Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Guest Blogging Weekend!

This weekend is one of guest blogging for me! 
Yesterday, my experience of encouragement was included in a series Sophia Network are running throughout January.
And today, my thoughts on 'take a handful' can be read over at Anita's Blog - Dreaming Beneath the Spires.
Why don't you pop on over and have a look - and whilst you're there - have a look around their blogs as well - I recommend both of them!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The one with all the rain

Image Source
As I neared my destination, I sat in a queue waiting for the traffic lights to change. I stared out the window at the gloomy sky above.  Grey.  Everywhere.  It was miserable and it seemed to descend, not only as rain on the windscreen, but as a blanket of melancholy around my being.  My eyes searched for a glimmer of hope, but it was set to stay.

The lights changed and I pulled away, leaving my depressing thoughts to fall to the ground with the rain.

Yes, it was raining; Yes, it was miserable.  But, it wouldn't last forever!

My life of late has been like a grey day.  It has seemed as though clouds are being blown my way, one after another.  It has been difficult, and the rain has set in.

And yet, I have hope.

Because, behind the clouds, I know I can find the sun.  It doesn't cease to exist when the clouds come, but waits patiently behind, ready to shine through once again.  And the clouds, well, they wont last forever.  Their strength will fade, and soon disappear.

There are times in our lives when God seems distant, and we struggle to see him through our experiences.  We see the confusion, feel the hurt, hear the struggles - when all we really want to know, is that God is there. 

He is. Just as the sun rests behind the clouds on a rainy day, God remains.  He is always there.  He is constant.  He is faithful.  He never changes and will never leave us. 

If life is tough at the moment, can I remind you that God is there.  He knows what you are going through, and he cares.  He hasn't deserted you.  Cling on to the true Hope that can only be found in Jesus. 

The rain will stop, the clouds will pass, and the Son will shine though.

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Hang on in there!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Cheap as ... salt?

Over the last week I have posted several reflections on 'salt' from Matthew 5.  It has definitely been seasoning my thoughts!  And, as I received an email containing the latest edition of the GB Assemblies of God weekly E-News, it would seem I am not the only one ...

Ian Watson, member of the AoG National Leadership Team, shares his thoughts ... (copied with permission)

'Why Salt?

It is interesting in Matthew 5 that Jesus likens his followers to one of the cheapest items in the supermarket – Salt!

Is he suggesting that we are cheap or only equivalent to throw away stuff? Not at all, to liken us to salt is an incredible compliment. Why?

Well salt is concentrated, it only takes a little amount to make a big difference - the old term used is ‘a pinch of salt’. I’m convinced that Jesus is suggesting that we are far more influential than we think. Someone once said ‘One with God is a majority. God is into Synergy. One can put a hundred to flight and two can handle a thousand.’

Salt is also distinctive. As a child at school, I remember putting salt in the sugar bowl. Soon facial expression highlighted the distinctiveness. Distinctive is what we are called to be. The bible says do not let the world squeeze you into its mould.

Another benefit of salt is that it is a preservative. Once before freezers were in existence, meat used to be preserved by rubbing blocks of salt into the carcass of the animal, this in turn slowed down the process of decay. That is exactly the impact that God desires us to have in our world today. As we come into contact with people in a spiritual sense, we rub shoulders with them and something of our lifestyle should influence them. Jesus came into contact with Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, the woman caught in the act of adultery and he immediately brought change thus halting the process of decay.

In all the complexities and challenges of leadership we must never forget the simplicity and effectiveness of being salt that brings savour to blandness. Amen!'

Ian Watson
National Leadership Team
(10th January 2012)

So ... salt may be one of the cheapest products in the supermarket ... but the difference it makes is priceless!!  

Read my own reflections on Salt here and here.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The one with the candle

Last night, I lit a candle.

Nothing unusual, or even interesting there.  I often burn candles; I love the ambiance they help to create in my home.  The flickering, the scents ...

But last night something changed.  It can't have been the candle, for it had been lit several times previously.  Neither can it have been its position, as it sat on table that had been its home for a while.

Whispered Wish Candle
The change was in my reaction to the scent.  It irritated me.  In fact, it irritated me to such an extent that it had to be blown out.  But I had enjoyed it so much over Christmas.

Over Christmas.  I wondered.  Was that it?  That the candle had been experienced and enjoyed over the Christmas season, and now that was past?  Yes, that was it!  The scent that I had loved so much over Christmas, with its festivities and fun, now felt out of season.  It no longer danced with the lights on the tree as the Christmas music played.  Its 'magic' had gone.

'For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven ...' (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Seasons change.

The candle's season is over, and it needs to be put away.  I wonder how many other things in my life I need to put away?  What am I still holding on to that I need to let go of?  What has become 'out of season' and is now without purpose,  ineffective, restrictive and even irritating?

Which scents do I continue to burn, that mask the aroma of this new season?

What keeps me focusing on the past, diverting my eyes from the reality that God is doing a new thing?

What about you?

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The one with more salt

It occurred to me a few hours after posting my last blog that I may have rushed past a rather key point.

The post spoke about Christians being salt, and the necessity of getting out of the salt grinder in order to be effective in the world; after all, if the salt remains locked away in the grinder, its saltiness is pointless.

However, upon reflection, I feel I may have skimmed over something rather important. 

Woman carrying salt to prepare
I looked at the salt inside the clear glass grinder and considered the work that had taken place already.  You see, whilst I am pretty clueless in the whole area of salt preparation, the limited knowledge I do have tells me that the salt crystals are not simply picked from a tree and put in the container!  The white crystals, composed primarily of sodium chloride (yes, I googled it!) has to go through a rigourous process before being placed on our kitchen tables and sprinkled on our food.

To be honest, the table salt making process is of little interest to me.  So, other than to say, it takes a whole lot of time and effort, I will stop with the salt talk now.

Image Source
But, I do hope to be an effective Christian example to those I meet.  I would love my character, words and actions to propel people to seek Jesus for themselves.  My guess is that this wont just happen; it will require time and effort.  Time spent in the presence of God, allowing him to shape, season and purify and effort as I ensure each day is lived in such a way that this time is created. 

Time and effort - is God asking for more of this?

A short post today, because really, we all know it.  We cannot be effective on our own.  We need God to work in us and through us. We need him to make us 'salty'.


Thursday, 5 January 2012

The one with the salt


Last night, I lay awake thinking about salt.  Not the most exciting of thoughts really, until I realised that perhaps God wanted me to think his Word through in a bit more detail.  Had I missed something?

Yesterday's Bible reading plan led me to that all familiar passage in Matthew, that speaks of Christians being salt and light.  It is a portion of scripture that I know very well, and have spoken on several times in the past.  So, I admit, a fair amount of glossing took place.  I scanned over the words, eager to reach a less familiar scripture for God to speak to me through. My intention was good, I wanted to hear from God; to learn something new and insightful. 

But ... I think I missed the point!!

I picked up Tom Wright's 'The New Testament for Everyone' (brilliant by the way!) and re-read the passage:

'You're the salt of the earth!  But, if the salt becomes tasteless, how is it going to get salty again?  It's no good for anything.  You might as well throw it out and walk all over it.

You're the light of the world!  A city can't be hidden if it's on top of a hill.  People don't light a lamp and put it under a bucket; they put it on a lampstand.  Then it gives light to everybody in the house.  That's how you must shine your light in front of people!  Then they will see what wonderful things you do, and they'll give glory to your Father in Heaven.'' (Matthew 5:13-16)

It was the last verse that struck me as significant.  'That's how you must shine your light in front of people!'  In front of people?  Like a performance in a theatre?

Thinking this through, I backed up a little and thought about salt in this context.  How does this 'in front of people' fit with us being salt of the earth?  

And then, I thought of my salt grinder in the cupboard.  As a family we don't use salt that often, but I do like a bit of salt on my chips.  So, on the rare occasion chips are on the menu, the salt grinder comes out of the cupboard and is placed on the table.  The chips can then be seasoned to taste!  Yum!

But, in order for the salt to actually make a difference to the taste of my chips - it needs to come out of the grinder!  Nothing special happens when it is set free from the container, but it is ineffective all the time it is in there.  

It is the same with our example in the world.  We cannot expect to make a difference unless we get ourselves out of the grinder and into the community.  This isn't about a performance, a 'look at me, aren't I a good Christian', but it is about allowing people to see Jesus in us - so they can see 'what wonderful things we do - AND GIVE GLORY TO OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN!' 

Of course, we need to ensure we are salty, and that requires regular time spent with God, allowing him to season us - but then - let's get out there and make a difference - in our families, our neighbourhoods, our schools, places of work, churches, shopping centres, supermarket queues, Zumba classes ... you get the point!!  Anywhere and everywhere!!  

Prepared to be the salt of the earth?


Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The one with the big ask

Genesis 6 - 12.  I was already fairly familiar with the passages - Noah, the flood, the tower of Babel, and the introduction of Abram and his call.  Nothing shiny and new to read, and yet, this never stops God from revealing new insights or gentle reminders pertinent to our current situation, does it?  I love that.

Both Noah and Abram were asked to do some pretty big things by God.

Noah was asked to build a boat

'So God said to Noah, 'I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.  I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.  So make yourself an ark ...' (Genesis 6)

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+  Knowing that God was going to destroy the earth and the people - that must have been a lot to take on board and carry around.  I wonder how he reacted with his neighbour when he bumped into him putting the rubbish out at night?!

+  An ark?  We all know what the ark looks like - we have seen pictures!  But it would have been totally new to Noah.  An ark had never before been built, and God gave some pretty specific instructions regarding dimensions and materials! He had to follow God's directions perfectly.  No - yes ok God, but I will find a quicker and easier way to do it.  He was expected to follow the detailed instructions exactly.

+  It hadn't been raining!  There were no puddles, net alone flood warnings!  Actually, it is even possible that Noah may not have even seen rain before.  And yet, God commanded him to build a boat.  I think I might have felt just a little bit silly if it were me!!  (Ok, a lot!)

Building an ark was a big ask - and yet Noah was obedient. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The one where God didn't smirk

 God didn't smirk
(Genesis 3)

So, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree.  We all know the story.  The serpent convinced Eve it really wasn't that bad, and Eve caved.  She ate the fruit and then gave some to Adam to eat as well.  They both messed up.  God had told them not to, and they did.  Two children disobeying their Father's orders. (Here enters the fall of mankind ... but that is not what I want to draw out today)
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