Is ignorance bliss?

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is IGNORE.

I am inspired by Kate Motaung’s post on the perceived awkwardness that can cause us to ignore ‘strangers’ and so I want to share my own subsequent reflections.

I remembered how today I was walking back from the swimming pool, hood up to keep my wet head as warm as possible, and saw, at a bus stop, a young woman holding a very new baby against her shoulder whilst frantically going about something urgent in the pram. I could see there was only 2 minutes till the bus was due, so stopped to offer help. She refused help at first, but then confessed to being freaked out at having seen a ‘massive spider’ in the pram and was trying to find it. I searched the pram for her, assured her it was gone and put back the mattress and blankets so she could replace the baby in peace.

Kate’s post caused me to think how easily I now make those decisions to show compassion with strangers – especially if there seems to be a need, a child, or a slight vulnerability in the other – this seems to give me the sense of courage of responsibility to make the first move and be neighbourly.

I wonder if it is because we heard so many warnings about ‘stranger danger’ when growing up?

Thinking back, there was a time when I was so wounded and insecure that I would ignore the phone ringing, even when I could see friends calling, and would often hide away so that I could ignore the world. I had the sense that ignorance is bliss.

I am so grateful for the healing of God through community. Now I see strangers as friends I haven’t yet met.

image of two strangers being neighbourly.

Doesn’t scripture say something about when entertaining strangers we may be entertaining angels?

It is true that we are wounded in relationship and it is through relationship and the growth of trust that we are gradually healed.

Beware: May contain nuts!

Before I set the timer on today’s prompt word, I am going to tell you a little something about myself – a sort of confession perhaps, but one which has amused me about my processing.

I am often amused and bemused about the differing and convoluted ways that my mind organises itself!

Today, I did something rather unusual. I decided last night that it would make sense to use the scaffolding to paint the stonework around the upstairs windows, which looked like they had not been painted since the original Victorian windows were installed!

It is a job I had never done before, but I used my brain and some advice from a B&Q shop-assistant and bought some suitable masonry paint, a good brush and some sand-paper…

This morning, in a dull, cold January, I climbed the scaffolding in my extra-layered overalls, and began to scrape away the moss and lichen, sand, wash, and then paint the arches and sills of the three big windows.

Four hours later, frozen to the bone, I cleaned the brush and work-station and came home to warm up.

I decided I then needed to do another rare thing – to immerse my cold aching body in a hot bath. I could probably count only a dozen baths I have taken in ten years, but in case you think my confession is that I don’t wash, let me reassure you that I usually take showers.

(This is due to speed, as I think I my three speed-settings are ‘day-dream’, ‘Dawn-speed’, and ‘hurried’).

As it is Friday, I thought I would first open the laptop to see what today’s FMF prompt word is and then go and cogitate in the bath. I took a candle and a book and began to think…

I didn’t read the book, but I think I could have written several chapters of a book about ‘FAKE’. I began with ‘fake it till you make it’, explored the trust aspect of the shepherd boy David when he faced Goliath and compared him with Gideon. I decided that the key was WHO we trust, but the thoughts span around my mind, coming and going like a rainbow, and, because writing and water do not go well together, I came out again two hours later with even less of an idea than before.

What I did come away with, was the title!

And I think I want to talk about the fake-self and trust.

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is FAKE.

Go:

What my mind believes and what my heart believes, are not the same thing.

My mind believes the word of God. And I believe in the almighty power of God. As a Christian, I also believe that I am a ‘new creation’; that the ‘old is gone and the new has come’. I believe I am forgiven, healed, cherished and set-apart. I believe I have ‘a purpose and a hope and a future’.

But hidden in my heart is a different identity made of a great many lies. The little me that was wounded believes she is slow, stupid, rubbish. She believes that there is something wrong with her and it is her fault. It must be her fault, because God does not make mistakes. Little me believed the lies that she was told by those on whom she had to depend. She also made up some lies to make sense of the pain she was experiencing.

When I go to church and to work, people want to see me being strong in faith and successful and believing the word of God, which I do; but if inside I am falling apart and feeling devastated, does the Lord want me to present a fake image of myself with a totally-sorted identity?

I don’t think so.

Jesus says that he is the way, the truth and the life. He says that the truth shall set us free. Jesus wants me to be free of the lies that my little heart believed all those years ago.

He wants me to confess and bring those pains and lies to the cross, where His healing is.

He wants to break and reverse those lies, those fake identities one-by-one-by-one until I am free.

He wants me to partner with Him in being honest about my heart and allowing Him to transform the lies into the truth of who He made me to be.

He wants me to be rid of the fake identity in my heart and rid of my fake identity in the market place.

Jesus is on this journey with me – with Him and with some loving Christian friends and sound teaching, Jesus is setting me free to be the person He created me to be. It is not about who I am and what I can do, it is about Him. My belief and faith and trust are in Him, not me.

He has the power to demolish the fake and transform with his glorious truth.

End (Sorry, but even that took 10 minutes and I see lots of red wiggly lines!)

image of heart torn and damaged, but sewn and sticky-plastered in own strength

PLEASE:

If there is a lie that your heart believes about yourself, ask Jesus when and where the first wound was that tempted little you to believe that about yourself. Confess it and share it with a trusted Christian friend or Christian counselor. Come out of agreement with that lie and ask Jesus what the truth is. Repeat his truth over and over. Take captive that old lie every time it speaks out and remind your heart of the truth.

PS: I’m very happy that I painted the stonework. I have learned some new skills. I’m quite sure I would have forever regretted missing the opportunity had I ignored the thought!

Do you feel condemned for your doubts?

FMF: Doubt

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.’

James 1:2-8

Hands up any of you that have sometimes doubted that you will receive what you are also believing for in faith.

Yes, me too!

Double-minded? Maybe.

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21:18-22

If Jesus is suggesting that we can never doubt, then we are all in trouble!

If faith pleases God, then what do we do with our doubt?

Let’s have a little look at Peter in the boat – or rather out of the boat!

Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:28-31

Peter spoke out in faith when he saw Jesus on the water;

he got out of the boat onto the water in faith in Jesus’ command to come;

and he actually walked on water!

The other disciples did none of that! Their brains thought ‘He’s a ghost!’ If Jesus or Peter had asked the others to walk on the water, they’d have laughed at the preposterous idea.

And so would I, probably, if I had been using my brain.

Did Jesus tell the others off for doing nothing? Or give up on Peter for doubting? Of course not. Look how powerfully Jesus continued to use all of His disciples during the rest of their lives.

Look how many times Peter messed up and was repeatedly forgiven and reinstated.

And He can continue to use every step of faith that we take.

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is Doubt.

My five minutes are up, but I want to add a few more thoughts to this.

Like with Thomas and Peter, Jesus does not rebuke our doubts and questions, but patiently teaches us and rewards the faith that we do exercise.

We are asked to believe with our hearts, not our brains. Faith is not a logical, scientific step. It is a heart thing. If God asks you to do it, then He has equipped you and you can command the universe to comply with His request.

Faith is trust in Who God is, not in who I am or what our clever little brains can figure out. He does not even want us to be wise in our own proud eyes.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.’

(Proverbs 3:5-8)

Faith is trusting in Him who can.

And God can. I trust this with my heart, not my brain or logic.

But just like the father of the epileptic boy, who in desperation and faith brought his child to be healed by Jesus, to us and to him Jesus replies:

Everything is possible for one who believes.”

And let us, like the boy’s father, reply to Jesus:

I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:21-24

All of us have moments when we feel a surge of great faith and other moments, as we step out in that faith, that we question those actions which may suddenly look rash.

Remember that our faith is in God, not in our own ability. It is often very appropriate to doubt our own capacity!

Confess your heart to God however it is, as David does in the Psalms.

Growth in faith is a process, like with all areas of maturity. God never gives us more than we can handle or expects more than our experience has allowed us to build in trust.

Jesus saved Peter from drowning, He healed the epileptic boy, He returned personally to show Thomas his wounds.

He understands and has mercy on us.

He knows where and how are trust has been wounded in the past and He cares.

Jesus meets our doubt with mercy and understanding and we are reminded in Jude’s letter to do the same to ourselves and to others.

Be merciful to those who doubt.’

Jude 22

Peter focuses on the storm and begins to sink (doubts)
Doubting Thomas: “Unless I see…”

Don’t allow your questions and doubts to be misconstrued as ‘disbelief’.

To grow in faith we need to take one step at a time, knowing that Jesus loves our steps of faith and meets our questions with tender wisdom and mercy.

Will you receive?

one hand receiving from another

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,”

What will you do to receive the rest He wants to give you?

Will you come to Him?

The truth is very simple.

Satan uses deception and lies to steal from you and keep you fearful, confused and trapped.

The truth is that God is not mad with you.

God is not punishing you.

The truth is that God loves you and wants you to be free.

He has already done, through Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection to the throne-room of God, EVERYTHING necessary for your forgiveness, healing and freedom.

He did it ALL on the cross.

It is FINISHED.

There is one simple response from you needed to receive all of this.

You have to come and receive it.

You have to believe Him, ask and receive – and all His promises are already YES and AMEN because of Jesus.

He desires that you will simply believe and receive what He has done for you.

Put out your hands in faith and receive therefore His Rest, His Peace, His forgiveness, His healing, His Love, His Joy, His Freedom, His Hope and all the countless blessings from the Love of Almighty God, available to EVERYBODY who believes, asks and receives.

It is simple and beautiful Truth.

John 20:21-23

Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is RECEIVE.

Grateful for December and for 2022.

Thanksgiving for answered prayer in Dec 22 and for the whole year!

A beloved friend sent this quote in her Christmas greetings to me:

Nicht die Glücklichen sind dankbar. Es sind die Dankbaren die glücklich sind.

Sir Francis Bacon

It is not the happy/blessed who are grateful. It is the grateful who are blessed/happy.

Sir Francis Bacon

This is so very true. May we live our lives in gratitude every day, because His mercies are new every morning, and He loves us with an everlasting love!

Our God desires that we share our lives, our love, our hearts, minds and bodies with Him and that we go to Him in trust with ALL our concerns and desires.

When we do this, He rewards us with great joy.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Matthew 6:6

And I shall praise Him openly again today, and give all the glory to Him, who hears our prayers.

Though I am already singing praise and thanks for a blissful day and for prayers answered this week, now it is time for me to also look back on God’s faithful answers to prayer over December.

For December 2022, I thank my Father God for:

The privilege of giving financial Christmas gifts to the charities most on my heart.

For orchestrating my appointment to sort out the few medical issues I needed to understand, and for healing me Yourself, with no disruptions.

That J. was strong enough to make the best of circumstances and to head for new pastures where he was well received and blessed. For the lovely family who welcomed him.

For the blessing of one day-a-week working in a pre-school this half-term – for the lovely team and children.

For the birth of a new healthy grandson.

For the birth of M. & P.’s new baby and the family reconciled.

That the staff meal at Punch-Bowl was a success.

That 4 friends accepted the invite to come to our carol service.

That I was blessed to meet the B. family and S. at the reunion.

That on separate occasions, H. and J. both agreed to engage in prayer ministry with me for the work of healing you were doing in me.

For the miraculous transformation in sowing and reaping immediately visible afterwards!

That S. made good progress to get the room empty and order the insulation boards, which all arrived in good time.

For a great Christmas send-off at Chatterbox.

For the privilege of helping M. and the ability to get it all done in good time.

For the inspiration and strength to persevere, decorate, give, and to go the extra mile.

For Your gift of great JOY!

For a glorious family Christmas – of gatherings of family and friends, sleepovers and fun with the grandchildren and loved ones.

That You provided for me to give appropriate gifts and to provide good food and supplies for all the guests.

For new volunteers at the shop.

That I was able to attend M. and M.’s funerals.

Lord, throughout 2022, every month You amaze me with Your faithful provision and Your faithful answers to prayers.

When I look back over 2022, I see only blessings and favour.

Truly, goodness and mercy will follow Your children all the days of our lives.

No matter what circumstances the world may confront us with, Your children rest in perfect peace!

To all my beloved readers – to you – I pray the blessing of Almighty God over you and your loved ones, over your hopes and your dreams for 2023.

Know that He is Emmanuel for you this year and He is the lover of your soul.

Have grateful, blessed, fruitful 2023.

Gifts are not just for Christmas.

Christmas and New Year Greetings

Christmas decor chez moi – nativity scenes, tree and lights

Gifts are not just for Christmas.

Some of my usual Christmas habits were neglected this year, though I’m not quite sure why. It is my wont to write and send dozens of Christmas cards to update far-away friends and family and then to text all my contacts a Christmas greeting and to post greetings up on Facebook and social media.

But, apart from a few cards abroad, I did none of that.

Of course, all of those that I would normally contact were in my heart and prayers as much as ever.

And you, those who share your hearts and thoughts with me in our blogging community, were also on my heart and in my prayers.

Even Christmas at home was less excessive and much more relaxed.

But for all that, I did have a really joyful Christmas – focusing on hospitality, family, giving time and love, and rejoicing.

I hope and pray that your Christmas was also full of the great JOY that the birth of Jesus means to those who know and love Him.

I do want to send you all the blessings of divine love, perfect peace and great joy, that the season of Christmas remind us of – though of course these gifts, just like the gift of Jesus, are not just for Christmas!

For you, for Christmas and for 2023, I want to bless you with a word from scripture, as a prayer of love over you all.

Ephesians 1:16-23

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

May we continue to stand strong in the gospel of peace and to stand for freedom and justice in this world. May we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, reminding us of all that He has taught us, in Jesus’ name.

What have you witnessed?

FMF: Witness

If you heard my sister and I describe our childhoods, you would have no idea that we lived in the same homes, with the same parents!

If we wrote our life-stories, they would look very different.

When a friend and I took a day out to the sea-side, weeks later we reminisced over our outing. He described the arcades, the cars, the picnic I bought and the train time-table; but I remembered the beach, the seaside town streets, the wind on the pier and the hunt for a public toilet that cost me 20p.

If we had written our account of the day, they would have been very different.

What we witnessed were specific aspects of the day.

I am often amazed at this phenomenon – how two individuals together can seem to see completely different things and sometimes have almost opposing perspectives on the same event.

We see it, hear it, taste it, smell it and feel it through our own personal senses and we interpret the whole experience according to our personal understanding and preferences.

Where I’m going with this is, being a lover of stories, I often encounter scenes where witnesses are called upon to ‘tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God’ but the account they say they witnessed often looks only vaguely like the one shown in the story.

Every witness has their own perspective.

The witness may not be lying, but they are only telling the part that they witnessed and remember.

The gospels are like this too.

Reading the four gospel accounts of major events in the life of Jesus, we see the different focus and perspectives of the four writers. We also see the stories told for the interest of the particular audience they were addressing.

At Christmas I particularly like to read Luke’s account. He was not an eye-witness of the events leading to the birth of Jesus, but he told the stories handed down by those who were eye-witnesses.

I particularly like the focus on the prophecies of the angel Gabriel and the prophetic praise of Elizabeth, Mary and Zechariah.

We are obviously not witnesses to the birth and death of our Lord Jesus, but we have each witnessed the saving grace of Jesus in our lives.

You may not thing your story is very exciting, but you are an eye-witness to the transforming power of God in your life.

Your story is a unique perspective on the character, beauty and power of God and yours is the story that you need to tell.

Only you can tell your story, for the glory of God.

You are His witness in the world in which He has placed you, for such a time, and such a purpose, as this.

Image of witness’s hand swearing oath on Bible

Remember, remember to give thanks for November

Remember, remember to give thanks for November

I’m sorry for being late in giving my hearty thanks for all of the blessings and answered prayer acknowledged in November.

It is my honour to give glory to God by telling of His goodness and faithfulness, both in the large and small details and concerns of our every-day life.

For November I give thanks in particular for:

For a great party with family and friends and lots of interactions and fun.

For reminding me to live in the moment and embrace fully the life that I have.

For helping me to minister your love to C.

For a special day remembering my baptism of 38 blessed years ago.

For healing and turning around my relationships with L. and E. over these weeks.

For all those mobilised women at ‘The Orchard’ and for showing me Your heart for the injustice of systematic spiritual attack against ‘woman’.

For a powerful and honouring send-off and thanksgiving for Your daughter, T.

For giving E. a new home and for a swift move and transition.

For P. and D. coming as guests during the month and for fun, days out and quality time together.

For an easy, painless trip to the dentist!

That the Christmas staff booking and order is all complete and sorted.

For orchestrating many necessary agent visits and getting the boiler fixed – and that meanwhile, S. had spare heaters to lend me.

For another blessed Ablaze lesson.

That there have been applicants at last for the vacancy in the pre-school.

That C. has recovered well and is home again.

That I managed to re-watch and make notes on all 27 course videos through the 2 months.

That S. has made good progress in the room and cleared it out.

For beginning to teach me to recognise your voice.

For the lovely Christian nurse I saw at the surgery and Your presence for us to encourage each other.

For the privilege of doing some prayer ministry with C. and Your blessing in that.

For the encouragement of Holy Spirit in our second joint service.

That S. and J. were both in church!

For the blessings of reconciliation and tangible growth in S. and their team.

That A.B. is well enough to return back to phased-back-to-work.

That A’s count is back up high enough for chemo to no longer be necessary.

For a whole, peaceful day to myself.

That 8 guests persevered right to the end of the Alpha Course and that You worked in every heart and life there.

When we look with gratitude, we see the creation in all it’s glory.
I often take photos of the sky, but that wasn’t my photo – I don’t know who took it, but it is stunning!

How many blessings can you count this week, or even today?

Do you write down specific prayers and remember to look back and give thanks for the ones that your faithful God has answered?

You will be amazed if you do!!

Simple does not mean that it is easy!

FMF Simple

17:02

“It’s easy when you know how!” we say smugly in light-hearted pride.

Some things are easy for you that for me may be far from easy.

For me, speaking English is easy.

It’s ‘like riding a bike’ – which for me is also easy.

Reading a novel is easy for me (though finding the time to do it is less easy).

On the other hand, for my Iraqi friend, reading a novel in English, or in any language, remains so difficult as to be practically impossible.

“It’s easy when you know how.”

Yes, but easy does not mean simple.

I have been teaching my friend to read and write in English, and boy! English spelling and grammar is certainly not simple!!!

With the boot on the other foot, millions of people speak Hindi fluently, but I have been learning it for 2 years and am far from even able to hold a simple conversation.

Language learning is complex, it is far from simple – yet most of us learn it with ease.

Clearly, for something to be ‘easy’ for somebody, does not mean that it is simple.

Simple, to me, means that very few steps are involved in the learning.

Not a whole alphabet, but a simple ‘do A’.

It is one next step.

A clear instruction.

No fuss, no confusion.

Direct and unambiguous.

But simple does not mean that it is easy!

In our complex and complicated world, living simply is very difficult.

God’s instructions to His people are simple.

Jesus’ commission to His disciples is simple.

But are they easy?

I don’t think so!

To love my enemy is not easy.

To love my neighbour as myself is not easy.

To follow Jesus is not easy.

To obey all that He has commanded is not easy.

But it is simple, clear and unambiguous.

And to God, and with God, as the angel Gabriel tells us, all things will be possible.

Stop

Angel Gabriel greets Mary, and Mary’s simple response changes history

This advent let’s echo Mary’s exchange with the angel Gabriel told in Luke’s account, as Mary simply believes that with God nothing is impossible and chooses to obey Him:

(Luke 1:37-38)

For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Simple, but not easy.

Or easy, but not simple.

FMF: Instant – MYSTERIES.

One of the lessons I have learned over my life, is that there are mysteries that I shall not understand this side of heaven.

I have made my peace with that. My brain is far too small, and so is my heart.

One such mystery to me, is why in things of God, some things appear instant, and some are, well, to my mind, far too slow in appearing!

For instance, (coincidentally) why are some people healed instantly and some over a period of time, or not on earth at all?

Why are some prayers answered in an instant and some we do not see an answer to?

What I have accepted is that God’s ways are higher than my ways; that He knows the bigger picture; that His thoughts and priorities are higher, and more perfect, than mine.

But some things of God ARE INSTANT.

Salvation – If I open my heart up to God, believe that Jesus died for my sins, accept Him as my Lord and Saviour – then I am instantly ‘born again’ and Father, Son and Spirit come to live in me.

Do I then look and sound like Jesus? For most of us, NO.

Though some of us, with major wounds, may receive instant transformation and miracles, for most of us, our personality and growth as Christians, our sanctification if you like, it is a process that takes the rest of our lives, growing in one degree of glory to another.

Maybe this continues in heaven too.

Personally I have learned to be grateful for this, for whilst I would love to be instantly healed of my personal issues, childhood wounds, sinful tendencies etc, I know that whilst I am weak and humbly acknowledge my need for God in all things, I cannot fall into pride of thinking that I have it all sussed and can do anything without God.

My weakness and need keep me close to Jesus’ side and in relationship with Him constantly.

By myself I can do no good thing of Kingdom value.

One thing that blows my mind though, is that God can also be even faster than instant!

Wow!

Even before a thought is on my heart, God knows it.

That is faster than instant!!!

Stop.

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is INSTANT.

My time is up.

Instant whip image.

So to conclude:

God hears and responds in His perfect way to every prayer – even before I utter it myself.

My salvation is instant that I believe and repent; but my sanctification (my becoming more like Jesus) this takes at least the rest of our lives.

We need to lean in to God for everything and be patient, trusting that our times are in His hands and all His ways are perfect and safe.

I heard recently that Impatience is simply our focus on the I and the Me – on what I’m getting! God knows what I need!

Now there’s a thought!