Tag Archives: challenge

Three Bears’ Prayers

I was in a prayer meeting one morning last week with a few other Mums from the girls’ school.  We pray for a lot of different things in that meeting, from strength for the teachers to protection from illness to air conditioners lasting for one more season. But at this point we’d been talking about how hard the middle school years can be and were praying together especially for the christian kids in year 7, 8 and 9.

A prayer was forming in my head along the lines of the kids surviving those years with their faith intact when next to me my friend Shannon started praying for something altogether bigger and more beautiful.  She prayed that each of those kids would grow to have their sense of identity, of self, so grounded in their identity in Christ that they would be immune to the pressure to be anyone or anything else.   Wow! Even as I write it again I can feel my faith stretching.  How great would that be?

As I sat there in the prayer meeting and felt my faith grow and expand to fit the bigger vision of Shannon’s prayer I thought to myself, ‘we just went up a size’.

It felt as if Shannon had prayed a big brother prayer to the one in my head.  Not one that was more important, but one that stretched my faith to the next size up.

And just in that moment, this postcard popped into my head, with the words:

‘Now go for the Daddy Bear Prayer’.

For once, I understood exactly what God was saying to me – Baby Bear has a little bowl, a little chair and a little bed; Mummy Bear’s things are middle-sized; but Daddy Bear’s bowl is huge, his chair is huge and his bed is huge – so, a Daddy Bear prayer must be huge.

Sometimes we need to get hold of our faith and pull at it until it fits something bigger.  Fortunately, faith is stretchy and it grows when it’s under tension like skin for a skin-graft.  So I asked myself, ‘what would be a huge, faith-stretching prayer to pray for our year 7-9s look like?

So, I let my faith spread out a bit and I prayed that they would be not only protected, with their identity rooted in Christ, but that they would become equipped and empassioned for mission, transforming the culture they live in, seeing their friends and teachers come to faith, changing their world. Not individual beaten-up survivors but a strong united victorious army.

Now that, for our little beleaguered bunch of Christian kids, is a faith-expanding prayer… I’m so going to keep on praying it.

The point of this postcard wasn’t to get you to pray for middle-schoolers (although please do, they need all they can get, bless them), but to ask you, ‘What are the three bears prayers for your situation?’

What’s the little prayer that is easiest to pray?

What’s the medium sized prayer that stretches out your faith?

And what’s the massive Daddy-Bear-Prayer that your faith only covers a corner of, but which puts it under the tension it needs to spread out and grow?

Write them down now, then get out your faith, give it a stretch and pray some big prayers into your situation, and into others’ situations.

Let’s release a volley of Daddy-Bear-prayers and see what our faithful God might do.

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When climbing a mountain…

Intrigued?  Well, I’m not surprised.  I didn’t know what one of these was called either (had to google it 🙂 ).  It’s a piton.  Mountain climbers hammer them tightly into crevices in the rock face so that they can attach their safety ropes through the hole.  A vital piece of rock-climbing kit.

When God showed me this picture, I imagined what it would be like if, exhausted from a difficult climb, beaten back by the weather, you were to come across one of these, already firmly in the rock face and ready to clip your harness on to.  What a relief I would feel if it were me, and how grateful to the climber that scaled this wall before me and left me something to take a hold of.

So today’s postcard is an encouragement to start nailing in some of these beauties, both for those who scale the walls you’re climbing after you, and for your own benefit (just in case like me, you have a tendency to revisit the same challenges).

The first time I really noticed how this could work was when I was in a tiny church choir.  One day the choir leader played us a piece he planned for us to sing. It was extraordinarily complex and difficult with solos and harmonies and even a rap(!), so we reacted in some disbelief!  But he believed we could do it, and as a group we somehow just chose to take his faith and believe it.  It was as if we reached out with our Karabiner clips in our hands and clipped our harnesses onto the faith he was holding out.

Our faith in God is like that, we have the ability to hold it out to others and say “here-  hold on to mine, I’ve scaled this wall before you”.

I can’t tell you exactly what the pitons you put in will look like, they might be a word,  an action, scripture glued to a mirror, a testimony, a song, a journal entry, a book, a blog post, a status update, a tweet. But I do know that when we start to hold out the faith we’ve gathered to others it will multiply.  Whatever they say about problems, faith shared is faith (at least) doubled!

While a piton has to be strong, the real strength is in the rock.  The job of the piton is simply to enable someone to anchor their heart to the Rock of Ages, into the ultimate strength and safety of the Living God himself.

piton feat

If you’re climbing in a storm,  look out for what others have left for you.  When you see it – choose to reach out for it and clip yourself on!

If you’ve taken on a difficult face and made it to the top.  Look for the faith that you grew on the journey and then choose to find a way to hold it out for others.

And please, please comment below about the ways God is speaking to you that you could hold out the faith you’ve collected to to others and then comment again about the ways you’ve done it and seen faith multiplied in other people.  In the words of the Lego Movie – that would be awesome!

If you’re interested in more of what I think faith is and isn’t you could read this:  Faith and the Flying Fox or this: Ready to Walk on Water

The Hardest Cut: on the experience of pruning

Ouch.

A while ago, not for the first time,  I went through an experience of pruning:  Of God removing from my life something I love, something I’m good at, something that I was (and am) unwilling to let go of.  Familiar story?

john 15

I can deal with God cutting away parts of my life that aren’t fruitful! But here Jesus talks about pruning the healthy branches of a vine, cutting back branches that are bearing fruit.  And that’s much harder to get my head around…

I’ve been involved one way or another with church youthwork for about twenty years, and I love it.  So it was very hard when a few months ago God asked me to lay it down.  I’m ashamed to say that he had to tell me a lot of times and in several different ways.  And I wrestled with it, I was angry with Him about it, but eventually I got the message, waved the white flag and stepped down.

And it really, really hurt… (still does a bit)

In the middle of that time I painted a picture.  I’ve never grown grapes, but I have grown and pruned roses, so I painted a rose bush… and a gardener.   The message God spoke to me through it really helped, and if a pruning-time comes, I hope it will help you too.

You prune rosebushes back for two reasons: so that they will grow into a more balanced shape, not becoming lopsided or straggly; and so that they will bear even more flowers.  So pruning, though it seems harsh, actually makes the rose bush much more beautiful.

After I’d finished the painting I noticed two things:

The first was that the branch is not being pruned away because it is not being useful or beautiful or because it is ‘bad’ at the job it was supposed to be doing.  It is not diseased, or flowerless… but its time has come.  When God takes you out of a ministry or situation, it is not necessarily an indication of His judgement on the job you were doing.  God often calls us to stop doing things that we are good at!

pruningdetailThe second was that the healed wound from a past pruning is clearly visible.  And so is all of the growth and beauty that came about because of that cut.  It stands as a testimony that pruning has brought fruitfulness in my life and is promise of more roses yet to come.


God sometimes takes away or asks us to give up things which we are good at and which we love.  And it’s not always clear why!  It may be that he needs to make space in your life in order to do something else. Perhaps  He wants you to stop putting energy into supporting an old branch and pour that energy into growing a new one.   Or it may be just that He wants you to do something where you’ll need to lean on Him more.  

What is certain is that to be pruned is part of ‘normal’ Christian life. For me the challenge is to surrender to it quickly rather than sink huge reserves of effort into resisting it;  to accept it as part of the ongoing careful work of my Father.

Looking back now, six months on, I can see the fruit of having allowed God to make some space in my life for other things.  If I’m honest I can also see how it would have been so much less painful for me if I had listened and responded the first time I heard God speak on the matter!

So now I’m asking God what else in my life has to go.  If He needs to make more space or wants me to be more focussed, I want to volunteer to make the cut!  Will you join me?   He might ask you to give something up… He might not.  Either way, surrender to the gardener is the road to more growth, more blessing and more fruitfulness.  I recommend it.


pruning

Faith and the Flying Fox

I don’t often feel faith, it’s much more likely in any given situation that I’ll be feeling terror.  But to my great relief I’ve finally concluded that faith isn’t something you feel, it’s something you do.  And in some ways that’s much easier!

faith

I’ve come to believe that ‘faith is being certain of what we do not see’ can also be read ‘faith is hearing God, and then acting like you believe what He says is true.  For example:  Father God says that I am his precious child, that I am beautiful, that I am valuable.  Honestly, a lot of the time I struggle to feel like these things are true.  But I know they are, so I try to behave like they are.  I’m not pretending, – I’m lining my behaviour up with what I know to be true.

My kids went on a really high flying fox once… It was as much as I could take to stand on the ground watching them…  They were 40 ft or so up in the air and had to step off the platform and put their entire trust in the harness that strapped them to the wire.

That’s a great picture of faith – Standing on the edge of what feels safe, gripped by fear, but trusting that God has said this is the right thing to do and stepping off anyway.  Much, much easier to write down than to do!   On the flying fox, even when you have just seen your brother fly down in front of you and you know it is safe, it’s really hard to step off.  And sometimes it’s like that when God asks you to do something ….  

But the faith isn’t in the feeling. – It’s in the jumping.

The other thing I remember clearly about watching this zip line in action was the pep-talk on how to land safely:

“What you must do” insisted the instructor, “is start running while you are still in the air,  a long time before you hit the ground, or you will just wipe out”  And he wasn’t kidding!  As I watched people fly down the wire at great speed,  it was clear that those who began the action of running before their feet hit the ground managed to stay on their feet; and those who forgot were dragged unceremoniously through the mud.

Faith is being certain about the things that God has promised but you are not actually experiencing yet.  On the flying fox, the ground is coming, and you have to start acting like the ground is there before you actually get to it.

If God has said you’re going to have a ministry with young people, start talking to young people in your church.  If God has said He wants you to lead worship one day, learn an instrument.  If God has said to you that you are going to see people healed when you pray for them, start praying for the sick (and keep going until people start being healed).

I have a friend who dreamed one night that she was on a stage in a huge auditorium, talking about Jesus to thousands of people.  In her dream she was terrified – she could never stand up in front of so many people and yet she felt that this was a dream from God calling her to be prepared to preach.   Her response wasn’t to say “I could never do that” or to sit around waiting for it to happen.  She went out the following week and joined a public speaking club!  Isn’t that great?  Even if the reality of the dream is still a long way off, she’s getting ready for it.  That’s faith.

I don’t know what God has called you to do.  I do know that for many of you, you’re also not quite ‘there’ yet.  You’re still in the time of waiting.  But faith begins to act like you’re there a bit before you are. It  stretches out; it gets trained and equipped; it looks stupid; it cries out to God for help; but it starts running

Live in faith.  Then, when your feet hit the reality of what God has promised… you will be ready.

flyingfoxfeature

 Things to think or journal about:

Come before God today and ask Him to remind you of things He has promised you.  The many beautiful promises of scripture, or promises He has spoken to you personally.  What would it look like if you were to live as though that promise is a reality?  Is there a small step you could take this week into living in the light of that promise? If there is, then take it!  Jump!

Not Alone – the art of firewalking

Sooner or later, we all come to a part of our life that feels like walking through a fire: bereavement, losing a job, miscarriage, illness, or  many other painful, difficult and stressful circumstances. Probably you’ve done some firewalking in your time. Perhaps you’re in the middle of a fire season right now.

It’s not so long since I came through a furnace of my own:  Moving from a secure life in England to a new, much less predictable one overseas, dealing with my kids’ reactions to leaving and losing friends, coping with their angry heartache as well as my own. It’s been a fire-walk: intense, painful, and sometimes terrifying.  But, (and it amazes me that I can write this) like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, thrown into a furnace because of their faithfulness to God, I have looked for, and found, the presence of God in it all.  I’ve been able to stand and walk around, even when I feared that I’d be consumed by the intensity of the flames. I have been ‘Not alone’.

And it is not that I’ve discovered that the fire was not so hot after all.

In the story we’re told that this furnace was seven times hotter than usual.    The miracle was not that the fire turned out not to be so hot after all. And moving country didn’t turn out to be easier than I expected… if anything it’s been much harder…

And it’s not that I was instantly rescued out of it.

These guys spent a while in the fire, and so did I, and so, probably, will you.  But, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I did walk out the other side eventually and when I did I discovered that I wasn’t singed. Changed by the experience certainly, but not scarred… not defeated…not destroyed.

And, like them, I now notice that the only things that have actually been burned away and destroyed are ties that had bound me up: false beliefs and ways of living that had limited me – constraints that had stopped me from being all that God wanted me to be.  Now that’s a miracle!

Not that I believe that my heavenly Father caused that fire in my life, or intended it for me, I don’t.  But instead, I’ve learned that there are fire times in life, and that the enemy will use them to try to destroy, but that when we choose to trust God and look for Him among the flames,  our wonderful, redemptive, creative Father can use them to bring us into new places of freedom.

So this week’s postcard is a fire.   And the message on the back is simple:

notalone

 

fire 1

As I write this, I am painfully aware of friends who live their lives in a fire from which they expect no release until they stand in heaven itself, held in the arms of their Saviour. I think especially of those I know who have experienced, and are experiencing every day, the death of a loved one, particularly of a child.  Friends, I cannot begin to understand your fire. I could only say that for you, every day that you stand and walk around in that fire is a victory, and I honour you for it. And whether or not you are able to stand, I am confident of this, Jesus will stand, sit, kneel, weep, be alongside you every day, every minute that you are there. You are not alone.

Lord, be close,

when I walk into the fire

hold me

when all I see is flames

let me turn and see your face.

and on days when I cannot cry out to you.

call out to me,

shout loud, whisper quietly,

and I will try to lean into you.

Until the day that you lead me out into open space again

Let me know

that I am not alone.

 If you want to travel with this a little more, read Isaiah 43: 1-2