Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

God didn't Smirk!

Repost from 2012

God didn't Smirk
(Genesis 3)

So, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree.  We all know the story.  The serpent convinced Eve it really wasn't that bad, and Eve caved.  She ate the fruit and then gave some to Adam to eat as well.  They both messed up.  God had told them not to, and they did.  Two children disobeying their Father's orders. (Here enters the fall of mankind ... but that is not what I want to focus on today)

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What do Adam and Eve do?  
Adam and Eve become aware of their nakedness and run off to find somewhere to hide.

What does God do?
He acknowledges their disobedience and dishes out their punishment - (they did disobey GOD after all!) but then...

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

He made them clothes to hide their nakedness!

Instead of smirking and watching them squirm with embarrassment - He made them clothes!


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I am not so sure I would have responded the same way.  If my children had gone out in the rain and jumped in puddles after being told not to - and were drenched - I would be tempted to say:  'well - if you had not been disobedient you wouldn't be in this mess - now you are going to be wet and cold all day!'  

But that isn't how God responds.   Yes, there may be a punishment of sorts, but then a dry set of clothes would be provided for us to wear, and continue our day in.

God is Just - he cannot ignore disobedience.  But he is also full of GRACE - and loves to bless his children. Grace is right there at the beginning.

Thank you God that you give even when we don't deserve it.  Your Grace is AMAZING. 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The one with the fruit

Recently I met up with someone who had a huge impact on my early life as a Christian over 20 years ago! It was great to catch up with him and talk about the 'good old days' when I was a member of the youth group he pastored.  As we reminisced over a latte, I realised just how much things have changed, and how thankful I am to know and serve a faithful God!

'What happened Jo? You out of all people, how did you end up in the ministry?'

It was a fair enough question!  I think it is true to say that my behaviour and attitude back then was pretty challenging. I had come into a church youth group from a totally non-church background, and I guess I didn't 'fall into line' all that easily!

'You kept people at arm's length, you kept church at arm's length and you kept God at arm's length ...'

Two out of the three agreed upon.

Yes, I kept people at arm's length. I had come in from a totally different environment from that experienced and encouraged at church and I found it very difficult to develop a relationship of openness and trust with people.  I built extremely effective barriers around me that I hoped would protect me from hurt. After all if you don't let people in, they can't hurt you, right? 

Yes, I kept church at arm's length. I loved being at youth group and I loved being at church. But I felt such a fraud. Who was I to be joining in with all these people who seemed to have actually read the whole Bible and have their own hot-line to God? I could never pray with such passion, feel comfortable lifting my hands in worship, or slip a triumphant 'praise the Lord' or 'Hallelujah' into a sentence. I just didn't fit in. The safest solution to feeling like an outsider was to act like one.

But God?  Did I keep God at arm's length?

When I gave my life to Jesus it was a well thought out and lifetime decision. It was a no turning back commitment. I knew my life would be totally different from now on, and I felt as though I had so much catching up to do! So, in the quietness and safety of my own room, I threw myself into working out what this new relationship with God was all about. I read and studied the Bible every day without fail. I prayed - lots - in fact, I think I knew what it was to 'pray without ceasing' better then than I do now. I had such a lot to learn and put into action.

Looking back, I think I found it all a bit overwhelming. It found it so hard to accept that God, the creator of the universe, would want to have a relationship with me. I felt I had really messed up. I felt unlovable and unworthy. And yet I knew the Bible spoke of a God who loves without condition; a God who sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for me so I didn't have to be worthy! It was a lot to take in.

And perhaps because of this, I struggled to externalise what was going on. But this didn't mean I kept God at arm's length; I worked hard at ensuring this wasn't the case.  I had made a commitment to follow Jesus, it just seemed as though this commitment looked different to that of the other young people in the youth group.

The (understandable) assumption that I kept God at arm's length back then really unsettled me. If fact, I lay awake that night thinking it over. Was my behaviour that bad? Was I really such an invisible Christian?

Had my character or behaviour not changed at all? Did I not display any of the 'signs' of being a Christian? The fruit of the Spirit? 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Ok, perhaps I lacked most of them back then (working on them now!), but if faithfulness is to be defined as being 'loyal and steadfast' - I was faithful.  Admittedly, a lot of this faithfulness took place in the safety of my own room, but publicly I was faithful in my attendance - events, programmes, services, prayer meetings ... I would be there!

So, why wasn't this particular fruit recognised in the same way as love, or goodness, or self-control might have been?

Perhaps the shine of the apple, or the yellow curve of the banana makes a particular fruit easier to spot? Perhaps certain fruits are more common or more highly esteemed? But what about the smaller, less obvious fruit that might be well camouflaged amongst the leaves?  Are they not still fruit?  Granted, my fruit might have been less obvious, but it was there.

What a lesson this has taught me as a leader! What do I look for in others? Do I look for the obvious? Do I look for the well-known, easily spotted, common fruits? What if nothing is seen at first, or even second glance? Do I disregard the 'tree' and assume it bears nothing?

As leaders, I believe we need to look beyond the obvious, and ask God to show us what he sees.  There are nine different fruits of the Spirit, and each one of these can display itself in a myriad of ways.

Will you allow your eyes, ears, heart and mind to be open to the diversity that being in a relationship with the Creator God brings, and recognise and encourage the existence of all fruits, even those that seem small and insignificant at first?


“Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it. They who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The one with the sore hip

On Thursday I went for a walk along the beach with Jesus. 

The wet sand sparkled in the sunlight, and stretched far into the distance until it met the sky. The tide withdrew, creating space for me and my beloved companion to meander at will. We walked, sometimes in full conversation, other times in silence. It didn't matter; we were together. I enjoyed the company, I enjoyed the fresh sea breeze, I enjoyed the warm Autumnal sun, and I enjoyed the exercise! I had nowhere else to be, no one else to look after, and no set agenda.  I hadn't spent 'us' time like this in such a long time. It was perfect.
The Witterings

We talked about all sorts. His creation. His love. His forgiveness and acceptance. I asked for direction and confirmation. I prayed for others and I had a little rant about how life seems so unfair at times; but it was no surprise to him, he already knew how I felt.  He let me off-load, question and ramble. He let me be me.

Today, all my time is yours, Lord. Let's keep walking.

I felt free. I felt loved. I wanted to capture the feeling like multi-coloured sand in a bottle and screw the lid on tight.

As I continued, the sand beneath my feet started to soften, challenging the gentle pace I had been enjoying. Gradually the steps became strides and required a significant increase in effort. No big deal, or so I thought, but it wasn't long before my right hip began to feel a little uncomfortable. Ignoring the strain I pushed on, determined to make the most of this special time with God.

The pain increased and I was forced to find respite on a sandbank. Gutted. However, a short break and then we would continue ...

We did continue, but so did the pain. I eventually admitted defeat and turned around to begin the journey home.

After a short time I realised that in order to dampen the pain, I had started to limp. I discovered that if I kept my right knee slightly bent then my hip didn't hurt as much. It worked, until my knee began to hurt too. Again, I pushed through it, after all, what choice did I have? I had to get home somehow! So, with my right hip and knee complaining with every step I fixed my eyes on the destination and quickened the pace. I wouldn't let it ruin my day. But the truth was that my conversation with Jesus had been drowned out by an internal (and yes, the occasional external) 'ouch!'.

Through forced experimentation I learnt that leaning on the outside of my right ankle lessened the pain in my hip, and took the pressure off my knee. Relief. Until, yes, my ankle began to hurt too!

Enough of my moaning! Eventually I made it back to the car, drove back to the caravan and rested!

The pouring out of my heart and mind to Jesus might have decreased as the pain increased, but that didn't stop him speaking to me....

As I sat in the caravan I realised that ignoring the pain in my hip had led to problems elsewhere. It resulted in added tension and pressure in both my knee and my ankle, and as my hip still throbbed with the pain, it hadn't solved the problem at all. It would seem that one part of the body rarely suffers in isolation.

How true this is of the body of Christ!

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In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 we read how we are all part of the body of Christ, and if one part suffers, every part suffers with it. Therefore, we need to work together, look out for each other, and support any part of the body that might be struggling. I think this concept also extends to the different ministries and groups within the church. Ignoring issues rarely solves the problem, but adds to pressure and tension elsewhere. God wants to build the whole church up, not just a part of it! If we want to see this happen, we really need to recognise the importance of other people, and different ministries, and do all we can to ensure they are fit and healthy and functioning as they should be. 

If one part of the body hurts, get it fixed - ignoring it will only lead to problems elsewhere!

May God continue to build his church!

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