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

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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

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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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A Step Of Faith

The wonderful Kathleen Wilkie has a little area for prayer before each service on a Sunday at City Church Ellon. It was around the middle of November and I was about to go into panto season. It was my first professional job as an actress. I sat with Kathleen and she prayed with me, about the time in rehearsals, time away from work, the travel. Then she asked “Is there anything you want to pray about specifically” and I replied,

“I just want to keep God at the centre of it all”

Little did I know at the time that God was saying, “That’s lovely Mairi, but I’ve got plans a thousand times better than that!”

A two week intensive rehearsal period was quite the feat. Learning lines, dance routines, harmonies, costume fittings, publicity, parades, long days and late nights. Not to mention making new friends. With only 9 in the cast we quickly bonded, had our own hashtag and plenty of coffee trips to keep us going. I was living the dream. The great blessing was one of my fellow cast members who was also a Christian. We spent lots of time chatting about church and faith in the rehearsal weeks but I didn’t really expect much of it.

Remembering Kathleen praying about my travel on a bus journey home one evening, I decided to make a prayer sheet. It had the names of all the people involved with the show and words for them. I put it up in my dressing room as a way to keep God at the centre of all that I did at panto. On the sheet I also wrote out Colossians 4: 5-6,

 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive, so that you will have the right response for everyone.

This was my motto for panto season, to obediently take a step of faith and to make the most of the opportunity. I was petrified…

Fast forward to just a few days before we opened, another cast member was unwell and almost fainted after a run of the show. Now I don’t do medical situations, but seeing my friend in this way I only knew one thing to do and that was pray. So there I was secretly praying in the wings, or not so secretly as it turned out. The other Christian cast member saw me and after that we decided we should pray before each show. And so we did. But God wasn’t finished there.

After one show another member joined us for prayer, by the end of the first week, at least 3 others had also come along. We were in utter amazement at God’s faithfulness and blessing to pray with our cast before each show. What began with one of us timidly walking down the corridor and popping our heads in saying “That’s us praying if anyone wants to join?” ended up with other cast members knocking on our doors asking “Are we praying yet?”

By the end of the run, two thirds of the cast were consistently praying before each show with us, with various mixes of crew and creative team joining in too. We would stand praying in our costumes, (If you’ve never prayed with a man dressed as a panto Dame, I shall tell you, it is quite the experience) arms around each other in a circle. It was simple, definitely scary, but still incredible. God is so good.

And it didn’t stop there. Every time we took a step of faith, God would make something amazing happen.

We got four Christmas hampers worth of items from the cast and crew for City’s Christmas hamper challenge; some came along to the Christmas carol service; the pantomime itself was the most successful the venue had had; we had opportunities to hear about people’s own experiences and feelings about faith and we were praising God when we found out that even though our mechanical chicken had burnt out its mechanism overnight as it wasn’t switched off, it, miraculously, didn’t go on fire and burn down the set or the venue. God was with us in the big and small moments of the season. Not to mention the fantastic buzz and joy from performing every day.

However when you step out in faith, the enemy loves to find his way in and we saw our share of knocks. From breathing difficulties, to swollen knees and real times of fear and doubt. Despite all the amazing God moments it still wasn’t easy bringing faith into the mix each day.

One day I just wasn’t in the mood. I couldn’t muster the courage to go round and ask everyone if they wanted to pray. I bottled it, and it wasn’t for the first time either. We go on stage, about ten minutes from finishing Act One and it’s my song. The Dame liked to have her moment in the spotlight but this time she really took advantage and got so carried away she fell backwards on her chunky white heels and her wig fell off. Cue hysterics and lots of bad jokes and we made it to the end of the show. However it wasn’t all as it seemed, our Dame’s ankle was injured and swollen and needed a trip to A& E. I will never forget this moment, he then said, as we were all backstage realising what this might mean for his role and performance in the show, “It’s because we didn’t pray.”

I was so shocked. I was shocked because I knew this wasn’t about actor superstition. This was someone knowing from prayer what God was capable of and not wanting to miss out on that any more. So, cutting a long story short, we prayed for healing and, praise God, two days later he walks in without the splint or stick and no swelling. Completely healed!

From that I just knew that we needed to offer people the chance to accept Jesus into their lives. And so I said a prayer on the very last show for anyone who wanted to give their lives to God.

It was an unbelievable time that added to the magic of panto itself. An experience I will truly never forget and one that has fuelled my passion to speak about God more than ever. My soul is on fire for Jesus and I want the whole world to know.

If God can get me from the terrified, reluctant, anxious yet optimistic girl that I was on Day One to the church inviting, praying for salvation and healing, girl on Show 29, just six weeks later, God can get me anywhere.

I don’t know if any of them gave their lives to God, but He’s got their journey just like He’s got mine. If he can call an unqualified, 18 year old into what can be a dark acting world to be His light then what can’t He do?!

What I’ve realised it that it all has very little to do with us, the biggest thing is taking that deep breath to say “Okay God, what next?” And He has got the rest.

Make the most of every opportunity, take a step of faith. It is worth every terrifying moment. God will never cease to amaze you in what He can do.

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I’m Mairi Davidson, I’m (almost) 19 and I work part time at City Church on the finance team. I am crazy about all things theatre and hope to study acting in the near future ( you can even check out my snazzy website http://www.mairidavidson.uk) I am blessed with amazing family and friends and I love spending time making memories, eating cake, and talking about my obsession with the Golden Gate Bridge.

Living By Grace

My alarm goes off, it’s time to get up. I’m shattered, it’s been a full on week. I grab whatever clothes are on the floor from the day before. Get ready (dry shampoo today and just mascara, no time for concealer or foundation to hide the week’s impact), jump in the car and head to church. Made it early for once, I even beat the logistics van! The rest of the worship team arrive and we start to set up. Oh no! I forgot the MAD Minis laptop… Someone tells me I have taken out the mouse as well and left it at the office, and the Minis team have struggled without it for weeks. Sorry MAD Minis!  Another ashamed “sorry” to the Worship Team, I abandon them during set up so I can get the laptop (what a bad example as a worship leader…). I jump back in the car. I turn a corner too quick and the bouquet of flowers for a friend falls off the seat, spilling water everywhere – I reach to catch them. Oh no! I’ve swerved the car up onto a curb. Quick look around, no-one saw! Get home – Oh no! I forgot my house keys… I have to ring the bell and wake up my husband from his rare Sunday lie in. “Sorry babe!” He has to get up to let me in and groans as I dash in and out. Back at church, the logistics van driver mentioned my curb incident. He saw! Oh no… So embarrassing! He’s right, I shouldn’t be allowed on the roads. Why did my driving examiner pass me anyway?

Is there anything else I can do wrong today?! It’s only 8.51am!  Has it been a “mistake a minute?”. For some reason today’s mistakes sting more than usual. It’s in moments like these that the weight of my mistakes past and present tries suffocate me. The tears are pushing through no matter how much I try to hold them back. Finally I just let them come as I look up and recall that I’m at church. These people have loved me through imperfection, they’ve seen me at my worst. This is the safest place for “mistake-makers.” This is the safest environment in which to fail. I breathe a sigh of relief as I remember that God’s grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9). I thank God for my lack of perfection. I rejoice in my humanness and I feel so glad that God isn’t asking me to maintain perfection, He’s asking me to get my hands dirty and live life to the full in this messy world. What a relief! My imperfections are protection from the worst of all sins – pride. They keep me grounded and lead me to tap into God’s power and not my own. In His power, not mine, I can live a naturally supernatural life: seeing miracles in the day-to-day, pushing out the darkness and laughing in the face of the struggles which come my way. I laugh at perfectionism’s feeble attempt to bring me down and steal my joy. Not today! Not today, because today, tomorrow and forever I am living by grace. That means that God sees me, not my mistakes.  He’s cheering me on at the sidelines saying “just get up and go again!”.
Jesus, thank you that you use me powerfully despite my mistakes. Thank you that you speak order into my chaos and that your forgiveness and love melts away my perfectionism.
Written By Abi Thomas

abi fire

Abi has been married to Don since 2013, and they live in the market town of Inverurie just outside Aberdeen.  Abi works four days a week for a North-East charity called Inspire which supports people with learning disabilities and additional support needs, and one day a week as the administrator for City Church Inverurie.

Our Faithful God

I am not one of those people who had a sudden moment of conversion.  I have always had a belief in God as long as I can remember, but was unaware that I could have a personal and living relationship with Jesus.  My parents blessed me with a Bible for my 13th birthday, which I read over the years until the pages fell out.  God’s word was a great source of comfort to me in all sorts of situations as I grew up.  I attended church but knew that something was missing.  Around 14 years ago I was invited to go to a small house fellowship in the village of Auchenblae where I live.  It was run by Charles and Brenda Gordon, who are members of City Church.  Through the love and care and guidance of these wonderful people, I began to realise who Jesus was and that He wanted  me to know Him intimately.  This has been a wonderful journey of ups and downs over the years, with so many experiences.   I could share many times with you of how God has been so good and faithful,  despite my faults and failings,  but it would take up too many pages.  What I do want to share with you now though, is God’s call to obedience and His rich blessings.

My husband and I have three children, two boys aged 15 and 12 and a girl aged 9.  After the boys were born we were content with our family of four.  While at a Christian ministry centre I was told by one of my counsellors that I would be back in that place a year later and pregnant with a little girl.  I completely dismissed it at the time and thought no more about it.  However a few months later I awoke one morning with a great desire to have another child.  When I mentioned it to my husband he was dead against it.  I couldn’t shake the feeling, so prayed that if it was of God, He would change my husband’s mind.  Later that year I was visiting a friend outside Edinburgh.  We went to church on the Sunday morning, and as I was sat there my eyes were drawn to a family sitting near the front.  There was a mum and dad and two boys.  I felt in my heart that this was our family and decided that I was not to have another child. However, just at that moment someone in front of me moved to reveal  a little girl sitting beside the mother! So God was still speaking on this subject. My husband then woke up one morning saying that he felt we should have another baby, and God gave me the month of May for her birth, and both of us the name Heather.  The verse that went with this promise was “My power is made perfect in your weakness” 2 Cor 12:9, so as you can imagine it was not the easiest of times.  While pregnant, my father had a heart attack followed by heart bypass surgery.  The consultant then discovered a very large aneurism in his groin and we were told it could burst at any time.  But God was faithful and walked us through this time.  Heather was born in May and all was well with her.  She was a “cryer” though and I walked the floor with her a lot!!  Our middle child, Duncan, was 3 at the time and going through a bit of a difficult patch.  There was a great degree of uncertainty in my life at this time, but God brought peace through the struggles, just as He promised.

When Heather was 9 months old my father died.  Again, God was so good, bringing words of love and comfort.  Also, at this time we were given some money, which was very much needed.  I had made all sorts of plans for this money but thought I should ask God what He wanted me to do with my tithe.  It was one of those days where God left me in no doubt as to what I was meant to do.  He asked me to give Him all of it!  Surely I had got that wrong?  No;He made it very clear.  I read one scripture after another and it was like having a conversation with God.  The scripture said one thing, so I responded in prayer and the next scripture said His part and so it went on.  I was to give the whole lot away.  He made it clear that this was one of those critical decisions, and what I decided to do was going to be of vital importance to the rest of my life.  So, after much tears and sulking, I wrote a cheque to a charity for the entire amount and put it in a post box.  It made no earthly sense to me at all.  Why would He ask me to do this?  I then went on with life and eventually forgot about it.  

My husband then became a Christian and went on a missions trip to Uganda.  This was a real high point for me as I had been praying for him for 13 years prior to this. When Craig came back from his trip we were both filled with the sense that we needed to start getting ready to move from the house we were in so I started to sort out belongings.  God was again faithful to me while Craig was away.  I was 4 months into an 18 month mystery illness that left me exhausted to the point of finding it difficult to get around, as well as being a bit sore, and the children were only 3,6 and 9.  This was a real time of growing faith for me.  I have always had a strong, independent spirit, and God really wanted to strip this away.  It was a real “crucifixion of the flesh” time and VERY painful!  I longed for a diagnosis and treatment to cure me.  I had so much to do for my family and God that He just had to make me better!  What was He doing keeping me low and not able to function how I needed to!!   By 18 months I had eventually got to the point of saying to God that He was all I needed, and if He chose not to heal me then that was OK as I had learned to trust Him day by day for the strength that I needed to do only the tasks that He had for me that day.  (Writing this I am convicted of slipping back into some of my old habits….)

Time went on and our situation became very difficult.  The doctor kept telling me that my illness was caused by stress, and that we needed to change our lifestyle.  Craig worked on a farm, so worked long hours with very little time off. The house we lived in was part of his work package.  He was unhappy in his work and therefore also stressed.  His earnings weren’t enough to keep us going so we were eating into the small savings that we had.  Our marriage was in tatters and we were caught in a downward spiral.  I had approached the council to see if they would house us but we were technically making ourselves homeless if Craig gave up his job, so they were not obliged to help.  Rents were too expensive for us and we certainly could not afford a mortgage.  Every door we pushed to try to get ourselves out of this situation was well and truly closed!  My prayer triplet prayed and prayed through all of these happenings and we kept asking God for a way out.

One evening, completely out of the blue, God sent an obedient servant to give us our way out.  With cheque in hand they appeared at our door, saying that God had troubled them with our trouble and prevented them from sleeping.  They needed to help us with a gift of money and of accommodation!  We were completely stunned!  We were told to search for somewhere to live, which we did once the shock had worn off.  The house we found was all we had ever dreamed of, but in our view far too luxurious and expensive.  We struggled with this, but kept hearing that God was not to be limited in His blessings.  This was very hard for us to accept but after prayer and laying a fleece, we knew that this was where God wanted us to be.   Craig handed in his notice and we had three weeks to pack up 18 years of belongings and move house. Thank God for His prompting to start getting things organised the two years previously. So three months later we were moving into our new home, bought for us by God. I was reminded of something God had said to me many years previously, of us having to come to a Red Sea moment.  This was definitely it! He had made a way when there was no way.  This made no earthly sense to so many people but nothing is impossible for God.  The devil tried in many ways to upset things, but we had to trust God that He would continue to provide.  Neither of us were working and we knew that there would come a time when we would need to find jobs.  How easy would this be?  Would we earn enough to cover the costs of living in such a big house?  We needed to have faith that God had this covered.

Something Pete Greig said on his visit to Aberdeen last year  has really stuck with me.  He talked about a test in our faith when God brought blessing.  I will confess here to having walked a bit away from God in the time after we moved.  Having gone from a place of desperation and totally relying on God to get me through each day, there was money in the bank and a freedom from the oppression and struggle.  I was also suffering from the “why has this happened to us” mentality and struggling to accept the huge gift God had given.  I still don’t understand His goodness and generosity to us, but I need to accept that I don’t have to know why.  I just need to keep on being obedient to Him.  As I said, my ears have become a little deaf to His voice of late, but I can hear Him calling me back, and know that even if I have not been close to Him, He has always been close to me.  

trish

My name is Patricia MacEachern, but everyone calls me Trish.  I am married to Craig ( who has his own gardening business) and we have three children (Robert 15, Duncan 12 and Heather 9). We have been going to South Site for just over two years now and we all really love it!  I am on staff team at City Church as the MAD administrator and am also on a MAD team. I love to spend my time doing craft things such as knitting and crochet, as well as all the adventures that the children take me on in everyday life.