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You are not enough

As women, we are constantly bombarded with voices which tell us we are not enough. Voices come from within and from without. Voices come from our past and from our present. Voices come from ourselves and from our culture.

voices in our heads

These voices can lead us into several traps:

1. The temptation to compare 

As women we constantly compare ourselves to one another – we always have done. But today we live in full view, 24/7, of one another because of social media. And yet of course Facebook, Twitter and Instagram don’t give us a true picture of one another’s lives – they only give us the picture that others want us to see. Often that is a picture-perfect glimpse into others’ lives and so if our lives don’t shape up, we are left feeling woefully inadequate.

2. The trap of perfectionism

My house isn’t tidy enough, my kids aren’t smart enough, I am not pretty enough…the list goes on and on. I spend my days trying to reach the mark. And I never do. But in the attempt, I become anxious and fearful – anxious that I am not good enough and fearful of being found out. I’m striving to please, always striving to please. We call it people-pleasing; psychologists call it peer pressure; the bible calls it fear of man.

Ann Voskamp, in her book ‘The Broken Way’, says;

‘Perfectionism is a slow death by self. Perfectionism will kill your sense of safety, your self, your soul. Perfectionism isn’t a fruit of the Spirit – joy is. Patience is. Peace is.’

3. The lure of consumerism

I might try to bridge the gap between where I think others live and where I live by consumerism. If it means buying clothes and shoes and make up which I think will make me look more like others around me, then that’s what I will do. If it means choosing a holiday which I can’t afford in order to keep up with my friends, then somehow I will justify it. Consumerism drives us to possess more and more in order to impress. The trouble is that the promises it makes are empty – we may get an adrenalin rush as we make that longed-for purchase, but it won’t last and we will end up feeling less satisfied, always wanting more.

4. The attraction of status-seeking

Some of us acquire status rather than possessions, whether that is academic status or status in the workplace or even status in church. In a vain attempt to overcome our own inadequacies, we feel that ‘if only’ we can prove to ourselves and to others that we can reach the standard, we will be content. But we never are.

What effect does this have on us as Christians?

Superficial community

Nowhere is this striving to impress more ugly than in the church. We as Christians ought to be able to be ourselves with one another; we ought to be able to remove our masks when we come into church. Yet it can be one of the hardest places for people to be real. If I think you and your family have got it all together, then I’m not going to be able to admit that I haven’t. We don’t dare to share on a very deep level – because of what people might think. Also, we don’t want to burden others with our problems. When we are broken and struggling, it is easier to avoid community than to try to remain a part of it. So we withdraw until things are OK again.

Forgotten identity

We have forgotten our identity. Those voices that tell us we are not enough, those voices that tell us we are imposters, they are lies. But because they shout loudly in our heads, we listen to them – and they can drown out the still, small voice of God. Ann Voskamp talks about a school teacher who told her that she only made it into her class by the skin of her teeth and she should never forget that. Ann says this:

All of my life I’ve felt like a fraud with skin on….later on in some way, those words formed me. They’ve become like my own name engraved right into me. Fraud. Phony. Not Good Enough.’

What does God say about this?

Who does he say we are? In Matthew 3, when Jesus was baptised and came up of the water, the Father spoke from heaven and said ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased’. God has become our Father and he speaks the same words over us:

‘You are my beloved child; in you I am well pleased’.

What do you think, what do you feel when you hear those words? May I suggest that in the measure that you feel uncomfortable, in that measure you do not believe them. Allow God to speak them over you, meditate on them, soak your soul in them, until they sink in and you begin to believe them, until you begin to allow yourself to let go of the lies of our culture and of your past and of the evil one. Allow yourself to believe what God your Father speaks over you. You are beloved. That is your identity. Ann Voskamp says:

‘Belovedness is the centre of being, the only real identity, God’s only name for you, the only identity He gives you.’

A. When you think you are not enough, remember who you are

You are the beloved child of God.

Instead of the superficial fix of a Facebook or Instagram ‘like’ or comment, which says I am or I have done something good, I can choose to listen to God’s voice telling me there is nothing I can do which can make him love me more – and there is nothing I can do which can make him love me less. I am enough. I don’t need to compare myself with others. I don’t need to strive to be better and to do better. The Father loves me. I am His beloved.

Instead of the transient surge of pleasure which comes from a quick purchase, I can choose instead the deep security of hearing the Father remind me that he has bought me with the blood of his Son and I am precious to him.

I don’t need to seek status. I am enough. I don’t need to prove to myself or to anyone else what I can do or be. God – who knows me best – loves me most. I am accepted. I am secure in his love.

In the well-known story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, the Father leaves home twice: once to invite the younger son home and once to invite the elder son home. That is who our Father is. He desperately wants to welcome us home – to the place of security and peace, where our quest for acceptance and unconditional love is over.

Henri Nouwen, in his book ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’, says this:

‘I am the prodigal every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found’.

Our heavenly father invites us to come home – where we can rest in the knowledge that we are his beloved children.

B. When you think you haven’t enough, remember who God is

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? ….Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Matthew 6.

God as Creator looks after the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. How can you think, that as your heavenly Father, he would do any less for you? He knows what you need. And if he knows, he will take care of it. That’s it – because he is your heavenly Father.

We know this – we know who we are and who God is – but how do we remember it?

When I find myself chasing after affirmation from others, craving the praise of others, seeking to please others; or when I find myself overcome by voices which are telling me I am not enough; or when I am anxious that I don’t have enough, I need to remember who I am and who God is.
We start by recognising the lies which we are believing – and then we replace the lies with the truth of God’s Word.

Imagine you are stressed and anxious about money. That worry will lead to a certain kind of behaviour: you will either be striving to get money or you will be anxiously saving money and may become stingy. That leads to the belief that it’s all down to you – and that leads to a view of reality which says either that you can’t make it happen (so you will be angry) or that you can make it happen (so you will be proud).

Imagine instead that, with that same anxiety about money, you choose to live by the truth of God’s Word instead of your feelings. So you will perhaps go to these verses in Matthew 6 and remind yourself that your heavenly Father knows your need. Now that will lead to the belief that, if your Father knows your need, you can expect him to take care of it. And that will change your behaviour so that you are expecting God to provide, while you do what you can to increase your income or reduce your expenditure. The feelings that accompany that will be peace and confidence – so very different from the anxiety which you started out with.

Or when I am craving the praise of others, I can choose to remember that God calls me His beloved. I don’t need the affirmation of others. I am secure in his love. That restlessness which sends me to social media to check my popularity ratings is telling me that I am only as good as the number of people who like my status. I can choose to reject that lie and rest secure in the knowledge that my heavenly Father calls me his beloved.

C. If you know who you are and who God is, you are free to love others

I John 3 tells us this:

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…..By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

As we learn to live out of our true identity as beloved children of God, then we are set free to love others. Our community as Christians becomes authentic. We are not hiding behind masks. We are free to be real. And as we are real with one another, we learn to trust each other with our brokenness. We don’t need to impress, we don’t need to please. We are free to be – to be the beloved children of God together, all equally loved, all equally accepted, all learning to live in that love. Ann Voskamp says,

‘All there ever is to see is Jesus. All there ever is to hear is “Beloved”.’

He is enough.

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God’s faithfulness

God’s faithfulness shown in creationGreat is thy faithfulness

And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Gen 8:21-22.

When Noah and his family came out of the ark after the flood had destroyed all other living things, Noah built an altar to the Lord. Its purpose was twofold: it was certainly meant to express his gratitude for their deliverance; but it was also an act of atonement (as demonstrated when we are told that the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma). Although human nature has not been changed by the flood (God says in 8:21 that the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth), Gods attitude to it has changed. Atonement through sacrifice is possible, securing a peaceful relationship between the Lord and humanity. And God promises that he will never again send another flood to wipe out humanity. Not only that, but he promises that while the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.

Many of us know the old childrens chorus So when you see a rainbow, remember God loves youand our hearts are cheered when we see a rainbow as we recall Gods promise to Noah and we remember that God loves us. I remember at the time when Alan and I were moving back to N.Ireland after 17 years in Switzerland, saying all our farewells to old friends and plucking up the roots we had made there, it was hard. And it seemed that each time we looked at the sky, there was a rainbow. It was as if God was saying Remember, I love you.

But actually these verses mean that our hearts should be cheered at the turn of each season and at the turn of each day – for God has said that While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Each new day and each new season demonstrate the fact that God has kept his word and the promise that he will keep his word.

So whether we look back to the past or look forward to the future, God is faithful. Maybe it’s easy when you look back to see that God has been faithful to you. It can be harder to look forward and trust him do his faithfulness. But his faithfulness in the past reassures us that he will be faithful in the future too. We can trust him because faithfulness is part of his character.

God’s faithfulness shown in his character

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lam 3:21-23

Chapter 3 of Lamentations has one speaker –  a man who has seen affliction(v.1), a man who has endured suffering and has experienced Gods faithfulness. The language he uses is strong:

He has driven and brought me into darkness without any light (v.2); He has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago (v.6).

And it gets even stronger:

He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.(v.16-18).

When did you last hear someone in church use language like that about God? I daresay that, if we did, we would be quick to tell them in some nice polite kind of way that they shouldnt talk about God like that. But here it is in the Bible, which is so honest about human suffering. While this passage is called Great is Your Faithfulnessin the ESV, it is called God locked me up in deep darknessin The Message.

It is only after the speaker talks in such honest, forthright terms of his suffering and of how he feels God has crushed him that the promise of hope comes:

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (v.21.23).

This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the speaker makes a conscious decision to turn from his suffering and to  think about the steadfast love of the Lord instead. He calls to mindthe steadfast love of the Lord – and therefore he has hope. Some of you have heard me talk about my depression or have read my articles about it – and it was a dark place. Many of these words could have been used to describe it. It felt like I was alone in a cold, dark place. It was impossible to see any light at the end of the tunnel. But, as I often say, at times like that we need to force-feedourselves Scripture, to do as this speaker in Lam 3 did and turn from our suffering to look at God instead and remember his promises. We may not be able to read our Bibles much, we may just be able to cling to one promise. At my worst, I could only repeat to myself I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But that was enough to get me through those dark days.

His mercies are new every morning– there we are with that thought again: each day presents another opportunity to experience Gods grace.

Great is his faithfulness– Gods covenantal fidelity and personal integrity remain intact no matter what happens.

Maybe you are in a good place right now and it’s easy to thank God for his faithfulness. Maybe you are in a dark place now. Maybe you can identify with the speaker in Lam 3. Will you decide – like him – to turn your mind from your suffering and look at Gods faithfulness? Will you choose to believe in the steadfast love of the Lord for you? Will you ask for the grace to see each new day as a reminder of his faithfulness?

Gods faithfulness means that he will keep his word – on everything. We talk about someone being a man of his word or a woman of her word. God is a God of his word. He will keep all of his promises. He will do as he says. Which promise of the Lord do you need to recall today and trust him to keep for you?

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus Phil 4:19

So, whatever your needs are today, you can depend on the faithfulness of God. Just tell him what you need and he will be faithful to provide for you. It may not be exactly what you ask for – because he knows best what we need. But because we can also rely on his steadfast love, we can trust him to know best what we need – and to provide it. Which needs are you going to bring to God today and trust him to meet?

God’s faithfulness shown in salvation

But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost (that is, completely; or at all times) those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Heb 7:24-26

The book of Hebrews demonstrates how Jesus is superior to angels and to the Mosaic law. In chapter 7, the writer talks about Jesus as our great high priest and compares him to the Levitical priesthood.

The Levitical priests were many in number – Jesus is one.

They were temporary – Jesus is permanent and eternal.

They were sinners who had to offer sacrifice for their own sins – Jesus is holy, innocent and offers sacrifices only for others.

They had to sacrifice daily – Jesus sacrificed once for all.

They offered sacrificial animals – Jesus offered up himself.

They entered the holy places through a man-made tent by means of the blood of animals – Jesus entered the holy place of the presence of God by means of his own blood.

Because of all this, he is able to save to the uttermost (that is, completely; or at all times) those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. He is faithful in his salvation – our salvation is complete. We wont have to look for another Saviour, the way the OT Jews had to go back every year to ask for more sacrifices to be offered on their behalf.

Unlike the OT priests, he has no sin of his own that he has to deal with first. He is holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.

And we know that his sacrifice has been accepted by God the Father because we read in Heb 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.

It is complete. Maybe you need to remember that today. Maybe you have been having doubts about your salvation, about whether you can keep it or not, whether you are going to make it to the end or not. Or maybe you are not sure that you are a Christian, not sure that you can trust God. The salvation he offers is complete and it is forever. You can trust him, not only to save your sins today but to save you forever.

So lets remember that he is faithful in creation – remember that each new day and each new season is a sign of his faithfulness.

He is faithful in his character – so he is the same yesterday, today and forever. We can count on him always being the same.

He is faithful in our salvation – so no one can add to it or take away from it.

Here are beautiful words from a song written by Sara Groves:

Morning by morning I wake up to find

The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine

Season by season I watch Him, amazed

In awe of the mystery of His perfect ways

All I have need of, His hand will provide

He’s always been faithful to me

I can’t remember a trial or a pain

He did not recycle to bring me gain

I can’t remember one single regret

In serving God only, and trusting His hand

All I have need of, His hand will provide

He’s always been faithful to me

This is my anthem, this is my song

The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long

God has been faithful, He will be again

His loving compassion, it knows no end

All I have need of, His hand will provide

He’s always been faithful, He’s always been faithful

He’s always been faithful to me

What does the resurrection mean right here, right now?

Paul Tripp suggests 5 things we need to remember about the resurrection as we assess our lives right here, right now.DSC_0034_3

No.1 The resurrection of Jesus guarantees your resurrection too. Life is not a constantly repeating cycle of the same old same old. No, under God’s rule this world is marching toward a conclusion. Your life is being carried to a glorious end. There will be a moment when God will raise you out of this broken world and sin and suffering will be no more.

No.2 The resurrection tells you what Jesus is now doing. Jesus now reigns. I Corinthians 15 says that he will continue to reign until the final enemy is under his feet. You see, your world is not out of control, but under the careful control of One who is still doing his sin-defeating work.

No.3 The resurrection promises you all the grace you need between Jesus’s resurrection and yours. If your end has already been guaranteed, then all the grace you need along the way have been guaranteed as well, or you would never make it to your appointed end. Future grace always carries with it the promise of present grace.

No.4 The resurrection of Jesus motivates you to do what is right, no matter what you are facing. The resurrection tells you that God will win. His truth will reign. His plan will be accomplished. Sin will be defeated. Righteousness will overcome evil. This means that everything you do in God’s name is worth it, no matter what the cost.

No.5 The resurrection tells you that you always have reason to give thanks. Quite apart from anything you have earned, you have been welcomed into the most exciting story ever and have been granted a future of joy and peace forever.

Taken from Paul Tripp’s book ‘New Morning Mercies’, available from Amazon.

Living with Eternity in View

Feeling frustrated at being so ‘earth-bound’ and so unmindful of eternity and what it means, I looked for books that might help me out.

The first one I read was ‘Code Red’ by Andrew Drain, a cardio thoracic surgeon who in 2007 was diagnosed with the worst form of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. I wanted to read the thoughts and discoveries of someone facing a terminal illness, with heaven in view.

I was not disappointed. Andrew writes honestly about the ups and downs of his treatment, using the book of Job to inform his growing understanding of suffering.

When his final relapse began in 2009, he found he could face death with confidence because he knew that his ‘redeemer lives’.

The second book I read was ‘Forever’ by Paul Tripp. Written with Paul’s usual honesty and depth of insights, this book is for anyone who feels that the ‘pack-it-all-in mentality’ we live with has led to frustration and disappointment.

Paul argues that having an eternity perspective will enable us to live for something bigger than ourselves and larger than this moment. No longer trapped in the shrunken kingdom of ‘right here, right now’, we can learn to lead lives of greater significance and peace.

Using real-life honest examples from his own life, Paul says that God used the concept of Forever to teach him the following lessons:

1. The future grace of eternity guarantees me present grace.
2. The guaranteed end of the story secures control over my story in the present.
3. Final peace guarantees the presence, power and provision of the Prince of Peace in the here and now.
4. Eternal hope gives me reason for present hope.
5. God’s work of change, which will culminate in an eternity where all things are new, assures me that real change is possible in the here and now.
6. The final restoration of all things guarantees me the help I need until they are restored.

Happy New Year 2015

How we celebrate New Year reflects our personality (as well as our stage of life). Some go for the spectacular dazzling party, complete with fireworks and plenty of noise to herald in the New Year. Others prefer the quieter approach, opting to spend time in reflection and contemplation. Some are excited to get into a New Year, others are anxious about what it may hold.happy new year 2015

There was more than one of my Facebook friends who expressed gratitude that at least 2014 had held more happiness than sorrow for them and in some ways this seems to be the benchmark for us in assessing the past year – if we can recall more good times than bad times, then we are thankful.

What has struck me this year, though, is the difference between those of us who want to forget the past year and those of us who want to recall it. On the one hand are those who are glad to see the end of 2014, remembering its pain and hurts, and wanting to finally lay it to rest and be done with it. On the other hand are those who want to milk it for all they can learn from it, at least before they do lay it to rest.

As we look ahead, too, we are wishing one another a Happy New Year – sometimes also wishing one another good health. These are our hopes and desires – for ourselves, our families and our friends. 

And why shouldn’t we wish one another happiness and good health? I am not suggesting for one moment that we should wish one another sorrow and sickness. But, for those who do take the time to look back and reflect, often it is with the realisation that the times we have learned most, the times we have grown most, have been the hard times.

The Bible makes no secret of the fact that we will all experience hard times in our lives. In fact, Paul expresses the following hope:

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Phil.3:10-11.

We like those sentiments – until they start talking about suffering. We want to know Jesus, and the power of his resurrection, but the fellowship of his sufferings….? We don’t want that – for ourselves or for our loved ones. Can you imagine wishing that on someone for 2015?!

Yet it seems to me that there is a thread running through the Bible which demonstrates that it is in the hard times that God can shape us and mould us and make us more like Jesus. Think about Abraham or Moses or Joseph in the Old Testament – and when we come to the New Testament, Paul tells us that his thorn in the flesh was used by God to teach him important lessons about dependence on Christ II Cor.12:27. And of course when we think of Jesus himself, he was called the Suffering Servant: his life was characterised by suffering. In fact, it was his sacrifice that bought us our redemption and the possibility of abundant, eternal life.

So don’t let’s be masochistic – let’s not go looking for suffering. But let’s step into 2015 in the knowledge that of course there will be the good and the bad, there will be happiness and sorrow, there will be success and failure, but God can use all the vicissitudes of our lives – and seems to often use the hard times – to teach us more about who he is and more about who we are. Let’s not be afraid of the hard times. They can be rich times of learning and growing and maturing. We have nothing to fear – because we know that he has promised to be with us in every circumstance of our lives, until he takes us home, to the place where there will be no more suffering or pain, but joy forevermore. Whether we are leaving joy or sorrow behind in 2014, there are far, far better things ahead.

better ahead

Time to ponder

I think we don’t do enough of it. Pondering. It’s not even a word we use very much. When did you last hear someone say they were pondering something? If you did, it probably meant they were going to take a while to think about something. We don’t like people to take a while to ponder – we like instant answers to our questions. Come to think of it, we don’t like people to take a while to do anything. We like things done now, and we like things done fast. When someone pulls out in front of us on the road, we sigh. When the person in front of us at the checkout spills their change, we moan. When we miss the bus and have to wait for the next one, we shout – inwardly, anyway. So what does pondering mean? The dictionary definition is ‘to consider something deeply and thoroughly’. Nothing quick or easy about that. That takes time. And effort. Advent is about waiting. We are waiting for Christmas Day, when we celebrate the coming of the baby Jesus into the world. It’s a time of waiting, anticipating, expecting. Of course people are waiting for all kinds of things. Presents, parties, holidays to name but a few. But it can also be a time to pause, to slow down, to think, to ponder.

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The Bible says that Mary the mother of Jesus ‘treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart’ (Luke 2:19, ESV). The Amplified Bible puts it this way: ‘But Mary was keeping within herself all these things (sayings), weighing and pondering them in her heart.’ I like that – pondering and weighing. Mary had a lot to ponder. Her pregnancy had been announced to her by an angel. Then her baby’s birth was heralded by a host of angels. Shepherds came to find the baby – and wise men came to worship him. Mary had a lot to ponder. And so do we. Take time this Advent season to slow down, to ponder.

Working from a Place of Rest: Retreat with Tony Horsfall at Drumalis

What does the word ‘retreat’ conjure up for you? Candles? Chanting? Cloisters? Silence? Stillness? Solitude?

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My experience this week encompassed most of these – but so much more.

We arrived on Friday morning at the beautiful Drumalis Retreat Centre in Larne – a place used for retreats and conferences of groups of all sizes. We were a group of about 42 people from different walks of life, united with the one aim of spending 2 days away from the hustle and bustle of our normal everyday lives in order to learn a bit more about what it means to Work from a Place of Rest.

Our speaker was Tony Horsfall, whose ministry Charis Training encompasses teaching at retreats and conferences as well as writing books, often around the theme of contemplative spirituality.

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Session 1 – The journey we are on

Tony used John 4 as his text for the retreat, teaching from the story of the woman at the well and how Jesus met her and spoke into her life. In this first session, after speaking about how Jesus was on a journey (from Judea to Galilee), Tony encouraged us to take a look at our lives and locate ourselves within the stage of life we are at, the stage of our discipleship with the Lord and the stage of ministry we may be involved in. These journeys intertwine with each other and it is important to know where we are on our journey. As Tony puts it, ‘You cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life’s morning’. There was a time of personal reflection after Tony’s first talk which gave us the opportunity to spend time alone, with God, thinking about our journey so far and locating ourselves according to these 3 categories.

Session 2 – Feeling tired on the journey?

Jesus sat down by the well because he was tired. It is normal to feel tired after work, but Tony quoted from research which demonstrates that many Christian leaders are suffering from burnout and depression because of overwork and many quote fatigue as their biggest spiritual challenge. ‘We have a theology of work but not of rest.’ 

Much that passes for Christian fervour is workaholism with a religious gloss. Pamela Evans

How is it that we as a church have bought into the culture around us which says that busyness is a good thing? We boast about our busyness and we are ashamed to admit it when we are not busy. Jesus lived within the limits of the humanity he had embraced – when he was tired, he sat down – and did nothing. How is that we always have to be doing something – and to be seen to be doing something? We need to know our load and our limits, to set healthy boundaries, to live with margins and to be kind to ourselves. ‘Radically eliminate from your life all hurry.’

If your output exceeds your input, the shortfall will be your downfall.

True to the theme of the retreat, rest times were part of the programme, when we were encouraged to spend time alone to rest: walking or sitting in the beautiful grounds of Drumalis, sitting inside in one of the nooks or crannies or even napping in our rooms.

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Session 3 – Stopping to rest on the journey

Tony talked about the discipline of stopping. I had never considered stopping to be a discipline before – but, when you consider the frenetic pace of our lives, you realise that perhaps indeed stopping is a discipline and one which many of us need to learn.

‘Stopping is…pausing for a few minutes, or a few hours, or a few days, to remember who I am, why I’m here, and to receive strength for the next part of the journey.’ Tony suggested that we need to build all of these into our lives on a regular basis, if we hope to lead healthy lifestyles and to sustain our lifestyles over the long haul. Of course the kind of stopping which we are most familiar with is a sabbath rest – however that might look in your context. Given that many present were Christian leaders, Sundays were not always a day of rest for them – but it is essential that all of us seek out that time to stop, to pause, to remember who we are, why we are here and to receive strength for the journey. That would ideally be a few minutes each day, a few hours each week/month and a few days perhaps once a year.

‘There is always enough time to do what God wants us to do.’ Do we believe that?

The bow that is seldom unstrung will quickly break. John Chrysotom

‘Our culture says Time is…….money. God says Time is……..gift.’ We need to redeem it back from the culture which says it is money and let God show us how to use it. The key thing in time management is to know what the will of the Lord is. And in order to know that, we need to hear the still small voice of God – which we will hear when we practise stillness and silence.

Session 4 – Finding refreshment on the journey

Jesus found refreshment at the well – physical water, which of course was a symbol of the water which only Jesus could give: ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water’ (John 4:10).

Tony suggested that we learn to see ministry as collaboration. Working from a place of rest includes spiritual rest – the awareness that it is God’s work and that he will accomplish his purpose through us. He is the Senior Partner and we get to collaborate with him. That takes the pressure off us – it is HIS work, not ours. We are working with him.

We need to learn to drink of the living water, then we can give out; then we rest and drink again, then we can give out again. This is a rhythm of grace. The spring of water within us will flow out to others if we guard our inner lives. Stillness, silence and solitude bring us closer to the life of God and we become centred rather than fragmented.

‘Everything comes to us gift-wrapped in Jesus. God is the Giver and we are the receivers.’

We begin by grace and we live by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

In his final session, Tony looked further at how we learn from seeing how Jesus ministered:

Session 5 – Watching God at work on the journey

The woman who came to the well was thirsty for intimacy, as demonstrated in her life experiences up to that point. Our deepest need to is to know and to be known, to love and to be loved – but only God can fully meet that need for any of us because all of us come to relationship with one another with our own needs. God meets that need and we enter into relationship with him as the beloved child of God. Living out of that identity, we can love others. God is looking for worshippers (John 4) – not workers!

‘Work that does not flow from worship is not spiritual work.’

Jesus was led by the Spirit to go through Samaria – there was a sense of divine constraint. The Spirit had nudged him and he had responded – but as he found himself on that journey, he was tired and sat down by the well. There, as he sat, doing nothing, he was in the right place and the right time to meet this woman who needed a divine encounter.

‘Ministry is what happens when you’re doing something else.’

Alert and alive to the movement of God, Jesus ministered to the woman and met her greatest need. He talked to her without prejudice, with gentleness and respect and was able to lead her into relationship with himself. He wasn’t too busy to notice her; neither was his resting time too inflexible for him to minister to her. He was completely in tune with the Spirit.

That is how we want to live!

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If you have the chance to go on a retreat like this, I would thoroughly recommend it.

Tony has also written several books which I would recommend to you:

Rhythms of Grace

Working from a Place of Rest

Mentoring for Spiritual Growth

The Servant Heart