Friday, 30 December 2011

My Testimony - Part 7

So now I’m a fully-fledged, all signed up member of Jesus’s disciples, right?  I should start being good all the time, be happy all the time, and be healed of this silly sickness called depression?  Nah, it don’t quite work like that. 

I got a bit too sure of myself, thinking that this depression stuff was all in the past.  Also, remember the financial mess my ex had left me in?  Well, I still hadn’t dealt with that.  Basically, I started taking out these cash-advance payday loans, with seriously high interest rates, in order to put food on the table back when we were still together.  I kept telling myself that I was dealing with it, and reducing the payments each month, without actually sitting down and doing the Maths.  It’s not that I can’t add up – I’ve just finished a Uni maths module.  I was too scared to face it.

Add to this, a difficult, complicated family bereavement, and some work worries, and I faced another bout of depression.   I returned to the doctor and had my medication increased, and had another two weeks off work.   I basically told my work colleague what my situation was, and he and his wife turned up at my house that night with a food parcel from the church!  The following week, the church community pastor turned up with some cash to help me get through, and finally, once I’d told my business manager at work my situation, he arranged an interest free loan which has allowed me to pay off these immoral loans!  Yet another answered prayer from God!  But in order for me to receive these blessings, I had to surrender a sin that I was holding on to strongly – Pride.  I needed to be broken in order to see how much I needed God’s help, and the help of His people.  I am truly grateful and thankful every day for the kindness shown to me by some of the people around me, even though I don’t deserve it, just as none of us deserve the gift of eternal life offered to us through Jesus. 

My depression is still here, and I’m fighting it back every day.  I know God will strengthen me to fight it off once and for all when He sees fit.  It’s not always easy, and quite often, I act out like a complete muppet, but in time, God will teach me to be normal ;)

I still sin as well.  I still react angrily when I shouldn’t; I still panic and forget to turn my problems over to Christ.  I still say, do and think things I shouldn’t.  But I know that I have God’s forgiveness.  He’ll make me what He wants me to be in His time. 

Thanks for reading, 

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

My Testimony - Part 6

So between Easter and June, whilst battling depression, I kept returning to Hope Church.  I started to look forward to the services, and listened intently to each of the pastors messages, wanting to learn more about Jesus.

A video I watched turned things on their head for me.  Brian ‘Head’ Welch, formerly of the nu-metal band Korn, made a testimonial video for the website I Am Second.  I sought out Brian’s book Save Me FromMyself.  My main stumbling point in accepting Christ was my reluctance to believe that the scripture John 3:16 applied to me - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.  I felt as if I had done too many bad things for God to want me.  My depression was telling me (and still does at times) that God hated me, and he thought I was a waste of space.  Brian’s book spoke in very blunt honesty of the sins he committed, and yet God still loved him.  I followed this up with some email discussions with my work colleague who had originally invited me to church with his family.  On the 26th June 2011, I took a step of faith, repeated the sinners prayer, and accepted Jesus as my saviour.  This was the single biggest moment of my life.

Just under a month later I was baptised by my Pastor, in front of my church family and my little girl, and felt amazing.  I was honoured and privileged to be baptised alongside some amazing people, with awesome stories of God’s power in their life.  The day was fantastic from start to finish, and I’ll never forget it.  Every word of encouragement, prayer, tear, text message,or  facebook message offering support meant the world to me.  And the power of God’s love was overwhelming.  I stood at the front of the church, alongside the other baptised believers, whilst the congregation sang Deep Cries Out, and the family that had lead me to Jesus stood nearby praying over me.  All the while, tears of happiness streamed down my face.  This was indeed, the start of a new life for me.  A ‘rebirthing’.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Bibles for Africa

A short post - I'm between Christmas / New Year visits.

I saw this link on a friends Facebook wall, and was seriously moved by it.  The video shows the arrival by aeroplane of a small crate of Bibles to a tribe called the Kimyal, in Indonesia, and the tribes response to receiving God's word.

Immediately I felt ashamed of how little value I put on my own Bible(s).  I have a study Bible, a pocket Bible, a medium-sized Bible, as well as a Kindle version, PDF's and a Bible app on my phone, and the ability to access any translation I wish via sites such as Bible Gateway.  Yet I take them so much for granted.  I should feel extremely privileged to have the Word of God quite literally at my fingertips any time I want.

As a response, I prayed, then googled and found Bibles For Africa - a site run by Advent Hope Ministries which aims to provide Bibles in native translations for people across Africa.  I donated $10 and felt a bit better for a moment - realising that I'd covered the cost of a Bible that someone will cherish.

Then I realised, $10, which is £6.59 in proper money, is less than the cost of the takeaway I had just eaten with my daughter.  I also realised that when I sit down to read God's Word later, I'd be doing so on a large comfortable sofa, with a cup of coffee in a warm, safe environment.  So really, my donation while helpful, is giving so little of myself.

I tried to even jokingly justify my actions by comparing them to my baby nieces actions on boxing day.  My 6-month old niece was sitting with me, and an Oxfam advert came on the TV.  She found it hilarious and laughed her head off.  Obviously at 6 months old, she wasn't knowingly laughing because there are starving children in the world.  She laughs whenever she's trying to interact with someone. (She has no idea that people on the TV can't see her) I actually realised what she was doing, one child to another, was trying to connect with another child.  Or to look at it another way, one of God's Children reaching out to another of God's Children.

Surely, as we are all God's Children, shouldn't we all be trying to reach out to each other, and what better way than to give another an everlasting gift - the Gospel.

For my part, I'll be trying to love and cherish the Bible(s) I have, and appreciate the liberty I have to read and own them, and be actively looking for opportunities to put God's Word in the hands and hearts of others.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Is God our fall-back friend?

Things have been going really well for me the last couple of weeks.  Home life is pretty settled, Karate training is going well (I graded yesterday and passed - Yay!!), work is nearly finished for Christmas and I've got some great plans for the Christmas break.

In fact, things have been so good that I've actually been neglecting my reading of the word.  I've finished reading the New Testament, and usually regularly pick out a Psalm or two at random to contemplate.  I've been meaning to start reading the Old Testament in the same way, and start an in-depth study of Phillipians, using Mark Driscoll's The Rebels Guide to Joy as a guide.  But has that happened?  No.  I've been 'too busy' enjoying life.

This has had me thinking...  who's had a friend that only calls when they want something?  A friend who will give us a ring when they've had a row with the other half, or they are a bit strapped for cash, or need a lift somewhere.  I know I've had friends like that, and I've probably been that friend at times as well.  It's irritating.

So why, when we are in the midst of suffering, cry out to God to come to our rescue, but we neglect to praise Him in our joy?  In our suffering it is right that we call out to God, like the Psalmist in Psalm 69:

 1 Save me, O God!
         For the waters have come up to my neck.
 2  I sink in deep mire,
         Where there is no standing; 
         I have come into deep waters, 
         Where the floods overflow me.
 3 I am weary with my crying;
         My throat is dry; 
         My eyes fail while I wait for my God. 
But it is also right that we continually give thanks to God for the blessings that he has bestowed upon our lives, such as the Psalmist did in Psalm 113
 1 Praise the LORD!
         Praise, O servants of the LORD, 
         Praise the name of the LORD!
 2 Blessed be the name of the LORD
         From this time forth and forevermore!
 3 From the rising of the sun to its going down
         The LORD’s name is to be praised. 
 4 The LORD is high above all nations,
         His glory above the heavens.
 5 Who is like the LORD our God,
         Who dwells on high,
 6 Who humbles Himself to behold
         The things that are in the heavens and in the earth? 
 7 He raises the poor out of the dust,
         And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
 8 That He may seat him with princes—
         With the princes of His people.
 9 He grants the barren woman a home,
         Like a joyful mother of children. 
         Praise the LORD!
I really like the emphasise given to the phrase Praise the Lord here.  Praise the Lord!

So, from today, I'll be making a concerted effort to give praise and thanks to the Lord for the happiness He has granted me.  Many blessings I am currently experiencing are answers to prayers I asked in times of trouble, turmoil and despair, and all blessings in my life are from Him, and I should be thankful to him each and every moment.

M :) 

My Testimony - Part 5

So around this time, I worked with a Christian.  The nature of my job is that sometimes we are over-run with work, and other times we have the chance to sit and relax.  During one of these chill-out days, I’d actually popped into work to sort out some paperwork.  It was during my ‘holiday’.  So my colleagues and I ended up spending about three hours having a great conversation on theology. 

From this, I was sent a link to a great discussion with John Lennox about the logical truths of Christianity:!/v/1028.  This led to further discussions, and me purchasing a Ravi Zacharias / Norman Giesler book – Who Made God:, which I read cover to cover in a very short time, and was gripped.  I read through various articles on apologetics and another great book – The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel:

By this point, I was convinced on an intellectual level of the existence of God, and the resurrection of Jesus.  However, intellectual knowledge and faith are two very different things.

About this time, I was invited to go along to a family service at Hope Church:  I nervously attended, and actually enjoyed the service.  However, I certainly wasn’t a Christian.  I continued to attend, but why, I didn’t actually know.  I was drawn there each week.  Still, it took a while before I was ready to accept Jesus.

Monday, 28 November 2011

My Testimony - Part 4

So followed a very mixed year.  At first my relief at being out of a very bad situation felt amazing.  I had missed out on so many aspects of life for a long time, and was determined to make up for it.  I got to spend time with my girl.  I was able to speak to people without fear of being checked up on, and was able to socialise!  I even had a trip to Yorkshire to see my best mate from years back.  It felt great.  For a while a least.

I went through a rough time with my ex harassing me, and was left with a financial situation that I just couldn’t handle.  Eventually a harassment order was issued against my ex, which he broke twice, both times leading to a court appearance and him spending time in prison. 

During this time as well, I, well, I was a complete prat to be honest.  I started drinking heavily, and would often turn up to work hung-over.  I wasn’t sleeping well when I was sober, and wasn’t eating properly either.  I was a crap mum.  I also had a couple of casual relationships, which left me feeling terrible after, but I didn’t learn from, and I got badly hurt at a time when I was least able to deal with it. 

In the meantime, I was becoming noticeably more stressed and difficult to be around.  I reached breaking point around Easter this year, and was told to take three weeks off work to get my head together.  My Karate instructor had also noticed a down-turn in my spirits as well.  I visited the doctor, and was diagnosed with severe depression and prescribed anti-depressants.  

Just like my Dad.  

This was the lowest I had ever felt.  If it hadn’t had been for the determined advice of those around me that I acknowledge this illness, I dread to think what could have happened.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

My Testimony - Part 3

So late at night, my partner had got back up out of bed.  I lay very still in my bed, on my side in a foetal position, tears running down my face and I silently prayed to God.  I asked God to help me.  I asked him to give me the strength to end things, and not back down.  (I had previously tried to finish with him a couple of months earlier, but his reaction led to me retracting this).  I also asked God to see me and my girl through this safely.  A few days later, God answered that prayer.

You have to remember that despite my ex not being particularly big, and me being a (lower-grade) karate student, I was scared of him.  As in, stomach-churning, every muscle tightening up, and feeling very small and weak, scared of him.  His drug use made him unpredictable, and he had a temper on him.  So facing him down was a daunting task.  Somehow though, the words just fell out of my mouth.  It was like it was someone else driving me, and I was just sitting back watching the events unfold.  

That’s not to say I wasn’t scared – far from it.  But somehow, I made it through.  The situation led to a neighbour’s assistance in calling the police, and his arrest for breach of the peace, as well as him having a bag of cannabis taken off him.  I made it through in one piece, with very little physical damage.

This was most certainly an answered prayer.  Too bad I didn’t recognise it as such at the time.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

My Testimony - Part 2

My Dad and my step-mum decided to move home to try and make a go of things.  So they moved with the remaining kids (there’s 8 of us in total) to Northants.  I stayed in Milton Keynes and moved in with my at-the-time partner, in his sister’s house.  After a mere two weeks of playing house together, we split up.  And, just a minor complication, but I was also pregnant (and hadn’t told anyone).  When I was 7 months gone, I moved to my Dad and my Step-mum’s house.

I soon delivered this tiny little bundle into the world, and was the proudest mum ever.  She was (and still is) perfect.  Living in a small house with my Dad, my step-mum, my baby, my little half-brother and half-sister, my step-sister and her partner and various dogs, cats, guinea pigs and tropical fish wasn’t always the easiest though.  I felt very claustrophobic at times.  I yearned for my own space, for time alone with my baby, and most of all, to have a ‘proper’ family.  When my now ex came along, he seemed to offer exactly these things.  Despite a rocky start, we moved in to a flat together the day following my 21st birthday.  Shortly after, my Dad and the rest of my family moved to the South Coast, leaving me up in Northants with him and my baby.

During the spring of 2003, I found my Dad was getting ill again.  He was paranoid his wife was cheating on him, and would call me nightly to tell me so.  He spoke of getting away from it all, but promised me he wasn’t going to try and kill himself again.  I begged him to come up and stay with me, but he wouldn’t.  Then lunch time on June the 7th, I got the phone call – My dad had passed away.  He had hung himself.  My whole world just stopped.  The other half was out at the time, and didn’t have a mobile on him, and me and my girl were alone in my flat.  I was absolutely devastated.  I’d always been close to Dad, and without him, I felt very alone and very scared.

Following on from Dad’s funeral, my partner and I carried on with life.  By this point, my partner had lost his job and was struggling to find another.  I had started college and my new friends left him feeling threatened.  Things took a definite turn for the worst between us then.  Slowly over the next few years, he became mentally and emotionally abusive, bordering on physical at times.  He would manipulate me for money to feed his drug habits, refused to find work, and would fly into jealous rages.  I soon lost any sense of who I was and became a shadow of my former self.

Eventually I got to breaking point, where realised it was him or me.  My fighting spirit determined it wouldn’t be me.  I was still scared stiff though.  I lay in bed just days before break-up day, and did something I hadn’t done for years, since I was a little child in infant’s school.  I prayed.

Friday, 25 November 2011

2 Corinthians 3:14

“But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ”

Wednesday 11th August 1999 – Coincidentally, the day before my daughter was born – a solar eclipse came over the UK.  I remember walking  out to the back garden with my family to see the eclipse.  Heeding the warnings not to look at the sun directly, we all took turns to look at the natural spectre through the darkened lens of my Dad’s welding mask. 

This memory was brought to the surface recently through my Bible studies.   I’ve just read ‘The Holiness of God’ by RC Sproul, ( which I cannot recommend highly enough.  In Chapter 2, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’, Sproul quotes from scripture:

"Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 
20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 
21 And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 
22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 
23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:19-23)

Sproul then goes on to describe how, even just glancing the back of God meant that God’s glory would be reflected on Moses’s face, to an extent it blinded those around Moses, and he needed to wear a veil over his face in order to not terrify them.  In essence, God’s chosen people, who, like all of us, were sinners, felt indescribably uncomfortable in even the reflected presence of God’s Holiness.   I’d imagine they felt an extreme form of the uneasy feeling many of us have around figures of authority, such as police officers, or the CEO of our company.  But on a scale we can’t even begin to imagine. 

I’ve been reading the New Testament start to finish for the first time, and I read this passage in 2 Corinthians 3:14 last night.  To me, the passage really spoke about how Jesus took away the need for this veil between us and God.  The reason we feel this unease in the presence of God is because of our imperfections.  There’s no way any of us can measure up to the righteousness of God.  

Thankfully, God the Father sent Jesus, His only begotten Son to die on our behalf.For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”( 2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus became the filter through which God sees us and us Him 

My Testimony - Part 1

As you may have seen on my ‘About’ page, I’m a follower of Jesus.  I wasn’t born into a Christian family.  I didn’t go to church every Sunday as a child.  I wasn’t christened as a baby.  I became a Christian just two days before my 31st birthday.

Almost a month after being saved by the Lord Jesus, I was baptised alongside a few other new Christians, in a fantastic baptism service and had a day that I will remember for the rest of my life.  As part of the baptism service, I was asked to give a brief testimony describing my path to Jesus.  This post is intended to be a fuller account of that testimony, free from my nervous, tearful self standing in front of masses of people (I’m not a great people person), stuttering through.  So here goes:

As a child, we didn’t talk about God much in our house.  The closest I ever got to theological discussion with my Mum was when I was little, and I’d ask the really, really irritating questions that some kids constantly ask, like why is the sky blue, who made the moon, why don’t Australians fall off the earth (I was that sort of child).  She would answer just because.  I would reply, but why.  She’d eventually get fed up and answer ‘Because God made it that way’. 

As I grew a little older, there was no time for theology.  My mum was seriously ill, and in autumn 1989, when I was 9 years old, she lost her fight with cancer.

My Dad, my baby brother and I made the best of life without Mum.  My other brother lived with my grandmother for a while.

My Dad was my hero, but he suffered with depression, making him sometimes difficult to live with.  When I was about 11 or 12, he attempted suicide.  He and I were in the living room.  My two brothers (the older of the two had returned home by then) were tucked up in bed.  Dad lay on the floor, knocking back his pain killers.  I said to him, Dad, I’m tired, I‘m going to bed now.  He said ‘No, get Bob’ (the man from next door).  The outcome was that my Grandmother watched over us for the night, and I saw my Dad being taken by the ambulance men to have his stomach pumped.

Some years later, when I was almost 18, my Dad’s depression was properly diagnosed when he attempted suicide again and was sectioned under the mental health act.  My two brothers were taken into social services care, and I stayed with my step-mum (Dad remarried not long after his first suicide attempt.)  He was soon released, and him and my step-mother reconciled shortly after.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

God Never Sleeps

Short post:  following on from a facebook discussion I've just been involved with regarding worship and it's purpose, I thought about the difference between being with God, and interacting with God.

The opening question on this facebook chat asked about whether worship songs should be a consequence of being in the presence of God, or attempts to enter God's presence.  I thought, and responded with comments about us always being in God's presence.

However, I went off to make a coffee, and tried to get my little cat's attention whilst I was waiting for the kettle to boil.  She wasn't interested. This made me think, is there a difference between being in the same room as someone and being in the presence of someone.  My cat may be only three foot away from me now, but, she's paying me no attention whatsoever.  To be more exact, I'm calling her, and she's looking at me like I'm an idiot (She's right).

God never changes.  He's always here.  Before I was a believer, I ignored His presence, just as my cat is ignoring mine.  It doesn't make me exist any less just because The Evil Spawn of Satan my cat doesn't acknowledge me.  I'll be here when Sooty the Cat wants me, just as when I cried out to God to save me, He said "I'm here".  In my cat's case, she'll decide she absolutely cannot live without me, probably at 3 in the morning when I'm trying to sleep.  She'll probably get shouted at, and told to quit scratching the door and miaowwing.  

When we come crying out to the Lord to help us, God won't throw a shoe at us and swear, and grumble about being woken up - He'll comfort us.  Because, thankfully, God never sleeps.

M :)

First Post

So, this is my first post.  Not a lot here.....  yet ;)

Maria :)