Do You Feel Yourself Sufficient?

“Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the kingship of Narnia?” said Aslan.”I- I don’t think I do, Sir”, said Caspian. “I’m only a kid.”

“Good,” said Aslan. “If you had felt sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not.”

This was my daily reading a few days ago. The question ‘do you feel yourself sufficient?’ suddenly struck a chord with me. It was as if, Aslan (or God) himself were asking that question to me… For those of you who don’t know, over the last few years I have been on a process of exploration toward ordained ministry in the Church of England, and this has been a question that I have often asked myself – and it has been a question which I have often used to help me run away. The more I began to explore the call that I thought God was placing on my life, the more I allowed my insecurities, my narrow-mindedness, my weaknesses to get in the way. To stop me from moving forward.

I have struggled with issues surrounding self-esteem for the last 3 or so years. My lack of confidence in myself, and my own abilities/giftings has hindered me in so many ways. But this question ‘do you feel yourself sufficient?’ is one I have come face-to-face with several times. It is one that I come back to, again and again. For a long time, I knew that I had these insecurities, I knew that I lacked confidence, and I (falsely) believed this was the way things would always be, so I carried on, with that British ‘stiff upper lip’, pretending everything was fine. Until one day it hurt too much… The best decision I ever made, and probably the hardest, was to admit to a trusted friend what was really going on.

Since that day, I have lived in the promise that ‘strength is found in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). I have discovered, and more importantly accepted the things that make me ‘me’ and I have allowed God to reveal who he has made me to be. And now, I approach life, and particularly my calling toward ordination differently. Yes, I still struggle. And no, I don’t have it all together. But each day, I asked God to re-assure me of his love; to remind me of his faithfulness; to re-new his strength within me.

And now, looking toward the future, and discerning with others, what God is calling me to, I am once again reminded of that question. ‘Do you yourself feel sufficient?’ And what God tells us here is that it’s ok for the answer to be no. In fact, it’s better if the answer is no. Because in that insufficiency, God can work. Don’t let your insecurities hinder you, don’t hide behind your fears, but trust that God can do great things through those who love him (Romans 8:28).

Before I moved to London, someone said to me ‘if you want to walk on water, you have to have the faith to step out of the boat’. That phrase has stuck with me ever since. What’s holding you back today? As we spend time, this Lent, deepening our relationship with God, ask him to help you.

The best thing you can offer to the world is yourself! So be confident in who you are, because that is one amazing person! And allow God to work through you – molding and shaping you into the fullness of who he is calling you to be.

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A Heart for Home

“The story begins on an afternoon when Edmund and Lucy were stealing a few precious moments alone together. And of course they were talking about Narnia, which was the name of their own private and secret country. Most of us, I suppose, have a secret country, but for most of us it is only an imaginary country. Edmund and Lucy were luckier than other people in that respect. Their secret country was real. They had already visited it twice; not in a game or a dream but in reality. They had got there of course by Magic, which is the only of getting to Narnia. And a promise, or very nearly a promise, had been made them in Narnia itself that they would some day get back.”

I don’t know about you, but at the start of a new year I think to myself ‘I’m going to read my bible more’, or ‘I’m going to commit to reading a daily devotional’, or make some other commitment, which I know, months, weeks, maybe even days down the line, I fall out of practice on. I allow life to get in the way. But this year, I really am going to strive to commit to reading a daily devotional to aid my quiet time, and for that I am following ‘A year with Aslan’ – reflections on the well-known, and much-loved Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. And that is how I find myself here once more… Thinking aloud. Sharing my heart.

Today’s reading was the one I have quoted above, from the first chapter of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I love Lewis, and I love the stories of Narnia, but I must confess, I have never sat down and read them all start to finish (maybe that will be one of my other commitments this year!) I have a deep connection with these stories though, and Lewis’ writings have a beautiful way of resonating with my heart.

As I read this little snippet this afternoon, I started to think about ‘home’, and our need for it. I moved house a few months ago, and though I have moved quite a few times in the last 5 years, this move was different. I left behind my family ‘home’, and made a new ‘home’ with my husband. We moved to Wallasey – miles away from our families, a good distance away from the majority of our close friends, and moved into a new community, a new church, a completely new life (in some respects). And this took some adjusting to.

I have always had a need for home. I love things that are familiar, that are comfortable, that are safe. Ask me to step out of that, and I’m immediately apprehensive. And yet I have had to do that several times over the last year… So why did I do it? Well the simple answer is that God called me. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t easy at times, and I wasn’t always willing and obedient to follow that call, but something deep inside me knew I had to go, that I had to move, that I had to find a new place called ‘home’. Something Calum and I have come to realise over the last few months, is that, much like Jesus (and his disciples) in the gospel stories, our calling is going to take us away from things that are familiar, things that are comfortable and safe for us. Jesus asked his disciples to leave their families, to leave their jobs, to leave their homes; all to follow him.

As I think about that, I think about the fact, that no matter where we go, no matter how familiar, comfortable or safe we may feel, we are never really ‘home’. The very thought of it, as I sit here writing makes my heart skip a beat. But the truth is, we were made for somewhere else. All that we have here is temporary. For those of us who have chosen to follow the call of God, our hearts have a different heartbeat – a heartbeat that beats for heaven, a heartbeat that beats for home. And that heartbeat should be the rhythm of our lives. Our lives should reflect that heart that has been placed within us. And once we’ve grasped that, we can truly feel at ‘home’ wherever we may find ourselves because as the famous saying goes ‘home is where the heart is’, and our heart is with God.

The well that won’t run dry…

[Psalm. 51:7] Give me again the joy of your salvation and sustain me with your gracious spirit” 

[John. 4:13-14] Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life”

All who are thirsty – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoMS8FD3cD0

The service at church today focused on Jesus – the living water, and the passage was the one above from John’s Gospel. This, for me, came at just the right time. With the thought of Mission Week officially kicking off tomorrow, with over 20 events spread across the week, as well as doing my usual things of lectures, and uni work, 2 days a week working with Chaplaincy, and the added thing of a choir festival in Birmingham, the question of how I am going to get through it all, and not be absolutely exhausted at the end of it has been playing on my mind. Church gave me the answer today, and though it is a typical Sunday School answer, it still rings true – it’s all about Jesus!

Jesus is our sustenance. The question that was asked this morning is ‘How thirsty are you?’ ‘How thirsty are you to receive this eternal, life-giving water?’

As Mission Week is approaching, and the theme being ‘What do you live for?’, another question comes to mind – ‘what is it that sustains you?’ I have been really tired recently, and with everything going on, it can become all to easy to not look after yourself properly. Running around like a headless chicken, wearing yourself, to the point where you always feel tired is not good!  Quite often, we try and get by on our own strength, with our own abilities… and it can become all to easy to replace Jesus with these things in our lives. However, all these things, whatever they may be are only temporary, and make us long for more. This water (and this life) that Jesus is offering to us, is eternal. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is saying that he is this living water, that he is the one, and the only one that can sustain us and lead us to eternal life! Isn’t that amazing?! We don’t need to go it alone, battling on in our own strength, because Jesus offers to be our aid along the way, leading us to the Father.

The question is: are we thirsty enough to ask Jesus for this life-giving water? Whether it is for the first time or the thousandth time, Jesus still offers us this water.

As we approach Mission Week, we need to ask Jesus to be our sustenance. We need to realise what this week is all about, turning our motives and shifting our intentions to pointing to Jesus, and taking the attention away from us! The whole week is about showing Jesus to our campus and sharing him with those who do not yet know him. If we make it about us, then we are bound to fail. It can become all to easy to worry about how many people are coming to our events, and whether fruit is being produced from them. But this isn’t the point. It should be about pointing the way to Jesus, proclaiming his gospel, demonstrating his love, and offering this life-giving water to those who do not yet have it!

Spring of Life – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKCAQBoP1E0

Prayer: Lord Jesus, We come to you asking for that life-giving water that only you can offer. We ask for a fresh outpouring of your Spirit. We are sorry when we have sustained ourselves with other things that are not of you. We acknowledge that these are temporal things and once again turn to you. Creator, sustainer, redeemer, enter into our lives anew, granting to us the joy of your salvation, and filling us with that new and living water, from now, until forever. Amen

‘I am the bread of life…’ [John. 6:24-35]

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[John. 6:24-35] 

24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

Jesus the Bread of Life

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi,when did you get here?”

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[a]

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heavenand gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

This reading was the lectionary gospel reading last week and I heard two different sermons on it. One focused on the physical side and the other on the spiritual side. When I heard the first one, at first I was frustrated because I thought that the preacher had completely missed the point. All she seemed to be focusing on was the physical side, in that we need food to sustain us. This was the view that the crowd in the reading had had – they had witnessed the amazing miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 in the verses prior to this one but all that had happened is that they had full stomachs, not the faith to go with it…

But then in the second sermon I heard that day, focused a lot more on the spiritual side – that Jesus himself was the bread of life! The bread that Jesus is talking about in this reading is that which “comes down from heaven” and which “gives life to the world”. In John’s gospel this is exactly the same kind of language which is used to describe Jesus himself. He is the one that gives life to and sustains the world!

After what has been a very manic week for me, this idea of allowing God to sustain me just kept coming back to me over and over again! Sometimes we try to fill that void, whatever it may be with worldly, physical things. But the problem with that is, it is that ‘food’ that perishes. What Jesus is offering here is something eternal, something that endures.

When Jesus says that he is the “bread of life”, it means that he is God’s life-giving and life-sustaining gift to the world. We do not have to do anything to earn this gift. We only have to trust God and accept it freely. So today, don’t choose this ordinary, perishable food because you will constantly be wanting more. Ask for this life-giving and life-sustaining food that God offers through Jesus, so that you may never go hungry or thirsty again!

Are we just ‘talking the talk’? or are we ‘walking the walk’ too?

Recently I’ve been challenged about how I live my life as a Christian. Questions that I’ve particularly been thinking about are; ‘How would people know I was a Christian?’, ‘Do I demonstrate this in my life?’, ‘Do I reflect Jesus?’ etc.

Tonight at Chapel we looked at a passage from [Romans 15:14-21] and this idea was running through my head once again. How do we show that we are Christians to people that don’t know us, and also to people that don’t know God? In vs. 20, Paul says “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” This made me think about my life – where in my life is a place where Christ is not known? and how can I share the gospel with those people? or more importantly, am I sharing the gospel with those people? 

In 1 John it talks about how people know that we are Christians by the way that we love one another. But sometimes I don’t think we truly reflect Christ in our relationships. Sometimes we get caught up in cliques, gossip, ‘bitching’, etc. and to those on the outside, that doesn’t show anything different from a non-Christian lifestyle! 

Dot, Calum, Robert and I also focused on what it meant to share the gospel in both word and deed. What does that mean for us? I stumbled across a quote that sums it up quite nicely: 

“The most effective preaching comes from those who embody the things they are saying. They are their message… Christians need to look like what they are talking about…” (John Poulton)

It is about ‘walking the walk’, as much as it is about ‘talking the talk’. We may say that we are a Christian, and talk about what it is that “makes up” a Christian, but do our lives reflect that? What good is it, talking to someone about how you are a Christian, sharing how it shapes and changes your life, if you then go out and get really drunk, or behave in a way that is not in line with the ‘Christianity’ you are talking about, which you are a part of for example? It is about becoming more like Christ in everything that we do. Its about putting God at the centre of all that we do and all that we are and making our whole lives an act of worship to Him. It’s all about word and deed going hand-in-hand.

So where are the areas in your lives where Christ is not known? and are you sharing him in those areas? Do our lives reflect the God that we love and the God that loves us and has changed (and continues to change) our lives? It is about helping and showing those people the God that believes in them, even if they don’t necessarily believe in Him…  

Wait…Listen…Trust

I went to an Iona service at the Cathedral last night (led by my favourite purple-haired vicar!) and I was involved in some interesting discussions which posed me to think about these three things – waiting on God, listening to Him and trusting in Him. 

The passage was from Acts. 27:33-44. This we all decided was a bit of an odd passage and was hard to try and work it out without any context. But we focused on the idea of ‘the shipwreck’, not necessarily meant to be taken literally, but possibly to symbolise the ‘shipwrecks’ we go through in our lives. The bit that stuck out the most for me was how they decided to throw the wheat overboard rather than the prisoners. The centurion listened to Paul, and there must of been an element of trust there to do what Paul said because to throw the wheat instead of the prisoners would have been an unusual thing to do in those times. This made me think about who or what we listen to and put our trust in in our own lives…

Of course, the answer is God or should be at least. But I wonder how easy people find it to wait on God, to listen for Him speaking to us and to trust in Him completely, surrendering everything to him? I know I find it extremely hard! I become incredibly impatient, out of my comfort zone knowing that I don’t have control over things, and sometimes question whether God speaks me to at all? 

But we need to wait patiently on God, listening even more closely for Him to speak to us, and that can be a loud and clear message that is obvious from the outset, or it can be a tiny whisper, and we need to trust in Him completely, offering Him all that we have and all that we are, always responding to him with a ‘Yes, Lord’. 

The centurion listened and trusted Paul; Paul listened and trusted God. If we put God first we can’t go far wrong. He is our creator and our sustainer! He is all we need! 

Whatever you do… just keep running!

 

[Hebrews 12:1-2]

Last night at CU, the talk was on ‘Running the Race, and Keeping the Faith’. I love this passage from Hebrews, but this time something smacked me in the chest! For the first time, this passage was deeply personal. Matt, the guy who spoke to us had 3 points, with the overall focus to encourage the CU to keep running:

1. Listen to the Crowd

2. Drop the Weight

3. Focus on Christ

The first point of listening to the crowd meant a great deal to me. He gave the analogy of Wembley Stadium being full of ex-Olympians, who represent the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in vs. 1,  cheering the current ones on, and encouraging them to keep running.

When Matt was talking about this, the thought of my Grandpa kept slipping into my brain. He is now a part of that great cloud of witnesses cheering me on, telling me that whatever I do, I just need to keep on running!

At his funeral, with the stories of his life that were being told, this passage was clearly evidenced in my Grandpa’s life – this philosophy to keep running because the prize at the end is worth it all was how he lived his life. He always looked for the silver-lining as it were in every situation, saw the best in everyone, offering a second chance to anyone that needed it, a real demonstration of what it meant to forgive 70×7, as well as continuously encouraging people, particularly those close to him. We heard stories of how he brought 100s of boys into the Church through his involvement in the Boys Brigade, and that was something that just blew me away, and continues to blow me away daily.

Isn’t it amazing when you think you know someone, and you love them for who they are, to then find out they are even more amazing than you first knew?! He was a great encouragement to many in his life, and for me, he continues to be a massive encouragement to me, even though he has gone. But I know that he has joined that great cloud of witnesses that the writer of Hebrews talks about.

I want to live my life in a similar way to the way he lived his. For a Methodist, he was very forward-thinking and eager to try new things, particularly when it meant bringing young people in to the Church!

Now I know, that with every day, wherever I am on my journey with Christ, my Grandpa is stood in the stadium, with his gold medal saying “fix your eyes on Jesus and just keep running! I have tasted and seen the prize at the end and it’s amazing and well worth it all!”

That alleviates my fears, and gives me a new confidence to approach each new day, knowing that God is with me, and promises to be with me to the very end, and that I have a great cloud of witnesses, including my Grandpa supporting, and encouraging me through it all! All I need to remember is that I just need to keep running!