It has your name on it

imageThis week marks my first ‘half term’ break from school in 3 years! My daughter Zoe is at university so no half term for her. Consequently she is already on the road to Christmas!

She’s halfway through her second box of mince pies, Michael Bublé Christmas songs have been on repeat and dare I say the Christmas jumper has made an appearance!! In private not public!!

It’s not the presents she craves but the warmth of good family times round the fire. Pressies are a welcome bonus!!!

A number of years ago we received a very welcome bonus the week before Christmas when a delivery man called with a huge box for us. At first I was hesitant to sign for it as I hadn’t ordered anything of this size and wondered what it could be? “A hamper from Harrods”, he told me. “You’ll enjoy that!” Once I heard where it was from, I was even more certain it couldn’t be for us! It must be for our neighbours. It never dawned on me it could be a gift.

“It has your name on it.”

I doubted it was for us until I saw our name printed on the box.

It took me longer to sign for the box than it did for two very excited daughters to open it!!

The box was filled to the brim: champagne, delicious brandy butter, and loads of other things that spoke to me of excess and extravagance rather than everyday essentials.

I was still struggling to accept this gift even after it was opened!! My poverty mindset told me I didn’t ‘need’ these luxuries that were worth so much money and at first, I thought about what I could have done with the money this must have cost – bought groceries for Christmas AND the New Year!!!

Our Father doesn’t want us just to have enough, He wants us to enjoy His more than enough. He wants to give us not just our daily bread but invite us to His banquet table. He is lavish, generous, abundant, extravagant!!

We may have to wait a few more weeks for Father Christmas, but our Heavenly Father has very good gifts for all of us – even though you may think they are for someone else. Someone who deserves them more or is a more likely recipient but no, they are for you!!!

“It has your name on it.”

Maybe it’s the most precious gift of all. The gift of new life in Him through His Son.

When we open this gift of new life, we discover so many other gifts … mercies that are new every morning, great faithfulness, unfailing love … we just keep finding more and more and more.

He gives us the gift of inheritance – we are His children, He knows our name, we are made in his likeness so we can then share His gifts of love, hope, joy, peace, mercy, grace with others. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35 NLT)

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” (Romans 12:6-8 NLT)

“It has your name on it.”

The kind person who sent us this amazing gift wanted us to enjoy every single thing in the box.

He wants you to enjoy every single thing He has for you too! Every single thing that “has your name on it.”

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imageIn 1929 Frigyes Karinthy set out his theory of “Six degrees of separation” claiming that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.

Living in Northern Ireland, we always joke there are only two degrees of separation! When you meet someone new here, they will invariably know someone you either know or know of.

Christakis and Fowler have also proposed the theory of “Three Degrees of Influence” maintaining that social influence does not end with the people to whom a person is directly tied. We influence our friends who in their turn influence their friends, meaning that our actions can influence people we have never met. They suggest that “everything we do or say tends to ripple through our network, having an impact on our friends (one degree), our friends’ friends (two degrees), and even our friends’ friends’ friends (three degrees).”

I have seen this happen with this blog whereby friends’ friends’ friends have read it at home and abroad. Thanks to site statistics, I recently discovered that people in over 50 countries of the world including Singapore, Switzerland, Serbia, Sweden and Swaziland have read this blog. You may remember I wrote a few weeks ago about my dream of travelling with Andy to as many countries beginning with ‘A’ and ‘S’ as possible? Looks like my blog has got there before me!!

A year ago, I would not have dreamt this. My decision to start writing in January this year was one of obedience rather than confidence. I wondered if anyone would read what I had to write. But I felt God prompting me so I promised I would write each week, whether anyone read it or not!!!

And yesterday I felt His gentle nudge again. I long to see my world changed for Him but like that chorus ‘Jesus bids me shine’, I sometimes feel “stuck in my small corner”.

I’m only one. What can I do? What difference can I make?

And I heard him say influence 10 people who will each influence 10 others who in turn will influence 10 more apiece. Instead of ‘three degrees of influence’, let’s reach for ‘ten degrees of multiplication’.

1 degree – 1 person
2 degrees – 10 people
3 degrees – 100 people
4 degrees – 1000 people
5 degrees – 10 000 people
6 degrees – 100 000 people
7 degrees – 1000 000 people
8 degrees – 10 000 000 people
9 degrees – 100 000 000 people
10 degrees – 1000 000 000 people

The potential is exponential!!

Our actions, our choices, our responses, our attitudes and our words could change our circle of friends and our family circle, our colleagues or college, our community, our city, our country, our continent … could change our world!

And it all starts with each of us influencing change in the lives of 10 people – seeing the Kingdom come, releasing joy, renewing hope, restoring health (physical, emotional, mental), and revealing His life in all its fullness.

There are different degrees of what you can do day in, day out to change lives for His better: smile, say hello, speak words of encouragement, pray for healing, show God’s love in practical ways, bring His hope to the hopeless, break chains of social injustice, lead others into life.

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do. (Helen Keller)

Red coats and Risks (and wrists!)

imageRecently I’ve had opportunities to pray for people out and about in hairdressers and hotels, in supermarkets and sowing rooms! But it’s been a few months since I went out and about specifically looking for His opportunities to pray with people.

I’m leading my small group through the book ‘Do What Jesus Did‘ by Robby Dawkins and knew I couldn’t encourage them to embrace a life of adventurous risk taking if I wasn’t doing the same!! As the book says, God is not looking for experts but “people who are available”. “God’s gift to us is ability; our gift to God is availability”. So I made Wednesday morning available and asked God who was on His treasure list that He wanted me to meet that day.

To be honest I headed out feeling a bit nervous and more than a bit ‘rusty’. At first I wasn’t seeing people who matched my treasure hunt list but one of the treasure clues was a lady in a red coat so I decided I would pray for every ‘red coat’ I saw!!

Brief pause for those who know me well to have a giggle!! When it comes to praying for people out and about I’m a bit like Joseph, looking for the coats of many colours my Father has for me! But over and over I’ve seen Him touch the lives of these people. One of the most memorable for me was a lady in a green coat. We prayed for her sister who had just been diagnosed with cancer and found out a few weeks later she had been given the all clear!!

I was excited when I saw my first ‘red coat’ grimace because her wrist was sore as I also had ‘right wrist in pain and bandaged’ on my treasure list!! I ‘casually’ asked if her wrist was sore but she said she was just changing her shopping basket to another hand as it was heavy. So instead I asked her if there was one thing I could pray for her what would it be but she just said ‘good health’ as she rushed away!!!

Normally that wouldn’t have bothered me but because it was the first time I had done treasure hunting for a while, I was tempted to feel discouraged. I know that discouragement doesn’t come from our Heavenly Father but from the father of lies, so the best thing to do was to find the nearest ‘red coat’ and pray for them!!

I headed to B and Q as it was on my list too. I met a lovely lady in a red coat. She didn’t want prayer for anything specific but said she needed “all the prayers she could get!” I don’t think she really expected me to actually pray for her there and then but did accept my offer to do so. I just prayed she would know how special she was to God, how much He loved her and that He would fill her with His peace, hope and joy. Her eyes filled with tears and she was very thankful.

Fast forward to Tescos on Friday morning. As I got my trolley I felt to pray that I was available for any opportunities He had for me as I did my grocery shop. Two seconds later I walked in to the store at the same time as a lady wearing a red coat!! I made a quick comment about the weather but chickened out of offering to pray right there in the doorway! I remembered I wanted to get some shampoo (on offer!) so I headed over to that aisle.

Guess who was already there? Red coat lady!! And she had a bandage on her right wrist too!! I quickly explained about my list on Wednesday morning. She showed me that she had just had an operation on her hand but wasn’t sure if it was going to correct the problem. I offered to pray that the operation would be a complete success and she would have full movement in her hand again. When I asked her if she could move her fingers more than before, she started to explain about the operation again but then said “my hand is tingling all over”. He is so good 🙂

I maybe didn’t get to pray for lots of people on Wednesday morning but it did mean I got to pray for that lovely lady on Friday. It was like a rollover bonus!!

Thank you Father for your divine appointments in supermarket aisles 🙂

This is what it means to be the Church— not to be perfect, or better than our neighbours. It means that the good news of God’s love actually lives inside us and is available to build up, restore, heal and transform the world around us.” (R. Dawkins)

Are you “available” this week?

Viewpoint

imageI’ve been writing today from here, my Downhill office (ie beach) looking over to the Donegal headland. Such a beautiful blue sky day and as ever, I’m so grateful for the beauty of where I live 🙂 The view reminds me of something God showed me from the opposite side of this bay years ago.

It was a Sunday afternoon and we had driven over to the Donegal headland towards Greencastle. Andy wanted to show me a fantastic viewpoint he had discovered on a retreat day to Kinnagoe Bay. It made for a carefree day out and about with Andy and the girls.

But my head was crammed with cares. My heart was heavy. My spirit felt low. Let’s just say I wasn’t sharing Andy’s excitement about the outing or the potential view.

When we arrived and I took in the stunning view of the north coast stretching from Magilligan Point all the way to Portstewart and beyond, even my weary soul was lifted and in awe of the beauty of His creation. As I looked across the bay to where we had just come from, I could see other cars and the houses we had just driven past looked so small.

God opened my eyes to another viewpoint.

If those houses were small, then so was mine and the problems I felt invading my life there were even smaller. I began to see things from His perspective. I had felt like I was carrying the world on my shoulders and He was reminding me of the song I sang as a child, “He’s got the whole world in His hands”! Things seemed out of my control but He was reassuring me that He was in total control. The situations that had loomed large for me, looked tiny when I saw them safe in His hands rather than mine.

He knows every circumstance and crisis, every care and concern. There is nothing so big, He is overwhelmed, and there is nothing so small, He overlooks it.

A few years ago when Andy was away doing worship gigs in America, I was awake in the middle of the night, calculating the time difference and wondering where he was on his journey between cities at that point. As I prayed God would be with Him, I could picture the vastness of the USA on a map and then my thoughts turned to how small a map of Northern Ireland would be in comparison. Coleraine would only be a wee dot on that small map so how tiny did that make my house, my bedroom, my bed, me??? Minuscule!!

And yet my name is engraved on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16). He knew me before I was born (Psalm 139:16). He knows everything about me and everything I do (Psalm 139:1,4). Even the very hairs on my head have been counted (Matt 10:30)!

HE LOVES US, ‘oh how He loves us’ (John Mark McMillan), and NOTHING can EVER separate us from that love (Romans 8:39 NLT).

I had woken up feeling alone in the room because Andy was away but as I lay there I felt overwhelmed by His presence. The King of Kings, the Creator God, my Heavenly Father, was right there with me, minuscule me!!

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewellery, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? (Psalm 8:3-4 MSG)

But He does. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed or overlooked – whether it’s a health issue, financial problems, stress, depression, bullying in the workplace or in the classroom or a broken relationship… He knows. He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). He is for you (Romans 8:31).

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalms 139:17-18 NLT)