I write this whilst I am sat in Rwanda preparing to leave after another tough but wonderful trip. I was asked if I miss home whilst I am away? My response was I miss people. With modern communication and social media I can keep in touch with my family.
However I miss those I have interactions with more often such as my friends who I hang out with and my work colleagues and my Church family. It is only when you are absent that you miss people and value their presence in your life.
I have been coming to Rwanda for many years now and have developed friendships and a sense of community here too. Over the years we have many genuine friendships that have grown. It is a joy to have two worlds where I can be part of communities and be accepted.
God brings people into our lives so we can have a sense of belonging and not feel isolated in the world. We pass through difficulties together and celebrate successes too. It is a place to listen, grow and share. We encourage and find a synergy to keep moving when we are together. Positive friendships build our lives and negative ones take until you have nothing left to give. Their work is done as you are destroyed.
Jesus drew a bunch of people together. They became friends and journeyed together. They had disagreements like anyone else. There were fights about who was the greatest friend to Jesus. My point is friendships are tested and we will need to be gracious and forgive. When we do we have growth. It takes the friendships to another level of trust.
Take a moment to observe those God has brought into your life. Take time to be with those that God has placed us with. Our lives are made stronger and wider by those we hang out with.
The gospel of Luke focuses on the ministry of Jesus amongst the poor and social justice. Luke 10 we read about the good Samaritan who picks up the beaten man and pays his bills. The lost son in Luke 15 who found himself in extreme poverty and the father who longed for him to come home. Hebrews 13:16 “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” God likes it when we share what we have. He has given us so much through Jesus it’s not much to ask that we now share our lives too.
The book of Luke is full of such stories. I am sure we could recount stories where we have noticed the poor in our world and done a random act of kindness toward someone. I try to practise this as a way of life. Not that I feel the need to be a do gooder. It’s that I can’t turn my back on social injustice as God asks us to bring reform and be the change thats needed.
When we look around societies around the world we don’t have to look far to see the resident poor. Whenever I travel to Europe, Africa, US and around the UKI notice the poor have a presence. We don’t have to look far to see them if we open our eyes and heart to engage.
I once sat and watched a woman who was mentally unwell be avoided in a cafe in the UK because she was different. I brought her a coffee and breakfast ( the staff could handle it ). That day she knew someone had noticed her. Be the change that is needed.
Another time I was with a friend and we took a woman who had severe mental health issues to lunch with us on a conference day. Six months later I saw her carrying her belongings in a trolley in Liverpool Street Station talking to herself and people avoiding her. That lunch day was a precious day that I often reflect on.
As I walked around a city in Africa. I noticed a group of women fighting in ripped clothes and high on drugs. One woman was beaten badly I knew I had to respond to what I was seeing. Hence we now have a transformational ministry that reaches out to poor women who have to sell themselves to feed their children and pay the rent. Become the change that is needed.
I noticed a bunch of young people in Uganda sitting under a tree playing instruments. They were school dropouts so we helped a friend get a farm up and running so the young people could learn some skills and eventually earn some money fro the project. It is a growing farm and young people are given value and self respect through it. We all have something in our back pocket to use, time, energy and finance to help someone else it is only a matter of our choices.
What I notice is this. As we notice the poor and respond in various ways. Our hearts are made healthier as we are look away from ourselves and our own self obsessed behaviours to become more like God the father who is love. It’s a spiritual practise.
God has His plans and purposes set out for us. We can think we are doing one thing and actually God is up to something else. I thought I was going through a mid life thing and have had a sense of discontentment for a couple of years. Great to know He had a plan to help.
On reflection I think I got lost in becoming who people want me to be. In a way I have been rejecting myself hence the discontentment. The most helpful thing that has happened this year is my reconnecting to a long lost friend after eighteen years.
Three months later we ere on the plane to east Africa together.. This is the place where I connected with God twenty years ago and where I am still called. The Bible speaks about “where your treasure is there your heart is too”I certainly have a passion and love in my heart for the people in east Africa.
By taking my friend with whom I have a shared history I realised who I was again. I noticed that I had become lost in being who people want me to be trying to fit in and avoid rejection. This trip I have been more my real self, laughing and joking ( not taking myself seriously) I felt free to worship God,dance, pray and speak from my heart when preaching than ever before. I think there is an unspoken pressure to perform in modern society and that behaviour is unsustainable.
Jesus invited people to follow Him as they were. Yes, the disciples were challenged and formed by hanging out with Jesus for three years. But I don’t sense a rule book when reading the gospels but a shaping of character through relationship with God in human form. Jesus accepts people unconditionally and draws out the true self.
I am a simple person who wants to pursue God 100% because I love Him. It’s as simple as that. I was born with a personality that is fun loving, kind and considerate person. Africa and the many friendships developed over the last twenty years have formed my relationship with God.
I have loved being in Africa with my friend and being able to laugh a lot and enjoy all Gods goodness in my life. I do sense a new beginning of being real with who I am. So thank you God for setting this up and thank you my friend for coming on the journey with me. If you feel lost ask God for help and let Him bring life to the lostness.
Around every corner is a new horizon an opportunity or a choice to move in a new direction. It strikes me that in our lifespan we can have many chapters and those chapters are written from the story of you and I. Our ups and downs, people we encounter, places we travel too, family we have, locations we live in. Each twist and turn we make expands our life story.
In the book of Psalms 139:16 it is reflected that all our days are written out in Gods book.
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
What amazes me about this is that God has a book and our days are noted in that book – how cool is that. That’s how much we are cared and loved by Him. However if there is a book it may have chapters. Those chapters may have sub chapters with interesting avenues to walk down in the ever-expanding story of our lives.
I think our stories are meant to expand and grow. The story of God in the Bible is one of growth and development with His love being shown to many generations. So as followers of such a person with an amazing story our lives are surely not meant to be narrow but rather be a reflection.
Each week we could look at our week as a fresh page in this exciting book being written. This grants us permission to turn the page of last week or begin a new chapter and close the last one. Even if we have had successes in the last chapter we may not want to bring those into the next. Growth, impact and creativity are the kind of words that conjure up possibilities to write a fun and inspiring life story.
So full steam ahead this week fill some fresh pages or start a new chapter. Embracing a change in our world enables others to get on the journey of change and transformation. Even Jesus spoke about the opportunities of change to His followers as He prepared them for His leaving
John 16:7 “but very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
When God starts doing a deeper work on the inside it can feel like being on roller coaster ride. You are thrown around different corners of faith facing difficult situations with no answers. What we knew to be true the day before is now in question. That’s when our faith feels like it is being shaken although right now I perceive humility is growing and a deep inner work only God can line up being achieved.
Rather than trying to get off the roller coaster I am choosing to go through the process, the Bible reminded me this week we are in actually in Gods hands being transformed “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10, we only need to go with it.
Maybe it is only when the tree get shaken that we truly die to self to become selfless servants willing to go where God leads and function in what He appoints for us then we are being followers of Christ. Humility comes when we “place ourselves under Gods mighty hand then He can lift us up when ready” 1 Peter 5:6.
Can we turn a corner in our perceptions, find our feet again and somehow find God in the hidden shadows when the tree of faith gets shaken? I feel we can if we are prepared to wrestle with the reality and pain of what shakes the tree and return to the Bible to seek the answers. Times of hardship/ struggle /wrestle can shape our future and sometimes be the catalyst to open a brand new page in the story of our life.
God spoke to the people of Israel a long time ago when their tree had been shaken He said “you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart, I will be found by you then I will bring restoration” Jeremiah 29:13 -14.
As we keep humility in focus and walk that path seeking God knowing we find him during the shaking of the tree of faith. Gods transforming work in us is for his handiwork to be seen by all. Then God is glorified and not us; humility at its best.
What’s going to be new for you this coming year? I have a few loose ideas bubbling away but I wouldn’t call them resolutions. I do know what I don’t want to do anymore so you could say I am working to bring change in that way. A different life is often the focus of a New Year approaching. Many wish upon a star for something to change but by the time we get to the end of that year we look back and find we have lived life on repeat.
I am not so sure that New Years resolutions work unless you are a very strong goal orientated person; then you may be able to stick to it. Once you have achieved your new goal you will find you are still the same person – you have not changed at all. Trust me I was that person for many years. I did read a great quote this week that I loved and thought yes I can get my head around that “Be thankful for the gift of another year” by @womaninlondon.
I am currently trying to reframe my own perspective on situations I may find myself in. We normally desire change when we are not happy or think that happiness is something we have a right to everyday. The reality is maybe that we are not too sure what happiness is or what we even desire. We only know that what we have at the moment is not working for us hence we desire change and believe that a New Year has the power to bring that change about. Rather strange.
Rather than always be waiting for the future it maybe helpful to reframe the life we are living now. My faith is based in following the teachings of the Bible facilitates the concept of change as transformation of the person through a relationship with Christ. As a person is transformed fresh perspectives come into sight and we see situations change, fresh opportunities open up and so on held in the framework of eternal security through the relationship.
Primarily we change on the inside through the creative power of the Holy Spirit “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”Ephesians 3:20
I have come to the conclusion that life is not so much a box of chocolates but a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces full characters we encounter, places we will travel, situations we will face all of which make an interesting jigsaw picture of our life. Only when the final piece is fitted into place can you see the richness of your personal jigsaw.
Jesus beckoned men and women to follow him and so he could teach them his ways and thinking. He reframed their world and he is still beckoning people to himself today through His Holy Sprit wanting to enable people to live courageously. I would encourage you to let Him bring transformation to you though a powerful relationship rather than a powerless New Year. Don’t walk alone through life walk with God.
Life is difficult and we can all get lost, feel crushed through whatever situation has has come to visit. Jesus warned his followers “in this world we will have trouble but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world” John 16:33. So if Jesus knows the path of overcoming then we may want to walk that path out with Him. Jesus mentioned that he would never leave or forsake us but be with until the end of the age so we can reflect on that promise until it becomes a reality.
We can look around at people and presume that we are the only one struggling. It takes vulnerability to speak honestly about what’s going on. Social media seems to be the tool many choose to judge themselves against the latest perfect day, event, photo that virtual friends are uploading. A photo may tell us a great story but it can also mask the inner story /wrestle/struggle – it reveals what we want to. So it’s best not to judge the success of life through that lens. Look for a deeper authentic reality.
I have been looking searching for Jesus lately in various places, books, meetings, people, and have failed to find Him there. I have however noticed Him to be amongst the rubble of my life and there He sits with me speaking wisdom, compassion, healing, restoring words and ways. I have written this for those of you who feel your life has crashed in around you and you are surrounded by nothing but rubble.
Following Jesus is not about being successful it is about building a friendship with Him and listening to what He speaks and doing what you see Him doing. If we can do that a little each day from the platform of rubble rather than what the world deems as success then we can start to find Him and Know Him.
“Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10