5-Minute Friday: Reach

Kate Motaung has got me writing again with her Five Minute Friday prompt, and my 5 minutes for this week starts with an unusual question:
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Who remembers S Club 7? When I was in my early 20s, they released the song “Reach”. It wasn’t a Christian song, but its message is optimistic:
“Reach for the stars;
“Follow that rainbow,
“And your dreams will all come true”.

For some strange reason, that song was the first thing to come into my head when I saw this week’s prompt, maybe because I’m in a good mood (Friday’s a favourite day of the week for me), so why don’t we ... reach for the stars?

What’s the big dream in your life – the thing you would reach for, if only ... I have lots of them. I’d love to go up Table Mountain in a cable car with my South African friend; to take my Filipino boy to a theme park in Manila called Enchanted Kingdom; to record more of my songs professionally; to have a paid job; to ...

But it’s good to have those dreams. When you want to do something, it’s good to be able to ask yourself: "Why not?" Sometimes answers to that question aren’t slow in coming, but when we still dream, when we still ask, it means there’s a part of us that’s alive – that’s reaching – that’s trusting for better things around the corner.

“With every step you take, think about what He wants, and He will help you go the right way” (Proverbs 3:6).

Back-to-School

“Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good” (Proverbs 19:2).

I remember when I first started school. A member of staff came to me before lunch and asked: “Would you like to say Grace?” I had no idea what this was; I thought she was talking about grapes! So I told her I didn’t like grapes, trying to imitate the way she said it. Of course, she moved on to someone else, and I soon discovered Grace was the prayer said before a meal: “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.” I said it regularly once I knew what it meant!

School can be a daunting time for children, whether young or much older. Maybe they’ve had bad experiences at their previous school and are frightened to go to a new place. Maybe they have to travel on public transport and it takes some getting used to. The train from where I live to the nearest city regularly fills with young teenagers going home from school at 3:30, and on Bohol in the Philippines, my Cindy does the journey on a motorcycle, probably with lots of others crammed on too (the maternal part of me doesn’t like to think about that).

When they get to school, the teachers are there to educate them in all sorts of ways. They might learn about the importance of hygiene or a good diet, as well as the more academic subjects. Compassion-sponsorship provides children with uniforms and school supplies, so they can attend classes with their peer group. Cindy says she reads books in English and Filipino (bilingual at 13 is pretty impressive), but I don’t know whether she shares with her classmates or has her own. If you’re a sponsor, why not ask your sponsored child about books? You could even send one with a letter.

Compassion are encouraging us at this time to think about children going back to school. Although back-to-school happens a couple of weeks later here, it’s never too early to start praying, and perhaps thinking what you can do for a child this year. If there are any children in your life starting back at school soon, why not share some names in the comments and we’ll pray together?

Tuesday at Ten: Gather

I enjoy these link-ups where I can join with other bloggers and just write. Tuesday at Ten is Karen’s first link-up, so I hope she gets a good amount of support. Similar to Five Minute Friday, the prompt word goes live at 10 pm Eastern (that’s 3 am Wednesday here in the UK, so I’m glad she’s giving us 24 hours to make our contributions!). This week’s prompt is: Gather.
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I’ve read Psalm 2 recently. It seems appropriate with all that’s going on at the moment in this world. It talks about people gathering together against the LORD (doesn’t that remind you of the situation in Iraq?), and yet the Psalm isn’t full of doom and gloom. No – what I love is its picture of God in all this. “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the LORD scoffs at them.”

Do I mean that God laughs at tragedy? Well, I can’t imagine that of a loving and compassionate God. If I want to gather those Iraqi children in my arms and protect them, surely God wants that even more. In fact, the Bible says He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart (Isaiah 40:11).

So here’s what I love about that picture of God:
I love that He’s enthroned in heaven. Whatever might be going on in the world or in your own life, whatever might be spiralling out of control, there’s One who’s still sitting on His throne, in control of it all. I’m reassured by that.

And I love that God scoffs at the ones who’ve gathered against Him. If a human being scoffs at you, that’s one thing, but God scoffing at you? Wow - that’s a dreadful prospect! Has someone treated you unjustly? Do they think they’ve got away with it? Psalm 2 reminds us that one day, we’ll all have to give an account of ourselves to God; we’ll all have to answer for our actions. And do you know your response to the one who’s mistreated you will affect their future?

Jesus taught that if we forgive others’ wrongs, they’ll be forgiven; but if we don’t, they won’t. He showed incomprehensible forgiveness Himself when His hands and feet were nailed to a cross, and He was tormented to come down and save Himself. An early Christian, Stephen, asked as he died a martyr’s death that the sins of those who killed him wouldn’t be held against them. Have you ever thought who was standing by that day? A young man called Saul gave approval to Stephen’s death. Not long afterwards, Saul was travelling to Damascus to persecute more Christians when Jesus appeared to him, and he became a believer himself. Saul (later known as Paul) believed in Jesus, so his sins weren’t held against him. Could you do that to those who gather against God or against you – forgive them, and trust that God will respond in the right way to their mistakes?

When You Feel Incredibly Blessed

My friend Alex came to stay last weekend. She came on Friday and went back yesterday. When I have visitors, what I want more than anything is to treat them like tourists: Go walking with them on our lovely hills, take them shopping, go out for meals … but not being able to drive a car limits what I can do with my visitors. Alex is blind as well, so it wasn’t as if she could do the guiding; where we went would have to be somewhere familiar. Because I’m someone who likes to be doing, and because I want people to get the most out of their time here, that could have been really frustrating. Could have been, if it wasn’t for the kindness of my family.

On Saturday, I had an E-mail from my mum. Herself and her car were free, she said, if we wanted to go anywhere. I gave her a call and she suggested going to a very large shop full of soft furnishings, bedding, cookware … So much to choose from! Had he been with us, Alex’s husband wouldn’t have understood the appeal, but all 3 of us enjoyed it, and Alex and I both came back with new things for our houses.

Of course I’ve already thanked Mum, but just wanted to write this post in tribute to her. I know she’ll be reading, and I know it’s a lot to expect someone to guide 2 people round a shop like that, and to describe everything so well. In fact I’d never expect it, but Mum regularly goes beyond any expectations I might have. She also invited us to Sunday lunch with her and Dad, and we spent the afternoon with them in a local park, eating ice-cream and listening to a rock choir and a brass band (though not at the same time!).

I took Alex to a café church near where I live on Sunday morning, and was surprised how well we got on with our 2 canes. No trip-ups for ourselves or anyone else! And we heard a timely message about thanksgiving and giving God the worship that’s so rightfully His. Alex thanked me for the weekend, and very kindly told me that even if we hadn’t gone anywhere, she would still have had a good time.

So, those few days have made me feel extremely grateful. If you’re housebound and that’s a struggle for you, I pray you’ll have someone like my mum in your life. Maybe with their help, you can get out and enjoy more of your surroundings, or maybe just their being with you and their ability to describe the world around you will make things that little bit easier.

5-Minute Friday: Fill

Kate Motaung has taken over the reins of FMF this week. She explains on her blog how it works, and did you know Five Minute Friday has a Facebook page? I’ve really enjoyed writing for 5 minutes on this week’s prompt: Fill.
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It’s hard – the empty. You look in the inbox to discover an E-mail that closes a door ... and then another. It’s ok to hurt or to grieve, but the Bible tells us not to grieve like those who have no hope. Because yes, the empty is hard, but I’m blessed to know the One who fills – the One who says ‘Open your mouth and I will fill it’.

Even when the employment door’s stayed closed, He’s been there, filling my life with different ways I can use my time – perhaps not as much as I would like, but always the knowledge that He’s prepared good works for me to do. Always the reminder not to become weary of doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.

Do you know the One who wants to fill your empty? Who wants to come into the gaps and fill them with His peace? His love? Inviting Jesus into your life is something very special, and ultimately, life-changing. Life-changing because from that day forward, you’ll always have Him there with you to help you cope with whatever life may throw at you.

5-Minute Friday: Begin

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ll know I participate in 5-Minute Friday from time to time. Well, today is a day to say goodbye to its founder, Lisa-Jo Baker, and hello to Kate Motaung who’s taking over from her. I follow Kate’s blog now and am looking forward to getting to know someone who spent years in Cape Town – a place I’d love to visit one day.

Lisa-Jo is seeing this transition not as an ending but a new beginning, and has chosen for her final prompt: Begin. If you’d like to join us, you could write for 5 minutes on ‘Begin’, then go over to Lisa-Jo’s blog and be part of the link-up.
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Begin is one of those words that seems so attractive, that draws you in. A beginning is a blank space waiting to be filled, and nothing before it. The ones who know you from the beginning haven’t known anything before, and really there’s only One who’s known you that long – the One who knitted your body together in your mother’s womb and saw you before you were born.

Wouldn’t it be nice to begin again? To start out with people who didn’t see the mess your life was, the mistakes made by others and by you, the dreams unfulfilled? Yes, it would, but none of those things can be erased. They’re there – part of you, part of the intricate and wonderful being that is you.

Springboard Friends

You know the ones:  They speak and it launches you into something new and wonderful.  I’m thinking today about one of those friends in my life.  I’ve known her a long time – nearly twenty years, actually.  I met her when I was at school and it was her job to support me.  It proves even the appointment of staff can be prophetic, because she certainly has over the years – not only at school (helping to put my work into Braille), but personally as well.

 

Carol was the one who asked me one day as we walked into the gym:  “When you have problems, have you thought of praying about it?”  (I hadn’t, and didn’t think it was for me at the time.)

 

She was the one who phoned not long after I had left school to invite me to a Marilyn Baker concert, where I first heard this song.

 

She was the one I met at an event in 2000.  A new Christian, but our time together was so short, I didn’t have a chance to tell her, so I wrote her a letter.  I remember one sentence read:  “Although I don’t go to church, Christianity is now a huge part of my life.”  Carol could have kept the letter to encourage her in her own walk with God, but she did so much more than that.  Within days of me writing it, she was on the phone, inviting me to the house group she went along to on Wednesday nights, which got me into church.

 

Carol baptised me along-with my pastor.

 

She inspired one of my songs when I had just come home after a hard time, and she talked to me about a plant needing to be in the right soil.  She’s prayed me through difficult seasons and celebrated the good ones.

 

And Carol inspired something else, which I’ll be forever grateful for.  As we ate lunch one day in 2005, she told me about a conference she’d just been to – with Compassion.  My parents had sponsored with another organisation when I was growing up, so I was very interested in what she had to say.  The idea of getting letters to me personally from my child really impressed me.  Carol had told me the website-address, so I went and looked.  My first Filipino girl was Jennylyn and I’ve been sponsoring children ever since.

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Compassion have asked their bloggers to write this month about who (or what) first inspired us to sponsor a child.  If you sponsor, where did you get your inspiration?  If you don’t, will you consider investing in the life of a child?  I can’t promise that every child will open up to their sponsor and write screeds in their letters, but never doubt that what you put into somebody’s life can make a big difference.

One of Your Family

I was reading Mark 9:33-37 this morning and just love the picture it paints.  It says that after Jesus and His disciples settled in a house, He confronted the argument they were having earlier about who was the greatest.  Then Jesus put a little child among them, embraced the child, and told how welcoming a child also welcomed Him.

 

Now, when I thought before about Jesus calling a child and having this conversation, I imagined it outside somewhere, and the child being called out from a huge crowd … but Mark says they were in a house.  The child was probably one of the family they were staying with, whom Jesus brought in from the next room.  Sounds so ordinary and so homely to me.

 

Have you ever imagined Jesus as one of your family, taking your child in His arms and using them to get His message across?  That’s what Jesus wants to be:  Part of our everyday life, and He can use children to teach us things about Him that we might otherwise miss in all the busyness.

 

A friend once told me about when she took her little boy to the bakery.  As she chose her shopping, the boy said:  “Mummy?”  He waited and tried again.  “Mummy, God’s trying to talk to you.”

 

“Oh?  What’s He trying to say?”

 

“That He loves you.”

 

It brought a smile and a “Bless!” from the woman behind the counter, and I think a reminder to all of us to stay on the lookout for God’s love and care … even when we’re choosing cakes at the bakery.

Saying What you Love

Jill over at Compassion Family wrote a post this week about encouraging sponsored kids to praise and adore God – to tell Him what they like about Him.

 

She explained that she sometimes used Bible-verses to do this.  I’ll choose one of my favourites as an example:  “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11).  Jesus, I love You because You’re not ashamed to call me Your sister (that’s praise).

 

And a passage from Luke 6 that’s been on my heart this week:  “Give to everyone who asks you, and when someone takes something that is yours, don’t ask for it back. …  If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get?  Even sinners love the people who love them. …  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back.  Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin.”  Father, I love You because You’re kind to ungrateful people.

 

But we don’t only have to praise using Bible-verses; it can be prompted by everyday life as well.  I’ve been counting calories to try to lose a bit of weight, and sometimes when I’ve reached my limit and really fancy chocolate or biscuits, it can be frustrating not to have those nice foods, but I can praise God for giving me enough to eat.  There are plenty of people in the world who don’t have that luxury.

 

Have you told God what you love about Him lately?

Good Foundation

I listened to the radio yesterday morning while I washed the dishes, and was really struck by something a lady said.  She and the DJ were discussing couples, and how it was good for them to have time to themselves instead of being joined at the hip.  She said if you have two concrete pillars holding the roof on a structure and those pillars are too close together, that roof will fall.  Similarly, if they’re too far apart, the roof will also fall because its foundation isn’t good.  But if they’re just the right distance apart, then that roof will stay up.

 

Although they were talking about couples, I think this speaks to all of us.  If I depend on my family or friends to be happy, if I give them first place in my heart and think too highly of them, my life will fall apart.  If I distance myself from family and friends, if I have no need of them and there’s a wide chasm between us, then my life will also fall apart.  But if I give them their rightful place in my heart – Jesus at the centre (whom I depend on for my joy) and them second, then my life will remain secure because my Foundation is good.

 

What are the foundations like in your life?  Have you considered doing what the children’s song says – building your life on the Lord Jesus Christ?