Winnie wisdom

imageI’ve quoted many a distinguished author and authority over the past twelve months, but I’ve reserved the final blog of 2014 for the very wise words of … Winnie the Pooh!

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart”.

A friend wrote this recently after the birth of his first granddaughter at 3am on Christmas Morning.

I know it’s not quite the same but a certain small four-legged, floppy-ear, waggy-tail creature has also been taking up a lot of room in our hearts … not to mention our house, day, life!!! In that way, Tess is a bit like a new baby!!!

But back to Winnie … I like this quote as a timely reminder before a new year begins that it’s the little things in life that count.

However, ironically we focus too often on the little things that are trivial and give them the most room in our hearts, allowing them to take over the biggest space. There’s a saying ‘the devil is in the details’ and we permit our view of things that should be small and unimportant to distort our vision and perspective and we miss the bigger picture by letting insignificance dominate our landscape.

Conversely, we can also allow our culture to condition and coerce us to pursue the ‘bigger’ things in life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing goals and dreams and having vision for our lives. The problem is when that is our only focus and gets out of perspective and we overlook the small things that give our life purpose and pleasure now.

Thank you Winnie the Pooh (and grandad Neil) for reminding me to distinguish what I need to make room in my heart for and the things that I need to give no space to.

And thank you for giving me space to share my heart with you this year x

What’s the story?

imageThis little creature has turned our world upside down in the past few weeks. Broken sleep, getting nothing done, any routine gone to pot … it’s like having a new baby in the house! I’m sooo grateful for her nap times.

Therefore you can guess my reason for not writing anything last week!!

I had planned to share a quote I read by Malala Yosafzai, the little girl shot by the Taliban who was recently awarded a Nobel prize. She said,

“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not.”

And I could say the same. I have chosen to write my stories and share them each week, not because they are unique, but because they are not.

Everyone has a story and when we risk sharing ours, we can see others gain confidence and freedom to share theirs too. We learn we are not alone. The enemy’s strategy is to isolate and make us feel no one would ever understand what we’re going through. Sharing our stories reveals that we have more in common than not and lifts us from the condemnation of isolation into the safety and care of community.

The challenge is not just to share our story but to listen to the stories of others too. Sometimes we think we know their whole story by just looking at their cover but so many people feel forced to cover up what is truly written in the pages of their heart. It’s time to move beyond the belief that their ‘title’ tells us everything about them.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year but for so many it can make their own story even more difficult to face as convention and commerce dictate “‘Tis the season to be jolly!”

In all the pressure to make everything perfect … perfect presents, perfect decorations, perfect cooking and hosting, we too often forget the real story of Christmas. This little baby also turned the world upside down by making it possible for us to know the Father through Him. He came to re-write our stories with the words the Father speaks over our lives.

So as we celebrate Christmas, let’s remember it’s a time of new birth.

Let His story rewrite yours.

Have a wonderful Christmas xx

Set a fire down in my soul

image“Set a fire down in my soul
That I can’t contain that I can’t control
I want more of you God, I want more of you”. (Will Reagan)

It felt slightly ironic, not to mention difficult, to sing these words yesterday at church!

Last Thursday evening we had a fire at our house which threatened to be hard to contain and control. It started in our shed and damaged the side wall of the house but fortunately was put out just as our roof was about to catch fire.

I don’t believe it was by chance I wrote about thankfulness last Monday. I’ve had so so much to be thankful for this week! We may have lost our shed but we still have our home thanks to the astuteness of a good neighbour and the skill of the fire brigade. I’m always grateful for our home but never more so than the past few days!

As Andy led worship last night, he sang “Sovereign over us”. He said the chorus felt more poignant than usual:

“Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever, Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us.” (Aaron Keyes)

We always learn by our experiences and mistakes and we’ve learnt that ashes can still be warm 18 hours after a fire has been last stoked.

Ashes are synonymous with ruins and for the Israelites were a symbol of loss, grieving, pain and death. But ashes are also a synonym of embers – ‘a small live piece of coal or wood, as in a dying fire’.

In Isaiah 61:3 God makes a promise “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.(Isaiah 61:3 NLT).

He promises to replace those ashes with a crown of beauty. Now ashes become synonymous with His goodness, hope, faithfulness, favour, rescue, restoration.

This is His promise for all His children. For me. For you.

Whether for 18 hours, days, weeks, months or years, you’ve felt like your life was in ashes, there is rescue and restoration for you too. All is not lost. Your hopes, your dreams, your gifts, can catch alight again. Like embers, there is something still alive in what seemed to be dying.

HE IS ALIVE!!! And we can sing

“You make me come alive” (Bethel Music)

“Up from the ashes, Your love has brought us
Out of the darkness, into the light
Lifting our sorrows, bearing our burdens
Healing our hearts.” (Bethel Music)

“Into the darkness you shine out of the ashes we rise there’s no one like you, none like You!
Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer, Awesome in Power, Our God! Our God!” (Chris Tomlin)

“Beauty rises from the ashes
Sorrow turns to gladness
When our God is near
You speak light into our darkness
You heal the broken-hearted
You wipe away our tears” (Brenton Brown)

AND 

Set a fire down in my soul
That I can’t contain that I can’t control
I want more of you God, I want more of you.”

WHY? Because …

“There’s no place I would rather be
There’s no place I would rather be
There’s no place I would rather be
Than here in your love, here in your love.” (Will Reagan)

Thanksgiving ALWAYS comes before Black Friday

imageBlack Friday certainly cast a dark shadow across our news last week. We’ve inherited and imitated many a good thing from across the pond but Black Friday is not one to celebrate. It’s particularly ironic that we have latched on to this grab-fest but failed to pay much attention to the significance of the preceding day. Big businesses have capitalised on the commercial potential of Black Friday allowing our small mindsets to totally bypass the real meaning of Thanksgiving.

What does it say about our culture when we are more ready to fight for more stuff rather than give thanks for what we have?

I know I’m not the only one thinking this … I’ve just listened to a brilliant podcast about the “Transforming Power of Gratitude” by Tre Sheppard in the middle of writing this. So worth a listen 🙂 I love his belief that thankfulness should be more than just ‘a reaction or a response’, it needs to be ‘a reality in our lives’.

Over the past few days I’ve come across several quotes about thankfulness which have been helpful reminders to me and they are way too good to keep to myself.

“God gave you a gift of 86 400 seconds today. Have you used, at least, one of them to say thank you?”

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

“Thankfulness is a secret passageway into a room you can’t find any other way.” Mark Buchanan

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” A A Milne

“It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” Brother David Steindl Rast

“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” G. K. Chesterton

“Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle.” (1 Corinthians 4:7-8 MSG)

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV)

I particularly love Piglet’s observation! Which one is your favourite?

PS having probs with link but you can listen online at http://www.causewaycoastvineyard.com (go to ABOUT then LISTEN)