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Just enough light for the step you are on

22 Aug

Isn’t it amazing when God gives you vision? When prophecies or dreams give you that peace that surpasses understanding, or things just seem to fit beautifully into place? Sometimes God works like that…. but what about when he doesn’t?

What about when you have a summer stretching ahead of you, no job and an overdraft to pay back? What about when you have left uni and the post-recession workplace offers little comfort for your career plans? What about when you face being at home for 3 months, and you don’t quite know how to navigate those tough family dynamics?

I was reminded of childhood afternoons of treasure hunting. Little pieces of paper would direct us to the next clue until eventually we reached the prize. Those little scrawled messages coupled with perseverance were all we had until we reached the next stage. Sometimes it was fun – the mystery, the searching… however sometimes it was frustrating and I yearned to bin the cryptic clues and just hunt for the prize.

Sometimes God gives us just enough light for the step that we are on

This statement keeps catching my eye from the spine of a book on my shelf at home. In a season filled with uncertainties about finance and jobs, it’s a reminder that although God doesn’t often reveal the big picture, he gives us what we need for the month, week or even just the day! This could be insight, money or a sense of peace over a decision you need to make. Matthew 6v34 (NLT) echoes just this: ‘So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today’.

In the Lord’s prayer, we pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’. Sometimes we skim over it without thinking, especially when we feel secure that the paycheck is coming, our friendships are ticking along nicely, we feel secure in love, and the fridge is full. But sometimes that line is said as a heartfelt prayer in itself, perhaps loaded with desperation.  So what do you do when life finds you scrabbling for clues as to what’s next? If you, like me, are in that place right now, try these tips for size (along with some verses to look at in your quiet time… or moments of panic:

– Take some time to think over your testimony, stories of forgiveness, moments of revelation and miracles of provision. Remind yourself that your God is faithful. Read 1 Corinthians 1:9

– Pray for peace that transcends circumstance. Not only will this quieten your heart, but what an amazing witness to others as they see you calm in the face of uncertainty and storm. Read Romans 15:13

– Share testimonies and stories of how God has worked in your life. It is inspiring and affirming. What a way to raise expectation. He’s done it before, he will do it again. Read Hebrews 2:4 

– Be expectant. Wait confidently in the assurance that God knows the complexities of your situation, he knows what you need best. Read Micah 7:7

– Don’t be afraid. You are hemmed in by God. He has gone before you and will be with you, no ground you tread on has been un-trodden on by your God. Read Deuteronomy 31:8

I want to finish with God’s words concerning the future in Revelation, the unknown, the mystery of what is to come are these:

‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’ (Rev 22:13 NLT). 

He is already in the future, and he is good.

 

Fresh eyes in dusty London

16 Aug

As I meandered through Picadilly Circus at lunchtime yesterday I came to a large group of people blocking my path. After 3 years of living in London and working in tourist-laden Covent Garden, I have learnt to walk like a Londoner. This usually takes on the guise of walking at a speed most people would label ‘an awkward-looking-run’, and adopting a face that tries desperately to say “I live here, I’m in a rush, and don’t you dare approach me with that clipboard”.

So, used to darting through tourists (I haven’t knocked over any small children that I know of), I am usually unfazed by huddles of people, or men stood for hours on end covered in gold paint. But this crowd yesterday intrigued me. Instead of rushing on, I had a little nosey look and quickly realised that I had stumbled across the new M&M store.As a big fan of those little chocolate dots of heaven (as you may know from another one of my blogs), I just had to see what the fuss was about.

For the next fifteen minutes I became a tourist. I browsed the store, excited at the tall rainbow arrangement of M&M tubes that reached the ceiling. I huddled around the man, with a group of children, finding out how to fill our cellophane bags with colours of our choice. After laughing at some ridiculous M&M memorabilia (M&M spatula or toothbrush holder anyone?) I dispensed a few pink M&M’s and headed to the till to pay my 53p (the cashier laughed at my paltry portion)

The thing is, yesterday I saw London with fresh eyes. It reminded of my first visits when everything was so exciting; it reminded me of why people love to visit its vibrancy and multiculturalism. But most importantly, it reminded me that we need to see things with fresh eyes sometimes.

I love helping on Alpha, and I love leading a Post-Alpha home group. Not only because it’s so wonderful getting to know people and being a part of their journey – but because its amazing to be around people who see God with fresh eyes. Their passion and excitement is infectious and can reawaken our desire to spend time with God.

Sometimes our faith can get tired. Maybe you can find yourself resenting the fact that it’s hard work. You might have lost that spark, that amazement and desire to spend time with your God. Perhaps you are moving out of duty rather than passion.

So – just as I have found a new, re-appreciation for where I live, let’s pray for fresh revelations of Jesus. Fresh passion for our faith, fresh desire to read the bible. Fresh eyes. Not just reminders of what captured us enough to devote our lives to following Jesus, but to re-experience that in a whole new way.

Isiah 43v19 says ‘I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland’.

Pray that for a fresh outpouring of God on your life. Pray with others, join together and make this your prayer for your life, campus, church, family and workplace– to see streams begin to flow, new springs, new dreams, new zest for your relationship with God and with life.

 

When the rug is pulled from under your feet

14 Jun

“We aren’t going to be able to keep you on I’m afraid”. That sentence came from my boss last week as he explained that they wouldn’t be able to work around my new university placement. Part of me had braced myself to hear this – it was expected – I felt peaceful. The other part felt like the rug had been pulled from beneath my feet as I held back tears at the thought of losing a secure job that I loved. Questions flooded my mind – how will I afford my course fees? How will we pay the bills? How on earth will I find a job to fit around my clinic hours (I’m a trainee Psychotherapist)? Will we be able to stay in our flat?

We have all had moments like this. A phone call or an email that sharply changes the direction of our lives or our plans. I remember being told at the age of seven that my sister had a cancer –  in that moment life as I knew it was to change forever. Many of us have have been the receiver of a simple short sentence that feels like a punch in the stomach or instantly finds us asking huge questions about life and scrabbling for new coping mechanisms. They can find us running to God, or away from him in confusion. 

I have had five simple words in my mind for the past few weeks – I think God has been preparing my heart for the uncertainty of what is to come.  He does that sometimes – he paves the way, prepares us. I want to share them with you in the hopes that they too can be written on your heart – Nothing takes God by surprise

So what do we do in the face of uncertainty, unanswered questions, shaking foundations or circumstances that simply don’t make sense?

1- Know that God has not been taken by surprise. He has gone before you, he has paved the way, you are not walking on untrodden ground. I find such comfort in the Psalms 139 v 5 which says ‘You hem me in, behind and before. You have laid you hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty to attain’.

2 – Be still and know that God is God (Psalm 46v10). When you study the Hebrew translation of this verse, it translates to ’cause yourself to let-go, to become weak’. Let go of your own plans, your own desire for control on the circumstance, and ask God for the strength to trust in his all-sufficiency, his all-knowing, his love for the detail. What a testament to all those around you, when they see you calm in the face of a storm thanks to a peace that surpasses all earthly understanding.

3- Trust what you know of God. Reflect on the ways he has intervened in history (your own history and biblical history) and share faith boosting stories of when God has more than showed up.

So, I am trying to live this out right now. Oh I have moments of anxiety and fear – wondering how this awkward looking jigsaw is going to fit together. But a calm peace quietens them as I reflect on the fact that my God is able to move mountains, and he has faithfully got me this far!

It’s all testimony in the making.

Watch this space – he’s gonna pull it off… again!

 

Nutella and eternity

8 Jun

My love for good holiday books tend to result in a heart-stopping moment as I place my luggage on the check-in scales to be weighed. I hold my breath as the weight creeps dangerously close to the 10kg limit. I haven’t been fined yet, but I have had to do the awkward airport-floor suitcase reshuffle.

What’s more, I’m a naughty reader. With a good book I can’t help but sneak a glance ahead. I do it with the coyness of a child who knows they are doing something they shouldn’t – cautious not to be caught with their fingers in the Nutella jar. I look around to make sure nobody is watching as I jump a fistful of pages and chapters ahead, just to get a taste of what is to come.

It got me thinking…would we live differently if we really knew where we were going? Would we act, speak, pray, spend differently? With eternity written on our hearts, we often take forgranted the reality of heaven and what it means for us as Christians to spend forever in the presence of God. The book of Revelation provides us with that peek ahead. It is full of written glimpses of heaven offering descriptive metaphors, stunning imagery and strange descriptions of a reality that is incomprehensible to us in life.

What if we were to live with a more heavenly perspective? Paul often reminds us that the best is yet to come. He encourages us to see life through the lens of eternity. In Romans 8:8 he says “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”

But how can we maintain a heavenly perspective when the world encourages us to live endlessly seeking the promises of pleasure? We enjoy the illusion of security, and desperately try to satiate a hunger for things we can’t always name or put our finger on?

With inspiration from Paul in Philippians 1:18-26, here are some tips for maintaining a heavenly perspective:

– Rejoice. Not a fluctuating happiness that depends on circumstance but praise that is offered throughout the seasons of our life. Pray for the gift of Joy and make decisions to worship even when it’s costly

– Ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and keep asking

– Pray and be prayed for

– Know what you are fighting! If it’s materialism, an addiction or a destructive relationship that battles for your attention – name it and seek accountability

– Get your hands dirty. Commit yourself to working for the Lord throughout your brief time on earth. We only get one chance, make it count

So…let’s live purposeful, heaven bound and heaven-focussed lives, creating echoes that bellow into eternity. Being driven by a spiritual urgency that acknowledges how short our time here is.

 

Codeine plus denial

1 Oct

Sometimes we put things off.

My tooth for example.

It hurts.

It has been hurting for quite a while. Let’s say a year. Tender enough to recognise but endurable enough to ignore.

But recently it’s gotten alot worse. Codeine worthy. It throbs. And now it hurts when I smile.

And I like smiling.

I have turned into one of those annoying people that used to quiz my physiotherapist mother on their aches and frozen shoulders in the middle of town on a Saturday morning. I remember squeezing her hand tightly – wanting to get away as much as she did. Anyway, I have become that person; Facebooking my dentist friend late at night requesting her advice on my painful tooth.

The answer is exactly as I expected – the same thing my Husband & Mum have told me in response to my incessant moaning…

“Go to the dentist”

Easier said than done. I don’t want to.

I don’t like people touching my teeth. Well, specifically my two front teeth. They rest can be mauled as much as needs be.

Why? Because one little slip of a bikes tyre at the age of ten, and I flew over the handlebars – onto my face. Yup – I can almost see the face you are pulling. So my poor two front teeth have spent the last 15 years clinging onto dear life. They have been on the floor, endured a ride to A&E in a cup of milk, put back in (wonky may I add), straightened, root treated, veneered (they went black), straightened again (yes I had braces at 24)… and now what is there left to do?

Take it out????

That is what my nightmares are about.

I’m learning an important lesson about delay. It’s a dangerous form of denial – where what you have brushed under the carpet comes to bite you hard on the backside. Or, in the bank account as I may be about to find out.

Don’t get me wrong. Delay can be a good thing – delaying anger for example. Time can be a sobering. Delay for the right reasons can prevent error, produce wisdom, experience and maturity. Delay in other things such as meeting coursework deadlines, catching flights, booking dental appointments – is stupidity at it’s best – self sabotage!

So whilst I book my now emergency dental appointment, ask yourself what you have brushed under the carpet for the last few years. Phone calls? Job applications? Doctor’s appointments?

And as for me…. 9.00 this morning. I’m facing my consequences.

The song ‘All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth’ has a whole new meaning. But I’m not that demanding – so just the left one will do.

We will deal with the other one next year.

If it lasts that long.

The occasional joys of being a sardine

29 Sep

I thawed like a big block of ice on a hot day.

Two loud Americans were sat next to me on my journey home. Producing a shelves worth of cereal bars and flapjacks (out of an apparently bottomless bag) and loudly examining their contents. “How much fat? Is nothing in this country HEALTHY?”

Beside from being bemused at the irony of their large shapes and their quest to find something healthy (did the two words ‘snickers’ and ‘flapjack’ on the packaging not say something?), inside I was sighing.

Half an hour of THIS? I had chosen the wrong darned carriage.

I was being the typical London Ice-Queen commuter

I’m not quite sure how it happened – but along with the other Ice Queen and King sat with us, I ended up being embroiled in their conversation. Within minutes I was sharing a recipe on healthy breakfast flapjack (that I’d never made), laughing at stories of their holiday, and discussing the delights of British confectionary! Not only that but I’d been introduced to the Mother in Law, Husband, daughter and sister that were spread across the carriage.

I didn’t want to get off!

But that was unusual.

Packed like sardines we journey to work. A carriage full of lives, swimming with memories, problems, excitement, despair. We sit with the closeness of good friends yet avoid communication. Pushed together by lack of space and the only known thing in common is a mutual un-knowingness of one another.

Sometimes I play a game – imagining people’s mornings, conversations, hobbies, how they like to spend their weekends and what makes them laugh.

I’m a straight face hidden behind a paper, a book or folded hands. Nameless and unknown. Another traveller.

My journeys generally fall into two categories: Bad or average. The only ‘good’ journeys are the ones shared with friends, or funny tourists who blissfully unaware of our staunch British etiquette.

Last night, on the half hour train journey home, Chloe and I laughed until our sides hurt, forgetting passengers around us and the ‘hush be quiet’ unspoken London rules.

We were carelessness children laughing at ‘in jokes’.

I wasn’t watching for rolling eyes or dagger stares, oh I bet there were a few. I was having fun. Only now do I wonder whether those unknown and unnamed people saw something of me – a little piece of character, a glimpse of Anna, an insight to add to the straight face they often see.

So I’ve made a little promise to myself.

I will be more than polite. I will be more friendly. More… human. You won’t find me speaking to every commuter in my carriage (for I would probably end up with a carriage all of my very own). Instead I will not be afraid to smile and engage.

I challenge you to do the same!

Focus on the journey and see what happens. See if you can find joy in the doing as well as the finishing.

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes

Foot massages in the cowshed

22 Sep

Right. I like my feet. They are fine. They serve me well.

I also like giving massages.

Growing up, massages were our currency. “I will cook dinner for a five minuter”. Or, I will endure your chick-flick/action-man/awful film for a good shoulder rub. The tradition lives on, and now my husband and I enjoy almost daily massages in front of the TV (I get extra long ones when I ‘watch’ football). Everyone’s a winner right?

That is until someone utters the words…

“Please can I have a foot massage?”

My instant reaction is to pull an unattractive face and scarper. If I love you –  then you may get one on the following condition –

socks stay ON.

If I REALLY love you, then you will get your fully fledged foot massage and I will suppress my grimaces. To me, that is real love.

Before you accuse me of double standards, I don’t even like massaging my own feet, so on principle, I don’t inflict my feet on another. Therefore, do not worry friends, you won’t find me knocking at your door requesting a foot rub anytime soon.

That of course, comes with one exception.

You let me pay you.

My lovely brother & sister in-law bought me a pedicure for my birthday. Not just a simple 15 minute get-your-nails-looking-shiney one, but a whole hour of scraping, exfoliating and massaging.

So last night, off I trundled to the very chic (albeit oddly named) Cowshed spa in Soho to meet the poor therapist assigned to spend the next hour tending to my runners/walkers/heal-wearer feet.

It was delicious. She did her thing, whilst I felt like a princess on a fluffy white throne reading shiny magazines. Although, I must mention a slightly awkward moment in which she asked whether I minded having my ‘feet drilled’.

Not wanting to seem out of touch with the pedicure world (of which I am – very) I nodded. After a fearing i’d been lured to a dentist under false pretenses, I discovered that a ‘foot drill’ is an electric foot sander. Nice.

So there I was, reclined in my blissful state, playing this little loop over and over in my head. It went like this:

1- I feel so sorry for her.
2- No! This is her job
3- Yeah but my feet aren’t nice
4- She is getting PAID
5- Yeah she’s seen worse
6- Eugh like that woman next to me
7- So relax and enjoy
(Insert a few minutes of pure relaxation – interspersed with feigning the desire to jump out of the chair due to ticklishness).

And repeat 1-7.

So after an hour of relaxing/reasoning with myself, I left. The owner of the smoothest, pampered and prettiest feet in London.

Massage-able, touchable feet.

So husband, if you’re reading this. I’d like a foot massage tonight please. And before you start getting ideas about reciprocation –  in return – i’ll make you dinner.