God’s Great Jigsaw

Can you imagine if you handed a 5 year old the pieces of a jigsaw one at a time, with no picture to follow! Well, in my house, that would end up in all sorts of tears and tantrums.

But isn’t that just how life can feel sometimes as a Christian?  We know that God has created a unique and perfect top box picture for each of us, yet without that completed picture, how can we possibly fit all the pieces in the right place at the right time?

Even though 2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us; “We walk by faith, not by sight”, when you’re doing a jigsaw, that’s really tricky, even for the most seasoned puzzler.

As I have travelled through the jigsaw of life, I’ve learnt that God has a real sense of humour.  Not only does He hand me pieces of my puzzle that fit perfectly into place, revealing great sections of His glorious plan, but sometimes He hands me pieces that make no sense at all.  How frustrating!

Let me take you back a bit, 15 years actually … it was about session 6 of The Alpha Course. I’d been going to church for a few years before this, but had never really embarked on a relationship with Jesus. So this was real turning point for me.  To be honest, the way I did church before, was all about me!  Graeme often worked nights, and so it was really helpful with a toddler and a young baby to pop them in the buggy on a Sunday morning, mosey on round to church, sing some songs, drink some coffee, chat to a few friends then return home in time for daddy getting out of bed.

Anyway, on this particular evening, I found myself going along to Alpha reluctantly. Graeme had just been paid off and here we were with a baby, a toddler, a mortgage, bills and all the other stuff that goes with young family life.  It now seemed questionable that the Jesus I had really been getting know, and hanging out with over the past few weeks actually had any interest in me.  Why in the world would He allow this amount of anxiety and fear to be part of my life?  We had 2 wee ones!!  Money was already tight!

I sat quietly, listened to the talk, said very little, and wondered why I was there at all. At the end, I shared with the group leaders my situation, and the disillusionment I felt about the friendship I was building with Jesus, and the sense of abandonment I was experiencing.

And then they were out there … those words that I remind myself of on an almost daily basis.

 “You need to see this as part of a bigger picture Lisa.  This is just one tiny piece of a much bigger puzzle and one day, you will look back and it will make sense”

Really?!

How true!  The next 18 months, God just handed us pieces of sky.  So infuriating. Lots of pieces with a similar theme, none of which quite fitted.  And every time a piece seemed to fit, the next piece didn’t and we had to try again. Sometimes we had to hold on to a piece and wait until a few more were in place before the fit was right.

It was quite a turbulent journey, but within 2 years of that evening, we had sold our house, moved in with Graeme’s parents, moved out of Graeme’s parents, bought a new house, nowhere near where we wanted to live (…a whole other story where God displayed His sense of humour and perfect plan) and given birth to Archie, our 3rd child!   Plus we had City Church – a whole family of people doing their own jigsaw puzzles!

As my journey with God continued, I learnt that when God gave me pieces of puzzle, even if they didn’t fit there and then, they were like His promise to me.  They were often the pieces of hope I needed to focus on, to help me put some of the harder pieces in place.  Because the Gospel is full of the fulfilment of Gods promises, we can be confident that when we hear God’s promises on our lives, that they will be fulfilled.  God’s not like us – He doesn’t ever change His mind. He doesn’t ever give up because He gets bored of completing the sky!

For me, I need to remember Gods promise to Abraham, God promised him descendants when he was 75 –  and Isaac wasn’t born until Abraham was 100! That was a wait that must have required a great deal of patience and trust.

Don’t mistake God’s patience for his absence.  His timing is perfect, and His presence is constant. He is always with you!  Deuteronomy 31:6

When my wee ones are doing a jigsaw, I always tell them: “Start with the corners then complete the edges”.  Isn’t this such good advice!

If we start our jigsaw with the cornerstone – Jesus – then use the gospel as our edges and boundaries,  we have a really solid framework within which to build our puzzles.  We know where we belong, and we can have confidence in the fulfilment of his promises, even if we can’t see where they fit just yet.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” Ephesians 2: 19-21

Recently, God’s been telling me that I should let people see my jigsaw puzzle, even though it is incomplete and some of the sections look unpleasant, God reminds me that it is all part of a bigger, perfect picture. He hasn’t wasted any of those pieces, He plans to use all of them for His greater good.  We should never hide the pieces God has given us, they are our testimony and nobody can deny them when they see our pictures evolve.

Let me leave you with my favourite verse in the Bible, the one which confirms to me that God has the top box picture of my jigsaw and encourages me to be His hands and feet on earth when not everyone knows Him.

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.“  Jeremiah 29:11 

So let’s stand together and help each other with our jigsaws, so that we can enjoy being part of fulfilling this scripture.

Lisa x

Lisa McColl is part of the Stonehaven site, where she leads the Host Team, as well as being one of the City Church Trustees. She’s married to Graeme, they have 5 kids and in her “spare time” (!)  she loves cooking, scrap-booking, walking her dog, hanging out with friends and redecorating!

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Born Identity

As I walked out of the playground and home, with tears in my eyes again, I prayed to God “this has to get easier soon!”  Elise, my daughter and eldest child, had just started school and I was having a tough time leaving her in the care of her school.  This was made even harder as her younger brother, Jonah, had also just started nursery.  My babies were growing up.  As I walked home I heard God quite clearly say it’s their time to grow, become more independent and develop who they are, who I’ve made them to be.

This is something that’s been on my mind for a while now.  Identity.  How do we discover our Identity?  What is My Identity?  Who am I?

Before I got married and had children, I was a teacher and a youth leader.  Rightly or wrongly I found my identity in the things that I did. That was who I was.

After I married my wonderful husband, I felt things changing but I was still teaching and my identity had only changed a little bit.  After having Elise, I no longer taught, at least not full time.  My job was not teacher, but mummy.  Since then it has been a whirlwind, an amazing and incredible ride, but sometimes I feel that I have lost who I am along the way.

Since going down to the Cherish Conference last year, God had been nudging me to start looking at myself and who I am.  At the conference I felt Him say “you are not who you used to be.”  So who am I?

I love being a wife to Phil, it’s an answer to so many prayers, it’s such a wonderful adventure and he’s a better husband than I could ever have imagined.  I had no idea how much I could love my three children – they are our hugest blessings and are constantly bringing me so much joy (and a few extra grey hairs!!)  I love being mummy.  Since becoming a mummy I’ve made loads more friends and I appreciate the time I get to spend with friends so much more now.  I love being a friend.  My parents are also my closest friends and some of my biggest supporters.  I love being a daughter, a sister, an aunty.  I am passionate about seeing an end to human trafficking in my life time and won’t stop until it is.  I love being an abolitionist.

But as I looked at each of these roles, I still didn’t feel like that’s who I am.  I remember hearing time and time again “your identity is in Christ.”  I agreed with it.  But on paper what does that mean?

During one of my rare quiet moments, I began to write down what the Bible says I am.  I am loved (1 John 4:10).  I am forgiven (1 John 1:9).  I am saved (Romans 10:9-10).  I am free (2 Corinthians 3:17).  I am worthy (Ephesians 2:4-6).  I am made in His image (Genesis 1:27).  I am alive in Christ (Galatians 2:20).  I am like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).  I am a dwelling for the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 3:16).  I am a follower of Jesus (Matthew 16:24).  I am able to do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13).

I looked at the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5.  If the Holy Spirit lives in me then I am loving.  I am joyful, even when I don’t feel like it.  I am meek.  I am a peace-maker.  I am kind.  I am good.  I am faithful.  I am gentle.  I have self-control, even with a chocolate bar!  I am glad.  I am forbearing.  I am longsuffering, even during the Six Nations!  I am patient.  I have an even temper, even when I’m tired and the kids are having a tantrum!  I have self-restraint.

I won’t lie by saying that when I had this revelation I instantly changed into all of these things.  Actually, looking at this list of who God says I am scared me a bit, even though I’m not supposed to be fearful!  But the verse in 2 Corinthians 3:18 came to mind.  We are being transformed from glory to glory.  I don’t need to be all of those things right now, it’s a journey.  And God’s grace is always more than enough for all of us.

The world, our society and the media often tell us that our Identity is found in what we look like, how successful we are, how popular we are, what kind of wife/mummy we are, how fit we are, how rich we are or how we were brought up.  Although these things aren’t bad, I don’t think they give us our true identity.

I have always had a battle with my weight.  For a long time, I did feel like my identity was found in my outward appearance, and as I didn’t like the way I looked, I didn’t like me.  This is often still a battle in my mind, but standing on what God says about me, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), I am learning to not believe that my identity is found in what I look like.

If I remember that the Holy Spirit lives in me, I can be a more loving wife, a more patient mummy, a kinder daughter, a faithful abolitionist.  And when I’m having a tough day as a wife or mummy or friend or just as Cat (because let’s be honest we all do), my identity doesn’t need to be rocked.  My identity isn’t in a role or what I look like but it’s in Jesus, my Rock.  It’s Him who makes me a better me.  The one who is steadfast and who can never be shaken.

 

Written by Cat Bretherton

Cat is married to the lovely Phil and they have 3 wonderful children – Elise, Jonah and Noah.  She is a stay-at-home mummy and you can find them all at our Ellon site on Sundays.  She likes travelling, reading, movie nights, spending time with her favourites and has a huge collection of decorative hearts!

The Desert Road

My journey as a Christian has been full of ups and downs, laughter and tears, pleasant times and difficult moments, the lovely joy experienced through achievements of family members, and the physical exhaustion from work while raising four children.

I grew up with godly parents who loved Jesus and brought us all up in the fear of the Lord.  I became a Christian at an early age and everything was good, although I did get distracted by other things at certain points in my walk with God.  My desire has always been to know Him and through the years I have prayed that God would change me and use me as He pleases.  Praise the Lord who hears and answers our prayers even though the answers may not come the way we expect!  They are always for our good because God knows what we need.  I remember praying a few years ago – a prayer surrendering all to God and asking Him to refine and purify me as gold.  This was after reading Malachi 3:2-3 which says…

But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?  For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.

Shortly after that prayer, things started to go ‘wrong’.  My family and I began to experience one challenging situation after another – with each new challenge being greater than the last – but God’s word gave us hope and strength until He gave us amazing victory!  Scripture verses that I had read a long time ago kept coming to mind at specific moments of need, bringing comfort and encouragement.  During that time I was expecting some rest, but my world suddenly became dark.  Even so, I knew He was there.  All I could do was turn to Him to provide all the support I needed.  It was after that period of what seemed like total darkness that God’s light gradually began to shine through and I got to know Him as “my light and my salvation” (Psalm 27 :1).

Looking back, I can now say that I am thankful for everything – especially the challenging experiences – because with each challenge came a new revelation of God.  So many things in me that I never knew were there came to the surface as a result, and I am slowly being changed as I hand them over to Him.  I am amazed at the way the Lord has brought deliverance and resolved each problem.  He is indeed a very present help in time of need.  I am beginning to understand how God has used some of the difficult situations that have come my way for His purposes.  I heard a lot about God, what He did and what He is able to do, in my younger days and I did totally believe.  But now I know Him through experience and I have come to understand that Isaiah 43:1-2 is true:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned.

I know that belonging to God does not shield me from suffering or hardship but it means that I cannot be overpowered by them because He will always be with me.  I am learning to be still and allow Him to be God – to totally depend on Him for all things and in all things.

Deuteronomy chapter 8 teaches us that God led the children of Israel through the wilderness even though there was a shorter way to get to the promised land.  This was because there were so many things He wanted them to learn.  He wanted to humble them, to reveal what was hidden in their hearts through testing so that He might do them good in the end.  God is interested in our hearts.

The journey through the wilderness is a separation process where you are taken away from the crowd and your familiar environment or lifestyle.  On this difficult path set out for you alone, where you encounter challenges that you can do nothing about, His aim is to make you into His holy habitation.  It can be a lonely path and painful sometimes, but it leads to life and peace.  When you can find no way out of any problem on the way, call to Him and wait patiently because He will answer.  It is a journey where you discover yourself, find God and learn to totally depend on Him as the reality dawns on you that without Him you can do nothing.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says this:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Hallelujah!  His power lives in us and we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!

It’s a journey where you realise that it is not about you and so you learn to let go of your ideas, rights and dreams as you embrace God’s instead.  You become more at peace even in the midst of chaos, you experience His joy regardless of your circumstances, you begin to lose more of yourself as you find your identity in God and start to look more like Him.  On the journey you get to see and know God more, falling in love with Him as you behold His beauty and receive His love.  To be called by God and led by His Spirit is the most amazing adventure any person can experience!  I am honoured to be on this exciting adventure with my Lord.  I might not see what lies ahead but my trust is in Him as I know that I am deeply loved and will never ever be alone.

“Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you.”  (Isaiah 46:4)

Hallelujah!!!

 

Written by Lynda Dalgana

Lynda is married to Benjamin and they have been blessed with four kids – David, Michael, Miriam & Martha.  She lives in Aberdeen and attends City Church St Machar.  She is currently studying mental health nursing at Robert Gordon University.

You’ve Got a Friend in Me

So just to set the scene a little…  I’m sitting on a boat in Malta, it’s about 30˚C and I’m at my favourite place (the Blue Lagoon) with my friend Gayle.  Somehow this feels like the ideal place to organise my thoughts.

Friendship has always been a massive thing for me.  From a young age, my mum told me about the importance of being a good friend.  This advice became especially helpful during my teenage years.  I am a guidance teacher now and say it on a regular basis, “if we want to have good friends then we’ve got to be a good friend.”

So what makes a good friend?  Romans 12:15-16 (MSG) says this:

‘Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.’

I think that’s a pretty good place for us to start.  As I write this, there are two things that I would like us to think about – how Jesus is our best friend, and how we’re to be friends to one another.

With Jesus, it’s amazing!  He’s the creator of the world, yet He wants to be friends with us…!  It sometimes blows my mind that He wants to laugh at my silly blonde comments (if you know me at all you can insert the most recent one here); yet He also wants to be my comfort when I’m upset.  Ali Elder recently spoke in a sermon about how hard it is to interview Will-I-Am because he will only allow certain questions to be asked.  God wants to talk to us and listen to us whenever, wherever, whatever!  He is always available and ever ready to speak to us through the Bible.

I absolutely love the song ‘Army’ by Ellie Goulding – minus the swearing  😉  She wrote it for her best friend and it was actually my own best friend who introduced me to it.  The lyrics go:

“Dark times, you could always find the bright side

I’m amazed by the things that you would sacrifice

Just to be there for me”

Jesus is always by our side.  He wants to use all things for good.  In the dark things that we have done, or that have been done to us, He wants to find “the bright side”.  He is always there for us.  The last part of that song is so true.  It really is incredible what He would sacrifice – death on a cross so that we could have life eternal with Him in heaven.  That completely amazes me!

People say that with friendship you start to act like the people you hang out with.  I know that is true for me.  I’m awful for copying phrases or accents from people, especially my pupils (#sorrynotsorry).  My challenge for you and for myself is to spend more time with the person who should be our best friend – Jesus – then people will see that we are more like Him.

But how do we become better friends to one another?  And how do we even make friends?  It’s hard as an adult to make friends.  I am sure there are a few people reading this thinking, “it’s okay for you Christine, you’re bubbly, you’re an extrovert, you’re single, you have time”. Or maybe you’re thinking, “I’m actually quite happy with the few good friends that I have.  It’s better to have a few good friends than many shallow friendships”.  I would agree with that last thought somewhat.  But only to say that we shouldn’t have any shallow friendships.  We are called to be the light of the earth and to bring Christ to our friends, colleagues, team mates and family.

I like this translation from The Message of Matthew 5:46-48:

“If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

It’s easy to sit in our own bubble of friends and family, yet there are so many people who don’t have that friendship and as Jesus asks in this passage… do we expect a medal?

One of my dad’s favourite bible passages that he lives his life by is Matthew 25:35-46 which teaches us what we should do:

“I was a stranger and you invited me in.”

Being Christ’s hands and feet in the world, I would hate if there was anyone in my life who was lonely or broken-hearted and I wasn’t there for them.  The thing about being lonely or hurt in our society is that people are very good at hiding it – with a smile, with an “I’m fine”, with busy lives.  But we must truly get to know someone and we need to love them before they will let their barriers down and this does take time.  A great way to do this at church is to go to a small group – share life together, laugh, joke, eat food and wipe each others’ tears.

And if we don’t have many non-Christian friends, maybe we should make some more!  So I thought I’d wrap things up with some top tips on making new friends…

  • organise a work night out
  • invite someone round for coffee or out for a drink
  • host a come-dine-with-me meal with a group of work friends
  • join a group (fitness, book club, whatever your interest is) then ask someone out for a drink afterwards
  • keep in mind some conversation starters – how was their day, what type of music do they like, what do they think about…(insert news story here)
  • play a game of two truths and a lie if it’s a bigger group

Finally, I thought I’d leave you with a quote from the wisest of snowmen, Olaf…

“some people are worth melting for!”

And I hope we all have people like these in our life!

Written by Christine Lloyd

Christine

 

Christine can be found on Sunday mornings at our brand new Laurencekirk site – often behind the keyboard or playing the bass. She’s a guidance teacher and absolutely loves her job… most of the time!  She has a very unique laugh so people generally hear her before they see her.  If you do see her, say hello… she loves to meet new people!

Showered with Love

God knows me, what I need and when I need it.  I only think I know what’s good for me – most of the time!

These verses came to me after a series of events…

Romans 8:27-30 (The Message)

27-28  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

29-30  God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.

So it makes sense for me to fill you in with a little bit about myself and where this story begins.  I am happily married to David and we have three amazing children – Oliver, Finlay and Emily.  I am one of five children, my dad is one of eight and my mum is one of four.  Needless to say, I have tonnes of cousins and am blessed that we are a large family of strong faith, with the majority of us confessing Christ as our Lord.  So there was never a question of not having lots of children – the more the merrier!  David is one of two and has no cousins at all… thankfully he loves children!

We had started having children a little later than normal – I was 33 years old when our oldest was born and 37 with our third.  However, when it came to cherub number four David was not so sure.  After a little persuasion he succumbed!  We tried for many months, which was strange because we had never had trouble before.  I went through two early miscarriages and finally (after much prayer and anguish) reckoned that God was saying no! So we accepted this…

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

Fear not, for I am with you;

   be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

   I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Some time later, we were blessed to attend the church leadership conference and to my surprise some of the women there had brought their newborn babies.  It wasn’t until that moment that I realised I had unfinished business in my heart and head.  Every time I saw these mothers with their babies I was filled with an overwhelming yearning – in fact it made me angry.  It was such a shock and I was annoyed because I had arrived with such high hopes to be near to God.  Determined not to let it spoil things, I spoke to David (“a problem shared” they say) and tried to put it out of my mind.

I was really enjoying Ken Costa’s talk about lifting the ceiling that would stop you from growing in the journey or job that God had for you.  All of a sudden it became obvious that my “ceiling” was this yearning to have a fourth child.  Ken spoke of a thing that was full of pain and holding us back.  God was saying LET IT GO NOW!  (I don’t think he was actually shouting, but his message was crying out to me!)

I broke down in tears as I prayed to God to take away this horrible feeling, like he had in another area of my life almost a lifetime ago.  I prayed that he would get rid of it right away so I could follow his plan for my life with nothing holding me back.  I sobbed and shook, hyperventilating in an embarrassing fashion for some time.  Thankfully I wasn’t the only one being filled with the spirit and being healed of some pain, so the room was less than quiet!

Ken then asked us to put our hands up if we wanted our “dry bones” to be renewed.  I did.  David prayed for me for a while then Taryn came and laid hands on me.  She spoke in tongues and told me things that she couldn’t possibly know about me!  She said that my head was always bursting with ideas which people often overlooked but God had made me this way and wanted me to keep pushing forward.  She then prayed for me to have peace with the thing I wanted to let go of.

Once I composed myself, I walked into the foyer and immediately saw a mother with her child… I felt nothing!  No anger, no despair – just overwhelming peace.  It was awesome!  This peace stayed with me throughout the rest of the conference and is still with me now.

However, this is not the end of the tale.

A month later, I went to a day conference in Aberdeen called Glorious.  God was talking to me through Rachel Gardner’s message and I was feeling really blessed.  I had been going through a time of real challenge and attack since the leadership conference.  It was nothing to do with babies this time – instead it was an overwhelming feeling of being undervalued.  Anyway, Rachel’s talk was all about God knowing us, what we need and his plan for us.  I truly felt him speak to me through these words…  “You are my servant, keep serving, I love you more than you will know.”  I felt full of blessings and expected no more.

Then a women spoke about Compassion, a child sponsorship charity, and it just so happened that I had been praying for guidance in the area of tithing.  So I put up my hand for a child’s profile and, without looking, went to put it in my bag.  A voice in my head said “look at it!” When I did, I saw the profile of a girl living in Ghana called Lily and she was one of four children!

Our possible fourth child had already been named Lily by my youngest daughter Emily when we had spoken to them about the prospect of another sibling.  Emily had been hoping for a sister – in fact an older sister, which obviously was impossible!  This Lily from Ghana was slightly older than our firstborn child, so you see God gave us our fourth child and Emily’s big sister after all!  I was floating by the time the day ended!

Surely now the story seems complete.  But no!  God gives in abundance and showers us with his love…

Two months on I found out I was pregnant with our fourth child who is due to arrive in December!  Now I am truly more than blessed… God is so good!

Written by Moira Berry

moira

Moira is married to David and a mum to Oli, Fin & Emi with a fourth baby on the way in December.  She lives in Huntly and is a part-time primary school teacher.  Her loves include the great outdoors, books, writing, travel, and most of all, time with her family.  She’s also the Site Kids Leader at Inverurie and tries to act like a big kid whenever she can get away with it!

Out of the Slimy Pit

“I love you” rolls off my tongue with little hesitation (even at the end of a phone call to BT sometimes…oops), and I end most of my texts with a friendly “x” (trying to remember not to send them to married men…oops again). But if the words “I’m a Christian” are brave enough to attempt an escape from my lips, more often than not, they get stuck at the giant lump in my throat.

Like most of us, I suppose I can be a bit odd. I have to eat apples in a particular way. When cooking a meal, I stick to the recipe by the letter even if that means using a medicine spoon to measure ½ tsp of something (you can blame my Pharmacy degree for that one). I also consider it a waste of my time to watch a movie which scores less than 7.5 on imdb.com!

However, until I started at Mintlaw Academy, I had no idea that being a follower of Jesus was an unusual confession for a thirteen year old. During those awkward teenage years, I became increasingly aware of everything that made me different from my peers. I was English, home-educated, Christian, introverted and a total swot! There was a lot to be insecure about.

Since then, I struggled with a profound dependency on other peoples’ opinions of me. This fear of rejection or disapproval became my security blanket. But one which provided no comfort whatsoever; instead it was often suffocating and almost always stifling in some way or another. For over a decade, I allowed it to control most of my decisions and almost all of my words – especially those three words…. ”I’m a Christian.”

The thought of sharing my faith with someone was like this huge looming shadow of “what ifs”. What if they think I’m judgemental? What if they think I’m naive? What if they think I’m boring? Faced with these fears, I began to live a double life (which sounds quite exciting and a bit 007 but it’s really really horrible).

At home and church I was Cherith (whose name comes from a small brook mentioned in 1 Kings). At school, university and work I became Cherith (“I’m not sure where my name comes from”, “it’s not in any of the baby name books”, “my Mum named me after her cousin”, “just call me Cherry – it’s a lot easier to remember”). Yes, hiding my spiritual identity went as far as lying about my very name.

What God has done in my life over the past three years has been nothing short of a miracle. I took part in the 40 Acts movement during Lent this year and one challenge was titled Testify. The definition of testify is to give evidence or proof that something exists or is the case. If you’re looking for answers in this broken and confused world I’m glad to say that you’ll have to seek and find them for yourself. But if I was asked to stand in a court and give my testimony, this is the evidence I would present.

Exhibit A

Three years ago, I was afraid to answer the phone and the door; I would duck and cover if I unexpectedly saw someone I knew when I was out. Now, conversations on the neighbour’s doorstep and at the supermarket checkout feel normal to me again.

When that small, conniving voice tells me that I’m boring and the rest of the world doesn’t need me getting involved in their exciting and interesting lives, I ask God to reveal to me the truth and He shuts the voice up. He tells me that I’m His favourite which gives me peace and confidence, but before I start to feel too self-important, He also reminds me that you’re all His favourites too!

Exhibit B

Three years ago, I was skipping church, failing to read my bible and struggling to pray. I’ve now been the site kids’ leader at City Church Ellon for 18 months and recently joined the staff team as Chuck & Taryn’s PA.

I constantly feel under-qualified and overwhelmed by a lack of confidence in my abilities – only God’s plans lead down paths that we would never have chosen for ourselves. Despite this, I have full assurance that God holds the whole universe (including me) in the palm of His hand and when He says “I chose you” what He really means is “I know you can’t do it without me but don’t worry, I won’t let you go”. And boy, am I thankful for that!

Exhibit C

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand” – Psalm 40:2 (thanks Dave). Strength through childbirth, hope during depression, comfort while mourning, provision during times of need, peace in the midst of the storm, armour for the battle, patience while waiting…. these have been God’s gifts to me.

Even more than this, God is my Father when I need to be sung over. Jesus is my brother when no one else understands. My rescue from that valley called I’m-Not-Enough. The Holy Spirit is my friend when I’m alone and ignored – speaking truth when I’m confused, giving courage when I’m vulnerable, carrying me when I can’t go on.

I’m a Christian. Let me introduce you to my God….

And if that makes me judgemental, or naive, or boring, then (1) you’re wrong, (2) my life is perfect and (3) no, I won’t go for a drink with you!

P.s.  That was a joke. God says they’re good for you! (Proverbs 17:22)

Written by Cherry Chamberlain

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I live in Hatton with my very own Cinderfella, Stephen, and our four feisty daughters – Anise, Harriett, Evie & Beth.  I love travelling & playing music too loud. My days are planned around food & numerous coffee breaks. On Sundays you’ll find me worshipping with the lovely Ellon bunch (and probably tucking into an iced pastry)!

Haunted

Have you ever been haunted by a passage of scripture? Do you know what I mean? It pops into your mind randomly in sermons, conversations, thoughts, prayer and life in general. Try as you might, you can’t escape from it. Over the last few months, I have been haunted by Ephesians 4, in particular verses 29-32:

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Now, let me be completely honest. I didn’t think I was too bad where unwholesome talk was concerned. It turns out, I am. I love how the Holy Spirit humbles us and shapes us through scripture. It was pointed out to me by a wise lady that unwholesome or un-whole-some talk is anything which is not whole, which breaks something apart – usually a relationship either with someone else or with God. This has particularly resonated with me when we did a sermon series on relationships. It is crucial in building and keeping positive healthy relationships that we speak well of each other and let no un-whole-some talk come out of our mouths.

There’s a little three letter word in verse 29 which is a challenge to me. Any. Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. The same wise lady who pointed out the un-whole-some talk to me also has a phrase, “God is a God of no loopholes!”. That means we can’t say, “But you don’t know what she did it me!”, or “I just have to tell someone this to let my frustration out!”, or “Just so you know what’s she’s like…” . When the Bible says ‘Do not let ANY unwholesome talk come out of your mouths’, it really means any, zero, none. We can be guilty of this with each other but also of other churches and denominations. Verse 3-6 say Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. I liked Chuck’s analogy at the Big Gathering a while ago when he likened different denominations to different regiments of the same army. We perhaps have different mission fields but our goal is the same. Let us speak well of other brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of how or where they choose to worship.

Verse 31 says, Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Again, we have another three letter word which we can’t ignore. All. No loopholes. How often are our relationships with others broken apart, made unwhole, because of bitterness, rage, anger, slander and malice (I’m not sure we brawl very often as women!)? Even allowing a little bit of bitterness breaks apart a relationship and allows satan a foothold.

So now we know that we are to get rid of unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice. How then are we to speak? Verses 29, ‘but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.’ Just think of the impact we could have in our relationships if we actively chose to build one another up according to their needs. If we asked God to reveal to us what our friends’ needs are, if we don’t already know. If we were to encourage our friends with scripture, and pray for them to be built up in their faith.

Verse 32 speaks for itself, ’Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’ Let these not be trite familiar words, but words which spur us into action so that Jesus words in John 13 ring out,35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Now my challenge to you is this: at some point today, grab a cup of tea or whatever you fancy, find a quiet spot and read Ephesians 4 a few times. My prayer is that you will allow this scripture to haunt you this month. That it will soak into your heart and guide your conversations and attitudes towards others. I am certainly a work in progress in this area, but am so thankful that my Father God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love and wants to continue moulding me into the person He created me to be. My challenge is allowing Him to mould. Will you allow Him to mould you?

Written by

Emma Gray

I am married to Fin and we have three daughters, Ella, Daisy and Phoebe. We live in the country and love having our home filled with people. At the moment I am passionate about tea, music, running and doing the laundry! We can be found in Inverurie on a Sunday.

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