Scared of Being Nothing

Have you ever watched somebody else do well at something, and found it difficult to celebrate their success? Sometimes our own niggling doubts can get in the way of a right relationship with others, and with God. Today’s post is for those times. How can we combat those ugly feelings of jealousy? How can we cultivate a right and proper sense of self-worth?
I’m grateful to Nadia for turning to the Bible for us today and pointing us instead to the value that God places on each of us. Here’s to celebrating each other freely and generously, knowing we have a God who loves us. Lx

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Jealousy is never something someone actively wants to feel. It causes us to be unhappy and unsettled with both ourselves, and the person we are jealous of; never something that makes us feel at peace with ourselves, but something so many of us struggle with. This ability that we have to think negative thoughts about others, and desire things for ourselves at the cost of other friends is not something that pleases God.

Whether it’s a friend who always scores higher than you in tests or always gets picked for the team, we sometimes find it so much easier to put people down for our benefit or envy their talents, rather than building them up. Sometimes we get so used to being jealous that we don’t even notice it anymore, even trying to disguise and justify it.

But jealousy and insecurity are destructive and there is quite simply nothing good that can come from these feelings. Resentful thoughts, ungenerous thoughts, unkind thoughts, begrudging thoughts have NO root in goodness, peace, or love. The Bible is so clear that this is not what God intended for us to be like. In James 3:15 it says that ‘jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom’ and Proverbs 14:30 says that ‘a tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot’, meaning that those feelings don’t come from God, nor do they bring us peace or wisdom.

Sadly we live in a society that projects a distorted image of success, which results in a lot of insecurity as well. People strive for an identity based on whom they know, what they wear, what grades they get when ultimately these things do not matter, and will pass away, and should not form who we are.

We so desperately fear being nothing, when actually in God’s eyes we are already something so precious and valuable.

We don’t need to feel confident to be confident, or to feel secure to be secure. Particularly as a generation of girls we need to recognise that our worth and value is not in what we do, but in Christ. Girls often find it so easy to speak negatively about their own appearance and abilities, and I truly believe that this breaks God’s heart. He has invested so much in us through His Son Jesus, demonstrating how eager He is for us to know that we are truly loved and known by Him. Amazingly, through his very death and resurrection we have inherited total security, which means our identity is not something we have to earn or acquire from others, but is a part of our inheritance.

Knowing that our identity is in Christ actually requires us to completely let go of all jealousy and insecurity, and realise that what God has given us is valuable and important in its own unique way.

So getting back to the basics about ourselves – who are we? God’s love is all-sufficient, and we know that he loves us unconditionally, passionately, committedly, and unreservedly. Yet this doesn’t stop us from feeling jealous or insecure from time to time. How are we meant to form an identity based on humility, gentleness when the world is telling us a completely different idea of what image and success look like?

Something I’ve found that helps with those feelings when they may arise is Chapter 3 from James. This chapter is all about how we use our tongue and speech to build up others, or bring them down, ultimately showing us that our words are powerful. Just like a ‘small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go’ (James 3:2), our words can change things and be influential.

So instead of using these words to drown out others, I try to use them to glorify God instead, because ultimately this brings a far greater satisfaction and peace than jealousy will ever bring. Whenever I feel tempted to say something bad, I remember how this could affect someone else, and have a bigger impact than I might expect. I encourage actively choosing to avoid negativity and where you can, choosing to emphasise positivity. A positive word is better than a negative word.

Then what we say glorifies God, all because the same words used to praise God should be used to praise others. Getting into little habits like these is all part of deepening your walk with God, growing in your love for Him and in turn, others.

In terms of security, I figured that it’s simple: our identity is in Christ. I encourage you to stop speaking negative things about yourself or about others, and instead choose to glorify God with all He has given you, without comparing it to others.

Our security is not in what we own or what we can do,
but in who we are to God.

Understanding that we are precious in God’s eyes helps us to have a strong and right level of self-esteem, making it easier to extend grace towards someone else’s success or possessions. Once we know that ultimately our citizenship is in heaven, we are free to be the girls we were created to be, with no fear or worry about being anyone else – permitting us to live fearless lives.
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Nadia

Nadia is a first year Theology student at Durham University, and her sparkling intelligence & super sporting skills more than make up for her forgetting to write her own bio… Nadia has one of the kindest and most open hearts I know, and her joyful love for Jesus affects everybody she meets.

The Power of Perspective

Devotionals Map

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Matthew 6:26-27

My mum repeated this verse to us often as girls, and I return to it whenever I need some perspective. Whether it’s exam season, you’ve got a lot on, or you’re just worrying about something, this passage reminds us that God has a plan and tomorrow will take care of itself. 
 
It also reminds me that worrying isn’t just a waste of time, it’s a waste of energy! 
“Who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”
 
Turning to God’s worthwhile purpose and plan for you, instead of worrying about the next big thing, will give you perspective. It sounds simple, but fixing your eyes on Jesus will enable you to live each day with a wider lens; one of right perspective and without angst for upcoming hurdles.

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Rosie 

Rosie is in her last year of secondary school in Cambridge. She loves malt loaf, laughing, God’s grace, new socks and is nearly always found dancing. She can’t wait for all God has to show her this year!

Disconnect To Connect

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As you’re reading this, you might be listening to music, sipping a coffee, or sending an email. Naturally, you’ll have as many tabs open in your head as you do on your screen, but have a think about the last 5 minutes of your day. Or the first? If you’re anything like me, my phone is one of the first things I think of and is nearly always in the vicinity, however, those few minutes could easily be handed over to prayer.

‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1

We are justified through faith! We don’t need the affirmation of a like or re-tweet, because we have the greatest confidence in God.

Switch it off and spend time with Him, instead of trawling through newsfeeds and notifications. Although technology can be great for keeping in touch with friends, and of course, reading More Precious (!), 5 minutes sans-screens will bring you some peace and reconnect you to God.

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Rosie 

Rosie is in her last year of secondary school in Cambridge. She loves malt loaf, laughing, God’s grace, new socks and is nearly always found dancing. She can’t wait for all God has to show her this year!

Faith Worked Out: Margaret White

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Ever since we did this interview last summer, parts of it have popped back into my mind regularly, especially this little sentence: There Is A God, It Is Not Me. During essay season, I have whispered this to myself most mornings!  It really is an honour to share Margaret’s interview with you all today, and I’m praying that her example and energy will propel you to seek God’s kingdom wherever you might be placed. Read it all, read it twice, take lots of notes, stick it on your wall – I promise it will be a great start to your weekend! L x 

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Fun Five!

Fun Five!

£10 treat: Some beautiful flowers

My coffee order: Flat White

Quality I’d most like to have: A better memory

Place on Earth most like Heaven:
St David’s, Pembrokeshire – especially in the Spring.

Thing in my handbag I never use: Most of the functions on my phone…

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Tell us about who you are & what you do…

Like most people, my life is a mix of lots of different things. Firstly and foremostly, I see myself as a child of God: that is the identity I base my life upon, the most important thing.

Secondly, I am a wife, and am very involved with my husband’s work, which involves meeting lots of people – so I try to support him, to be welcoming and to take a genuine interest in those we come into contact with. I’m also a mother to Emma and James, and at the moment this is an interesting stage because they are both in transition – Emma has recently married, and James is about to leave home, so I will soon be an empty nester! However, this is just going to mean a change in how I am a mother to them, not a change in status.

I also work as a teacher. I teach English, and have responsibility for the teaching and learning of 400 children. I take this very seriously, as it’s really important work to make sure that we educate the next generation as well as we can, in a way that is in line with God’s principles. They say that you go into teaching either because you love or loathe school. I found school really hard – unnecessarily so. I didn’t see a reason why schools should be unhappy places, and part of my motivation in going into teaching was to try and make school a better experience for children.

What about your journey of faith? Have you always known Jesus?

I am so grateful that I grew up in a Christian home, where I was the youngest of four children – this was always lots of fun! There was never a time when I didn’t know God, but my parents were always very clear in showing me that my decision was a personal one, left very much to me to make. I decided on relationship with Jesus when I was very young, and I’ve never looked back – though my faith has been grown, challenged and made more robust over these past forty years.

Upon leaving school, I went to university in Cambridge (much to my surprise!) but I found studying at such a high level very hard and challenging, though God’s hand was very clear across my time there; university is also where I met my husband. After graduating, I went straight into teaching, and taught until Emma was born, only returning part-time to teaching when James turned eight.

So, this meant that I had 11 years out of paid work. During that time, my primary responsibility was my family, but I was also very involved with ministry at our church in Bath. I was particularly involved in ministering to our children and young people, and one of my big projects was writing a musical for them, which we performed and recorded. It was called The Promise, and it told the story of the Bible. Writing and producing this musical showed me how God works in extraordinary and unexpected ways, and it taught me a lot about him, and how exciting it is for us to be caught up in his work.

What do you love about what you do? What energsises you, what are your passions?

I love that my life, in all its spheres, is very people-orientated. Through my husband’s work, we meet so many diverse people who contribute in widely different ways to society. This is such an enormous privilege, and I love meeting such a huge range of people. In my teaching ‘sphere’, it’s also all about people – especially the children, who are such good fun and from whom I learn so much. I also learn a lot from my colleagues, who really care about what they do. It’s wonderful to have such a clear shared purpose with them.

What do you believe you are put in your place to do?

I think that we are put wherever we may be – hourly, daily, weekly – to try and live out God’s kingdom values in that place. I really think we’re called to do this. So, I try (and fail!) to live imagining that this world is Heaven, doing what I can to try and live as closely to God’s loving and perfect ways as possible.

Last year, I only read the Gospels, which was so interesting and challenging, as well as a real blessing. I spent one whole weekend on John 15, which talks about Jesus being the vine. It taught me again that our purpose is to bear fruit – and I think as Christians we all want to do this, wherever we are. Jesus makes it clear that the only way to bear fruit is to abide in Him, and the fruit that we should be bearing is love for one another – so that’s what I ask God to help me do.

What does this look like in practice?

In my teaching, my faith affects how I view the children. I am so encouraged and delighted that our school has Christian principles at its heart and we try to see the children in the light of these. Striving to work out practically how to live by these principles has taught me a lot about living out my faith in a position of responsibility. I strongly believe that every child is an individual of infinite worth, and that they are all of equal value, so in school we foster individual integrity and respect for others. I see each one as uniquely gifted, and I aim to encourage my colleagues to actively seek out the strengths and gifts of each pupil too.

Another Christian principle is that of continual learning. So when children make mistakes, we aim to foster a spirit of forgiveness, so that they learn from them, pick themselves up and move forward with a fresh start. We also want to teach that we are mutually dependent. This is a kingdom value – that we are part of one body, and we all need each other – and this is acknowledged and appreciated in our school.

I find that especially when teaching English Literature, we talk about really important parts of life – death, love, relationship, loss – and inevitably Christian values will come through as central in these. However, as my parents taught me when I was growing up, God gives us free will and we must never take that away from other people. This means that we aim to teach the children how to think (for themselves), not what to think.

It’s also especially important as colleagues to view each other compassionately, avoiding criticism and hierarchy by focusing on the fact that everyone brings a strength and that everyone has next steps to take (continual learning!). Society can be so hierarchical, judging people by the amount of money they earn, the number of friends they have, the job that they do, but this is NOT how God looks at us. We are all precious in His sight, and this is a truth that I try and live out in practice in all my spheres of life.

What are some of the biggest lessons that God has taught you along the way?

I think that the biggest lesson that I am continually learning is this:

There Is A God. It Is Not Me.

This seems obvious… but it really helps to remember that the universes revolves around God, that the very nature, existence, being of God is the framework of the entire world. It is within this picture frame that we make sense. This speaks to me in so many situations – when I don’t understand difficult things, I shouldn’t expect to – there is a God, and it is not me!

I’ve also learnt that when we pray, we are in closest touch with reality: acknowledging who God is, seeing life and the world as it truly is. This is why I try and cultivate an organised (structured) and disorganised (spontaneous) prayer life – every time I pray I am reminded of the real, bigger picture of life.

I remember a period of intense suffering, where I was at a point of absolute exhaustion and depletion – and I remember praying: All I want is to know you’re there. God really honoured this prayer, and since then I have had a clearer understanding of His presence. I’ve had the picture of everything being filled with His love – that He fills everything with His presence – leaves on a tree, conversations between friends… He is everywhere and in everything.

I have also learnt that nothing in God’s economy is ever wasted – such an encouragement!

What advice would you give to someone struggling to know what her gifts and passions are, and how to use them for God?

Pray. Pray with close friends, pray with your family, pray on your own. Trust that God will guide you, even though He doesn’t always speak to us in a way that is initially clear to us. Get on and trust – God is very good at closing doors (!) and I once heard that the door of opportunity is labelled PUSH – so be willing to push doors and accept what happens.

I would also encourage you strongly to read the Bible. The Bible is wonderful at doing three things:

  1. It teaches us the BIG universal truths: God is creative – He made the world beautiful but it is spoilt by all the wrong we do; God is redemptive – His purposes are to restore that perfection and He has made this possible for anyone who wants to be part of it through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus; God is relational – by His Spirit He lives in us personally and works with and through us patiently restoring us to all that we should be.
  2. It tells us the principles of how to live: this is good guidance for us as we make decisions. The Bible’s way of living is not always the same as the world’s, but we can trust what it says. Building our lives on the guiding words of Jesus is like building our house on solid rock that will withstand the storms and gales of life.
  3. It is personal, active, living and individual: the Word is alive, and it speaks right into our individual situations. When we read the Bible each day it is uncanny how often it speaks directly into our circumstances, giving just the right encouragement, correction or insight.
It’s also really hard to do, but we have to leave space for God to guide us – so don’t be too busy to listen, because it’s hard to move to something new unless you leave space for flexibility. I wrote The Promise in a gap of time where I had space to listen, and in this space, God moved me into a new area of ministry. So, don’t be afraid of space – and do take time to listen. Finally, I’d say – find something you enjoy and that you think you’re good at! God will close doors that aren’t suitable, so don’t be afraid to go and do something you love for the glory of God.

What encourages you to keep pursuing Jesus in every sphere of your life?

These principles will apply from one part to all parts of your life, but this is what I’ve learnt: in this world, nothing is perfect. Many things are very, very good – but nothing is perfect. We can view the world slightly like the aftermath of a shipwreck, where some things are incredibly beautiful, but all in disarray. Things can be good, enjoyable, beautiful but they will never reach perfection in this world.

If we can accept this and stop searching for perfection, we will feel less disappointed and frustrated and be more peaceful and joyful. We can see good in everything and everyone and thank God for its place in our lives, living with an ‘attitude of gratitude’ but seeing everything good as a foretaste of Heaven, rather than as perfect here and now. Work is a good example; I can be grateful for the good in my work, but realize it will always be a mix of the frustrating and the fulfilling. Certainly my own contribution will also be flawed!

In each situation, I’ll try and ask myself: what’s good? And what can I do better? How can I move forward in this situation towards the values and life of the kingdom of heaven? Because we are all on a journey, and that is how I see life, as an exciting, adventurous pilgrimage. My favourite Psalm is Psalm 84, where in verse 7 it seems counterintuitive as it talks about how the pilgrims get stronger as they go:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

In the Christian life, our goal is to move towards Jesus, as we are made stronger by Him. We will move from desolation to light, from darkness to promise. This is the hope we have!

Thank you to Margaret for giving us so much to take away from today!
We hope you were all encouraged. xo

Thankfulness Over Perfectionism

Devotionals Daisies

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
(Psalm 100:1-3)

I’m constantly trying to perfect something; trying to reach a realm of success and fulfilment. It is easy to tumble into that all-too-familiar mind-set of negativity and ‘unfinishedness’, but I would encourage you to glance again over this verse:

‘Know that the Lord is God.’

Notice how such a short sentence carries the most effect? Perhaps instead of continually feeling the need for self-improvement we should make a habit of pondering these words.

When we do, it might help us to grasp how we can begin to ‘worship the Lord with gladness.’

Why do we donate so much time to that niggling feeling of inadequacy? Maybe it’s because we aren’t truly thankful of how God has made us; how the Creator has carefully pieced us together.

I’d like to leave you with one thought for this week:
To consider what you’re thankful for, and when you feel the strain of perfectionism, to remember the Lord is God and worship him with gladness.

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Rosie 

Rosie is in her last year of secondary school in Cambridge. She loves malt loaf, laughing, God’s grace, new socks and is nearly always found dancing. She can’t wait for all God has to show her this year!

Beyond the Break-Up

Talking with Eve about this post, we felt strongly that break-ups had the potential to be seen as so much more than something simply to ‘survive’. Eve is writing for us today about how to approach these times with the intention of drawing closer to Jesus, learning and growing in the process. We’re praying that this post would remind you that God uses even the most broken situations for His good. Even when it’s tricky to see: His timing is always perfect. L x

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Boy breaks up with girl, girl cries but still looks beautiful, group of stunning friends gather round, revenge is sought on evil ex-boyfriend, and Mr. Right waltzes onto the scene just before the happily ever after. That’s how the movies tell us break-ups work, right?

But in real life, they don’t quite look like that, do they?

Break-ups suck. They can often be unexpected or messy, and leave us feeling shocked, hurt, angry and upset. They’re horrible, painful and awkward and no one really has a clue how to survive them.

That said, I firmly believe they can also be tremendous times of growth. God uses our brokenness and pain for His glory, and can use these times to really draw us closer to Him. As such, I’d like to share a few thoughts and tips on how to work through a break-up situation, so that you become built up and more intimate with Christ.

1. God is in control.

‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.’
Job 1:21b

We are promised by Scripture that God is in complete control, even if it doesn’t really feel like that right now. His plan includes what is happening now, but it also goes far beyond the present. His timing is perfect, and He will use this experience as something powerful that glorifies Him. He has you exactly where He knows you need to be, He is working for your good, and He is far bigger than whatever you are facing.

2. It’s ok to be upset.

‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and He delivered them from their distress.’

Psalm 107:6

This WILL hurt. Quite a lot more than failing your driving theory test, an awful lot more than finally throwing out your favourite pair of shoes that no longer have soles, and sometimes even more than losing a grandparent, if I’m brutally honest. And that’s OK. Spend quality time with God: He is big enough to help carry our burdens, and yet He is intimate enough with us that He understands our hurt and shares in our pain.

3. Try not to overthink.

‘We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’
2 Corinthians 10:5

There’s no point spending hours considering whether it was your seriously over-competitive attitude in Articulate that pushed him away, or whether if you’d looked or dressed differently he might have stayed. Sometimes you just might not get the answers or reasons you want, and you have to learn to trust that God knows all of these reasons – and it is His opinion of you and His plan for you that matters.

Focus your thoughts on who Christ is, how much you are loved by God and how incredible it is that you have a future to look forward to with Him.

4. Learn how to be dependent on God.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

Don’t drag the whole experience out. Aim for a clean break, and try to insist on limited or no contact for at least a couple of weeks. You need to learn to no longer be dependent on that person or seek their approval and advice, instead seeking contentment in Christ alone, and depending on Him. I’m aware that this is far easier said than done, but if you feel you really have something to say to them, talk to God about it, write it down, and see if it still needs saying in a couple of weeks.

Ask God to bring you peace and strength in resisting the temptation to continue texting and messaging unnecessarily, and perhaps get friends to hold you accountable on this.

5. Be alert.

‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.’
Colossians 4:2

I think it should go without saying that God’s best for you is not to immediately rebound into the arms of another guy, but it is also important to be wary of falling into bad habits just because they make you feel a little better in the short term. Yes, ice cream is an absolute necessity right now, but be watchful that you’re not developing more long-term habits of over-eating or under-eating. Break-ups can actually be a great opportunity to try and start making some healthy new habits.

Put your newly freed-up time into investing in friendships, committing to learning a new skill or joining a new club, and ask God to help you grow in a new spiritual discipline by spending more intentional time in His presence.

6. Stay sensitive, open, mouldable, hopeful and loving.

‘And I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit within them.
I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and
give them a tender, responsive heart.’
Ezekiel 11:19

Break-ups are, believe it or not, a tremendous way to grow and flourish. God is able to do far more than just let you ‘survive’ a break-up. He wants to help you thrive as a result of it, and one of the really important ways we can help Him do this is by not throwing our defenses up and becoming hard and bitter.

Try not to start believing that you are unlovable, worthless, ugly, or destined to be lonely for the rest of your life. These are lies from Satan, and go against everything God says about us in scripture. Although you have been hurt, there is still hope in the truth and the freedom of the gospel.

This season of hurt and pain will pass, by God’s grace, and we need to emerge from it even more sensitive to the needs of those around us, and able to serve and love them as God intends us to.

7. Honour.

‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.’
1 John 4:7

Though you will be feeling hurt, alone and confused – speaking badly and acting in spite is not the path of love that Christ demonstrates to us. Whatever may have happened, we are still commanded to love, to respect and to honour one another.

This doesn’t just mean not hacking their Facebook accounts, egging their house or killing their family rabbit. It means being careful in how we talk about them with others, still being polite and respectful in any interactions we have with them, and even not tainting our happier memories of them with thoughts of ‘They were lying the whole time’ or ‘How could they say that and not mean it?

I’m so sorry if this is happening to you, because I know just how much you probably don’t even want to go outside right now, just in case you bump into him, or someone asks the dreaded ‘How’s *insert boy’s name*?’ But I promise that this will pass. God has brought you this far, and He has no intention of leaving you here. Ultimately, break-ups, however painful, are just another experience that God uses for you to realize his grace, goodness and glory. Fix your eyes on Him.

‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.’

Psalm 34:18

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Eve

Hi, I’m Eve, a Durham Theology student in her second year, who dreams of travelling, making the perfect quilt, having a family, and starring on The Great British Bake-Off. More importantly though, I’m passionate about loving God above all else, getting excited to see His Kingdom come, and encouraging other girls to pursue their beautiful God-given identity in Christ.

Faith Worked Out: Coralie Tomlinson

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Introducing our newest Faith Worked Out interviewee: Coralie Tomlinson! Married with 4 children, Coralie lives and works in the North West and has shared so much wisdom with More Precious today. I have absolutely loved reading about Coralie’s journey of faith and the lessons she’s learnt, and think I might print out the advice in her last answer and pin it to my wall forever… You will love this interview! Lucy x 

CT Fun Five!

Fun Five!

Book on my bedside table:
Cook book of some description

Ideal dinner party guest:
William Wilberforce or Michelle Obama

Habit I wish I could stop:
Starting a new project late at night

Place on Earth most like Heaven:
Anywhere in the Caribbean

Fictional character I’d most like to be:
Margaret Hale (North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell)

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Tell us a little about yourself: who are you, what do you do, and how did you come to know Jesus?

Originally from Dublin, followed by university in Scotland, I spent a year working in Germany, then joined an IFES team in Poland supporting the pioneering Polish Christian Student Movement, before being invited* to work with an American Private Equity fund in Poland. I then had the opportunity* to move to London to work for Ernst and Young, followed by JP Morgan investment bank for 10 years.

After the birth of my second child, I was keen to have more control over my working week and left the City to start my own confectionery business, when the opportunity* to purchase 2 existing brands presented itself to me. I was able to develop the business to the point where another opportunity* presented itself and 6 years later sold the brands to a large UK confectionery company who approached me with a purchase offer. I am currently working on new business plans.

* For clarity, there is no doubt in my mind that these were all God-incidences!

I had the enormous privilege of growing up in a Christian family with active, gospel-hearted parents, so have never doubted the gospel message but would say that my personal moment of conviction came at a Scripture Union camp aged 12 and I have stuck with Him every since.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I don’t really have a typical day or week but I have just achieved a major milestone in that all my children are now at school, so generally my day is framed by school runs, numerous extra-curricular activities, and various church-related commitments into the middle of which I am aiming to squeeze the equivalent of a 3 day working week.

How do you try to keep God at the centre of your day to day life?

By actively seeking to be content with my lot, conscious of God’s sovereignty and providence in everything life throws at me, and by seeking to have a gospel mindset towards my non-Christian friends. Praying about the day ahead when I wake up. Having Bibles in different places round the house as a tangible memory jolt. Belonging to a local bible-preaching and believing church which never ceases to encourage and teach its members to live whole hearted Gospel lives and spurs us all on together through both the good and the testing times.

Was there a time in your life when you found it particularly hard to keep God at the centre? What encouraged you to keep pursuing Him?

Generally no, but looking back, arguably you could say one summer at university when I allowed myself to be distracted by a non-Christian relationship whilst working abroad doing a fun job, with a fun group of people. The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ adage comes to mind, but at the end of the summer, I knew I had let myself slip. Although I did return to the same employment the following summer I didn’t allow the distraction to happen again, though I could have! Fortunately my conscience wouldn’t let me a second time and my resolve held. It was a valuable lesson in how easy it can be to lose eternal focus for short-term satisfaction and gain.

As a Christian, what do you find most challenging about your work?

I have loved the great variety of things I’ve been able to spend my time doing throughout my career since leaving university. I’ve had enormous privileges and opportunities, none of which I take lightly.

However through it all, I have been very conscious of God’s hand being in everything that has presented itself to me, and when I haven’t felt that something was His will, I have not pursued it. This was most poignant right at the start, when I turned down a job in the UK which humanly speaking I would love to have done, and on paper looked right for me, to take up the offer to go to Poland to work with the IFES movement. At the time, I had complete conviction that I had to do what seemed to be the harder thing and forfeit the ‘obvious’ career step. I never for one moment regretted this decision, and I was very sure it was what I was meant to do.

As time went on and my career subsequently unfolded, it became so clear in retrospect that in fact it had been the best decision I could ever have made, as it opened the door to so many things that could never have happened in my career otherwise. In retrospect, it also felt like the Lord was blessing me beyond my expectations, for that tiny leap of faith into the unknown at the start.

Were there specific lessons that you learnt whilst working in the City?

I don’t think the City is any worse or any better than other working environments for a Christian, though it’s such an easy target, and a well-trotted out mantra to talk about bankers’ excesses. Like any working environment, there are nice people and not so nice people! As a Christian, if you have a clear understanding of who you are, who you belong to, and where you’re ultimately going, that’s incredibly freeing and directional and it allows you to give your best whilst not being overly aspirational or grasping.

So, whilst I’ve generally sought to give my best, to progress ‘up the ladder’, given myself targets to achieve, and wanted to be successful, those things have not been the ‘be all and end all’ of my working life, though they could so easily have been. Because I’ve always trusted in God’s providence, and believed that I am for that moment, where God wants me to be, I have simply tried to work hard, and give my best to my employer and the colleagues around me. Obviously it’s important to make sure you embody the principles you represent – so, for example, being reliably (but not annoyingly!) cheery, being a good friend, and an easy colleague to work with, as opposed to someone who is difficult to be around, not a complainer!

Equally, having a measured sense of value – so, for example, whilst most of my colleagues presented our bosses with their individual annual bonus targets, I didn’t. I wasn’t necessarily conscious of not gossiping about my colleagues, but I didn’t gossip. I only became conscious of this, when one of my friends pointed it out to me! If you steep yourself in Scripture and know what the Lord requires of you, it becomes less and less challenging to want to do the opposite, and becomes more second-nature.

When life is busy, how do you make time for rest and space with God?

There is no easy answer to this. You need to understand yourself and what works best for you, as well as recognising what life stage you are in. What I did in my twenties was a lot different to what I can do now in my forties and this too will pass. Knowing that God is our Father, and remembering that He knows us better than we know ourselves helps. Hence not beating myself up when I compare my failed walk with another’s successful walk or when life is full and busy or things feel particularly stressed.

Reflecting on a Psalm and echoing the psalmist’s cries can be hugely helpful. Keeping it simple can also be helpful. Reading a few Bible verses is better than not reading any at all. Better to read a few verses, than not start at all because you know you don’t have time to finish reading all of Romans today.

At key decision points, I have found it helpful to get out in to nature somewhere – walking alone by the sea or in the countryside. Since moving to the countryside, the latter is much easier for me! I’ve found it helpful to get very early and go out with the dog for a walk before the rest of the household is awake so that I can pray and meditate. When I lived in London, going for a reflective walk on my own in a huge park or by the Thames worked, as did using my daily Tube commute time.

How would you encourage girls who are at a bit of a crossroads in their life, or about to face new challenges at school, university or work, and are unsure of the best way to serve God passionately and whole-heartedly?

Pray earnestly that His plans would be revealed in His timing – and mean it: i.e being accepting of the outcome; wait patiently whilst this is happening but don’t do nothing whilst you are waiting – actively pursue opportunities and allow Him to shut the wrong doors and open the right ones;

Be honest with yourself about and thankful for your talents and abilities and make sure you are putting them to good use; don’t wish you had someone else’s life – live your own one to its full potential;

Remember you might be the only Christian your friend/work colleague ever encounters.

Keep eternity as your goal and seek to be content accepting His will for whatever happens in between.

Above all be wholehearted in whatever you do – don’t settle for mediocrity, or second best – ever!

A huge thank you to Coralie for such an energising and inspiring interview! For our MP girls, we’re praying you’d be propelled to be wholehearted in all you do, and to keep eternity as your goal!

Faith of an Encourager

Devotionals Mason Jars

A faith that hopes. (Hebrews 6:9)

We can encourage others not just with our words and actions, but also by living our lives in a way that shows the people around us that we are hoping in Jesus, and trusting in him alone.

I know that for me, some of the most powerful moments of encouragement in my own faith haven’t just come from words someone has said to me, but by the way someone has lived their life hoping in God. I look at the way that friends like Hannie keep on trusting in Jesus, even when things are painful and hard, and I am encouraged in my own faith, because I see that living for God is worth it.

If we choose to recognise God’s goodness and sovereignty even in the most difficult chapters of our lives, we can encourage others to realise what this same promise means for their own lives. Matthew 5:16 says this (MSG version):

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine!

Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

It can be really, really hard to put Jesus first all the time – and we shouldn’t be discouraged when we inevitably fall short (that’s where grace kicks in!). But wouldn’t it be wonderful to try and live so clearly for Jesus that we end up encouraging others by the faith that we have, and pointing them to the hope we have. Point to hope, bring light, and be an encourager!

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photo13 Lucy

Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

Lucy founded More Precious in 2013 and now co-edits alongside Hannie. She is in her final year studying Music at Durham University, and while she will be sad to leave the beautiful little city, is looking forward to returning to her hometown Cambridge for a brand new chapter. She has big plans for More Precious in 2015!

Like A Shadow

As you read this you are losing something;
something that you will never be able to get back.
Time.

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Last week I went to see ‘The Theory of Everything’, a look into the life of Stephen Hawking and his first wife, Jane. Stephen Hawking’s whole life has revolved around time. He was diagnosed with ALS aged 21 in 1963, and was given 2 years to live. The film shows how, despite this diagnosis, Hawking was determined to make the little time he had left mean something. One thing the film pressed upon me was just how fleeting time is. Even huge aspects of a person’s life can be summarised so quickly: those 60 years were covered in two hours.

This is a sentiment shared by the Bible. When I looked it up, I was surprised to find so many verses that talk about how short our time is.

‘My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass.’
(Psalm 102:11)

‘Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.’
(Psalm 144:4)

‘Therefore they shall be like the morning mist or like the dew that goes early away, like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor or like smoke from a window.’
(Hosea 3:13)

One verse I am always drawn to is James 4:14:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

Life is too short to be waiting. Things in this world are passing away so quickly, like the mist that appears for a short while and vanishes. This is not saying that we shouldn’t be planning for the future, but instead presses upon us the urgency of making the most of the time we have.

Knowledge of this changes how we live our lives. Stephen Hawking is a good example of this. After he was diagnosed with ALS he was given two years to live. The knowledge of how little time he might have spurred him on to work harder and as a result he produced some of the best work of his life – work that has changed the way people view the world.

Jesus was only 33 years old when he died. His ministry only lasted three years – but he managed to get a lot done in that time! He didn’t put off the things God wanted him to do, or say ‘I’ll get around to it tomorrow.’ He took action when it was needed because he knew that he would not get another chance to. We need apply the same knowledge to our own lives.

Is there something that you know God wants you to do but have been putting off? Now is the time to do it. Eternity is long, but our life on this earth is too short to be waiting – we need to make the minutes we have on earth count for something meaningful. Let the knowledge of our short time encourage you to work harder to become the person God wants you to be. Then you will be able to stand before Christ proudly, knowing that you did not run or labour in vain (Philippians 2:16).

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Emma

Emma lives and works in the fabulous city of Leeds with her husband, Tim. She has a passion for encouraging those who are low in spirit and loves to hear stories of God’s perfect timing. Her favourite things include a good latte, travelling, eating dessert for breakfast, dim sum and making people happy with food.

Click here to read the rest of Emma’s posts.

 

Heart of an Encourager

Devotionals Rasps

A heart that loves. (John 13:34-35)
A new command I give you: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

These verses make it clear how important love is in God’s eyes. God loves us, and we therefore should try to love each other, just as He continues to love us. It is one way that we can show the world that we are children of God – radical, countercultural love.

But why do we find this hard? I know in my heart, often I am so obsessed with myself, and loving myself well and putting myself first that I often become selfish and forget about God’s vast love for me – leaving no room at all for loving others. But isn’t Proverbs 11:25 interesting?

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

By cultivating a heart that is generous, selfless and ‘refreshing’ to others, we ourselves benefit and are refreshed! We aren’t actually designed to put ourselves at the centre of our worlds. We are wired to worship God, and put Him first – and if we are secure in this identity, our hearts will become more like Jesus, and we will be better at loving and encouraging the people around us.

Why don’t we make this week one where we meditate each day on God’s great love for us, cultivating a heart that thinks of others before ourselves. Let’s pray that we might be selflessly refreshing others, motivated by the great and vast love of our Heavenly Father.

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photo13 Lucy

Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

Lucy founded More Precious in 2013 and now co-edits alongside Hannie. She is in her final year studying Music at Durham University, and while she will be sad to leave the beautiful little city, is looking forward to returning to her hometown Cambridge for a brand new chapter. She has big plans for More Precious in 2015!

Actions of an Encourager

Devotionals White Flowers

Actions that value others (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing.

So many of the girls who have written for More Precious are especially good at encouraging others and building them up; not only with words, but also with their actions. I take great inspiration from Hannah and from Jessie, who are both so quick to send little gifts or write messages of encouragement to show people they appreciate them; and from my sister Mia, whose art of letter writing featured in one of the first ever More Precious posts!

We also see in the Bible that Jesus’ life on earth is defined by actions that love other people, build them up, and put them first. You too can be a great source of encouragement in the lives of people around you by living like Jesus: loving God first and foremost, and loving others before yourself.

Father God,
Please help us to see ways in which we can encourage the people in our lives with our actions. Help us not to think of ourselves first, but to want to honour You and put others first instead. Open our eyes to the times when we are selfish, and give us a heart for building up other people with our words and our actions.
Amen.

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photo13 Lucy

Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

Lucy founded More Precious in 2013 and now co-edits alongside Hannie. She is in her final year studying Music at Durham University, and while she will be sad to leave the beautiful little city, is looking forward to returning to her hometown Cambridge for a brand new chapter. She has big plans for More Precious in 2015!

Faith Worked Out: Pippa Gumbel

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It is a real honour for us to be interviewing Pippa Gumbel today, a wonderful woman whose work with her husband Nicky through Holy Trinity Brompton church, the Alpha Course and the Bible In One Year initiative has inspired many thousands to grow in their relationship with God. We hope you are encouraged by this newest addition to Faith Worked Out! XO 

Pippa

Fun Five

Fun Five

Quality I’d most like to have:
Better organisational skills

Ideal dinner guest:
Mary, the mother of Jesus

£10 treat: Some Green and Black’s 70% chocolate

Habit I wish I could stop:
Eating too much chocolate…

Book on bedside table:
Row For Freedom by Julia Immonen

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Could you tell us a little about yourself? How did you become a Christian?

I had been to a Convent school but religion didn’t really affect my life. When I was 18 I was with a friend wanting to get into a nightclub and needing a member to get me in. She gave me Nicky Gumbel’s telephone number. I rang him up and he invited me round and we became friends. He went off to Cambridge and in his second term he became a Christian. I met him again and he said to me that I looked awful and I needed Jesus! I thought he had gone mad.

A short while later, I met a group of young people who were running a fun restaurant in Central London and started going there, not knowing that they were all Christians. There was good music, wonderful homemade food and a compelling atmosphere. Over time they started explaining to me about their faith and showed me John 10:10 in the Bible; ‘I came that you might have life and life in all its fullness…’ and my life seemed very shallow and empty and this life so appealing. That’s when I gave my life to Christ.

Were there times in your life when you have found it hard to live for Jesus? How did you keep your faith during these times?

When I first became a Christian I had lots of ups and downs as my priorities began to change and as I learned that God’s ways are always much better than ours. These new Christian friends & eventually the church community, were very patient with me, praying with me, encouraging me and were always there to bring me back on track.

How have you learnt to trust God with your decision-making and plans for the future?

When I was young I wanted to marry a farmer and have a horse! When I married Nicky he was training to become a barrister but even then, he was very involved with the church. However, I never would have thought I would have ended up being involved in running a large church in Central London, which I absolutely love.

There are always different seasons of life which means new opportunities to trust God. When there have been big changes of life, we have taken time out to pray. but we are also constantly stretched by the decisions that need to be made daily in such a big organisation. We make many mistakes and are always in need of God’s guidance.

We love the Bible In One Year App! How would you encourage girls that find it hard to approach the Bible?

Nicky is so disciplined and I don’t think in all the years I have been married to him he has missed a day of reading of the Bible. I am much less organised! There are times when I struggle with making enough time. We love doing the Bible in One Year but on some days, I only get time to read the Psalm! I have found it helpful to listen to David Suchet’s reading of the whole Bible which is a free app and which is one way of at least hearing the bible. Reading The Message version of the Bible is also helpful for a fresh insight.

For girls who don’t have access to mentor figures in their life, how would you encourage them to keep pursuing relationship with God in deeper ways?

There are so many wonderful talks that we can download but we need one another and to be able to work out our faith in a community. I would advise praying and trying to find someone you respect who would support you.

How do you stay excited and passionate about life with Jesus, even when you have been a Christian for a long time?

I love being in an Alpha small group and watching people’s lives change. There is nothing more exciting. I also love worship and getting to a conference to hear new and inspiring speakers.

When life is busy, how do you make time for rest and space with God?

I love walking in Hyde Park enjoying God’s creation and just ‘being’ with God and not feeling that I have to be ‘doing’ anything.

Advice you would give your 13 year old self?

I didn’t know that there was a God who really did love me and had a purpose for my life. At that particular age when I was full of insecurities, an experience of God’s love and knowledge of His total acceptance would have really helped. I would also say that the importance of church and Christian friends is invaluable.

A very big thank you to Pippa for being part of
More Precious this morning – we are inspired!

Words of an Encourager

Devotionals Tea Flowers

Words that build up (Ephesians 4:29)
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.

As Christians, we should aim to bring glory to God in all we do, and this applies to the words we speak. In situations where we are surrounded by damaging words and harmful gossip, we can be the light by countering destructive words with compassion, humility and love (1 Peter 3:8). Sometimes we are tempted to join in with certain kinds of conversations to protect ourselves from standing out; it’s tempting and easy to join in with gossip, or make jokes at the expense of others. I know that sometimes I do this if I’m jealous of other people, or if I want to try and look funny, smart or popular.

But, it’s right that we glorify God, and this means we should display His light and love in the words we speak. So what does this look like? Well, the bible tells us to encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:13). What a challenge for us as we start the week ahead!


Father God,
Please give us courage to speak in a way that is honouring to You, even when we have to step outside our comfort zones to do so. Please give us the courage to speak words of encouragement to the people in our lives, and be a light for You as we do so.
Amen.

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photo13 Lucy

Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

Lucy founded More Precious in 2013 and now co-edits alongside Hannie. She is in her final year studying Music at Durham University, and while she will be sad to leave the beautiful little city, is looking forward to returning to her hometown Cambridge for a brand new chapter. She has big plans for More Precious in 2015!

Found By Grace: Lettie

Introducing a very beautiful and honest reflection of one girl’s journey back to Jesus. Lettie is sharing her testimony for More Precious this morning and we are honoured! For all you feeling unsure or not-quite-good-enough in your relationship with God, allow Lettie’s story to remind you of the unconditional nature of grace.

I finally feel ready to write my testimony, and what better place to share it than More Precious! I’ve hesitated for so long in writing this, because I haven’t felt ‘ready’ or ‘enough’ (firm enough, strong enough, Christian enough, good enough) to write it. However, the fundamental truth that I have come to know is that I am always ‘enough’ in the eyes of God.

I was raised a Christian, going with my Dad to Church every Sunday until I was about seven. However, my family stopped going regularly to church, and my faith slowly fell away. I got to that age where it was ‘cool’ to declare yourself an atheist – rebellious and supercilious.

I say supercilious, because I hadn’t actually considered Christianity. Whilst having had a ‘Christian upbringing’, no one had really led me in my faith, shown me the promises of Jesus, or explained how or why to read the Bible. In all honesty, I didn’t know a whole lot about my professed faith, so it was easy to reject.

My path back to Jesus has been a long one.

I had many difficulties through my teenage years, the residual effects I still feel now, having suffered from depression for a long time. One night when I was about fourteen, I was really struggling, and I ended up praying to a God that I didn’t think I believed in – that if He was real, to give me a sign. I couldn’t explain it, but despite the depression and darkness of the night before, the next day I woke up filled with amazement at the world, its beauty, and my gratitude at being alive in it. I promised myself there and then that I would commit myself to God.

The problem was, I still didn’t really understand what Christianity was all about. I thought praying meant saying the Lord’s Prayer every morning. I thought when you read the Bible you started from Genesis and read it chronologically. By all means, if this is how you best connect with God, it’s a perfectly valid way of worship, but for me, I was just going through the motions.

I was desperately seeking God, I believed in God, but I didn’t know how to connect with Him. I did get confirmed near the end of that year, and I kept persevering in my faith, but eventually, once again, I walked away.

As my depression deepened, I stopped thinking about God entirely. I turned my back on Him because what could He do? If He was all loving why did He give me depression in the first place?

I wrestled with the darkness for two more years, before I reached rock bottom: I took an overdose. The morning after, when I woke up in hospital, I felt overwhelmingly guilty: I was God’s creation; He loved me; yet I was hurting myself repetitively. It took me months to get to a more stable place in recovery from depression and an eating disorder to where I was able to start thinking about my faith again. I had a friend, Mia, who invited me to her Church over and over again, and I kept saying ‘I’ll think about it,’ putting it off, because it was still all too painful and hard.

One week, about a year ago, I finally decided to go along to church. I was overwhelmed – the joy and love the congregation exuded was so encouraging. I felt God’s presence and peace for the first time in a long while. God slowly started to become part of my life again, over a period of months. I prayed sporadically, I went to Church when I could, and I once again counted myself as a Christian.

However, I still hadn’t grasped God’s grace,
and what Jesus dying on the cross for us meant.

Even in April this year, I hit yet another stumbling block. I went away to New Zealand for two months and did a lot of things I regret. I definitely turned my back on God.Once I got to Durham, I knew I had to sort myself out. I went to church the first Sunday I arrived, before Freshers’ Week even started. I re-committed myself to God, and He has done amazing things in my life since I’ve been here.

What has become clear is how steadfastly and deeply God wants me and loves me, that however many times in my life I’ve walked away from Him, He’s pulled me back close.

He has forgiven me.

I am finally grasping the amazing thing God has done for us by sending his son to die on the cross: we are saved, forgiven and free.
This miracle overwhelms me each day.

I am so bursting full of God’s grace and love, and I have such a passion to share this with people. Thankfully, Durham is well equipped to spread the gospel, and I’ve been able to get involved in Club Mission, Contact Café, DICCU weekend away, the carol service, King’s Church Outreach, and so on. I’ve joined a cell group at Church and I’ve (finally!) started reading the Bible in a productive and enlightening manner.

I’ve learnt that there is always another chance with God- that He will always want you back, and that He is always there, even when you don’t think you can feel it.

It says in James 1: 2-6:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

This is the scripture I always return to. The difficulties I’ve been through have strengthened my faith and given me perseverance, and my faith is so much stronger, deeper, and truer than it would have been otherwise. God has given generously to me and He can to you too, for he gives ‘generously to all without finding fault.’

I am no longer the doubting girl being blown and tossed by the wind,
but I believe and stand firm in God.

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Lettie

Lettie is a first year English Literature student at Durham. Her aim this year is to try out all the cafes in Durham! Lettie loves social justice and helps run Mary’s College Feminist Society. She’s passionate about spreading the message that God’s love doesn’t discriminate, and is super excited to see more people get to know Jesus through MP.

Faith Worked Out: Ali Gillum

Faith Worked Out
As Christian girls growing up, decision making is at every corner – and it can sometimes be hard to see how faith and ‘normal life’ can fit together, let alone how our faith can be at the centre of all we do. How can we live as Christian girls in all sorts of different contexts? Back in November, we launched our Faith Worked Out series, to try and answer these questions through a series of interviews with women from all paths of life.

Today we’re delighted to be speaking with Ali Gillum, a recent Exeter graduate who founded Macaw Designs while still at university. I did Ali’s interview back in September of last year, but her words have stayed in my mind ever since – it speaks for itself! L x

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Fun Five

Fun Five

Habit I wish I could stop: Saying “yea yea yea” whenever I agree with someone! It’s meant to be enthusiastic but I think it’s quite annoying!

£10 Treat: Eyelash tint

Fictional character I’d most like to be: Winnie the Pooh…he’s pretty chilled.

Thing in my handbag I never use:
Umbrella – I only like the big ones!

Book on bedside table:
Row for Freedom, Julia Immonen

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Tell us where you’re at right now, and how you got here…

I graduated from Exeter this summer after studying Geography and Theology there. I now have a job as an Account Manager at Born Social, though I spent some time in India this summer before moving to back to London.

What or who were your biggest influences on your faith when growing up?

Definitely my youth leaders: their role was showing, in a very attractive way, how to live in culture distinctively as a Christian. My Mum and Dad too, they live out faith in a really practical way, always bringing people into their faith, and into our family. Growing up, people from all walks of life were hanging out in our home – and this taught me that God’s people are diverse and unique.

Church community and world was also a huge part, providing community and teaching me how to DO LIFE well in community. HTB is very good at working things out together, as was my church in Exeter (Exeter Network Church). Also – camps were amazing for me as I was growing up!

What did you find hardest about growing up as a Christian?

I was actually really lucky in that I had amazing friends, and a relatively easy community throughout my teenage years.

I suppose the hardest part of growing up is often figuring out who you are. So, it becomes difficult to work out how to live both within a ‘Christian world’ – i.e. within the church circle, and also in all other spheres of life: consistency and integrity are very hard to grasp when you aren’t always even sure of your own identity.

How have you learnt to grasp that consistency and integrity in every sphere of your life?

I’m still learning! I always think back to that Christian cliché: it’s about trying not to be a thermometer, but instead to be a thermostat – shape the environment you’re in, and don’t be shaped by it!

This is even true within church: don’t just be like everyone else, but commit to worshipping God and pursuing relationship with Him. Identity isn’t about being exactly the same type of person in every situation – because different situations will call upon certain parts of your personality and your gifts and skills. Instead, I think your identity comes from your place of security in God.

You will have integrity and be consistent if your identity overflows from security in who you are as a child of God. However – I am still very much working this out!

What pushed you to start Macaw Designs?

Well, Macaw Designs was kind of an accident! I had been making laptop cases for friends and family, and then it became friends-of-friends, and gradually the demand increased, and Macaw was born! Exeter has a real culture of entrepreneurship, and this helped hugely as I started to work on shaping Macaw as a business, in creating a website, factory and up scaling the whole thing.

What have you found hardest about the Macaw journey?

Doing it by myself – I’ve found that hard. I’m a girl that bounces ideas off people, so it has been lonely working without others. But I’m really excited that I’ve got someone else on board now, Tabs. She’s amazing and it’s so fun doing it with someone else. The other hardest thing is a never-ending list of things to do!

How have you grown in your faith over the past year, with all this change? What lessons have you learnt?

I HATE change! But actually that has been a lesson in itself. I’ve learnt that God calls us not just to endure change, or to ‘get though – but to learn while IN IT, rather than always in retrospect.

I am learning to not just look back and point out my learnt lessons by saying ‘I was’ but rather ‘I am’ and ‘I will’. The Christian life is one of transformation and change by nature, and I am learning to learn in the seasons of change and chaos.

Another key thing I have learnt is to be strategic about who I share what with: I can’t keep up with everyone! I have learnt how important it is to have a few key people to invest in and spend time with in a healthy way. It’s a personality thing, but I have learnt that knowing loads of people isn’t always that healthy… it’s cool in our culture, but ultimately not very attainable or fulfilling.

When things are busy, how do you prioritise your relationship with God?

The first thing I would say is don’t go on about how busy you are all the time. It overwhelms you the more you say it, and it is boring for everyone else! If we really do feel too busy, either we can take on less, or be thankful for the opportunities we have in our hands. Everyone’s capacities are different, but for some reason our culture loves being busy. Be different! Be industrious, but don’t be busy. Be present wherever you are. It is dangerous to be seen as a ‘busy person’ at the expense of relationships, or more worthwhile, tangible investments.

When more things are happening in a particular season of your life, I would say make time for God FIRST THING – I know that I can’t face a day without that reaffirming of identity and purpose.

Also practically: exercise, sleep, and eat well. Look after your body, but more importantly – look after your soul by resting in God each morning. The busier you are, the more time you need to spend praying, and immersing yourself in God’s love and promises in the Bible every single day.

My last tip would be – don’t panic if you’re not busy. Be ‘awkwardly free’! Many exciting things can happen if you have the space and parameters to listen, take opportunities, and be spontaneous.

How can we use our gifts and passions for God? How do we know the best way to do this?

Again, this is something hard and different for everyone – but in working out what we can do for God, I would say: do something that excites you. Not just surface-level excitement, but gut-level – something that you are passionate about and that resonates with you. Also having a big picture of your calling (to build God’s kingdom on Earth and to tell the world about Him) is amazing – but we do build up this big picture in the every day and the mundane.

I remember being at school, and hearing these amazing speakers doing incredible things – and being so frustrated that I wasn’t able to be at that stage yet – I was stuck as a schoolgirl. I would say, do look ahead, do think about the future, but more importantly live in the moment and search for opportunities right where you are – there will be some!

So, how can we be ambitious for God?

There are definitely those things at school or at uni that seem very normal and boring – perhaps our lives are looking a little too ‘small’ and average for our liking. However, God uses us in every situation, so don’t think these are too small for Him to use you in.

It’s a bit like training a puppy – we don’t want to be in training and lose all of our excitement and ambition, but we want to channel it, and ask God to use us so that we can employ our gifts, skills and passions for His purpose. This can be in the small!

God doesn’t quite match to the timing of our ready-made, microwave society: He works in HIS time, and He has a bigger plan and picture. This really is a security, even if it is hard to hear (and different to the ‘be the best for yourself’ mentality we are often brought up with in school or at uni).

I would say: let go of control, be dependant, and recognise that God’s plans are greater than ours. We don’t need to be doing groundbreaking work, setting up charities or saving the world from poverty to be doing work for God: there is a real place and reward in Heaven for humble, quiet, behind-the-scenes work – so keep your eyes focused on Heaven and God will guide your steps.

What is your advice to girls struggling to pursue relationship with Jesus when there is so much going on in life?

It’s different for everyone. I know for me, turning my phone off is key, as is listening to worship and taking time out from constant communication. Deliberately limiting social media, and therefore comparison to everyone else is very important too: don’t be caught up in the idea of a perfect life.

It’s also about making tiny changes step by step. Maybe choose to read a couple of verses on your phone, rather than flicking through Instagram. Also be with Christian friends and be intentional about your time together, be accountable and honest – as you will sharpen each other, and though change is gradual, you will see it.

Teenage years are HARD, so – pray, pray, pray.

Thank you to Ali for sharing her thoughts with the MP readers today.
We wish you all the best with Macaw Designs!

This is Living

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The Lord will fight for you. You only need to be still.
Exodus 14:14

I came across this verse when someone posted it on Instagram a few weeks ago, and it is one of those verses that hasn’t left my mind since I saw it. It intrigued me, comforted me and challenged me all at the same time.

The verse comes in the middle of a chapter where Moses and the Israelites (God’s people) were fleeing Pharaoh, who had been oppressing them and treating them as slaves. This verse comes just as Moses and the Israelites have the Red Sea in front of them, and Pharaoh’s army closing in behind them. It looks like they are trapped, and either they drown in the sea, or have to face battle with Pharaoh’s army. In the midst of this, the Israelites cry out to God, and Moses says:

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.””

Exodus 14:13

Be still?! Surely they should be running, preparing to fight, or at least just doing something. But “be still“?

Moses had great faith in God, and I think that Moses is reminding us, as well as the Israelites, that we have a God who works miracles, who fights for us, and is so much more powerful than we can really ever grasp.

Psalm 46:10 says:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

We need to keep on reminding ourselves of who He is, because when we do, we see that we can totally trust in Him and be still. He WILL fight for us. We can trust in the God who lavished his love on us. He is in control and sovereign over all our problems, disappointments, anxieties, our future, our relationships – everything.

We need to stop trying to control everything and instead encounter Jesus, spend time in his presence and engage our hearts with who he is.

If we are just trying to get through the week or month without any major disasters, or if we just want to get things done so that we can get onto the next thing or the next stage of life, we might be in danger of missing out. I am often tempted to slip into this mentality – I think that once I get to Thursday, or once I’ve done this exam, or once I’ve organised that event or saved up that much money, then I will truly trust God with all areas of my life. I need to ask God to change this way of thinking and turn it on its head. I want my heart to be 100% secure in the truth that all I need is found in Him.

We come alive in Christ, and he sets us free. As Hillsong Young & Free put it: this is living! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to be at work in our hearts so that our faith is THE thing that truly sustains us, our source of energy, joy, excitement and life.

God loves us, and He will fight for us.

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Emma

Emma

Emma graduated from Cambridge 3 years ago, and now works in Finance. She said ‘I Do’ to the wonderful Luke in April and loves being part of Team Pendlebury!  Emma’s other passions include leading music at church, doing Pilates & eating salted caramel ice cream! She is so loving seeing God use More Precious to grow his kingdom.

Found in Proverbs: Truth & Lies

Devotionals Typer

‘Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.’
Proverbs 12:19

‘The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.’
Proverbs 12:22

Everybody lies, whether to others or to ourselves. Sometimes we haven’t even thought through what we’re about to say before a lie slips out of our mouth. It is easy to pretend that it doesn’t matter; it’s only a little lie.

Lies have a habit of spiralling, when we tell one we often find ourselves having to tell another. Whilst this might work momentarily, Proverbs 12:19 assures us it will not last in the long run. Even if we were never to be found out on earth, we cannot lie to God.

The Bible reminds us that lies are serious. God detests lies. If we know that to be the case why would we ever want to do it? I find I lie most when trying to influence someone else’s opinion of me for the better. In these situations, I notice that I have begun to value what others think of me over what God thinks of me.

Jesus is the ultimate example of what an honest life looks like. His honesty gives me something to aim for. When I inevitably fall short, His death on the cross means that I am still forgiven by God, free of sin and free to try and live the right way again.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:21-24).

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Katrina

Katrina is a first year Sports student at studying at Durham University. Although often missing her wonderful Cambridge home, Katrina has found Durham to be a hard place not to fall in love with. She is settling into university life by attempting to try all the coffee shops (despite not drinking coffee)! Katrina is passionate about watching girls grow with the assurance and knowledge that they are valuable and crazily loved daughters of God.

The Comparison Trap

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‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.’
Colossians 3:1-4

I don’t know about you, but I’m very often guilty of comparing myself to others. I’ll do this with pretty much every aspect of my life – talents, achievements, looks, sense of humour, social life, family life – and quite often my sense of how successful I am is determined by how I do in that comparison. Either I’m pleased with myself because I think I’ve done as well or better than those around me, or I’m upset because I feel as though I’ll never measure up to others in the way I want to.

It’s worth saying that there’s nothing wrong with admiring other people and being inspired and encouraged by our friends and family to become more like the people God has called us to be. The beautiful thing about being adopted into God’s family is that we have brothers and sisters around us to learn from and to spur us on in godliness, and that is something that I’m extremely thankful for! However, I also think it’s all too easy to let covetous thoughts creep in and to start feeling discontent with what God has given us.

My constant comparing myself with others means that much of my thought life is concerned with how I can become better in other people’s eyes, how I can be attractive to other people, and how I can hide my flaws from other people as well. The problem with this is that instead of serving Jesus and living in light of what he has done for me, I’m actually living for myself and in light of what others think. The reality of the here and now has become much more real to me than the reality of the hope of Heaven to come.

In short, I’m looking sideways rather than where I should be looking – upwards.

‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.’

This verse has been such a huge help to me with this issue! It reminds me that this life that I’m living now is not all that there is – there’s an eternal life to come with Christ, because I have been raised with him. Christ’s work on the cross means that I and everyone else who believes and trusts in Him can look forward to the certain hope of eternal life with Him.

When I look around at what others have and become dissatisfied that I don’t have the same it’s because I’ve lost sight of what’s to come, and I’m living as though this life now is the only chance for fulfilment and happiness. Verse 3 completely blows me away: I have died, and my life is hidden with Christ in God! That means that everything that seems so appealing and concrete in this life is actually temporary. My real life hasn’t even started yet, so how I live in the present should be in preparation for that.

The area that these verses have helped me in most is singleness. In Cambridge, where I live and work, I’m so blessed to have a number of single friends to spend my evenings and weekends with, and the fact that I’m single barely registers with me as an issue. I have the flexibility to use my time however I want, and I can make decisions with more freedom than I would have if I had a husband and children to consider. But, as soon as I spend some time with my friends from home (the majority of whom are loved-up and on the cusp of getting engaged), those pesky comparisons start to creep in! When they talk about their boyfriends I wonder why God hasn’t brought someone into my life, and when they talk about weddings I begin to feel sorry for myself that I might not ever have one to plan, never get the chance to have my big day. On my worst days I begin to panic that everyone around me is going to pair off, leaving me doomed to always be on my own – no one to attend weddings with, no one to grow old with, and no children to look after me when I’m old.

‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.’

You can see how I desperately need this verse! As my gaze is pointed upwards to Jesus instead of sideways to others I’m reminded that he is the only one I need, he is the one I should be serving – not others, or myself.

‘He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’
Colossians 1:17

He has mapped out my life and called me to live for him, and he has given me everything I need to be able to do that. This means that, for now anyway, that being a single woman is how he would have me serve him. He’s given me the gifts and personality that I need to serve him, so why should I ask for more?

I wish I could say that once I discovered this verse I never again compared myself to someone else and have been living with my eyes glued on Jesus ever since, but I can’t! This is a daily struggle, and it may be something that I struggle with for the rest of my life. We all know that seeking to live a godly life can be hard, frustrating and tiring. We’re constantly battling our desire to live how we want, doing the things we want with the people we want. Giving in to temptation again and again makes us despair, and we can wonder if it’s all even worth it anyway.

But what an amazing promise is found in verse 4: ‘When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.’ Of course it’s worth it! When this life is passed we have an eternity to spend with Jesus Christ, when we’ll no longer struggle with sin, feel like we’re missing out or wish we had more than we have. We’ll be sharing in Christ’s glory – perfect, whole and experiencing more joy than we could ever possibly imagine.

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Jody

Jody is originally from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland but now works as a ministry trainee at a church in Cambridge. She is passionate about seeing people growing in their relationship with Jesus through God’s word, and loves that she gets to do that as part of her job. When she’s not working she loves spending time with her friends, cooking and watching musicals.

Found in Proverbs: Integrity

Devotionals Dandelion

‘Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.’

Proverbs 10:9

‘The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.’
Proverbs 11:3

‘“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer –
then goes off and boasts about the purchase.’
Proverbs 20:14

To have integrity is to be honest with our whole lives. This means that we are the same person when spending time with one group of friends as we are with another, or that our life at church is the same as it is for the rest of the week. When we live with integrity we can feel more confident and open, rather than feeling like we’re constantly waiting to be found out. If you are a person of integrity, you will do what you say even if nobody else is looking.

Another way of thinking about integrity is about being solid or ‘whole’. We are one person who isn’t plagued by ‘duplicity’ or the confusion of trying to be many different people at once in order to please everyone. A good question to ask is, “What is the most straightforward and honest thing to do here?”

In Proverbs 20 v 14 we see a key issue in our culture of dishonesty. How many times have we said to someone, “I haven’t revised at all for this exam,” when in fact we’ve put in hours of work? Or insisted, “I’m good, everything is fine,” when a friend checks in during the midst of personal struggle? We say one thing and mean another.

When we live with integrity we honour God. We acknowledge our failures and don’t hide the wrong. We are consistent, reliable, honest and humble enough to admit when we need help.

_______________________________

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Katrina

Katrina is a first year Sports student at studying at Durham University. Although often missing her wonderful Cambridge home, Katrina has found Durham to be a hard place not to fall in love with. She is settling into university life by attempting to try all the coffee shops (despite not drinking coffee)! Katrina is passionate about watching girls grow with the assurance and knowledge that they are valuable and crazily loved daughters of God.

Faith Worked Out: Beth Croft

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Many of you will be familiar with the music and ministry of Beth Croft and of Soul Survivor, and so we are especially excited to be sharing with you this newest interview in our Faith Worked Out series. Beth was kind enough to speak to us about the importance of praising God through music, the times when she has found it hard to persevere in her faith, and the ways in which she tries to use her gifts for God’s glory. We hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did! XO

Beth Croft

Fun Five
Fun Five

Dream holiday destination: Switzerland – I love the ‘Sound of Music’.

Song that you listen to on repeat: Ghost by Ella Henderson and Forever by Bethel.

£10 treat: Food – I’m pregnant at the moment so it’s all about food!

Favourite Psalm: Psalm 91.

Coffee order: Decaf Cappuccino.

 

 

Can you tell us about what you do day to day, and how you have ended up doing what you do?

I work for Soul Survivor Ministries and Soul Survivor Church, heading up the worship there. So I spend a lot of time leading worship, pastoring the worship team and working with our volunteers who play with us.

I grew up going to Soul Survivor Church as a teenager. I have always been musical but when I was 18 the worship leader in my cell group was ill for a couple of weeks. I didn’t really want to lead, as I had never done it before, but the group seemed to think I was the next best option! At that time, I only played the piano but you can’t really put one of those in your handbag to take to cell group! My brother had a guitar and God prompted me to give it a go. I practised like crazy, (even the “spontaneous” parts!) and that was where it all started. I was then given the chance to do a worship internship during my degree, and after I graduated, I went to work for Soul Survivor.

If I’m honest, I didn’t plan to do Christian ministry as my full time job. I expected to have a normal job, where I would be living out my faith in a secular setting. My faith really came alive at uni, and I loved being a light in what can sometimes be a dark and confusing place. Despite my earlier plans to be a school teacher, I felt God prompting me into full time ministry and I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else now! God softens our hearts towards the things that he has as our purpose – even if we are not totally sure at the time.

What made you passionate about leading worship? How did you uncover the vision that God has for your life?

Music had always been an important part of my connection and relationship with God. As my faith became more important to me, when I came home from school before doing my homework, I’d sit at the piano for ages and worship God there, on my own. That was my prayer time and my outlet. That’s where I learnt to lead worship – I was leading myself to worship God. Because I played every day, I grew in confidence in my skill too.

After that, it was really when I did my internship that I was thrown in the deep end. I went from hardly having led, to leading 4 times a week – at alpha, church services, prayer meetings, cell groups. It really was sink or swim and I had to learn to swim! Learning with Tim Hughes was an amazing privilege.

Why is it so important for us to praise God in music and song?

It comes down to it being an expression of the relationship we have with Jesus. If you fall in love with someone, that affects everything – how you spend your time, what you say to them, how you treat them – because that relationship becomes important. Worship is the same: worship as our whole lives, and also as singing praises to God. There are songs of worship all over the Bible, particularly in the psalms.

How do you go about writing a song? Where do you start?

Often I get the seed of an idea during a time of worship. I will have my phone on me and I have been known to run out of the room straight afterwards to record the idea, and then work on it later! Or sometimes it will be a phrase of scripture and I’ll want to carve a song around that. It’s often the result of the work God’s doing in me, or in our church, and over time it gets drawn out and the seed of an idea develops into a song.

A few months ago, I wrote a song and the starting place for that was that I had been praying lots about some situations where I really didn’t like seeing people totally caught up in situations, unable to let go of them. Some lyrics about letting go came to me, and I named the song ‘Letting Go’. Then I took it to a friend called Nick Herbert, and he said that as it happened, he had been thinking about the theme of holding or clinging onto the cross.

You can see that the underlying idea was the same but Nick helped turn the lyrics around and make them more positive: we positively cling to the cross of Jesus and in doing so, we let go of things around us. Co-writing has been really helpful for me, and once you put those dates in the diary with other songwriters, it gives a good sense of urgency which I find actually aids creativity.

Can you give us an example of a time in your life when it was hard to live for Jesus and how you got through it? What encouraged you to persevere?

I was a late developer in terms of having an identity crisis! When I was 20-21 and started leading a lot more and was exposed to leadership, people saw a certain side of me on stage. I really felt the pressure to be spiritually perfect because I was leading others in worship. But I knew that there was another side to my life – one where I found it really hard to read my bible and pray each day. Although I was doing more on the surface for God than ever before, underneath I was wrestling through with God what it meant to just be Beth, without any public profile and being ok with my weaknesses, and my strengths too. I’m so grateful for that time looking back on it, and the way that God brought me through that and gave me His true identity as a result.

What would your advice be to those who want to serve Jesus passionately and wholeheartedly, but aren’t sure how they can best do this?

Look at what God’s put in front of you. We can sometimes think that God will put some massive, grand plan in front of us – like moving overseas and selling everything we have. But sometimes God puts us in a boring town, or in a school where no one shares our views, but he has plans to use us in that place for His purposes. So often, God wants to use us exactly where we are.

Ask God what He has put in your hands, what he has put in front of you and don’t be afraid to start small. Whoever can be trusted with little, can be trusted with much (Luke 16).

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Thank you to Beth for her sharing her wisdom with More Precious this morning. We absolutely love her new album ‘Rule In My Heart’, which you can find here.

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