Month: November 2016

A park bench, me and God

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It’s so easy to see God as distant or judge-y, or both. When I’m slogging through a challenging day, it doesn’t feel like He’s nearby, or even very happy with me.

Which is why I enjoyed this verse so much this week:

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

Romans 8:15 NLT

In reality, God is not distant. He is not judge-y.

In reality, He is the best ‘Daddy ‘ (the translation of ‘Abba ‘) that ever existed.

Is that how we really see him? Or do we need to pray that we see him for what he really is?

I listened to speaker Allen Arnold this week, who described a joyful friend of his. This man said every day he pictured a park bench, with both him and God sitting on it.

They didn’t have to talk. He just spent every day, mentally in God’s presence.

I loved that story. It reminded me of my dance floor.

God is here, right now. Next to me. Next to you. Ready to spend some quality time together.

You don’t have to talk. You don’t have to do anything.

You just have to be, and let his love soak in.

Six lessons that changed my life in the last three years

This month, it’s been three years since I started this blog, and I am such a different person to what I was back then.
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I’ve been scanning over my posts, reflecting on what God’s been doing in my life. And while I am very much still a work in progress, I feel like he’s taken a person bound up in guilt, fear and worry, and set me free to be the person He made me to be.
Not that I don’t still struggle with all those things. I do.
But only one-tenth the amount that I did when I was 22, this time three years ago.
So here’s my top major changes since November 2013.

God taught me I didn’t need to be terrified that He had something He wanted me to do, but I was missing it

I always wondered if I was in the right job, the right ministry, living in the right place. Any time I had to make a decision, I felt that it would be the wrong one either way. I was certain I was doing things wrong, disappointing God, but I couldn’t figure out how.
In this blog post, I shared how the whole year of 2014 taught me that God will convict me if something needs to change, but never condemn me, and he doesn’t speak quietly in a corner. And, most of all, He loves me.

God taught me that my feeling that He wasn’t using my life for anything that mattered eternally wasn’t true

I struggled for years, because people talked about the power of God changing people, but it seemed that I never saw it.
I see now that was probably due to a number of factors. I’ve also now seen that God’s eternal purposes are fulfilled when I’m obedient, whether I can see anything amazing happening or not. A big part of this has come through the lessons I’ve learned in being a part of a now almost two-year-old church plant. But another major lesson came from Daisy, whose faithful life was lived in isolation for 50 years, yet it brings so much glory to God. Which leads me to another lesson…

God taught me how to trust

I always struggled to understand trust, because saying ‘trust God’ doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen. But Daisy’s  testimony showed me that trust is about believing that God is with you, loves you, and will use your life for His glory, no matter what happens.

God taught me to take a step of faith

In mid-2015, I had three chapters of a second-draft manuscript and a 10 week deadline before I went to an American writing conference. That meant I had to write 60,000 words and put together my book proposal in 10 weeks. The last time I tried something half that difficult, I completely burnt out.
But before I could even start writing, I had to go lead at a Christian youth camp. I was in turmoil for much of the week, about many things, as well as writing. And while we were listening to the song ‘Oceans’, I heard that quiet voice in my head say, “You can stay in this place forever, or you can step out in faith. We have bigger fish to fry.”
I decided to step out. I had to cancel everything in my life except working, eating, sleeping and writing. Every morning I woke up and thought, “I can’t do this again today”. Then I’d have a shower, listen to ‘Oceans’, pray, and go out and do it again.
Ten weeks later I went to the conference with a finished manuscript and a proposal. It didn’t even matter if I had a successful conference – we’d done it! God had sustained me through something I never thought I could do.
(And I did end up having a very successful conference. 😃 )

God taught me not to wrap my identity up in things other than Him, like my job or writing

I have no anecdote for this one, other than to say it’s been a 3 year process (which will probably continue till the day I die) of unwinding my identity from things that are not God.
But the less I depend on things like my financial security, writing career, an interesting job, or relationship status, the more secure I feel in God. I can think of nothing more beautiful than a person who has their identity 100% in God.

God helped me to forgive, especially the church

In the space of 5 years I watched two churches I was involved in fall apart, plus a number of other painful events involving other Christians. And though I knew that I had resentment against the church as an institution, I didn’t know how much until I became a church leader at the beginning of this year.
I love my current church, and the people in it. They had nothing to do with the painful incidents of the past.
But I had so much anger inside at the church as a whole. I thought I’d forgiven those people from before, when a quiet voice in my head said, “Say it”.
And, lying in bed, when I went to whisper, “I forgive–” the words stuck in my throat when I reached the name.
I couldn’t physically say it.
And then I realised that I had a serious problem.
So, I prayed. About all of it. And I had to say, aloud, “God, this person doesn’t deserve forgiveness. But neither did I, and you forgave me. So because of what you did, I forgive XXXX.”
And 99% of that anger and resentment melted away.
I’ll be honest, 1% raises its ugly head from time to time. So I pray the prayer again, and again, and again. And each time, it works a little better.
So, there you have it: that’s most of what I learned in the past 3 years in a nutshell.
Who knows what the next 3 will bring?

Reminders of Truth

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about identity and stress and confidence in God, mostly because they are all areas in my life that can be improved.

I’m just more convinced than ever that a rock solid identity in God – and nothing else – is such an unbelievably freeing and empowering thing.

That’s how we become what we were meant to be in God and break loose of insecurities. In light of that, I’m doing this little exercise myself, and I thought I’d share it in case it’s relevant to anyone else.

So far it’s 3 things :

1 Anytime I look in the mirror and sigh a little at something, I’ll say aloud ‘God loves that’.

2 Anytime I get frustrated with myself for messing up with sin again, I’ll say aloud ‘God has forgiven that.’

3 Anytime I feel stressed I’ll say ‘God’s with me through this and is using it for His glory .’

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Identity, singleness and how it affects everything else

 

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I’ve been putting a lot of thought into identity lately.

Particularly, how your relationship status affects it.

It’s tempting for me to picture having a boyfriend—or a whole family—and think things like:

  • I just want to have someone to belong to
  • I won’t really feel like a grown-up till I’m in a serious relationship
  • I can’t wait to have someone to introduce to my family.

And well-meaning people can reinforce this. At Aunty Fay’s funeral last week, I had someone make about three or four comments about my singleness. It didn’t matter to them that I have a good job, a budding writing career, and am building my first home. No, they just wanted to know when I’d be getting married.

That can really make you feel like you’re not a whole person until you’ve ‘checked that box’.

But I am more convinced than ever that our identities MUST stand secure, completely separate from our relationship status, career progress, financial situation and anything else that affects how we see ourselves.

Because even if I get the things I want, if I allow them to affect my identity, I open myself up to a whole range of insecurities.

If my identity is affected by my writing, on a day that my sales drop, I’m going to feel like a failure. If my identity is affected by my relationship status, on the day my relationship hits a rocky patch, I’m going to feel like a failure.

The truth is, for me to be the fullest version of myself, I do not need to be a girlfriend or a wife. I don’t need to be a published writer. I don’t need to have financial security.

I just need to remember that I’m a lost person saved by God’s incredible love. The other things will come and go, but that will never change.