Faith Worked Out: Adrienne Ferguson

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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? Last week we kicked off Faith Worked Out to try and answer these questions through a series of interviews with women from all paths of life. 

Today is our second interview of the series, and we are hearing from Adrienne Ferguson of TreePress. Adrienne is one of those life-giving, encouraging ladies (that you just really want to be like when you grow up)… We are so very excited to share her stories and advice with you all this morning and hope they encourage you to live as girls of God. Read and enjoy!
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Fun Five

1. Favourite month
July- Wimbledon, pimms, Breton stripes, stars, camp fires, mangoes.
2. Habit I wish I could stop
Watching Made in Chelsea
3. Song I would sing in a large, echoey stairwell
Anything from Annie- childhood favourite in many stairwells!
4. Ideal dinner party guest
Emma Stone
5. Place on Earth most like Heaven
The hammock hanging under the treehouse in my parents garden- oh- with a coffee…

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Tell us about you and your journey so far…

My beautiful mama became a Christian a couple of years before I was born and so I have been blessed by being prayed over by warrior Christian women in home groups and bible studies for the past 37 years. Our church life was rich and full of amazing friends and families wherever we lived and there was always space to ask questions and grace to make mistakes.

University was not wild or rebellious season, neither was it enlightened or spiritual- in terms of my faith- it was a very still, motionless time.  I was a spectator- but quite content to be sitting in the stands.

Next step was London and my first job as a teacher. City life was busy, fabulous, exciting and bursting with activity. But my faith had turned from apathetic viewing from the sidelines to restlessness and an acute sense of frustration. Despite  cramming my life full, I felt completely empty. I saw a new course starting at a  church near Oxford Street (where I was shopping!) called Christianity Explained.

Little did I know that this was the pilot programme for what is now Christianity Explored  and throughout this time, I heard familiar bible verses and stories as if for the first time,as if they had been written just for me. I understood what Jesus dying on the cross meant for me, Adrienne, and there was a very gradual filling up. No more restlessness, or anxiety, but instead – the crazy peace that transcends all understanding. Amazing!!

Within months  I had confirmed any Christian cliches and had packed up my London life and moved to a missionary school in Kenya where I spend 3 years teaching surrounded by incredible Christian people who loved me and guided me in my new faith. For the last 10 years I have been living in Edinburgh, teaching, growing, leading, listening, creating, building and by God’s grace have been used to serve him and serve others through drama, writing and working with kids. And 3 months ago I left teaching, packed up again, and moved to London to start my own business called TreePress

Whatʼs the story behind TreePress?

Laura and I met 8 years ago when she  came to the school I was teaching in as a GAP student from Sydney where she immediately joined me in the drama department to produce and direct school plays.   Throughout her time University over the next few years we continued to creatively collaborate and produce plays and events together – dreaming, and hair brain scheming in my parents treehouse .  After 10 years of directing school plays  I was finding it  a real challenge to source scripts and so started to write my my own plays. I then began to talk to publishers and found that they had their own challenges in resourcing the school stage. I could see the problem  and Laura – now a management consultant in digital strategy could see the solution.  Over the next 2 years we grew TreePress – an online marketplace connecting those who are writing plays to those who need them. And after  8 years – we are sitting next to each other again – and we’re loving it!

What do you love about what you do?

There is nothing more exciting than seeing something that you dreamt about come to life. To see action in your ideas. At it’s very core, theatre is a collaborative experience and we are in a position where we can support playwrights, theatres, teachers, directors and publishers and give them a platform and a community to encourage and build  their creativity and allow them to make a living from their craft. And the net result – more performance in schools and the empathy, courage and confidence that it instills in young people. It gives people wings to fly – and we are able to watch everyone soar. What a privilege.

What or who do you have a heart for?

When stepping into a good theatre space, both audience and players  are creating an environment where what happens, for the time that it takes, is real. It’s a microscope on life,  an accelerated season where we are forced to form an opinion about what is important, and in doing so, we are then forced to form why it is important. Theatre encourages all those engaged in it to question – why? when?  what?  who? I became a Christian as a 23 year old full of unanswered questions about what life was about – and I love building a business that creates space for people to question what is important and  and to explore  what makes us human. Drama fosters creativity, empathy, collaboration and courage and with that one can not escape to consider what you believe in.

What led you to use your gifts for God in this way?

Drama, writing  and story telling have always been at the heart beat of my life.   In a church setting, I am completely hopeless with cooking, rotas and committees and have  always been far more comfortable speaking to people and sharing Gods word creatively. And, I have always been encouraged by my church, family, colleagues and friends to do it. Amazing people of God challenging me, pushing me, embracing me  and loving me.

How does your faith influence the way you approach day-to-day business?

TreePress is about investing in people whether they are  children, writers, teachers, directors or publishers. It is about building structures to love people and giving them the support  and strength to succeed so they can take flight. My faith guides how we talk to people and how we value them. It prompts me to always treat every conversation with dignity, respect and integrity. It gives me courage to fight when strength is needed, peace to know when to be still and courage when the fear descends.

What are the biggest things that God has taught you across this past year?

That He is in control. In the last 6 months I have had God’s incredible peace when quitting my job before we knew if we had funding, leave my flat with no-one in place to pay my mortgage, move country with no money to pay rent . At every scary stage, God put exactly the right people in my path to encourage me in every step. It’s been amazing to have felt his protection and direction in such a real way.

What advice would you give to young girls trying to figure out what direction to go in, wanting to serve God but not knowing exactly what that might look like?

Pray. Pray. Pray. Push doors, read, try new things, engage in the world around you, be bold, take risks, speak up, listen, ask questions – be out there living and know that your heavenly father is delighted with you and will not let you down. Go for it!

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

Knowing that I am completely useless without Him. That I am full of sin and brokenness and that my only hope is that by grace, I am loved and can somehow,  be used for God’s glory. Nothing makes sense without Jesus – and when I find myself looking inwards God is able to give me a glimpse of the  world through his eyes  and the strength and courage to step out in his name.

A big thank you to the wonderful Adrienne for encouraging us so much; let’s remember this week as we go out that we are useless without God, but yet we are loved and can be used for His glory – amazing!

Loving, not liking.

Emma writes for us today on how to do relationships with those people who we find hard, or who have hurt us. A great post to refer back to when you are finding it hard to practice forgiveness and grace with others, just like Jesus, and a wonderful reminder of how much God continually pours out His love on us, despite the ways we have hurt Him.

Ever meet someone you just don’t like? I have. Maybe because I’m a Christian and I’m supposed to love everyone I shouldn’t be saying that, but I just can’t deny it. There are people who just plain irritate me and annoy me, and I find it hard to spend time with them without wanting to roll my eyes or say something sarcastic.

But there are also people I don’t like because they have hurt me. There are people who are manipulative and mean. Some who are downright nasty. I can guarantee that you know some of these people too.

You might have heard these people being called ‘grace growers’. You know, because they take a liiiiittle bit more patience, and you find yourself quickly being reminded that God loves everyone. Even the anonymous person who ate your slice of cake (the one you’d been saving!).

Author Graham Cooke puts it marvellously:

‘Nasty people are our grace growers. They provide (unconsciously!) a shortcut into the nature of God’s kindness, love and goodness. Learn to spot the opportunity in the crisis and take advantage!’

It can be really, really hard to take advantage of the crisis. But it is possible. So how can we learn to love someone when we don’t like them?

1. Stand in their shoes

One thing that irritates me is when someone cuts me up when I’m driving. But one way I try to manage my annoyance is to imagine what it is like to be that person. I don’t know what’s going on in their head and I don’t know what’s happening in their life – a loved one could be in hospital and they could be anxiously driving to see them. The grumpy man at the supermarket checkout might be having a bad day at work. The new girl at school who I think is annoying might find new social situations difficult and be worried about how to make friends.

Ultimately, we don’t know what is going on in someone’s life that might be causing them to be angry, or irritated, or mean. Standing in their shoes helps us to feel empathetic and allows us to be more patient.

You will meet people who hurt you and disappoint you. It can be really, really hard to forgive, particularly if you feel that they are not deserving of your forgiveness. It feels unfair when the person isn’t sorry. But forgiveness is less about the person that has hurt you and more about you.

If we hold onto bitterness, not only will it poison us, but we allow the devil to breed resentment and anger within us. Understanding the reason for my irritation will help me to find a coping mechanism. It’s about changing the way you react. I cannot fix the person who hurt me or make them sorry; I can only change my attitude and control how I react towards the situation. The best way to react is to remember that we have hurt and disappointed God, not just once, but over and over again.

But God continues to forgive us, even when we don’t deserve it.
And if we want to be like Jesus, then we need to do the same.

2. WWJD?

But sometimes, we encounter people who are not just a slightly irritating, but people who deliberately hurt you. People who, no matter how hard you try or how much effort you put in, never seem to want to do anything but be unpleasant towards you. God gets this a lot.

So what would Jesus do? It’s a phrase known around the world and put on T-shirts and wristbands and bumper stickers for a reason. The question ‘what would Jesus do?’ is a great reminder to consider how we can emulate Jesus in any situation. So when you encounter a deliberately nasty person, ask yourself ‘how would Jesus respond to this person?’

Jesus was constantly surrounded by difficult people, people who didn’t like him or understand him and even people who wanted him dead. American pastor Rick Warren says that there were four ways Jesus dealt with difficult people:

- He realised he couldn’t please everybody. (John 5:30)
– He refused to play their game. (Matthew 22:18)
– He didn’t retaliate. (Matthew 5:38-39)
– He prayed for them and let God handle it. (Matthew 5:44)

3. Let go

It can be really difficult to not allow ourselves to get dragged into arguments and fights. I have found it difficult to let go and allow God to take care of things in some relationships with difficult people, because I felt like a failure and a bad friend. But I realised that a friendship with someone who treated me badly was dragging me down and causing me to behave in way that wasn’t loving or honouring God. The situation made me frustrated and hateful. The blame didn’t lie with the person I was angry with, because again, I didn’t know what was happening in their life to cause them to behave like that.

Jesus stopped himself from being distracted by crowds who wanted to see him, by removing himself and spending time alone with God (Luke 5:15-16). He didn’t remove himself as a reaction to their behaviour, but because he needed to focus and protect himself. In the same way, it is not wrong to end friendships that distract you from focusing on God, just as you would remove yourself from a situation that might tempt you or hinder you from being the person God made you to be.

We can approach friendships in a grace-filled way, always praying about how best to invest our time and energy as Christians with the people around us.

4. Love

But there is another way that Jesus responded to difficult people: with love. Jesus loved everyone, even the people who killed him. The more you live in the knowledge of God’s grace for you, the easier it becomes to love other people. This is why it is important not to listen to what other people say about us and form our identity from that – but to spend time in God’s word, embedding deeply into our hearts that God loves and cares for us.

It seems like it’s hard to love people you don’t like. But love is about actions, not about feelings. To love your neighbour is not about liking them. 1 Corinthians 13 lays it all out for us.

Love is about actions. To love someone is to be patient with them, to be kind to them, to not get angry and to forgive easily. In that way, it is possible to love someone and not like them. And that’s okay.

NB: If you are experiencing hurtful behaviour from others that you think might be bullying, always speak to your parents or somebody trusted about it, seek further advice and perhaps take a look athttp://www.bullying.co.uk/ 

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Emma

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.

Truly in the Kingdom

Autumn

Today we’re looking at John 3:1-8 – ‘Jesus and Nicodemus’

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

What can we learn from this?

‘Very truly I tell you…’
This shows us that Jesus has authority to speak – he knows the truth and imparts it to us in a one-way communication which is far from reciprocal.

‘No one can see/enter the kingdom of God unless…’
We are all the same without God – we all have the same need, no exceptions. We cannot have access to God’s kingdom on our own. Without him we are outsiders to the kingdom.

‘…unless he is born again / of water and the Spirit’
Birth is a one-off, and spiritual ‘birth’ into new life with Jesus is only needed once – no matter how many mistakes we make! Once we have experienced spiritual rebirth through committing our lives to Jesus, we are truly in the kingdom, just as a baby, once born, is always in the world.

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Contributor

Margaret

Margaret is the mother of our regular contributor, Emma. She lives in Cambridge and like Hannie, Lucy and Emma is a member of Christ Church. She teaches English in one of the Cambridge schools.

 

 

 

Finding My Strength

Today’s guest post tells one girl’s story that speaks very powerfully of God’s sovereignty in situations where we cannot seem to see a plan, or understand our situation. It is a beautiful presentation of what true joy looks like. We have found this an incredibly life-giving testimony and we hope you will too.

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Standing in my gown outside Durham Cathedral in July, I don’t think I could quite take in the fact that I had made it to the end of three years and that I was actually graduating. Everyone says going to university is a life-changing experience, but when I started the journey north in October 2011 it was safe to say my expectations were way off course!

Having heard about freshers’ flu, when I succumbed to it in week three I felt it was a rite of passage and I could now share the experience of my peers. However, by week six, when I was still bed-bound and feeling as though I had been hit by a sledgehammer every morning, my rite of passage seemed a very different experience.

I spent the winter months trekking up and down the hills of Durham, falling asleep in lectures, and struggling through my essays. I tried my best to keep praying and trusting God that I would get better soon, that the doctor would give me a diagnosis, and that I would start enjoying university life.

Second term became more harrowing, however, after the doctor confirmed that I’d had Glandular Fever and had now succumbed to Post Viral Fatigue. A diagnosis provided an explanation as to why the description of being tired had taken on a whole new meaning. However, there is no end date or recovery time frame that goes with the explanation, nor any way of curing it. It is debilitating and life-changing.

Over the next six months, my body and mind continued to take a painful and terrifying battering. I spent countless hours and days trapped in my college room, held back by pain, fear and worry on a scale I had never experienced before. I clung onto a dim hope that God would pull me through. (Of course, with hindsight, I can say that that hope wasn’t dim at all – God was shining through the darkness!)

In a letter I received from my boyfriend, he wrote these words:

“You are loved by God, therefore find strength in him…
Your purpose in Durham will be revealed and I know you can find strength in God”.

He then quoted Deuteronomy 31:8:

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you,
He will never leave your nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.”

This verse came to be my source of strength and comfort as I battled on, not knowing or understanding why I felt so much physical and mental pain, but knowing that God was beside me, protecting me, and would see me through.

As I re-read my diary from first year I can re-live the nights when I would be awake until the early hours frightened, worried and confused, or the days when I could hardly function due to pain or exhaustion. And yet I would still have incredible (albeit miniature) moments of calm, where God would break in and restore order and give me peace which transcended all understanding.

My room became plastered with bible verses as visual reminders of what to do when it all became too much. 1 Peter 5:7 was stuck above my mirror – “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” – reminding me to lay all of my worries, problems, fears and thoughts before God, to trust him to make sense of things because He loves me.

What I found most challenging was the battle going on in my mind. According to a rather blunt doctor at home, “having PVF means your body is depressed, so obviously your mind is going to be depressed too”. Depression was another bombshell I had not anticipated and wasn’t ready to accept, even if it was one facet of the illness and normal for those who have had Glandular Fever. Being a Christian and being depressed seemed just totally unacceptable – I was supposed to have the joy of the Lord inside my heart which would make everything better! Yet despite the fact I was clinging onto the certainty that God would get me through to the other side, I suffered panic attacks, nightmares and insomnia.

The summer of 2012 saw me reach the lowest and darkest point of my life to date. I was so ashamed of the fact that I couldn’t pull myself out of it, and of the pain I was causing to those who I loved most.

But God was working in the darkness, shaping me and moulding me.

Since my GCSE year I have loved Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future”.

During the darkest time I couldn’t make out the plan, understand it, or see what lay ahead but I knew God had one. Trusting when everything else crumbles sometimes feels like you’re clinging onto a rock on the side of a cliff with one hand. But that is faith, and it gave me the strength to push on.

Looking back over the three years, I can clearly see how God brought people into my life to support and sustain me. I became surrounded by people who cared for me and prayed for me persistently, never getting annoyed or bored by the seemingly unending tiredness and despair. I found a church and cell group who, I think unknowingly, became the foundation for my security and stability in Durham, and provided me with spiritual nourishment to turn a corner and fight on.

So after contemplating dropping out over a dozen times, attending less than fifty percent of my contact hours, and battling with my body and mind for two and a half years, I actually finished university on a high. It may not have been the university experience I expected, but God pulled out all the stops. His grace was abundant, his provision perfect, and his power immeasurable.

Illness, especially when out of the blue and long term, has the power to define and crush you. It took me on a journey which I didn’t want, hadn’t bargained for, and didn’t enjoy. But I am thankful for what it taught me. It forced me to live day by day.

When you are seemingly left with nothing, God provides time and time again, and brings you joy in the smallest and most insignificant of things. I realised that being joyful and experiencing joy in the Lord has nothing to do with always smiling, being the most involved Christian, or even being overly happy.

It is the quiet, unshakeable knowledge that God is Lord of all, he is faithful, and he will deliver you from evil, even if you can’t fathom how, when or why.

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Lucy

Since graduating Lucy has moved back home to south-east London and is just about to start a job in the city. She loves singing and performing and has (nervously) ventured to ballet classes. She is excited to see what comes next in God’s plan and is still learning what it means to find joy, and to trust God amid everyday life!

Pursued Though We Wander

I can’t tell you how much I love publishing posts from Hannie! Her words speak straight to my heart again and again. I hope you enjoy this little gem from her as much as I have; do read it and spend time meditating on our Father God, who loves us so much that He constantly and fiercely pursues us, even though we wander! L xo

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I have fallen head first into a new season of life. Months (actually weeks!) after writing this post, I found myself starting a new job, in an old city, with a new fiancé. The girl who wrote about how little she liked change found herself to be the very definition of transformation.

It’s crazy how quickly it happens, but university feels like a dream that took place many moons ago. Life just picks up pace, and as someone who’s been a keen runner for six years now, I tend to tie my laces and get going.

But I have an awful habit of leaving God behind…

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There are few hymns that I empathise with more than Come Thou Fount. Prone to wander? Yes, I feel it – no matter how hard I try, I always seem prone to leave the God I love.

Many of you will have just started either a new school, a new university, or maybe like me, a new job and graduate life. As this new life flurries around us with excitement and pace, we tend to lose sight of the One who loved us first – who may have even been the One we held onto as we sat those GCSEs or university exams.

I know how desperately I did; during my finals, I felt so overwhelmed with life and all that lay ahead that I found myself holding onto God more than ever. Yet when the blessings came, I acted like a spoilt child and ran off with my new toys.

And we are not alone! David wrote of his struggle in the great anthem Psalm 119, saying:

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.”

Our hearts, our souls, and our brains are so often at war.

Thankfully our Shepherd has always left the 99 in search of the 1.

Although you may now find yourself in a season of wandering, it is never too late to turn back to God. Your Father is a compassionate and patient God whose grace is always sufficient. Our tendency to wander is matched only by God’s effort to pursue.

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.”

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Hannie

Hi, I’m Hannie, Co-Editor and Social Media Manager here at More Precious. I recently finished my time studying at the University of Birmingham and have since been abruptly dropped into the “real world”. I love running, fresh flowers and spending a copious amount of time in coffee shops with friends. I am passionate about encouraging a generation of girls and young women who radically pursue their God-given purpose.

Clearing Our Hearts

Pink

Today we’re looking at John 2: 13– 16 – ‘Jesus Clears The Temple’

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

‘Zeal’ is committed pursuit of something. God is zealous over our hearts too, and He loves us and pursues us. Our hearts are the temples of the Holy Spirit, the rightful dwelling place, through grace, of the presence of God.

But how easily our hearts become a selling place, giving way to the ‘highest bidder’, when distractions or temptations arise in our lives.

Jesus has authority and power to cleanse our hearts, and knowledge of what needs to be cleansed from them. The more junk there is in my heart, the harder and more painful the cleansing may be.

Prayer: Lord help me to keep the sanctuary of my heart reserved for your business alone, a house of prayer; and please cleanse me as you need to, hard as that may be.

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Contributor

Margaret

Margaret is the mother of our regular contributor, Emma. She lives in Cambridge and like Hannie, Lucy and Emma is a member of Christ Church. She teaches English in one of the Cambridge schools.

 

Faith Worked Out: Amy Orr-Ewing

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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 outside of the church context, or away from our families? What does it look like to live for God at school, at university or at work?

We have spent the summer speaking with women from all walks of life – from teachers to entrepreneurs, designers to stay-at-home mums, students, pupils, nurses and many more inspiring ladies – because we want to build up a bigger picture that might encourage you to pursue godly living in every area of your life. We want to use these interviews to remember that God is working everywhere, and how we are in this world to be used by Him, for His glory.

Today’s post is the first small glimpse of that big picture. We had the privilege of speaking with Amy Orr-Ewing, who shared her wisdom with us and answered our questions about faith, life and decision-making. You can find more about who Amy is and what she does below…
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Fun Five

1. What book do you have by your bedside table?
‘The Mind of the Maker’ by Dorothy L. Sayers.
2. The question you’re always asked?
Is *Frog his real name?
3. Favourite Psalm
Maybe Psalm 91… hard to choose a favourite!
4. Thing in your handbag you never use:
I travel a lot, so I am actually quite disciplined! Probably something my kids have dumped… let’s see – normally some kind of toy figure!?
5. Coffee Order:
Americano with a little bit of hot milk in the top. You have to remember the hot milk.

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Your work sounds very interesting and quite unusual. Please could you tell us about your work and what you do day-to-day? 

I am the European Director of the Zacharius Trust – the European region of RZIM International Ministries. The focus is on evangelism and apologetics, trying to reach sinking sceptics, happy pagans, and people who often would be outside the reach of the church. We come alongside the church to do evangelism and also train others to use apologetics: apologetics being the practice of giving reasons for the hope that’s within us (1 Peter 3:15) and engaging the mind.

Day to day that means I lead a team of evangelists, speakers and tutors at our centre here in Oxford (OCCA) training people who feel they have a calling into evangelism. I help shape the strategy and the work of our different European bases as well. We have a team in Romania and Austria, and teams in Spain and Turkey too! So we’re really trying to help them reach out in those contexts and make Christ known.

Anyway – what do I do!? I write, I write books, I go and give evangelistic talks and training all over the world. I also spend my time lecturing at the OCCA and I provide leadership for our team here.

How have you ended up working at RZIM? What led you to pursue the path you have chosen?

Well it’s interesting; so growing up I was always involved in evangelism, even at school – and both at primary school and at secondary school it was something that happened quite naturally for me. My friends became Christians, their parents became Christians, and it was something that I was always involved in and loved.

I was also quite academic and ended up at Oxford University, and I guess two elements that I loved came together: loving evangelism and seeing people become Christians, and beginning to use my mind and see the need for answers for people’s questions at a deeper level.

I met my husband *Frog at university as well, and we prayed a lot about our future. He knew he was called into full time Christian ministry (he is now an Anglican Vicar) and I think I knew that I was called to evangelism and apologetics, but I imagined that I would probably have a job and do it within my workplace, maybe also doing a few talks on the side.  I narrowed it down to two options: academia or law.

So, in my final year at university I made applications to law firms and decided that in prayer, if I got a First in my degree, I would do research, and if not, I would go into Law – that was my decision-making process..! I did get a First, and so I ended up doing a Masters, and over that time I was getting invited to speak at many, many places across the country.

That’s when I met Michael Ramsden and his wife Ann, and Ravi Zacharias, and through those relationships they inited me to come and join the team, which at that point was in the pioneering situation of trying to start an apologetics ministry here in Europe. My husband and I really prayed about it and we just knew that the Lord’s hand was in it!

All in all, there was a real combination of my passions – though from the start I knew what I felt called to do, I wasn’t always quite sure what the vehicle for this would be.

What is it that God has really put on your heart and given you a passion for? What is the vision that He has given you for your life?

I think there’s a big picture vision – making His name known among the nations, and being someone who is involved with that one-to-one where I see people come to Christ; and also preaching the Gospel and seeing people respond in lots of different varied contexts. This is what I’ve been involved in since I was a teenager really, and is the overarching big picture calling for me. Then there is also the whole area of the mind, and using the mind to really engage with people’s questions.

Then obviously my husband and I have been involved with church planting and church leadership. This is his leadership, but I am also involved – we very much do it together. There have been seasons and locations and places that we’ve been called to, and I really have a strong sense of purpose in this, knowing that we are placed where we’re meant to be.

Just yesterday we celebrated the 4th birthday of our church – it started off as a tiny group of people in our sitting room, and now we are seeing hundreds of people coming to church and new believers being baptised! It is really, really exciting to look back and see what God has done, but it’s also encouraging to know there’s so much still to be done.

I suppose I always have this overarching vision and ‘big picture’ calling – and then there are seasons in my life when that might look slightly different.

Have there been times when you’ve found it hard to know how to live for Jesus in certain areas of your life? What were the challenges, and what pointed you to Him in these times?

Yes absolutely – so, I went to two secondary schools – the first from 11-15 and then a different place for sixth form. In both contexts, when I started, I was the only Christian. I had widely dispersed Christian friends that I had met through camps, but I wasn’t in a church where there was ever a youth group or anything. I definitely really struggled with that question of loneliness and how to keep going when you feel like you’re the only one.

In my first school, I had friends who came to know the Lord and we had a Christian Union that I led – but then sixth form was a step ‘backwards’ in a sense…in that I was in a new place. I remember the feeling of going to parties where you’re the only person who isn’t drunk, and being the only person who isn’t doing things with boys – and there is such a sense of feeling alienated. I really remember that being very hard.

However, coming through those seasons for me was about being able to stand. A lot of Biblical imagery is about progressing, taking ground, seeing things grow and being part of something moving forward – but there is also a lot of language about standing your ground and being able to withstand and resist temptation.

For me, my time at sixth form was a season of learning how to ‘stand my ground’ amidst all the peer pressures, the external pressures, and the internal pressures: questions that we have as teenagers about our identity and our insecurities. Are we able to really find our identity in God – or is it often too caught up in what others think?

So, there is a real element of being prepared to be the only one – am I able to do that? Am I able to go against the flow?

For me, this was really, really hard and there was a lot of anxiety associated with being the only one. However, I think this is where I really learnt how to pray. There was a new depth in my prayer life borne out of desperation and loneliness – but actually I look back on this time now and I realise that I really, really valued that time of learning and I think God did wonderful things. That intimacy with the Lord was wonderful in that season, because I really leaned on Him.

Of course there have been other seasons when I’ve had to fight, and resist anxiety and fear as well, but having to endure struggles at school is a great foundation for being able to stand firm when challenges arise in later life.

What is your advice to girls seeking to live for Jesus even when they’re the only ones – how can we be telling our friends about the hope we have as Christians?

One of the things I would do is really make a conscious effort to do it naturally and not in a forced way. You could talk about going to church at the weekend with your family, or let it slip out that you are a Christian and you’re not embarrassed about it! It may be that there is something in the press or some celebrity with who you are able to identify – i.e. someone like Bear Grylls – my boys definitely speak about him lots! It’s an easy way of saying this is who I am, this is what I believe too.

In terms of evangelism – this might mean going a step further. One of the key things I would say is to learn how to ask questions, and not always expect others to ask you questions first. Be someone who goes out to other people, who asks others what they believe and why. Often when you do that, people reciprocate – and this gives you an opportunity to share a little bit about what you think and why. Jesus asked 157 questions in the gospels, he did it all the time – and this is something we can be doing too!

Sometimes it feels like the world is telling girls to get on and do everything – be the best at school, become Student Union President at uni, become a partner at work – and that the church is telling us we can’t do things, like preaching or leading.

What do you think the Bible says, and how can we reconcile what feels like opposing points of view?

I think we can read the Bible and reconcile that. We meet amazing women who are commended in the Bible – starting with the Old Testament, the Proverbs 31 woman immediately springs to mind. She runs her own business, knows the law, knows her influence, is well taught, is brilliant employer – and yes, she has a family and her family do rise up and call her blessed, but most importantly she is someone living a kingdom life, honouring God in every area of her ability. That sort of woman is commended!

Also commended are women of faith, like Hannah, Hannah who had to trust God through suffering and who was this amazing, loving mother. Women like Lydia, who again was a business woman who was able to host the Ephesian church in her home – Lydia was a woman of capacity and means, she was able to engage in church planting and reach out to her business community!

I would say go to the Bible for inspiration. Not to feel that we can never live up to these amazing women – but also to actually think – hold on, the bar isn’t on the floor! There is something to aim for, there is a standard to be inspired by!

How would you encourage girls who are at a bit of a crossroads in their life, looking to serve God passionately and whole-heartedly but unsure of the best way to do this?

I think that’s a really important discipleship question, and probably one of the most important ones that younger Christians face. I think there are different dimensions to the answer.

First: in prayer, really seek God for His calling on your life, and pursue that in prayer. Don’t just be passive and ‘see what happens’, but really be serious about that question of calling.

Secondly: look at what is in your hands – look at the resources that you have. Now often we think about ‘resources’ in terms of money or spiritual gifts, but I think its a much broader question than that. I think investments are made in us by our parents, so we can look at the capital we have in terms of our social network, the people we know and the influences and circles we move in.

And obviously our education is very valuable too – in world terms, a young woman in Britain with a university education is the most extraordinary investment of resources. You have in your hand something of incredible value – a degree is not just valuable for its academic status, but also for the doors that it opens socially and professionally.

And lastly – look at your personality. Are you a people person or more of an introvert, studious person? Be aware of the ability and the opportunity that is in your hand.

The question of calling brings all of those things together – yes, what is God calling? But also what is in my hand that I need to be a wise, good and faithful steward of? I meet a lot of Christians who don’t realise the amazing investment and almost absolve themselves of any opportunity to invest that talent (Jesus’ parable) – what are we doing with what God has placed in our hands?

A challenge for us all… let’s be praying and asking God to give us wisdom in how we use our gifts for His glory. A big thank you to Amy for sharing her helpful and inspiring words with us this week!

Identity in the big. Influence in the small.

This post is derived from the talk Lucy delivered at Hills Road Sixth Form College Christian Union on Friday 3rd October 2014. We hope it will encourage you to root yourself firmly in your identity in Christ, to pursue humility and authenticity in relationships and to influence those around you as you aim to shine for Jesus day by day.

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Before I wrote this piece, I thought a lot about my time at school, and the lessons that I learnt there. I adored school and learnt a lot – but the pressures of the school environment also made it a tough place.

Not just at school, but in most situations in life, there are pressures going on all around us. There is pressure to also be high-achieving, to be popular, to be successful, intelligent, liked – a pressure to appear sorted. But I’ve realised that my own desires to be all these things actually all stem from a desire for one thing: recognition.

In a school of 2000, you don’t get an awful lot of recognition. And in a world of 7 billion, surely it’s almost impossible for us to gain any solid recognition for ourselves? What is our identity, our purpose, our place in this world?

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
1 Peter 2:9

Here is the recognition that we are all searching for – and incredibly, not only are we simply recognised, but we are  affirmed, loved, valued and given identity by our Creator.

Identity in the big

How does 1 Peter 2:9 show us this identity?

- It tells us that God called us out of darkness into His wonderful light – so through Jesus dying for us to save us from our ‘darkness’ (sin), we are redeemed, restored and brought into relationship with God.

- It tells us that we are God’s special possession – not just another number, another student in the corridor, another person barely keeping their head above water – God loves us and sees us as precious and valued!

- It gives us purpose: that we might declare God’s praises. That we should tell the world of Jesus Christ and God’s saving grace. That we should tell our friends about how we have been brought from darkness to light.

So: we have our identity and our purpose in the big, in God’s large-scale design for us. But how do we reconcile our big, life-affirming identity in Christ, with our seemingly mundane day-to-day habits? Sometimes I don’t feel very influential at all!

Thinking more about this, I realise that there must be a difference between world-centred-influence and Christ-centred-influence. The world tells us to be self-focused, to value our own happiness above all else – to be the stars of our own show. But instead, I want to start pursuing a different kind of influence…

Influence in the small.

In my head, influence appears as big, strong, bossy, and powerful. Influence comes dressed in a suit, sure of itself, loud in its opinions. But who is the most influential person to have ever walked this earth?

Jesus.

Yet Jesus came to the world not in a suit, not raging on a chariot as the expected, powerful Messiah; but in a manger. And He died on a cross.

Jesus inverted expectations and dismantled the idea of power and influence as the world sees it. His influence travelled in many ways – yes, definitely in the large-scale and in the eternally significant: through his miracles, through his glorious resurrection; but actually also in the small.

But I can also think of two ways that Jesus ‘influenced in the small’, things that we can start modelling ourselves, as we seek to live lives that honour Jesus and present Him as glorious to our friends:

1. Christ-like Humility

You will be different, distinctive and influential if you seek to develop the humility of Jesus. Humility will draw people to you, just as they were drawn to Him.

This means you can stand firmly on your security in Christ, and you won’t be distracted by wanting to push yourself forward, but you can instead be outwards-looking and can shine for Jesus.

Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
so that at the right time he may lift you up.
(1 Peter 5:6)

Once we look past ourselves – we can be influential in the small, rooted in our big identity.

I want to suggest one specific challenge for you as you read this post – something that you can start seeking to do in your own day-to-day lives. It’s a challenge that I adore from Ty Gibson, taken from one of my old posts titled The Love Challenge:

“Go out of your way to connect with at least one new person this year in a consistent personal way, preferably somebody who seems alone or boring or obnoxious or marginalized or awkward or silent. Because people limp due to the fact that they’re wounded,
 and wounded people begin to heal and normalise
 and flower into their potential beauty
 through gracious human contact.”

Rooted in our big identity, we can start to point others to Jesus. We won’t simply be seeking the popular and the attractive – but we’ll be freed to seek the lost and weak. We can be radically, counterculturally humble.

How glorifying! How influential! How large-scale – yet in the seemingly small!

2. Christ-centred Relationships

The second way in which we can start to influence in the small is through doing relationships in a Christ-like way. John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible. Two words:

Jesus wept.

Jesus wept after speaking with Lazarus’ grieving sisters, Martha and Mary. This sounds like a normal context for grief – but yet Jesus was there by the tombside, because he was about to raise Lazarus! Why then, was he crying?

John Piper says a lot more about this verse here. But I’m intrigued as to how could Jesus could do this? And it seems it is because He was SO firmly rooted in his identity. I think this is a display of the raw humanity of Jesus. He loved deeply, and did every bump, twist and turn of life with his friends.

Jesus was always his Father’s Son. He was found spending time with his Father, always found in His Father’s house.

What do people say about us? Do they recognise us primarily as our Father’s daughters?

I know that I fall very short of being identified primarily as my Father’s daughter. However, I would love to start trying to influence in the small, by being so clearly rooted in my big identity, that I can laugh with my friends when they laugh, and cry when they cry. I would love to be recognised as firmly rooted in the identity my Father gives me.

I want to influence my friends by doing life with them, by constantly pointing them to Jesus in all the small, seemingly insignificant things that we experience together day to day. This is salt-and-light living!

“Be blameless and pure, children of God without a fault,
in the midst of a warped and twisted generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky, as you hold firmly to the Word of life.”

We can shine only by holding firmly to Jesus, rooted in our identity in Him. Amen!

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Lucy Twitter-Bird@lucybeauchamp

I’m Lucy and I’m just beginning my final year at Durham University. I love my hometown Cambridge and I also love living in the beautiful little city of Durham, where the coffee shops are plentiful and the people are GREAT!

Running More Precious is one of my favourite things and it’s the biggest source of encouragement for me! Like I said in my bio, I’m still learning how to live out a little of the thankfulness of Pollyanna, the kindness of Katy Carr and the faith of the Proverbs 31:25 girl – perhaps one day I’ll get there!

Water Into Wine

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Today we’re looking at John 2: 1 – 10 – ‘Jesus Turns Water Into Wine’

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.  When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside  and said:

“Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

Mary instinctively found Jesus and told him her problem ‘They have no more wine’. This is what we need to do, but Jesus gently reminds her that he will do his work in his time, not her work in her time.

Sometimes my instinct is to tell Jesus what I need him to do for me, but I can confidently trust that if I bring my need to him he will resolve it in his way and in his timing.

Mary continues in faith, telling the servants to do whatever he tells them – if we ask for Jesus’ help, we too need to be prepared to respond however he may prompt us.

When Jesus told the servants to fill the jars, they filled them ‘to the brim’. They did all he asked, as well as they possibly could, not half-heartedly or by half-measure.

The lesson is clear, and the outcome wonderful – the result was better than anyone could have thought or imagined.

Be encouraged!

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Contributor

Margaret

Margaret is the mother of our regular contributor, Emma. She lives in Cambridge and like Hannie, Lucy and Emma is a member of Christ Church. She teaches English in one of the Cambridge schools.

Life-Giving Words

Following on from Al’s wonderful wisdom on the topic of gossip (Part I and Part II) last week, Katie is writing more about the power of words for us today – as we explore how words can be used to bring life, to encourage, and to point our friends to the hope we have. This is a hugely inspiring post, full of the ways in which the Bible refers to the importance of words, and the identity of our hearts. We hope it challenges you to be girls that encourage, bring life, and speak truth!

Words

I love looking for themes in the Bible. Once you start searching, they pop up everywhere! Recently, I’ve taken the theme of Words. I’ve rummaged through different books for what God says, and how he uses, words.

This means I realise my post today only scratches the surface on the topic, so I encourage you to pick up a highlighter pen and find other ways God speaks to us about words.

Words are powerful.

“Let there be light!” boomed at the dawn of creation.

With “Little girl, get up!” Jesus brought the dead to life.

“I do” will join two people together for the rest of their lives.

And forget the sticks and stones, words can hurt!

So I’ve woken up, and am all ears, as I begin to truly value words: to realise the importance and potential for both good and bad.

Paul tells us to “Let everything [we] say be good and helpful, so that [our] words will be an encouragement to all who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29).

I want my words to sound like that! I want to be known as someone who’s words build people up.

Returning to Matthew 12, as in Al’s post last week – “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks”.

Each of our words are rooted in our hearts. In order to speak life-giving words, our hearts must be healthy. Jesus makes it unquestionably clear that we can not dismiss words spat out in the heat of the moment.

“Our casual words reveal something deeper. What really matters is the state of our hearts.” (NT Wright).

It is imperative that we have a healthy heart, if we want to speak words of life and encouragement.

Proverbs 4:23 says“Guard your heart above all else for it determines the way you live”.

Here are two main ways we can ensure our hearts keep healthy and pure, like fruitful soil from which the words of our mouth grow.

1. Spending time with Jesus.

To become more like him means sharing life with him. Reading his Word, meditating on it and on who he is, listening to his voice and promptings.

As we give more and more of our lives to our King Jesus and to loving the words he speaks in the Bible, the Holy Spirit meets us and works on our hearts, and we become more like him. And if you think about it practically, reading and knowing the words of Jesus, what he spoke to the people he encountered, forms our example.

2. Being secure in our identity.

Often, the words we are not proud of spark from insecurities. These insecurities are found in the parts of our heart that are still orphan, clinging onto independence rather than surrender and sonship. They can also come from words, lies, which have been spoken over us.

Words, now so engrained in our pattern of thinking, we do not question or even notice them on a daily occurrence. Insecurities come from not letting Jesus drench every part of us with the knowledge of who, and whose, we are.

I’ll give an example to make this clearer. An insecurity: “If I look attractive, this group of people will accept me, which makes me significant”.

This can manifest itself in words such as “Oh my word, look at her” or “I look so fat today”. Discontentment with appearance, intelligence, the group of people we spend time with, or the quest for significance, are issues of the heart from which words of discouragement and bitterness can overflow.

Now drench this insecurity in the truth that only one opinion matters, and that is of our Father God (1 Corinthians 4:3-5, Galatians 1:10).

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies declares that we are significant because we are united with Christ (Ephesians 1:4).

Expose this insecurity to the knowledge that we are now children, (Romans 8:15) and friends of God (John 15:15), we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and we are placed exactly where God wants us to be (Proverbs 16:9, Esther 4:14).

A heart firmly rooted, washed in truth, and continually meditating on its real identity, is a healthy heart. We can not do this in our own strength, but with the Holy Spirit.

The words that overflow from a heart saved by grace are words that are higher, that are encouraging, that shout and sing praise and thanks to God, words of contentment and joy. This is not legalistic, we have not been given a set phrase book.

An indicator of the work we are letting Jesus do in our hearts now we are part of his family, are the words we speak.

And let’s rejoice in God’s grace. Even though we daily mess up in the words we speak, when we return to Jesus, his arms are open wide.

For “God saved us by his grace when we believed. We can not take credit for this, it is a gift from God.” Ephesians 2:8.

So let’s once again make the words of the psalmist our prayer this week:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

If you want to embark on the search for what God says about words, here are some more verses to help you get started!
James 1:19, Proverbs 12:18-19, Psalm 119:103

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Katie

Katie

Originally from Essex, but newly a resident of Ipswich, Katie is going into her third year at Durham where she’s involved in Bethshan church, Hatfield college and the CU. She loves adventure and dreaming big – with God all things are possible! Katie is passionate about working with girls and being rooted in identity in Christ. She is daily overwhelmed and thankful for the people God has put in her life.

Don’t Quit

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Then the Lord said to Joshua:
“See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.
Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark.

On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.” Joshua 6:2-5

When God called me to give up a job promotion and go travelling, I thought He was mad, especially as I was still very new to walking with God and having a relationship with him. Most of the people I knew also thought I was mad, especially as I was too self conscious to tell anyone outside my family that I believed God was calling me to go. I’ll admit, I didn’t know how to explain it to others, when I didn’t really understand it myself. It must have appeared to outsiders that I was just giving up a great opportunity on a whim.

God may not be calling you to shout the Gospel in the corridors or give up school completely (!), but he might be calling you to talk to your friends about Jesus, or invite someone to your youth group event. He might be calling you to step out of a certain friendship group or start making an effort with another one. The key is not to worry about what others think of you, but to fix your eyes on God and on what He’s calling you to do.

If you saw people marching around a wall saying that their actions were going to cause it to fall down – you’d probably think they were insane! But despite what people may have thought, Joshua followed God’s instructions to the letter and as a result, the wall fell and Joshua took the city.

You may feel that you’ve been obedient to God’s calling for you, but you haven’t had a breakthrough yet, or haven’t seen the results you were hoping for. The answer is if it’s God’s calling – don’t quit. We can learn a lot from Joshua, in that he didn’t grumble about how much his feet hurt, or complain that the wall hadn’t come down straight away… he simply kept going and was fully obedient to God.

Being a Christian should come with an advisory sticker: Warning: Following God’s Word and will may cause seemingly impossible things to happen.

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill;
When funds are low and debts are high
And when you want to smile but you have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is strange with its twists and turns
As every one of us learns,
And many a failure turns about
When they might have won if they’d stuck it out.
Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow,
And you may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out,
God’s hidden gift in the clouds of doubt,
You never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Edgar A Guest

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Araba

Araba lives and works in Surrey. She’s a newly converted baking enthusiast who is definitely learning by trial and error. In her spare time she loves playing netball and being part of a book club. Araba recently returned from 9 months of travelling and has been both encouraged and stretched by the challenges and people that God put in her path.

Stopping Gossip (Part II)

Welcome to Part II of Stopping Gossip! Do take some time to read this post carefully, maybe with a notebook or journal. You might want to think and pray about how you can both meditate on God’s truths and His will for the way we speak, and also pray about how you can start to use the practical points that Al has outlined in your day-to-day conversations. I’ll definitely be re-returning to this post as I try and change my heart and use my words to glorify God. I hope you enjoy it too. L xo

Words

God is changing our hearts so our words matter.

What things will it be helpful to bear in mind as we willingly participate with the ways that God is changing us?

1. Words are very important.
God has spoken his full and final word in Jesus, Jesus himself is the Word, and the gospel comes to us in the form of words. These truths have implications for how we use our words. First, we need to know the healthy words of the gospel deep in our hearts for ourselves, so we can speak them to others. Secondly, because the words of the gospel are true and healthy, our lives and our words need to match (2 Corinthians 4:2). If you’re a gossip and a backstabber it’ll be hard for people to listen when you speak true gospel words.

2. Our words can be a useful barometer.
If you want to know what’s going on in your heart:
a) Listen to your words. Do you gossip about others?
b) Listen to what others say to you. Do people seek you out to speak about others?
c) Think about where you go when something happens. Do you immediately turn to God in prayer or first seek out a friend to chat to? Surely we should turn to the Lord first and yet our words might well show us that we don’t.

So why not take your spiritual temperature over the coming weeks? My words regularly remind me of my double-mindedness and drive me back to Jesus.

3. God’s work in changing our hearts is not an excuse for laziness.
As we seek to walk worthily, we need to practice using our words well – which means no corrupting talk and only that which builds up and gives grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).  We need to be proactive in co-operating with God’s work in the way we use our words.

4. Christians should speak differently, because God is changing us.
Without Jesus everyone has deathly throats and deceitful tongues (Romans 3:13-14) as they follow in Satan’s pattern who uses words to lie, deceive and kill. Yet Christians can speak healthy words which are a testimony to God’s work in our lives. If we bear these things in mind, they will help us as we co-operate with God’s heart-changing power.  However, gossip is about more than the words we use, it’s also about the words we listen to.

Listening to others

How do we respond when others gossip to us?  God’s word tells us that we love gossip like we love delicious morsels.  So we need to respond quickly and decisively when gossip starts.  Ask yourself:

  • Do I need to know this?
  • Do I need all of the details?
  • Would the person involved mind me knowing this?
  • Am I being contaminated by what I’m hearing?

Unwholesome talk has no place in our lives so don’t indulge in it yourself and lovingly challenge your Christian friends if they do*. They might not appreciate it straight away…but their godliness is more important!

However, we can’t expect to avoid gossip in our everyday conversations – and there are a few things we can do to prepare ourselves and be distinctive when conversation turns…

  • Expect and be ready for it
  • Don’t expect to change it, as only God can do this in the lives of your friends.
    Your non-Christian friends don’t need moralising, they need Jesus.
  • Be consistent in your refusal to indulge in it, even in really appealing gossip. You could take yourself out of a conversation or say that you don’t want to listen.  It probably won’t make any difference as to whether gossip happens, but it’ll help you to be distinct in a dark world (even if that then makes you the target of the gossip).

Where to now?

As you spend some time thinking about this dwell on Psalm 19 and echo David’s prayer:

‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.’

As you do thank God that he is in the business of changing hearts and seek to co-operate fully with his work.

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*We hope you’ve been challenged by Al’s wise words – we certainly have! Maybe you’re going to commit with a friend to being accountable to each other about the way you use words. If so, you might find it useful to flick back to our Bittersweet Friendships post for how to build friendships that challenge and ‘sharpen’.

Next week, we’ll be returning to Psalm 19 as our starting point, when Katie will be writing for us on how we can instead use our words powerfully and positively: as girls who encourage, girls who build up, girls who use their words to praise and glorify the One who made them. Happy chatting!

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Alison

Alison lives in Durham, where she’s lived for the last 20 years.  For most of that time she’s been working at a church in the heart of Durham and has done a variety of jobs including working with women, students and children.   She loves cooking, rugby league and spending time with her nephew, niece and godchildren.

Stopping Gossip (Part I)

If you’re anything like me, knowing how to speak in a way that glorifies Jesus is a struggle. Most of us will have hundreds of conversations every single day – at school, at uni or at work, and it’s so easy to get distracted and engage in gossip or speak about people badly. How can we start to speak consistently, honestly and distinctively, as girls of integrity?

Al is writing for us today and on Saturday about why we speak in the way we do, about how importantly words are viewed in the Bible, and on how we have to focus on our hearts before we will see a change in our words. Hoping you find today’s first post as challenging as we did!

Words

According to statistics women speak about 20,000 words daily.  That’s a lot of words! So how do you use yours?

Have you heard the playground chant, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’?  Rubbish!  Words can really hurt.  James 3:3-8 says that the tongue is small but hugely powerful.  A careless word or inflammatory remark can do enormous damage.

But words also have power to do amazing good – just look at how God speaks.  His words create, enlighten, heal and give life.

What about our words?  Christians know we should use our words to build up and not tear down, to encourage and not ruin. We know what benefit well placed, kind words bring (Proverbs 16:24) and what damage hurtful words can do (Proverbs 12:18).  Yet we often don’t use our words as we want to.  We get carried away in conversations and say more than we should.   We pass on information that isn’t ours to pass on.  We justify gossiping because we’ve been hurt by others.  Sadly quarrelling, gossip and slander are commonplace.  So what are we to do?

Many techniques are extolled to encourage using wholesome words.  But there is a fundamental problem with them.  They deal with the symptoms, not the disease.  What comes out of our mouths simply shows what’s going on in our hearts.

Matthew 12:33-35 explains a simple equation: if it’s inside, it’ll come out; if it’s not inside, it can’t come out.

Our words aren’t the problem, our hearts are.

If we want to use helpful, kind, wise words the only thing that will help is a change of heart.  This is great news for Christians as God is dealing with our hearts and so he’s dealing with our words.  We can change, but it needs to be gospel-fuelled change focussed on Jesus and his substitutionary death and glorious resurrection.  We see that with Peter and John in Acts 4 as God works on their hearts.  They’re arrested and told not to speak about Jesus.  They respond by saying they ‘cannot but speak of what [they] have seen and heard.’  They know the gospel and they can’t stop speaking of Jesus.  Their hearts are full of Christ – and so out of the abundance of their hearts, their mouths speak.

God is changing us too as we grow in knowledge and love of Jesus.

Our hearts are being transformed, and so our words are too.

And yet, if we’re honest, we’re far from godly in this area. In his letter James calls this double-mindedness as we use the same mouth to bless God and say bad things, or ‘curse’ people.  We try to have one foot in God’s camp and one in the world’s.  But we can’t.  James is very clear that we’re to draw near to God and flee from the devil.  We need to recognise the battle we’re in and willingly participate as God changes us, which includes working hard at using words in a way that pleases him.

But before we get to that in Saturday’s post, lets finish today by thinking about what’s going on in our hearts that leads us to speak corrupting words.

Imagine a friend has said something unkind to you.  You’ve sorted things out but you were hurt by what she said. When you’re chatting to a different friend you’re very willing to tell her what’s happened.  Why would you do that?  Well… you want revenge don’t you?  You’ve been hurt by someone and so you feel justified in gossiping.

Revenge is one of many roots of our unhealthy words – others include pride, hatred, jealousy, anger, self-centredness, or envy.  The sin of corrupting talk gets tangled up with lots of other sins.  So – we need to be honest about our struggles; we need to confess that we love gossip and fuelling the fire; we need to admit that we enjoy passing things on and being told things by others.  We desperately need to plead with God to change our hearts.

Check back on Saturday for Part II, to find out more about how God is in the business of change!

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Alison

Alison lives in Durham, where she’s lived for the last 20 years.  For most of that time she’s been working at a church in the heart of Durham and has done a variety of jobs including working with women, students and children. She loves cooking, rugby league and spending time with her nephew, niece and godchildren.

Taking Risks

Joshua 2 tells the story of a woman called Rahab who hid two spies in the roof of her house and enabled them to escape from the king of Jericho and report back to Joshua, whom God had spoken to about giving the Israelites promised land. 

We’d love you to read this story of God’s faithfulness in Rahab’s life, and use this devotional to encourage you to keep trusting God in your decision-making and your risk-taking.

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There are times in life when we are called to step out in faith, when we don’t know what the outcome will be. This can feel like a huge risk, particularly in an environment where we encounter unbelievers. As the new term gets underway, you may feel challenged to share your faith with non-Christian friends, or to undertake another activity which takes you out of your spiritual comfort zone and feels like an impossible task.

Rahab could have played it safe and refused to help the spies, but she recognised God’s hand in the situation and blessed the spies by helping them to escape. As a result of her stepping out in faith, Rahab was also blessed, and the lives of her and her family were spared during the resulting invasion.

This isn’t to say we should only step out in faith because we expect to be blessed by it, or we should become reckless in our decision making, but our motives should be being a blessing to others and bringing glory to God. Stepping out of your spiritual comfort zone will look different for each and every one of us.

What does hearing God’s voice speaking into your life look like? I believe that it’s different for everyone, but for me it began with a conscience-like voice prompting me to make decisions about going travelling and deciding who I spent my time with.

My walk with God has taught me that that there’s no such thing as coincidence.

It was no accident that the spies chose Rahab’s house over any other house in the city, it was a God-led decision.

God is sovereign over every little event that happens across the course of your life: from the people you meet, to the situations you face day to day, He works everything together. Our job is simply to step out in faith when we are called to. During a recent sermon I heard, a pastor explained:

‘God isn’t upset if we take the wrong leap of faith,
He’s just pleased that we stepped off the ledge in the first place.
A life of faith is lived R-I-S-K.’

God might call you to give something up, or take something on, and while it may seem like an incredibly hard thing to do, more often than not, God has something even better in store for you than the life you’re currently living. Be girls who are prepared to take risks for the sake of Jesus. Be distinctive, bold, brave and glorifying to God!

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Araba

Araba lives and works in Surrey. She’s a newly converted baking enthusiast who is definitely learning by trial and error. In her spare time she loves playing netball and being part of a book club. Araba recently returned from 9 months of travelling and has been both encouraged and stretched by the challenges and people that God put in her path.

Do you trust me?

Lots of day-to-day conversations revolve around two things: decisions and the future. What do you want to be when you grow up? What are you doing next year? What subjects have you chosen? Which universities have you applied to? This incessant thinking-ahead can often lead to us worrying, which leads to us forgetting that we have a Father God who is in control of our every moment.

Rachael is writing for us today about trusting God; on how to refocus your mind and rest in His sovereignty. This is a post perfect for girls who are planning their next steps, panicking about the future – or simply for those prone to a little worrying!

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I don’t know about you but I’m someone who can tend towards being anxious! As I prepare for a time of change after I graduate, there is potential for anxiety to dominate my thought life.

Questions spin around in my head: What job will I get? Where will I live? Will I earn enough money? Will I cope in the working world after being a student? These are regular thoughts which run through my mind!

Throughout the past few days and weeks God has been challenging me with the question of ‘do you trust me?’

As I begin the daily, repetitive cycle of looking through job websites, I can often find myself becoming more and more anxious. Anxious that I won’t find any employment, anxious that I’m under-qualified for any of the positions I see advertised, anxious that I will be the only one of my peers without a job in months to come. God has slowly been teaching me that being anxious is something which reflects a misunderstanding of, or blindness to His sovereign character and caring involvement in every day of our lives.

Here are some passages from the Bible for you to meditate on in times of anxiety or worry – because even when we don’t know what our next steps might look like, we do know who God is. For the truth is this:

Our Father God goes before us in all we do.

‘The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;
He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged.’
Deuteronomy 31: 8

He knows our yesterday, today and tomorrow.

‘You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me’
Psalm 139:5

‘Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book’
Psalm 139:16

Jesus tells us not to be anxious about your life. In the verses following, he reminds us that we are his valuable children whom he knows intimately and loves extravagantly, and so – worrying is wasted time and energy. He sees and provides us with all we need.

Quite aptly at over the past few weeks I have been reading the book ‘Calm My Anxious Heart’ by Linda Dillow. Whilst reading, God has been graciously reminding me of His control and showing me that I can trust in his timing, sovereignty and involvement in every month, week, day and hour of my life. One section of the book which I found particularly challenging is titled ‘Playing Ball With God’.

‘We find ourselves playing catch with God… Our trust level must be higher if we are to learn the secret of contentment. We must give the ball to God and leave it there. No more games of catch. Are you going to judge God by the circumstances you don’t understand or judge the circumstances in the light of the character of God?’

I can see how this analogy of playing catch has been true with my worries about the future. It’s all too easy to give over your worries to God before breakfast and have taken them back to wrestle with on your own by lunch time. It’s often in this place that I then hear the whisper, ‘do you trust me?’

God has been bringing me to a place of surrender, to a place of putting the unknowns of my future into his hands trusting He is who he says He is and is a faithful Father to us, His children. He is (patiently!) teaching me to judge my circumstances in light of His character. If I haven’t been short listed for a job or if I’m given a ‘no’ after an interview I must choose to trust that this is God in his faithful character working out His best for me.

This same faithful, loving God knows all the worries of your mind as well as mine. So if you aren’t doing well at school, if you are struggling with friends, if you are panicking about which ‘next steps’ to take, or anxious about illness or family relationships – God goes before you and is sovereign over every situation you will ever face.

Whatever your anxieties might be today, take time to remind yourself of who God is, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you put each anxious thought into God’s all sufficient hands.

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Rachael

Hello! I’m Rachael, 23 and have just graduated from the University of Nottingham with a Sociology degree. I grew up in Essex, spent a few months living in Australia and am now living in Devon near the sea. My favourite things are chatting with people, food, exploring new places and laughing ‘til my belly hurts. I love that there is something more of God for us to discover every day!

Summer Series: Glory in the Ruins

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The Summer Series has totally blown us away from start to finish. We are completely humbled by God’s hand so clearly at work in the lives of the girls reading, and we’re hugely excited for the future. If you’ve only just started following More Precious, the entire series is collected here and is also linked at the bottom of this post. We’re praying the posts will continue to be encouraging, affirming resources for girls from all walks of life for a long time to come.

We wanted to explore a little more with you one of the themes that has returned in almost every single post: the idea that God uses our ‘ruins’ for His glory. Indeed, the big picture of the Bible is the journey from judgement and ruin to restoration and glory – and central to this truth is our Saviour, Jesus.

“In that day I will restore the fallen house of David.
I will repairs its broken walls.
From the ruins, I will rebuild it and restore its former glory.”
Amos 9:11

God works by putting ‘the old’ to death and creating something new in us. This is the Gospel: we are made new in Christ . And God is also at work in our present situations, rebuilding our ruins and renewing us from the inside, day by day.

But, our Summer Series isn’t a display cabinet of fully-restored, fully-repaired lives. Nor were all our tough, painful questions fully answered. Living for Jesus hasn’t become easy. Cracks remain. Yet, it is through these cracks that God’s presence has truly shone. Just as in the art of Kintsukuroi, God’s grace shines like gold through the cracks in our lives, so that others might see that in our brokenness, our Creator is restoring us.

Each of the posts this summer has been personal, with themes of struggle, mistakes, rejection of God’s will, straying hearts, painful decisions; but all have returned to the work of God’s saving grace. Grace that fills up all our hurt, our cracks, our pain, our brokenness. And through these honest stories, so, so many girls have been pointed back to relationship with God: He really has been glorified in our brokenness.

“Sometimes the cracks remain so that the glory and light of
His presence can shine from within us for others to see.”
Elfrieda Nickel

Our lives will never be clean, perfect and sorted – not on this Earth. We are cracked and broken, we will make mistakes, and we will continue to choose our own way above God’s perfect will for us. But like a potter, God repairs us, shapes us, and moulds us, filling our cracks with His glorious grace, making us whole again. And when we are at our most broken, we can know the character of God most fully; truly learning to walk as children of light and of promise even in the darkest times.

For we are Christ’s, we have been redeemed, and we are being renewed day by day,
restored in the love of God. Glory in the ruins, always.

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

Beautiful Things, Gungor

And provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendour.
Isaiah 61:3

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Summer Series: Glory in the Ruins

Grief // Beauty & physical appearance // Sex before marriage // Returning to God // Choosing who to date // Insecurities about skin // Physical boundaries in dating // Marriage (1) // Marriage (2) // Anorexia // Doubting your faith  // Pornography // Peer pressure // Singleness (1) // Singleness (2) // Modesty // Sexual sin // Depression // Stress // Perfectionism

Stepping Out

Introducing the first of our ‘miniblog’ devotionals! This new weekly slot will be for shorter posts, which we hope will help you to learn more about God’s character through the Bible and encourage you to live for Jesus in all areas of your life. Our new writer Araba is starting us off, with her first post on how to step out in faith and live radically as a daughter of the King!

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‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’
Joshua 1:9

Going back to school can be a daunting experience for several reasons. You might be nervous about starting a new year, finding new friends or doing well in exams. Some of you may also have spent the summer in the bubble that is a Christian camp or festival, or will be wondering how to find that balance between home and school – particularly if the majority of your friends at school aren’t Christians.

The reassuring thing is, while you may feel like everyone else has it all figured out, the reality is that up and down the country, thousands of young people are wondering how they are going to fit in with others, balance their school work and stay excited about getting to know God and serving Him.

Perhaps you’re wondering how to broach the subject and let your friends know that you are, or have become, a Christian. What an encouragement to know that we aren’t alone, even when it may feel like it. God is with us during good times and the bad times, when we feel confident and when we lack confidence. You may worry about what friends will say or how they’ll react to your decision to follow Christ. But, let’s remember that God doesn’t call us to keep Him a secret:

“We’re here to be the light, bringing out the God colours 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.’
Matthew 5:14 (MSG)

Recently, I had the opportunity to go swimming with mantarays. Despite being terrified of open water – to the point where I haven’t been swimming in over ten years- I did it. I prayed about it because I knew it was a once in a lifetime experience and that I would kick myself if I didn’t overcome my fear and step out in faith that God would be with me. God might be prompting you too, to step out and do things at school or at college; maybe reach out and speak to someone about your faith, join a Christian Union group, or reach out to a person who is on the fringes.

The challenge is not only making the decision to give your life to Christ, but being courageous enough to live by that decision every day. It sounds like a mountain to climb, but thankfully, God gives us the tools to do it, and you don’t have to do it alone..
- He will be with you wherever you go!

Father, I want to be light for you – at school, at home, and with my friends.
Please give me the strength and courage to step out in faith, and to live for you in everything I do.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Araba

Araba lives and works in Surrey. She’s a newly converted baking enthusiast who is definitely learning by trial and error. In her spare time she loves playing netball and being part of a book club. Araba recently returned from 9 months of travelling and has been both encouraged and stretched by the challenges and people that God put in her path.

Every Tear

Life is messy and hard and none of us will go through it without experiencing times of great sadness and confusion – especially when we lose somebody we know and love. Emma is writing for us today about grief, about how we don’t have to feel ashamed or guilty when we feel overwhelmingly sad – and how Jesus is our model of someone who lived, loved and hurt.

We’re praying that today’s post will comfort you if you are in a time of sadness or confusion, if you are still processing how to deal with loss – or if you are trying to be a good friend to somebody who is. In her own story of how she came to know God more fully in a time of great sadness, Emma reminds us that God is always good, that He is faithful, and that He loves.

It was Saturday at the start of May half term, 2006. I was 16 and half way through my GCSE exams, revising as if my whole life depended on it. I loved the feeling of ticking the exams off one at a time and was looking forward to a day off from my overly detailed revision plan.

That evening, my Mum took a phone call that would change my perspective on life from that moment forward. She didn’t tell me straight away what had happened, but eventually, she sat me down and told me she had some news. A friend of mine, who was 19, had been on his way home from university for the summer. He was stabbed whilst he was on the train. He hadn’t survived.

In the days that followed, I experienced a level of grief and sadness that I have never experienced before. The fact that the story was splashed across the news inevitably made it harder, along with the emotional comparison story that the journalists ran: the student who had everything to live for, killed by a man who had reportedly been released from prison only weeks before.

The weeks that followed were the most exhausting weeks I have ever had. Getting out of bed each day became a battle. I didn’t feel like eating, or sleeping or seeing anyone. The thought doing any revision for the rest of my exams didn’t even enter my realm of thinking.

The range of emotions we feel when we lose someone is overwhelming. There is the initial shock, and feeling that it can’t quite be true. There are feelings of guilt – why wasn’t I kinder to them? Why didn’t I look after them better? Why didn’t I make more of an effort to see them? Then there come feelings of anger – and I managed to be angry with pretty much everyone. I was angry at people who didn’t even speak to me or acknowledge what had happened, and at the same time was angry with people who tried to talk to me too much about what had happened.

I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the topic of coping with grief as a Christian, so I will just mention a few things that God taught me personally. My prayer is that some of it might be helpful for you or someone that you know who is grieving at the moment.

Firstly, it is ok to grieve. In the Bible, there is a moving, beautiful passage that shows Jesus grieving for his friend Lazarus:

When Jesus therefore saw Mary weeping, and the Jews who had come with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said, ‘Lord, Come and see.’ Jesus wept. And so the Jews were saying, ‘Behold, how He loved Him!
John 11:33-36

Here, we see Jesus’ great compassion, we see his love for others and we see him hurting – so we know that it is totally ok for us to cry and feel sad. It is a natural human response, and it shows that we too love, care and hurt – just like Jesus.

Sometimes it can also feel like we ought to have permission or a good enough reason to grieve, but I don’t think this is the case. It doesn’t matter whether it was your closest friend or someone you met once, whether they had lived a long successful life or a very short one, whether their death came as a sudden shock or you had some warning that it might come soon, it is ok to be upset. Grieving in itself isn’t sinful and we shouldn’t feel that we have ‘man up’ or put on a brave face.

Secondly, one of the most difficult aspects of grief is the feeling of being so alone. I remember desperately wanting to talk to someone who had been through a similar experience to me but I just couldn’t find anyone who might understand. When we are grieving, it can be really hard to talk about how we are feeling, either because we don’t quite know how to express our feelings in words or because we don’t feel like we have anyone we can be totally honest with.

As Christians, we can remember that we are never alone.

God promises that He is always with us. His Holy Spirit lives in us. God also gives us the gift of the church whose job it is to love in the way that Jesus taught us to love. We should lean on our church family when we are grieving. That’s what they are there for, and it is ok to be proactive and ask them for help. Similarly, we should make ourselves available to be leant on by others who are grieving or suffering in other ways. (Sometimes it can be hard to know how to comfort someone. Knowing how to be still and listen is so valuable – and saying “I’m sorry” is a great place to start.)

Finally, run into God’s arms.

When we are hurting that much, and we cant explain why something happened, or why we are feeling so emotionally raw, all of the usual resources we rely upon – like our ability to control things, our emotional strength, our energy – are stripped away from us. There is only one place for us to go. It is in times of grief and pain that we have no option but to look to who we know and trust God to be.

Our heavenly father is totally loving. He is overwhelmingly kind.
He is perfectly good. He is always just. He will never abandon us.

If I’m honest, there are times when I was grieving when I found it hard to believe some of those truths, and it was several years before I had even realised the effect that grief had had on my faith. The journey that God took me on to learn to live having lost my friend is continuous. There are days when it still makes me really sad. But when push comes to shove, I believe that God exists and that in His mercy, he loves me and made the biggest sacrifice ever so that I can be called His daughter. Everything else follows from there.

As someone who has a tendency to shed tears at almost every opportune moment (it’s just the way I’m wired!), there is one Bible verse that really speaks to me and shines a light into the darkness of grief:

For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
Revelation 7:17

This verse is talking about Jesus. He is leading us to a perfect eternal life. We are heading towards this day where there will be no more pain, no more guilt, no more anger and no more death. Ask God to help you to grab hold of this promise, and not let go.

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Emma

Emma graduated from Cambridge two years ago, having studied law. She now enjoys working in finance, which comes as a surprise to those who know her. Emma lives in Cambridge and loves being a member of Christ Church. She loves music, food, Jesus, her friends and since her wedding in April this year (!) is loving the adventure of marriage!

Gospel-Motivated Modesty

On Saturday, Laura shared with us how being a model as a Christian has changed her perception of what ‘beauty’ really is. She pointed to God’s all-encompassing love and encouraged us to find our satisfaction in Him rather than in our physical appearance. Today, Emma is writing for us on how we can respond to this in the way we choose to dress. As girls in today’s society, we receive lots of conflicting messages about the issue of ‘modesty’ – how do we define it? Should we ignore it? Are there rules to stick by?

Here at More Precious we want to encourage you to live love-shaped lives, and for Jesus to be at the heart of your decisions and choices. And, though it can be hard enough knowing what to wear or how to look without bringing ‘modesty’ into it – we should be aiming to live for Jesus and for the sake of others above ourselves, because we love Him and we want others to know Him too. Just like Paul in 1 Corinthians 9, love has to be our ultimate motivation. We hope that today’s post will encourage you to think honestly about the motivations behind your appearance, based on a foundation of  love.

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Image credit to Garance Dore

How much leg is too much? When is a skirt too short? It is impossible to find a definitive answer to questions like these, because society’s view of modesty changes. In the early 19th century, showing your ankle was considered immodest. Today, a little twerking seems alright.

But hang on a minute: we are called to be girls that look beyond the standards of society and instead live for Jesus in the best. most honourable way we can. So – let’s not discount ‘modesty’ as an old-fashioned term that doesn’t have relevance for us today. What does the Bible say about it?

Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:8-10:

“I desire…that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-
control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess to worship God.”

Paul is not saying that to be modest you have to cover your body in frumpy clothes that hide your shape. The word ‘adorn’ means to enhance and make beautiful, and is used several times throughout the Bible to describe a bride making herself beautiful for her husband, mirroring God’s relationship with the church (Isaiah 61:10, Revelation 21:2). It is fine to ‘adorn’ yourself; in fact it is encouraged. The question is just what with.

Paul says we should dress in ‘respectable apparel’ – so what is considered respectable?

Well, he goes on to state that ‘braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire’ is not what he had in mind. But here comes the ‘C’ word: context. Paul was writing this letter to Timothy regarding his ministry in Ephesus. At the time, a lot of the people in the church in Ephesus were in the habit of dressing extravagantly, with fancy hairstyles and expensive clothing.

They were obsessed with showing their wealth.

So if we shouldn’t be showing our wealth, does that mean we shouldn’t wear designer clothing? Well, Paul rebuked the Ephesians for dressing to show off. But the problem wasn’t that they were spending money on their clothes, it was their motivations. Their focus was only on what they wore and that they were seen to be wearing the very best clothing, rather than focusing what was most important – God.

What Paul is really saying is this:

You should dress in a way that shows you want attention to be on God,
and not on yourself.

Think about your motivations. Do you wear what you wear because it feels good to know that other people are envious of your outfit? Are you constantly striving to look better than your friends? Are you seeking attention from certain people? Are you placing a higher importance upon how other people perceive you, than on how God views you?

Perhaps we should start viewing modesty in its broader sense: how we can dress in a way that best glorifies God. It’s not simply about covering ourselves up as much as possible, but about dressing in a way that shows the world we are living for something greater, we are not seeking our identity through our appearance, but we are comfortable in our identity as God’s daughter. This won’t mean having to commit to looking like an 8-person tent, but it might mean dressing in a way that will make people remember you and what you stand for, rather than your clothes.

Because Paul reminds us that modesty is not just about our clothing. It is about professing godliness – desiring to worship and honour God. We should show our worship of God in all that we do, in our behaviour and our attitudes, and that isn’t limited to what we wear. This means that we should not have such a preoccupation with our appearance that it takes us away from being able to focus on properly worshipping and being a witness.

God wants us to be free from cultural and worldly standards of beauty.
He wants us to focus solely on Him, and for nothing to distract us from seeking Him wholeheartedly.

‘…let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves.’ (1 Peter 3:3-4)

God wants you to know that you are more than what you wear. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and your worth is far beyond your physical appearance. God made you to be intelligent and courageous. He made you with dreams and ambitions and a voice.

You are beautiful, not because of what you wear or what you don’t wear and not because someone else says so, but because your hope is in God.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Father, today I pray for modesty in all I do.
I’m sorry for wanting to please other people more than I want to please You.
Let what I do, what I wear, and what I say be for Your glory and not for the praise or attention of others.
Let me be a a girl who hopes in You alone, and may everything I do today be a reflection of Your glory.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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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.

Modelling True Beauty

If you’re a girl, chances are that at some point in your life – perhaps each day – you will worry about the way you look. When we are so often preoccupied with our insecurities, how can we approach our physical appearance in a godly way? Today’s post is really helpful and interesting: we have Laura writing for us about how her experience as a model has challenged her perception of beauty. She reminds us that the way God sees us is very different to the way society does, and that we can only find our identity and security in Him. Lots of wisdom for everyone in today’s post…enjoy enjoy!

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This is a post about true beauty. I hope it doesn’t come across as rude or boastful. If anything I intend it to be the opposite. This post is also not about how “everyone is beautiful in their own way”. It’s a post about God’s grace, and about how we all desperately need it, especially myself.

It sometimes comes up in conversation: “Oh wow! I never knew you were a model? That’s amazing, I wish I could be too…” My common response is a shy smile and a change of subject, but I often want to ask why?

We are constantly striving to change and “improve” how we look. I’m convinced this is because we only see the “benefits” that society persuades us we need – the subtle messages that tell us “buy this makeup, and you will look like this successful woman ” or “wear these clothes like this model and you will look amazing – by doing all this people will like you and a handsome man like this will whisk you off your feet and you will never have problems ever again!” You get my point.

I will tell you now, and I speak from experience: if you base your happiness on what other people think of how you look, you will never be fulfilled. It will be a constant search for affirmation, and you will never find it.

Here’s a thought. Doesn’t this all sound a little… religious to you: “You must buy this, wear that, say this and do that and then you will be loved”? But it is normal to see this in the secular world. You’re more strange if you don’t seem to care.

And yet, do any of the Ten Commandments say you must do this or look this way to be loved? No, rather it is the opposite – they are all centred on the idea of loving God, and others, before ourselves. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us how to improve our image to be more accepted by others and loved by God.

We are unconditionally loved, regardless of how we look.

God rightly looks at the state of our hearts, not the state of our skin. It is a deep rooted part of our human nature to want acceptance and love. This is not a bad thing. Check out Mark 12:28-31, the two greatest commandments according to Jesus. Does it surprise you that they are all based on love, when we realise that God created us to be loving beings?

One of the ways we try to achieve this is by enhancing our beauty. The feminine figure is a thing of beauty – it’s God’s creation and we see it in artwork everywhere! But this desperate thirst for beauty and acceptance has made us into slaves – it comes from a discontentment that began at the Fall. Every single woman struggles here in some way, regardless of shape. Even the “beautiful” ones. We are brought up to base our perception of ourselves on the people around us who are “better”, “prettier””more successful” etc. Why do you think plastic surgery is so popular amongst celebrities? Because we buy into this idea that by achieving the perfect look we will be fulfilled.

I never really dreamed of being a model. Of course, I daydreamed a little – I thought that if I was a famous model I would be getting somewhere in life and fulfilled, but it was never a serious dream. But when I was approached in a crowd at a festival a couple of years ago and my friend insisted I go back to the agency, I was challenged – does this mean I am beautiful? Am I actually about to be what so many girls and guys want to be? It didn’t make sense – I didn’t think I was really “model material” if anything I was a gangly girl with dark rings under my eyes, an awkward jawline, a big nose, thin lips and thin hair. Why would they be interested in me?

Did it make me feel any better? Did I become a better person with my new found beauty? Far from it. I felt more pressure than ever to live up to this expectation, which was totally out of my control. My fate as a human coat hanger depended on whether I matched the requirements of the designer, the photographer, the agency. I even began to worry when I started putting a little bit of weight on. I would sit in the makeup chair, watching the other girls get ready, and feel incredibly inferior in looks, confidence, style. The girls would effortlessly creating professional photos before my eyes. I would shuffle awkwardly as I try to look moodily for the camera.

There are many obvious crises in the world that we must care and grieve about, such as the fighting in Israel, the terrible things happening in Iraq, slavery, racism, prejudice. But it also grieves me when I see young teenage girls who a few years ago were so content with life to be suddenly so focused on the bedroom mirror, interrogating every pore, sucking non-existent tummies in and applying makeup because without it they don’t feel beautiful enough. It makes me sad to see them feel trapped by their fear of not looking “right”, and the devastating effects it can have. I don’t want to be a model any more – I don’t want to appear to be encouraging the damage this industry has on our sisters. We must turn to God for our affirmation, which is everlasting, and not to other’s opinions on temporary beauty.

I would still give an unflattering description of my appearance today. I need God’s grace. I am not confident in myself, to the point where I often consider myself inferior to everyone around me, in looks and more. I am hardly ever grateful for the body God has given me to care for, and to use for His glory. I constantly worry: “do I look good enough today?” “Are people judging me on my height/makeup/hair? “I feel so out of place being this tall (add your own: short, thin, fat) Should I slouch (wear heels, go on a diet, not eat) to try and fit in?” It’s true- I naturally think of myself as unconventional looking, and very often wish I could just blend into a crowd. Do these thoughts sound familiar to you?

Yet God is slowly teaching me to want to look the way He wants me to look. Like a woman who cares deeply about Him, and as a result takes care of the precious gift she has been given, and revels in it.

What does God’s grace teach us? God tells us that he loves us far more than anyone else ever could. He has destined you from before time. God cares about you deeply, and gave His only Son so that we could be united to Him again, to be more like the loving beings before the Fall that we were created to be. The more we see how fully human Jesus is, and the more we live like him, the more human we will be and more fulfilled. (Read Hebrews 2:5-18) It’s true – the more I get to know Jesus and his love for me, the more I am convinced it is only from God that we can see our true beauty, and this is what I sincerely want you all to know for yourselves today.
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Laura

I’m Laura, I’ve just graduated from Durham University and I am just starting out on my Relay year working for UCCF! I play clarinet and saxophone and I love to sing. In my free time I like to compose music (particularly choral) and catch up with friends. I became a Christian at university and my life has not been the same since!

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