Commuting with God – Redeeming time on the tube

Here’s one of the biggest challenges facing Christians today: we cannot grow in God without investing time, but time is exactly what we feel we don’t have!

If this really is about relationship rather than religion, then things like reading the Bible, prayer, worship, listening to God are not just tick-box activities that we ‘should do;’ rather they are like gazing into our lover’s eyes and spending quality time together.  This shift in mindset takes away some of the legalistic pressure, but in a different way it makes such time even more important.  Time with God is as important to our Christian walk as time with my wife is important to my marriage…but where do we find the time?

Find the time.  It can feel like a hunt in the dark or looking for a needle in a haystack.  When we’re surrounded by the busyness of life with work, family, home, admin, chores, friends, hobbies, church…where do you find any more minutes in the day let alone hours?!  One of the big changes for us came in moving to London commuter belt and suddenly finding that my wife’s journey to work jumped from 15 minutes to 1 hour each way…add 2 hours of travel into an already squeezed schedule and ‘time with God’ becomes a pipe dream!  (And we don’t even have kids yet!)

So what can we do?  As someone who genuinely wants to grow in relationship with God, but also feels the pressure of competing responsibilities…what can we do?

Shift.  A mind-set shift is helpful here.  ‘Finding time’ often starts from the assumption that we don’t have enough of this scarce commodity.  I want to suggest to you that there is always enough time to do what God has for us to do…and what He has for us to do is all we need.  The challenge is that we don’t start with a blank slate, we start with time already allocated, 24 hours a day, to a host of different things.  Yet this is where the Christian life always begins: when we first met Jesus we weren’t a blank slate; the difference Jesus made wasn’t giving us something to do, but was redeeming who we already were.  We don’t need to ‘find time’ as if it doesn’t exist already – we already have it.  Rather we need to let Jesus come in and ‘redeem the time we already have’.

What does that mean?

It means asking ourselves how we take every moment of the day and invite Jesus into it, to make every minute time spent with God.  When we wake up: praise God for a new day before we get out of bed; as we shower talk to God about anything in life we want washed off; making breakfast thank Jesus for all His provision and pray for the things we need; if we’re making breakfast for others or school lunches, talk to God about the needs of others or the people we’re preparing food for; as we walk through the door at work take a moment to tell God we’re working for Him today so come and fill every task; and on and on we go….!

It means more than that.  It means also asking ourselves: ‘Are there any times of the day that can be given wholly over to God?’  A prime target for this is TUBE TIME…

…Here is a thought we may not have noticed: if you commute to work/school then everyday you have a set amount of time where you can do nothing else but travel.  If you’re on the tube then you have a set amount of time with no phone signal, being uncontactable, where you can’t be expected to do anything for anyone else…all you can do is sit there (or stand with your face in someone’s arm pit…I know!)…and spend time with God….

….Here are 3 simple tools that can help you do that:

Pray As You Go:

This is an amazing resource specifically designed for people to use as they travel.  There is a daily mp3 podcast that lasts about 12 minutes.  It has reflective music, a Bible reading, some questions to think about, then the reading again, finishing with some directions for prayer.  I have found this an incredibly helpful tool for bringing me into a place of peace and focus on God.

Pocket Common Prayer:

God bless the Church of England!  You can download an app to your phone/tablet that brings up automatically the liturgy for Morning, Evening and/or Night Prayer.  I have been loving this recently!  You have right in front of you a series of prayers, readings from Psalms, the Old Testament and the New Testament, followed by some more prayers.  There are even martyrs or saints for particular days that you can look up and read about on Wiki if you like.  Takes about 30 minutes and I have found a really valuable way of regular Bible reading interspersed with Prayer.

YouVersion Bible:

Another app that in one sense simply gives you the Bible on your phone…but also comes with a whole series of reading plans from 2 weeks to a whole year.  There are plans for focusing on particular topics or for reading through all/chunks of the Bible.  It pops up with the reading for the day and ticks them off.  And if you get behind you can simply reset the reading to continue from today.

All 3 of these are simple ways to sit on the tube (or bus or…for the first one…car or walking…), turn on your phone, and be with Jesus.  If you take a few moments before you start just to close your eyes and become aware of God’s presence and ask Him to speak to you…then you can find the tube becomes your chapel, not your chain.

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“It may be…” – Pursuing Dreams That Cost

“It may be…”

3 amazing little words that reveal the heart of following Jesus.  They are spoken by Caleb in Joshua 14:12.  At 85 years old he is ready to attack the hill country and fight giants who scared the Israelites away 40 years before….why?  Because he saw the Lord, caught the vision, heard the promise, and “it may be that the Lord will be with me.”

Kris Vallotton writes about vision and mission.  Mission is why we do something, but vision is what it looks like.  Mission requires vision to ever become a reality.  Everything that has ever been made has first been ‘seen’ in someone’s imagination.  You can convince people of the need to build an orphanage, but without blueprints nothing will ever happen.  It is vision, actually seeing it before it’s real, that causes us to discipline our actions, go through pain, and persevere to see a vision realised.

Caleb was one of the spies Moses sent into the promised land.  He saw the fruitful land and could imagine, could see, the Israelites living in it.  The other spies with him saw the giants and themselves as small.  Lack of vision and lack of confidence in God left a whole generation wandering the wilderness for the rest of their lives.  But vision and trust led Caleb into the land even 40 years on.

What vision do you carry?  What are you living for?

The reality is that we will always face resistance and opposition whenever we pursue a call or a dream from God.  Any dream worth living for must be bigger than us, too much for us to do alone…it requires cost.

Right now I’m making some life decisions to follow a path that is not a natural progression from what I’m doing and may prove costly for me and my wife, both financially and emotionally.  This next step is not the end-goal, but a means to that end, a door to open the way for a dream that is growing in my heart.  Yet I’ve begun to meet resistance, to need to count the cost, and a big part of me is crying out, “Are you sure God?”

What I find so encouraging about Caleb is this: he didn’t know for sure.  Even ready to ride into enemy territory at 85 years old he didn’t know for sure that God would do it.  “It may be…” was enough for him.  After 40 years of wilderness wandering and literally seeing a generation die around him, he knew the truth Kris Vallotton wrote:

If your memories are greater than your dreams then you are already dying.

We don’t always know how it ends, but I would rather step out and risk it all for a dream from God than play it safe just in case I’m wrong.

I’m not saying be foolish and throw everything away on a whim.  We check out and test dreams with others, we bring them before the Lord in prayer, we walk humble, open and teachable, but we don’t hold back in fear.  Proverbs 3:5-6 promises us that, when we ‘acknowledge the Lord in all our ways’ – when we keep our hearts open to Him and desire Him above anything else – then He will ‘make our paths straight’ – He will actually bring us to the right place even if we’re making wrong decisions.  Too often we can hang back from paying the cost to pursue the dreams God has put inside of us, because we’re waiting for enough proof to convince us to cast off our fear.  Proof doesn’t remove fear – love does.  It is when we catch sight of the perfect love of God, that He is always for us whether we get everything right or not, then we cast off fear and have courage to pursue our dreams whether we’re totally sure or not.

I cannot say I know 100% that the choices I’m making are right, but to the best of my ability they are.  The dream that’s stirring inside of me is big enough to pay the cost.  My God is big enough to make my paths straight.  I trust God’s ability to correct my mistakes more than my ability to mess up God’s plans.  So I choose to keep my heart open to Him, to pursue this dream and say, “It may be…that the Lord is with me.”

Center Stage – Finding Hope Through Disappointment

“I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future.”       (Jeremiah 29:11)

This is an incredibly encouraging verse oft-quoted in times of prayer…and rightly so!  Yet sometimes we so easily forget the context that we miss the challenge.  Missing that challenge can easily lead to disappointment.

These words come in the middle of a letter from God to His people written by the prophet Jeremiah.  They come in the middle of letter full of things the Israelites never expected to hear.  Things they didn’t want to hear.

These were God’s people.  They knew their history: chosen out of every other nation to be God’s, rescued through miraculous events from slavery in Egypt, promised and receiving a land that would be theirs forever.

Yet they also thought they understood their present: having compromised their faith wanting to be like everyone else rather than set apart for God, they were now reaping the consequences of their actions…they were now exiled by a godless nation.

So what would you expect to hear? Surely a call to repent, to stop compromise, to set yourself apart from every other nation, which must be followed by a swift victory and return to the promised land…

…that’s not what God said!  Instead Jeremiah writes: “Settle down!  Build houses and plant vineyards…you are going to be here for 70 years!  Let your children get married and rooted down…and seek the prosperity of this people for you will prosper when they do…”

Can you imagine how they felt?  “But God….you made this promise…we know we messed up, you told us exactly how…but this doesn’t make sense!  How can you want us to stay with the people you told us to leave…?!  We don’t understand!”

Have you ever faced this kind of situation?  “I don’t understand what you’re saying God!  I thought you promised one thing and now another thing is happening…  I thought I knew what this would look like and now you seem to be saying something totally different…!  What’s going on?!”

Take a closer look at the promise God makes….

“I know the plans I have for you says the Lord…”

 Too easily we hear the promise for good plans and miss the person who’s plans they are.  We hear a promise and envisage in our mind exactly what it should look like and how….we run after the promise itself and forget the one who spoke the word….when things don’t work out like we expected we struggle to understand why.  When it all seemed so clear, how could it get so confusing?

http://www.bubblews.com/assets/images/news/782225612_1365763920.jpgWe hear a word.  Make an appointment in our mind for what should happen when.  Then when it works out differently…we are dis-appointed.

 Who’s plans are we counting on?

Real hope is found, not in the wishful thinking that a particular situation takes place, but in placing all our trust in the God of Hope – in the One who makes all things work for the good of His people – in the One who has good plans for us and walks with us into them.

Why did God call the Israelites to bless Babylon?  To bless an enemy nation synonymous with immorality?

He was giving them an invitation.

An invitation to remember who they were as they remembered who He was.  God’s plan saw further than theirs.  Their focus was on their present and material place, on their circumstances and actions.  God’s focus was on who they were made to be.  God promised to make them a great nation to be a blessing and a light to every nation.  They were made to be a conduit of His love to every people on earth!  His focus was global not national, was eternal not immediate, was on who they were not what they did.

The walk of the Christian life comes with incredible promise: we are seated with Christ in victory; the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is inside of us; we are Sons and Daughters of the King of Kings; we are empowered and called to heal the sick, raise the dead, to be salt and light that changes nations.  Yet we step into these promises through an incredible challenge…do we trust God enough to enter into his plans rather than demanding that he enter ours?

 Imagine your life as a play in a theatre.  For many of us we are center stage.  Everything revolves around us.  For some, God has no place.  For others, He has a bit part – an extra in the background – He’s there but makes no difference.  Perhaps for others God is like a director shouting instructions so we either succeed or fail.  For still others He may even be a supporting actor, a co-star, essential to the show but mainly to make us look good.

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8kHB8QJOVxud+ff4qbUGd3aMOcQMzjDQBbMTFgB6JeSFboZGV7MlCi1rJzCTqPxCkcK6WVcG7s9phu5h0PeDse9U2Kw7qZyi7SYDgDlJgGxPcfxVbXrFxhoMe6PBlcDNn6dTW57X0e6YUMUAGuyVN2OsZ/hOjvn3K/hfOjHlp3BC2HAvpJr0QG1IqsFu18QHc/85XRhmUjj5ejcfSeuQks5wr6QMLWAlxpO5P0/uFvWFoaVZrxLXBw5tII9QmWY3Fx5OkkklChLDfSVxQxTw7JJP7xwGsCQwesnyC0/FOPMoyPjfswEeWY6N+aw3EuLszvfUEVHgEgQXWIa1rRmmIhZ8udY/mzp9F0U8slOW0ff+Ci4XwRpIfVcCSfhBaQLT2r300HNSsbiKbJDQ0vaPi7TWgE2zObUgW877qs4v0lAkaa9llpB++dB4C/gsviOIOqGDZo0aLAeA595uua45Mz1Sex3/Ex4FpgrZfU8VRe901C15OZrnAlmkWzEnwLuXkqvi/CajTmcS8H7U5h6/gVxhuEueJBaAba3O49pV9w3hbgIYXEaEEwwE8yd+4XuqlJY3aZUIvMqlEzmD4aTJOgge0/iralwyWkhoDPvOBjyA+I+RV/R4axoB7LzfSMjYGuSfd0TyR8wBa9pe91miJ8+y3UW7hBiCkT6hyexox9PGCM7icKKrG1Gu7Qim7Z1gcjyNBIEanRVnEOGP6tpGlyfE6n9d69D4Xw9lRhzx1xLQ5jcpBBdaSLZpF7284Vdx7Dupujqzp2mDI1suuHkwMtrabRIQQ6ipaUSWFSVs84pTPerfDZi2HSSLtdqZU6vwf8AeBwbYg6d36KmUuGxeNL/AO61yypoywxODdhf+HaldrSxxJ79IjuCpKbC14pPtDoNtSDYDmNwtfw2q9lPKHS3uETr7eaqukGAuHxBBjzBkJePJ+lhzhb1Eb6rifuv9B+aSf673lJXT9kHfzZR4bGOGpMW1P65qfSxRY7NqCYcN7z6aaqpyyB+oRKVTY+R5ePct2lM58Zyj3LTGYIOJqNyhoy2m5mJPjJv7KsdWkn2P5qzoUsjaReCWOMkDXK13aAnmFJq4ZuJqucP3YLjG5dPwutaPa3elvycjXUlcSopOnW3Iqzw9cubcgFulxfTTvUA4dzHkWs7L+Fl1iAWuhwsdAd+8Kr9i47rc0tCrmY5rxJLXNzT8OYRytznvKhjo45lWwLgQcsEdsxYzMRMX0sqzD4wgQ0yOW40056KXg+KvvkIIuMptEiDA2dHLuSpQ/xHRl/kCq8OcTLhzM9wsTPJP+ziYhW/DMVu9xEfAMoIkgRLp5idIUCsD1oa02BA5Ai2570KlKOwM8cZbnFXDwEPC8Tq0jNN72n+EkfJTTh36ugzsPUC+pII05oZDQcrhFp2/Q3WjHnoyZOmb7EvCfSHjQQBUL/5mtd7kT7rRs6a4h9I9Y9lO3xNY4EaSMxkA32GyzVDC0wJETGkmNN999uaDiDVmYFSLgTb+ls+99fJVPq5S2Ww7H8Pxw80lb+xNxvSIMByFxnVxAJN5BDYv4uhZmr0leHktaI3DxmJnUHlfYQFPbxZufJWpH+rNI5Xscv67lGxWBZ1lmZYuZII/uAFkmMor1I1TU57wfBIp4ijXbD6DmHnTOYeOR1/Qrvh3AWhxIGYDc2AmdSbC2wlTcLgWxJIJEdm4HcDuSpQxZaO1TcQYHYIs3UgybHvAFuazPI+Imjwls57hBgWUg3O0uB+6Bl8YJE+Lj5KSzEl7gKTgXN0aIaTO0GRA3DTdKjxHDnR4ZAMh4vJ1BMRHduh4irRIAY7Nef3YLQRO8HKY5arPu+Uxra/SzUYT6PK1anmrkUp7fxAWNzI0HjHqqDiGDbSeW0nNqBpgiiWm5GlSo42EWtI2srfo9wiviS5r6p6nTL9iDcHLub6kythw/gOHw9IEtDIAMvLLdw+yD4LO8ri65+XYRKai/Nz9/z8o81bw2vTDHNGQHMCGCBJBgyRJ18JAhd8Ow3WuJfBGTNJmQZgd2hW/Zx/C4nEChTJfULXuaYOWWiTE3OhvELzviFICmabrBjiwkWmHdqT+tkyEpS2kqDjJSTLajwJtUZ25SwPFPMDbO7WB9qNbG0rzfjnEKz6jmfCGktLRYAgwQedwvQOF8VZUpGnQcSKFPrPhyiXGDlaeQAEndxWX6V4P/1lVzfhqFtUR/8Aa0POn8TiPJacEqk7MmW5RsP0axINNrHXIBE+B5fykKwx+GzNcDy9xb9eCreH4Dq4dLtiRF5M7bC3si8Xr1w5rGgjrGyIHa1iJ2090XM7Qcdo0yo6nuPukn/Y2I7/AO//ACktPl9wNc/YqjgTDMurm5jy0F/dRqrYgEQeW/8AlW3DsRBbmtFMNE90E/MInGqIygwJJTlkalTM7x2rRUsrdmDMedp7vIKVgsY6lLmnl4Hn596hVWEOA1kC2/6skHwTseWx8Qm8it0y8FanUa2JD8wzAmZsQD6RpyCuavCyaLa1TI5jgQIIJblMQ4a5iQdBaFkcNWE+tjpe2q0HDOPvp5Qcr23Ap1BmbeM2U/ZmBokZMbfBrx5FW5UVcAWEOymHdoQbx/sme4NdHmbkHuurcFpdmzEHLAa7c6Egix0HiUD9niqCRlED7Tg06tBdciwzAIdT/UFppeUDRxx0zeTrH+4KRTqFx0IOvpuDoVU1uHua4gyNLHXtCQI8PSQpjarm0YgFwfEjcHT3sjfyFp77qi8w3ESyMoG922OkSS3XzUTENY8zBBgAQBt8UkamDyVM7Gx8Qg+Ee4UrA13VCcs9kOcZMgAAk630QuKW9BKV7WTxSYS3MYJcZkwALZZOwkSSAUOrgy0gMqy0gSZbM2nsk/DY37+9Aq41p5WteTznT8k1PFSMto0Ek7GbWQtIJNiwwfUMPDS4SLzt3CeSu8FwhzmtflGhtmH2XkRM7ZT5KrOHZl7/ABHzU3hWLqMw1YMLYLwCIBtl2O23os+VbeUfik2/MVXEDDng1XCSQQYczkRyI+aGMRXIb2paYIcBFvyVWGgkDM0yQI31A2C9G4bw9mIrUqcCmwEMAbNge/ewVzaggNTbb4KDB4Y1CBVkifu7elvFXgbSoEZmuuLNDSXOBiDAE/gq3CVKlPiRpFwNNtR7A0N5OhpJ3Ws6X9JGvwtJ5py5uRktdlcTlOpg5hZZ5vdL3LWTayZV41Vo8OZWwlPJnLmu6xt2kFwJaCYi2/PxXn3EcTjMXUBfWc7+WSR6w1vktvgKz8VwV7aVImpSLg2m2XFx6xrhG5JDj7qf0P4M/wCphuKaylUbVcYBY5waWgAOyGAbaHSEqMljUnXf9xblbKT6P+EDD4gYlzu00tpuL3EuPXzTbBNvic2QOe6J0pwmWriaZIAcc943GYkeZK1fAuE0W4nEGkw53spFz6hBBY0uADG5eyJANpkwdgs50teXVTcGWXdIN2ktIB8h33Q63KSY7p1/caZl+iWErUxWdWbGcNYKbWtzQQ6+UXAMDXWFN4hhamZoDMnYA0EhtxlzbXnlqpPR6KGd7XFzqjSAABaJPPWBF/dBw9etjK9NlI5DUayBmk9vPq+JAAbNgLSm25TbC0KCI9BgouMuGZw+GJIOs8/kL6rnh2ONao1xBALZEmT8R2FhZo9UfjDaeFqCi6k7rw4Hrg7sVGnsgtY7QnnIgi6peDPLazQTYZhG9jv/AITErVkNN1I/U/knR5Hd7p0FlUef4THUjTpCo0Exl0FhlaA4d9o8ggY1oixNjp9m83A20KHw/A52NDSARBI3dEkEbbxdGxbGtBce0HFom2YQNI5LqaVexkTenzL9wbHND3PI7MBoNvl3lFxVKm9hLYJAtz2/MIMsqNcAC0NIE7a25eik4LC0+qGYuJLosbQDJJ5mNkD233DVPyqqZWNwDiDEWJB7/wBQh06kSBII1GoVth+wwuN2uLo01AJ9/wAEPhtRgLs/ZLnTfS+g9/dHre4HhpNIiPxZdE7WkelwVJocRc34HZdRA3B1kHXw/JTsbwsZ6YA+MkW8kDE8FLRY+ThKpZYvkLwpLgP+3qjyesEucZLoGaYgQT8NuUBSuD16QHbAcAPuwCRFyGm21ws/h6biCQNCdDa3cVIDH5Zgxe4a6L2MltpjuVyUXsDFyW5pKuCpVBLTTB7fZFhMxTIJ1Jm8jkFC4LhCyjiCWmSHibAAE5QZ38AqdnEL6jfQjW/2XDvRqONgOBmHb6xcGbTy90vRSoZqUmnQsdwsNeGwHaklswJmxOxkey7wvR51Rge0WOYfEAbGBY+CGzHkGC85T8Vnd87clNHGmtblY94i4uAAYIOre/3Kp6lwRRi2SaXAus6tl+xTBfDmi8vm5sYICl4DhWShWZcGRIJm7ZBiPxVKOMOzMLXtMANNxIF7D+4q84RjS+m8F1yQDAEmfDw3KzZNSRpxRTlt+bGcxHDgyo0QNQfmtzw6iW4im42a14JdyEEST5rI8WxbnZXGMx1c4agQGkGNoI8lqMNXp0gA8OdVLWAu7Ts12AQDDRct3QZbcSlHdoBiOFAYl1XN9qwa1znTIIIAvfKRdW+NwDBWw9Ihzu0x8ZWhpJMQ4OBsJMiNiq3CdJ20SXUqbszmmTUcJOQOc1sAGL8jurzB1K2IxLWWa9zi02zFuUB0lzjoAdlnlrtWGscVF+xtMXgqbabmvrNDCwNJswB3MCQ2IUOhxHDU25KNN9bQnK2WkjcvdDZvrJUDhXCh11QVg6o+m57QfiLsjRGVp0Jv4yOSquE42rWxNbD1qrmty1Wt6sCm5paQA4RvE6ykNVb9ili7XZccT4rjC1zqVFgygdgB1V7pMAQ0ADyB01WUw+HfVp5qrmgkuJNWGxLhbKLk20APw3Xo/R+k2m4Uw6oS1kAuIObSSTF3WnzKzHTrg1OnUFQNvVJcdYJGsnxdNtZ7kzFUoX3K1rHNwSAcIwtOrhqzKXUl1MOzVHB+czmc0smAzSOfZ0WX6DVy3HYYl1g4NEaRn6v/AM1rehtBjuvaWz2AWjQTcGw11XnXDcQW12uAdFOuw2BiC5riPUaJ2PmSI3qjKzWfSXTDnFwHaoVHD+hzz+Me6xNN7utcWtMNcKlrkNee0tJ024xTqVcW9rwWgiWgjMZhtp750mFgcdxcEHq87cxl0u2AhotqNT5lasGOUkBlywhFe9Gw/wCJT/yKn/SkvPvrT/vO9SnWr+lRh/qixw1N7GteR2SBB8F1xSeqDrZXPI1kgtAJOlvi+aPgOIzTFN92wB3jldQMbTyZ6ZvlIe3w39j7LUob6hDztx0E3h7mhodUgskZhp6RodLjmlgaeYANLAwWOYwdREXvtfVVOU9XYnWSNu4+6E4EWPiqcV2J4jXKNA9zy6QHCm0Q4wXBh1cJNibnvuVKrVGOc1pscoIBAvz8LNA8gonRfHVB1jGklhb8Mi7iQBr3TK66hzK7uua4EAwBLXAOkt0sAQlSgkrNGLLKTqv4JlOkH1GtYTAuRB7GYERE35W3CsMRgnPjqnjKModJ0mYI8bC4i8SsqeJCGtDHNykm7j2hGhgC/wCavqOIZTY5peAajc9odDjBA1sTHfBHkkzx72aIZU00VnXuouNJzdQ6CN7m6uuE4um2nldM30j5TKpsViHPqEvbFoL2hsuI0toDtb81IfSoTObNoGi4M99tVJwTKxyaslVWUv3kyASXAltogCPGxULBYWmWMFpJaHWOhN77ouHFPMKM5nkiSJhrtgC64iYJ5gomH4a5lQXgQS1pcA5pDoB0vHheEFUmrDVNpnb+C0S5uUiIeTBcNC0D3KkUuirXmzyLOdIc4xFp33+R5I2C4rTa92emypku1zTeQQ2DaMsE/JXuA7BaRSbTzQwFzpJPbtEnQA92hm90TlOPI6MIT9L+xmcJ0ZLszc4lgBnNlkOAIN+/5rVYrhdLDvfTaKrS1lMgCHNzNbE33MX55iq/E0wys/KGVMzQ5sPu1rMuYwLZZER3qxPFGYis+oXMpgj7TgQMs725wlyuSsP0bLkJ0k6H06jsA6mQynla2/WHR+btCdTmg8zK0r+iANPEE5QP3bmul+ZppEEQzSBfXVUfFeIAtwgFanFHKA0PaMzpBNQvdYMAbp36rX8OFTqK/XsLalWWg9kiHUwG3FmjNOqSr21ASk4ptd/5/go8R0RoU6tClmcQQ1rXOY09r4SXNNjIm3P0V/S4IGYsupw14o5nPIb2szgCS1oDS+GgZu481l+M9I2jEgyOtwjTVq0m5nuIpP7cOaMoOV0xNlZcD4vUxDamLxDhgZb1Ya9vx02Znio01SPvEWB+EHdVGE3G3yBkn5VFP3v8+hKw9ar9beYzPY0kAWB7fabf+EmD3LLYPD1jxF7+rcwONTMYs0u+IZojNmGyJgvpJwrKuIrdY6pBa2n2IL5FyRIytmTtM9yr+K/SuxzX5aQaXGQ/MQ4DU9iSJPcUcenm040BiyvHz/v87G7wUHENnszIib2ntT4Kk+kfiNNrqbC+Xsa57huGuiHGBH2D+isJw36QqtetTp1HZaedriQCYAsZuNRI81TdM+kL6uJrubOR9R7p0lpPZEa6Xvz0CZg6SUWosmXLGX9xccE8dKibUswaQWuIMOPIWOmnqo3E+lrmsLaYax5M5m/FlAj4psbagqgwlN5pdlhDSXDrLwTAdlJ0mAjYHCU5/eHMBYt03kmQdFueGEXbQiOSUlUQvG206L2NBa5+RpquGmd1y1u0C19zKp6zQe0NNISxRGYxoDA8BYK66N4dtZzWOHZY1znQNZI1PoFqS0oyOWuVMz8JL0P9kU/+Wz0SQ+L8i/A+Zg6L4hWVWoKlMHRzLajtN3Hj+t1WUSjdTYnuT9+EZ00nbHw/ZMEcj66eybEtDiA3W8n8vJR3H2suqdeEtx3tGhZE46ZcE1mIdTEMsbXHzRMZxV1UjrHOLmgAHXSbX8UIcQGR7RYuA9jsdlXE3VRj7hZZpPyu0TKlTeZj5d/nHqj4am2rlYxsVL3c4Rzty00hBp0f3T3bwLR3+3in4I8NqhxAMAkTz2MeqjqnXYG2mr7h8Fwx8guLIm7S7tRodLD1XOLrNouyUzmgglzhcOvYeAPuU+JoFtZ2S4+ITtN49VOw3CG1K7euDmtc0P2BcLCJ2QN27fA5RajUFTs4q9IaMgtw4DiAXODnAl2riMu0yq5vF3hxdmMmb6663K0PF8LgPhpue14blgXaNdS49orPDhBOj2n1Vx0+wGTxOLv6FlhgcTEObTOrgDBeRyAsN7m0uKu34pleqTWHUscHNbTbUzBhcOyGjQDNBkzN51Wbe1lNgLs2Y2AaQAOZ0MzpFlEGOOcvaSHXcO46+HsgePVwN8Tw9nybDFdGn0MK6rSxADr/AGgzO0Zs2UTMlxAA/hVH0W4RU4hWcw1urDWFznR2QJAygCAJzH0KqqdWpVcBdxsPAT6AXW/wnHW0GAHKAAASY5e+iFpw25bBT8TfhIz3EeJ1MFiX03FlWI5wARLcpIsQCLxZRK/TXEHPDyHVMpc4F2bsz9onW+/IIHFsXSxFXrCchJ7ViQeUWty8lU4hoDiBpNvDZMjji+VuBPLNcPYLT4jVDzUFR+dxJc7M7M6TJzOmTJ5rS1emtXER9aJqtax7GiWtguETEdrnfWNVkkbNAHqjljjLlCseWUd7NhiOAYaphaZwnWhzj2zUI2kGQLCDpHNV+P6MmmOs+JrQJhwm2pj8LqHwfFkNe2dO1HhrHopmG4pmf2gHBoPZOjpsA4bi8+SBRaY1yjKKRCksHYsXXMiIB+HzIv6KFVzayCusZji5xJJ5anyElR6dSCmKNC5TvZk1uLLaQaZkEkCbNBnQeZ9VEodpwE+PhupuL4c5zHV2HNTBaCSMpBMWiTI7xzUKg6Mx7vmoltZbl5knwg+GwZq1urZaSbnYDUlaxrqWFp5aYF9XHV3efyVH0fZkY+od+wPAXdHnCjY7GlwI8h6oZW9kXCktTLL/AIqPeks3KSvwolePITTClQSxxG3yKiuZp4SjUqhCcZiPKZO8QUyosSu+D8OFVsmLA6kDw1VIBKs8F2aZOaN0vJwP6f1BMfgnMJIOguO7ysRCrcPWymRr+tFdMcawyEgEiAdpOgJ5Kiq0i1xa4EEEgg7EKQ3RWZOMvkWFDHkak+atavE2Ghd3bbZuskHUHwAnyWYlSKLlHjRUcsltYMuupmDxobtdRHUTqbItAAXPh5opJNFQbUix4jhXVQ0tIMD4bCJ5LsdEqrW5ntJbvk7Ud5hVrscZJC13R3pIW0ocbiQJnfSCPRLkpRiqGqUZzZmaONDMzGC3PcxzRKvEWuaWu3nTbl7qtxIyucO+5UdHoT3A8VrYnYGlT6xvWGWA9oCWkjlKn9IaFN2R1CnlblggXm5g96owjjFOAgOMcpMImn2Ai48NHeEwDnnQwtJguhYLzmcct4MAa73N1lesPM+pUmlxKo2AHuAG0mPQoJQm+GHGcF2LsdCMUx0sDHC/aDwP+6EHDUTL8zcmX4gPvAwAfc25INHpTXEdskcjH4KM7i3ZcADme8vdy7h7n1UqXclwXAHiODyukGQb8t9B3KL1ZUipxSo77UDkALeB1UZzydST4olfcXJxfBKp45zabqYJyviRtI0lR2myVOmTJ2GqYlXRVsJ9YMASYGg2HgFyCuJXTRKhLbFlSXXXHkkr3JsdH4R5fJNT18vzSSV9gVyc19fIIYTJKiyRhNf1zCkV/hckklv1GnH6A/DtB4hcdJf/AHNTxb/2tSSUhyyZfREqwpnD/j8ikkjn6WKw/wDovqS8bsodf4fP8EkkuHCH5vUyKVpej/8ApH+ZOkjy+kz4vUUHEP8AVd4qOUkkS4Bl6h2pJJKwRJ0klCDrgpJKEHTJJKEJVL/SPj+AUdJJCg5cIZd0t0klGVHk6SSSREP/2Q==Yet the Christian life is so much more!  Becoming a Christian is like having the roof lifted off our little theatre and looking up to see a far greater stage.  A stage that stretches throughout time and eternity, that covers every nation, that has right in the center God Almighty Himself.  We are called as Christians to become part of God’s story, of His great drama of salvation.  He lifts us up and places us in something far greater than we could ever imagine.  A story with a future, a promise, a hope!

If we want to enter, we cannot be the center…

…if we demand God enter our plans we will be disappointed.  Yet every disappointment is an invitation to look up, give up having to control, and bring ourselves to God completely.  He is faithful, He is good – will we walk with Him?

Simple Minds – 3 Thoughts on Finding Contentment

Contentment.  It seems such a straightforward term and yet something always out of reach. How do we find contentment?  Once we find it, how do we keep it?

At the risk of stopping you reading right now, I have to admit, I don’t know!  This is something I am learning at the moment.  It is something I struggle with.  I am naturally emotional – I feel things strongly – left to my own devices I can oscillate between being the life and soul to quietly withdrawn.  Yet I work with someone who I have begun to recognise as one of the most contented men I know.  He is not naive, foolish or idealist, yet he is never far away from joy no matter what the situation.  He is also pursuing simplicity in his lifestyle.  The two are not unrelated.

Simplicity births contentment.  

Simplicity can take many forms.  I’ve written previously about how my wife and I put great value on living beautifully.  We want to live in a way that isn’t always pushed to the limit in time, finances, capacity and head space.  We don’t always manage.  In fact, recently I’ve really struggled.  I’m a church leader.  That means my life is full of people, situations and events that call for urgent attention right now, as well as a need for ‘stepping back’ big picture thinking, prayer and strategy.  Recently I’ve taken on an extra larger area of ministry.  Things have been busy.  There’s been a lot to do and a lot to think about.  I’ve got stressed.

I won’t be the only one.  Having a busy life full of many different things, all seemingly urgent, all needing attention, is not a unique experience.

How do we find simplicity amidst the multitude of urgency?

I have 3 thoughts I want to share; 3 things that came as I prayed through this very question this morning.  They’re personal words into my situation, but I think they may be helpful for many others too.  For me, the place I need simplicity most is in my mind.  Some circumstances I can change, many I can’t, but I can affect how I see my life.  I want to see it through the perspective of the presence of my Father God every single moment.  I want Him to shape my view.  How does that happen?

1. Recognise the season you’re living in.

We live in a ‘now’ culture where everything is available all the time: knowledge is immediately available through Google or Wiki; fruit and veg line our shelves all year round; I can get what I want when I want it.  Our social and personal approach to life has become dislocated from the rhythm of the world we live in.  Nature still operates in seasons except where we seek to interfere.  God still operates in seasons too, and we can’t change that one!

Praying this morning I believe God was saying the season is Autumn for me, but I’m trying to live in Spring.  This is a season where some things die and move over to make space for new growth; it is a slower season; a transition season.  Yet I want Spring.  I’m acting like if I work hard enough and well enough I can see new growth and life springing up all over.  I can see this.  As a church we’re in a place of transition, a place of re-organising and preparing for growth.  Yet I can put myself under pressure to see that growth right now.  I needed to hear God say: slow down, it’s ok, this is the season – enjoy it!

Do you know the season your in?  One of growth, preparation, transition, training, rest, beginning, finishing, persevering – what season are you in?  Let yourself live in it.

2. Clear the airwaves.

Last post we looked at Philippians 4 and Paul’s guidance in how to live without anxiety.  He ended by calling us to focus on what is good, noble, excellent and praiseworthy.  To watch what we watch.

My mind is cluttered.  I read about 6 books at a time.  I get input from books, computers, music or phones at every conceivable opportunity of the day – even the bathroom is not exempt! My issue isn’t that I fill my mind with bad stuff it’s just that I fill my mind over and over again.  It never stops.  I have no space to gaze.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)

I need to give my mind room to simply rest on God.  For me that means putting books down, turning the radio off, making space.

3. Do the basics well.

Some of you may well do this last one naturally anyway, but it’s confession time for me.  One of my biggest causes of stress is that I feel I’m continually on catch up.  It’s often because I am.  I carve out space for the big important looking things and miss out time to properly sort out my calendar and diary – to get the basics of life done well.

Do you know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it or do you, like me, quite enjoy the adrenaline of the hectic….until it all gets too much?  I say this to myself, but you may want to say it to yourselves too: “Make space for the basics now, you’ll appreciate it later!”

So there we go.  I’m on a journey and these 3 things are my directions for today.  Enjoy the season, make space to gaze, and do the basics well.  If you have any other suggestions, experiences or advice, why not share the wealth by making a comment using the link below.

Dealing with Anxiety

“It is possible to live an anxiety free lifestyle”.

What do you think?

We’ll respond differently, probably depending on our own experience.  Some incredulous, some ashamed, some angry that it could even be suggested, some indifferent because anxiety’s not such a big deal anyway.

It was Pete Carter, a church leader of great wisdom and integrity, who I heard say it, but he wasn’t the first.  In fact, Jesus said ‘Do not worry about your life’ and the Apostle Paul wrote ‘Do not be anxious about anything’.  Neither of them meant it as a mere suggestion, nor as an unreachable command.  It’s an invitation.

“Anxiety will come knocking at your door, it’s your choice whether to let it in.”

Another quote from Pete, but echoed in Paul.  In Philippians 4:4-11 the Apostle gives us some clear practical advice, and he really meant it…

1. Rejoice in the Lord always!

Worship, gratitude, praise.  It’s always our starting point.  Why?  Because as we react with worship we remember that God is near.  Bottom line, the reason we can live without anxiety is because God is our Father and He’s always present.  When Jesus said not to worry about life, He also described how Father God provides for birds and grass so how much more will He provide for us?  Whatever circumstances come, make worship a first reaction – because ‘The Lord is near’.

2. Do not be anxious…but present your requests to God.

This is not some kind of ‘grin and bear it’ denial of reality.  Anxiety comes on the back of circumstances – of challenges and perceived needs.  Jesus meant it when he said “In this world you will have trouble”….but he meant the next part too, “take heart because I have overcome the world”.  Don’t deny challenges, turn them into requests.  Bring them to Father God who can actually do something about it.

3. Leave it with Him.

Here’s the biggest challenge.  Often we worship and/or pray but then we keep on wondering, thinking, trying to work out what God is going to do.  We don’t let go.  The promise is that as we hand over our anxiety in the form of requests, God will hand over His ‘peace that passes understanding’.  Here’s the problem – to have peace that is beyond understanding we have to give up being able to understand (that’s not a me original – I heard it first from Bill Johnson – but it’s so true).  The problem is, I go through the motions of recognising God is present and handing it over to Him, but then I keep acting like it must be all down to me.  Essentially I want God to bless me as I deal with the problem, I don’t actually hand the problem over for Him to deal with.

It’s simple, but it’s hard.  It hits a bottom line issue: can we fully trust God?

Often we keep hold of the issue because we’re not sure God will sort it out.  Maybe we’ve tried handing it over before and the results haven’t been what we expected.  The truth is we cannot trust God to do exactly what we want Him to, but we can trust Him to do what is good, to be near, to bring peace.  God is good all the time, He’s outrageously good – but sometimes the way He works doesn’t make sense until we see the end of the line…and we may not always get to see it this side of eternity.

How do we learn to trust?

4. Watch what you watch.

Paul exhorts us to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy.  Too often we fill ourselves with stories of bad things going on, of challenges and issues facing people, of how stories turn out bad.  The news reports what is going wrong in the world.  When we chat to people it’ll be negative more often than positive.  To speak too positively makes us sound over optimistic or ‘unreal’.  To ‘be real’ almost literally means to ‘be negative’ – see what can go wrong.  No wonder we struggle to trust God – we struggle even to remember what He’s really like.

Rejoice always.  Focus on what is good, right, true and noble.  Why?  Because then we’re always aware of the presence of God, of His goodness, of the fact we can trust Him.  We start to recognise the way He is moving so that we see the number of times He works in seemingly impossible situations to bring about good.  We see the way He transforms one situation in an instant and walks faithfully giving strength over long periods of time through others, yet always with never failing goodness.

Bottom line is this: God will not always do what we want, but God will always be with us and He will always be good.  We cannot avoid challenges, trials and loss, but we can keep anxiety out.  Recognise the presence of God and His goodness.  Choose to rejoice, to request, and to let go.  Then do what He says to do.

 

Death – a poem

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Zv3AyaO7DNc/UTt-aeaowaI/AAAAAAAAWEI/PZdtVjHmo7w/s1600/doorway.jpg

A doorway, or a thief?

Pain or relief?

At last.Farewell.

Above, beneath.

See you later,

Finality.

Gratitude.

Grief.

Endless descriptions, yet one truth is needed:

That oppressive sovereignty, once firm, has been ceded.

For when Jesus Christ rose, death was defeated.

Our hearts feel the pain of this temporary separation,

but Spirit brings comfort of guaranteed celebration.

For those who know him, by Christ are well known,

and presented to Father at the glorious throne.

Death is defeated, life is assured,

Love won the victory,

‘Welcome’ the final word.

Significance

Significance is found at your throne.

Is seen in your face.

Is heard from your lips.

Every word drips

living water from your Spirit to mine.

Ears on fire,

Heart alight,

I see

me

As you see.

Identity

in you.

I am I AM’s:

healed healer,

restored restorer,

dreamt dreamer,

created creature,

spoken speaker,

formed reformer,

loved lover.

Free, redeemed,

me.

For you.

I am,

significant.

Last post I described my trip to Bethel Church, California.  I could, and probably will, write some more reflections on that time, but if you want a sense of what God spoke into me then this poem is a pretty good start.  I wrote this during a time of worship.  Realising God’s love for me and His actual delight in, not just tolerance of, me is one of the most valuable things I brought back from the USA.  I’m bold to hope that in some way this poem might communicate some of that same truth to you too.

Where the greenhouse used to be

I was surprised, not so long ago,

In the garden of all places,

Where the greenhouse used to be.

Small patch of land, soil and some paving slabs,

I grabbed my spade and began to dig.

I’m not sure why I did.

Boredom perhaps, curiosity.

I’d done the rest: Flowers, shrubs, ponds and plants,

Every inch of garden, Carefully crafted and nurtured into growth.

Except this patch.

I don’t know why I waited.

The rest had taken time alright,

Year after year of dedicated time,

But perhaps I waited because I knew what I would find

In that corner.

Vague memories of what used to be,

Or just a sense of something new that would change the way things are.

Still, one day, I dug.

Crack.

Spade blade on something hard.

A rock? Too wide.

I dug a little wider.

To my surprise I found,

A chest.

I pulled it out and set it down,

In the corner, where the greenhouse used to be.

Muddy chest, once new, now locked and rusted shut,

Through years of being almost disappeared under layer and layer,

Of life.

Soil and weeds, over years, months and weeks,

Gradually covering,

As people, places, things I used to know,

Priorities so important once, now forgotten,

Disappointments and unmet expectations,

Dreams dreamed and not quite reached,

Or altogether ripped apart,

Like passing minutes and grains of earth

Layer upon layer covered that chest

Until it lay forgotten.

Now found.

I opened it.

It wasn’t easy.

Through lock and rust I had to thrust.

I hesitated, I didn’t want to break it,

Didn’t even know if what I’d find was good or bad, or nothing.

But something told me I had to do it now,

To wait another moment was to risk another burial.

It had to be done. So done it was.

You’ll never guess what I found inside.

Not medieval coins or ancient crockery,

But a beating heart.

Fragile, weak and small,

But still alive.

Protected in this shrine of grubby memories of earth and time.

And the strangest thing, to my surprise,

I knew this heart was mine.

Distant memories echoed in my mind of a time

This heart beat in me.

A time before it sunk beneath the years,

And days of people, things and places,

Shattered dreams and broken promises,

Wasted time and mundane mediocrity

The simple stuff of life allowed to gather,

And to cover what should have been it’s source,

Not half-forgotten, hidden, buried deep,

Where the greenhouse used to be.

I heard a voice.  Still, calm, it whispered:

“Pick it up.

Pick it up and put it in.

It’s never too late for new life to begin.

Your heart is beating still,

Kept alive through time by mine,

The source of life even when unseen,

But now you have a chance to start afresh,

To know your heart and know mine too,

To dream again with hope and expectation,

Based on me and not on you.

The new begins today.

Pick it up.”

Pick it up.

Did I?

Will you?

A faith buried through years of life, distractions, hurts and joys,

Is still a faith that beats with life never too late to be awakened.

Things will change when we let Him in,

Re-discover dreams, allow ourselves to feel again,

But change brings life, and life in all it’s fullness,

When it’s nurtured by the gardener,

Not buried in the corner

Where the greenhouse used to be.

Pick it up.

Colours on the Horizon – viewing the future from the Father’s table

There is a new season coming for the church.  A season characterised by creativity and community.  As a friend and I were praying and talking yesterday we were struck afresh by how true this is, how we can see signs of it already bubbling up, but how we have no idea what it will look like.  Like colours on the horizon we can see signs of it, but can only walk to it step by step, doing what God says each moment.  This isn’t a set model that we can develop a tried and tested strategy to reach. We feel like we have been given an opportunity to explore what it might look like in one particular church gathering that we’re part of.  Exploring by simply doing what God says to do each step.  First we began eating together, now we want to encourage, demonstrate and release creativity and expression towards God.  That is what has inspired this poem.  It’s not meant to be polished or amazing, it is the beginning of an expression of praise through creativity, of me finding a voice I didn’t think I had, in the hope that others might find theirs.  (Click on the image below to read the poem.)

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