“That’s not Apple Juice”

I was recently reminded of something that happened when I still lived with my parents. A friend (who’s also blind) had come to stay and she wanted a drink. I went to the fridge, took out the only jug I could find, filled a glass and handed it to her. She took a huge sip, made a funny sound and managed to say: “That’s not apple juice.”

I gasped. “What is it?”

“I don’t know, but it’s not apple juice!”

Later when Mum came in, she looked and said: “It’s cooking oil.” Who keeps cooking oil in a jug in the fridge ready to use a second time? No one else I know, but Mum did, and the apple juice was still in its carton on the table.

We can apply this story to Scripture/God’s Word. It’s sweet to our taste and the more we read it, the more familiar we are with its teachings. When we come up against something opposed to them, we’re then able to say: “That’s not Scriptural” and, like my friend, reject it before we swallow.

Do you have any funny stories that make you think of God?

Our Father, my Shepherd: “21 Seconds to Change Your World” Book-Review

This was marketed as a book on the Lord’s prayer – how the 21 seconds it takes to say it can benefit us, so I was surprised to discover it included the 23rd Psalm as well. Part one gives an introduction to their authors, Jesus and David. Part two is the substance of the book, where Mark Rutland breaks down the prayer and the Psalm phrase by phrase, and part three lists some ways we can use them in our lives.

I would say this is a worthwhile read for pastors and those in positions of leadership within the church, as well as for Christians in general. One thing that slightly bothered me was the author’s encouraging non-Christians to use the Lord’s prayer. If he believes Jesus’ words in John’s gospel that the Way to the Father is through Him, I don’t know how he can expect those who don’t believe in Jesus to address God as ‘Father’ and be heard, but if you can look past that, “21 Seconds to Change Your World” tells us a lot about these passages of Scripture. I think I’ll be using them more in my prayer-life. I’m grateful to Bethany House for giving me a free copy to review.

Restoration is ACE

I said I’d write about my word for 2016, and this week, Bonnie started her OneWordCoffee series. Similar to OneWordAdvent, it’s an opportunity to focus on a one-word prompt each week, and how that word might be speaking to us. She asked on Wednesday: “What’s your one word for 2016?” so:

Restoration.

There’s room for improvement in some areas of my life, but rather than having one big lofty goal that’s maybe a bit vague, it’s helpful to break it down into more manageable chunks. So, restoration is ACE.

Activity: A lot of the voluntary work I now do is done from home – typing, book-reviewing etc. As a blind person, it is much easier in familiar surroundings, but I would like to do more outside the house, so I’m trying to organise something different at least once a month.

Community: I have some lovely community around me – the Open the Book team I go into schools with, my friend Chris’s fortnightly Bible-study group, and the family and friends who live nearby. I’m very aware that God tells us not to give up meeting together. Some use this verse to put the case for weekly church-attendance. It actually ends with a plea for Christians to encourage one another more and more as we see the second-coming of Christ approaching. That could be every week or every day, face-to-face or online. Having said that, I’ve attended meetings where we’ve had some very special worship-times and God’s presence was tangible, so I wouldn’t discount church. Depending on the condition of people’s hearts, it can be a place that really equips you to go deeper in your walk with the Lord. I find it difficult in my current church. With such a large congregation, there are so many I don’t know well and don’t feel connected with. We’re in the process of getting a new building (they’ve knocked down the previous one and are expanding). I haven’t been much while we’ve been off-site, but perhaps in the new building with more space to move around, it’ll be easier. I’m looking forward to getting back there regularly. I know it takes about a month to formulate a habit, so perhaps after a month in the new building, I’ll take stock and see if it’s working for me.

Exercise: If you’ve read this blog for a while, you might remember I wrote a few years ago about adjusting to a change in my finances. The UK-government brought in a law that if you were single and between 25 and 34, you were only entitled to the shared rate of Housing Benefit, even if it was a one-bedroom flat you lived in. I saved money by stopping my twice-weekly trips to the gym, but I definitely don’t feel as good as I did when I used to go. Well, now I’m 35! So I’ve come through that season, and I think it’s time to join a gym again. I want to get this sorted by the end of January.

“Turn your ear to My words … for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body” (Proverbs 4:20, 22). To me, physical health is important, but without God’s strength, I wouldn’t have any health at all. I aim to keep up my physical and my spiritual health in 2016. I’ve started reading the Bible in a year again, this time with the help of Victory Church. You can sign up to get an Email in your inbox with the day’s Bible-reading and a short devotional on one aspect of it, to make you think. I’m enjoying them so far.

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I don’t often pray on the blog, but I liked how Bonnie ended her post with a one-word prayer. Pray this with me if you want God to do a work of restoration in your life:

Father God, thank You that You’re the One who can restore our souls. Please restore all that You need to in 2016, so I can be a good steward of the body and mind You’ve given me. Please carry out Your plan for my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

More Dignity

If it’s true that you should write what you’re passionate about, then I’ll write about this quote someone shared on Facebook. “God designed my disability to make me not independent, but interdependent.” This seems to me just plain wrong.

Can you imagine Jesus Himself visiting someone who’s paralysed from the neck down? They ask why they’ve got their disability and He says: “Aha! Well! You see, it was to make you interdependent. Now you need this person to clean you up when you’ve been to the toilet; to hold a glass of water to your lips; to feed you … I designed it specially so you’d have a need for other people.” What a cruel, horrible thing to say. If that were true, I wouldn’t want anything to do with a God like that; I really wouldn’t.

Happily, I can’t find that callous God anywhere in the Bible. I’ll just use a few examples; I could be here a long time otherwise. First, in Mark 9, a father brings his son to Jesus, saying: “He has an evil spirit in him that stops him from talking” (V17). Jesus’ response? “He ordered the evil spirit, saying, ‘You spirit that makes people unable to hear or speak, I command you to come out of this boy and never enter him again’” (V25). Was it God who made the boy unable to speak? No! It was a spirit that Jesus made sure to cast out of him.

In John 9, Jesus’ disciples wonder why a man was born blind. He tells them: “This man was born blind so that God’s power could be shown in him” (V3). If anyone asked me why I was blind (which no one ever has), that would be my reason: So that God’s power can be shown in me. In the case of the man in John 9, Jesus healed him. I realise that doesn’t always happen this side of heaven, and it hasn’t yet happened to me, but Jesus did teach His disciples to pray to God: “Your kingdom come … on earth as it is in heaven”.

I’ve told someone before that I’m not independent; I’m God-dependent, but that’s as true for me as it is for anyone, whether they have what you might call a disability or not. If you believe Paul’s words that “In Him we live and move and have our being”, then you’ll agree that we couldn’t move one limb without God’s help; we wouldn’t even exist.

I don’t think God designed disabilities to force us to rely on others. I believe that in every area of our life, God wants us to acknowledge Him. I know it’s not healthy to completely cut ourselves off from others, but I don’t think doing what we can independently should be frowned upon; I think it should be encouraged. I wrote a post last year about some of the ways I could give as well as receive. Perhaps it seemed to some like I was boasting, but I genuinely wrote it with a grateful heart to God for the things I was able to do. What kind of a country would we be if people constantly relied on others, never making important decisions or learning to do anything for themselves? I’m glad the Britain I live in gives me more dignity than that.

The Savouring: My 2015 in Review

First I want to say happy new year, and wish you the very best that 2016 can offer. You might remember that last January, I wrote about my one word for the year: Savour.

Scripture: I’ve read the Bible, starting with Genesis and concluding with the gospel of John. John 21 is a brilliant read on new year’s eve, all about Peter being restored and given new direction.

Almighty God: I don’t think I savoured Him as much as I could have. In fact, when I thought back to my one word, I remembered what the other letters stood for but had forgotten the letter A. Whoops. Big whoops, as God’s command is to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I listened on new year’s eve to a tribute to Cilla Black on my local radio-station. It was a collection of rare interviews from the BBC, with her reflecting on her life’s journey in her own words. Lovely in the main, but one incredibly sad moment. She said she used to talk to God every night, thanking Him for her success, but since her husband Bobby died, she hadn’t spoken to God because she’d fallen out with Him. That really touched me, and wow – if there was ever an example not to follow. It can be easy to feel disgruntled with God when something or someone precious has been ripped away from you, but that’s not your only option. Though there’s room for improvement, I do try to give God at least a small part of every day, and when one area of my life isn’t going well, I try to remember all the other ways He’s come through for me.

Volunteering: I continue to enjoy the voluntary work I do. In 2015, I trained to support people recently diagnosed with sight loss, and I should be matched with my first client very soon – a great privilege and also a great responsibility. I hope and pray I’ll manage to give them the degree of support they need.

Others: Alas, no improvement on last January. Though I’d like to give the best of myself wherever I am, I still find I’m at my best when around close friends. Being in a big group doesn’t come easy to me, and it seems to be getting harder to make the effort.

Unusual: Sorry I’m unable to share photos of my adventures, but I did attend my friend’s wedding. The church was friendly, I knew many of the songs, and my favourite part was the theme of the service – not just for the bride and groom, but for those already married, as a reminder of the vows they had made. I did meet Crystal and her family. I hope to write more about them and the little girl they’re in the process of adopting, and I did go on my holiday – one of Jen Rees Larcombe’s amazing retreats. I heard the waves for the first time in 5 years; I felt really at-home; I met so many people and was impressed by their kindness.

Reading: I reread last January’s post and saw my aim to read 20 books in 2015. Later in the year, I joined Goodreads. The Goodreads app for the iPhone is very accessible and easy to use. On Goodreads I set myself the challenge to read 40 books, and I almost nailed it with 37 – probably the most I’ve read in a year. My favourite of them all was Kayla Aimee’s “Anchored: Finding Hope in the Unexpected”. It’ll give you some laughs and make you appreciate the difficulties parents of premature babies go through. Another recommendation would be “The Chase” by Kyle and Kelsey Kupecky – a great book on relationships, written by a couple in their twenties who show such maturity. Ideally I would gift this to every teenaged girl. I wish it had been around when I was a teenager.

I feel my word for 2016 is Restoration and perhaps I’ll write about that in a future post. If you focus on one word for the year, please share in the comments.