Crutching Tiger

Last week I sustained a knee injury from football that left me with a sprained cruciate ligament (the doctors say that’s quite a bad thing), fluids in my joints and a suspected cartilage tear that produced troubling ‘clicks’ and pain when I walk.

Now I wouldn’t trouble you with the tale of woes of the NHS experience that followed in the bid to fix this, but as a strongly opined person I would conclude by saying I am an enduring critic of the NHS system, and for good reasons too: Despite their many good works, they could be much better 🙂 Also, although not relevant to this blog, I will use this opportunity to say, ‘GPs are overrated, and Nurses are underrated and underpaid!’

Anyway, at the time of writing of this column, the only thing I had managed from 3 trips to 2 different hospitals and 1 GP, was to be told that I have a bad knee injury (duh?), pain killers which cost me £7ish (and felt no more like paracetamol) and a promise of a scan in the unforeseen future. To summarize, I was really in a bad state and could not walk properly until…

Ben the CrutchMan and friend comes to the rescue! Yep, he offered me one of the crutches he used during a similar but worse knee experience (or a man-graze?).

That crutch radically changed my life.

At best, I have received so much sympathy from work colleagues who never took my injury serious until they actually say me with a crutch (yeah, you can say it – the superficiality of life!). Also I have been a recipient of many a great seat on trains and the tube – no matter how crammed it is – and that makes me wanna keep the crutch for the whole year.

At average, I walk with less pain than before.

At worst, my friends now call me ‘Hoppy’.

But perhaps, the most important, is the lesson/reflection/perspective that God beamed on me as I walked to and from work, with the crutch:

For the first time in my recent memory; my life considerably slowed down – and this was not by choice. I mean, without the crutch I could go nowhere; as I worked from home and didn’t know the difference. However, with the crutch, I had to go into office and at a snail’s pace.

As I walked down the brobdingnagian and Barmecidal paths of Canary wharf, one of the greatest financial hubs of the world, everything seamlessly flowed in the forceful tide of life…

Well everything apart from me.

In that moment, the scales fell off my eyes God made me realize how my own life ran so fast, and at a frightful pace that was not necessarily prescribed by Him but by the world.

This has raised a number of questions that I don’t yet have an answer to……….

  • How can we live a God paced life in world paced environment?
  • How do we handle the surging impact of virtual social media relationships versus real relationships?
  • Work, goals, achievements and other grandiose pursuits. How can we ensure in real terms that we keep the supremacy of God’s purpose?

Maybe I will come up with some answers worth sharing, in which case expect some more blogs. Or maybe (and I believe much more excitingly), you have some answers you would be willing to share with me?

WRITTEN BY AUSTEEN AMEH

Austeen

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Does God speak to us directly… I can’t remember!

speak1     speak2

How do you live your life, are you concerned you will get things wrong or confident that you will get things right?

The last 2 years for us as a family have involved leaving one job in Birmingham, finding another job (we thought this would be in Birmingham too,) deciding which town to move to, which house to buy, and which church to attend.  God hasn’t explicitly given us any direction or advice once !!!!  Even when I came to him in prayer with big decisions (‘shall I take this job 120 miles away in London’) I felt the only heavenly response was “well what do you think you should do Jon ???”

What do I feel I have learned through this time? I feel that God has slowly but surely been teaching me to view future decisions differently.  He doesn’t just want me to ‘react and obey’ when he tells me to do something; he also wants me to be ‘proactive and trust’ when I feel that something is right to do i.e with my own life and responsibilities.

For me over the past few years, that has meant that Elizabeth (my wife) and I had to make some big decisions based on what we felt was best in terms of fulfilling our goals and responsibilities before God.  It has felt like ‘well the master has left us the talents, and on this occasion he wants us to make the decisions. So where shall we invest??  Gulp!!!’

Several passages of the bible have felt particularly relevant to me during this time.  In 1 Peter 1 it says

“Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

And also in Philippians 2 “Therefore, my dear friends,… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.”

From these 2 passages, God has given me regular reminders that while it has been our time to be pro-active and get on with things,  that we continue to have the responsibility to be careful and listen out for any views he may have.  Also, Psalm 32:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.  Do not be like the horse or the mule which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.”

I’ve been challenged that God doesn’t want us to be horses that need to be dragged each way and controlled by a bit. He wants us to listen to more subtle direction. And also, that we don’t need to fear him, because it’s the wicked that have woes, but his children have love that surround their choices.

A wonderful truth to close with  is that ‘God tests the heart.’  Whether he is directing me clearly, or whether I feel that it’s me who is carefully trying to work out the best next move,   God is more concerned with whether we are acting in faith that this is what He wants.  He’s not short tempered and ready to leap on us if we get things wrong. Rather He is ‘ slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness. ‘ He’s keen for us to listen, keen for us to mature, and of course he’s very able to step in and grab our attention if we are setting off down the wrong road!!

So for you, let me encourage you not always to wait for a heavenly voice in decision making, but also be proactive if the Holy Spirit is drawing something to your attention and perhaps prompting you to make a decision or a commitment.

And for me????  I need to remember that even though I’ve been carefully stepping through life, God might choose to step in at any moment and be a lot more directive with me.  As it happens, I get the feeling that He wants to remind me about all of that,  that definitely sounds like fun !!

WRITTEN BY JONATHAN ADAMS

Confessions of a BACKSLIDER! – Part 3

What I learned from backsliding

-That God never leaves us. Even when far from him, not praying, I would sense his presence, just with me, loving me, waiting for me.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

He has taught me that ‘nor anything else in all creation’ includes me.

-That God isn’t mad with backsliders.

“But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him” Luke 15: 20-24

-That God wants our hearts more than he wants anything we could do for him, and that losing our first love can be subtle and gradual.

-Passionate, unmovable belief in ‘once save, always saved’. Heated discussions about this at bible college would keep the class going for hours, and I never knew on which side of the fence  I stood, until now.

5. Up close and personal understanding of God’s grace and mercy.

“But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them” Nehemiah 9:17

Ultimately, though, while of course I regret backsliding and the years of intimacy with my father I missed, God has taught me that no matter how big we mess up, he can restore and use our mistakes. Nothing we can do is too big for him to work in. I’m stronger now in my relationship with him than I was before it all went wrong and, essentially, I am real with him.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Prodigal Daughter

WRITTEN BY KAREN ROY

Karen Portrait

Confessions of a BACKSLIDER! – Part 2

But God had a plan

After six years of not walking with him, he moved us to Luton – voted worst town to live in –  but for me a place I will love forever as the one God would bring me to to ‘widen the path beneath my feet’. Very soon after moving here, I remember crying out to God what I’d been feeling for most of those six years: that I missed him and wanted to come back to him, but didn’t even know how to begin, I’d gone so far. That was the turning point. That’s when he started to run to me, as the father ran to the prodigal son. Suddenly, after years of avoiding being alone with God, I’d find myself getting the children to bed early on the nights I knew my husband would be out, so I could curl up in solitude with a worship CD, with all the excitement and tummy flutterings of a first date. He was wooing me again, and I knew all he demanded was that I let him hold me, to tell me that he was going to make everything OK. The divine appointments began with weeks, and very quickly God had me enveloped by Christians who would show me a walk with him in which the pendulum swings in the middle: people whose passion remains fixed on him, not on what he wants us to do for him, impacting the world around them, as a result of intimacy with him, rather than out of a performance mentality. He showed me through them that I had lost my first love, that he loved and accepted me for me, not for what I could do for him. Everything I had started off knowing, but moved away from in my quest to prove to God that I was worthy. In short, he used these people to show me what real Christianity was about, not what my version of it had become.

So what does it feel like to be a backslider?

If I say ashamed, I mean purely in terms of other Christians, not God. They couldn’t understand how I could ‘switch off’ from church and it made for a few awkward conversations in which I felt expected to explain my reasons, when I barely understood them myself. It also feels achingly lonely and sad in that deep part of us, that ‘secret place’, where it is just us and God, that place where the two of you used to meet and just ‘be’.

What should you do if you know someone who is backslidden or struggling with their faith?

-Pray for them, persistently! I’m convinced that God brought me back as a result of the prayers of faithful Christian friends

-Love them, for who they are.

-Do not judge them, as hard as that may be: you have no idea what is going on in their heart, or what God is doing in them

-Do not compromise your faith to bend to them: I admire beyond words the friends who didn’t compromise

-Do not pretend to have all the answers to all of their questions or doubts. Be quick to listen and slow to speak: God is not calling you as this friend’s personal apologist, or to talk argue them out of backsliding. I remember trying to voice some doubts I was having about my faith, and being made to feel like a heretic. Relax. God can handle our doubts. Can you?

-Know that they are watching you like a hawk, weighing your actions and your speech, ravenous for the smallest glimpse of God’s grace. They don’t give a jot for your theological knowledge, your spiritual gifts or your church attendance: all they want is to see that God’s grace is real, so be sensitive to him and his leading when talking to them.

Prodigal Daughter

WRITTEN BY KAREN ROY

Karen Portrait

Confessions of a BACKSLIDER! – Part 1

I’ll let you into a little secret: when I moved to Luton 8 years ago, I was a backslidden Christian. According to various dictionary definitions I’ve found, I had ‘relapsed in the practice of religion’, ‘reverted to sin’, ‘lost my resolve’, ‘gone astray’. But of course, a backslider is more than a dictionary definition: they are person with a story of how their relationship with God hit crisis point. Here is mine.

After God romancing me for a handful of years, I finally made a commitment to him at the age of 21 at Reading University – the only member of my family or friends ever to become a Christian – and quickly fell head over heels, embraced by a church with an emphasis on sound teaching. It was a wonderful beginning. Move forward a couple of years to London in the mid 1990s, a time when Christians in the UK were experiencing an incredible outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Church life was electric, and Sunday service was almost like going to see a show, exhilirating and exciting: the prophetic words were pouring, we were being ‘slain in the spirit’ at every service, there was the Holy Spirit laughter in the pews, the oil on the palms. We were ‘on fire’.

It was against this backdrop that I went, in a relatively short space of time from zero to sixty, swept up in the excitement of what God was doing. We quit our jobs, went to Bible college, church meetings three times a week, all night prayer meetings, outreach teams at Leicester Square and Covent Garden, witnessing to tourists and clubbers on Saturday nights about how real God was and how he had a plan for their lives. We lived, ate and breathed church. I knew the bible like the back of my hand: when the preacher told us to turn to a verse, I was there in a flash, before every else. Those short, hard to find books – Habakkuk, Philemon, Nahum? I could find them with my eyes closed. And God was very, very much ‘in it’ and doing fantastic things in our own lives and revealing to us the plans he had for us too. And the word he gave for me? That was part of the problem. It was confirmed, and weighed, and then I went through a period of trying to bring it to fruition. I upped the ante, increased the prayer meetings, the outreaches, trying to prove to God that I was worthy of this calling, forgetting that his timing, his ways and thoughts are completely different to mine, that anything God wants to do is ‘not by might, not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord’. The harder I tried, the further away the fulfilment of the word seemed to move.

The result? Total burn out. Like a pendulum clock, having swung fully to the left, at the end of my own resources I now swung fully to the right: I went from ‘mighty woman of God’ and ‘prayer warrior’ to someone frustrated, disappointed, having tried with all my strength to prove myself worthy of God’s calling. He had weighed my efforts and deemed me not up to the job.

One week of not going to church became two, became three. Then it was months. And, well, you know the rest of the story. I turned away from the church, married the man of my dreams, had my babies, and got on with living life without God.

Prodigal Daughter

WRITTEN BY KAREN ROY

Karen Portrait