Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Sharing your table...

Matthew 26:17-30 : The passover meal!
17 Now on the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near. I will observe the Passover with my disciples at your house.” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had instructed them, and they prepared the Passover. 20 When it was evening, he took his place at the table with the twelve. 21 And while they were eating he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” 22 They became greatly distressed and each one began to say to him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for him if he had never been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus replied, “You have said it yourself.”

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.”27 And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, from now on I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

I've taught on the above scriptures many a time during my serving role in children's ministry. For those not totally aware of the history or meaning of these verses from the bible - it's explaining to us what occurred  during Jesus's last full encounter with all His disciples together - famously known as the 'last supper.' Jesus's final meal before He was to be crucified on the cross.
It's a huge part of the Easter story throughout modern day church and a time for us to understand the final hours of Jesus's life and the facts behind the story.
In these verses, Jesus has summoned His disciples (12 men He chose to spend much time with, mentor, build up and ultimately send out to build His church upon His departure of earth) to prepare a space for a meal together where He could prepare them for his impending capture.
Whenever I've taught this story, or simply read it at my own leisure, I've always read it from the angle of Jesus spending time with His most precious friends. That it was a special and intimate occasion. And that it was one of the 'lovely' parts of a story that soon became quite harrowing on many levels. And whilst I think I'm correct in thinking those things...the last couple of days I've been drawn to this scripture in a new sense.
The past couple of days I feel I've gained a new perspective into these verses...that a message so clearly written has only just reached these eyes.

I'm drawn to Jesus sharing the table with His betrayer.

If we look at verse 21, we see that whilst the meal was being consumed, Jesus changes, what I believe, was quite a light -hearted atmosphere amongst friends, by declaring the "truth" that one of these men was going to betray Him. The scriptures tell us in verse 22, that everyone became "very distressed" at this news. Picture the scene for a moment - 13 men - as close as brothers, who have witnessed and shared so much together, who love one another - especially Jesus, with all their hearts-sharing a meal, having banter, conversation and quality time together, hearing from the person they admire the most and have stepped away from their previous lifestyles to commit themselves too - hearing that one of them...around that table, would betray Him.
The bible tells us, that they weren't just a little bit sad at this revelation, they were VERY DISTRESSED. I imagine food being dropped back onto plates, looks of horror and upset on faces, and the wild, frantic questioning of "surely not me, Lord!"  

Who would want to betray their closest friend? 
Who would want to betray Jesus?

The scriptures go on to tell us in verse 25, that it was to be Judas who would be that person. And if you were to continue reading through Matthew chapter 26, you would read that indeed, Judas was the person to tell the guards where Jesus was - he led them to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and revealed who Jesus was with a kiss to the cheek. The story that follows is of Jesus's arrest, torture and ultimately His death. 

Whilst it would be easy to judge poor old Judas, lets not forget he had a role already pre-destined to play in the story. He was needed so that we would see scriptures fulfilled and our eternal destinies changed forever. There is much more we could probably discuss about what he done - but right now I want to get to my main point of writing this post - the part where God has challenged me like never before...and I feel He wants me to encourage and challenge you with...

Who do you need to share your table with?

Because right there, back in the verses that spoke of the last supper, if we open our eyes, there's a beautiful example laid out for each of us to rise up to.
Jesus knew Judas was going to betray Him - He always knew. He was God in human form - He knew. Whilst my human reaction would be to pull Judas up on the fact I had entrusted him with being in my life, had mentored him, encouraged him and made time for him-whilst every ounce of me would want to punch him on the nose for betraying my trust and friendship and to tell him to "jog on" from thinking he would spend time at my last meal - well Jesus didn't. He could of. After-all, He was God in human form - He could do anything He wanted. But He didn't.
Instead He loved Judas, He invited Him around His table, He ate with Him, He shared with Him, He prepared Him. Yes, He made Judas aware of what was going to happen, which must have been the most awkward, embarrassing and traumatic words Judas would have wanted to hear...but Jesus then went on to share communion with his friend. 

Jesus loved His betrayer!

One thing I never try to do is belittle people's circumstance. Believe me, I have endured enough of those funny old things myself to know how incredibly difficult it is to overcome hurt. Being betrayed by anyone, but especially someone you love, have shared life with, made yourself vulnerable too and have trusted, is one of the most heart-wrenchingly traumatic experiences to go through. Forgiveness is a long winded journey. It can take a life-time to move on from past hurts.
But what about this....what about following the example of the One person who will never let you down, who loves you and only wants the best for you. 

What would it look like for us to share our table -whatever that table may look like - with someone we might not necessarily feel like doing it with?

This is what God's challenging me with right now. I don't quite know why...and I don't yet know who this person/s could be...but what I do know is when God speaks to us about something, we are called and instructed to trust Him and follow His lead...and example. 
I don't know your situation necessarily, but I encourage you today, right here, on this chilly January evening, that God does. Whether you know Him in your life or not...He knows you my friend. He wants the best from you. My goodness...He was betrayed yet shared His table so you and I could experience His eternal love in our lives. That's kinda a big deal I'd say.

No-one ever said it would be easy...this thing called life...but it needn't be any harder either...we have a choice. And that choice is to live being the best we can be. Whilst we can't control other peoples actions and behaviours, we can control ours. 

Let your actions and behaviours be a blessing and a breakthrough - whatever your table looks like - with whoever you have around it with you!

Be blessed x

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The centre...

Worship at church today was amazing.
One song has stuck in my mind since this morning - 'Jesus at the Centre!'
The chorus goes like this:        "Nothing else matters,

                                              Nothing in this world will do
                                             'Cause Jesus You're the center,
                                            Everything revolves around You,
                                                          Jesus You!"
I keep singing it in my head over and over again, and feel a humble rememberance that no matter how I feel, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what that person thought or said, no matter how much I feel I deserve recognition/affirmation/kindness/love...that it's not about me. At the end of another long tiring day...it's not about ME, it's about Him - Jesus. Jesus - the One who no matter the circumstance, no matter how I feel, no matter what that person thought or said, no matter how much I feel I deserve something - He loves me..He has set my feet on solid ground..He rejoices over me..He makes all things possible for me. Jesus....at the centre of it all. 

I'm so grateful...
I am nothing without Him...
His love sustains me...
His word uplifts me...
His goodness carries me...
His promises make all this worth it...
Jesus - at the centre of it all...Thank you for choosing me...

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A woman's worth

Cradling mugs of warm tea, they shared aspirations for the coming year...each with the same thought "Clarity of who I am, and what I'm called to do." Perhaps if I'd been a fly on the wall, I'd have listened intrigued, instead, I found myself saying those words first as we went round the circle.

Our conversation has stuck with me...almost nibbling away at my brain as I wonder about these words. And I think I have a thought about it that may be an encouragement.
You see, this desire...this cry of knowing who we are, and what our purpose is, seems to be a common trend amongst the women I encounter in life.
Whether it be the stay at home mum who justifies her role because she has an under 5 yet to start full time school, or the stay at home mum whose children are in full time school who feels she should justify why she at present doesn't choose to return to paid work, or the working mum who feels the need to explain that she adores her children  but needs the financial stability of going out to work each day, or the single woman who feels hopeless because society would like her to have a husband..each of us never quite feel enough...do we?

We live in a world where women are still often looked down on, shown a huge lack of respect and not often encouraged. Here in the UK, we are, granted, given much more freedom in choice...but in many things...it's a man's world. Before you get antsy that this will become a feminist rant, let me assure you-that whilst I'm a pretty independent, strong minded woman, I am quite traditional and totally appreciate a good man - thankfully I'm married to one of them!
But, hopefully, you get my point here.

The truth is though ladies, we are enough. That purpose we keep searching for...well, I think we may already be living it.
I'll be honest with you now okay, as much as I love most aspects of my life, the truth is at the end of every.single.day... I'm tired. Actually no, I'm not tired, I'm shattered. Some dumb-ass intrigued people may ask "But why Stacey...you're a stay at home mum!" Okay here's why: Every morning I roll out of bed at 6.30am. Every morning-you got that part right...Saturday and Sundays included. My days are full. Weekends my husband often has to work which sees me driving kids to various activities, hobbies, parties, church etc myself. Weekdays...well I work every Tuesday at my church but the other four days are filled with shopping, washing, cleaning, cooking, running errands, toddler groups and prayer meetings. Whilst I know I'm blessed...I'm working...and I'm working damn hard...in a purpose! Not just anyone can be the wife and mum I'm called to be to my husband and children. Not everyone can minister to children the way I'm called to do it in ministry...not everyone can be the friend I'm called to be to my friends.
Whether our lives may sound similar...or the complete opposite...friend - you're not living my purpose...and I'm not living yours!
Whilst I admire the people who get to travel the world changing lives, I know this season of my life, I won't be one of them...so instead I do what's in my capacity... I celebrate being able to assist in my five little humans growing into good adults, I get alongside local families and their pre-teens and I work at the friendships that mean alot to me. To some, this may be sound boring...irrelevant. To others this may sound like the life they're dreaming of one day...to me...it's reality, and I have a choice...embrace it and do it well or resent it and miss the fact that this here...right now...this is my purpose.
Some of you may be wanting to shake me right now and yell, "But Stacey, it's easy for you to say that. I want marriage/children/ministry...and it's not happening for me...look at you with it all!"
Can I tell you I get it, I understand...and you can shake me...please do...keep me humble and grateful for all I have...but know too that at times I envy your freedom, I envy that you get to fulfill ambitions in other areas, I envy that you can stop at a certain time in the day and just be you-whilst me-my mummy hat and wife hat stay on 24/7...at times, I wonder of the decade I put myself last all.the.time whilst having my children-my twenties-a decade of pregnancy, breastfeeding, stretchmarks and sleepless nights....it may sound silly, but no matter our circumstance...no matter the blessings...sometimes the grass seems greener on the other side.
You do have a purpose...and you are living out some of that purpose now...no matter your relationship, parenting, employment or ministry status. How do I know this? Well simply, because that's what my bible tells me.
When we shift our focus from what we think our purpose should be, and make it about the purpose of God and His plans...we can find a peace...a peace in knowing someone far greater than us has it all sorted. He knew you and me long before we were born...whilst we became a statistic on earth when we drew our first breath, we were a celebrated gift in Gods book many many years before.
Jeremiah 1:5 "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born I set you apart."

"I set you apart!" I like that part the most. He sets every single one of us apart...each called to fulfill a purpose. A purpose that may change with the seasons...a purpose that may stay rooted our entire earthly existence. A purpose that when seen through our eyes may not be fully appreciated or have that cherry-on-top wow factor, but a purpose non-the less. 

I think 2014 needs to be the year, we hush striving to know what we're called to be...and instead needs to be a year of just resting...gently pushing, but not barging through those doors of what's next...and knowing that we are enough...we are important, we are worthy and we are doing what we're doing for a very good reason...a purpose...that may just be setting up a future of pure amazingness before our very eyes that we just haven't noticed as yet. 

Be Blessed :-)

Sunday, 5 January 2014

NO to bullying!

This afternoon, I feel fired up...fired up with emotion and a desire to see change in our communities.
This afternoon, my heart is a little battered for others upon hearing tales of upset.

This morning, I made a decision that I will allow God to use me on a deeper, at times scarier level to help them become life changers in their generation! Here's why -
This morning, I discussed bullying with twenty-six 9-11 year olds.

Our theme for our children's ministry this half term is 'The Love Languages.'
I loved how when I told the young people in my ministry group this, there were teeny squeals of "urghhhh love," and mock sounds of vomiting. I also loved how when I explained this mornings session would be 'Affirming words,' they quietened and listened with interest.
They had a knowledge of what it is to affirm someone and we went round the circle each sharing the way we like to be affirmed and made to feel special.
We shared examples of what kindness sounds like in our conversations, and we laughed at daft sounding compliments-which deep in our hearts, we all knew mean so much when spoken over us.
And then we spoke of the opposite of this...then we got onto the topic of bullying.

Every single child I had the privilege of being alongside today - that's 26 in case you've forgotten, each had a tale to share of some kind of bullying experience. Whether it was that they had been bullied and were now on the other side of that traumatic time, had witnessed bullying happening around them, or sadly are being bullied still today - physical but shockingly also cyber bullying.

It was a wake up call I needed if I'm honest.

To see the upset and vulnerability on the little faces sat around me, to witness a boy cry at the nasty words spoken over him, was a humbling experience for me. It made me realise "out there" reader...OUT THERE in that world our children walk through, there are things that can and will damage them if they don't receive the encouragement and truth of just how precious and special they are.
This morning, 5 beautiful children, 1 of them being my eldest son-shared how because they have darker shades of skin, they have been called racist names.
This morning, 3 perfectly-created children told how because of their body shapes and sizes, they had been laughed at, hit and called names...names no-one should ever have to be associated with.
This morning, 6 children shared tales of internet bullying through on-line games and email accounts.
Please...read those sentences again! Absorb those FACTS and think about it.

We need to see a change.
We need to see more kindness in our communities.
We need to see our children protected, affirmed and confident in who they are.
We need to pray to the One who created each one of us for a softening of hearts, for a breakthrough in circumstance-for the bullied and for the bullies. Yes, you heard me correct...I want to pray for the bullies out there. I want them to be so overwhelmed with the opposite of what they dish out, that when they try to yell an insult, their conscience grabs them.
And this morning we did just that. Those 26 lovely young lives, myself and my team - we prayed for one another and we prayed for the bullies. Because we recognise that sometimes, the bully may be the one being bullied elsewhere. A cry for help-that causes more damage than healing...but a cry for help...

I'm not quite sure on the next step...I feel led to take this further and with the help of my team and some of the children I work with, create an awareness campaign.
I would appreciate your prayers if you could...because for sure, I cant leave what I heard today, where I heard it. Our children - they are destined to be life changers in their generations...they really are. And they want it...they have voices...louder than us at times...lets encourage them to use them...together...unity...grace...love...affirming words....a big fat NO to bullying!

In Jesus name x

Friday, 3 January 2014

Fight {5 minute Friday}

Excited to link up with Lisa-Jo Baker today for her first 5 minute Friday of 2014. The deal? Write for 5 minutes unedited on the given topic, link up on her page http://lisajobaker.com and post an encouragement to the person who linked up before you. Simples...
This weeks theme is Fight ~ here goes! ~

I never really felt the need to be competitive growing up. I guess that stems from being one of two girls with my older sister being mentally handicapped. There was no real need to have to prove myself to anyone. Academically I achieved high grades, socially I had many friends, developmentally I was always above average, whether that be physically, mentally and at times emotionally. To my family, I was everything my sister wasn't.
This isn't to say she wasn't celebrated, loved, encouraged and treated with respect, because she very much was....and still is. It was just that her life from the start, was always headed in a very different direction to mine.

In a way, without necessarily meaning to, I believe my family had me on a too high pedestal. Sure, I was a good kid - but them seeing perfection in me, made me see the flaws.
I don't say this to brag or because I look back and feel proud of myself but age 10 I was riddled with an eating disorder. The one area of my life I could be in control and make imperfect.
It was so easy to fall into the bad habits of binge eating, vomiting, starvation...but I could never have prepared myself for the fight to break free from it. Habits are like that...grasp a hold of you quickly...allow you to be freed slowly.

Aged 16, and still very much consumed by bulimia, my now husband prayed with me the prayer that began the biggest transformation in my life...the salvation prayer, which began my journey with Jesus. I remember that moment clearly...as I cried and he prayed, Rob encouraged me that the fight was over...someone far greater had fought the battle for me and won...I just had to trust and believe...and let go of the control lever.
16 years down the line...a mummy of five, a ministry leader for children aged 9 upwards...I am free from that battle. In fact I've been free from it 10 years now. And when fresh battles come a hunting me...I remember those words "the fight is over...Jesus conquered it!"
That's the grace of God.

Whatever battle you may be facing today, I challenge you and encourage you to put your trust in someone far greater, pass over that control lever and know you need not fight anymore...It's been fought and won for you! In Jesus name! Be blessed :-)

~And stop!~