Wednesday, 24 January 2018

And on the seventh day... We Rest!

I am in the middle of an interesting week of training at The Salvation Army's William Booth training college. I have been surrounded by some amazing colleagues who serve, like us, as Territorial Envoys, running Salvation Army churches up and down the country. This is our third year at our annual seminar and this year I have been shocked to see some gifted pastors, who in previous year had been full of passion and zeal, looking exhausted. In conversation they have admitted that amongst other things, they aren't finding time to take their day off. 

I'm am passionate about keeping the sabbath, and seeing my friends and colleagues so tired prompted me once again to consider its importance to us in a society and job that never seems to stop.

We know that God created the world in 6 days and on the 7th day he rested. Yesterday one of  our soeakers very briefly posed the question "did God really need to rest on the 7th day?" The answer of course is no, but he chose to rest, purely as an indicator for us to see how our rhythm of life should be. God modelled the behaviour that we should have, and time and time again in his word, it reminds us of the importance of Sabbath. 

Jesus was a great advocate of the sabbath as a rhythm of life. He understood the complexities of ministry, and the busyness of life. He certainly understood too that there is an ocassional time when our rest needs to be put on hold for a short while whilst we do the Lord's work. But above all he knew that rest was vitally important in mission and ministry. 

One verse in the bible I truly love, but truly challenges me says:

"The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly" John 10:10 

I know when things have been particularly busy and I haven't been able to take my sabbath day  rest for a while, I have looked at my life and realised that it has ceased to be an abundant life. How can we possibly tell the lost to come follow Jesus and have an abundant life when all we ever do is 'sleep, eat, work, repeat?' As ambassadors of Christ we are called to embody an abundant life. And that includes rest! 

Any of you who follow me on social media know that I love putting up pictures, and on our day off I always try to post at least one picture that shows something of our 'rest.' Sometimes Paul (my husband) rolls his eyes at yet another picture, but I often reply: "How can we expect our flock to live an abundant rhythm of life with a healthy sabbath if we don't reflect it in our own life?" 

Some of my many pictures!!

So today - God is saying

'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to live lightly and freely.' 

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

finding joy in the struggle

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that testing your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" 
James 1:2-4

As you know, this year I asked God to give me a word to take with me through 2018, and I he gave me the word Joy. I decided to take some time to study what exactly Joy means and where we can see it used in the bible. The verse from James was one I came across immediately. At first I skipped straight past it, as I wanted my word to mean that everything in the next year will go great and that I might have a rest from trials and struggles. However, I soon felt the Lord lead me gently back to it. 

As I began to really get to grips with this verse, I started to question how joyful I actually am, and whether it manifests itself in times of trial in my own life. 

James calls us to consider it 'pure joy' in trials, or as the passion translation says:
" when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy you can." 

What a challenge! But James continues by saying that in times of great struggle, real growth comes, and in it we can learn so much about who God really is. 

It reminds me a bit of bread (bear with me!) When you bake bread after placing all the ingredients in a bowl, you don't just leave it, you knead the dough. The kneading activates the yeast, which causes it to rise. 

When we face times of trial, and we feel like we are being kneaded (is it just me that sometimes feels as if I am being spiritually kneaded!?!?!?) it actually activates our faith and helps us to grow so we can experience the 'good bread' as a result.

If we face times of struggle with joy, knowing that we will see good fruit (or bread!) - oh how that could renew our minds and help our relationships with others to flourish. 

I am blessed to have many prayer partners, most of them women journeying through infertility. This week, one of those beautiful women said something that profoundly challenged me. She talked about a huge struggle her family had gone through, where God miraculously intervened, and recalled how the trial had brought her family wonderfully close. She then reflected this on her own journey to be a mum and her marriage and she shared with great joy how there was developing a new level of closeness and intimacy in her marriage through the trials. 


Today my  prayer is that I might reflect that joy as struggles come and that the bread that is made through my trials may be good, wholesome, edifying and taste delicious! 

Monday, 1 January 2018

Saying hello to 2018

It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog. So much has happened in the past few months and if I’m honest it has been really really tough! As many of you know at the end of August I fell and broke my ankle pretty badly and after a lengthy operation, progress has been slow, painful, and both emotionally and physically draining. Although I have returned to work, I am regularly finding I can only do a fraction of what I was able to do before. 


God is good and I have learnt so much about God, myself and my ministry through it all. God has also been revealing to me where he leading me, and although it’s pretty scary it’s super exciting too. 

Over the past few days I have been considering the year ahead. In a lot of ways I will be glad to shut the door on 2017 and look to new possibilities. Don’t get me wrong I have had some truly wonderful moments in the past year. God has taken me deeper in my ministry, especially with women journeying through infertility, I went on an unforgettable pilgrimage to Israel and I have seen amazing answers to prayer. But it has also been filled with grief, depression and in the past week, yet another negative pregnancy test! 

However, as I have been praying into 2018, God spoke to me loud and clear as to where my focus should be and I have heard the same word over and again….JOY

I’m a pretty happy person, and I have been told once of twice that I always seem to have a smile on my face, but that isn’t really Joy. Joy is something beyond just happiness, it is not dependent on circumstance but is fully reliant on God. Joy stays unwavering in the face of infertility, insecurity and unrest. As Nehemiah 8:10 said ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’ 

As I pondered Joy and what it may mean for the year ahead the Lord dropped this verse into my heart and as I sit with a blank page in front of me, I pray that this time next year I will have radical, grace-filled stories to tell about reaping in joy the harvest I have sown in sorrow