STOP IT!

 

It would appear that there is a widespread feeling of discontentment from Christians at the moment. As a result of posting my first two blogs I have had lots of conversations with people feeling a similar way. A feeling that if we don’t step up, really encounter Jesus, really know God’s heart then we’ve missed the whole point of why Christ came. It’s been exciting and reassuring that I’m not on my own in this. If we’re gonna do it, let’s do it properly. But how?

The last couple of weeks I have been genuinely excited about going to church. The week before last our Church Leader Anthony gave another incredibly helpful talk about how Jesus walks with us even when our commitment to him fluctuates. Peter, one of the disciples was like this, on a grand scale. He denied Jesus not once but three times. He would be super committed and enthusiastic and then falter. Jesus not only loved him uncompromisingly but also used him as a key player in the early church and the advancement of Christianity. “YES” I thought…hope for me yet!

Then this Sunday a guest speaker came to speak. His name is Simon Guillebaud. He lives in Burundi, East Africa with his wife and three children and he gets it. He gets what I’m feeling on another level. Burundi is the 2nd poorest country in the world. It is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Simon should be dead, countless times over he should be dead. He has had threats that would have given me a heart attack even without them being carried out. He and his wife put their kids to bed with loud fans on to drown out the sound of gunfire. He told stories of such horror that even he who is well versed in suffering was in tears. But he also told of INCREDIBLE hope and miracles. Whilst driving down the most notorious road in the country his colleague turned to him and said “you know we’re invincible until God calls us home?”. What a great mantra (am I allowed to say that?? Anyway..) for life! WE ARE INVINCIBLE UNTIL GOD CALLS US HOME! So why the absolute chuffers do we spend so much time worrying about ridiculous things? Why the chuffers do we spend so much money on rubbish, trying to lengthen our lives and make us happy (and probably in debt) in the mean time? Why do we not live for Jesus like WE ARE INVINCIBLE UNTIL GOD CALLS US HOME?

That was just the introduction. He went on to speak about 9 questions that Western Christians need to answer. I won’t list them all here but please, if you like my blog (thanks) listen to the podcast of the talk (www.ivychurch.org/media), and write some notes. But beware, it is challenging. It looks at some traits of many, many Christians. He called us into a higher standard of living God’s way. This way isn’t bound by regulations, routine, knowing the plan, or justifying our behaviour…ouch! God’s way is LIFE, FREEDOM, LOVE, GRACE. It is eternal life with Him.

So being me, I come home and start packing for Burundi. I’ll do everything Simon said and more. Let me loose on the world. I’ll buy a lorry and fill it up with broken people to love and dodge bullets and see daily miracles and fight fires and become a Dr and an architect and do a theology degree and learn 8 languages. Then they’ll write a book about me being the Christian Lara Croft (with less lycra) and we’ll all be merry and bright. But then it all got a bit busy. I had organised a picnic for some neighbours from our church. Then I had to collect my eldest from a party, do spellings and reading with her, sort out school uniform and put on another load of washing. Then my youngest was being really cute before bed so we did lots of playing and laughing which wound her up no end so she needed to be cuddled to sleep. Then I was tired.

So Monday morning I woke, feeling no less inspired but maybe a bit less feisty. One thing that had really got me thinking during Simon’s talk was that he could recite lengthy passages of the Bible from memory, word for word. So my 6 year old and I sat down to write out a bible verse each to learn this week. I looked at a blog written by a fellow busy Mum trying to focus on one verse a week…great, that’ll do;

Psalm 37:23-24 “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him. though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

I didn’t really read it properly. I drew it on a big bit of paper in fancy writing (not very me but never mind) decorated it with flowers (even less me) and stuck it on my bedroom wall. It was only as I went in the room later that it hit me. “STOP IT” was almost audible. I felt God guide me back to my original plan of slowing down, listening more and not putting a 10 step plan in place. I  need to delight in him. Spend time with him. Enjoy being a child of the King. Experience his infallible joy. Then he will make my steps, and they’ll be firm and they’ll be mine. They won’t be Simon Guillebaud’s. They won’t be anyone else’s. They’ll be my steps. And I won’t be able to fall or fail. I might stumble but I’ll be upheld by the one who made me and knows be best.

Later I met with a friend who is going through an incredibly tough time. She said about her dramatic life event “everything’s changed and nothing’s changed”. That’s how I feel. That God is awakening something in me that is huge, something that I can’t imagine but that will be incredible. But I still have to make the dinner, do the washing, change nappies and clean the bathroom.

It’s a tension and balance that I need to stop trying to work out. At the moment, the day to day is what I need to do, and do well. My kids are young and my husband is busy, serving God in another way. I need to not belittle this time or see it as inferior. Yes I feel this real sense of seeing greater things, but God is calling me, my character and my dependence on him to be greater. Not through pressure or striving or working too hard and burning myself out. But by being loved, by delighting in him and by trusting that he’s got my future. Delighting and trusting like never before.

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Starkers and Stories!

So I’ve started this blog ‘Bare Naked Faith’ and I feel like the first post I wrote 2 weeks ago really did leave me emotionally and spiritually butt naked. I’ve shared it with a very select few people but I’ve not been brave enough, until now for public viewing. Did you ever see Gok Wan force poor, post-children, wobbly, cellulite clad women to parade on a stage for all to glare at? Well that’s what I feel like; vulnerable, unhidden, wobbly but strangely proud that I’ve been totally honest and not held back. Now I want to get dressed, paint a smile on my face, do the school run and carry on as before. However there’s no point in writing a ‘Bare Naked Faith’ blog fully clothed. So I’m leaving the Gok Wan stage and I’m still stark b*****k naked (sorry Mum).

After I’d written my last post I thought about how I’d explain it in more detail to someone who doesn’t share my faith why it is all so important. Here I am, admitting to hearing from God, being completely broken and wanting to live in a completely different way. I want to make clear that I am still me. I love all things funny. I belly laugh at risky birthday cards and Dad jokes, gogglebox is my favourite show (I LOVE Scarlett), coco pops and weetabix are my favourite late night cereal combination, with blue milk. I enjoy moderate amounts of gin and cannot sit through films. I detest pinterest and it’s fake ideals. I love my kids and quite frankly they are, and always will be better than all the rest. I am still human and that’s ok. But I am also deeply spiritual and that cannot help but become more of the every day and make me who I am. Some of you will understand what I’m talking about and some of you will probably think I’m crazy. So I want to explain it better.

As part of my “listening” phase I decided to stop making excuses about the kids, stop taking time out in Starbucks (unhelpfully in the same building) and get my sorry behind into church every Sunday morning to actually listen and engage with the talk (preach). So on Sunday the 1st May, the day after my 33rd birthday and the start of my Jesus year (He was 33 when he died and rose again) I went to church and sat and listened. Anthony Delaney our Church leader was speaking. After a comedy story about begging for a carrier bag in Tesco he said “At the end of the talk today I want to encourage you to get out your seat, come to the front and kneel if you are wanting to give your life fully over to Jesus Christ. Now maybe you’ve done that before but you’ve realised that actually you’ve started to be in charge of your life again yourself and you want to give your life back to him.” Even though I felt like I’d already done this the week before, I laughed to myself knowing that I was absolutely gonna need to hear what he was about to say.

He went on to describe our lives as a story, with lots of changing scenes.. A French philosopher spoke once about “the death of the meta-narrative”. This means that people have lost the idea of the big story. That’s completely what I had been doing. I had been focusing so much on my past and the here and now of young children, school runs, sleepless nights, being skint and feeling super busy but not productive. I had forgotten that this time of having young children is just a few pages of my life book. I had focused so much on what I had failed at that I forgot how much I had and WILL achieve. I forgot who was directing. My story is bigger than my past, my present and my failures. If it just focuses on that then quite frankly it won’t be on Richard and Judy’s best books list.

He went on to speak about the point of our stories. If we are here just by accident and the world ends by accident then what is the point? Some may call me completely crazy but I KNOW I was created. I know there is a reason bigger than I can imagine for me being here. I know that that my life is not meaningless. The bible says that “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I have faith. Faith in something bigger. An author of my story. I have faith in God.

Some research has been done about university students. 2 of the biggest things they struggle with are porn and suicidal thoughts. The first is devaluing others and the second is devaluing ourselves. These are of course extreme ends of the spectrum but surely we all devalue others and ourselves in some ways? Story’s without purpose will always do one or the other. In my last blog I was open about my failures and the priority I had given them. At no point was I suicidal but gosh, I wasn’t placing high value on myself. And when I’m in a bad place I think badly of others. I think they’ve not been a great friend or selfish or oblivious of their faults. It’s horrible to write and admit to but I have certainly devalued others. There has to be a better way.

So how do I take hold of  my story and make it a better one? I give it back over to God. The three in one God. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It’s the only way I can find true meaning.

Anthony went on to explain that great stories always include love, adventure, an enemy to fight, a hero, a sacrifice, a resurrection and Hope. The Christian story follows exactly this framework…which is why it’s so incredible.

 

Act 1: A love story. God created us and made us in his image. We are close to God, working together with him.

Act 2: The enemy enters in. He hates and opposes God. He can’t hurt God so he goes after his kids.He convinces God’s children to turn their backs on God. But GOD IS LOVE.

Act 3: A hero is needed. A rescuer has to come. Jesus volunteers for the rescue mission. Even though we didn’t deserve it, Christ died for us. He swapped our truck-load of rubbish and gave us treasure.

So in a nutshell it’s all there; love, adventure, an enemy to fight, a hero, a sacrifice, a resurrection BUT then there’s hope. Huge hope. Monumental hope. Jesus took my place. All the secret things I have done, the horrible thoughts, the poor, poor choices, the debt, the pain, the damage, the mistakes that some of you have seen me make or even made with me. Jesus took it. And not only did he take it but he gave me a crown instead. He made me right and let me come and sit with God, the almighty one. To be not only a friend but a co-heir, a co-inheritor of everything he has. He has made me perfect and new and more alive than I have ever been.

While I am on earth I know life will throw challenges and difficulties, hardship and doubt. But whatever happens to me I am a citizen of heaven. I have the hope of all eternity. My story is bigger than I can ever imagine. God is the author and director. This movie is gonna be incredible, not because of what I have done but what he has done.

 

I want to help you find your story. To be reconciled to God. Find your place, find your purpose. I am never, ever, ever gonna force anyone to do this. But if you want to know more then please come to church www.ivychurch.org, or just come and have a chat.

Below is the podcast from Anthony’s talk. I hope it helps you to have a bigger story.