Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christ in us; the HOPE of glory

I’ve been reflecting, as so many have, throughout Advent on what I hope for. REALLY hope for. And though I can list many ‘hopes’, I know that there is really only ONE hope and that is Jesus.
Christ in us the hope of glory.”
The hope of glory. The hope of living in a beautiful, perfect world of ‘no more suffering, no more tears’. The hope of being with Jesus, the most perfect and beautiful man who ever lived. A man who has brought hope and healing to all, whoever and wherever they are.
I’m constantly challenged by a wish, a stirring, a hope of doing more. A deep need within me to grab hold of a life of sacrifice for others because of Jesus. A holy unrest.
But what can I do? I think of a time in my life when I lived more simply and humbly, serving in a rural community in Kenya. I look at my daughter and son-in-law, among others, serving refugees in dark places. I consider my life now – my easy, comfortable, every-day-without-danger-or-inconvenience life – and recognize how my selfishness get in the way of my serving. For who REALLY wants to put themselves out for others?
My ponderings are brought short by a blog from 24-7, where there is a quote from a refugee on Samoa: ‘This complaining will only bring you deeper darkness”.
I ‘complain’ to myself that I’m not sure of my calling. Or I don’t know how to practise it. Excuses and complaints.
I am not in a position to do the ‘big’ things any more (read: at the moment; who knows what the future may bring?) but I can do the ‘little’ things.
Simple hospitality – inviting colleagues to my home; befriending whoever crosses my path; mentoring, sharing what God has given me with others; welcoming the stranger. Taking time.
And as Linda Sourris says in this blog, as she talks about inviting refugees into her home: “So when we open our home, we try most of all to bring them Jesus.
THAT is a calling. To bring Jesus. Whenever, wherever, to whomever.
Jesus. The hope of glory.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


Stewardship  - a charity which encourages generosity - reflects on the wonder of the incarnation and Mary's response in the wonderful hymn of praise she sings.

The reflection at the end caught my eye: 
"Do we sing songs of gratitude when we give? Here is Mary, a young teen, receiving the gift of a son, but with serious strings attached. This was not a child that she would be able to keep to herself; he was to be shared with the world as a saviour, a living sacrifice to reunite us with our God. And Mary sings in praise and thanksgiving."

Not a child she would be able to keep to herself. I have been reflecting on a Christmas without any of our children at home, which is the first time ever. Son at in-laws, daughter also at in-laws on the other side of the world. And, quite frankly, have been feeling sorry for myself, battling sadness in what is supposed to be a joyful season.

But none of us can keep our children to ourselves. They are God's gift to us, gifts to be shared. We rejoice when our children share their lives with a soul-mate in marriage. We are pleased and proud when they make choices to serve others in their work and in their play, giving generously of their free time. We admire our son and daughter-in-law who pour themselves out in teaching children who have had a much poorer start in life. We watch in wonder as our daughter and son-in-law choose to work among the neediest of this world, refugees in a war-torn area.

We have been privileged - for which we praise and thank God - to have had these amazing people living with us for much of their lives. Of course, we are still in close relationship - just not physically present. We do well to remember that we should not expect to keep God's gifts to ourselves, nor is it good for us.

And so we can join in as the Stewardship reflection finishes with a prayer:
"Today, we pray that Advent may be a time for us each to kindle, or rekindle, a spirit of gratitude and praise to God to be evident as we give to and receive from one another."

Gratitude and praise. Simple.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Advent. Fifth Day.

"Broken for me, broken for you..." so the communion song goes as we remember a soon-to-be-broken-on-the-cross Jesus.

This Advent I find myself, also, breaking. But Ann Voskamp has encouragement for the broken us:
"“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
Devotion Graphic
When I feel like we’re drowning in all of life, our daughter Hope and I will go up to the lake and feel the waves pound, sense the serene fury of water.
As the waves break against the earth it quakes the inner cochlear, and there’s nothing else to hear but the breaking. Hope stands there with windblown strands of hair across her face, the electrical energy of each breath of wet, briny air sparking something in her.
“Is there anything lovelier, really, than the way waves keep touching the shore no matter what tries to keep pulling them away?” I lean into her and say it over the sound of the wind, of the crashing surf.
Hope tucks her hair behind her ear, “Love’s like waves — it keeps reaching out, no matter what tries to keep pulling it away.”
She and I stand there in the battering of the elements, watching waves, eyeing how the light catches in water, how the waves move like the earth’s own pulse, like our own heartbeat.
“You know — a pool isn’t like this.” I say it slowly, watching the waves, seeing it for the first time: “It has no power, no life — because it has no breaking of waves … Strange how that is: It’s in the breaking, there is life.”
What did my husband say again and again? “Never be afraid of being a broken thing … Unless a seed breaks, there is no life.”
All down the shoreline, the waves keep crashing and breaking … and living.
Hope slips her arm through mine.
All of life’s losses break us, break through us, scar us. I want them not to. Frankly, there are days I’d like to hide my scars and the jagged edges of my brokenness, days when I wish there were no marks to bear. But if losses don’t leave their mark — how can we say we were ever marked or shaped by love? Scars are signs that show the way we loved.
Hope’s hand rests on mine.
You’re famous for helping; God, give us a break.” (Psalm 79:9, MSG)
Give us a break, God, in the midst of overwhelming stress and the pounding of waves, the storms of life.
And I don’t even realize I’m saying it out loud: “When you’re hit by the breaking waves, break deep.”
You’ve got three options when breaking waves hit, when you feel like you’re drowning.
Either let fear make you run hard — but fear never makes you safe, fear just makes you fall — and fall hard.
Or, fall back on your pride and try to stand against that wave breaking over you — and it will break you.
Or lastly, when you’re hit with a breaking wave — you can break deep. You can break deep into that breaking wave and let yourself be moved by Living Water and transformed and formed by Christ and remade by the rising current of His Love.
The only way through a breaking wave — is to break deep into the wave.
The only way through the overwhelming waves is to break deep into the roiling water and dive into the depths and stretch out both arms through the fathoms and let yourself be made into the shape of a cross.
That’s all there is: You can either be broken by fear or broken by pride — or you can break into the surrendered, cruciform shape of Christ.
Break deep. Break deep, and break free.
I turn to Hope — I kind of feel baptized. She and I — we can face stress, the waves coming from every side, because we can break deep into the wave of whatever comes at us, arms opened wide and choose to live shaped like a cross, cruciform. It feels like surrender. When you choose to break deep into the breaking waves — when you break the surface of the water again — you can feel born again. Remade into the image of Christ.
When you’re in over your head, you can touch the depths of God.
Hope turns to me. “Hear it, Mama? It’s like every crash of the waves is echoing it.”
Break deep — break free.
Lord, when waves of stress rise and threaten to overwhelm, cause me not to be broken by fear of being overwhelmed or by the pride of standing in my own strength. When I feel stress, cause me to break deep — break deep into whatever is coming at me, shaped like Christ, acting like Christ, formed like Christ, broken and given and surrendered like Christ, cruciform like Christ. Cause me to break deep today — and break free. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Ephesians 4:24, “And then take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (MSG)
Longing to live a life that’s fearless of brokenness? Ann Voskamp takes those who carry their own unspoken broken on a journey into The Broken Way — a fresh, authentic way into more time, more meaning, more abundant wholeness — a literal way to shape your days into the abundant life.
Enter to WIN a copy of The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp. In celebration of this book, Christian Book Distributors is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one by Monday, December 5.}
Think of one stress today you are facing. What’s one way you can break deep into that wave, surrendered and living Christlike?
- See more at:"

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Advent. Fifth day.

Thoughts turning towards Christmas. Advent 'calendar' up at school - a puzzle of Nativity pieces to put together, one each day, with a 'good deed' to go along with it.

And a little go at a Christmas song...
In King David’s city a Baby was born
As prophets and sages had said (that) He would be
A King in a stable, in Bethlehem’s dawn
The Good News appearing for you and for me.

The shepherds were eager the glad tidings to share
As angels shone o’er them as bright as the day.
Wise men from the east made a journey with care
The signs in the stars shone to show them the way.

We too, now at Christmas, rejoice in His name
And share in the joy with all those who adore/in accord.
We remember the reason the little Babe came
He is our great Saviour, Christ Jesus our Lord.

And then we look up and we say “Thank you Jesus”
For all you have done and for what lies in store
Your presence is with us, you go on before us
We thank you and praise you for Christmas evermore.

We wait and we wonder with Mary and Joseph
A babe is a-coming, and what will he be?
Messiah, Redeemer, a King and a healer
The Saviour God sent to save both you and me.

A stable is home for the King of all Kings
Born into a family of lowly esteem
Rough men hear the report that the angels will bring
A message to bring them the news of their dreams.

So let us now wonder and go to that stable.
Join in with the shepherds, worship and adore.
Remember he’s with us to love and to guide us
Our saviour, King Jesus, now and evermore.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Advent. Third day.

Struggling this Advent at the prospect of a 'childless' Christmas. Ridiculous, when last year we were all together just before Cat's wedding: son, daughter, daughter-in-law, prospective son-in-law, 'second daughter' (daughter's best friend) and her partner... wonderful.

I find myself almost wishing that Christmas was over, at times. How ungrateful is that?

Hugely. Enormously. SELFISHLY. So I'm focusing, during Advent, on the incredible GIFT we have been given. On the SACRIFICE that God made in sending His son. And on the realization, anew, that this is something I should NEVER TAKE FOR GRANTED.

So today, I choose
Sacrifice over self
Kindness over selfishness
Smiling words instead of complaint
Laughter over sorrow.

Because of Jesus. Because of Jesus. Because of JESUS.  Lord, help me.

Psalm 30:
"I will praise you, Lord!
You saved me from the grave
and kept my enemies
from celebrating my death.
I prayed to you, Lord God,
and you healed me,
saving me from death
and the grave.

Your faithful people, Lord,
will praise you with songs
and honor your holy name.
Your anger lasts a little while,
but your kindness lasts
for a lifetime.
At night we may cry,
but when morning comes
we will celebrate.

You have turned my sorrow
into joyful dancing.
No longer am I sad.
I thank you from my heart,
and I will never stop
singing your praises,
my Lord and my God."

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Advent. First day.

Advent begins today. I can't begin with any words of my own, because Pete Greig's beautiful, lyrical words and The Piano Guys beautiful, lyrical rendering of 'O Come O Come Emmanuel' have filled my heart:

"God of all hope and light and colour, I ask you to come again into the darkness of our world. We need you more this year than ever.
Father God, since you love the world you have made, love us again with your presence. Give us again your son, that the darkness and crying and dying, would be displaced by his unexpected light and love and life.
Immanuel, come quickly to us again. Visit the lonely elderly and those in prison. Be born again in the divided town of Bethlehem. Become a refugee again in the sprawling camps of Lebanon and Greece. Return to rule in the dark streets of Aleppo. Come again to the frightened people of Ukraine, Yemen and North Korea. And please Lord Jesus, would you see my need too? Would you visit my home, my hopes my heart again this Advent?
Spirit of God, you who moved over the primordial chaos and somehow created beauty, create peace again from the chaos of our world. Intercede and groan for us at this time. Fill us with love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and self control. Make us agents of reconciliation. Anoint us again to take Good News to the poor, to proclaim this year - even this year - as the Jubilee of God's favour.
And so we carve you a dirty manger in the darkest corners of our lives today. We prepare a place for the community of heaven at our table - the true altar of our homes. Let the smell of baking bread fill this season. Let the dead red wine begin to breathe before the feast.
I choose quite defiantly to make space in the busyness and perfectionism of this season. It's time to change the dirty sheets in the spare room. In worship we will roll out some kind of red carpet for your reign in the streets where we dwell, we'll prepare a VIP reception in the places we work. We will join with the groaning of creation, praying the oldest, most desperate, most important words the church ever prayed:
Come quickly Lord Jesus.'

And so I pray for God to show me how, in my hectic world of school and gloomy tiredness in the dark of winter, when i find myself secretly longing to be in the clear light of New Zealand for a time, I can do something small which will fill my heart with God's purpose. 

A prayer for a sick girl.
Baking for a harried mother.
Kindness and flowers to an elderly friend. 

Pausing to take in the wonder of nature: sunrises, sunsets, birds in the garden and overhead.

Perhaps my prayer is already answered.

Old Age. Adventure. NoretirementinGod'skingdom.

I heard and read three things this week which got me pondering my contribution to life. The first was from an organisation called Our Daily Bread which gives reflections on a Bible reading plan. It talks about a an ancient lure used to catch trout:

"Fishermen still use this lure today. It is called the Red Hackle. First used over 2,200 years ago, it remains a snare for trout by which we “get the better of them.”
As the years add up, God's faithfulness keeps multiplying.

When I read that ancient work I thought:Not all old things are passé—especially people. If through contented and cheerful old age we show others the fullness and deepness of God, we’ll be useful to the end of our days. Old age does not have to focus on declining health, pining over what once was. It can also be full of tranquility and mirth and courage and kindness, the fruit of those who have grown old with God.

“Those who are planted in the house of the Lord . . . shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing” (Ps. 92:13–14 nkjv).

Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness throughout our lives. Help us finish our lives well in service to You and to remember that old age does not mean uselessness.

As the years add up, God’s faithfulness keeps multiplying."

The second was a reflection and celebration on Jackie Pullinger's life, as she has served God so faithfully and pioneeringly in Hong Kong for the last FIFTY years. It was by Pete Greig, founder of 24-7, He says: "Giving thanks today for this woman whose resilient witness over FIFTY years has impacted millions of lives, including my own. Whilst working with Jackie Pullinger I found my faith, discovered the power of prayer, saw that women can lead as well as men, smuggled bibles, ate dog-meat, chased men in pyjamas through Kowloon, and came to understand God's fundamental passion for justice.

Without Jackie Pullinger there might well still be a 24-7Prayer movement but I'm not sure I would ever have had the joy of being part of it. Thank you Jackie for changing this one life."

And the third was hearing about a very elderly member of my church. When my dear friend Renee went into a residential home, little Margaret Le Page faithfully posted Renee the weekly church newsletter, with a handwritten note of encouragement. Now she herself is in a nursing home, but she prays for the church members and phones them to ask how they are so that she knows more specifically how to pray for them. All she has is an armchair and a phone... and a heart willing to serve the Lord in any way she can.

As Cat and Andy prepare to go to Iraq, serving refugees, I reflect on what I have done for my life to serve God. And yes, I know it's not about DOING but BEING the best person God has designed me to be, but nevertheless.... doing is outworking of being. The most 'Jackie Pullinger' type of thing I have ever done is to teach in a bush school in Africa for a couple of years.  And spend the rest of my life trying to work out how to live better. I said 'yes' to Jesus forty odd years ago and have been trying to work out what that means and how to do it best every since.

So, nearing retirement from paid work in a couple of years, I, as I suspect others of my age do, start to reflect on how much time I have left on this earth and what I can do with it. If I were to die in a year's time, what would I do now?  

Not sure.  But it's good to reflect, be intentional... and not take myself too seriously. As in these videos:

Monday, 14 November 2016

Fear and faith

I've had the opportunity recently to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time. But, in fact, it is I who feel so encouraged by our conversations. It is as if God is graciously reminding me of His goodness and mercy. He reminds me of Scriptures and brings apposite reading to my attention: like this one by Valerie Burton. Here's an extract:

"… Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9b (NIV)

....My anxiety about rejection meant I hesitated to share ideas even when my idea was truly a great one. When it came to saving money, it meant I’d pay more for something even though I knew I could get a better price.

It seems I’m not alone. Research shows that we women tend to underestimate ourselves. As a result, we are more likely to shrink from possibilities, second-guess ourselves and settle for less than what’s possible.

We are also more likely to be perfectionists, so we’ll spend more time thinking about the perfect approach to a conversation or problem but become paralyzed to speak up — fearing that failure is too great a risk.

But here’s what we must remember: We have God with us. God’s Word says, “… Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9b).

It wasn’t until I connected my fear with my faith that I truly had a breakthrough. James 2:17b says, “… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (NIV). In other words, your actions must line up with your faith. This means showing up as though you belong. Speaking up when He prompts your heart’s desire. And seizing opportunities when God places them before you.

Lord, give me courage to step up and speak up rather than allow fear to paralyze me. Grant me wisdom to know what to say when I get flustered. Help me see myself as You see me, rather than through the lens of any insecurities or doubts I may have. Free me from fear that masquerades as perfectionism and gives me an excuse to put off important conversations for another day. Help me become the wise, bold, courageous woman I know You’ve called me to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” 

Sunday, 13 November 2016


Chatting recently with friends who, like I, are going through a course with the Guernsey School of Supernatural Life, about mentors and friendship.  Then came across Scott Saul's blog about his new book 'Befriend'.

And then I read down, read down to a post about success and what REALLY matters. An extract here:
"As I think about these blessings, I am also struck by Jesus’ admonishment to his disciples precisely when their perceived ‘success’ and ‘influence’ was at its peak:

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them…“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:17-20).

Did you catch that?

When the disciples came to him with news of their strength and influence and success, his response was to say, “Do not rejoice.”

Why? Because, as my colleague and friend, Bob Bradshaw likes to remind us often, ninety-five percent of ‘successful’ people end up failing the test of prosperity because, in many instances, there is an inverse relationship between what the world calls ‘success’ and true success. For we are successful only when we have character that is greater than our gifts and abilities, and humility that is greater than our platforms and influence.

When God prospers us for a time, when he chooses to put the wind at our backs, of course we should enjoy the experience. But we mustn’t hang our hats on it…because earthly success is temporary. If and when it comes, it does so as a gift from God and it is also fleeting. Jesus is telling us not to allow appetizers to replace the feast, or a single apple to replace the orchard, or a road sign to replace the destination to which it points. On this, CS Lewis provides essential wisdom:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires (that is, our ambitions) not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (The Weight of Glory)

Here, Lewis reminds us that no self-serving ambition has the ability to satisfy the vastness of the human soul made in the image of God. As Augustine aptly said, the Lord has made us for himself. Our hearts will be restless until they find their rest in him....

... the story of every person who has experienced the anticlimax of having getting to the end of the rainbow and finding that there is not a pot of gold there after all, confirms a universal truth for every human heart:

Only Jesus, whose government and whose peace shall never cease to increase (Isaiah 9:7), can sustain us. Only Jesus, whose resurrection assures us that he is, and forever will be, making all things new, can fulfill our deepest desires and give us a happily ever after. Only Jesus can make everything sad come untrue (credit Tolkein with that one). Only Jesus can ensure a future in which every chapter will be better than the one before (credit Lewis). Only Jesus can give to us the glory and the soaring strength of an eagle (Isaiah 40:31). Only Jesus, whose name is above every name, and at whose name every knee will bow, can give us a name that will endure forever (Philippians 2:9-10; Isaiah 56:5).

Making much of his name is, then, is a far superior ambition than being ‘successful’ or trying to make a name for ourselves. For apart from Jesus, all men and women, even the most ambitious and successful and strong, will wither away like a vapor. “People are like grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Psalm 40:7-8).

Lastly, if this isn’t enough to give us a healthier, humbler perspective on self-exalting, self-advancing ambitions, perhaps this observation from Anne Lamott will:

One hundred years from now?
All new people.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s an important perspective to keep—whether living in plenty or in want.

Let’s do all things through Christ, who alone strengthens us."

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The accidental sinner: Deuteronomy 19

The accidental sinner.  The one who unintentionally becomes a murderer.

God tells the Israelites to set aside three cities of refuge, near enough so that: "the avenger of blood racing in hot-blooded pursuit might  (not) catch him since it’s such a long distance, and kill him even though he didn’t deserve it. It wasn’t his fault. There was no history of hatred between them (the murderer and his neighbour)."  God does this so that the Israelites don't "pollute it with innocent blood and bring bloodguilt upon (them)selves."

God is merciful.  I do well to remember this, I who do not 'believe' in accidental sinner. Brought up to take responsibility for my actions, I have an over-developed sense of guilt when my actions unintentionally go wrong. Guilt which has, over the years, fuelled feelings of shame and blame.  And it is worth, hear, referencing Brene Brown's inspiring work on shame and blame and her encouragement to be vulnerable. As I look at her work, I am drawn to this blog with inspiring quotes from her:
"Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. ~Brené Brown
2. Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough. ~ Brené Brown
3. I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude. ~ Brené Brown
4. A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. ~ Brené Brown
5. Through my research, I found that vulnerability is the glue that holds relationships together. It’s the magic sauce. ~ Brené Brown
6. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare. ~ Brené Brown
7. We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions. ~ Brené Brown
8. Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen. ~ Brené Brown
9. When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible. ~ Brené Brown
10. If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. ~ Brené Brown
11. Normally, when someone we love is turning away from a struggle, we self-protect by also turning away. That’s definitely my first response. I think change is more likely to happen if both partners have common language and a shared lens to see problems. ~ Brené Brown
12. As a shame researcher, I know that the very best thing to do in the midst of a shame attack is totally counterintuitive: Practice courage and reach out! ~ Brené Brown
13. Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think. ~ Brené Brown
14. When the people we love stop paying attention, trust begins to slip away and hurt starts seeping in. ~ Brené Brown
15. First and foremost, we need to be the adults we want our children to be. We should watch our own gossiping and anger. We should model the kindness we want to see. ~ Brené Brown
16. Guilt is just as powerful, but its influence is positive, while shame’s is destructive. Shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement. ~ Brené Brown
17. Men walk this tightrope where any sign of weakness illicits shame, and so they’re afraid to make themselves vulnerable for fear of looking weak. ~ Brené Brown
18. I’m just going to say it: I’m pro-guilt. Guilt is good. Guilt helps us stay on track because it’s about our behavior. It occurs when we compare something we’ve done – or failed to do – with our personal values. ~ Brené Brown
19. Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change. ~ Brené Brown
20. I’ve learned that men and women who are living wholehearted lives really allow themselves to soften into joy and happiness. They allow themselves to experience it. ~ Brené Brown
21. The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows. ~ Brené Brown
22. If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm. ~ Brené Brown
23. In my research, I’ve interviewed a lot of people who never fit in, who are what you might call ‘different’: scientists, artists, thinkers. And if you drop down deep into their work and who they are, there is a tremendous amount of self-acceptance. ~ Brené Brown
24. If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief. ~ Brené Brown
25. Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives. ~ Brené Brown
Let’s push past what is holding us back and live a good life."
All helpful and true and I rejoice that Jesus has forgiven me EVERYTHING. The unintentional sins AND the intentional ones.

And yet - God protects his people who live together in society here on earth. He gives clear instructions for dealing with the intentional sinner, the murderer who plans and plots and brutally carries out harm to others.  They are to be pursued and brought to justice, convicted by the words of at least two or three truthful witnesses. There is to be no summary justice on the word of one accuser.

God is good. He loves us all, bringing order out of sin's chaos and ensuring with his words at the end of the chapter that even the intentional sinner is to be treated with dignity and truth.

God is good. He loves us all.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

God's wisdom.

"God reveals his wisdom, his ways and his will through his word."

When God told his people that they would, eventually, want a king for themselves as other nations did, he instructed them to choose wisely. He then said that the first thing which the king should do was to copy God's words down. "That scroll is to remain at his side at all times; he is to study it every day so that he may learn what it means to fear his God, living in reverent obedience before these rules and regulations by following them. He must not become proud and arrogant, changing the commands at whim to suit himself or making up his own versions. If he reads and learns, he will have a long reign as king in Israel, he and his sons."

True for us too. If we read and learn, we will gain insight and wisdom as we come to understand and worship God more.

This is the benchmark.  As God instructs his people about living wisely, listening to prophets - "If what the prophet spoke in God’s name doesn’t happen, then obviously God wasn’t behind it; the prophet made it up. Forget about him." (Deuteronomy 18: 19) - everything has to be looked at in the light of Scripture. This is because THE LORD is our inheritance. Everything about our lives comes from him. 

Wendy Blight @FirstFive explains: "On its face, this (the Levites being the only tribe not to be allotted land - they were supported by gifts from the others) sounds unfair. But in reality, it was a gift. It allowed the Levites to focus on their singular call to serve the One True God and His people and not get entangled with the worries of the world. The Lord, not land, was their inheritance. (Numbers 18:20) That was enough. They lived by faith in God’s promised blessing to be their share and their portion.
That promised inheritance included providing not only for their spiritual needs but also their physical needs through the other 11 tribes. This provision did not depend on the people’s generosity; it was established by law. These laws required the other tribes to share specified portions of their tithes, gifts and offerings to feed and sustain the Levites.
This same word, “inheritance,” appears in the New Testament in Ephesians 1:18“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”
Paul teaches that just like the Old Testament priests, God has claimed us, believers in Jesus, as His inheritance. He chose us before the foundation of the world, adopted us into His family, redeemed us by the blood of Jesus, indwelled us by the power of His Holy Spirit and claimed us as His own. (Ephesians 1)
Later in the New Testament, Peter identifies believers as a priesthood. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).
And just as God provided an inheritance and physical blessings for the Old Testament priesthood, He provides an inheritance and blessings for us as well. Ours are spiritual blessings.
Spend a few moments reading through and thanking God for these spiritual blessings … the riches of our inheritance.
We are …
Forgiven (Psalm 103:3)
Redeemed (Galatians 3:13)
A new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Created with a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11)
God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)
A temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-176:19-20)"

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Living well. Deuteronomy 16

v19 - 20: "Do not partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you."

Whitney Capps of First Five says: "As the benchmark for what is right and just, God leads, guards and guides his people to act justly."

God is the standard for what is right. And to act justly is a component of right worship and holy living. It reflects humility before God and others - Micah 6:8 says "The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands:
“See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly obey your God.”


Monday, 17 October 2016

Be generous

"When you happen on someone who’s in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that God, your God, is giving you, don’t look the other way pretending you don’t see him. Don’t keep a tight grip on your purse. No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs. Don’t count the cost.....Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God’s, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors." (vv 7 - 11, Deuteronomy 15)

Be kind. Be generous. Be as loving as Jesus who gave his life beyond generosity. Thinking of yesterday's thought and how Jesus took time to slow his life down and notice the moment, I too need to live slowly enough to notice and be aware of others' needs, opening my ears to listen and eyes to see.

Such living is rewarded, not least in inspiring devotion:"But if your servant says to you, ‘I do not want to leave you,’ because he loves you and your family and is well off with you,  then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life." (vv 16 - 17)

I am reminded of the song:

"Pierce my ear, O Lord my God,
Take me to Your throne this day
I will serve no other god
Lord, I’m here to stay
For You have paid the price for me
With Your blood You ransomed me.
I will serve You eternally,
A free man I'll never be."

Such a beautiful song which has remained in my heart for thirty years be devoted, committed to God such that all else - even freedom - is worthless. Just yesterday, there were Walk For Freedom marches in cities in the UK, organised by A21 in its fight against modern day slavery. I can't imagine that any slave today is so well treated that they would wish to remain with their master....

...even then, though slavery was openly common, it wasn't in God's plan but arose out of sin and selfishness. 'Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  (Galatians 6:9)

Keep loving. Keep going.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Giving and giving back

Firstly, long and detailed directions on what - and what not to eat. God's amazing provision to help keep His people healthy, including instructions not to eat anything they found already dead.  Of course, who knows how fresh the meat would be, or if it harboured disease. (A little disturbingly, God said they could give or sell such meat to a foreigner...)

But after that, instructions on tithing. vv 22 - 26 "Make an offering of ten percent, a tithe, of all the produce which grows in your fields year after year. Bring this into the Presence of God, your God, at the place he designates for worship and there eat the tithe from your grain, wine, and oil and the firstborn from your herds and flocks. In this way you will learn to live in deep reverence before God, your God, as long as you live. 

But if the place God, your God, designates for worship is too far away and you can’t carry your tithe that far, God, your God, will still bless you: exchange your tithe for money and take the money to the place God, your God, has chosen to be worshiped. Use the money to buy anything you want: cattle, sheep, wine, or beer—anything that looks good to you. You and your family can then feast in the Presence of God, your God, and have a good time.

The Israelites were also reminded to take care of the Levites, who served God but had no land of their own and therefore no way to support themselves: "That way they’ll have plenty to eat and God, your God, will bless you in all your work."

So I think of tithing, of giving back to God what he has given me. A way of living in mindfulness that everything I have has come from God. I am humbly acknowledging this when I give back to Him by giving money to those who depend on gifts to help others - the Tumaini Fund, Compassion International, Christians Against Poverty, Barnabas Fund, all in their different ways.

Tithing is a reminder of the slow nature of farming, the steady, faithful work, of tending and caring and praying for good weather and waiting and waiting and waiting. Tithing is a reminder to slow the pace of my life down, to stop and pause and give thanks. It is for the purpose of communion with God, to pause to be in his presence. To enjoy life with him, living life in awareness of him.  Matthew Henry says, commenting on these verses: "Contentment, holy joy, and thankfulness, make every meal a religious feast."

Lysa Terkeust in First Five comments: "Jesus echoed what we learned today during His time on earth. He held fast to God's desire for the slower rhythms. Though he drew a crowd, his heart was drawn to individual connection. He rose early to lovingfy linger with his father in prayer. He sought out opportunities to slow down and notice hurting individuals. He longed for intimate conversation with those closest to him while enjoying long suppers."

It's Harvest Festival time. I'm reminded that giving thanks for the Harvest is just that: giving thanks, remembering anew to trust God for life itself.

Learning to trust God with the pace of my life, my place in the world and for him to provide all my needs, in every way.

"Learn to live in deep reverence before God."

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Deuteronomy 13. Serious warnings.

This is a hard chapter. It ends in a familiar way:
"Obediently listen to God, your God. Keep all his commands that I am giving you today. Do the right thing in the eyes of God, your God."

But oh - what comes before. The chapter is full of what must be done by faithful people to the faithless who do not "...follow only God, your God, hold him in deep reverence, keep his commandments, listen obediently to what he says, serve(in him—hold on to him for dear life."

So what was the consequence if they did not do that? Death. 

I'm following this Bible study on First Five and, not surprisingly, there is little comment about the awfulness of the punishment for those who stray into idolatry.  But what there is, is encouragement to hold fast to God and His teachings.

The dire punishments remind us how seriously God takes holiness, His command that we set ourselves apart to follow him in everything.

So "God wants us to know that there are people and things that look good, sound good and even are good that can distract us and even turn our hearts away from the Lord."

We can protect ourselves by reading God's word for ourselves, filling our hearts with truth,  seeking to continually live obedient lives and praying for guidance, sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Some test questions: does this honour God? Is the focus on Jesus? Is he glorified? Does this line up with Scripture and the counsel of God? Will this lead me closer to God or away from Him?

Moses reminds the people of the past and how they were slaves in Egypt. We do well to remember how easy it is for us to be enslaved by sin and wrong thinking and how dire the consequences are. 

Yet, we do not live in fear. Because of Jesus. Back to Romans.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Just do it. Deuteronomy 12

"When God, your God, cuts off the nations whose land you are invading, shoves them out of your way so that you displace them and settle in their land, be careful that you don’t get curious about them after they’ve been destroyed before you. Don’t get fascinated with their gods, thinking, “I wonder what it was like for them, worshiping their gods. I’d like to try that myself.” Don’t do this to God, your God." vv 29 - 31

How much God loves us. Like a parent, he warns his children about the stuff which will do them harm.  Verse 31 says "They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods." and I think of abortion. Of the millions of children who have been sacrificed to the gods of inconvenience and selfishness and What's Best For Me.

Of course, I haven't been in the position of 'having' to choose. I haven't had to exercise the extreme courage it must take  especially decades ago - to face up to an unplanned pregnancy and keep a child. I haven't had to  unexpectedly have my life turned upside down, face the loss of personal dreams, endure the upset from others about my actions.

But this is indeed a warning, of the dreadful way of thinking we fall into when we turn away from god and start to set our minds and hearts on other ways of living.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator..." 
Colossians 3:2 - 9

Just do it. And, as we put God above all else, seeking to obey his commands, engage with others.

Peter Jobes reflects in his blog sixtystadia : "As Christians it is part of our mandate to engage the culture of our day; we must neither avoid it nor embrace it but engage and challenge and shape it. The idols of our time should distress us and provoke us to action.

Part of this is recognising the true value of what we have, and seeing for ourselves that no idol can ever give the fulfilment and purpose that comes from Christ. An idol will consume all of the devotion or dependence you give it and always demand more, never meeting your needs but creating more instead.

We need to open our eyes to the idols in the culture around us and see them for what they are, because only then can we really offer answers to people hurt and broken by the pursuit of them.

Here's how to live a good God life... Deuteronomy 11

vv 8 - 32 "Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land that the Lord swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey.  The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden.  But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven.  It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end."

So, for the Israelites, this is still a reminder that they are utterly dependent on God for their livelihood, as they were in the desert.  Rain comes from heaven and cannot be worked for as a farmer tills the fields, nor can it be made or manufactured.

"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today – to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul – then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your corn, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow – to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him and to hold fast to him – then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. ...No one will be able to stand against you. The Lord your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go.

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse –  the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.... When you have taken it over and are living there,  be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today."

Obey. Obey. Obey.

And obey. Not for the blessing, but because God is God. He is who he is. He is God.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Unlocking Growth

Inspirational speaking this weekend from Michael Harvey @unlockinggrowth. I think I may have misused Twitter in 'tweeting' his words of wisdom and tagging him in them! I ran out of notebook paper so used Twitter instead, but realised after that then it looked as if Michael's words were mine... ho hum, I only have 3 Twitter followers, and two of those are corporates who don't really 'follow' me anyway...

So thought I'd collect all my jottings here:

All the good stuff is on the other side of fear.

It is only in doubt that you can start to have faith.

'Faith that counts is not the absence of doubt but the presence of action.'

Step forward into growth or step back into safety. @UnlockingGrowth 'A dead fish cannot swim' @NairobiChapel 1998

Fear and faith both believe that something that hasn't happened is about to happen. 

Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

What beliefs do we continue to harbour unconsciously that run our lives? 

Success is when we step out regardless of the outcome. Success is one person inviting another person. Success is the prompted invitation of God where the RESULT lies with him.
"Well done good and successful faithful servant."

"If you lower your expectations until they're already met, you'll never be disappointed."


Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

Feel afraid but don't BE afraid. Fear should not be managed but peered into, examined to see what GOD is saying or doing.  God doesn't take fear away but manages it with his present.  


Instead, we need to know who we are: children beloved of God. Our identity lies in him.
Identity leads to action and feelings then result.  If we act on our feelings, then what happens as a result affects our identity.

Violation of our dignity has the same painful effect in the brain as a physical injury: the responses are identical.  (Research from Matthew Lieberman, professor of cognitive psychology in California.) The body remembers what the mind tries to forget. BUT Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted. 

And he referenced my favourite TED talk: Brene Brown's 'The Power of Vulnerability'.