It’s Good News, people

Andy Hawthorne came to speak at our church today.

Andy is a well-known figure in UK evangelical circles. He founded The Message Trust in Manchester which powerfully works with young people in urban communities not only in Manchester, but across the UK, and now also in Cape Town, South Africa. You can read more about their incredible work here.

I’ve heard Andy speak many times before, and always come away both challenged and inspired. Today was no different. I left church buzzing with lots of thoughts from Andy’s preach, but my one takeaway from his talk was very simple. And it was more a reflection on Andy, than the words themselves.

What struck me was his Continue reading

Saying Thank You

We, like all good parents, are training our children to say “thank you”. It has been interesting to see them slowly but surely pick it up. It started with external behaviour and gradually it’s beginning to become an internal reality. It is becoming something they understand; starting to know ‘why’ they should say thank you, not just doing the ‘right thing’. They don’t always get it right but they are becoming thankful kids, not kids who can just say thank you.

It’s always two steps forward, one step back, and I’m thankful for their progress. But as they’ve matured in thanksgiving a strange thing has happened: it has become more challenging for me. Why? Because it reminds me to ‘practice what I preach’. Literally!

As we’ve trained our kids it’s reminded me again that what I’m training them in is something that needs to be real to me – both inside & out; both mind set & behaviour. God has been helping me to have “thank you” as both an internal perspective and an external posture.

It’s been a challenging but life-giving journey for me. I have had many, many opportunities over the past few years. There’s been times when it’s been easy and a joy to be thankful and times when it’s been through gritted teeth or sheer determination. To “know” something is easy; to believe and live it out through every circumstance is hard. Frequently, over the last season, we have reminded each other that ‘God is good’;  reminding ourselves of who He is, His character, His promise and His good purposes. This has helped a “thank you’ rise in our hearts regardless of our circumstances.

“Thank you” as an internal perspective and an external posture.

thank you, sign, wall, neon, light

It’s easy to try and ‘do it’: to do the right thing or to engage in the right behaviour. But the problem is if your posture is right but your perspective is wrong it feels disjointed, heavy, dutiful and falters when you run out of energy and effort.

I am an external person; it is easy for me to try to do something without letting it penetrate beneath. I’ve found that a good jolt helps me! Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful to be jolted – to be reminded that ‘the One who calls us is faithful’ and that He is bigger than today’s circumstance and that He is the same God, yesterday, today and forever. As I remember Him it puts who I am in perspective.

# Look at the big picture – A leader I respect recently shared that when he’s struggling with a circumstance he stops & steps back and thinks “what will this look like in a week, in a month, in a year and in a decade and how will I feel in a week, in a month, a year and a decade?” It has been helpful for me to set today in context & to change my perspective on today.

# Look to others – Sometimes we don’t have the answers. Sometimes we don’t have the faith. Sometimes we don’t have the capacity and ability to put one foot in front of the other. That is where God’s voice comes through community. It’s where community really comes into its own. We look sideways – not to compare or compete –  but to raise faith and to see God at work. It helps to see others, the way they hold themselves through trial, under pressure or in battle, and to see how God is present and at work in that place with that person reminds me of His presence with me in my circumstance. To be encouraged, uplifted, cheered on by others helps me to keep going, slowly but surely in the right direction with the right perspective.

# Look at what you’ve got – the world pushes us to feel we need more, to know more and to understand more. It pushes us to look sideways at what God is doing somewhere else or in someone else. It’s much more life-giving to look at what we’ve got; to look at what God has given you, what He is doing and where He is at work.

# Look at the bible – I am always struck that the Heroes of the faith written about in Hebrews didn’t receive their prize. Yet. What God spoke to them about and set before them they didn’t receive in full. Yet. We have an opportunity and challenge for our names to be written alongside those great heroes. Those heroes mentioned in Hebrews are not the only ones that inspire faith & produce perseverance in us. We see throughout the Bible many of God’s people who struggled, journeyed and  lived with a ‘thank you’ through all the ups & down’s of following God.

Life is tough. We have various questions, challenges, ‘moving parts’ in our life. We know many people who are struggling at the moment. We know many people who are in pain, are ill or who have loved ones who are ill. In the midst of questions, battle and adventure how do you have a ‘Thank you” that’s secure in your heart and expressed through your life?

Resistance is Futile?

Resistance: I’ve been pondering it recently.

A river will run down a hill to the lowest point in the easiest way possible – with the least resistance. It’s just a natural process.

river2

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are days where I want my life to run down the easiest route, with the least resistance. When the alarm goes off there are some days when all I want to do is hide under the covers, pick the easy life and let life run down the easiest route possible.

But the path of least resistance isn’t always the best one. Anytime we aspire to something that’s greater than our comfort, we encounter resistance:

Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher. So if you’re in Calcutta working with the Mother Teresa Foundation and you’re thinking of bolting to launch a career in telemarketing… relax. Resistance will give you a free pass.”

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

I’m not trying to make a judgement here on telemarketing; that’s not the point.

Resistance comes to me primarily through fear and inadequacy. The little voice in my head tells me “you’re not good enough to aspire to be that, or do that. You might as well just give in now.” Weekly, and sometimes daily, I feel an insidious fear as I face different circumstances or events: I don’t know if that will ever change. But one thing I do know: if I give in to resistance and choose the easiest path I will slowly and surely die.

I’m guessing I’m not the only one who faces resistance – it comes to us all in different guises.

So, if resistance is all around us, what can we do about it? Here’s a few things that help me….

  • Acknowledging it

Recognising resistance, and my natural inclination towards the easy route, is an important first step. If I can’t even recognise when I’m facing resistance I’ll never be able to do anything about it.

  • Remembering my “Why”

What’s the reason I’m doing what I’m doing? When I feel fearful about something, for example, I come back to my “why”, so that I measure the cost (fear) against the gain:

 “Courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.”

Meg Cabot

The judgement that something else is more important is called “vision”: it’s the reason why, despite fear, I will still continue to do something. To rephrase Meg Cabot: “The cautious don’t live because they have no vision to take risks for.”  Henry Ford still threw up before each stage performance, even when he was seventy-five, and when it comes to public speaking it’s a similar dynamic for me. But I continue to do it because my vision is greater than my fear. My vision to encourage others to walk closer to Jesus, is greater than my fear of public speaking. Most of the time……

  • Hard Work: one foot in front of the other

Overcoming resistance takes hard work. When I was training myself to run I always had the literal picture of putting one foot in front of the other. It was simple. But hard.

trainers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One foot in front of the other: that was how I learnt to run. Simple but hard. Hard work is not the same as striving, by the way. When I look at the lives of the early apostles they worked hard; really hard. And they also operated in the power of the Holy Spirit, in God’s grace. Grace is not opposed to effort. If we want to conquer resistance it will take hard work.

  • Finding my “champions”

Continuing with the running example… I’d leave home for a run with Rich and the kids cheering me on and I’d come home to find the same. We can’t do stuff alone; we’re not meant to. If we’re going to combat resistance we need a faithful few who will be our champions. And I also like to picture the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 11; the saints who’ve gone before us who, by faith, finished the race. As we run the marathon of our lives, they’re cheering us on saying, “You can do it. By faith I finished, and you can too. GO ON!!”

  • Knowing my “Who”

All the stuff above is important. But the “Who” is the missing piece. My “Who” is God. It means that even on the days where vision is gone, I’m tired of putting one foot in front of the other, and I’m not sure who’s championing me I am still certain of one thing. I’m certain of who my “Who” is. I’m certain of who my life is for. I fail each and everyday. But each and every day I start again, in His new mercies, to try to live my life as a love offering to Him.

Colossians 1 says:

continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard

The word steadfast here means “loyal”. To be loyal means to be “Faithful to a person or a cause; firmly in alliance to somebody or something.”   Who are we being faithful to? No matter what the cost, or level of resistance I face I will aim to be stable and steadfast for God, putting one foot in front of the other, knowing He is infinitely more stable and steadfast towards me.

The saints in Hebrews 11 fought resistance by faith in God. Abraham, by faith,  left the comfort of home and “made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country.” It would have bene a lot easier for him to stay put. But he heard the call of God, and obeyed.

Those saints met resistance with faith; not faith in themselves but faith in God. And faith always comes by hearing by the word of God, written and spoken (Romans 10:17). When I know God’s word I can step out in faith in response to that.

And in Jesus, of course, we have the greatest example of one who left His rightful place in Heaven and chose the hard path – humbling himself to become babe, boy and man, and then surrendering His life on the cross, overcoming death and sin. It’s His power that lives in me.

As my husband would say……BOOM.

 

 

So how about you? Where do you encounter resistance? What’s your response to resistance?

My Void

Anna wrote last week about The Void. She talked about how in the space she has, with the quiet and echo of silence, she hears God afresh; that the silence and space is a gift to be received not a struggle to survive.

My Void is different. Anna & I have committed to a season where I am travelling for the ministry God has given us. There’s a lot that we do locally & together but the season we’re in also involves some travel that involves me “going” & Anna Continue reading

The Void

Evening comes and three kids have been prayed for and kissed into the land of nod. The dishwasher is emptied and wet clothes hung out to dry. The kitchen floor has been swept. And swept again. And again. Emails have been sent, texts written, phone calls made. Dinner has been made and cleared away.

Rich and I face-time. He’s one side of the world and I’m another. He’s yawning as he starts his day and I’m yawning as I end mine.

And then comes The Space: that time at the end of the day when the husband is away and the kids are in bed and the to-do-list is ticked off.

The Space comes.

There’s no running away or hiding behind jobs that need to be done or kids that need to be fed.

No. None of that. In The Space my comfortable cloak of busyness is hung up. And it’s just me.

And sometimes it feels more like a void than a space. You see, space is roomy and full of hope and potential. But a void? A void is a little different: a void feels empty and barren. A void can feel desolate. It can feel like a never-ending, bottomless pit. It’s unknown.

Thoughts surface and fears begin to rise; those things that would normally be suppressed by the busyness of life. And in The Void I have to face those inner doubts and inner insecurities that can so easily be pushed down by my close friend Busyness, and by the reassurance of a loving husband and friends.

And so I realise that this void that comes when Rich is away is actually God’s grace to me. And when He offers grace to me I’d be foolish to turn it down, though it may seem easier to do so. His grace is to show me how to fill The Void: how to take captive the rumbling whispers in my heart; the lies that are spoken in the darkness.

His grace is to show me how to re-write that script with the words of truth that He gives me.

And so The Void is God’s hidden gift to me. It’s His reminder to me that I am His and He is mine.

The Void is the place where my deepest fears arise, where the storm comes, the wind and the waves howl around me. And The Void is the place where I am reminded that He merely has to say “Be Still” and the wind and the waves obey.

The Void is the place of exchange: the place where I enter feeling fearful and leave remembering who He is. It’s the place where I exchange fear for faith, doubt for certainty, despair for hope and defeat for victory.

It’s the place where I remember His faithfulness to me and to His people. It’s the place where I stand on the testimony of what He’s done in the past, and remember His promises for the future.

It’s the place where I remember that He is faithful.

The Void is the place where I lean in and look for the gain. It’s the place where I remember that my hope, my peace and my identity is not found in Rich, or anyone, or anything, else. Those people and things may be a channel of grace to me. But they are never the source.

A channel merely carries what comes from the source.

And so God’s hidden treasure to me when Rich is away is to gently remind me that it’s His voice that defines who I am.  He reminds me that He fills The Void and takes me into a spacious place filled with expectancy, hope and certainty.


 What’s God’s hidden treasure for you today?