Matthew 9:22 “Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ He said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed from that moment.”

I would like to apologise for my sporadic posts as of late. I’m currently struggling to stay on a schedule what with being in work 9-5 most days, but will hopefully be back on track next week.

I almost walked out of work this morning.

I told a colleague I needed to take five minutes, went outside, burst into tears, called my Mum, and told her I had to get out. I don’t enjoy tough love but she gave it to me and, in the end, I went back inside and got on with things . Later on in the day I was talking to a colleague and he told me, “You can’t just quit everything.” This is pretty much what my Mum had said to me on the phone so I can be certain that God was trying to get a point across.

So I stayed in work. It didn’t turn out to be an amazing day, but I endured it and when I got home things started looking up. Firstly, my Dad was home. In my house we always sit down to dinner as a family and, before we start eating, we say grace. Tonight, as always, my Dad said it, but it was somehow different. Never before have I wanted to cry tears of joy at the dinner table but tonight I almost broke down. I am so grateful that I come from a Christian home, one in which the parents truly follow Christ and don’t just go to Church because that’s how they were brought up.

To hear my Dad say grace reminded me insanely of how Jesus died for the weak and lowly, for the sick and the needy. He died so those people could be used for His glory, not the people who think they’re too good and too sorted to be saved by Him. He died so that He could prove to the world that He could make my Dad well again. He may still be recovering, but in Christ He stands strong.

Mark 2:17
“On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”
(NIV)

During one of my breaks in work today I read a Tweet by Timothy Keller:

The disciples were slow, hard hearted, and cowardly. They were called on the basis of grace, not their merits.

It suddenly hit me that while in work I’m constantly asked and pushed to be this amazing, super efficient employee who does no wrong. I’ve been a Christian (in a properly committed way) for over three years and Jesus still accepts my flaws; He still loves me through them.  He knows I’m stubborn and selfish and bad tempered, and He lovingly breaks me and changes me so that He can turn those things around. He doesn’t give me time frames or try to pressure me or make me feel like I should be doing more, He simply loves me, and that love it changes my heart and my mind and how I want to live.

While society asks us to be able to tick all the boxes for good grades and previous work history, God asks for nothing more than our hearts. It’s a small ask when you consider what He did for us on the cross, and how much we’re called to give in our every day lives.

At the minute I’m reading through Matthew and there are very few chapters in which Jesus doesn’t heal someone. All He requires from us is faith and He will heal all our illnesses, He will take away all the pain we experience, He will move mountains. If we believe that He can do what we ask for, then, if He is willing, He will.

Matthew 17:20
“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
(NIV)

But to briefly return to my Dad, the amazing thing is that there must have been hundreds of people praying for Him. People in Churches across the country, people across the world, my friends, my parent’s friends… and when God sees faith like that, the faith of hundreds scattered across the world fully believing that He can heal someone, one of His children, He doesn’t ignore it. He doesn’t ignore faith as small as a mustard seed, or the faith shared by a whole army of His followers. The weak and lowly gathered together, unbeknownst to them, and prayed for the sick, and God blessed each one of us, in answered prayers and good health.

So don’t fear that you aren’t enough for God, because all He wants is your heart, no matter how bruised and battered it is.

He will heal you, He will make you well.

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Endurance: Part One

In today’s post on endurance I’m going to cover the beauty of enduring through painful situations with Christ and how He blesses us through that. 

Romans 5:3-4
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
(ESV)

My Dad has been in hospital since last Sunday and, after having an operation last Monday things were looking pretty sketchy for a while. However, tonight we found out that he’ll be coming home tomorrow.

When Jesus died on the cross He didn’t do it so we could have it easy, He did it so we could be forgiven. He did it so we could be set free from the chains of the world. He did it so that when we go through painful, scary experiences we would know that God is with us throughout it, and so that in those painful, scary things we can know that, with Him, we have the strength to carry on.

As Audrey Assad sings, “As I carry this cross, You’ll carry me.”

As Christians we are called to endure in the tough times because that’s what Jesus did. He was constantly doubted and challenged by the Pharisees and Sadducees, He went through viscious and painful beatings and was then forced to carry His own cross (before Simon of Cyrene took over), before being nailed to the  cross and experiencing the most painful death known to man.

And this, you see, is why we are called to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

In the pain and the brokenness and the anger and frustration, we have Jesus. We have a God who knows the pain that we are dealing with because He has experienced it before. He has been through physical pain, but also the pain of seeing His creation turn their backs on Him, denying that they know Him and condemning Him to death.

There’s a great song by artist Mark Schultz called ‘I Have Been There. The chorus goes a little something like this:

I have been there,
I know what fear is all about,
Yes, I have been there,
I’m standing with you now.
I have been there,
And I came to build a bridge so this road could lead you home,
Oh, I have been there.

We aren’t called to endure for nothing; God has promised us great things for the days when we are with Him for eternity.

Revelation 21:4
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
(NIV)

We are promised so much more than this world has to offer, something so much bigger and greater than we can ever imagine or hope for. Even now He has wonderful things for us. He surprises us with beautiful scenery, kind words from friends, sunshine and blue skies, the little things.  The great thing about being in relationship with Christ is that you stop caring about the big, grand gestures like money and material possessions. God doesn’t offer us that, and in fact Jesus warns us about storing us treasures on earth, “where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal,” (Matthew 6:19) 

Matthew 6:20-21
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
(NIV)

If we endure here on earth, if we put our hope in Jesus and “store up our treasures in Heaven”, then we will experience the fullness of life in Christ and we will know true joy.

Ephesians 3:20-21
“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,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
(NIV)

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“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Today I started work in a job in customer services (please forgive me for not giving more details, but I don’t want there to be any possibility of getting into trouble with my employer). One thing I have learnt, after one day in this job, is that there is something so deeply wrong with the human race.

I realise this seems like a big statement to make after one day in work, but the way some humans have such a strong sense of self-entitlement baffles me.

Already, after one day, I am vowing to quit complaining over silly things because there are people in the world who have it so much tougher. I will never again get angry with someone in customer services because, chances are, they aren’t causing the problem I’m having.

It just makes me so sad to see humans attacking their fellow man like this, and now that I am on the receiving end of those attacks I feel it even more strongly. We were not created to be like this, we weren’t created to treat total strangers like dirt, to make assumptions that because of the job that they are in that they are stupid.

There’s an amazing verse in Hebrews that has been stuck in my mind this evening:

Hebrews 13:2
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing.”
(NIV)

When I come into contact with a new customer this person is one of thousands (possibly millions), but to them I am the main representative for this company. At first contact we are total strangers and, when this contact ends, we are still strangers, and while some of these people have treated me very graciously, others haven’t. They have treated me like I am the cause of their problems, as if my company’s policies are my personal attack on them for bothering to approach me, as if I should do whatever they ask, and, most hurtfully, as if I am stupid.

I understand why people get annoyed with companies as a whole, I truly get that and don’t want to make you think that I believe that these people should just shut up and move on, but would it hurt to treat people with a bit of grace? To consider that maybe they are struggling?

I am so lucky to be loved by a God who treats me like this, who encourages me to have this attitude, because I believe that the treatment I receive in my job (and, to be fair, in day to day life sometimes) isn’t treatment that I want other people to experience. The quote in the title was stuck in my head all day for this reason. It’s important to love people because we’re all fighting, we’re all struggling. The human race has done enough to hurt each other, what with wars and illness and poverty and hunger, so in everyday life, when things are pretty peachy and we’re not bombing each other, wouldn’t it be better if we could all just have some respect for each other?

My favourite band, Switchfoot, have a brilliant song called ‘Let Your Love Be Strong’ and one of the lyrics goes like this:

Maybe I’m just idealistic to assume that truth,
Could be fact and form,
That love could be a verb,
Maybe I’m just a little misinformed.

I suggest you listen to this song in its entirety because it is truly beautiful. However, sometimes when I talk about loving people through their bad attitudes and hurtful behaviour I wonder if I’m being idealistic. I wonder if I have too much hope, and that none of it will ever come to fruition. But, the truth is, this belief is only idealistic if I can’t live out this attitude of love; with God I am fully capable of it. Like I said above, I am so lucky to be loved by a God who treats me with such grace, and I believe that because I have been treated in this way by my Jesus, that I am learning from the best. I owe it to Him to treat others in the way that He treats me all the time.

I’m not trying to say that I’m perfect, that I’ve never yelled at someone in customer services or been rude to people to try and get what I want, but this job is changing my mind and my heart and, in some ways, I’m glad that God has put me in this position, to work on my heart and to grow me even more. I think it’s easier to love people if you realise why people need to be loved so much, and that is something I am learning right now.

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Review of Soul Survivor’s ‘The Bible in One Year’

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about some great reasons to read your Bible but, annoyingly, after that I started struggling to read my Bible again. After a while of flipping through it each day I stumbled across a link to Soul Survivor’s ‘The Bible in One Year’ and things have been going brilliantly.

I think one of the things I like most about the way Soul Survivor have done this is that it starts in September, which obviously is to fit the academic year for students and people in school, but it also takes away that daunting feeling that, come January 1st, you need to totally sort your life out and change everything. However, as I started a new job two days after this kicked off, it was perfect timing for me.

First, check out this video featuring Andy Croft, one of the guys who you’ll be seeing a lot of throughout the year:

At the start he briefly mentions the Bibles that Soul Survivor have put together for the year, but don’t feel like you have to buy one as you can just use your own, which is what I’m doing.

Every day there’s three readings, which sounds like a lot but it isn’t really. It starts off with Genesis, Matthew, and interchanges between Psalms and Proverbs. So while you read Genesis, and take in a lot of negative, violent situations, you can then compare it to Matthew and the difference in the world when Jesus comes.

The programme is led by Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft and every day there’s either a video or short article by one of them to go along with the readings. Unlike being given a list of passages to read and figure out by yourself, the blog posts really help in your understanding of what you’re reading, which means that you’re getting daily teaching. It’s important not to just read the Bible without notes of some sort because while individual interpretations can be good it’s useful to get the passages properly in context. The use of different types of media is good for those of you who have a short attention span, because you can read the day’s passages in your own time and then check out the video or article when you’re ready (or the other way round, of course).

Another great factor is that you can get involved in the discussion in the comments on the blog. You can help out people with their questions or ask your own. Knowing that you’re reading with other people is an encouragement to keep going as it can be hard to keep up your motivation at times if you think it’s just you, going it alone.

The programme may be almost two weeks in but if you read quickly you can catch up in no time. The whole thing is a great way to get God in to your life every single day and to become closer to Him. You might think, “Oh, I’ve read those books before, so why bother doing it again”? Or, “How can I connect with God if I put so much structure into my reading?” People put a lot of emphasis on silly things like asking God to show them something really important the second they flick open their Bible; I’ve done this and also realise how insane it is. The whole Bible is important and God can speak to us through so much of it, so don’t think you only need to read it once, or that structure will ruin God’s ability to speak. He will talk to us in whatever way He needs to. So, what are you waiting for? Break out your Bible and get stuck in! It’s going to be a good year.

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Five Ways to Stop Your 9-5 Job Killing Your Creativity

When graduation finally rolled around at the end of June and I was very much jobless and unsure of what I wanted to do with my life (I definitely still am), I realised it was time to get a job and I landed one in an office. I, like many of my fellow graduates, currently have no idea what I want to do with my life and decided the best thing to do was find whatever I could to get some cash together. While I’m glad I have some sort of job, I find myself coming home in the evenings and sometimes struggling to write or play music because I’m simply so tired and worn out after sitting in an office all day staring at a computer screen; my brain would rather switch off than do anything productive. However, I refuse to let this temporary job take over my life, so have put together five tips to, firstly, get the cogs turning in my brain and, secondly, to encourage those of you who are in the same position.

For someone who did really badly at art in school, I drew this angry seal that resides in Central Park Zoo  and I think it came out okay…

1. Remember that your co-workers are people too. You have been employed by this company to do a job for them, so while in your place of work definitely do that job, but on your breaks talk to people, engage with them, find out about their lives. You may not want to become best friends with your colleagues (some people go to work to work and go home again and that’s fine) but don’t think that everyone else in your office is a robot who loves their job. You can definitely take inspiration from these people as your interact with them every day and, over time, will get to know them quite well.

2. You’re not alone (this links in with my first point). I don’t just mean in relation to other university graduates either; chances are, that person sitting at the desk next to you may not want to be there either. Refrain from making snap judgements about your colleagues as that suit or tailored dress doesn’t say anything about their skills and hobbies. If you are as much of an artist as you believe you are then who’s to say that your co-worker isn’t the next Picasso? This world is full of struggling writers, painters, poets, and musicians and, unfortunately, it’s a hard business (if you can call it that) to crack; we all have to do something to support ourselves. You’re not “selling out”, you’re simply being realistic.

3. Do some sort of physical activity in the evening. As soon as I was offered the position at this job I decided that the day it started I would be out that evening doing some form of exercise. True to my word I went cycling on the Monday and Tuesday, swimming on Wednesday, and then cycling again on Thursday. This all resulted in my leg cramping up in my sleep, causing me excruciating pain and then a weird feeling in my calf muscle for the whole of Friday! I don’t suggest you push yourself this hard, but even just going for a walk or doing something every other night will keep you sane and let you process your thoughts.

4. Being out of the office doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be at home. This links in with point number three; have a treadmill in the house? Forget about it and take your walk to the streets. Go cycling, go swimming, go out for coffee and take a book, talk to a friend, just be somewhere that isn’t one of your “normal” environments. At the minute on Twitter I keep seeing a lot of my favourite writers and bloggers (namely Donald Miller and Jamie the Very Worst Missionary) posting tweets about how your best ideas will come to you when away from your desk. Just go somewhere different and gain inspiration from the things around you.

5. Remember that this job isn’t forever. I’m working on saving up to do a Masters degree, and you may have other plans too. Whether or not you’ve figured out yet what those plans are you can be content in the fact that this job is simply a means to an end, something to keep you going, to help you on to the next stage. If you remember this you’ll be more encouraged to keep pushing towards your goals with your writing, or music, or whatever other art you do, as you’ll know there most definitely is light at the end of the tunnel.

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Education, and why it’s so important.

A few days ago I had coffee with a friend and we were discussing my possible plans to do a Masters degree next year. Here’s how part of the conversation went:

Friend: “So what sort of jobs will it help you get?”
Me: “I don’t really think it’ll add to my job prospects at all.”
Friend: “So why do you want to do it?”
Me: “I want to learn for the sake of learning.”
Friend: “But there’s no point in that.”
Me: “Sorry… What?”
Friend: “You’re going to spend all that money just to learn?”

Tomorrow I start work. I’m not too excited about it, but it has to happen if I want to fund my Masters degree. I’m nervous like anyone is nervous before a new job, but I’m also afraid of the fact that I am no longer going to be taking in new information, I’m not going to soak in things about the world which will teach me why society is the way it is, I’m not going to be tested on what I know, I’m not going to write essays or read text books or do research. I miss studying a lot, which is funny because while I was in the middle of it I kind of hated it, I was almost bitter that I was paying to gain knowledge. But now? I want nothing more than to be back in a class room, a lecture theatre, paying to learn about the world around me.

People say that film and media degrees are pointless and stupid, but I spent four years learning about society, about why people do the things they do, about art and beautiful things. I learnt about what makes people tick, what they’re passionate about, what makes them passionate. I learnt to be passionate, to fall in love with something, to realise that art and creativity are some of the most important things this world will ever have to offer because they let us put down on paper and film reels and canvas and stage exactly what our hearts are saying, and allows the audience to know that they’re not alone. Humans are so similar and we don’t realise it until we reach a certain age and look at people younger than us and think, “Hey, I went through that too.” Art allows the human race to relate to each other.

This is why we need to learn.

I don’t care if you study arts and humanities, or sciences, or social sciences, or languages, or sport, but we all need to take in something, we all deserve to be educated. The British and American governments currently don’t agree, which is incredibly sad, because if they put more time and effort and money into their education systems instead of asking people to pay extortionate fees, they would have less problems with crime, alcoholism, drug abuse, and a whole host of other social issues.

So yes, I am going to spend all that money just to learn, because I think anyone who is able to have an education should grab on to it with both hands and never let go. We need to be educated so we can help those who aren’t lucky enough to have education to fight through the injustices of life. I want to use what I know, what I have learnt, to change the pain and struggles of the world, I want to learn about people, about life, about society, and change it from the inside.

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