Found in Psalm 146: Freedom

Devotionals May

He [the Lord] is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea,
and everything in them— He remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.

Psalm 146:6-8

We looked at Psalm 146 a few weeks ago, and today we’re focusing in on these 2 verses only – because the truths here are just mind-blowing! Because of God’s immense love for us, and his faithfulness in fulfilling the promises he’s made us, we have been set free so that we can be in a relationship with him.

This makes ALL the difference in our lives. It changes everything. It’s like a blind man being given the gift of sight, like a starving person being given food and sustenance, like a prisoner being released from confinement. It is that big a deal, that great a gift, that amazing a blessing.

This freedom is liberating. It means that we don’t need to try to pretend to be someone we are not, or to try to ‘fit in’ for the sake of it. Jesus loves us exactly as we are. In him, we find true freedom.

Father God, we thank you that you remain faithful forever
and that your promises will be fulfilled.
Thank you that your love for us, as those in need of a saviour,
was so great that you sent Jesus to be our saviour.

Thank you that in Him, we have true freedom. Thank you that we need not be
afraid, or feel constrained to try to fit in, or look a certain way.
Thank you that you love us. Amen.

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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.

Salt and Light: Distinctive in Exam Time

Following on in our Salt & Light series is a post on a topic some of us are all too familiar with… exams! Our new writer Florrie is exploring how we can not only ‘get through’ exam season, but also use it as an opportunity to shine, to demonstrate our faith in Jesus and allow his peace to fill our hearts and lives. So, why not start your weekend of revision by getting your priorities in place, and asking God how He might use you in this time? L x

Salt & Light

We all know that feeling. The achy-butterfly stomach mixed with clammy palms and that strange throbbing ear (random, but stay with me). It simply overwhelms you just thinking about the prospect of an exam, before you even begin considering the actual day itself; the room, the silence…the silence – why does it insist of sucking all your thoughts away at the very moment you need them? The weeks of revision and the gradual build-up of fear all riding on this one paper.

As humans, facing human challenges, with human expectations it is so easy for us to slip into a mind-set where we tell ourselves that it is ALL up to us. We rely solely on our own ability – or perhaps if we need to feel extra ‘lucky’ we will whip out a good ol’ CGP revision guide – and allow ourselves to depend on our own strength, keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

However, as Christians we should seek to have a different perspective and it is important we strive to avoid this frame of mind. We know that divine ability is completely and utterly in God’s hands: He has known and loved us since before the world began and He has a plan for us, a place for us in His heavenly kingdom for eternity.

Proverbs 3:5-6 highlights this perfectly for us:

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.’

Whilst we strive to remember and apply this in our day to day life – not just in exam season – it is so important we acknowledge how we are portraying our trust in our Father to our friends. We are all aware of the frenzy that exams bring, pathetic fallacy and electronic configuration just seem to creep into conversation and before you know it you are panicking to yourself that you don’t quite know the date JFK’s cat died in relation to the Cuban Missile Crisis – ridiculous, I know – but it’s happened.

As we seek to follow the example and live in the image of Jesus – being the salt and the light – we should be wary to remain distinctive.

Worrying should not be on our agenda. Jesus tells us not to worry in Matthew 6, and promises that we will be so richly provided for if we seek His kingdom first, and place it at the centre of our lives. So, when we witness our friends becoming overwhelmed by quantities of work or terrified at the prospect of an exam we can demonstrate our faith in God to them by remaining calm and thankful. By behaving in this way we are acting as beacons of God’s love and eternal promise.

Reflecting your thoughts in a different light and living them out may potentially open up opportunities to share with your friends why exactly you remain calm and thankful in a time of anxiety for so many.

We can recognise that ultimately we can live lives free from fear because our lives are secure as a result of Jesus dying on the cross for us. His extreme fear in that moment means that we don’t have to face the trials of worry – whether it be a trivial fear or a vast anxiety – the outcome is, and forever shall be the same.

Our debt has been paid, our past is forgiven and our future is certain.

So why not shout about it? Why not sing his glory? What a challenge to live in a distinctive way that shows our friends where sovereignty lies. We have one hope, one deliverer who guides us through fear and joy and his cross has power over all. It is in this where we can find and show our strength and faith in Christ Jesus to those around us.

Related posts:
Countercultural Peace
Salt & Light: Being Distinctive At School

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Florrie

Florrie is currently at secondary school in London and loves all things creative. As well as being an exceptional athlete, she also provides some of the finest and wittiest captions Instagram has ever seen… Florrie’s positive and joyful outlook on life is reflected through her shining personality, and her love for Jesus is expressed through her love for other people.

NB: After some disorganisation from the MP team, Florrie’s bio was put together by us – hence being a little less modest than her own words might have been! ;-)

World-Changing Worship

What does it mean to ‘worship’ Jesus? And how can we worship in a way that changes the world around us? Emma’s talk today explores how we can be girls who worship so radically and wholeheartedly that we shine for Jesus, and point other people to him. If you think you’re too young, too busy, or that your life is too ‘ordinary’ to be used by God – then this talk is for you! Praying you would change the world with your wholehearted worship. Lx

This talk explores the story found in Luke 7:36-50, the example of a woman who worships Jesus radically and wholeheartedly. You can find it here.

1. World-changing worship is whole-hearted.

2. World-changing worship shines.

3.World-changing worship is all about Jesus.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

Found in Psalm 27: Courage

Devotionals May 2

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.

Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

Psalm 27:1-3

As we start a new week, it is easy to be overwhelmed by all that lies ahead. Maybe we face exams this week, or difficult situations with our friends, or our job is stressful and we feel under pressure.

These verses in Psalm 27 are amazing, because they show us that no matter what we are facing, we can be confident because God is on our side. We can step out in courage.

God is described as being our light, shining into the darkness.  He is our salvation; he saves us so that we can have a relationship with him. And, He is our stronghold; He will keep us safe, and not let us stray out of His care.

So we can be confident that whatever is going to happen this week, we can have courage because we are loved by a mighty God who saves and protects us in every situation we’ll face.

Father God, we thank you that you are our light, salvation and stronghold.
Help us to trust in this truth this week whole-heartedly,
and to be courageous and confident in you. Amen.

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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.

An Antidote to Perfectionism

Introducing Emma Bentley’s talk from our Cambridge event a few weeks ago! Emma spoke about perfectionism, and how all our efforts to be successful or perfect are made invalid in light of who God is, and what Jesus did for us. This is so important to remember, especially as lots of you will be preparing for exams, thinking about your future plans, and perhaps needing to surrender some hopes and dreams into the faithful hands of God. Enjoy x

1. There is a plan for you.

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

2. Don’t worry.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

3.  Remember the big picture.

Colossians 3:23-24 reminds us that we are “serving the Lord Christ” in everything we do.

4.  Remember the greatest commandment.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27)

Found in Psalm 23: All-Sufficient Love

Identity Pt 1 Devotionals

The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. Psalm 23:1

I absolutely love this verse (partly because it’s super easy to learn and remember!), but mainly because it is so beautifully simple and yet at the same time incredibly profound.

This verse is a huge encouragement for us. God loves and cares for us, in the same way that a shepherd cares for each and every one of his sheep.

God, the creator and King of the entire universe, is interested in you. He delights over you. He watches over your life. He is with you, in every moment of this week ahead. He promises to give us all that we need, to do all that he has called us to do.

In God we have all that we need.

This verse is also a big challenge to us. It is so easy to chase after things that I think I need, rather than whole-heartedly trusting in God and knowing that He is all that we need. I like to think that I can get things done myself, achieve things, and control things. But God calls us to trust that because we have His love, we lack nothing. We already have absolutely everything we need.

What do I need to trust God with, this week?

Father God, thank you that you love us and care for us so much more than
we can even imagine. Thank you that you give us all that we need. Thank
you that because of your love, we lack nothing. Please help us to trust in
this truth, and know it in our hearts as we start this new week. Amen.

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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.

Salt & Light: How We Look

Jesus calls us to be the salt and the light of the world, but ‘shining our light for all to see’ feels extremely daunting, and especially difficult at school. This Salt & Light series is created to inspire you to be the salt and light wherever you are placed. Today Katie is writing for us on image, and how we can find our identity in something bigger than the things we wear or the way we look. This is the first post to have ever mentioned Non Uniform day – and I think it is long overdue! Enjoy, and learn lots. L x

Salt & Light

One of the ways our school raises money for charity is Non Uniform days: this is when you pay a pound to wear your own clothes to school. This sounds like a great idea – however at my school (and I’m guessing at yours too), it’s turned into a judgement day.

As you walk into school each girl will give you a look up and down to see if they approve of what you are wearing, silently judging you and comparing you to themselves. I know that I also do this without thinking, making a mental note in my head of whether I look better of worse than somebody else in what I am wearing.

So often I end up wishing I was wearing something different or looking like someone else because they have a nicer figure than me. Have you ever felt like this?

Whether you are happy with the way you look or not every single one of us was “knitted together in our mother’s womb” by the Creator of the universe, our Heavenly Father. And He did so with love and care because each one of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14). Therefore each one of us is beautiful, there is no one else you looks exactly like you, there never has been and never will be, you are unique and so so special. Because of this we shouldn’t compare ourselves to other people because we have been made the way God want us to be and by wanting to change the way we look is forgetting about our creator.

Accepting the way we look can be very hard for many of us, me included. Very often I’ll pick out all the different parts of my body I don’t like and wish that I could change them but this gets me nowhere and instead makes me feel even more rubbish about myself.

We need to remember that we were created by our Father who loves us dearly and we should also love the way we look – even though this can be hard. When you accept Jesus as your Saviour, you are accepting him to be the King who rules over you. His opinion of you is the only one that matters; not that of a boy or the girls at school. In the Bible it says:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes.
Rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentile and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

1 Peter 3:3-4

Therefore we shouldn’t look for our identity in our looks, but rather in God and what He thinks of us. If we have accepted the fact that Jesus died on the cross for us and have asked for forgiveness then this is much more important than what we look like. When Jesus comes back we will all be judged and if we have put our trust in God then we can spend eternity with Him. This is the judgment day that really matters – far much more than Non Uniform day or any other day.

Practically trying to make our hearts beautiful can be hard, but if we ask for God’s help then we can do our best. Why don’t you try reading your Bible before school? This doesn’t have to be a whole chapter, just a verse that will help you remember that God’s opinion of you is the only one that matters rather than everyone else at school.

Or, maybe try and spend less time filling your head with Instagram posts or tweets that make you feel like you need to be like the people in them. Instead, spend time talking to God or exploring the Bible.

And remember – you are beautiful!

Related articles:

Salt & Light: Being Distinctive At School
Salt & Light: Distinctive Conversation
Living For Something More

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Katie

Katie

Katie

Katie is in her last year of secondary school and lives in a town called Leyland in the North West of England. She loves baking, spending time with friends and most importantly Jesus! Katie is so excited about More Precious and how it is encouraging girls to keep on living for Jesus.

Leading Into The Light

We hosted an incredible evening of talks, worship, and music at our most recent event in Cambridge, and today’s post is one of the talks from this evening. Hannie spoke for us on leadership, and how we can lead in the way that God calls us to – no matter how old we are or how confident we feel. God calls us to be obedient, loving and faithful – will you be?

1. Leaders who love extravagantly

Ruth is our example here – take a look at her words here in Ruth 1:16, this is an absolute example to us as we strive to be girls and leaders who are radically loving and loyal.

2. Leaders who are boldly obedient

Luke 1:36-38 is a snapshot of absolute obedience from Mary, mother of Jesus. Are we willing to be leaders who are as obedient and willing as Mary? Let’s learn from her response – and remember that we are never too young to be boldly and willingly used by God.

3.  Leaders who have faith in the unknown

Rahab wasn’t an Israelite, so she had no reason to trust in a God that she did not know. But yet, she trusts in God’s goodness and has a bold and incredible faith (see: Joshua 2:9-13).

P.S. Check out the 3 special women that end up in Jesus’s family tree…our God is radical!

Found in Psalm 42

Psalms 3 Devotionals

Psalm 42

As I’ve been writing about these Psalms, I’ve been struck by the range of human emotions they exemplify. But these poems are about more than just human experience: in each, the focus is on God, a constant both throughout and outside of whatever situation the Psalmist is going through. In Psalm 42, the struggle isn’t anything to do with security or safety or self-identity – instead of crying out for God’s help in a certain situation, he’s crying out for God himself.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
Where can I go to meet with God?
(Psalm 42:1-2)

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. (v7)

Why have you forgotten me? (v9)

Where is your God? (v10)

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? (v11)

Put your hope in God, for I will praise him, my Saviour and my God. (v11)

It’s hard when we feel far from God. But this heartache I think proves that we are longing for God. Often I find myself longing for his guidance, his security, his wisdom. This psalm is a challenge for me to long for God himself.

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JoannaJoanna

Joanna 

Joanna is busy reading, writing and revising her way through her final few weeks as a student in the gorgeous and totally instagrammable city of Durham. She loves God and loves people, and you can usually find her with one or two close friends; eating or making yummy food, drinking tea and externally processing whatever decision needs making that week!

Faith Worked Out: Rachel Hughes

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 Delighted to be sharing with you so much wisdom from Rachel Hughes, a role-model & inspiration to lots of our readers already. Rachel’s story has inspired me very much, as has her energy and commitment to following God wherever she feels He is calling her to go. Let’s be girls that listen well, and make ourselves available to God’s call too!
Enjoy Rachel’s interview – it’s a special one. L x 

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RH


Fun Five

Ideal dinner party guest: Susannah Wesley or Angelina Jolie

Place on Earth most like Heaven: Has to be the beach!

Book on bedside table: A study on Daniel that I am determined to complete…

Song you would sing on an echoey stairwell: Let It Go!

Funny quote from your children:
Phoebe: Mummy, why do you call Daddy ‘babe’?
Me: Well when you love somebody you like to call them special names like angel or honey – like I call you! Do you have any special names for Mummy?
Phoebe: Yes Mummy: John.

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Tell us a little about what you do now, and how you got there?

My primary role is to be a mum at home for our four children aged 7, 6, 4 and 2. Since my eldest daughter was born, I have felt very strongly that I should be at home – though this isn’t a decision that has come naturally to me. I love kids, but I pray daily for grace to be the mum that they need me to be. Particularly when lots and lots of my friends have returned to work, I feel like I’m always the one “left behind” at home.

Yet every time I have asked the Lord “is it time?” I have still felt like I needed to be at home; I have a strong sense that one day I will look back and be really glad that I’ve made this decision. However, this decision has been costly – something that any mums at home will understand, but for those without children, might sound ungrateful. It’s not an ingratitude by any means – and again, I thank God daily that I’ve been able to have four healthy children of my own: I don’t take that blessing lightly.

So what are you learning in this season of being at home?

Being at home with young children is a hidden season, a sacrificial season, and I’ve had to learn how to connect with God in a totally new way – it has changed my sense of identity, it the way I rely on God, communicate with God – everything.

As I said, I feel like God’s been speaking to me a lot about seasons. I think the cultural pressure is that you have to have everything now and immediately. We forget that for most people, life is 70 years long, and there are seasons along the way. I feel part of my ability to just sit in this season and be content is because I know there’ s more to come – I just know it! Though I don’t know what it will look like, I honestly totally trust God that beyond nappies and mopping up various bodily substances from various bits of our home (!) – I know that God’s got something different in store. This gives me sustenance for the season I’m in.

Who or what do you have a heart for?

Something I’ve felt passionate about for a long time is this desire to cheer on parents (mums) – something about being a mum to young children is so vital. There’s something that happens to a woman when she first has a child, and my heart is to get alongside women to help them to find connection in that time – whether that is connection with other Christians, or within the church. It can be a lost time – church becomes a logistical operation and not a spiritual experience, and you can slip under the radar easily. It can also be quite a dry time spiritually, and so yes – this is something that I’ve had on my heart to do since I became a Mum, to encourage others into a place of connections.

Are there other seasons that you remember as being particularly challenging or significant?

I think every season has its challenges – it has its good bits and bad bits, and it’s only as you get older that you’re able to appreciate the goods and bads of each season. I can think of a few particular times – one of these being single in my twenties.

Again, I wouldn’t claim to know too much about what it’s like to be long-term single; Tim and I started dating at 25, but I remember the years in my early twenties when I longed deeply to meet somebody, fall in love, and get married. It was draining and difficult! At that time I was working at the BBC, in a really exciting television career that I loved where I made entertainment TV programmes. It was so much fun, and my social life was very active – yet I always had that deep longing for a husband that I would spend the rest of my life with. There were many moments of pain, turmoil and disappointment in that season.

How did you find your time at university?

University I found really hard. Again, looking back through the eyes of a 36 year old I realise that I was having fun, but on a very superficial level. To be honest, there was a lot of drinking, lots of partying, and lots of sleeping around. I would have still said I was a Christian at the time; I went to church and Christian Union now again, and attempted at times to live that double life – I was drunk on Sat night, sleeping at somebody’s that night, and walking into church that next morning. It was a horrible, horrible way to live life.

That double life is awful, particularly when you’ve had a relationship with God before – and I had, having grown up as Christian, with fab Christian parents and siblings, as part of great church. But for me, I think what I struggled with most was that I always had a very fragile sense of self-esteem when it came to the way I looked. Because I struggled so much with my own sense of self-esteem, making some of those attractive guys attracted to me quieted that voice in my head telling me how inadequate and ugly I was.

It became a bit of a pattern. I was constantly seeking approval from guys, which inevitably leads down a sexual path. I had arrived at university with a desire to keep my virginity until I was married – I guess I knew the right thing to do, and yet the pressure was just too much. The only way I knew at the time to feel good was to sleep with guys that I guess gave me that sense of approval. But it was superficial, and of course the morning after the night before feeling is horrible: a hollow, aching feeling in your heart, where you KNOW what happened wasn’t the best, you know it and cant shake it off.

In the moment it makes you feel better, but afterwards, that sense of dignity is gone. I can remember on several occasions walking back to halls of residence in same clothes as night before and just feeling lonely and empty – a pervasive sense of rejection really. And I felt like I couldn’t really go back to God at that time; I carried such a deep sense of guilt and shame that was such a heavy weight on me. It actually wasn’t til I finished uni and was in a long-term relationship with a guy when I realised my life wasn’t going anywhere. I knew I needed to turn back to God, and I can remember being on my knees in my room just sobbing my heart out just asking God if I could come back. I felt the warmth, the presence and the cleansing acceptance of the Holy Spirit and I knew God was giving me a fresh start.

So – this was a real turning point for me. I moved to Manchester, and was living with a bunch of Christians on a council estate! Living with these Christian girls, I got to see for the first time what it looked like to live out Christianity in a way that was relevant, exciting and made sense. Of course I made mistakes, but I didn’t ever go back.

Having made a ‘fresh start’, how did you create habits and patterns that allowed you to grow closer to God, in this lifestyle that was no longer the ‘double life’ of your university years?

I think probably main thing was living with Christians – I knew at that point that unless I was accountable to committed Christians, I didn’t stance a chance. I lived in two houses: one with group of girls in Manchester, then with some girls in Watford who were part of Soul Survivor Church. Again, I wasn’t perfect – but these women were holding me to account in the most loving, godly, Christian way possible.

I remember particularly living with a lovely girl called Lex. There was a guy at work at BBC who asked me out; we had already been out on date, and he asked me to take things further in our relationship. I was chatting to Lex, and I will never forget that she said: Rachel, I’m not going to tell you what to do, but I will say you’re choosing a really dangerous path – and I don’t want to see you walk down that path. That HIT me! Nobody had ever challenged me in that way before. I knew she loved me, and I respected her so I listened and didn’t pursue the relationship.

Knowing that those godly women were watching what I was doing and asking these kinds of questions – that was profound. Really importantly we PRAYED together and we spurred each other on. For me, that was absolutely paramount. And then of course it’s the ‘boring’ stuff – the bread and butter of following Jesus. Regularly reading your bible, prayer time, journaling, serving at church, getting there every week – it’s just the everyday things that create those good habits.

We loved this Instagram post! What are some of the major ways God has been faithful across this time? What lessons have you learnt about Him?

I would say – if I could sum it up: God’s plans are always better than ours. That’s probably the main lesson I’ve learnt – to go with God’s plans. It sounds like a very cliché thing to say, but I think I had lots of ideas ten years ago – particularly before I married Tim, about how my life would look. Working in TV, I thought I would marry some hotshot Christian producer and that we would make life-changing films together that would bring the gospel to people in never seen before ways! The idea of working for a church was never in the plan!

And then I look at all the twists and turns: one being our decision to come to Holy Trinity Brompton. We loved Soul Survivor Watford, but had a strong sense that it was our time to go. Tim was offered the job of Worship Director at HTB, and we’d gone to Focus (church week away) to visit for 2 days, and I remember spending most of the first day in tears, saying Tim we’re not going to some posh church in London! This is not me at all!

Then we went for a walk on the beach with Nicky & Pips, who didn’t give us the sales pitch at all, but just chatted to us, and of course the Spirit was totally at work. Tim and I walked back from the beach, walked into our room and said to each other: we’re going arent we! God’s made it clear! It wasn’t writing in the sky, it was just a deep sense of the next twist in the journey.

To be honest we’re at another one of those turning points right now. We feel very called to church plant in Birmingham. Again, Birmingham – not in the plan! We went to Sydney in Australia this Christmas and I’d just gone for a run on the most staggeringly beautiful beach on the coach in Queensland, looking at the beautiful sea and just thanking God for sense of calling. In a human sense, Tim and I could pack up things, take the kids, move to Australia and live a lovely life on the beach – but God has called us to Birmingham. For some strange reason, the strong sense of calling bypasses any of those “would be nice” feelings – but creates a meant-to-be feeling.

What advice would you give to girls seeking to serve God with their gifts and passions, but unsure of what the right path is for them?

I’ve been thinking and praying (particularly as we think about starting our own church) about what it looks like to take the presence of God out to people. Of course we want to invite them into church and into community, but what does it look like to take the presence of God out where you are?

For those asking God ‘what do you want me to do’, ask instead: ‘God, what are you doing where I AM?’ Trust and believe that God already is at work.

If the attitude of your heart is genuinely one of availability (only God will test that) but if it is, then God will guide you. He will lead you. It might not happen in the way you think, it might not happen immediately – but I suppose my encouragement would be to seek and ask God what He is doing in the place you already are.

I think about me being a mum at home; as I said, it’s not always the most inspiring season, and it certainly doesn’t feel like a season where I’m utilising all my gifts; nobody is praising me publicly, but I’m learning to continually ask God: what are you doing here? In my home? In my street? Amongst the people I’m with?

And it’s been so encouraging to see God at work amongst the people on my doorstep! I’m doing this parenting course at my house, and three mums who don’t come to church are coming to do this course! I know God is at work in that. It might not be the glamorous high-profile stuff, but it IS the Kingdom! That’s the question to ask: where’s the Kingdom activity in what you’re doing?

If your heart is one of availability, then God will steer you and move you. Remember that you will experience seasons; it’s not always going to be job satisfaction or exciting initiatives, it’s often simply faithfulness and obedience. Sometimes we can think that unless we’re feeling totally fulfilled, there must be something wrong – perhaps we’re not where we’re supposed to be. Yet I think God is looking for faithfulness. That means some seasons will be harder and less fruitful than others. But God is looking for faithful servants! Will you be one?

Thank you to Rachel for sharing so much of her heart and her story with us. We’ve been hugely blessed by her words.

Found in Psalm 146

 

Psalms 2 Devotionals

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Do not put your trust in princes
In mortal men who cannot save
When their spirit departs they return to the ground
On that very day their plans come to nothing.
(v1-5)

There are so many things I find myself trusting in. Maybe not “princes” but certainly in “mortal men who cannot save” – whether this looks for you like popularity at school, the best GCSE results, the top grad schemes or family security. But see this – at the slightest change in circumstance “their plans come to nothing.”

This Psalm encourages us to look beyond princes, kingdoms, armies, careers, families, governments – all the structures around us, the obvious things to trust and rely on.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God.
(v5)

We can trust in the Lord who is the maker of Heaven and Earth, the God of Jacob who remains faithful forever. We can trust him because he is trustworthy; we can have faith because he is faithful.

In verses 6-10 we see that He offers hope. Guidance. Love. Care for the most vulnerable and lonely. Justice.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.

The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked

The Lord reigns forever.
Your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.
(v6-10)

I read this Psalm when there was a lot going on in my own life. I wrote it out and annotated all over it, applying it to the issues I could see relating to me. But the Psalm begins and ends with praise, and it made me stop and think about praising the God who “reigns forever … for all generations.” For me, this meant not just putting my decisions into perspective, but taking a moment to remove them from the picture altogether and spend some time praising God for who he is, regardless of my own situation.

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JoannaJoanna

Joanna 

Joanna is busy reading, writing and revising her way through her final few weeks as a student in the gorgeous and totally instagrammable city of Durham. She loves God and loves people, and you can usually find her with one or two close friends; eating or making yummy food, drinking tea and externally processing whatever decision needs making that week!

Salt & Light: Distinctive Conversation

Jesus calls us to be the salt and the light of the world, but ‘shining our light for all to see’ feels extremely daunting, and almost impossible when we feel like the only ones trying.

This is why we have launched Salt & Light: a series of posts by a number of 14-18 year old girls who are writing about how to keep living distinctively as a Christian girl, even when it’s tough and feels lonely.  I have been so encouraged by the faith of the girls who have been writing so far, and this post from Sophie is a really important one: a challenge for us all to use our words in a way that glorifies God and shines light. 

Salt & Light

Having been a Christian for nearly two years I have found that one of my biggest struggles as a Christian girl is the difficulty not to gossip about people behind their backs, and not to judge and embarrass others at their own expense. This has been a constant struggle in my life, creating animosity in friendship groups and ruining friendships. So today I thought I would ask myself; why is gossiping so damaging, and how can we stop it?

The Attraction

Having recently begun at a new sixth form college I understand the awkwardness of beginning a new course or activity with a group of people you don’t know. Therefore I tend to always grasp for conversation starters, trying to break the tension of meeting new people. After trawling through the usual ‘what are you studying?’, ‘have you done the homework?’, ‘did you have a good weekend?’ the awkward silence descends as we both sit there twiddling our thumbs. Having sat there for a while a piece of information about the latest couple in school or celebrity gossip may float to the top of my brain. Maybe ‘did you hear that Anne was caught cheating on David?’ or ‘didn’t you think that Kim Kardashian looked awful at the Oscars?’. These conversations would generally start to flow naturally from there as we chat about the latest gossip.

The attraction of these kind of conversations is that they are really easy and also can make you look good. For example, knowing the (hypothetical) details of Anne cheating on David can make anyone feel good, because it makes you feel needed and important. We tend to ignore the negative effects until later when Anne comes crying to you saying that a horrible rumour has spread round the school.

As Christians we should all be trying to build people up and love one another. How can we do this when lying and gossiping is so part of our culture now that we do it without thinking?

The Problem

The problem of gossip is not just that it could hurt someone’s feelings or that it spreads a rumour further, but that in The Bible God has clearly told us that we shouldn’t gossip. In Proverbs, Solomon gives us several verses to ponder over before we gossip.

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)

Isn’t it crazy how relatable The Bible is sometimes? Apart from, maybe the word ‘perverse’ (meaning someone who purposefully goes against what is right) this sentence could have come out of my parents or teachers mouths because this really does happen now.

I can think of many examples at my school where gossiping has separated close friends, where the shameless spread of rumours has ruined friendships and caused arguments. It causes us to put ourselves above others and spread rumours which might not even be true. For example, how many times have you embellished a story slightly to give it a more dramatic effect? I know I have thousands of times. Now it doesn’t seem so bad if you take one isolated event. However, when you think of how many times the rumour must have been told to other people which ‘slight’ embellishments then the rumour really does change quite considerably (and not usually for the better). It is a classic example of Chinese whispers where the end result or story is unrecognisable from a harmless joke.

Gossiping is the stuff of bullying and arguments. We know why we do it and why it is a problem but how do we stop it?

The Solution

Now, just by reading this you have already begun to be the solution to gossiping, so well done you! Otherwise lets take a look at two practical tips to help with gossiping:

1. Pray.
Praying to God could not be more important when struggling with an issue. So if you feel out of your depth or find it hard not to gossip in certain situations then why not pray to God to ask for help? God is all powerful and is always listening to our prayers so before school or during school take some time out to chat to God about your struggles and he will help you not to gossip. If you are suffering with being a victim of gossip, then why not pray for God’s love and patience to deal with the rumours and unkindness. Why not grab a Christian friend, parent or youth worker to pray with/for you?

2. Surround yourself with the right people.
I have a code with my Christian friend for when I am struggling with gossiping or I am beginning to. That way she can remind me when I am being ungodly and unkind which allows me when I am surrounded by my non-Christian friends to remain vigilant and to watch out from stepping into ‘earthy ways’. Because it also says in Proverbs:

A gossip betrays confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much. (Proverbs 20:19)

Here Solomon doesn’t literally ‘avoid men’ but ‘avoid people who may encourage you to gossip’ in that way it is much easier to make it through a school day because if you avoid people you avoid having potentially damaging conversations.

Gossiping is such a integral part of society that it is hard to avoid it all the time. Maybe set yourself a challenge to avoid gossiping for a day, then a week and slowly build it up. We will all inevitably make mistakes, and slip into old habits – but the beauty of grace is that we don’t have to feel guilty about mistakes we make. We are able to keep asking for God’s forgiveness and strength, as we are changed by Him from the inside out.

Related articles:
Words of an Encourager
Stopping Gossip Part I
Stopping Gossip Part II

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Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 09.08.02Sophie

Sophie

Sophie is finishing her time in Cambridge as a sixth-form student this year, before (hopefully!) moving to Durham to read Psychology. She loves to eat, laugh and sing her way through life with every day showing her more of God’s love and grace.

Found in Psalm 32

Psalms 1 Devotional

Psalm 32

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous,
Sing, all you who are upright in heart! (v11)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t respond well to being told to “be glad”. Sometimes we don’t feel much like singing. This Psalm does a good job of describing how it feels to be overwhelmed: be it by anxiety, guilt, or shame.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away,
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. (v3-4)

The thing I love about the Psalms is their honesty. Here the writer doesn’t tell himself or us to cheer up, to pull ourselves together or to fix a fake grin upon our faces. He admits that there is a problem, and he takes it to God.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” –
and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (v5)

The rejoicing comes at the end of the Psalm: in the certain promise of God’s forgiveness, the psalmist has the courage to confess his sin to God and it is in this he finds freedom in which he can rejoice. As Christians, we can be sure of this freedom which God has promised us. Galatians 5:25-26 (MSG) describes the life that God promises:

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

This is the kind of life in which we can rejoice, not simply when we are happy or when everything is going well. We rejoice because, through our redemption in Christ and the work of the Spirit, we are “righteous”, “upright in heart”, and because God has redeemed us to a new life.

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JoannaJoanna

Joanna 

Joanna is busy reading, writing and revising her way through her final few weeks as a student in the gorgeous and totally instagrammable city of Durham. She loves God and loves people, and you can usually find her with one or two close friends; eating or making yummy food, drinking tea and externally processing whatever decision needs making that week!

Salt & Light: Being Distinctive At School

Jesus calls us to be the salt and the light of the world, but ‘shining our light for all to see’ feels extremely daunting, and almost impossible when we feel like the only ones trying.

School in particular can be a really difficult place for living distinctively, and the idea for this Salt & Light series came from a number of girls who were keen to write about how to keep living distinctively as a Christian even when it’s tough.  I have been so encouraged by the faith of the girls who have been writing for Salt & Light, and I’m delighted to introduce this first post by our new writer, Katie. I hope her advice inspires you to try and be the salt and the light wherever you are placed. 

Salt & Light

Have you ever walked down a busy high street the opposite way to the other shoppers? Everyone is pushing you backwards, the force making you go with the crowd in the opposite direction to the one you want. I feel like living for Jesus at school is a bit like this. It’s such a hard environment to be a Christian in, and it’s so easy to be swept along with the crowd, going along with whatever they are doing.

I shy away from the topic of God, not wanting to have to talk about my faith because I’m embarrassed. But I know I shouldn’t be embarrassed, God is just so amazing and we should want to tell everyone about Him and what He has done for us. At church on Sunday I’ll hear about the wonderful things He has done, and I feel ready to go to school the next day to tell people all about the God I believe in. However, once I get to school all that enthusiasm has gone and actually I don’t want anyone to know I am a Christian. The ways of the world take over and I get absorbed in them.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16)

This is such a great verse to remember whenever you are finding it tough to stand firm in your faith – it shows us that we shouldn’t be ashamed in what we believe. The creator of the universe is our Father, He loves us so much and because He does, He sent His only Son to take the punishment we deserve. Because we so often turn away from God and have sinned, we don’t deserve to know God as a Father – but if we trust in God and believe that Jesus died to save us, then we can know God and go to Heaven. This is just so amazing! Therefore we shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed, but instead we should want to tell the people we love, so they too can know the Father and be saved like us.

This is, and always will be hard, but we are not alone: God is always with us and the power of prayer means that you can talk to Him anytime, anywhere. The first part of 2 Timothy 4:17 is such a great reminder for us…

But The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength. (2 Timothy 4:17)

Why don’t you write this on a sticky note and stick it somewhere that you will see it before you go to school ? For example, you could stick this verse on your mirror, to remind you each day that God will be with you.

As Christians, we should want to glorify God in everything we do – and quite often this won’t be following everything that our friends do. It is really, really hard to go against what other people are doing (especially when the other options look like lots of fun) but sometimes this won’t be the best way to put God first. Putting God first in everything doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and do what your friends are doing, but think carefully about every decision you make. The way you live has a big impact on how people see you, and if you are living for Jesus people will see that you are not living like everyone else.

This can bring up questions and get you into some really good and exciting conversations with your friends about the God you believe in, and what He has done in your life. Something I am so prone to doing is shying away from the topic of God and anything to do with my faith, but over the past couple of months I have realised that actually I need to stand firm and be bold about my faith. People may laugh or talk behind my back, but what I need to remember is that I have the best thing in the whole wide world – eternal life!

Keep remembering this: that God is always with you, you can talk to Him anytime and anywhere – so when you are having a hard day at school, remember that you are not alone. Christian friends are also a huge help; if they go to your school or not, you can encourage each other and help each other through the hard times. If you don’t have any Christian friends your age, I’d really encourage you to pray about it and maybe see if there is a church close to you with a youth group that you could get involved with and meet some Christians your age.

Keep being distinctive and being the salt and the light in your classroom, on your sports team, or wherever you find yourself on a daily basis.
Remember that God will always be your guide and your strength, and He is worth it all!

Related articles:
Living For Something More

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Katie

Katie

Katie

Katie is in her last year of secondary school and lives in a town called Leyland in the North West of England. She loves baking, spending time with friends and most importantly Jesus! Katie is so excited about More Precious and how it is encouraging girls to keep on living for Jesus.

How do I feel about that?

Katrina Post

How do I feel about that?

How many times have you asked yourself that question today? This issue arose with me a few months ago when I had reason to be very in touch with how I was feeling. As I explored some dark emotions and their causes I began to ask this question of God too.

How do I feel about God?

To be very honest, I didn’t really feel anything. It was like my faith had gone numb. Since I couldn’t feel God I began to lean towards disinterest. I’d stand in church and feel an inability to engage. I’d leave fed up, frustrated and convinced there was some reason God appeared to be so distant. I was blindly grappling around in a desperate bid to recover the original fervour of feeling I once had. I think it is fair to say I hit what CS Lewis describes as a ‘trough’. In such a confusing place I was prompted to remember this quote from Ravi Zacharias: ‘Feelings are vital but they are not foundational’.

As part of God’s intricate creation we have been given the unique capacity to feel. This is a privilege that we should never wish to trade away, and yet ‘feelings’ so often wreck havoc in our faith. We open our bibles desperate to suddenly feel something, to be set alight by the Word. But as we read redemption, saviour, justified, grace we feel nothing, the gospel seems bland.

If this is you (it was and is certainly me) I’d suggest you’ve suffered a spot of Jesus amnesia. We have forgotten the way in which that feeling was instilled in us to start with. Our foundations are constantly shifting. We are in the wrong order.

Feelings and emotions are a blessing and a gift, they make us who we are and the world would not be the same without them. But in our relationship with God we often exalt them above their proper place. If we want hearts that are moved, emotions that are engaged and a more consistent experience of that amazement and humility upon hearing the gospel, those feelings have to be in the right place.

There is an order that God has ordained. What we have in the Bible is Truth; it is not an emotional stimulus… and it is as we apprehend and submit ourselves to the truth that the feelings follow.
Martyn Lloyd- Jones

Truth first, feelings second.

Human feelings arguably lack a warning label; they are fickle and flighty (as girls with hormones, you’ve got to agree with me here!) Due to their nature, often they are not faithful to the reality of our relationship with God. The Bible urges us to consider how much power we give to our feelings:

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.
Proverbs 28:24

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Luckily, our God is gracious, true and unchanging. His love for us is consistent and His promises are always fulfilled. Instead of trusting in ourselves with our sinful hearts and feelings we are called to walk in God’s wisdom. When we focus on firstly investing in studying the Word, listening to the Spirit and getting to know God better, the feelings will follow. These feelings can be trusted because they are anchored in truth.

When we feel a bit washed out, like our faith is tedious and that God is far away, let the certainty of His character transform your feelings. There is so much incredible truth to absorb and so many equally incredible emotional responses to that. You will never run out of things to be astounded at.

When I am tempted to exalt my feelings I have challenged myself to stop and talk to myself about what I know to be true. And to be honest with you, I need to invest more in knowing that truth too. But if one thing is for sure – it is that our personal relationship with God does not rely on our feelings, but on His character. That is something to rejoice in.

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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.

Scared of Being Nothing

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

p

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Power of Perspective

Devotionals Map

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

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

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Rosie 

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

Disconnect To Connect

Devotionals Pencil

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

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

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

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

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Rosie 

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

Faith Worked Out: Margaret White

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

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Fun Five!

Fun Five!

£10 treat: Some beautiful flowers

My coffee order: Flat White

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

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

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

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Tell us about who you are & what you do…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this look like in practice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

There Is A God. It Is Not Me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thankfulness Over Perfectionism

Devotionals Daisies

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

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

‘Know that the Lord is God.’

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

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

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

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

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Rosie 

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

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