The Gift at Work

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‘I now see how gifts like courage, compassion and connection only work when they are exercised. Every day.’– Brene Brown

If we use our gifts, they will grow stronger. But this requires that we put ourselves in situations that demand the use of our gifts. Situations that squeeze us stretch us and cause us to dig deep for our inner God given resources. It is of little use if we whip our gifts out every now and again in a whirlwind of ‘Christian’ activity or ministry effort. Without consistent use our gifts remain weak and immature, lacking depth and maturity…and power.

Maturity in our gifting is shown through faithfulness, consistency of use and willingness.

In certain situations, particularly those that challenge me and cause me to feel out of my depth, I’ve noticed gifts and abilities emerge. Often it’s something I never considered to be a gift, or a completely fresh ability which seemingly just ‘shows up’ to meet the need.

It’s an amazing feeling to discover the gems God has hidden within us.

As a nursing student specialising in mental health, I get ample opportunity during placements to use my gifts. The ferocity and intensity of the impact of mental illness on individuals demands a wholehearted response from me. I cannot hide away, I cannot retreat, I have to face the person and respond to their distress. I have to look them in the eye and offer support and reassurance. I have to listen to words spilled out in confusion and frustration. It is not easy; in fact at times it is heart-breaking and draining stuff. But it draws the gifts out of me.  It causes me to rise to the challenge or be taken down by it, to sink or swim.

My own needs fade into the background during those times and I focus on the needs around me. It is a freeing place to be.

There is balance in this though, the placement ends and studying begins again. Rest is needed to sustain our gifts. In quietness and confidence is where our strength lies, not in the busyness of the day.  We need time to breathe, to reflect and to renew. Time to remember that there is only one God…and we are not it.

Our gifts make room for us and for other people too.

‘For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you….Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you– guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.’- 2 Timothy 1 v 6; 1v 14

Just As We Are

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“Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.”
― Markus Zusak

When we came to faith in Christ, we arrived warts and all. It was the only way to enter in to the kingdom of God. The only way was to dump our heavy load of sin, brokenness and shame at the foot of the cross and throw ourselves on the mercy and forgiveness of God.

We came just as we were, and God met us there.

The only criterion for salvation is being prepared to participate in a great exchange. Exchanging our mess for His wholeness, our filthy rags for His righteousness and our despair for His joy.

At our core, I believe we all need to feel and experience real and genuine acceptance. To come as we are, to be seen, known and then accepted wholeheartedly. This is what God does for us. He is big and beautiful enough to accept us as we are. Acceptance is not agreement or endorsement, it is the acknowledgement and understanding of who we are and a willingness to take us on. To adopts us, to make us a part of the family.

‘ As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest we were deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.’– Ephesians 2 v 1-5

God accepted us when we were dead in transgression and sins… so what makes us behave as though He doesn’t do it for everyone else in our communities who are in the same state?

Jesus made a way. God accepts people as they are; any clean up job that is required is down to Him and Him only. Our responsibility is to share the good news- that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

So many people are desperate to hear this. If they really felt they would be accepted by God as they are, in whatever sorry state that is, they would run to Him.

I think as believers we can obstruct the process, albeit unconsciously. By behaving in ways that imply;

‘Yes, you can come to Jesus as you are but….’

‘Yes, of course God loves you but…’

‘Salvation is freely given if you believe but…’

We need to get our big buts out of the way. We need to stop obstructing the light from others and allow God to be God.

Acceptance does not negate change- it precedes it.

I thank God with all my heart that He accepted me just as I was, and continues to do so.

 

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

 

 

 

 

Stumbling into the Light

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I celebrate those moments in my walk with Christ when it all seems to fall into place. When I have vision and passion, and where my focus is firmly on Him. At these times I can sense destiny in the air, His word seems to speak directly to my heart and a lifestyle of worship is the norm. It feels safe to be in this place, safe and good. In those moments there is clarity in my life.

But those other moments, in between the experiences of clarity… feel like I am stumbling around in the dark, weighed down with a shattered heart, deep disappointment and far off dreams.

The stumbling feels unsafe, dangerous. I feel guilty before God for my emotional state, as though by acknowledging the wounds in my life I am somehow betraying the goodness of God.

The thing is, in the midst of it all, way way down in my heart, I know God is faithful. I know He is good. It’s just that my human experience in this season briefly eclipsed the light of His purpose and plan for a time.

So what do we do when we are stumbling? How do we regain hope when it has been dashed against the rocks? We continue. Continue stumbling down the path of righteousness. As Eugene Peterson so aptly phrased; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.

We sit before God and weep. We read the word and meditate on truth, even as our minds are racing with thought after thought of loss and pain. We sing to God songs of praise, believing in our hearts that its authenticity is in our choosing to do so in spite of the sadness we feel.

This is truly a sacrifice of praise.

This is where my journey has led me recently. I have wrestled with hurt, guilt and sadness. I have revisited old wounds and fought off bitterness and anger. I have arrived at a place of process in God. He is more than able to handle our process;

‘For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.’– Psalm 103 v 14

Even so, these 3 remain… faith, hope and love. I learned in this season that without hope, faith and love fall flat. Without hope, faith is a burden and a struggle to maintain. Hope brings joy to our journey of faith and ignites love within us.

Hope is springing back slowly but surely. It always does given enough time.

So don’t quit. Don’t look back in anger. A season of clarity is coming once again; though the vision tarries it will surely come.

Stumbling into the light is better than losing the light altogether. It’s definitely humbling, but I know which route I need to take.

“I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly.”
― Madeleine L’Engle

Pay It Forward

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“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

To pay it forward is a beautiful, powerful concept. If we lived with this kind of mentality the world would be a much healthier and kinder place. Imagine a world where every person noticed the small gifts of goodness they receive each day, then out of an overflow of awareness and gratitude, sought to share it with others.

Like Louis Armstrong, we’d all be thinking to ourselves ‘What a wonderful world’…

The thing is, it starts with us. We can choose to pay it forward, to sow seeds into the kind of future we envision in our heart of hearts. Most of the stinking attitudes and actions I have are easily disrupted when I think about these simple verses from one of my favourite books in the bible;

‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. People reap what they sow. Those who sow to please their sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; those who sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.’- Galatians 6 v 7-8

SELAH (let’s pause and think about this for a while…).

These verses needn’t be threatening or intimidating in any way. God is on our side, He wants us to walk His paths, and He wants to guide us in the right way. He will help us to do this step by step and day by day. This is not so much a reprimand, but an opportunity to be seized with both ‘spiritual’ hands.

I love these verses, because I know that if I live according to these few words my life will be drastically different. I know that my relationship with God would flourish and my witness for Him improve significantly. I realise that this is in fact the best way to live. Sowing to the Spirit. Paying the goodness, mercy and forgiveness of God forward into the lives of those around me.

Sowing to the Spirit is not about living as a hermit in the mountains; fasting all day every day and reading nothing but the scriptures for food. It is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. It is doing what is right in God’s eyes more often than not, being a peace maker and spreading His joy wherever we go.

Paying it forward brings wisdom into our relationships. Rather than responding to hurt and misunderstanding with self-righteous anger and self–pity, we could ask ourselves how we would want to be treated if we had been the one to hurt or misunderstand another.

The same goes for evangelism, how would we want to be approached with the Gospel message?

And friendships, what kind of friend would we want in our lives? It’s amazing how we can change our words, our attitudes and our self-destructive patterns of behaviour when we realise we are paying it forward into our own future.

‘Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’– Luke 6 v 38

Monday Prayers

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Father God,

We thank You for giving us eternal life

For the ability to know You

The only true God

And Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

May Your Son Jesus be glorified across the Earth

Father protect us

By the power of Your name

Make us, Your followers, one

As You are one

Protect us from the evil one

Sanctify us by Your truth

Your word is truth.

You in us, us in You

Bring us into complete unity

Into manifest love

So that the world will know

We belong to You

We long to see Your glory.

In the name of Jesus (Messiah), Amen.

-John 17 

An Integrated Life

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“The adventure of life is to learn. The purpose of life is to grow. The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome. The essence of life is to care. The opportunity of life is to serve. The secret of life is to dare. The spice of life is to befriend. The beauty of life is to give.”
― William Arthur Ward

In the business world, taking time to consider the aims and objectives of a venture is considered time well spent. Aims and objectives shape a venture and help to mould it into something viable and relevant. Aims and objectives keep things on track; they help maintain focus and direction.

I spent time this week thinking about the aims and objectives of my own life. I thought about the direction it is heading in and what drives the life decisions I am making or will make in the future. So here is a (brief) summary of my life manifesto…

I don’t want my life to revolve around the finite plans of my own little world, with a good work thrown in here and there. I don’t want a life with definable lines between stepping out in the things of God and my everyday routine. I want to give and live generously to the point where my life is an indefinable, integrated mesh which consists of pouring myself out into God’s Kingdom purposes, making a difference in the lives of others in small ways and grand ways. I want to be like Jesus, not anybody else. I want Him to be well pleased with me. I want my life to have lasting, tangible, eternal impact. No demarcation lines between my everyday life and the mission of God. I want the life that God designed for me from the beginning of time to run through the very veins of my daily lifestyle decisions, to shape how I work, rest and play. I want every facet of my life to follow the leading of His Spirit and to flow with Him, not against Him. I want to deliberately choose Gods way over the way of others. I want to please Him.

Listening to this song today reinforced my conviction of the above. I have decided…

Christ is Enough (Hillsong)

I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
The cross before me
The world behind me
No turning back
No turning back

These are my aims and objectives. What are yours?