Delight!

How do I worship God when I’m cooking the tea?

Hey lovely people. This week my husband and I make an appearance with the wonderful Adam Curtis and Leah Sax on their fantastic Delight Podcast and you can now listen to it either through their website, on Spotify or via your podcast app. It’s Episode 12. Please do listen! You’ll get to hear how we sound! More importantly(!) I trust it will be an encouragement. Well done Leah for her amazing editing skills!

We chatted about how we came to know Jesus, what it means to worship God every day of the week – and what to do when we don’t feel like worshipping him.

I also wrote a blog post to accompany our episode and it can be found on the Delight Podcast Blog. I hope this, too, encourages you to delight in the Lord above all else, in all of life. Amen!

***

P.S. If my previous blog post about Mrs Beaver got you thinking, the Delight podcast did a brilliant episode on hospitality recently too. It’s Episode 10.

Mrs Beaver, Mrs Weasley & Mrs H.

her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 1 Timothy 5:10

“Be warned, they’ve changed it a bit.” That’s what a friend said to me before I took my family to see the National Theatre’s production of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in the West End back in August. This made me a little nervous. Had they removed Aslan? Did he not bother dying for Edmund? Would The White Witch Jadis turn out to be just misunderstood?

I was pleasantly surprised. It was really good! There was a strange line at the end about Lucy which muddied the otherwise-quite-clear message, but that’s not what I’m here to write to you about today. True to form, I’ve got thoughts about Mrs Beaver.

To me, there are very few more cosy and festive things to do than to read aloud together The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. And one of my favourite parts is when the children, cold, tired, hungry and afraid, arrive at the Beavers’ dam. (I love beavers anyway, they’re amazing! But that’s not the point.) They’re so welcoming and hospitable, feeding them a good hot meal, serving them tea and telling them about Aslan. It’s warming in all the ways.

Just as the frying pan was nicely hissing Peter and Mr. Beaver came in with the fish which Mr. Beaver had already opened with his knife and cleaned out in the open air. You can think how good the new-caught fish smelled while they were frying and how the hungry children longed for them to be done and how very much hungrier still they had become before Mrs. Beaver said, “Now we’re nearly ready.”

CS Lewis, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Chapter VII, A Day with the Beavers

This simple, satisfying meal offered by disciples of Aslan is the antithesis of the Witch’s Turkish Delight which left Edmund feeling sick and wanting more. The meal with the Beavers is a picture of living in the Kingdom of God. It’s not nothing! (Even Spark Notes agrees with me, if you think I’ve gone mad.)

In the book, Mr Beaver and Peter go out and hunt the fish while Mrs Beaver and the girls prepare the meal and lay the table. In the National Theatre production, Mrs Beaver is out in the woods as a secret agent, utterly capable, while Mr Beaver is back in the dam, cooking the meal: a vegan hotpot. He’s also repeatedly foolish and incompetent and the butt of several jokes.

Why do this? Is it just a joke? I feel like the vegan hotpot touch probably is. But is our culture now afraid of presenting a female character as hospitable? Is it an insult to women to have them ‘just’ cooking a meal and ‘relegated’ to the role of hospitality? And what does it say about men? The strong, brave Mr Beaver was emasculated. These things seem subtle, harmless and even amusing. But they’re a rejection of what God has made. Husbands are usually physically stronger and thus able to go out and provide for their family. Wives are usually able to be mothers: to nurture, to make a house a home and to provide a safe place for weary wanderers. A culture which rejects God rejects this. CS Lewis did not, and neither should we.

Of course, women can work outside of the home and men can cook. Plus, being a vegan is not wrong! But in a culture that’s deconstructed both femininity and masculinity and doesn’t know how to rebuild them, I think we really need to embrace what God has said about the roles of men and women and not to be ashamed.

These were surprisingly easy to make!

We all want to be welcomed into the dam. We all love it when Harry Potter gets to stay with the Weasleys, with Mrs Weasley laying out their clean robes on their beds and whizzing up lashings of mashed potato for dinner. So I ask you, do any of us want to be the Mrs Weasleys of the world?

I don’t know if you’ve seen the latest adaptation of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. (For non UK readers, these are semi-autobiographical stories of life as a rural vet in Yorkshire.) The house they all live in is off-the-charts beautiful. There’s always a hot meal, a newly mopped floor and a warming fire. Who doesn’t love it when Mrs Hall, the housekeeper, provides yet another warming fry-up for the vets after a long night out on the hills? We all want the good roast dinner, the nice cup of tea and the clean clothes, neatly folded. Don’t we see the value of it?

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

But are we willing to be the Mrs Beaver, the Molly, the Mrs H? I hope so. Don’t despise it. There’s such power in it. The world calls it needless drudgery, good for nothing. But it’s a lie. Hospitality is mighty, and Satan knows it. Why else would he attack it? So I say to you, Go Forth and Welcome. Who knows how God will use it for his glory?

And when they had finished the fish Mrs. Beaver brought unexpectedly out of the oven a great and gloriously sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot, and at the same time moved the kettle on to the fire, so that when they had finished the marmalade roll the tea was made and ready to be poured out. And when each person had got his (or her) cup of tea, each person shoved back his (or her) stool so as to be able to lean against the wall and gave a long sigh of contentment.

ibid.

Resources for Starting Secondary School…

(… or homeschooling tweens!)

He looks ready…

Last week I posted a tip for helping your child settle into secondary school. After all, I think we need all the help we can get. Here I’d like to recommend some resources which I think are a great help, too. These will also be helpful if your child is educated at home.

First a little Health and Safety Warning: Once your children start secondary school their routine at home will change. You might need to find a different time to read the Bible with them. They need God’s living and active word more than anything.

Books

Chris Morphew books: These are written in a very readable, quite light-hearted way by an Australian author who writes books for youth and children. We’d previously really enjoyed his book on Mark’s gospel, The Best News Ever, and we’re enjoying this new series.

The books tackle questions that young people might be asking, especially as they navigate secondary school and adolescence. My daughter and I are reading through ‘Who am I and why do I matter?’ This is surely a question that is more pertinent now for adolescents than ever before. If our kids know the fundamental truths about who they are and how valuable they are, then they just might save themselves a lot of trouble.

The ‘Is Christianity really true?’ is a question my children have grappled with already as they attend/attended a richly diverse community school, surrounded by people of other faiths. My son gobbled this book down in about half an hour and really enjoyed it. Rest assured it would take most people longer than that, especially if you’re reading it out loud! But it is nice and easy to read, which is a real win for tweens (and busy parents).

I think with books like these, it’s good to get ahead of the curve with your kids if you can. By this I mean that it’s good to read a book about identity issues before they even realise they might be faced with that problem. So when you’re reading the books, don’t be discouraged if they don’t say, “This is answering all of my current questions, praise the Lord!” Prevention is better than a cure.

Podcast

I’ve mentioned the Faith in Kids podcast before, but it’s worth mentioning again as there are some excellent episodes about adolescence. Episode 88, Hope-Filled Teens, very much encouraged me the other day. Going back further, there’s Episode 67: Parenting 11-14s, and Episode 14 (or 13b), Lovewise Part 2 which is specifically about guiding children through puberty. Really helpful! Also, I urge you to listen to Episode 80, Navigating Gender and Sexuality with Ed Shaw. This is very reassuring and also a bit of a wake-up call. As you may know, I do think Ed Shaw’s book should be on life’s compulsory reading list, anyway! So do have a listen to these podcasts. They’ll make you laugh and maybe cry but they’re so down-to-earth and practical. They surprise me every time with how helpful and joyous they are.

If you haven’t talked to your child yet about puberty, I recommend the books ‘Growing up God’s way for Boys/Girls.’ We’ve used them to have frank conversations about how our bodies change and why it’s a good thing (really!).

How about you? Any suggestions? I’m a novice!

Video

If you’ve got Netflix, I highly recommend watching The Social Dilemma with your child. It’s a sobering and honest documentary about how social media is designed and why it works so well. They interview many, many people who’ve been instrumental in designing social media (for example, the man who co-invented the Facebook ‘Like’ button) and who’ve now left for ethical reasons. You don’t feel lectured and they’re not scare-mongering. But it’s certainly good to know how we’re being manipulated! I’d even suggest getting Netflix for a month just to watch it – we might do that with our son.

Finally, and perhaps controversially, I wanted to share a video with you about the adolescent brain. This is by Dr Dan Siegel who’s a clinical professor of psychiatry. There are some really helpful things to learn from educational psychologists and from psychiatrists about the adolescent brain. But we need to look at them through gospel lenses. We believe in sin and grace and a good Creator who is working in us by his Spirit. However, it is really cool to learn how the brain changes in adolescence. I think it gives us hope that adolescence is an exciting time for our children!

Please comment below with any other tips! I’m sure people would really appreciate it. (And by people I mean me, first and foremost.)

Talk to Me

You know how yesterday I was hanging nappies out to dry?

My son starts secondary school in September. Eek! As with most surreal notions, I think I live mostly in denial about this fact until it suddenly dawns on me at unexpected moments and I find myself welling up or wanting to give him an embarrassingly big squeeze.

It’s not that starting secondary school is a bad thing. I’m looking forward to seeing what God’s got in store for him in this new chapter. I’m hopeful that he’ll really enjoy meeting new people and learning new things.

But it does feel big, and my husband and I want to help him to be as ready as he can be. We also want to support him through what will sometimes be an overwhelming time. I know it’s only May, but the summer is usually so mad that I thought I’d share some ideas about this now, rather than leaving it until January when it might feel a bit tardy.

My daughter started secondary school last September, so although I’m not a seasoned expert in parenting secondary school kids, it is fresh in my mind. First and foremost, we need to be praying with our children, praying for them and teaching them God’s word. As well as this, a top priority for us is to keep our children talking to us. We can’t protect them from everything that might happen at school, but we can listen to them and try to teach them that it’s always safe to talk to us. We can help them to process their experiences and keep taking them to God’s word for wisdom.

I try to take my daughter out once a fortnight, ask her how things are going and pray for her. We tend to go to a wonderful and ludicrously expensive gelato shop, but the McDonald’s drive-through would work just as well and would have the benefit of us not having to make eye contact. A park bench would also do the job, especially with a flask of hot chocolate or a bag of crisps. We’ve been known to just crouch on a pavement with an ice cream, now I think about it.

There may be times when we do things like this with our children and it feels a bit pointless (if all they talk about is, say, their favourite condiments), but we can trust that over time it will help them. It also gives them the opportunity to talk to us about bigger things as and when they want to.

As my daughter started her new school, I bought her a little prayer diary as a way to show her that she could talk to me about everything that was on her mind and that we’d bring it all to the Lord together. This also helps us to focus the conversation a bit (“What are you thankful for? What shall we pray about? How is that thing going?”) and then we can see how the Lord has been answering our prayers as we look back at previous pages. Don’t be discouraged if your child finds this hard. Hopefully it’ll help to open up conversations. We bought this prayer diary but a plain notebook would do nicely – that’s probably what we’ll use for our son.

I’ve gone on long enough already, so I’ll post some more tips in a few days’ time. Meanwhile, if you need me you might find me weeping into a Leavers’ hoodie.

A little more conversation

Yesterday my morning ricocheted between grappling with Romans 6 (Slaves to sin/slaves to Christ), hunting unfruitfully for brand new PE tops (WHERE did they go?), discussing the lyrics of Andrew Peterson’s ‘Lay me down to die’ with an emotional pre-adolescent and dealing with Monday morning tears. Is this normal?

Last week as the children rummaged for shoes and fumbled with velcro, I was asked which tribe of Israel we’re in and ended up discussing the fact that we’re children of Abraham by faith in the Lord Jesus, grafted in by faith. Hallelujah! “So we’re children of Abraham AND children of God, mummy?”
“Er… yes.”

I suppose that’s what is meant by, “Talk about [these commandments] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road.”(Deut. 6) It just feels chaotic. It feels like I’m in a Christian episode of ‘Outnumbered.’ It’s less funny being a character in this little sitcom than it would be to watch it.

 And as I go about my day the questions linger on: 

“Was the Miss Hannigan/Mr Warbucks illustration of slavery to sin and Christ heretical?”

“Did I dismiss my son’s questions about death?”

“Does my 5 yr old understand the different between God and Abraham?” 

“Did my outburst about PE tops undermine what I’d been saying about living for Jesus?”

All this talk is hard! But life needs to have space in it for these kinds of conversations. 

Of course, some people are quieter than others. My family has zero quiet people in it, but I’ve met plenty of other people who don’t feel the need to fill every second with talk! But even the quiet ones need to communicate. 

As Christian families, we should be talking to one another. We have such good news to share. If our lives are too scheduled or too full of tech to allow space and time for meandering conversations, then we’ve got something wrong. 

Do you watch films together? Perhaps you could talk about what you liked/didn’t like, favourite characters, unexpected plot twists. This is a great habit to get into. For more on this, I’ve enjoyed the Popcorn Parenting podcast with James Cary and Nate Morgan-Locke.

Do you read stories or listen to audiobooks? It’s a great way to fuel the imagination and get them thinking about big, God-centred themes.

My husband is currently reading through the Wingfeather Saga books by Andrew Peterson. We also enjoy the BBC dramatised Narnia Chronicles available on Audible.

Talking with your kids doesn’t sound like an impressive thing to do. It doesn’t give them a measurable skill that will win them a medal.  But this is how we share the gospel with each other, encouraging each other and being open and honest about how we think or feel about things.

I have struggled for almost 12 years to have peaceful mealtimes at home, which are conducive to meaningful conversations. I’ve contemplated tattooing the words ‘sit on your seat and use your cutlery’ onto my forehead (or at least carving them into the table). I still struggle with it – massively. But I am gradually starting to see that my children are learning to talk to people.

Recently a visitor came for dinner, during which my younger son almost laughed himself off his seat whilst telling him a story. Later on the visitor casually mentioned something like, “They’re good a talking to people. That must be because you’ve practised with them.” Well, I didn’t know whether to cry, burst into song or throw my arms around him. Obviously I just smiled and nodded.

Don’t grow weary, friends. It’s often in the chaotic, not-exactly-ideal moments that you’re able to share glorious truths with your kids. And by God’s grace you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.

A Life Less Ordinary

“Hospitality seeks to turn strangers into friends.” (p.59.)

The latest Covid jargon in the UK is the ‘roadmap to recovery.’ This means that after a year (on-and-off) of not being allowed to see our friends or family, especially not indoors, we are relearning how to talk to people and make them cups of tea. I had a friend over last week to sit in the garden and neither of us could remember how to string a sentence together. So let’s just say we might be rusty, but it’s also an optimistic time as we begin to make tentative plans.

Wherever you are in the world, as things begin to open up again I wonder if you feel excited, nervous or a bit reluctant. There’s a whole spectrum of people in this world and I don’t assume that everyone is purely delighted by the prospect of filling up the calendar again with social engagements, big or small.

But this past year God has given us a chance to reflect on what we miss and what we don’t miss; what we want to reintroduce and what we’re happy to ditch. Perhaps we’ve realised that our lives were full of after-school clubs or that we watched too much TV. Maybe we’ve realised we were filling up our time with too much socialising and not allowing enough time to pray, reflect and daydream.

I feel like this could be a turning point. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to reassess our priorities. One thing we really should do as we fill up our (real or mental) diaries again (it’s going to happen, friends) is to think about God’s priorities for us. And for that, we need to look at what his word tells us. One thing we are commanded to be, as God’s children, is hospitable.

If you’re thinking that hospitality is for some people and not others, I’m here to break it to you that we’re commanded to show hospitality repeatedly in the New Testament and God doesn’t give any exceptions (see below for a few examples*). But this is a good thing! Just think how hospitable God has been to us. And now we get to follow Christ’s example and find out what real life is in store for us when we do.

You might be wondering how Christ has shown hospitality. Didn’t he usually go to other people’s houses for dinner? He didn’t even have his own house! That’s where we need to learn what hospitality really is. I’ve just read a book all about it and I’d love to recommend it to you. It’s called “Extraordinary Hospitality (for ordinary people)” by Carolyn Lacey. In the book she outlines seven characteristics of hospitality: generosity, compassion, humility, persistence, awareness (of people’s needs), inclusivity and sacrifice. When you look at these, it’s clear to see that our Lord Jesus has shown us hospitality in spades.

There are all kinds of pressures on our time, so that if we want to prioritise the right things, we will have to make a conscious effort. If we just ‘go with the flow,’ we’ll find our days full before we’ve had chance to do any sort of discernment. The people who have blessed me most in my life with their hospitality are people who make conscious choices to do less structured things and allow more time for humble cups of tea and spontaneous dinner guests. It didn’t happen by default: they made it happen.

This is not a book (just) for people who can cook or who have their own home or a big table or who have the gift of hospitality. Although it would be a blessing to those people too. It’s not intimidating, judgemental or burdensome. It’s short, gentle and practical. And she includes some great stories.**

We’ve all (I hope) been on the receiving end of hospitality. The welcome as you walk into a gathering, the meal dropped off when you’ve just had a baby, the invite for a coffee and a chat. I remember visiting the homes of hospitable women decades later, long after they’ve forgotten I was ever there. Hospitality is powerful. I’d love to learn how to be more like Jesus in this way.

A wise friend of mine gave a talk for the women at at our church about hospitality and she described hospitality as ‘moving towards people.’ As social distancing eases, do you think you can move towards people, for Jesus’ sake? I hope so.

“As we sacrifice our time, energy, resources and comfort in order to welcome other, we can be confident that Jesus will reward us abundantly.” p. 121.

(P.S. At no point in this book does Carolyn Lacey tell you to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning. Just saying. But if that’s your thing, please carry on and God bless you!)

*Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13); Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2);
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9)

**I’m not paid for this (or any other blog post I ever write) but I was sent a review copy of this book. I only recommend books I really like.

One Line a Day

I don’t know about you, but this year (during lockdown and then amid all the other bitty restrictions) I’ve found the lack of structure one of the hardest things to cope with. It’s like I’ve got nothing to peg anything onto. I look back over a month and have no idea what I’ve done or how long it’s been since I… anything.

In December the magazines, newspapers and bloggers will be looking back over 2020 and, well, there’ll be quite a lot to say. And in some ways, not much at all. Everything was cancelled but, then again, Historical Things took place. No Events and yet extremely eventful. It’s been a year of emptiness and a year of chaos.

So how can I reflect on all of this and try to process it?

July last year I was recovering from an operation – hence sleeping through church!

This is my diary. Each day I write a few lines about what’s happened that day. The following year I do the same again, which means I can easily see what we were doing this time last year. These diaries are not expensive, but worth their weight in gold.

Here are 3 things I’ve learnt from keeping this diary this year.

  1. The mundane, done for God, is glorious. God’s word is full of people living mundane lives. Shepherds, farmers, builders, mothers. Sometimes something exciting happened to them, but most of the time they were doing ordinary things. I’m prone to forget that God doesn’t need me to do exciting or even interesting things. He wants me to be faithful to him. Writing this diary helps me to process the day and go to sleep. However, much of the time I feel like I have nothing to write. I feel I haven’t really done anything. However, when months later I look back on these days, even I can see that I have been doing stuff! And while not exciting, this stuff is important for keeping certain people alive. I shall try to illustrate:
    April 26, 2019: Popped to Catherine’s with travel cot. Bible study on Luke 1. Lunch. Cleaning. Beth and William for tea. Nice to chat to their mum. Deutschland ’86 in the evening.
    At the time I probably felt like all I’d done was shoddy housework (which is important!) and crowd control. But looking back I see that I’d helped a friend, been encouraged by my sisters at church, shown hospitality and spent time with my husband. Objectively I know that these things are pleasing to God, when done with a cheerful heart. And anyway, why am I so proud that I think my life should be action-packed? So if it feels like you haven’t really made any progress with anything this year, try not to be discouraged. If you’re serving him, repenting of your sin and still trusting Him this year, that is glorious. In fact, it’s quite miraculous!
  2. For everything there is a season. Once you’re in the second year of writing this, you can look back to what you were doing this time last year. What I often find is that there’s a connection between last year and this year. There’s something reassuring about this! It reminds me that life has a rhythm, which is the way God created this world to function. It also shows me that I shouldn’t be surprised by things as much as I am. I recently felt very run-down and unwell during my half-term break and wondered what on earth was wrong with me. Then I read last year’s half-term entry and, sure enough, I had written ‘felt ill, bed at 7pm.’ So maybe next October I’ll prepare myself by not making any plans and by (less likely) trying to get more rest beforehand! This all reminds me that I’m a human being, dependent on God, and not a machine or a Kryptonian.
  3. God is sovereign. As I look at the lines I’ve written in and the blank sections below, I’m reminded that to God this book is already filled in. He’s completed it. He knows what will happen on every single day of my life and he knows what I will write down about these days. My future may feel uncertain and unclear to me but it is secure in him. He not only knows it but has planned it all for my ultimate good.
    All the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
    Psalm 139:16
    So as 2020 has not been the year we expected and we don’t know what Christmas will look like, I’m encouraged when I consider that God knew all of this would happen and he can work it all for the good of those who love him.
  4. Yep, I said three but as I was writing this I realised I’d missed perhaps the most important one. There is so much to thank God for. I’m likely to forget all of the wonderful ways the Lord has provided for me and blessed me in abundance. But when I read over this diary I’m reminded to give him thanks, for sustaining me through difficult times and blessing me in a myriad of ways which I really, really don’t deserve.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

I’ll be posting some Christmas present ideas next week – watch this space!

Psst! If you like my blog (which I know at least some of you do), please could you let just one friend know about it today? That way more people can be encouraged, as I don’t advertise this blog in any other way. Thank you so much!

Book Review – Deeper Still

I’m reading an excellent book and I think you should read it, too. I haven’t finished it yet (which I agree is a bit strange) but the author, Linda Allcock, asked me really politely in the introduction not to skim it, so I won’t. Rather than waiting until I’ve finished, I decided to recommend it to you now.

We hear so much these days about mindfulness and (new age) meditation – my children’s school classes have regular ‘brain breaks’ throughout the day. But how often do we practise biblical meditation? And do we even know the difference?*

Linda Allcock has a thorough understanding of secular meditation, which she succinctly and clearly explains to the reader in Section 1 of this book. She then brilliantly shows us how biblical meditation differs and how valuable it is to the Christian soul. This got me really excited about learning to practise Christian mediation.

In Section 2, which I’m currently reading, Linda teaches us how to come to God’s Word with the intention of searching for treasure and storing it up for when we need it most. She uses helpful illustrations and practical advice which make it all seem very clear and simple to achieve.

The best seminar I ever went to on a Christian conference/festival/ weekend away was one about memorising Scripture. I arrived at the seminar (sleep-deprived and flustered) knowing little-to-nothing about Psalm 16, and left after an hour having memorised the whole thing. This psalm, a month later, was to get me through sleepless nights as I meditated on it and prayed through it for my brother who had a brain tumour and his infant daughter who had respiratory problems. Eight years on, that psalm still helps me when I don’t know what to pray.

This book makes me think of that seminar for two reasons:

  • It’s practical. This is a book that I can instantly put into practice because Linda is not just giving me theory, but is showing me how to ‘do’ meditation.
  • Biblical mediation will help me to survive as a Christian. If Psalm 16 can get me through the hardest year of our lives, how much more fruitful would it be if I meditated on the whole counsel of God?

As someone who’s been reading the Bible for years, I’m finding this book really helpful. In the chapter I’ve just finished reading, Linda condensed into a few pages an entire book I once read on ‘how to get the most out of reading the Bible.’ She doesn’t mess about, which is great because when you’re busy it’s best not to spend hours and hours reading a book when you could be meditating on Scripture.

I do think this book is really accessible and not at all intimidating, so I’d also recommend it to younger Christians, even if they’ve never read the Bible on their own. In a way it would be perfect for them because it would start them off reading the Bible in a healthy way, rather than just thinking of it as a chore or something to tick off a list.

My pastor says that the thing that makes the biggest difference to the value of a sermon is the heart attitude of the listener. If you come to church expectant and determined to get precious truth out of the sermon, asking God and trusting him to feed you, then he will. But if you’re distracted and rushed or bored and ungrateful, you likely won’t get much out of it. Surely Bible reading is the same? I found these words from Linda very convicting:

As we open God’s word, do we believe there is treasure there? If we did, we might treat our Bible times differently. We would look forward to reading the Bible with anticipation and excitement. We would, as Proverbs 2 v 4 says, “Look for insight and understanding as for sliver and search for it as for hidden treasure”. We would dig into the passage with commitment and perseverance. And when we found the promised treasure, we would respond in joyful prayer and thankfulness.

This book helps us to come to the Word with expectant hearts, knowing there is treasure to be found. It really would be a wonderful gift to give to a friend. You can buy it here.

Psst! If you like my blog (which I know at least some of you do), please could you let just one friend know about it today? That way more people can be encouraged, as I don’t advertise this blog in any other way. Thank you so much!

*In case you choose to go against my express wishes and you don’t read this book, secular or new age meditation is emptying your mind – eek, dangerous! – whereas biblical meditation is filling your mind with scripture and therefore the Lord Jesus.

Weak as I am

IMG_8869
Accidental photo on a train. Covid essentials!

 

How’s it going?

Some of us are starting to think, “What just happened?” (i.e. where did the last 6 months go and why didn’t I learn any new languages? And incidentally why have I suddenly gone grey?)

Some of us are thinking that the worst is yet to come.

Some of us are still wondering how to cope with Today.

I’m sure there’s a whole mix of feelings about “the current situation” even amongst the readers of this here blog.

If we’re thinking of it as a marathon, I think I set off a bit too fast. Not exactly sprinting (I did have (suspected) Covid-19, after all) but also at a pace I couldn’t sustain. Then, at about Mile 20 I was informed that the marathon wouldn’t stop at Mile 26. I still don’t know where the Finish line is. I’m walking now, by the way, and gradually getting my breath back.

I don’t know if you’re feeling disappointed in the way you’ve handled certain things. Or maybe even disappointed in how things are in your country or the world over. I think most of us are feeling pretty weak now.

The other day I was listening to my pastor talk about the fact that humans are weak. They’re made from the dust:

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.

Is God surprised at how badly I handled such-and-such a situation?
Nope. He knows I am dust.

Is God frowning down at me in the way a personal trainer or an army General would if I tried to do 10 push-ups?
No, he has compassion on me.

Let’s remember that God is sovereign and he is in control even now. And he’s good.

But why would he bring us to a place of such weakness?

In Scripture we see time and again the Lord bringing people to a place of weakness and dependency on him.

Take Babel, for example. There we see humanity trying to be strong; trying to be independent. What does the sovereign Lord do? He confuses their language so that they’ll fail.

In the desert, when the people of Israel are hungry, does God give them the tools to make their own food and be independent? No, he gives them daily manna so they’ll have to keep trusting him.

When Jonah thinks he can run away from God and be his own man, what does God do? He sends a storm to bring him, eventually, to repentance and dependence: “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord.” (He was a bit slow, wasn’t he?)

Jesus’ disciples were accomplished sailors and fishermen. But what did Jesus do? He sent them into storms so that they would need to cry out to him for help (See Matthew 8 and Matthew 14.) Peter was pretty confident in himself, but Jesus taught him to have confidence in Jesus instead:
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

The Lord allowed a woman to suffer bleeding for 12 years so that she would reach out to Jesus for healing, cleansing and reconciliation.

The Lord brings his people time and again to places of weakness in order to teach us to depend on Him. This is his kindness to us.

And yet so often, when I’m feeling weak, I feel that the Lord is far from me. I feel he disapproves. ‘He’s as disappointed in me as I am.’ But that’s a lie. Unlike me, He knows I’m weak. Not only that, but Christ sympathises with me:

‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who is every respect has been tempted as we are – yet was without sin.’ Hebrews 4:15

Dane Ortlund puts it this way:

‘Our tendency is to feel intuitively that the more difficult life gets, the more alone we are. As we sink further into pain, we sink further into felt isolation. The Bible corrects us. Our pain never outstrips what [Christ] himself shares in. We are never alone. That sorrow that feels so isolating, so unique, was endured by him in the past and is now shouldered by him in the present.’ (Gentle & Lowly, p.48)

So what should we do? Hebrews 4:16 answers that for us. Jesus is moving towards you even as you’re having to distance yourself from others. You can approach him confidently and know that he’ll help you:

‘Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ 

Sing!

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Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;

    it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
    make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
    play skilfully, and shout for joy.

For the word of the Lord is right and true;
    he is faithful in all he does.
The Lord loves righteousness and justice;
    the earth is full of his unfailing love. Psalm 33:1-5

When did you last belt out a song to the Lord?

In God’s word the people of God are commanded over and over again to sing praises to our God.  Why? Does he need it? Of course not. We need it.

But since your church stopped gathering, have you still been singing?

It’s easy for me to say. I grew up with a Dad who was forever singing. Singing was just the usual background noise. I only really realised this when I got to university and met Andy, who was to become a brother to me in those years. Someone said to me once, “Have you noticed that Andy’s always singing?” I said, “No, like when?” She said, “Well he’s singing right now.” No, I hadn’t noticed, because I was used to it.

Then I married Mike, who comes from a household of singers (i.e. people who sing) and who was to become a worship leader. So we are a family who will put on worship music and sing along any day of the week. On a Sunday morning in Lockdown we will stand in our living room together and sing our hearts out. The Oompa Loompas who live next door watch us through the window as though we’re mad.

Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
    extol him who rides on the clouds[b];
    rejoice before him – his name is the Lord. Psalm 68:4

But even with all this habitual singing, I’ve also been commanding myself to sing.  Because even though we’ll sing for no good reason, actually as Christians we always have good reasons to sing. Every day we have a God who is worthy of praise. Every day our hearts are tempted to grow cold to this God. Every day the world, the flesh and Satan are trying to get us to worship something else.

So when you’re fed up, I mean really fed up of the same parks, the same bike rides, the same four walls, the same arguments about school work and the same uncertainty about when you will ever see your relatives again, sing. I will say it again, sing!

Sing the gospel. Sing of your God. Sing of all his mighty works. Sing of all he’s done for you. Sing to yourself. Sing to your children. Sing to your God. Sing with the angels in heaven. If Paul and Silas could sing in prison, then I can sing in Lockdown.

And it’s never been easier to get hold of worship music to sing along to. Remember when we had to buy CD’s? We can thank God for providing Youtube, Spotify and all those other ones young people use.

If you’re lacking strength for today, sing. If you’re lacking hope for tomorrow, sing. It’s so good for you. Even the world is now realising how good it is to sing. Schools who no longer sing hymns are having singing assemblies where they sing rousing secular hymns from Hollywood blockbusters. (I mentioned this here, too.) But praise the Lord! He’s put a better song in our mouths.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favour lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:3-5