5-Minute Friday: New

Linking up with Lisa-Jo again for another of her 5-minute Fridays, where we set the clock for 5 minutes and just write, without worrying whether it’s just right. If you have a blog, maybe you want to join in that way, or you could share your 5 minutes here in the comments.

And this week’s prompt? New. This week I needed more than 5 minutes, so:

Go

A washing-machine stuffed full, and the zoosh of a vacuum-cleaner, licking up the dirt. Tops of bookshelves dusted, and shiny photo-frames returned to their places.

Because before that crisp, clean new bedding is brought in, the old has to go. The fresh smell of linen, carried in from the line; towels folded neatly and placed on the bed, at the foot; sweet-smelling flowers picked from a garden … Welcome. You are welcome.

And that same welcome is extended to us, on that Day when the old is thrown away, like dirty linen discarded, pushed behind a closed door, and the new is ushered in – a new Jerusalem; new hearts; no more of the old … and you are welcome.

Stop

Since writing this, I’ve read Psalm 105 and been reminded of the joy in God’s heart as He makes us new. When Jesus talked with Peter after breakfast that morning, saying feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep; follow Me (John 21), what joy He must have felt – looking into the eyes of one who had once denied Him, seeing his potential, and knowing that all was not lost. Peter was welcomed into God’s kingdom; God was pleased to give it to him.

A Pick-me-up

We haven’t had any Compassion-posts for a while, have we? So, if you’re someone who sponsors a child, how’s it going? I’ve had a good few days, sponsor-wise. I wrote to Russel and Cindy in the Philippines. I love to reread their latest letters before I reply, to make sure I answer any questions, and I’ve been surprised to see how appropriate one of Cindy’s prayers was for me this week. She might not have known, at the time she was praying, but it really meant a lot.

But what if you haven’t had such a good week? Maybe it’s been a couple of months since you received a letter; maybe you haven’t sponsored long, you’re still getting to know your child, the letters are still a bit impersonal, and you’re quietly wondering: Did we really do the right thing? Well, there is somewhere you can go for encouragement.

This afternoon, I found this Bible in a Year plan on Moms’ Toolbox. It looked so good, I decided to start straightaway, and one of the readings for today (16 August) was Psalm 112.

I love to read passages like that. It brought to mind a couple of things to pray about, but first to come out of my mouth was: “What I really wanna say Lord is thank You”. God didn’t have to give me an opportunity like the one I’ve got with Compassion, to give to the poor. I could’ve been take-take-taking from society all the time and never giving anything back, but I’m grateful that He does allow me to give something back. Yes – the Bible is where to turn for encouragement, because it’s there you can be reminded of God’s heart for the poor.

And I couldn’t help but notice that last verse: “The desire of the wicked shall perish”. It seemed very appropriate, with the riots we’ve been having here in the UK. Those who desire to loot properties, those who are out for what they can get – their desire will one day be no more, but those of us who respect and delight in the LORD – we’ll be blessed; our children (sponsored or biological) will be mighty; we need not fear; and God will lift us up in honour.

Doesn’t that remind you of Jesus? Who delighted in God more than Jesus? Is there anyone God’s lifted up higher than Jesus? There’s no one! Jesus is First and because He died for us, we can have a share in all those promises, and in the glory that God gave to Him.

How amazing!

The Importance of Church

When I became a Christian, it was at a church some distance from my home, so I didn’t know of a church in my locality that I could go to. I knew one thing: I didn’t want to go back to the one my parents took me to in my early teens. At the time, I felt that would snuff out this fresh faith that was inside me, so I read some Bible-notes from UCB called “Word for Today”, but I didn’t attend any church.

So what changed? In my Bible-notes one day was a poem – “10 Reasons Why I Don’t Wash”. I’ll put it here, for any who haven’t heard it:
1. I was forced to wash as a child.
2. People who wash are hypocrites – they think they are cleaner than everyone else.
3. There are so many different brands of soap. I can’t decide which one is best for me.
4. I used to wash, but I got bored, so I stopped.
5. I only wash on special occasions.
6. None of my friends wash.
7. I’ll start washing when I get older and dirtier.
8. I don’t have time to wash.
9. The bathroom is never warm enough in winter or cool enough in summer.
10. People who make soap are only after your money.
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Ok; it’s a bit of fun, but I think you’ll see the parallels with church. “I just don’t know which church is right for me” – I was one of those people. “Churches are only after your money” – I’ve heard that said, but the church is the family of God. They’re the people who love the One I love and, despite any imperfections, I’m glad to be a churchgoing Christian.

Do you have any thoughts on church you’d like to share in the comments?

5-Minute Friday: Beauty

Lisa-Jo has been doing this on her blog for a while now, and I think I’m gonna join in some weeks! It’s fun if you’ve got a few minutes to spare. The idea is, you set the clock for 5 minutes and just write, without worrying whether it’s just right.

This week, the prompt is: Beauty. So, here’s mine:

Go

I see beauty in those moments when I feel so close to God that I don’t have (or need) any words.

I see beauty in those people I admire – a woman walking the London Marathon, because the doctor said she couldn’t run. She didn’t give up.

I see beauty in the loyalty of friends who stand by me – they’ve seen me at my best and my worst, and they’re still there.

I see beauty in a baby snuggled close on your lap, tiny finger curled around your hand.

I see beauty in an old lady, telling stories in her lovely Welsh voice.

I see beauty in a fountain trickling, birds singing, and the sun in the sky.

I see beauty in the One who created it all.

Stop

The Worship-Leader You Didn’t Know Existed

Today I’ve listened to the show I was plugging. Alex talked about when we went to “Songs of Praise” at the Millennium Stadium in the year 2000, exactly 3 months after I’d become a Christian.

When she told me on the phone that “Songs of Praise” was on and was I happy to go, I unhesitatingly said yes. As someone who wasn’t a churchgoer at the time, I wanted to take any opportunity to get together with other Christians; the style of event didn’t matter. I’m sure that sometimes, seasoned Christians could learn from the enthusiasm of those just starting out.

Anyway, this is one story Alex didn’t tell on-air – maybe because she didn’t want to make me look silly, but I don’t mind looking silly, so I’ll tell it myself. The sound system in the stadium really wasn’t very good. (I’ve heard that said by others too.) Several people sang – Noel Richards, Daniel O’Donnell etc, and you could just about make out what the presenters were saying.

As we sat on the coach home, Alex asked: “What did you think?”

“Yeah,” I said, “it was good. I didn’t know Noel Edmonds could sing!”

Friend Friday: A bit of a Plug

Let me introduce you to my friend, and fellow Compassion-sponsor, Alex Banwell.

I met Alex 20 years ago. We shared a room at boarding-school, and her family in particular have always treated us like sisters. I travelled in to school daily for the first year or so. School would finish at 4, and a taxi would pick me up from the boarding-house at about 5:15 every night. One morning, the relief houseparent asked would I take Alex over to school. I knew her name, but we’d never spent any time together. I wanted to make conversation – to say something like: “Who’s your favourite pop star?” but shyness got in the way. As we walked up the corridor, I was in a dilemma. I didn’t want to take Alex to my form room, because I was nervous of my form; I didn’t want them to randomly take a dislike to Alex and start picking on her, so what was I going to do? I thought it best she waited for me outside the chapel, but I didn’t articulate this very well. Actually, I just said: “This is the chapel” and ran off! I ran upstairs and into my form room, dumped my schoolbag, and ran back down again, but by the time I reached the chapel, Alex had been guided in by somebody else. I don’t think I was ever asked to take another person over to school!

I’m glad to say she’s forgiven me for deserting her. Hopefully I’m a loyal friend now; she’s certainly been loyal to me. Alex is a great encourager, who’ll sometimes come out with these funny quotes like: “I don’t know whether I’m coming, going or been”. She’s always keen to read my writing and give me feedback, but now it’s Alex’s turn to have a new project (this is where the plug comes in). After a live audition, which I had the privilege of hearing not so long ago, she’s just been given her own show on an online radio-station called Mushroom fm – ‘The home of the fun guys’, as they say! The station already has a southern gospel music-show, but Alex’s aim is to play a whole variety of Christian music – anything from Third Day to a male voice choir.

So, if you’re free on a Tuesday afternoon, 12-3 pm UK-time, why not give her new show a listen?
www.mushroomfm.com

Are any of your friends involved in something you want to shout about? And, if you’re a friend of mine, let me know if you’d like to be featured one ‘Friend Friday’ in the future.

The First Big Lesson

I’m going to ask you to think for a minute – of the first big lesson God taught you as a Christian. Maybe you became a Christian so long ago you can’t remember, but I’d love to hear from you if you can. Mine was this: Homosexuality is wrong.

Why would God choose to focus on that? Well, before I was a Christian, I was very into Queen – the rock group, for anyone who doesn’t know. By ‘Very into Queen’ I mean in the Queen Fan Club, went to conventions every year etc. In fact, I was so into Queen, it seemed almost criminal to disagree with anything its members said or did.

Freddie Mercury was publicly bisexual, so when a friend told me on the phone one night that homosexuality was wrong, I didn’t want to grasp it. I said: “You tell me where it says in the Bible and I’ll believe you”. I was sincere in this. As a new Christian, I hungered to know more about God, and I knew His Word (the Bible) was true.

“I think it’s in Romans,” she told me, but that wasn’t enough; I wanted to know exactly where.

Still living with my parents at this point, we went and bought a concordance from our local Christian bookshop. (A concordance is like a dictionary; you can look up a particular word or phrase, and it’ll tell you where to find it in the Bible.) I asked Mum to look up “Homosexual”. There are other passages that talk about homosexual behaviour, but for the actual word homosexual, she only found one reference. It was in 1 Corinthians, and it was the phrase: “Wicked homosexual offenders”.

Wicked … homosexual … offenders. I repeated it to myself. Then I thought: Hang on. If that’s what God thinks, then homosexuality really is wrong!

Even in those early days, God was asking me to make a choice: Carry on, as in my old life – putting Freddie Mercury first, or change and put Him first?

If there are any homosexuals reading, please remember this: God loves you. Deeply. But, as one of my friends would regularly say when praying out-loud: “You love us as we are, but You love us too much to leave us as we are, so You choose to change us”.

Very wise words.

Who to Help

This seems a common snipe at sponsors. I’ve heard it said myself: “Some people help in Kenya or wherever, but they don’t help local charities”. So?
What About the Kids in our own Country?

Emily, who’s a Compassion blogger, shared a great answer to this question while she was in the Philippines.  She’s one of those whose writing I really love, so please read her post.

 

For my part, I hope I don’t ignore the children on my doorstep. Yes, God has called me to sponsor in other countries, but He also calls me to act nearer home. I’m happy every time I see my friends’ children. There’s a 7-year-old I know, and to have him climb on the sofa next to me and say “I love you” is one of the sweetest things! But the ones who depend on my financial support for school uniforms, the ones who consider me part of their family or ask for my prayers – they just happen to live in the Philippines and Haiti.

 

Do you feel called to take up the challenge – the challenge of loving someone half a world away? Why not prayerfully look at these children waiting for sponsorship and see what God says?

Grateful to Greg

Noticed anything different on the blog lately – like a photo, and the widget at the bottom so people can subscribe without commenting? Well, those are thanks to Greg at WordPress.

You see, I use speech software to read my screen. I could upload the photo, but couldn’t crop it. My software doesn’t allow me to drag and drop, so I was unable to add any widgets. Greg E-mailed about the photo, and was interested in the software I used. I explained, and not only did he position the photo as promised, he also put up the widget I wanted. I didn’t even have to ask!

So I’m taking this opportunity to say a big thank-you!

And you? Have you thanked anyone today?