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Habits

Habits can be hidden or obvious. The vices of habits are well known and we say that these habits need to be broken. However, as humans we are incapable of breaking the root causes of such habits. I believe that only the power of the Holy Spirit can deal with these and as we submit ourselves to God in Jesus Christ then freedom can come.

The other day I had a morning when the challenges increased even after praying for no interruptions or delays to the limited time I have to work on the project God has given me to do. The electricity was cut off – how we rely on our computers and extras that so many people in other countries don’t have at all. How we rely on the usual way of doing things – a habitual way of living. So, what did I do? I prayed a little bit and panicked a bit and then set to doing some practical stuff that I hadn’t intended to do including phoning for an emergency electrician.

Then a kind friend pointed me in the right direction when I realised that the big black fuse switch was actually off when all the others were on. I hadn’t even noticed this black switch! So now, I am on catch up and endeavouring to write this blog in a matter of minutes. We are such creatures of habit that when things go differently from usual, it throws us … well it throws me!

It’s easy for us to say and quote that “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) when things are going right but when the difficulties come, we can be ignorant of putting our trust in God at these times. So I am learning to do this even though it is so alien to do this. It is the truth however, just as praising God in all circumstances is alien to our minds and wills.

How we need to be flexible and taking things in our stride whatever a day may bring. Children are creatures of habit even more than adults. However, they do seem more adaptable.

As we develop good habits and allow God to break off the bad ones, then peace and contentment and order can take place in our lives. God ordered the creation of our world and then he had a rest – how we need to develop this habit in our busy lives so that we refresh and recharge to be ready and more useful in the Master’s service. Book 1 ‘God’s World’ of ‘The Creation Series’ (for reading to 3-4 year olds) illustrates this beautifully as our artist Sharon Renta has shown. May our children get into the habit of 6 days of work and one day of rest even within our families.

What a Wonderful World!

What a wonderful world we live in – the sheer beauty all around us and the variety of colour, fauna, types of animals, birds and sea creatures, the heavenly lights, let alone the unique individual humans that strut the planet and have gone before us. I love Louis Armstrong’s song, ‘What a Wonderful World’ – one of my favourites but sadly we are destroying so easily the beautiful habitats that God made for us to enjoy.

Our children can enjoy the big outdoors whether it is at the seaside or in the country or looking at it from a plane or at home in their native environment. The little things of creation often excite them like ladybirds or a beetle or a tiny flower stuck in a wall, a special looking stone and we, as adults, do well to emulate their simplicity and enthusiasm for life in all its fulness and abundance.

God has promised that the seasons and days and nights will be preserved in His pattern and God’s order will continue as He asks of us to simply caretake His world (see the early chapters of Genesis in the Bible). The even greater wonder is that God broke into history by sending Jesus to our planet – our only hope for things to be righted providing forgiveness for our sinfulness; healing for our sicknesses; and giving us the freedom to change as He works in our lives as we invite Him to.

‘God’s World’ happens to be the title of one of our books for reading to 3-4 year olds in ‘The Creation Series’. It sets the scene for little ones to see how ordered God is and shows so beautifully the many things He has made. Believe it or not, the crown of His creation is the human race and He delights in loving each one of us in the best ways possible. How He loves each child conceived and how He looks forward to their birth just like earthly parents do although of course some babies don’t get a chance to be born as sometimes the selfishness of adults can make it inconvenient to birth a child.

God’s world seems unpredictable because of the impulses of leaders and groups of people who decide to do things their own way rather than following the blueprint that God has set out in the Bible. The latter really is the most amazing book in the whole world telling of real heroes and heroines (the greatest of all being ‘Jesus’!) showing how human nature doesn’t change through the centuries and giving the answers to life as it was intended to be lived. Let’s get reading more of the Bible so that we can connect with the Creator who alone can get His world to work better for our children and grandchildren as we adults make those right choices.

3 ways that our children can know

I didn’t really hear and know that God wanted me to follow him until I was 17 years of age. I went to church occasionally (Christmas and Easter mainly) and taught regularly in a Sunday School of an Anglican church in Gloucester (UK) but I hadn’t fully heard about the impact Jesus Christ could have in my life. It wasn’t until I went to a camp (run by Inter Varsity Fellowship I think) in Dolgellau in North Wales that I saw the joyful life lived out by youngsters such as myself. I used to read the reading for the day listed in the Gideon New Testament that I owned (given out at school I think) religiously each day but that’s all it was – a religious duty. Then the day came, when the Christian friend who had asked me to this camp talked to me about asking Jesus into my heart and life and she quoted Revelation 3:20 – Jesus speaking, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and sup with him and he with me.” My friend explained that Jesus was knocking on my heart’s door and wanted to come into my life but I had to ask him to do this.

The following morning, in my Gideon New Testament, this verse was included in that day’s reading. So, I simply lay on my bed and said in my heart to God, ‘If you are real, come into my heart.’ I don’t remember saying sorry for the bad things I had done in my life but I know this happened at some stage. Somehow, the wheels were in motion for me to connect with God and I haven’t looked back since. I began to have a growing confidence in what God said in the Bible and Jesus became real in my experience – He really was with me – and I began to realise that I had become a new person, the individual that God always intended me to be. He was beginning to change my life from the inside out!

That happened over 50 years ago. (Yes, I’ve celebrated this jubilee year!) It is still the most important choice and decision I have ever made. However, I still find that children and adults can be religious about their ‘Christian’ faith. and knowing Jesus personally seems to be more alien to them.I find that it is wonderful how God provides the Holy Spirit within us to work out the life He has placed within us and it’s not a religious observance but a living, practical walk of faith being led by him hourly and certainly daily.

Our children can only know this great God if they:

1   come to Jesus very simply really. They can understand that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who loves them to bits and will do anything to look after them even laying down his life (which of course he literally did for us all).

2   realise their need to have God in their life. (I, as a teenager, can remember walking home from school pushing my bike with friends and I thought ‘If they really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.’ God was actually showing me then my need to be forgiven.) They can ask God for forgiveness.

3   accept the Bible as God’s handbook for living. It is a unique book, God breathed into men who wrote down God’s thoughts and ideas and recalled the events of history for our learning. ‘The Creation Series’ of Diamond Books provides a Biblical foundation for any child to read and appreciate. The illustrations are fantastic and there’s fun in them, too!

Perfect Creation

Is there such a thing? Was there such a thing? How can we know?

At the beginning of time, I believe God made our world perfect, even the first person, Adam. He and all the creation God had made around him were intended to live forever, Adam being given the job by God to look after God’s world. As Eve was created alongside Adam (quite literally – see Genesis 2) they both had to remember to do one thing and that was to avoid eating fruit from the tree of good and evil that was in the first garden God had made. Free will and free choice reigned in the garden for the first people. They didn’t have to obey God but they knew that God was their wonderful Creator and what he said was good for them.

Then, Eve was tempted to eat the forbidden fruit and she gave into the temptation and not only took some of this fruit but also gave some to Adam and they both ate of it and blew God’s perfect plan for them. As a result, they had to leave the beautiful garden forever and had to work hard to keep down the weeds that started to grow as they tilled the ground growing food for themselves.

As a result, their disobedience has been passed to us, so that we are born sinful people. Just watch a new born baby screaming for his/her own way – no-one tells them to do this and as they grow nobody teaches them to want their own way and do their own thing even when Mum and Dad instruct them differently. So, our present world is a fallen creation.

However, Jesus was sent by God, to rescue us and to restore the creation he made. He is a God of order and loves to put things right. Hence, at any time of the year, (not just Christmas and Easter) we remember what Jesus actually did in history which defied the natural order of birth, life and death. If one studies the Gospels in the Bible, one can see the uniqueness of Jesus. Yet, he came to do a phenomenal thing – to turn his creation back to Himself. When we earnestly seek Jesus and realise our need of Him, then we can repent and turn around and God makes us new people. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come,” says Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17. We can be wholly restored in body, soul and spirit and become like God first intended us to be. We can also know for sure that we will live forever just like our early ancestors were destined to do by God.

What a wonderful truth all this is to be able to share with children – simple yet profound. How can we know for sure? God’s love letter book, the Bible, tells us the truth – as God wrote it using people to write down what He wanted mankind to know and God is no liar!

4 reasons why we Create

Sometimes, we can create a din or a mess or trouble, but I believe we have more creativity to offer for several reasons.

  1. I strongly believe that we each have the DNA of the Creator that made us, passed on from previous generations right from Adam and Eve, the first people that ever existed.
  2.  We humans are copies of our Maker. As God is the greatest Creator there is, so we, made in his likeness, are creative, too. We each have some creative strand that is innate to us that can be developed or neglected..
  3.  We have wonderful, complex brains that are more complicated than any human computer or phone. We are so well wired and have memories that don’t need a memory stick that it is quite incredible that most of us have brains that work so intricately well. To add to the wonder of this, our brains are protected by a thick skull that has to be drilled into if ever a doctor needs to examine it or operate on it.
  4. Just take a look at the things in nature, notice the seasons, the detailed plant fauna and the variety of animals and birds and fish that there are, let alone the changing skies and weather patterns. Everything is unique – whether it is a snowflake, a grain of sand or a human being. We humans have a tendency to make things the same. It is only when we have the creativity released in us that we can make things differently.

The most wonderful creativity of all can take place in the human heart as we allow God to be in the centre of our lives. It says in  2 Corinthians 5:17 (of the Bible – God’s encyclopedia for us humans) “If any man (or woman or child) is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” God can change the human heart and thus our actions and our creativity can be developed fully when we admit we need him and say sorry for the blunders we have made. Then the full thrust of His creativity comes into us in the form of the Holy Spirit so that He can change us from within and creatively make us like Himself in a unique way and prepare us for the real life ahead. Then, the time spent here on planet Earth can be regarded as the dress rehearsal for the real life of living with Jesus for ever and serving Him creatively even more later. How our children need this hope so that their creativity can reach its full potential. As they ponder what God has already done in making our world and sending Jesus Christ to it, then they can access the creativity of their Maker. Hence the writing of the ‘Creation Series’ to read to 3–4’s so that even in their very young years, children can understand and see visually what God has done for them in making them creative.

 

Books about Jesus that Children can Read Themselves!

Have you ever thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if there were books about Jesus that young children could read themselves?”

Over the years one or two authors and publishers have filled this gap with the occasional book but next year something really exciting is happening! UK-based Diamond Books, pioneered by teacher, Carole Leah, is launching a whole series of books about Jesus that can be read by young children themselves. The books are being published by Westbow Press and should be available Easter 2017.

‘The Jesus Series’ consists of 16 books I am The Lightv2for 4-5 year olds to read themselves.
Books 1-8 focus on what Jesus said about himself, shown in John’s gospel.
Books 8-16 tell what Jesus came to do, based on Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 4:16-21.

The titles of the 16 books in the Jesus Series are:

  • The Light
  • The Door
  • The Shepherd
  • The Way
  • The Truth
  • The Life
  • The Vine
  • The Bread
  • God Sent Jesus
  • A Blind Man
  • A Deaf Man
  • A Sad Woman
  • A Sick Woman
  • A Lonely Man
  • Two Women
  • Dead and Alive

The vocabulary of the Jesus series books has been carefully chosen for early readers Todd has a lightand all 16 books are beautifully illustrated by talented Philippino illustrator Floyd Yamyamin. The books include realistic illustrations based on the Biblical accounts and there are also several modern-day characters appearing in all the books with whom the readers can relate.

To keep up with all the latest developments, visit the Diamond Books Website: www.diamondbooks.org.uk

Quiet

I went to The Sisters of Jesus Way in West Kirby, Wirral, for a quiet day the other day with various church friends including my elderly mum. We think that it was the hottest day of the year so far and we relished in the shade while looking out at the beauty around, made even more exquisite by the sun. The subject for the day was ‘The Voice of God’. We had various Scriptures to look at and introductions to these during each segment of the day and then we each were alone with God.

It is so good to be quiet, to rest and think and listen and stop the mad pace of life for a few hours. It really was a tonic and again I was able to hear the gentle quiet voice of the Lord (not audibly) giving direction especially at this time when we have no carers and learning to adapt isn’t straightforward. I’m again reminded how intense I can be and how God is not like this. He woos us with love and his kindness and gentleness in his daily provisions to us is amazing and so helpful.

God knows us each by name. He made us as we are, uniquely and wonderfully, although so often we look at our flaws not realising just what a work of art God has made with each one of us. God wants the best for us at all times and if we would just relax and abide (I love that word) He will do the rest. We’re called to trust Him and that involves leaning on him when everything around seems to say do otherwise.

I’m reminded of the Scripture “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15). As we learn to abide in God then the confidence can flow and the strength can follow as we cease from our own works and do his.

In this busy life, I need to pause more, be quiet and let God speak. I can come to him daily, as is my habit, but even then the busyness of the day ahead can overwhelm me. So, I highly recommend taking a chunk of time out regularly.

How we need to train our children to be still even through the holidays – well we can aim at it!.  Even young children can easily curl up with ‘The Creation Series’ and see what God has already done and given them as they look at the wonderful illustrations in this set of books.

Dreams

“Dream, dream, dream, dream. Dream, dream, dream, dream.” So says the famous Everly Brothers song ‘All I have to Do is Dream’ – do you remember that far back? Apparently, we all dream every night (or day if on shift work) – it’s the wonderful way that God has made us to work through the stuff of the previous day that our minds and brains have assimilated and need filing! I find that if I wake up really early in the morning, I can sometimes remember what I was dreaming about.  In fact, that part of the day seems to be when I find that I am most sensitive to the Holy Spirit of God who sometimes reminds me of things I need to attend to that day or puts people/things on my mind that I need to pray about. God has this amazing way of communicating with us humans.

Of course, some dreams (if recalled) can be scary or frightening or we can even experience nightmares about certain things that have happened to us even in the distant past. My dear late hubbie, Mike, was troubled with nightmares shortly after we got married ( – no they weren’t about me!) He’d had a troubled childhood particularly in the boarding school he attended and some of what he went through became vivid in his dreams. Fortunately, we were able to pray about these things, revisit these experiences and we were even able to visit the actual place where all the trauma happened and met the present staff there who were so pleasant. His nightmares stopped and he became a healed man.

At our church we are studying the life of Joseph who as a teenager (see Genesis 37) had some vivid dreams about future happenings. His family were not impressed when he blurted out the details of these dreams but God used these dreams to help Joseph know that God had a plan and purpose for him even when he went through some very troubled times when he was growing up into adulthood and beyond. God had to work on Joseph’s character before his dreams came into fruition. Nothing is wasted with God, not even hard times we go through.

Keeping a notebook by the side of the bed is helpful to write down any dreams that God might want to speak to us through. Similarly, when our children dream, we can try to understand what these are about and write them down also. The dreams might make more sense later. Our children need to know that dreams matter and even though they might dream about wanting this or that, the reality of dreams can be most precious.

Encouraging children to think about (like day dreaming) what they would like God to do and then praying about those things perhaps with an adult can be a way of children realising the reality of God. I had friends who lived on the outskirts of Birmingham in a flat. Their two boys longed to have a garden so they started to pray about it as a family. In quite a short time, they were offered a house with a garden and of course the boys were delighted as were Mum and Dad! God is faithful in the details of what we pray and children can prove God for themselves over and over again because of their simple faith and God intervening in their lives.

Dream on as I am doing – believing God to provide 11 more sets of books for children to enjoy the wonders of God and His word. Set A ‘The Creation Series’ is already available; Set B is being published at the present time; and 10 more sets are in the pipeline (7 of which are written already and another 3 yet to be done). I taught reading to struggling readers with the sole purpose of wanting them to enjoy reading the Bible, indeed the best book in the world so that they would be given the hope and confidence that they needed to enjoy and succeed in their lives.

Standing

Sometimes, we are pushed to the limit and then God steps in. We, as Christians, are called to stand, even when the opposition and circumstances seem severe. I like to plan ahead and see what can be done in a given situation but God requires me to stand so that I can learn to trust God in it.

I seem to lurch from one crisis to another but in them, even though they are uncomfortable, there are plenty of things to learn.

This week our church is involved in a week of prayer and various prayer initiatives have taken place which has been so helpful. One of them was a 24/7 prayer day when we could sign up for 1 hour slots throughout the day/night to spend with our God. It has been an awesome time and in it, I can see God urging me (and us) to keep humbling ourselves before Him as the truth is, said Jesus, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Just seeing a physical cross and having the opportunity to kneel before it is amazing in itself. It puts me in my place.

However, as we abide in God (John 15 again) we are still encouraged to stand as we are in a warfare with spiritual forces of darkness and we don’t need to battle, as Jesus has already done this and won when He died on a cross over two thousand years ago. Ephesians 6 gives us the equipment to put on in order to stand our ground and then as we are mindful of these things and apply them when necessary, then can stand against any opposition that comes.

In Messy Church one week, we made a soldier with all the weapons that we can use in our Christian life. It was so graphic to me that it is hanging up in one of our bedrooms! Children need to be aware that we do have an unseen enemy that causes the awful things that happen in our world. They need to know that having Jesus in their lives provides a security and protection for them. We hear a lot about the mental health of children these days. I am convinced that as we show our children the love of God and the provision he has made to be able to make a stand for right living and true words, then our children will grow up as healthy adults in every way.

‘The Creation Series’ seeks to set in place the foundations for a child’s life so that they can be aware of the God who made and loves them. Then, when they need to be standing up for truth and honesty, they can know that God is with them to give them the way through anything.

People

There’s an old song that Barbara Streisand used to sing called “People” in which it says that ‘people who need people are the luckiest people in the world’. I wouldn’t use the word ‘luckiest’ as I don’t believe in luck of any kind. The sentiments of this song, however, are great! We’re designed in our DNA to need people.

Every person is unique – even identical twins! Such is the skill of our Creator God who even makes each grain of sand and every snowflake and stripy pattern on zebras completely different. There is something very special and wonderful about every individual on this planet and we all need each other. We were made to relate. Even the drunkard who sings ‘Jesus blood hasn’t failed me yet!’ becomes a blessing and who people can relate to.. When I first heard this song sung by this dear man, I was moved to tears as the truths in that statement are wonderful.

The person we most need in life is of course the One who made us and knows us like no other, Jesus Christ himself. He made provision for us people by sending his Holy Spirit to us when we believe in Him so that we are never alone and can do exploits in Jesus’ name. “Without Me'” He said, “You can do nothing” (John 15:5) clever though we think we are sometimes. He made us to have a God shaped hole within us that only He can fill so that we develop a personal relationship with the One who made the universe and sustains it. So as we learn to lean and rely on Him in and for everything we do, then He gets the credit He deserves.

One of our books in ‘The Creation Series’ for reading to 3-4 year olds is entitled ‘People’ and it shows so many nationalities as well as the very first people who messed things up for the rest of us. Children need to know that there is an answer for them when they mess things up, too. Jesus is our rescuer, coming all the way from heaven to us because He loved us and continues to love and pray for us, too, even now.

Let’s keep blessing one another with kindness and love, giving preference to one another in humility. Jesus said that people would know we are Christians because we love one another. ” If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.” (John 15:35 – Good News Bible). Let’s do this and teach our children to do this, too. Then our love for God will be seen and realised and many will be drawn to trust Him as well..