Finding Yourself

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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.

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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.

 

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Your life counts

What story are you writing through your life? I am writing this from Uganda, having been out here for two weeks. This was not my first time in fact the story of Uganda and I began in 1997 when I first travelled to an area called Kumi. That trip was the tipping point for me that led to making changes in my life. The impact of that trip will never leave me and causes me to keep investing in the story that is unfolding every time I return.

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In the west we are so goal driven to tick things off that we sometime fail to see the bigger picture that is being painted over our life span. In 1998 I went back to Uganda with the intention to live in the country and co ordinate medical services for the poor. However sometimes it is not possible at the time to go ahead with the best laid plans. But a seed had been planted in the hearts of the Ugandan people and I.

I met a man in 2003 called Simon. He helped a team I was leading with translation and logistics – he had a humble heart working as a cleaner at Ngora hospital and lived in a small garage at the time. He told me how he would come to the UK and study one day. I was blown away when he did. He studied and went back with an MA in theology and development. Whilst in the UK he had worked at a takeaway shop and sent the money back home.

Once home he brought some land and built a house in a remote village with the money he earned. Simon is ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church of Uganda and together we train and equip men and women in the ministry. This land now serves the community in that area by providing clean water that we at RSVP Trust helped to construct. Young people who were unemployed are employed to help with the project. They deliver water to elderly people who have no children to help them. They help the sick when food and wood are needed and they cannot manage. I sat down and met the young people on this trip and talked about the importance of having a vision for living whilst you are young.

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The land is about venture into poultry farming so more hopeless uneducated young people can gain employment and have a purpose in life. Who would have dreamed that the man I met who lived in a garage and cleaned the hospital would have such an impact in his community through our friendship. His latest project is to restructure and regenerate Ngora hospital. I had the pleasure of spending a day at the hospital distributing gifts of hope and thinking about how we can support local people receive medical care.

As I reflect prior to returning home I am again awe struck realising that what I thought was lost had an even larger vision waiting to be unveiled sixteen years later. I thank God for allowing me to take this journey having learned to trust Him with my life plan. So I wonder what story your life is revealing?  I would encourage you to sit back and look at the wider impact that your life is producing. 

Stay Onboard

boatHow do you keep your faith alive is a question I keep getting asked as I travel around speaking at various Churches and events. I have had times when I feel my faith has become weak but part of my personality is to keep pushing through regardless and after a time faith springs up again.

When I sat down to think through the question I recognised that faith can get knocked when we are hurt or when we are out of step with what God has been speaking to us. Suddenly we may feel and act defensively toward Gods people or God. Ultimately our hearts can become shutdown and we are unreachable.

The key to not letting the hurt take root on the inside is to speak to God immediately. Give him the problem to sort out. In this world things are going to happen that we won’t like but maybe there is a silver lining. I was recently sat with a woman who had lost her unborn baby. I was blown away when she said “maybe this is a silver lining for me here. I have to believe that to get me through.” Such a brave perspective through a difficult time. I notice that often God takes brick walls that we hit, difficult situations we face or relationship breakdowns to bring new life.

Three actions you can take to keep faith alive. Firstly hang out with other like-minded people. The Bible advises us “not to give up meeting together” for a reason. Be around people who believe the same things as you. I love hanging out with people who are Jesus focused and love listening to their stories of what he is calling them to do and opportunities they have had to share Gods love; it inspires faith in me. It is apparent that we are likely to become like those we hang out with. If you want to grow your faith then be around people who are living out faith.

Secondly cultivate time with God each day. The Bible advises us “to pray continually.” Prayer is not going to God with a list but it is the vehicle for developing our relationship. It is one of the ways that we “stir ourselves up in our most holy faith.” It would be strange if I only spoke to my husband or family when I wanted something we tend to chat and listen and share our hearts; that’s relationship. I learned to pray by listening to others, reading books, thinking about how Jesus prayed and others in the Bible and then doing it.

Allowing the Bible to lead and direct our thoughts and habits and relationships is vital to keeping our faith alive “all scripture is God breathed and useful.” If God has spoken and its written down that’s amazing I want to read and know Him through what He has said and allow His thoughts and ways permeate my life.

The book of James observes “a person who asks God for something and then doubts is like a wave thrown about on a sea.” They are not sure in their mind what they believe and then confusion can come leading to loss of faith. When we form a deep friendship with God we know whom he is and our eyes are firmly fixed on him. As we relax into God his peace comes in the most difficult of times and we are able to resist the temptation to walk away thereby strengthening our faith.

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.

Fire Brand

1421116_12292469 When we first encountered God we had an excitement, a passion, a fire that burned on the inside. I know I did. This fire creates radical change and growth of a person. Immediately I left my old lifestyle and moved into the pursuit of relationship with God above all else. I made personal sacrifices to follow Jesus and His leading in my life. Nothing else mattered. Overtime we can become dulled to the presence and activity of God in our lives; taking Him for granted with maybe no personal cost. The Bible calls this lukewarm in the book of Revelation 3:14-21 “So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

We read of the Holy Spirit challenging the Church for neglecting their passion for God. Yet despite the rebuke Jesus is standing knocking at the door of our Churches and our hearts wanting to come in. Where we have become lukewarm Jesus wants to come to revive the fire again and bring revival to us personally and that in turn will bring revival for nations. Passionate people live extra ordinary lives for the gospel where sacrificial living becomes the normal when personal revival comes.

To pursue God is not an easy path to walk. It carries the cost of surrender, a lying down of the old to birth the new. It brings a “broken and contrite spirit” Psalm 51:17 a renewed awareness of the need for Gods presence, an awareness of shame, sin, an exposing poor attitudes and behaviour that doesn’t reflect Christ. Living and thinking without Gods presence in our daily lives causes us to weep with remorse when the fire of God comes. We feel undone but all of this draws us to cling to God who loves us deeply and wants to heal our lives and land.

Revivals that reach the lost have happened throughout the centuries. What if we all had a personal revival that would impact our nations? Are we ready for a visitation of God across our lands? Revivals of the past have a thread that flows throughout them, prayer; a compulsion to push deeply into God. Seeking the face of God through prayer brings a release of holiness in a person, healing, forgiveness, restoration, freedom, right living suddenly become a way of life but it is not by our achievement but by a supernatural intervention. Revival comes as faith becomes seen and God is glorified.

As we draw close to God he will draw close to us bringing personal revival. Be on fire with God and not lukewarm. People on fire with God are shakers and movers who bring transformation to broken communities they turn injustice on its upside down and bring heal nations. Fire brands live extra ordinary lives because they have opened the door to God.

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”