Start

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Approximately one year ago I followed a link to a blog I read occasionally. The author was Jon Acuff. The blog post was looking for adventurers, all you had to do was fill in a quick form. I closed the window and tried to forget about it but it kept tugging at the back of my mind.

I was a few months into a new job and I was supposed to be happy. I was where God wanted me to be (I still believe that, by the way). But there was still this longing for something more. So I went back to the post and filled out the form, not realising how significant that small action would turn out to be. I soon found myself a part of something called ‘The Start Experiment’ (more recently reinvented as the ’30 days of Hustle’) an amazing online community with daily emails and encouragement to push you towards achieving your goals and seeing your dreams become reality.

One year on, my life is so different. I have left that job and am currently unemployed and living back with my parents, with very little in the way of concrete plans. But I have my dreams and the last year has taught me that they are worth fighting for. I am taking chances I never would have dreamed of a year ago. I have best friends who live the other side of the world whom I’ve never met but who feel like my sisters. I have bought a domain name and am starting to take myself seriously as a writer. This is the power of community.

My goal in that original Start Experiment was to see myself as a writer. As part of that experience I wrote the following poem, and posted it on a Facebook group of more than 3000 people. and they liked it.

Start

Sometime,

In a time before,

I was afraid

so I hid.

I thought I had

nothing to share

nothing to give

I thought I was

Nothing.

And I was afraid

that people would see

the nothing in me.

But now I know

what was really scaring me

was the simple idea

that I might be

Something.

That I might have

something to give

something to share

and it might be

Amazing.

But I’m afraid to be

the person I could be

if I let myself be me.

I am made

for better things

than I’ve settled for…

So I’m choosing

to let go

of the things I’m holding onto

that hold me back

And I’m choosing

not to be afraid

of where my dreams may lead me

and the person I could become

if I let myself believe

that the One who created me

Didn’t make a mistake

But saw me

and knew me

Even before I was made

And He filled me

Brim-full of potential

to be creative

for I am made in the image of Creator God

And He filled me

with a deep-set longing

to find Him – for in finding Him I find myself

This I now know

I need not fear

who I have been

or who I could be

Because I am loved

and there is no place for fear in love.

A King who messed up

Psalm 3

Psalm 3 gives us a spotlight on a really low point in David’s life. The story behind the Psalm is in 2 Samuel 15, though the scene is set four chapters earlier when David sins by committing adultery and murder (chapter 11), and God makes it clear there are going to be consequences (chapter 12) – lesson 1: whenever we go against God’s ways, even though He forgives us in His mercy, there will always be repercussions to our actions.

The first consequence is that the child born from the affair dies, but things soon get worse for David. In chapter 13, when one of David’s sons, Amnon, rapes his half-sister Tamar. David is angry about this (verse 21) but doesn’t do anything about it, so Tamar’s brother Absalom takes matters into his own hands, and kills Amnon, and then flees. Eventually David is persuaded to let Absalom return to Jerusalem, who appears to make peace with his father (chapter 14).

But Absalom soon starts to undermine his father’s rule and eventually leads a power coup, and David is forced to flee, and this is the situation in which David writes this Psalm.

I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for David to be betrayed by his own son, particularly knowing that in some way it was a result of bad choices he had made. His response in this Psalm, however, is so challenging to me as he turns to God in his anguish but not in anger. He repeatedly refers to God as LORD, using God’s covenant name (Yahweh) that emphasises God’s goodness.

When his enemies are trying to tell him that God has left him, David calls out to God for protection, because he knows that the LORD has always responded in the past to his cries for help (v4) He was able to rest, despite everything, because God sustained him. He develops this idea into hope for the future, he knows that God has helped him, so he has no need to fear, however many enemies he is facing, because God has answered him whenever he called. He calls out to God, trusting Him for justice to be done to his enemies.

Often those without faith can try to talk us out of ours. We need to always remember what God has done for us in the past, as this knowledge will sustain us and help us to keep trusting Him for our present and our future. God is faithful and will answer when we call to Him. He is the source of justice and salvation.

David’s story is at times victorious and at times heartbreaking, for me this is one of the saddest chapters in his life. His failures as a father and the consequences of his actions make for difficult reading, and remind us that while we can learn a lot from Biblical characters we must remember that they were human and usually screwed up pretty badly at times (apart from Jesus, who, being fully God as well as fully human, was awesome and is literally the perfect role model). But this is a great lesson for us too – David, despite all his screw-ups, is still referred to as being ‘a man after God’s own heart’. What we see throughout the Psalms is that whatever happens in his life, good or bad, David is constantly turning to God, whether in anguish or in praise, or sometimes both. Life is messy, often as a result of our own actions, and we need to learn from David to take all our mess to a loving and powerful LORD and God who will always answer when we call to Him.

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You

I am standing where

I can see no way

No clue

But You.

 

When what I’m living

is painful

And what I want

is impossible

When there are more questions

than answers

There is You.

 

When mists block my vision

and rocks cause my feet to stumble

You remain

Only You

Always You

 

You guide me on right paths

Your Word lights my way

You will not let me fall

You will not lead me astray

 

So I trust

And I follow

 

Giving up my dreams

Knowing Your dreams for me are bigger

Hoping only in You and Your plan

 

Giving up my rights

Knowing that in complete surrender

comes total freedom.

 

 

 

I wrote this poem two years ago. I don’t remember the exact situation but I do remember it being a confusing time. Although my situation is very different now, when I came across this poem again tonight a lot of the sentiments really resonated with me. There is so much that is unknown, unseen, in our lives and we need to trust in something bigger than ourselves. A big part of that is letting go – of our insecurities, but also of our pride and the idea that we can muddle through on our own.

 

Recently this song by Josh Garrels has become my theme tune. A lot of stuff has happened in the last year that I don’t understand, yet, but God is always faithful – “keeps me ramblin’ on”

 

Video: from The Last Generation of Mankind on youtube

Music Credit To: Josh Garrels

Song: Farther Along

Album: Love War & The Sea in Between

Video Credit To: TSOphotography

accessed via: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IctD9l4F-ag

 

The Anointed One

Psalm 2

This is a Messianic Psalm – meaning it talks about the Anointed One who God will send to rule the earth in the future (Jesus).

It opens up with a rhetorical question – why are people setting themselves up against God? These are people of power – kings and rulers – who are coming together against God. They seem to see Him as a killjoy, setting restricting rules for the sake of it, but the Psalmist undercuts this by using God’s covenant name – the LORD (Yahweh) to highlight His goodness and love. He cares for our wellbeing.

The word Lord also appears not written all in capitals – this is usually a translation of the word Adonai – a name for God that emphasises His authority.

The Psalmist sees the futility of their rebellion – he can see that God has anointed a King – His Son – who will rule over the earth and one day everyone will be subject to Him. But this can be a good thing – those who seek refuge in the Anointed will find it, those who worship Him will be spared.

The Psalms often present this choice to us – our way or God’s way: will we stand against Him or submit to His authority in our lives? This Psalm urges the nations to give up their rebellion and submit to the LORD who will give them refuge – if they don’t they will face His judgement.

I was struck by verse 11: “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling” – it brought to mind those similar verses in Philippians 2v12-13, which tell us to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling”. I think we can sometimes forget or even ignore the judgement and holiness of God – this reminds us that He deserves our respect and our worship.

Verse 8 also sent me searching for references: “I will make the nations your heritage”. One verse that suggests Jesus as the object of this promise (the one receiveing the heritage) is Hebrews 1v2, where He is described as the ‘heir of all things’.

What this verse reminded me of is the only clue Jesus gave as to when He would return. In Matthew 24v1-14, the disciples are asking Jesus how they will know when ‘the end of the age’ is coming. Jesus warns them not to be distracted by false teachers telling them the end is coming, then He gives the clue: “And the gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Way back in the Psalms, Jesus, the Anointed One, was promised that all nations would be His inheritance, and He won’t return until every nation has been given the opportunity to hear and follow. Which makes our mission clear. We must take the news that Jesus is God’s Anointed One, who will judge those who set themselves up against Him, but will provide refuge to those who fear and trust Him.

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(Photo is of the stained glass window in the chapel at Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire)

Two ways to live

Psalm One (click to read!)IMG_0135

I’m not sure if this Psalm is officially counted as a Wisdom Psalm or not, but it definitely has some wise teaching for us.

The Psalm presents us with two ways to live and the consequences of each choice.

The first picture we are painted is of one who is slowly becoming more entrenched in wicked ways – first they are walking with bad influences and taking their advice. Then they stop and stand and hang around with those who do bad things. Then they sit and stay, not moving on, in the company of mean people.

The second picture is a contrast – and this is the person who God blesses – the one who delights in the Lord and studies His word. This person will not be easily led astray because he is deeply rooted in God, constantly being refreshed, connected to the source of life, as in John 15, and producing fruit (one assumes the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-3). This person is full of life and prospers because he has deep roots (Colossians 2:7).

But the wicked person has no roots and quickly blown away. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Now we see the consequences – the wicked person is judged by God and brought down, but the righteous person is seen and known by God, they will grow and be refreshed.

These concepts of ‘wicked’ and ‘righteous’ can sometimes seem a little archaic to our ears, and people are never this black and white. I’m sure this psalm has been misused in the past to encourage young people away from ‘hanging out with the wrong crowd’. For me, however, that is not the takeaway. The man who is blessed is the one who is seeking God’s advice, God’s perspective, not man’s. He is looking for a heavenly mindset. It is so easy to get so used to culture, society, the media, that their messages which bombard us everyday become our standard pattern of thought. And ‘what goes in to the mind comes out in the life’ – we can so easily become the man sitting down in the company of nasty people without realising it.

Don’t get me wrong here – there are a lot of great and insightful and fun television programmes and films and books and art and music, and we can learn a lot from them. But there are a lot of these things (even some of the really good ones) that are at odds with the Biblical lifestyle. We have to make sure we are flooding our minds with the Word, so that that influences our lives more than the culture around us.

When I was at university, I developed a bit of an addiction to that wonderful sitcom, favourite to so many, Friends. (I still love it!) I got to the point where I would chain watch multiple episodes, even fall asleep watching it. And then I started to notice that when my friends were talking about problems in their lives, I could more easily bring up a joke from friends than an encouraging Bible verse. When I thought about my own life and relationships I could more easily relate it to what I was seeing onscreen than what I was reading in God’s word. It started to affect the way I thought about life and so, in the end, I gave myself a break from the show until I had got myself more stuck in the Bible and seeing things God’s way.

This isn’t easy but it is so much the better way, because it brings life and health and refreshment to our souls.

 

Hope

Sometimes

When tragedies overtake us

It can hurt to keep trusting You

In those times

When we cry out

Where are You, God?

How could You let this happen?

We don’t always realise

That You are always there

Crying with us

For You know our pain

You ache for our suffering

As You know what it is to suffer

We can turn to You for comfort

And You promise us,

Though we can’t see it yet,

That it will all turn out for good

Because we must remember

That the best thing that ever happened to us

Was brought about by death,

Your death,

Which means we can have life

And Your resurrection to life

Which saves us from death

So in these times

When darkness falls

And all I can do

Is cling to You

I seek Your comfort

Because You know me

And I know You

Because out of Your great tragedy

You brought the greatest victory

And that is why I have hope.

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When a ‘No’ feels like a win

I officially finished my job yesterday, meaning today I am officially out of work.

At this point I feel like I should be crazily job hunting and widening my search for work, but actually I am relaxed. I have options and I have time. I’d rather have the ‘right’ job than just any job.

Last week I had a preliminary interview for a job that on paper seemed like a brilliant opportunity. It was in  church youth work (my field) and included training at the local Bible college. The staff and elders from the church whom I met at the interview were all lovely, and friendly and put me at my ease as soon as I arrived. They asked all the right questions, and listened to my story without judgement. They appreciated and understood what I had gained from my life experiences and how that influenced my work. The answered all my questions with what I wanted and hoped to hear from potential employers, and from a church family. The church itself was a lovely building, recently refurbished, with great spaces and equipment for the youth work. In all it ticked nearly all of my boxes of what I’m looking for in a job.

But I left with the feeling that it wasn’t the right opportunity for me, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. When people asked, I said I wasn’t sure that the village location would suit me (I’ve realised now that I am definitely a city girl at heart) but there was more to it than that. It just didn’t feel right.

I had a call from the church leader in the evening after the pre-interview saying that they would be taking up references that week and shortlisting for the formal interviews and would be in touch at the end of the week. I thanked them and said that although I was still interested in the post but would appreciate having a few days to think about it.

In my heart I knew that I wouldn’t be taking the job, but practically in my head I told myself I needed to think more about it. Because, without a job lined up, could I really afford the luxury of turning down a job?

So as the week went by I grew more sure that I was making the right decision, but was really nervous that the church would call and offer me a formal interview and I would have to turn it down.

But when they called… the church leader said that they had really enjoyed meeting me, I came over really well in the pre-interview and ticked all the right boxes in terms of what they were looking for… but… as they had talked and prayed about it they felt sure that it wouldn’t be the right situation for me. I was so relieved, I was over the moon. I explained that I had been feeling the same way, that I was really impressed by everything I’d seen and heard but just knew it wasn’t right for me.

So here’s the thing. Here’s the takeaway – God knows what He is doing. And He tells us. We just have to listen. The Holy Spirit speaks to everyone and there are beautiful moments where what we think God is saying to us is confirmed through what He is saying to other people.

I may not know right now where I am headed next. I have ideas, and they are exciting and I am waiting to see how the opportunities in front of me play out… But I have no definite answers right now. But I have hope. God knows where I am going, and He is at work, behind the scenes, preparing the place for me.

I’ve given up making plans for the future. I have ideas, dreams of what I want for my life, and I know God has an amazing plan for me that will let me achieve those dreams to His glory.IMG_0034

“And I will lead the blind

in a way that they do not know,

in paths that they have not known

I will guide them.

I will turn the darkness before them into light,

the rough places into level ground.

These are the things I do,

and I do not forsake them”

Isaiah 42v16

Waiting (in memory of Gwen Pitt)

This is the poem I wrote for my Nan’s funeral two years ago. We still miss her, and all those who we have loved who are no longer with us. But we have hope that we will be reunited one day.

 

For you

The wait is over

The frail shell that held you here

Forgotten now as you run freely

Into the arms of the One who always loved you best

Welcomed with joy

Reunited with those who went before you

Celebrating a life well lived

Pain and suffering

Now just a fading memory

 

For us

Those who are left behind

It is harder

Our wait continues

We keep the memories

Bittersweet memories

Moments of joy

Tinged with the sadness

That you are no longer with us

 

One day

Our wait will be over too

On a day when all pain and sorrow

Will be at an end

We will meet again

 

Until then

We must press on

Trusting in Him for what awaits us

Knowing that you have joined the great cloud of witnesses

Cheering us on

 

Until that day

We wait

And say

Goodbye

For now

 

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Perseverance

Hebrews 12:1-2, Hebrews 11:1

 

Beautiful Sunset

When I’m going through times when everything seems to be really hard work, which happens often, these are my favourite verses to keep me going.

Faith is sometimes seen as something wishy-washy and insubstantial, a vague hope in something seemingly unbelievable, or just wishful thinking. But faith is something so powerful in these verses. Hebrews 11 is one of my favourite passages in the Bible because it shows the power of faith in God. Verse 1 says faith is “assurance” and “conviction”, other translations use “confidence”, “being sure” and “being certain”. Jesus, as always, is our example of what this means. Hebrews 12:1-2 says that Jesus “endured the cross” because of “the joy that was set before him”. He knew that better things were to come and that enabled Him to endure the pain and shame of death on a cross.

Knowing what Jesus endured makes facing anything I come up against seem a little easier, mostly because I know He is here to help me. I know God has promised good things for my future, and maybe I don’t see them yet or how they will happen, but I have faith to endure the time of waiting and the difficulties that come with it. Several things I have watched/read recently have quoted the old saying that “the night is darkest just before the dawn.” If you’re struggling, have faith – there is joy to come in the morning.

The Lord has promised good to me

His word my hope secures

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures