Who will I be? It depends.

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Recently Paul and I walked again around our favourite lake.  It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and we bumped into very dear friends that we had gone to church with many years before.

They are older than us, around my parent’s age, and yet they hadn’t changed from how we remembered them.  Their circumstances are different, of course, and they are now blessed with about a dozen grandchildren.  But the essence of them hasn’t changed.  They still have the gentle meekness, the same kindness in their words, the same contented outlook on life.  He smiled as he told us how he continues to play the drums in church, more than thirty years since we first met them.   They gushed about the lovely day and the bacon sandwiches they had treated themselves to and their upcoming special anniversary trip.  They generously asked after all our children and we all said how good God is.

As we continued our walk I just couldn’t stop thinking about them.  ‘I want to be like them someday’ I said to Paul and he agreed.

A week later, my husband was walking the dog at the same spot when he bumped into another old friend who was cycling past.  Paul hadn’t spoken to him in probably 15 years.  And, he hadn’t really changed much either.  Still busy and hassled, talking too fast and always in a hurry.  The refrain was familiar.  Life is hectic and busy and stressful.  He, by his own admission, is overextended because his lifestyle is expensive to maintain, in both money and time.  He will have to work until he drops.  He is sorry he can’t make time for church, but his days are already invested and there are none left.  He misses it but not too much.  And he cycled away.

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As I think about those conversations, there is an uncomfortable truth that I am faced with.  And it is this.  The way I am living my life today is more than likely the way I will be living it in 20 years time.  Because habits take only 40 days to form and so after 40 years they are pretty much carved in stone.

It is so easy to think in ‘somedays’.   We tell ourselves that someday we will slow down and enjoy our family.  Or someday we will give our relationship with Jesus the time it deserves.  Someday we will serve others more.  Someday we will go on that mission trip or study a book of the Bible.  Someday we will step out in faith and do something risky for God or finally obey what we know He has been asking us to do.

But change is really hard.

And every day that goes by it gets harder. 

Over decades we dig deep grooves in the soil of our lives that are nearly impossible to ignore.  We have ways of doing things, natural tendencies and preferences.  We also have bad habits and we have well-practised excuses for those bad habits. And we just keep going.

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Nowhere in the Bible is this process better illustrated than Psalm 1.

‘How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.’  Psalm 1: 1-3 (NASB)

Here we see a beautiful tree, planted in a stunning location.  It is healthy and vibrant and fruitful.  It is prospering in every possible way.  Each leaf is glossy and green, every root is strong and stable.

And the key to a life like this is in the previous verses.

Decisions. Habits. Priorities. Choices.

There is nothing ‘someday’ here.  It is all about what I do right now.  It is about where I spend my time and who I hang out with.  It is about what gets my undivided attention and what doesn’t.  It is about who I admire and what values I live my life by this week, today, now.

It is all about the place that God has in my life, whether He is just an add-on or whether He is the absolute centre of everything that I think and do.

And, the truth is that it will probably never be easier than today to make hard choices and decisions.  It will never be easier to make God my first love and to make serving and following Him the centre of everything.  There will probably never be fewer demands on my time or distractions in my mind.

There will never be an easier, better day to make changes than today. 

As I sit at my desk, my mind full of worries and frets and to-do lists and diary appointments, I am wondering who I will be in 20 years.  If you were to bump into me walking at the lake (with my fourth labrador!) who would you see?

My deepest desire is that all the good that Jesus has already done in my life will be magnified for His glory and that the good habits I have started, even if I am inconsistent, will have produced fruit in my life.

And I hope that I will have had the courage to keep changing.  I hope that the things that hold me back now will have been overcome and that I will have continued to allow the character of Jesus to be fully formed in me.

And I hope that I will be full of fresh testimonies of the power and grace of God as He continuously moves me from the old into the new until the day I go to be with Him.

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January thoughts

 

 

In England, January can be pretty dreary.  These weeks, after the Christmas lights are boxed away, often feel particularly bare and bleak as festive jolliness is replaced with disappointing bank balances and diet programs.

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And yet, I have always liked January.  Maybe I am strange but I just love all the potential and possibilities that come with the start of a new year.  I also really love the quietness that January brings.  We don’t have any family birthdays or anniversaries until February and our usual church and social commitments are often pared down as everybody recovers and regroups after the craziness of Christmas.  So, I am usually able to keep the first few weeks of the year slow and uncommitted and to set it aside for thinking, planning and prayer.  I love it.

Seasons are good and January can offer us a unique perspective.  It can be a time when life, like a deciduous tree, is stripped down to just the skeleton of trunk and branches.  No tinsel or glitter, just the reality of who were are and what our life really consists of.

And, this can be good.  It allows us to see exactly what we’ve got.

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Outside my back door are the glazed pots that were overflowing with flowers as recently as October when family played in my garden and wedding rehearsal dinner drinks were shared with bride and groom-to-be.  Some of those pots are now completely empty, the bedding plants have served their short-term purpose of cheap summer colour for my patio.  Others look dead but they are secretly hiding the roots of perennial life.  And, so although the pot looks empty, I know it will spring into life when the days get warm again.

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And then there are my reliable evergreen shrubs.  They aren’t dazzling, but they keep my winter garden from being completely barren.  This the time of year I appreciate their faithful presence most when there are no flashy blooms for them to compete with.

Life is a lot like my winter garden and at this time of year, with pared-back schedules and quiet calendars, we can really assess and take stock of what we’ve got growing and what will need attention.

When I think of the evergreens in my garden, I think of the faithful presence in my life of a few people I can utterly rely on.  Along with my faith in God, these relationships form a support system that is irreplaceable in my life.  These precious ones don’t just say they will pray, they pray.  They get a word from God for me if I need one.  They encourage, love and speak life to me when I am ready to give up, which is more often then I would like to admit.  When circumstances are crushingly disappointing and grief overwhelms me, their number is the one I call.  I simply could not do life without them.

This January, with its fresh diary pages still empty, is the perfect time to make these relationships a top priority, not an afterthought.  Let’s remind ourselves before all the shiny new experiences and opportunities arrive, that life’s most precious gifts are dependable, loving friends and family and let’s decide to give them the time and appreciation they deserve.  Remember, our closest relationships still need the oxygen of love and appreciation to thrive so let’s give the best of ourselves, not just leftovers, to those who mean the most to us.

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And then there are those hidden perennials, the things in your life that have been beautiful and fruitful but lie dormant now. 

Perhaps there are areas of gifting or ministry where God used you but have now dried up.  Or maybe there are areas of victory that have succumbed again to the enemy.  Have you lost ground?  Have you seen a work of God seemingly die and you are left bewildered and bereft?  Winter is a time for exercising faith.  It is time to believe again that what God has started, He will finish.  It is time to pray again over those fallow places and to expect green shoots.  It is a time to believe in God’s ability and desire to do what He has said He will do.  

Winter is not for the fainthearted gardener.  When the ground is hard and cold and the colour has been sucked out of the garden, only those who understand how God works will keep their spirits up.  Only children of the King keep singing songs of deliverance when circumstances look lifeless.

But, we can use these short, grey days to revisit God’s promises.  We can remember words and verses that we have received and decide to believe again.  We can ask the Holy Spirit to stir up faith and hope and to restore our confident belief in a powerful God.

And then there are the dead, empty pots that were bursting with summer bedding only months ago. 

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These are the seasons of life and ministry that have finished.  It can be very painful to let these go.  Grown-up children and the looming empty nest is the vacant pot I am staring into and it is very hard.  I have overwhelmingly enjoyed raising a family and it has been my identity for 26 years.  An end to a good season can feel like grief.  It is painful and sad.

So, what can January offer these empty spaces in our lives where something good used to grow?

We are offered a chance to, with God’s grace, let them go.  We can choose acceptance and supernatural joy that surpasses all understanding.  We can pray over the newly vacant areas of our lives and dedicate them to the one who specializes in empty vessels.  He promises to fill and multiply and satisfy.  We can trust in His goodness to us and then we can dare to make space for something new.  We can start the new year with a heart of expectancy and eyes open to see what new things God is doing.

So, can I encourage you to embrace January?  Use it as a time to take stock, assess, survey what you have.  Put away the Christmas decorations and let life just be what it is.  What good things do you have in your life?  How can you tend and care for them more intentionally?  What needs weeding or pruning or feeding?   What have you neglected that matters?  What must you accept is over?

Then, shore up and consolidate what is valuable.  Tend to the relationships that mean the most.  Invest more time in knowing God.  Love your family.  Appreciate your friends.  Be there for someone who needs you.  Serve your church.  Care about those who are suffering.

And, believe again for good things from God.  Hold on to promises. Write them down.  Shun cynicism and cultivate child-like faith.  You can’t have both.  Believe God for the big and the impossible.  Pray audacious prayers.  Dream big and hang out with other God-dreamers.

And if it is time, let things go.  If you know God has shut a door, accept it.  If you need to cry, cry.  But, don’t look back.  Look up.  Set your heart on pilgrimage.  Keep going.  Keep serving.  Keep worshipping and keep walking.  Let God fill where you are empty and heal where you hurt.  Don’t let even a drop of bitterness or resentment find a home in your heart.  Not ever.  Keep your heart soft and your conscience clear.

This year, give Jesus permission to do something new, something incredible, something life-giving and beautiful in your life.  Give Him permission to do things differently than you have planned.  Give Him permission to surprise and overwhelm your life with Kingdom bounty.

And, if you dare, give Him permission to do whatever it takes for you to know and love Him more and to walk in every good work He has planned for you.  

 

 

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Clearing Christmas clutter

 

 

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We finally faced the dreaded task last weekend and cleaned out the loft.

It was pretty miserable, dusty, dirty work but it needed to be done.  With children coming and going, moving in and moving out, the loft was filled to the brim with all sorts and it had become impossible to locate the last few Christmas decorations.  So, I announced a family work day with the promise of pizza reward.

If your family is anything like ours, clutter is a constant battle.  As soon as you clear a surface in the house, it seems to instantly become a magnet for keys, post, phones and pretty much anything else that needs a home.

And there are other kinds of clutter.  We can pile up unmade decisions or unresolved conflicts.  Too many commitments or projects can squeeze the life out of our routines until they are joyless.  And of course, worries, fears and negative thoughts often clutter our minds and drown out God’s voice.

Don’t be fooled, clutter is nothing but a thief.  It steals our time and our attention, clogging up closets and minds.  It distracts and derails us.  It burdens us and pulls us down.

And, Christmas is no exception.

When clutter fills our holidays, what is really important can disappear under a pile of festive jumble. 

But we can fight it if we want to.

And we can start by saying no.  Over Christmas the invitations are endless.  So is the list of things we think we ‘have to do’.  It is impossible to do it all so we must learn to be selective.  What is most important and what can you just leave out this year?   What gives you joy and fills you up?  What do you dread?  There are, of course, responsibilities and commitments that are non-negotiable but there are also things we do that are unnecessary and just serve to wear us out.  I love receiving Christmas cards but I find it very hard to organize myself to send them, so I don’t.  For years the kids and I would have a big all day baking marathon. It was so much fun but now they are all working and busy so we had to let it go.  My girlfriends and I often wait until January for a big get-together.  It is a fun event to look forward to and one less item to fit into the Christmas calendar. What can you leave out this year or reschedule for the New Year that will free up some time and space in your schedule and in your heart?

Then, resist the hype.  Every advert on the television, daytime tv slot or magazine cover tells you that Christmas has to be perfect and that it has to be expensive.  Don’t listen, it isn’t true.  It is meaning that makes celebrations special, not matching baubles or a perfect party outfit. Most of my decorations are quite old now, but they are filled with memories, like the mugs that Paul and I were given on our first Christmas after we were married or the Christmas quilt the women in my family made together years ago.

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So, this year, look the culture square in the eye and swim upstream.  De-emphasize perfection and acquisition.  Emphasize the unseen virtues of tradition and generosity of spirit.  Be different.  Celebrate Christmas in a way that gets you noticed.  Travel light and be a light.

And learn to love simplicity.  Christmas lunch doesn’t need dozens of side dishes.  It really doesn’t.  Streamline it down to the most popular elements.  Make the table pretty and then enjoy.  If you really love baking and have time then go for it, but if not, don’t sweat.  I now make just three cookie recipes every year and then I buy stolen and Italian panettone.  That’s it.  Boring maybe, but it saves me overspending and overeating and frees up time to just be with people I love.  I don’t need to be a martyr to an endless supply of baked goods or a gourmet lunch.

The key with Christmas is to include what is important and then to be brave enough to let the unnecessary go.  

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So, think before you buy.  As we are trying to clear our own lives of clutter, let’s not contribute to anyone else’s.  Spend much more time thinking about what to give and less time walking around the shops, dazed and desperate.  I find myself favouring gifts that are perishable much more now and I try and avoid anything that will need storage or dusting.  Gourmet food, toiletries, candles or gift vouchers for activities like the cinema have become my go-to’s.  If in doubt, just ask and save yourself from wasteful guesses.  Let’s be honest, most of us don’t need any more knick-knacks.

Then, make time for quiet.   In order to enjoy the spiritual aspects of this season, we have to make room to think and to meet with God.  I like to get up early before my young adults have emerged, and sit by the tree with my Bible.  There is something so important about worshipping first before the craziness of the day starts.  I also take any chance I am given to get outside and just walk.  I have learned this tip from the British and there is no better way to balance out the overdose of chocolates and mince pies.  A brisk walk somewhere beautiful is a very good way to clear mental clutter.  It can put things in perspective and still our souls.   Without these moments of escape, we run the risk of starting the New Year with ragged emotions and tired hearts.

And finally, make space for loving people.  Over Christmas, we will inevitably be spending time with people we find difficult or with whom we have a strained relationship or just clashing personalities.  Instead of accepting the awkwardness and enduring it, how about approaching it with prayer?  Praying now for those we will be seeing over the holidays in the days leading up to our get-togethers is so powerful.  It makes space in our hearts for love for family members or colleagues and it has the power to change and heal situations.

People are what matters, so make relationships the priority.  

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Decide today that Christmas will be clutter free.  Be brave enough to let the tinsel go and fill the days with only the good stuff.

Enjoy it.  Do what you love.  Do what matters.  Play games and laugh.  Kiss your husband.  Be generous with words and smiles and time and attention.  Read the Chrismas story.  Wonder at His love for humanity. Weep at His love for you.

The recipe for a good Christmas isn’t rocket science.  Start every day with worship and end it with gratitude.  And, fill the middle with love.  

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Content after the event

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We did it.

The dust has settled, the house guests have gone home and the flower arrangements are  starting to wilt.  Wedding outfits are in the wash and the redundant to do lists have been binned.

I feel completely exhausted.  And totally content.

Contentment is a gift and I have grown to treasure it, because for much of my life it has been a battle.  Being content has so often been strangled by perfectionism.  My idealistic nature would dream up plans, scenarios and colourful Pinterest pages, only for the reality to painfully disappoint and steal my happiness.

But thankfully, contentment can be learned.

When we stir up gratefulness to God, we produce conditions where envy and disappointment wither and contentment can thrive.

Ann Voskamp beautifully says it like this, ‘Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful.  Being grateful is what makes you joyful.’

I have found that gratitude and joy help me to accept things as they are and acceptance is a powerful, life-changing quality for recovering perfectionists.

Acceptance on the day of my daughter’s wedding kept my joy and sanity intact.

I had, long before the big day, accepted the fact that there were things we could not control.  So, when the heavens opened just as we were all leaving for the church, I just thanked God for umbrellas and frizz-control hairspray.

When the weather spoiled the plans for live music outside after the wedding, we laughed and hugged and took pictures inside a beautifully decorated corridor of the university building.

And there were other little mishaps.  I totally forgot to put on earrings in the rush of getting ready.  I burst into tears when I realised the moment I had imagined of seeing Hannah come down the stairs of our home in her wedding dress was going to happen after I had to leave for the church.  We all ran a little late.  We got a little snappy.  We lost things and forgot things.

And the day was imperfectly wonderful.

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2 Corinthians 4.7 says, ‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.’

This is the life of a Christian on earth.  We have treasure, but it is wrapped in clay.  Every perfect thing that God does in our hearts and lives has to contend with earthly limitations.  He is perfect.  We are not.  His kingdom is glorious.  This world is muddy.

And our beautiful Christian wedding was the same.  It was a divine moment when two people became one, when families that love each other witnessed and celebrated and danced together.  It was a day of beauty but it was wrapped up in inevitable imperfection.

But if we can accept this truth about our lives, there is a divine purpose because God promises us that our imperfections highlight His glory.

One of my favourite quotes is by Priscilla Shirer. She says, ‘Contentment is the equilibrium between the enjoyment of life now and the anticipation of what is to come’

As I danced with my nieces and nephews and laughed with old friends, I was living in that equilibrium, in the place where God’s glory is wrapped up in tired feet and too much cake and rain-flattened, mother-of-the-bride hair.

It is a wonderful place where I have grace to accept the imperfection of clay and worship the good God who one day will wrap glory in glory, for all eternity.

As I told my daughter the week before the wedding, happy weddings are beautiful weddings. 

And happy, content lives are beautiful ones that point to the goodness and sufficiency of life with our God.  They shout, ‘He is enough for me.’

 

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Unattended thoughts

 

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There is a verse in the Bible I am in the daily habit of disregarding.

It is a very well-known verse.  Walk into any Christian bookstore and you will see it on bookmarks, coffee mugs and t-shirts.

Philippians 4.8 says, ‘Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.’

How lovely and inspiring!  What a wonderful verse to write out and put on my fridge.

What an easy verse to completely ignore.

Because so often thoughts are like the mouse in my attic.

A few weeks ago I went up into our loft space to get our summer clothing down and I discovered to my horror that a mouse had been living up there, making a nest and eating my favourite handbag.  I didn’t know he was up there until it was too late.

Unattended lofts attract mice like unattended gardens welcome weeds.

Unattended minds are vulnerable to similar intruders.

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If I never listen to my own thoughts and question their truthfulness, I am probably making a home for ideas that are contrary to God’s truth and they will be destructive in my life.

I need to decide to set high standards for what I think about because my thoughts become my beliefs and my beliefs become my actions.  Like a burly bouncer standing outside a nightclub, I must be discerning about what I let into my mind each and every day.

Because lies always entangle and confuse us. Truth brings freedom and fruitfulness.

 

Whether we believe it or not our thought life is strongly influencing us.  It is affecting who we are and how we see everything and everyone around us.

Psalm 51.6 is a powerful verse.  In it, David writes that God wants truth in our innermost being.

One of the commentaries I read described this as being so full of truth we are incapable of self-deception.  I don’t know about you but I need a whole lot of this kind of truthfulness in my life.  I need God’s truth to reach every part of my soul.  I need it to touch my mind, my will and my emotions so that pesky vermin are caught, weeds are eliminated and the good stuff can grow.

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Because I know I am capable of believing lies and even lying to myself. 

I do it all the time.  Sometimes I lie to myself about why I don’t like someone.  I justify my feelings in all sorts of ways when the truth is I am offended or envious or just entertaining unforgiveness.

Sometimes when I really want to do something I decide it is God’s will before I have even prayed about it and then I take the happiness I feel as God’s confirming peace.

Sometimes I am dead wrong and I manage to convince myself that I am right.

Sometimes I accommodate doubt, fear, anxiety or judgementalism.  They come and go like lodgers with a key to my front door.  Before I know it they are sitting at my table and dictating the conversation.

Have you ever really listened to your thoughts?  Try it if you dare.  Pick a day when you are not working and set your phone alarm to go off every hour.  When it does, stop and listen to your thoughts.  What are you preoccupied with?  What keeps replaying over and over again?  What are you dwelling on?

Be honest, what is the soundtrack of your life?

Tune in.  Listen with an objective ear.  Be honest with yourself.

I tried this a few months ago and it has changed my life.  I discovered that my life, that was marked by anxiety, had a soundtrack of untruths.  Why was I surprised?

Do you know that anxiety, fear, anger, worry and bitterness all have something in common? They all start with a thought.

Something will happen in your life, something hurtful or scary or difficult and then a thought arrives and we either invite it in or send it packing.

Decide today that when it comes to your thoughts, you are not a pushover.  If it isn’t good or true or lovely or honest, it is not coming in.

It is your garden, your mind, your life and you decide what lives there.

 

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Milestones and Altars

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I am in a thoughtful mood today and I should be.

I had another birthday recently and I turned 49.  You can never know what a year will hold and for me, the last twelve months held three unexpected funerals and my daughter’s engagement.  And for added poignancy, by turning 49 I have now outlived a parent.

I believe that one of the characteristics of the careful life we read about in Ephesians 5 is that it is a reflective life.  That is because some moments are more important than others.

In Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 it says, ‘It  is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting because that is where will all end up some day.’

This might seem a very strange thought.  I can think of quite a few things I would rather do than hang out at funerals!  But there is so much truth here.  Funerals remind us that life is very precious and short and if we allow them they will recalibrate our priorities.  The reality of death turns our eyes upward to things that are eternal and reminds us that so much of what we worry about really doesn’t matter in the long run.

Equally, milestones in our children’s lives are opportunities for gratefulness and appreciation.  The bittersweet feeling of marrying off your daughter or taking your child to school for the first time reminds us to enjoy each stage of parenting and not to wish it away.  It gives moms (and dads!) an opportunity to let go a little more and to move into the next season with a new level of trust in God.

In the Old Testament, we see how the children of Israel built altars to remind them of significant things God did for them.  We can do the same.  When something significant happens in our lives we can take the opportunity to reflect and learn.

Our model for this is in the Psalms where we see David pouring out his disappointment and hurt in the presence of  God.

Very often, within the next few verses, we see him move from despair to hope again as He is ministered to by God’s presence and God’s truth.

David shows us that we were never created to live in a state of confusion or bewilderment.  These times of struggle are meant to be temporary teachers.

When big events happen to us, whether happy or sad,  we can safely process them in His presence and in the light of the truth of His Word.

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Then we can somewhere, somehow build an altar.

The altars I build are pages of journals filled with pencil and pen scribbles that remind me of things I have learned in dark times and in bright, happy ones.  I record verses that have sustained me, words I receive from the Lord as well as my prayers and thoughts.  They are my own kind of Psalms as I have journeyed from despair to joy over and over again.

Think about ways that you can create altars of remembrance to God’s faithfulness.

If writing isn’t your thing, scrapbooks with sketches and verses or photographs with dates and thoughts added are both beautiful ways to remember desert manna.

 

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Bulletin boards, notebooks and artwork can all be ways to collect personal revelation before it blows away.

Living carefully means recognizing significant moments in our lives, seeing the lessons in them, recording God’s faithfulness and moving on in His grace.

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Don’t forget to remember

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Let’s be honest, we forget a lot.

Much of what we fail to retain is unimportant which is why our brain doesn’t file it away.  Last week’s grocery list, a recipe you only made once or a magazine article you causally glanced at in the doctor’s office are quickly discarded by our brains to make space for what you will need to remember today.

But some of what we forget is very important.  We listen to sermons, read passages of the Bible and hear God’s voice speaking to our hearts.  In order to really understand the things of God, we have to mull them over, chew on them and let the truths take root.  And if we are going to do that, we have to remember what we have heard and read in the first place

If you have not yet discovered how indispensable a journal or spiritual notebook is, consider trying it.

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In most other areas of life we know that if we don’t help ourselves to remember, we will forget.  That’s why we have diaries and to-do lists.  We put invitations on the fridge where we can see them and alarms on our phones so we don’t forget appointments.

But what about all the times we feel God speaking to us, encouraging us, challenging us through sermons, Bible reading and prayer?

How much of this precious, life-giving manna from heaven do we just allow to fall through the cracks of our busy lives?  Could it be that we are often spiritually hungry, dry and a bit lost because we haven’t treasured and digested God’s words to us?  Do we struggle to know God’s leading because we have forgotten the things He has said or things He has told us to do?

The solution is so simple, write it down.  

Record everything you receive from the Lord.  When a preacher says something that you know is for you, write it down.  When God impresses on you a way to pray about a situation or when a verse of scripture jumps out at you, jot it down somewhere where you will see it and be reminded.

This is called journaling.

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There are many ways to journal and everyone is different but here are a few ideas to get you started.

Start a spiritual notebook.  I learned this one from my parents who have filled notebooks over the years with God’s words to them.  These books sustained them when life and ministry got hard because they reminded them of God’s promises and His leading in their lives.

Just have a place that you write down any time you sense God speaking to you.  If you receive a prophetic word or someone gives you a verse, write it down.  Write down truths you discover during your daily Bible reading and prayer time. Be honest about your struggles and your victories too.  If you are confused about something, say so.  If you have questions, put them down.

If you love writing then you will really enjoy this process and will probably fill pages quickly but if writing isn’t your thing, bullet journals are for you.  When there is something important to record, just write the date and a sentence or two of explanation.

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Have a prayer journal.  This has changed my prayer life.  I started using one because I didn’t want to forget things that I needed to pray about but it has become so much more than that now.  I fill pages with really specific ways that I feel led to pray for situations and people.  If I come across a verse that applies, I write it down next to the person’s name so I can pray the verse over them regularly.  I also just recently began writing prayers down as a different way to pray.  It is really powerful and gets me out of the rut of always talking to God in the same way.

Have a notebook with you at church.  I keep one in my handbag but my husband has one tucked in his Bible.  This way you can write down anything from the service that you want to remember.  I often hear God speaking during worship as well as the sermon and if I don’t write it down it is forgotten by the time I’m driving home.  If someone has an encouragement for me or if I have one for someone else I can quickly scribble it down before I forget.  Also, I record if I have committed to pray for someone in the week.  I never want to be someone who offers to pray and then doesn’t.

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If things are precious to us, we keep them.  I have a box for each of my children up in the loft, full of schoolwork, art projects, first shoes and baby pictures.  These are extremely valuable to me and so I look after them.

Let’s look after everything God gives us.  Every rhema treasure from His Word, every encouragement and promise, every whisper of the Holy Spirit deserves to be kept, treasured, prayed about and acted upon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflection

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Ephesians 5.17 says, ‘Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.’

If you are a Christian, you probably want to know God’s will.  And if you are like me, that is not something you have always found easy.

Isn’t it surprising that in this verse, understanding God’s will is a command?  So, there must be something we can do on our end to better discern God’s leading and direction.

The Greek word for ‘foolish’ is ‘aphron’ and the meaning is interesting.  It means without reason, senseless, acting rashly, without reflection.  Conversely, the Greek word for ‘understand’ is ‘syniemi’ which means to consider and join together in the mind.

Paul is teaching us that the careful life is a reflective life.

We cannot live carefully and rashly at the same time.  Following God is a thoughtful process.  It takes prayer, listening, more prayer and often waiting as well.

Have you ever sensed God speaking to you about something and everywhere you look you see that same message?  You hear a sermon on Sunday and then something similar pops up in your daily Bible reading and then a friend mentions a verse, etc.  Like a jigsaw, God’s leading can be discovered piece by piece.

But if we aren’t reflective, we can miss these precious fragments of God’s providence in our lives.

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In the parable of the sower, Jesus explains the meaning of the seed that falls on rocky soil and is gobbled up by birds.

When  anyone hears the message about the Kingdom and does not understand it the evil one comes and snatches way what was sown in his heart.’ (Matthew 13.19)

Will it surprise you to know that ‘understand‘ is the same Greek word we see in the Ephesians passage?

No sermon or Bible study or personal prophetic word will bear fruit in my life unless I understand it.  Unless I take time to consider it, wrestle with it, submit to it and apply it, it is absolutely useless.

If every week I forget the sermon before I eat my lunch it has no value in my life whatsoever.  We have to chew on things to get the goodness from them.  

Ken Gire says, ‘The reflective life is a life that is attentive, receptive and responsive to what God is doing in us and around us.

Being attentive, receptive and responsive to God’s truth will always position me to know His will and to live a beautifully fruitful life as I follow Him.

 

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