Let what’s dead come to life!

Photo credit: lablumenthalrothchild

‘The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37 The Valley of Dry Bones)

Recently I woke up in the middle of the night, and had a picture about a woman lying down because she was exhausted. As she was sleeping it felt like there should have been no action in the scene, but as my focus zoomed out, I noticed she was being carried along by people on a bed similar to a palanquin. It just reminded me that we have people that God has placed around us, as well as God himself, who can help and support us when we become wearied by difficult situations. It was also a great reminder that God doesn’t expect us just to keep going when we are exhausted, but he provides an answer to this, through Jesus. ‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11)

The second part of the picture was a person who had fallen asleep in an arm chair. It was reminiscent of a scene which is probably played out in several homes around the country on a Sunday afternoon, or post Christmas lunch. As this person was asleep, a cat climbed onto them trying to pat them awake, then a dog lumbered in and placed a lead on the person’s lap, obviously in hope of being taken for a walk. But still the person slept on. Then I heard the words, ‘Rise up! I only meant for your sleep to be temporary. I’m not done with you yet!’

I don’t know if either of those pictures resonate with you, but if you are going through a tough time, know this, God doesn’t intend for you to keep soldiering on through it alone. What struck me about the first picture was that even though the woman had stopped to rest, she wasn’t left behind, she was picked up and surrounded until she was going to be able to carry on walking herself.

The second picture felt like it was relevant to someone who’d put down a hobby, a calling or a gifting a long time ago, after something they tried didn’t work, or they were stung or disillusioned by a criticism. ‘It’s time to start rebuilding this. Your rest time is up.’ In the bible, there are instances of God calling for a rebuilding after damage occurs; He rebuilt nations, He commissioned Nehemiah to rebuild the city walls, and paved the way for Jesus’ resurrection, to name a few.

If you’re in a season where you have that niggly feeling that you need to pick something up again, this could be your time. Don’t let age or bad past experiences hold you back. God can and does breathe life into callings and situations.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, ‘There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun.’

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Driving me crazy


Recently I went on a road trip which was going well until I decided I wanted to take a break. I saw signs for the next services and made my exit onto the slip road at the appropriate time. As I was halfway round the roundabout at the top of the slip road, I found myself in the inside lane, needing to cross 3 lanes of traffic to get to the right exit in the outer lane. In my early morning brain fug, I didn’t just go round the roundabout again, like any other sane person would have done, but instead exited via the road I’d just come off and got back onto the motorway, only to realise I was travelling the way I had just come from. I therefore ended up having to go 5 miles in the wrong direction to get to the previous junction, in order to be able to turn around and come all the way back again to get back to the junction where the services were. On this second attempt I managed to get to the service station without a hitch.

 On leaving the services a little while later, I was lamenting my earlier detour and determined to follow my sat nav to the letter. As I approached an exit on the roundabout, sat nav began insistently telling me to turn left, only for it to jump roads as soon as I obeyed it, and start telling me I should have taken the next exit, by which time I was halfway down the slip road, heading back onto the motorway in the wrong direction again! I was busy weighing up whether I could safely do a U-turn on said slip road, and was tempted, especially as when I looked in my rearview mirror, a car behind me had pulled up, clearly having made the same mistake I had, and was now busy driving into oncoming traffic to get back to the roundabout to take the correct exit. Feeling like it was too risky to do the same, I therefore again trudged the 5 miles back to the previous junction, to be able to turn around to start heading in the correct direction again. All in all, I travelled an unnecessary extra 20 miles that day, but arrived just in time for the event I was attending.

Given that I had copious time to think as I retraced my steps (again), I was reminded of the Israelites on their journey to The Promised Land, after their escape from Egypt. It took them 40 years of wandering in the wilderness to travel a distance which has now been verified as being a relatively short distance away. (Numbers 14:26-35)

While I was able to be thankful that I hadn’t been sent on a 40 year detour on this eventful journey, it got me thinking about all the things God taught the Israelites as they made this journey; about future leaders He raised up, about them receiving the 10 Commandments, about learning to be faithful. Even though it took 40 years, and only the Israelite descendants lived to see The Promised Land, God didn’t waste a moment of that time. 

In our own lives, it can sometimes feel like we are going round in circles in certain situations, but we can know that God is growing us and strengthening us through it. When we feel like we are covering old ground, that is the time to look to see what God is trying to teach us, by seemingly bringing us to the same place. Sometimes we have to travel that same stretch of road several times in order to grow and learn and be able to move on. It can be frustrating and feel like we aren’t making progress, but it will be so worth it if we can stay the path, and trust that God has our plans covered and our days ordered. It can also be tempting to take a shortcut when we see things headed in that familiar, unwanted direction, especially if we see others taking shortcuts and seemingly sailing by. If we do take part in dangerous manoeuvres to cut corners, or recklessly try to rectify mistakes, we run the risk of missing out on learning opportunities, and heading straight into the oncoming traffic of bad decisions. As it was, even though my journey took longer than expected, I arrived right on time. So it is with us; we’ll arrive right on God’s appointed time if we trust and follow Him.

‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’ Galatians 6:9

Expect the unexpected and hop to it!

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‘In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.’ Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

Recently, I needed to order some boxes. I had planned out in my mind what I wanted and spent ages looking on websites for the perfect jewellery box. I had a false start with one company, but eventually settled on the company I was going to use. I then had a few weeks of back and forth emails as I measured, asked for samples and weighed up my options. After this, because time was getting on and I was aware there was a 3 week lead time, I decided to just go for it, and ordered a slightly smaller box than the samples I’d been sent. I paid and then waited, and waited and…waited. Why is it that when you’re waiting, time always seems to be going backwards? Eventually this weekend, they arrived. Excitedly I opened the outer packaging to find- the world’s smallest boxes inside! I was dumbfounded for a minute- surely this wasn’t what I’d ordered? Would my jewellery even fit into it? I rushed home- and after a little tweaking and reorganising my original plan, they did.
This got me thinking about the things we are waiting for in life. We have our long term plan of how we think our lives will look, or things that we are praying for and then we wait and wait for God to put those things in order for us. Sometimes though, when God answers those prayers in a different way, or the thing we’ve been waiting for comes in a slightly different package, we can outrageously demand, ‘This isn’t what I asked for! Surely this isn’t how God is answering this prayer!’ I’m determining to be more aware of my response when God answers a prayer in an unexpected way; after all, He is a God of the unexpected, He sees the bigger picture, and we never know how that unexpectedly answered prayer is going to impact our lives down the line, or bless those around us.
Last week I was doing some gardening with my class, digging up vegetables for the harvest display, when we came across an amphibian camouflaged between the greenery. I’m not sure who was more surprised, him or us, but it was a timely reminder to be alert and to expect the unexpected in our lives!
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‘For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes from My mouth, it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.’ Isaiah 55:10-12 (ESV)

Foundations

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So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone; a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.” Isaiah 28:16 (NIV)

The other day I was driving to work when I passed a construction site, and through the wire fence, I could see the foundations going in. What struck me most was the size of the hole that had been dug to lay the foundations. It was enormous! I was thinking why on earth they would need such a large hole, when I felt God challenge me, ‘If they’re going to build up high, they’re going to need deep foundations.’ This got me thinking about what my own life was built on. I, like everyone, have made mistakes, but it is in understanding that Jesus has paid our debts and wiped the slate clean for all of us, that I can allow Him to build my future. It can be so easy to be shaken when things happen in our lives, or to focus on our past failures, but there is no need to. The bible describes Jesus as the cornerstone- the important stone around which foundations are built. We are also told that He is the firm rock upon which we can stand. I don’t know about you, but when the storm hits, I’d much rather be on a solid rock, than on sinking sand.

What are you building your life on? Is it a bright hope for tomorrow, or a regret or mistake of yesterday?

As I pondered on this further, I was reminded about a favourite game in crèche. The toddlers love the duplo bricks and will invariably build the highest, thinnest tower they can. It’s all about height with the little ones! There will come a point where, their hand will (accidentally or deliberately) knock the tower, and the whole thing will come crashing down. In their excitement to build high, they often haven’t realised how flimsy their structure is. We can be like that sometimes too, when we run ahead of God, or run away from Him. Invariably it will be straight into a pit, because in our haste, we haven’t spotted the open manhole cover that He was trying to help us avoid. We can be so preoccupied with building high; moving forward, accruing money or possessions and appearing to have it all together, that we forget to build solid faith foundations.

If you’re going through a situation today and you feel like you’ve been in a place of waiting for a while, take heart. God IS doing things beneath the surface, building foundations and strengthening structures in our faith, that will grow us and mature us.

When I was travelling in New Zealand, I saw a sign, that just lifted and encouraged me so much after a particularly torrid few days, which involved a lost passport, missed flight and frantic phone calls. (A story for another day!) I was at the Auckland Immigration office, which was being renovated, and someone had placed a sign by the lift which read, ‘Present inconvenience, Future benefits’. That waiting season you’re in? Although it is inconvenient now, there will be future benefits.

I get knocked down, but I get up again!

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(Photo credit My Mantra Active)

Earlier this week I had a dream about a set of boxing gloves and the words, ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again.’ At first I was thinking it was about life battles and how in the past I’ve sometimes felt the need to have to be strong when I’ve been knocked back by a life event, or to fight my way out of the aftermath of a setback by being, or appearing to be, strong and together. Sometimes our footwork isn’t fancy and we stumble. Psalm 37:24 says, ‘Though he may stumble he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.’

Sometimes we can feel like we’re out for the count, out of the match and down and out- but we aren’t. It talks in the bible about Jesus being the Overcomer, that when he died and was resurrected, the battle was won. We go through battles in life, and when we’re in the midst of it, it can feel like there is no end in sight. If I imagine us trying to do things under our own strength, it would probably look a lot like this. (See video)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/boxing/2017/09/15/billy-joe-saunders-son-punches-willie-monroe-jnr-belt-weigh/

It seems so pointless to try to go it alone, when we have a Father who is ready, willing and able to step in for us and already knows the outcome of the battle. ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33 NIV)

It’s ok to admit you’ve been knocked down, and you don’t have to be able to pick yourself up alone. I really believe that God places us in fellowship for this very reason, but also He reminds us that we aren’t alone; we have a Helper as a guide during our walk. Not only this, He reminds us that the battle was already fought and won.

I love the story of Moses and the Israelites coming out of Egypt, because in some ways I see so much of myself in them; from the intermittent grumbling about the good old days, to the wavering moments of faith during a battle. In Exodus 14, the Israelites have been telling Moses they were better off in slavery back in Egypt. Moses then tells the Israelites, ‘The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still.’ Now, if you were to stand still in a boxing ring, you’d more than likely be a sitting target. God’s next instruction following this is, ‘Tell the Israelites to move on.’ We’re at our most dangerous when we’re open to moving forward and growing in our faith. Just a few verses after those above, God shows how he can move.

In the boxing ring of life, He’s in front of us, protecting us and fighting for us from the helm, and behind us, watching our backs. Exodus 13:21 tells us how, ‘By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.’, while Exodus 14:19-20 says, ‘Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.’

I know very little about boxing, and that which I do know comes from occasional Body Combat classes in my more youthful years. One lesson I do remember, was that we were always told to hold one arm up as a guard in front of our head, whilst fighting with the other. Not only is He the guard ahead of us, He is the guard behind us.

As I was looking for a photo to add to this post, the one above caught my eye. When I saw the picture, I assumed those boxing gloves were mine. It just so encapsulated my thoughts that I had to be ever-strong, and never show weakness. The gloves which I’d first assumed were mine to put on and carry, actually already belong to Jesus, and all the fighting and striving I’ve done in the past, are also covered by Jesus. I haven’t needed to strive for strength in myself in the way that I have been. Those gloves belong to Jesus, and He is saying ‘I can’ and ‘I will’ over our lives. We can and will through Him. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ (Philippians 4:13)

Forgive me for mixing my proverbs and verses but ‘it’s always darkest before the dawn and joy comes in the morning.’

Run the race marked out for you- Part 3

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‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ Hebrews 12:1-3

This past academic year I taught a pupil who was always in a rush. No matter the task I set, she had it ingrained in her that she needed to be the first to finish and was always trying to beat everyone – at everything. I spent most of my time encouraging her to slow down; whether it was when she knocked someone out of the way to get to the front of the line, or raced through her work in order to be the first one finished. No task was exempt from her trying to set some sort of world record completing it. She even changed quickly for PE, which you would think was every teacher’s dream – and she was praised for her speedy changing- until we discovered that she would leave parts of her uniform on under PE kit in order to be changed quicker!

Sometimes I think this is how we run the race that has been set out for us. We happily pootle along in our lane, merrily going about our business, until we see someone else speedily approaching in their own lane. All of a sudden we can deem our steady trot as being not good enough and begin to think that we should be aspiring to the race that we see another racing. There can be the temptation to cut corners or race ahead of God’s timing to satisfy our desire to ‘keep up with the Jones’. Thankfully, we haven’t all be called to run the same race and we can’t fool God by taking shortcuts. He knows us and sees us every step of the way. There is nothing we can hide from him.

It reminds me of the story of Abraham and Sarah who, once they’d received God’s promise, got tired of waiting and took matters into their own hands with Hagar. Read the story from Genesis 16 here https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.biblegateway.com/passage/%3Fsearch%3DGenesis%2B16%26version%3DNIV%26interface%3Damp

By the end of term, the child in question was beginning to channel her need for speed and found her niche on Sports Day where her competitive streak and desire to rush was rewarded when she won her races! Finally I wasn’t needing to ask her to slow down in order to give her best, but was able to cheer her on to victory. Her use of speed was appropriate, necessary, useful and to be encouraged. God has gifted us each individually and with a purpose. My pupil had the skill of speed, but was beginning to realise it was not good in all contexts. And so it is with our callings; we have gifts, but their use won’t be appropriate for every situation and we may have to wait for God’s promises and blessings to be fully realised. Think square peg, round hole. How many times have we tried to shoehorn ourselves into a situation that just wasn’t meant for us? We aren’t living a Goldilocks existence where everything automatically fits ‘just right’ in our lives, but when we find, and live in that purpose, they may do moreso.

The child had been taught and trained in PE lessons to focus on the end of her lane and not to watch others as she raced, and she managed it. I’m sure this, among other factors, helped her to win as she remained focused on her end goal. Those that weave in and out of their own lane and others’ lanes are the ones who, when the race begins, get distracted and begin looking to see what and how their friends are doing, or start searching the crowds to look for loved ones to wave to. This girl had the sole focus of running well. ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ Matthew 6:21

Whilst I was updating my website, I began to look at other people’s sites and wishing I had their following, or that my website looked as professional. I kept thinking about how each site seemed far beyond anything I could do, when I was convicted to stop comparing myself to others.

Persevere and you will find your own niche, and do well in your way. Run your own race well.

Read ‘Run the race marked out for you, Part 1 https://rubyslippergirl.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/run-the-race-marked-out-for-you/

and Part 2 here https://rubyslippergirl.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/run-the-race-marked-out-for-you-part-2/

 

Dare to be different

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Last week I noticed that there were two pansy-like flowers growing out of different parts of the lawn. They were too oddly positioned to have been planted and I was intrigued about their unexplained appearance. Later that week, I then went to visit a friend 135 miles away, only to find a lone pansy-like flower growing in her garden too. Like any other time, when I come across re-occurring themes, I began to ponder what the Holy Spirit might be trying to teach me.

It made me think about objects and people being in places where they appear not to fit in, where they stick out like a sore thumb. The world seems to promote the need to live a carbon copy life, raising a generation of people who believe that in order to fit in, we always need to be picture-perfect and live ‘photoshopped’ lives ready for social media posts. I believe that as Christians we are called to be different; not just to go along with the norm, but to stand up, and at times stand out, for our beliefs. We can seek to be pioneers; the ones to raise our heads above the parapet and dare to be different. Jesus wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in, or go against the social norms of his time. The New Testament is full of accounts of times that Jesus went against the grain. How amazing if we could look to be more Christ-like in this area. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us about Jesus being a pioneer.

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.’

I love the word ‘pioneer’ and when I googled the definition I was really encouraged and fired up by what I found.

noun
– a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.
synonyms: frontiersman/frontierswoman, explorer, trailblazer, discoverer

– a person who is among the first to research and develop a new area of knowledge or activity.
synonyms: developer, innovator, groundbreaker, trailblazer, pathfinder, front runner, founder, founding father, architect, experimenter, instigator, avant-gardist, creator; spearhead

verb
– develop or be the first to use or apply (a new method, area of knowledge, or activity).
synonyms: develop, introduce, evolve, begin, launch, instigate, initiate, spearhead, institute, establish, found, give birth to, be the father/mother of, originate, set in motion, create, open up, lay the groundwork for, lead the way for, prepare the way for, lay the foundations of; blaze a trail, set the ball rolling, break new ground, make the first move

(See my post ‘A Bun Dance’ for more on my love of words. https://rubyslippergirl.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/a-bun-dance/)

In the bible, it tells us Jesus knew what his disciples would go through, and prayed for them, ‘I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.’ John 17:14-16 NIV

Despite not knowing where the flowers came from, I can still enjoy their beauty, even if, as much research suggests, they might just be weeds. Those flowers weren’t concerned that they were the only ones sprouting up in that area, they continued regardless. Recently, I decided to start a business, and whilst I have been supported, I can tell that there are some people who just don’t understand what I am doing, or show their ‘support’ in unconventional ways. As a reforming people pleaser, this has been hard to take, but God is teaching me to be bold, not to be so concerned with people’s opinions of me and to run with perseverance. This experience has taught me to try my best to build others up, even more so if they are kingdom building in a way which differs from mine. God has gifted us each individually and called us to live out his purpose in unique ways. Does it matter that the way I’m running for God looks different from the way you are? After all, our races are all marked out differently but we have one common goal.

‘So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.’ 1 Corinthians 3:7 NIV

Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd.

Get to the core of the matter

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Recently I was gifted some peonies, but because I was in a rush, I left them in their wrapping and put them in a vase. A day or so later I went to unwrap them, only to find that they had started to wilt because they hadn’t been treated properly. To last longer, they needed their plant food, light and space in water. That’s what happens to us. When we try to follow others’ callings or suppress our gifting or don’t live out God’s best for us, we can end up wilting or feeling out of sorts, and being constrained, because we haven’t treated ourselves properly.

‘Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.’ (1 Corinthians 12:15-20 NIV)

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up with the image of an apple core in my head. Immediately, I thought about the core being the waste of the apple and how it was the flesh of the fruit that was the useful, important part. However, as I ruminated on this image more and more, the words ‘stored potential’ came to mind. I realised that it was the core, which contains the apple seeds, that carries the potential to birth new trees, and therefore new fruit, if they are planted. It made me think about how, often when everything has been stripped away in our lives, we get down to the stored potential within us. It’s more often when we are at our rawest, when we’ve been rocked by life events, that what we are really made of can come to light. It can be in these moments that we re-evaluate our lives and really begin to look at the things that God wants to do in and through us. That stored potential is within every one of us, but how many of us are tapping into that God-given potential? If we would just surrender our need to be in control or our feelings of insecurity which tell us that dream is impossible, He can begin to release those hopes and dreams that He has placed in every one of us, the ones that if we step out boldly, God can bring to fruition. The alternative is we leave those seeds of stored potential unplanted and suppressed within us, and chalk them up as unfulfilled dreams.

‘They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran.There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anakthere. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites,Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:26-33 NIV)

Think of a battery. It contains this power that will only be unleashed once it is in the correct environment, that is, an object which needs exactly that size and number of batteries. A battery still has the power within it if it is lying on the kitchen table, but that power is only useful when it is exactly where it is called to be. It’s not enough JUST to be full of stored potential, we’ve got to apply it as well.

“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land,because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14: 7-9 NIV)

We are all full of stored potential- use yours.

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Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff!

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Photo credit: Deposit Photos/ ronleishman

‘God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.’ (MSG)

‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,’ Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)

Recently at work I organised a seaside afternoon, which involved turning our school playground into a seaside, complete with beach volleyball court and paddling pools. What I hadn’t thought about was the fact that the numerous inflatables I had ordered would need blowing up- manually. On realising that it would be me huffing and puffing away, I began the mammoth task of blowing them up, and swiftly came to the conclusion it would take a lot longer than I expected! A colleague happened to be passing my classroom door and stopped to find out what I was doing. She then advised that she believed the PE department might have a hand pump that would make my task a little easier. I dutifully but begrudgingly went along to said PE department, not really believing they would be able to help, and asked if they had a handheld ball pump that I could borrow. The teacher replied that she didn’t have a hand pump, but they did have an electric pump, and proceeded to tell me all about the different settings and nozzles that could be used for an optimum experience. It far exceeded anything that I could have asked for or hoped for!

This reminded me that we sometimes go to God and ask him for a little, not really expecting him to come through, and then are amazed when he outdoes our asking. Not that we are meant to treat God like a vending machine of our deepest desires, but I feel God would say, ‘Be more extravagant in your asking – and your expectations!’ After all, He is the God of the impossible! Maybe people who have been disappointed in the past, when God hasn’t answered a prayer in the way that they wanted, have become really near-sighted in their asking. At times like these, we need to remember that He is the God of miracles. He is the God of the parting of the Red Sea. He is the one who can raise from the dead. He is the one who can make the seemingly impossible possible.

‘If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’ Matthew 7:11 (NIV)

Whilst writing this blog, I realised that it is rare for me to ask people for help or to do something for me, mostly, I think, because of a fear that they will say no. Everyone is entitled to their no, but think about what we might be missing out on, just because the fear of a no stops us from asking. I’ll admit I probably use this same measure with God.

The electric pump episode also convicted me about trying to do things in my own strength. I was hesitant to ask the PE department for help, thinking it would be quicker to do it myself, and convincing myself that they wouldn’t have the equipment I needed. I was, of course, spectacularly proved wrong when I conceded. We are not expected to do it alone, that’s why we’ve been placed in community and why we’ve been given power in the Holy Spirit. I wonder how many of us there are that God is waiting for us to come to the end of ourselves and concede we can’t do it alone before He steps in and works in us and the situations we face. I wonder how richly He is waiting to bless us if we would just let Him in.

‘I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.’ John 10:10 (MSG)

 

Bloom where you’re planted

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I was checking my emails recently when the words ‘Bloom where you’re planted’ popped up in the subject line of one message. It immediately jumped out at me as I’ve been exercising my green fingers in our school garden with some very willing volunteers. We’ve had highs and lows; from when our early seedlings were killed by a late frost, to seeing the fruit of our labour as our vegetables begin to grow.

Before we started growing anything, we had to remove the weeds and wildflowers that had taken root in the planter. Once we’d done this, we began to sow seeds and plant seedlings. What I hadn’t realised was how deep the roots of some of these wildflowers went, and how inadequately we had pulled them out in the first place. Even now, as the vegetables are flourishing, we have to weed out the wildflowers so that they don’t choke the vegetable plants. Every time our gardening club meets, I have to help the children discern what is weed and what is vegetable plant before they dig everything up in their eagerness to keep our vegetable patch tidy. How like real life that is! When we try to muddle through life on our own, we can make our own plans and potentially miss what God has for us, inadvertently pulling up the good things that God wanted to plant and nurture in us. Proverbs 16:9 tells us, ‘In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.’ We need an expert gardener to teach us what needs to remain planted, and what needs to be pulled up and discarded. Thankfully for us, we have an expert gardener and the Holy Spirit to help us discern.

John 15:1-8 says, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory,that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.’

The word ‘bloom’ reminded me to seek to thrive in my current position, not just survive. It encouraged me to strive to live my own life to the full, and not try to emulate someone else’s life, or bloom where someone else is planted. When I thought about the word ‘planted’, it spoke of God’s intentionality and his power; that he knows exactly where we are, and what we are facing. Nothing surprises him. In Isaiah 22:22, we read, ‘I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.’ We also learn that, like Esther, he has placed us, ‘for such a time as this.’ Being planted also spoke of being deeply rooted in God, and knowing that where all else fails, we can trust him because he is steadfast.

For me, reading the line, ‘Bloom where you’re planted’ tied in with finding a playing card lying on the pavement whilst walking home the other day. It spoke to me about using the cards you’re dealt in life, about not waiting until everything is perfect before you start moving into what God has for you. You may not have a great hand, but God can use what you have for great things. The playing card that I found on the floor had been discarded or misplaced by someone else, but it became my treasure, in that, it taught me a lesson.

When our plans don’t go how we want them to, it’s easy to give up, or want to give up, but God wants to use our mess for someone else’s good. The saying, ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ came to mind as I thought about writing this. Sometimes God wants to use your pain to help someone else; what we would happily throw away is exactly what God would use to speak through. When we look in the bible, we can see that time and time again God used people’s pain for good. He did it with Hannah, with Esther, with Abraham and Sarah and he did it with his own son, when he allowed Jesus to die on the cross as a sacrifice for each and every one of us.

I keep coming across tangled, weed-like undergrowth with beautiful flowers blooming within them, which truly reinforces that message of ‘bloom where you are planted’ for me. I feel like God would say, ‘It’s no accident where you are today. Bloom and be the sweet smelling fragrance wherever you are, for however long you are there, whether it’s where you would have chosen or not.’

Recently, when my plans fell through, I was annoyed, but the more I thought about it, I began to be encouraged to wonder what God wants to do in and through me here and now. It doesn’t mean I won’t move in the future, but for the meantime, for reasons I don’t yet know or understand, God wants me right where I am.

Psalm 33:11 says, ‘But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.’