the ‘D’ word..

No, not that one,the other one – DOUBT. Call it what you will it is I’m sure the bane of many a Christians life. In my years struggling with a traditional church I was plagued by it, so much so that I stopped going to church and really gave in to the doubts. ‘Doubt’ is in essence a state between belief and disbelief, one definition even refers to it as a ‘fear or apprehension’. In no way does it mean a loss of faith, an unbelief and it is important to remember that, it is only if we dwell on it that is when it can become unbelief.

I am sure that this is something that affects many believers at some stage in ther faith. After all, to have faith we have to believe the unseeable, the unproveable, which in this day and age goes against the grain hugely. But although I am sure it is not uncommon, it seems to be a bit of a dirty word, something that is ‘just not talked about’. I spent years besieged by it and all it would have taken to help me would have been a few kindly words from someone saying, thats ok, its just the enemy attacking you, you can deal with this… sadly this was not the case, and ultimately it meant me leaving the church. This is one of my problems with the more traditional church set up (which is an issue for a post in itself!), that so much is not open, not talked about, you don’t get the full picture.

Thankfully, I now know how to deal with it, largely due to the ‘Living Free’ way of teaching (google it if you haven’t heard of it – it’s awesome!).

So, yesterday I felt like I was under attack the entire day. It felt like being the old me, with an almost audible little voice in my ear saying, ‘no one is listening, no one is there you know…’ endless negative stuff. So dull… I spent 20 years having this previously and so my first reaction was fear and panic, (so into the spiral I go, one sin causes another and so on…). But although it was a pretty tough old day I did rebel against it and refused to listen to the enemys lies. Much prayer was had! A lengthy discussion in the evening with my husband ensued and more prayer. Which definitely made a huge difference.

The point I’m making is that one shouldn’t be scared of these things – Jesus gave us the authority to trample on the enemy and we just have to remember that ALWAYS. Doubt is not a dirty word, not one to be scared of, it’s just another lie sent to keep us away from God. The Devil uses the same old things over and over again and this is one of the obvious ones! Ok so that sounds easy and yesterday was far from easy but the thought that I could get throught this, I could deal with it, made me carry on, fight on, knowing that I didn’t have to listen to it. I am sure there will be more days like this and they will be hard to, I just hope each time I remember what I have written here!

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ
1 Corinthians 10:5

Waiting or doing?

What you are is God’s gift to you; what you do with yourself is your gift to God
Danish proverb

Over the last few days God has been putting in my mind ‘using ones spiritual gifts’. It has come up time and time again in different circumstances.

At prayer group last night we were challeneged to write a list of the gifts we think God has given us, and then a list of how we had been called to use them. I found this relatively easy as I had been thinking about it all week anyway! We didn’t all share but a couple of people did and I was quite dismayed by their answers. One lady said she had been waiting 20 years for her calling. This is someone who I believe has a very strong faith. I on the other hand am a newbie, but also champing at the bit and already feel that Iam being called in various ways. Surely those who have been at this game for a while should be reeling off the things they feel they have done in Gods name? I mean I know it is important for us to wait on the Lord sometimes and really listen to his plans for us, but in the meantime there must be things one can do. For exmplae me writing this blog – I mean I started it for me, so I wouldn’t forget everything I am feeling and what is happening, but I know it’s already touching people and I don’t think it was an obvious, shout in my face, kind of calling to write it, just an idea that came to me. So it made me think well, maybe some of us are being called already but we either can’t see it, don’t have the courage to deal with it or chose to ignore it – a bit like the kind of selective hearing which my children are so good at…

Maybe we should all sit down and look at our gifts more often. God has given them to us for a reason. I am a ‘get up and go’ type of person, if I want to do something I just get on with it. I did think that this needed to change in my new found faith (and I know I need to listen more and do what God wants not what I want,) but equally I think it is a really positive force in my life. If I feel God is asking me to do something I am not going to sit around on my backside for days thinking about it, I am going to get on with it… (famous last words… :) ) and I know that used in the right way this could be a really useful gift.

This quote was sent to me by a friend some years ago when I started my own business. It is a bit harsh but actually sooooo true.:

Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won’t suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow. But when the person looks back-she will hear her heart saying, ‘What have you done with the miracles that God planted in your days? What have you done with the talents God bestowed on you? You buried yourself in a cave because you were fearful of losing those talents. So this is your heritage: the certainty that you have wasted your life. (Paul Coelho)

I certainly do not want to be there on the day I meet God and when he asks me what I’ve done, to have to say, ‘well, urm, sorry God but I’m not really sure…’ . We all have gifts we can use. If you’re not a get up and go type, maybe you are good with people one-to-one, maybe you quietly spread the word through your actions. We are all evangelists for Christ whether we like it or not, just by living our lives.

I know one of my gifts is being able to communiate with people, I don’t mind standing up in front of people and talking, and have had to do it at various events and in work (funny because as a kid I hated it!!), And I stand up for what I believe in, always have done, so I know that God will use me in this way…. And do you know what? I am raring to go. Yes I know I’m new to this and being fired up as a new Christian is one thing, but how will I fare in a few years time….? I can see all the criticism already, but I don’t care! I want to live my life for God and I want to spread his word, and that is what I intend to do….

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering Gods grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10

normal service is resumed…

So, last week I struggled a bit, and I’ve analysed it over the weekend… a lot… I feel that, probably as a newbie Christian I have been under a kind of blanket of protection, to give me time to really get things in to my head and to prepare myself. And now I feel like that is being lifted a bit. Not as a test, but just to get us back into ‘life’. I have been rather neglectful of my life recently as I have been so immersed in this new life and wanting to know more about God. and obviously some of the old life has to go, and has done, but there is a lot that just has to remain – like the kids, job, husband, school run, etc etc (and I don’t mean that in a negative way !) and I need to put the two lives together. So I think that is what has been happening this week. Work was busy and it will be that way sometimes, the kids were distinctly grumpy and under the weather – nothing new there then – and I haven’t been able to spend as much time in prayer or study as I would like. Which I guess is actually a fairly average week in our house. I had been worrying about this as I felt a bit like the ‘old me’ was coming back but my lovely husband really helped yesterday by making me see that the way I was dealing with these situations was nothing like the old me! and that actually I was using my new found faith to help me through.

I feel that in order to really marry these ‘2 lives’ together that I need to share more with my friends and family what has happened to us, and over the weekend I have had the opportunity to share just a little with a few more people. I was at a party where some of my ‘normal’ (!) friends and some of my church friends were all together, so obviously I knew everyone and there was no backing away from it!

I’ve also been asked to share my testimony in 3 different places. One of which would definitely mean speaking in front of people I have known for some time, so here we go…. no going back now! I know I will be, frankly, ‘bricking it’ doing this, but I also know that God will be with me and guide me and bearing in mind 3 separate places have asked, that is way more than a coincidence!!

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 1: 4-9

Clearing out the rubbish…

For some time I have been feeling the need to have a bloomin’ good clear out. Having done this spiritually, I now mean physically, in my house. I am a bit of a collector and I have realised through my fairly new found faith that actually these trivial things mean so little to me. Also having annointed our house a few weeks back and asked for the Lord to show us anything that should go, that maybe we should actually chuck some of these things away. In fact we had a print done by an artist friend of mine that fell off the wall in mysterious circumstances shortly after we prayed about this! So I guess that was a fairly obvious sign…

So… today has been spent clearing, chucking, recycling, and all the bins are full. So many things have turned up that we had forgotten about – Harry Potter books for example (I know the debate still rages about HP, but for us they have to go). I even found a book on how to read tea leaves – now that is defintely not of God!

Thankfully the local cricket club was having a jumble sale today so a lot of the saleable items were taken down there at speed this morning. In fact there was so much stuff that my hubby was sure they would tell him that he couldn’t bring any more boxes in!

We are only really making small in-roads and a lot more has to go, and we have to let go of a lot emotionally, in order to let it go physically, but I know it will be worth it. It’s like I want my home to be completely ‘clean’, metaphorically not literally (now that would take a bit longer..). I don’t want to come across things lurking in corners that really shouldn’t be there.

and it feels so good. so therapeutic. I feel like the more I chuck out the closer I get to God. day off tomorrow, then Monday I start in my studio – now that is going to be hard….

struggling…

ok I admit it, today I am struggling. I am tired. I am grumpy. I am stressed at work. some of the old things are creeping up at me. people are irritating me. why am I working? why can’t I be a stay at home mum? Why did I think running my own business would be a good idea? Why don’t I have time to do all the things that need doing?
This is the old me and I will NOT give in to it. but man is it hard! I feel like the enemy is throwing little extra things at me just to rub salt in the wound. thankfully there are no customers right now so I can quote scriptue out loud!

Today:
I will not lose my temper. I will not shout. I will not get cross and throw things ;)

I am a good mother and I have a great business. I will say this and believe it. Gosh, just writing this out is making me feel better :)

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

The Journey…

Everything on earth has its own time and its own season. Ecclesiastes 3:1 (CEV)

For Lent I decided to read a book that had been sitting by my bed for a while. It is ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren. The strap line of which is ‘What on earth am I here for?’, well may I ask…
This takes the form of 40 days worth of guidance, ideas, scripture and reading. As a reader you are encouraged not to skip ahead and to focus on the subject matter for each day. So being 40 days it seemed ideal for Lent and as someone who is a self-confessed skipper-aheader, it is good for me to discipline myself not to do this but to stick to each days subject (ok so I may have given in just a few times…)

Yesterdays chapter might as well have been written just for me. It opens with this:

I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished, on that day when Jesus Christ returns. Philippians 1:6 (LB)

The whole chapter is about not rushing ahead, there are no short cuts to spiritual maturity. he uses a great example of how tomatoes lose their flavour when supermarkets try to ripen them too quickly and those that ripen naturally in the sun are so much more tasty. After all, God thinks in terms of eternity, not 3 score years and 10, he is concerned with how strong we grow, not how fast. This is something I really need to take on board. I am always in such a hurry.

These things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day. Habakkuk 2:3 (LB)

We have a lot to ‘unlearn’. Some of us come to Christ broken, with strongholds and problems that have taken years to develop. We can’t expect a quick fix to all of these. Although that said, there have been a few things that have been soooo easy to undo and unlearn now that I am walking with Christ, it’s like my eyes were opened to so many things that I didn’t even see were there.

You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new amnd are becoming like the one who made you. Colossians 3:10

I love how this chapter ends, which is particularly relevant to me when I think of who I was just 3 months ago…

‘ Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.’

another one saved…

On Sunday night my friend asked me if she could share my testimony with a friend of hers and so I sent her this blog link. Then yesterday I got a text saying:

‘ my friend got saved today. wow wow God is good. God used your testimony as I shared it today.’

How AWESOME is that? Praise God that he could use my testimony to help someone else. I feel honoured. But of course all the glory is for him, our most amazing King of Kings. I went off to prayer group last night just buzzing!!
What an awesome day yesterday ( I notice how I say awesome a lot now – is that a Christian thing? although it sounds rather American it just is the perfect word for God and all that he is doing!)

So my prayer today is for more: More Lord, send more. More love, more salvation, more peace, more ‘coincidences’, more prayer, just more of You…

in love

I am soooo in love with Jesus this morning!! I feel so on fire that nothing is going to put me in a bad mood today. Had an awesome night at church last night and I feel like I’m moving onto the next level…

I knew that having had such a God filled today yesterday I would probably experience some kind of downer today but I woke up feeling awesome! So then I thought ok, well if the enemy is not getting at me, what is he going to do? Well I soon found out as all 3 kids were particularly trying this morning to say the least, so I’ve been praying all morning, in between heating up milk, mixing honey and cereal, finding a third choice of clothes for my 4 year old (who has a will of iron…) and so far so good… no shouting or feeling stressed! and they are all out of the house now for at least 5 hours, so I should be clear until then at least!

I also changed my facebook status last night when I got in, before I changed my mind! Nothing overt, just about my life changing, so those that want to can ask me about it. And within 2 mins of arriving at school this morning someone had asked, so I told her and had the courage to do so without feeling a bit embarrassed about it all! I feel like I could stand in the street and shout it out this morning so it wasn’t hard! Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.

(Psalm 150)

Whats in a name…?

Today’s post is inspired by our service this morning. We had been asked the previous week to think about what Jesus is to us, and this morning we wrote those words onto big canvases. The idea came from Jesus saying to Peter in Mathew 16: 15-16:
“But what about you?” He asked, “who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

So we were asked to think about different terms for Jesus and what he means to us. If He asked us, what would our answer be?

Inspired by this, I did a bit of research this week into the different names for Jesus, in the bible specifically. I was actually quite amazed at how many there were! Most I had heard before but just hadn’t really registered,eg:
Lion of Judah; Lamb of God; The Good Shepherd; The Way, The Truth, The Life; The True Vine….

I love ‘Bright & morning Star’ from Revelation 22:16

“…I am the Root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star.”

What a lovely idea – to think of him as the Bright Morning star.

and for me:
‘Rabonni’ (teacher) which is very relevant to me at the mo as I am just learning from him all the time.(John 20:16)

Actually I found on Wikipedia a great list which I’m sure isnt totally comprehensive but had many. Now I know wikipedia isn’t always 100% accurate, but I did check quite a few and they were right!

It really made me think about how we individually think of the Lord – although as Christians we worship the same Lord, we all think of him in different ways, or find different ways of coming to him. For some it’s as a Father, or even a Mother, others like me, as a teacher, and it made me think about how everyone’s faith is different. We all worship in different ways and have different ways of coming to him, feeling closer to him, ways of praying, but we are united in our love of Christ.

If only we could all remember that sometimes…

traditional vs modern, part 1.

hmmm, now how to address this without putting peoples noses out of joint. Well firstly, sorry if I do and hey it’s just my opinion. But lots of things have happened recently, relevant to me, about different types of worship format. So I am going to write about it. I have had lots of conversations with people about this and I think I just need to get a few things straight in my head and get them off my chest. So here follows a few posts on the subject (maybe more if I really get going…). Feel free to ignore, I think this is largely for my own benefit! But I really would welcome any comments…

So… I have attended village churches throughout my life, for most of my 36 years. All fairly traditional, lots of liturgy, hymns, you know the standard kind of thing. However in all that time I never felt like I had any real faith, so my view is a bit clouded to say the least. I feel like I only ever got half the picture and partly this is down to the church. The traditional CofE approach seems to gloss over so much, but particularly Satan and spiritual warfare. Someone recently suggested to me that maybe they were talking about this stuff, but that I just wasn’t open to it, so maybe I didn’t really hear it. Of course this is possible, I mean I talk about my eyes being opened, so why not my ears too? However I still doubt this!

So my issue is not with the traditional approach per se (althought it is not for me right now), it is that they don’t give the full picture. You tend to get a nicey-nicey view of Christianity, baby Jesus in the crib, isn’t it lovely, sort of view. (I know this is a sweeping generalisation…) And how can you have a real view of Christianity or faith without having the whole picture?

(Incidentally, I am deliberately not going to mention any names of churches. This is my view and I do not wish to be openly negative about anywhere in particular. Equally I do keep my blog relatively anonymous, although not entirely and a little digging would give any answers that might arise, but I do prefer it that way – not that I am being particularly contraversial but I don’t want to feel I should temper what I write. I do not actively invite people to my blog, if they find it they are totally welcome, but only a couple of people that actually know me read it regularly and one of those is my husband…!)In my opinion parish churches also seem to perpetuate the myth that it’s ok to just go along on a Sunday morning every once in a while and just forget about God for the rest of the week… I mean for 20 years I went to a parish church, not really believing and certainly not living my life for Christ. I look at people from my old church who I once thought were totally committed to their faith and now I wonder, well are they? Not that I am judging them, but it’s just that now I really know what real faith feels like, that it is changing my whole life, then I realise that others who I knew, maybe aren’t living their life completely for Christ. So then I wonder about the congregations of other parish churches. From my own experience, there are lots of people in parish churches who attend for many reasons other than a committed faith. Maybe out of tradition, or duty, or for their children or a host of other reasons. Again I am not judging these people, I was one for 20 years! So then I think, well if I can attend a parish church for 20 years and really not believe at all, then how could that happen? how could the church let that happen? I am not bitter about it by the way, I know that I needed to go through a lot of rubbish to be in the place where I was ready to hear God eventually, but surely that must say something about what is missing in our churches?

For me it is about having the whole picture; its about listening to people who are TOTALLY committed to Christ and actively show that in their every day lives (and I don’t just mean the Vicar)…

When people ask us why we are going to our church rather than any other I say, because it is child friendly and in fact more than that – the kids are actively encouraged to be part of the service; it has decent, modern worship music, that actually makes you feel that you are worshipping God; the preaching is totally relevant to todays world; and those that attend are, generally speaking, actively living the Christian life rather than just going along out of habit. I actually WANT to go to my church on a Sunday, I don’t feel that I have to or should go out of some kind of duty. I do not drift off during sermons, I do not use prayer time as an excuse for 40 winks or to plan the weekly shop and neither do I use the post-communion time for a chat with my neighbour. Yes, these are all things I used to do at my old church. So that makes me wonder, is this about ‘the church’ or my faith? With my new found faith, could I regularly attend a traditional church and feel differently about it. Well of course, the answer is yes I could, but I don’t want to, because my current church is feeding my faith. If I didn’t have regular contact with the kind of people at my new church then I am sure my faith would suffer. I would like to say that of course it wouldn’t, it’s about what’s in my heart. which is also true, but sharing with other believers who really ‘get it’ is so beneficial to my faith that I do not want to do without it. So then, is it about my faith? I now believe so fervently and with such a hunger to know more, that I have never had before. I look at people from my old church who I once thought were totally committed and now I wonder, well are they? Not that I am judging them, but it’s just that now I really know what real faith feels like, that it is changing my whole life, then I realise that others who I knew, maybe aren’t living their life completely for Christ.

I know it must be very difficult for the Parish Priest, he (or she) has to cater for his whole parish. He can’t say, well if you don’t like it, sod off… (ok some might do!). Generally speaking they have to cater for: young people, children, families, OAPS, and so many more, usually all in one service, in most churches the most attended is the mid Sunday morning church – locally it’s 9.30 or 9.45. So how can one possibly appeal to all those people in one service? I have only ever been to 2 churches that do this well, but admittedly probably do alienate a few people along the way.
Obviously a plant church doesnt have that need put upon it, they can say to people, come along and see if you like it, if not, that’s fine, it’s not for everybody. But then in this day and age when most of us have access to a car, should the parish church still have to cater for its parish? Most parish churches, except in very rural areas, have at least 3 services on a Sunday, all with the usual traditional liturgy, catering for a very similar audience at each service. SO…. could one of these services be a bit different? to maybe appeal to a wider audience?

I am NOT completely anti the traditional. Approach to worship is a very individual thing, I do realise that. My Dad for example would not in a million years chose to come to our church regularly. BUT there are a lot of people out there who are travelling a long way to go to church on Sunday morning rather than a quick walk or short drive to their parish one, that must say something right?

A friend of mine came ot our church today for the first time and in a email to me tonight she wrote the following:

‘I think it’s an awful pity in a way that the C of E is struggling so much, and yet it would appear to me (based on my very wide sample of one!) that Christianity is most definitely out there, and that modern people do believe – they just don’t want the old fashioned way of doing it. Most vicars would give their right arms for a fraction of the congregation there today. Says something, doesn’t it!’