Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Travelling on my knees...

A short poem my mother-in-law handed me today. I love this reminder of how much of a difference our prayers can make, especially when a good friend of mine is about to go back on the mission field. Enjoy :)



TRAVELING ON YOUR KNEES

Last night I took a journey
To a land across the seas.
I didn't go by ship or plane
I traveled on my knees.

I saw so many people there
In bondage to their sin,
And Jesus told me I should go,
That there were souls to win.

But I said "Jesus, I can't go
To lands across the seas."
He answered quickly, "Yes, you can
By traveling on your knees."

He said, "You pray, I'll meet the need.
You call, and I will hear.
It's up to you to be concerned
For lost souls far and near."

And so I did; knelt in prayer,
Gave up some hours of ease,
And with the Savior by my side,
I traveled on my knees.

As I prayed on, I saw souls saved
And twisted persons healed,
I saw God's workers strength renewed
While laboring in the field.

I said, "Yes Lord, I'll take the job.
Your heart I want to please.
I'll heed Your call and swiftly go
By traveling on my knees."



By Sandra Goodwin

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Identity issues...

Today, as I sat down with a cup of coffee to think through some of the things I am truly thankful for, one of my sons tore my heart apart...
 

Next month he has a school trip to a pantomime in our town, and when I asked if he was OK with me offering my help to accompany the class, he said NO. He told me that he'd prefer me to not offer, and that he might be OK if there were other mums there to help too, but he didn't want me to be the only one...
I have four sons, and this was the third one - but this seems to be something that is hitting them all. They think I will embarrass them. They are afraid to stand out and be 'the one whose mum came along'. I have tried to tell them how precious this stage is and how wonderful it is that I am able to come and help out in their classes, but to no avail. They are too worried about their classmates' opinions and mum is not cool. 

It broke my heart to hear my 6 year old copy the words of his big brothers and ask me not to come. I look at myself in the mirror and start asking all sorts of daft questions - Am I too fat? Do I smell bad? Do I do or say things that really embarrass them? Are they embarrassed to be seen with me in my clothes or present state of fatness? (Incidentally when I wrote this the auto-correct turned fatness into fat mess - both equally correct...)

But the truth is that while what he said in his wee innocent voice may have hurt me, it hurt me more because at the moment my identity is found in them and how much I can do for them, instead of being found in God.
 
'But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.'
John 1:12 NLT
 
This was a hard lesson to learn - because it was one I hadn't realised I needed. I thought I had the whole identity being in God thing sorted and I am sure of my identity as a daughter of the King, but obviously my priorities have changed without me realising and I have started to focus too much on who I am as a wife and mother. 
 
I love being able to help out in school - I think I'm a closet teacher!!  I have four boys at the same school for this one year, and I do several things, like helping out at the Scripture Union and with the little ones, but obviously I have to think more carefully about what I volunteer for, and what I say yes to helping at. I don't want to single my boys out for bullies or make them embarrassed by my presence at things, but I want the best for them and I want both to take an active part in their education and to build good relationships with their teachers. It's a tricky balance, but one that is much easier when I rest in the knowledge that I am firstly and fore-mostly a daughter of the King of Kings, and remember that I don't have to try so hard to do things in school to have an identity. 
 
My boys all love me - of that I am sure - but sometimes when I am feeling overly emotional and relying on them to make me feel better instead of turning to God, they can truly break my heart.
 
I wrote this today because I am feeling real and raw at the moment, but also because often it can be easy to find our identity in others rather than in our Lord. When we do this, especially when it involves our relationships, with family and with friends, it undermines our self-confidence, makes us feel good only when people are happy with us and complimenting us, and brings us down when people ignore us or are mean or nasty to us. We need to see that having our identity firmly fixed in Him gives us the freedom to be friends, share our lives with people and to experience the highs and lows that go with that, but resting safe in the knowledge that as daughters of the King, God loved me so much that He sent His Son to die on a cross for me, giving me a life for all eternity that I can only dream about. And in light of that, anything that is said to me today, especially by my innocent wee 6 year old, is just that - an innocent comment by someone who doesn't even realise he hurt me!
 
I pray that we all can rest assured in the knowledge and love of our Saviour, knowing that when our identity lies in Him, nothing else matters! 
 
Keep shining... 

PS - after me writing this and working through my issues, my clever son decided that if I WAS to come with him he might get to have some extra sweets and THAT would be totally ok with him!! :D

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Friendship dipped in love...

Friendship dipped in love. I have to admit to being a little baffled and more than a little scared at looking at this topic. After all, we’re all women and most women have the whole topic of friendship sorted. Right? So I decided to sit and take some time to think through all the friendships I had over the years … and that worked well until, after an hour, I sat in tears crying “I have no friends”!!

Now of course I have friends, but when I thought back it wasn’t the joyous occasions that came to mind but the times when I had been hurt and all the bad friendship choices I had made. Needless to say it wasn’t much of a confidence booster and I began to seriously doubt that I should write about this… until God whispered in my ear – ‘This isn’t about you – it’s about ME.’

I want to start this evening by looking at friendship and at what makes a good friend. The word ‘friend’ is defined as ‘a person attached to another by affection or regard.’ But another definition I found really shows what true friendship is about. It states that ‘a friend is someone who walks in when the rest of the world walks out’.

So what does it mean to be a friend? Earlier in the year I got several texts telling me it was National Friendship Day. I’m so popular!! The texts ranged from ‘Friends are like balloons’
 
‘Friends are like balloons. Once you let them go, you can’t get them back. So I’m going to tie you to my wrist so I’ll never lose you’

 
to ‘Friends are like knickers’

 Friends are like knickers....Some crawl up your bum......
Some snap under pressure... Some don't have the strength to hold you up...
Some get a little twisted... Some are your favourite...
Some are holey...Some are cheap and just plain nasty...
And some actually do cover your bum when you need them to!

But friendship is a lot more than receiving funny texts and having a gossip over a cup of coffee every so often.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to read and that I probably possess a book dealing with whatever problem you’re having or something I have just finished that you simply MUST read!! And of course at the moment we are going through ‘Life Management for Busy Women’ by Elizabeth George. So between her wonderful ideas and the many Scriptural examples, I have a top 5 list on ‘how to be a better friend’.



1. BE LOYAL

The first one on the list is to be loyal. Most people will assume that a friend is someone who will be loyal and stay with you no matter what, but in this day and age that is rarely the case. There is so much gossipping that goes on, from the gossip around a cup of coffee during work, to the Christian gossip ‘wait until you hear what happened to such and such – we need to pray for her’. But a true friend doesn’t ever gossip.

A true friend shows allegiance and devotion. Proverbs 17:17 says ‘A friend loves at all times’ and in Proverbs 27:10 we read ‘Do not forsake your friend’. A true friend in silent. I know – sounds funny – but a true friend will hold each of your confidences to the grave (as long as not an axe-murderer in your spare time!). Proverbs 17:9 says ‘Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.’ This is one of the major attributes of a friend and when broken it can be disastrous. So to be a good friend we need to be loyal – stay true, stay faithful and stay quiet!


2. DO NOT KEEP SCORE

This is another pretty obvious one, but one that I have to admit I have had trouble with! Elizabeth George writes the following in her book.


True friends don’t pay attention to whether or not you return their phone calls immediately, or ever at all. True friends aren’t shaken when time passes and there is no contact. There are no wrong or impure or selfish motives in true friendship. There is no accounting, no game-playing, no tit-for-tat, and no keeping score. Instead a true friend understands and supports your commitments, responsibilities and priorities. They even help you out with them. They delight in praying for you, encouraging you and assisting you as you live for God and others.’

1 Corinthians 13 is the chapter on ‘love’ that is used in lots of wedding services, but it also applies to every other relationship in our lives, and so applies to friendship too. Verse 5 says ‘It keeps no record of wrongs. Can’t get much clearer than that!

 
3. BE RESPECTFUL AND SENSITIVE

One the main ways to do this isn’t something you’d associate with being a good friend. Be scarce!! Proverbs 25:17 says ‘Don’t visit your neighbours too often, or you will wear out your welcome’! That doesn’t mean you don’t spend time together, but today we have so many different ways of staying in touch, from texts, twitter, facebook, email  to hand-written letter sent in the post!

Each of the women reading this have a million and one things going on their life at this precise moment. Being a true friend is to see that, understand that if you are busy then she is probably just as busy, if not even busier (esp. depending on the number of kids she has!!) and to be sensitive to how she precious her time is. I have a friend and when we ring each other instead of saying ‘hello’ we both will ask ‘is this a good time or a bad time?’ And it works! We are both able to be totally honest as to if we have the time for a chat and we can be sensitive to each other and how precious our time is. And neither of us are offended if it isn’t and we don’t get to ring back for a couple of days!

Another good tip is to always phone someone before you drop round – whether they’ve told you to just come on ahead or not. It gives that little bit of warning which can make all the difference!


4. BE AN ENCOURAGER

 One of the most well known examples of friendships in the Bible is the story of David and Jonathan.  What always struck me wasn’t the fact that Jonathan stayed as a true friend to David, despite opposition from his father, but that they had an extra depth to their relationship. 1 Samuel 23:16 says ‘Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.’ We’ll talk about this a little in the last point, but for now, Jonathan was an encourager just when David needed it most.

There are lots of little ways that we can encourage each other. A couple of examples –

·         Make her a meal when someone in the house is sick

·         Offer to babysit when she looks like she needs a night out!

·         Praise her for something amazing she has done – but make it a true compliment and not just flattery

·         Send her a hand-written note with either a verse of words of encouragement in it. A couple of years ago I was on a ladies retreat with the Agape ladies and one of the things we did was write notes of encouragement, praise and identity and slip them into a bag that carried each of the ladies names. At the end of the weekend we each went home with a little bag of blessings to read and re-read whenever we needed a little encouragement. This exact idea may not be practical but you can see the impact a note can make!

·         Pray for her – and even better – let her know you are doing it. It can be such an encouragement to know that someone is praying for you as you go through life.


Elizabeth George’s husband Jim, added a little motto of his to her book.

In every encounter make it your goal that the other person is better off for having spent time with you.

Make sure you are respectful and sensitive to how precious time is especially for us women!

 
5. SEEK TO SHARE GOD ALWAYS

Each of the first four points show us how to be a good friend. But how do we do friendship ‘dipped in love’? What makes a friendship even more special and have even more depth than you ever thought? The answer is simple. God.

Each of us have various relationships and different people that we interact with each day. I just want to look at two in particular before we close. The first is the relationship we have with friends who know God as their personal Saviour and Lord of their lives. When you have two women who both love God and put Him first, it brings such a depth to their friendship. It is amazing how special it is when you can open the Bible with a friend, or pray with a friend, or even just talk about the things of God openly with a friend. It changes the way you have a cup of coffee, makes you more aware of their needs and how you can help them, and makes you the one person in the world who can challenge them when their behaviour or attitude requires it.  We’ve all had friends who have acted in ways that we thought were wrong on occasions, but the friendship that is grounded in God’s love, enables both of the women to come in love and help each other deal with whatever is becoming an obstacle in their lives. It’s definitely not easy, but it is such a privilege to help someone in this way.  And it can even move you to tears!

I am very lucky in my job to be able to study, read and pray with a wide range of women from different areas and backgrounds. But the most special things of all is when I have been able to study and pray with my sisters, my sisters-in-law and my best friends.  One of my friends – probably my BFF – has known me for years and throughout everything still is my friend – no matter what. The exciting thing is that in the last couple of months we have had the opportunity to really read the Bible together and I am so moved constantly at the difference and the extra level it has brought to our friendship. If you don’t already do it – try it out!!!



The second relationship I want to mention is the friendship you have with those who don’t yet know about the true extent of God’s love. This is so important and so many of us miss it completely. If we have friends who don’t know God intimately yet – we need to focus on sharing God with them in every area of our lives. We need to include them in things we do, share our lives verbally so that they have the opportunity to question why we do certain things, and most of all we need to sit them down and tell them the hope that we have in our hearts. After all – you are more than likely to share the news of a massive sale in Victoria Square within two seconds of you hearing it… how much more important is it to introduce them to your Saviour?

I am totally talking to myself here as well. I have a story of regret in this area that I wanted to share with you. For 2 years I was friends with a girl that I did everything with. She lived around the corner from me, so would call round for a cuppa and to watch TV; we went to the gym together; we played football together. But at the end of the two years I realised, as she started to drift off to another group of friends, that I hadn’t taken the opportunity to share Christ with her in a direct way. I mean we talked about my work and Alan’s work, we talked about differences in the Protestant and Catholics churches and things like that, but I had never taken the opportunity to sit down and share my faith – why I believe what I do and what God did for me and her. I could cry when I think that because of my lack of courage and lack of urgency I am no longer in a position of trust and friendship to be able to do that. Please – if this is where you are – do it before it’s too late.
 
So no matter what you do, remember that we are aiming to bring glory to Him and to show His love to those around us, so please, especially in your friendships...
keep on shining... :)

Monday, 12 November 2012

A little act of kindness...

In keeping with looking at our finances, and the joy of having a giving heart, along with that happy holiday that is coming ever so close... I thought I would introduce you to one of the ideas that I have had in mind as a regular feature for this blog next year. 

Random acts of kindness... intentionally with a purpose!!

One of the greatest ways that we can shine for Christ is this world is by the love and kindness that we show to others. Any time someone has done an act of kindness for us, I have immediately asked why... And I have found the same when we do acts of kindness for others. They want to know why we would go out of our way to help them, or spend time with them, or cook for them... And if we can follow that up with the gospel, then it is definitely worth the time and effort it took to do it. 

Now I know that we're all a little strapped for cash, and especially at this time of year, but it is so special when we can find ways to share Christ's love with others, and find ways to encourage our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ even if it is just writing a little note or baking an extra tray of buns or cookies that can be delivered with a note to say 'We're thinking of you today...'

I follow a blog that has taken this to another level, which I love!! The blog is the Lil Light O Mine blog and they are just starting a Christmas focus, full of print outs and ideas of how you can share God's love through random acts of kindness. 

My family and I will be joining in this year, taking an idea every day in December, to keep the boys focus on giving and not getting, and the true meaning of Christmas. And next year, I want to challenge you each week to think of someway you can use acts of kindness, love and compassion to create opportunities to share Christ's love and truly shine for Him.


"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!"
Galatians 5:22-23

So is anyone else planning a few random acts of kindness?
Keep shining...

Friday, 9 November 2012

A little challenge from Colossians...

I know this is a little off topic, but this is what I have been doing this week... I promise we'll get back to the book soon!! :)

Colossians is an amazing little book. I have read lots of verses from Colossians, lots of times, but until recently I have never read the whole of the book and studied it in any depth. What a mistake that was!!

Over the last 8 weeks, as part of the Good Morning Girls programme, we have spent time in the book of Colossians, moving through it verses by verses and really getting our teeth into it. I wanted to write a little about a passage that has changed the way I feel and think about evangelism, and so I am hoping will change my life!

The passage I am referring to is Colossians 4:2-6

"Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.  Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains.  Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be gracious and attractive  so that you will have the right response for everyone." 

In the past when I read this passage I just focused on the 'devote yourself to prayer' part and didn't really look any further into it, since prayer is go important for everything that we do. But the few verses after that really blew me away. 

When I have studied evangelism for work or for personal study, I have always been told to pray for opportunities each day to share God's love. I imagined this involved me praying 'God help me to take the most of the opportunities that You give me today' and then trying desperately not to miss any 'divine appointments' - and spending all day trying to find them! I was also so worried that I'd mess up in some way and put people off the Gospel totally and for life, that I quickly stopped praying the prayer in the first place. This made my life SO much easier. After all, now I didn't have to look for the opportunity or worry about what I was going to say or worry that I was messing up... In fact it meant I didn't have to do anything at all... my whole Christian life...

Can you see where the problem lies?? Not only was I totally opting out of evangelism and sharing my faith with the people I see every day, but I was in fact saying that ideally didn't care that they where going to a lost eternity and that it really didn't phase me at all that they were struggling through life with no hope and no firm foundation with a friend who is always with them no matter what happens... Nope - I didn't care, because life without evangelism was easy.

When I read these verses this last week, I was a little challenged. Just a little. Then I went to Bible College on Monday morning and a little became a lot!! One of our lectures was on lifestyle evangelism, and the lecturer spoke on taking the opportunities God gives you and using them to share His love and bring Him glory. Oops - starting to feel a little convicted that that was effectively what I had stopped doing to make my life easier... 

Then he started to tell us some amazing stories of where God worked through Him to tell everyday people about His love for them. Ok - now I feel as if I am missing out on something big but still have this big worry that its all up to me and I might mess it up...

Then I had an amazing lunch with a girl from Bible College who totally inspired me. She has an amazing story and has a faith that makes me want to know her more - God is so real to her and it amazes me how people can meet her and not know Him. She said something to me that has changed the way I think of evangelism forever. She pointed out that God works behind the scenes in people's hearts so that if we are in tune with Him and take the opportunities He gives us, they are open to hearing what we have to say and they are often ready to just pour our their hearts to Him.

WOW... Every time I hear a story of someone taking an opportunity to share God, no matter where it happens - whether on a bus into town, standing at an opticians or having a coffee with a friend - God has been working behind the scenes, convicting people, touching their hearts and showing glimpses of His love, getting them ready so that someone can share God's love and lead them to Him. 

It strikes me as being the same as part of Esther's story. When the King makes the decree to have all the Jews killed, and Mordecai calls on Esther to help them, he says this -

"If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” 
Esther 4:14 

The fact of the matter was that God was going to save  the Jews - whether Esther chose to help or not. He had already promised them that they would never be wiped out and they had faith in that. Mordecai reminded Esther that God would save them, but by helping them she had the opportunity to be part of the blessing. 

So the question is whether we want to be part of the blessing or not. We can pray the prayer, and take each opportunity that God gives us, and be part of the blessing of leading people to Christ, or we can sit back and do nothing. We will be judged on what we do/don't do.... But it's not even that - who doesn't want to be part of a movement bringing people to Christ and seeing lives transformed!! It still be scary but it is well worth any nerves we have!

So I would challenge you all to read the book of Colossians and think about how we need to pray, go out and take the opportunities and spread God's Word to the world around us. 

Keep shining... 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Our God - supplier of all our needs...

Over the past week we have been looking at the issue of finances and how we can manage them Biblically. I have a little story I wanted to share with you - a story that happened as I wrote the posts for last week and which made me cry!!

As we started going through the posts on managing your finances, my husband and I sat down to go through our own finances. As I mentioned before, we live by faith and have a wonderful team of people who give us monthly and some who give us gifts, to enable us to focus on serving God in our ministry. Well, on Monday we sat down to work through our support and the money that we have coming in. For a few different reasons we had lost a couple of people from our support team recently and as we looked at our expenditure for the next few months (including ministry trips, car repairs, a little thing called Christmas and a few more outgoings) we realised that for the first time in years, we weren't going to make it add up. 

No matter what way we jigged the figures and looked at it, it didn't work. We were going to fall short and something was going to have to give. For me, I don't worry about the monthly financials or the trips, because they always seem to be paid when we need them - I worried about Christmas. Were we going to be able to get our kids Christmas presents and were we going to have enough money to have the family round and feed them? (Sound familiar - did you wonder why the questions seemed so personal last week??)

My husband processed all of this a little faster than me and realised that this was indeed a test of our faith. Did we really believe everything we preached? Did we really believe that God would supply all our needs and Christmas too?

I have to admit that I did worry a little to God and poured out my frustrations and anxiousness more than once at the start of the week, but as the time went on we both came to a place of peace that said yes, we believe in the provider God and yes, we will trust that He has it all worked out. 

On Saturday morning we received an envelope in the post which made me cry. When my husband opened it he passed it to me, not able to speak, which made me even worse!! In it was a cheque for an amount that will see us through our car repairs, our ministry trips and petrol and yes, a little bit for Christmas too.

We had come to the conclusion that our God was big enough to solve our problem and to supply what we needed, but right in the middle of my doubt and worry, God spoke loving words in another's ear, telling her what to do and where to send it. Not only did I have to thank her for her incredible gift, but for faith renewed and wonder and awe restored in a loving God who really does supply ALL that I need. 

I wanted to share this with you because things like this happen every day - you just have to put yourself in the hands of the Almighty, who loves you more than you could ever imagine and who really is there for you, no matter what you are going through. 

And please remember, the next time you hear a little whisper in your ear, take heed and do what it says - you never know the blessing that you will bring to those around you. 

Keep shining... 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

A little money questionnaire...

Here is a little 'test' to have a look at to help you find out how important money is in your life and how good you are at managing it. So have a little go!!

1. Do you think and worry about money frequently?

2. Do you give up doing what you should do or would like to do in order to make more money?

3. Do you spend a great deal of your time caring for your possessions?

4. Is it hard for you to give money away?

5. Are you in debt?

Here this helps you to find your current heart attitude to the money in your life. Tomorrow we will look at the most important tool you have in the fight against the love of money and the fall into debt - learning how to be truly content where you are and with what you have. 
Until then, keep shining...