Friday, 18 November 2011

Desert Time

This week I saw a photo of the first time I breastfed my beautiful baby daughter. It made me cry. I looked so happy, so natural. And yet now, twelve weeks later, I am no longer exclusively breastfeeding. My body failed me and my daughter. Insufficient glandular tissue in my breasts means that I have a chronically low milk supply. My baby lost so much weight that we had to start topping her up with formula, and now she is mainly formula fed with my breast milk as the top up and the comforter.
Apparently I was fearfully and wonderfully made, but how do I believe that when I find myself in the 1-2% of women who are physically unable to keep their baby alive with their own body?

Friday, 26 August 2011

Almost 40 Reasons Why It's Good to Go Overdue!

So, at 10 days past my due date it is helpful to think about why it is good to go overdue. As they say, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
In a bid to keep me encouraged over the past few days, my best friend, Clare, has provided most of the following, with the odd addition from others here and there:

1: Babies are much easier to look after when they're on the inside.

2: Baby is a bit bigger, a bit more developed and a bit more ready for the world.

3: I have more time to chillax.

4: Time for more 'date night' opportunities with the hubby.

5: I can watch a film or TV programme and/or read a book with no interruptions other than a change of position or to go to the loo!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Abiding in Christ

John 15:1-11 - Abiding in Christ

Vine Abide in Christ Grapes John 15:1-8

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was often likened to a vine. In John 15, Jesus is saying that whereas the vine was a picture of Israel in the Old Testament, He is the fullest realisation of Israel's hope, of their expectations, of what God intended her to be, as her Messiah. Israel, as a vine, failed; she never achieved her goal. Jesus Christ, who came as the True Vine, would accomplish all that Israel failed to do. As the true vine, Christ is the source of life and strength and fruit. There is a relationship of complete dependence between the branch and the vine. The vine supplies life-giving nourishment to the branches. Apart from it, the branches have neither life nor fruit.

The reverse of running away from God is abiding in Christ. What does it mean to abide? It is more than living within and goes well beyond the sense of taking up space within a house or country. Taken from the Greek verb meno, this word, abide, means 'to remain in one place, rather than leaving or going away, to inhabit securely, rather than to wander aimlessly.' ( Meno, to abide, can also mean remaining steadfast in one location against opponents, without yielding or running away; this word also has the sense of remaining constant while other things change. So we are to maintain unbroken fellowship with Christ.

Kenneth Wuest (in a book I can't remember the title of) puts it this way:  "The believer makes his spiritual home in Christ. There is nothing between himself and his Saviour, no sin unjudged and not put away. He depends upon Him for spiritual life and vigour as the branch is dependent upon the vine. The abiding of Christ in the Christian is His permanent residence in him and His supplying that Christian with the necessary spiritual energy to produce fruit in his life through the ministry of the Holy Spirit."

If we are to bear Christ's fruit, we must be in relationship with Him. As I wrote the other day, our prayer lives are good indicators of the health of our relationship with God. We can't be in relationship with anyone if we don't converse with them. Prayer must be a two way system, and listening is as important as speaking. Someone once asked Mother Teresa how she prayed. She replied, "I listen." The interviewer then asked what God said to her. She replied, "He listens." ( How can we know what God is calling us to do if we don't listen for and to His voice? "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (John 15:7). If we are abiding in Christ, we will have rich prayer lives that provide us with great fellowship with Him. We will know what Christ wants for our lives and we will be able to pray as He calls us to pray.

This relationship with Christ is so important for, apart from Him, we can do nothing. (John 15:5) Apart from Christ, we will fall into sin. We will not bear fruit unless we are abiding in Christ. If we keep His commands, we will remain in His love. To repeat what I have already said, to disobey God is to run from His presence in our lives, so to obey Him is to remain in Him and He in us. We will be able to hear His call and to obey it, unlike Jonah, who was living to his own agenda, hearing God's call, but running from it.

We become like those with whom we associate. Two of my close friends spent 5 months travelling around Asia together. When they had returned, I spoke to one of them on the phone. I could hear the other one in her voice and the things she said. They had spent every day together for 5 months and had started to become like each other. If we abide in Christ, people will hear and see Him in us. If you see a picture of my dad, you will see the resemblance between us. In the same way, people ought to be able to look at each one of us and see from our behaviour and lives that God is our Heavenly Father. Just as my dad gave me life, God is the source of all our lives, if we abide in Him.

Failing to abide in Christ means that we will be running from God, removed from our life source. "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers." (John 15:6). Furthermore, by abiding in Christ, we are caused to bear more fruit, which brings glory to the Father and thereby demonstrates our discipleship.

To run from God is to remove ourselves from His presence within us. Disobedience separates us from God and affects those around us. We make excuses and we hide, burying our heads in the sand and making it harder for us to return to God's presence. But to abide in Christ is to be dependent on Him and obedient to His commands. Obedience comes from a good relationship with our Saviour. When we are running from God, He is running after us, only He has much more patience and perseverance - we must work harder and harder to flee from the God whose goodness and mercy pursues us. If you are running from God right now, please let Him catch you up. Let Him show you "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." (Ephesians 3:18). Ask Him to forgive you and to graft you back onto the Vine so that you can abide once more in Christ. As the Father has loved Jesus, so has He loved you. Accept the love and forgiveness He is offering to you and remain in the love of Christ.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

God in My Waiting

God in my WaitingI'm 39 weeks pregnant.

I'm fed up and uncomfortable and bored.

I want to meet my baby.

I've prepared everything that needs to be prepared. Baby clothes are washed and in drawers; my hospital bags have been packed and repacked; the freezer is stocked.

What more can I do? Sit and wait? Expect every moment to be the last before I go into labour?

Or make the most of this time I have been given?

I'm looking forward to labour (weird, yes, I've been told!) and I'm looking forward to meeting our child. So, every day that ends with me still pregnant is slightly disappointing.

When will the wait be over? I don't like surprises and I'm not very good at not knowing when things will happen, so this is hard for me.

We sang Everything by Tim Hughes at church on Sunday, and I was struck by the line, "God in my waiting."

"Be patient, Laura," He was telling me. "Everything in its own time."

Monday, 1 August 2011

Beware Jonah's Second Mistake - Indifference to Prayer

...Jonah could avoid being reminded of his disobedience by other people, though he knew that he couldn't escape from God. But he could run away from the will of God, which is also to run from the presence of God. (Part 1)

Disobedience distances us from God. When we decide not to align ourselves with the will of God, we, in effect, remove ourselves from His hand of protection.

Psalm 32 speaks of the effect of this:

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer,
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
(Psalm 32:3-5a)

It's not a case of God removing His protection from us, but of our refusing to abide in Him.

True, He cannot look at our sin, but his goodness and love will pursue us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:6).

Despite this, disobedience distances us from God, like a door between us. God is there, but we close the door to experiencing the presence of God in our lives. To remove that self-made barrier, all we need to do is to enter God's presence to ask for God's forgiveness.

But we must be forgiven in order to enter His presence.

Our prayer lives are good indicators of where we are with God.
Our prayer lives are good indicators
of where we are with God.
The two are inseparable, but praise God, Jesus' death has allowed us to accomplish that.

So often we decide that we cannot face God. We leave the door shut, knowing we have done wrong; hiding from our heavenly Father; trying to fool ourselves with our excuses.

The longer that door remains closed, the easier it is to leave it shut; to bury our heads in the sand, just as Jonah did by going below deck and falling into a deep sleep, whilst the crew of the ship dealt with the storm he had brought with him.

Jonah is supposed to be a prophet of God - on that boat he is the only believer in the one true God, and yet he is the only one not praying!

Our prayer lives are good indicators of where we are with God. The quality of our prayer life determines the quality of our relationship with God.

Prayer is talking with God.

Prayer is listening to God.

Prayer is enjoying the presence of God.

The way to develop a relationship with someone is to spend time with them. If our prayer life consists only of petitions and intercession, it can lead to anger and frustration.

If prayer is not answered with the speed that we wish it to be answered, we can become bitter and resentful towards God.

However, if we grow to know God, a delayed answer to prayer will only be an opportunity to pray again.

Spending time with the Lord is one of the only methods to truly know His ways, and not just His acts. Knowing God leads to resting in the assurance of His ultimate goodness, despite the circumstances we see around us. You don't always have to be talking to Him. You can just enjoy being with Him.

But to spend no time at all with God leads to disaster.

My prayer life isn't perfect - nowhere near - but it's present.

I talk with God and I enjoy our time together, but when I disobey God, it's usually because I haven't been spending that time with Him.

When we're not doing what we ought to be doing, it's so much easier to fall into sin.

Remember how David ended up committing adultery with Bathsheba?

"In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army… But David remained in Jerusalem." (2 Samuel 11:1).

All the other kings were going off to war, but David stayed at home; he wasn't doing what he ought to be doing, which left him open to seeing things he shouldn't see and doing things he shouldn't do.

Not spending time with God, for whatever reason, is often the start of a slip into disobedience, because we lose touch with Him.

We forget what His voice sounds like.

We forget His words.

It doesn't take long before not being with God spirals downwards into not doing good.

The Light of the World  by William Holman Hunt (1853)
The Light of the World
by William Holman Hunt (1853)
Jesus said, "Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation." (Matthew 26:41). Through lack of prayer, we are weak and the devil can gain the advantage in our lives.

The good news is that when we run, God will pursue us.

He stands at the door, knocking until we open up and talk to Him again.

He took the risk of giving us freedom so that we could choose to love Him as He loves us.

A risk, as that freedom also allows us to go the other way.

Only we can open the door to Him.

But God will be there, constantly trying to win us back to Himself:

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when finds it he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home." (Luke 15:4-6a)

How is your prayer life?

What tips can you share to help others to improve in theirs?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Jonah's Mistake: The Danger of Running Away from God

"The Sovereign Lord has spoken, who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:8)

There is a sort of etiquette that demands our action when God speaks.

The etiquette of those called to be prophets is that they prophesy when God speaks.

God spoke to Amos; Amos was compelled to prophesy.

Like Amos, when God speaks we don't expect the hearer to ignore Him.

The book of Jonah begins with a conventional statement: "The Word of the Lord came to…" (Jonah 1:1) - a convention used over 100 times through the Old Testament to indicate that there has been divine communication to a prophet.

Jonah is the only prophet who is recorded as having run away from God!
He won't find me under here!
The Word of the Lord came to Abraham...

The Word of the Lord came to Samuel...

The Word of the Lord came to Nathan...

The Word of the Lord came to Solomon...

The Word of the Lord came to Elijah...

It goes on.

And each time the prophet moves into action, taking God's message to people and cities. Even the pagan prophet, Balaam, knew that it was foolish to snub God's word (Numbers 22:18).

When the Sovereign Lord speaks, who can but prophesy?

Well, Jonah. Jonah's reaction is the exact opposite. God tells him to go five hundred miles east to Nineveh, but instead, Jonah ran away from the Lord, heading two thousand miles west towards Tarshish.

He is the only prophet who is recorded as having run away from God!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Today I created a new blog...

I used to have a blog: It still exists, though I'm not sure of the password for it - pregnancy brain is to blame! - but I feel I have grown up a lot since writing it. Whether that means I am less funny, I do not know, but I think, perhaps, that I am a little wiser. I have more grey hairs in any case! So, today I created a new blog. This will be a place where I can comment on books I have read; Bible passages that have intrigued or challenged me; and things that have happened in my life.