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The Gift of Friendship

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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.

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Chapters in Life – Pages in a book

 

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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.”

 

 

 

Shaking the Tree

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Jesus in the Rubble

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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

 

 

Relationships and ministry

I have been thinking through what it’s like to be in a relationship and share life with someone who is committed to the call of God on his or her life. So I thought I would start with my own husband’s perspective. Enjoy reading his thoughts.

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Six months after being baptised in the Holy Spirit in April 1995 God called me to help start a church. That was 20 years ago and since then the church has been established and gone on to have a strong presence locally and internationally known as New Life Family Church Suffolk. Before all this in the early nineties a local evangelist prophesied “one day I would be married.”

I simply believed it especially after an experience in 1995 of a man and wife coming over to me in Church of England service saying God has revealed to us that your name is Richard (no one knew me there) and that every thing is going to be ok. They then prayed for me to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which I did with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. Things were moving so quickly now I expected to be married soon. However everything went quiet for fourteen years not even a hint of Gods word coming to pass so I would continue praying strongly what God had said. I would be praying on the farm and people would think I was ploughing. You can be in an open place yet pray in secret.

In September 2003 I was praying and God spoke in my innermost being “soon she will come to you.” I wrote it down and two weeks later Alison an evangelist come my house saying “I have two suit cases with all my belongings could you keep them for me as there is not room for them where I am staying.” The rest is history we went on to get married in Kigali Rwanda in February 2005. The suitcases became symbolic of a much more transient life that I would become used too. Planting natural seeds on the farm and spiritual seeds in the church has now become a firm foundation for us to launch out into the deep with the practical and spiritual support of both RSVP trust and the Church.

Whilst we maintain routine where possible and appropriate much of life has become spontaneous within the routine in order to engage and have time to reach out to many people. I guess now I routinely get things done quicker in order to have more time to be spontaneous. Where there is vision there is always Gods provision. The ministry to many women in Suffolk has been replicated in Rwanda and many of these people have become friends and not a project.

Before we married God spoke to us that “Richard and Alison are a vision joined together.” This I find a great help especially when Alison is on the road or travelling without me because in the spirit we are joined in that piece of mission especially when we pray. At other times we are together on the street, in the homes of vulnerable people, helping people to recover from addiction, in Africa praying for the sick, feeding the poor, training leaders wondering if it’s all worth it. Then hearing and seeing about how people touched by God ten years ago have been greatly restored.

Together we do lots of normal things. Going for a bike ride, learning to swim, running, shopping, watching films and going on holiday, having a tractor ride, hosting missionary friends, encouraging pastors home and abroad on sight and through social media, moving furniture, sharing our faith, redesigning the house to sharpen creativity skills, helping with conferences, picking blackberries. Whatever we do and wherever we are TOGETHERNESS is the key when married to an evangelist.

By Richard Fenning

 

Anxious Solutions: Part Two

roseAs I sit and write this I am sat in Rwanda having travelled yesterday. Travel is always very stressful for me, not only the day, but in the lead up to it for at least three days before. I can feel all the mixed emotions kick in. So over the years I have discovered a practical way to manage myself. Travel for me means adventure, which I love. Also separation from the people and places I love. It means extra pressure, as the ministries I oversee in the UK don’t stop just because I am out of town

It is interesting to intentionally notice what brings us to the table of anxiety. Awareness is the key to not allowing anxiety to determine the course of our days. We all have difficult situations or days as we travel through life and it’s about finding small ways to manage ourselves during those days.

In the last article I recommended daily prayer as a means of giving over our anxieties to Jesus who is built to carry such things on our behalf taken from 1 Peter 5:7. There is also a great scripture in Psalm 55:22 “cast your burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain you; he shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” I love this it is filled with action on our part and then shows Gods role and why. That’s the power of having a devoted payer life.

There are several practical things that we can do to help ourselves when anxiety is trying to get a hold. I notice that structure and routine help my mind and therefore my actions. I work in a field where chaos and the darker side of life reign, so my personal life has the opposite, which means creating an organised environment and having lighter times and connecting with positive friendships each day to help me feel a lot calmer.

Over recent weeks I have been running a short distance everyday in the evening to bring routine in the chaos of transition, I find myself making lists not of what to do but what I will do each day. We shouldn’t under estimate the power of eating healthily and at regular intervals. Ditching the junk food and reducing sugar intake can help immensely so our blood sugars don’t bounce around too much helping us to.

Something my grandmother passed onto me was to stop and watch the flowers and enjoy the moment. For me that looks like taking a coffee at a set time, and tea in the afternoon at a set time on my own as much my schedule allows, each day this provides with me a margin of time to rest my mind and be.

When I feel the presence of stress or pressure I notice that I tend to get very whizzy in my thoughts and actions, some may think I am having a highly creative moment but really it’s a stress reaction. Switching off the tv, taking a break from social media and computer devises allows me to gain perspective without extra voices directing my thoughts and emotions; getting down time is really important in the age of connectivity. This is where having times of booked in gym sessions will release all of that and clear my mind completely allowing my mind and body to come back to normal rhythm.

If you remember nothing else, establishing a rhythm for life that works with your personalities, could be the way of finding your freedom from anxiety. Don Egan whom I work with has written a small booklet “Rhythm of Life” which goes into more detail about the how to gain peace on the inside when the outside is difficult.

You can order the Rhythm of Life booklet from RSVP here.
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Anxious Solutions: Part One

benchI thought I would write a few thoughts down about this huge topic. As we walk through life we meet all sorts of people and have all sorts of situations around us. This means we will encounter stress and anxiety so rather than try and avoid people and places I have found it helpful to have a plan to counteract stress before anxiety begins to take hold. Over the years it is Gods presence that has help me to handle anxious moments when they come.

Earlier this week I spent some time chatting about how I have learned to handle anxiety with a woman that I help to mentor. What I have discovered over the years however we try to eliminate encountering stressful situations they will still come. Often out the blue anxiety will creep on us. It is the constant drip that builds into a collapsed person.

A few years back I got so unwell from being exposed to chronic stress that it began to affect my body physically until I had full on adrenal collapse. I had no control over this and it took two years for my body to recover. I was left with the warning from professionals that I had to change my lifestyle. Being in the throws of ministry this has been a challenge. I have to live a calmer life and mostly practise not carrying others problems in my own heart and mind. So I have to work mental and physical boundaries to the max.

Anxiety is the product of fear. So when I have the feelings of dread, nausea or panic begin to come I ask myself what is it that I am afraid of and does the apprehension come from a rational thought or from a perceived thought. So the second question to ask is what is the fear based in reality or not. If it is a real fear coming as a waning then we need to stop do something about it. However if it is not then we must lay the fear down somewhere. The state of stress can be made worse if we hold the fear inside ourselves like its a precious secret that we need to keep but it is actually something that can take hold and seek to effect other areas of life including relationships.

Fear is sneaky and at it’s best at nighttime when it is dark and when we are alone so the third question to ask is who can I share this with so we are not isolated in the situation. It is helpful as another voice will bring a different and maybe the rational voice we need to hear.

The most important thought I have on anxiety is to bring everything to God the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus claimed in the Bible that we should “put all our cares and burdens of him as he cares for us” he recommends that we don’t worry and uses the birds of the air as an analogy pointing out that they are provided for and looked after so why do we worry about what will happen all the time.

When we allow anxiety to come and be a friend life may pass us by, as we are too busy caught up in the worry. Having a relationship with God through prayer will help ease any anxiety we maybe carrying. If we pray daily about the things that concern us each day placing them at the feet of Jesus then He can carry those burdens on our behalf and we can walk in peace even in the midst of very difficult and sometimes traumatic situations. God’s peace can rule our heart. As we pray the sacred peace invades us and anxiety, stress and worry diminish – they loose their grip.

So spend a few moments with God in the quiet and let him bring quiet to your heart and mind each day.