Faithfulness and Grace

I wrote a long post last time about some of the things I’d learnt during the DTS (Discipleship Training School). But as I’ve reflected a bit more, I’ve realised the two most important things I learnt. They aren’t new things. Rather, they are truths I gained a much deeper understanding of and experienced in new ways, as God proved them over and over again.

One, God is faithful.

Two, God gives the grace for each day.

The recurring verse over the past year has been: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). In fact, I mentioned this as I thought back over 2012, just before the start of the DTS (https://riversofjoyblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/old-year-new-year-reflections-and-expectations/). I’ve seen the truth of this again and again and again, as I’ve been homesick, physically sick, trying to cope with the shock of India, engaged in endless spiritual warfare, tired, hearing bad news from a distance, lonely, frustrated, hurt and always far too hot! God has given me grace for all this and more. And he has also given me friendship, laughter, fun, health, victory, freedom, joy, forgiveness, hope, good contact with loved ones, dancing and cooling rain. He is so good.

I have seen the Father’s faithfulness to his people, to me – his child. How he not only meets my expectations, but far surpasses them. How he surprises me. How he never leaves me. How he continually transforms me, making ‘beautiful things out of the dust’, as the song goes.

I’m amazed by my incredible, gracious, loving and faithful Father. It’s all about him.

Learning, Growing, Becoming – DTS Reflections

I sat down with my journal to reflect on the biggest areas of learning and growth for me during the Discipleship Training School (DTS), which finished last week. Turns out there are more than I thought! This has been 6 months of incredible stretching and growth, so I share these areas of learning with you in the hope they might encourage you as you see how God is transforming me.

The entire DTS at graduation.

The entire DTS at graduation.

Unsurprisingly (given that I’ve spent all my time since January with the same 30ish people), I have had no choice but to grow in how I relate to others. Some of that has been in laying down my rights, preferring others to myself, learning to criticize and judge others less and lift them up in prayer more and some has been in not taking the blame for everything – acknowledging when someone has sinned against me and offering forgiveness instead of denying my hurt. I think I’ve made a little bit of progress in asking for help and addressing issues with others too.

I’m learning to love people fiercely, even when I know the close relationship is short-term and the investment feels too costly for the reward – to let people in to my heart without worrying about getting hurt or the inevitable goodbyes, trusting that God will pick up the pieces if necessary. I’m commanded to love, not merely be nice.

I’m learning to walk in an attitude of submission to those placed in authority or leadership over me, even when I disagree with them most vehemently. I’m learning to be a better team player, to be less independent. I’m learning to lay down my inclination to lead and to seek to develop people or ministries – sometimes this is just not my place, especially when my involvement in a ministry is very short-term. I have greater insight into what I understand ‘leadership’ to mean and how my definition is not necessarily the same as yours, and that that’s ok.

I am becoming more myself, more who God created me to be, without worrying about looking a bit silly or about what people will think. My playful, light-hearted, maybe even goofy side is emerging and I think I’m getting better at having fun, strange as that sounds. This has been a significant release for me.

I’ve grown in relating to God as Father and in seeking to encounter his presence every single day, not settling for less and always seeking more. I have again and again been challenged to surrender to Jesus, at a deeper level each time. He is worth laying down everything for. I’ve learnt to walk in God’s grace every day – his grace is always sufficient and his power is made perfect in my weakness, and this has been made very evident to me through all the challenges and difficulties there have been. I’ve learnt to press into God in the tough times more than ever. I’m learning how to deal with frustration, disappointment and unmet expectations. I’ve learnt that sometimes God’s purposes are not what I think they are!

I’m beginning to understand the authority I have in Christ. I heard God say that I have a voice. I’m slowly gaining understanding of what this means, but it’s to do with the authority I have when I speak God’s Word, when I pray. I need to use my voice, not letting it be silenced. I’ve grown in my understanding and practice of intercession. Prayer has been a big area of development for me.

Spiritual attack has been sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle. Fighting often involves standing on the truth, letting God remind me of the truth, what really happened, not being dictated to by my emotions. It involves pressing in to God regardless, in worship and obedience. (Of course, there are many ways of waging spiritual warfare – these are some I’ve been developing).

I’ve learnt that Thailand is my home too. God told me clearly (This is your country now) and when I was in Kolkata, I learntthe emotional truth of it as I became homesick for Thailand! During this DTS, God has given me vision and dreams for the future and has opened the door for me to start to walk out those dreams in Thailand. I’m thrilled both to know the next step and be ready for it.

So there you have it – a summary of what has been going on in my heart and head and spirit over the past 6 months. I know it’s quite long, but it really is only a summary. I can’t express how wonderful, faithful, kind, gracious, loving and good God is. I’m so grateful to him and excited to see how he will continue to bring transformation in these areas as well as teaching me new things. To him be all the glory!

To finish, here’s a link to six-minute video summary of our six-month adventure. Enjoy!  CARM DTS 2013

This is your country now.

I got back yesterday from Camp Zoe, a Christian camp for some of the teens we work with here in Thailand. It was a great 5 days of building relationships, having fun, playing crazy games and helping the kids get to know Jesus a little better.

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My team at Crazy Night. Our costume theme was… crazy?

The last night was a worship night and we spent some time thinking about being a light to Thailand. There was an outline of Thailand marked on the floor, with a large wooden cross in the centre. On the cross was a candle. The idea was that we would light our own candles from the one in the middle and set them round the country outline as a symbol that we want to be God’s light in the darkness in this country. My friend Brandi, who facilitated this, asked everyone to consider what purpose God has us here for. I started thinking about this for myself, not just for the young people.

Very quickly, and very clearly, God said that if I lit a candle, it would be a symbol of committing to stay in Thailand – not just shining God’s light in Thailand during this DTS outreach, but staying here long beyond that. I knew I was staying in Asia, but I hadn’t quite been sure what specific country. I hadn’t been fully committed to Thailand longer-term. So I took some time to think about if I wanted to make that commitment by adding my candle to those others were lighting.

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Shining God’s light all around Thailand.

I did light the candle and add it to the map. In some ways, it wasn’t easy – I needed to again surrender some of my own ideas and hopes and dreams. But as I made this symbolic gesture and sat looking at the map, I felt the Spirit whisper, ‘This is your country now.’ Not that Northern Ireland will ever stop being my country, but now Thailand is my country too. This makes me really happy.

So Thailand is where I’m staying, where God is calling me to shine his light into the darkness. For how long? I don’t know. I’m not completely sure in what capacity I’m staying either, but I think I’m getting closer to knowing that too – watch this space!

DTS Outreach… Coming Up Soon!

This is a quick post to update you about our DTS outreach, which is coming up very soon (less than 2 weeks). It’s pretty much the same as my e-mail update, so if you’re on my e-mail list you don’t need to read any further! First, an outline of what we will be doing:

1. Bangkok, Thailand

1-4 April: Outreach preparation/visa runs.

5-9 April: Camp Zoe (leadership camp for teens).

10-16 April: Evangelism at Thai New Year and attendance at a counselling seminar.

2. Kolkata, India

17 April – 17 May: Working with Mother Teresa homes, street children, street evangelism, mercy ministries…

18-19 May: Days off in Bangkok.

3. Chiang Mai, Thailand

20 May – 8 June: Call2All missions conference and YWAM Asia Pacific conference. Partnering with a local children’s ministry.

8-14 June: Debrief and finishing off back in Bangkok.

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The outreach costs 70,000 Thai Baht per person, which is almost £1600. I’ve been blessed with the money for this, but there are many on the team who do not yet have adequate finance.

As a school, we are doing three things to raise funds. The first is a street party to help with finances, but it’s not exactly handy for most of you! Secondly, on Sunday, many of the students are undertaking a sponsored‘marathon’ – not a literal marathon but an extended effort of their choice. 5 of the Thais are completing a 10km run, a New Zealander is doing 1000 push-ups in 24 hours, an American is doing 24 hours of prayer and worship, and so on. I’m completing a ‘Bible reading marathon’ with some others to raise money for the team. The plan is to go tovarious locations around Bangkok and read Scripture aloud, using it then also to pray. We want to read the whole book of Psalms aloud and some others too (not chosen yet). So if any of you would like to sponsorme to do this, please let me know and I’ll get back to you with how you can do that.

Our third way of fundraising is simply communicating the need, which this post is part of. Altogether we still need around 1 million Thai Baht, which is around £22,000, by next Monday. We believe God can and will provide all the money we need to do what he has called us to do and already we’ve seen provision in ways we never expected. I’m asking if you would take time to pray for the people who still need money and also to consider if you are able to help financially.

Thank you. We’re so grateful for your prayers and support.

Old Year, New Year: Reflections and Expectations

Disclaimer: This is not what I sat down to write. I wrote as the year changed. It’s late and I’m tired. So I’m not sure anyone else will make sense of my thoughts, but I needed to write them anyway.

2012. Where to start?! How to sum it up?

It’s been brilliant, stretching, hard, fun, exciting, God-filled. I feel that now, at last, I’m going out there and grabbing fistfuls of life, living life to the full, letting God’s life fill me and shape me. 2 years ago, I was so weary of the battle, the spiritual battle, that I couldn’t quite see how to go on fighting. Now, I say bring it on. I will not give up or give in or give ground to the enemy. I will stand firm. I will fight, as God gives me strength. More often, I’ll let him fight for me as he holds me by my right hand (Psalm 73:23). I have understood more deeply this year the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

It’s when I know I am weak that God’s strength can really be seen and experienced. I am experiencing new depths of God’s grace, faithfulness, power and love. I can’t put into words how incredible he is.

The start of my mission journey has been amazing. Of course, 2012 wasn’t really the start at all and I’m not sure I could pinpoint when it really began. But actually moving to Thailand, not knowing when (if) I’ll ever live in Northern Ireland again, was amazing. Whenever I’ve lived elsewhere before, it’s always been for a finite, given time period. This is different. More exciting, more unknown, sometimes scarier but also so incredibly right. I am living as who I was created to be. Am I getting it right all the time? No. But this is a God-adventure, a lifelong commitment to follow him where he leads. How could it get any better than this?

Of course there’s sacrifice. Of course sometimes it’s hard and I get bogged down in the details of life and I miss petty and unimportant things, like ant-free kitchens and custard creams. I miss my church. I miss people I’ve had to say goodbye to. Yet I don’t quite fit in Belfast anymore. I have loved being home for Christmas and seeing so many people I care about, but this isn’t quite where I belong now. Things have changed, moved on, without me. I’ve changed. I don’t miss my life before Thailand.

So I’m excited to go back in a few days. I’m excited about what God has in store in the coming weeks and months. I’m excited to see where I’ll be living, what I’ll be doing, who I’ll be at the end of 2013. I expect to see God do great things, in and through both me and those around me. I expect to be challenged and changed. Bring it on!

Identity

I was thinking through some things last night and got round to thinking about identity. It’s a theme that has come up in my life fairly often over the past few years. In fact, I just found a blog post on this very topic that I didn’t publish. There’s plenty I could write about identity in general, or my identity in particular, but really there’s just one thing I want to say today: I’m so thankful that my identity comes from Jesus. I’m thankful that no one else can tell me who I am (or who I should be!) – not other people, not Satan, not even me.

Only God can define my identity. He calls me daughter and friend, beautiful and beloved, redeemed and precious and free. That’s who I am. A daughter of the King. And no one can change that or say otherwise.

There’s a song that says:

All my changes come from Him, He who never changes
I’m held firm in the grasp of the Rock of all the Ages

I love that! How reassuring that the one who gives me my identity never changes, but he continues to transform me, even as I remain secure in him.

A Revelation

I had a revelation today. It’s not world-changing or anything, but I thought I’d share it. Actually, it’s pretty life-changing for me. In our team meeting this morning, we were worshipping and praying and I suddenly realised that I like myself. I like who God has made me to be. I’m not only comfortable with who I am, but I’m glad he made me this way. I like me.

Maybe that sounds a bit weird, but if you’ve known me for a while you’ll know that this is fairly revolutionary. A couple of years ago my view of myself was pretty low. I remember writing ‘I despise myself’. I doubted my own abilities and worth. I’ve been on a journey of healing and freedom in many areas of my life and one of them has been overcoming inadequacy. Before I came to Thailand I’d have said I’d completely overcome this and I was living in the security of who I am in Christ, much more confident in myself and my God-given worth and abilities. The first few weeks in Thailand, feelings of total inadequacy returned with surprising intensity and I fought that battle all over again. As a good friend reminded me, ‘if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ (John 8:36) She thinks maybe this is my ‘free indeed’, as I learn to live secure in my identity in a very different culture and spiritual atmosphere. God has been so faithful in fighting for me and negative feelings about myself have been gone for weeks now.

But I don’t think I’ve EVER, in my whole life, had the thought that I like myself. So it feels like a seismic shift in my thinking. I can agree with this verse at a much deeper level now.

For you created my inmost being;


you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,


I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13-14

I’m not saying there’s nothing I’d change about myself or that I like all of the things I think, say and do. I’m just saying I’m happy to be me. And I think that’s a really good place to be.

Happy to be me 🙂

 

Flying free!