Earlier this week I was ready to disqualify myself from being a mother. After a day of conflict and frustration in isolation with my children- a thirteen-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son- I went before God and tendered by resignation.
As I journaled my letter of resignation: Father this is too hard, Father I’m too tired, Father I’m too weak, too intolerant, Father I’m not good at this, Father, I nearly forgot to feed them and we haven’t got dressed for two days, Father I don’t know how to help them through this… I made it to my closing arguments and genuinely found myself suggesting to God that maybe He was mistaken when He made me a mum, and clearly, I’d have been better as a nun.
Easy mistake to make God- mum and nun are very similar sounding words and You and I both know that I would make a great nun.
I love Silence. Solitude. A cloistered existence is my idea of heaven. Let me read and study for hours…bliss. And I look pretty good in black.
So, God- in conclusion, it’s time to redeploy me: get me to the nunnery!
And closing my journal, I felt a sense of resignation and relief.
Do you believe what I believe about you, Aimee?
His question broke the silence and solitude with such clarity, despite the quietness of the voice. Intrigued, I answered His question with a question- Well that depends, what do you believe about me, LORD?
And He answered. ‘I believe that you are my child. I believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made- I believe that I do not make mistakes and you are a mum ( and not a nun- said with a smile, because God has a wonderful sense of humour) to Lyra and Isaac because they are my chosen and I trust you to steward them for Me’.
Awkward, reverential silence on my part.
And God asked a second question.
So, Aimee, how long is your mind going to be hostile to Me in these new circumstances, or are you going to be open to learn?
Ouch. Truth hurts.
In response to these new, unprecedented circumstances, I’d been fallen into the trap of trying to control those areas of my life where I’d felt I must exercise control- that would be me, my home, my children. I had usurped God from His place of Lordship and placed myself back upon the throne. And in doing so, the frustration and conflict of the day was the consequence of making myself hostile to the only One qualified to rule and reign in these circumstances- in all circumstances.
And then, He asked, ‘Are you now going to be open to learn from Me?’
And I realised, if we need to learn how to think, and act, to serve and parent in these unprecedented days, there is only One qualified to teach us. There is only One- Jesus- who invites us to stop worrying and being anxious (like Martha) and to sit at His feet and listen to Him (like Mary)- and the word reminds us that Mary’s choice was better, in fact is was the only choice needed. (Luke 10: 38-42)
So as the rest of this week has unfolded, and as I anticipate the coming weeks in front of us, I am ready to sit at the feel of Jesus and learn. And because, I’m positioning myself to sit at His feet and learn, He has taken my worry and given me back my joy which means He laughs with me and reminds me of His sense of humour, so He is teaching me- the non-nun mum- wait for it… habits (get the nun pun?) for this season
Habit #1 The power of Choice I get to choose to love God, to listen to His voice, to believe who He is for me every day… Deut 30:19-20
Habit #2 Self-control- Galatians 5:22-23- I heard an excellent teaching by Graham Cooke on self-control which God reminded me of… self-control is the trunk of the tree; without it the other fruits of the spirit cannot grow. Self-control is my ability to press pause on my circumstances, to come away into a quiet place with God and listen for His direction.
Habit #3 Worship- 2 Chronicles 20:14-19 This is always my response to who God is- we worship because He is worthy!
Habit #4 Word- Make it not just a discipline, but a delight to read the word- taste and see that it is good and sweet like honey! Psalm 119 v 11, 103, 105
Habit #5 Pray- Daniel, despite being a captive, despite the threat of death, would take himself to his room and pray three times a day and it led to his prosperity and peace. We are called to pray too! 2 Tim 1: 7
Habit #6 Tell Lyra and Isaac what God loves about them- Psalm 139. God has really challenged me to ask Him what He loves about Lyra and Isaac and then I get to tell them! This means I am praying about them more and God is focusing me on how He sees them, not how I – the frustrated mum- see them or the situation.
Habit #7 Reset each day- Finally God is teaching me about the power of repentance and return- I can begin again each day new, in Him as His compassion never fails, it is new every morning… No matter the mistakes I make, the frustrations I feel, I have hope in Him.
Lamentations 3: 21-24
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him.”
This blog post is written by one of our congregation, Matthew Fish, who works in Mental Health.
The experience of anxiety among Christians in the west is not novel, and given the current climate of insecurity and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, it is no wonder that some predict a nuclear fallout in all our global mental health in areas such as anxiety.
What is anxiety? To begin with, at a disorder level there are different types: Panic Disorder, Health Anxiety, Social Phobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are some of the big hitters within the UK.
Despite the variability, there are common experiences. One which most will relate to are the physical characteristics of anxiety: high heart rate – sense of feeling restless – sweating – feeling hot - breathing faster – tight chest – feeling dizzy – stomach issues – headache etc.
What is going when we feel this in an anxiety context is our body has turned primal, the threat system has become live, and physically it is preparing to fight, flight or freeze! The emotional label commonly ascribed is anxiety, and it is horrible.
As with all difficult emotions however, how we respond to them can have a dramatic effect on how they later affect us.
We know what the bible says about anxiety: (Philippians 4:6; Luke 12:25; Matthew 6:25), and we know that we should be trusting in God (Proverbs 3:5). The risk though is that in an effort to appear ‘good’ to God or others, we can adopt a bit of pretence by locking it down, supressing it, ignoring it, or avoiding it.
Most theory within the Cognitive model indicates that the sense of threat that causes anxiety originates in our mind: so what we think, what we believe, what we predict, what we anticipate. It is important therefore to identify what the thought/fear is, and within the current climate potential fears are numerous. As the bible says, taking captive these thoughts, and putting them up against what God says is a good start. Attempting to eradicate anxiety without identifying the underlying fear is hard work.
“… take every thought captive to obey Christ”. 2 Corinthians 10:5
I think we have to be realistic about that we will experience anxiety in the current climate although this does not have to be seen in a pathological light. After all, we need our emotions to warn us in the first instance, either about impending danger or wayward thoughts. Attributing a sense of shame alongside anxiety perpetuates the problem.
Prescribing a treatment for anxiety is multifarious, and even identifying our fears at the root of our anxiety is not a simple task. There are however some practical things we can do to mitigate anxiety:
The Mind website offers some helpful practical advice within the current climate:
Sleep is a biggie when it comes to reducing anxiety. You can find evidenced based advice here:
Making steps to calm our ‘threat system’ can really help us think less anxious thoughts. I find this free daily ‘meditation’ from encounter a great tool.
To conclude, here are some teachings on the topic of fear and anxiety from PCC and others. http://www.plymouthchristiancentre.org/messages/media-item/598/dont-worry-be-happyhttps://www.htb.org/sunday-talks-archive/2020/3/16/faith-not-fear
Talking with different friends over the last week about how life as we know it is changing so rapidly, one of Jesus’ parables came to mind. Do you remember in Matthew 7 how Jesus described two builders?
One of them, the wise man, as Jesus calls him, built his house upon a rock. Jesus likened these actions to someone who heard Jesus’ teachings and put them into practice – they didn’t just think that they were a good idea, they acted on them, making them a code of life to live by. Jesus had just been preaching the sermon on the mount, a message that would begin to turn the world upside down with its counter cultural and deeper meaning for life as a follower of Christ. The titles within his message include - The Beatitudes, Salt and Light, The Fulfilment of the Law, Love for Enemies, Giving to the Needy, Prayer, Do Not Worry, Judging Others and concluding with The Wise and Foolish Builders.
Why not go and read Matthew 5-7 and be amazed by some of the revolutionary teaching from Jesus that gave us a new way of approaching life with God and with one another. This was the rock that Jesus was calling us, like the wise man, to build our lives upon. Why? Because when the storms and trials of life rise up and swirl around us, we remain standing firm on the rock of Christ.
So what about the foolish man? What did he build his life upon? Sand. Sand that is moved along the shore with every wave, sand that we can pick up and watch slip through our fingers, never firm or solid but always drifting and changing.
If the rock on which we should stand is Christ and his word, what is the sand to us? Money, possessions, status, security, position, relationships, share prices, employment – all of these things may come and go but as Jesus said in Matthew 24:35 - Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
In these uncertain times, many things seem to be slipping through the world’s fingers but the Rock of Christ on which we stand cannot and will not be moved. As everything around them changes, the people of the world need certainty and hope. Just as the foolish man no doubt looked at the wise man and thought “I wish I had done that, I wonder if he’d show me?”, the world will be looking around for a way to do things better, wishing they had done so in the first place.
Could we show them? Could we be the face of calm in the storm, standing on the rock amidst the raging sea? The world needs the Rock of Christ. Can we help them learn to stand on it? Can we learn to see past the mockery and the cynicism and see their loss of hope and certainty?
So how do we do this in the middle of lock downs, isolation and suspicion…Perhaps as the world moves almost completely online, this is the space within which we can show the world another way. One that is free from anxiety, free from fear, free from hate, judgement and harsh words.
How about where we see anger, we speak words of peace, where we see fear we show love, where we see criticism we can encourage, where we see need we reach out to help. As followers of Christ we do not have the monopoly on kindness, but we are called to be different, to be set apart to show another way - The Way
Let’s take a look at Matthew 5-7 this week and remind ourselves of who and what and how we are called to be. People are being lost in the darkness and chaos – let’s turn a light on and show them the way to the Rock on which we stand.
As I am writing this, the prayer of St Francis of Assisi comes to mind…
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace Where there is hatred, let me sow love Where there is injury, pardon Where there is doubt, faith Where there is despair, hope Where there is darkness, light And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may Not so much seek to be consoled as to console To be understood, as to understand To be loved, as to love For it is in giving that we receive And it's in pardoning that we are pardoned And it's in dying that we are born to Eternal Life Amen
This I Believe (The Creed) - Hillsong Worship
Cornerstone - Hillsong Worship
For kids – The Wise Man Built His House
We were looking at the spiritual discipline of sabbath just a couple of weeks ago in Source on Sunday. It’s a practice largely forgotten in our fast paced world, and we are guilty of not prioritizing this day of stopping from the ordinary. I think it’s a timely topic, amidst these unprecedented times, where we have literally been forced to stop doing life as we know it.
Sabbath literally means to cease or stop.
(Exodus 20 v8-11)
The Sabbath was a day to stop work, a day which was holy/ set apart / different to the others, a day to rest weary bodies and tired anxious minds. Sabbath serves as a healthy reminder that we are human beings not doings, that we have limits. Sabbath is a gift from God to us and not merely a religious exercise.
Jesus lived a full and fruitful life, yet it was never hurried. He was often found retreating away from the crowds, getting up early to simply take time out to be alone with his father, we even see him taking a nap amidst a storm. Yet in our hurried world, we resist receiving this gift. It is so counter cultural to stop!
I read an article in Christianity today and loved what the writer expressed:
“I want my children to grow up and know how to work hard. I also want them to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that grace is real. I want them to know that they were loved before they existed. I want them to know they will always be loved, and I want them to know that love and grace are just part of who they are. I want them to know that love and grace are just part of who God is.”
Sabbath is a day to remember our father God loves us eternally. God delights in you, and gives us this day of stopping as a gift for our physical, mental and spiritual benefit. Its good for us, yet we resist receiving it, and making it a rhythm in our lives.
We know for many, this is a challenging time of fear and uncertainty, but if you are stuck at home it is also an opportunity to receive God's grace into our lives, and the lives of our entire families. It’s a gift of God to be together, play together, talk about our faith together, and to have space to listen for the still small voice of God.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46v 10
It’s a time to recognize we don’t have all the answers or control, but he alone is our help, our security, we can look to no one else for our help (Psalm 121). We can rely on him for everything.
Psalm 4v8 says, “I will lie down and sleep in peace for you alone oh Lord make me dwell in safety.”
Let's take time this week to enjoy all God has given us, to hear that he loves us, to recognize he is watching over us, and wants us to enjoy his peace in every circumstance.
This week let's discuss as families:
- What can we STOP doing as a family to make one day a week different to all the others, to bring life giving rest?
-What can you DO as a family to make this day different from all the others, to make it the best day of the week?
Please comment below to share helpful tips for creating a family Sabbath day of rest and delight in God.
Today was the funeral of John Smyth. Because of the current health crisis, the planned celebration service at the church has had to be postponed and the committal service at the crematorium had to be restricted to close family members only.
John was such an influential figure in the Elim movement and has touched so many lives in over 60 years of ministry, that many more people would have attended today if they were able. The tribute that was read from the current General Superintendent outlined some of the scope and breadth of John’s ministry and influence. It was very substantial!
I am sure that the celebration service later in the year will give fitting tribute to John and his life and legacy.
Today our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Mary and the family.
A recent memory I have of John is when we met in my office at church with two others to help with a sermon preparation class. I had asked John to meet with us and to share his thoughts on studying scripture and preaching. I know that John was a powerful and effective preacher. As we talked and studied the passage together, John shared his thoughts and insights with us. He was lucid and insightful and he saw things and brought out contours of the passage that none of us had seen or thought of. It was a privilege to sit with him and to listen. The light still glowed strongly.
I wanted to post this short post today to pay my respects to John, but also to give others the opportunity to do the same. Please add your thoughts and memories of John in the comments below.
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.” (Psalms 116:15)
I was walking round the supermarket the other day, perusing the empty shelves, when I was struck by the irony of the song that was playing over the sound system. It was Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” and specifically the line:
“Don’t it always seem to go / You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”
Within one or two very short (or very long!) weeks, the world has changed beyond recognition. And things that we took for granted until recently, have now suddenly grown in importance and significance at some level. Here’s a random list, not in any particular order of importance:
A handshake. Toilet paper. Bread flour. Human contact. A walk in the park. Gathering together as a church to worship. Social gatherings. Going to watch a film. Eating together with friends. Popping by to see your Elderly mum. McDonalds. Hugging. Brothers and sisters in Christ. Your job.
And on the list goes.
Things that we took for granted just a couple of weeks ago are now extremely rare or impossible. And more and more restrictions seem to be coming our way in the face of Covid-19.
I don’t know about you, but I felt a palpable sense of gratitude, a deep sense of relief, to “gather together” on Sunday, to see familiar faces, to have Andy and Rachel and Clau lead us in worship, although I have to admit, it was a bit weird listening to myself preach.
And I thought about how grateful I am for the body of Christ, for our church family, for brothers and sisters whom I sometimes take for granted.
This week’s Song of Ascent is Psalm 122 – “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
I don’t want to take this too far. I am not a massive hugger and kisser, and you know I am at the introvert end of the personality scale….
But I am looking forward to the day when I can plant a big kiss on Joy Pluckrose’s cheek and give Ruth Wellington a big bear hug and shake your hand at the door and watch Maldwyn snooze off during my sermon, and see Dave Beresford shifting in his seat and looking at his watch, and have Andy tuning his guitar while I am trying to give the notices.
I am looking forward to it!
And that day is coming my friends. So keep your heads up and your gaze fixed on Jesus, and the day will come soon enough when we rejoice with those who say to us: “Let us go to the house of the Lord”!
So get ready Joy – pucker up!
Fridays will be the start of Family Friday Blogs – Either myself (Donna), Aimee, Rachel or Hamish will write something, aimed at the whole family.
This time at home together is an opportunity for us as parents/carers to step up and teach our kids how to live the life of following Christ and to spend more time together discussing and practising our faith. We would love you to sign up to doing church on line together as a family and use the message to direct conversations and responses to living it out during the week. At a youth and children’s level we would love you to encourage connection with our online helps and be actively involved in the challenges set. We would love to hear from you and would encourage young people to engage and contribute. You are your child's biggest influence, and this is a golden opportunity!
We are here for you on the end of a phone if you or your child is struggling, don't hesitate to get in touch.
Youth are going to keep connected by doing a zoom chat at on a Friday and Sunday at 7pm. We will keep in touch will regular Facebook and Instagram updates. We would love parents to tune in, and use any material to connect and converse with your teens in this challenging time.
Amidst the uncertainty, we believe it’s a tremendous opportunity to slow down and connect with our teens and learn together how to navigate this life of faith. Our first challenge this week is to read or listen to Marks gospel. It is the shortest gospel, maybe read or listen to it as a family. The fun challenge for this week is to send in a short clip of young people having fun with their mum this mothering Sunday so we can compile a video of all those special moments with our mums!
Send your clips by private message to any of our Source social media platforms or email@example.com. Please sign up to our Social media pages ( Facebook and Instagram) and we will post zoom links for Friday and Sunday meet ups online.
Kidzone and Kidz Klub will stay in touch via facebook, so please make sure that you are connected to PCC Kidzone and Kidz Klub Plymouth. We will be uploading videos, challenges and resources for you to use at home. We have also sent some weekly devotionals in the post. If you would like one and do not receive one by the end of next week, please contact Aimee or Donna.
May God bless you this weekend - stay in touch.
I thought in these coming weeks we would look at some of the “Songs of Ascent” together. These are the Psalms (120-134) that were sung by the pilgrims as they journeyed up to Jerusalem three times a year for the major worship festivals.
These journeys carried with them various dangers. The risk of stumbling. Striking a stone, spraining your ankle.
The risk of sunstroke – a long arduous journey under a hot sun – you could become faint and exhausted.
The risk of becoming emotionally ill – fatigued and anxious – which the ancients referred to as having moonstroke.
Dangers. Weariness. Exhaustion. Anxiety and fear.
Along this journey of life.
Even and especially in these crazy times – we could all be susceptible to these. Worried about what is going on. Worried about our job. Worried about school. Anxious about our finances. Watching the news headlines. The daily briefings. Asking why is all this happening? What has happened to the world? Has God deserted me?
The pilgrims would walk and talk. And they would sing! Sing these songs of adoration. These anthems of praise. These declarations of God’s power and majesty!
They would turn their attention to God in the middle of the valleys.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121)
I walked into the kitchen the other evening and Jenny had worship music playing and was singing along. The contrast from the relentless barrage of bad news I had been listening to on the radio was stark. The songs she was listening to MAGNIFIED God, made him bigger. Focused attention on his greatness, his faithfulness, his strength, his grace. It was refreshing to listen to these words of faith and to lift my eyes to God – the Maker of heaven and earth…
Join us on Sunday as we share some teaching from Psalm 121 and we worship and pray together.
Turn off the radio or the TV for a while, switch off the tablet or the PC, and start singing in the rain, in the valley, in the midst of uncertainty and danger.
God remains faithful and true and he will lead us through this valley and out the other side. Here are a couple of songs to listen to and sing along with as you go. Lift up your eyes and remember where your help comes from!
The LORD! The Maker of heaven and earth!
Feel free to offer more songs in the comments below!
Bryan & Katie Torwalt – Remember
Lauren Daigle – Remember (Look up child)
Dear Church Family
These are unprecedented times!
On Sunday, we reminded ourselves that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46) We prayed together for God’s protection, his providence and for our political leaders. We will continue to pray for these and to lean into God as our refuge and strength.
“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
In light of the latest developments and government advice, we have decided the following:
You can use these various channels to communicate with us, as well as via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let us pray for one another and practise what we heard on Sunday: “Love one another… in deed and in truth.”
God bless you and be with you!
Geoff and the team
I sat with someone on a park bench this week and listened to their story of financial transformation. They had been struggling for a while, their business was on the edge, and they could not see a way through. But a couple of years ago, they made a decision to start tithing properly and consistently to the local church. Previously their giving was a little ad hoc and inconsistent.
The subsequent transformation for this individual and their business has been astounding. They are almost overrun with offers of contracts, their giving has gone up exponentially, and they feel very much the blessing of God on their business and finances. They give joyfully and thankfully, aware of the massive turnaround of their fortunes. They agree with Rick Warren’s statement that “you cannot outgive God!” That is a fight that you are never going to win.
I have, over the years, heard several stories of a similar ilk. People who have decided to honour God first with their finances and to trust him for his supply. We have certainly experienced similar circumstances in our own life on numerous occasions.
We need, of course, to be careful here. God is not a heavenly slot machine that you can prime with your tithes and offerings. We are not advocating a “prosperity gospel” here. But I think the Bible is absolutely clear that if we honour God in this very important area of our lives – he will bless us. No two ways about it. In this context, I think what Dave said in his sermon on Sunday is absolutely true. He recounted the faithfulness of his own father in this arena. The blessing that came back to him was not overtly financial – he never became rich or wealthy. But he was greatly blessed of God, was rich towards him, and left behind a rich legacy of faith to his children and grandchildren.
“The blessing of the Lord makes rich – and he adds no sorrow to it!”
Rick Warren gave some very practical and helpful advice in the small group teaching this week, which I think we can all learn from, as we think about and reassess how we handle our financial resources.