property and livestock belonging to the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the mighty men and all the brave warriors.
King David rose to his feet and said: "Listen to me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. But God said to me, 'You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.'

What do you do with the "but God" moments in life? When God interrupts your good plans, how do you respond?

…what about David? When God changed David's plans, how did he reply? (You'll like this.)

He followed the "but God" with a "yet God."
"Yet, the LORD, the God of Israel, chose me from all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever. For He has chosen Judah to be a leader; and in the house of Judah, my father's house, and among the sons of my father He took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel." (1 Chron. 28:4 NASB)

Reduce the paragraph to a phrase, and it reads, "Who am I to complain? David had gone from runt to royalty, from herding sheep to leading armies, from sleeping in the pasture to living in the palace. When you are given an ice cream sundae, you don't complain over a missing cherry.

David faced the behemoth of disappointment with "yet God." David trusted.

His "but God" became a "yet God."

Who's to say yours won't become the same?

2 Samuel 12:18-23 (The Message)
After Nathan went home, GOD afflicted the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and he came down sick. David prayed desperately to God for the little boy. He fasted, wouldn't go out, and slept on the floor. The elders in his family came in and tried to get him off the floor, but he wouldn't budge. Nor could they get him to eat anything. On the seventh day the child died. David's servants were afraid to tell him. They said, "What do we do now? While the child was living he wouldn't listen to a word we said. Now, with the child dead, if we speak to him there's no telling what he'll do."
David noticed that the servants were whispering behind his back, and realized that the boy must have died.
He asked the servants, "Is the boy dead?"
"Yes," they answered. "He's dead."
David got up from the floor, washed his face and combed his hair, put on a fresh change of clothes, then went into the sanctuary and worshiped. Then he came home and asked for something to eat. They set it before him and he ate.
His servants asked him, "What's going on with you? While the child was alive you fasted and wept and stayed up all night. Now that he's dead, you get up and eat."
 "While the child was alive," he said, "I fasted and wept, thinking GOD might have mercy on me and the child would live. But now that he's dead, why fast? Can I bring him back now? I can go to him, but he can't come to me."

Psalm 9
9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.


I’ve been challenged recently that God is the god of small things that become great in his kingdom. It’s very easy to become discouraged when we don’t see change, or it seems that what we do at work is fine but God doesn’t seem to be in it…Yet God sees things differently and I’ve come to realize the truth of Matthew 10:29:"What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head!

Although this passage teaches us that we are so valuable to God, I think it also gives a glimpse of our world as God sees it – EVERYTHING, however small and insignificant, is valuable.

1. And so I think we need to encourage one another to persevere:
Romans 5:1 - 2 Peace and Joy:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a]have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

2. It’s a good thing to persevere: 2 Thessalonians 1:4 – perseverance is praised You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it's a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it's only right that we give thanks. We're so proud of you; you're so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you. We tell everyone we meet in the churches all about you. The Message

3. We gain eternal life. Romans 2:7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

4. It’s part of a growth process, a development of our characters: 2 Peter 1:5-7 (New International Version)

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

The Message says:
So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus.

5. We are told to PURSUE endurance or perseverance
1 Timothy 6:10-12 But you, man of God, … pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

6. We need hope to persevere. Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Steadfast hope, the confident expectation of what God is and will do, gives the capacity to endure with joy. Again, the Lord Jesus is our example and the perfect illustration of one whose endurance was connected with joy and the purposes and promises of God. Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus gives us hope. Keeping focused on him can help us persevere at work, through discouragement as others ignore or make fun of us, or we feel isolated as perhaps the only Christians. God is a great god. Jesus was a ‘small thing’ in terms of the whole universe. God is a god of small, but immensely and eternally important, things.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Graduation and divine appointments

I am often bemused and amused by the 'coincidences' God brings to my life.  Some folk call them 'Godincidences' - I'm not sure, always, that they are that important except that in God's scheme of things EVERYTHING is.  Still...I take note and keep an open heart. Who knows where, or to what, or to whom, I might be led?

J and C's graduation was one such occasion.  Sitting in a restaurant in Norwich, we had been there only a few minutes when a girl approached us.  "Excuse me," she said with a smile on her lovely face, "are you by any chance Cat Pollard's parents, Richard and Angie?"  I was almost too stunned to reply. Were we so like Cat - or she like us - that a random stranger had recognised us?  But no - it was Cat's prayer partner and closest friend Gillian, who had also arrived for graduation the next day. How lovely to meet her.

Then there was the next 'coincidence'.  When J and C first arrived at UEA, we went to visit. Going to church on the Sunday, we met a lad who had also done a gap year - at a Christian outdoor education centre in Scotland run by a relative of my closest friend here in Guernsey. Josh ended up becoming Jonny's prayer partner and shared a house with him for two years.  He also studied in the School of Environmental Science, albeit different subjects from Cat.  So, there he was in her graduating class. And there were his parents - who we did not know, but easily recognised as they eagerly took photos of him - sitting in the row behind us. We wasted no time afterwards in saying hello, discovering more 'mutality' - knowledge and experiences in common, not least in the type of churches we were all attending.  (This may sound obvious - but both sets of parents are now taking part in churches which would not be a natural, or even comfortable, choice.  But that's another story.)

Divine appointments. Godincidences. I don't know.  It just left me with a wonderful feeling of being part of Jesus' family.  And why have I written all this?  Because, even though in many ways they feel like 'one-offs', they are important. Somehow.  And I don't want to forget...

Monday, 19 July 2010


The topic for a recent ladies breakfast was 'Listening to God'.  Hmmm.... a few thoughts:

When I thought about the topic of listening – and I mean listening to God – it was borne out of a desire to be able to listen better, listen more, listen carefully, listen meaningfully – I’d gone through a season of being so busy that I didn’t feel I was really hearing from God. And that was because I wasn’t reading the Bible diligently or spending longer periods – more than just a few minutes – in prayer.
I knew I needed to listen as Mary did, in this story:

Luke 10:38-44 (The Message)   Mary and Martha
As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. "Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand."
The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it's the main course, and won't be taken from her."
A friend has kindly shared her thoughts on this: A common saying of Jesus' time was 'Let your house be a meeting place for the rabbis and cover yourself in the dust of their feet, and drink in their words thirstily'. Gifted teachers of the Hebrew scripture would travel from town to town, relying on supporters such as Martha to provide food and lodging and engaging in discussion and debate with local residents eager to deepen their knowledge of the Hebrew faith. The teacher would sit on a low stool or cushion with his disciples on the ground or mats around him. Being itinerant the visitor would not stay long and so disciples either travelled with the teacher or,as Mary did, grab every possible moment to hear his words.

So the hospitality shown here was a common act of support. However, Martha feels put upon; she gets all uppity and big-sisterish (takes one to know one!); she sees Mary as being selfish – but let's face it, she could have dished up something requiring less preparation and the clearing up? well that could be done once the teacher had left! When an opportunity comes by it doesn't pay to pass it up, it may never come your way again and this visit was short so Mary was determined to make the most of it. Jesus does not blame Martha but instead challenges her priorities. Is her busy-ness really necessary just at that moment? How can her faith grow if she never takes time out to learn?
Another saying was: May you always be covered by the dust of your rabbi (John Ortberg, God is Closer Than You Think p54)
In an amazing way, once I realized I needed to listen more, God has been speaking to me about exactly this topic: listening just this last week! How did this happen?
Friends. Ruth Rouxel mentioned she was giving a talk in church – tomorrow! – about Mary listening to Jesus.
Other Christians. I read an article by Nicky Gumbel entitled Hearing God’s Voice where he talks about listening to God – primarily through the Bible. I came across an excerpt from God Whispers Your Name by Max Lucado in a weekly email I get, where I was reminded of John 10:3 where Jesus says The sheep listen to the voice of the shepherd
Reading and the Bible My reading from Day by Day with God on Thursday was about Exodus 15:26 (The Message) That's the place where God set up rules and procedures; that's where he started testing them.
God said, "If you listen, listen obediently to how God tells you to live in his presence, obeying his commandments and keeping all his laws, then I won't strike you with all the diseases that I inflicted on the Egyptians; I am God your healer."
Spending more time in prayer.
Circumstances! The possibility of having to move, loss of job etc has focused my mind on listening to God and working out what He wants for us!

All of these things are helpful – some more than others. We just need to be sensitive.