If there was one thing I could pray for you today …?

imageI am so blessed to be part of the Encounter School of Mission at our church. I’ve learnt so much in the past 18 months but one thing that stands out is I’ve realised how much God loves the ‘random’ people we come across in our every day life. However, they definitely aren’t random to Him but wonderfully special and He goes to amazing lengths to reach them. And He invites us to go with Him. We can either see these encounters as ‘random’ meetings or divine appointments when we get to be His ambassadors, reaching out to others so they can taste and see that The Lord is good!

Last Wednesday I was in our town centre and noticed a couple of ladies walking towards me. I felt that wee ‘nudge’ to say hello and take the risk of asking if there was one thing I could pray for them that day, what would it be? Straightaway the older lady said ‘mental health’. I asked if the prayer was for her or someone she knew and she explained she had been struggling with fear, anxiety and depression since before Christmas. After I had prayed with her, I felt I should explain how God had helped me deal with the fear, anxiety and depression that threatened to engulf me in the early stages of post viral fatigue. (Many people haven’t heard of PVF so sometimes it’s easier to refer to it as ME). I began to say “I’m recovering from ME …” when the lady I’d just prayed with pointed to her companion and said “oh my daughter has had that too.” So I got to pray with her too!! The mum kept saying “You were meant to be here today!! You were sent here today.” And the daughter, who was clearly touched by God’s presence, just kept nodding in agreement.

The next day I was waiting for a friend in the foyer of our local hospital. Another lady came and sat down in the same area. She seemed anxious and looked like tears weren’t far away and she kept twisting a hanky in her hand. Again I felt that gentle nudge to speak to her. When I asked if there was one thing I could pray for her, she immediately said “despair”. She said she just wanted peace and life. I got to tell her about the Prince of Peace and how He had come so we might have fullness of life. I explained how Jesus was knocking on the door of her heart but she needed to open the door. She said she wanted to!! Again she kept saying ‘How were you here? I can’t believe you were just here at the right time!”

I love it when He ‘randomly’ arranges for us to be in the right place at the right time and we get to see Him reveal His amazing love and goodness through a surprise encounter. But what I particularly love about these two encounters is that within 24 hours I had the opportunity to pray against the very things that were threatening me almost two years ago – despair and depression, fear and anxiety.

Graham Cooke writes “In all the areas of your life that the enemy has made you a victim, God is not only going to release you from that place, but He’s going to give you an anointing to release other people from the very things that you were once a victim of. When you bless another family, it’s payback for whatever he did against your family. When you pray for the sick, it’s payback for those times when the enemy tested your body with an affliction. Every time you pray for someone, it’s revenge!”

I’ve been so encouraged by hearing the stories of what God is doing in our community through so many people. I share these stories with you so you can get revenge too! Holy revenge. A few days after I shared the first story with some friends, I got this text from one of them who had risked asking the “if there was one thing I could pray for you today?” question for the first time!

“I prayed for an assistant in a store today. She was so open and gave me three or four big hugs!!”

The assistant was so grateful and said nobody had ever done such a beautiful thing for her. She asked my friend to make sure she came back to the store very soon!!

The question isn’t “Will people be responsive when offered prayer?” The question is will we be responsive in offering to pray with them?

Joy for Today

This week I’ve just filled this ‘Joy for Today’ journal. My ‘Besty’ bought me a journal like this when I was struggling to deal with Post Viral Fatigue and the exhaustion, frustration, anger, fear and isolation it brought. The title and quotations in the journal were a helpful reminder that even though things felt like a nightmare, Jesus was inviting me on a journey of joy and that what I needed to enjoy the journey was available only in Him. I liked this journal so much I bought myself another one exactly the same. I figured it was an invitation to enjoy a double portion of JOY for each day!!

Sometimes our circumstances release joy and other times can act like barrier to joy. I’ve felt both extremes this week. At the beginning of the week, I felt like I was bubbling over with joy but by the end of the week, if felt more like the bubble had burst!

Have you ever felt like that? We’re not alone. In Exodus 15 we read of Moses and the Israelites’ song to celebrate being rescued at the Red Sea from the Egyptians. Before the chapter is over we read “Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” (Exodus 15:22-24 NIV). Within 3 days their celebrating had turned to complaining 😦

Their decision is recorded for us to read but we can decide to change the record in our lives and choose joy.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Good fruit comes from good trees; good trees have good roots; good roots need good soil. The fruit is available but often it involves digging down deep.

On Thursday morning I woke up singing “You are always good, You are always good, You are always good, and Your love endures.” (Thank you Kathryn Scott and Mark Rainey!!)

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:1-5 NIV)

Graham Cooke writes “God’s goodness shall follow you all the days of your life. You must therefore welcome goodness into your life. It is the antidote to despair and the grounds for living a life of joy. He has stored up goodness in your life that must be enjoyed in every circumstance.”

Joy is not only a choice – it’s a command!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”(Philippians 4:4 NIV). The Message translation says “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!” And the Message interprets the command in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to “Rejoice always” as “Be cheerful no matter what.”

For CS Lewis “joy is the serious business of heaven” and in the business of heaven we get to keep what we give away. When we give away joy it tends to boomerang its way back in greater measure. Unlike butter straight from the fridge, joy is easy to spread!!

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia.

We have the potential to turn our life around as we embrace our potential to turn someone else’s life around. Giving away joy releases even more joy.

And joy is good for us!!! “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and “A joyful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22 NASB). Let’s choose to take it and give it away regularly.

“Real joy is not found in having the best of everything but in trusting that God is making the best of everything.”

The best of times in the worst of times

Beside peaceful streamsIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

These are the opening lines of Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dicken’s. Although I’ve never read this book, I woke up last Friday with the the words It was the best of of times, it was the worst of times in my head and a quick google revealed their source.

In the past week I have chatted with two ladies who are experiencing ‘the worst of times’ but other than having this in common, they could not have been more different. One was focused on her own pain, but the other had chosen to focus on making a difference to the pain of others by revealing God’s love and hope in their situation. Her circumstances certainly made for ‘the worst of times’ but her attitude and perspective had transformed them into ‘the best of times’. Her face was radiant and the hope and joy she was bringing to others was all over her! She is focusing on remembering God’s promises rather than her problems.

As a wise man I know posted this morning “It’s amazing how quickly perspective changes how you feel!! Change your priorities to change your perspective!”

I must confess that by nature I’m a glass half empty kinda girl but I’ve learnt (usually the hard way!) that gratitude changes your attitude. I can choose to concentrate on and complain about what I don’t have or I can choose to celebrate what I do have in my life – His mercy, grace, hope, love, faithfulness. This is not a form of denial but a way of looking at things differently.

Gratitude transforms our perspective and outlook so our glass is not half empty or even half full, it’s full to overflowing! Instead of focusing on what we don’t have then we can begin to give away what we’ve been given. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV). As a result your glass ends up running over even more!!

I remember years ago when my girls were very little and life meant a lack of sleep and an abundance of hormones, I was walking through a forest. Even on a sunny day the trees can often make a forest feel gloomy and dark and that was just how I felt. Out of the corner of my eye I was aware of the sun glistening on the river. But instead of looking that way, I just kept my eyes fixed on the dark, dirty path. Even though I was absorbed by my ‘worst of times’ thoughts, God spoke really clearly to me. “If you would just look up you would see the sun/Son”. A reminder that if I would lift my eyes off the gloomy path I was on and focus on His Son, things would look very different.

I’ve often found that God doesn’t change the circumstances till my attitude has altered. What will be the source of my delight? What he does for me or who he is? Will my trust, joy and hope in Him be founded on my circumstances or on his character and constancy. The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3:22, 23 NLT).

I’ve just finished reading the book of Job in the Bible in One Year app (phew!). In his commentary Nicky Gumbel writes “Job holds on to the faithfulness of God, ‘I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted’ (Job 42:2). This is a wonderful promise to hold on to when things in your life are not going according to your plans. God has a good plan for you and it will not be thwarted.”

Very often the ‘worst of times’ are a sign that the ‘best of times’ are just round the corner.

REST-FULL or REST-LESS?

And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14 NKJV)

This week I’m celebrating a personal best in my recovery from Post Viral Fatigue 🙂 7 whole days without any morning or afternoon naps!!!

This is the first time in 2 years I have managed to go this long without a little siesta time! I have been able to go 4, maybe 5 days before but then I’ve maybe spent the afternoons of the next 4 or 5 days in bed again. I would feel very frustrated, annoyed that I had to ‘give in’ again to the tiredness. I’m quite competitive so I did not like that chronic fatigue was beating me!

Instead of working as a teacher, I have been learning as a much-loved child. One of my main topics has been REST and it has involved a great deal of practice!

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He LETS me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honour to his name. (Psalms 23:1-3 NLT)

Psalm 23 has been such a lifeline to me recently and I love this version of v2 – He LETS me rest.

All too often we feel we need to keep going, struggle on, not give in, when He is actually giving us permission to rest. It is not a sign of failure, it is a response to His favour over our lives – The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He is everything we need.

Previously I would have tried to keep going in my own strength instead of strengthening myself in The Lord like David in 1 Sam 30:6. Rather than looking upward to Him, I would have looked inward to myself. As a result I focused on my own weaknesses and put up my own defence barriers rather than remembering The Lord is my strength and my shield (Psalm 28:7 NIV) .

But recently I had a lightbulb moment and realised that days I needed to rest were not a bad thing. After all we know that on the seventh day God rested from all his work. (Genesis 2:2 NIV) and Jesus invited the disciples to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31 NIV)

It’s not weakness, it’s wisdom.

It’s not an indictment that I’m a failure. Rather it’s an indicator that God, in His grace, LETS me rest so He can renew my strength. When I ‘come away with Him by myself to a quiet place and get some rest’, He refreshes and restores my soul.

Just as my iPad doesn’t work if I don’t re-charge it, so He knows when I need re-charged!!

And when I stop I seem to end up further ahead, it feels more like 2 steps forward, 1 step back. I’ve not ended up further back than when I started and when it’s time to move again, it’s 2 steps forward so I end up even further ahead.

Rest leaves you in a better position for what is next, for what God has ahead for you. It helps to reset you with new strength for the new thing He is doing!

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 NLT)

PS it’s now 8 days as I spent the afternoon writing this blog!!