Thoughts & Ponderings

Ready or not

Eleven years ago this week I had a life changing encounter with God. I wasn’t living life as a follower but I knew he existed and I was curious to know more. When a friend invited me to hear a guest speaker at her church (a boyband star who had found Christ after they’d split) I jumped at the chance. That was the easy part! I then visited her church a couple of times, sure that I wanted to make a commitment to God but nervous about how I could change my lifestyle and what people would think of my past. My friend was great and explained I didn’t need to worry about of any of that – I just had to make the decision and step out in faith, the Lord would take care of the rest. I’m so glad I listened to her – I know my life is what is today because I made that decision and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It hasn’t been an eleven years without trials or challenges but The Lord has truly blessed be me and guided me through it all. I am what I am today not because of me but through him in me. So when I heard this song by Hillsong United it reminded me of those early days when I was concerned about being judged or not good enough…

He welcomes the broken
He’s alright with your past
He’s not mad at any one of us
But He waits with open arms
Says come
Are you ready?
Are you ready?

Someone needs to hear this today, someone needs to say I’m ready – regardless of your brokenness, regardless of your past because he’s waiting with open arms. And trust me you’ll not regret it!

Thoughts & Ponderings

The Highlands and the Heartache

I’ve found myself singing this song (Highlands – Song of Ascent) over and over again this week. Sadly, a few of our friends are struggling with heartache and pain as they’ve faced enormous mountains and found themselves in the lowest of valleys.

I probably overthink what to say to them, I try to offer them hope and remind them of God’s awesome love and promises but I imagine it’s difficult to listen to when your world has fallen apart or you’re facing a journey you weren’t prepared for.

But the words of this song sum it up for me so I think I’ve been singing it in the hope it might miraculously find them in the wind and comfort them.

God is no less there when we’re in the dark shadows and he’s still there beside us no matter how far we might stray. He’s there every step of the way when we’re conquering the mountains, cheering us on and celebrating our achievements but he’s also there surrounding us with love and grace when we’re broken and lying low in the valley.

God can move mountains, trust me I’ve seen him move a few. But what about when the mountains don’t move?! Isn’t that when it’s hardest to lean on him and praise him. Psalm 121 reminds us that our constant friend is just that – CONSTANT.

Yes, even when we don’t understand or we’re angry with the world, even when we blame him or turn our backs on him – he is always there to hold our hands, he’s prepared to carry us; we just need to reach out and let him support us as we take on whatever path is up ahead.

“I look to the hills! Where will I find help? It will come from the Lord, who created heaven and earth. The Lord is your protector, and he won’t go to sleep or let you stumble.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭121:1-3‬ ‭CEV‬‬

#whateveriwalkthrough

Thoughts & Ponderings

Even when it hurts

Sometimes I struggle to find the words to comfort or encourage someone – in those times I find myself seeking God more than ever, listening attentively for the right thing to say. Tonight I felt the Lord telling me to share this beautiful song with the broken hearted to remind them it’s ok to hurt – it’s ok to lose strength. Even though it makes no sense God is right there, holding you and helping you through it all – you are not alone … trust him!

“Is anyone crying for help? GOD is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find GOD right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭34:17-18‬ ‭MSG


Thoughts & Ponderings

You Came

I was at the Wilder Shores album launch last night with a couple of chums. The new tracks are beautiful worship cries penned by a truly anointed bunch and I can’t wait to share them when they’re available digitally. I’ve the good old fashioned CD ready so I’m excited about belting them out in the car with my girls. Drenched in love is Evie’s fave request at the minute but I’m expecting her to be asking for some of the new WS tracks when she hears them. 

As well as their own tracks we sang some Bethel tracks too. There was one I’d never heard before that really touched me – You Came (Lazarus). This week was a challenging week for me and some of those closest to me. I found myself pouring my heart into my prayers and I found it helped to add prayer points in my journal – within hours I felt the Lord step in and place his hand upon situations that I have no control over. The chorus of the track last night really spoke to me as it helped me make sense of what I’ve experienced this week…. 

“You came, oh, I knew that You would come

And You sang, and my heart, it woke up

Now I’m not afraid, I see Your face, I am alive

Cause You came, oh, I knew that You would come”

Why is it that when we pray we do it expecting God to come but yet sometimes it still surprises us when he does?! It’s human nature to be expectant but to prepare ourselves for the worst – we’re such negative Nellies sometimes! 

But whatever you’re facing today, remember we worship a God who loves to show up and remind us we don’t need to be scared. He’s our constant friend – holding us by the hand, leading the way through the crowds of confusion, doubt and fear. 

“Be strong and courageous. Don’t tremble! Don’t be afraid of them! The LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He won’t abandon you or leave you.”” Deuteronomy 31:6 GW

Thoughts & Ponderings

Yes, I will go

Let’s be honest, when we think of key Bible figures we usually think of the men – Moses, Joshua, Abraham, Daniel, Paul or David maybe?

As it’s International Women’s Day I spent some time today looking at some exceptional women in the Bible. There are the obvious ones… Esther, Ruth, Mary, Hannah and of course Sarah. But today someone else jumped out at me – Rebekah.

I have to admit, any time I’ve read Genesis 24 in the past I’ve always found it a little sexist. Abraham sends his servants to find a wife for his son, Issac. They head off to find a woman that is ‘good enough’ for Issac. You can just imagine it, can’t you? They’d be watching for someone good looking, someone who stands out from the crowd but we know from the scripture they also knew to look for someone kind. They find Rebekah and her family were willing to let her go.

But here’s the bit that caught me by surprise today…

“So they called Rebekah. “Are you willing to go with this man?” they asked her. And she replied, “Yes, I will go.””
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭24:58 NLT

Rebekah was asked her opinion!? I’d never noticed that she was given a choice. I think I’d always pictured this young women being taken away from her family to become the wife of a man she’d never met, possibly with a little reluctance. But no, she was willing! She knew that there was a calling on her life – God had a plan and a mission for her to fulfill and she trusted in him.

So many people think the Bible is all about men being favoured and in charge. But there are some major leading lady roles in the Bible and the ultimate plan of God was heavily reliant on women playing their part. Esther was called for ‘a time such as this’, Ruth stood by Naomi declaring “where you go I go” and Hannah gave the son she longed for so badly back to God just as she had promised she would.

I wouldn’t call myself a feminist – I’m not burning any bras and I don’t subscribe to any women only groups that promote equality in the workplace by driving to empower women but I do believe it’s important we are all treated fairly and that we build each other up regardless of our gender.

I believe we should ALL be celebrated for our achievements, our hard work should be acknowledged and promotion should be based on merit. I am so thankful that I have had amazing female role models who have encouraged me, developed me and supported me throughout my life. I am also thankful for the men who have encouraged, developed and supported me – they are of course important too. But strangely, I’m also grateful for the men and women who have challenged me, who have fought me and knocked me down – because they have been the ones who have taught me important lessons, they have stoked fires in me, they have given me opportunities to get back up again and fight for what I believe in and what I know I can achieve.

Working in a very male environment can be frustrating at times but rather than fight to be treated equally I’d rather they didn’t even notice I was a woman. I would love to see Christians stand together regardless of gender and fight the status quo armed with faith – to offer a new hope and a new approach in the workplace. Instead of criticising how things are done or being deflated when things don’t go the way you’d like, wouldn’t it be great to make a change? Wouldn’t it be great to create a atmosphere where everyone feels equal, where everyone feels important and appreciated?

So today let’s continue to celebrate all the awesome women who have inspired and paved the way in so many ways – those who have proudly stood up to say “Yes, I will go”.

But let’s also remember to look for the opportunities for us all to do the same, with one purpose – to glorify God and see his will be done!

Rebekah went on to have twins with Issac, Esau and Jacob – making her the grandmother of Joseph who forgave his brothers after they sold him into slavery. Her choice set the ball rolling on a series of events that not only made a massive impression in their day but continues to impact hearts and lives today.

Thoughts & Ponderings

Be thankful? You can’t be serious!

We all face trials in life – no one is exempt, it happens to us all. Do you ever think…

Why me?

Why doesn’t God do something?

Why is God letting this happen to us?

Why does God let thousands die in earthquakes, tsunamis etc?

Sometimes we ask why because we’re upset with God. Sometimes people query why certain things happen if there is a God. Often people question if God is really all powerful.

God creates us and therefore has authority over us whether we like it or not. He is the highest authority and he actively rules over his people and all of his creation.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God – those whom he has called according to his plan. Romans 8:28 GWT

Did you catch the two most important words in that verse? ALL THINGS – not some things or the odd thing but ALL things. Every situation you find yourself in whether its a blessing or your worst nightmare – God can turn it for good. God is not the author of sin but he does permit others to sin against us and he does it for his purposes. Look at Joseph, in Genesis 37 we read how his brothers sold him as a slave and his life took a path he would never have expected. BUT, praise the Lord for the BUT, God works it all for good in the end…

Even though you planned evil against me, God planned good to come out of it. This was to keep many people alive, as he is doing now. Genesis 50:20 GWT

It is important to see good in every situation and to take the evil we experience and use if for good.

God also uses trials to test us for a definitive purpose. Deaths, illness, assaults or broken relationships – it might sound strange but these tests can be for his glory. In John 15 Jesus explains to us that he is the true vine and God takes care of the vineyard…

He removes every one of my branches that doesn’t produce fruit. He also prunes every branch that doesn’t produce fruit to make it produce more fruit. John 15: 2 GWT

God may be putting us through trials to prune us so that we may bear more fruit for his glory. God is the husbandman who cuts dead branches off and prunes back live branches for the purposes of the branch bearing more fruit. If a plant or tree could feel pain, having a branch chopped off would be agonisingly painful. In time, the branch will again produce beautiful flowering buds soon to turn to fruit. Trials often bring out the worst in us: anger, bitterness, fear, laziness, self-focus etc. But thankfully the worst is pruned off as God convicts us of our sin and helps us turn from sin to righteousness. The pain from God’s pruning will fade as the fruit of righteous flowers for all to see.

God gives us opportunities to see if our faith is proven to be genuine…

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7 NLT

It is easy to proclaim your faith from the rooftops and be charitable towards others when things are going our way, but how easy is it when you are grieving or your traumatised because your house just burned to the ground?

All trials, however great or small give us an ‘on the spot’ opportunity to prove who we really worship and service – our own comfort or our Lord?

Before I came to have a relationship with God I found funerals so sad – but shortly after I became a Christian I attended a funeral of my friend’s grandmother. They were a Christian family with a very strong belief in God’s promises and it really struck me how the family was rejoicing and celebrating a life well lived – the family knew God had called her home and they would see her again. What a comfort that promise was for them!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 NIV

PERSEVERANCE … tenacity – the original meaning of adhesiveness, as of glue, is a dogged and determined holding on. So being tried should make us even more determined – fighting against the easy option of giving up, don’t be quitters!

Since God has revealed through Scripture some of his purposes for trying and testing us, what then, is our obligation? Our obligation is to be grateful to God, to be fully persuaded of his goodness, and to realise how much he loves us.

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

If you receive bad news; an unexpected bad report on a health check, the sudden death of a loved one or your spouse is leaving you, your emotions will be reeling. But while times are trying you must remind yourself of the goodness of God. Pray – thank you for letting me be so healthy until now, thank the Lord for having your loved one for so long. At the funeral I mentioned earlier my friend read Psalm 121…

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed the Protector Israel does not slumber or sleep. The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter by your side. The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all harm; he will protect your life. The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.

The Lord has a purpose for our lives – he has it all mapped out with a clear path and journey. We can’t possibly see or understand the plan but there is one – and we have to trust that he will protect us and be there every step of the way.

For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29:11 – I’ve read it hundreds of times but since the death of the celebrity Jade Goody ten years ago I’ve always associated that verse with her. Her illness and her final days were played out very publicly in the media and through her own writings. After she was diagnosed with cervical cancer she built a relationship with God and openly shared about her faith…

“I’ve always prayed but now I do find it helps. Maybe the big man upstairs thinks ‘She’s a tough cookie, she can handle this. She’s watched her dad inject heroin, watched her mum do crack, she’s lost a baby, had boyfriends who’ve hit her. Yeah she can handle this too. But I do think after this is over, God might think I’ve had more than my fair share to deal with.”

She went on Big Brother and other reality shows to find fame – she wanted everyone to know who she was. In the end her legacy and her life had a purpose far beyond anything she could have imagined. The publicity of her death at 27 prompted many to have cervical smears – saving many lives. The “Jade Goody effect” is talked about even today in the news, though sadly the next generation have missed that important message and now there is a worry that not enough woman are attending their appointments. She also saved souls – through her testimony, and the easy way she explained her faith many others have come to Christ. She christened her two young sons before she died and told them she would be watching them from heaven.

When she told her sons she was going to heaven one of them said “Heaven is a bad place, it’s where people go when they die.” She noted how she corrected him “No, that’s not right, it’s where sick people go to get better.” She went on to tell people how she had a version of the Bible which was easy to read – she looked through it when she was feeling down and it really helped her.

I remember weeping as I read the book she wrote in those final days – the strength of her belief in heaven and the afterlife played a big part in her being able to deal with leaving her loved ones behind. She hung on to life with her fingernails – she didn’t want to let go and she fought to the end to achieve something in this life. As painful as it was for her I like to think she would be so very proud of the legacy she left behind – she would never have chosen it but God knew exactly what he was doing from her coming to her going.

I wrote the majority of this post almost 10 years ago – Jade Goody was just a couple of years older than me so it made me sit up and notice the importance of living every day like it’s our last. I had a reminder of that again a couple of weeks ago when a beautiful lady (a friend of a friend) lost her battle with cancer – leaving behind five precious children. Our mutual friend said something so poignant – “she wouldn’t have wanted anyone to be sad…. she’ll be at peace in her new body”. It reminded me of these thoughts I’d shared with a ladies meeting all those years ago so I thought I would update it a little to share with you.

Sadly, life is short, we will bury friends and family, who in our opinion are called home to soon – we aren’t promised tomorrow. But isn’t that the message we need to hear? When God calls you, do you want to be able to say you achieved something, you left a legacy and you will some day see your loved ones again?

What are you putting off today that simply shouldn’t wait to tomorrow? Is God calling you to a new task? Is he calling you to make a difference in your world even in the middle of your battles? Or does he simply want you to accept that he is the way, the truth and the life? Always be thankful for each new day you are blessed with – whatever challenges it brings, whatever struggles you are facing, with each new day there will always be opportunities.

I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10

Thoughts & Ponderings

Lest we forget

Tomorrow is of course Remembrance Sunday – a special day to remember lives lost, lives torn about by loss and lives changed forever by experiences on the battlefield.

There is always one word that overwhelms me on the 11th day of the 11th month – LOVE. Those who went to war did so for the love of their country and to protect those they loved – they sacrificed everything to serve. #LestWeForget

During the Great War & WW2 those left behind rallied together – there are so many tales of kindness amidst the heartbreak and loss. Children from the cities welcomed by countryside families they’d never met before, communities keeping spirits up during air raids with songs and neighbours digging through rubble in the hope they might rescue friends. The sacrifice and love wasn’t restricted to the battlefields – it was in the every day as well.

Where along the way did the world lose that love for their neighbours? When did we become a dog eat dog world that looks for what it can get instead of what it can give? When did it become every man (or woman) for themselves?!

Tomorrow as we proudly wear our poppies, let’s (as always) honour those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom but let’s not also forget how we can honour their memory by serving one another. Take some time to think about how we can love one another, how we can embrace the attitude of so many who were willing to give EVERYTHING.

“For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends.”
‭‭John‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Thoughts & Ponderings

Love Wins

I’ve always been a massive Carrie Underwood fan – I remember watching American Idol Season 4 with my Dad and being totally captivated by this beautiful bubbly country singer who wasn’t afraid of talking about her love for God.  In fact, I think it’s fair to say that her Some Hearts album played a pivotal role in the transformation of my heart that ultimately led me to the Lord.

A lot of her songs carry really powerful messages; Jesus Take the Wheel, Something in the Water, Temporary Home – the list goes on. But her latest single has blown me away and it is exactly what our broken, messed up world needs to hear…

I, I believe you and me are sisters and brothers
And I, I believe we’re made to be here for each other
And we’ll never fall if we walk hand in hand
Put a world that seems broken together again
Yeah I, I believe in the end love wins

Love is power, love is a smile
Love reaches out, love is the remedy
Love is the answer, love’s an open door
Love is the only thing worth fighting for

I only heard it for the first time yesterday but I couldn’t wait to share it and I hope it inspires or encourages someone who needs a reminder that Love Wins!

“Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense.

Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-5, 7‬ ‭TPT‬‬

 

 

 

Little life snippets, Thoughts & Ponderings

Be Extravagantly Generous

Last week, my big baby bird Evie decided to clear out her pyjamas – she is the Imelda Marcos of PJs! In the midst of her emotional strop about how some of her PJs didn’t fit her anymore I may have used the old Mummy guilt trip line “Well there are kids in Africa that would be glad to have one pair of pyjamas never mind seven!”. (Similar comments can be used when the kids try to waste food, complain about not having the newest version of a toy or when the Santa list is being prepared).

Well that certainly changed the mood and brought my usually very kind hearted 6 year old back down to earth with a bang. Next thing I knew we were discussing if we could or couldn’t ship PJs to India and how maybe we could organise a fundraiser for our friends at Angel House India so that the kids moving into the orphanage when it’s finished could have nice new pyjamas to wear. A week on, I’ve put the wheels in motion for some fundraising events (watch this space!) and the pile of PJs Evie has outgrown are doing my head in as they’re still lying in the same spot in the landing. But in a strange way, that pile of PJs has become my motivation to follow through with a little idea that was niggling in my head to what is now a crazy fun idea that I hope to share with you all in the very near future if we can pull it off!

Isn’t it funny how when you get something in your head the Lord keeps popping up as if to reinforce you’re on the right path?! The other evening I was watching wee Aimee Joy washing her face whilst wearing her new PJs and trainers that I picked up in Tescos for a wee bargain at the weekend when it struck me just how blessed my kids are to have what we see as basics but so many would consider luxury – but do my kids realise it? In a world obsessed with Kardashians can I convince my girls to consider looking for inspiration for life by reading about the work of Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom or the founder of the A21 Campaign, Christine Caine . I think that’s a challenge we should set ourselves as parents – to teach our children what is best summed up in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (MSG)…

Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage – to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

Then today, my wee chum Janet popped up and shared this short video update on Facebook from Angel House India (copy and paste link below into browser or go to our FB page for video) and I knew I just had to share it in the hope that it makes someone else think about how they can be even just a little generous (although extravagantly would be fab!) with what you have – whether it’s time, money, creativity or passion, can you help the team put the finishing touches on the orphanage?

https://www.facebook.com/janetraja/videos/10156454765170281/

 

 

Thoughts & Ponderings

Aspire to make a difference

I skipped Worship Wednesday last night due to a busy work day and rare date night with hubby. I’d grand ideas that I’d get the girls to bed tonight early and share a fab worship song with you all. But sometimes in life God steps in and we realise that he has better plans.

Bedtime wasn’t easy, I’ve only just had a wee snack as a late dinner and I didn’t know where to start! But our Constant Friend spoke to me in a way only he can. So instead of my thoughts on a worship song tonight I’m going to share with you an awesome message from Oscar winner Denzel Washington. It totally blew me away and I really would urge you to spare 8 and a half mins to hear what he has to say – it certainly gave me food for thought!