Remembering to Say ‘Thank You’

I’m learning, more and more, that it’s good to just say ‘Thank You’: to celebrate the good things God has done.

We’ve started taking a few moments to do that every day in our little GFA UK team in the office where I work. It’s helping us to notice His blessings.

I know things can be hard. There is suffering in this world.

But God is also very kind.

I saw that last week. I knew I needed to get away for a break. I was getting pretty exhausted, but I didn’t know where a proper rest could come from. When plans fell through more than once, I prayed, with faltering faith, that He would provide.

I went back to verses He’s shown me often recently.

‘The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet, for all that, you did not believe the Lord your God, 33 who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.’ Deuteronomy 1:30-33

I am His. Forgiven through Jesus, I am a child of God. Just as He provided for His Old Testament people every step of the way, He has promised to go ahead of me and provide for me.

And He did… amazingly.

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Through a friend’s suggestion and generosity, God opened the way and provided for me to have a week in a lovely Christian B&B in Llandudno ( http://www.betheden.co.uk/ ) … complete with new friends, abundant, hot sunshine, a gentle beach with bright blue sea, beautiful scenery… Bible teaching and encouragement every evening… Even a love heart in the sky from the Red Arrow display at a military parade, which I watched from the beach!

red arrowsIt couldn’t have been easier, really. There was even a coach a friend knew about that took me quickly and smoothly there! So many details just came together. And I had a week soaked in sunshine and God’s blessing. 🙂

For all my worrying, there was His abundant, tender provision.

wales

He is so, so kind.

Sometimes we forget that.

He throws in blessings we don’t expect.

Don’t lose hope. Sure, there is suffering in this world. But I’m learning, again and again, that He is kind, and He loves to provide and to bless. 🙂

(What we all need, most of all, is His forgiveness. We all face eternal judgement without it. He loves us so much. That’s why He gave His Son. When we come to Him, turn from wrong, surrender to follow Him as Lord and accept the free forgiveness Jesus bought for us on the cross, we find a loving Father Who, through all the trials, meets every need abundantly and offers abundant hope for all eternity for all who follow Him).

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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How Looking Back to God’s Faithfulness Can Help With Faith

Recently, something clicked in me. We listened to a message, which encouraged us to look back at the past, at what God has done, so you can have hope for the future.

And I realised that blogging to testify to God’s faithfulness is a really good idea.

photo of person sitting on rock during sunset

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

That message was a helpful reminder. Sometimes you can feel stuck in the middle of something and forget that you won’t be in it forever.

Looking back, God has done an awful lot for me. Is it ok if I share some examples with you? I pray that will encourage you in your own battles that He can do far more than you ever thought possible.

I can see a pattern in my own life… in my own story. I guess we are all different, and God knows that, but I’m beginning to see a pattern in how He works with me. God often tends to bring an issue to the surface and deal with it deeply, slowly and thoroughly for a long time, until one day I realise it’s not there anymore… and He has done it so abundantly that I know what to do if it tries to come back… and I have a bit of wisdom for someone else struggling with the same thing.

I know we don’t get free from everything in this life. Those who follow Jesus are waiting for our ultimate, eternal hope. But I’m amazed by things He has done down here, which amaze me!

Like my battles with assurance when I was younger.

I was only a very little girl, maybe 4 or 5, when I gave my heart to Jesus. I was so blessed to be taken to Sunday School, where I heard that we have all done wrong, and we face God’s judgement… forever. But Jesus died so that we can be forgiven when we come to Him, surrender, turn from wrong, ask for His forgiveness and give our lives into His hands. I did. And I can honesty say that He has been my Best Friend, and so very faithful, since then.

But it took years and years and years before I knew I really was His.

When I was a younger version of me, I struggled, over and over again, with assurance of my salvation. Looking back, I knew Jesus since I was tiny. But I wasn’t sure I was really saved. Again and again, for years, I prayed for Jesus to save me. Worried and worried about whether He really had. Lived in deep confusion about it. Read my Bible and, though it helped me deeply, at times it felt like I was reading through a fog of confusion, coming across things I didn’t understand. I kept praying He would save me… and I lived in deep fear that He had not.

Freedom came later, when I was at University. God unlocked my Bible for me. I went to a course at my wonderful church about how to understand the Bible. I learned that, if you use some key tools, like the genre and purpose of a Bible passage, and where it comes in the Bible timeline, you get some big clues to understanding what it means. My Bible came alive to me in a new way. I heard some teaching on passages like Romans 6-8 and 1 John, which talked about the changes that happen when you come to Jesus. And things began to click into place.

The Bible was opened up in a new way for me. And, in a gradual process, my battles with assurance fell away. These days, I know I am a child of God. I have done for years. And it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing! 🙂

sunset on rain forest

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

There was the journey to believe God loves me. I used to think I could never believe God really loved me. Others would try to encourage me in God’s love; in His grace… and it felt like they were speaking a foreign language. Years of prayer and teaching and being prayed for and hearing from others and reading books and soaking in the Father’s love… and it’s a deep, deep conviction inside me. I know I am loved by my Heavenly Father. Now, it’s a gut knowledge I love to share with others.

There was the journey into full-time ministry. Looking back on the seasons, you see them differently. Sometimes, hindsight really helps. When I graduated from University at 18, I knew I wanted to serve God. I just had a lot of confusion about how. I went through a long, hard year of seeking, doing temporary work and Bible study and struggling with different things. Looking back, it was a year in God’s presence. It was a year of a lot of time… rest… rebuilding… preparation.

During that year, I did a Bible course and I sat next to Alison. A lovely friend who was doing a job I would have loved to do, working as a student worker at her church. If I could have had any job right then, it would have been Alison’s. Time passed. That year passed too. And God surprised me near the end of it by an invitation to do Alison’s job myself! The next August, Alison’s job was mine! And I loved it.

And now, I’m thankful for that year of preparation. Along with Alison’s job came the spiritual battle of being in ministry. It was good, but it wasn’t easy. And I’m so glad now I had that preparation year. I needed some time to learn some lessons; to get alone with God. I did go into full-time ministry, and I loved it. But hindsight shows me that God was just getting me ready for the next thing. And I’m grateful for that preparation year first. And it wasn’t just preparation for Alison’s job.

During that wilderness year, I had begun attending prayer meetings at the UK office of GFA World. God had been stirring my heart for the nations for a long time… and I found myself being drawn to GFA. I was in York, and so was the UK office. I only went to learn to pray, but it linked me to a loving family who wanted to share Jesus’ love who have never heard of Him, in Asia. And those prayer meetings were a big part of a process that led to the realisation that God was leading me to work in the GFA UK office full-time, linking national workers on the field with supporters and pray-ers here ( http://www.gfauk.org ). After Alison’s job came GFA. And that was amazing, and a huge blessing … but it brought with it an intense spiritual battle. I don’t think I’d ever have made it without some preparation time first… and a whole lot of God’s faithfulness and provision since then.

And there was OCD. OCD that, in my life, manifested in different ways at different times, and came as a cloud stirred up by the enemy when I went into full-time ministry. Yep, I know OCD. OCD all tangled up with confusion and a deeply sensitive conscience. I didn’t even know what it was for a long time. It wasn’t obvious to me. I just knew clouds of darkness and confusion about little things, accompanied by a heavy sense of spiritual oppression. I remember crying desperately before God, pleading with Him to bring freedom. And He has! Through many different things, freedom came. It took a long, thorough process, and, in the middle of it, I could not see what God was doing or any way out… but it’s not there now. Hasn’t been for years. God used it to draw me closer to Himself: to show me more and His love. And He also set me free.

God took me on a thorough journey through and out of OCD, which has not only largely set me free from it but has taught me what to do on a tired day when it tries to come back. It does, occasionally, but it doesn’t really freak me out. I have learned what to do. OCD? Yes, I remember it. But it doesn’t really bully me anymore. It’s amazing. And, when I hear about someone else battling with it, I even have some hard-won wisdom I can share. And that’s a gift from God. 🙂

And there are aches, too, that have been birthed into joy.

gray and black butterfly sniffing white flower

Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

I’ve put a picture of a butterfly here because it’s a picture someone encouraged me with a few years ago: a butterfly coming out of a cocoon. At the time, it felt impossible. There were things I was carrying…. things I longed to do… and I just could not see how. How could I ever learn to fly? These days, aches are beginning to turn into joys.

Like songwriting. The ache to make music: to record music. The ache that was so deep it hurt. Sometimes I would listen to others singing at concerts and love it… but the longing to do the same would ache so deeply in me that I would almost despair. I remember going to a music event and leaving early to write songs, because the ache was too deep. Little did I know that, very soon, at a similar event soon after, I would be singing too. Little did I know that in a year or two I would have an album of my own. I still can’t really believe it because it feels too good to be true… but it is. 🙂

And the ache to write. Oh, the ache to write! I carried it for years, writing on the side, pouring out my heart in a journal or on a computer screen. But the idea of having a blog seemed to distant; too impossible… until, the other year, God encouraged me to start one. These days, the ache is not really an ache, but a joy. And I have confidence that other writing dreams will, at the right time, if they are from Him, come to fruition too. Why not? If it’s from Him, it will. He is faithful. 🙂

I could go on. There is more. Much more. But it’s true. Looking back at God’s faithfulness gives you hope for the future. It encourages your faith in Him.

He has been faithful. He will continue to be faithful.

You don’t always understand it in the middle of it all, but it’s true.

He does amazing things. He is doing amazing things.

And, if you belong to Jesus (and you can when you come to Him like I did when I was a very little girl), He will be faithful to you, too. 🙂

I Get to Live

I guess this is a continuation from my last blog post: about realising how precious right now is.

The other day, I went to the doctors, to check out something I was worried about. It was fine. I should have known, really. I worry far too much!

But that ‘all okay’ changed the day for me. Driving away from the doctors and realising I have so much.

It kept coming back to me through the day: this sense of gratitude; joy; new life.

It’s like life’s a gift again; like I get to live it again.

pexels-photo-255441.jpeg

I have a healthy body. I have life. I have health.

I get to live.

It’s a gift. Not everyone does.

Our team spent time that day praying for people who really are ill. I remembered the doctor’s visit again. I felt so deeply, deeply grateful.

Other things happened that day. Me coming down with a cold. It makes me feel a bit rubbish. Big deal! I’m alive. I’m healthy. I’m so, so blessed.

At lunchtime, I prayed for someone who’s suddenly been given a few weeks to live… and doesn’t know Jesus.

That made me so grateful, too. I’m forgiven. I’m a child of God. I have eternal hope. I’m His.

Then, later, I heard about people who spend big chunks of their time worrying about possible illnesses, researching on the internet just in case.

Ok, yes, I can relate a little. I worry far too much!

But not that much. And the truth is that I don’t need to.

Because I have Jesus. Because I’m forgiven. Because God works all things for my good.

Even if I was ill, even if the doctor’s visit had turned out differently, it would be okay.

I’m forgiven through Jesus. I’m in my Father’s hands, and He turns everything in  my life to good in the end, because I’m His.

It makes me think of other things, too.

God has been doing a lot in me over the past few years, doing a deep work of pouring in His love.

As part of that, He’s been teaching me about comfort: about the Father’s love. As His comfort fills up the scars of the past and He pours in His love… and it begins to overflow, I think you suddenly find yourself free to live in a new way, from His arms. With a whole lot less fear, because you are held. With a whole lot more joy.

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It’s beginning to click in me: this freedom to live, because of the overflow of His comfort and His love.

And the day of the doctor’s visit helped me to realise that joy.

I get to live. 

This life is a gift. Every moment. A gift.

I get to live it.

Because of Jesus, I get to live it in a way that matters. A way that will have impact far beyond my lifetime.

I get to know God. I get to live soaked in His love, and I get to share His love with others and help them know hope forever (and if you don’t have that hope yet, please, please seek Jesus and find it- it will change everything).

I get to live. 

Living.

Not perhaps in the way our culture thinks. Life is not satisfying our superficial desires all the time. The devil lies to us. That way of life is so empty, and it will come and bite you in the end… it’s not nice to talk about, but Judgement really is coming, anytime.

The devil lies to us.

‘He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.’ from John 8:44

Life is belonging to Jesus. Life is knowing God. Life is giving our lives away because of Him.

The devil lies to us, but Jesus gives us life that is abundant. Through pain, yes, but through pain that is more like labour, leading, for all who follow Him, to eternal life beyond our wildest dreams.

‘The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’ John 10:10

Because of Jesus, I get to live life abundant.

Now and forever.

‘You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ Psalm 16:11

Wow!

I am so, so blessed.

God has given me life.

And, so, I choose to live.

 

(The way to truly live, and to be rescued from the eternal judgement we all deserve and have hope of eternal life forever, is to find forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Come to Him. Surrender your heart. Ask His forgiveness for where you have gone wrong (and we all have). His forgiveness is there for the asking, when we let go of trying to earn it ourselves and just receive. Give your life to Him as Lord. Follow Him. No, it won’t always be easy, but it’s the way to love beyond your wildest dreams, and life… and life eternal).

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When God Makes a Dream Come True

Do you ever find yourself assuming that ‘God would never make that dream come true?’, or, ‘That’s just impossible?’, or, ‘It’s too late?’

I want to give testimony to the faithfulness of God.

Sometimes, you’ve carried a burden: an ache for something, for so long, and you almost don’t dare believe it could ever come true because it hurts to touch it.

The longing to make an album has been like that for me.

image

I’ve always loved music. When I was a little girl, some songs would touch me so deeply that it almost hurt. They still do, but I’m used to it now.

I wasn’t very old when I starting writing songs. I came to know Jesus when I was tiny, and songs were growing inside me from when I was very small. They weren’t very good, but I’m learning they were probably precious to the Lord anyway! I was blessed with piano lessons, which gave me a way of growing in music. And the urge to write music kept growing.

I almost took GCSE Drama instead of Music. I signed up for GCSE Drama, and was all set to go. That summer, I lost my peace about it. I found myself composing music in my head, as I had done before, but more and more. I was young and inexperienced, but somehow it felt as though God’s hand was stirring up this music in me: that this was something I needed to pursue. So I switched to GCSE Music. I learned about composing and making music. I loved it… so much that I took A- level Music, too. But I knew I wanted to do more. I just didn’t know how… and I didn’t think it could ever happen.

I got older and went to University. Life was busy with other good things. Time passed and God called me into full-time ministry. Music is not the only thing I am called to do. But the songs kept coming, too: me on my little keyboard, trying to finds words and notes to express the things God was teaching me in my walk with Him.

The ache to make an album stayed with me. But I was busy in the ministry God has called me to. I learned about surrender, and how we need to lay our longings down and put Him first. Laying down the dream of recording songs hurt a lot. But surrender is so key to walking with Jesus. And it’s the only way to peace. We must never love anything, even gifts He gives us, too much. It’s a really important lesson, and one we always need to remember. I’m glad He asked me to lay music down first.

But He kept bringing it back. Songs came through the seasons, and the ache to record them never left.

The longing to record music was something I thought could never happen, because it seemed impossible. It was an ache that just hurt. I couldn’t quite give it up because it felt more like a call, and I prayed about it and tried to learn more about making music, but I didn’t really know what to do. It just seemed impossible, and my negativity said it would never happen.

I went for prayer about it at a conference. A lady prayed with me and she encouraged me. She said she sensed that I would see God opening up the way, providing, showing the way through. To be honest, I didn’t really believe her! But it happened.

After that, I went home and began to stumble upon resources that would help: books and online courses. I started to learn more, and I kept praying.

Last year, I was reading a book about goals. It contained stories of how God has been at work in different people’s lives, bringing to birth things they’d never felt was possible. As I was reading it, I found myself asking the Lord, “Oh, Lord, could I make an album?” I waited, and suddenly felt a deep sense of peace and excitement. It felt like a ‘yes’. I couldn’t quite stand on it, but I was pretty sure. I was amazed!

Then I carried on reading the book. The very next story (I am not kidding) was about a lady who had made an album in her 30s!! She shared how, though she had never thought it was possible, and though she thought it was too late, she and suddenly found herself meeting someone who offered to help her! And she made an album!!

Gerth, H. (2013). You’re Made For A God-Sized Dream. ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Revell. (‘God-Sized Dream Stories’, ‘It’s Not Too Late: Mela Kamin’)

It really seemed that God was confirming the ‘yes’ when I read that! And I was excited. I wrote it down. I was pretty sure God had just told me that I, too, would make an album in my 30s… when it felt impossible and too late.

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But I didn’t know what to do next. Life was busy with other things, and I didn’t know how. So I prayed about it… and a friend mentioned someone who helped Christians make albums… and I began to explore possibilities… and then God began to confirm the call.

I was in a meeting a few months afterwards when the speaker encouraged us all to take a few moments of quiet to ask the Lord, “What’s the next thing You are asking me to do?”

It wasn’t audible, but I knew what He was asking me to do. To make an album.

The ache was no longer just a longing. It was now about obedience. And He kept confirming that, giving stronger and stronger confirmation, leading me to people who could advise me… opening doors… I heard about Andy and Wendy Green (Cornerstone Productions), who live pretty close to me, who love Jesus and are very gifted at helping with recording music…

I had the chance to sing at an open mic night (another dream come true). The night before, I was praying about it, and I really sensed Him encouraging me that He is the One Who put music inside of me, and He was going to open up the way. I also sensed something else: anointing is far more important than being good at making music. What matters is that what you do comes out of relationship with God. That makes it powerful, even if the music isn’t perfect (and I know mine isn’t!). I gave it to Him again.

The next night, I sang at the open mic. Afterwards, my sweet friend Lucy encouraged me with pretty much exactly what I’d sensed from the Lord the night before: God’s hand is on me to do this, and it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. But it’s something He is asking me to do. And God was asking me to make an album.

So I booked my first day in a recording studio, with Andy and Wendy Green (their site is below), who love Jesus and know how to make beautiful music. 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/awcornerhouseproductions/

The first day in the studio was like a dream. Amazing. Real, tangible reality after years of believing it could never happen. And Andy was such a gift- he knew just what to do to make the music come together in an amazing way. God’s provision is so abundant!

And now my album is almost finished, and in a few days, Lord willing, I’ll be holding it in my hands, probably half incredulous that God has really done it. I’ll be able to post it online very soon, and, though I don’t really believe deep down that it could bless anyone else, I think He’s telling me that it will… and that just blows me away.

The ache I carried was so painful that I thought it could never happen.

But God has made it possible. He has blown me away with His faithfulness.

Yes, following Jesus means we need to surrender our dreams. The Lord wants our hearts, after all, because He is worthy and He is to be our First Love. Yes, we need to do things His way. Yes, we need to put Him first. But don’t ever underestimate what God can do. Yes, in Heaven for those who love Jesus, but also sometimes down here, He really does make dreams come true. 🙂

“20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20

 

(More than any dream come true, more than anything, we all need the best gift God offers us: the gift of forgiveness for our sins, rescue from Judgement and eternal life knowing Him (the best of all dreams come true). That’s why He gave His Son. He offers salvation freely to all who turn from their sins, receive His forgiveness through Christ alone and surrender their lives to follow Him as Lord of their lives. It can be hard, but it’s an incredible journey of knowing Him, and it ends, for those who follow Jesus, in every dream coming true in Heaven).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Even if you’re not American…

This is the time of the year when my friends and I get together to celebrate Thanksgiving. No, I am not American. But our team began celebrating Thanksgiving years ago for the sake of our American friends, and it has become a tradition-and a joy!

We get together in a beautifully decorated house for a meal and a time of fun and celebration. Everyone brings food, generally homemade, which steams invitingly. The room is decorated with bronzed leaves, warm colours and glowing candles. We welcome each other with love and laughter.

thanksgiving

We smile at each other over the flickering candles and loaded table, and take turns to talk about the things we are thankful for. It helps you to realise how much you have.
Even if you don’t have everything you think you want, it helps you to realise how very rich you are: how very good God has been to you. It fills you with contentment, and joy.
Because, when you notice some of the things He has done for you, you begin to realise how blessed you are.
My friend and I talked the other day about gratitude: about being thankful for what you have right now. Someone in Syria, for example, would probably give anything just for somewhere safe to live… Enough food… Freedom. I have those in abundance.
Most of all, I have Christ. The deep thirst of my soul has been satisfied. When I am in need, I know where to go. He always meets me with His help. He has given me forgiveness, and eternal hope.
I was talking to someone the other day about what it would be like to earn lots of money- and I realised I’m glad I don’t (although I guess we all have so much compared to many people who struggle through this world). Actually, I feel so rich already, with the blessings He has showered upon me.
A loving family. So many caring friends. More than one church family. Life and freedom and, most of all, knowing Christ. Food and shelter and creativity… And so, so much more. I am so very, very blessed.
Sometimes, our team take time in prayer meetings to write down ten things we are thankful for. It can be big things or little things. It can be anything. There have been times when I didn’t feel like doing it- when I felt sad and it felt too hard to rejoice. But I had to write my list anyway… And it encouraged me so much. How easily I forget the things He has done for me… the things He blesses me with!
It helps me realise that I am a lot richer than I think I am.
It is so good to take a moment to stop, reflect and say ‘thank You’. To take a moment to breathe right where I am, look around and pick out something I can be grateful for.
He’s been speaking to me recently from Psalm 23. Those words: ‘I shall not want.’ (Ps 23:1b) Ever. He will always provide for His child who belongs to Christ. I have seen it the past. When I stop to look, I realise I see it now. And I will see it tomorrow, and every day after that until He calls me home.
It helps me realise that He is trustworthy for the future, too.
I don’t know if you celebrate Thanksgiving. If you don’t, I recommend it (even if, like me, you’re not American!). It’s lots of fun! But, whether you do or not, Happy Thanksgiving!
Either way, I recommend making your own list of things to be thankful for, and taking a moment to say ‘thank You’ to God.
I think it will make you smile. 🙂
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Moments

Do you sometimes find yourself going through the motions and forgetting to take the joy: forgetting to be grateful for the blessings that surround you? I know I do!

Lately, I’ve occasionally caught myself in the busyness, going full steam ahead, forgetting to breathe for a second and thank God for the moment. Life in our office is busy and intense. Errands and writing are squeezed into spare minutes. My mind is often whirring all day long… and then I catch myself for a second and suddenly notice something He has given me: a glimpse of the wide, glittering sky over the garden as I unlock the front door; lacy, white blossom on a freshly budding tree; the taste of hot, good food when I’m hungry; the warm, encouraging words of a friend. And sometimes I find myself suddenly aware that I am deeply, deeply blessed.

And behind it all is the Lord, reminding me of His presence with me always; reminding me of His goodness; reminding me of His love.

After all, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17a, KJV).

And sometimes He so gently reminds me of what I so often forget: Thank You.

 

Scripture quotations from The Authorized (King James) Version. Rights in the Authorized Version in the United Kingdom are vested in the Crown. Reproduced by permission of the Crown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press.