Monday, 14 April 2014

Our Commanding Officer

When I was at university I joined the Officer Training Corps, with the intention of becoming an army doctor one day. Sometimes we went away for weekends and I was introduced to the wider world of the army, like higher ranking officials, the officer's mess, marching, and getting up early every morning to exercise.

Our Commanding Officer was the highest ranking person we ever saw there, and he would occasionally come into view at specific events. I had a lot of respect for him because of his position, but one day my respect grew even more.

It was the day of our Combat Fitness Test, which we all had to pass in order to stay in the army. We had to do a long run, kitted out with a full and weighted backpack. When that was finished we had to clamber up into the back of an army truck, back down again, and then run a distance carrying two large and heavy water carriers.

I had not long ago come off crutches because of breaking my ankle, so I was not one of the most fit people there and was quite anxious about whether I would be able to complete the test or not!

We all set off running, and before long I was at the back with a couple of others, just trying to keep going. What stood out to me about that day was that our Commanding Officer, this high up person who we'd never talked to and we were all afraid of, ran WITH us the whole way. And what's more, he spent quite some time at the back with us stragglers just encouraging us to keep going.

We all made it to the finish line and passed. But I'm not so sure we would have done without him being there!

That has always been a picture to me of how good leaders get down in the dirt with those they are leading, willing to do the same as them, and encouraging them along the way.

God has also done that with us. He didn't just stay aloof, but sent his son Jesus down to earth. He was also tempted as we were:

"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." Heb 4:15

Jesus is the Commander of the Lord's Army (Joshua 5:13-15), and just like my Commanding Officer he showed us that we could do it and encouraged us by going through it Himself.

What's even better than that, is that He can give us actual strength (which my Commanding Officer couldn't do) if we are dependent on Him:

'And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.' 2 Cor 12:9

So we can be encouraged that as we run this race and fight through opposition, trials and temptations, Jesus has been through the same thing and will give us strength to follow Him. 

One of my favourite passages of Scripture reminds of this, and tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. I love it so much that I have memorized it and I encourage you to do the same! Or at least just say it out loud and slowly - it has more impact that way :)

Therefore we also, 
since we are surrounded 
by so great a cloud of witnesses, 
let us lay aside every weight, 
and the sin which so easily ensnares us, 
and let us run with endurance 
the race that is set before us, 
looking unto Jesus, 
the author and finisher of our faith, 
who for the joy set before Him, 
endured the cross, 
despising the shame 
and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Therefore consider Him 
who endured such opposition 
from sinful men against Himself, 
lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 
You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, 
striving against sin.
Hebrews 12:1-4

Monday, 31 March 2014

Moving on After Failure

This is something we heard in yesterday's sermon, called 'Recovering from Setbacks.' The Israelites tried to attack a city and failed because someone in their camp had hidden sin. But when they dealt with it, God forgave them and then wanted them to go right back and fight again.

What Clint pointed out yesterday is that God wants us to go back to taking ground after we have failed. But to do that we need to stop dwelling on our past sin and instead repent, get back up again and move on. "Live in the victory of the shadow of the cross."

'For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, 
But the wicked shall fall by calamity.' 
Proverbs 24:16

Saturday, 29 March 2014

What Steals Your Joy?

As we were driving back from The Netherlands recently, we were listening to the pastor of our home church in America, Pastor Dave Rolph. He said something very interesting:

"All Satan has to do is steal your joy, 
and then he has your strength"

I've known the verse 'The joy of the Lord is your strength' probably from before I could read, as I remember singing the song when I was very little. But I've never thought of it back to front like that. If your joy in the Lord goes, then your strength will also go - it makes sense doesn't it?

But then that got my brain whirring... if that is the case then I need to figure out how Satan steals my joy so I can be on my guard against it and maybe stop it from happening! Lack of strength is a big deal to me, since I am a stay at home mother and homeschool three kids and it takes a lot out of me.

Here's some ideas of things that can steal my joy, and probably yours too. If you have more ideas please comment at the end and let me know!
  • Sin - in the well known psalm where David repents of his adultery and murder, he says, "Restore unto me the joy of my salvation." One of the effects of sin is that we forfeit our joy of the Lord and of our salvation. For me this often manifests as laziness, meaning that I go to bed late and don't do what I should do which leads to tiredness and discouragement. Also overeating - gluttony - which leads to feeling guilty at my lack of self-control.
  • Tiredness - if I don't get enough rest then gradually over time I start feeling down, and if I don't get enough sleep then everything the next day is so much more difficult.
  • Worry - we can worry about what is happening in our lives or other people's.
  • Other people - other people can steal our joy if we let them, through their comments and actions, because we are all sinners, or we might get justly rebuked!
What can we do about these things? Well I think it could help if we find out individually where Satan tends to steal our joy, as it is probably different for everyone. Then maybe we can figure out ways to help prevent it. 

For me this would mean continuing my ongoing struggle against sin, making sure I get enough rest and sleep, and taking my worries to God in prayer. 

But also more than anything realising that God wants us to have joy, 'Rejoice in the Lord always' so if we're losing that joy we need to fight back to get it. We can even have joy in the midst of affliction (2 Cor 7:4, 8:2, James 1:2) which is probably a challenge for most of us!

"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.' James 1:2-4

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

My Very First Quilt!

I did say a few posts back that I was making my first quilt and I would post a photo when I've finished, so here goes!

For a long time I haven't really been into crafts. I used to make a lot when I was younger, but then GCSEs, A-levels and University took over and I was too busy. Following those, I was soon married and helping my husband with fulltime ministry alongside trying to run a household. Then children came along and lots of house moves!

I think also, when I was 18 and fully gave my life over to God, I was so caught up with seeking God's kingdom that many other things besides reaching souls and discipleship seemed insignificant in comparison.

However now I have a 6 year old daughter, and last year I read  Little House in the Big Woods to the children as part of our Sonlight curriculum. In there it talked about how Laura and her sister, who was about Hope's age, would sew and knit clothes for their dolls.

I immediately thought, "Wow, Hope would love that!" She really likes crafts, just as I did when I was younger. So I resolved that I would try and learn to knit so I could teach her. I had once tried to learn when I was younger but it ended in tears!

So a kind lady from church taught some of us who were interested how to knit, and then I went on to teach Hope. I think that sparked my interest in crafts again as I realised it was fun to be able to make clothes for Hope's dolls, and it was also a very sociable hobby.

I can't blog or read and talk to my husband. But I can knit and talk at the same time! And while I wasn't very fond of the beach, I could take some knitting along there and it would make it more interesting while the children played.

My mother is a great quilter, which you can see if you look at her amazing blog. But I had always thought that I would never do that - a year to make a quilt just sounds toooo long! Then one day we went to Costco and I was looking at the books (very predictably) and my eyes suddenly lighted upon a book with beautiful colours.

It was a Patchwork book by Cath Kidston, with a kit on the inside to make a cushion, and photos of really pretty fabrics on the front. All the projects looked quite small and doable and I thought that would make a really fun birthday present for myself as well as for a lot of other people I know! So I ended up with it :)

Then a good friend was expecting a baby and I started to think of what I could make for her, and looked through that book along with another similar one my mum had given me. There was a project for a baby quilt in there which was labelled as taking 3 hours. That definitely sounded doable. So I decided to go for it and ask my mum to help me with anything I got stuck with!

It definitely took waaaay longer than 3 hours but it was a lot of fun. I think what took longer is the fact that I hand pieced it together rather than doing it with the sewing machine, and then instead of tying knots through it to quilt it like the book suggested, I did actually quilt it properly (although I resisted my mum's hint that I might like to hand quilt it and decided on the sewing machine instead since by that time the baby was already born!).

Here are some photos:

My first two fabrics cut into squares. I was so excited at this point that I had to take a photo and send it to my mum! I based all the colours around a lovely farmyard fabric I found on ebay. I figured if I did a farm rather than baby owls or bears, it might stay fun even after the baby has grown a bit! The batik fabric I just couldn't resist because I loved the colours too much.

This is all the fabrics cut into squares and arranged. We took final photo from above so I could make sure it looked OK! 

Here is my brand new quilting tin my mother gave me, with all the rows of squares pinned together in the right order so I wouldn't forget how to put them together.

A cup of tea and some hand piecing with my lovely chinese baby pin cushion :)

Quilting a sample

My mum showing me the ropes on her sewing machine. I didn't dare borrow it without her being there as I was too scared of something going wrong and I didn't want to break it!

Actually quilting!

All the quilting done, now just the border to go...

And the finished product

Complete with baby!

I was reading in Exodus this morning, and struck as I always am when I read it, at how God gifted the artisans who made everything for the tabernacle:

'All who are gifted artisans among you shall come and make all that the Lord had commanded'...'All the women who were gifted artisans spun yarn with their hands'...'And all the women whose hearts stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goats hair'...'See the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works'

What I take from that is that God gifts us for crafts as well as other things, and we can use them for His glory and minister to others with them. Just like Dorcas did who made tunics and garments for widows, and the excellent wife of Proverbs 31 who made tapestry, linen garments and willingly worked with her hands. 

Here are some benefits of crafts and making things as I was thinking about the woman of Proverbs 31 today:
  • She made her home beautiful
  • She brought profit to the family by selling what she made
  • She kept busy and was not idle
  • It's a constructive way of using rest and relaxation time
  • Creativity is reported to reduce stress
  • It can bless others
I still don't see myself making a quilt that takes a year to make, though one day if my husband decides to part with his Hawaiian shirts I might make a quilt out of those! In the meantime I am learning to crochet and making booties and hats for some other little babies in our church!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

What Have You Started But Not Completed?

Are there things in your life and in your home that you at one time were very enthusiastic about starting, but now they have been sitting for a while, uncompleted? I know I have many!

One thing that my husband has helped me with greatly is finishing books. I usually have no problem with quickly devouring fiction books or biographies, but often other books will be bought joyously and then piled up. I used to end up with many that had a bookmark about a third of the way along.

I don’t think I stop reading them because I don’t like them anymore, but it’s usually because another book becomes more exciting so the old one is replaced before it’s finished.

What my husband has encouraged me to do is to finish the book I’m reading before I start a new one. That is a hard discipline to learn, but it does mean I get to the end of books, and also means I am a lot more careful in choosing the books I buy as I now know I have to read them all the way through!!

This week I was struck by something I was reading in 2 Corinthians. It kept popping up in my head throughout the week till I finally came back to it and meditated on it. Here is what it said:

“And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have.” 
2 Corinthians 8:10-12

The context is giving, but I believe the principle of completing what you started can be extended to other things. Basically – if you desired to do something that was good or right, that God was leading you to do, then you should continue to do it and not only that, but also complete it.

Having said that, we do need to be careful that it was something that was right to start, and that God was leading us to do. Also sometimes God leads us to stop something, so this doesn’t always apply.

I firmly believe that God led me to resign from studying medicine at university, therefore when someone suggests that I start studying it again or something similar, I will always say no. God led me to stop it so I’m not going to start it again unless He makes it really clear!

When I started thinking about how this applied to my life I realised that there are a number of things that this is relevant to. If I had a desire to do a good thing, then I should keep at it and finish it.

Maybe this strikes a chord with you. If you’d like to apply it to your life, you could try what I did as I meditated on it:

  1. Write down 3 things you have started but not completed in the last few years e.g. for me I started a long distance Biblical counselling course before I had kids (over 8 years ago!) and am almost at the end, but not quite!
  2. Write down what completing them would look like e.g. finish watching the counselling videos
  3. Figure out a practical step to help you continue and head towards completion e.g. set aside an evening once a fortnight to study
I even applied this as I thought of writing this blog post and then realised that if I thought of doing it but didn’t actually write it (which often happens!!) then I would be leaving something uncompleted again! So that’s why I finally sat down and wrote this J

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Inspiring Missionary Book To Read Aloud to Children

The other day I was brought to tears as I read to my children. I hardly ever cry, but I got to the point where I had to stop reading and let my daughter take over!

The next day we read from the same book and we were still talking about what we read at dinner time. What could have had such an impact on us?

It was a book called 'Missionary Stories with the Millers'. I use the 'Sonlight' curriculum as part of our home education. This is one of the books they use which I am going through with my 8 and 6 year old together. 

The story we read was about Preena, an Indian girl who ran away from the temple to try to seek refuge from Amy Carmichael, a missionary there. The last time she had tried to run away she had been brought back and branded on her hands with a red hot iron rod. 

This time she had fled when no-one was watching, but had soon been discovered and they were just about to catch her when she found Amy. She asked her for help and Amy paid 50 rupees to the temple women so that Preena wouldn't have to go back. This is what follows:

'Preena could hardly believe what had happened. She still clung to the missionary with both hands as she was led gently into a house. Sitting down, the white-skinned woman took Preena onto her lap.

"My name is Amy," she told the tired little girl. "You don't need to be afraid any more. I have bought your freedom! And tomorrow I will tell you all about the Lord Jesus Christ, Who also wants to set you free."

There are so many children and adults out there that need help even in the West. I just read last night that the suicide rate in the UK went down in 2012 - to 6000. Down??? 

Let's pray that the Lord would use us wherever we are to be of help to people like Amy was, even though it might be in different ways.

If you want to tell your children missionary stories, this is a great book to do that with. We have been inspired and challenged over and over again by these short but amazing true accounts.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Update on my Blogging and Bible Reading

One of my little bundles of energy to juggle!
I'm afraid I haven't been very consistent in posting recently, what with worship at church, our new outreach band and then making a quilt for a little adopted granddaughter! But I'm still here, and hope to post a picture of the quilt when I've finished :)

The question I get asked more than anything else, especially by mums, is, "How do you do it all?!" This is usually when they find out that I home educate as well as being active in ministry.

My short answer is, "I don't! That's why my house is a mess!" But it has made me wonder if I should extend the scope of what I write about to more of my life.

I even started a new blog called 'Juggling with Joy' but then realised I should probably just add other topics to this one, as I don't have time to run two blogs! Especially since it would be in keeping with the title of this blog because my goal is to please God with all of my life.

So my hope is to include a wider variety of posts from now on, including other parts of my life such as homemaking, ministry, recipes, and of course continuing with the general Christian living that I already write about.

On the Bible reading side of things, I have finally finished going through Isaiah today. Last year I took a break from my usual habit of reading through the M'Cheyne Bible Calendar (which goes through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice in a year) to go through Isaiah with an in depth commentary.

I got tired of reading through Isaiah again and again and still not knowing what most of it meant, or to which time period it pointed! So I found a commentary that explained what I wanted to know, from the premillenial prophetic perspective.

Though it was hard work ploughing through the depths of Isaiah, reading and writing notes in my wide-margin Bible, I am very glad I have done it (so long as my wide margin Bible doesn't disappear and I have to do it all again!). Now I can read from there and will see the key notes explaining parts that are not so easily understood.

The commentary I used was very thorough and easy to read, and the author had read and quoted from other major commentators such as Vine, Jennings and Young. I would definitely recommend it if you want to understand more of the prophecies in Isaiah.

Now I can also go back to my beloved M'Cheyne Calendar :) I always come back to it because I love the fact that I'm continually reading through the more difficult parts of the Bible such as Leviticus and Numbers, because all Scripture is useful. But at the same time I am getting variety and other easier chapters along with it.

I think the Old Testament can be a bit like vegetables - they are good for you so you need to eat them, but it makes it a lot easier if you have some other food as well! The two chapters of New Testaments and Psalms that I read alongside give me the meat, potatoes and gravy :)

And in the meantime I need to finish this quilt - as the little baby is already a couple of weeks old!

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