Faith Worked Out: Ali Gillum

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

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

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Fun Five

Fun Five

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

£10 Treat: Eyelash tint

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

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

Book on bedside table:
Row for Freedom, Julia Immonen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What pushed you to start Macaw Designs?

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

What have you found hardest about the Macaw journey?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, how can we be ambitious for God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is Living

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

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

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

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

Exodus 14:13

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

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

Psalm 46:10 says:

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

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

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

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

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

God loves us, and He will fight for us.

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Emma

Emma

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

Found in Proverbs: Truth & Lies

Devotionals Typer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Katrina

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

The Comparison Trap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Screen shot 2015-01-07 at 12.09.53Jody

Jody

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

Found in Proverbs: Integrity

Devotionals Dandelion

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

Proverbs 10:9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Katrina

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

Faith Worked Out: Beth Croft

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

Beth Croft

Fun Five
Fun Five

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

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

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

Favourite Psalm: Psalm 91.

Coffee order: Decaf Cappuccino.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopes and Dreams for 2015


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2015 has arrived! A new year brings with it a chance for fresh insight and new focus into our spiritual lives. It’s an opportunity to reconsider where we are heading and how God is planning to change our hearts and use our lives for His glory.

So, just as in last year’s successful New Year post, we have asked a few girls to join us as we think over our hopes, dreams, intentions and ambitions for 2015. Some of us have found it helpful to choose a particular ‘word for the year’, or to focus on a verse or image from the Bible and aim to make it a real feature of our spiritual journey throughout the year.

We hope you enjoy the following snapshots
of our hopes and dreams for 2015!

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Milly

Screen shot 2014-12-31 at 16.29.53For me, 2015 is a bit of an unknown. I’m not really sure what this year holds but my prayer is to trust the Lord with it, with all my heart. I often try to rely on my own strength and understanding but I want to learn to look to God instead, and to seek His will. I want to trust God in every aspect of my life, in the assurance that I’ve been forgiven and made right with Him, and to completely depend on Him in all the everyday things as well as with big decisions. God promises that by looking to Him, we can be confident that He will direct our paths.

Hebrews 4:16 tells us that through our great high priest we can ‘boldly approach the throne of grace’ and so this is how I want to start this year, confidently looking to God and knowing his grace, and trusting Him alone.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

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Maria

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My hope this year is that I look up in order that I can step into what God calls me to do. I love the story in Matthew where Peter walks on water after Jesus. Peter acts upon Jesus’ call to ‘take courage’ and steps out in faith onto the water. But Peter is so human, he looks around and worries about the obstacles surrounding him and panics, yet Jesus is there and does not let him sink. I can so sympathise with Peter – I’m a terrible worrier and often say ‘I can’t do it’.

But the Bible is littered with verses calling us to ‘look up/lift up our eyes’ and see who God is. Like Isaiah 40:26, which tells us God is the mighty Creator, yet he is so caring and calls each star by name. Here in Matthew, Jesus is in control – yet he also is a friend with whom we have a relationship, he is with us and paves the way in front of us.

I pray this year that I become so comfortable in my relationship with Jesus, with God’s identity and who I am in Him that I look up, and step out boldly into that which He has planned for me.

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Jessie

Screen shot 2015-01-02 at 09.49.55So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7 

My word for the year (and for the rest of my life!) is reliance. Reliance not on my own strength, but on Christ’s. That I would depend on Him for everything and not on my own power.

I love these verses from Paul’s letter to the Colossians – he reminds us that, in order to grow in our faith, we must “continue to live in [Christ]” and be “rooted” in him. Our joy, thankfulness, strength don’t come from ourselves but from God.

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Anna

Screen shot 2015-01-01 at 12.53.33God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

This year I’m praying that I might learn what it is to be humble. I’ve often turned to this verse in moments of panic, as deadlines approach or decisions have to be made, yet I always turn to the second part of this verse. I was reminded recently that we are to humble ourselves before coming to God, recognising our weakness and need for God’s grace. I’m praying that throughout 2015 I would recognise and remember that I can’t get through life by myself and that I must humble myself before our God on whom I can cast all of my anxiety.

How great it is to know that whatever 2015 might hold for us, in the joys, struggles and those stressful, panicky moments that by humbling ourselves and relying on God we can find protection under his “mighty hand.”

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Lucy

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The Bible tells us to fear not, to love God with all of our strength, to trust Him with everything, and to approach Him boldly. This year, I want to be defined by a spirit of boldness, drawing strength from my identity as a daughter of the King.

Like Milly, 2015 is an unknown and slightly daunting year for me. But 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God’s Spirit does not give us fear, but gives us power and love. I’m praying that this year that I might be able to fix my eyes on God and find strength and boldness in Him. I want to be bold in my prayer life, bold in my love for others, bold in denying myself daily, bold in speaking about Jesus, bold in living radically and distinctively as His child.

So – here’s to 2015, to being bold, and to knowing that the One who made the Heavens and the Earth loves me unconditionally and has a perfect plan for my life!

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Jenny

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The element of my Christian faith which I aim to focus on in 2015 is my prayer life. My prayer life is something that I continuously struggle with. 1 Peter 5:7 states: “cast your cares upon him because he cares for you”. I know that God cares about me but I still don’t turn to God as my first option. I understand that if prayer was a priority in my life I would not stress as much over little things but instead would trust God with the details of my life. I find it easy to talk about this but much harder to implement in my daily life.

This year I would like to live completely trusting in God and focusing on him everyday. I want to walk away from my current cycle of stressing and trying to deal with things myself before offering them to God. God offers us peace and love if we only offer ourselves to him, not as a last resort but as our plan A.

As the old hymn states:

“Oh what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

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Hannie

10805265_10155005805340105_1696803555_nA little simplistic, but in some ways so complex; my word for this year is Love. As Jake and I look forward to getting married in August, I’m learning more so than ever just how vast marital love is. In fact, I feel like movies like The Notebook and the likes have done me a great disservice. The love these movies portray barely scrapes the surface of how God intended lifelong, covenental love. Instead, marriage was created to be the ultimate reflection of Jesus’s relationship with God and the church.

This can be overwhelming when we see Jesus with nails through his hands making the ultimate sacrifice for His true love – the same sacrifice that Jake and I will be called to make daily. Laying our lives down for the good of the other.

Luckily I think we’re both up for the challenge. As I see how much Jake loves me, I’m staggered to realise that his love is only a drop of God’s vast love for me. It is a privilege to spend this year preparing ourselves for a lifelong adventure of marriage, but it’s even greater to grasp a little bit more of God’s love for his people.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16

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Wishing you a very Happy New Year from all the MP team.
We’re praying that you would know God’s immense love for you this 2015. 

 

In His Strength: Our 2014

“Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion.”
John Piper

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A week or so ago, Lucy and I found ourselves musing upon last year’s post of this very nature. The post feels so long ago, with this year feeling like it has been an entire age. Much has changed, not only for the site but also in our personal lives (August will see the very first More Precious wedding!).

Lucy has always had a much braver vision than me, but I think even she was surprised to see the influence to which God used our once little blog to move the next generation of Christian women this year. I spent much of 2014 pinching myself, watching the website become exactly what I had been thirsting for throughout much of my adolescent and young adult life. I was excited to see girls and young women encouraged to be Kingdom Builders and a radical light in a dark world.

The Summer Series was a total highlight for me. Each post was heartbreaking and struck a deep chord – seeing that how no matter how hard we tried, we could not escape the fallenness of this world. However, what made the series so hopeful was the constant resounding “But God…” – isn’t that the truth that we are desperately trying to show those around us? That our stories don’t have to end with the empty chasm of this world – instead we have the opportunity to rise from the ashes with a “But God”!

As I stood voicing my own painful (but God-filled!) testimony at A Life More Precious, I couldn’t help but feel hugely emotional. I began this journey with Lucy by sharing my challenges with Jeremiah 29:11, questioning how we can reconcile God’s plans for us with the reality of worldly difficulties, aching for God’s glory in my ruins. As I stood on that stage and looked out at the 80 girls sat before me, I realised that each of these girls was God’s glory in my ruins.

You are all God’s glory – each 50,000 of you. And it is a privilege to serve our King with you.

- Hannie xo

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Looking at the year we have had, all glory goes to God for breathing life and spark into the vision of More Precious; for giving us opportunities to take, and grace for our mistakes.

Incredibly, this year we have had the immense privilege of seeing girls choosing to pursue new relationship with Jesus, because they have been changed by God’s love – and I want to ask you to join with us in praying for More Precious throughout 2015 and beyond, that we might see more of God at work in tangible and life-changing ways.

I have loved so much about 2014: the wonderful and gifted writers whose stories we have been able to publish; the excitement of speaking with girls who first knew a little of God years ago and have decided to return to Him once more; the encouraging emails from girls halfway across the world; the boldness of my 10 year old cousin, who is seeking how to be distinctive and courageous as the only Christian in her class; our incredible Faith Worked Out interview series, which has shown me that even some of the most successful, creative and inspiring women in the UK are pursuing Jesus passionately and wholeheartedly with the gifts they have been given.

Other highlights have to include speaking to the amazing (and huge!) Christian Union at Hills Road Sixth Form College, and of course the very special and exciting event ‘A Life More Precious’. I will never forget that evening!

Looking ahead to 2015, my challenge for the year is inspired by these words from John Piper:

“My joy grows with every soul that seeks the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Remember, you have one life. That’s all. You were made for God. Don’t waste it.”

I don’t want to waste the time and potential I have, distracted by my own selfish ways. Instead, I want to pursue God wholeheartedly and introduce lost souls to His saving grace and glory. After a year of seeing hearts fall further in love with their Maker, I write with a new energy and passion for introducing girls to King Jesus – something which I know so many of you share, as you continue to inspire me with the way you live your lives.

All glory to our Heavenly Father, who is graciously letting More Precious play a little part in His Big Plan. Here’s to another year of seeing the lost found, the broken made whole, and the Treasure of Christ.

- Lucy xo

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Grace for the Good Girl

Here at More Precious, we love speaking about grace. Grace being: the immense act of love and sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross to save us, despite the fact that we don’t, and never will deserve it.

We’ve spoken about how grace fills our cracks and makes us whole, how grace gives us hope and identity. We’ve realised that grace is for the broken and messy, that grace is for us even when we feel lost and dirty and afraid and far from being good enough.

But what about if we DO feel ‘good enough’ – or even when we just don’t feel particularly bad? Is grace really needed for the girls who never miss a Sunday and never argue with their parents? Sarah’s post today on this topic is wonderful and much-needed. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. L x

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Okay, first admission: I stole the title.

When I was younger, I was given a book called ‘Grace for the Good Girl’ by my Sunday school teacher as an end of year present (a.k.a. subtle spiritual hint) but was far too proud and offended at the ever-so-subtle hint to ever read it.

Second admission: I’ve always been a ‘good girl’.

I was that eager-to-please kid in school that spent hours on a piece of homework, craving for recognition. I was that daughter who never really outwardly rebelled against her parents, and provided relief from the tension from other more rebellious siblings. I was that friend who didn’t give into peer pressure, who said no even when it was social suicide because that’s who I was: the Good Girl.

I would look at other teenagers in my church who were sneaking out to parties, drinking, going too far in relationships and living a double life and I would quietly sit and judge them.

When I saw them, I saw hypocrites; people that would turn up to church and say the right answers in Sunday School, whilst living for everything else but God from Monday to Saturday. I didn’t see that I was the biggest hypocrite. I judged everyone else for living pretty obvious double lives, but in reality I was deceiving everyone around me about who I was – including myself.

In my eyes, I was great. But, ironically, the ‘God points’ that I was giving myself were blocking my view of Jesus. I thought that I was good enough to earn salvation on my own. I heard the story of the Prodigal Son and secretly felt sorry for the older brother. I disconnected myself from Bible passages about humans being sinful… maybe all those people were sinful, but I was different.

And then, God stepped in.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:3-5

After hearing those verses in my youth group one night, my life changed. I’d heard it several times before, but this time God opened my eyes to the truth. I was blown away at the ridiculousness of my self-righteousness. If God’s standard is perfection, then no matter how good I was, it wasn’t good enough. Yet, I was so used to my ‘goodness’ that I couldn’t see how pathetic my attempts at earning my salvation were.

It’s as if we are born with black shirts, and to be right with God, our shirts have to be completely white. Not off-white, or white with a few dark smudges, but pure, spotless, unspoiled bleach white. I tried to make my shirt white; I used religion as a stain remover for my blackness. I tried to ignore the colour of my shirt and tell myself that it was white. But nothing worked.

Here’s the good news though; my story doesn’t end like this!

I realised that nothing I could do could get me to a standard of perfection – and so, I finally looked to Jesus. And to my amazement, he was wearing a shiny new white shirt. But he didn’t just look at my sorry state and boast about how glad he is that he has a white shirt. No, he reached out to me, embraced me and offered to swap shirts.

Isn’t that amazing? That even someone that was denial about how helpless they were can ‘swap shirts’ with Jesus? Even though I will never fully understand the depth of my darkness, He still made me white and unblemished.

And that’s why I’m a Christian today.

Not because I’ve got it all together (and I’m sorry when I make it look like I do)
but because I really don’t.

Jesus has some pretty strong words about hypocrisy and pride. Earlier in the passage, he warns that the way we judge others is the way that we will be judged. Yet even now, as a Christian I find myself looking at other Christians and comparing myself to them on my inner ‘holiness metre’.

God isn’t giving up on me though. Even though I’m possibly the slowest learner out there, He’s patiently showing me how much I need Him. The more I learn about Jesus’ death on the cross, the more I realise the extent of my need for him.

My battle with self-righteousness will be a long one – possibly even for the rest of my life. If this has resonated with you, I want to encourage you to keep fighting. God doesn’t promise that he will take away our battles, whether that is battling more obvious outward sin or a more inward, devious fight like mine.

But He promises that his grace is enough, even for people that don’t always see their need for it. And He gives us strength to continue fighting it.

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Sarah

Sarah

Sarah is an English student at Durham University, who has somehow managed to make it to second year, thanks to Sparknotes, Yorkshire Tea, Taylor Swift and some pretty great people. Sarah is passionate about telling students about Jesus and discipling girls in their walk with God. She lives in a small seaside town in Wales where there is never a dull moment, thanks to her crazy big family! 

Christmas Devotional: God With Us

In today’s Christmas devotional, Emily takes us through what she loves about the Christmas Story – how God came to be with us, ‘Immanuel’. 
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 Matthew 1:22-23

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us.’

God is so powerful and strong yet he sent his own son into the world through a normal girl called Mary. God works in unexpected ways; we never know what he is going to do next. He is outside of our understanding.

Immanuel means ‘God with us.’ This is amazing; we can have a relationship with the king of the world. Everyone can have a relationship with him. God is with us through all of life.

There is a song I used to sing at Sunday club, it says ‘sometimes good things happen God is there, sometimes bad things happen God is there too’. God is always with us. We can remember this by reading the Bible and listening to Christian music, and it is amazing to have Christian friends who we can chat to and encourage each other.

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Mia & Emily

Mia & Emily

Mia & Emily go to school in Cambridge and are part of the same church family as Lucy, Hannie, Emma and Katrina. They love sleepovers, Great British Bake-Off and reading the Bible together as ‘study buddies’!

God’s Glory In Our Mess

This post is transcribed from Hannie’s wonderful talk on 22/11/14 at St John’s College, Durham University for the event ‘A Life More Precious’. It is based on her very first More Precious post, back from August 2013!
Hannie Blog Post Image

As many of you will know, back in Easter earlier this year, Lucy and I invited all of our writers to contribute posts that shed some light on dealing with the difficulties of being a young Christian woman in the 21st century. As the summer progressed a clear theme emerged from the posts – one of God’s glory in our ruins.

In response to the courage and honesty shown witness by all of our fabulous writers, I want to tell you the story of God’s glorious redemption in my ruins.

To start with I want to turn our attention to 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.”

Having grown up believing in Jesus and His resurrection for as long as I can remember, this is a verse that simply rolls off the tongue. However, years later, I found that this passage, whilst so easy to offer as a consolation to friends, was much harder to believe in the reality of life.

When I was sixteen my life changed dramatically and my family never really looked the same. In December 2008, my mum became seriously ill with clinical depression. Within 8 weeks of my mum first noting that she wasn’t feeling well, she was in hospital due to the severity and intense form of depression she was experiencing. For the next few years, she was in and out of hospital, and at times family life was unrecognisable.

If any of you have any experience with mental health, then you will know that there is little more chaotic. Suddenly, the tidy life that I had envisioned for my future was messy, painful, and uncertain. In fact, the only way that I could cope with this uncertainty and chaos was to control the one thing I knew how: food.

And so, in February 2009, with my mother in hospital, I too found myself receiving treatment for anorexia nervosa.

Initially I had prayed for healing for both my mother and me, believing at face value all of the verses that I had read as a child – God loved me and wanted to give me good things, so surely He would heal my family?

As the years went on with no healing, I found myself doubting everything I had grown up believing. How could God have good plans for me if this is where He had placed me? How could I ever believe that God had planned a hope for me if all along He had known what was coming?

My process of reconciling all the pain and struggles with faith began where it always should, His Word. I removed my emotions from the equation and looked back at the only place I could find the truth about His character. The Bible tells us:

God is good, and keeps His promises:

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV)

Every good thing comes from Him:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17 (NIV)

He loves us… so much so that He sacrificed His son for us:

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
1 John 4:10 (NIV)

And all this never changes:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)

I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and I believe that what it says is true. Therefore, according to this alone, I must have faith that God is working according to His promises.

Of course, this is so much easier said than done.However, the disparity between His promise and our current circumstances becomes a little clearer when re-reading Jeremiah chapters 28 and 29. To give the scripture some context, against the false prophecy of Hananiah, Jeremiah relays God’s message that the Israelites were to remain exiled in Babylon for 70 years, rather than the two years promised by Hananiah.

It was to this backdrop of suffering and despair that God offered his promise so well-known in Jeremiah 29:11. God did indeed offer a promise that was undeniable and inevitable, but it would not come within the timetable of the Israelites, nor would it come according to the packaging they had requested.

Understanding this, I was able to realise that God’s promise of hope and good really had little to do with my understanding of the past few years. God would keep His promise of providing a hope and a future, but it was unlikely that this hope and future would look anything like I had imagined.

I have been forced to face up to the gaps in my faith. Who knew how easy it was to believe in God and all His entirety when life was easy, compared to when life doesn’t go your way? It took hundreds of sleepless nights, and hours of fear, to really know that God was there. Because it is only when it feels like you have nothing left, nothing to hold on to, do you find yourself really letting go and reaching out to Him and Him alone.

I realised that the injustice I felt towards it all, the innate sense of wrong, was actually God’s way of reminding me that this was not the world how God intended. We live in a fallen world where mental illness is merely a symptom of the poison fruit. But He has found a way, and that will forever be our hope – even if it I will never fully grasp it until eternity.

I don’t know what pain or ruins you have brought here today, and maybe you have lost sight of God altogether, believing that He couldn’t possibly exist, or be good, while you suffer and endure unbearable pain.

And I can’t promise that the pain will go away – sometimes it never gets better. My mum still fights to stay alive every day – and the voice in my head telling me not to eat is never that far from the surface.

But I can promise you that God will never leave you or forsake you in this dark world.

I want you to know that you have been placed on this earth as an image bearer. You are here to bear the image of hope. In my brokenness and fear, God has shone through the cracks and I am a reflection of His immeasurable goodness.

Because of his goodness, I know that one day He will wipe away every tear and I will see my mum whole again.

I have been trusted with a story. We have all been trusted with a story. We are called to see beyond the night and point towards the light. We were born for such a time as this – to tell the world of something better.

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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.

Christmas Devotional: To Treasure

Welcome to Luke Chapter 2, where we are partway through the Christmas Story! We’re starting from verse 16, where a host of angels have just told the shepherds that Jesus our Saviour will be born…

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Luke 2:16-19

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

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Sometimes we can find ourselves caught up in the hustle and bustle of our lives – especially in the countdown to Christmas. We can forget to take time to be still, think, ‘treasure’ and remember who God is and why we celebrate Christmas at all.

These verses and the way that Mary ‘treasures’ and stores the glorious moment of Jesus’ birth in her heart reminds us that it is good for us too to store up evidence of God’s goodness in our own hearts, so that we can remain strong in our faith. Our identity is secure in Him!

We can find and store up our own ‘treasure’ by reading the Bible, where we can see God’s character.

It is so encouraging to remember His past provision and goodness, and know that we can have hope and confidence in the future because God is good and He loves us.

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Mia & Emily

Mia & Emily

Mia & Emily go to school in Cambridge and are part of the same church family as Lucy, Hannie, Emma and Katrina. They love sleepovers, Great British Bake-Off and reading the Bible together as ‘study buddies’!

Life Lessons from a First Year

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Luke 2:41-49

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.

Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished.

His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked.
“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Joseph and Mary take Jesus, age 12 to Jerusalem for Passover. On return, they do an entire day of travel supposing that he is with them before realising that he is not.

In my first term of university, I have made the very same mistake.

I have blasted off ahead; relying on my own strength, overly confident in my own gifts and resources and for a number of weeks all seemed to be well. Like Mary and Joseph I have been wrapped up in the movement of the crowd and arrogantly assumed Jesus was following on behind me.

It is worrying how far Mary and Joseph get before realising they’ve lost their son. It is worrying how far I’ve got before realising it’s been a while since I checked in with God, especially when I claim I’ve been entirely focused on Him all along.

In the same way Mary accuses Jesus of treating his parents badly, I have been accusing Jesus of being distant and treating me badly. The truth is, he doesn’t walk away from me, it is me that has strayed from him. Then when I panic and begin anxiously searching for him in the overwhelming mess where I claim he’s deserted me, his response is the same as it is to Mary…

“Why were you searching for me?
Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Why is my instinct to panic? Why am I anxious at all? The answer to the search is obvious; God’s house stands firm even through our turmoil, and the door is always open.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 61:2

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Katrina

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

Life-Giving Relationships

This post is transcribed from Emma’s wonderful talk on 22/11/14 at St John’s College, Durham University for the event ‘A Life More Precious’.
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The internet can be an incredibly powerful thing. Thanks to the internet, I’ve been able to build relationships with the MP girls through Facebook and email, when I’d never met them before. That’s great, but it’s also slightly scary – for all the girls knew, I could have been someone completely different to who I said I was (Catfish, anyone?).

It just goes to show how artificial the internet is, and now that so much our lives are spent online we are starting to reflect that artificiality. We spend hours on Facebook and Instagram, trying to create the image of a life that is worthy of Pinterest and as a result, our lives and our relationships are now more artificial.

Even church can become artificial. Many a time I’ve found myself slipping into a Christian language littered with buzzwords. We are so concerned with fitting in and looking good both in church and out of it that we’re acting and even talking in a different way.

We have a huge preoccupation with how we present ourselves.

If you are a Christian, do you really think the best way to represent God is by fitting in? We cannot expect people to think there is something different about us if we are acting in the same way as everyone else. Ultimately, we cannot ‘give life’ in relationships, if what people are seeing are not our true lives.

We’re living artificial lives when we should be living authentic ones. But why is it important to be authentic in our lives and relationships?

God made you to be unique and individual, but God also made you in his image. That means that if you are just being yourself, then you are automatically showing the image of God to people.

So, how can we live authentically?

1. Be truthful

Have you ever lied to a Christian friend about a mistake or a bad decision you’ve made, because you didn’t want to seem like a bad Christian? Well, not only would your friend be in the wrong for judging you, you are also in the wrong for hiding your mistake. By hiding your mistakes, you’re actually denying the grace that God has freely gifted you. And by lying to your friend, you’re saying that you’re more concerned with offending your friend than you are about offending God.

Galatians 1:10 says ‘For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.’

Who are you trying to please? Your friends or God?

2. Share your weaknesses

A huge part of being a Christian is sharing your life with people. But that means sharing everything. And if we’re going to be authentic, then we have to share the bad things as well as the good things, like our weaknesses or worries or fears. By saying, publicly, ‘I messed up and I made a bad decision’, you can then say ‘but it’s okay, because through the grace of God I have been forgiven’.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says:
‘…But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’

We should be proud of grace and boast in the fact that
we can make mistakes and still be loved.

Not only will that be a great example of God’s love to your non-Christian friends, but it will be a huge encouragement to your Christian ones.

We need to be consistent in our authenticity. Being a Christian does not mean making your life look as holy as possible. In the same way, your value does not come from how holy other people think you are.

3. Love

John 15:12 says ‘Love each other as I have loved you.’

This is the key to authentic, life-giving relationships. God loves you, for exactly who you are; flaws and bad habits and mistakes and all. It’s quite simply really: in order to have great relationships with other people we need to love them like God loves us – for exactly who they are.

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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.

Christmas Devotional: God Never Fails

Today we are diving into the Christmas story in Luke Chapter 1. We are starting at verse 34, where the angel Gabriel has just told Mary she will have a baby boy (Jesus)…

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‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’

The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.
For no word from God will ever fail.’

‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’
Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:34-38

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What struck us is that the situation Mary is in is absolutely outrageous, it’s a scandal.   However Mary doesn’t get angry or upset. She is very calm and does not doubt the angel from God. She understands the privilege of bearing God’s son.

God is telling Mary not to be afraid because he has got everything planned out. These verses demonstrate how God’s plans never fail and he has everything under control. You wouldn’t think God would choose a young, insignificant girl as a major part of his plan for salvation.

This is a reminder to us today to be on the lookout as God works unexpectedly.

We find it encouraging even though we are young and sometimes feel insignificant. Like Mary, we should adopt a servant-like attitude.

We are encouraged to know that everything God says will happen will happen! The song, One Thing Remains is very helpful – it tells us how God’s love never fails.

Mary trusted in God. When life seems complicated we can think of all the things God has done and it makes us so happy that God is in control.

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Mia & Emily

Mia & Emily

Mia & Emily go to school in Cambridge and are part of the same church family as Lucy, Hannie, Emma and Katrina. They love sleepovers, Great British Bake-Off and reading the Bible together as ‘study buddies’!

Faith Worked Out: Lavinia Brennan

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Today we’re taking inspiration from Lavinia Brennan and Natasha Rufus Isaacs, members of Holy Trinity Brompton church in London and founders of Beulah London. Beulah is a luxury fashion label that makes classic pieces for occasion and evening wear. However, it sees itself not as a typical fashion label but primarily as a ‘kingdom business’, as a hub of employment where lives can be transformed and people are pointed to life with Jesus. Each of their clothes tells a story, and the theme of ‘darkness to light’ (beulah, Isaiah 62:4) is central to every design.
We had the fun of speaking with Lavinia to find out more about how the Beulah girls approach running a successful and influential business, while keeping God at the centre of all they do…

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Fun Five

Fun Five

Book on my bedside table:
‘The Locust Effect: The End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence’ by Gary Haugen.
Ideal dinner party guest:
Scott Harrison, founder of Charity:Water.
£10 treat:
Cinema with cola bottles – always.
Question I’m always asked:
‘Why did you start Beulah?’
Most underrated virtue:
Kindness
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So we’d love to know, what pushed you to take the plunge and found Beulah?

Well I suppose there wasn’t an initial, one-off cause; Nat and I were out in Delhi, India in 2009, and we had the amazing opportunity to work at Atulya, an aftercare home for women victims of sex trafficking. We didn’t necessarily think that we would go on to create something like Beulah, but we had a real desire to provide employment for these women, and we felt really called by God to create a business that would transform lives for these women.

I suppose we were starting from a place of total trust in God – neither of us had any fashion training, or any business experience for that matter – but yet we have been very fortunate and God has really blessed us.

We both have Christian families, with parents that pray for us every day, and actually we work in an office where each of the girls is Christian. This wasn’t even intentional – it just happened that through applications and internships, we ended up with an office of Christian women, which makes for an amazing team.

Have you faced challenges as Christians working in the fashion industry?

Well, the fashion industry is tough, whether you are Christian or not. We wouldn’t say that we are a fashion-forward business, we look beyond seasonal trends and want to create classic, timeless pieces. We’re not primarily a fashion business, because we always want our clothes to point back to the initial idea behind beulah: light from darkness, the transformation of lives. In this sense, we’re not really within the fashion industry, but using clothing design and creativity for a greater purpose.

…and how does being a Christian company affect your day-to-day approach to business?

Ooh.. (laughs) – I’d love to say that we pray every single morning as a company and consistently keep routine – reality is, sometimes the busy nature of business and general life gets in the way. But actually it’s really great to be in a company where we’re all Christians and can all keep each other accountable – so our interns or our assistants will sometimes remind us all to pray or to take some time out to keep things in perspective. We learn a lot from them, and it’s really great to be reminded of what we’re doing and who we’re doing it for.

We try and have a Monday meeting where we pray with all the staff team, and look to the week ahead – that’s really helpful. And of course, we’ll always pray before meetings or presentations with clients or other businesses – that’s something we always commit to.

A few members of the MP team have recently treated themselves to a few Beulah designs.. (!) We loved the recent packaging around the concept of ‘kintsukuroi’. Tell us about this?

Like I said, we want every season to represent what we stand for, and our SS14 designs centred around this concept kintsukuroiwhich is actually an ancient, Japanese practice of fixing broken pottery by putting it back together with gold. It’s all about something being more beautiful for having been broken.

This obviously has parallels with our vision: the redemption and transformation of lives. It also has links with the idea that ‘beauty’ smashes, and actually our breaking can become part of true beauty.

Do references like this across your designs spark interesting conversations about your faith with people?

Definitely – it’s very well-known that both Nat and I have a strong faith, and the press love to ask us about it – people are really intrigued by what we stand for and what our beliefs are. We’re obviously really happy to speak to them, it’s a way of being distinctive. We get a lot of comments in particular about our name Beulah, which comes from Isaiah 62:4 and is all about the marriage of us and God.

We noticed another Bible reference in the title of your SS13 collection: ‘Ephesians 6′. How else do you draw inspiration from the Bible and implement it across your designs?

Yes, we always focus on themes linked to the core concept of transformation of lives, and the bringing of women from darkness to light. We always include a Bible quote at the end of each of our lookbooks, and actually our AW14 collection is called ‘Enlightenment’, where we have centred around the passages in John (especially John 1:5) about darkness becoming light through Jesus.

What has God taught you through Beulah so far?

The whole thing has been a massive learning curve for us – and so we are always seeking guidance, right up to the 23rd hour. This has taught us lots about trusting God, really trusting – and also lots about obedience. God has led Beulah in different routes to the ones we had imagined, but it’s all about that trust and that willingness to let Him work. I’ve learnt to trust that God has the right plan in every situation.

What advice would you give to girls who are seeking to do God’s will, but are at a bit of a cross-roads and struggling with making decisions in their life?

Well, after I graduated, as you know – Nat and I spent those two months out in India. We were working for a church there, which gave us a lot of space and a lot of time to just really speak and listen to God. I think that’s key – it’s so easy to be caught up in the busy-ness of life, that I really valued having space to think things through.

What I would also say is, trust God with the right plan – but be proactive! Sometimes Christians get a bit lazy and think that they should just wait around for God to speak to them clearly. I think that God actually speaks in lots of different ways – Nat is really visionary, she has great dreams and pictures, but I never get that – God speaks to me quietly, through music or times of worship, or when I’m just standing at the back of church. Be in tune with different callings, and don’t think that God will always speak to you as you would expect.

So – don’t be scared of trying and testing a few things. If you think you might be able to live for God in a certain place or a certain way – go and do it! If it’s the wrong thing, He will guide you to where He wants to use you.

What is your vision for Beulah in years to come? How do you think God might use it?

We would absolutely love to liberate more women, so expand the company and create a hub of employment for vulnerable people. We would love to have these women involved at every level of the company, in the business, the admin, right at the core and heart of Beulah. I suppose we are looking ultimately to be a kingdom business, to operate in a godly way.

Just like our church vision – we want to play our part in the re-evangelisation of the nations and the transformation of society – and we are always learning how to do this in every aspect of the business. We would also love for other companies to see the way we operate and be inspired to work the same way – that would be amazing, for there to be a network of kingdom businesses.

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A huge thank you to Lavinia for speaking with us back in September – we loved hearing from her and hope you do too! You can read the rest of our Faith Worked Out interview series here.

The Art of Decision-Making

This post is transcribed from Emma’s wonderful talk on 22/11/14 at St John’s College, Durham University for the event ‘A Life More Precious’.
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The years we spend at school and university, as well as the post-university season of life, are all times in our lives when we are faced with lots of big decisions. Which GCSEs and A levels shall I do? Which activities am I going to be involved with? Shall I do further study after school, or travel, or find a job?

And as we know, the Bible doesn’t always give us a precise answer for every single decision we face. But what does the Bible tell us about making decisions?

What is the art of making a great decision?

Let’s take a look at what Jesus says in Matthew 6:25-34:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.

 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Right here, God gives us the big picture – the answer. Four words. Verse 33:

Seek first His Kingdom.

This is a radical way of living. Seeking first God’s kingdom means that He the number one priority in our lives. It means that we seek him first, before anything or anyone else, and that we surrender all things to Him.

It means that we don’t live lives full of ‘as long as’ moments, like where we might say: ‘God I completely trust you and give you my heart, just as long as I get a 2.1, or as long as I have a boyfriend, or as long as I graduate with a grad job, or get to live with that group of housemates next year, or as long as I feel like I’m winning in at least one area of my life’.

Seeking first God’s kingdom means that we seek His glory wholeheartedly, passionately, 100%, full on! It is unequivocal. There are no more ‘as long as’ moments; we surrender everything to Him. We give our first and our best to him.

We need to remember that we are part of His kingdom,
He is not a part of our kingdom.

The other half of the story that we see in these verses is that we are called to trust God with the details. It’s all the way through the passage in Matthew 6: ‘do not worry… do not worry… do not worry…’.

What’s the summary? Jesus is saying, don’t get caught up in worrying about the details.

He calls us to:

Seek first God’s kingdom and trust Him with the details.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that the decisions we make should be taken lightly or not thought through. Absolutely not. God gives us brains. He expects us to use them. He calls us to be wise. We should find out the facts, do due diligence, engage our minds with situations we face.

But Jesus commands us not to worry about the details, and whether we will have what we need, because he promises to give us everything we need to do what he has called us to do.

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So how do we do all this?
How do we seek first God’s kingdom and trust Him with the details?

In order to make decisions that seek God’s Kingdom first, we have to look to Him first. We get on our knees and fix our eyes on Jesus. Why? Because when we do this, we see that we can trust Him with the details.

Fixing our eyes on Him reminds us of who He is. Real prosperity is only found in Jesus Christ. We need nothing else. Jesus loves us more than we can even imagine. The God of the entire universe, the creator of everything that we see around us, the God of the whole of history, loves us, enough to send his son to die for us. He made the biggest sacrifice that can ever be made, for us.

Even though you and I are just one little tiny microscopic dot on the vast canvas that is the whole of the history of humanity, God knows our names. He knows our deepest fears and our biggest dreams. And because of Jesus’ abundant and overwhelming love, we can be in a relationship with Him.

The more we grasp the immense love that Jesus has for us, the greater our joy will become. It is contagious. It is unbridled. It is unconstrained and infectious. It is relentless. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we grow in the joy it is to know Christ.

Psalm 23 says:

The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing.

So in practice, when we pray and worship God, we acknowledge who He really is. It is a way of articulating all that we believe about God, and saying that it is true.

We acknowledge that there is a God, and it is not me. When we speak to wise Christian friends, they also help point us to Jesus too.

The more I see God as He really is, the more I see that I can make decisions where I seek His kingdom first, and trust everything to His unfailing love.

Every single detail.

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Emma

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!

Listen and Follow

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Today we’re looking at John 10:2-15 – ‘Jesus the Shepherd’

Jesus said: “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.

Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

The shepherd calls his sheep, and goes on ahead of them.

The sheep listen to the Shepherd’s voice, and follow him, because they know his voice.

So often I spend my time wondering what I am supposed to be doing… but in fact it’s very simple – listen and follow! 

The shepherd (Jesus) knows his sheep (including me) and his sheep (including me) know him.
He lays down his life for them (including me). He brings life to the full (including to me). What amazing truths! 

Our challenge: to listen and follow!

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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.

 

Blessing in the Battles

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Something I’m not very good at is recognising answered prayers, and remembering that God is at work in my life every single day. It’s easy to fire back some ‘Please God’ prayers, but to try and cultivate a greater awareness of God’s hand in my life, and a sense of gratitude for His goodness, I have started to instead write my prayers and my thoughts in two columns:

Blessings.                                               Battles.

Sometimes, our idea of ‘good’ or of ‘blessing’ tends to get mixed up with our worldly perspective of happiness: the idea of fun, of feeling comfortable. We tend to mistakenly think that we are strongest on our Good Days, the times when we are feeling energised or happy.

Romans 8:28 doesn’t speak of ‘blessings’ as such, but it speaks of God’s sovereignty in our lives, and how His hand is over every good experience, and every bad. It reminds us that they are all in His plan:

“All things work together for good to them that love the Lord,
to them who are the called, according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

I used to read this and subconsciously wonder when this season of ‘good’ would arrive for me. I thought it would come once I’d finished school, once I’d started university. It was easy to think that perhaps in The Future, things would finally come good: by then, I’d have found all my life-long friends, my skin would have cleared up, I would have acquired the right amount of clothes for every occasion, I’d ideally be fairly comfortable, and perhaps I’d even finally be in the habit of going to the gym every morning…

We’re in a society where we can instantly ‘fix’ things if they are broken. And perhaps this was my mindset: that God ‘working all things together for my good’ translated into God fixing everything in my life, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with hard times. This isn’t quite the case.

For sure, as I’ve entered into each new chapter of life, I’ve been overwhelmed by good, showered with blessings from a God who is good, kind and faithful. However, in each stage, there is also always an underlying ripple of discontentment: there are always boring days, there are always sad days. There are crying friends, broken relationships, large-scale tragedies and internal conflicts.

There is a lot of illness, there is stress, insecurities, bad choices, and all the mess of the world that mounts up each and every day. There is a lot of good, but there is much pain and dissatisfaction sprinkled along the way.

There are battles.

And we will never reach a season of complete, uninterrupted ‘good’ in this life. And actually, in this world, we will always face discontentment.
Because this is not our home, and it is not how God intended it to be.

However, once I’ve realised this and started to think of life in these two tracks (blessings and battles) rather than always daydreaming ahead to an elusive future chapter where I have got things ‘sorted’ – I am instead learning to search for God’s goodness in the now, and to bloom where I am planted, knowing that there will always be battles along the way.

In my two (very long) columns, I have noticed a few things:

1. There far more blessings than I had realised or recognised, and I am not thankful enough.

2. My ‘battles’ often fade into their right place when I gain a Heavenly perspective, and remember that God is very present in both tracks of my life.

3. Feelings of self-pity or doubt tend to fade when you realise that your Creator is daily holding your world together, looking out for you, looking after you; ever-present in the very fabric of your life.

Perhaps most importantly, I’ve also been learning this:

There are blessings in the battles.

I will be most benefited when I encounter God’s love and am made more like His Son Jesus; and that is likely to happen in the desert place, in the times that are hard, confusing and messy, the times when we feel like we are going backwards or struggling to see God at all.

When we feel most pressured, we are in the process of being refined, as daughters of a Father who wants the best for us and wants us to know Him more. This is the greatest ‘good’ we could experience – even when it doesn’t look like it.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way.
James 1:2-4 (MSG)

It is no wonder that we are happy when things are good – but it is a real testament to a faithful God when we are praising even in the desert place, to a God who gives and takes away. The greatest good that I can experience is the grace of God, and His unshakeable nature, which doesn’t depend on circumstances.

All these blessings and battles, all the good and not-so-good days – they are all according to God’s purpose. He has total control: even when things seem completely dark, totally chaotic, painfully boring or completely stagnant.

Praise to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.
Psalm 144:1 (NIV)

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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! 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!

The Challenge of ‘Getting Well’

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Today we’re looking at John 5: 1 – 9 – ‘Jesus At The Pool’

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.

Here a great number of disabled people used to lie — the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him:

“Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

What can we learn from this?

The people at the pool were blind, lame and paralysed. Though we might not be physically blind, lame or paralysed ourselves, we are in the sense that we are so often unable to live in the way that God would intend for us.

One particular invalid had been by that pool for 38 years. Our problems can also become entrenched in our lifestyles – they can be long-standing and never-ending. But, Jesus asks if we want to get well.

Do we want the risk of change, are we up for facing the responsibilities that come with being fit and able-bodied?

The invalid felt isolated with no-one to help him. At our point of greatest need, we too feel utterly isolated and alone.

But look at this: Jesus commanded and the man obeyed and was healed. Emphatically, Jesus has the same power in our lives. He commands us to get up and get going – He gives us the power to do so!

We simply have to accept and obey.

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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.

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