Thursday, 13 June 2013

Shattered pieces of my glass palace...

[For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and neither are My ways your ways, declares the Lord] Isaiah 55:8

As someone who likes order, and organization....I do NOT cope well when things don't go according to plan. Well, my plan that is. God has an amazing way of stripping us of everything we depend on in order to show us we need to depend on HIM more.  As a young teen I depended on me. I depended on my ability to keep things as they should be. God has slowly over the years begun to shatter my ideas of how my life will go. In the midst of the shattering dreams, its felt, cruel, and painful - But as I step over the pieces of broken glass and move forward...I have always been able to look back over my shoulder and see something beautiful. Beyond my own comprehension or imagination.

 Its almost like my dreams and ideas are built as a murky old greenhouse which I am trapped inside. I think that I have dreamt up an amazing life....To me, its a glass me, its PERFECT - but compared to what God has in store, its just a shabby old greenhouse that I cant see out of for all the dirt on the glass. As God shatters this 'palace' I think I built.... panel by panel, I feel angry, hurt and devastated - that's my dream! How dare He shatter it! But when I take the time to look back over those shattered dreams...they aren't what I see... I suddenly can see beyond them.... I can see out of the murky old shabby greenhouse.... and the view from breathtaking. Never, while the sound of glass shattering was resounding around me, did I ever think such beauty could be the result.

 Some examples? I thought I would be a career woman... build wealth, get married, be the ideal wife, have some kids...easy peasy! Wrong!!

Shattered dream #1 - I am FAR from a career woman. I was drawn into the Ministry 7 years ago...God placed a calling on my life, and little did I know that I would be here - working long hours, in an amazing but trying ministry, for no money. 'Living by faith' - I have now let go of any dreams of having material 'wealth' - But the BEAUTIFUL view from here, is that, I feel wealthier than I thought possible, God has taught me to trust in Him to provide for my every need, which has given me an opportunity to see some amazing miracles of provision! I find 'living by faith' very exciting, knowing that God is going to blow my mind daily in how He decides to bless and provide! I also get to wake up every morning and do something I am passionate about, and I get to see children come to know God! AWESOME beauty!

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding!" Proverbs 3:5

Shattered dream #2 - Be the ideal wife?! HA!!!! I knew I wouldn't be perfect... But I expected a LOT more from myself. And this stems from, way before we even got married really. Even the simplest girlfriend tasks seemed impossible for me and BOY was I angry at myself. Frustrated. I could not hold hands without being agitated, I could not hug Jonny without withdrawing. I barely could hold eye contact. But I knew this was the man God had picked out for me....why couldn't it be plain sailing? Why did God need to shatter these dreams? How was I supposed to marry someone that I could barely endure physical contact with? (through no fault of his). I did not imagine my relationship to be like this. It was very hard. As a result I spent months in agony over whether it was right to marry him, and I even broke up with him. It was a painful period. I could see the situation hurting him too. But the BEAUTIFUL view from here is that, through Jonny I was able to catch a glimpse of Gods deep love for me. Jonny's love for me seemed never ending. His patience taught me so much. But even more than this, God brought me so much healing through the whole situation. Healing I never even knew I needed. God knew I needed Jonny. God knew I needed healing. Each day I am married to this incredible man, I love him more. My father-in-law told me this would happen! I cannot believe how very blessed I am...every day he shows me Jesus in his actions & words. He treats me like a princess - reminding me that I am indeed, a daughter of the King!

Shattered dream #3 - Have a bunch of kids. This particular pane in my glass 'palace' is shattering in front of me as I write this. I am still not fully able to see the beautiful view... but I catch glimpses! They say ingnorance is bliss. I agree. Before October, I dreamt I would one day get pregnant...then nine months later hold a beautiful perfect child in my arms. However, twice now we have gotten pregnant, become very elated....and several weeks later, had our dreams shattered. A few more times we have gotten pregnant and not even had time to get excited, because no sooner had we found out, then we lost them. My dreams of how 'having children' would work, have been ripped from me...and as a result, I struggle to get excited in pregnancy, I just get overcome with fear. The emotional pain I have experienced in miscarriage is so much deeper than I ever thought possible. Its a cut that runs deep, and the loss leaves a void every time. Each one has left me feeling paralyzed thinking I cant possibly move past the ache. But the glimpses of BEAUTIFUL view I see is that God picks me up EVERY time....even when I feel like I can never get up again. Each loss has made me more aware of my need to surrender them to God. To surrender my desire for children, and to say 'Your will be done' - the ability to do this, is one of the most beautiful things God has taught me. Another beautiful glimpse from here is how the miscarriages have made us draw near to each other and God. I have felt more secure in my marriage with Jonny with every loss. Because in those losses I have had to depend on him in a way that is not natural to me. God is forcing me to let Jonny be my love and support...Oh how grateful I am!

I cannot pretend that I am not hurting. But I can say that I KNOW God will bring beauty from this...and though I cannot see it now, I know better than to try and rebuild my glass palace, because it will only be a shabby greenhouse next to Gods plans. I trust in his unfailing love....I rely on it. Depend on it.

I think I have learnt now.... that having my dreams shattered, is not such a bad thing. Though its excruciating in the moment.I am learning that when devastation occurs in my life, I can count on God building something BEAUTIFUL from the rubble.

"For I know the plans I have for you, Declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future" Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Unfit to lead..... or are we?

In the recent months I have heard more and more people say something along the lines of 'I cant lead, I am not sorted in my own life', or 'How can I be an example when I am so messed up in my own heart'....and similar such things. I know we all have our moments of insecurity... But I think that when it comes to mentoring, discipling, or leading people younger than ourselves, we often are making up our own job description, and deciding that we don't fit the bill without even considering 'Gods' definition of leading! So in one of my recent 'ugggggh' moments of 'I cant do this, I am not adequate, not mature enough, not ready' I started to look back to all the inspirational people in my life.

What occurred to me most strongly, was the fact that all of the people who have influenced my life positively, have done so through their imperfections, and not in spite of their imperfections. It was their imperfection that showed me that being a Christian was not a surface matter, it was something I would need to work at and grow in, every day of my life. They used their imperfections to help me understand grace. They were open and honest with me about their sinfulness and their deep need for Jesus every day - some of them shared that in words, and some through their lives and actions. None of them were or are perfect. They all have their own faults, flaws, insecurities and problems. But that never stopped them from helping me to grow in Christ. Rather it pushed me to grow in Christ.

 Nothing speaks to me as loudly as a person who is BRUTALLY HONEST - not with their words..But with their lives. You know the kind of person - the type who will happily show you their flaws because they know it highlights Gods grace, mercy and goodness! And never have I looked at a person like that and thought...'yeah, they're messed up, I don't want them leading me in my walk with God' - On the contrary - it makes me want to be around them makes me want to learn to be as transparent with my inadequacies. To be able to meet with a person and know that they have struggles just like you do, that they fail often - just like you do...and to know as well that they keep persevering, always striving to grow and change in Him. To be invited into such a persons life is a privilege and honour. And I feel so blessed as I can think of 8 wonderful Godly women who over the course of my life, have opened the hearts and homes to me, and shared their messy lives, and their love with me, in an attempt to help me in my walk.

 Thinking on all these imperfect people who influenced me positively made me less worried about whether I was cut out to lead/mentor younger girls. I have realised that God uses us WITH our imperfections, not IN SPITE of our imperfections. So having my worry of that out the way, I then set out to find out what a leader should look like biblically, (by leader, I mean anyone wishing to shine Jesus into the lives of others, and help them grow in their relationship with Him.) I found this:

Firstly, God specifically used the obviously imperfect to lead.... Gideon, Moses, David, Jonah......Samson... well, the list goes on... Paul/Saul, Peter.... Actually, is there anyone that God used that didn't have some obvious shortfall? Whether it be anger, lust, physical disability or fear? Did their shortfalls prevent them from pointing others to Jesus...NO!

So what made these people good leaders? OBEDIENCE, (even reluctantly in some cases!)

Secondly, Jesus is the ultimate example... and He did not fit the bill when it came to the Pharisees and religious leaders - in fact He angered them because He was so opposite to them...He shattered all their theories of what a leader was. They wore the right clothes, spoke to only 'worthy' people, they judged on outward appearance, and they were legalistic in their 'relationship' with God! - But Jesus, He was different. He didn't dress well, He spoke to prostitutes, the demon possessed, murderers and frauds. He didnt judge people by their outward appearance, but instead looked to their heart attitudes. And he was anything but legalistic, He healed on the Sabbath and touched the unclean - rather than leading by legalism, he led with an attitude of grace and mercy.

So what makes us good leaders? BEING CHRISTLIKE!
Philippians 2:1-8: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Thirdly, I read several passages on leading, and most seemed to simply come down to two things. LOVE and LIVING BY EXAMPLE. I firmly believe the 'living by example' thing often gets taken to the extreme where people think it means that we should appear to be perfect in front of others. Well, I don't know about you, but people who appear to be perfect don't help me to grow, they intimidate me. Real people help me to grow, and I think living by example is simply showing others that you are striving to be Christlike. Aiming to live a life that glorifies Him, and not being ashamed when you mess up, but instead openly using that to show how merciful He is!

Lastly.. PASSION. Nothing shines like a person ON FIRE! Is your passion contagious. Does is rub off on the people you are mentoring, leading, discipling? I mean the kind of passion that says 'For me to live is Christ, to die is gain' Phil 1:21,  - Will you spend and be spent, as said in 2 Cor 12:15? - I think this is one outstanding thing I noticed about the people who led me in my walk - they all are so excited about God. They are excited about growing and changing and are passionated and on fire for Him. 

So are we unfit to lead?  If we have OBEDIENCE, if we are striving to be CHRISTLIKE, if we have LOVE toward the people we hope to help grow, if we can LIVE BY EXAMPLE (by showing that we are trying to grow and change daily), and if we have a PASSION for Christ, and we want to see others develop a passion too.... Then, we have all that it takes to be an encouragement to other young Christians.  Never underestimate the impact you can have when you are living out a raw, open and honest, walk with God. 

God is not limited by our imperfections. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

What did I do to deserve such love?

Where would I be in the story of Jesus' crucifixion - most likely in the crowd jeering... My account would probably go like this:

I heard chanting and jeering in the distance.... my curiosity pulled me toward the sound. The closer I got the clearer the chanting became. Though I was still quite a way away I could tell there were hundreds of people gathered, they must all have come from the city centre. As I neared I felt the crowds closing in on me. I could hear various things they were shouting, words like 'hypocrite', 'liar', 'sorcerer'. I wondered who they were aiming these words at.

I pushed forward, squeezing between the tight crowds. The smell of sweat and hot sand lingered in the air, that was normal this time of year, but there was another scent mingled in, I recognized it to be the smell of blood. Finally reaching the front of the crowd, I saw a man, covered in blood, mostly dry blood, probably from the whip wounds on his back. I sighed relief. It was no one I held dear. But, at a longer glance... he did look familiar. It was HIM. That man - what was his name? I couldn't remember... but I did remember why I did not like him at all. He had all the answers really. He was always talking to the 'lower class' - mixing with prostitutes and murderers, then he would have the audacity to turn around and talk about how we needed to change our ways. No, I didn't like him at all. I wonder what he did this time...must be something offensive judging by how furious they all are. 

The atmosphere of this crowd was contagious, I began to join in with the accusations, insults and spitting. I had no other plans for the afternoon, it was free entertainment, why not!? Many people were throwing rotten fruit, the spoils of the day, and others were laughing, some seemed really angry. I was definitely one of the angry ones - and yet I had no real reason to be. 

I continued playing along with the chaos and craziness while he was nailed down to the wood. He let out screams of absolute anguish and pain as the blood flowed freely from his hands and feet. I was surprised they were going to that extreme really, I am sure they had their reasons though. 

Through the sounds of the hammering I could hear someone actually sympathizing with this guy? you can't be serious! I scanned over the crowds trying to see where the sound of crying was coming from. My eyes settled on a group of ladies, hunched over together, hugging and crying. They were mumbling to each other in between crying, but I could not make out what was being said. Curious. I dismissed them and turned my attention back to him - just in time for the raising of the cross too, its the best part! I saw one of the guards gathering bramble and thorns from an bush...he began to twist it together to make a loop, and he pushed it onto the offenders head, so tightly that it pierced into his skin and caused more bleeding. I didn't quite understand why they did that.Why a crown of thorns? I think they were mocking him. Oh yeah. I remember now, this guy, get this, he was going around calling himself the 'king' - not only that, but the 'son of God'. How dare he! 

We continued to mock as we watched him being raised into the upright position. His body painfully stretched across the course wood. A block of wood placed beneath his feet, cruelly, so he could raise himself to breathe, thereby lengthening the time it would take for him to die...drawing out the torture and pain. A man prodded him with the back end of a spear every so often to keep him conscious... when he didn't respond once the man pierced his side with the spear. His body jolted. I winced. That's gotta hurt! I was beginning to feel bad for this guy.. but then a new chant began, people were yelling at him, telling him that if he was the son of God then he should save himself. That renewed my anger! They had a point!! Why doesn't he save himself? I spat at the ground near the cross and laughed. 

I looked up at the face of this man - he had turned his head toward one of the renowned thieves hanging beside him, they were talking - I wish I could make out what they were saying. Despite my annoyance at this man, something about him drew me. I stared hard at him, then after talking to the thief he turned his head back in my direction. I could swear he was looking right at me. I could see in his face so much pain and torment. He spoke, saying "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.". I shifted, that made me feel uneasy, I couldn't quite believe that despite what was happening to him he still found the strength to seek forgiveness for us. He had a peace, a contentedness, almost resigned to what was going on around him. But briefly I saw the peace leave his face as he took a deep breath and let out a cry, shouting 'my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'. And as he exhaled, we all knew the life had left him, as his body slumped and his muscles collapsed. 

Then, well then it went weird...almost immediately the sky darkened. It was terrifying. I heard screams from children as the all ran around trying to find their parents. As I began to make my way toward home, I pushed passed people and overheard gasps, and people saying we had made a mistake. Had we? I had to admit, I felt a sadness in my heart that I did not expect. 

I did not sleep well that night. I was haunted by the images of that day. I couldn't shake the feeling that he had looked right at me. It was a piercing look - ironically, as he was pierced at the time! But it was not a look of anger, but a look of, well, loving sadness really. I couldn't place it. 

Days later, three days to be exact, there was a buzz in the air. People were all excited. I had heard what the excitement was about. I didn't want to believe it though. If it was true, then I had done something terrible. Unthinkable. Unforgivable. They are saying he is gone. Disappeared into thin air...right out of the tomb he was buried in. Some people claim his body was stolen, but I knew the tomb was guarded... I don't think that  was what happened. No, its the other theory that rang true..but it was the other theory that frightened me too. The other theory being that he had risen from the dead. How was that possible? Its not...unless you are the son of God. I think he was. I feel it in my heart. 

The more I thought of this man being the son of God, the more I despaired - especially as my actions of that fateful day replayed in my mind. I spat at his feet. I spat at the son of God. He had done nothing wrong to me. I said unthinkable things to him. I tried to think of why I was angry at him in the first place. I think it was mainly because he made me aware of my sin. He seemed to have a way of opening your eyes, and I did not like what I had seen in myself...and I definitely did not like him seeing right through me. That is why I was angry..pride really. Pride and shame. I deserved to die in the way he did, but from what I knew and had seen and heard, he did nothing wrong. He did not deserve the punishment he received. I knew that now, more than anything. 

Not long after that I began to hear the whole story. The truth behind this man's death. I could not understand it. The truth made me so ashamed of the way I had treated him. The truth was this... He died for me. He died for me because he knew that a sinner could not have eternal life. At first, I didn't quite understand. Why would he? and what difference would it make? But my good friend explained it to me. See, he was perfect, like a spotless lamb. He was the ultimate sacrifice. And the cost of my sin was eternal death. I could never make up for my sin. Not in a million years. God knew this. He gave me a way out. He gave us a way out. He sent his son, to die in our that his blood would cover us - so that we would be righteous in the eyes of God. God would see Jesus when he looked at us, rather than seeing our sin. 

I spat on him, as He died for me. I hurled insults, as He bought me eternal life. 
Eternal life. Forgiveness of sins. The ultimate display of love. He died for me. All I have to do is, accept this gift. 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

This Easter, I pray you would all remember the amazing gift you have been given, that you would cherish it, and share it with everyone you meet, so they too would be able to receive this incredible gift. 

Sunday, 19 February 2012

I'm not home yet...

There is a song which I have been listening to a lot lately.. even when I am not listening to it, the lyrics are rolling around in my head all the time! The chorus goes - 'All I know is I'm not home yet, this is not where I belong. Take this world and give me Jesus, This is not where I belong!' ~ It fills me with so much joy, knowing that as Christians we have this blessed assurance that our time on earth is just the one stop we have to make before we get home... But I have also been experiencing so much sadness as I considered this, not sadness for myself, or my brothers and sisters in Christ - rather, a huge sadness for the un-reached world. I see so much hurt, pain and desperation, even within my little suburb...let alone beyond that. I see people desperately trying to find their place in this world...aimlessly seeking - but never finding. It makes me sad to think that they have never experienced the security & freedom in knowing that something much better than this world could ever offer, is what God has in store for us. They have never known the comfort that comes from understanding that the reason we don't ever feel completely at home, is because we are not home yet!

I was watching 'UK Border Force' today, and it actually was a really powerful picture for me of how lost people are. If you have't ever watched this show its basically a documentary following the UK immigration officers and border police as they run around the country tracking down illegal immigrants and deporting them, or they search freight trucks for clandestine's at the borders. Well on one episode today, they stopped a freight truck coming over from France. After searching the truck, they found 17 people squeezed under crates of yoghurt. They were made to pile out, and the absolute disappointment on their faces is ingrained on my mind. They were Afghanistan and had been living in the Jungle in France for over a year, hoping for an opportunity to escape to England, where they expected to be finally living their dreams. When asked 'Why England?' their answers gave England the impression of being a land flowing with milk and honey... they wanted better lives, better jobs, safety, knowledge. Their previous homes had not been great, they had been left with dreams of a happier life, a place to truly call home. And somewhere along the line, they had been told, they would find their dreams and happiness in a little place called the United Kingdom. They were all sent back into France. The next day, the border control found another truck with clandestine's hidden amongst the freight it was transporting...this time there were about 6 of them. What was surprising, was that one of them was covered in dry yoghurt, and that was because he was one of the lads who had attempted to cross the border in a yoghurt truck the day before. He had been sent back to the jungle in France, and he so desperately wanted to be in England, that on probably no sleep at all, he re-attempted the emotionally draining process of raised hopes, only to have them dashed again.

The border force also went to various car wash businesses in England to arrest illegal immigrants, working without the necessary visa's. On making several arrests it was mentioned that for a ten hour day of work, these immigrants were being paid a mere £15/day. I wonder how far that reality was, from their dreams of the UK. They had risked their lives, and in cases they had given up everything to get here, only to find, that work was not easy to come by, and they would be paid peanuts, and would struggle to afford to live here too. My heart broke for them. They had a wearied and defeated look about them, I imagine this is often the state of the non believers heart - they are all wondering, striving for better, hoping for a feeling of belonging, seeking to fit in, dreaming of sweeter. They never quite feel at home, though they cant put their finger on it. They don't have the hope that Christians do, the joy of knowing, that this home is only temporary. Philippians 3:20 reminds us 'For our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ' - What an awesome truth!! What especially strikes me is the 'eagerly awaiting' bit...because that is what we have in common with non-believers - we are eagerly awaiting Jesus, as they are eagerly awaiting their dreams to come true, eagerly awaiting a better life. We are both waiting... But the all important and crucial difference, the whole reason that Christians can have peace that passes understanding, is because they know our waiting is temporary, not indefinite. We know that we will be with Jesus, we will be home... and that my friends, is so very exciting. In every trial and pain that we face, we know, that this is not forever. God reigns, and one day, we will be with Him - we will be HOME. There is such freedom in that knowledge. And although this freedom is available for the taking, so many people blindly live in captivity. The lady who stands outside our corner shop, always intoxicated, always yelling at someone - captive. The teen who feels she is only as good as the sex she gives out - captive. The little boy who is so angry, he wont get through an hour with me without spitting and yelling - captive. The man who is going through divorce for the 3rd time due to infidelity - captive. I could go on. These are all examples of people who are seeking for more. They know in the depth of their hearts, that there is more to life than what they have...but they are looking in all the wrong places. That longing they have is one that God has given us, because we were never destined to remain here... they have mistaken that longing...and it is the saddest thing to watch.

I want to pick them up and tell them that the place they are looking for does truly exist, I want to share the hope of  Revelation 21:4 - He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. I worry about what the state of their hearts is, because I know that without the hope of Jesus and heaven, my heart would be in a dire mess.

I am so excited about the prospect of going home, to finally be with my Jesus, but I am also challenged, I am challenged that I desperately need to up my game on sharing this hope with the lost.... God is breaking my heart for those people more and more each day...I dont want any of them to miss out on what God has offered us all. I think for that very reason, I hope to never lose the devastating image in my mind of an illegal immigrant who's hopes are shattered when he realised he still wasnt home. I want it to motivate me to share the exciting truth of heaven to everyone. Not just within my ministry areas... but within my suburb and city... I want God to push me way out of my comfort zone for the sake of people coming to know Him. Pray for me as I seek to respond to this challenge...and I pray you too will be challenged to share the joy we have.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Banana Cake & The master chef!

I made banana cake tonight.... I never use a recipe for banana cake, and its never the same as any I have made before... I kinda just throw things in and make it up as I go along... and then I bung it in the oven and wait, never knowing whether the outcome will be edible or not.... so far it has always been super tasty, but when I think about it, its quite a gamble, and I am sitting in the kitchen right now, waiting, smelling gorgeous smells of banana mixed with roasting pecans - but all the while I am well aware that because I just made it up, I could open the oven to reveal a total flop...
As I sit here with NO knowledge of what the outcome will be, I find myself thinking how grateful I am that God doesn't take this flippant approach to our lives. He is the ultimate master chef - He doesn't just throw a bunch of different things into our lives and 'hope' that we turn out ok!! And He certainly doesn't sit on the edge of His chair, waiting expectantly for the timer to go off so that He can check in on us to see how we're getting on! Our Master Chef not doesn't follow a recipe for our live's either, in fact - He invents the recipe - and the recipe He creates is not a simple one, it is an intricate recipe, one that, if followed by us, will result in beauty, and we will certainly 'Taste & see that the Lord is good!' 
The bible says that the 'recipe' God created for each of us began before we even came into this world - that's kinda like a chef making a recipe that included ingredients that don't even exist yet!!! That would require some seriously amazing creativity - creativity which is beyond anyone. Psalm 139:16 says: "Your eyes saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in Your book, before even one of them came to be." - How awesome that God not only thought of us before we existed, but he also had our 'recipe' all planned out.(Quite a contrast to my baking, its normally spur of the moment, and it is almost never planned - I often get half way through making something only to find I don't have the ingredients I need!) Not only that, but He also knew that EVERYTHING He put into our lives as Christians would work out for OUR good. Romans 8:28 - And we know that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose!  - Again, very unlike me, half the time I am not convinced that what I chuck in will really enhance the banana cake...I just 'hope' it does!
He leaves nothing to chance, He is a involved in every part of the process....When I bake, I rely on beaters, self raising flour, my oven.... now that I think of it, I have VERY little to do with the outcome - But God is not only the Chef, He is the whole recipe book - holding in Him the recipe for each of our lives, He not only creates us - He IS the raising agent, He is the mixer, He is the oven - He is every thing that makes us possible - He is everything that makes us beautiful! Without Him, we are nothing! 
He is our beginning - For You created my inmost being, You knit me together in my mothers womb. Psalm 139:13 ... and He is our refining Fire - 'This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold....' Zechariah 13:9 - He never walks away from the 'oven' and forgets about us - I do this all the time to my cakes - the result is never pretty when I forget I am baking in the first place!! God never leaves us alone, He never neglects or forgets us. 'No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses so I will be with you; I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you!' Joshua 1:5 
I am so grateful that I am not something that God left to 'chance'. I am so glad that He purposefully and intricately designed me, that He thought me out, planned me, refined me, and never will leave me!! The only thing that was in my hands, was the choice of whether to trust Him or not. Whether to follow my own sinful heart, sinful desires - my own plan for my own life, or to choose to trust and follow the ultimate Master Chef, the One whose plans for my life are good and perfect. 
Hmmmm.... well, judging by how irresponsibly I bake, chucking things in here and there...never knowing how long to leave the cake in the oven, sometimes even forgetting its in there... I think I made the right decision in putting my life in His hands, and choosing to let Him mould me, guide me & make me into the beautiful woman of God He has already planned for me to be! 
I have just pulled my banana cake out of the oven, it smells gorgeous, and looks delicious. The pictures dont quite do it justice. But all I can think is, if my throwing things together without any idea of what I am doing can result in something so scrumptious and beautiful...How much more beautiful will we be if we allow God the be the Chef in our lives. He has it all planned out...intricately. He doesn't make it up as He goes along...and on top of that... He deeply cares about the outcome. Deeply cares. One final thought - I plan to give the banana cake gives me Joy to share yummy things with my friends, and not much satisfaction comes from keeping it to myself - and the same applies to the Master Chef - When His goodness is shared and declared it brings Him joy - it is the purpose He created us for in the first place, that He may get the glory He deserves for His never ending goodness, that the world may know what He has done for us!! So never stop sharing what He has done for you!! And give Him all the glory for the 'Banana Cake' He is making out of you!!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Covered by Him...

Its snowing beautiful white snow! I never tire of it! Everyone gets fed up with it and I just get more and more fascinated with it. I think snow is one of Gods most incredible displays, and I wouldn't be surprised if He came up with the idea of snow just to give us an amazing natural analogy of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Isaiah 1:18 says ..."though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool!" - It makes me smile, because in my mind I imagine all these people in Jesus' day, who knew the old testament scriptures, having this kind of  "Aha!" moment after they realised what Jesus' crucifixion meant for them and then making the connection with what the Lord had said in Isaiah!

It is SO simple but yet SO VERY PROFOUND because in midwinter, when everything is grey and bleak and the cold is wearying, God comes along and covers everything with the purest white you will ever see, a blanket of fresh snow. And when it well and truly snows, the old is certainly gone, you cannot see anything but the purity and beauty of the snow - and in the same way, the realization of our sinfulness and our repentance of that sin (that grey, bleak midwinter of our lives) is followed by Gods grace covering us with the blood of Jesus, making us 'white as snow'. So that when God looks at us, He sees nothing of our old sinful selves, but rather, He sees Jesus. (2 Cor 5:17 - "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the old has GONE and the new has come."). And Gods amazing analogy doesn't even stop there... because in the same way that snow melts to reveal the beginnings of spring, fresh green grass & colourful beauty - so our new lives with Him begin, and as we seek God in the new life, so our lives will display the fruit and beauty of our relationship with Him! The beauty of spring! Gods analogies are the BEST!!!!

"The winter of my life" is a phrase often used to describe the last phase of a persons life.... I beg to differ, winter is only the beginning!!!  Our lives only begin when we are washed white as snow!!! Before that... we are  'dead in our transgressions' - Just like Ephesians 2:4-5 says "But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy - made us alive in Christ, even though we were dead in our transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved." 

God has been using the whiteness of snow as an example of what Jesus did for us since the Old testament... And this picture still affects me deeply today, every time I see snow, I am reminded of that verse in Isaiah...  I pray that the reality of what Jesus has done for you hits, every time a snowstorm does! 

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Craving Correction & Practising God's Presence

'As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another' Proverbs 27:17

I don't know if it comes with age, or if its just something that comes with the realization that there is so much in my life that I need to work on, but I find myself craving correction more and more. By that I mean that I long for people to challenge me and correct the way I think and act - I love it when people are bold enough to tell me where I am going wrong, but I love it even more when they explain that, and are purposeful in it, and are practical by explaining how that problem or issue can be overcome. 
I learn more about my sinful self everyday, but there is still so much I am unaware of, and I am grateful that those things that I don't notice in myself, can be pointed out by others. Its a wonderful moment when God confronts you on things you did not know were an issue! There is excitement in finding a new area to grow and improve on. I don't want to be stagnant in my faith, I want to be constantly growing...constantly learning... there is so much to learn! I am becoming increasingly aware of how incredibly selfish I am, and its not until someone forces me to dissect my thoughts that I realize it! I thank God for His grace and patience in every aspect of my life, I am a S-L-O-W learner, but He remains faithful, always loving and always true! I believe He is really stretching me in the area of  dependence. Because recently so many of my actions have been highlighted as seeking approval & validation from people, rather than Him. Today I saw that I have a fear of abandonment that runs deep - one that causes me to rely way too heavily on what others think of me, and how I react to that. And in thinking about it, I cannot believe how many of my actions are driven by my 'need' for people to like me, to be 'ok' with me and not to leave me! And also driven by the thought that being a good friend to everyone somehow validates me as a person! How insane!
Its hard when you truly and honestly examine yourself and realize that some of your 'good' actions, have bad motives... It makes you feel like you have wasted so much... like any good that you have done has been worthless! But I have come to the conclusion, that this is not so, God used my selfish attempts to love and care for people (even though my motives were not always pure) because He is a God of grace! BUT - God wants me to move on from my selfish ways! And He also is a God of freedom, who does NOT want to see me bound by these chains of approval addiction, need for validation and fear of abandonment. He wants me to be free, He wants me to remember that I am approved by HIM.. and to be able to love out of a pure heart, love without needing love in return...Love, not for myself, but for Him. Love, knowing that He is my identity, my passion, my desire, NOTHING else. What a freeing and liberating thought!!

Someone shared with me today about how we need to 'Practice God's Presence'. I thought I did, but the more I thought about it and the more she talked about it, I realised I completely deny God's presence in some areas of my life. Like in the area of reaching out and loving others... I just assume that because its a nice thing to do, that it would be what God wants me to do.... and He does call us to love... but I should be turning every thought and action over to Him, even if I, in all my lack of wisdom, think I know what's right. 
I think that if I had been practising God's presence in all areas of my life, then I would not be in this position of selfish ambition that I find myself right now.  

God challenged me hugely today.... it kind of went like this - 'Erica, how do you expect to know and feel how much I love you, if you are running after the love of other people!' 'No wonder your'e exhausted!' - 'Come to me!' 'Seek me'. 

It IS exhausting running around trying to find your value in others...even if you don't realise you are doing it! I have decided to stop!!! I have decided to remember who is the author and creator, who is the first and the last, beginning and the end. I am challenged to be more purposeful in practising His presence...ESPECIALLY in the areas I think I don't need to - because those are clearly the most dangerous areas of all! I still crave correction... and I desperately want to change and grow in every area of my faith! I want people who know me to be able to say - She HAS grown, she HAS changed, so that I can say 'Only by the grace of God!' ..I am approved by God, and I need to live it.- I want people to know the full EXTENT of my sinfulness, so they can get a clear picture of how HUGE the grace of God truly is! I want to Glorify God with my life - and I want to know when I am not doing that. I am grateful for the people bold enough to show me areas that I need to work on! 

God is Good.