Are you blooming?

Are we sabotaging God’s plan to make us into a beautiful expression of His handiwork…

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One thing I absolutely love about summer is seeing flowers in full bloom. The vibrant whites, reds, pinks, lilacs, purples and yellows, often captivate my attention, causing me to stop, stare, smell, and capture the beauty of a garden’s dazzling flower display on my iphone’s camera. I love the transition from Spring when flowers first begin to sprout and bud, to summer when flowers flaunt an array of beautiful colours. Then comes winter when the flowers shrivel up and die, having done what they were created to do.

I often wonder whether our lives cause God (and the people around us), to stop in amazement, and glory in the wonder of our unique creation. The life cycle of a flower can serve as a metaphor for our lives. Are we in full bloom? Are we doing the things that He has asked us to do? Have we allowed ourselves to be nourished  and fed by the rain of God’s Spirit and His word; like a seed needing the nourishment of sun and water to grow into a blossoming flower?

Are we sabotaging God’s plan to make us into a beautiful expression of His handiwork because we don’t understand the process He’s taking us through, and are not willing to stay the course? Or our we filling our hearts and minds with the filth and garbage of this world, that stunts our growth and prevents us from becoming the people that we were created to be?

Unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, disobedience, fear, sexual impurity, addictions; these are some of the weeds that can attach themselves to our hearts and hinder the process of our growth. Can God boast about us like He boasted to the devil about Job?

“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
– Job 1:8

We were created on purpose for God’s glory, to be put on display for Him. He’s created us to blossom, just like a flower in bloom. Have you ever looked in awe at the wonder of God’s creation? Niagara falls, the Alps, the Grand Canyon? The Beauty of God’s creation serves to point us to Him, and many people acknowledge the existence of God because of the wonder of His creation. Do our lives cause people to acknowledge the authenticity of God?

God also wants to boast and display His power and wisdom through us just like He did with Job; Ephesians 3:10 says –

So now through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God [in all its countless aspects] might now be made known [revealing the mystery] to the [angelic] rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
– Ephesians 3:10 

What has God created us for? As we seek to unravel this, in the working of God’s plans for us as individuals and members of His Church, let’s remind ourselves that all that we are and can ever hope to be, is for His glory to be seen and revealed in us as we yield to His purposes and allow ourselves to become a beautiful masterpiece…just like a flower in full bloom.

Wait!

Waiting seems to be a thing of the past in today’s world. Our microwave society has conditioned us to want everything now! Instant gratification! No one queues or waits their turn at bus Stops anymore, we have movies on demand, instant dating apps, sex before commitment in marriage, drive through restaurants, buy now pay later, we’ve become a bunch of impatient people who don’t know how to wait on or trust God.

My thoughts turn to Joseph, a young man God made promises to in the book of Genesis (Genesis Chapter 37 – 41). God intended to make Joseph Prime Minister of Egypt, but his journey to that destination took him all of 13 years. God had a process that He wanted him to go through before He made Him prime Minister. He was betrayed by His brothers, sold as a slave, accused falsely, thrown in prison, then forgotten, but at God’s appointed time, Pharaoh made Him the Prime Minister of Egypt (exactly as God intended). He was seventeen when God first made the promise to Him.

God’s plans for us are big, His plans are meant to exceed our expectation, but many times we don’t experience the great, because we settle for the less. Anything of lasting value takes time to materialise, especially if it’s authentic and will stand the test of time.

If all you want is a a large instagram or twitter following to give you a false sense of security, a quick fix, or a one hit wonder, then this post may not be for you.

We serve a real King, are citizens of a real Kingdom – Heaven, and God is our Father. He tests our hearts severely because He wants our faith to be genuine, just like gold is tested and purified by fire. He wants our work to be of good quality, to remain, and to be authentic.

Remember, each man’s work will be tested by fire, and God will reveal the real motive behind each person’s work (And the quality of each person’s work will be seen when the Day of Christ exposes it. For on that Day fire will reveal everyone’s work; the fire will test it and show its real quality – 1 Cor 3:13), so don’t be in a hurry, give yourself over to God’s plans and processes and don’t be afraid to let Him take the reigns.

Has He given you a promise of a vision for your future, the promise of a unique business idea to benefit the lives of others, the promise of a great work He has called you to do, the promise of a husband or a child, a promise of healing? Has He asked you to wait? Does it seem as if everyone else is sprinting ahead, but you’re on a slow treadmill? Do you feel as if people have used and taken advantage of you? Does it seem as if what He promised you will never come to pass?

Wait patiently for Him, He’s faithfully working behind the scenes to take you beyond your wildest dreams…

Death as bitter-sweet

Before I lost my husband to a sudden death, I was a self-centred person who claimed to be a Christian, singing songs about God’s love Sunday after Sunday, but living for myself. Unapologetically self-absorbed (who says the selfie tendency only began with the onslaught of social media?)

I lived oblivious to the needs of the people I came into contact with on a daily basis… my work colleagues, my neighbours, the retail assistants in the stores where I did my weekly shopping, the parents at my children’s Schools – they were all faceless.

Had the truth expressed in the songs I was singing truly penetrated my heart? They certainly hadn’t moved me to step outside the realm of my comfortable place. Foremost in my mind was me and my tight-knit family unit. I had met a man who really loved me, who completed our family unit; that’s what mattered most.

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Photo by Fernanda Marin on Unsplash

The shakings of God have a way of  revealing the true foundation that our lives are built on (a bit like having the rug pulled out from beneath you). I can’t say I wasn’t a Christian, but I can say that my faith had scarcely any work attached to it, and like James said in James 2: 14 – 17, ‘faith without works is dead!’ That kind of faith can’t save a person.

That’s why I always refer to this experience in my life’s journey as bitter-sweet. The loss of a husband’s love, the loss of life for the ones left behind is a very painful experience, but when God uses a painful loss to reveal a love that surpasses all loves, the pain and bitterness becomes sweet.

At the point of loss, I was forced to look outside of myself. I had to  look up to the one that I knew was greater than me. I had needs and at that point, nothing earthly could satisfy them.

I  was forced to cry out to the one I had been singing about, and boy did He show up! Oh He had been there all the time, waiting patiently, quietly, hoping to catch my attention, and Bam! In the middle of the storm of loss, I  finally heard His voice… He said, “it is I, do not be afraid” (John 6:20).

I was suddenly alert to the fact that Jesus had been there all the time, but my distracted heart and mind, clogged up by everything earthly and mundane – was desensitised towards God. I couldn’t hear or see Him clearly, that is until the storm raged.

That God loved me enough to snap me out of my slumber and awaken me to His presence was enough to bring me to my knees… God loved me!

And if you’re reading this and you’ve experienced the loss of a close loved one, GOD LOVES YOU TOO. You may not understand how He could, if He’s allowing you to go through the pain of loss, and you may even find it frustrating trying to work out where God is in all of this, but He’s there, in the middle of your storm. Don’t ever doubt it.

Just like the disciples in the boat, the storms of loss of life cause us to become fearful. We cry out to Him saying, “Jesus, don’t you care that I’m hurting, that I’m now a widow”? Questions rise up in our minds that we don’t have answers to, then there’s the practical side of things; “how am I going to pay the rent or mortgage on my own”? How will the children cope without their father? What about my sexual needs?

God is right there, and wants to walk us through the journey of loss to reveal something beyond our imagining to us…

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name” – Isaiah 45: 3

God isn’t talking about money here, He’s talking about an intimate knowledge of God, the one who already knows us, the one who knew us before we were formed in our mother’s wombs (Jeremiah 1:5). Can anything be more precious than that?

There will be tears, there will be pain and confusion (I had my fair share of that), but if we reach out for the hand that God is holding out to us in the middle of our grief and search for Him, we will come out the other side with something more beautiful than anything we could have ever dreamed of…

 

 

 

 

The walking dead

Life happens, and sooner or later we are confronted with the truth about life – Life is a collection of ups and downs, highs and lows, beauty and ugliness. We crave for the ups, we look forward to the highs, but we need to anticipate and prepare for the lows

I led a youth group where one of the young people was obsessed with the series ‘The walking dead’. Whenever I think about that phrase, zombies and Michael Jackson’s hit song ‘Thriller’, comes to mind, but how many of us are walking dead?

My aim here is not to be morbid, but seriously, how many of us are dead on the inside but portraying an exterior of being okay. How many of us have physical life, but no connection with the real source of Life – God?

What are the things that regularly occupy our minds? Love Island, how to look hotter and lose that extra weight, how to make more money, plans for our next holiday, the premier league? Not all of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but if these kinds of things regularly form the basis of our thoughts, I’d say we’re fairly shallow people.

Life can be pretty much superficial, and the media/social media glorifies externals, but are these the things that really matter, that we can cling to when our boats are rocked, or in times of adversity?

The world is constantly moving, and change is inevitable. Technology changes, the world’s climates are changing, we change, our bodies change, no matter how dedicated we are to trying to keep fit or stay young… the honest truth is eventually we die (a subject we are often loathsome to confront).

I’m reminded of a popular Bible passage recited as a children’s song –

The wise man built his house upon the Rock’ (x3)
And the rains came tumbling down
The rains came down and the floods came up (x3)
And the house on the Rock stood firm
The foolish man built his house upon the sand (x3)
And the rains came tumbling down
The rains came down and the floods came up (x3)
And the house on the sand went splat! – (Matt 7:24 – 27)

Now this might seem rather simplistic, but there is a truth that runs deep through this song. Where is our strength, what, or who do we turn to in times of adversity? Answering these questions may help us to gauge our foundation and judge whether we are truly alive. Do we turn to nicotine, cannabis, and the like, or do we run away from the reality and pain of life and immerse ourselves in pleasurable activities; another night out binge drinking, a frenzied moment of sexual pleasure, food porn?

Life happens, and sooner or later we are confronted with the truth about life – Life is a collection of ups and downs, highs and lows, beauty and ugliness. We crave for the ups, we look forward to the highs, but we need to anticipate and prepare for the lows, because they will come.

Who, or what will you turn to in your low time? I have chosen to have God as my foundation and turn to Him, and although sometimes I feel as if I’m wavering, He is my anchor and manages to keep me stable.

 

Merry CHRISTmas

“So here it is merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun”, but what is all the fuss really about? Why are people’s windows decked with lights that flicker, who is Santa Claus, and why is everyone going to be eating turkey and mince pies?

For years I’ve happily done the Christmas routine; ‘decking my halls with boughs of holly’, but this year, as I stared at my rug depicting the smiling face of Santa Claus, I found myself questioning who Santa Claus is, wondering why on earth I venture into my loft year after year to drag out my Christmas tree, why my neighbour’s flickering lights were causing the disco effect on my ceiling and walls, and why a visit to the shops at this time of year is absolute torture; so I decided to carry out some research into the customs and traditions of Christmas.

No one knows the exact date that Christ was born, but it’s suggested that Christmas celebrations dating back to the 4th Century, were an early attempt by Christian leaders to import a pagan festival ‘saturnalia’, into a Christian celebration, after large numbers of pagans were converted to Christianity.

The mention of December 25th as the birth of Jesus, was said to have been linked to the mid-fourth century when a Roman Almanac stated the 25th of December as ‘natus Christus in Betleem Judeae’, meaning ‘Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea’. Other sources say that Jesus was most likely born during the spring lambing season (March to May), when shepherds kept their flocks in the fields, and not in December when it was cold.

In recent years I’ve fallen out with the materialistic side of Christmas; businesses and shops cashing in on unsuspecting customers, many of whom have no idea that the real centre of Christmas is ‘Jesus Christ’, but I’ve cherished the opportunity the season gives to celebrate a saviour who was born, died and rose again to save humankind from sin.

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Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash

‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given’ Isaiah 9:6 -7

Advertisers ensure that during the months, weeks, and days leading up to Christmas, we’re bombarded with enticements to spend, spend, spend; must-have toys, ‘Amazon Alexa’, iPhone XS max, perfumes galore, food items for the perfect traditional Christmas dinner (with all its trimmings), it’s easy to get sucked into the frenzy of it all.

This season, as you do your Christmas shopping, take time out to spend with family, unwrap your presents, and sit around the table for Christmas dinner together, can I encourage you to pause for a moment, and allow the true essence of Christmas to touch your heart… the gift of the peace, joy, and love of God – that’s the true meaning of Christmas…

‘For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life’ – John 3:16

Wishing you a wonderful CHRISTmas!

 

The faith app

I can’t begin to tell you how long it took me to understand what an app was. An app was a world closed to me. Although apps had been around for a while, I just didn’t get it. I even used apps on my iphone; WhatsApp, notes, Guitar Tuna, Bible, but couldn’t grasp the concept of an app, that is until I used a particular App created specifically to take users through a 30 day Challenge (The Nazirite Challenge).

While using this interactive App, suddenly the blinkers came off, and the veil was removed – I got it! I finally understood that an App was an application (small computer program), designed to enable the user to carry out specific functions. During the process of using an App I understood. Living by Faith is like that, you’ll never understand it, or how it works until you take a first step, until you exercise it. You’ll never experience the reality of God, and what He can do until you dare to trust Him.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him – Hebrews 11:6

I never understood who the Holy Spirit was until I cried out to God asking for something more. I believed in God, and had received enough answers to prayer to know that He was real, but I found myself at a point where the shallow experience of God that I’d had wasn’t enough to satisfy the longings of my heart. I needed something deeper, something that all the world had offered me to date couldn’t give. He must have heard my cry, as soon after this, I experienced God in a way that I hadn’t known Him before; an ever-present awareness of God within, being really close to me, calming my fears, and comforting me. It was my personal Damascus Road experience.

God is real! He has the power to transform lives, to heal broken hearts, to repair, to set free, there is nothing impossible for Him, but many of us haven’t experienced the reality of God because we’re not using our ‘Faith App!’ In God’s Kingdom, ‘believing is seeing’; it’s opposite to the world’s philosophy of ‘seeing is believing’.

By default we all have faith in something, even just sitting on a chair suggests that we believe in the chairs ability to carry our weight. What are you putting your faith in?

James Hudson Taylor said –

“How many estimate difficulties in the light of their own resources, and thus attempt little and often fail in the little they attempt! All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them” ~ James Hudson Taylor

Today, as you use the many apps that have become a part of our normal way of carrying out various tasks, can I encourage you to pause and ask yourself if you’ve activated your faith app…

Have an amazing faith-filled day!

 

 

Who’s In Control?

Are you in control of your life? Us humans tend to think we are… I spoke to a passenger service agent at the station yesterday; I was querying a train journey on my oyster card, and while the agent (who seemed tense and curt), checked out my oyster journey history on his handheld device, I felt an inner nudge to tell Him that God loved Him.

Well for the next hour and a half, I was stood in conversation with this guy as he expressed His anger toward this God who had asked me to tell Him that He loved Him. His first response was “Na…don’t tell me that, I’m angry with God!”.

Being the evangelistic type that I am, I told Him that I understood exactly how he was feeling, because I had been mad at God the previous week (I get mad at God sometimes – it’s okay He can handle it!). He said “No, I don’t think you do, I’m almost ready to cross over to the dark side”.

I knew that whatever happened to him must have cut deep. I immediately understood the mannerisms I had picked up, as I initially approached him for help; I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the time, but had sensed that something wasn’t right with him – he seemed tense and awkward.

The muscles of his face were contorted, and I could clearly see that anger and rage had gripped his heart. I can’t go into the detail of the reason for his anger, but because of this anger, his heart was closed to God. The conversation ended with him saying “I did a deal with God – I do what He wants, and He gives me what I want. He didn’t give me what I wanted, so I’m done!”

Frustrated Athlete

Do we trust God’s love for us even when He allows us to go through calamity, pain and hardship?

How do we react when things don’t pan out the way we want them to? Do we turn our backs on God because we didn’t get what we bargained for? Do we give in to frustration and anger? Have we made the mistake of assuming that we’re in control of our lives? Does the world really revolve around us?

Remember God’s response to Job who experienced a barrage of calamities, one after the other –

“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much” -Job 38: 2-4

There’s always a bigger picture, just like there was in the events that played out in the life of Job, precipitated by God’s dialogue with the devil. Are we trusting enough to believe that God has a plan in all that He allows us to experience in our lives? God promised us that all things will work together for good, to those that love Him, and He prepared us for hard times by warning us that we would have troubles in this world.

Don’t despair when you face hardship, remember God told us to be of good cheer ‘because He has already overcome the world’ (John 16:33) – Are you going to believe Him?

 

 

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

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 elevator, 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/