Streamlined living for creatives

What is it about structure that causes a creative person to feel like a square peg in a round hole? If you’re anything like me; the free-flowing creative type, you have to work extra hard at being structured, organised, and setting goals for yourself, as this pushes you out of your comfort zone. At school I adored subjects like English Literature and English, where my mind was set free to explore and express, but felt hampered by subjects like maths which I found rigid, mechanical and limited.

Creative people need boundaries in the form of goal setting for their ideas, to help keep them streamlined and on track, or they’d end up never creating anything! God may have given us ideas, dreams and visions of what he wants to do with our creativity, but how are we ever going to complete the tasks that God has given us, if we don’t plan for them or set goals?

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Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Yesterday, while shopping for specific items written down on a shopping list, God spoke to me about how setting goals can be likened to shopping for specific items on a list. Have you ever been shopping without a set plan, or an idea of what you were going to buy? I have, many times, and have ended up wasting precious time walking round the shopping aisles, overspending, and coming home with items that I didn’t really need!

 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Luke 14:28

What is it that God is asking you to do? Do you know? Have you got it written down? If God has given you the inspiration for a book, have you set yourself a weekly timetable to impel you to write it? If God has shown you He wants you to be a Forensic scientist, are you ready and prepared to get the training, and put in the necessary research and study needed? Do you want to see God’s plans for you become a reality? Or are you as some say ‘A free spirit?’

As creatives God has called us to walk in partnership with Him. He’ll help us live out the dreams He places in our hearts, but we have a part to play, especially now that we understand He expects us to put checks and balances in place to ensure that His vision for us becomes a reality.

God has the blueprint for our dreams, knows the exact timing, all the other intricacies, and has the overall say, but we need to be responsible to prepare, to research, to pray, to do the practical work, and anything else needed to align with God’s purpose for us.

Dear creative one, we don’t have forever, no more excuses, it’s time to act…

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans’
Proverbs 16:3

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The long shortcut

Recently checking into a Hilton Hotel with a friend, we decided to leave our luggage in the car, and access the reception on the first floor via the escalator which was directly opposite the entrance. We decided to check our room out, and travelled by elevator from the first floor to our room on the fourth floor,  and found that it was situated only a short walk from the elevator, which we thought was great… really convenient.

Minutes later, we returned to the same hotel entrance with our luggage, and noticed that just past the escalator to the right, on the ground floor was another escalator, which we didn’t see previously. We assumed it would get us to our fourth floor room, which was a short distance from the elevator… well we stepped out of the elevator on the fourth floor and ended up having to walk round the whole hotel, through corridor after corridor, to relocate our room! The lift on the ground floor, which we thought was a short cut, ended up placing us at a location in the hotel which was miles away from our room.

How many of us have tried to get to a destination in life, by taking shortcuts that ended up being long shortcuts? The quick fix diet that led to undesired weight gain, the desire to get rich quick that resulted in a prison sentence, the rushed desire to be married that ended in divorce, the desire for sex that led to an unwanted pregnancy and abortion? The truth is THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS IN LIFE.

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Photo by Daniel Monteiro on Unsplash

Proverbs 21:5, NLT ‘Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty’

Life is a process – there is perseverance to be built up, experiences to be had, lessons to be learned, and strengthening that needs to take place, as we’re moulded into the people God has called us to be.

Are we ready and willing to go through the process? Are we patient enough to allow God to take us through His planned routes for our lives?

Be prepared to stick with God for the long haul… remember what it says in Hebrews 6:12 –

‘…we inherit the promises of God through faith and patience’ (paraphrased)  

 

Don’t walk on by

As I stepped onto the bus I knew God wanted me to miss the bus and speak to the guy I had waved at. “If I don’t get on this bus, it means I’ll have to wait a while for the next one”, I thought to myself, but that’s exactly what He; God, wanted me to do! He looked rougher than I’d ever seen him before. I couldn’t disobey God, so I got off the next stop and walked back towards the previous one.

I made sure to keep an eye out for him, I didn’t want to lose sight of him, you’re never sure of God’s reason for making you get off the bus, when all you really want to do is go home and eat the salad you’ve just purchased. I decided that my wants could wait… I also wondered if God could somehow use my delayed obedience.

The above may sound a bit like a story to you, but this actually happened today… I walked back and spoke to this guy, and was given the opportunity to encourage a guy who has been isolated and wrapped up in depression for four years. God gave me words to speak to him that showed Him God cared, I could see this as he swallowed back the emotion that rose up in his throat as I spoke to Him.

Slowly, after I shared with him how God had helped me get through a period of depression, he shared some of his story with me. I thought about the time when God had used someone to encourage me when I was in a dark place, and determined to allow God to use me in the same way. I asked if I could pray with him, and he obliged. It was beautiful to see a twinkle in his eyes and a smile light up his face as we got to the end of the prayer.

He’s coming with me to a fellowship meeting in a couple of weeks time. As I got back on the bus and we waved to each other, I couldn’t help but think about the golden opportunity I would have missed if I had walked on by…

4269100711_794b598fc6_zPhoto Credit: Andrew. W. Rennie
https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewrennie/

The Unadopted

There is a street near where I live called the Unadopted Road, and this morning God made me walk down it. I noted that the roads were untarred, some of the houses semi-dilapidated, and the surrounding shrubbery overgrown. I wondered if the Street name was a reflection of the seemingly meagre resources that it appeared the local council must have invested in developing its amenity.

My thoughts shifted to the physically unadopted, the marginalised, the forgotten. The ones we don’t pay much attention to… the foster children, rough sleepers, the poor, homeless, and war-torn. Many of our lives are not directly intertwined with the lives of the ‘Unadopted‘, and so we  most times forget that they exist. We eat three regular square meals a day, have an abundance of clothes to wear, and most of us have a place that we call home, but how often do we remember that there are others who don’t have these basic necessities that we take for granted?

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Why are we prone to living for numero uno? Our innate selfishness fills our hearts and minds with thoughts of self-centred priorities.

Recently God has brought to my attention the various needs apparent in the lives of the people that live in the community around me, the homeless guys outside the station where I get my train, the guy outside morrisons that constantly begs for money, the lady with the mental health issue at the entrance to the shopping centre – I’ve wondered at the enormity of the task that lies ahead, how can I make a difference? How can we make a difference? Jesus said: 

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

If we call ourselves Christians today, we need to do more than just sing songs about God’s love. We are called to live His love! We are called to be His hands and feet. We are called to make a difference. We need to see what God sees, and have our hearts moved to want to be used in God’s agenda of bringing good news to the poor, and healing the broken hearted. If our hearts are not being stirred towards others, perhaps we have drifted away from the true meaning of what it means to be a follower of Christ..

Lord forgive me for my indifference, and open my eyes today to see the things that you see, and make me sensitive to your promptings, and alert to the needs in the lives of the people around me. Make me willing to be used by you to make a difference in somebody’s life today.

 

Catch me if you can

God speaks to me through the most mundane of things, things you would think were almost sacrilegious, like yesterday morning, when my towel fell off the towel rail in the bathroom, and I caught it just before it hit the floor.

He said to me, “if you can catch a mere towel as it starts to fall, and prevent it from touching the floor, how much more can I, your Heavenly Father, catch you when you start to fall!” That made me think… as insignificant as a towel is, I was able to catch it, in its downward flight, because I didn’t want it to touch the floor.

This set my heart on thinking about loftier things, PEOPLE. Mankind, from all races, all backgrounds, making decisions leading them on a downward spiral – the prison inmate whose choice led to imprisonment, the alcoholic whose habit resulted in a broken home and a fatherless child, the teenager whose one night stand led to an unwanted pregnancy.

Is there no hope for the ‘Falling ones?’ Society insinuates that there isn’t much, by its stereotyping and labelling; ‘Drug addict’, ‘Prostitute’, ‘Failure’, ‘Crackhead’, ‘Wasteman!’

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The ‘Falling ones’

The genealogy of Jesus Christ mentions a young lady called ‘Rahab’ the mother of Boaz, she was a prostitute (Matthew 1:5). The book of James (2:25), tells us that Rahab was made right with God by her faith, which led her to welcome and hide the messengers sent out to spy (Joshua 2: 1 – 16). She became a part of the solution!

Yes GOD can! With the natural eye, we might not be able to see the treasure in the trash, but with the eye of faith we can. With our natural power we may not be able to change a life, but by the power of God, we can be used as part of that transformation process.

No one is beyond the reach of God’s love and power, no matter how far they may have fallen. Let this truth encourage and inspire you today, as you step out into all the ways that God wants to use you to reach the ‘Falling ones’ today…

The Diversion

So a couple of days ago on my way to the train station, my bus suddenly came to a standstill, no warning, no preparation, just an announcement over the speaker that the Bus would be diverted due to an incident that had taken place. The bus was going to meander through back routes, so I thought it best to alight, and walk the rest of the way to the station.

My thoughts pondered on the truth that God always has a plan in anything that He allows to happen in our lives, and wondered what plan He could possibly have in allowing me half an hours walk to the station, and the possibility of a late arrival at work.

Has your life ever taken an unexpected diversion? A sudden tragedy, the loss of your livelihood, the break-up of a marriage, a health scare, a wayward child? YOU’RE ON DIVERSION! GOD’S DIVERSION! 

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Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Now back to my half hours walk to the bus stop, a few yards away from the train station, I looked ahead, and saw to my amazement, a Pastor who had hosted myself and a friend on a mission trip to Bulgaria last year! God had orchestrated my footsteps (via the diversion), to get me exactly where He wanted me to be at that precise moment in time. Without the diversion, that meeting wouldn’t have happened. All I could do was wonder in amazement at the accuracy of God’s orchestration, and what future plans God had in store by causing our paths to cross again.

When God puts you on a diversion, listen up and be expectant! When Joseph was sold to Potiphar in Genesis 39, he was on diversion. That diversion led to him, as an innocent man being accused of a crime he didn’t commit, thrown into prison, and forgotten, but It was all part of God’s plan of preparing Him to become the Governor of Egypt (Genesis 39 – 45).

The diversions of our lives are all for God’s purposes, the best that we can do is yield to whatever it is that He is trying work out in us. He is master, and sees the full picture, the final portrait at the end of the diversion. Don’t be alarmed by the circumstances that you may be facing today, don’t fall into a state of despair, bitterness, anger, or depression. God is at work, and wants to take us in a completely different direction. Let’s do ourselves a favour, and let Him have His way. He’ll open our eyes to see His Divine intent, if we choose to stay the course…

Isiah 43: 18 – 19 “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?

 

For big mistakes

Sitting in a screen print workshop, my eye was drawn to the practitioner wiping away a smudge on an image inked onto the print frame. I had thought that because the creator of this image had marred the design by causing an unsightly smudge, all his efforts to create a beautiful work of art had come to nothing.

But in that moment, as the practitioner reassured her student, and effortlessly wiped away the smudge, God spoke to my heart; “If a print practitioner can fix a smudge on a print frame, I am more than able to fix people’s lives when they make mistakes”.

Have you ever made a mistake, done something that you really wished, and knew you shouldn’t have? I have too. Although we don’t set out in life to make mistakes, no one is immune from making them, and when we do (as long as we don’t give up), it’s not the end of the story.

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Remember King David? A man who was praised in the bible for defeating Israel’s fiercest terror; Goliath. He gave in to temptation, slept with Bathsheba (someone else’s wife), and arranged to have her husband killed in battle. Adultery, and murder! Grievous sins, and not without consequences, but David came to his senses, repented, and God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness restored Him.

If you find yourself looking at your failures, and listening to the condemning voice of the enemy, can I encourage you today to cast your gaze on Jesus; the one who died for you. His word says ‘He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle’ (Matthew 12:20 NLT), in other words, He won’t put you down when you fall, in fact, He’ll help you get back up again. People around you may point the finger, condemn, and criticise you, but God loves you, and wants to restore you.

Jesus said of the sinner woman in Luke 7, who washed His feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair : “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” “Your sins are forgiven.”

Truly you are already forgiven, just believe…

 

 

Jesus spoke a curse?

I never fully understood why Jesus cursed the fig tree in Mark  11: 14, that is until yesterday! Wanting to soak up a rare appearance of the sun, and enjoy the wonder of God’s creation, I embarked on a walk around a park in Greenhithe, Kent, featuring a water fountain. The only thing was, the receptacle emitted one puny spurt of water, which led to me expressing rather loudly that ‘it would be better removed’!

I love water fountains, and expected to be awed by a display of aquatic brilliance, but got a mediocre spurt of water instead! All at once, I remembered the story about Jesus and the fig tree, and thought I knew exactly how He must have felt. Excited at the prospect of eating figs to curb his hunger, on His way out of Bethany; from a tree viewed from a distance (created to bear fruit),  He was greatly disappointed!

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If I could feel like that about a mere water fountain, designed to jet water into the air for decorative effect; how much more angry must God be when His people, created to bear fruit and give Him glory, fail to do so. This biblical scenario in Mark 11, evoked a strong reaction from the lips of Jesus – a curse.

God wants us to bear fruit! How important it is for us to live out the purposes for which we have been created. If God has created you to bring Him glory with your life, and bear Spiritual fruit, why settle for anything less? He’s created us to live victoriously (please note that this can only be achieved in His power – see Ephesians 2:10), to be the salt of the earth, to win souls, use our skills, talents and gifting to point people to Him, and better our generation.

The servant in Matthew 25, that heard the words ‘Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master,’ bore Spiritual fruit. What will the Master say to us when we stand before Him? Will His words commend us for living a fruitful life, or will He be forced to release a curse for ‘trampling underfoot’ the Son of God, and living a wasted life?

The choice is yours…

Everything changes

I recently traveled down to central London on Southeastern trains, and marveled at how much transformation had taken place. London bridge station which has changed so much in the last few years, was being restructured yet again, and passengers were not allowed to alight on majority of the platforms. Trains from my locality don’t even stop at London bridge at the moment.

I marvel at how the fifteen and sixteen year old teenagers that I knew five to six years ago, have transformed into becoming young men and women. Not only have their physical features changed; some have acquired chiseled facial features, and grown beards, while others have become more rounded and feminine, but their direction in life has changed too; some have gone on to College or University, while others have started a family, or entered the world of work or business .

Nothing stays the same, seasons change,  and most of life takes on a cyclical pattern. What does this mean for us as God’s children? It means we cannot stay the same, and I’m not talking in terms of worldly trends, but with reference to God’s changing seasons for our lives. If you have walked with God for any length of time, you will have experienced the movings and shiftings of God, as He moves you from one season to another.

He may have used you extensively in youth work, and then moved you into preaching and teaching, or He may have taken you out of a familiar environment, and planted you overseas in a missionary capacity. We were not made to remain the same. Savour each season and experience, but don’t be like Peter in Matthew 17; who wanted to build tabernacles around his experiences.

Life becomes boring and monotonous when we remain at a stand still and stagnant, and many things can contribute to us stopping the flow of God’s move in our lives, from the fear of the unknown, to adhering to the voice of defeatist thoughts, that plague many a mind of people who are advancing in years. We need to remember what God did with Abraham and Sarah, and they were very advanced in years!

It’s exciting when God takes you into new seasons! There’s the thrill of anticipation and expectation, living out the experience as God intended it; that’s always exhilarating! There’s the blessing of knowing that you’re in the centre of God’s will, and the resultant change in the lives of the people around you, who will benefit from your obedience to God’s promptings.

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It’s time for change

Life has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, but if we’re living out our individual adventures in God, even the difficult times become a thing of beauty, because God always has a plan for every valley that He makes us go through; and He’ll give us an encouragement, a testimony, and story of victory to share with others.

If lately you’ve been listening to whispering lies, telling you that who you are now is all you’ll ever be; do yourself a favour! Get up on your feet and do a dance! Dust off those notebooks and dream journals! Shout out loud, telling yourself and the world, that God hasn’t finished with you yet! Be expectant, there is so much more to come… Truth is, you’ve only just begun.

Season’s change

It’s the 7th of February today, but looking at the Christmas decorations hanging loosely outside the house I walked past last week, or the Christmas decorations still sprawled across the isles at my local Walkaround store, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Christmas was exactly 44 days ago, time has moved on; we’re in a new year, a new season, and a new month. Things have changed, Trump has been sworn in as the new President of the United States, Venus Williams was a semi-finalist at this year’s Australian open, and the courts ruled that the British government couldn’t trigger Article 50  without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so.

Do we know what season it is in our lives, or are we clueless of the changing life experiences that God is presenting to us? Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a season and a time for everything that takes place in our lives, there is:

‘A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep , and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace’ – Ecclesiastes 3:2 ESV

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Are you in a season of rest, or a season of battle? Is it a time of testing or a time of for productivity and exploits? Knowing God’s timing in our lives, is a prerequisite for us following and fulfilling the plans and purposes that God has for our lives as His children. God may want to start to stretch and grow you, or place greater responsibility for certain aspects of His Kingdom into your hands, or He may want you to spend an extended time of intimacy with Him to equip you with the power that you need to fulfil a new assignment that He is getting ready to give you.

The key is to be clued up and tuned in to the supernatural dimensions of life in the Spirit, we can’t go through life in oblivion to the workings of God’s hand upon our lives. I remember a specific time in my life, when God was preparing me for one of the greatest battles of my life, I sensed something intuitively in the Spirit, but didn’t quite know what it was. I was drawn to seek God more, worship more, and found myself being woken up at a similar time each night. God was vying for my attention. Just before the onset of this particular battle, God woke me up early one morning and gave me a song, it was Psalm 23 sung by Juanita Bynum in a minor key; it was an introduction to God’s next season for my life.

God is so close, if only we would key into the realms of the Spirit that He has freely provided for us, we would never walk alone, we would be alert and prepared for every season that God would seek to take us through, we would never need to be afraid… Can I encourage us today to be like the sons of Issachar that were aware of the times and seasons and knew what exactly what Israel ought to do?