A LEGACY OF HOPE…

uaHWWWo

Has God ever spoken to you through something really random? He spoke to me unexpectedly the other day. As I was driving along a busy ‘A’ road admiring the lingering autumn colours in the varying trees along the roadside, I was taken by surprise to see a fully laden apple tree growing about two feet from the edge of the tarmac road. I laughed to myself as it dawned on me that this was the result of somebody’s apple core being flung from the window – and then I caught my breath as several thoughts all hit me at once. The three most relevant of these are that the tree had grown successfully without any nurturing or maintenance; that the person who inadvertently planted that tree probably has no idea of the result of that thought-free action; and that it was such a waste that those fruits were growing in a completely inaccessible place and would never be eaten!

In the last month I have been bereaved twice within one week, waking up on two consecutive Fridays to the tragic news that somebody I loved incredibly much had been taken far sooner than seems fair. Losses like that can stop us in our tracks and make us think, can’t they? So maybe it’s no surprise that when I saw the apple tree, I knew God was speaking to me specifically about purpose and legacy. I instinctively knew that the thoughts mentioned above could be applicable to things within my life (and perhaps yours too). I’m going to attempt to explain those thoughts for us now, because I’m hoping this will encourage and inspire us all.

The apple tree had grown and prospered because it had everything it needed: the seeds held the potential to become an apple tree, and they found themselves in the correct environment to carry out that potential and purpose. Without any effort really, the seed had grown into a flourishing and productive apple tree, fulfilling its purpose to grow healthy fruit. I believe that God has put inside each of us certain ‘seeds’ (gifts, talents, passions, etc.) that become an innate part of who we are as individuals. Some of these undoubtedly need nurturing… but if we reflect and think about the things we are good at that others perhaps comment on, which come so naturally to us we perhaps don’t even think of them as a ‘thing’… then I believe these could be our God-given strengths, and the areas where we will see the most ‘apples’ that we can potentially use to enrich other’s lives.

Hand in hand with that, comes a responsibility perhaps to put ourselves into the correct environments for those ‘seeds’ to be able to flourish. Instead of just effectively ‘chucking the apple core’ by carrying on in our own happy bubble, maybe we need to recognise the potential we are carrying and become a lot more focused and deliberate in our actions. Once we have identified our strengths, I feel that we should start looking for ways to plant those seeds in the areas where they will be the most useful and accessible (workplaces, schools, family homes, churches, communities…the list is a long one!). Imagine a world where we start using our talents to deliberately plant seeds of hope, self-belief, self-worth, peace, joy, or purpose into people. Or to actively change the status quo to make sure that those without a voice can be heard? Or to passionately make ways to level the playing field to make education, housing, employment etc. accessible to those who desperately need it and can’t break the cycle by themselves? Or to create new opportunities for people to get to know Jesus? …How encouraging, exciting and humbling to think that we could be planting positive seeds everywhere we go?!

The more sobering point I guess, is to ask ourselves…Are we using our fruits to ‘feed’ others and help them to grow, or just using them to enrich our own lives? As I sat in a crowded church service last week hearing many people speak of the way my friend Jason had left an impacting legacy (making sure his friends, family and colleagues knew they were valuable and loved not only by him but by God too) I was deeply inspired to make sure I used my time on earth wisely.

So when I saw that lonely apple tree, in the ‘wrong’ place, I knew God was giving me a visual reminder that if we aren’t enriching others, then what is the point?

Let’s use our ‘seeds’ to change our scenery and leave an accessible legacy of hope behind us.

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My 10 Year Journey with LAM

Hi, I’m Annie, I’m married to Mike, we have an 18 year old son, Jonty and are founder members of King’s Church. I also have a rare, incurable disease called LAM which destroys healthy lung tissue and erodes lung function. When I was diagnosed, the internet said that life expectancy was 5 – 10 years after onset of symptoms. I wanted to share this morning as this month is the 10th anniversary of my diagnosis and I’m still here, praise God!

I have spent the last couple of days (ok, weeks) thinking about what to say this morning, after all, 10 years is a long time to fit into 5 minutes.

I could tell you about the day my left lung collapsed whilst bowling with Jonty, which lead to the initial diagnosis in 2007 following five years of increasing breathlessness.

I could mention the night my right lung collapsed in May 2010, and we nearly left it too late to call the ambulance. Desperately traumatic….

And there were the anxiety and panic attacks that started after that night, keeping me at home for weeks on end, making me leave restaurants, get stuck in the bath and have my meals on the stairs. That was pretty grim.

I could talk about the stress of having to use oxygen in public, how hard it was to give up playing tennis and describe the agony of chest drains and the surgerys that stuck my lungs to my chest wall to stop further collapses….

Oh, and I could mention the first trip to Newcastle in 2011 to assess me for a lung transplant. At the moment I am too well to go on the active list but they monitor me regularly so it could become a reality in the future.

And I could tell you about when I started a new LAM treatment also in 2011 that has kept me fairly stable since then with minimal side effects.

I could tell you about when God healed my anxiety and panic attacks through prayer with some lovely ladies here. And how I finally realised that God loves me and I really am important to him.

I could also talk about the health regimen we have adopted as a result of my medication that suppresses my immune system and that since 2013 the regular chest infections have stopped and I feel healthier now than I did in 2011 even though I’m not physically able to do as much.

And then there is wonderful Mike – I could go on and on about how he has truly stepped up, doing the shopping, the lifting and carrying, makes me coffee every morning, endures my teasing, patiently waits for me and is just an all round great guy. I am so blessed that God chose him for me. He is the outworking of ‘in sickness and in health’…

And I could thank wonderful folks who have prayed, supported, loved and helped us over the past ten years… those that I know about, I’m sure there are others.

But I believe God wants me share these truths that I have learned during these past 10 years:

God is good. All the time. When I was first diagnosed I thought I deserved my illness as I wasn’t a very good Christian. But God showed me that my illness is just a result of living in a fallen world and that He loves me. It has given God a chance to show me his goodness and his grace as I have had to rely on him more and more.

God is trustworthy. He never fails and he won’t start now. At our wedding, God gave us two prophetic words. The first was ‘Jesus is in the boat with you’. God doesn’t stand far off seeing if we can cope with life, he’s there in the thick of it with us. He has kept me these 10 years, the last 5 relatively stable, healed my anxiety, brought me to a place of contentment and I am so grateful. I now know that God’s timing is perfect and that He is trustworthy.

I need God all the time. The second prophetic word at our wedding was a quote from Minnie Louise Haskins. “And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”” God reminded me of this and I now try to consciously put my hand in His before starting each day. Nothing is too difficult or too small for God! Over time, I have come to realise that I need him all the time, not just in the hard times. I do not need to fear the future if my hand is in God’s every day.

I am so blessed. I’ve had to physically slow down and it has given me time to notice the small blessings that happen each day. I try to thank God every morning for who he is and what he has done and declare some of the blessings in my life. It has helped me appreciate what I have rather than focus on my limitations.

He can use me. For years I felt I had no ministry, no calling, how could God use someone so physically limited? Gradually I am answering God’s call for me to be an intercessor, an encourager and maybe other things. The unseen ministries are very important and often the reason for the success of the visible ones.

 

I’m now at the point where I would love to be healed but am content to wait for God’s timing. He may heal me, he may not but I’m not going to worry about it. However if someone has a word from God that now is the time, please let me know!! I’m no longer defined by my illness, I may have LAM but it does not have me, God has me and I’m spiritually richer now than I was 10 years ago. I thank him for what I have learnt and how I have grown through having LAM which I possibly wouldn’t have done without it.

To finish, Mike is going to read a wonderful 19th century hymn by Joseph Parker that was introduced to me by Peter Lewis years ago at Cornerstone which encapsulates the truths I am beginning to understand. Needs to be read in a Welsh accent really but never mind…

 

God holds the key of all unknown and I am glad;
If other hands should hold the key

Or if He trusted it to me,

I might be sad.

What if tomorrow’s cares were here without its rest?

I’d rather He unlocked the day,
And, as the hours swing open, say,

“My will is best”.

The very dimness of my sight makes me secure;
For, groping in my misty way,

I feel His hand, I hear Him say,

“My help is sure”.

I cannot read His future plans but this I know:
I have the smiling of His face,

And all the refuge of His grace

while here below.

Enough; this covers all my wants and so I rest;
For what I cannot, He can see,

And in His care I saved shall be,

Forever blessed.

Exchanging worry for peace.

Before I became a Christian I would worry. Every day. I was a worrier. Big things, little things, things I needed to do and things I could do nothing about.

Then my shoulders and neck would stiffen and ache until they stayed that way all day and would wake me at night.

I wouldn’t even notice but I’d be holding my breath.

But now I have exchanged worrying for praying.

For God doesn’t want us to worry and we all know that worrying in itself will do nothing. The bible tells us that God wants us to give all our worries to him.

Giving our worries to God is all about trust. As a non believer I couldn’t do this; my experience tells me that only as I started to get to know him and began to trust him, to realise that he was interested in my life, could I give him my worries too. In return I would receive peace. The unexpected peace, peace that makes no sense, peace that the bible talks about.

Today, if I feel my neck tensing up again I remember that I’m forgetting to pray about it. It’s as though I am gathering up my concerns and those belonging to all those dear to me, (who talk to me about life) and it’s as though I’m holding them all in my arms and knowing that if there is one more thing then I will drop them all onto the ground and they will smash into a thousand pieces. But they will still be at my feet.

So I pray.

And if I pray and talk to God, the Holy Spirit, who intercedes, will gather them up. It’s as though the Holy Spirit will sweep up all the pieces and tip them all into a wheelbarrow and trundle them over to the cross. It’s as though there is a hole at the foot of the cross and that even in the winter, when the ground is hard, the Holy Spirit will tip everything into the hole and bury it.

And then I am filled with beautiful peace.

The hole at the cross is so deep, my aching arms could never reach those pieces.

I have forgotten some of those worries. They are buried. All gone.

But others are still there, or new ones and when the thoughts come, I pray again and give them to God.

Again.

God isn’t worried. He sits. He isn’t pacing around, he is seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms and knowing that comforts me.

So I pray again and then there is praying and waiting and trusting.

We all find waiting hard but God tells me it will be ok. And then there is more peace. My shoulders soften and my breathing becomes slow and deep as it should be.

Sometimes if I forget this, I read my poem over and over until I remember that on my own I can do nothing, but if I trust and know that there is God then I have real peace, the peace that can only come from God.

 

The Storm

Take me from the overwhelming storm of endless thoughts in my head

crashing like waves across the rocks

and the not knowing,

to the cool, calm waters in my soul,

heavy with the weight of eternal wisdom

and the Destiny

and the promise of all that is yet to be.

Let the me inside rest in the calm waters

and float in the place where the water laps in my ears,

so that the only sound is the muffled echo of the ocean’s depth

And the only thoughts are of You.

I am still again.

Peace.

Your Peace.

 

Vicky Warnes.

Mark testimony 08/05/16

Wow! Another story of Faith and Obedience to Gods call.

We do serve an Amazing God

 

Mark testimony 08/05/16

 I didn’t have any particular faith while growing up. My Dad, a tenant farmer, was probably more concerned with the practicalities of life. Not particularly Christian, not particularly atheist. Stuck in the vast swaths of ‘never really considered it ‘ I suppose. Jesus was mentioned at Christmas, because it was expected, but that was about it.

Church was a very small part of my Grammar school education, over shadowed by achievements on the rugby field, the sciences and results, results, results. Cold pews on a Wednesday morning to be talked at in assembly & Christmas carol services… it was expected.

As slightly angry teenager whose passion was art, I sought solace in music… some fast, angry and loud, some slow and, frankly, miserable. And it fed me to a certain extent. I got a reputation that worked quite well with my ‘Tortured Artist in a lonely Garret’ image of myself.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life and as important relationships began to fall apart yet again last year, it became obvious to me that I was also struggling with a cycle. I could build things up, but eventually I always came crashing down to place that wasn’t pleasant, but was very familiar.

So I began a journey in earnest. A drop in centre at Samaritans, a drop in at the Doctors for more anti depressants but they weren’t answers. A hand of help, despite all expectation, from my now fiancée, Ronnie, but still I was looking everywhere else for a solution. Personality tests, TA counselling…they satisfied for a few days, but just resulted in more questions.

Then Ronnie wanted to return to church: she was examining her life too, but from a different place, from a childhood and a lifetime of Christianity. I don’t believe her faith in God has ever faltered but I think her faith in people has. She never pushed me when I questioned her beliefs, merely told me to ask God. And I was curious. So we looked at church websites, and there on St Nics homepage was an Alpha course starting in 2 days time. It sounded like a place to get answers. And the timing was, errr, coincidental.

I started looking into this Bible thing. Something I hadn’t done since school. I still believed the deceptions… fairytales and legends, rewritten like Chinese whispers by a church with its own agenda. But I found that to be untrue. As a historical document the Bible is unprecedented. We have a more certain documentation of the events in the New Testament than we do of Cesar, Homer or Plato. All these factual figures written about 500, 1000, 1500 years after their deaths. The New Testament was written within living memory of Jesus and we have documents from within 100 years of the originals.

It raised Questions: if its message was so persecuted by authority why didn’t people just stand up at the beginning and go ‘I was there, that’s not what happened.’ Why, like the majority of ancient documents, wasn’t it lost? Why did the message spread so fast?

And so onto the Alpha course, where I, admittedly, struggled with the concept of the trinity for a few weeks until I finally figured out that I had no hope of completely understanding the concept of God. Imperfect analogies are the best I could do. In fact, if I could understand it, what would that say about God?  That he wasn’t much different to us? That didn’t make sense….

We discussed Jesus’ sacrifice and the change from Old Testament Laws to New Testament Grace, something I don’t think anyone had explained to me before. And I finally managed to separate faith from the church and from religion. I started noticing those ‘coincidences’ in my life and I felt the knocking on the door. Actually it was more an impatient hammering… And when I opened the door a little, I think a foot was firmly stuck in the gap. I believe, in the end, giving my life to Jesus became inevitable. And I had, for the first time I can remember, a feeling of peace.

In the last 3 months, I have read a lot. I have listened to a lot of very good apologists on you tube, and I have prayed. And, of course, we found Kings.I’ve come quite fresh to Christianity, I think: I haven’t a lifetime of confusion and baggage and in some ways that makes it easier. I thank Jesus for being so patient with me and being with me everyday, and I thank God, my father, who I can rely on to pick me up, brush me down, put a plaster on that scraped knee and set me on the path again.

A Journey to Adult Baptism

After reading Arthur’s article I realised that it is so much more than just a blog but a testimony of faith and obedience. In a world that might not fully understand Adult Baptism I found his journey refreshing and encouraging.

My Journey to Adult Baptism
By Arthur Pember

I was settled, content but after attending a Methodist church for thirty years I felt God was telling me to move on. My idea was to go to local churches and see which I would choose. I mentioned this to a friend who asked me to try Kings. I arrived one Sunday morning. Upon entering the church I was warmly greeted by the members on the door.  People came up to me both before and after the service, eager to welcome me and make me feel at ease. I enjoyed the service and noted how good the music was. I was so impressed that I attended for the next few weeks, then decided this was the right church for me. There seemed a peace and calm as soon as I entered the church.  After a while I joined a house group and soon settled in. It was like having an extended family. They care for each other and help in practical ways when needed. At Kings there are constant  prayers. You could approach a Leader, or there is always someone nearby willing to pray with you.

I have been going to Kings for over two years. Recently Mark spoke about making a commitment to Kings and adult baptism. Being a Methodist I had never thought about it but as Mark spoke it became clear to me that it made sense to declare my love of God. I went on a Unite course, during which Mark asked me my opinion on adult baptism. At first I was unsure but after praying I knew this was the right thing to do. I spent time with Mark and soon the actual day loomed. The church was quite full and friends came from the Methodist church to support me. I was worried about full immersion and being lowered back into the water. God came to my aid over this as the bathing pool sprung a leak and there was only a few inches of water left in the pool. I knelt in the pool and water was poured over my head.

It is now a week since I was baptised and I feel a different person. I want to tell everyone I meet about my experience and I am more relaxed in my ways. There is still a ring of peace above my head. A number of things have happened to me in the last week.

Sunday – I had a bad holiday and for weeks I had been seeking improved compensation from the travel agent. There was a message on my computer when I returned home after my baptism asking me to contact  them which resulted in an increased offer.

Monday –  I had a call from The Beacon Centre who want to run the carpet bowls sessions being closed by the Council that I am part of.

Tuesday  – I am not usually good with computers..Today I set up and claimed Gift Aid for Arnold Food bank.

Wednesday –  I was in a car with a friend A car came speeding out of an opening and I was convinced there was going to be a nasty accident. Thanks to my friend’s skill and God being with us the car missed by centimetres.

Thursday –  I went to the garage with a problem with my wing mirror. They stated it was covered in my warranty.

Could these be coincidences, I think not. Thanks to our Lord.

Faith to hold on

Sometimes when we talk about faith, we use it in the context of taking bold strides forward, stepping into new things, taking risk and trusting in the outcome.  And when all is good, when life is sweet and all seems secure these steps seem possible, appear achievable.

In my life I’ve made a few of these steps – life changing decision’s – and have generally seen positive, encouraging outcomes but that’s for another blog post

But let’s be honest for a minute, there are many situations and times where we don’t feel secure.  Many of us are not in those places of strength, our current foothold seems unsecure, so how on earth can we take a step forward in confidence.  It’s in these times we don’t need a faith “step” but a faith “grip”.

It may be a season of illness, of job loss or tragedy.  Its in these seasons we need the faith to hold on, to hold tight.

The Psalms, a set of beautifully written poems and songs in the Bible reflect this sense of holding on and can be a great comfort.  Psalm 31 (read it in full HERE) echoes the pain of suffering, of struggling.  Here are a few lines from it:

I’ve cried my eyes out; I feel hollow inside.
My life leaks away, groan by groan; my years fade out in sighs.
My troubles have worn me out, turned my bones to powder.
To my enemies I’m a monster; I’m ridiculed by the neighbors.
My friends are horrified; they cross the street to avoid me.
They want to blot me from memory, discard me like a broken dish in the trash.

 

You can hear the writers pain and anguish – maybe it echoes with your situation?  So what does he do, how does this story end?

Well it’s a simple statement, a conscious decision.  Despite all the circumstances around him, despite how he feels the writer of this poem expresses what it is to make a faith “grip”

But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands.

I’m choosing to hold on, I’m choosing to make a faith grip on you God and all you can do.

Let me finish this blog with this picture.  Imagine a ship at sea, a storm approaches, the waves increase and the wind strengthens – for a time onward travel is too difficult.  The only option is to make harbour, to get behind those big storm walls, find safety and rest and wait.

That’s what we need to do when storms hit our lives – find rest and safety in God, find the peace and security only He can bring.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/5b/44/d1/5b44d1f4e985b8db4895b2da483d5468.jpg

Then maybe when the storm has passed and the wind has died down you can carry on that journey, taking some great steps of faith.

Have you ever experienced the peace of God in a stormy life situation, found His security when all is crumbling around you?  Why not let us know, leave a comment, we would love to hear these stories.

Mark H

Walking on Walls

A couple of weeks ago I was driving down one of the back roads home from church. I don’t really know why I use this route, it’s out of habit I think. Well, on this occasion I had to slow down because there was a child walking on a garden wall that was close to the road. The boy could not have been older than 4 and his dad was holding his hand all the way, when he got to the end of the wall the boy did this big jump off the wall onto the pavement. The dad was cheering and  the boy was celebrating his achievement with raised arms and then giving his dad a “high five”. I have to be honest and say that the first thought that went through my mind as I passed them was “what’s the big deal, the wall is only 2 feet tall”. It was only when I got home that I realised how juvenile that was from me and then it hit me!

It’s all about perspective.

For that boy, the wall was huge! It was not a 2 foot garden wall but a 6 foot wall of fire. He was showing his dad that “he has what it takes”, to be courageous, brave and basically awesome.

We all have our own wall to walk on, that will test us in many ways and God will be right there to hold our hands. We need to understand that no one’s wall is the same, we are all at different stages in life and we should not try and compare ourselves to others. We have our own race to run and at the end the “high five” we exchange with God will be just as full of excitement as the celebration I witnessed between that boy and his father.

So next time you encounter a challenge, remember you’re not walking along that wall alone. And next time you are confused by somebody else’s reaction to something, remind yourself that everybody’s journey is different, and it wasn’t that long ago that you were struggling with the smaller ‘walls’ yourself…