Praying The Psalms

The Psalms are great for helping us pray, especially when we feel lost for words. We can whisper them to our Father and find our stumbling words becoming steadier as we continue.

Psalm 86

How precious are you Lord, that you give me the inner life to be able to read such a thing as a Psalm and know it as my own?

1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
You answer me, how thankful I am that you are a communicating God.

2 Preserve my life, for I am godly;
Because you’re kind and you have chosen and changed me.

Save your servant, who trusts in you-you are my God.
You have never let me down, nor will you.

3 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.
You listen to me, I don’t need to be afraid of you being disinterested. You care for me.

4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
Lord, as I lift my heart to you in thanks for simple things, you make me remember joy and gladness.

5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
You are faithful in all your ways, by your self-revelation you cause me to love you. 

6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace.
7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
Where else can I go but to you, no one else can change my heart or my situation.

8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
Nothing and no one like you…and you have chosen to let me know you!

9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
I long for that day!

10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
How many lives have I seen you change- how many times have I seen you heal bodies?

11 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Give me an undivided heart. 

12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
This is amazing…I am able to glorify your name!

13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
To know I am loved by you is an immense privilege. To be able to live free of fear is a delight, help me live in the good of this truth more consistently.

14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them.

Thank you for protecting me from the enemy.

15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
In all my inadequacies and failings you still love me!

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant.
Thank you for not ignoring me, but hearing me, for responding to my need for your strength.

17 Show me a sign of your favour, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.
Your constant love shows me I have your favour, day in day out.

Desiring God…Why?

 

The desire for more of God can be overwhelming at times.

Why does this yearning stir us to search for him?

Why do our hearts lurch, and cry “YES!” at the phrase ‘Deep calls to deep“?

Why is there any desire for more of him?

Because he has made us and we are his.

He has planted that deep hunger in our hearts in the first place, so how can he resist it when it starts to provoke us to go after him? Why would he want to?

We can long for the Lord so much so that we know what it is for everything in us to cry out, “Let me see you or I’ll die!”

Yet, for now we don’t see him, not how we’d like to, but he does promise us this,
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”  “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
John 14:21, 23.

Intimacy with our Papa God is a precious reality,  we can know and experience it whether we are worn down by life or experiencing the giddy heights.

Loving him, worshipping him with all we are, seeking his face, longing to know his heart for others, we will come to a deeper experience of knowing him, here and now.

His response to our longing for more of him is often to send someone, perhaps a preacher, a poet, or a prophet, to bring a message in such a way as speaks kindly and personally, and reveals more of his Father heart.
At such a time it is only possible to accept that he heard our cry and responded.

I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.
Proverbs 8:17

Not Rushing Away

On the first Easter Sunday, Mary, while it is still dark, and after a sleepless night, is up and out of the house to visit the tomb.

As she arrives she finds the stone moved away. Appalled, and certain the body of Jesus has been taken, she runs to get Peter and John and they all return in great haste to the tomb. The men look in, see the spice-laden grave cloth crumpled at one end of the slab where his body had been laid, and the cloth which should have been covering the face of Jesus, folded neatly and left at the other end.

Startled by the sight, but more than that, by what it reveals, Peter and John stumble out of the tomb—and believing, go home.

Mary, distraught at the now double loss of her Lord and friend, hesitates, standing away from the tomb, expecting nothing but emptiness and more grief.

As she approaches and bends down to look into the dark cave, she sees two angels, it dawns on her they are speaking, asking her a question, a ridiculous, senseless, question, “Woman, why are you crying?

This was nothing like she had been expecting.

Through her tears she sees another figure off to one side, she takes him for the gardener. He asks her the very same question, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’

Almost choking on her words, she asked where he’d put the body of Jesus. The blurred figure called her by name, ‘Mary!’, Mary realises this is her Jesus, and overwhelmed by emotion, she reaches out to gather him close.

Jesus drew back even as he spoke to her. He hadn’t yet ascended to his Father, so she can’t be allowed to cling to him—he told her to go and find his brothers to tell them he is— ‘Ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’

You can read more of this account in The Gospel of John, Chapter 20, Verses 1-18.

 

As I read through this story one aspect stood out to me more than it ever had before. It was this.

Mary didn’t rush away, but lingered, and because of this she had a significantly different experience.

Mary saw and spoke with angels. She met the newly risen Jesus. She made eye-contact with him in the very same instant she realised who it was she was even setting eyes upon!

She had a conversation with him, and was given an unrepeatable assignment—Jesus told Mary to go and tell the other disciples what had happened, and to pass on his message.

This is no small matter.

Why did Jesus choose to meet Mary, and not Peter and John? These men had always been two of the three he had picked to spend extra time with, yet this time he chooses Mary.

He didn’t make a mistake, he didn’t miss them, and therefore, just ‘make do’ with her. He only ever acts with purpose.

Just an aside, since the 3rd century Mary has been called, ‘The Apostle to The Apostles’. At least in part because she waited and didn’t rush away.

Peter and John missed the angels, the conversation with them, the meeting with Jesus, a conversation with him, maybe even an assignment for them too.

All of this leads me to ask— How much do we miss by not waiting around?

The most fruitful times I have are those times when I linger in worship, or prayer, or bible-reading; soaking in his presence. Staying there is precious, and life-changing.

What might we hear, feel, or see, if we stay for longer?

What might we miss if we choose brevity, and rush to get on with the busyness of the day?

There must be time for long, slow, presence-loving worship, prayer, reading, and thinking.

Also, what might we miss if we rush away after spending time with others? Don’t you find some of the most significant times with people can be when others have left, and conversation changes gear, becoming more open and vulnerable?

 

As I prepared this post and listened to worship music, there was one particular track which seemed to fit with Mary’s story. I’d love it if you’d spend a little while listening to it, but don’t listen as ‘you’, listen to it from the viewpoint of Mary when she has had this experience of meeting the risen Jesus. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Praying with Friends

There was a time many years ago when four of us used to meet regularly to pray, we called it our prayer triplet, who knows why, other than we thought it funny. We’d meet fortnightly or monthly, I can’t quite remember how often, but it continued for quite a long while. We so enjoyed our times together, they were rich. We knew we were only small fry, but we also knew God would be with us, and sometimes make his presence especially tangible through what he said or did.

I guess I’m reminded of this because I saw someone tweeting today about prayer ‘threes’, and straight away I was whisked back to the room where we worshipped, prayed, and prophesied, such good times.

That particular group is long gone, yet it is still one of the memories I retrieve and turn this way and that to see its different aspects. Yep, still beautiful.

The discovery of praying with others rather than alone was huge, I hadn’t realised it could be so joy-filled, honest, or exciting. It remains one of my favourite things. Whether it’s just me and a friend, or a room full of hungry people who are longing for more, it doesn’t matter to me, both are a privilege to be part of.
It’s hard to beat meeting with friends to meet with God, it’s one of the most precious activities we can be involved in. I think it’s the authenticity that grabs me every time. To be with people who love God and are willing to make themselves vulnerable, to pour out their hearts, whatever it might sound like, is just so GOOD.

Some of the seeds planted way back then are growing strong now, becoming what could only be thought of as unrealistic dreams at the time. I’m sure those times have made much more difference than we ever imagined they could.

Over the years I’ve been part of a various groups who have met to pray and encourage one another, they appear simple and often rather more small fry than big fish, but they can be powerful and often bear great fruit.

Thankfully God loves to bless the small and seemingly insignificant, his is an upside-down kingdom.

Flawed…Yet Fruitful in the Hands of God

We are all flawed, if we were a water jar we would leak…

But…God has planted seeds alongside the path of your life…if you look to see from His perspective you will see flowers alongside the path where you walk with your cracked and flawed ‘water jar’ of a life (Ask Him to reveal this beauty to you..please listen to his response.)

This growth has only been possible because you have been there, just as you are, loved and treasured by your Father God, in the day to day, ordinary moments of life.
Our vulnerabilities are often what makes others feel safe around us, we don’t need to pretend to be something we aren’t.

Know for sure that you are loved as you are, not as you should be,

No one is just as they should be, God isn’t waiting for that, He loves you just as you are…right now.

Cracked Pots

‘A water bearer in India had two large pots. Each hung on opposite ends of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect. The latter always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house. But the cracked pot arrived only half full. Every day for two years, the water-bearer delivered only one and a half pots of water.
The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, because it fulfilled magnificently the purpose for which it had been made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfection, miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After the second year of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, the unhappy pot spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream
“I’m ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you” said the pot.  
“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”
“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all this work and don’t get full value from your efforts”, the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the cracked pot took notice of the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path, bright in the sun’s glow and the sight cheered him up a bit, but at the end of the trail, it still felt bad that it had leaked out half its load, and so it again apologised to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, not on the other pot’s side? That is because I have always known about your flaw, and I have taken advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and ever day, as we walked back from the stream, you have watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have had this beauty grace his household.”’

Brennan Manning Ruthless Trust

Truth For Your Weary Heart

If you’re having a tough time at the moment, then this is for you.

I want you to remember some truths which are helpful when lies or accusations, whether facts or imaginations, come calling.
The enemy’s tactics thrive in secrecy and hiddenness, he hates light, openness, and transparency, they expose him for what he is, a thief, liar, killer, and destroyer.
You are loved by the one who knows you best and has no illusions about you at all. You have never shocked him. You may have pulled hard on your connection with him, but it hasn’t broken. He is faithful even when we aren’t.
All the enemy can throw at you was on Jesus’ mind as he went to the cross, and it has been dealt with most throughly.

The enemy would love you to be bogged down by shame for as long as possible, but the truth is, all we have ever done wrong in any way was absorbed by Jesus on the cross, he became sin for us. Why? Because he wanted us as his own.
As Jesus rose from death and walked free from the tomb, you were on his mind. You are part of his inheritance and the joy he set his heart on as he went to the cross, therefore you are part of the real experienced joy he had as he walked out of that dark dank cave. Think on that for a moment.

What you will learn through this will be valuable, your Father God never wastes anything. You are his beloved child, you are integral to his purpose here, he has dreams and hopes for you to enjoy fulfilling.

The ‘vertical’ is dealt with when we bring our hurt and broken selves to him, knowing we are always loved by him and he is always willing to listen to all we have to tell him. His desire is for us to be at peace with him and to happily walk in step with him.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

1 John 1:9

Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.

Psalm 37:24
Our experience of this may feel incomplete because we need the ‘horizontal’ dealt with too, and for this we need good friends who love both us and God. If we can let these trusted ones know who we really are, the hidden areas are exposed to the light and the enemy can’t push us around, because we can say: God knows and has forgiven me, he never stopped loving me, even while I was behaving like an idiot. My friends know me, and they love me, warts and all.

(Don’t tell all and sundry everything, just someone you know and trust.)
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12
Again…You need to remember that Jesus had you in mind as he died on the cross, for the joy set before him…and he had you in mind as he woke from death and walked out into the fresh air of the resurrection life, in anticipation of your loving relationship with him…he LOVES you.
Talk to him, get that heart of yours worshipping him, find delight in him all over again. You will feel back to ‘normal’ in time, although you will feel different to before, because you’ll appreciate the sense of a tender heart and a clear conscience.

If it sounds as though I know what I’m talking about…well, yes, of course I do.

Thankfully, that isn’t where I’ve stayed.

You don’t need to either.

Nibbling the Possible…or Grabbing the Impossible?

I hear the longings of people’s hearts quite often. One of my favourite things is to draw people out and to hear them share the secret dreams which sometimes even they haven’t explored yet.
Our lives, so often, are smaller than they need to be. I think this may be linked to our understanding of God being pinched and small, like shoes long outgrown.

If we knew how he loves his creation, and his church, and those who haven’t met him yet, maybe we would get a bigger glimpse of what he has in mind for us.

For the Lord is always good and ready to receive you. He is so loving it will amaze you, so kind it will astound you! And he is famous for his faithfulness towards all. Everyone knows our God can be trusted, for he keeps his promises to every generation!’

Psalm 100:5 The Passion Translation

The kindness of God never ceases to amaze me. 

When he answers the whispers of the heart, he shows himself such a kind and loving Father.
He hears and smiles when we talk to him of desires too wild to be spoken of in public, the ones we think of in the quiet of the night, wondering if we are crazy to imagine such happenings. They’re no surprise to him, he put them there in the first place.
When he brings those hopes and dreams into being, we get an intense taste of his personal delight in us, not because we’re any great shakes, but because we are HIS and he has loved us and taken great pleasure in us since, oh, forever.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

Ephesians 1:4 New Living Translation

I once had someone reluctantly admit what her dreams were, reluctant only because she knew I believed in her more than she did, and I’d want her dreams come into being, which can only mean being pestered and prodded and loved into doing something about it.

The funny thing is, her dream fitted her perfectly, but then it would wouldn’t it, because the one who made her in all of her quirky loveliness, had also planted seeds of the gifts in her, which would one day provoke her to the bravery needed to say, out loud: ‘This is my dream…’
We can be limited by many situations, not least the run of the mill stuff of life. This ‘stuff of life’ though, is where we gain the stamina to pursue our dreams and show we have what it takes. How do we do this? By being faithful in the small things, the ordinary work done well, the unobserved kindness, the rising in the night many times to a child who only wants his back rubbed and to see his mummy’s lovely face.

We    just    plod    on    through.

Plodding is a thorough training ground, it isn’t always exciting, but there we make progress and grow,  as well as accomplish our task.

When we start to see the dawning of our dreams, we realise we are walking them out, and this time it isn’t in the dark of night, it is broad daylight with others at our side, seeing their dreams and hopes come true too.

Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible. — C.T. Studd

Journey of a Church planter: Kate Hibbitt in Bridport

I asked Kate Hibbitt, a dear friend of mine of many years, if she would consider telling us her experience of church planting, here is some of her story:
It’s been three years since I moved to Bridport with my husband Rob and our two sons, Jamie and Daniel to plant a church. Beacon Church Bridport is now no longer a church plant but a church in its own right.

God spoke to me prophetically through someone, 15 years ago, about church planting and being a pioneer. I was single at the time and was on a New Frontiers Project (it’s called Impact now). I stored that word away in my heart.

Rob and I have been married for thirteen years. God started to stir both Rob and I around 7 years ago about church planting. God used those years to train, shape and change me.

Looking back those years were a bit like a roller coaster ride but I held onto what God had spoken and waited patiently for the ‘go’. During that time I learnt about God’s perfect timing and He taught me so much in the waiting. The hardest part for me was leaving close friends, uprooting our children and leaving Citygate Church, which I had been a part of for 18 years.
On the 23rd March 2012 we moved to Beaminster, just north of Bridport. The move happened very quickly after the years of planning and waiting. We saw a house, secured school places and moved three weeks later! Leading up to the move close friends had prophesied that God was going to do immeasurably more than we would ask or could imagine.

God showed me what a lavish Father He is by providing a perfect home for us to live in, friends were able to visit, it had a basement big enough to start the church in and enough space to be hospitable and minister to people.

Our new home, London House, also had enough bedrooms to house all the Leadership team when they moved to join the Church plant as they were waiting for houses to sell etc. God did do immeasurably more than I could/would have ever, ever imagined! I have so many God stories that I have learnt along the way. God’s ways are not our ways but in hindsight His ways are not only the better option but bring blessing and fruitfulness. London House provided us with the space to build firm foundations and helped us to kick start the church.
As I look back over the last few years, life has not always been plain sailing. As a couple and as a family we have had our ups and downs. I am so thankful for the godly men and women God has put around us to encourage and support us when we have been battle weary. There have been many setbacks and frustrations; as well as the highs of planting and establishing a church. I can confidently say God has been completely trustworthy and faithful in the big and the small. It amazes me how much He knows me and how He is interested in me. He surprises me in the most unexpected ways.
It’s taken me a long time to realise it’s ok to be me! It has been liberating to know in my inner being that God created me before the beginning of time to be Kate – not anyone else – just me. In Him I have everything and I am complete. My identity is in Him. As I have got rid of the debris and clutter in my heart that I have carried around for years as a Christian, the wrong thinking and worldly principles, I have found freedom, freedom to be me and freedom to say no.

For some reading this who know me this is something I have struggled with for many years and especially over the past few years. I am learning to be still in the busyness of church life. I’m on a journey of one day at a time. Not rushing ahead for there is time for everything (Ecc 3:1) and everything in its time.
Church planting is challenging and for me in the early days I felt the pressure to do everything. Be a good wife, mum, work part time, juggle church life and in doing so put stress on my husband and children because I couldn’t say no, if I did I thought I was a failure.

If I’m honest I have struggled with being a ‘Martha’. For many years my identity has come from being busy. Nothing is as important than spending time with Him. He is a God who gives and gives and gives. He has not held anything back. He poured out his life for me so I can live in the full measure of Him. WOW! What amazing truth.

Over recent months God has shown me the things in my life that I need to let go of – of loved ones, of material things and the biggest mountain in my life – control. It has been a painful season of being stripped bare and I have felt very low at times but it has also been an incredible time of blessing. Through the pain and suffering God has been so gentle, gracious and kind. In letting go I have felt Him closer than ever, He has calmed my fears and quietened my anxiety. He has dealt with my disappointment and has changed my heart. I still don’t fully understand the whys but my Heavenly Father does. I am learning to live above my circumstances.
Church planting is exciting and life changing and shaping. I love seeing the impact this has had on Rob and I and on our boys as well. They both are passionate for Jesus, the gospel and for church planting.

Many people questioned us for moving them from schools they loved and a big church but as I look back I can see the growth and the moulding God has done in their lives. In the early days it was tough for them but it has made them stronger, more resilient and most importantly they know they can depend on Jesus in every situation.
I would encourage all who read this and are wanting to push further into the presence and promises of God, whatever you do don’t limit God, be open to the prophetic and don’t be afraid to dream big dreams. God loves us so much He longs for us to be out of our comfort zones just to prove how faithful He truly is!

I’ll leave Kate’s powerful story with you to chew over. God often speaks many years before the event, has this reminded you of anything he has said to you? Is it time for the next step?

Discovering: Prophetic Wisdom by Graham Cooke

‘ “My people know My voice,” God promised. We serve a God who is dedicated to seeing us get things right. In return, He wants us to be dedicated to seeking His face. He wants us to live in the sheer pleasure of waiting on Him. To ensure that we feel the delight of being in His presence, He has given us the Holy Spirit as an inheritance. We can be assured that God will always show up and talk to us. We can rely on Him, live in His rest and peace and adore His nature. We can be overwhelmed by our own insignificance and marvel at His greatness. We can be humbled by our weakness and captivated by His strength. We can live with an understanding of how weak and small we are, and be fascinated by the grace, sovereignty, power, and majesty of the God we serve. Our present smallness cannot prevent us from entering the fullness of God….this is His will for us.’
Prophetic Wisdom by Graham Cooke.
Recently, a friend told me she particularly liked the way Graham Cooke expresses himself. I had to agree. He is gentle and kind, with a love for God that is always a provocation and invitation to me.

I thought I’d go back and read some of his work. This is a small portion from the first chapter of Prophetic Wisdom, the third in a series on the prophetic, published by Brilliant Book House. 

https://www.brilliantbookhouse.com/prophetic-wisdom.html
Graham wrote a book back in the nineties, ‘Developing Your Prophetic Gifting‘, it was the most thorough I’d come across on the subject back then, but this series is more in-depth. It is certainly thought provoking.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Developing-Prophetic-Gifting-Graham-Cooke/dp/1852401443
I’m not sure where I read or heard it, but he has said that he used to travel a great distance to be mentored once a month by Graham Perrins, that he was the quietest person in the room, taking many notes, yet saying nothing.
Isn’t it interesting that the people we have in our lives, the ones who we may think will be the most fruitful and who show the most promise, aren’t always the ones we eventually see rising to the surface, at least not for long.

Sometimes it’s the quiet ones who make little or no impact at the moment, and seem to have no desire for great prominence, who go on to influence many people both in and out of the church.
I know of those who thought little of themselves and wondered how God could use them, or indeed, if He ever would, and now, although still tender where self-esteem is concerned, are being used to make strong ripples, and who knows, one day maybe even waves.
How precious it is to realise we are perfectly seen and known by the only one who can equip us and work with us for eternal purposes, and as Graham said:

He is dedicated to seeing us get things right.’

Each of our lives are in His kind hands. Even the lives of the quiet ones.

The Bridegroom and The Best Man

The Holy Spirit isn’t given to us in dribbles so we can only just get by. He was poured out on Jesus without measure.  We are promised he will be in us and flow from us in a never-endinging stream too, we need never grow dull and dry, he’s never going to say: ‘Today, you manage on your own.’
Jesus said: ‘Whoever believes in me’... Whoever, pretty inclusive really.
If we fix our eyes on Jesus it is easier to trust him even in trials and sufferings.
He is captivating. He draws our hearts to him and we are reminded of his loveliness, and even though the suffering carries on we draw comfort from him.
He knows us, he knows what we are going through and how imperfectly we suffer, yet he remains beside us, loving us, and faithful to us.
This is a major part of how the Holy Spirit refreshes us, he turns our eyes to Jesus and we see again.
He reminds me of the best man at a wedding, he is there to get the bride to her husband, he’s not there to draw attention to himself, but to make sure the lovers get married.