Christmas Time

Somehow, the time around Christmas is very special although sometimes fraught. I think that being out of routine and seeing so many of friends and family over such a short period can have a good effect although it can be an exhausting experience especially for all us introverts!

The time between Christmas and New Year that we are now experiencing seems to be an elongated time, when  there is time to reflect and slow down – but what do most of do? We rush around frantically to see what bargains are in the shops or/and we eat masses of left-overs from the Christmas meal,  We try to pack in such a lot in a short time that again we are left drained. So how best can we use this time? I’m the first to admit that I easily fritter the time away rather than actively listening to the God who is with me who has so much to say to each of us.

“We can make our plans but God has the final word.” (Proverbs 16:1) So says the writer of the book of Proverbs. We can get our new or adapted diaries out and put in the various appointments already listed in our old diaries (for transfer) and plan ahead, but what does God want each of us to be doing? I am near a wonderful retreat house, The Sisters of Jesus Way in West Kirby on the Wirral that I visit from time to time.  Here, I can slow down, listen more and let God infiltrate my thoughts.

This Christmas time could be spent being more actively listening than doing or planning.  I sense that God wants us all to learn to slow down and abide ( I love this word!) in Him so that what comes out of our lives is His initiation. What He does through our lives is the only thing that counts in the end. Our human efforts are not what is required.

With the sunshine out today (where I live anyway) one can appreciate the amazing wonders of His creation. Time ambling in this can be most useful and beneficial to one’s mood and emotions let alone one’s physical frame. Children so love to be outdoors.  There, they can appreciate God’s unhurried world, where order and stress are at a minimum. As they enjoy ‘The ‘Creation Series’ of Diamond Books time can almost stand still as they see what God did in those early days of creation.

Even when creation does get out of order with, for example, sudden lengthy outpourings of rain, man like His Maker can put things back into order as we are called upon to help our neighbour very literally.  Then, time spent helping is most worthwhile and beneficial.

May this Christmas time prove an investment for the future as we learn to stop awhile and encourage our children to do likewise – if only for a very little time – it’s a start!

Acuity – what is this?

When God named some foundation stones for my life while embarking on ‘The Diamond Books’ project, he named one stone as being ‘acuity’.  I had to grab my dictionary to find out the meaning of this word and found out much to my amazement that it means mental alertness which I knew immediately was to do with my sleeping habits. God wanted me mentally alert so it has meant that I have had to discipline myself to go to bed early to get the sleep I need. However, I have a confession to make as sometimes I don’t keep to the routine God has set for me and then often I feel the sluggishness of my mind the following day. Oh to be more diligent!

Also, acuity implies keeping one’s brain active so I seek to eat the super foods that are able to boost the brain, e.g. milled flaxseed, sunflower seeds, blueberries, broccolli, blackcurrants and other wonderful foods God provides. However, again I have a confession to make as so easily I binge eat and have foods that are not good or helpful for my body to be in good shape which of course affects my mental capacity, too.

Then, there are the crosswords to do and Suduko and other challenging puzzles – all helpful to develop acuity. So the challenges continue.

It is only when I am abiding and resting in God’s finished work and realise that I cannot add to what Jesus has already done, that I can relax in his care and not have to eat unnecessarily or fritter time on the computer late at night (iPlayer particularly!). When I learn what God wants of me in a given day, I can complete the tasks he gives and then rest back knowing I’ve done what he wanted which is so incredibly satisfying. Walking and living in the Spirit of God is fabulous – there is nothing quite like it. He gives fulfilment. Then I can realise afresh that nothing happens by accident but by the design of the Creator who is weaving his purposes out even in writing books while pursuing the project he has given me to do.

However, Jesus our model didn’t always keep to a pattern with sleeping or eating. Sometimes he spent all night in prayer, sometimes he fasted and prayed but he seemed to have a daily pattern of rising early before it was light to have time with his Father God. How I need to put the regular priorities in place yet be available for when the Holy Spirit calls to do something differently from the usual pattern while numbering my days and redeeming the time.

How I need to be wholly obedient to my Maker’s instructions and be wise in going to bed early and eating properly. Then, he can have more access to my mind that I am told to love God with so that he can place within my thinking the ideas and creativity as well as reminders of what is needed in different parts of the project at different times as I learn to be sensitive to his leading.

Discipline is something we don’t talk too much about when it comes to training our children but the Bible speaks clearly about it (especially in the book of Proverbs) e.g. “Teach a child how he should live, and he will remember it all his life.” (Proverbs 22:6 – Good News Bible) So, let’s help our children to grow in acuity as they make choices along the way. Diamond Books can help with this.

995 Days to Go

I believe God has called me to write Diamond Books. It is taking a very long time to complete but I believe God has given a timetable to finish the writing of the books in this project, God willing and enabling, by the end of May 2018.

It was not my idea to do this project and certainly not my way. However, God made my pathway very clear at the very beginning of this project back in 1984 and I did wonder why it was so clear when often God asks us to walk and then he confirms the way we are going. So to have clarity of purpose and specific guidance to go ahead with Diamond Books was amazing and I count it such a privilege and joy to be doing it.

It is proving to be a life’s work. I spent 8 lots of 5 days (therefore 40 in total) waiting on God to find out what He wanted for this project. After the 40 days of preparation, I put age groups alongside all the ideas that came and what transpired was over 100 books in 7 age groups. Then, as God tweeked and changed things slightly as time went on, we arrived at exactly 100 books in 12 different sets.

The whole journey of faith has been very challenging. I was asked to write a Biblically based reading project back in the 1980’s when at a Christian Education Conference in Sussex. There, I heard the words from Paul Hawkins (a Christian educator from the University of the Nations, Hawaii) ‘If only we could teach our children to read using the Bible.’ My heart was fired. I was actually teaching remedial reading to struggling readers with the intention of getting them to read so that they could read the Bible at the time. I was asked to consider doing such a project at this conference by Mary Miller, the then headteacher of The Shepherd’s School in Brockley, London.

On returning to Birmingham, I discussed the possibility of doing such a project and was introduced to the late Arthur Adams who had begun writing a similar one. I gleaned from him, he gave me his dummy books and charts and one Monday said ‘Go for the goal and don’t forget computers.’ The following Friday, he died on his knees. So, it felt like a mantle had fallen on me to go ahead with this idea.

So reluctantly (as I didn’t relish the idea of living in such a big city) I moved to London to start work on the project which God was to name later.

How amazing is our God. He has a purpose and plan for each individual life which is why I want children to know this, too, so that they can take hold (early in their lives) the good plans that God has for them. I don’t want them to be ignorant of this as it can be a means of them knowing, when times are hard, that God has a purpose for them to be on the planet.

Foundation

Have you got a foundation? Do you wear a foundation?! Does it cover up the real you? Does a foundation matter? Is it essential? Do you want a priceless foundation that is solid and will take you through any challenges and pressures life throws up?

I strongly believe that we can each have a solid foundation that is based on the truth of what God tells us in the Bible. It seems simplistic or even naïve but the facts are for the tasting. God loves each one of us not for what we do or how we’ve been born or because of where we live but because he loves us unconditionally. He’d love us all to connect with him and be blessed beyond our wildest dreams but even if we choose not to, his love for us doesn’t diminish because “God is love” (see 1 John). He doesn’t change his character to fit us!

Many of today’s children here in the west are wrapped up in technology and weave in and out of the busy lives of their parents. However, in some parts of the world, the technology isn’t so advanced and children can often still be children and have the advantages of being able to play and explore more.

Each child, like each adult, needs a foundation to build on. The Bible provides an anchor when times get tough and when problems are submitted to a Heavenly Father who is directly interested in each human being, he provides the way through so that each can learn to trust someone far bigger than our human eyes can see. Children can be reassured as they look around at creation (that they can see) that a grand designer is behind it all even if sometimes the adults doubt and complicate or simply listen to good scientific theories that sound so plausible and ignore the facts.

God was present at the dawn of time when our world was created and he can supply the strong foundation for our lives. As we adults learn to trust the One who knows everything and everyone, so the children around us can copy us. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,” says the writer of Ecclesiastes (12:1 – NIV). As we as families and individuals remember our creator, then we can receive that foundation which will keep us secure and poised. Read out the Psalms to your family and let our children make up tunes to go with them. As we sing and praise and give God thanks, then our foundation becomes even more solid.

‘The Creation Series’ for reading to 3-4’s helps to give children a solid foundation. Based on the Bible, this boxed set of 8 books provides visuals to go with the words of God that a child will always remember plus an opportunity for each of them to hide God’s word in their heart by learning to memorise Scripture.

Children will always be indebted to any adults who share with them the foundation to life based on the Lord Jesus Christ and his finished work who of course was very much present at creation (see Genesis 1:26)!

Heart Matters

Just visited a surgery to check my Mum’s heart on a scan. It was fascinating to see the shape of Mum’s heart (just like on the chocolate boxes) pumping away and then parts of it being filmed and data collected. What an amazing organ we have that keeps on going regardless of how we feel or move or talk etc. unless of course there is a weakness with the working of it.

They say that the heart is the centre of our lives.  Without its working, we would be dead and with it we can feel when it is being stretched by exercise or aching because we have overdone it and need to rest.  Our bodies are so incredibly sensitive to how we treat them yet amazingly robust, too.

God considers our heart to be the very centre of our lives, too. In an abstract way, we can understand that our hearts can rule our emotions and thus actions that formulate in our thinking. God has said ‘Give me your heart’ and rightly so as he it is who is our creator and when in tandem with our maker we function better. ‘Out of the heart are the issues of life’  – so said the writer of Proverbs (possibly King Solomon, a very wise king, although towards the end of his life he was taken over by women and lots of them!) King David of old wanted his heart to be pure and although he blew it many times in his life, as he genuinely repented, God not only forgave him but also gave him the desire to have a pure heart. He became known as a man after God’s heart. So, he wanted to do what God required. So with us – we can have that heart attitude and see God do amazing things with and in and through us.

Let’s channel our energies to pleasing God so we can have a heart after him continually. Let’s also encourage our children to major on this, too, not the outward extravaganza but the inner working of their malleable heart (not just the physical). God is able to make all of us into a trophy of grace that can be presented to our Maker whenever he chooses. Then, it will be the heart matters and the choices that we have made throughout our lives that will count the most.

We need to aim at the best and the things that will last forever. This world is not my home (as the song goes) we’re just a passing through. So, let’s concentrate and what really matters, get our lives right before God while we can and then watch how he grows his life in us and deals with all our heart issues.

 

 

Wisdom – 8 ways

King Solomon asked God for wisdom and he got a lot more than that! He was given riches and long life, too! That’s how God is – generous, kind and surprising!

In this stressful climate that we live in, how we need wisdom to operate in balance, power and  stability, trusting in the God who made each of us so uniquely and marvellously.

In the book of James in the Bible, God encourages us to ask for wisdom and if we don’t doubt that He will give it, He will give it to us. We can access this for any and every situation. How wonderful is this. We don’t need counsellors (although these may be a help along the journey of life when we need extra help in dire circumstances) but we can rely on our creator God to provide the way forward in little and big things.

Children also need to know that they can access wisdom which to them might seem to be cleverness. Those children who ask God for wisdom in their simple faith can have huge advantages in classroom situations e.g. in a test and in the playground e.g. how to deal with a bully. Practical solutions can be given to them from the all wise God.

The Bible clearly shows us how to be wise e.g. by honouring our parents as then we can gain long life as God promises this. God is no liar and what He promises He will do. How great is God!

Let children know about God’s wisdom even in making the world so orderly and well and stand back and marvel at the wisdom he gives to each of our families as we make a family altar of prayer each day.

“Help us, dear Lord, not to put a stumbling block in the way of children who can be examples to us of trust if we encourage them to know that God is around for them. Help us to be wise and to lead our children very simply and in a trusting way so that they can receive the blessing of God in great measure. Amen.”

The Bible being ever practical lists 8 ways to be wise (in the 3rd chapter of the book of James) in the New Century version. Here they are:

1  Being pure

2  Being Peaceful

3  Being Gentle

5  Easy to please

5  Helps those who are troubled

6  Does good to others

7  Is fair

8  Is honest

We can’t live this way but God in us can if we simply ask him!

Congratulations!

Congratulations to all you parents who are doing the most important job of all. It might not seem very glamorous or feel very wonderful but the day to day work that you do is amazingly valuable.

We were active parents for nearly 5 years to two children that we adopted. We did our best as indeed all parents aspire to. Sometimes, as has happened to us, the work we put in isn’t appreciated. However, God sees our hearts and he sees the motives behind all that we did.

Being a parent is very difficult although with many joys amidst the challenges.  To have mentors and helps along the way is so needful. The Bible gives many words of wisdom about being the parents we need to be.  God encourages us in James 1 to ask for wisdom and if we don’t doubt that God can give this to us we can get every bit of wisdom we need. God promises in the words of Scripture to be our strength as we seek His joy in the midst of problems.  “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:7) not forgetting that “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) are so encouraging Scriptures to keep us buoyant. Sometimes when we feel we can’t go on God shows up to help us – he is faithful to his own.

Why am I labouring all this? We parents are the most priceless people in a child’s life. Congratulations for having children at all – they are precious gifts from God even if born in difficult circumstances.  They are each wanted and loved by God and God can enable us to be caretakers of them even if they don’t appreciate it at times. No child is an accident but formed by God himself.

Congratulations to you mums who nearly had abortions but saved your babies in time.  The development of babes in the womb is so amazing and starts on Day 1 of conception.  How can we see these as foetuses – they are little lives in the making.

Keep at it, parents who still have your youngsters at home.  There is no better place for them to be nurtured and loved even if you have to exert tough love that to a child might not feel very loving.  There is a place for discipline and obedience in the home which brings order and correction and respect.

To help with God’s orderly ways, try reading ‘The Creation Series’ from Christian Focus Publications or online to your 3-4 year olds. You can order a set from your local library so that others can use them after you have finished with them. Congratulations for helping others to appreciate and realise the wonders of God’s ordered ways which makes us humans aspire to order and tidiness (somehow!)

Togetherness

With all the talk about Scotland leaving the UK, we, as Christians, are reminded about the unity of the Godhead (Father, Son and Spirit) which serves to teach us about togetherness. For Jesus Christ to have prayed for unity between his followers when on earth shows the importance of being one rather than different factions or groups.

The body of Christ, the church, seems fragmented at times but as we seek to allow God more room in our lives and allow his Lordship to permeate every area of our lives, then the desire to love one another and to lay down our lives for each other actually becomes a reality.

God knows us so well and he knows how opinionated, judgmental and selfish we can be.  Because we are each unique, it means that we have to make adjustments and allowances for one another. Someone has said that God made marriage so that the people involved would realise that this can only work if both lean on God for the love they need for each other. Marriage was God’s idea and he knew how difficult it could be without the creator in the centre. Oneness may appear to be in such a relationship but how deep is that love? Only God knows.

However, we can seek to be united in as many areas of life as is possible. I would be greatly saddened if Scotland went their own way – ‘doing it my way’ as the Sinatra song goes.  Scotland has so much to give to the United Kingdom and the UK is richer for Scotland being in it. Also, the rest of the United Kingdom has much to contribute to Scottish life. We each as individuals in it of every persuasion contribute to the whole. To have to chop and change countries within the Union seems unwise. Even the Union Jack would have to change if Scotland were to leave the unity. The cost of this big change would, in my opinion, almost be criminal and almost suicidal.

Here in the UK we have a ‘richness’ of life not necessarily in monetary terms although compared with the rest of the world we are extremely rich monetarily too.  The sheer beauty of the varied landscapes that make up the British Isles shows an abundance of natural wealth brought together with all the diversity of various counties and countries. We have so much and don’t fully realise what we have.

Let’s celebrate the togetherness of the United Kingdom and be thankful that we are in a unity of countries even if they need modifying, developing or changing from time to time but not being cut off from one another.

May our children not lose what we have. May they realise afresh that unity and working together spring from the God of love who gave us this United Kingdom to live in and to share with others.

The creation itself shows the unity and togetherness of the creator who shows off his handiwork from day to day. Let’s seek to keep teaching our children that the God of love favours unity and togetherness in all spheres of life.

Let’s pray that this blip on Thursday will be a wake up call to seek God afresh as the United Kingdom where changes can take place but not at the expense of countries cutting themselves off from the whole. Our children need to know the certainty of the unity of God in the midst of our nation as they consider his great creation and the way forward when everything seems to go wrong. God in Jesus Christ has provided the answer to human need for change as in Christ we each are ‘a new creation’  that can make an impact on the world only as we remain in unity together with him.

Being Gullible

I’m gullible and an open book so often but how I need to be discerning and hold back more wisely. I so easily believe what people say but then one can be taken in by liars or deceptive folk who want to lead others astray or even by sincere people who might be sincerely wrong. So, how do I stop this inclination or even the habit it may have become?

God’s word, the Bible, is true and everything I do I need to line up with this.  When I hear tragic news or something that may happen, do I check it out or do I simply believe it? Newspapers and other media don’t always have all the facts so when things are reported I can have a lop-sided view of a situation or person.

God has given us everything to live a godly life and that includes getting hold of God’s wisdom and discernment so when information is thrust at me, I can determine what is true and what is not or even check it out more carefully.  Yesterday, I received an email from my Pastor, the information in it seeming to be authentic and plausible and I acted on it immediately.  However, a good friend checked on a website relating to this news and found the email to be a hoax. How my enemy, Satan, loves to distract me from the truth.

Being gullible is not a good trait, really, as it can lead to error and wrong thinking and doing as well as speaking incorrectly.

“Help me, Lord, to wait on you more to understand what is true and what is not as my gullibility doesn’t bring glory to You and can be a stumbling block to others.”

With this in mind, let us determine to help our children to discern good and evil so that they are not taken in by what they experience with their senses but can be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. This requires diligence on the part of us adults so that we can channel and train our children in the way that God wants them to go. They can learn to wait for confirmation of a particular idea and develop habits in their young years that will stand them in good stead as they become adults.

Immerse a child in God’s word. ‘The Creation Series’ will help with this. Then our children can be free of gullibility and can have a holy boldness like Daniel and Moses had. (They were as human as we are.) God can train children in their early years to go the way of wisdom and override the foolishness of being left to their own devices.

Cramming

Are you, like me, cramming as much into life as possible? I’ve always had this tendency but sometimes it feels like putting gallons of water into a pint glass (yes, I’m of the old school that still doesn’t recognise these in metric) . Somehow as Robin Williams said in ‘Dead Poets Society’ – “Seize the Day” to me this seems to resonate well. However, there are pitfalls.

I love variety and I think that this is as good as a rest but sometimes what I try to pack into life is beyond what God wants.  We can have good intentions and motives but if God isn’t in what we do then it is just a waste of time and won’t be rewarded (not that we need to aim for a reward).

In this busy world that our children get born into, we need those oases of peace and rest to recharge and to get balance and order.  That’s why, I’m convinced that our creator God gave us one day a week to recuperate and not have to work.  I must admit I love Sundays even though sometimes they get crammed with church and having people round to see us or just bits to see to.  How we need to introduce this pattern to children.

God’s order for his creation is always best as he knows us all so well.  If God needed to take a rest after his eventful week of creation at the beginning of time how we need to follow his example.  Of course, children love routines and getting into this different rest day and not cramming in what we usually fit into a day is great for them, too. Encourage them to have a look at Book 1 of ‘The Creation Series’  – called ‘God’s World’ -and see how God made everything and then took a rest.

Cramming as much into a sweet jar might be fun but the end product of actually eating all the sweets isn’t that beneficial although nice while its happening! It’s the same with cramming so much into our lives that we hardly have time to breathe.  When was the last time you took time to smell a rose or talk face to face with a child or phone a long lost friend? “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) God recommends.  How about you?