Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Beautiful words...

Words can be powerful things..

And when put to music they become even more...

As I lie in bed, just before I go to sleep, I like to unwind with some quiet worship music, listening to the beautiful melodies and thought-provoking words. One of my favourite at the moment is this one...

Oh Lord, you're beautiful
Your face is all I seek
And when your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

I want to take your word and shine it all around
But first help me just to live it Lord
And when I'm doing well, help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to you

Oh Lord, you're beautiful
Your face is all I seek
And when your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me

I love these words. It reminds of God's abundant grace; His eyes on me, ever watching,  seeing everything; His help as I go through life, and how everything I do needs to give the glory back to Him... always. It's a great challenge but also a wonderful worship song. Perfect for reflection at the end of the day...

Jesus Culture - Oh Lord, You're Beautiful 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Appreciating beauty...

There are so many amazingly beautiful things in our world that we take for granted - things we see every day and don't even notice... and yet when others see it they oh and ah in wonder and excitement. I know that in my life, so much time can be spent rushing around and running the kids (and myself!!) here, there and everywhere... that I often miss the beauty of God's creation and the beauty of the places around me. 

So as part of my goal to slow down and smell the roses, I am hoping to take some photos of things I consider beautiful, be it because they bear their Creator's fingerprints or because I just think it's pretty!! 

So my first post is our local park. We have been down at Londonderry Park millions of times - and I do mean millions - from football training, football matches, summer fun on the grass, practicing hockey in the nets or taking the boys to the play park. But I have never noticed what a beautiful place it is. 

The irony of this is that it's about to be closed down for the guts of a year in order to be rebuilt, reorganised and redesigned!! Wouldn't you know I'd pick somewhere like that!! 

These pictures are taken as you go round the outskirts of the park, where they have painted a white line for you to follow and walk/run/toddle along in a loop that measures 1.5 miles from start to finish. It is a truly lovely walk - I haven't tried to run yet!! - and it really made me think more about our Creator as I walked round it the other day. 

Thankfully it's one of my boys favourites places so I'll get plenty of opportunities to walk it before we have to find somewhere new. 

As I walked round appreciating the beauty around me and thanking God for creating such a wonderful world, the words of this song sang out in my head. I love this version - and I make no apologies for it - we sang it in the Regent House Choir so I have it on my ipad to sing along to when I'm on my own!!! :) 

Monday, 28 April 2014

Planning my week...

At the start of the Easter holidays I had hoped to accomplish some goals... Well, we had a wonderful Easter - full of outings, family time, and an extra special treat for me!! - but I didn't get my list done! But I am totally happy with what we did accomplish and the fun the boys had as they relaxed before another term at school. 

So as they boys head back to school this morning, I am determined to get into routine as quickly as possible, and get back on track with my weekly goals. So here we go...

• Intellectually - I was hoping to have reached the end of 'Confessions of a Prayer Slacker' by the end of last week, but I realised I had also committed myself to joining the online study of another book that has been on my 'to read' list forever! We are reading 'Impact my Life: Biblical Mentoring Simplified' by Elisa Pulliam and I am really excited about finally getting to read it. It definitely helps when you are studying it with others and have to stick to a schedule!! So my goal over the next few weeks will be to complete the studies on time, participate fully and finish the book!! 

• Physically - I have definitely been moving a lot more in these last few weeks, with some lovely walks, a lovely Yogalates session and even a bit of. Jillian Michaels thrown in for good measure!! So to help me in this area I have roped in some friends to 'Move in May' with the challenge of doing at least 15 minutes each day. Can't wait to see the difference it makes!! 

• Spiritually - as the GMG Easter programme finished at the end of last week, and they won't be starting again until the start of June, I have decided to use one of the Precept study books for my quiet times this month. I'm going to work my way through Philippians and it's been ages since I did a Precepts study so I'm really excited to be starting it. 

• Socially - I really need to do some work in our house this week, so I'll be limiting my social contact to phone calls, texts and Facebook. I am meeting one friend for coffee at the end of the week and another friend isn't too well at the moment, so I'll definitely be calling in to see her. :) 

Work-wise I also have a couple of goals for this week - 

• To work in the house and start to 'de-clutter, deep clean and decorate' each room in turn. This week I'm starting in our bedroom as it's been used as a 'dumping ground' when we have company and the rest of the house is spotless!!! So there are lots of things that don't belong there!! 

• Ministry wise I am writing a newsletter this week, writing notes to our supporters and of course continuing writing some posts for this and for the weight loss blog - The Wonders of Dieting Together - to encourage ladies in all areas of their lives. 

What are you all up to this week? Do you make specific plans or 'wing it'? I'm definitely a list gal so I love making lists and seeing what I can accomplish!! But I need to remember in all of this, that I can only do it in His strength - my own is severely lacking. So my main aim is to make sure I spend time with Him every day - first thing - and give my plans and goals to Him each day. 
Keep shining xx 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

He is risen!!!!!

What makes my faith different from all the other world religions? It's because it's a PERSONAL relationship because JESUS IS ALIVE!!!!! 

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 
He is not here; he has risen, just as he said."
Matthew 28:5, 6

We have so much reason to celebrate - not only did He take all of my sins and die for me on the cross, FOR ME, but He rose again on the third day. This not only meant He conquered sin, but also conquered death completely. Through His resurrection we are promised eternal life. 

Wow! I just get so overwhelmed thinking about this. New life and eternal life... all because of Jesus. Amazing God... 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

In the waiting....

Today is a strange day. Right in the middle of the Easter celebrations is this day of waiting. In previous years we have used this day as the day we invited our extended family round for an Easter egg hunt for the kids. We had fun, found eggs, ate lots of food and went home! 

But this year I didn't organise anything. Last year it felt.... uncomfortable. It felt wrong to be organising a frivolous and fun activity on a day when the disciples must have felt as if their whole world had just exploded. 

After all, they had taken a step of faith OUT of the religious traditions they'd been brought up in and INTO a personal relationship with this Jesus guy - a man they believed to be the Son of God and their Saviour. Only he went and died - actually died - on a cross. 

What now? 
How do they go on? 
What do they do? 

They were mourning, waiting, wondering how to carry on...
Jesus was dead and buried. 

"Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard."
Matthew 27:59, 60, 66

It struck me last year that surely there is a better way for me to convey this time of uncertainty, confusion and pain to the boys, rather than ignoring it completely and having an Easter egg hunt.

So this year we are doing a couple of things differently. We are going to bake Easter cookies, talking about the Easter story as we go, and we are going to prepare for Easter Sunday - decorating our eggs etc. 

I'll post the cookie recipe later when I take some photos! But this year will be quieter, more thoughtful, remembering...

And maybe next year I'll add in a fast from 3pm on Good Friday until Easter Sunday morning... It's just a thought but I love how it helps to focus me in prayer and meditating on the reason behind this wonderful holiday.

What Easter traditions do you have? 
Keep shining xx 

Friday, 18 April 2014

What's so good about Good Friday?

It's Good Friday... a day that changed the world forever... But so few people even think about it. This year we did.

The boys are all of enough now that we decided that we really needed to take some time to think about the cross. We always did make sure they remembered what day it was and why it was important, but this year we took it a step further. The great thing about family traditions is changing them and tweaking them as the boys grow! 

This year at 2:45pm we gathered the boys around our dining room table, and got their notebooks and Bible out. Hubby read the story of the crucifixion from each of the four Gospels and we talked about the different parts of the story and what Jesus had done for us. 

We talked about the pain, mockery and insults he endured. We talked about the pain of having His Father turn His back because of my sin on His shoulders. We talked about the pain that God felt when He couldn't look upon His Son. 

And we talked about how He ultimately died - for my sin and shame... for your sin and shame.... for people who weren't even a twinkle in anyone's eyes because even our ancestors hadn't been born yet. But He still died for me. 

It was emotional and then to finish it off we went round the table and prayed - thanking God for everything that happened. I have to admit - I cried my eyes out. It was so touching listening to them pray, especially after thinking about what Jesus did on the cross for me. 

Good Friday is over. Jesus is dead. It is finished. Job done. 
The waiting begins.... The trusting begins... And faith comes into play...
I can't wait until Sunday!!!!! :) 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Living out God's love...

So we've talked about making sure we know how much God loves us, and truly understanding His amazing sacrifice for us, and then about how we should be sharing this amazing news with others. And in typical Tanya style we started by talking about acts of kindness that we can do as we go through life to point people to God and give Him glory. Yes - I did kinda get the order a little mixed up!!!

So today, as we think about Easter, I want to look at a favourite verse of mine. 

It's one thing doing a few acts of kindness at various times of the year - be it Christmas or Easter or whatever - but what we need to do is learn how to LIVE OUT GOD'S LOVE. 

So what does it actually mean to live out God's love in our everyday lives? One website I found explained it like this - 

LIVE—This is not some drab and dull experience God is calling us to. It is:  
    L —lively 
LIFE—We are being called to a lifestyle. 
LOVE—It is a specific kind of love—This is God’s love. It is a love that seeks another person’s highest good.

I love this. Life is supposed to be good - we only have one life and we need to embrace it and live it to God's glory. Yes there are trials and tribulations but we need to seek God's glory in it all - no matter what. I, for one, want to live my life where I am thriving, enjoying it and making precious memories - rather than struggling through, only just surviving and wishing it was over already. When we live for God - truly embracing His love and purpose for you - everything we do should point people towards a God of love, of justice and of life.

So if it's not just about doing a few random acts of kindness but living our whole lives for God, how exactly do we do it? I think we need to remember three points - 

1. We need to see those around us like God sees them.
2. We need to love them like God loves them.
3. We need to love on them for God's glory

I think this really changes the way we live our lives, and the first one is the hardest but most important of all. Let me explain. If someone does something against you or annoys you in some way it's very easy to become judgemental and have a fixed opinion of that person from then on. This could and would easily effect whether or not you'd be likely to want to do them an act of kindness. You might think about it but then you'd more than likely think that they don't really deserve it, they probably wouldn't do it to you should the situation be reversed or that they wouldn't appreciate it anyway! 

But when you see people as God sees them, it enables you look beyond your opinions, look beyond your experience of them and see their needs and their heart. Sometimes yes you might still want to think 'ah... no' but that's not the point - we need to see them as someone created in His image, someone He loves and someone who needs Him in their lives. This changes everything. It really does! 

God doesn't want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9) - when He looks down at our fallen world He sees the potential of each of His children - He sees beyond their sin and their shame. He loves them completely (1 John 4:19) - so much so He sent His Son to die for each of them (John3:16) - yes even for your 'mortal enemy'. So when we are living lives of love for God we need to see them with similar loving eyes - seeing past their mistakes or problems to who they really are. Seeing them as God sees them. 

When we see them like God sees them it becomes easier to love them like God loves them - ok so it's not THAT easy lets be honest, but it IS easier and the more you work in this the easier it becomes - trust me on that!! But when we do this we can easily make the transition to showing love, God's love, to anyone around us, and showing them acts of kindness, love and mercy every single day of your life. 

God can do amazing things through us - He chooses to use us and we need to remember what a privilege it is to be part of this great story - but only if we are willing to put away our opinions and pre-conceived notions of people and see them through God's eyes. Then we start to think about ways we can show them love. 

We have the list of ideas we came up with on Monday of course, but there are lots of other small and big ways we can change the world for God's glory. Here's a couple of each - 

• Hold doors for people
• Say thank you to your waitress - it might be just what she needs to hear to feel appreciated
• Write a wee thank you note to someone you have never thought of thanking before
• Put a comment on a comment card to let your fav restaurant know you love it
• Smile at people - even if you feel like a weirdo!!! 

• Join the A21 campaign and look at the 21 things you can do to help
• Donate time or money to a charity or to a nursing home
• Give blood - you never know whose life you might help save
• Visit a homeless shelter or soup kitchen and see how you can help
• Pay for someone's meal at a restaurant/drive-thru

There are such a lot of ways we can show God's love to others - lets really shine for Him this year and help change the world around you!
Keep shining xx 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sharing God's love...

Yesterday I talked about what God's love was all about. The good news of the wonderful gift of His Son - dying and rising again so that YOU could be forgiven. So we know it, and we can show it (doing acts of kindness to point people to God's love) but what about when it comes down to sharing God's love with those around us?

Do you actually know what to say? How to tell your neighbour or your best friend or your husband why they need God in their lives?

I thought I'd put together a little summary of one of the booklets we use for evangelism - Knowing
God Personally. You can find it online here or order the actual booklets from Agape UK here, but here are the basics that we need to know.

There are four main points we need to share when telling people the gospel.

1. God loves you and created you to know Him personally
John 3:16 tells us "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

2. We are separated from God by our sin
Romans 3:23 says "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard."

3. Jesus is God's solution for our sin
1 Peter 3:18 says "Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God."

4. We need to respond by asking Jesus into our hearts
John 1:12 says "But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God."

You all know each one of these, but can you talk about them if asked? Or do you know the verses to back each bit up? It's an easy process to learn and it is invaluable when someone you have been praying for asks you about it. Even my boys learnt it - in their own language!! For now they remember...

• God loves us
• But sin...
• But Jesus...
• Say yes!

Its all about the willingness to let God use you and talk through you as you share His love with others. It is so true that He gives you the words to use and can do amazing things through the simplest of conversations. But we need to be willing to be used by Him.

Imagine this - every single shop in Victoria Square decided that they were going to have a 90% off sale - just for one day, and they emailed you about it. Now you have two choices - you can either keep it to yourself and go and get all the benefits of the fantastic bargains, or you can tell everyone you know and spread the love! With such amazing bargains to be found you'd have to be a very selfish person to want to keep it all to yourself...

But isn't that what we do with God? He is our hope, our rock, our light, our guide, our help, our strength, our power and our comfort. Why on earth would we want to keep Him to ourselves and not spread the word of His amazing love to everyone we know?

So my challenge is to pray and think about someone you can share this amazing news with... Especially now - at Easter... And then make sure you are prepared to go talk to them. And if the thought of evangelism scares the life out of you, have a wee read at this post to see how my thinking changed completely - it's well worth it!

Keep shining xx 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Knowing God's love...

Yesterday I talked about different ideas to show God's love through acts of kindness to those around us. Today I want to backtrack a little. I want to talk about knowing God's love. After all we need to know God's love before we can show it...

It's Easter - the time when we can celebrate God's love, but it's also a time when we can truly get a sense of what loving us cost God. The most well known verse in the Bible is John 3:16. It says this...

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, 
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

When I actually think about this verse, instead of just rhyming it off, it puts chills down my spine. I think it may be because I have sons, but when I think about how God was willing to sacrifice Jesus for me... for my sin, for my shame, for my disgusting secrets and horrible attitudes, for my lack of thought and for my selfish behaviour... I am overwhelmed by His love. One sinless perfect Son of God chose to suffer and die because His Father willed it, in order that I - a sinful selfish disaster - could have my sins forgiven and spend eternity with God. Wow! It is truly amazing. I couldn't give my sons up for anyone - not even to save my own life - yet God did and Jesus, who could have called down a multitude of angels to save himself, chose to die for me. 

That is love. Pure love. For me. For you. 

This Easter why not take the opportunity to think about what really happened. Let this year be the year that you finally say thank you to Jesus and ask God to forgive all the stupid, horrible and daily sins you commit and let Him change your life with His love, from the inside out. 

He died on the cross for you. 
He rose again for you. 
And His love can transform your life from now... forever....

If you are reading this and you want to know more or have a cuppa to ask me any questions, please get in touch. There is no greater decision that you will ever make. 

And if you have already given your life to God, why not take this Easter to recommit to Him, to examine all the things that may have crept into your daily life that you know just aren't right but you let slide because it's easier... Or think about everything you are doing that needs changed, stopped or for you to stand up for your Father. Make this year a year where we unite in recommitting our lives to Him, and start to change the world! 

Keep shining xx 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Being intentional this week...

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:
Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
John 13:34

Today marks the start of our Easter holidays. I love these two weeks because we do such a lot of family time, having fun with our wee family, our extended family, and friends. 

But despite having lots of plans already in place I want to intentional as we reach Easter weekend. It's such an amazing time to remember the love Christ has for us and to share it with those around us. I have lots of ideas running through my head, so I thought I'd share a few ideas I've read recently in regards to showing Christ's love to others. 

  • Make a cake or a tray bake and go to visit someone you wouldn't normally call on
  • Write an encouraging note to someone who had a big impact on your life
  • Take some flowers or a meal to someone who isn't feeling great
  • Think about someone in your life that hasn't met Christ yet. Arrange to have a coffee with them and talk about what the Easter story means to you
  • Take some groceries to a family in need or donate them to your local food bank
  • Ring someone who might need a friendly conversation - eg if you have a grandparent you haven't seen in a while
  • Use whatever your hobby is to bless someone
  • Give a gift to someone you know in need - even better spend some time in prayer asking God who He wants it given to
  • Thank someone for something - eg the postman, the bin men or the man who holds the lift for you at work
  • Send a letter, parcel or something handmade to a missionary or someone in the armed forces living overseas. 

Hope you get inspired to do something not as a random act of kindness but as an intentional act to show God's love to those around you. 
Keep shining xx 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Creating something beautiful...

My mum and dad are just back from an amazing 3 months in Australia, visiting two of my sisters. They had a fabulous time - which I am very jealous about!! - and brought back lots of wonderful pictures, souvenirs and ideas of things they want to try. My mum especially came home with lots of craft ideas that she wants to create and make.

One of these was the idea of knitting a prayer shawl, complete with 'Father, Son and Spirit' prayers or praying 'Faith, Hope and Love' as you knit it. As I was thinking about it I realised it was a great idea - but for me it's a way to keep praying for those I love, those who are working with and those who so faithfully support us. 

So this week I will be starting my very own - unique - prayer shawl and I'll update you when I get something to take a picture of!!! It will be very different to mum's (which I will also post when she's finished) and although I'm thinking about using the pattern above, it will probably look completely different to that too!! I love the idea of having something useful with my hands as I spend time in prayer. It helps me focus, helps me keep going and... it helps me stay awake!!! Yes - I admit that sometimes when I'm praying I have been known to nod off :) But this will keep me disciplined and faithful. And it comes at a perfect time since the book I'm reading right now is 'Confessions of a Prayer Slacker'! 

What ideas do you use to help you have a faithful prayer life? 
Keep shining xx 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The best laid plans....

Don't you just love it when you have wonderful plans for the week ahead and life comes in and makes a mess of them!!! That's what happened to me over the last week and a half! Having four kids definitely makes for interesting plans! 

Well - I started off with my four goals and here's how I got on... or didn't get on as the case may be!!  

• Intellectually - write at least 3 blog posts this week & register for the course I want to do in September - I didn't get my 3 posts written, but I managed to note down plenty of ideas. And I got word that I can register for my course at the start of May so that's all sorted!! 

• Physically - do my two PT sessions & exercise for at least 15 minutes each day (no excuses!!!) - I completed two hour long sessions with my wonderful trainer and did one day extra 15 minutes exercise but I'm afraid that was it :( 

• Spiritually - Easter study (GMG) with memory verse - John 13:14-15 - this didn't happen at all! I did my quiet times but didn't post any of them in our GMG group and completely forgot (yep!!) to learn the verse :(

• Socially - meet 3 friends - one friendship that's old, one that's new, one that's growing... all of which I can talk about things of God and be totally honest with - each one a wonderful blessing xx - this I excelled at!!! One of my friends had to rearrange as it was her hubby's birthday - totally good reason!! - but I had wonderful times of fellowship with the other two!

So you can see we had a fun week! Instead of writing and more in depth Bible studies I had sickness, tiredness and a lost hour which completely messed with my children's sleep patterns! One little hour!! 

Anyway, this week I started off with similar goals and realised I'd forgotten to even posts them, so here are my goals for the run up to Easter. My boys get off school tomorrow for a glorious two weeks of family time :)

• Intellectually - I need to carve out some time to read this week. I am currently re-reading 'Confessions of a Prayer Slacker' by Diane Moody so I would love to have it finished (and studied) by the end of the Easter holidays. 

• Physically - I still need to exercise more so my goal is attend my Body Balance class and try the 15 minutes daily movement... Any kind of movement would be good!! :)

• Spiritually - my goal for the next couple of weeks is to pray more and keep up with my GMG readings. I need to focus more on prayer because I know without Him I can do nothing. 

• Socially - the next few weeks will involve lots of precious family time so I'm not really expecting much time with friends. We have a wonderful day out with each set of grandparents during Easter week which is always good fun and a wonderful day out with good friends so lots of fun and fellowship will be had!! :) 

What are your plans for Easter? 
Keep shining xx 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Decluttering time :)

I love this time of year - when the old is put away, the bleakness of winter is starting to dissipate and new buds and plants spring up all over the place! The old dull days become new, exciting and filled with potential. 

This week I have been starting to spring clean - getting rid of lots of clutter that has accumulated in our house. And there is a LOT of it! Having four boys who take after me - a born hoarder - means we are struggling to decide what is important to keep and what's not. I'm trying to be as brave and bold as I dare... edging onto ruthless!!! The clutter is keeping me from the clean, tidy house I long for - from the haven I hope to design for my husband and children. I love displaying their artwork, but when it comes to them producing four or five a day we have to draw the line somewhere!! Piles of works of 'art', permission forms, letters, toys or clothes are not my idea of a peaceful surrounding. It's overwhelming, confusing and chaotic when it's not under control. 

But so often we can feel the same way in our spiritual life. When we try to do so many things that we end up more confused than blessed... I remember at one stage I was trying to do a Good Morning Girls study, an essay for Bible College, a study on fasting and a book study all in one week. I felt overwhelmed, as if I knew nothing at all and ultimately I felt like a failure when I fell behind. 

As I work through decluttering my house and putting the different rooms back into order, I am reminding myself that while it's great to spend time studying God's Word with friends in a Bible study or read a Christian book together with friends - it is even more important - no - essential - to spend time alone in Gods Word, absorbing what He has to say to us personally. Books, commentaries and bible studies are great, and we need them too, but the best thing is just getting stuck into the Word - just you and God. This is where organisations like GMG or Precepts come into their own - because instead of being based on an actual study book that you have to buy, they teach you to get into the Word yourself. 

Pull back all the clutter that surrounds your walk with god and get back to basics. You, the Word and God. It'll change your life forever! 
Keep shining xx