Transformation

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Every day we have the opportunity to change. Changing our mindsets and attitudes eventually changes the state of our hearts and leads to transformation. Many of us like the idea of change but can’t seem to pull it off. I have worked alongside men and women seeking change for ten years and indeed have had my own battles with wanting transformation of the heart; it is not an easy quest.

This is where embracing Jesus Christ as a person and his way can lead us onto the path of transformation. Jesus walked the path of right living and so he knows how to do it therefore having an active relationship with him can direct us as we seek change.

Transformational change is a process and not a quick fix miracle cure. We often want the quick fix but we would miss the lessons on the way. The disciples who lived with Jesus went through a three year challenged to change process. Daily Jesus challenged them on attitudes and mindsets by modelling a different way to think and live. Working to renew our mind means working to a daily recovery action plan. This helps to set us free from old habits, attitudes and mindsets that are infiltrating our hearts and prayer is the icing on the cake.

By now you maybe asking where do I begin with designing a daily recovery plan. A great place is to become aware of what areas you would like to be changed. This can be done through prayerfully asking Jesus. Over the years I have asked Jesus to pin point areas where I need to soften in my heart to be more like him in my ways. If we notice what we dislike in others then realise we are probably acting the same. Then we have an area that could be transformed.

inspiration-again-1383695Daily taking one day at a time begin to practice living from a different platform. The teachings of Jesus and the New Testament form foundation for that platform. So get digging to see how Jesus dealt with life and do that. Ask questions of the Bible looking for the how to do mindset / attitude as you head out on the process.

Lasting transformation of the heart comes through Gods divine ability working on the inside and our engagement with that process in a practical way. Lets hot up our personal prayer life and watch our transformation begin.

Stay Onboard

boatHow do you keep your faith alive is a question I keep getting asked as I travel around speaking at various Churches and events. I have had times when I feel my faith has become weak but part of my personality is to keep pushing through regardless and after a time faith springs up again.

When I sat down to think through the question I recognised that faith can get knocked when we are hurt or when we are out of step with what God has been speaking to us. Suddenly we may feel and act defensively toward Gods people or God. Ultimately our hearts can become shutdown and we are unreachable.

The key to not letting the hurt take root on the inside is to speak to God immediately. Give him the problem to sort out. In this world things are going to happen that we won’t like but maybe there is a silver lining. I was recently sat with a woman who had lost her unborn baby. I was blown away when she said “maybe this is a silver lining for me here. I have to believe that to get me through.” Such a brave perspective through a difficult time. I notice that often God takes brick walls that we hit, difficult situations we face or relationship breakdowns to bring new life.

Three actions you can take to keep faith alive. Firstly hang out with other like-minded people. The Bible advises us “not to give up meeting together” for a reason. Be around people who believe the same things as you. I love hanging out with people who are Jesus focused and love listening to their stories of what he is calling them to do and opportunities they have had to share Gods love; it inspires faith in me. It is apparent that we are likely to become like those we hang out with. If you want to grow your faith then be around people who are living out faith.

Secondly cultivate time with God each day. The Bible advises us “to pray continually.” Prayer is not going to God with a list but it is the vehicle for developing our relationship. It is one of the ways that we “stir ourselves up in our most holy faith.” It would be strange if I only spoke to my husband or family when I wanted something we tend to chat and listen and share our hearts; that’s relationship. I learned to pray by listening to others, reading books, thinking about how Jesus prayed and others in the Bible and then doing it.

Allowing the Bible to lead and direct our thoughts and habits and relationships is vital to keeping our faith alive “all scripture is God breathed and useful.” If God has spoken and its written down that’s amazing I want to read and know Him through what He has said and allow His thoughts and ways permeate my life.

The book of James observes “a person who asks God for something and then doubts is like a wave thrown about on a sea.” They are not sure in their mind what they believe and then confusion can come leading to loss of faith. When we form a deep friendship with God we know whom he is and our eyes are firmly fixed on him. As we relax into God his peace comes in the most difficult of times and we are able to resist the temptation to walk away thereby strengthening our faith.

Anxious Solutions: Part Two

roseAs I sit and write this I am sat in Rwanda having travelled yesterday. Travel is always very stressful for me, not only the day, but in the lead up to it for at least three days before. I can feel all the mixed emotions kick in. So over the years I have discovered a practical way to manage myself. Travel for me means adventure, which I love. Also separation from the people and places I love. It means extra pressure, as the ministries I oversee in the UK don’t stop just because I am out of town

It is interesting to intentionally notice what brings us to the table of anxiety. Awareness is the key to not allowing anxiety to determine the course of our days. We all have difficult situations or days as we travel through life and it’s about finding small ways to manage ourselves during those days.

In the last article I recommended daily prayer as a means of giving over our anxieties to Jesus who is built to carry such things on our behalf taken from 1 Peter 5:7. There is also a great scripture in Psalm 55:22 “cast your burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain you; he shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” I love this it is filled with action on our part and then shows Gods role and why. That’s the power of having a devoted payer life.

There are several practical things that we can do to help ourselves when anxiety is trying to get a hold. I notice that structure and routine help my mind and therefore my actions. I work in a field where chaos and the darker side of life reign, so my personal life has the opposite, which means creating an organised environment and having lighter times and connecting with positive friendships each day to help me feel a lot calmer.

Over recent weeks I have been running a short distance everyday in the evening to bring routine in the chaos of transition, I find myself making lists not of what to do but what I will do each day. We shouldn’t under estimate the power of eating healthily and at regular intervals. Ditching the junk food and reducing sugar intake can help immensely so our blood sugars don’t bounce around too much helping us to.

Something my grandmother passed onto me was to stop and watch the flowers and enjoy the moment. For me that looks like taking a coffee at a set time, and tea in the afternoon at a set time on my own as much my schedule allows, each day this provides with me a margin of time to rest my mind and be.

When I feel the presence of stress or pressure I notice that I tend to get very whizzy in my thoughts and actions, some may think I am having a highly creative moment but really it’s a stress reaction. Switching off the tv, taking a break from social media and computer devises allows me to gain perspective without extra voices directing my thoughts and emotions; getting down time is really important in the age of connectivity. This is where having times of booked in gym sessions will release all of that and clear my mind completely allowing my mind and body to come back to normal rhythm.

If you remember nothing else, establishing a rhythm for life that works with your personalities, could be the way of finding your freedom from anxiety. Don Egan whom I work with has written a small booklet “Rhythm of Life” which goes into more detail about the how to gain peace on the inside when the outside is difficult.

You can order the Rhythm of Life booklet from RSVP here.
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LEVELS OF FREEDOM

Freedom pillar Apartheid museumI have noticed that there are levels of freedom from addiction. We can set ourselves free from using the substance or drug of our choice; that is one level. Then there are the layers that have to be peeled back by asking questions such as ‘why did I do that?’ or ‘why am I vulnerable to addictive patterns of behavior in my life?’

I strongly believe that Jesus has the ability to set us free in the blink of an eye. This was my own experience but then I had all the under-the-surface pain and anger to look at. I have read lots of books and articles, and listened to talks about how to deal with the root of addiction, yet nothing seems to help. The pain and anger are still present and they raise their ugly heads from time to time and, without a sunstone to sooth that pain, the feelings are overwhelming at times.

In the end, I did the same thing as I did when I prayed for Jesus to set me free from alcohol. I knelt down and spoke to Jesus about the pain and the anger and I asked Him if He could show me the root of that anguish and bring healing and transformation to my heart, mind, and emotions. Within a day, as I gently allowed time for Him to speak to me, He revealed the original wound so that I could pour some prayer into the area. It is our prayers and the prayers of others that gives Jesus access to the root to make way for the next level of healing.

Healing can be a process that happens as we draw close to the spirit of Jesus. We may get clean of an addiction to a substance or a drug, but then we need inner healing on the hidden darkness in each of us. I believe the Bible when it says that Jesus heals all our diseases (Psalm 103:3). He transforms our darkness, painful past, and original wounds, and He bestows His presence into those areas bringing the abundant life (John10: 10).

When the healing comes, it is often in a twinkling of an eye but we may have been praying for it for many years. Suddenly, inner peace comes and we are able to forgive, we are able to let the pain and the anger fade as God draws the dark places inside us into the light—the light of His glorious truth.

Jesus invites us to go to Him with anything and He will quench our thirst if we draw from Him as a resource—and we will no longer be thirsty (John 7: 38). Let’s get prepared to receive levels of freedom. Come and drink of the spirit of Jesus and we will not get thirsty. Let the savior of the world quench the thirst of our cravings / loneliness / anger/ pain and bring healing and love to our mortal bodies.

Anxious Solutions: Part One

benchI thought I would write a few thoughts down about this huge topic. As we walk through life we meet all sorts of people and have all sorts of situations around us. This means we will encounter stress and anxiety so rather than try and avoid people and places I have found it helpful to have a plan to counteract stress before anxiety begins to take hold. Over the years it is Gods presence that has help me to handle anxious moments when they come.

Earlier this week I spent some time chatting about how I have learned to handle anxiety with a woman that I help to mentor. What I have discovered over the years however we try to eliminate encountering stressful situations they will still come. Often out the blue anxiety will creep on us. It is the constant drip that builds into a collapsed person.

A few years back I got so unwell from being exposed to chronic stress that it began to affect my body physically until I had full on adrenal collapse. I had no control over this and it took two years for my body to recover. I was left with the warning from professionals that I had to change my lifestyle. Being in the throws of ministry this has been a challenge. I have to live a calmer life and mostly practise not carrying others problems in my own heart and mind. So I have to work mental and physical boundaries to the max.

Anxiety is the product of fear. So when I have the feelings of dread, nausea or panic begin to come I ask myself what is it that I am afraid of and does the apprehension come from a rational thought or from a perceived thought. So the second question to ask is what is the fear based in reality or not. If it is a real fear coming as a waning then we need to stop do something about it. However if it is not then we must lay the fear down somewhere. The state of stress can be made worse if we hold the fear inside ourselves like its a precious secret that we need to keep but it is actually something that can take hold and seek to effect other areas of life including relationships.

Fear is sneaky and at it’s best at nighttime when it is dark and when we are alone so the third question to ask is who can I share this with so we are not isolated in the situation. It is helpful as another voice will bring a different and maybe the rational voice we need to hear.

The most important thought I have on anxiety is to bring everything to God the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus claimed in the Bible that we should “put all our cares and burdens of him as he cares for us” he recommends that we don’t worry and uses the birds of the air as an analogy pointing out that they are provided for and looked after so why do we worry about what will happen all the time.

When we allow anxiety to come and be a friend life may pass us by, as we are too busy caught up in the worry. Having a relationship with God through prayer will help ease any anxiety we maybe carrying. If we pray daily about the things that concern us each day placing them at the feet of Jesus then He can carry those burdens on our behalf and we can walk in peace even in the midst of very difficult and sometimes traumatic situations. God’s peace can rule our heart. As we pray the sacred peace invades us and anxiety, stress and worry diminish – they loose their grip.

So spend a few moments with God in the quiet and let him bring quiet to your heart and mind each day.

Take A Break

1444868_24714299We have all been exposed to teaching either by reading books or hearing sermons about doing more, serving more and it would be true to say that some need to find their unique God gift and get operational with it. However for others we need to learn to take a break. If we are not careful in developing break times and times off, then we will indeed break others and ourselves.

I always remember my parents being what I thought was a slightly strict with the “you can’t go out and play tonight” or at the weekends the no word would come out again. I can now see what was happening they were observing that I would need to rest to be able to function all the other days.

Most of my ideas, creativity, hearing God comes from when I am on a break. The break can be five minutes or a day it makes no odds, the point I’m making is to down tools and take a break. In other words when we stop the doing and trying to make things work often God can pop an idea or brings things to our attention; our mind is free and not filled with clutter. Clutter can come in many forms.

As an introvert (energised by being alone) personally I find events the most draining and often Churches & organisations love events. So I spend the majority of my time being in a box that I don’t fit into. However I have found a way to bring the balance I need by creating margins of space around events.

If you lean more to the extrovert (energised by being with people) then you gain synergy and creativity from the people you are around which is great. Maybe you will need margins of people contact around times of solitude to create energy. We need both in the world, introvert and extrovert, the key is allowing each other to be ourselves.

With regards to how to take the break we may need to be creative / flexible as we live in a world where identity is wrapped up in the word “busyness”. I often like to do some gardening to clear my head or have a bike ride in the evening. Sport such as running and belonging to a gym have been a personal rhythm that I have been using for the past twenty years. I have noticed that when I do something practical it gives me a chance to open the window on creativity in the spiritual.

Your window maybe different but I would encourage you to open it. Jesus often took a break from the people who were always waiting to see him. He would rise early in the morning to go and find a place of solitude to pray.

When we pray we are stopping to disconnect from all we do to connect in the spiritual and in the stopping peace, wisdom and refreshment come.

Fire Brand

1421116_12292469 When we first encountered God we had an excitement, a passion, a fire that burned on the inside. I know I did. This fire creates radical change and growth of a person. Immediately I left my old lifestyle and moved into the pursuit of relationship with God above all else. I made personal sacrifices to follow Jesus and His leading in my life. Nothing else mattered. Overtime we can become dulled to the presence and activity of God in our lives; taking Him for granted with maybe no personal cost. The Bible calls this lukewarm in the book of Revelation 3:14-21 “So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

We read of the Holy Spirit challenging the Church for neglecting their passion for God. Yet despite the rebuke Jesus is standing knocking at the door of our Churches and our hearts wanting to come in. Where we have become lukewarm Jesus wants to come to revive the fire again and bring revival to us personally and that in turn will bring revival for nations. Passionate people live extra ordinary lives for the gospel where sacrificial living becomes the normal when personal revival comes.

To pursue God is not an easy path to walk. It carries the cost of surrender, a lying down of the old to birth the new. It brings a “broken and contrite spirit” Psalm 51:17 a renewed awareness of the need for Gods presence, an awareness of shame, sin, an exposing poor attitudes and behaviour that doesn’t reflect Christ. Living and thinking without Gods presence in our daily lives causes us to weep with remorse when the fire of God comes. We feel undone but all of this draws us to cling to God who loves us deeply and wants to heal our lives and land.

Revivals that reach the lost have happened throughout the centuries. What if we all had a personal revival that would impact our nations? Are we ready for a visitation of God across our lands? Revivals of the past have a thread that flows throughout them, prayer; a compulsion to push deeply into God. Seeking the face of God through prayer brings a release of holiness in a person, healing, forgiveness, restoration, freedom, right living suddenly become a way of life but it is not by our achievement but by a supernatural intervention. Revival comes as faith becomes seen and God is glorified.

As we draw close to God he will draw close to us bringing personal revival. Be on fire with God and not lukewarm. People on fire with God are shakers and movers who bring transformation to broken communities they turn injustice on its upside down and bring heal nations. Fire brands live extra ordinary lives because they have opened the door to God.

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Set Yourself Free

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Sometimes I wonder who is running my life? I like to think that I am living according to Gods plans and purpose for me. But often find myself being led down a path where I have no desire to go listening to the opinion and thoughts of people more than God then find myself doing the things they have suggested. I think the phrase is people pleasing.

God speaks clearly in the Bible about not pleasing people but by living according His ways
“the fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25

So how do we extract ourselves from this destructive habit? I think it’s great when we have a light bulb moment so we are able to recognise what is happening. What I have noticed is that when I don’t have a clear sense of who I am or where my focus is heading then at very moment I am vulnerable to the misleading of well-intentioned people popping ideas into my head. My husband often points out to me that people will always want us be like them and try and steer our lives to look similar which makes sense when you sit back in observation.

Knowing who we are and being secure in our relationship with God is a good foundation to have in place when trying to break the people pleasing habit. Over the years I have been on holidays I didn’t wish to go on, accepted jobs in the past I didn’t want to do and then shared houses with people I didn’t even like all in the name of people pleasing. I can smile as I look back but at the time it caused a lot of chaos and pain.

This is where devoting myself to following God and his calling on my life has been the best thing I have ever done. Through learning about my true identity and destiny in God I realised that I am made in his design and therefore he knows the best paths for to take and who with so really I need to take more notice of what he says and where he leads rather than people who may assume to know me. But really who can know our innermost being apart from our creator?

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:13 – 16

So the tools I use to arrest any people pleasing habit that rears its head have been to be confident and secure in who I am as a woman, be sure of where I am heading so living by vision rather than circumstance and letting God influence me more than people and to have the courage to say “No” trusting my own intuition and Gods leading in my life.

Like any other addiction/ habit we must look underneath the why we develop certain behaviours and work on bringing healing to those places inside us along with practising sobriety from the habit we are trying to break.

Distractions

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One challenge I face in life is being distracted or allowing distractions to influence my path. So I have been pondering how to help myself in this area. Sadly it has taken me getting to the point of being so frustrated and anxious that I really have to do something now. Every week demands get more not less so we have to find a way though. I am sure I am not the only one facing this.

Having thought and looked from different angles as to whether it is people, places or situations that cause me to get so distracted I end up achieving nothing some weeks. I have come to the conclusion that it is actually myself at the root of the problem. So even that is hard to hear it actually means I can do something about it.

Firstly it is important to say that I am not feeling down on myself and neither should you. I recognise I get distracted due to having a big heart of compassion and kindness. God flows through this gift to bring his kingdom but I do not think it is his plan that we are destroyed through the gift it is supposed to be a blessing. I also have another mixed blessing in my personality, I am highly spontaneous and I have to work on guarding that side of my nature. The positive side of spontaneity is that I can be very creative and open to functioning out of the box.

Avoiding the distraction pit requires a few boundaries and self-respect of those boundaries to be put in place. It is important to recognise that we are not responsible for other people’s actions, words or lives. Being in ministry can be a mixed bag sometimes as we often feel the pain of others and want to help. Actually it is the one in need who can help them and it is up to God to grow the seed of faith planted in someone. As leaders we may carry a sense of over responsibility toward others that can cause us to be distracted. It is vital we reflect regularly on the fact that it is Gods mission, Gods ministry and His Church so He is responsible we just get to witness some amazing Kingdom things happening sometimes.

Time boundaries are the main thing to work on and then implementing them. For example I like to write, study and think in the mornings so no point having appointments to see people first thing. The reality is though I always have appointments in the morning as it is always more convenient for the other person. I seem to believe when we are in ministry it is always people’s needs above mine which of course is a false economy as when I meet them I am exhausted before I have begun as am functioning outside my preferred rhythm.

So planning time and listening to our energy zone is vital. I know this is not always possible but even Jesus managed his time wisely by getting up early to go and pray or knowing when he needed space and heading to the other shore even though the people were wanting to see him.

The second area to work on could be living by vision rather than “I ought to.” Each year I tend to sketch out a plan for what God maybe calling me to do this year and then also some things I have a desire to do and not all spiritual things either. Once I have the focus for the year then I have a target to hit. The how to get there can be flexible but the vision should direct how I use my time, friendships, who I spend time with, places I travel to, what I read and so on. I have done it the other way of letting the year unfold but as I can get distracted so easily I get to the end of that year look back and think I have just lived everybody else’s vision. A clear sense of direction is vital for purposeful living, leading others and our own self-esteem.

So to ease frustration and anxiety I am going to deal with the root of being distracted, myself and bring discipline to the area of time, boundaries and vision. If you can sit down and have a think, your areas of distraction may be different and you may need to pay attention to different areas in your life.

A great couple of questions to ask to kick off this process are :-

Am I investing in what God has called me to do this year?

What changes do I need to make to determine the course of this season?

I would be really interested to hear from you on how you handle this challenging problem that many of us are facing. So email me any tips and pointers that I can share with others.

The Art of Caring

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Caring for others is at the heart of the New Testament teachings of Jesus. If we read the life story of Jesus he was always interacting and caring for others. In the book of John we see him “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another John 13:34-35. To care could mean to notice someone or a cause that needs attention, exploring how to engage and then doing it; love has a voice and is active.

The ability to care is a gift or an art that is developed often through life’s losses or painful situations that we have wrestled with. As we have experiences in life we can engage with others who pass through what one of the Beatles song refers to as “the long and winding road” that leads into eternity. What matters on this road that we all travel is not what we achieve or gain but rather how many people’s lives we touch with kindness as we offer the gift we are holding; the ability to care.

I was once asked by someone who was probing me about the reasons for addiction in a person’s life “what is it you want more of?” If we can answer that question then we may have identified the root of our addictive tendencies. As I wrestled for truth in my heart to answer the question I found myself replying, “to be loved.”

To be loved is a natural inbuilt desire and basic human need. So the art of caring and the need to be loved are a match one meets the other and brings healing to the soul. This is the ministry that Jesus was modelling for us as he walked the earth as we read his story he demonstrated love by caring. What I have learned over many years of leading a mercy ministry that reaches out and touches lives is this. As we care for others we are ourselves find healing and meaning in this life.

If we really desire to walk and follow Jesus then we can begin to care deeply for others as he did. We must remember that to be authentic love must have a voice and be active, which is so much more than a feeling.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:4