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.

Friday, 24 April 2015

The One with the Conflict (updated in memory of Sam Yates)

(Originally posted on 15th January 2013)

I stood at the crossing- coat zipped, hood up, headphones on - staring straight through the traffic that passed by at speed.  Each car came with a gust of wind that blew cold into my face, but still I stood, perfectly motionless, eyes fixed firmly on the other side, where my journey would soon continue.

I thought I heard God. Nothing loud. Nothing clear.  But a tiny, quiet whisper, almost drowned out with the noise of the traffic.

'What if the blur that stood between you and your fixed destination mattered to me?'  I thought of the people in the cars, heading out to collect the kids from school, going to the shops, carrying out their work, visiting friends.

Waiting for the lights to change, I thought: Was God reminding me that there was a hurting world out there, that can so often be forgotten about as we focus on our own plans and purpose? Had I become a bit preoccupied with my own desires at the expense of those around me? We are told to go into the world, make disciples, teach, correct, love and serve others - had I lost sight of this?

The lights remained the same. My thoughts concerned me. Had my life become too much about me?

And still I stood, staring into the distance. And then I thought I heard God. Nothing loud. Nothing clear. But a tiny, quiet whisper, almost drowned out with the noise of the traffic.

'What if the blur that stood between you and your fixed destination remained firm in my hands and would continue without you?' I thought of the people in the cars and their determination to arrive at their own destination, whatever that may be. And the likelihood of this happening without me interfering.

Still waiting for the lights to change, I thought: Was God reminding me that He is in control, not me.  Had I become a bit too preoccupied with what goes on around me - in my family, in church, in the community - at the expense of taking time out and enjoying God's presence?  Even Jesus at times withdrew from 'stuff' to spend time with his Father.

The lights remained the same. And again, my thoughts concerned me. Had my life become too much about my 'doing' - my involvement in what goes on around me?

The lights changed and I continued my journey.  Confusion!  Had God spoken to me?  Had he dropped a few simple thoughts into my mind and heart to teach, challenge and develop me?  I want to say 'yes' - but would that be foolish?  After all they seem to be in conflict with each other! Could God be nudging me to focus more on those around me AND take more time out to spend with him?

God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path and yet it seems to illuminate two different directions!  How can I walk both paths at once?


* Sunday night I experienced the same. A pulling in two different directions. Unsure which way to turn.

I should pray for God's will.  'Your Kingdom come, your will be done ...'  He sees the big picture, of course I should pray for God to have his way, his will, to do what he wants in the situation. For his plan and purpose to be fulfilled.

But I wanted him to hear my heart's desire and that of so many others. That is okay isn't it?  'Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart'  Please God, please.

But what if, on this occasion, these two approaches weren't in harmony? What if God's will and my desire were in conflict with each other? What then?

Could I be so bold as to focus on the story of the persistent widow and try to 'change' God's mind?  God, I really want this to happen. You can do it. You can perform a miracle. You can restore health. You are a powerful and loving God. Surely you hear the cries of our heart?

Frustration, disappointment, pain, anger ... but deep down, the underlying truth is that I know God knows best.

What can we do when we are caught in the middle of a laser show with lights directing us in many different directions?  I don't have the answer. I struggle with it. I can see 'A' makes sense - I can see 'B' makes sense.  Neither go directly against scripture and both seem right.

But I do believe that God directs the path of the righteous and to me that speaks of movement. A path goes somewhere. So, I guess the only wisdom I can offer in situations like these is to pick a path and see where it takes you and trust that God will direct each step until you are walking in his perfect plan for your life.

Sometimes it is true that both or all directions are right, it's just a matter of balance and keeping God involved and being prepared to change direction when he tells us to! Maybe that is what God was saying to me at the crossing?

And perhaps on Sunday night it was more about being persistent in prayer, in dwelling with the Creator God, than choosing the 'correct' approach? I will still pray and I will still believe!

(Updated) * That Sunday we prayed for a beautiful young woman and much loved friend Sam Yates to receive a miracle in the form of new lungs. Sadly, this didn't happen and on the 14th April 2013 Sam lost her battle with Cystic Fibrosis. Beautiful Sam is now breathing easy, and dancing around in the presence of her Saviour Jesus. Whilst she is and always will be so incredibly missed, we still have to believe that God knows best. This is hard. But the legacy that Sam left will change lives here on earth. She fought hard and selflessly to raise awareness of organ donation, in order to significantly increase the life span and quality of others. Two years on and that legacy still continues in many different ways - (one of which is a short documentary called 'A Love Worth Giving' directed by James Newton - please check it out - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jamesnewton/a-love-worth-giving )

She really was a unique individual whose short life will always impact this world! Help raise organ donation awareness - sign the register and speak to your loved ones about it.

Sam, your love, your trust in Jesus, and your passion for life has and always will be an inspiration xx

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Death of Joy

We had our sixth meeting as LifePoint yesterday and for the first time it felt like 'church' to me. This isn't to say that the other meetings hadn't actually been church - far from it - church has happened through our 'normal' services, through Messy Church, and through our Costa gatherings; Church has happened whenever we have met together. But yesterday felt different.

Why?  Well, I have been trying to figure it out all day today. Because the truth is nothing different really happened. We met together, prayed, worshiped in song, gave notices (it can't be church without notices!!), got kids involved, shared communion, gave a sermon, and had tea and coffee afterwards. You know, the usual church kind of things!

But something had changed. It felt right. It felt purposeful. It felt like church.

So what changed? It wasn't the structure, the place, the people, and it certainly wasn't God. Therefore, it must have been me.

I have come to the conclusion that it felt right for the first time yesterday because of a change in my expectation, attitude and focus on the vision that God has given for LifePoint.

You see, I have found it very difficult to let go of my previous experience of church and this has impacted the way I encounter church now. Holding onto history has held me back and gnawed away at my passion to see the love of God impact and transform those God has called us to work with. I have hesitated when I should have obeyed and doubted when I should have trusted.

God has a new purpose and plan for my life, and a new community for me to love and serve, and this should have been at the forefront of my mind. Instead I have spent too much time looking back and comparing.

God said: 'See, I'm doing a new thing!'
Jo subconsciously replied: 'Great, as long as it is the same as before!!'

Mark Twain stated - 'Comparison is the death of joy'. How true! I have been doing far too much comparing, and this really has robbed me of the joy that comes with being in the will of God, especially when it comes to my experience of being church.

I love my previous church, and I always will, but continually measuring LifePoint up against it will only cloud my vision and dampen my passion to see the vision fulfilled.

How do we stop comparing? We look forward not back. We guard our thoughts. We stop dwelling in arenas that tie us up in history. We change our language from 'when we were' to 'now we are'. We thank God for the past, walk in the present, and celebrate the future.

Yesterday felt like church. A new church. A new way of doing things. A new purpose. A new community. A community of wonderful people meeting together in the presence of God to worship, encourage, inspire and to love.



My new family and my new home.

If God is doing a new thing in your life - embrace it - he knows what he is doing! New wine needs to go in new wineskins! 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Beautiful Imperfections!

 After months (actually, years) of planning, prayer and perspiration we launched LifePoint on the 11th January 2015.

We rushed around setting things up (wow - I never realised how easy we had it before - owning our own building!!), ran sound checks, put plenty of chairs out, laid the communion table, put on our 'Welcome' lanyards, and made sure the foyer came alive with the sound of music (ah-ah-ah-ah!)

Now, if you know me, you will know that I love to plan and have a very clear idea of how things should look, sound, and feel in my mind. I had it all sorted. The team had it all sorted. And I trusted that above all God had it all sorted!

And I waited with excitement and nerves energetically dancing around with each other.

Slowly, people came (phew!!) - and I am truly thankful to those that turned up to support us for our first service.

With absolute wonder at the faithfulness of God, who dropped this church in our hearts and minds years ago, the sound of the first 'Welcome to LifePoint' filled the hall. Wow. Awesome. It has happened! Thank you Jesus!

And so, onwards and upwards from here, right? We had been faithful to God's call to plant this church, facing many struggles and hurts and difficulties along the way, surely this would now be a blessed adventure?! A reward for our battle!

But ... as the service went on, the sense of excitement lessened as disappointment gathered momentum. I checked the 'LifePoint' area of my mind - but this looked different. This sounded different. This felt different. What was going on? Why was it all going wrong?

The high hopes, the expectations, the adrenalin ... crashed. I felt a failure. I felt I had let people down. Most importantly, I felt I had let God down. It hadn't been the perfect service I had wanted to give him for his glory.

With such a heavy heart, I drove home.

And then, one by one, in different forms, the messages came.

The messages of excitement. The messages of belonging. The messages of hope. The messages of enjoyment. The messages of wonder. The messages of thankfulness. The messages of God speaking into broken lives.

And there I learnt, despite how I felt it went, God was still there, God still spoke, and God still touched lives. God worked through the imperfect. 

Wow. My disappointment evaporated and my heart began to rejoice.

My perfect God doesn't need perfection.

People don't need perfection.

This is real life, a life that encompasses mess, confusion, hurt, anger, pain ... sin.

And this is real life, life that God loves to speak into, with ALL it's imperfections, to love, to forgive, to bless, and to transform. The imperfect that will one day become perfect in Him.

God, take the imperfect, that's all we have, and use it to show your perfect love to others.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Goodbye, Hello, and Help!

Goodbye comfort. Goodbye security. Goodbye friends. Goodbye church building and polished services.

This month I left all I have ever known as church after becoming a Christian 27 years ago. This church was my spiritual home, place of development, where I felt called into the ministry, my friends, my family, my life. I gave all I had to it and I gave all I was to it. I loved it (and I still do).

But, when God calls - we have to go right? It's Simple.

Although, in all honesty, it never was that simple. I questioned, I fought, I struggled; I was stubborn and scared. I never doubted God's voice, but doubted his plan! Did he really know what he was doing? Did he really think I was up to it? Did he really want me ripped away from all I knew and loved to start something totally new?! But I knew ... it was time to practice what I preach and put my trust in him.

And so:

Hello discomfort, Hello unknown. Hello loneliness. Hello a whole new way of being church!


                        Hello church planting.

                        Hello LifePoint Church. 

                        Hello to a new adventure.

And Hello to a new blog series (well, that's the intention) as I try and work out, walk out and live out all it means to be church in a new community, with a new team, and a new leadership responsibility.

I haven't got it all together - in fact - I'm secretly (well, not so secretly now!) freaking, but I will continue to put my feet down where I believe God is leading and trust he will equip me to serve him as he reveals his plan in all this crazyness!! Prayers always appreciated!

What have I learnt so far?

* That it is possible to love a community of people whilst they are pretty much still strangers.

* That God often reveals the big picture, but waits for us to step out before revealing the details.

* That not all Christians will be behind you.

* That God sends support and encouragement in the most obscure ways!

* That God loves to speak to imperfect people through imperfect people.

The journey has started ... come along with me, it would be great to have companions!


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