Last night was our third Leaders Community gathering since we launched in September. As an elders team we really felt this was an area God was prompting us to prioritise and be intentional about, that is an integral part of what is needed if we are to move forward into everything God has for us as a church family.
In light of our theme “Lean In” this year, we connected, worshipped, discussed and prayed around what leaning in meant for our leadership and how we help those we lead and do life with to lean in as well. As I was preparing for the evening, God gave me a picture that I’d love to share with you.
The picture was of a rugby field, with players running around with the same end goal in mind - to win - but operating in their individual roles. They all had specific jobs to do but at certain points there was a need to all come together as a scrum to drive the game forward.
We, you and I, are like those players. We all have individual roles and spaces but our goal, I hope, is the same. Our God given mission is to BUILD the church. Whether you are sharing the gospel, raising children to love God, being salt and light in your work places or taking someone out for coffee. Whether you are evangelising, making disciples, serving, encouraging, worshipping, teaching, learning or resting - it is all for one reason. To build His Church, the Bride.
The times where we have to all come together to lean in and push forward are when we form a scrum. Every member of the team is needed. You are needed. No matter your experience, your gift, whether you are on the rota or whether you feel like you will make any difference - everyone is needed. And all of them is needed. In a scrum, the players pushing forward are using their whole selves, every ounce of energy and strength. And there are those on the outside, ready waiting to anticipate, support and run when needed. Not one person is a spare part.
You are not a spare part.
I have felt God challenging to me to be all in - to use everything at my disposal to build his church. To not be passive but to engage, to lean in with all I have. He’s been showing me the times I am sitting on the sidelines opting out, where I am not offering all I am and all I have. I don’t think this is necessarily about doing more and giving more - but just being willing to give what we have and if that looks like measly scraps then that’s enough and God can multiply it into being more than enough.
I wonder what a Sunday morning would feel like, what our homes, the school gates, our workplaces, our relationships would be like if we lent in with our whole selves..
I think it would feel like we were building the church and bringing His kingdom to earth.
This morning was a fairly typical morning in the Moore household. I sat down to do a 10 minute devotional from IF:Equip and got about half way through before Martha wanted a story and/or Rupert needed feeding. This is what life is like with two little ones. There isn't much time. Life is hectic, fast, messy and also brilliant fun. It is hard to remember let alone find time to do a quiet time. It is tricky to engage in church whilst keeping an eye on toddlers running around or keeping babies quiet. It would be easier to disengage and feel guilty that church and faith sometimes doesn't "feel" like it used to. Something has changed and it can be easy to think it is God rather than the season we are in.
I relayed this story to a friend and she replied, "yup, they don't call it the black years for nothing!" and I instantly wanted to reject that name. The black years. How many times do we name a season negatively and then live as if there is truth in that name?
Friends, I don't know what life is throwing at you during this time. Maybe you are tired. Perhaps you are grieving. Disillusioned? Disappointed? Doubting? Whatever it is you are going through at the moment, God is still God. He is BIG enough for all the emotions, all the turbulence, all the surprises we are dealt. And He can still move. Whether it feels like He is or not. We can trust Him to be God in the good times and the bad. The happy and sad. The colourful and the black.
There is a beautiful chorus in the "Desert song" by Hillsong that goes...
"All of my life, in every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship"
What ever the colour of your season, we still have reasons to worship. So let's not sit back, let's stand up. Let's not back off but lean in. Let's remind ourselves that He is still God and big enough for where we find ourselves.
I am a few months in to being a mother of two and I have just about caught my breath. There have been situations and circumstances that have made this adjustment just that little bit harder but it finally feels like we are getting the hang of it. At least, there are hours (sometimes maybe a day) where I think I have it all together and I am coping well. And then something happens... my eczema flares up, we get a set back on our plans, the children get ill, someone asks something of me that is more than I can give and then I am not so much coping but surviving. The guilt sets in and I am ashamed to say that for this season I. Am. Not. Coping.
You see, I have always prided myself on the fact that I can get on with things, that I keep going, that I cope. So it was a bit of a shock to learn that suddenly I cannot do all of this by myself. Of course this isn't the first thing I have found difficult. There have been tricky times before but I've got through them. And therein lies the problem. I. I have got through them. At least that is what I seem to have been telling myself. God is definitely trying to teach me a lesson here that I have, (excuse my bluntness) been too thick to learn. This time round, despite dusting myself off after each fall, the punches have kept on rolling and I am feeling done in. In this season I am having to accept help, to learn to rest, to say no and put things down. I have had to reassess priorities and put boundaries in.
And I am still wrestling with this lesson.
But despite feeling shame in not being able to do it all, although I worry what asking for help says about me. God is reminding me that there is no pride in being able to do it all, no badge of honour for being so independent you don't need anyone else. Instead He tells us that His power is made perfect in our weakness and that we should boast all the more gladly in our weaknesses so that His power can work through us (1 Corinthians 12v9). In fact, Jesus said we are blessed if we are poor in spirit (Matthew 5). It is not for us to hold it all together, to do it all in our own strength, priding ourselves on being independent and ok. It was never the point. We were designed to need each other. To need him. That's how the body works, we need each part to function like we were created to. We were never created to go it alone. Phew!
So when we can be brave enough to show up and take the risk to expose what is really going on for us, not only can we experience true community as we ask others to stand with us in it. But we also allow God to be who is he is meant to be. Our God. Our Father. Our comforter. Our provider. Our councillor. Our strength.
Freedom within boundaries
I have been watching my 2 yr old daughter Martha walk round the kitchen, mainly talking gobble-de-gook to herself, hearing her repeat phrases that I must say a million times a day that she has picked up. "Right", "so", "that's it, good girl", all hilarious little conversations between her and her baby that mimic our daily dialogue. But then I am caught off guard as she walks round the room again, pointing to various items and repeating, "No....." "mummy cross,” and my heart breaks. I worry, wondering whether this is her overriding feeling of what I am saying to her day in, day out. That I am a stern figure ruining her fun, managing her, rather than releasing her. Controlling, rather than empowering.
The thing is, in reality, I do say ‘no’. No to when she is about to touch something that will hurt her. No to things that aren't good for her. No to things that she wants but because she is two and I am not, I am aware of things she isn't yet. (There are also a number of not so noble reasons I say no too!) So, yes I say no. Not because I want to restrict her, but because I want her to be safe and secure. Can you see where I am going with this?
In this very average, every day moment, God reminded me again about who He is. He is not an angry parent, saying no to every desire, every road we want to travel down. He isn't putting in arbitrary rules to ruin our fun, but because He is God and we are not, He knows what's best for His children. He knows what will bring us goodness, what will bring us joy.
With Him, there is always more freedom within the boundaries He puts in place. We just have to choose to trust His goodness. His faithfulness. His love.
Let me just say from the get go: I am for marriage (I am also for singleness). I am for healthy, functioning relationships. I believe in the fairy tale marriage. *Gasp*…It’s just that I have a slightly different view of what that looks like to the picture we are sold by this world.
In the wake of Valentine’s Day and the beautiful card and flowers still sitting on my dining room table, I find myself with a sense of sadness. I’m sad because when I look past the pretty filters of Instagram and the carefully constructed statuses on Facebook, I know there are people who are hurting and aching because their relationships don’t seem to measure up to those that the movies depict or the perfect life that social media portrays.
So let me tell you what I believe a fairy tale marriage/relationship looks like….
It looks like patience.
Putting others first.
Sound familiar? This is what 1 Corinthians 13, biblical love looks like. The Message puts it like this…
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.
I don’t know about you but none of these things come naturally to me. By nature I am selfish and sinful, so this idea of love is hard. work. This is love that needs constant work. Constant grace. Constant forgiveness. It needs Jesus. Every. Single. Day.
It may not sound glamorous, but it is real and it is SO worthwhile. When we subscribe to this ideal, we get a glimpse of what God created marriage to be. Two people growing together, daily choosing each other. Preferring the other’s needs above their own. Wouldn’t a world where people chose to love like this be something to be reckoned with!!!
I'll let you in on a secret, I am not very good at praying. I find it hard. I get distracted. I can't find the words. I tell myself I don't have the time. I doubt. I get myself to a place where I know I should have been on my knees way before getting here, and then don't know where to start.
When was the last time you prayed?
This week at school, I have been prompted to pray by my team at school. They don't go to church. I'm not even sure if they believe in God, but yet they have each challenged me to pray. There have been times they have asked me to pray for things, from weather to more serious situations. And there have been times something good has happened and they ask if I had been praying. I am sure some of this was in jest, but the challenge was still heard. ARE YOU PRAYING LOU?
And yes, I have been a bit more this week. Not long prayers. Short phrases shot up to God about daily situations. And do you know what, some of them where answered. I hadn't even given the prayers a second thought until a colleague pointed out, what they asked me to pray happened. Thank goodness God is more faithful than me.
Despite my failing and reservations, I know prayer is a way into an intimate relationship with God. We need to spend time and converse with Him, just like you would to grow a healthy friendship. So where do we start?
"Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always." 1 Chronicles 16:11
We start my seeking his face. We start by building a relationship.
Thank Him for the blessings bestowed each day.
Say sorry for where you have fallen down.
Present your requests.
Do it again!
We can be reassured that when words fail us that God knows our heart (Acts 15v8) and that Jesus intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8v34). We don't have to pray long prayers, out loud for all to hear (Matthew 6:5-12) and we can take comfort that the Lord is close when we call, however long its been (Psalms 145:18).
But lets not settle for that. Lets challenge ourselves to pray. Pray for those around us. For our colleagues. Our friends. Our family. Use them as your prompt. Pray for their days. Pray for their family. Pray for blessing. Thank God for them. Pray for the situations they are in. Help them give their worries to God. Pray that God would meet them.
It's been a while since my last post. It's been a while since I have felt I have anything to say. It's been a while since I have felt like I have anything to give. It's been a while since I have felt God speak, since I have felt His love. It's been a while.
It feels better just writing that. Admitting it. Relief.
Have you ever felt like that?
I have felt a bit lost recently. I guess I have been hurting. And when I am hurt, I hide. From friends. From family. From God. I have been mad. Disappointed. Confused. Frustrated. And hurt.
Today as I have been cleaning the house and adding little homely touches, I listened to a talk and then whacked the worship music on LOUD. As the words and truths permeated my being, tears ran down my face.
"How many time have you found me wandering in the rubble of yesterdays hope. Weighed down with burdens, barely standing but, I am desperate to see you again. I'm running into your arms of grace, with no reason to hide away. It's not the first time I've been in this place but I'm come home again. Welcomed home again."
God welcomed me home again today. I have kept Him out of the hurt corners of my heart. I have kept Him at arms length. But today He welcomed me with GRACE. Today as the tears fell, so did the walls.
You see, when I am hurt, I retreat. I become a recluse. I try and stand by myself. I close myself off from love. From the promises He has spoken over my future. I believe the lies. And then I blink and find myself distant, alone. And I try and find my own way back again. Believing that I have to do the work. That I have to start again. That I have to have my "routine" right before I can face Him.
“But while Lou was still a long way off, her father saw her and was filled with compassion for her; he ran to his daughter, threw his arms around her and kissed her."
The parable of the Lost Son tells us something different. I may feel more comfortable being punished for being distant, to apologise forever, to pay the price. But God bridges any gap we put between us and Him. He runs to us and embraces us with His forgiving arms of grace. We will find Him waiting for us to return.
Today, my only response could be to lift my hands and exalt Him. Proclaim truths where there had been the whisper of lies. Step up and out where I have held back. Fall on my knees and lay it all down again. Relinquish control.
As I prettied the house, I read over some promises and prayers written out on our wedding day by friends and family. I read over prophecies given to me. I forced myself to dream again. They had been forgotten, tarred by faithlessness. But today as I found myself on the way back, I reclaimed them. I put them into a centre piece on my table where I can see them daily. So I can be reminded. Encouraged. Inspired.
"I run this race set before me with perseverance, so that I can be all that God has created me to be."
So, with my heart bowed low and my hands held high, all I can do is walk with Him and build up a dialogue where there has been silence for a while.
These last few weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster. There have been amazing highs and some swooping lows. It is has been tiring and draining but I still have the overwhelming sense that God is there. God has been speaking clearly over the last couple of weeks. Prophetically through others. Visually through pictures. Amazingly through every day life. It feels like spring has finally arrived.
All the little pictures and whispers have been specific and spot on. They have been a relief to hear since winter felt very sparse. Spring has already bought many new things.
Challenge to step into what God has in store for me.
Permission to step up and out.
Reassurance that I am loved.
Insight into what is in store.
But Gods whispers are not just for me. They are for you. He loves you with an everlasting love. He has started doing good work in you and will not stop until it is finished. He has good plans to prosper you and not to harm you. You are part of the plan and you are unique. It cant be done the same without you.
So many times I have opted out because I have not grasped those truths. There always seems to be someone better, more experienced. Someone more connected to God. But it is not about what you or I bring, its that we opt in. Whether we turn up. God puts what we need inside us when we need it. He doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called. And you are all called. You are equipped.
I had a picture recently of golden orbs of light falling down from the sky into people. As I was mulling it over and wondering what it meant I felt like God was saying He was giving us the gifts and abilities we had laid down when we chose to believe we are not called. Not part of the plan. Insignificant. He has held them and looked after them, but now He was giving them back to us to use.
You may not think you have anything to offer. I guess in some ways you might be right. Its not about you, its about God working through you. It is His wisdom, prophesies, words of knowledge, kindness, hospitality, love that we can give away and bless others with. It is not in our own strength. All He asks is for us to be still and know that He is God. We are just a vessel He chooses to use. But we have to step out and use it to get those things to give away. They are not for us to keep to ourselves.
So, my challenge to you is this. Will you pick up that golden orb of light? Will you use what God has given you? Is giving you? Will you step out in faith? Will you look to bless others? Really seek it out? Will you practice and learn how to use your gift in the best way? Will you practice on a Sunday so it comes more natural when its Monday to Saturday? Will you choose to opt in and be used?
You were born for such a time as this. To be used. To bless. To make an impact.
Does your heart start racing when you start to hear or see the values that you hold dearest? Mine does....
I hear these words or I see them in action and life excites me. It sometimes surprises me. I have been bowled over recently by stories of people showing the most amazing compassion, integrity, creativity, vulnerability and kindness. For me, this is what makes life worth while.
I regularly check what I do and how I am against the values that are most important to me. I often don't measure up. I often settle for less than what I want. I choose ease over living life to the full. I choose selfishness over community. Pretence over authenticity. Hiding rather than being transparent. I am faithless rather than faithful. Surface rather than depth. But I do try. There is something within me that seems to not want to settle and until it finds what it is truly seeking.
My heart will also start to beat, panicked, when these values are dishonoured. Often by me. Sometimes by others. My conscience reminds me, yet still I walk into situations where I choose what is 'less'. And as a result I am less. These values are who I want to be. Who I am meant to be. Created to be. And when I choose to be a lesser version, it hurts. Life is not so bright, so full. And neither am I.
God has called us to be many things. We are called to be living wholehearted, full lives. I think He has sown individual values into our characters. Our souls. And we notice when they are not honoured. When we don't measure up. I think it is because we are not yet who we are created to be. And that ache in your heart, that's the reminder. We see glimpses now and then. But we are not there yet. We have to persevere. To reflect. Grow. Choose.
God is showing me that I CAN choose. I have been convicted of the phrase "that's just who I am!" The many times I have been less than what I can be is because I have allowed myself to believe that it is out of my hands and that the box I put myself in is really who I am. It is not. I am an evolving being that is sum of her choices.
We can choose and own the consequences of our choices. And then choose again. This is freedom.
So lets do just that. Lets choose daily. Choose to be what God has created us to be. Choose to change and grow. When we grasp the fact that we hold the reigns of life, we are set free and can move in the direction God calls us.